Here There Be Dragons
by Lasha Lee

"I want you to do me a favor." Duo's voice was barely louder than a whisper, but he was smiling up at his son as Jazz stood hovering anxiously over his bed the following evening. Never big to begin with, Duo looked positively tiny connected to various wires and monitors.

"Anything." The boy squeezed Duo's hand.

"Promise?"

"Sure."

"Go home and get some sleep." Duo stroked Jazz's fingers. "You need it."

"Pops... "

"You promised." Duo reminded him.

"Okay, you've got me. But only for a few hours."

Duo nodded, and glanced at Heero. "You should go rest too."

"I'd like to see you make me." Heero returned. "I'm not leaving this hospital unless you're with me."

"Figured as much." Duo leaned back on the pillows, the small conversation having exhausted him. "You. Go. Now." He pointed toward the door.

"I'm going, I'm going." Jazz leaned down and hugged Duo as carefully as he could. "I'll be back soon, though."

When the boy had left, Duo closed his eyes and sank down into the bed. "Do you need something? Should I get a nurse?" Heero asked, concerned.

"No. Just stay close. I'm really glad you're here. I hate hospitals."

"I know. I seem to remember what you did to the one I was in."

"Ow, don't make me laugh. It hurts."

"Sorry." Heero leaned down and kissed his forehead. "By the way, I don't think I ever said thank you for that."

"Let's not leave through the window this time." Duo muttered wearily.

He heard the door open a minute later, and footsteps entering the room.

"How is he?" Wufei asked.

"Weak. We almost lost him, after all. But he's out of the woods."

The woods. Duo frowned to himself. He remembered something about woods... a dream he'd had. It hurt to think, but he vaguely recalled a name. Nadia...

"Where's Jazz?"

"Duo sent him home to get some sleep."

"Home? Alone?"

"Yeah. Denea has the kids at your house, remember? What's the problem?"

"Heero, the Wronith burned his fields. They're all gone. With Duo being hurt, and everything else, I haven't had the chance to tell him."

"Jeez... "

"Go." Duo spoke up from the bed. "Go find him. He's going to need someone... "


The rain was just starting to fall, but Jazz was beyond seeing it.

He stood in the middle of the field, charred stalks of plants all around him, not quite believing what he was seeing. He reached out, trembling, for a leaf, and it crumbled into dust in his hand.

He remembered planting this one. Luke had helped that day, and they had laughed about how much more fun vegetables were to grow than to eat.

Gone... all gone.

He hated himself for feeling like this. He should be celebrating. His father was alive. The Wronith had surrendered. The whole planet was happy.

And here he was upset about a few plants...

They were HIS plants! He'd worked so hard on them, put so much into them. They were his future. Part of Linra's future. He wanted to pledge her in a few years; and he refused to do it if he couldn't afford to treat her the way she deserved to be.

Pushing his hair out of his eyes, he went to his tool shed and removed a sickle, and then went back to the ruined crops.

He swung the blade at the stalks, watching them fall. But instead of the plants, suddenly he saw children. Little half-Wronith kids like Rylan, standing afraid as their caretakers coldly murdered them. Cut them down like dead vegetables.

He swung the blade harder, as the rain began to fall faster on his shoulders. He pretended the charred plants were Wronith, dying under his blade. Why not? He was the son of Death, wasn't he? Wasn't it fitting that he was here dealing it out?

Suddenly, it was all too much for the boy to handle. The last few days came crashing down on him, choking him. He turned his face up into the rain and began to howl. Again and again he wailed; crying not only for the deaths of the Wronith children, but also for the death of the child he had been before this summer. A child who might surface from time to time, but like Rylan's peers, would never return.

A hand closed around his, removing the sickle from his iron grasp and tossing it aside. Liquid black eyes met his own.

"Wufei... " Jazz was shaking and he couldn't seem to stop.

His godfather reached out, and gently brushed at a streak of black dirt on the boy's face. "I know." He said simply. He pulled Jazz into his arms; the boy who for fifteen years had been his godson, honorary nephew, tormentor, and friend.

"They killed them. They killed them all!" Jazz's words were muffled by Wufei's shirt and the rain. He didn't know if he meant his plants, or the children, or both.

And there was nothing that Wufei could tell him at that moment to make it any better. There were no magical words to turn back time, to undo the damage the Wronith had caused. So he did what he could. He stood there in the driving rain, in the remains of Jazz's fields, holding the boy close, until long after the sun had gone down.


The next week was a blur to all of them.

Duo stayed in the hospital. In addition to his internal injuries, his right leg had been mangled badly in the crash as well. And although it would eventually heal enough for him to walk on again without the use of a cane, he would have a moderate limp for the rest of his life. He had listened calmly as this was explained to him, and then laughed, to the surprise of everyone listening. A limp was a small price to pay; he was alive.

The parents of the kidnapped girls came to Dera to retrieve them. It was a reunion mixed with both laughter and tears. Two of the girls were pregnant. One had decided to terminate her baby; the other was adamant that she was going to keep and raise hers, against her parents' wishes. Zea was not one of these girls.

Deran officials had shown up at Wufei's door to take custody of Pell and Adyn. After Wufei had very calmly explained to them how uncomfortable trying to pass a sword might be, they had thought better of it, and agreed to leave the young POWs in peace.

Seeing that Wufei had his hands full at the moment (Duo and Heero's children were still staying with him) Macus had offered to take Pell and Adyn back to Seta with him. Macus knew some people who might be interested in learning about Nataku, and thought the Wronith boys might be useful as examples of how she had convinced them to turn their lives around. Both young men readily agreed. Denea's rather dry comments about religious zealots were ignored, not to her great surprise. However, she couldn't help but feel bad for her maclen. Wufei, she knew, was going to miss his prisoners.

And then, there was Rylan.

At first, he had gone with the other children to Wufei's. However, it became clear that he wasn't emotionally ready yet to handle the good-natured chaos that was a constant there right now. After finding the boy hiding in a closet for the fourth time in one day, Trowa had gently suggested that he and Quatre take the Wronith child back to Duo and Heero's empty house with them, and the Changs had agreed that it would be for the best.

Although very quiet, it was obvious to the men that Rylan was highly intelligent, and keenly interested in their world. He also seemed terrified that he was going to say or do the wrong thing, and be cast out for it. As much as they tried to shield him from the news, he knew that Wronith, even half Wronith like himself, were hated by the Derans and Setans, and probably would be for a long time to come. He had a hard time accepting the fact that Quatre and the others didn't hate him as well.

However, there was one member of the family the boy took to immediately, and that was Osmar. Having never seen a dog before, Rylan was fascinated. Osmar loved the other humans in his life, but it was the first time since losing Jaf the dog had actually felt like someone needed him. And this little human seemed to need him very much.

One night, Trowa and Quatre were playing chess, when they heard screaming coming from Luke's bedroom, where Rylan had been sleeping. They raced down the hall to find the child drenched in sweat, grasping at the sheets, his face pale. Osmar was licking his hands, whining. The dog gave the men a hopeful glance; maybe they could fix whatever was wrong.

"They're coming. They're going to kill me!" Rylan whispered.

"Who?" Trowa sat down on the bed next to him. "Sh, no one's going to kill you."

"The Derans. They had guns... " The boy was fighting back the tears. "They said I was evil. They said I had to die... "

"It was a nightmare." The man soothed. "No one is going to hurt you; they'd have to get past us first. And we're about as tough as they come. Not to mention they'd have to get past your furry bodyguard here." Osmar let out a small bark of agreement.

Trowa put his arm around Rylan's shoulders, and squeezed, then tucked him back under the blankets. "Do you want to sleep with us tonight?"

"No... it's okay." Osmar flopped back down on the bed, as if stating that he appreciated the offer, but was perfectly capable of standing watch himself. One of Rylan's hands reached down and tangled in the dog's thick fur.

Trowa smiled and went to turn off the light.

"Trowa?"

"Humm?"

"Thanks. You really won't let them put me in jail or anything?"

"They'll take you away from here over my dead body." Trowa promised softly. The look he gave the boy was lost in the darkness, but it was a look of pure hunger and longing.

He pulled the door shut, and walked with Quatre back to the living room.

"Tro... " Quatre began. "This is dangerous... "

"I know." Trowa nodded. "I keep telling myself to wait, to be patient. He could have family on Seta that will snap him up in a heartbeat. But... God, did you see how tiny he looked? How alone he is? He hasn't even been hugged since his mother died. And if he's not meant to be mine, I can live with that, but he sure feels like mine."

Quatre locked his arms around Trowa's waist and laid his head against his chest. "To me too."


"Rylan? Can we talk to you for a minute?"

The boy looked up from brushing Osmar, to see Trowa and Quatre standing in the doorway.

"Sure." He sat down the brush. "What's up?"

"Come over here a minute." Trowa sat down on the couch, and Rylan plopped down next to him. Quatre sat down on Rylan's other side. Not to be left out, the dog crawled over on his belly, and flopped down on the floor at their feet.

Trowa reached out, and tenderly pushed a lock of hair out of the boy's face, and Rylan gave him an embarrassed smile. "We need to speak to you about something important."

"Okay." The boy's posture changed and he tensed up. Quatre sighed to himself. Poor thing; he's always acting we're going to beat him.

"We found your mother's parents on Seta." Trowa began, and paused. For a moment, Rylan's emerald eyes flared with hope, and then it quickly dimmed.

"They don't want me, do they?" he said softly.

"They're idiots." Quatre pronounced. "Trust me, you're much better off having nothing to do with people like that." He would not share their response with the child; he was better off not knowing what they had said about him. As far as they were concerned, he was an abomination. As far as Trowa and Quatre were concerned; they were.

"It's okay. I didn't think they would." Rylan shrugged. He leaned down to stroke Osmar's head.

"Well, there's a saying. One man's loss is another man's gain." Trowa continued. "Now you've got a couple of choices to make.

"Your first option is to live with Heero and Duo. And believe me, they love you to death. They'd have no problem with adopting you into their family."

"But." Quatre added. "They've already got four kids. And it seems to me that someone who hasn't had parents in a while might like to have parents that were only theirs. Ones they didn't have to share with anyone."

Rylan looked at him in confusion.

"See, we know this couple... they've got a great big house, and a lot of space. What they don't have is a kid and a dog to help fill it up. And lately they've been thinking that they need to do something about it."

Rylan wrinkled his brow. "They want... me?" Osmar licked his hand. "I mean, us?" He amended. "Sorry, boy."

"We want you, Rylan, more than we've ever wanted anything in our lives." Trowa whispered, and the child stared at him in shock.

"Now you won't hurt our feelings if you say no." Quatre assured him. "If you want to live here with Heero and Duo, that's fine. But... "

He pointed at the coffee table glass. "Take a look in there."

The boy glanced down at his own reflection, and then at the ones next to him. Especially Trowa's.

"See that?" Trowa pointed. "It's a sign, I think. So that I'd know, the minute I saw you, that you were supposed to be my son. But I didn't need it; it was something I felt. Heero told me a long time ago to follow my emotions. Right now, they're telling me to hold on to you as tightly as I can and never let you go. They're telling me that I'm supposed to be your daddy."

Rylan started to speak, and then let out a choked sob. His thin arms wrapped around Trowa's neck and he shook.

Quatre leaned forward, and put his own arms around both of them.

"Rylan Barton-Winner. Got a nice ring to it." They were all crying now.

"Hey." Trowa protested. "Why can't he be Rylan Winner-Barton?"

"We'll flip a coin." Quatre laughed. "You know, our sisters are going to spoil him rotten."

"You have sisters?" Rylan glanced up.

"I have one." Trowa offered.

"I've got twenty-nine." Quatre added. "My father swore he wouldn't stop cranking them out until he got a son. Only took him 30 tries... "

Rylan gave him a skeptical glance; convinced his new father was pulling his leg. "It's true." Trowa confirmed. "He's got twenty-nine of them, and we won't even go into how many nieces and nephews we've got now. And great-nieces and nephews. The mailman breaks down in tears every time they send us greeting cards."

"Wow." Rylan looked a little overwhelmed. "I don't think I'll be able to remember all the names."

"Half the time, they don't even remember their own names. But it makes holidays something else. You'll need a couple of rooms to hold all the presents you'll get."

"Of course." Trowa ruffled his hair. "We get first dibs on spoiling you. We've been waiting a long time for this. I think you were ours right from the start; it just took us a while to find you."

It was going to take some time, Quatre knew, before Rylan trusted them completely. But getting him off of this planet would be a good start. Once they took him home, he could being to heal.

"And I can take Osmar?"

"I think that Jazz will understand. Osmar will come with us. We'll get you a nice big bed so that he can share it with you."

"Hey, Quatre?" Trowa smiled at him over Rylan's head. "Guess what?"

"What?"

"It's a boy."


On to part thirty-four. Back to part thirty-two.