And I Have Touched the Sky
by Lasha Lee

When Duo had been a small boy he had often played a game with himself he called "Womb". He close his eyes and pretend that he was an unborn child, safe under his mother's heart, unaware of anything happening around or to him.

He was in the womb, the womb was safe. Nothing to see, warmth surrounding him. A roar in his ears, maybe his mother's blood, but he could hear nothing else.

Then... a baby's wail.

Impossible. He was still unborn. How could he be crying ? His arm hurt, too, like he'd been stabbed.

The roaring stopped but the crying and the pain continued. Then an older child's cry that snapped his eyes open, for in that sound was all of his own heartbreak, his own fear.

"MOTHER!!! FATHER!!!!"

His eyes snapped open. He was on the ground, hunched over the wailing Rosemary. Heero was holding him from behind. Jazz.. where was Jazz? Jazz was next to Linra, and it was Linra who was shrieking, again and again. Taking off in a run toward something.

It seemed to last for hours but only a few seconds had passed. In those few seconds, however, the world had ended. A part of it, at least.

The white house was no more. Only a heap of smoking rubble stood where someone's life had once been. No more babies would make a storm-announced entrance there, no more would a child's bedroom door slam in anger, no more would lovers who had loved since their cradle days sleep together in the moonlight.

Flames darted from the broken mess, smoke billowing up in the sky.

"Linra! NO!" Heero released Duo and grabbed the child, holding her back.

"LET ME GO! MOTHER!!!! MOOTHHHHHEERRRR!!"

Father... Sister... no, that was a long time ago. This was now. It was a house, not a church. And the baby kept screaming, as if she knew that her world would never again be the same. Duo held her tightly and felt a small hand wrap around his own. Jazz.

"Daddy?" Jazz stared at him from frightened eyes. "The house..."

"I know." In the distance they heard could hear sirens. He was aware of Wufei, Trowa, and Quatre, trying to get close to the house and being driven back by the heat. Heero was still restraining Linra, tears running down his own cheeks.

"MOTHERRRRRRR!!"


Dark. Why was it so dark? She tried to turn her head to see and felt a flash of drugged pain, the kind of pain that you can feel hiding behind layers of medication.

"Sh, lay still, Denea." A raspy voice said softly. "You're going to be all right. Don't be afraid." She felt a hand touch hers. She knew that voice. From somewhere. But she couldn't put a name to it.

"What happened?"

"There was an explosion at the Rynt house." The voice said gently. "You've been burned very badly, especially around your eyes. That's why they're bandaged right now."

An explosion? She remembered noise... heat. "The children?" she whispered.

"They're fine. They were outside with us. Linra and Jazz have a few scratches from the debris but nothing serious. Duo was holding the baby and shielded her."

"Who are you? I feel like I should know but..."

"I'm sorry. My voice is still hoarse from the smoke. It's Wufei."

"Wufei. Sheld and Marti were in the house with me. Are they hurt badly?"

Silence.

"Answer me!"

"Denea... I'm sorry..."

"No..."

"Marti was... gone when they found him. Sheld died in the surgery. They did all they could."

"They didn't do enough!" She tried to get up and he held her back. "Not enough..." her voice broke, grief and rage crashing down on her.

She felt arms going around her. She tried to push him away but she was held fast. Finally she gave in, leaning her head against his chest, allowing someone who was practically a stranger to comfort her.

"What happened?" She said at last. "How did this happen?" Her fist clenched. She could feel burned skin pulling and she reveled in the pain. Pain was real, pain she could understand.

"We don't know. But we're going to find out. I promise, we will find out what happened."

"Your friends... were they hurt?"

"A little. Duo had some glass in his arm and needed stitches. Heero has burns on his hands from trying to find you and the Rynts in the remains of the house. Trowa has a gash on his head. Quatre's fine."

She pushed her own grief down deeply. It could wait. Wait until she was alone and could let go in privacy. Could allow herself to remember that her oldest and dearest friend would never laugh with her again, would never try and fix her up with another "perfect" man, would never pose with her in front of store mirrors in outfits they would never be able to afford, ever again.

"The girls... those poor little girls." Denea said brokenly. "Does Linra know?"

"Heero told her. She's still in shock. I don't think it's sunk in yet. Jazz refuses to leave her side. Heero and Duo took the girls home with them."

"Don't let them be split up." the woman demanded. "Sheld's parents are dead, Marti's pledge-mother is too sick to take them in. Make sure they stay together."

"That won't be a problem. Heero's been an uncle to them since they were born. From what he said, he and Duo will be raising them."

"How long has it been?"

"Almost a full day. You've been out the whole time."

"Why are you here?" She asked, drawing away from him.

"I thought it might be better for you to hear the news from someone you know. Even if it is brief."

"We didn't exactly get off to a good start." She reminded him. "I'm just a little surprised you came, that's all."

"Actually." and she could hear him rising to leave. "That was perhaps one of the most entertaining meals I've had in a long time. Denea... I wish I knew the right words to say to you right now."

"Wufei?"

She was embarrassed but forced herself to ask anyway. "Will you stay for just a little while longer?" She chalked it up to the drugs. Oh well, she could blame it on them later.

The hand covered hers again. "Of course."


"You need to eat something."

The little girl shook her head. "I'm not hungry." she said softly.

Heero gave Duo a helpless look over the girl's head. His maclen took a seat across from her. "You know, Jazz is really worried about you."

Linra did not look up.

"He went over and talked to your neighbor, the one with the big farm. Mr. Carso is going to keep your animals there for now. Then, when we move into our house, and that'll be very soon, you can have them back. But... Jazz thought you'd miss Lali. So he went and got her this morning. She's in the other room. Do you want to see her?"

"No." She was quiet for a moment. "Jazz sang to me last night when I couldn't sleep. Something about a magic dragon. I didn't understand a lot of it, but it was pretty."

"Jazz told me you're the best friend he's ever had. He loves you and I know he's a little confused right now. He's not sure what to do or say, but I think he's figuring it out." I wish I could, he thought. I wish to god I understood what happened.

Linra looked at up Heero. "You loved my parents a lot."

"They were the brother and sister I never had." Heero told her, blinking back the tears that seemed unwilling to end. "It's very hard to think about the fact that they're gone, isn't it?"

Linra nodded, quivering a little bit.

"Your parents loved you very, very much. I remember when they found out you were on the way. They were so happy. They didn't have a lot of money but it didn't matter. Because they had you. Sheld told me that she and your father used to play pledge when they were small and that when she saw that he was willing to put diapers on her dolls, she knew he would be a really good father one day."

Linra smiled a little bit.

"And when you were in your school play? Remember how they stood up and cheered louder than anyone else? People thought they were a little nuts for that but they were so proud of you."

"I want to be strong but I don't know how." The child admitted.

"You don't have to be." Heero pulled her onto his lap and kissed her forehead. "I'm going to be strong enough for all of us. We're going to help each other get through this. And we're going to cry a lot. And we're going to be very angry that it happened. But it's quid pro quo. You know what that means?"

She shook her head.

"It means this for that. I'll be there for you, but you have to be there for me, too. We're going to be a family now. You and me, and Duo and Jazz, and Rosemary. It took a long time to realize just how important families were. Your parents taught me that. That means you have to eat something. Just a little bit, but something."

The transporter beeped as Linra began nibbling on the meal, and Duo went to answer the request. A few minutes later Trowa stepped out, his face grave. "We need to talk."

Heero joined them and motioned Trowa to have a seat. "What's going on?"

"Quatre and I know you have your hands full with the girls, and Wufei's been at the hospital with Denea, so we've been trying to find out as much as we can about the explosion."

"What have you learned?"

"They found traces of crominate all over the house."

Heero blanched, his face going from stunned to enraged. "Are they SURE?"

"Very sure."

"What's crominate?" Duo asked.

"The Deran equivalent of plastic explosive. Sheld and Marti would not have had any reason to have it in their home. It's illegal."

"That means..."

"It wasn't an accident. The Rynts were murdered."


On to part twenty-one. Back to part nineteen.