Here There Be Dragons
by Lasha Lee

Wufei wasn't easy to love, the way Duo was. Or even the way Heero had been. She had known Heero her entire life; loving him had been a given. And Duo... well, it wasn't possible NOT to be crazy about him. But the man walking beside her now was a different story. Wufei could be downright impossible at times to even like.

Denea had been good for him though, Linra mused. He had been forced to acknowledge her strength, her iron will. Denea and her mother had been so close that the other woman was her aunt in every way but blood, making Wufei her uncle by pledge. And since Denea loved him so deeply, Linra had decided to as well.

He just had such funny ideas sometimes. He would go off onto long tangents about this and that, and his face would turn red as his voice grew louder, trying to prove his point by making it impossible to tune out. Not used to that kind of behavior (Denea's fits involved leaving the moment she broke something) the girl had been at first frightened, then amused, and then disgusted. It made matters worse that she couldn't even complain much to Jazz about it, because Jazz adored him.

"You get used to it." He'd said with a shrug. "Wufei is Wufei. You get what you get. And he's a trip once you get to know him."

So for Denea, and for Jazz, she had forced herself to spend time with her friend's godfather, and had been forced to agree that they were right. Underneath his righteousness he had a heart of gold, and she had grown to love him deeply. And she was grateful for his friendship.

He held tightly to her hand as they left the shuttle and headed toward the transporter, taking her safety on Seta as one of the most important missions in his life. If the Wronith wanted her, they were going to have to get passed one royally pissed-off guardian, who wasn't going to go down without a fight. He had a neuralizer at his waist, but she knew he didn't need it.

Wufei's entire body was a weapon and he had even taught a few of the moves, which he called martial arts, to her as he tried to instruct his children. He had finally recognized that maybe two was a bit young to learn, but Linra had proved herself to be an attentive pupil and he was pleased with her progress.

"This should be a private meeting between the two of you." Wufei said suddenly. "But I can't allow you out of my sight that long. Please understand."

"I do. Thank for you bringing me, letting me do this." She squeezed his fingers. "It means a lot to me."

They stopped at the directory to get the code for the prison, and then into a public transporter.

"I know. Each day Denea and I live with the reminders. I watch the twins, asking her to play tag with them, confused why she can't. Meishel tries to show her pictures; she's puzzled and angry why her mother can't see them. If I had one wish, it would be for my wife to be able to look at the children we've created and see how beautiful they are."

"Duo would say to never stop hoping for miracles." They left the transporter and stepped into the prison lobby.

"His faith is strong; part of the reason I haven't choked him to death before now." Wufei gave the girl a half-smile.

"Only part of it?"

"Well, before they came here, if I had broken down and strangled him I'd have probably ended up raising that misbegotten son of his. That alone was enough to force me to control myself."

Linra laughed outloud as they approached the main desk. "I know it's late, but we'd like to visit with Vire." Wufei explained. "This is Linra Rynt."

The woman's eyes widened. "Sheld and Marti Rynt's daughter?"

"That's me." Linra said proudly. "Can I go in?"

The woman paused. "I'm afraid it won't be possible to see Vire."

Wufei blinked. "I realize it's probably a breech of rules at this hour, but surely in the girl's case..."

The woman was shaking her head. "He's not here. I'm sorry, but Vire is dead. He took his own life a few hours ago."

Linra paled. "He's... dead? Are you sure?"

"Yes. There was no doubt this time. He's gone."

"I'm too late." She seemed to grow smaller. "There was so much I needed to say to him, to ask him... I'm sorry, Mother."

Wufei hugged her suddenly. "Your parents understand. The fact that you came here at all should be enough to make them proud."

"Dear, would you like to sit down for a while? This has to be a shock, and you've come such a long way..." the guard felt a burst of pity for the child. This meeting had obviously met a lot to her.

"No." Linra shook her head. "I guess I've come for nothing." She looked at Wufei. "I'm sorry I made you do this. I'll go back home now."

"Not tonight. We got the last shuttle coming and no more will leave until tomorrow." He glanced at the guard. "Do you know how the meeting went? Before Vire died?"

"No. No one is saying anything. But they did let the young man go home with his family." She smiled at that. "He was here several times to visit Vire. I don't know why he'd want to, after what that man did to him, but he was always very polite. Are you his friend?" She asked Linra.

"We're engaged to be Pledged when we come of age." The girl admitted shyly.

"Well, hold on tight to him. He's a cutie. Those eyes could melt an ice block."

A few minutes later they headed back toward the transporter, and Linra was quiet. "I want to see Jazz, to talk to him. I want to know if Vire said anything about my parents, if he ever said..." her voice cracked. "that he was sorry."

Wufei's fingers moved to brush the tears off her cheeks. "Come on then. I'll take you to Jazz."

"You can't." She protested. "Duo and Heero will freak if they know you brought me here."

He shrugged. "They'll get over it. And I have a feeling that after today that young man needs you as well. And I need to see for myself that my godson is in one piece."

"Liar. You just want to see me up to my elbows in peanut butter cookie dough."

He laughed. "Well, there is that."

"You're an okay guy, Wufei. No matter what Denea says."

"I'll probably be several okay guys after they rip me to shreds. But life is risk. I've learned that pledged to Denea."

He smiled at the thought of his wife, missing her even though they'd only been apart a few hours. Sleep tight, he sent to her silently. Dream of miracles.

Jaf was dead.

Jazz stared at the ceiling of his bedroom, his right hand buried in Osmar's fur, absently feeling every twitch the dog made in his sleep.

He had stayed alive long enough to help Jazz with the Wronith, and then he had made his escape. No prison walls, no snide comments, no jeers. Maybe even no memories of his bad decisions.

He blinked rapidly, stunned at himself. Jaf had been his enemy. He had tried to kill his father!

No, a voice in his head argued. VIRE had tried to kill his father. VIRE had killed Linra's parents, had blinded Denea.

Jaf had done none of those things. Jaf had tried to be his friend...

A knock on his door startled him and Osmar awoke with a whimper. Jazz soothed him. "Come in."

Duo entered and shut the door behind him. "Did I wake you?"

"Nah, I couldn't sleep."

Duo ignored the chair Jazz nodded to and sat down on the bed next to his son. A moment later, the boy felt his fingers gently combing through his now loose hair. "You want to talk about it?"

"Yes." Jazz paused."But I don't know what to say."

Duo said nothing for a while, and then began.

"You know, all my life I've listened to my friends griping about their kids. How disrespectful they are, how rude. How they never tell them anything. And I'd think. 'Man, I am one lucky guy. My kids know they can tell me anything. Especially my oldest. We're about as close as two people can be, and we know each other inside and out.' And I'd smile at them and offer them some lame advise and try not to call them losers."

Duo sighed. "And you and I, we've always had a great relationship. No one understands me like you do; not even Heero. He'll just look at me like I'm insane, but you know exactly what I'm thinking and why. I'd trust you with my life, and that's why... " he forced the words out. "that it hurts like hell to know that you can't trust me. That somewhere along the line, I must have let you down. So much that you had to run off to get me to listen. Something's broken, Jazzy. And it's not something that I can lose. So talk to me." He faced his son, and saw the tears on his face. "Tell me what I can do. Tell me what we can do to make this right again."

Jazz was shaking his head. "I never wanted to hurt you. But you were willing to let those girls go on suffering to protect me, and I'm not worth their lives."

"The hell you aren't. I don't care how selfish this sounds; yes, I feel terrible for what's happening to them, but not if it means losing you to save them. Better them than you." Duo said fiercely.

"That's why I did what I did. Because I can't agree with that. What if your parents had been around during your war? What if they'd told you not to pilot your Gundam?"

"I'd have done it anyway. In my mind I understand what you're saying but damn it, kid, I'm your father! There's no place for logic or reason in a father's heart. What if it was Linra?" He turned around. "What if she had gone off like that? What if... " he thought for a moment. "It was the kids? Rosie or your brother? Or the twins?"

"I'd have chained them up before I let them put themselves in danger." Jazz admitted.

"And I should be expected to do any less?"

"Well, it works in theory, anyway." was Jazz's comeback.

They both laughed through their tears. "You have to understand where I'm coming from, Jazz. I couldn't save my mother. I couldn't save my foster parents. I couldn't..." he sucked in his breath. "I couldn't protect your mom. I thought that if I became Death I could maybe control it, but it doesn't work like that. Doesn't mean that I stop trying. I'm not going to fail again; I'm not losing you."

"Hey, the most dangerous thing I plan to be doing from now on is playing horsey with the twins."

"That's what I want to hear." Duo grinned. "You have a few years left on your kid lease and you won't get a renewal."

"Do you really think I did okay today?"

"You were incredible." He tugged on the golden hair. "And you looked damn good with that braid."

Jazz blushed. "You know, you weren't ever supposed to know I did that."


"Oh, here." He reached for the cross, but Duo stopped him. "No, you keep it."

"But it's yours."

"No. I was planning on giving it to you one day anyway, when you were older. I want you to wear it from now on, if you want to. It looks better on you than it ever did on me." His lips twitched. "And ten years or so down the road, you can go bonkers trying to find out where your bratty kid has hidden it."

"You are just dying for Linra and I to get a monster, aren't you?"

Duo shook his head. "No, but I do want you to have a Maxwell."

"Wufei would ask what the difference is."

"Well..." Duo considered. "I've never hidden in a closet and scared a little kid."

"Yes you did! You did that to me when I was six!"

"Humm. Hiding under the bed and grabbing an ankle?"

"I was four. Twice."

"Jeez. No wonder you're so screwed up."

"I loved it, Pops. All of it. Sometimes I wish I could turn back time and do it all over again."

"Me too." Duo hugged him. "Think you can sleep now?"

"Maybe, but just stay for a while longer. This is nice."


The doorbell rang.

"At this time of night?" Duo asked. "Must be important."

They walked out to the living room, where Heero was opening the door.

"Good evening, sir. Have you accepted Natuku as your savior?" A familiar voice asked politely.

"Wufei?" Heero asked, puzzled. "What are you doing... I swear to God, Chang, that if that's who I think it is behind you..."

"Umm, hi?" Linra asked. "Nice night, huh?"

They stepped past the fuming Heero into the house. His anger was no match for Jazz's.


Wufei was calm. "First of all, if your parents want to, as the phrase goes, rip me another one, they are permitted, but I will NOT be spoken to like that from a wet-behind-the-ears boy. I'm your godfather, and even if you don't feel any respect toward me you're sure as hell going to treat me with some."

He turned toward Heero and Duo. "Linra wanted to speak to Vire. After what he took from her, she had that right. She convinced me of this and I agreed to bring her with me. I was planning to come anyway to make sure that Jazz was secure. We didn't know that Vire was dead. She hasn't been away from my side the entire time."

"I had to come, Heero." Linra said quietly. "You know I did."

Duo threw his hands up in the air. "You and my son are perfect for each other, you know that?"


"That wasn't a compliment. And you're both grounded until you're fifty. Goes for you too, Wufei."

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me. You're grounded! Now go to bed."

Wufei stared at Jazz. "Well, you've finally done it. You've made him snap."

"I am NOT speaking to you." Jazz glared. "You don't want me to be disrespectful, and I can't think of anything to say to you right now that won't get my mouth washed out with soap." He stormed out of the room and back into his bedroom, slamming the door.

"I think we've all had a long day. Why don't we try and get some sleep and talk about this tomorrow when we're back on Dera?" Heero suggested.

"That sounds like a plan to me." Duo agreed. "Who wants to take first turn guarding Linra?"

"I could use the extra bed in Jazz's room." She offered.

Duo opened his mouth to protest, and then shut it. "Go ahead."

"You mean it?"

"Yeah, I mean it." Duo sighed. "Right now Jazz is too exhausted to even think about being bad. He's had a rough day. He was stunned when Vire died. I swear I almost think he's sorry. Weird huh?"

Linra started off down the hall but Wufei stopped her. "Let me speak to him for a minute first. Privately. Then he's all yours."

Linra nodded, seeing something she didn't recognize in his eyes.

Wufei rapped on the door, and then entered when Jazz didn't answer.

"Get lost." Jazz muttered, turning his back to his godfather.

"I'll only stay a moment. But I have something to tell you."

The boy said nothing.

"When I was your age, I gave myself a mission. That was to hunt down and kill the man I held responsible for the deaths of those I loved. I became obsessed with this goal; like Ahab and the whale I pursued him. Even when he beat me, I refused to give up my quest to destroy him."

Wufei stared at the wall. "And somewhere along the way, something happened. I don't know what. Something changed. But I do know that right before he died, he called me his friend. And when he was gone, I wept like a child. And I've never understood why. He was my enemy. I hated him. And yet... he was a part of me. I think sometimes our enemies define us more than those we care about. Not a day goes by that I don't think about him."

He glanced back at his godson. "Well, I'll let you sleep now. Linra will be in shortly. But if you ever feel the need to talk about Vire... I'll listen."

His hand was on the doorknob when he heard Jazz say softly. "Thank you. If you want to talk about the man you knew, I'll listen too."

"Thank you, Jazz."

Linra snuggled closer to Jazz and felt his arm tighten around her. Although he had been furious with her from coming to Seta, he was too happy to see her to remain angry for long.

She had started the night in her own bed, but the need for contact, for warmth, had driven her to his. Neither of them had the energy or inclination to do anything more than cuddle, but the cuddling had been enough. They had slept together often like this as children, and their sleep on this night was no less innocent. And it felt right, and good, and Linra knew that she wanted nothing more than to be old enough to wake up by his side every morning. In a strange bed on a strange world, she was home.

He leaned over and kissed her cheek. "Hey. You awake?"

"Sort of."

"What do you say we get up and get breakfast ready? I don't know about you, but I'm feeling pretty bad for what I've put everyone through. Nothing says I'm sorry like a lot of greasy food."

"Sounds good to me. All I had last night was shuttle food."

Her stomach growled on cue and they both laughed. "Come on. All we're likely to get later is shuttle food, too."

They walked to the kitchen, hands joined, and Jazz turned on the preparer.

The transporter chimed.

"Cripes. Who could that be?" Linra asked, walked toward it.

"Stop." Jazz ordered. "We don't know who it is, and we have to be careful."

"Good thinking." Duo said sleepily from the doorway, a neuralizer in his hand. "You kids keep back." He walked toward the approval button, a rumpled Heero and then Wufei at his side.

He hit the button, and then waited.

Seb Nela stepped out of the transporter, and Duo felt like an idiot.

"Seb, we apologize for overreacting but..."

"No, Duo. You were right to be careful." Nela's face was ghostly pale. "Something has happened. You needed to be among the first to know. The news will be released in a few hours. We're predicting wide-spread panic."

"What's happened?" Heero asked sharply. "The Wronith?"

"The Wronith have made their decision." Her voice was a choked whisper. "They've made their move."

"I guess they haven't returned the girls."

She shook her head. "No." Her eyes closed for a moment.

"They've launched an invasion. But not here. The Wronith have declared war on Dera."

On to part twenty. Back to part eighteen.