I was never able to look at her without feeling guilt.
Not as strongly as I had in the beginning. It would have been insulting to her, an implication that I had somehow forced her to leave her family and her world behind for me. She was perfectly capable of making her own choices and decisions.
But I knew she missed Dera, missed her family. Missed watching her niece grow up. And I wanted to give her those things, a little voice in my head telling me that I should, that my own cowardice should not stand in the way of her happiness.
But I knew she would never allow it. Maybe in the beginning, but not now.
Two years ago, a group of Wronith teenagers had come to Dera. Now Wronith weren't forbidden from the planet. They weren't welcomed with open arms, but they weren't kept out, either. Most Wronith never stayed long, and none of the visitors had ever caused any problems.
But then these four boys came. Raised on stories of the Wronith defeat all those years before, and full of bitter pride. They went on a rampage in the Deran city of Almerian, raping and murdering, destroying everything they could find. Of course they were caught quickly, but not quickly enough to stop the buried feelings of animosity toward the Wronith in general from bubbling up to the surface again. Those with clear memories of the war wanted peace; those who were children at the time were hungry for battle.
The Wronith came and took back their wayward sons, promising Dera no more trouble. Those Wronith were safe. However, those Wronith who had lived peacefully on Dera, and those who were descended from the alien race through no fault of their own, found themselves in very real danger.
Several were found dead, one of those a child not even five years old yet. A group calling themselves Deran Pure claimed responsibility for the crime. They operated in secret, no one able to determine who was doing it.
Some of the Wronith-blooded Derans chose to stay and fight for their right to exist. A good many others packed up and came to Earth, where no one gave a damn. Most humans didn't even know a Wronith when they saw them.
I always did. No matter how diluted the blood, it always showed if you knew what to look for. And having spent the first nine years of my life on a Wronith ship with other Wronith half-breed children, I knew all the different little variations.
Unfortunately for me, my face showed both my human and my Wronith side, and it was impossible on Dera for me to hide what I was. I had never liked going there, but now I had the added bonus of wondering if I was going to be allowed to leave alive. The fact that I had turned against the Wronith, had aided in the rescue of the kidnapped girls, mattered little to anyone.
So I stayed on Earth, with my Deran-born wife at my side, in the shelter of her love, and that of the men who had brought me here and claimed me as their son. And I was very content.
Rosemary was the most amazing woman, the most exasperating woman, the most beautiful woman, in all of creation. She was small and plump, with black hair and eyes that were always laughing. They said, those who had known Sheld, that she was very like her mother had been. She definitely had her mother's fascination with the human mind and how it worked. When she had first stated attempting the memories walks Sheld had invented, I was her favorite Guinea pig. People came to her all the time, trying to remember bits and pieces and details of their lives. Which is another reason she stayed on Earth; there was a greater need for someone who could help you remember if you actually forgot anything. And she never turned anyone away.
Sometimes those who came to her had been adopted, wanting nothing more than one glimpse of their mother's face. Others found themselves plagued by half-dreams, shadow memories, needing Rosemary to lift the veil. Those were often not as pleasant. When people block out memories, they usually have a very good reason to do so.
I asked her once if it might not be better to refuse these people than make them remember their fathers beating their mothers, their uncles touching them in places an uncle had no right to touch. She told me no, that wounds would keep festering until they were drained.
She lost herself in her work at times, in her research and notes and studying. Sometimes I'd go out to find her asleep on the floor, having tried to make it back to bed and failed in the attempt. I had been jealous at first of her passion, her dedication. But it was part of who she was, and I loved all of who she was, and I accepted it.
So when she received the call from Heero, asking her to please come to Dera and try and help him remember his past, she was nearly beside herself. She remembered, as an infant, watching her mother's frustration as no matter how hard she tired, Heero's secrets were locked tightly in his head.
"She used me as a sounding board." Rosemary laughed. "My father was at work and Linra was at school, so she talked to me. She explained to me in detail how everything about the memory walk worked, and how she had never met a mind as full of trapdoors as Heero's was. I couldn't answer her of course, and I didn't understand 90% of what she was saying, but I listened anyway. She was brilliant, my mother." She stopped and turned away, blinking rapidly.
She showed her to me, talking me on the walks through her own memories, and showing me as well her own childhood after Sheld and Marti had died, and Heero and Duo had adopted her. I in turn showed her my own mother, small and frail in the prison cell, my own life of constant education, and I showed her how I would sneak away in the air vents of the ship. In that way, in some small form, we kept our mothers alive.
"Do you want us to come along?" Papa asked me, as I stopped by their house to say goodbye.
Trowa was my Papa, and Quatre was my Dad, and no one ever had more loving or devoted parents. Or more worrisome parents. They were always fretting over me, making sure that I was dressed warmly enough or eating right, which was rather funny considering that I was 25 now. But I was their only child, one they had never expected to have, and their love far outweighed their overprotectiveness.
"No, we'll be fine. We're only staying about a week or so." I assured him with a hug.
"Just be on your guard." Dad gave me a long look. "Stay close to the family. The Deran Pure are dangerous, but they're not stupid enough to try and go after you with Heero and Duo around."
"I'd feel a lot safer if he was taking Ahmed along with him." Papa said thoughtfully, and Dad nodded.
"No, I am not taking Ahmed. I do not need a body guard!" I snapped, thinking of the bearded, burly young man whose family had served my father for three generations now. He was likable enough, but not very bright, and being around him too long tended to give me a headache.
"Rylan, we just want you to be safe."
"I will be. Do you honestly think that Heero and Duo are going to put a sign on my back saying 'Do not feed the Wronith' and drop me off in the middle of a Deran Pure Revival meeting?"
"Don't be a smart ass." Dad squeezed my arm. "It's our job to worry."
"I know, but I'm not a child any longer."
I cringed then, knowing what Papa was going to say. It was what he always said.
"You'll always be our little boy."
After promising them again that I'd stay in touch, and that I'd push Ahmed out of the airlock if they tried to sneak him on board the ship, I escaped back home to where Rosemary was packing our bags.
I found myself thinking of how nice and peaceful Dera suddenly sounded.
Luke jumped so high his head almost hit the ceiling, and turned around to glare at Duo, who was laughing.
"Don't DO that."
"Sorry, couldn't resist." Duo peered over his son's shoulder. "What is that?" He pointed at the lines of code on the computer screen.
"The source code for a new operating system I'm working on. It's still got some glitches. I thought I had it all worked out, and then it locked up on me again. If I can get it working, it'll be big. Much better than anything else out there right now." Luke typed something on the computer, frowned, and erased it.
"Son, when we said you could move back home to save money, we kind of expected that we'd get to at least see you once in a while." Duo sat down on the bed. "You spend day and night in this room. It's not healthy."
"It's not easy starting a business." Luke did not look up. "You told me never to do anything with half a heart."
"There's more to life than work, though. You're only twenty years old. What about your girlfriend? I mean, you still remember your girlfriend, right?"
"Meishel understands that I need to do this." Luke frowned. "Unlike some people."
"Luke, let me break this to you as gently as I can. HEERO thinks you're spending too much time alone on your computer."
"If I'm bothering you I can leave." Luke shrugged. "I can get a cheap apartment somewhere."
"That is not what I mean." Duo growled in exasperation.
"Look, Dad, if I work hard now, I can have fun later. You don't bug Jazz about working too hard in the fields." Luke pointed out.
"I do too, if he looks tired. I wish he would take it easier. He can afford to. But even when he was getting started out, Jazz always made sure he had time to enjoy his life. And his business turned out okay."
"It comes easily for Jazz." Luke glanced at Duo. "He's got the looks, the charisma, the charm. I don't have any of that. All I've got is my brains."
"Well, at least you'll get a break when you go to Seta." Duo reasoned.
"I'm not going to Seta. I canceled. I've got too much work to do."
"Luke, Meishel has been looking forward to it!"
Duo stood up, biting his lip. "You know, she's not like your computer. You can't turn her off and put her on a shelf and expect her to be there any time you want her. One day, you're going to turn around and she's going to be gone. You'll lose her if you keep taking her for granted."
"I'll keep that in mind." Luke was typing. "Anything else you wanted to talk to me about?"
"No... dinner will be in two hours. And you're eating at the table with Heero and I if you expect to eat at all. By God, I'll get you out of this room for at least that long."
"See you at dinner then." Luke said absently. "Yeah, if I change the value of this one..."
Duo left, shutting the door behind him.
"He's still in there." He confirmed to Heero. "He's still alive. Which may or may not be the case in the near future. He canceled his trip to Seta with Meishel."
Heero winced. "She can't be taking that well."
"She's probably burning him in effigy as we speak and then she'll be here to torch the real thing." Duo put his head on Heero's chest and chuckled. "Maybe having Rosie here will draw him out a little bit more."
"If we ever see her." The difference between their son and daughter was that Luke made an effort to ignore those around him when he was working. Rosie did it without thinking and always felt bad later.
"She's got to help me, Duo." Heero said suddenly. "This time, it has to work. I have to know for sure."
"Don't you remember anything else? It doesn't have to be a clear memory, just an emotion. Something on the fringes."
Heero closed his eyes. "It's going to sound silly."
"Once, when I was with J, he had some frogs for an experiment, and he handed me one. I'd never seen one before, or at least I thought I hadn't, but right before I touched it, I suddenly knew exactly how it was going to feel in my hands, how it was going to smell. It was familiar. Which doesn't mean anything. So I had a frog when I was a kid. So do lots of kids. But it wasn't just how it felt; it was how it made me feel. When I held that frog, I felt this overwhelming sadness. I don't know why. But when I looked at that frog, I felt like my heart was breaking. I guess I had a pet frog that died or something. I told you it was silly."
"You never told me this before." Duo was surprised.
"I just now thought of it." Heero said honestly. "I hadn't thought about that damn frog in forever." He shook himself. "I don't think that's much to go on."
"It could be a start. Something Rosie can use as a wedge. It's better than nothing."
Heero rubbed his cheek against the top of Duo's head. "I don't know. Part of me is still afraid, and I think that as long as I'm afraid to open the door, it's going to stay shut. Come with me when she does the walk. I need you there."
"Of course I'll be there. You know that."
"And promise... no matter what we find out, it won't change anything for us. It won't change our lives here in any way."
"I can't make that promise, Heero. If you have living family, you need to try and find them. And that's bound to cause some changes."
Heero seemed to be gathering his thoughts. "Don't take this the wrong way. Because I'm afraid it's going to sound bad."
"Duo, you know this doesn't mean I don't love our children. I would die for them a thousand times over. But... Jazz has your blood in him. And so does Nadia. You can look at them and see yourself. But genetically, I'm the end of my line. And I wonder about my ancestors, I wonder what they did, how they lived, how long the blood line has continued. If this is the end for them, then they deserve to be remembered at that end. Does that make sense?"
"No one wants to fade into nothingness." Duo agreed softly. "Heero, your blood may not go on, but your legacy always will. Your grandchildren and their grandchildren will never forget you."
"GOD DAMN IT!" Luke yelled from the bedroom. "DON'T YOU DARE CRASH ON ME YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT!"
They both laughed, the serious mood broken. "He's definitely our son." Duo grinned. "Our gift to future generations."
There was a crash that sounded like a chair going over backwards, and Luke yelled out in pain.
"They're going to wonder." Heero commented as they headed down the hall. "Why we didn't just leave them a fruit basket."
They could hear Luke now threatening the computer.
"I think we did."
On to part three. Back to part one.