Duo almost jumped out his skin when the phone chimed and Heero glanced at it sharply, his hackles raised, expecting anything.
"Pops, it's me."
"Jazz! Where are you? Are you all right? Do you know how much trouble you're in??? You get home right now!"
"We've been worried sick! You're in danger. I'll explain later, but..."
"Poor Wufei is beside himself with guilt! Did you ever even stop to think how we might feel? No, you just thought about yourself and what YOU wanted..."
"DAD, FOR ONCE SHUT UP AND LISTEN TO ME!"
"I'm at Jaf's house. I need you and Ojisan to get over here now. The transporter code is 12890484."
The line went dead.
Duo quickly related the message and he and Heero entered the transporter, Duo still reeling from being called Dad for the first time in his entire life.
Heero blinked at the sight that met his eyes as they exited the transporter. On one side of Jaf's living room was a table filled with electronic equipment. On the other side, the man himself lay sprawled on the floor, his arms and legs bound with wire. Jazz stood over him, neuralizer in hand.
"Jazz?" Duo stared at his son, and then ran to embrace him. Although he was smaller he managed to completely lift the boy off the ground. "You're okay. What the hell is going on here? What did you do to poor Jaf??"
"He's stunned." Heero was kneeling next to the man.
"Stay back, Ojisan." Jazz warned. "Even tied up I don't trust him."
"Maybe you better explain." Heero offered, stepping away from Jaf's prone form.
"I'll tell you, but you have to promise not to kill him. We need him alive for now."
"Why would we..."
"Okay, okay, I promise not to kill him." Duo said solemnly. Heero shrugged. "I won't kill him either. I promise."
Jazz gazed down at the man. "He's Vire." he said quietly. "Jaf Arron is Tren Vire."
"Him?" Heero said in disbelief. "JAF?"
"He had Vire's scar on his hand."
"For that you stunned him? Lot's of people have scars!"
"Well, for another thing he admitted it when I confronted him about it."
Duo let out a snarl and his foot connected with Jaf/Vire's back. "You stinking, cowardly, murdering..." He stopped.
"Wait a minute. You figured out who he was. And then, instead of running home and telling us, instead of getting as far away as you could, you CONFRONTED him? By yourself??"
"Uh huh. He pretty much dared me to shoot him. I think he was expecting me to kill him. But I just put him to sleep."
Duo's hatred almost overwhelmed him as he stared down at Vire. The desire to rip him to shreds almost shattered his humanity. He wanted to destroy the man; only his promise to Jazz stayed his hand.
"Maybe we should stuff hot nails under his skin." Heero was obviously having a similar difficult time controlling himself.
"Maybe we should boil him in oil first." Duo suggested.
"Maybe you should stop acting like raving vigilantes and hear what he has to say..." Jaf muttered, blinking.
Heero knelt down again and jerked Jaf's head up by a handful of thinning hair. "Back with us?" He asked. "Good. Torture isn't as effective when the victim, and I use the word very loosely describing you, isn't awake to feel it."
Jaf gave him an amused glance. "How absurd you sound. I think you've been reading a few too many of your own books. Let me guess; I'm supposed to cower and confess and tell you everything and beg you not to hurt me? What planet are you from?" He couldn't resist adding.
"What do you know about the attack on the caravan?" Duo cut to the chase. "What do you know about the abducted girls?"
"Everything. Who they are, what they want, where the girls are, and how you might be able to get them back."
"Tell us!" Jazz was kneeling down too. "Tell us what you know."
Jaf smiled. "Diplomacy, child. You usually have that in spades. We get very little in life making demands. If you want something, you must go about asking for it in the right way."
"Do you want me to say please?" Jazz scoffed.
"No, please is a sign of weakness. It puts you at the mercy of who you're talking with. Be firm, but understand that nothing comes without a price."
"Jazz, get in the transporter and go back to the bungalow. Heero and I will handle this." Duo was uncomfortable with how closely Jazz was paying attention to Jaf's words.
"The boy leaves and you get nothing." Jaf snapped.
Jazz held up his hand to stay his father's protest.
"Okay, what do you want?" The boy asked the captive.
"I am Jaf Arron. I have been Jaf Arron for seven years now. I have a new life, a thriving business, and people that care for me. I wish to go on being Jaf Arron. I tell you what I know, which is extensive, and you will in return pretend that you never met me."
"Unacceptable." That from Heero. "You will not escape being punished for your crimes. Sheld and Marti WILL have justice."
"Justice or revenge? You know, you were only a few years older than the boy here when I first met you. All full of questions and curiosity and opinions. I considered you... almost. But you lacked something... you were flawed."
"What are you babbling about now?" Duo sneered.
Jaf smiled again. "That's my little secret. You'll known soon enough." He gazed at Jazz and Duo was chilled at the look in his eyes. Pride.
"We're taking you to the Setan authorities. You can confuse them." Heero announced. "I'm going to untie your ankles so you can walk to the transporter. Try anything and it will be the last thing you ever do." He watched Duo take the neuralizer from Jazz and turn up the setting.
Jaf glanced at Jazz again. "Osmar will need caring for."
"Don't worry about him. I'll make sure he's okay." Jazz promised.
"And will you contact my mother, please? Tell her that I wish to speak with her?"
"That's not possible." Heero was surprised Jaf hadn't heard. "Your mother had a stroke this afternoon, right after she told us that you were alive. She's in the hospital. They don't know if she'll wake up or not."
Jaf went still. "Take me to her."
"I don't think so." That from Duo.
"This my mother." Jaf was pale. "Differences or not, she gave me a chance. I will see her."
Jazz was petting Osmar, who had entered the room and was trying to figure out what kind of game they were playing. "Guys... she is his mom."
Duo glanced from Jazz to Jaf, his frown deepening. He looked uncertainly at Heero.
"A few minutes. That's all." Heero decided.
The hospital was more than a little surprised to see the ambassador, his maclen, and a bound man step out of the transporter, and soon came alive with the news of who the captive was. Jazz had taken Osmar back to the bungalow and was in the process of calling the rest of the family.
"She's still asleep." The nurse led them toward a room. "But a few minutes won't hurt." She looked at her former Tren, animosity in her yes. "Do nothing to upset her!"
Jaf did not answer and allowed himself to be pushed into the room, his hands still bound.
Tren Liea was swallowed in a mass of tubes, wires, and machines, her chest moving up and down mechanically. She did not look like the iron-willed Tren they knew; she looked like a very old, very frail woman who's time had nearly come.
Jaf pulled away from Duo and lurched toward the bed, dropping into a chair. "Mother?"
To their surprise, Liea stirred, and pale blue eyes blinked open. She gazed at Jaf in confusion for a moment.
"Mother, it's me. It's Vire."
"Vire..." the word was slurred, for the left side of Liea's face was slack, but even through the distortion the love and sorrow was present. "Son..."
One gnarled, spotted hand rose and the fingers brushed against Vire's face, damp with tears. "Forgive..."
"I don't deserve your forgiveness, Mother." Jaf kissed her hand. "I'm so sorry..."
"No... forgive... me." she managed. "Never said... never did... left you... that horrible man. Forgive... me."
"Yes, Mother. I forgive you. Just rest. You'll be well again soon, and back to bossing around the whole planet."
She smiled at him. "Be... strong. I... gave life... now... my strength... will guide you. I love you..."
Her hand fell back and the light faded from her eyes. The machines screamed the message over and over, marking the end of a long reign, but not even they could drown out the sounds of the dead woman's son and his heartbreaking sobs.
"Very nice." Duo glanced at the mound of surveillance equipment Jazz had salvaged from Jaf's bungalow.
Heero, muttering to himself, was removing the taps from the phone, computer, and transporter.
"With every one of these I find, consider yourself grounded for another year!"
"I didn't plant them. Jaf did." The boy said with a shrug. "Ground him."
"Vire can consider himself grounded until his execution." Duo retorted. "All we can hope for is that he breaks down and talks before that happens. In the meanwhile, we'll keep looking into this on our own and you are going home!"
Jazz folded his arms. "I didn't have to call you. I could have questioned Jaf on my own and you know what? He might have even talked to me. I might have been able to get through to him. But no, I was a good boy and did the right thing, and there the two of you come, Butch and Sundance. Of course he isn't going to talk; why should he? So you can thank him and then blast him with a neuralizer?"
"Stockholm." Heero said suddenly. "He's got Stockholm Syndrome."
Duo nodded. "I was thinking the same thing."
Jazz laughed. Hard. "For one thing, I was NOT his prisoner. I could have left any time I wanted to. But, I do think that he's changed. I mean, I slept in his house! I ate his food. He could have killed me 20 times over. He didn't. He didn't try and hurt me at all."
"He was just using you!"
"Probably. But you know what? I think he respects me. I think that's why he didn't hurt me. He actually talked to me like I was a person and not some idiotic little kid who doesn't know what feet his shoes go on. I want him to be punished for what he did to Linra's parents. You better believe I want him punished for that. But..."
"But what?" Duo asked.
"Never mind. I'm going to bed." The boy turned away.
"But what, Jazz? What were you about to say?" Heero asked softly.
"He killed Linra's parents because he thought he was doing the right thing, based on what he had been taught." Jazz paused. "During the war, how many innocent people did you guys kill? Because you'd been taught you were doing the right thing?"
He quickly left the room.
Duo sat down on the floor. "It is NOT the same thing. What we did was NOT the same."
"No, it wasn't. He was trying to brainwash Jazz and he nearly succeeded. It's Stockholm even if he wasn't a prisoner. We can fix it, though. A few days down the road and he'll be howling for Vire's blood."
Heero paused after saying that. Was that something he really wanted to teach his son? Bloodlust? Revenge? He remembered seeing Vire kneeling over Duo with the neuralizer pointed at his head. Shouldn't Jazz have the right to want Vire's blood for that? He shook his head. It hurt to think.
Jazz lay on his stomach on his bed, staring at the wall. Jaf knew. He knew everything. And there had to be a way to make him tell them.
But his price... Jazz couldn't give him what he wanted. Linra would never forgive him if he even tried.
His eyes dropped wearily and his head sank into the bed. Osmar lay curled at his feet, wondering where his Master was and missing him.
Sometime later, Jazz was aware of a blanket being pulled around him. He blinked up at his father.
"You know, you really had me worried when you took off like that." Duo sat down on the edge of the bed. "You've completely shattered my trust, and that hurts like hell. I don't know how long it's going to take to get that back."
Jazz thought for a moment. "If I hadn't, you wouldn't have found Vire."
"That's not the point. You're only 15...."
"You saved a world at 15."
"That's different. I had training..."
Jazz tilted his head. "I've had some training too. Jaf taught me quite a bit. You'd be surprised what I know now. What I can do. I'm not going to fight with you about this tonight, though. I'm tired. Go to bed, Pops. We'll talk in the morning and you can yell at me then, or whatever you need to do. Night."
Duo did not leave right away, though. He stood in the doorway, thinking about the late Tren of Dera, about her son, about the missing girls, and about the stranger sleeping now in his own son's body.
And although his face was dry, his heart wept.