And I Have Touched the Sky
by Lasha Lee

"Marti was the first Deran I met." Heero explained as they entered a small office. "To say he was a bit surprised to see me was an understatement. But he and Sheld immediately took me in."

"Sheld would adopt the galaxy if she was able." Marti chuckled. "And Linra is taking right after her. I swear our collection of wildlife had tripled since you left us. If it looks even vaguely hungry they bring it home." Marti patted Heero's arm. "Linra has missed you, by the way. Every night when I come home she demands to know if I've heard from you."

"I've missed her as well." Heero admitted. "I've known her since she was born, after all. And Rosemary. I'm still flattered you chose the name I suggested."

Jazz's eyes darkened for a second. Duo glanced down at his son warily, but Jazz didn't say anything. That worried him even more. Jazz had inherited his optimism and enthusiasm, but the child had also inherited his father's darker qualities as well. He could be incredibly moody if rubbed the wrong way, and he wasn't immune to getting into school-yard brawls. He could also become very, very jealous.

Jazz took Heero's hand firmly in his own. "Thanks for bringing us here, Ojisan." He stressed the last word slightly, but Duo wasn't sure anyone else noticed. However, Marti glanced over and a brief flash of understanding lit his eyes. "My oldest daughter is probably just about your age, Jazz. I hope you like animals."

"Why, is she one?" Jazz asked.

Duo opened his mouth in outrage but Marti beat him to it, chuckling. "No, but close enough. She could hold her own with a charge of raging pora beasts." Duo caught the message intended for himself. Don't worry about it, they'll be fine.

They were now standing in what looked like an elevator. Wufei glanced around. "What does this device do?" Marti was punching in a code and did not look up. "Transporter. We'll be at my house in a second. There, see?"

Wufei glanced around the cubicle, frowning. "We haven't gone anywhere."

"I didn't feel anything." Jazz commented. "Shouldn't you feel all zapped or something?"

"Only when it malfunctions." Marti replied. "And thankfully that happens rarely." He pushed another button and the door opened again.

Instead of the office they appeared to be in a large yard. Various cages were set up here and there containing creatures none of the pilots but Heero had ever seen before. Jazz stared at what appeared to be a white, furry soccer ball, and then jumped back when two pink eyes opened and a hidden mouth broke into a yawn.

A garden ran down the other side of the yard, and a small one-story house sat next to it. The yard was a little overgrown, but the whole place had a comfortable feel to it, as if the people here actually lived in it, not merely displayed it for show. Various toys were scattered about as well, including what appeared to be a wheelless skateboard.

Quatre was staring around in undisguised delight. "Isn't this incredible? We're on another world, Trowa. These people are our cousins. We were separated all that time ago and now we're together again."

"I agree." Trowa smiled. He hadn't been too sure about coming to this world but it was worth it to see Quatre this happy.

Wufei looked like he was bursting with questions but was too polite to ask them just yet.

At that moment the door of the house flew own and a small girl with a mass of flying black curls came barreling out. "HEERO HEERO!! MOTHER, HEERO CAME BACK!"

Heero lifted the girl off the ground and swung her around. "I promised you I would." He hugged her tightly. "What have you been eating? You've grown at least two inches since I left, Linra-chan."

"You should see how big Rosie is." Linra laughed. "And she eats all the time." She cupped her hands and called back to the house. "MOTHER, are you COMING?"

Jazz was standing near Duo, eyeing the girl like she was something stuck to the bottom of his shoe. "Hi there." Linra said cheerfully. "I'm Linra Rynt. What's your name."

"Jazz." The boy said sullenly. He added after a second. "Heero's married to my dad, you know."

"You took a maclen, Heero?" Linra said happily. "Ohhhh, these are the people you wrote about! My friend Nuar said you probably just made them up. I told her to eat a sock." Jazz almost stopped scowling at that, but caught himself in time. "MOTHHHHEERRR!"

"I'm coming, I'm coming, I had to finish dressing Rosie. What is... Heero? My word, is it really you?"

Duo wasn't sure what he had expected Sheld to look like. Heero had said more Dera's were tall and slender and he figured her to be the same.

The woman coming out to greet them was short. She barely reached Duo's shoulder. She was plump as well, not obese, but she had the look of someone with a healthy appreciation for a good meal. She was also, as Marti had warned them, completely bald. One eyebrow was intact, the other looked halfway singed off. In her arms was a chubby baby that bore a strong resemblance to Linra.

Heero introduced them, and Duo realized it was especially important to his koi that they love these people as much as he did himself. He had spent 10 years with them, sharing their lives, welcoming their children. In a way, they were the family he had never had. Duo searched himself for signs of jealousy and was relieved to find none. He was grateful to them, glad Heero had been in good loving hands.

"We have so much to talk about." Sheld laughed and hugged Heero again. "You'll be staying the night with us, of course? I know you're probably eager to get home but I'm warning you, I'll cry if you say no."

"I would be happy to stay." He glanced at his friends hopefully.

"I am honored at your invitation, madame." Wufei bowed. "I gladly accept."

"Wow, Heero, you described him REALLY well." Linra remarked.

"We accept as well." Trowa spoke up. "It is kind of you."

"Heero is part of our family." Marti explained. "It is no kindness to welcome family. And we're very honored to have your maclen and pledge-son with us as well." He looked at the suddenly smirking Sheld. "Yes, my love. You won the bet." He sighed.

Linra was looking Duo up and down. "He's cute, Heero. Congratulations." She looked at Jazz again. "You're cute too. You want to see the animals?"

Jazz was startled speechless and Duo had to swallow the urge to roll on the ground laughing. Before the boy could protest Linra was dragging him toward the cages, pointing at different ones and calling out the names.

"By the sky, she's found another victim." Sheld sighed.

"I'm sorry he wasn't very polite." Duo offered.

"He's a small boy. He's not expected to be." Sheld said briskly. "Especially where issues regarding ownership of his pledge-father are concerned. Come inside now, all of you."

Rosemary whimpered and reached for Heero. The Japanese man took the baby and cuddled her. "Yes, I've missed you too." He crooned softly.

"Heero, she can't remember you. It's been too long." Quatre protested.

"It works a little differently here. But that's Sheld's area, not mine." Heero smiled. "Just trust me, she remembers me."


"Why do you keep looking at me like that?"

Linra pushed a vegetable leaf through the bars of the cage toward the furry soccer ball. "Because you have pretty eyes. I've never seen eyes that color before." Her own were so black her pupils were invisible.

"Same color as my dad's." Jazz muttered.

"So your dad and Heero are life-mates now?" Linra asked.

"Yup."

"That's so great. Heero's been very lonely without one. I mean, he comes over to visit us but it's not the same as having his own family around all the time. Now I don't have to worry; there's someone else to take care of him."

The ball rolled toward Linra. "Do you want to hold her? She likes that."

"What is she?"

"A cotrefil. We found her during the last storm, her nest was probably flooded out. She's still a baby." Linra opened the cage and took out the ball. "Her name is Lali."

Jazz hesitantly accepted the warm creature. "Hey, it purrs. Like a cat."

"Cat?"

"Animal where I come from. I'll tell you about them sometime if you want."

"I'd like that. I want to know all about the animals on Earth because as soon as I'm of age I'm going to go there and study them." Linra explained. "She likes you." Jazz looked down at the ball, and was startled to see it smiling at him.

"I'll show you the other ones. You can bring her along if you want." Linra offered. "She'll roll behind us if you put her down but she's a little lazy and likes being carried. Kind of like my little sister. Do you have any brothers or sisters, Jazz?"

"No. My mom died when I was a baby. And now my dad's with another guy so I don't think I'll ever get any."

"Well, I'll share then. You can consider Rosie your little sister too." The girl grinned. "Come on, Sulra gets cranky when she has to wait too long and she picks on her maclen Brean. Once she whelps she'll stop being such a grouch, Mother says."

Holding the purring, smiling Lali, Jazz followed behind Linra, totally enchanted with his new friend, and proving that if nothing else, childhood was universal.


On to part ten. Back to part eight.