Here There Be Dragons
by Lasha Lee

Since the evening was nice, the families had decided to walk the short distance to Giano's instead of teleporting.

Wufei had decided to no longer take chances, and both Shan and his sister each had an elastic tether around their wrists, attaching them firmly to their parents. Duo had suggested the idea, explaining he had had to take similar measures with Jazz.

"How long until it's safe to let them off of it?" Wufei had asked.

"Four or five. Then put it back on when they hit thirteen." Was the reply.

Linra had convinced Jazz to tie his hair back into a loose pony-tail this evening. And even though Giano's wasn't fancy, the boy had agreed to put on whole jeans and a button-down shirt. He looked handsome, Duo thought with a natural prejudice, but wrong somehow. He was used to seeing Jazz free-haired and barefoot, with holes in his shorts and dirt under his fingernails. Jazz could play at being civilized when he chose to, but Duo know his son better than that. The kid was as wild as those waves pounding on the shoreline.

"Look. The sea gods are angry." Jazz pointed at the churning ocean. "They demand a sacrifice." He glanced at his family and suddenly scooped up Rosemary. "You'll do." He started running toward the water with the little girl draped over his shoulder.

"JAZZ! PUT ME DOWN!!!" she squealed, pounding her small fists against his back.

He loped back with her and sat her down. Her face was bright red under her black curls but she was laughing. "Who's next?" the boy called, and started toward Luke.

"The sea gods can wait." Heero said calmly. "We're here." He pointed at the beach restaurant.

"Okay, you got lucky this time but you just wait." Jazz warned Luke, who did not appear especially frightened. "The gods must be appeased and they really love little carrot-tops."

"I go!" Meishel offered. "I go too." Shan was not about to be left behind.

"Well, I would, Little Ones, but see, the thing about Chinese food is, you're hungry an hour after you eat it. So you wouldn't satisfy them very long."

"Ha ha." That from Denea. "I think what the gods really want is a smart-aleck teenager."

"Hellooo."

"It's Jaf." Heero waved and the man approached them.

"Where's Osmar?" Rosemary asked, disappointed.

"Osmar's at home tonight. They wouldn't let him inside and it would be mean to keep him tied up outside while everyone else eats. I promised I'd bring him back the left-overs."

Linra grinned. "Your poor dog is going to starve. We brought Jazz."

"We could tie him up outside. Wufei, let me have one of those tethers." Heero requested.

"I don't think so!" Jazz darted away quickly. "I did my leash time already." He gave his father a dirty look, which Duo returned. "You don't think that overturning three aquariums of crickets in a pet store is just cause for a leash?"

"No, I do not. Opening the skunk's cage... maybe."

They were still arguing as they entered the restaurant. One end was for eating, the other had a small stage and dance floor, where diners took their turns at karaoke. Jazz smirked to notice the waitresses hurrying to push tables together to accommodate their large group.

For them, the meal was relatively peaceful. The twins were content to throw food at each other instead of other patrons, Luke nodded off in his seat after finishing his dinner, and Rosie was busy coloring.

Jazz was bored. The adults were talking about some kind of finance thing that held no interest for him. His hand slipped under the table and brushed against Linra's knee.

She gave him a frown which he returned with his patented innocent blink.

"Behave." she hissed.

The current singer finished to a round of applause.

"They're only clapping because he's done." Jazz commented. "I thought they were butchering little animals or something."

Duo shrugged. "So? Get up there. You know you're better than anyone else here."

The boy glanced down at the song list on the table and something caught his eye. Yes, that would be perfect. Luckily this place had Earth songs as well as Setan and Deran.

"If I make an idiot of myself it's your fault." He muttered to his father as he got up from his seat.

Jazz sat down on the edge of the stage with the mic in his hand after punching in the song code. Luke awoke, blinked, and gave his brother a huge grin and a thumbs-up sign. Duo was expecting a love song, dedicated to Linra, but Jazz's choice surprised him.

I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
'Till the landslide brought me down.

His voice was low, deep, and smoky. Duo was an excellent singer but there was no doubt in anyone listening to his son that night that Jazz could have supported himself with his voice alone if he had chosen to.

Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

I don't know.

His eyes focused on his father and Heero.

Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
And I'm getting older too
Oh, take my love, take it down
Climb a mountain and turn around

If you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well the landslide will bring it down

If you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well the landslide will bring it down.

This time, the ovation was standing. Jazz broke the spell of the words by blowing kisses at the audience and waving, until Linra dragged him back to his seat so the next person could take the stage.

"You knocked um dead, Jazz!" Rosie cheered.

"Thanks. I really like that song." Jazz shrugged. "It's powerful."

"It is." Duo eyes meant his son's. I get the message, his gaze said. I'll try and lighten up a little.

"That was wonderful. Did you teach him to sing like that?" Jaf asked.

Duo started to deny it but Jazz interjected. "He was always singing to me. So I started singing back. We're teaching Luke right now. Rosie's really good, but Heero and Linra..."

"You'll have to excuse me, Jazz." Heero's lips twitched. "Dr. J didn't seem to think doing aria's from Madame Butterfly would be much help on my missions."

"I'm not THAT bad." Linra muttered.

"Linra." Luke patted her on the hand. "You're REALLY bad."

"Blame my father." the girl muttered. "My mother threatened to break their pledge if he ever sang 'Happy Birthday' to her again. She said the best present he could give her was to lip-sync." She glanced over at Heero. "Hey, remember when you tried to sing "Rock a bye Baby" to Rosemary?"

"And she put her hand over my mouth." Heero nodded. "She was four weeks old. That was right before I went back to kidnap Duo and Jazz."

Rosie shivered. "I didn't mind when Mother sang to me, but the rest of you scared me."

"What about you, Jaf?" Duo asked. "Any musical talents in your family?"

"My father played the piano." Jaf's eyes grew distant. "It was expensive and he never let me touch it. However, he was very good at it. He'd wait until he thought I was asleep and play it late at night. He was a very... controlled man, my father. I think that his piano was the only place he ever let his emotions go. His music always sounded angry. It made me see a different side to him."

"What about your mother?" Rosie asked.

"My mother died when I was very young. My father raised me."

Jazz nodded in sympathy.

"Jazz?" A teenage girl approached the table, followed by her parents. Duo recognized them as a family renting a bungalow near theirs. The girl, what was her name? Zea, yes that was it. "I just wanted to say that you were SO good up there. I was almost crying. That song... that's just how I feel so much of the time. It was like you looked in my head and sang about it. I mean, I know you didn't write it and all but... wow."

Jazz blushed deeply.

Linra shook her head. "Oh, now he gets shy." she teased.

Zea's father was speaking to Duo. "Your kid has a hell of a voice. You must be really proud of him."

"Always." Duo smiled, causing Jazz to blush even deeper.

Zea's family stayed for a few more minutes before heading out, and Denea announced they should get the twins home as well.

They said their goodnights to Jaf, promising to meet with him again soon, and headed back to their houses. Jazz carried Luke, who was asleep again. He was lost in thought as he walked.

Maybe the song had gotten to him too, he mused. Maybe that would explain why he was feeling so confused right now.

His father thought he could move mountains. He always had, even when Jazz had been just a small child. Duo always believed, without question, that his son was the best, the brightest, and the most terrific kid on any world. But there were times when Jazz wished... he didn't know what he wished. Sometimes that kind of faith was hard to live up to. He did his best, but he was afraid that one day he was going to screw up bigtime, that if he was ever truly tested he would not be able justify Duo's belief in him. As hard as it was to live with, he wasn't sure he could ever cope if he lost it, if that look of love and pride ever vanished from his father's eyes.

He'd come close. The night he and Linra had let things get out of control and Pops and Ojisan had caught them, he had seen the disappoint in their faces. A trust betrayed, their shining image of himself and Linra tarnished.

They reached the bungalow and he helped Ojisan get Luke ready for bed. Afterward they went out to the porch, and stood side by side watching storm clouds rolling in.

Heero glanced at his pledge-son. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be?" Jazz asked.

"Because you haven't said a word since we left Giano's."

Jazz shrugged one shoulder.

"You know, your father was in seventh heaven tonight, knowing that it was his son out there wowing everyone. I was just as proud."

Jazz's eyes grew distant. "But what if I had messed up? What if I had flubbed the lyrics or choked or something like that?"

"Then we would have been boasting to everyone that at least you had the courage to go out there at all. And if you hadn't, we'd have said you had too much class to belt out a song in front of a bunch of bored vacationers."

"You guys expect too much sometimes." Jazz blurted out suddenly.

Heero tilted his chin and looked into his eyes. "Do you know one of the biggest fears a parent has?"

"No."

"That day when their children look at them, and stop seeing gods, and see human beings. Flawed, imperfect, human beings. And we hope that when that day does come, they will be able to look beyond the fact that we're mortals and love us anyway. Would you turn away from us on that day?"

"No, never!"

Heero kissed his forehead. "Then you'll have to trust that we're willing to overlook the fact that you're a human, too. And you'll have to put up with us thinking you hung the moon."


The next day brought rain. Luke and Rosie tried to argue that they'd get wet in the ocean anyway, but Duo wasn't buying it and ordered them to stay home. They were spending their mid-morning on the living room floor reading the comics, Rosie helping Luke sound out new words. Jazz was reading, and Duo was looking through a local guide to get some ideas on where to take the children if they decided to try and kill each other out of boredom.

There was a knock on their front door, and Jazz untangled his legs and heaved himself off the couch, his book falling to the floor. Duo glanced at the cover and shook his head. With all the good, worthless, trash out there that a teenage boy should be gobbling down, his son was spending his vacation reading a book on agriculture and crop rotation.

"Hey, Jazz."

"Mr. Reedy." Jazz nodded at Zea's father, wondering what he was doing out in the pouring rain. He looked terrible.

"Jazz, is Zea here by any chance?"

Jazz blinked. "We haven't seen her since last night."

"After we got home, she said she wanted to go down to the beach and talk to her friends for a little bit. We went to bed. When we woke up, we found her bed hadn't been slept in. We've called the police. I just hoped..." His voice cracked.

"Come in, please." Duo was behind Jazz and pulled the man inside. "Jazz, get him a cup of coffee." He led Sledner Reedy over to the couch. Jazz appeared a moment later, handing him a hot cup.

"Was she upset about anything? Did you have a fight?" Duo asked, noticing Heero joining them from the corner of his eye.

"No, she was fine. The police think she may have ran away... she wouldn't! Not Zea. We were going to the Virtual Museum today and she was excited about it." He buried his forehead in his hands. "She's not even 15 yet. Her birthday is next week..."

Duo put his arm around the other man's shoulders as he sobbed. He knew far too well what Sledner was going through and understood now the helplessness his own friends had felt. That sweet, pretty little girl...

"We have connections." Heero said suddenly. "I'll make some calls, see if we can't get the search intensified. We'll find her."

"You would do that? We barely know each other..."

"Zea is our friend." Linra said firmly. "Our family will be happy to help."

They took turns as the day passed, searching out in the rain, and waiting by the phone, but as night fell, there was no sign at all of Zea Reedy.

And by midnight, two more girls had been reported missing.


On to part six. Back to part four.