Duo glanced out the window of the room, toward the duck pond where Jazz was throwing in pieces of bread a maid had given him. The maid's son had joined him and the boys were alternating between feeding the ducks and chasing each other around the water.
"Duo, he's fine. You don't need to watch him every second." Relena said at his elbow.
"He's never been around a lake before. He can't swim." Duo fretted.
"It's three feet deep. Unless he can't walk either I don't think he's in any danger." Relena assured him.
"Okay." Duo reluctantly left the window and sat down at the table, drumming his fingers until Heero glared at him. "Sorry, I just wish the others would hurry up." He glanced at the window again but stayed in his seat.
As if on cue, the door opened. "HEERO!" Quatre raced across the room and squeezed the Japanese man tightly. "We thought you were dead! How could you let us think that?" He asked accusingly.
Trowa's greeting was calmer. He shook Heero's hand and welcomed him back, but his eyes gave away his true feelings of pleasure at the reunion. "We've all missed you." He said sincerely.
From outside the window came a splash and Duo leaped to his feet and raced to look outside. "Oh dear." He said, his lips tightly pursed.
"What's wrong?" Heero asked.
"Somehow or other my son has managed to get Wufei on his rear in the middle of the duck pond." Duo explained. He rapped on the glass angrily. "Hey, you leave him alone! I'm sure it was an accident!"
A few minutes later a dripping, seething Wufei stormed into the room. "MAXWELL!" He roared. "I insist you start taking control of that...monster!"
"I don't own any monsters." Duo stood eye to eye with Wufei.
"I went over to greet my godson. He launched himself at me and knocked me into the water!"
"Well, he tried to help you back up!" Duo argued. "He loves you, he was just happy to see you, that's all."
"Hummph." Wufei replied. "Heero... I never doubted we would meet again." He offered Heero a wet hand. "I hope you've been well."
"Now that we're all here we should begin." Relena announced. "Please, have a seat, everyone. Heero, why don't you start?"
"My friends." Heero began. "And you are all my friends, although I have not been the best at showing that. There has not been a day in the past 11 years that I have not thought of all of you, and hoped you were doing well.
"For as long as I can remember I was trained to fight. As long as I had this, I had a purpose, a goal. Then, suddenly, it was gone, and I was adrift. You, my friends, had other things binding you. Each other, dreams, ambitions. I had none of those. There were many times I considered ending my own life, so meaningless it seemed.
"So I began to travel, to walk the world, searching for meaning somewhere. I haunted libraries and halls, seeking I didn't know what. Then, far from here, I stumbled upon something.
"Books, many books, that I first found to be fiction. Stories of a world, a large, beautiful world teeming with life. So much life, in fact, that the world could not contain it all, and began to choke itself to death."
"So, brave men and women of this world sought to save their kind. They created caravans and went to populate another world."
Heero took a breath. "They were successful and life on both worlds flourished. Hundreds of years passed.
"Then, one day, a caravan full of new settlers set out from the home world, the same way it had happened many, many times before. They should have arrived safely, with no problems at all. But something went wrong. The texts were hazy here, but it seems they were attacked and drifted off course. The caravans, crippled, filled with the dead and the dying, made their way to an uninhabited world and landed there.
"But on that ship were those who refused to die, refused to give in. The new world was harsh and cold, with beasts like they had never seen before. Men like they had never seen, with hanging eyebrows and no chins. Yet, they were welcomed among these primitive strangers. They would have died, yet the natives of the new world taught them how to make and use tools, how to hunt and gather. As the years passed, the blood mingled, and soon the primitive natives were no more.
"But the strangers flourished, soon forgetting their true roots and past, always believing themselves to have been children of this new world. A world that had many names in the different languages that eventually grew. But in all of them meant the same. Earth."
The room was deadly silent for a long while. Finally Wufei spoke. "A fascinating tale, Heero, but surely you aren't saying you...believe in that nonsense?"
Heero picked a book off the table and handed it to Wufei. "Look at that. It's a map. And a star chart. This is the home world. This is the secondary world. This is where the accident or attack happened. The caravan was routed through here, to this world."
"Yes, it's a map, but it proves nothing." Wufei argued.
Heero took a breath. "I have lived the last 10 years among our ancestors on the home world."
"What?" Wufei paled. "You've BEEN... "
"I had nothing else. I followed the map. I went home." Heero closed his eyes for a moment.
"They had long mourned the lost caravan, for over 100,000 lives were onboard. The fact that we had lived, had survived, and risen up and to the point where we could come and visit them amazed them. They look like us; evolution has not changed us much. They're a little taller and thinner than we are, but very much the same. Their technology is far advanced. They were far ahead of where we are now when they sent the caravan out. To them, we're cavemen in a sense, but we're still kith and kin."
"They know the problems we face here, the overcrowding, the poor conditions on the colonies. The bottom line is, they want us back. For their government, it was a bit like finding out you'd fathered a child and that child was living in squalor for your neglect. They could take us easily by force but they don't want that. But between the two worlds, both of which are far larger than Earth, they have room for as many Earth and Colony citizens as we could send them."
"Has word of this gotten out yet?" Quatre asked, his hand tightening around Trowa's.
"Not yet." Relena spoke up at last. "I wanted the four of you to know first. We don't know how people are going to react to this and we don't want either a panic or a mass exodus on our hands."
"How do we know their intentions toward us are pure?" Wufei was still uncertain.
"It was for that reason I stayed so long with them, so that I could be sure myself." Heero replied. "Plus, it was easy to stay. You would understand if you saw it. But I cannot make this decision based on my own feelings and they understand this."
He faced them all. "Come back to Dera with me. Dera is the primary world, Seta is the secondary one. See for yourselves what they offer our people. Then, we can decide together if we make their offer known publicly."
"Would we have to stay for ten years?" Trowa asked.
"No, of course not. Just give it a few months." Heero urged. "The journey there and back takes about two months each way. I realize what a major commitment that would be on your parts. But... I trust your judgement above anyone else's. I will not demand you come with me. But I will ask."
"I'm in." Duo spoke up. "I want to see this place. And Jazz will love it."
"I will go." Quatre offered. "So will I." Trowa spoke up, putting his hand on Quatre's where it rested on the table.
They looked at Wufei. "I will go...provided I do not have to travel on the same ship as Maxwell's heathen offspring." The Chinese man finally said but he was smiling at Duo to take the sting out of the words. He pointedly rubbed some water off of his glasses.
"It will take time to stock the ships." Relena nodded. "Shall we say you will depart in two weeks? That will also give you time to make preparations."
"Two weeks is fine for me." Duo nodded, and the others agreed.
The others began talking again and Duo snuck back the window. Jazz and the maid's son were standing in the duck pond splashing each other. Duo wondered about this new world of Heero's. What would it be like watch his son play in real sunlight, not the artificial colony variety, every day?
Jazz glanced up and waved to his father and Duo waved back. Well, he's always complaining I never take him anywhere....
On to part four. Back to part two.