Street of Dreams
by Lasha Lee

One of the things about Gage, that Shan was sure would make him a great teacher, was his unwavering fascination with the human mind. People interested him, and he never stopped studying them, trying to figure them out at the same time he kept them guessing about himself.

"I tried all the personality disorders for my various head shrinkers." He'd admitted cheerfully. "Antisocial, avoidant, borderline, narcissistic. Sometimes all in the same hour. Poor fools nearly had a hernia trying to put a label on me." He also confessed that it was in his efforts to make them think he had histrionic personality disorder that he had developed his overly formal way of speaking. Seeing the interesting and infuriating effect it had on those around him, he'd kept it.

Sometimes, Shan thought now, watching Gage lying on the floor of the living room reading a textbook, he had to remind himself that his mate had merely been tamed, not broken. If he kept himself in line now, it was because he was making a choice to do so. The wildness was still there; whatever demons had driven Gage to be so reckless in his younger days were still lurking inside of him. Dozing now, to be sure, but present none the less.

It's hard on him, Shan thought with a little sadness. He only keeps it under control because he loves us. He also knew that it was his job to see that Gage got to let it go sometimes, give into his wilder nature. He began to smile.

The feeling of the pillow colliding with the back of his head knocked Gage over sideways, and the book went flying out of his hands. He rose to his hands and knees to see Shan standing a few feet away, holding a throw pillow and laughing.

"Come on." The other young man taunted. "Come and get me."

Gage grabbed a pillow of his own and ran after the other boy, laughing. Feathers flew around the room as they parried and thrust their weapons.

Shan's foot snaked out and around Gage's ankle, tripping his mate and they both fell to the floor. Shan was pleased to see the control vanished; Gage crouched above him like a wildcat, eyes gleaming and teeth bared.

"You'll regret that." He whispered. "We've got a little time before your sister arrives, but you're going to suffer every second until then."

"Oh yeah?"

"Oh yes, my dearest one. I've been reading the most interesting chapter on sexual deviance and it's given me quite a few illuminating ideas on things to try out upon your person."

"You mean there's something you haven't tried yet?" Shan quipped.

"One or two things." Gage leaned forward, close to Shan's ear. "Would you like me to show you?"

The phone rang.

"Fuck!" Gage stood up, growling. "We have GOT to get an unlisted house. What is wrong with these people? It's your dad, you know." He was stomping toward the phone. "He's still trying to make sure we don't have sex." He snatched up the receiver. "WHAT?"

Shan watched as the other man changed. The control immediately slipped back into place, and the anger turned to fear. "When? How is he? No, we'll be over in a minute."


"Heero collapsed."

"I think he's going to have brown eyes." Duo said thoughtfully, staring down at the newborn in his arms. "They're that weird blue that doesn't stay blue, see?"

Heero peered down at the baby. "I like them this color."

The other man laughed, and the baby tilted his head at the sound. "So do I, but I don't think we get a choice in the matter." Duo handed the baby over to Heero and punched the transporter code.

"He's heavier than Rosie was." Heero noted as they stepped inside. "A lot more solid."

"He's going to be a wrestler. Aren't you, Luke?" Duo made a face at the infant. "Going to be all big and strong someday."

"He is not going to be a wrestler!" Heero protested.

"Sure he is." Duo offered his finger to the baby, who grabbed it tightly. "He's got muscles of iron already. We'll get him a fancy costume, catchy name, couple of bimbos. He'll be famous."

They stepped into their living room to see the entire family gathered around. Someone had hung up a banner that said "Welcome home, Luke." Underneath it was another banner in Chinese lettering. It took Duo a second to translate: "Get out while you still can, Luke."

"That is NOT funny!" He snapped at Wufei, as everyone began jostling for a look at the newborn.

"Then you should have a word with your older son." Wufei remarked dryly. "Since it was his idea."

Jazz was smirking and Duo slapped him lightly on the back of the head. "You don't deserve it, but do you want to hold him?"

"Fork him over." Jazz ordered.

"Careful." Heero teased. "He's almost as big as you are."

Jazz stuck out his tongue and Duo placed the baby into his arms gently. "Wow." He was looking at his brother in amazement. "Look how tiny his fingers are. And the nails. And his ears. It's all perfect, but... little." He moved to show Linra, and then bent to let Rosie have a look.

"This little guy is twice the size you were." Duo ruffled Jazz's hair. "I hate to tell you this, but he'll probably grow up to be a lot bigger."

"Well, he still has to do what I say." Jazz was touching the baby's cheek. "No matter how big he gets."

"Me too!" Rosie huffed. "He can't have my toys, either." The look she was giving Luke was half keen interest, half jealousy. Her position as the family baby had been well established, and if she was going to have to give it up, this interloper must learn his place in the pecking order immediately. She couldn't resist kissing him, though. He was a lot cuter than her dolls.

Luke was passed around for the next few minutes, with everyone making a fuss over him. Denea was carefully feeling the mass of curls. "He's got red hair." Wufei was saying to her. "Bright red. He's beautiful."

"He'll probably be a handful." Denea laughed.

"Most babies are." Wufei said softly, but Heero heard him. "But they're worth it."

"Don't start." Denea whispered back.

"Who's starting?"

"We're not going to talk about this again, and not here."

"We never talk about it. You keep changing the subject."

Luke began to whimper in Wufei's arms, and the man tried to soothe him, but the cries grew louder. "He's wet." Wufei handed Luke back to Duo. "And probably hungry, but he's got some good lungs."

Denea said nothing, but she still looked upset. Heero was torn between the need to mediate between the two and the knowledge that they needed to work it out for themselves. They argued all the time, but he sensed this was deeper, and Wufei had confided in him how much he longed for a child. "Just one. I want to know what that's like. I've offered to do all the care of it myself but she refuses to even consider it."

There was no easy solution.

But in the end, Heero mused, sitting on the metal table, there was. Denea ended up pregnant in spite of her best efforts. And here they were, 20 years later, 20 years older, and maybe 20 years wiser for it, but sometimes he wasn't always sure about that. All he could say was that he'd done his best to be a good father, a good foster uncle, a good mate, a good friend. He hoped they'd remember that about him, if...

He didn't want to think about that, that he could easily find himself in the same situation that Milliardo was now facing; the knowledge that his chance to make a difference, to be there for those he loved, was slipping through his fingers. Health was just something he took for granted; he'd always been strong and able, although he was never sure if that was by nature's design or by something the doctors had done to him. He'd asked once, and not received an answer. But what if what they'd done was wearing off? What if it was starting to go wrong? He had no idea what, if anything, they'd added or taken away from his genetic make-up. He knew that they only needed him to live long enough to fight for them; what care would they have had if, after his job was done, he lived five years or fifty? He'd served his purpose. It was bad enough that they'd taken...

"So I was thinking. Now you don't have to say yes to this, but just hear me out. I know we've been talking about adopting a child, but there's another way. Why don't we use a surrogate mother? And have her carry your biological child? I'll love any child we have, you know that, but... "

"Duo, I can't."

"Why not?"

"I'm sterile. They were trying to build up my tolerance for radiation levels. They said that it was an acceptable risk, that I might never have a biological child of my own. Acceptable to them. I had myself tested. I have as much chance of fathering a child as mothering one. I'm sorry."

"It's okay. Why didn't you tell me?"

"I didn't think the issue was ever going to come up. Are you angry?"

"No. No, of course I'm not angry. Not at you, anyway. Just the people who hurt you. How old were you?"

"Ten. I barely remember it; I heard them talking about what it would do to me but I didn't understand what they meant."

"Well, it was meant to be then. After the child we adopt is all grown up, I want you to think about the fact that if you could have had a child of your own, we wouldn't have him. You'll think about all the good times you've had with him, and how much you love him, and you'll know that this was how it was supposed to work out."

"So let's do it. Let's go get another son."

Luke hadn't become a wrestler; hadn't gained the height they'd expected him to, and could be a royal pain the ass when he felt like it, but Heero never forgot what Duo had told him on that day. Everything had simply been a chain of events leading up to Luke becoming his son, and he was grateful for every single one of those events. For all the good in his life, for the people he loved. They needed him.

Duo had been wandering around the hospital room while they waited for Heero's test results. The doctor was Earth-born, and kept his office in the classical style, which included a large skeleton near the sink. Duo was currently making the skeleton do a lively can-can, while humming under his breath.

The door opened and Duo quickly dropped the skeleton's bony legs and hurried back to sit next to Heero, pasting an innocent look on his face. Heero bit his lip to keep from laughing. Doctor Andrews looked from one to the other, and then to the skeleton. When Duo had dropped his legs they had crossed, and he now looked in serious need of a bathroom. Doctor Andrews turned back to the men, shaking his head.

"Well, Heero, I wish all my patients your age were in this good of shape." The doctor shrugged, and Heero bit back a nasty remark. His age? This guy barely looked 25. The relief didn't sink in until a second later.

"We can't find anything wrong with you. Brain and heart tests came back normal. Heart rate is the lowest I've ever seen on a living person. Reflexes are excellent, and you certainly didn't have a stroke. I suspected exhaustion but there are no signs of that either. Red and white cell counts are fine. The truth is you're TOO damn healthy for a fifty year old man."

"Not by nature." Heero said softly.

"Yeah, I looked into that as well, based on what you've told me." Doctor Andrews nodded. "There is no cellular mutation, which was my next throught. Nothing breaking down or cracking. The only abnormal thing about you is what we already knew, that you're genetically sterile. You also did not have a seizure; there were no traces at all of that anywhere in your body."

"I knew it." Duo blurted out. "You were drunk again!"

Heero gave him his steeliest glare, and his partner grinned.

He wasn't in danger of dying, Heero thought with a shiver.

He was just in danger of losing his mind.

On to part five. Back to part three.