And I Have Touched the Sky
by Lasha Lee

"Come on. Come to school with me." Jazz urged. "Please?"

"Tomorrow." Linra smiled at the boy. "Tomorrow I'll go back with you. But... I want another day."

"Okay. But everyone misses you." Jazz told his friend. "Just feels weird to be there without you. Pinky swear you'll come back tomorrow?"

"Pinky swear." The girl locked her finger with Jazz's, and watched him hop up on his hoverboard. With a wave and a grin he took off down the road, his hair flying in the wind behind him. He spun a few loops in the air and vanished over the hill.

She walked back into the apartment building feeling lighter somehow, more at peace than she had felt in a long time. Tomorrow, life would start up again. She would go to school, and study, and come home, and eat, and play games. It would never be the same as it was, something would always be missing, but she had an understanding now of just how fleeting life could be, and how precious it was, and she didn't think her parents would want her to waste it.

Was Jazz her brother now? She mused. She didn't like thinking of him like that. She'd decided the day they met that they would pledge when they were of age. It was so incredible just being around him. Not like she had thought it would feel like. It was like... she hadn't known she'd been missing him until he was there. And now that he was, it was impossible to imagine life without him.

Lali rolled to greet her as she entered Heero's apartment and she picked up the cotrefil, cuddling her close. She missed her other animals as well but Jazz had taken her to the farm and shown her they were being well cared for. And Heero and Duo had been looking at pictures of houses on the computer and making plans to go examine them, and making a list of things they wanted the house to include. Jazz had made her laugh by secretly adding things to their list like a swimming pool filled with pudding and no roof. He had also, giggling, typed in "cage for Heero to sleep in." Heero had thought Duo had made the additions and threatened to drown him in the pudding swimming pool, causing the children to laugh even harder. Linra had been surprised to realize that was the first real laughter she had allowed herself since losing her parents. It had felt good. Seeing Duo chase Jazz around the apartment had nearly put her into hysterics.

Then Duo had noticed her. "Oh, so you had a co-conspiritor, did you?" He growled. He'd run after Linra then, catching her easily and throwing her over his shoulder as she pretended to scream in fright. Jazz was captured by his other arm and he'd dangled them both over his back until their faces were bright red the blood rush and the laughter.

Heero and Duo were bent over the computer again today, heads together, and she quietly found a book to read and curled up on the couch with Lali, an occasional comment breaking into her consciousness like "thick walls" or "dark carpet for the baby's room and the playroom."

The phone chimed, startling her, and she watched Duo hit the intercom button to answer it.

"Hi, Duo. This is Jazz's teacher Meli. I was just calling to see how Jazz is feeling."

Duo frowned at the phone. "He was feeling fine when he left here this morning. Is he sick now?"

There was silence. "Jazz isn't here. I assumed he hadn't felt well and stayed home today."

"I knew it!" Duo jumped to his feet. "He's probably had an accident on that damn board. Thank you for calling me." Before Meli could respond he ended the call.

"There's the emergency transport out back." Heero tried to calm his maclen down. "We'll take that and see if we can track him down."

Duo glanced over at Linra. "Take Rosie and go down to Trowa and Quatre's. We'll be back soon." He was already racing out the door.

Duo was paler than Heero had ever seen him, his hand tightening and clenching around his maclen's absently.

"Mr. Maxwell, we're doing all we can. We will find him. But in the meantime, can you remember anything unusual he might have said or did before leaving? I have twin sons his age; little boys can be unpredictable."

Duo shook his head. "Jazz wouldn't take off anywhere without telling me." He looked at the officer, trying to make him understand. "We're close. He doesn't like being away from me for very long. Someone has him!"

"Mr. Maxwell... "

"The Rynt's house blew up while we were there. You guys admit someone did it on purpose! Well, maybe whoever that someone is has my little boy!" Duo was nearly shouting. "I know it and you know it, so don't try feed me a bunch of bull! Screw this. I'm NOT just sitting here. I'll search every damn house on this god forsaken planet!"

The officer's hand phone chimed and he listened for a minute, and nodded. "Jazz's hoverboard was found buried in the weeds halfway between here and his school. There were footprints near it; two sets. A child's and a man's."

Duo's free hand clenched into a fist. Only Heero knew the things racing through his koi's mind and he was helpless to reassure him. He tried anyway, his own heart clenched in fear.

"Jazz is okay, Duo. He's a fighter, just like you. We're going to find him and he's going to be fine and telling us we should have edible carpeting in his room. In the meantime, we've got powerful people on our side." He motioned at the elderly woman standing near them. He had called her the minute they'd failed to locate Duo's son.

Quatre and Trowa were there as well, Trowa holding a shaking Linra on his lap, whispering words of encouragement to the little girl. And Wufei was pacing about the room like a caged panther, his eyes promising the most painful death in the history of any world to whomever had dared touch the child he adored.

"I'm going to make a public announcement tonight." Liea touched Duo's arm. "And all of my resources are available to you. If we can't appeal to their greed, we'll put the fear of a Deran Tren into them. The last thing they want is me as an enemy."

"None of this makes any sense!" Duo kicked a chair viciously. "Why the Rynt's? Why JAZZ? Why would someone take my kid?" He sank to the floor. "He's a baby. God, he's just a baby..." his voice broke. My baby. Where are you right now, buddy? Are you scared? Just hang in there. I will find you. I promise you. Daddy's coming.

"Are you comfortable, Jason?"

"Not as comfortable as I'd be at home! When my dads get their hands on you you're going to be real sorry!" The child glared at the wall's intercom. There wasn't much else in the room. A bed, a chair, a small bathroom attached to one side.

"We never got to finish our last conversation."

Jazz folded his arms and said nothing.

"You might as well stop sulking. You're going to be here for quite a while."

The boy made a rude gesture at the intercom.

"I don't have to make your stay pleasant, you know. I can make it very miserable for you."

"What do you WANT?" Jazz yelled. "I know you don't need money."

"We're going to play some games, Jason. That's all. We're going to see just how deep those memories of yours go. Such a burden for one so young to carry around. We'll explore them. Then we'll work on having you forget them."

Jazz, remembering when Heero had cut himself making dinner, responded with a string of colorful Japanese swear-words.

Instantly a blast of frigid air filled the room, so cold it stole the boy's breath away for a moment. If his captor hadn't understood the words, he'd definitely understood the meaning.

"I can make it colder, Jason. Or I can make it hot. I can choose to feed you or I can let you go hungry. Cooperation on your part will be in both our interests. Now, what is your response?"

Keep stalling, a voice in Jazz's head told him. Whatever he wants don't give in. Don't let him mess with your head either. Pops and Heero would find him.

Jazz put his mouth up against the intercom.



Another blast of air, this time foul-smelling, filled the small room.

The child fell to the floor, unconscious.

"We plead to you, to your humanity, to return Jason Maxwell to his family. If it is money you desire, that can be arranged. If your goals are political in nature, this can be discussed. Please." The old woman's face loomed large on the computer screen. "Please, send him home."

Vire turned off the monitor and sighed.

"It's your fault, you know." He said suddenly. "You picked him to be my father. I didn't want to be Tren of Seta; he made me, you made me. I never had a choice. I didn't want to know what I know..."

His face hardened. "But so be it. I swore a vow to take Seta's secret to my grave and if that's what it takes, then that's what it takes. No one will know, no one will ever know..."

He glanced behind him at a sealed door. "No matter what."

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