Here There Be Dragons
by Lasha Lee

"Some day I find rainboot connectors. Lovers, dreams, and me." Meishel sang as she pushed a toy transport across the floor. Her hair had escaped from it's pony-tail and fell over one ebony eye. Every now and then she would stop to examine her own knees, intrigued by the pattern the carpet fibers made in them.

"That's a pretty song, Meishel." Denea smiled. "Who taught you that?"

"Jazz sings it." Meishel let out a sigh. "He sings it better."

She glanced over and noticed her father standing in the doorway, a bag over his shoulder. She frowned, putting down her toy. This wasn't good.

"Baba's leaving!" Shan had been working on an oversized puzzle, but followed his sister's gaze. "I wanna go! I wanna go!"

Wufei crouched down and picked them both up, setting them on his lap. "You have to stay here and take care of Mama. Baba won't be gone long."

"Where you going, Baba?" Meishel played with the buttons on his shirt.

"Baba's going to find Jazz." Denea spoke up. "Baba's going to bring Jazz home."

Wufei flashed her a look of gratitude that she could sense, even if she couldn't see it. "That's right. I promise you, I won't come back without him." He kissed Shan's forehead, and then Meishel's.

"I'm going to hold you to that." Linra had entered the room. "But I want to go too."

"Duo and Heero would never forgive me." Wufei interjected.

Linra gave him a level gaze. "I won't go anywhere near the meeting or the Wronith. I'm not even going to see Jazz. He can take care of himself."


"I want to see Vire." The girl's voice was older than her years. "He murdered my parents, Wufei. He took them away from me, and from my little sister. I have the right to see him. I have the right to look him in the eye and remind him what he did. If they kill him, I want him to remember my face."

"Honey, it won't bring them back." Denea said softly.

"No, but I need to face him." The girl replied. "I have to. Heero and Duo will understand. I'll make them understand. I won't even stay for long. I just want to see him, and then I'll get on the shuttle and come right back here. I promise."

Wufei looked undecided.

"You're always talking about honor, Wufei. This is about my family's honor. Your family was murdered too. Don't you remember what that felt like? Like a fire you can't ever put out? And every day that goes by that you don't do something about it, that fire eats a little more of you away."

"It look me a long, long time to understand the difference between justice and revenge." Wufei was stroking Meishel's hair. "Denea and I will not seek revenge against him. That is our payment for Meishel's life. We will let the Setan government handle his punishment."

"You think I plan to kill him, don't you?"

"I can see in your eyes the desire."

"My parents would not want that. They wouldn't want me to throw my life away on him." She said after a moment.

"No, they wouldn't." Denea agreed. "I don't object to you going to speak to him. Wu?"

Wufei looked at his twins. "You two are awfully quiet about this."

"I don't know." Meishel shook her head. "I just want Jazz."

"Me too." Shan nodded. "Tell him to come home, Baba."

"Okay, okay, I will take you with me. You won't have time to see him before the meeting with the Wronith. When it's over and he's back in his cell, you will go straight to the prison, tell Vire whatever you want to, and then you will get on the shuttle and come back here. If I'm lucky, Heero and Duo will never find out about this." He sighed. "And you owe me big time if they do!" He shook a finger at the girl. The twins giggled.

"Yeah." Meishel shook her own finger. "Lots of peanut butter!"

Linra laughed herself. "Not cookies?"

Shan considered "Peanut butter cookies!"

"Okay, if your Baba gets in trouble I will bake you guys lots of peanut butter cookies." The girl promised.

"Get in trouble, Baba!" Shan urged.

"Thank you, son-of-mine." Wufei gave him a wounded glance. "It's nice to know what your priorities are."

He looked at the waiting Linra. "Well, come on then. The shuttle won't wait forever."

He hugged the twins a final time and then Denea. "I'll be back as soon as I can." He whispered, and brushed his lips against hers.

"You better." She whispered back. "We've never been apart and I don't intend to get used to it."

The twins went back to their toys, but as Wufei was walking toward the transporter with Linra, he could feel Meishel's eyes on his back.

"Stay safe, Baba." she said suddenly. "You gotta come back."

It was an odd thing for a two year old to say. "Why wouldn't I come back, Angel?"

She shook her head, not understanding it herself. It was so hard sometimes to know things and yet not have the words to say them. And she knew, watching her Baba stand there, that he was going somewhere dangerous and that he might not ever come home again. She looked over at Shan and they exchanged a glance. Her twin felt it too.

"I won't be gone more than a day." He promised, and then he was in the transporter and out of their sight.

Shan looked at his sister worriedly. "Bad things."

"Very bad things." Meishel agreed. "But Baba's strong."

She had to believe that. But as the twins joined together on Shan's puzzle, they had never been more afraid.

I wish I could say that I was not a stranger to fear, that I had faced it many times and battled it down, that I was marked in and out with the scars of countless combats.

I could not.

I looked in the mirror in my borrowed room, and I saw myself. Really and truly saw myself. And I hated what I saw.

Even back on L2, when Pops and I weren't exactly rolling in dough, I was spoiled rotten. And I was still spoiled. I got everything I wanted and if it wasn't handed to me I got good at getting it anyway. Because I knew that my father and Heero would rant and rave and threaten but I could just turn on the charm and they'd sigh and cave in. I'd always been proud of myself for that talent; now I felt ashamed.

I tried to tell myself that I was a man, but it was a boy staring back from my reflection. And I was afraid. I was terrified, and I had no idea how to handle it. The monsters weren't under my bed or in my closet; they were waiting in a room to pounce on me. And it seemed absolutely foolish to think that the words of a fifteen-year-old boy would have any effect on their beliefs at all.

"You got yourself into this." I muttered. "You get yourself out of it. Daddy isn't going to show up and save your sorry butt this time." There were no warm beds to run to, there were no strong arms to pull me close and rub my back and tell me that it was all just a bad dream, just a nightmare and it was gone and I was safe now. I had never felt more alone in my life.

I looked at my watch, and then at the clothes on the bed. Not exactly my style, but Jaf insisted that I had to make a good impression on this Wronith, so I humored his request.

The pants were satiny, and dark blue, and fit like they were tailored to my body. The shirt was paler blue and wrapped around my chest, fastening at the side. I looked alien in them, and I looked like a stranger to myself, and I wanted nothing more than my dirty cut-offs.

There was a knock on the door and one of the Council aides entered, holding something.

"I'm almost ready." I assured her.

"Your fathers will be waiting to meet you when this is over with. Duo asked me to give you this." She held out her hand.

I was stunned. In her palm was a golden chain with a cross dangling from it. I knew that chain well. I had played with it as a baby; I had hidden it as a child. The woman, who's name I could not recall, placed it into my hand and closed my fingers around it.

"Duo says to wear this for luck. And for me to tell you that you are in the biggest trouble of your life." She smiled at that. "But that no matter what, he and Heero are proud of you for standing up for what you believe in."

My fingers shook slightly as I fastened the chain around my neck, the cross cool against my chest where the shirt opened. I looked at my reflection in the mirror again, and then at the aide.

"Will you do me a quick favor?" I asked.

"Certain. Name it."

I told her what I wanted, and her eyes softened. "Of course. I'll be happy to help."

The temptation, when they led me out of the cell, was to fight like an animal for my freedom. To bite and scratch and kick, and force them to either release me or kill me.

But I did not. Maybe later, on the return, I would try, but not now. I had something to do.

Jazz needed me.

They kept my hands secured behind my back as they led me to the transporter. They did not keep their neuralizers trained on me, however, making me think that they did not expect me to try and escape.

Life should be full of surprises. But not yet, I reminded myself sharply. First things first.

We appeared in the Setan Council hall, and I felt a wave of nostalgia. Once, I had walked these halls a king. My word was law, and I booked no defiance from anyone. And now I was here for what I was sure would be the last time, bound like a wild beast. Marched past the portraits on the marble walls, pictures of my ancestors staring down at me in disdain. My father's picture was there.

My hands were bound but my fingers were not. I extended the middle one up at my father's picture, and had to smile. Useless or not, that had felt good. After all, he was the reason I was in this whole miserable mess... no, I chided myself. You are the reason you're in this mess. He only led you to the path; you chose to walk down it.

A door opened near us and two of the Council aides walked out, Jazz between them.

He wore the traditional formal clothing of the Trens of Seta, and he looked as though, to my eyes, he was born to wear them. His wild heart was still evident, but it gave him an aura of power. He had two additional touches not seen on our Trens in the past.

One was a golden cross around his neck. I understood that this was a religious symbol where he was from. A moment later, I recognized it as his father's.

The second was a long braid of golden hair brushing against his shoulders, bound by a black satin ribbon. And I felt a wave of jealousy stab through me. I could teach him how to face the Wronith, but his strength in doing so came from those he loved. I wanted to own his heart; I wanted it to be me that he emulated; I wanted to be the man lucky enough to call him my son.

"Are you ready?" I asked him, swallowing all that I was feeling.

"Ready as I'll ever be." He was pale beneath his tan.

"Then let's go." One of the aides spoke up. "The Wronith have just arrived."

On to part eighteen. Back to part sixteen.