Different sets of manacles to suit all occasions
Whips and spurs and crops and canes
Cause bruises and abrasions
Heero grabbed his pillow, pulling it down over his head and groaning into the bed. Didn't that kid ever sleep?
Well, yes, he supposed Gage did sleep, but at no set time or with any predictability. For the most part, he seemed to be nocturnal, or as nocturnal as a person could be considered on a spaceship without day or night. He seemed to be at his peak just as Heero was drifting off.
"GAGE!" Heero finally yelled. "KNOCK IT OFF!"
"I'm sorry, how rude of me." came the reply. "Anything else you'd like to hear?"
"Yes! Complete silence for the next six hours!"
"Bummer. I don't know that one. Hey, have you heard this one? You'll love it.
"In old pubs and shacks
in the Aussie outback
Men drink to Australia Pete
Who screwed the hell out of Eskimo Nell
With a cock that measured three feet."
Heero began beating his head into the pillow. Not only did Relena's son appear to know the lyrics to every bawdy ballad ever written, he took extreme delight in singing them. Often. Loudly.
And the sad thing was, he sang them well. While he certainly wasn't in the same league as Duo and Jazz, he had a very pleasant singing voice.
Just no desire to ever sing anything pleasant with it.
"She was the best whore
Mexico ever produced
Was famed through country and town
She was wild and willing, fast and loose
No man alive could peg her down.
Tales were told of One-eye Juanita
There were stories quietly spoke,
Of how that cunning Senorita
Was a whore that couldn't be broke."
Giving up on sleep, Heero rolled out of bed and grabbed his bathrobe. He stumbled toward the door of his cabin, and then out into the ship's galley.
Gage, wearing black shorts and tee-shirt, was still singing the ballad of Juanita, and he flipped over an omelette.
"Down from Texas came
That crab-ridden roper of cattle
With his sixteen pounds of aching knob
And an appetite for battle."
He turned around to see a half-dead Heero glaring at him. "Just in time for breakfast, my good man. Have a seat."
Heero started to refuse on general principal, and then caved. The food did smell good. He had missed dinner, having gone to bed early with a headache. The cause was still chattering away at him.
"So when do we arrive on Dera?"
"In about 12 hours. We, being the key word here. If I don't get any sleep during that time, I'll be arriving alone, and you're going out the airlock."
"Trouble sleeping?" Gage nodded in sympathy. "Take my advice. It's all that tea you drink. Full of caffeine. Enough to keep anyone awake."
He sat a plate down in front of Heero. "Enjoy."
Cautiously Heero sampled the food, but only after he noticed Gage eating it as well. He blinked in surprise. "This is really good. Where did you learn to cook, anyway?"
"My uncle's house. They don't have a cook there, so he does it all himself. My aunt couldn't boil water if her life depended on it, but he's really first-rate."
"Do you spent a lot of time at Zec... Milliardo's house?"
"Depends." The boy gave a careless shrug. "My aunt can't stand me. She used to think I was a horrible influence on my cousins, but they're all grown up now so she can't say that any more. It's always one thing or another; she's never liked me very much." He tapped his fork against the plate. "See, I think she's just got a roach up her cunt because my uncle always spent a lot of time with me as well as Megan and Amy when we were little. She thought he should have spent more time with his own kids, instead of his nephew."
"She said this to you?" Heero asked.
"Hell no, but I heard them arguing about it once. She accused him of pretending like I was his son, and ignoring his daughters. Which was stupid; he'd eat rocks for Amy and Megan and she knows it."
So even with the one person he loved, he wasn't ever able to really relax, Heero thought, finishing the last of his omelette. "But it gives her something to talk about with Mommy Dearest. They can get together and discuss what a wretched waste of humanity I am." Gage said in a cheerful tone.
"What about your dad? You hardly ever mention him."
Gage thought about that for a minute. "My father would deny that his head was on fire, even if what's left of his hair burned completely off. He's in denial right now about me, although Mommy Dearest has done her best to convince him. I figure that if I dropped over dead in front of him, he'd insist that I was just pining for the fjords and leave me there for months."
He glanced at Heero. "Sorry, Monty Python reference."
Heero smirked. "And would your mother be bellowing 'THIS IS AN EX-DRUMMOND?'"
Gage looked surprised. Heero laughed. "Duo is a nut for Monty Python. Believe me, I've seen all of them."
"I remember him. Real long hair. Gimp, right?"
Heero stopped smiling. "He limps, if that's what you mean."
"So what happened to him?"
"He was in a plane crash thirteen years ago, when Dera was invaded. He almost didn't make it."
"He was pretty hot last time I saw him." Gage said suddenly. "Of course I was too young to be interested much in that, but... is he all old and bald and wrinkled now?"
"Duo is the same age I am. We're both 47."
"So? My dad's 47 and he looks at least 60."
Heero couldn't resist. The words were out of his mouth before he could bite them back. "After raising you, I'm surprised the poor man doesn't look 160."
"You didn't answer my question." Gage pointed out.
Heero gave him a nasty look. "I'll be right back." He got up from his chair and left the kitchen, returning a few minutes later with his wallet.
"Here." He pulled out a photograph. "This was taken a few weeks ago."
Gage examined the picture. Heero and Duo were posing for the camera, their arms around each other, heads touching.
"Okay, he did age well." Gage admitted. "Can I see the rest of them?"
Heero handed over the leather
wallet, and Gage began flipping through the pictures.
"So who are all these people, anyway?"
"That's my son Jazz and his maclen Linra."
"Whoa. She's put on a few pounds since the wedding."
"I would hope so. She's pregnant. That's why Duo didn't come with me."
"Who's the babe?" He pointed to another picture.
"That's Meishel. You remember Meishel? The dumb cry-baby?" Heero added "She's also a black-belt in karate now, in case you get any ideas. And I do mean any ideas."
But Gage was barely listening. He was staring at another picture, his tongue between his teeth. "Shan..." he said softly.
"Yes. That's Meishel's brother." Heero confirmed. "Is something wrong?"
"No. Nothing at all." Gage closed the wallet and handed it back to Heero. "Hey, I'm going to turn in. You should be ashamed of yourself for keeping me up this late."
He left Heero and his dirty look (and dirty dishes) in the galley and headed to his own cabin. Without bothering to turn on the lights, he laid back on the bed, thinking.
He'd learned about Derans in school, of course. Supposedly, they never forgot anything. So Shan probably remembered him. But then again, Shan wasn't pure Deran, so he might not.
Why did he care? Gage mused. What did it matter if some little alien kid remembered him or not?
Well, for one thing, Shan was beautiful.
There wasn't any other word for it. His sister was cute; there was no denying that, but Shan went beyond cute. He was fucking gorgeous.
Gage grinned in the darkness. Speaking of fucking... he had to have some way to amuse himself in this god-forsaken place for the next few months. A bed buddy might be just the thing.
He climbed out of bed, and over to his bags, and began rooting around in one. His hand closed around something smooth and solid, and he pulled it out, taking it back with him.
Maybe Shan would be so touched that he'd kept the damn rock all these years that the boy would drop his drawers just on general principle.
For some reason, these thoughts were making him uncomfortable, and he didn't know why. But before he could find something else to think about, he had drifted asleep, Shan's lucky rock still held tightly within his hand.
Just as you could never really get grass stains out of a pair of jeans, you could never really scrub memories out of a house. Not that Duo would have ever wanted to, but even if he had, they were in everything around him. Each door had stories of being slammed, each wall held, if one looked closely enough, thousands of fingerprints getting bigger and higher until they vanished all together.
The man straddled the kitchen chair backwards, his fingers laced. Echoes were all around him, he could hear the voices...
"DORK! You just spilled juice all over my homework."
"Well, don't leave it on the table like that next time!"
"Why do you have to act like such a creep?"
"Why do you think you own the world?"
"Enough, both of you. Luke, clean up the juice. Rosie, take your homework up to your room. It'll be safer there. And Luke, apologize to your sister for spilling your juice."
What happened next could never be taken back either.
"She's not my sister."
"I SAID she's not my sister."
"I am too!"
"No you aren't! I at least got adopted to be here. They just took you in cause they felt sorry for you. Linra's the only family YOU really have."
"LUKE! Go to your room! No VR for a week!"
Duo rubbed his eyelids roughly. The look on Rosie's face had nearly crushed him. She had burst into tears and ran from the table, knocking down her chair behind her, the very chair Duo was sitting in now. It still had a nick in the enamel from it.
He had found her on her bed, huddled in a small ball around a stuffed rabbit he had given her as a baby.
"Hey, it's okay." He sat down and reached for her. "Luke was wrong. You are his sister."
"No I'm not." Her voice cracked. "He's right. I'm not anyone's sister but Linra's. I don't belong here."
He held her tightly as she leaned against his chest, her shoulders shaking. "Rosie, look at me."
She gazed up from reddened eyes.
"You've been my daughter for over twelve years now. Maybe Heero and I aren't your real parents, but we couldn't love you more if we were."
"Then why?" She sobbed. "Did you never adopt me?"
Duo was thunderstruck. "I... I didn't think you'd want us to. It wasn't that we didn't want to, but you would have to change your name, and we thought you might get upset if we suggested it, that you'd think we were asking you to forget Sheld and Marti."
"I wouldn't think that." She sniffed. "But if you did, I'd really belong to you and Heero."
"You already do. But..." He kissed her forehead. "Making it official is something I would love to do. I know Heero would as well. Let's go talk to him about it."
The procedure took less time than they had expected, and it wasn't two months later that Rosemary Rynt had officially become Rosemary Maxwell. And the girl had taken smug pleasure in waving the papers in Luke's face, although they had forgiven each other for the fight long before then.
Luke had been something of a handful as he grew older. Oh, school had never been a problem. He had both the intelligence and the motivation to push himself, resulting in being admitted to college a year earlier than he normally would have been. And he was never bad in a criminal way. He had simply been a sulky, moody teenager who took everything said to him the wrong way. He had finally outgrown it not long before he left for school, and even apologized to his parents.
"Don't worry about it." Heero urged. "I was the same way."
"He's telling the truth." Duo grinned. "He just wanted to be left alone with his computer all the time. But he was SO much fun to tease..." He sighed happily at the memory. "He was always threatening to kill me for bothering him."
"Come on, Heero." Duo whispered softly. "Get home soon. I can't take this much longer."
"Anything else I can get for you?" Jazz asked his maclen.
"No, no, I'm fine." Linra reclined on the couch, a cold drink her hand. She almost laughed at his anxious expression. Every since her "breakdown" days before he had been completely at her beck and call. And the house was spotless.
She reached over and squeezed his fingers. "Thanks, though. I love you, you big goof." She twitched. "And so does the cargo here."
Jazz rubbed the bulge gently, smiling as a tiny foot kicked at his hand. "I think she's running out of patience."
"Well, she is a Maxwell." Linra sipped the tea. It wasn't exactly the best tasting stuff in the world, but Wufei had assured her it was good for the baby, and it did give her some extra energy. Denea had told her she'd develop a taste for it after a while. "Bastard practically poured it down my throat the entire time I was carrying the twins. It grows on you."
"Hey, enjoy it while it lasts." Jazz urged his daughter. "We can't ground you, make you clean your room, or eat yucky vegetables while you're in there."
A true Deran retained every memory from conception to death. Linra could recite word for word the things her parents had told her when she was still in the womb. Whether or not Jazz's half-Deran child she carried now would have the same abilities would not be known for a while. Jazz hoped she would. He wanted her earliest memories to be of safety, security, and the knowledge that her family, both immediate and extended, desperately wanted her.
Jazz leaned over now and kissed Linra gently. "I'm going to run over to my parents' house for a little bit. See if Heero is home yet. You want to come?"
"No, I think I'll just take a nap for a while." She snuggled down in the cushions. "Hopefully Her Highness will allow this."
Jazz left their house, and made his way across the yard. In the distance he could see his workers busily weeding the adolescent plants.
Once, he had been able to handle all the work on his own. But as the farm had grown, he had been forced to hire outside assistance. And eventually, even the vast property his parents had bought when he was a little boy wasn't enough to contain his thriving business. He had bought up surrounding land, and had workers there as well.
He had grown Deran crops first, then switched to Earth produce when it became clear people were willing to pay quite a bit for plants they considered exotic. But his truth success had come from his willingness to experiment, to cross-breed certain plants. The results had been phenomenal; Jazz's creations simply could not be purchased anywhere else and he had been able to set his own prices.
His daughter, and any children that might follow her, would never want for anything.
Of course, he amended that thought quickly, approaching the house, Linra's veterinary practice was a booming success as well. He could have vanished into thin air, and she would still be able to provide their child with a comfortable life.
He reached the farmhouse, and slipped in through the back door. Funny, after all this time, it still felt like his home. He'd slammed this door so many times when he'd been a kid, run though it with his friends, even helped repair it when it broke.
Even if he didn't live here any longer, there was so much of him still in the house that it always seemed to embrace him.
"Pops?" He called.
"In the living room."
Jazz wandered into the other room to see his father winding up the cord of a vacuum cleaner. "Whew. Done." Duo wiped his head. "I've just finished cleaning the entire house."
"Why? Heero knows you live like a pig." Jazz grinned.
"Well, if it was just Heero I wouldn't bother. But I have no idea who else is going to be living with me, you know."
Jazz nodded. "Yes, I know that feeling very well right now."
Duo patted his arm. "Yeah, I guess you do. Won't be too much longer now, will it?"
Jazz sighed. "You know, in some ways it can't happen fast enough, and then in others..."
"You're scared shitless."
"Absolutely. Scared out of my mind."
Duo hugged him gently. "So was I. I thought that if there was a 'Worst Daddy of the Year' Award, it was going to have my name on it."
"I'm just glad I don't have to do it alone." Jazz admitted. "I keep reading about all this stuff; I mean, I remember from when Luke and Rosie were little, but I think about all the things it's going to need, all the attention, all the stuff I have to teach it. Linra and I are going to have our hands full."
"No doubt there." Duo agreed, putting the vacuum in the closet. "Why do you think that Heero and I kept working so hard to keep the two of you apart when you were kids? It's hard enough when you're an adult. I mean, I was all of 19 when you came along."
"But you did it by yourself." Jazz pointed out. His voice sounded awed.
Duo laughed and shook his head, the braid flopping over his shoulder. "Well, you were almost a year old when your mother died. Which met you were sleeping through the night, and you could walk, and talk a little bit, and eat some regular foods. It wasn't like having a newborn. I'm not sure I could have handled that by myself."
"Still... it had to have been hard." Jazz pressed.
"Of course it was hard." Duo sat down on the couch and Jazz flopped down next to him. "It's the hardest thing I've ever done. We were broke all the time, and there were nights that I'd go into your room, and look down at you, and think about how selfish I was being."
"Selfish? I don't understand."
"I kept thinking about Quatre and Trowa, and their big house, and all their money, and I thought 'they could give him so much more than I can. They can buy him expensive toys, and send him to the best schools... I can give him public school and hand-me-downs.' And I'd make up my mind that I was going to do it. That I was going to take you down to Earth, and hand you to Quatre, and vanish without a trace. One time I made it as far as packing your things, and getting to our front door."
"I couldn't do it. I sat down on the floor and started to cry. And then you woke up, and you reached out and gave me a hug, and that made me cry even harder. And I knew that as long as I could afford to put food in your mouth, I couldn't give you up."
"Why didn't you ever tell me this before?" Jazz asked. The look on Duo's face made his heart ache.
"Just never seemed important, I guess. But I wanted you to know that all parents have fears. And they don't die. Having a child is like taking your heart out of your chest, putting it down, and watching it run around. You'll worry about that girl of yours from now until the day you die."
"You will help me, though? Right?"
"I'd like to see you try and stop me. I've got a whole list of things to teach her."
Jazz glanced down. "Like how to throw your laundry on the floor?"
"That too." Duo reached down and picked up a stray sock. "But this one is clean. It must have fallen out of the basket."
Jazz plucked the sock away from his father, and pulled it over his hand, making a puppet.
"Hello, I'm Mr. Footsie." He said in a squeaky voice. "I live with Duo. He's a slob."
"Mr. Footsie is going to end up a dust rag if he's not careful." Duo replied with a mock glare.
"Oh, threats, huh?" Mr. Footsie huffed. "It's because I'm made out of yarn, isn't it?"
"Give me my sock." Duo held out his hand.
"No, don't touch me! Help, police, murder!" Duo had grabbed Jazz's hand, wrestling him for control of the sock. "CALL THE AIRFORCE!" Mr. Footsie screamed.
Loud laughter caught their attention.
"HEERO!" Duo released Mr. Footsie and ran across the room as fast as he could, throwing himself bodily at his mate, who was finally home.
Note: Gage's songs, as well as many other ballads of questionable taste, can be found here. Original writers of the songs used in this fic are uknown.