My friend Duke at school lives with his mother. His father ran out and left them when he was really small and he doesn't remember him at all. His mother works all the time and he hardly ever sees her. He says he doesn't care; he likes taking care of himself. He said we should run off to Earth together and have some adventures before we got old and had to get jobs. But I turned him down because Pops needed me. Duke looked at me like I'd grown another head or something when I said that, but he didn't bring up running away again.
Boy this ship is quiet tonight. Heero and Pops are asleep in Pops' room and I'm sure not going in there. But I can't sleep either so I'm out in the galley getting some hot chocolate, and just thinking. I don't like quiet usually. You grow up with my Pops and you don't get a lot of it; he never shuts up. But I like it right now, it seems right somehow.
We had to do a report once in school on our earliest memories. I wrote out a neat one about Pops and I going around robbing banks and my first memory being in my car seat in the get-away car, but Pops found it before I could turn it in and made me redo it. He pretended to be mad but I could tell he was trying hard not to laugh. So I wrote about my real first memory; playing hide and seek with him in the salvage yard and he got kind of choked up when he read that and said yeah, he remembered that too. He said he freaked out when he couldn't find me but Eddie finally discovered me asleep under a piece of sheet metal. I remember him telling me that next time I wanted to play, I needed to let him KNOW we were playing. I asked him about his first memory and his face grew really serious and sad. He said it was hiding in a building with his mother, and hearing explosions all around them, and his mother telling him not to cry because boys didn't do that. I didn't know what to say when he told me that so I just hugged him. I guess that was the right thing to do.
He has bad dreams sometimes. He doesn't think I know about them, but sometimes when I come home from school he's asleep on the couch, and he's moving around and crying. He talks in his sleep, and some of the stuff he's said scares me. Not that I'm afraid of him, but the stuff he talks about... I'm not a dumb little kid. I know bad things happen out there but I guess I didn't think about them happening to someone I know, to my Pops, anyway. I wonder if it could happen to me, and I realize that probably scares Pops a lot too. Because after the dreams he watches me really closely, like some monster is going to swoop down and grab me. I don't tell him I heard him crying, but I try and make him laugh and forget about the bad things. I wish I could make the bad dreams stop forever. Maybe Heero will have better luck.
I take a sip of my hot chocolate, wondering what it's going to be like to have someone else in our family now. It's always been just the two of us. Not that I mind, I really like Heero and I want Pops to be happy, but it's just going to be different. For as long as I can remember, we've been all we had.
Last year, Pops and I entered and won a singing contest. We did this old song called "I Got You, Babe." and they gave us a standing ovation. We still sing that sometimes together, he loves the part where I sing "Let them say your hair's too long, I don't care with you I can't go wrong."
I used to think I'd work at the salvage yard with him when I grew up, but he says I can do better than that. He wants me to go to college and become an engineer. He says that I need to make a lot of money so I can support him when he's old. That's weird to think about, Pops getting old. I wonder if he'll go bald. Man, he'd hate that.
I don't know what I want to do with my life. I mean, I'm only 8, it's not like I have to decide tomorrow.
Tomorrow, argh. I forgot. That's when Wufei's going to start tutoring me over the comm-link.
Heero asked once "What is this twisted obsession the two of you having with tormenting Wufei?" Pops thought for a minute and then replied "What else are we supposed to do with him?" But I promised to study hard and listen to what he says. When we're not having classes, though, all bets are off.
"And what are you doing awake?" Duo yawned and asked his son, entering the galley.
"Couldn't sleep." Jazz offered his father the half-full cup of hot chocolate and Duo accepted it. "Gracious." He sipped it slowly.
"School tomorrow. You should get some rest." Duo said after a minute, ruffling Jazz's hair. "Wufei doesn't take it easy on his students. Even if they are his godchildren."
"In a minute. I was just thinking." Jazz swung his legs under the table.
"Just stuff. Lots of stuff." the boy replied. "I saw Heero go into your room. Is he your boyfriend now?"
"I like the word koibito better." Duo told his son. "But yes. It's more than that though. This isn't like when I went out with people before. This is for good."
"So he's part of our family now." Jazz noted. "We're three instead of two."
"How do you feel about that?" Duo put down the mug.
"Okay. He's cool to have around. Does he get to tell me what to do?" Jazz asked suddenly.
"Yes he does. And you do what he tells you to do. Not like when I tell you; I actually expect you to listen to Heero."
"If you died would Heero take care of me?"
"What brought that on?" Duo lifted his son's chin. "I'm not going anywhere, not for a long time."
Jazz shook his head the best he could, hair falling into his eyes. "I bet Ma said that too, right? But what if something does happen? I don't want to have to go live on the streets like you did." He tried, and failed, to suppress a shudder.
"Hey." Duo knelt on the floor next to Jazz's chair. "You're right, no one can promise life. But what I can promise is that if anything did happen to me you would NOT have to go live on the streets. Heero would take care of you. Before he came back, you would have gone to live with Quatre and Trowa. If they weren't around you would have gone to live with Wufei and if he weren't around Relena would have taken you in. There's a whole list of people lined up to make sure you grow up safe and sound. Even Eddie would make you come live with him if there was no one else around. My life was an exception, not a rule, and you never, ever have to worry about that." He pulled Jazz onto his lap and sat back down in his own chair. "Understand?"
Jazz thought for a minute and nodded. "That's okay then. Hey, Heero. Pops says I can live with you if he dies."
Heero blinked and sat down at the table next to them. "Is this what you normally talk about at 3AM?"
"Sometimes." Jazz nodded. "Sometimes we talk about robbing banks again, but I think we're retired from that."
"Until we run low on cash again." Duo put in. "I'm partial to mugging little old ladies myself, but you have to be careful. Some of those old dames fight back."
"We could become space pirates." Jazz offered. "We'll paint a big black flag with a skull and cross bones on the front of this ship."
"The Jolly Roger Space Yacht." Duo nodded. "People will quiver at the sight, convinced hordes of the well-to-do are about to come streaming on board, pillaging, plundering, and shuffle-boarding. Hang on a second." He grinned and sat Jazz down on his own chair, and walked over to a wall comm-link, punching in a code.
"I AM THE DREAD PIRATE SHINIGAMI! THERE WILL BE NO SURVIVORS!" he shouted into the speaker.
There was silence for a minute, broken only by Jazz's stifled, nearly hysterical giggling. Then a sleepy voice replied from the comm-link. "Maxwell, are you DRUNK?"
"SURRENDER YOUR VESSEL AND YOUR JUNK FOOD!" Duo howled in reply. "OR FACE THE WRATH OF THE DREAD PIRATE SHINIGAMI JR, WHO HAS LESS MERCY THAN I DO."
"You tell him, Pops!" Jazz cheered.
"Good NIGHT, Maxwell. And don't you dare call again!" The link was shut off with a loud click.
"Something I said?" Duo grinned at his son and his koibito. "Want to give it a try, Heero?" The Japanese man was shaking with laughter.
"Maybe tomorrow. I think he's had enough for tonight. He still has to teach Jazz in the morning after all."
"He told you not to call him again, Pops. He didn't say anything about me." Jazz snickered.
"Go to bed, kiddo." Duo was still laughing. "Heero's right. We've played 'Fun with Wufei' enough for tonight."
"Night Pops." Jazz looked thoughtfully up at Heero. "If you're part of our family now I should call you something else besides your first name. What's the Japanese word for godfather?"
"Yuck." Jazz pronounced. "Too hard to say. What about 'Uncle'?"
"Oji. When you're calling someone Uncle it would be ojisan."
"Ojisan. I like that. Can I call you that?"
Heero looked like he was fighting back the urge to either laugh, cry, or do both. "I'd like that very much."
Jazz embraced him quickly and kissed him on the cheek. "Night Ojisan." Then he was gone, leaving the two men alone in the galley.
"I guess that means I've been adopted." Heero said in a quiet voice.
"Jazz takes after me in another way; once he claims something it's his and he doesn't give it up again." Duo stood up and rubbed Heero's bare shoulders. Heero sighed and leaned back into the touch. "Possession is nine tenths of the law, you know."
"What's the other one?" Heero looked at Duo from his upside down angle.
"I don't know. I think it's to respect what you're lucky enough to possess. To realize how precious it is."
"Fair and just laws." Heero agreed. "That feels good. You missed your calling; you could do that for a living."
"Well, you know." Duo said in a falsetto voice. "I always wanted to work in a massage parlor full of all those big, sweaty men."
"Hnnn. And what kind of massages would you be offering?"
"Full ones, but only to my special customers. And those would be free." His fingers kneaded the muscles deeper. "That's the Luxury Pack."
"What does that include?"
"Hot oil massage to start with. After that customer's choice."
"You're not using any hot oil." Heero pointed out. "I'm being ripped off."
"How? I told you it was free. But the customer is always right. So happens I have a hot plate and bottle of oil back in my room."
Heero stood up and wrapped his arms around Duo's waist, pulling his body flush against his. "Sounds nice. Then afterward my choice? Anything I want?"
"Anything." Duo promised.
Although they were alone in the room Heero whispered into Duo's ear and the American's eyes widened. "Oh? Well, I might have to actually charge you for that." he teased.
"If we don't return to your room this minute," Heero gave Duo a mock glare, "I'm going to take you right here on the table. Then the floor. Then probably against the wall..." He rubbed himself against his koi, showing just how desperate he was becoming.
On to part seven. Back to part five.