According to the official Xenosaga Episode II site, Jin was 35 at the time of Ep II, and Shion was 22. This is a 13 year difference. So Jin was 21 at the time of the Miltia incident, and Shion was 8.

So, I got to thinking: Jin had thirteen years on his own with his parents. What were things like before Shion? Was he close to his mother? His father? Just why exactly did his parents wait thirteen years before having another child (he couldn't have been that big a handful, could he)? This fic is the result of some of those random musings. I wound up focusing more on his relationship with his mother, but whatever.

Now, before anyone starts ranting, I've read that some geniuses have finished basic Algebra at 7, taking Calculus by 10. So my Jin is way, WAY too smart for most people, but not blasting the roof off the geniuses' curve.

Fear of Loss

Nine-year-old Jin Uzuki looked up from the portable terminal he was doing his math work on when he heard the front door open. His parents entered their small apartment's proportionally small—and Jin had calculated that exact proportion, too—living area. Father went straight through to the study without comment, frowning like he was trying not to be angry or hurt, but really was. Mother spared Jin a small smile, but she was trembling and her eyes were red, long dark lashes sticking wetly together. She floated out to the disproportionately large—again, Jin had calculated—balcony, the sliding glass door closing with a soft thump. Jin saw her sit on a cushion near the edge, gazing out through the wrought-iron railing at the towering shape of the Acute Neurosis Treatment Facility and Labyrinthos in the middle distance.

Jin finished his last problem, a four-variable simultaneous equation that wasn't really challenging, then shut down his terminal. He'd finish later—Grandfather would have him scrubbing the dojo floors until his hands blistered if he even suspected him of shirking his school work—but Mother looked upset.

Father exited the study as the unit was shutting down. "Tell your mother I'm going back to work," he said, and was gone. The door bumped closed and the lock clicked before Jin could ask any of his questions—like what had upset him, or why he didn't just tell Mother himself, or when Jin could finally move on to trigonometry. Jin shrugged slightly to himself, not really bothered by his father's brusqueness. He was always like that, and besides, Jin probably wouldn't have asked anything. Father didn't have time for many questions, and Jin preferred to find out the answers for himself anyway.

Terminal shut down at last, Jin went to the glass door, to his mother. Stepping onto the balcony was like entering another world, and Jin often pretended he was stepping from his spaceship onto a new and untamed planet, that the neatly potted rows of common flowers and decorative shrubs were a primordial jungle, and the vegetable patch was a lucky windfall of edible native plants (with the occasional peas hidden inside to poison the unwary). Today he played no such game, though he did notice—as always, he was forever noticing small details that might never even be relevant, though he filed them away anyway—that the scent of soil and growing things almost drowned out the smell of urban Miltia; the sigh of the wind in the leaves and the sweet song of the wind chime muffled the clamor of hover cars, machinery, and the irate voices of the couple two doors down who were always arguing.

It didn't quite mask the sound of his mother's quiet sobs. Jin almost left then to give her privacy—she hated being unable to control her emotions, and being caught at it was even worse—but she'd been so sick three days ago when Father had taken her to the hospital. Jin wanted to be polite, but he wanted reassurance more, so he let the door slide closed behind him and moved to sit beside his mother. He paused a moment to watch her—her typical good posture was ruined by slumped shoulders, her hands were balled into fists on her knees, and she seemed not to notice that the wind was carrying the spray from one of her plant-misters to dampen one sleeve.

Jin knew that Aoi Uzuki was a beautiful woman. Though possessing no great stature, she had long, graceful limbs and a slender neck that all together made her seem taller than she was. Her milk-pale complexion contrasted with her dark chocolate hair, and her luminous blue eyes had the faintest exotic tilt. Besides, she was his mother, which would have made her the most beautiful woman in the world, anyway. So it was no surprise that even in tears, she was beautiful enough to move even him. All his life, Jin had been very withdrawn, self-contained as few of his age mates were, and generally not very physically demonstrative. But he loved his mother, and knew that sometimes a touch could bring comfort where words could not, especially when he didn't know the words. So he scooted close to her side and leaned slightly against her shoulder. For a moment he was afraid that his gesture had gone as unnoticed as the water from the mister, but then she looped one arm about his shoulders and pulled him into a full embrace.

The position was a little uncomfortable, but not really, and Jin thought Mother needed the time. He could feel the press of each of her fingers, five pressing into the ball of his shoulder, the other five spread over his lower back, the thumb below his shoulder blade, while the fingers paralleled his ribs. The soft scent of her perfume tickled his nose as she clasped him so tightly to the smooth silk of her blouse. The ivory buttons dug into his cheek, and a strand of her hair had caught in his eyelashes. He tried not to blink so it wouldn't get in his eye.

Time passed and Mother's crying slowly tapered off, though nothing had been changed or fixed—the problem remained. Mother finally pressed a kiss into Jin's hair and sat back with a pale smile as she held him at arm's length.

"Thank you, Jin-chan. It was very sweet of you to come out here."

Jin studied her features. "Will you tell me what is the matter?"

Her face shut down, much more quickly than his little terminal could, and she turned her face back to the cityscape. "I don't know, Jin. It's very complicated."

If there was anything Jin truly despised, it was being told he was too young to understand something, even when the sentiment was only implied. He grabbed his mother's blouse sleeve, tugging to get her attention.

"Then tell me! If it's so complicated, explain it to me. How else will I ever understand?" Her eyes on him were heavy, and he was forced to avert his gaze. "I want to know," he said quietly, hoping he didn't sound like a whiny little kid when he did it.

"You're right, Jin," Mother said unexpectedly after a long moment of silence. "You won't understand unless I explain. It just…hurts." Jin glanced up anxiously at her face. The last thing he wanted was to cause her pain… She smiled at him, lifting a hand to stroke his hair. "No, it's alright. It would hurt anyway. You remember I told you about Yui-chan, right?"

For a moment, Jin's mind was blank, then his eyes flicked to Mother's midsection of their own accord.

Jin felt a chill creep over him, even in the humid warmth of the sun-dappled balcony. Yui-chan, his sister, hadn't even had a chance to live, really. And he had been looking forward to meeting her, watching her grow, playing with her. Maybe she would have liked Nietzsche, too, and chemistry, and he could build her robots to play with. His lip trembled as he realized he'd never get the chance.

"Was there…something wrong with her?" Jin asked. That would make sense. Babies were miscarried or stillborn all the time due to defects. It was as if they had never been alive in the first place, though his memory of the scanner-image of her little body and fluttering heartbeat told him she really had been alive.

"No. There was nothing wrong with her. She was as perfect as can be. But there's something wrong with me." Mother turned a quarter turn to dig idly in one of the planters, not looking at him. "With you, it was easy. The first time your father and I tried, I got pregnant. You were easy to carry, and I didn't have nearly as bad a labor as some women I know. We were so young then, and you were such a handful, so we gave it a few years before we even tried again. I don't know if you remember, but when you were four, I got pregnant again."

"Hana-chan," Jin said. "I remember. Sort of."

Mother nodded. "Yes, Hana. Losing her was…devastating. And after that, I just couldn't seem to conceive. We were so happy when Yui…" Mother clasped a hand over her mouth to stifle a sob, damp potting soil sticking to her cheeks in little clumps.

"So, what's wrong?" Jin hazarded. "I mean, they can fix it, right? They can fix almost anything, after all."

Mother shook her head, speaking through her hand in a wet voice that held a sea of sorrow. "No, baby. They can't fix me."

The air solidified in Jin's lungs, and a monster was sitting on his chest. "Are you…are you gonna die?" he asked in a very small voice, which was all he could get out past the lump in his throat and the roaring in his ears. Mother looked up at him, and he didn't need the words, because her expression said it all.

Jin's mind was never still. His ravenous intellect was constantly chewing over things, darting through thoughts and processes that would have taken most people many times longer, if they'd even been capable of the same leaps in logic he was. Tiny details could provide endless fascination one day, and the very next could be spent bored to tears even by his most beloved pursuits. He was plagued by insomnia, and Grandfather's precious martial arts—which Jin too had come to love—had initially been simply a way of working himself into exhaustion deep enough to allow a few hours of sleep. So the ringing silence inside his head, the utter stillness there, was startling and novel and unique and would have been something to commit to memory—the feeling of not thinking for once—had it not shattered so quickly into hysterical tears.

"No, no! No! You can't leave! I need you, and Father needs you, and Grandfather would be upset, and—" His frantic, half-wailed babble was cut off by his mother again scooping him into her arms, where he descended into sobs in earnest. For once, he felt his age—only nine, still a child by any standard, with little life experience, and no wisdom. He was smart, and his book learning already exceeded that of some adults, but emotionally he was just like any other nine-year-old.

When the stream had faded from furious flash flood to the slow constant welling of a spring, Mother spoke again. Her voice was very quiet.

"Now, now. It's okay. I'm in no danger now. The doctors don't really know what the problem is, but they think I may have years—many years—before I fall into a coma and just…slip away. Or it could happen in the next few weeks. They think the added strain of the baby is what made me sick. And the sickness killed Yui-chan. And Hana-chan, too, back then."

"So you can never have a baby again?" Jin was beginning to think this might be one of those rare things he really was too young to understand. All he could think of was that he'd have no little siblings to take care of and show how endlessly complicated and interesting the world was. But while that kind of sucked, Mother was more than unhappy. She was shattered.

"Probably not, baby. Just you." Tears welled in her eyes, though she stoically refused to let them fall.

Jin drew himself up fiercely. "Then I'll just have to be worth two children—three, even! I already can do more than any other kid my age, and you know I barely sleep. I'm probably already worth two—three should be easy. Ne?"

Mother shook her head. "It doesn't work like that, Jin-chan."

More and more convinced that this was in fact something he just wouldn't be able to wrap his head around, Jin jumped to his feet, confusion already giving way to anger. "Well, why not? It should! I'll make it! And I'll make it so you won't die, too!" So saying, he scrunched his eyes up tight and willed at the universe for it to be so, just as Mother had always said it was possible to do. He would make it work. He could swear he could feel the world take a half-step sideways, bending like a reed in the first light breeze of a storm…

Mother's sudden gasp of pain brought him back to reality. His eyes flew open to find her leaning forward, her head hanging and her hair falling all around her face. Blood dripped in slow, fat drops onto the white concrete of the balcony, the contrast arresting his attention for one dizzy moment. But only one.

"Mother!" he shouted, reaching for her and dropping to his knees in one graceless movement that left holes in his pants and a portion of his own flesh on the rough surface with Mother's blood, which was his. He didn't care, though, busy wrapping his arms around her. "Mother, what's wrong, what is it?"

Mother looked up at him. Blood covered her upper lip from where it had escaped her nose, and her eyes were wild. "Jin, you must never do that again, do you understand?"

The tears were starting up again and Jin couldn't stop them. "B-but you said that people can change the world if they want to enough. And I want to! I want to make it all right for you again!"

Mother's hands clenched on his shoulders, painfully tight, and he could feel the prickle of her nails through his shirt. "No, Jin. Some things we just can't change. This is God's will—don't set yourself against it."

Jin shook his head wildly, feeling the sting as some of his hair escaped its short tail to whip his face. "No! If this is God's will, then I hate Him! He can't take you away from Father and me! He can't have you, no!"

The stinging pain of his mother's palm meeting his cheek only caught up after he had a moment to meditate on the sharp sound of flesh meeting flesh and the echoes it left behind. He cupped his cheek and looked up at her, his tears changing from hysteria to confusion and pain. Mother's voice was quiet, not the gentle quiet of before, but the soft-hard sound of Grandfather drawing his sword just one inch in warning.

"Do not blaspheme," she said, and it was an order. God himself might have said it.

Jin hung his head, gulping back sobs. "I just wanted to help," he whimpered. Mother's arms slid around him gently, cool silk over warm flesh, like the fleeting chill of her cold temper over her warm nature. Though right now it seemed to him like the warmth of her life was the fleeting, flimsy thing, and the cold of creeping Death solid reality sinking into his shocked brain.

"I know, baby," she crooned. "And I'm sorry for hitting you. But in this, you must obey. Do not do that again. I'm not entirely sure what your father is getting himself mixed up in, but those people would probably love to find someone like you. Besides, it hurts when you do that."

Some level of Jin's constantly churning mind stored away the information about his father and 'those people,' but his attention was mostly riveted on his mother's saying.

"I hurt you?" he asked tentatively.

Mother smiled softly. "A little. Please don't worry about it. Just don't ever do it again."

Jin hung his head. "I won't. I promise."

Mother threaded her fingers through his loose hair, fondly tweaking one lock. "Good boy. Now, why don't you go and get your homework and keep me company out here while I tend my flowers?"

Jin obediently got up, but couldn't make himself go inside even long enough to grab his terminal. Instead he studied Mother's reflection in the bright glass, afraid she would vanish the moment he looked away.

"Go on, baby. I'm not going anywhere just yet," she said, as if she'd read his mind.

He turned to face her, staring solemnly at her pretty face. "Promise me," he demanded, searching her face for her sincerity.

"I promise," she intoned, turning her face away to tend to the riotous blooms.

Hurrying to retrieve his terminal, Jin reflected that it was the very first time she had ever knowingly, willfully lied to him.