This has almost nothing to do with the quest. In fact, it takes place nearly a decade after Ren saves Octopon. It has more to do with the Ioz/Tula relationship theory. No, there's no actual pairing. And I still have no clue how any of this is possible. But, hey, it could happen, right?

Disclaimer: I don't own a jitatin thing... Not the characters, not Mer, not even the awesome curse words. Well, Davin is my own character, but nothing else. The Song is 'Suicide is Painless'; the theme song from the "M*A*S*H" Tv series.

CH. 1

'Through the early morning fog I see,

visions of the things to be,

Pains that are withheld for me,

I realize and I can see...

That suicide is painless,

and it brings on many changes,

and I can take or leave them if I please...

The Wraith was a lot quieter in the mornings, now. The weather was usually calm, and--except a stray patch here and there--the dark water had mostly receded. And slowly, very slowly, the land was healing. Most of Octopon had accepted Ren as their new ruler.

But, it was quieter. Ioz had never expected to be forty-seven years old. He always figured he'd be dead by twenty. And now that he didn't have to steal to get by, he considered life not only quiet but boring. With Ren on the throne, and after Tula and Niddlar stayed behind to help get the country running, things had slowed down in a hurry. So, he didn't really mind being woken up this early in the morning. In fact, he'd come to expect it.

The knocking at the door was faint at first.

"Yes?" He rolled over to bury his face in the blanket.

"Are you asleep?" A small voice whispered. The door opened a crack.

"Yes."

"No your not!"

The door was pushed the rest of the way open and the gray morning light streamed in, silhouetting the young boy for a second before he rushed in and shut the door behind him. He had darkly tanned skin, with an uncut mop of black hair around his face and light blue eyes. Ios turned his head to stare at him. Neither of them said anything for a moment.

"Well? What is it Davin?" Ios finally asked.

"... It's cold out there."

"Tried to tell you that last night. You're the one who insisted upon sleeping on deck."

"I know... But I don't want to sleep anymore anyway." He shrugged and sat down next to the bed.

He wasn't Ioz's boy; he was Tula's. Ioz had never had any children--that he knew of. But he had agreed to keep him for the time being.

"So what do you want now?"

"Tell me something." Davin ordered.

"Like what?"

"You know!"

"No I don't."

"Yes you do... When you stopped last night, the four of you were on the Maelstrom, and you were just about to kill Bloth..."

Ioz chuckled. "Ah, no. I can't tell you that one."

"Why not?" The kid demanded.

"Because, you used the word 'kill'. Now if I told you, your mother would kill us both. For some reason she doesn't appreciate a good action story."

"Oh, I wouldn't tell her how I found out."

"I'll bet you wouldn't." Ios said sarcastically, rolling over.

"Besides, mom wouldn't ever kill anything."

"Are you so sure of that? I think she would... I know she would. She's a very strong, brave woman." He said sincerely, staring at the ceiling.

After a moment, he turned to look at Davin, who suddenly seemed thunderstruck. His mouth was hung open and his eyes looked a mile wide.

"Well? Did you ever doubt it?"

"No. I knew she was. But she told me you'd never admit it out loud."

Ioz laughed.

He'd never really known why Tula asked him to keep the child. It didn't make a lot of sense, after the way he'd treated her for so long. He had asked her, but only once. She'd told him it was because he'd 'grown-up' some. Ioz had just rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath, but it did make him shiver to think about it. Whether at the thought of getting old or settling down, he didn't know. That had been nearly six years ago. He still felt bad remembering some of the things he'd said to her...

Tula had been nearly thirty-eight when she'd had the boy. But Octopon still wasn't the place it used to be. It would take generations to restore it to it's former grandeur. It wasn't exactly the place to raise a child. So the boy spent a lot of his time on the Wraith.

"Well if you won't finish that one, then tell me something else."

"What do you want to hear?" Ioz asked shrugging.

"I don't care."

Ioz thought a moment. "Hmm... have they ever told you about the time Ren took on the feared Eco-witch... Salamantha?"

"No, tell me!"

"Well, it's actually sort of a love story." Ioz added and grinned wryly.

"... You're joking, right?"

"Not really, but, eh, don't tell Ren I put it that way."

Davin paused a moment, and then his eyes lit up with the mischief of youth. "What about your sister? Didn't she like Ren too?" He asked persuasively.

"Which sister?" Ioz sighed inwardly. This was turning out to be more of a history lesson than a story.

"You've got more than one?" For the time being, Davin forgot his plan.

"Mhhm. Last time I counted there were thirteen. Used to be fourteen, but she died early on."

".... How'd she die?"

"What's this morbid fascination you have with the death part of the story?"

"I don't know..."

"It figures. Well, she was the youngest, even younger than Solia. And then when she was about nine years old, some men kidnapped her and..."

"What?" The boy was now wide eyed with wonder and was hanging onto the side of the bed.

When Ioz continued, his voice had taken on a whole new tone. "Well, I'm not sure your mom would want you to hear what they did to her. It isn't exactly pretty... But in the end we found her dead on the wharf, three nights later."

"Ohhh..... Who were the men?"

"Don't worry about it, they're dead now." Ios said sternly, not looking at him.

"... Did you-"

"Don't worry about it Davin, they're dead now.... What did you want to hear about again?"

He suddenly remembered. "I wanted you to answer my question. Didn't your sister, Solia, love Ren?"

"How should I know?

"Did Avogon love Primus?"

"How old are you again?"

"Did you ever love my mom?"

"I- Wait a minute! How the-" He suddenly sat up, wide awake, and stared at the boy. Then he noticed the glint in his eyes. "... You had that set up from the very beginning, didn't you?"

"Well?" Davin asked again.

"..... So, what did you want to know about us killing Bloth?"

CH. 2

I try to find a way to make, All our little joys relate, Without this ever-present hate, But now I know that it's too late, and...

Suicide is Painless.

It brings so many changes.

And I can take or leave it as I please.

"Honestly Ioz... I'm beginning to wonder if leaving him with you was such a good idea. Last year he comes home and he knows everything there is to know about knife-throwing and-"

"It was either teach him that or teach him to juggle them."

"Oh... Do you even know how to juggle?"

"I'd have figured it out after the first few tries."

Tula was pretending to be busy with some scroll she had randomly chosen from the shelf. She'd avoided this for as long as she could.

"Come now Tula, what did you expect? He's seven years old, nearly eight and-"

"I know, I know... I knew he'd ask me someday, but... I guess I just always hoped I'd have found something to tell him by now."

"...... So, what will you tell him?"

"The truth." She shrugged helplessly, putting down the scroll. "I'll tell him I really don't know."

For the first time in a long while Ioz noticed how tired she looked. She quickly turned away from his gaze, back to the wall of scrolls, trying to hide her uncertainties. Ioz slumped over the podium, his forehead in his hands.

"I'm still not sure I understand how you can not know who your child's father is." He said shaking his head.

"Ioz, I've told you before-"

"Yes, I know Tula, you've told me before. I've heard the whole jitatin story before, heard it a million times before, and I don't want to hear it again!" He declared almost fiercely. "Tula, how the Rafendi do you 'not remember'? That isn't something you just forget the next morning!"

"Well I did! I don't know if there ever was a father! No, I can't explain it!"

"You'll have to! Tula, that's impossible! And a boy like that needs to know something! If you're thinking he'll turn out like Ren, well for Khunda's sake, just think about that for a moment! Davin's father isn't destined to show up in the middle of some freak thunder storm and explain everything! He isn't going to-"

"Davin's nothing like Ren!" She shouted back.

"You wouldn't know, you're never there anyway! He's not going to just float through life never wondering! Tula, he is going to ask you about it, and he is going to ask you soon. The boy has to know something about his father other than the fact that he doesn't have one!"

"Well, he doesn't and that's that! Like it or not Ioz, you're the closest jitatin thing he'll ever get to one, so-"

The words suddenly caught in her throat and everything turned deathly silent. Without realizing it, she'd put into words what both of them had been avoiding for nearly ten years...

CH. 3

The game of life is hard to play, I'm gonna lose it anyway. The losing card I'll someday lay, So this is all I have to say...

That Suicide is Painless,

It brings on many changes.

And I can take or leave it if I please.

The only way to win is cheat, And lay it down before I'm beat, And to another give my seat, For that's the only painless feat.

(flashback)

Shortly after finding the last of the treasures, Ren had taken off--alone--to return them to the seal. Niddlar had gone back to check on things at Pandawa. It was agreed they would all meet in Octopon, but that it was safest if they took separate routes. Bloth was dead, but Mantus and a lot of the crew wasn't.

It took four days for the two of them to sail the Wraith to Octopon. During those days, Ioz began finding it harder and harder to tell himself he didn't care for her. He'd wake up in the middle of the night thinking about things like how small her hands were, or the clearness of her eyes. Finally, he had to tell her.

She was on deck when he found her, just staring off towards the horizon. He'd seen her like that more and more often lately. At first she didn't notice him.

"Uh, Tula?" He began softly. She turned around quickly, flushed slightly, but quickly covered it.

"Ioz! I didn't hear you there."

"Tula, can we talk?"

And then, without waiting, they both just looked at each other and blurted it out. And that was that. Niddlar had known for a long time, of course. And Ren seemed to guess it the next time he saw them. So there was never really a reason to make a big deal of it. And it just seemed like that was how it was supposed to be. Still, she seemed worried over something.

And then, after they'd reached Octopon and had all met up again, she told them all at one time. She was pregnant. She had been for months. And she had no idea how.

After Tula had finished, Ioz just left--without knowing where he was going or exactly why he was leaving, other than he had to go somewhere. He spent nearly a year on the Wraith, sailing endlessly. He never knew where he was going, just away from the land. He forgot to eat and sleep. Several times he caught himself just before stepping off into the ocean.

And then one day it hit him. All the times he'd screamed at her, degraded her, turned his back on her during the quest, that hadn't meant anything. But now, now he'd abandoned her just when she did need someone.

By the time he got back to Octopon, the baby had been born. She'd laughed weakly when she told him the name she'd decided on, saying it was from one of the many curses he'd screamed at her. Davin.

Though Ioz felt the same about Tula as he always had, it was obvious from the beginning she would never fully trust him again. He never yelled at her again, never called her a coward or a traitor. But there was always a certain distance she kept up.

CH. 4

The sword of time will pierce our skins. It doesn't hurt when it begins. But as it works its way on in, The pain grows stronger... watch it grin, but...

Suicide is painless.

It brings on many changes.

And I can take or leave it if I please.

"Well, he doesn't and that's that! Like it or not Ioz, you're the closest jitatin thing he'll ever get to one, so-"

And now, the two of them stood face to face, arguing over nothing, in the library at the palace in Octopon. They hadn't fought like that since reaching Octopon nearly a decade ago. For a moment they just stared at one another, then Tula swayed forward involuntarily and he stood there holding her while she sobbed against him.

"Tula, I'm so sorry." He said earnestly, "I never meant to..."

Unable to continue, he just lay his head down on her smooth, dark hair and stood there with her in perfect silence. Finally, he laughed grimly under his breath.

"You know, he asked me the other day if I loved you."

"What did you say to him?" Tula asked without raising her head from his chest.

"Nothing about that... Although I did have to tell him a rather gory version of the Maelstrom's last-stand."

"... Do you?"

He didn't say anything. How was he supposed to answer that?

"Ay Jitata Ioz, what am I going to tell him?"

She fell away from him, and sat down on the smooth plastered floor with her face still buried in her hands.

"Maybe it's not that uncommon." Ioz suggested.

"You have got to be kidding."

"I mean for ecomancers."

"Oh..." She raised her head, thinking about this. "Teron never said anything about it... Although I don't really think he would have."

She was silent a moment more. When she did speak it was quiet and detached.

"Hey Ioz, feel like being a father?"

"Tula, I think we both agree, I'm really not the best person in this world for that job. Just tell him exactly what happened. Explain everything as much as you can. Hope he believes you."



CH. 5

A brave man once requested me, to answer questions that are key. Is it to be or not to be? And I replied "Oh why ask me?"

'Cause Suicide is Painless.

It brings on many changes.

And I can take or leave them as I please.

Again, Ioz wasn't sure why he was leaving. It just felt good to be back on the Wraith. It felt good to prepare the ship to sail. He was unfurling the last bit of sail when the sun began to show far out over the water. He was just about to raise the anchor when he heard it. A soft, muffled shuffling below deck...

Davin stifled the yelp and picked himself up off the floor. Now seated against the wall, he pulled his foot up to see the heavy iron carpenter's nail sticking half-way out of his boot. Carefully, he pulled it out, sighing as he realized it had missed his foot.

"Always wear your shoes too big." He reminded himself quietly.

He then put his boot back on and got up softly. As stealthily as he could, Davin crept the rest of the way down the passage way and around the corner, finding himself in a dimly lit pantry that connected to the galley. There was plenty of food, and it seemed a good enough place to hide. He was about to shut the door and settle in when he turned around and bumped smack into Ioz.

"Davin, you really are your mother's son... Although I must admit, she did stay hidden until after we'd left port."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Davin asked, temporarily forgetting he'd just been caught stowing away.

"You mean she's never told you?" Ioz continued in mock amazement. "Well, you can ask her as soon as you get home."

"I'm not going home." Davin said firmly, planting his feet farther apart on the floor.

Ioz just laughed. "Oh yes you are."

He then carelessly slung the boy over his shoulder using one arm. All the way up to the deck Davin beat against his back with both fists and kept up a steady stream of profanity that might have rivaled even Ioz's.

"Put me down you darva-sucking piece of bilge waste, or I'll... I'll..." He couldn't think of anything to put there.

"Oh, don't stop now." Ioz prodded, setting him down hard at the end of the gangplank. "Please, Or you'll what?... Come on now, I'm dying to hear the rest."

Davin stared at him coldly for a moment, then shot up and tried to rush past him back to the ship. But Ioz grabbed the back of his shirt and forced him back to the ground.

"Stop this!" Ioz ordered him, then calmed down a little when he saw he had the youth's attention. "Just what are you trying to do, anyway?"

"I'm not staying here." Davin responded. "You were about to sail, weren't you? My mother was right about you; You're nothing but a shameless pirate!"

Ioz fought himself not to flinch at that. So she did know he was leaving. Was that really what she thought? He couldn't blame her, it was true.

"Of course, she's just as bad as you are, I suppose." Davin continued hotly, starting to pick himself up.

"What was that?" Ioz asked quickly, praying he'd misunderstood.

"You heard me. Except that her lies are even harder to believe. Just this morning she-"

He didn't get to finish. Before Ioz realized what he was doing it was to late. He did have time to open his fist, so it became more of a slap. Still, the force from his blow sent the boy reeling. He landed on the ground two feet away, holding the side of his head.

"Auugh... What the Rafendi was that? You could have killed me!"

"Aye, and I will if I ever hear that again!"

Davin looked up then, shocked. It was obviously the first time he'd ever had his life threatened. Ioz took the chance to try and scare him more. He didn't need any words to help with that though; by this time he looked downright murderous.

"Go home Davin. Last chance."

"No! Take me to sea with you. Please!" He was begging now. "Teach me to sail like you, and then-"

"Khunda forbid! Listen to me boy, I'm the last person alive on Mer you would want as a role-model. Just trust me on that."

"But-"

"No! You yourself just called me a shameless pirate, and before that a darva-sucking piece of bilge waste... Now if that's what you want to learn to be, go do it on your own time! And if you-"

Davin had bent his head, embarrassed for a moment at having to eat his own words. Over his slumped shoulders, Ioz happened to catch a glimpse of Tula, sitting calmly on a rock near the path behind them. She was sitting there watching the whole thing with some interest.

"And if I what?" Davin asked timidly, realizing he was being scolded by the person he considered the epitome of tolerance. At least, he had always seemed that way in Davin's eyes. He hadn't ever thought Ioz would mind his coming along.

"And if you can answer me one question, I'll take you with me." Ioz said, the first words that came to mind.

A half-second later, Davin's head shot up ass he realized what Ioz had just said.

"You'll really take me with you?"

"If you answer my question."

"Sure, anything. What is it?"

"Okay," Ioz kneeled down to be on eye level with the boy. "Where is Jhanda-town and what's it famous for?"

"Jhanda-town?" Davin recoiled a bit. "Where's that?"

"I can't tell you that, you're supposed to be telling me." Ioz told him, standing up and winking at Tula over his head.

Davin thought a minute more, then looked up and shook his head. "I- I don't know... I've never heard of it before. I- I can't answer."

"Well, sorry kid, a deal's a deal. Go home. When you can answer that, come back and I'll take you to sea."

"Will you wait around here until then? I'll find the answer, I swear! And... Well until then, if I still come down here in the mornings you can still tell me the stories from the quest, right?"

"Stories? Quest? What are you talking about boy? I've lived under a rock my whole life, I've no stories for you."

"That's not fair!" Davin objected, but he was smiling. "But you'll really take me to sea when I get the answer?"

"Of course. For now, go home and... I don't know, bother Nidlar or something. Or what ever it is your mother told you to do."

Davin sighed at the prospect of work and turned to go back up the path to the palace. Tula had slipped off the rock and crept up to stand about a foot behind him, so when he turned he nearly ran into her.

"Mom!"

"Good morning, Davin. Shouldn't you be home right now?"

"Eh-he... I was just going to... Uh..."

"I thought so." She said sternly. "Well, get to it then."

As he ran past her, Tula couldn't hold back a grin. Ioz was sure Davin had seen it. As he ran back to the palace, Tula slipped around to stand by Ioz and watch him.

"Tula? How long were you sitting there?"

"Long enough to see you knock him in the dirt."

"Uhm, sorry about that..."

"So, tell me Ioz, what do you plan to do when he finds the answer?"

Ioz laughed. "If he finds the answer, I'll take him to sea, just as I said."

"Ioz, in ten minutes he'll be in the library going through every map-scroll in there. He'll find it in no time. And then-"

"Tula, have you ever looked for Jhanda-town on a map?"

"Now, I'd made it a point to stay as far from it as I could... And then I met you and that was over."

" 'Jhanda-town' isn't on any map, Tula. That's strictly a pirate's term for it. I've forgotten it's real name, now. And if it was on a map, it certainly wouldn't be in the Octopon library."

She just looked at him a moment, then laughed softly and shook her head. "You really are shameless... Oh, and just out of curiosity, what is Jhanda famous for?"

He looked down at her, a look of surprise on his face. "Is Jhanda-town famous? I hadn't heard..."

She narrowed her eyes at him.

"Don't worry, it isn't famous for a jitatin thing... I swear Tula, he'll never get the answers. There are only four people in all of Octopon who know anything about the name 'Jhanda-town'."

At that moment, far up the hill in the palace courtyard, they heard Ren--who neither of them had seen at all that morning--laughing hysterically. When they turned to look, Davin was streaking back down the path towards them.

"I've got the answers! I've got the answers! And that was a trick question, wasn't it? But I know now!"

"... So, uhmm, Ioz, what did you say you'd do?"

"...... Noy Jitat..."