Memories picked the oddest times to pop up.
It was while exchanging laser blasts with a Wronith ship, and seeing the two Setan vessels slipping toward the mother ship, Duo remembered the House.
That was how he always thought of it. The House. Like it had been a real, living thing.
He had lived in the House for about two years. From the time he was six until the Maxwell Church had taken him in. When he saw it being torn apart, he had wept like a baby. It had groaned and cried out as the wrecking balls smashed into it, as if asking what it had done to deserve such a cruel fate. Sometimes, late at night, Duo woke up convinced that he was back here.
As far as houses went, it stunk. Literally and figuratively. The roof leaked in more places than it was solid, and there was neither electricity nor running water. If there had been true winter on L2 Duo and the children in the House might well have frozen to death, but the uppercrust never like to let it get too extreme.
Still, it was big enough for each boy to have his own room, although they usually slept together for safety and added warmth. And it was full of rodents. That might have been a drawback to some, but to hungry children food was food. Duo had lost count of all the gamey flesh he had forced down over the years, but he was forced to concede that if it hadn't been for the mice and their larger rat cousins, he might not be here.
He turned his vessel toward the Wronith one, feeling anger wash over him. So far they hadn't noticed the brave pilots trying to reach the main ship, and he was determined that they would not.
He had eaten garbage and refuse to survive. He had been lived through a lifetime of being beaten, raped, starved, shot at, cast aside, and discarded like trash. He had seen his loved ones die for their beliefs; he had buried a wife who had not even seen her twentieth birthday.
The planet below him had eased all of that. There he had built a home, raised a family. He had learned to love again and to trust love under that green sky.
Dera was his.
He hadn't been able to save the House from being torn apart. He hadn't been able to save the Maxwell Church from being blown up. Now, once again, someone who thought they were bigger and stronger was trying to take away his home.
Over his dead body.
The Wronith vessel drew closer and Duo's fingers flexed on the controls.
And he laughed.
Macus took the controls of the plane as it whipped along, dodging stray Wronith shots.
"Where are we going, sir?"
"I don't know. Find an island maybe. Something secluded." Wufei told him. "Somewhere they won't look right away."
He felt a small hand tug on his, and looked down into Rosemary's frightened eyes. "Are we going to be okay?"
He squeezed her fingers and a lie came to the tip of his tongue, but he found he could not spit it out. "I don't know, honey." He said honestly. "But we're going to give it our best shot." He knelt down next to her and ruffled her hair, and then grabbed her arms as the plane lurched. "I saw you pulling Luke. He would have fallen in the fire if you hadn't kept him going. You saved his life."
"Well, sure. He's my brother. Okay, not really, but he counts as a brother. Doesn't he?"
"Of course he does. I think of Duo and Heero as my brothers. Blood doesn't mean much if you love someone."
"I think we'll be okay." The girl said suddenly. "Why would your friends have saved us, if we were just gonna die?"
"That's a good point." Wufei agreed. "I will do everything I can to keep you safe. I promise."
Rosie kissed him on the cheek and retreated to the rear of the plane, and after a minute he followed.
Denea was rocking the twins on her lap, with a sleeping Luke curled up at her side. His ankle was swollen, and dried tear stains were on his face. Having never known anything in his short life but love and comfort, the child was bewildered and afraid by the recent upheavals.
"He keeps asking for his fathers." Denea spoke as she heard Wufei approach. "I don't know exactly what to tell him."
"Join the club." He sat down at her other side, and took Shan into his own arms, cradling his son. "I don't even know if they're still alive."
The twins locked eyes in the semi-darkness, and communication flowed quickly between them, although no one else heard.
Trying to hurt us.
Trying to hurt Heero.
Trying to hurt Duo, too.
Trying to hurt Jazz and Linra.
Meishel reached out her hand and Shan took it, and their small fingers intertwined. She had heard what Mulan had told her mother, about how the bad people wanted to kill Shan.
The love she felt for her parents, and even for Jazz, was nothing compared to her love for her twin. It went beyond that; Shan was the other living, breathing half of her. She knew, with a vague understanding limited only by her age, that she could not have survived his loss.
Only Shan knew how to play their special game.
Now, afraid even with her parents there, an alien sensation, she relaxed and reached out her mind to his, and felt his own answer the call. And when sleep came, and the dreams followed, they dreamed the same ones, controlling them, and experiencing them as one.
They stood now in their room at home, surrounded by their toys, with their cribs towering over them, the dream real enough for the air to smell musty, for they had not been here in a while now.
"Meishel." Shan tugged at her hand. "I'm scared." Now, in the security of the dream, where his Baba couldn't hear him, he could admit it.
"I know. Me too."
"You want a piece of me?" Duo called out. "Huh? You think you got what it takes to bring Shinigami down? Let's see it!"
The speaker crackled. "You are a prisoner of the Wronith. Surrender your vessel. Your life will be spared."
"When Wufei goes around in a cocktail dress singing show-tunes!" Duo snapped back.
Three other Wronith ships had began to form a ring around him. He noticed that Heero was engaged in a game of tag some distance away, and the other Setan pilots were equally busy.
"Oh sure, leave me to sweep up." He muttered, his face twisted in a weird parody of a grin. "Here kitty, kitty, kitty." Without warning he charged right at a Wronith ship, and was beneath it before the pilot could realize what was going on.
However, by the time he had come out the other side the ships had turned to confront him.
Suddenly a Wronith vessel exploded on a ball of flame. The glare was so strong it blinded Duo for a moment.
What he saw next made him whoop with joy.
Earth ships. Dozens and dozens of Earth ships, had joined the battle. They stretched as far as the eye could see.
"Shinigami. Come in, Shinigami." A voice came over the speaker. "Damn it, Duo! Answer me!"
"Qu..Quatre??" Duo managed to get out.
"You had a party and didn't invite us!" Quatre's voice sounded wounded. "Good thing we decided to crash it, huh?"
"You should have seen him, marching into the Government office a few days ago and demanding a fleet of fighters based on a gut feeling." Trowa's voice broke over the air suddenly. "They thought he was nuts, but he was too rich to argue with."
"Quatre, bless your little Space Heart." Duo said, sniffing.
"So what's going on?"
Duo explained the situation the best he could, watching Heero dispose of a particularly persistent Wronith and make his way toward the Earth fleet.
"So, Heero." Trowa said companionably, firing at Wronith randomly. "How're the kids?"
"Kids are fine." Heero answered, dodging a stray beam. "How have you been?"
"Not bad. Relena says hi. She's hoping to come out for a visit soon. Wants to show off her son. He's about two and a half now. Nasty little brat. Well, serves you right for getting in my way!" He told a Wronith, who was now flying half a craft.
"Oh? Gage, right? Careful Duo, he's riding your butt."
"Sorry, pal, I'm married." Duo informed the Wronith, opening fire.
"Yeah, Gage. Kid barely speaks. Hates everyone. Just wants to go off by himself all the time and pout."
"Heero, is there something you want to tell me??" Duo said in a hurt voice. "Just friends with Relena, my Great-Aunt Shirley!"
"Very funny. I haven't been to Earth a lot longer than three years and you know it!
"Who's he look more like, her or Gerry?" Heero asked, grinning. Two Wronith vessels had tried to sandwich him and ended up smashing into each other.
"Neither. He looks like Zechs."
"No way. Really?"
"Yeah. I mean, his hair might get darker when he's older but he looks a lot like his uncle right now." Quatre put in. "He looks like a kid you just want to hug, but if you try it he'll bite you. He won't even let his parents hold him."
"Geez. Tell her to get him some Toddler Prozac or something." Duo commented. "Jazz never wanted me to put him down..."
"I'm surprised that kid isn't up here in the middle of the battle."
"No, we had a good talk the other night. I think I really got through to him."
Duo watched the two Setan vessels slide into an airlock in the Wronith main ship, and mentally wished them luck.
His radio crackled again. "Duo. Come in Duo. Please respond."
"Geez, what now?" Duo hit the button. "Thanks for calling Duo's Love Line. Caller, you're on the air."
"Duo, this is Tylier. I've been trying for hours to get ahold of you. We've got a problem."
"What kind of problem?"
"Well, um... you know those planes I told you guys not to take? The ones we decided to ground as a precaution?"
"What about them?"
"Your son and Linra Rynt knocked us out and took off in a couple."
"They did what?" Duo asked calmly.
"Took everyone by surprise. By the time we came to two of the planes were gone. That was hours ago. They've probably reached you guys by now. Listen, you have to tell them to land. Those planes aren't safe!"
"I see. Well, thank you for letting me know." Duo closed the connection.
But the man was beyond his mate's hearing for a moment. He wasn't the best at math but he could put two and two together and his blood was iced with fear.
The Setan pilot who had saved his life and impressed him with the fancy flying.
The same pilot who had refused to answer Duo's call.
The pilot who was now on board the main enemy vessel.
"I know. I just realized too. Come on!"
"Go, we'll handle things here. Go find your kids!" Trowa ordered.
Duo paused for a second. Jazz had stolen the ship. He had made the choice to come here and fight, backing up the promise he had given the Wronith to do so. He had proved himself capable of fighting in a battle. He had saved his father's life. He wasn't a child any longer.
But none of that mattered. He was, had always been, and would always be, Duo's baby. Linra was with him. She was his baby, too.
Duo flew toward the Wronith ship as fast as he could.
Getting into the ship hadn't been difficult at all. The airlock opened every now and then automatically to admit Wronith vessels. It hadn't been hard to slip their small planes inside. What did surprise them was the fact that the Wronith hadn't immediately noticed.
"Most of them are at the battle." Linra reasoned. "And those here probably didn't expect anyone to be allowed to get even near this one."
Jazz nodded, and his fingers ran across the neuralizer at his side. One finger moved to flip the switch. It was the level between stun and kill. He wouldn't kill unless he had to, but they'd damn sure know he'd been there.
There was a round area for landing planes, and boy noticed several disabled Wronith fighters already there, and more Wronith removing the wounded.
"Now what?" Linra asked.
"Set the controls to hover." Jazz instructed. "And use the ladder to climb out. We'll have to go on foot."
"Osmar, stay!" The girl ordered, as the dog tried to join her. "Guard."
Instantly the animal's demeanor changed. His eyes narrowed and he sniffed the air, trying to look dignified. She stifled a laugh. "Good boy."
She slid down the ladder and her feet hit the metal floor. An moment later Jazz was beside her. "Come on. We have to find out where they're keeping the girls and then get out of here."
They edged toward the exit of the tunnel, and Jazz was starting to think this was too easy, when the alarms started going off.
"Now what?" Linra asked, raising her neuralizer.
"Now." Jazz said thoughtfully. "We run."