Xandra looked at her older brother, then shrugged. "You're sure we should do this?"
"Yeah, I'm sure. The dads are doing the parental watching thing. Mom's doing her healing from afar and sending threatening missives and students. Uncle Ethan and Ripper won't get onto her yet, but they're considering it. I think the first step should be us. We do protect Junior as one of our own. He is a member of the pack and it's up to the pack to deal with threats from outsiders." He shrugged, looking down at her, then at Timmy, who was sitting beside her on the bench in the playground. "Other comments?"
"No, I like it," Timmy admitted. "It's simple, strong, and says a lot." He looked at Xandra, their technical head after the fathers. "You?"
"I do, but I don't want to be grounded for the dance," she admitted. She sucked her bottom lip in to chew on while she thought. "Okay. Today or tomorrow?"
Brandon looked over their clothes, then shrugged. "I have other things in my locker."
"I'm wearing my normal clothes and we all know I'm good to go in this stuff," Timmy reminded him.
Xandra looked at her outfit, then sighed. "I just had to dress up today, didn't I?" she said bitterly. She looked around, then pointed at Precious when she caught her friend's eyes. Then she pointed in front of her. Precious' friend tapped Precious and told her they wanted her. She came strolling over. "We're dealing with the threat today. I'm not dressed, you're not dressed. Can we do something about that?"
"Of course I can," she snorted. "Today?"
"Yeah, today," Timmy agreed. He flipped back some of his hair. "That good for you?"
"We have cheerleading practice after classes," Precious reminded him. "I'm an alternate, I have to go."
"That's fine, it'll give us the time we need," Brandon pointed out. "Just a warning."
"Fine. What did you need, Xandra?"
"I was thinking my new leathers and my jacket's in my locker, so a shirt too?"
"Oh, I've got just the thing," Precious said with a smirk. "Let me get Serena." She strolled off, heading for the library, where her sister would be, and then took them both into the bathroom to call the things to her. Her uncle Ethan had showed her this one and it was quite helpful when she forgot her homework or backpack. Serena took the things and they left to go their separate ways. Serena was a year above them so she didn't share most of their classes, but she did have math with Xandra the period after next.
Xandra walked into the math classroom and shut the door behind her. The others were already inside and waiting. The teacher had wards on the room so she knew they were in there, and that someone was waiting, but she was going to have a large surprise about who it was. When the teacher walked in, Xandra looked up from her examination of her nails, smirking at her. "Shut the door, dear. We need to have a discussion with you about our baby brother." The woman gaped. "Now, or we can do it for you." She shut the door and moved closer to her desk.
"Won't work," Precious told her dryly, waving a hand around. "I took the stored power and sent it back into the earth. Neat trick by the way." She slid off the desk, striding forward. "I think we've not gotten our message across. Junior is our brother, ours to train and ours to help. Not yours. Not Ethan's. No one but ours. You're trying to cut into the dance the family has going and it's not a good thing," she said condescendingly.
Brandon crossed his arms, looking down at her. He was a shade taller than the teacher was. "Then again, chaos people like you tend to only want a few things. Sexual release and stripping of his power from what I can tell by your aura. That's not going to happen to our sibling. There's no way you can actually take him from us and we *know* you know better than that."
Timmy snickered. "Maybe you think he's like you, but he's not. He's like us. We're like him. Some of us simply have better control. Messing with Junior is not healthy."
Xandra stood up, smoothing down her tight t-shirt. Precious had gotten her the outfit that everyone thought made her look like a 'collection agent' for a bookie, or so she had said. "Then again, maybe you think you can beat us," she added. She smirked. "There's no beating us. Going after our brother to use and drain him isn't done, dear. It's something that can get one very badly injured. I know you've made sexual advances toward him. Junior told us you did," she said patiently at the opening mouth. "We're here to warn you that perpetuating this action will not get you anywhere but miserable and possibly in a lot of trouble. I don't care how many young kids you've seduced in the past, they're not my brother, and I will stick up for my brother. You might get past Precious and Brandon. You might even get past Timmy and Serena, but you won't get past me." The door opened and the principal walked in. "Did you need something?" she asked calmly.
The man, who was filling in this year, looked at them. "I thought I heard you threatening a teacher," he said. "Were you?"
"She's been making ...advances toward our younger brother," Brandon said calmly. "We're stating that she had better not continue. Our fathers may not know yet, but that's only because we don't need them to handle this." The man blinked a few times and Brandon grinned. "Did you think we wouldn't protect our baby brother?"
Timmy snickered. "I think he thought we were normal kids, Brandon, like Precious' friends. All those nice, normal, rich kids who only pay attention to themselves."
"You're wrong then," Xandra assured him. "We do stick up for the family, sir, and it's shown by how well we've kept others off Junior's back in the past. He may be adorable and smart, but she's not touching him ever again."
"I see. If she did, why didn't you report her to me?"
"Why? We're warning her to stop," Xandra pointed out. "If she doesn't then we'd feel obligated to bring in the more adult members of the family. We're saving you a lot of grief from the school's board."
He swallowed, looking her over. "I see. Thank you for that, but I do wish you would come to me with these things. That's what I'm there for, children. It's my job to deal with these matters."
"Oh, I don't think there'll be another occurrence," Precious assured him. He gave her a long look. "Would you want to piss off our fathers by harming our brother, the baby of the family?"
He shuddered. "No, not in the least." He swallowed and glared at his teacher. "Now that it has been brought to my attention, I will be investigating these horrible allegations. Would your brother be willing to make a statement?"
"I'm supposing so since she sent the poor thing into a blind panic the other day," Timmy told him.
Brandon stepped closer to their principal. "In truth, we're doing this to keep our mother out of this matter. She worked for Britain's Intelligence network and she is a bit...cold and hard now. We're giving her the benefit of one last chance."
The older man nodded. "Very well then. I can understand that. Thank you, children. You can go and leave this in my hands."
Precious checked her watch. "I've got cheerleading practice anyway," she agreed, heading out.
Xandra checked her watch. "I think she's more got a gossip session before practice," she said dryly. She looked at the boys, who shrugged. Then she looked at the principal. "We're heading to the mall. Junior's going with us and we'll be calling our fathers on the way. Do be careful, she passed a note to our baby brother in the middle of his math class a few weeks back." She led the way out, letting the boys follow her. She grabbed Junior with a not-so-subtle tickle and led him out to where they could wait on the cab Timmy was calling while Brandon called home. "Done," she said simply. He beamed up at her. "Now, we're heading to the mall. Where are your books?"
"I did everything in study hall."
"Good job," she praised. "Nothing needed checked?"
"I had the teacher check it," he promised, giving her a hug. "You're a great sister. Can I bum ten bucks for a snack?"
"Sure," she agreed happily. She patted him on the head, looking over as the cab came up the street. "Guys, who has the money for this one or are we stopping at the ATM?"
"We're stopping," Timmy told her, holding the door open for them all. He got in. "We're going to the mall, the one over by the highway, with a stop through some ATM on the way."
"Any particular one?"
"Nah, just an ATM. I'm not scared of the fees today."
"Sure, kids. Your parents know where you are?"
"Oh, yeah, but our sister has practice so we've got time to kill," Xandra said with a hand wave. "What was I getting at the mall?"
"Gun oil," Brandon reminded her.
"Oh, right. Thanks." She grinned at the cabbie before he could start to think up how to stop them from robbing him. "I'm a junior security officer at the Luna Foundation."
"Oh. Good on you, kid." He started the cab and pulled away. "They let you?"
"Why not? The Secret Service is training me," she said with a shrug. She grinned at Timmy. "I hear you're going for the computer classes this year?" He nodded. "Cool beans. You'll like Quantico."
"Hopefully," he agreed, shifting down. "Is my wallet at home?" Brandon handed it over. "Thanks, bro. Where did it fall out this time?"
"Computer class. You left it on the desk. The teacher gave it to me. She thought you were programming something again and was your usual focused self."
Timmy snickered. "I wasn't really. I was reading." He glanced over at Xandra. "I found a neat site you'd like, Xanny."
"Cool. Send me the addy?" He nodded. "I'll get into it tonight."
"Already on its way," he agreed.
"So, are you kids the ones in the paper? The grandkids?" They all nodded. "Wow. Big family?"
"No, just us and our sister," Xandra admitted.
"Plus the parental units," Brandon reminded her.
"Yeah, and them, plus the assorted might-as-well-be aunts and uncles. We're one big happy family out there."
"That's cool I guess. Kinda surprised you're not going to a fancier boarding school."
"We hated those," Timmy told him. "They had nothing that we needed. Xandra can't do her robotics, I can't do my programming, Brandon and Serena couldn't do their languages. So we switched last year." He grinned down at Junior. "One day soon we'll be figuring out what you're best at."
"I was thinking about doing what the dads did and going for my counseling stuff," he admitted. "I wouldn't mind helping people."
"That's a good thought," Xandra praised. "I can see you doing that. It makes good money, you are a good listener, and you could help a lot of people deal with their shit."
The cabbie snickered. "Now I know you're with the security guards. Most little girls like you don't talk like that."
She grinned at him. "I'm not that little, sir, and yeah, I've had this mouth now for a few years."
"You also have your next belt level test in two months," Brandon reminded her.
"Second?" Timmy asked.
"Third," she said smugly. "I retook my first level test on my own a few weeks after I failed the first one, while you were sick."
"Maybe you should train with Kana this summer," Brandon offered. "You're not old enough to go back to Quantico since you can't drive yet. That leaves you without an internship this summer unless Daddy Oz knows of a robotics one."
"He does, and interestingly enough Precious and I are both going to Kyoto this year," she admitted. "I heard you're going to London, and that Timmy's going to Rome. Serena may be heading to London to check out the colleges too."
"I'd not mind," Timmy agreed. "Italian women are fascinating and my girlfriend said she could travel with me this summer." He beamed at Junior. "That means you get to hog the parents all to yourself yet again."
Junior grinned then let it slide off. "Yeah, but you guys get to travel."
"You'll get to do that when you're older, you'll just get to travel without having to work to do it," Brandon reminded him. "You'll get to sightsee instead of working in a dusty library." The cab pulled into a drivethru ATM and he nudged Xandra, who was closest to the machine. She pulled out her wallet and stuck it into the machine, getting out her cash. Then she got out of the way so Timmy could feed it his and get some of his cash too. Brandon got his allowance out and so did Junior, but his was still a lot smaller than theirs.
"All done?" the cabbie asked, taking them off waiting time. They nodded and he rolled up the window, heading off to the mall. At the end of the trip, the kids tipped very nicely and he was quite happy to have taken them. Much nicer than most society brats he'd carried.
Xandra looked up as her brothers joined her, pointing at the necklace she liked. "I like that one," she admitted.
"It's really expensive, Xan," Timmy pointed out. "Dad said to save the money so you could buy your bike."
"I can get that out of my allowances," she pointed out. The saleswoman looked down at them. "I've been saving up for a new computer but I'm getting one for the holidays," she told her. She looked at the delicate gold ampule again. "I still like it."
"So do I," Brandon admitted. "Just the right size for holy water or something." The others looked at him. "What? It is!"
"You know, people usually accuse me of being the goth kid," Xandra said dryly, moving back to the counter. "Can I look at that closer?"
"Of course," she agreed. She pulled the necklace out, standing there to watch them. "Are you related?"
"Siblings," Xandra said as she opened it to sniff inside. "What was inside this before? It smells like old blood."
"Dad said gold can sometimes smell like that if it's been kept in an air-tight container," Timmy reminded her, taking it to sniff. "It does. That's much stronger than he suggested." He recapped it and hung it up to look at it in the light. "It's really small."
"Yeah, but I haven't seen another yet," she pointed out. "Not even the goth shop carries them."
"They're meant to carry a tiny bit of perfume," the saleswoman told them. "Why would the gothic shops carry such things?"
"Because they store blood in about the same containers," Xandra sighed, handing it back. "It really is too small. Do you have another one, maybe bigger?" She shook her head. "Then I guess I'll keep looking. Thank you. Timmy, did you need to do the holiday shopping for the girlfriend thing in here?"
"Nope, did it online," he admitted, taking her arm and walking her away. "What did you want one of those for?"
"Holy water," she said dryly, grinning at him.
"Ah." He nodded. "Wise choice in our life, sis." He looked around but Brandon had been sucked into the bookstore so he sighed. "Junior?" Junior came jogging over. "Go find Brandon and tell him to meet us in the food court. Dad should be here soon."
"Unless he's getting more music," Xandra offered, pointing at the nearby record store. They headed off together. "Did you need more help with your newest thing?"
"No, I'm doing okay with it," he admitted. "I wanted you to know that I caught your robot last night," he said dryly, smirking at her. "Not smooth."
"Do you know anyone else who has a remote-control robot with a camera setup on it?"
"Yeah, Junior had a few of them to make sure they worked."
"Oh." He shrugged. "Okay, then it wasn't you spying. You don't think he was, right?"
"Not a clue, Timmy. Ask him. I doubt he was doing it to be mean or anything." She sat down at an empty table. "Go find a snack and I'll save the table for us." He nodded, jogging across the food court. She smiled at one of the security guards. "My brother's getting food while the others come."
"Fine, as long as you're not causing trouble."
"Us?" She snickered. "No, we're good kids most of the time. When is the electronics store coming in, have you heard?"
"Why? Planning on building something explosive?" he said smugly.
"No, I'm a robotics person and I need a new circuit board for my newest design project. I hate Radio Shack, they never have a clue."
He looked stunned. "Who are you?"
"Xandra Harris-Osbourne," she said, holding out a hand. "Junior security officer of the Luna Foundation." He shook it, looking shocked. "So, when is it coming in?"
"Not for a few weeks," he admitted, looking at the ones coming. "Family?"
"Father, brother, brother, and Timmy's getting food, dad. Did you get Precious and Serena yet?"
"Serena definitely. Where was Precious?"
"Then I'll page her and she had better manage to find a common area to stick her butt." He stole a fry from the tray Timmy was bringing over. "How much was that?"
"A few bucks. I'm expecting paid back." The other kids handed over a few bucks each. "Thanks, guys. Hey," he said, grinning at the security guard. "When is the electronics store coming in?"
"A few weeks. Do you do robotics too?"
"No, dude, I program," Timmy told him. "I need a backup external hard drive and I hate having them shipped, they always bounce them."
"Oh." He nodded, looking at Oz. "They're yours, sir?"
Oz nodded. "Yeah, they are. Them and two others. Their other father thinks they're neater this way."
"Oh." He nodded again and walked away. "They were very good from what I've seen."
"Cool." Oz pulled over an extra chair and sat down, pulling out his phone to call his other daughter. "We're in the food court, come nibble. Page your sister while you're at it." He hung up and grabbed the extra package of fries. "Thanks, Tim."
"Welcome, dad. I figured you had skipped lunch anyway." He smirked at him, then at Xandra. "Did he ask you if you were going to build a bomb?" She nodded. "Wow. You are super scary in that outfit, Xanny."
"I noticed the clothing change. Did we have issues at school?"
"No, not really," she lied. She smirked at him. "Just making sure someone knew to quit picking on us. I waited until after school."
"Hmm. That's what parents are for," Oz reminded her once his mouth was empty. Serena walked in and smacked her brothers across the back of their heads. "They leave you out of the threatening?"
"No, they left me at the school," she said bitterly. "Not that I don't like to hang out with the chess club and the computer club." Timmy moaned. "Yes, they knew you forgot again," she said dryly. "So I told them all about what you were doing, including your second game. Fortunately you left a few copies in your locker so they have the second one and your trial third one going." She pulled over a chair and stole an extra cheeseburger. "Thank you. It was bad enough I had to talk to the other kids for you, but then I had to be retrieved by a cheerleader from there because Precious needed an outside opinion of a new cheer they were working on."
Timmy licked off his fingers and pulled out his phone, calling his buddies. "Hey, I'm at the mall. Yeah, Serena just hit me good for you guys. I'm damn sorry, guys. Remind me during the day next time, I've been in the clouds all day. My girl's getting ready to come in soon." He grinned. "Yeah, for the dance. She's getting a weekend pass from the horrible boarding school. I was reading up on things for her earlier. It did what?" He considered it. "Oh, I know. Crap, I incorporated some DOS code into it so I could switch it to UNIX later. Yeah, that layer. That and line, like, five thousand and something. Just search for the 'run by' lines." He ate another bite. "Nope, all but Precious and a father. No, Xanny was looking for a keeper's necklace to hold some holy water. Brandon almost got sucked into the bookstore again and Junior needed some new jeans and shoes." He dug out the receipts and handed them to his father, who rolled his eyes. "Yeah, those. No, that only sucks on that one system. Other versions of windows it won't bother at all, just that one." He ate another bite of burger. "So, I heard the prozac patrol came in to retrieve my sister for a normal girl opinion. You guys okay?" He laughed, dropping his food so he wouldn't choke. "Oh, that's so good. Yeah, tomorrow during computer class. Not an issue, guys, really. Thanks for being so understanding. Sure, she's coming in for the dance so you can all meet her and see what I've got."
He grinned. "Thanks. Oh, hey, anyone know where I can get a local external drive? Maybe sixty gigs? Because the Luna Foundation got hit with another virus earlier and the inoculation I set up didn't catch it in the filter. I wanted to look it over and my other's got something on it already. No, the second game. I'm adding another level for those who get past all the things to really get the girl." He beamed. "Sure. No, they're not open yet and I hate Radio Shack. They tried to give Xanny a resistor instead of a capacitor the last time we went in. No, she does robots and stuff. No, not the battle bots, but like spy stuff. Yeah, of course it's always got to do with her security stuff. No, man, you'd never believe it, but the Army was after us during the convention. They had some sort of battle bot that they wanted us to fix." He giggled. "Seriously! Hand to God, I swear!"
Xandra took the phone. "Hey, guys. It's true. We snuck out for it so he could hand his game to someone and so I could look at the gear that came in, and they chased us for two days. We had to leave the hotel and go to a rent-a-pro place, and then to another one the next night because we were chased through the place. Yeah, that disturbance was us escaping. No, the photo booths. No, man, Uncle Nick was *pissed*," she said fondly. "He had a talk with a buddy who knew someone, who talked to someone else, and they don't like us much anymore." She beamed. "That's so sweet!" she cooed. "Sure. I'm chaperoning actually and since I'm not seeing anyone I'd gladly gather you up for a dance or six. Are we talking an official date or just meeting you there? Well, yeah, but I don't expect anyone to come out to the island, it's a heavy hike from the docks." She licked some cheese off her fingers. "Sure. I can meet whoever there. I'm supposed to be there about an hour early anyway to check over the exits with the official chaperones. Dude, if it was you, would you try to sneak past my alarms?" she asked with a grin. "Well, yeah, and I'll be the one with the codes." She smirked. "Sure. I can be over two hours earlier and we'll nibble dinner. I don't care. Don't get too fancy, I'm still used to good, old fashioned teenager food. Oh, there's this great Southern place across the city, about six blocks from the school. We had some *killer* chicken from there during the convention. Yeah, there." She raised an eyebrow. "Really? Why? They were great." She sighed. "Yeah, I know, it happens. Hopefully they're getting a new place. Thanks, man. See you tomorrow? Sure, before homeroom if you want. Laters. Want Timmy back?" She giggled and hung up. "He said he wanted to hang up on my extra special, velvety voice of charm and excitement."
"Yeah, Home's a great guy," Timmy agreed. "I won't pick on him if you date him."
"I'd still like to meet this kid. What's his name?"
"Homer Elgion Bastian Mersales."
"Okay, some parents are kinda cruel," Oz said, nodding once. "He can come out for dinner you know." He took another bite of his burger, then smirked at his daughter's shocked look. "We like meeting your friends, guys," he said once his mouth was empty again. "It makes us happy and content parents, that way we don't have to sneak around to watch them for things we might not like, or do things like chaperone the dance as well."
"Sure, dad, if he wants to come out, I'll invite him," she agreed. "Him and all of Timmy's friends."
"Fortunately they've all had their booster shots against Precious," Junior offered. "They should be fine to be around Auntie Buffy and her when they're in super squeal and bounce mode." He ate a fry as the others snorted and shook their heads.
Timmy patted him on the back. "I don't think any of my friends would date a cheerleader anyway, bro, don't worry about it. Though, Chastity thinks you're cute."
"She's how old?" Oz asked.
"My age, dad," Junior told him. He looked at his big brother. "Really?" Timmy nodded. "She outright told you that?" Timmy and Brandon both nodded. "Why?"
"Because she wanted to know if it'd be okay to hang out with you. Everyone seems to think we're really protective of each other for some reason," Brandon told him.
"Hmm, and the rumor's spreading probably as we speak," Xandra said cryptically. Her father looked at her. "We had to have a talk with a girl recently," she admitted.
"I'm sure it only enhanced your reputation." He glanced around, then at the kids. "We done here? Before I get hives from the muzak?"
"We're done," Timmy agreed. He balled up his wrappers and gathered up the empty things to toss them out. Junior gulped the rest of his food, getting a good case of hiccups, and they left. Xandra had to come back for her purse, but otherwise everything went smoothly.
Xander looked up as Xandra came down the stairs, already dressed for her evening out. "What are you wearing?" he asked, looking her over. The green strapless dress was quite something else, and she looked a lot older than she should, or at least than he thought she should. "Weapons?"
"Not packing," she admitted. "Only a bodice dagger in case of trouble." She came off the bottom step and twirled to show it off. "Like it?"
"I do, and I thought it had more material at the store, daughter."
"It didn't. It had a shawl, which I'm not wearing tonight because I can't keep the thing around my shoulders and it's a pain to carry around."
"Oz?" Xander called. "Philip?" They both came at his call, looking at Xandra. "Is this appropriate?"
Philip looked her over. "It's tasteful," he admitted.
"She doesn't look like a ho," Oz agreed. "Pull the top up?"
"Sorry, dad. Can you retighten the back strings? Brandon was really gentle with them."
He turned her around and tightened the back corset strings, making her gasp, but they were tight enough. "How's that?"
"Can't breathe, but I'm good," she admitted. "Am I okay enough?" She smiled as Adam came down from the library. "We're debating this or my other dress for the school dance tonight."
He stared at her, then shivered and nodded. "You definitely look ready to throw your boyfriend to the ground and have him."
He smirked. "What is the other like?"
"Like a bra and a skirt, only backless and stomachless," Xander told him. "Which she knows she can't wear until she's eighteen."
"That soon?" Adam asked.
"Auntie Alex, they're doing it again and I'm going to miss my ferry and my date," she called.
Alex came to the top of the stairs. "That outfit is perfectly adorable on her and more than appropriate for her age, guys. Let her go. It's not like anyone's going to try stuff with her, she scares them off."
"True," Oz relented. He looked at Xander, who let out a small moan. "Xan?"
"Fine," he sighed. He took the keys Philip held out. "Come on, I'll drive you over. Oz can get the others." He walked her out to the car. "I want to meet this boy."
"Home? You met him a few days ago, dad."
"Really? Which one was he?"
"The blushing guy in the back."
"Oh, him," he said, nodding. They drove off. "You're sure you can handle it without a weapon?"
"Dad, it's a school dance. Short of someone bringing a shotgun I'm good. I've got my phone in my bag and it's fully charged. I've got my debit card in there too in case I need some emergency cash to get home. I've got the condoms in there too," she said with a small smirk.
"Daughter, I'm trying to drive here. Unless you want us to crash, do not mention that you're carrying condoms around ever again."
"Fine, dad. I'll leave that under things you don't need to know."
"Should I know?"
"Probably not, but I'm sure someone will be needing some tonight and I'd rather have some to hand out than to let them try it without it."
"Good point," he admitted with a small sigh. "Breath mints, lipstick, all that stuff?"
"Yup, all that stuff too," she agreed. "Plus keys so I don't have to bother the night butler."
"Good girl." He pulled up in front of the ferry dock. "Where am I dropping you?"
"That new Italian place on Sixteenth."
"Sure. Taking a cab from there?"
"His dad's taking us, he's a chaperone tonight as well," she said patiently. "We're having dinner then he'll be picking us up and taking us there. Then I'll be turning on the alarms I brought over with me this morning and making sure they all work. I've got the keychain remote for them in my bag as well, it's under the house key." He nodded, smiling at her. "Then I expect to dance at least once or twice, and to have to break up at least one fight over a girl or a boy, and to stop some people from spiking the punch."
"All right. It sounds like a plan to me. If you need anything, you know you can call me. I'll expect you to be responsible and to not use any of those condoms, daughter." She gave him a patient look. "Thank you. Did you want to go with Kana this summer? Oz found your note finally."
"I did. I think I can learn some more martial arts from him this summer and he is an excellent researcher, plus there's a big robotics thing going on over in Tokyo this summer. I'd like to go to it and I know he'll let me."
"I'd doubt on you going alone."
"Me too, but at least he'd try to send someone who wouldn't be bored and lose me."
"True," he agreed. "Hell, Kana's close enough to be family. You don't want to date him, right? He's got a really nice girlfriend who couldn't come for the last house event."
"No, daddy. He's a bit too old for me," she said dryly, smirking at him. "Ferry's here." He turned on the engine and moved up into position. "You know, I can take a cab from the other side."
"Fat chance," he snorted. "Nice try though. I'd give you points for the effort if this were a gameshow."
"Thanks, dad." She patted him on the arm. "I've always loved your overprotective nature. Hey, if Kana and his girl don't work out, can you give him Precious? He seemed to be able to handle her and to turn her into a real human being instead of a squealing box of lust and bad attitude."
Xander leaned on his steering wheel, laughing too hard to move. "Oh, you are so bad," he said when the dock guard tapped on his window. He opened it and held up his pass. "My daughter just made a really good joke," he explained with a grin. "It's a school dance." The guard gave him an odd look. "All six of them, man." He drove on once the gate was down, parking easily. There wasn't much traffic tonight. "What are you doing if you run long?"
"I'm going to get a room at the Sheraton since it's closest, call you guys to tell you that, and have someone bring me clothes on the way in tomorrow so I can get dressed."
"Good girl." He kissed her on the temple. "You behave tonight. I don't want to hear about you being bad or having to hurt someone."
"Dad, if I have to hurt someone, I'll do it, but I won't like it," she assured him.
"That's my girl," he said proudly. He turned off the car as soon as they started to move, getting out and walking around to help her out as well. "Come on, let's stroll so you can break in those shoes. They look like they hurt."
"They don't actually. I let Brandon break them in for me." He gave her an odd look. "He wanted to know why women complained about heels. I gave him these for the night." She looked down at her two-inch stiletto heels. "Not very practical, but I look hot in them."
"They come off easily enough," he agreed, leaning against the railing while she stood up. She didn't need to get dirty. "Aren't you cold?"
"No, dad," she said patiently. "I'm not cold and I'm overly exposed either."
"Fine, ruin my memories of you as a little bitty baby who used to like to suck on my velvet shirts," he sighed.
"I'm grown up now, dad. Now I've got velvet shirts of my own," she said with a grin, putting a hand on his arm. "Don't worry, you've still got Junior and we wouldn't mind another baby in the house." He hugged her. "Dad, messing up the clothes and the hair," she complained after a few minutes. He pulled back wiping off his cheeks. "It's all right, daddy. I'm still your little girl. I promise I am." She looked at the approaching docks. "Come on, we've got to get back in. Otherwise I'll be really late." He nodded, escorting her back. They both noticed some quizzical looks but she stopped to pose for the guard who was always on board this time of night. "School dance," she said once he had taken her picture. "Daddy's having a 'she's all grown up now' moment."
He nodded, looking at Xander. "She's not grown yet, you still have to drive her everywhere."
"True," Xander agreed with a grin. "She's mostly there though." He helped her back into her seat then got around to drive once they were able to leave.
The guard shook his head. "She's a girl after all," he said dryly, going to show the captain the picture. They liked those kids, they were always very nice to the night shift guys, even brought them coffee sometimes.
Xandra looked at her date. "No, really, I'm going to Kyoto this summer to do some extra training."
"You dog, you get to go to the robots expo, don't you?" he teased. She grinned and nodded. "By yourself?"
"Probably not, but the guy I'm going to be interning with is like family. He even handles Precious and turns her into a real little girl." Home snickered, shaking his head. "Oh, shit," she sighed, staring at the door. "Home, if he fires, I want you under this table immediately. Do you understand?" He nodded quickly, taking another bite of food. She pulled out her phone and laid it on the table, just so she wouldn't have to dig it out later. The guy with the shotgun pointed it at the maitre'd and she groaned, calling the school first. "Patricia, I'm going to be a bit late. No, we've got a nut with a gun shouting about his woman. Yeah, I'll still be there. No, the code is 135947 and I've got the keychain thing with me so I'll give it to Home if I'm gonna be *really* late. Thanks." She hung up and looked at him. "Scoot closer to the window." He nodded and did so, getting out of the line of fire. The guy started to wave it around again and she casually scratched her upper chest, pulling out the dagger. Then she stood up and threw it at him, hitting him in the shoulder. "Put it down!" she ordered in her best 'official' voice. The agents had been quite impressed with it. "Now!" He whimpered and dropped the gun, getting to his knees. "Much better, thank you." She pulled her dagger out and grabbed a clean napkin off an empty table to clean it. "Stay there. Or else." She scowled at him and he moaned, holding his shoulder. She handed him the napkin. "Put pressure on it, I didn't get you that hard." She continued to scowl until the cops got there.
"Wow, I'm dating Xena," Home muttered, looking on her in awe. "Man, dad's going to flip."
She came back once the police pulled up, calling the house. "Dad, can you please fax over a copy of my credentials to the cops? No, gun wielding idiot with a former girlfriend at the restaurant. Thanks, dad." She hung up and pulled out the keychain piece, handing it to him. "Those are my house keys so don't lose them, okay?" He nodded. "Green turns them on, red turns them off." He nodded again. "Thanks, babe. See you in a few. This will be ended quickly, I promise. There will be no overnight in the jail for me." She gathered up her purse and strolled back over, grinning at the detective. "Hi, Uncle Ray."
He looked at her, then her outfit. "Going somewhere special?"
"School dance. I'm a chaperone. That's Home, he's my date," she said, pointing at him with a grin. "I think I impressed him with the knife throw."
"I'd say. That's one hell of a job, Xandra," he agreed. The other cops stared at him in shock. "She's Secret Service trained guys, she works with the Luna Foundation. She's Derek Rayne's granddaughter."
"Oh," one of them said, nodding like he got it. "Okay then. Very impressive distance, ma'am."
"Eww, I got ma'amed," she complained, pouting at him. "I'm not quite that old, please."
He laughed and smiled at her. "Fine. You did very good, young lady. How's that?"
"Much better," she said happily. She looked at her 'uncle'. "He was waving a gun at the guy who seats you, screaming about his girlfriend and him. I waited until it was pointing up to hit him."
"Good job," the cops all agreed, taking the guy out to the ambulance that was pulling in.
Ray looked at her, handing her the form. "Here, you've got a clue. Fill it out, kiddo." He patted her on the bare shoulder. "Aren't you cold?"
"Uncle Ray, I'm not that young either," she said patiently. "Daddy Xander was nearly crying earlier because I'm mostly grown up now. All I have left is the driving stuff."
"You're fourteen," he reminded her.
She beamed at him. "As soon as I have my permit, I'm getting lessons and the guards said I could take motorcycle riding lessons too," she said happily.
He groaned and shook his head. "Your poor fathers," he complained, looking up. "I'll call Xander later to make sure he's okay."
"That's cool. He's faxing over my current credentials in case there's a doubt." She finished filling in the lines and signed her name with a flourish, then handed it over. "Here you go. Are we done?" He nodded. "Cool, I can finish dinner. His dad's not here yet." She pulled out her card and handed it to the guy who had been threatened. "I've got dinner. It's not an issue." She strolled back. "I'm done," she said happily. "And I've got dinner. A modern woman can pay," she said at his opening mouth. "Besides, I earn a paycheck."
"Good point," he agreed happily. That meant he could get a new game for his X-Box. He handed back the keys. "What else did you have in there?"
"Well, my knife wasn't in there," she said, slipping it back into the holder and adjusting her top. "The keys, the phone, and the card were all in there, along with a few pieces of essential makeup and a travel toothbrush and toothpaste, plus some emergency supplies in case some of the kids need them," she finished with a light blush, but she was grinning. "I know someone will need some."
"Yeah, they probably will," he agreed, grinning back. "Any plans for personal usage?"
"No, but then again this is a first date, Home."
"True," he agreed again, even more happily. She'd be willing to go out with him again! Yes!
Ray walked the credit card over and let her sign the other form. "Nice throw, Xan."
"Thanks, Uncle Ray. Uncle Ray, this is Home. He's one of Timmy's friends and a fellow computer person. Home, this is my kinda Uncle Ray, he's from Chicago and he's a detective out here."
"Hi, sir," he said, shaking his hand with a bright smile. "I love this girl. She's tough, she's strong, and she understands me."
"Good. We like that in a boyfriend of my niece." He patted the kid on the back. "How are you getting to the dance?"
"My dad's a chaperone and he's coming back in about a half-hour," Home admitted.
"That's fine. I'll still be here then," he said dryly. "You be good to her or you'll be pounced by every other member of her family plus my son Benny."
"Benny's your boy? I met him the other day after school, sir. He and Junior were running around on the playground."
"Why was he there?"
"He wants to switch school so he can hang with Junior. A few of his classmates are big idiots," Xandra told him. "It's a good school."
"I have no doubt of that, but it's expensive."
"Not really. My father works at a bakery and I still go," Home admitted.
"Then maybe we'll see," Ray agreed, heading off to direct the cops to do more stuff. He turned around. "Xan, need the dagger for a bit?" She pulled it out, holder and all, tossing it at him. "Thanks. Now fix that, girl." She adjusted the top carefully, making him smile as he went to bag it. "I'll send it back in a few days or so."
"That's fine, I've got two more at home," she sighed. "Can you find out when I can have the nice pistol again?" He waved a hand. "Thanks, Uncle Ray." She noticed someone staring her way. "I'm a junior security officer at the Luna Foundation. I had to stop a mugger the last time." The woman's eyes went wide and she turned around, so Xandra went back to fawning all over her boyfriend. Starting with a happy, bright, cheerful smile that made him shiver. "Scared?"
"Not in the least. I like tough women. They don't put up with stuff."
"True, I don't," she agreed happily. "Hurry up so we can get dessert and get your father something to nibble."
"Mom made goulash."
"You know, I haven't had that in years. Bennet doesn't do much ethnic cooking." She shrugged. "I'll have to suggest we do a theme week soon." She ate a bite of dinner delicately. "So, Home, did you want to come to Junior's birthday party next month?" He beamed and nodded quickly. "Then I think we can manage that," she said with a wink and a grin.
Timmy walked up to his sister, putting his arm around her shoulders. "I can foresee many chaperones in your future, Xanny," he teased. She elbowed him, making him laugh. "I can." He grinned at his girlfriend, who was waiting quietly. "Can't you?" She nodded too.
"Excuse me, I'm not that other sister, thank you," she said primly, smiling at the boy coming up to her. "What's up?" He blushed and whispered in her ear, so she pulled something out of her purse and handed it over. "Be careful." He nodded, heading back to his girlfriend's side. "And dad thought I was overreacting," she said, rolling her eyes. Her brothers were giving her a funny look. "I knew someone was going to need them."
"Good point," Brandon agreed. Timmy gave him an odd look. "I probably would have done the same thing if I had thought about it. The dispenser in the bathroom is always empty." He shrugged and grinned at Xandra's date as he let go of one of the other computer club members and came their way again. "Here comes your man."
She pinched him. "Be nice or go away. "
"Fine, we'll go pick on superlust boy," Timmy agreed impishly.
"And leave him alone too," she said, stamping her foot, then wincing when the shock went up her leg. "Leave Serena's guy alone too. Go pick on Precious' dancing partner." She turned away and grinned at her date. "Brothers are the annoying boys," she told him.
He laughed. "I'm sure they are. My own sister probably said the same thing."
"You have a sister?" she asked as he led her out onto the dance floor. "How old?"
"Nineteen. She's away at college." He sighed.
"We'll be there soon," she reminded him, giving him a pat on the arm. He looked shocked. "Aren't you going?"
"Oh, I am, but I thought you were going to do the debutante thing for a while."
She laughed, shaking her head. "Not a chance, Home. I loathe the party circuit most of the time and the brainless people who seem to inhabit it. I'm looking for a good computer and robotics program. I'd love MIT, but the 'rents want me closer so we've been looking at the state's schools."
"Wow. I'm being recruited by Berkeley."
"I've talked to them but they don't have precisely what I want. I'm thinking Poly but we don't know about them yet. We're going to take a tour over the holiday. They invited me and Timmy up."
"You know, for not being part of the quad, you do get along with them."
"That is all our father's doing," Precious said as she joined them. "Speaking of which, our father is nearly having fits because of you."
Xandra shrugged and danced her guy off. "You wanted me to let him shoot someone over a girl?" She grinned at her date. "Most of us get along but I was always separate and watching the quad until Junior came along. You know how tight twins can be?" He nodded. "The quad is even worse. They're not precisely the same as those twins who can finish each other's sentences, but damn close. Brandon and Timmy can, Precious and Serena can, Timmy and Serena can, and Brandon and Serena can, but Brandon and Timmy have problems finishing Precious' thoughts for her, but they can share dreams." He looked stunned. "So, yeah, dad had to work really hard for them to like me. Then Junior came and he became my little brother since the quad didn't like him that much because of all the other stuff happening around that time. Then again, we've all grown up and everyone but Precious and Junior get along now."
"I've wondered why your parents didn't send her to therapy."
"Because both of our fathers have counseling degrees."
"Wow. So I'm guessing they're pretty cool parents?"
"For the most part. They explain things to us when we've done something really dumb. They expect us to have at least half a brain most of the time and come talk to them when we're having problems. They don't search rooms unless they're really worried and then they drag us upstairs while they do it." She stopped moving as soon as the music stopped, clapping politely because the DJ was taking a short break. She walked him back to where the other chaperones were, except his father who had to go home suddenly. "This is kinda fun," she admitted. "Much better than the near shooting."
He nodded. "I still say you were really impressive, Xandra."
"Thank you," she said with a faint blush.
"Shooting?" another parent asked.
"Near shooting," Xandra corrected, looking over at her. "The restaurant we were having dinner at had someone walk in with a shotgun and start screaming about his girlfriend. I ended up fixing the thing." She shrugged. "It's part of my life and my training." She looked over at the punch table, clearing her throat. The kid with the bottle up his sleeve turned and walked away as fast as he could. "Thank you."
The mothers around them laughed. "Good job," one congratulated. "Which one are you?"
"Xandra Harris-Osbourne," she said, shaking her hand.
"Ah, you're the one who wears all the leather," another mother said, shaking her hand.
"Yeah, it's the usual uniform of my day," she agreed lightly. "That and workout clothes."
"At least you're in good shape," Home suggested. "You work out every day and you jog, plus you've got your range time, and all that good stuff." The parents around them looked confused. "She's a junior security officer for family events," he explained. "She also does surveillance robots and things like that."
"Wow," one mother said. "Why aren't you in the math and science academy?"
"Because the parents didn't want to make us go to separate schools. We decided that we get a good education here and they can guide us in any studies we need on our own. My brother's a game programmer. He just sold one." They looked impressed. "He's the one out there in the red jacket and black everything else with the cute British girl on his arm."
"Oh, Timmy," the first mother said, nodding. "I know about the quad. He's such a *nice* boy to my Chastity." She looked at her. "You're his little sister?" She nodded. "Well. Such a nice girl. He's said a lot of good things about you." She patted her on the back. "You have fun, dear."
"I'm a chaperone, the student chaperone," she told them. "So I'm in charge too, kinda. But I get to dance once he starts the music up again." She looked around. "Oh, the ho," she said snidely. "Precious is at it again."
Home looked then grimaced. "At least you and Serena have some sense, Xandra." He gave her back a small pat. "It could be a lot worse. She could be doing more than holding court for the soccer team at the moment." She nodded, looking around. She caught Serena's eye and nodded at Precious, earning a scowl from her gentle sister. "Doing more inter-family telepathy?"
"No, just a silent talk. Serena thinks we should let Precious prove she's going to behave." She looked at him again. "If she doesn't, we might have to go break it up as a family. If I do have to go, I'll be right back."
"Sure," he agreed. "I understand. I wouldn't want someone else to hear the family chewing me a new one either," he assured her. The music started again and he led her back out onto the dance floor. This was really fun. Most girls wouldn't dance with him.
Timmy came over and stole her with a grin for his buddy. "What are you doing if you have to stay later?"
"Dad approved of me staying at the Sheraton and having one of you bring me clothes. Why?"
"Because Dad's coming to haul Precious home since we just stopped her from sneaking off with the goalie of the school's team." He let her go with a smirk. "Serena said she wasn't scowling at you, it was about Precious. She's chewing her a new one at the moment." They shared a look and then laughed, so he let her go and headed off to soothe the fatherly person who should be here soon.
Xandra grinned as she made her way back to her date. "They're removing Precious. Looks like I'll be in the Sheraton tonight after all." He grinned and gave her a quick hug, not long enough to get any of the other monitors in an uproar, then they went back to dancing. It was a nice thing.
Two weeks later, Xandra was called down to the gatehouse for evening briefing, and jogged down happily enough. She walked in, flipping her sweaty hair back. "Yeah, guys?" she asked, taking her usual seat against the back wall in the corner. "Let me guess, it's the birthday party?"
The head guard nodded, grimacing. "This is going to be a nightmare."
"Not really. Daddy Oz said something about a perimeter. We can set up a rope situation and enforce it with an alarm and a small patrol, plus a good patrol around the paths and one or two on gate duty and another to check names."
"We could," the head guard agreed, looking at the permanent diagram of the gardens. "Where is the tent going to be?"
Xandra got up and grabbed the laser pointer, using it on the diagram. "Okay, we're thinking the tent's going to be about here, by the gargoyles. It's got a lot of room, but not too too much so people can get lost. We'll also have some of the portable dig lights set up around there and in the garden itself. We'll have a three-piece tent setup. One big for the dancefloor and DJ. One smaller for the buffet and sitting area, and a smaller one yet for escaping parents." They all nodded, looking impressed. "So if we can put the tents there, then we can enforce a perimeter line from the gargoyles to the roses, and back to the side of the house. We can set up a walkway with more ropes from the parking area and coat that with the usual plastic in case of mud. That would be the easiest way and putting alarms and signs on the ropes saying that there were alarms would help the most. Granddad made sure the invitation said that the gardens would be patrolled for sneaking out and unsavory people trying to get in. They should all have invitations, as far as I know, but this is a school and party rumors are fast and furious at the moment so we may have some crashing. I'd suggest checking school IDs and you can get a list from the Principal's office." She handed over the laser pointer. "I feel kinda sorry for you guys that night, but it should be okay. We've got the gardens laid out so they're easily accessible and so we can stop anyone going out into the woods. Plus, we can test the new motion sensors on some of the paths if we need to." She sat back down, crossing her legs. "How's that?"
"Excellent planning and reporting," the head guard noted. "I noticed you're not on the list?"
"Give it to a guy who needs overtime for the holidays, I've got a date coming," she said blandly, smirking at him. "I'll have an earbud on in case, but I plan on being in the middle of the dance floor most of the night." The guys all looked at her. "Yes, the fathers do know this boy and he's perfectly nice. He's one of Timmy's friends."
"The same one you were with at the school dance?" one guard asked. She nodded, smirking at him. "Fine. We'll leave you off the rotation that night," he agreed. "Nick and Xander will be wearing earbuds as well, but not officially be more than hosts and watching the tents. Bennet's said he'll be putting food out then going inside to hide from the horrible noise the kids today call music. Doctor Rayne said he'd be hosting with Oz and Xander, but that it wasn't going to be too stressful."
"Oh, yeah, internships for the summer are up. You'll be getting two kids here, and Junior will be staying this year again," Xandra announced. "Precious and I are going to Kyoto. Brandon and Serena are going to London's Archival house. Timmy's not going to Rome, he's going to Moscow, with his girlfriend in tow because this will be her first internship as well." She crossed her legs in the other direction. "The two kids coming in are Alex and Nick's interns. One's an artist and wants to be an art major. One wants to do security at the grunt and shoot level, his words," she said, holding up a hand to forestall the protests she could see coming. "He's from Phoenix."
"I'm sure Ableman made sure he knew what sort of things security officers really did," the head guard said diplomatically. "Dossiers?"
"After the holidays. Oh, yes, the holiday visiting schedule. We're getting Vatican City's Precept in with Jesus. We are getting Kana and his lady, Mordred and his lady from London's Archival house, he's second in command there, and possibly their teenage son. I think they want to try and set him up with Precious or Serena, hopefully not me." She shuddered. "We'll also be getting a surprise visit from Ray and Benny Jr. again because Junior's been lonely. He may be switching out to our school after the holidays anyway." She beamed at them for remembering it all. "Otherwise, we're good at the house. Bennet did say he'd put out a big urn of coffee on the back stoop for you guys to suck at now and then. Plus there'll be more in the adults tent at the party."
"I love Bennet," the head guard decided. "The man is telepathic I think." He grinned at his guys. "So I guess we are offering overtime to everyone. The party starts at around three that Saturday and ends around six or seven that night. There will be a special ferry running each way, plus the regular ones. We may be running a shuttle from the dock since we're expecting a lot of non-driving people."
"Remember, this is Junior's retaliation for having to do the formal events this year," Xandra put in with a big grin.
"Gee, thanks for the warning, Xandra. Now we know to expect some hell on earth from the kids," the head guard said dryly. "Have we made a pass for this kid of yours yet?"
"Not yet. He hasn't been out here yet. He is coming for the party and so is Timmy's girl."
"Yeah, she came in for the dance and she's staying over the holidays. She was the one in the purple dress sleeping on Timmy's shoulder when they came back."
"Okay, we figured she was a runaway that your fathers had taken in. We'll get a pass made for her as well," the head guard said, writing it down on the piece of paper in front of him. "Any other personal news?"
"Yeah, Precious is not to be at the dance. The fathers have grounded her slutty ass to the house. She's got a new boyfriend and was going to make out with him. Fortunately this one doesn't drive either so we're safe on that front for a bit longer."
"Will she be getting lessons at the same time?" one guard asked.
She nodded. "They argued and decided it was for security purposes only. She's not to go out alone. She's not to have her own license. None of it." She stood up. "Anything I need to pass back up to the house?"
"Nope, just have Bennet call us with the final placement of the tents," the head guard said, smiling as she left the gatehouse. Then he lost it. "I'm sure her fathers have done this but I do want to know something about this kid she's dating. She's sweet and someone will undoubtedly use that against her and the family." Everyone looked at the guard with the kid in the same school.
"He's, um, a computer guy. He's one of Timmy's friends. Home's a nice kid. Good family, strong background." He shrugged. "He's a decent kid who makes her laugh from what I saw after the dance. His mother might not much like her, she's the sole embodiment of 'all proper women are weaker than their men, or at least they pretend to be'. We know Xandra's invited her out for the dance. We overheard her the other day on her jog on patrol." His partner nodded. "Not a clue otherwise. Homes' the last kid I'd expect of being a dark lover. He loathes Precious and ignores her. He didn't even tweak at Serena and her nature. Basically, he likes her because she understands him. Or at least that's what I heard from my little girl. Oh, there is a threat. The math teacher. She's a chaos witch of some sort and she's tweaked on Junior. They've already warned her as a group. She's still watching him. My daughter's in his math class and the teacher does a lot of watching him."
"That's fine. Does Doctor Rayne know?" the head guard asked. The guard shrugged. "Then I'll point that out to Philip to make sure." He made another note. "Anything else?"
"Which one is Kana?"
"He's from Kyoto, he's in charge there and second to Xander."
"Oh, all right." He nodded, looking at the others. "Sorry, I'm new to this one. The Philippines was a special dig house, we only had to keep out some natives and some animals."
"Mordred is the dark-skinned, tall, evil looking guy from London's Archival house. Nice guy, but never let him fence with you. He's a bastard with a foil," the head guard noted. "He and Adam should probably get along very well. Also, he's got a woman that's a trick and a half, gentlemen. I don't care how she's dressed, do not touch her, do not look at her, and do not flirt with her. I've seen the woman only wearing her hair to shock people and it worked very well, because her man kicked some ass." They all nodded. "Good. Now, anyone know anything about Jesus and Sister Mary Catherine? If she's coming, we might want to have some mints ready to hand her when she comes across the gate."
"Sure," one of the guards noted dryly, smirking at him. "Jesus likes them too."
"Good. Anyone who wants that extra time in, I'll be putting up a list. We can probably use all of you so don't hesitate. As she said, the holidays are coming up and kids are expensive to buy for." He closed his notes. "Anything else?" They stayed silent so he clapped his hands. "Go on patrol." They headed out.