And I Have Touched the Sky
by Lasha Lee

Jazz lay on the bed in the strange room, staring up at the ceiling. His head still ached from the gas, whatever it had been, and his stomach growled angrily. He had found a cup in the bathroom and tried to fill the emptiness with water, but it hadn't helped much.

He wasn't afraid, not really. He had complete faith that his father and Ojisan would find him.

What if they don't? A little voice in his head asked. Vire's crazy but he's not stupid. What if they don't ever figure it out?

Jazz ordered the voice to shut up. He was miserable enough as it was. Pops said it didn't do any good worrying about things you couldn't help. You just had to accept them and make the best of it.

His mind replayed images of his life up until now. His first bicycle, pedalling as his father held the seat and ran behind. Curling up with Pops and a pile of junk food to watch cheesy movies. The knowledge that no matter what, there was somewhere he belonged and someone he belonged to. So different than what his father had lived with...

And are you his son or not? The voice suddenly demanded. Laying here and feeling sorry for yourself and waiting for daddy to come along isn't going to do you a lot of good. Your father wouldn't have just given up when he was your age.

The voice sounded oddly like Wufei, now that he thought about it.

Okay, think. Vire wants me to forget something. Why doesn't he just kill me? He knows as soon as I get out of here I'll rat him out. Unless he makes me forget that as well. And how does he plan to make me forget? Hit me with a sledge hammer?

Jazz slid off the bed and walked around the room, examining everything. An intercom on the wall, bolted on the inside. A light on the ceiling. The bathroom. An electronic door. He tugged on it, it remained closed. He drew back and kicked it.

"That won't do you any good." The intercom assured him. "You might as well get some sleep. You're going to have a busy day tomorrow."

Jazz calmly walked to the bathroom and filled the glass with water. He reentered the room and walked up to the intercom. At worst, he'd be gassed again. At best, he'd buy himself a few hours of peace and quiet. Heck, he'd have that even if he was gassed.

He flung the water into the intercom. It hissed and popped, and suddenly the light went out as well. Jazz laughed to himself in the darkness. That had felt good.

The room was flooded with light a few moments later as the electronic door opened. He was hauled out by his arm into what appeared to be a kind of office and forcefully sat down in a chair.

"You are beginning to become a lot more trouble than you're worth." Vire warned, leaning in the boy's face. "Don't think I won't kill you if I have to."

"Like you killed Linra's parents?" Jazz asked suddenly.

Vire flinched. "How do you know about that?" he demanded.

Jazz glared at him, rage filling his small body. "I guessed. You just told me." He retorted. "Why? Why would you do that? They were good people!"

"My reasons are my own, and not the business of little boys."

"Yeah, well it IS my business." Jazz snapped back. "Since I'm going to pledge with their daughter when I grow up!" He still wasn't sure exactly what he wanted to do with his life, but he knew with crystal clarity that he and Linra would be together. This man had destroyed her happiness, and no one hurt the people a Maxwell loved and got away with it.

"If I allow you to grow up!" He was still in Jazz's face.

"Yeah, if your breath doesn't kill me!" Jazz agreed. "What'd you have for dinner, a dead bonatar?"

"You're making this more difficult than it has to be." Vire sighed. "I can see you've been raised with the MANNERS of a bonatar. Your father obviously isn't up to the task."

That hit home, but Jazz controlled his reaction.

"My father" the boy said softly. "lived through more than you'll ever know. My bad memories are someone else's; his are his." His eyes locked on Vire's. "He's a zillion times the man you'll ever be."

An odd look crossed Vire's face, as if something had just occurred to him.

"Is Duo Maxwell your biological father?" he demanded suddenly.


"Is he your father by blood?"

"No, he arranged for some stranger to look like him." Jazz snapped. "Look." He grabbed his hair in one hand and held it back behind his head. "See?"

"Of course. Why didn't I think of this before. It's not just you I have to worry about. It's in him as well... it's not likely he'd have any more children given his... choices." Vire's lips thinned at that. "But it could be in your children as well. Damn. And he could remember too. Why didn't I think of this before?"

"Because you're a doofus?"

Vire was ignoring the boy. "I need him as well. Ah, well, that won't be hard. I have good bait, after all." He glanced at Jazz. "He'd walk into a flaming star to rescue you, wouldn't he?"

The older man sighed. "I dislike killing, you know. The woman had to die, but I hadn't intended anyone else to. I had nothing against Marti Rynt; I was fond of the man, in spite of the company he kept. I won't kill you, child, unless I have to. But I'll have to make sure both you and your father are sterile."

Jazz was puzzled. "You want us to take a bath???"

"Sterile as in you shall never have siblings, or produce a child of your own." Vire explained. "I'm being reasonable here; killing you would accomplish the same results, you know."

Jazz remembered a comedy show he and his father had watched once. "I think YOUR gene pool needs the filter." he said dryly.

The boy found himself hauled back to the room and tossed inside. The door shut behind him.

In the darkness, he fumbled his way to the bed, his small fist clenching on the blanket. The idea of anyone hurting his father enraged him. On one level, he understood that Duo was an adult, perfectly capable of taking care of himself. On the other hand, he understood with a sickening feeling in his gut that his father would not hesitate to put his own life in danger to protect Jazz.

You are his greatest love. And his greatest weakness.

"And his greatest strength." he heard a soft female voice whisper in his ear. He did not turn around to look, knowing he would not see the speaker. That if he reached out his hand, he would not touch her. She only came to him in his dreams, or in that one moment between sleep and awareness.

"I'm scared." he said softly. "I'm scared he'll hurt Pops."

Warm fingers stroked his hair. "I know."

"Can you tell him where I am?"

"I can't. Your father isn't open to me any longer. You are the only one I can speak to, and only like this. I've tried; he won't listen." the voice was frustrated.

"Sounds like Pops." Jazz agreed. "Will you stay with me, Mommy?" In the daylight, the baby word would have embarrassed him, but he found that he didn't care at the moment.

"Oh, baby, I'm always with you. Always. Even when you don't see me, I'm right there." He snuggled close into unseen arms. "It's going to be okay. Everything is going to be okay, you'll see. You'll be back with Daddy and Heero and Linra very soon."

Jazz relaxed and fell into a real sleep, not the drugged one of earlier. And in the shadows of the night, his mother held him close and hummed lullabies into his ear.

It was so aggravating. If only Duo would listen. If only he would open his eyes. She'd shown him once, but even though he said he believed, in his heart he doubted. He thought it was all just a dream.

As the night wore on, others came to guard the child's sleep as well. He had never known them in his short life-time, but their love formed a circle around him.

"He looks so much like his father at that age." a woman whispered.

"Duo never forgot the lessons we taught him." a man replied. "He remembered; he passed it on to Jazz." He stroked the child's cheek. "Be strong now, young one."

Duo stared at the wall, his hand opening and closing.

He had done his own searching in the night, he and his friends. Investigating the spot where Jazz had been taken, asking neighbors if they'd seen anything. No one had.

He was alone in Heero's apartment now. The girls were with Denea, his friends and Heero were still out looking. He had wanted to be, but Heero had forced him to go home for a few hours rest. He had agreed to keep the peace, knowing as well that he would need his strength. And he wanted someone to be home if Jazz tried to call.

The food transporter beeped then, and he glanced over, puzzled. He hadn't ordered anything. He was even more surprised to see a plain white letter in it. Racing over, he snatched it up.

I have something of value to you. Do you want it back? Come alone. If I see so much as a cotrefil with you you'll be making a trip to the River of the Brave with your son's ashes. Your apartment is tapped; I can see and hear everything you're doing so don't try and leave any messages for your friends. Step into the transporter and I'll bring you to where we are.

Unless the child means nothing to you.

Duo pocketed the paper and ran to the transporter without hesitating.

On to part twenty-four. Back to part twenty-two.