Inasi woke up and looked around the room it was in. It was definitely not his room at the palace. It was also not anywhere near the palace. There was no noise outside the windows. There were children around him, but he didn't mind that. He was an Imperial Dragon, the protector of the heir and the royal family. He slid off the soft place, noticing it had been a couch, and moved to look at the children. None were his charge, he had known that, but his charge was bored recently and needed playmates. None of these children were Japanese but they all seemed nice enough. He wandered into the kitchen area, opening the fridge. He found a steak in there with a note for him and read it, humphing as he gulped the steak. He walked out of the house and up the hill. From the next house up he could tell where he was. He had been driven through here once. He snuck into the other house, going to the nursery. There he found two children, both of suitable heritage. Distant cousins if he read their blood right. He looked at the boy, but his charge was a girl. The girl was younger, but very cute. He nosed her and looked at her as she woke up. //Good morning,// it sent into her head. //I am Inasi. I am the heir's royal guardian. You are a suitable child to play with her.//
"Wow," Lotus breathed reaching out to pet him gently, like her uncle had said she should pet all animals. "You're very pretty, Inasi."
Ishi woke up and rubbed his eyes. "Who you talk to, sissy?" he said as he rubbed. He stopped then screamed when he saw the creature in their room. "Daddy! Sissy did it again! Monster!"
"He not a monster," she said, scowling at him. "He have name!" Her father came in with his sword already drawn and she scrambled to stand in front of her new friend. "No, Daddy! Not a monster!"
Goemon stopped, blinking a few times. Then he took a calming breath. And another. "Why is there a dragon in your bedroom?" he asked finally.
"Wow, a real dragon," Ishi said, moving to look at him better.
"See, told you he not a monster!" Lotus complained. She batted her eyes at her father. "He come to see me."
"I'm sure he did," he said calmly, sitting down in the rocking chair in their room. "Why did the dragon come to see you?"
The dragon moved from behind her, looking at the adult. //I don't know why I'm in this town, but I came here to see if she would come play with my charge. They're nearly the same age and she is a girl. Your blood is suitable to play with her.//
Goemon shook his head briefly, then looked at him. "I am a thief and an assassin."
//I knew that already,// Inasi told him. //Your family has been for years, Goemon.// He looked at Lotus, then licked her. //I will return shortly. We will play then.//
"She may not go to the Imperial Palace by herself," Goemon said firmly.
The dragon gave him a look. //What am I, pate?// He walked out onto the lawn, finding a bright golden bird waiting on him. //Merry meet, My Lord. Are you their protector?// He sent him a few pictures. //Ah, I see. I had thought that the lone phoenix on this world had died a few centuries back. What do you know of this daughter?// The phoenix sent more pictures to him and it suited his purposes. //Very well then. Can you transport her back to the palace for a play date this afternoon? Our princess is very bored and lonely.// The bird nodded and went inside to find Lotus some clothes. The dragon called its usual protected one, letting it know what was going on and where he was. The fact that he would be bringing back a child for the afternoon pleased the father to no end. He went back inside and bypassed the father. //The blue.//
Lotus smiled at him. "Will I be back in time for ice cream?"
//If you wish.// Inasi looked over as another human walked in, frowning at the mother. //I will bring her back later. She is only going to play.//
"An adult must accompany her, a human one," Goemon said firmly.
The dragon looked at him. //Then I would change out of that loincloth.// He went back to helping the children get ready. If the father was coming, the son probably was as well. Instead the boy stopped to pet him then went outside to do what he normally did apparently, his exercises. //He is looking to be very well trained. Good job.//
Fujiko picked up the phone and dialed Marcus' cellphone. "We have a dragon here."
"It's an Imperial Dragon," Goemon corrected. "He guards the heir. He wants Lotus to come play for the afternoon. How he got here I have no clue."
//The human brought me.//
"Human?" Goemon asked, frowning at him. "Lupin," he growled. He would kill him for this.
//No, not him. The silver one. That human. The Lupin one woke me earlier. Then he went back to have more relations with his wife and consort.// Inasi found a sunny spot on the floor and stretched out in it with a sigh. //The palace's windows are not showing the sun this time of year. I have missed this,// he told them both.
"You look like a big, scaley cat," Fujiko snorted.
"Mother!" Lotus said, scowling at her. "He *dragon*, not kitty!" She went to sit beside him and practice her reading. It wasn't time to go yet and Uncle Xander had made reading seem really interesting so she'd do more of it.
Goemon went to find more appropriate attire, then went down to behead Xander for this. He walked in the back door and directly into the trio's bedroom. Jigen woke up and glared at him, his wet hair sticking up in every direction. "He sent the dragon to my house."
"Okay," Jigen said, nodding. "So?"
"He's taking Lotus to play at the palace for the day."
Xander waved a hand without moving anything else. "Tell him I said he's welcome. He's been looking for a good playmate for months and it'll do Lotus good to find someone stronger and more connected."
"It is not appropriate that my daughter go to the palace, Xander!" he said angrily. "She is my daughter! Not some royal!"
"You're a cousin," Lupin reminded him. "You're close enough to marry her and far enough away that it wouldn't create problems. You're probably not the first two to head up there for something like this." He looked at Goemon. "I've never seen you in that one."
Goemon grimaced and tugged at the front of his kimono. "I never wear it. It's too formal for daily wear." He glared at them. "That is not the point. It is not correct that my daughter go to the palace. She could be influenced by all manners of worldly things."
"We're going to give back the Don's vases anyway," Lupin said with a shrug.
"We'll take you out for ice cream afterwards," Jigen agreed.
"Ice cream?" Xander said, waking up more. "For breakfast? For me?"
"Only if we run to the store and you go back to sleep," Jigen promised. "Tomorrow morning." She grinned and kissed him then put her head back down. "We're both going to the Don's?"
"Hell yes. I'm not facing him alone," Lupin snorted.
"He's a sweety and possibly retiring," Xander mumbled. "Was gonna take the kids." She wrapped herself around Jigen's stomach but he wiggled so she let him go and got Lupin instead. He always let her cuddle. She looked at Goemon and whistled weakly. "Cute. I like that on you. I'd still rather you took mine from the drawer." She yawned and closed her eyes. "Bottom drawer, white dresser."
Goemon looked stunned but went to open that drawer, finding the one she meant quickly enough. He looked at it, then back at her. "That would be more appropriate." She waved a hand. "Thank you." He went to change in their bathroom, coming back. "I'll have it cleaned if we're not killed. We are thieves. It is not appropriate."
"Lotus isn't," Jigen pointed out. "Besides, didn't you already tell the dragon that?" Goemon sighed and nodded. "Then he knows and if he doesn't see a problem, why would you?" He snuggled up to Xander's back.
"Now you cuddle?"
"Yes, molest him." Xander chucked and kissed Lupin's throat, making him groan. "Good girl, keep it up." He looked at Goemon. "We'll be in the city with you. It's not a problem."
"It's not. If the Imperial Dragon say it's not, then it's not," Lupin groaned. He pulled Xander off him and kissed her. "Naughty! In front of Goemon?"
"You're the one with the obsession that says I'm sleeping with him," she noted dryly. "This way you can satisfy yourself that we're not."
"I would never tolerate her jumpiness in bed," Goemon said bitterly. "I like to lead things." He walked away, heading back to his house. He got there as a car pulled up and two guards got out. "I have no idea how it got into my house," he noted.
One of the guards nodded. "He's done so in the past." He looked over the outfit. "You don't have to dress like that. The Emperor likes and enjoys Western clothes."
"I always wear a kimono of some sort, usually just a less formal one. I'll tell my daughter that if you want." He led the way inside, noticing his daughter had changed. "Are you ready?"
"Yup, Inasi said to change into this one."
"It's got a stain," Fujiko said as she came out with a newly pressed dress. "Wear this one instead."
Her daughter sighed and got up to do that, letting her mother braid her hair as well. She came out a few minutes later and bowed to the guards. "Should I bring a book?"
"The princess has an extensive library," one of the guards told her, taking her hand. The other was walking behind the dragon to guard it with Goemon following behind. "I think you and the princess will get along very well," he praised. "You're very polite."
She gave him the most honest look then smiled. "My daddy would kill me if I misbehaved," she told him.
He laughed and nodded. "Many parents would." He helped her into the child seat, then let her father get in next to her, letting the dragon take whatever other seat it wanted. He paused when he saw a golden blur dart inside, then looked in at the bird settling down next to the dragon's head. "Inasi, another friend?"
"That's Goober," Lotus said, grinning at him. "He likes Uncle Xan."
"Ah." The guard looked at the father, who sighed and shook his head. "Is that really the great one's name?"
"No, it's not, but that's as close as she can come to pronouncing it," Goemon noted. "Technically I think its name Globiani. I'm never quite sure of the exact name though."
The phoenix snorted and looked at the human, who did as ordered and closed the door so they could be off. It wanted to see this palace. He and the dragon talked the whole trip in the strange car thing. Then it followed the baby inside to look at the wonders the dragon had described. It was very nice. Maybe he would add this house to his usual route of roosts. One woman saw him and shrieked so he gave her a cold look worthy of his human grandfather. Another came in and bowed to him, talking quietly to him and asking if he wanted anything. He sent a picture of a mouse and it went to fetch him a light snack. He could get to like this residence indeed!
Lupin knocked on the Don's door, handing over the box as soon as it opened. "Lavelle's very sorry she was in a playful mood," he said dryly, heading into the study. He found it being packed up. "You're retiring because of Lavelle?"
The Don looked at him, then nodded. "Definitely. Did you bring back my wife's vases?"
"All the ones that we found at the foot of our bed. The kitsune may have more of them," he admitted with a small shrug. "Sorry about that."
The Don snorted. "Sure you are. No Jigen?"
"In the car." He closed the door once the helper was gone. "So, who's taking over?"
"Fuck if I care. Just don't let Lavelle take my empire and make me crawl crying and begging to be saved from him."
"Ah! You thought something bad about the kids," Lupin said dryly. "Don't worry about it. Lavelle does give warnings. You're safe enough as long as you don't follow through."
"In truth, I feel old anyway. My wife is going to have another child soon and I want to stop working and enjoy it this time. So I'm retiring. Want the job?" Lupin looked scared and shook his head. "You sure?"
"Hell yes I'm sure. I have no desire for this sort of position."
"If you say so." He shrugged. "I tried, remember that. I'll probably hand it to Kaembre."
"We like him," Lupin admitted. "He's decent enough. We can stand to have Lavelle threaten him."
The Don laughed. "Good. As long as it's not me." He shifted some. "How long have you been letting Lavelle play with kitsune?"
"Let?" Lupin asked, bursting out in laughs. "Who said we *let* him play with them? I can't order him to do anything!" He shook his head. "Apparently when they were back in time Goemon let Lavelle play with a kitsune that helped him retrieve a stolen daughter. Now they're best friends." The other man moaned. "Exactly. I can't not let him play with him, but it's not as bad as it could have been. He let Xander wear out his naughty urges safely and without being kidnaped. Much."
The Don sat up. "Again?"
"Again. They wanted him to go take over Hell with the marks carved onto his body."
"Oh, damn. That wasn't a myth?" Lupin shook his head, getting serious. "Then you have a very precious treasure, Lupin the Third. She knows the Great One's real name. She really could take over Hell. All she'd have to do would be to summon him and kill him with them." Lupin looked stunned. "I'd guard her better."
"I try but she gets upset when I lock her into a safe place," Lupin said dryly. "They decided they were very sorry for trying to make her do that the other night. They sent hush gems."
"Hmm. Wonderful. I'll help you sell off any that need it." He waved a hand. "You sure you don't want this? You'd do excellently and you're not exactly full-time in the thieving business anymore."
"It's not my fault they took away our warrants!" Lupin defended. "I wanted them there!"
"I know you did, but it would give you more time to play with the children."
"Hell no. The same as I told the guy in Europe who tried to get me to be his second."
The Don shook his head. "No, you need to be in charge of your own group. Even if they were dying and wanted you to be able to sneak into the position you'd be miserable." He shrugged. "No one can say I didn't try. Have you thought of starting your own school?"
"No, but apparently Xander has. He wants us all to teach the kids. All the kids, even the ones who're gonna go be good guys."
The Don nodded. "Most of the basics would still be necessary for them. Getting out of handcuffs is a skill they'd need too."
"Good point," Lupin sighed, shaking his head. "We'll miss you, old guy. Tell us where you're going so we can pop around and let the kids play." He left, heading out to the car. "He's retiring. Xan scared him last night with the Geneva story."
"Better than the Verona one," Jigen noted. They both shuddered. Xander had been on a rip then. "Think we should go to the palace and wait?"
"The park nearby. Goemon should be able to find us, even if Lotus is asleep." He started the car, heading that way. "Did the bag break?"
"I handed it over and came back to call Xander and make sure she was still at home. She was off doing laundry."
"Interesting. The Don said he'd help us sell any of the stuff he got if we wanted."
"We probably should look it over," Jigen agreed. "We'll do that as soon as we get back." Lupin nodded and took off, heading for the park nearest the imperial residence. They weren't sure how long Goemon would take but it'd only an hour so they were guessing at least a few more.
Xander hung up his phone and went back to opening the safe in front of him, smirking at his ingenuity. He finally got it open and took out the trays of jewels inside. They went into the special case lying beside him on the floor, along with the bonds, the cash, and the checkbook. He snapped his case closed and walked away, heading out to do something about this new person who'd be taking over Tokyo's syndicate. He didn't know him well enough yet. The scared owner of the merchandise huddled against the bed with his twelve- year-old prostitute. Xander redarted him, then went to call the cops from the downstairs phone. "Hi," he told the 911 operator. "I just broke into this house and I found the owner sedated with a child attached to him sexually. I'm guessing someone got him back for his habit of sleeping with preteen prostitutes. You might want to get here." He left the phone off the hook and exited in style, heading off as soon as he looked like a businessman. He even had Lupin's glasses on. Hey, it worked for Superman, why not him?
He paused as he walked around the corner, looking back at the house as cops pulled up and ran inside. He smirked and left, heading back to the house with his new treat. There was much he could do with this. The man's bank account was going to a children's hospital that needed funds, but the rest was all his. He even remembered to stop and gather up the laundry he had sent out.
Lotus tugged on her father's hand as her playmate's mother rejoined them. She skipped over to look out a window, smiling at the familiar car. "Uncles in the park, daddy," she told him.
"Thank you, Lotus." He bowed to the Emperor's wife then took the tray from her. "You do not need to do that."
"It's fine. I'm a woman like most others," she assured him, sitting down to serve them. "It was most amazing when Inasi called this morning."
"It was most amazing when I woke and found him in our nursery," Goemon agreed dryly, looking at his daughter, who was giving him an innocent look. Then he looked at the mother. "I tried to argue with him."
"I know you did, Mr. Goemon. I even know why, now." She smiled at him. "While not the ideal occupation my daughter seemed to like your daughter and you did stay out of their way so I have no problems with you." She handed over a cup of tea. "Lotus, would you like some?"
"No thank you," she said politely, grinning at her. "Tea's nasty. I agree with Uncle."
"Her uncle is American," Goemon told her.
"Ah. That does explain some odd comments then. I had wondered why she used slang."
"Because her uncles have too much influence in her education," he said wryly. "One of them is working on her reading skills."
"That is a good thing though," she pointed out gently, smiling at him. "She is a bright and energetic child. We would not mind seeing her now and again."
"If you request, I could have her escorted up," Goemon offered. "Occasionally."
"Really?" Lotus asked, bouncing in her seat. Her father looked at her and she calmed down. "I can come back?"
"Every once in a while," he agreed. "Not all the time."
"Yes, daddy." She smiled at the nice mother-person. "Thank you for inviting me."
"You're very welcome, Lotus. You're a very nice child, even though you did manage to unstick that vase earlier." Her father groaned. "It's not a problem. We have another child with similar skills."
"No, it was not for that. It was in remembrance of when she was three and she decided she liked some of the stones in the Smithsonian." The Empress giggled like a school girl. He nodded. "Indeed. She is in training for that and will not unstick things in the future." He looked at his daughter. "Correct?"
"Yes, daddy," she said happily. She'd get to come back, she could agree to nearly anything. "Ishi would love to hide in the garden."
"I'm sure but a girl her age doesn't really like to play with boys," the Empress told her. "She'll grow out of that in a few years." She gave the girl a smile. "Perhaps around the holidays? There's ever so much to get done and our dear one gets so bored with all the formality. An afternoon would be wonderful."
"I can arrange that," Goemon agreed. "Send us notice of the date." He wrote out his address and email address, then handed it over. "Whenever we can be of service."
"Thank you. I know you feel odd about this, what with your job and all that, but she is the most delightful little girl." She smiled and picked up her own tea to sip, prompting him to. They were very nice, for being thieves.
Lotus skipped up to her uncles and climbed into Lupin's lap to hug him. "I played," she said happily.
"So we heard, kiddo. Have fun?" Jigen asked.
"She did. She also unstuck a priceless vase, prompted the princess to run around screaming while they played, and had pretend battles with the princess and her dolls," Goemon said as he joined them. "No Xander?"
"He's doing laundry." Lupin gave Lotus a squeeze. "Did you have fun?"
"Lots and lots and I get to go back at the holidays."
"The princess is very stressed during them," Goemon shared. He took his daughter back. "We should head home before anyone thinks to ask why we were here."
"Someone already did," Jigen said, putting up his book. "We told them we were looking for our bird."
"It's inside sucking up to people who like to feed it fruit," Lotus said, giggling at their look. "He say he come back soon. He play with dragon."
They nodded and went back to the Benz, getting in to go home. Before they got to the town, Jigen called Xander to see what she wanted for dinner so they stopped and picked it up. Jigen looked at Lupin as they parked. "I feel domestic."
"Me too," Lupin admitted. "Maybe we'll go on another job soon." They got out and headed inside to eat with everyone but Fujiko. Ishi pouted at his sister but she told him about all the girl stuff they did and he decided he didn't need to be jealous. Who wanted to play with *girls*?
Xander looked up as Lupin came into their bedroom with the case from earlier. "Sorry, I went to take down a mogul with a taste for ten and twelve-year-olds."
"Not an issue, Xan," Lupin promised, giving him a gentle kiss. "I just wanted to look. You take his checkbook too?"
"Yup and the hacker I use for such things has already emptied his account and it went to help a children's hospital." He grinned and held up the bug. "We found this earlier."
"That's fine as well." He took it and went to flush it. "Was it dead?"
"Very." Xander came in to wave at it as it disappeared, a quirk of his. "I also left pictures of him that I took last night and earlier today. The girl wasn't new to this and she wasn't being hurt. As soon as I had a picture of him kissing her I darted him," he said at the startled look. "The bugs belonged to Kyoto's police department. One of them had a 'property of' sticker on it."
"Then I guess this house isn't that secure."
"We're fine for now. We did a good sweep before you got home. I did one with Marcus and we found them all. Someone even put one in my underwear drawer."
"Hmm. Find your choker?"
"It's on me, Lupin."
He looked at her throat, then frowned. "No it's not." Xander shifted something and it appeared. "How are you doing that?"
"That new light reflecting fabric." He pulled it off to show him. "It makes it look invisible because it does reflect the same color as skin and without a heat signature."
"Good job," Lupin said, kissing her for real this time. "Very nicely done, Xander." He handed it back and watched as she wrapped it around there again. "Cute." He walked her back into the bedroom. "She found bugs."
"I heard," Jigen admitted from looking inside the case. "Who was this?"
"That businessman who was found with the very young pro."
"He made a statement that he was set up," Jigen told her.
She gave him a mean look. "Then he's got one hell of a shock coming. The pictures weren't faked. They're still in the camera. So's the bug. I left a note in the safe. The Madam who was supplying him is now under a death sentence if she doesn't tell on him as well. She pissed off someone by using someone's runaway son. Someone's ten-year-old runaway son. Now that the kid's in rehab he'll start to tell people and she knows this. I made sure she knew this. I was sitting there when she called the police to tell them on him and a client she wanted out of the way." He shrugged. "It was useful."
"It was. What about the rest of her stable?"
"Mysteriously enough, they were raided right afterward," Xander said meanly with a cold smirk. "She was carted out screaming my name in anger. Then I so graciously appeared as a messenger with a letter for the head cop, in my name, telling him what I had done." He smiled. "That clears me, implicates him and her, and she's implicated in the letter for breaking in on him."
"Wow," Jigen said, looking impressed. "The cops believe it?"
"She kept pictures too. He can't deny that. She's got it on videotape." Lupin smirked at him. "That gets her off the streets and hopefully those kids will find something better to do with their lives. If not, well, then I'm looking at the subject of scholarships again."
"Again?" Lupin asked, sitting down behind her. "Where to?"
"A few of the local boarding schools. That'd get them off the streets, into something that could make them better than they are, and they'd be able to move on with their lives and forget what they had to do to survive. I know it's overly optimistic but at least a few would like to get off the streets and get onto something better."
"No, I like that idea," Lupin promised. "You're right, a lot of those kids probably do want to leave the life and can't because they're trapped." He kissed the back of her neck.
Jigen looked up for a moment, then sighed. "It'd help but probably only a few."
"Hey, I can't help everyone," Xander admitted. She gave him a sad smile. "But I don't want to force anyone to stay in that sort of life if there's another out."
"Then it's a good idea," Jigen agreed, smiling down at her. "He was all over the news saying this was a setup and things."
Fujiko knocked then came in. "I was just watching the international news. You had a Madam busted?"
"She was selling kids, Fuji, of course I did. Why, is she implicating me as a customer now?" Fujiko shook her head. "No? I'm shocked."
"I'm not. You're listed as one of the most scary assholes in the city," Fujiko told him. "She did say that she had helped you take down the guy who was saying it was a setup and then you had double-crossed her. That's a dangerous reputation to have."
"No, I never promised her she was safe. I said I wouldn't tell anyone who she was and I didn't. One of her girls called it in for a small bribe of twenty bucks, American."
Fujiko nodded. "That's what I put out on the bulletin board. That and why. Most of the guys on there were appreciative of her going away. A few were more wary of you now. That rumor that you judge the unworthy is still roaming around now and then." She grinned. "But it's useful to us anyway." She shrugged. "Can I help with anything?"
"I don't think there's much to do. Her clients are pretty well-known. They'll be toppled pretty easily. I didn't give the cops her financial information if you wanted to forward that to them."
"Sure, I can do that. No heists?"
"Not at the moment. This guy was just more convenient." He shrugged. "Sorry."
"We were thinking of doing one soon but we're not sure on what yet," Lupin told her. "We were feeling domestic earlier."
"I've been feeling that for weeks," she shared, still grinning. "I'm gonna go back and help Goemon wear out some frustration." She left them alone. She came back and pointed at the bag on the bed. "What's that from?"
"Hush gems to keep us from killing the hosts of hell for trying to kidnap Xander again," Jigen told her.
"I did get my kidnaper and most of his branch of the line," Xander told her.
"Good! They obviously deserved it for being that stupid!" She left, going back to her house.
Lupin looked at the gems. "Pretty pieces. What're in the CD cases?"
"I figured it was probably blackmail material or more pictures. I was gonna look them over later."
"That's fine, that can wait until the kids are out of the house," Lupin agreed, stroking her back. "Let's look at this other stuff so we can see what we want to get rid of and what we want to keep. Tokyo's Don offered to help us sell them."
"Cool. Is he really retiring?" They nodded. "Damn. I'll miss him. I didn't mean to scare him that badly."
"It's not all you. His wife is having another kid and he wanted to play with it," Lupin assured him. "He was thinking about Kaembre."
"That guy who's half Carribean? The one who everyone thinks looks like Dennis Rodman?" Jigen asked. Lupin nodded. "At least he's decent at the job."
"He is," Xander agreed. "We've had a few beers and worked on that one caper together."
"I didn't know you'd done anything in Tokyo," Lupin said, looking at him. "Doing more solo stuff?"
"It was during the convention chase time," he defended. "I was looking for a specific DVD and I had to come all the way over here to find it. He approached me in the bar, asked for my opinion on a place, which I gave, and I helped him retrieve something that was precious to his girlfriend. Then I found my DVD and I left for Sacramento. He's got a very tough persona." She snuggled back into the arms. "Let's look at the other stuff. I know an emerald I liked when they tried to make me think I was at him is in there."
Jigen moved the case then opened the bag and let it spill out. The first few were river stones, and they all figured a certain five-tailed kitsune had done that. The rest were beautiful, some were dark, some were light, some were engraved, but most of it was jewelry. "Tithes?" Jigen suggested.
"Probably," Xander agreed, picking up an ornate choker to look at. "I like the looks of this one."
"It's done in jet, it's for mourning," Lupin told him, taking it to look at. "One stone's missing but it doesn't really show." He put it aside and went back to the next piece, this time a collar-like necklace. "I like that one. You'd look really good in that one, Xan."
"No," he said firmly. "No collaring me."
"Okay," Lupin agreed, giving him a hug. "Sorry." He looked at the rest, mostly collars and things that could be used like one, like the choker. The bottom fifth of the bag was loose stones and they were all impressed. It was a very pretty collection. The emerald Xander liked was found and she smiled as she stroked it. The rest were pawed through for value. Both men looked at Xander a little enviously. "That's a very pretty collection."
"And I'm selling most of the collars, you guys can have part of that," he said patiently. "Don't I usually share?" They nodded. "This time won't be any different." He looked up in time to see the looks. "Guys!"
"Sorry, but this is like some thieves' paradise," Jigen explained.
"Yeah, well, there are other places that are like that. Getting things like this doesn't mean I work any less hard than before."
"We're glad that you're not," Jigen agreed, smirking down at him. "But you'd look like a princess in any of that."
"Yeah, but I can't pass for a princess," Xander pointed out dryly.
"You could," Lupin offered.
"No I can't."
"Yeah, you can," Jigen noted. "You could do that."
"No, I couldn't. I don't want to be a princess. I may go for socialite on occasion but that's as far as I want to go."
"Sure," Lupin agreed, smirking at him. He gave him a look. "I won't force you to, even in female form, Xan. There's not much call for that in today's world."
"Yeah, because most princesses are known about. If we need a princess, we're not doing that job."
"Fine," Lupin agreed, giving him an extra squeeze. "What else should we do tonight?"
"Pick out what of that is going," Xander said dryly. "I only keep a small collection on hand for emergencies. Most of the rest could go."
"You do keep that collection?" Lupin asked. Xander nodded. "All the times you've asked for a specific one you've kept it?"
"Yeah. I've got a small collection. Maybe twenty stones that I thought were really pretty. I'll show you when we get back to France."
"Okay. I'm not being pushy but I'd like to look. I know I don't understand your comic or kimono collections. Maybe this one I can help you with?"
"You could help me with one of the others," Xander pointed out dryly.
Lupin smirked. "But I don't like seeing you in them. I'd rather see you in dresses like the blue one you had on last month." He kissed her gently. "Let's shove this off the bed so I can hold you and make sure you don't go play with the dragon again." Xander grinned at him and shook his head. "It wasn't your idea?"
"Well, it kinda was, but I didn't do it alone."
"I didn't figure you did," Jigen told him. He gathered everything up and shoved it back into the bag. Then the bag got put next to the case on the floor. Xander's emerald went under his pillow. Jigen gave him a look. "I guess it's reasonable."
"I don't want to lose that one. I like that one." He kissed Jigen. "Where did the kimono from earlier go?" They looked confused. "Oh, I didn't bring it back?"
Xander's kitsune friend appeared with it folded over his arm. He was also carrying a small bag. "Sorry, we thought you had brought it back as well." He smiled and handed them to Jigen. "Did you get that emerald?"
"I did," Xander agreed, showing it to him. The kitsune's tails wiggled in delight. "I'd like to keep this one for my collection. I only collect a very few, very pretty ones but I like this one."
"I agree, it is pretty." He pulled something out of his robe, holding it out. "I'll trade you. This one is flawless."
Lupin took it to look at, then nodded in appreciation. "It is flawless."
Xander took it to look over. "It's smaller, but it is prettier with that cut." He looked at Lupin, who gave him a look. "My decision?"
"You claimed that piece," Jigen reminded him. "That makes it yours."
Xander looked at them again. "Hmm." He looked at his friend. "I'll trade you two rubies for this one and keep the other?"
The kitsune chuckled. "No, Xander. Fair trade. This one is more priceless. It came out of a statue's eyes." Xander handed it back. "It's not cursed."
"Still, I don't like dealing with holy artifacts. There might be enough belief left to leave the spirit alive and then they'd fry my ass for daring to touch their holy things." He shrugged. "Sorry."
"I understand. With your luck, I'd do the same." He shifted closer. "If I could find something that wasn't holy related, would you consider it?"
"I'd consider it after looking at the stone," Xander agreed with a grin. "I only collect pretty and special things."
"Deal," the kitsune agreed. "In the bag are the things we took off you while we cleaned you." He bowed to Lupin and Jigen. "Take better care of her so she doesn't feel the need to come up and taunt the incubi's envoy by existing. The old one came back and he was quite ashamed, Xander. He said it wasn't his idea and he hopes you won't hold it against him."
"I won't. He was nice for an incubus. Very nice actually."
"Good. I thank you. If you need me, you know how to call me." He winked and left them alone.
Jigen opened up the bag, looking at the things inside. "Hair ornaments." He poured them onto the bed, letting Xander see them. "Gold chains mostly."
"Amber and jade," Lupin noted, picking one up to untangle it. Xander got free and ran for the bathroom. "You okay?" he asked, rolling over to follow but Jigen beat him. "Must have been a flashback." He put it back into the bag and put it away so Xander wouldn't have to look at it. He headed into the bathroom. "I hid them," he promised, helping her by running her a glass of water. Then he ran a bath for them all. She'd need one. They got themselves settled with her between them and she relaxed in their arms. "Tell us," Lupin ordered gently. "We want to help you though these things now so you don't have more nightmares."
"They didn't touch me," Xander assured him.
"I have no doubt that you would have killed them worse if they had," Jigen promised. "But we want to know what set that off."
"I had them send me home but they only seemed to send me back to Goemon's. It was later told to me that Cleveland was open so they couldn't open another one."
"Marcus noted something about that when he appeared."
"Yeah, well, they made it *seem* like I had gone back to Goemon's. Had him clean me up and all that good stuff. That stuff was put into my hair by the demon I killed. It was in a tangled rats nest. Goemon, the demon one, ended up chopping my hair off over a rock to get it free from the nasty shit so I could take a real shower instead of hosing off on the lawn."
"So you knew what they were and this is sorta like a flashback from then right?" Jigen asked.
Xander nodded, looking at him. "They were so good I couldn't tell until my towel slipped after a bath and they all screamed and held their bleeding eyeballs."
"Well, you're naked now and we're not in pain," Lupin pointed out. Xander took off the illusion necklace that hid them. Neither of them did more than wince. Xander hugged them both and Lupin stroked his back for him. "Shh, we're us. Not some skanky demon."
"I know that now."
"I'd worry too," Jigen promised. Someone knocked and walked in, Fujiko. "Desperate?"
"Goemon's having some sort of problem and I don't know what," she admitted, sitting next to them. She looked at Xander's back and winced. "Was that from then?"
Xander looked at her and nodded. "Yeah. It was." She shifted some. "What happened?"
"I don't know. He went to kiss me then stomped off and went to work out before he lost his temper. I don't know what's wrong."
"I do. I'll come talk to him tomorrow."
"I'm not sure he can wait that long," she admitted.
"Sure, Fuji." Xander got out of the bathtub and grabbed something to put on, heading up the hill. He found Goemon on the lawn, holding his head. He sat next to him and put his head on the other man's shoulder. "I understand that urge to hurt her," he said quietly. Goemon shook his head. "Hell, there's been times when even I still want to hurt her. It's understandable to want it more in your case since she hurt you and your kids."
Goemon looked down at her. "I find I can't forgive her."
"Hey, perfectly normal, big guy. The kids are different, they're innocent. They never saw her before this. You've got a nasty case of prior memories and doubts. If it was me, she might be allowed in the house, but only when I'm there to supervise her." He slumped a bit and Xander gave him a long hug. "I do understand, Goemon. It's normal. Human emotions are funny things that aren't meant to understand and not meant to be forgotten."
"I find I can't forget."
"Then don't. Keep this in mind for the next time she starts to act odd. Hell, ask us if she's acting too odd and if we can test her just in case if you want. I know I would." He tipped the tense chin up and looked into the deep eyes. "Go somewhere neutral. Somewhere that means calm and peace to you and meditate far from her." Goemon opened his mouth. "You need time to sort this out. I'll pack you a pack and all that good stuff. You can leave at first light. The kids will understand about special meditations. You'll see me after a month if you haven't come back. That'll give you a time to think over things and see if you can move on or not. This all kinda got dumped onto you. You didn't get a chance to sit and think about it, or even to brood about it and I know you missed that part," he teased lightly. It got a faint smile. "See, you know I'm right."
Goemon nodded. "You are. You'll watch the children?"
"As hard as I do my own. Or harder since Lotus can be a bit of a handful when she's got mischief in mind. We'll work on what you've given them so far and I'll go through the girls' first lessons with them. In one month, if you're not back, I'll come up and retrieve you." He nodded, standing up and helping her up. "Thanks. I'm going to need that more often soon." She walked him down the hill, helping him settle onto the couch. Then she went to get the two kids so they could come sleep with them.
Xander handed Goemon a pack, then took his sword. "Not a chance," she said dryly. "I'm not going to come up and find you in pieces." He grimaced. "Seriously. It'll make a lot of sense to Ishi and Lotus. Besides, I left you a knife that needs sharpened in the bottom of the bag. I left you a few granola bars too and a good sized canteen of cold water. All I want you to do is go find somewhere to think. Don't worry about hunting if you don't want to. I packed a bag of rice and a small one of herbs that I know you like, plus some jerky and stuff. Also, the lump on the bottom is a tent in case you need it. There's a few thermal blankets in there too." She gave him a hug. "I'll see you in a month."
Goemon touched his sword. "Thank you, Xander," he said quietly, heading out to walk through the pass.
Xander walked into the kids' room, heading for Ishi's cot. Lotus had crawled in with him so he woke them both up and nodded them into the living room. "Morning. You guys awake enough?" Ishi nodded, staring at the sword in his hand. Xander got down on their level by sitting on the floor. "Your father found something he needed to meditate on very seriously. It's a special meditation. Everyone has something like this at least once. He'll be back in one month exactly. Okay?"
Ishi pouted. "He'll come back?"
"He'll be back and he'll be a happier person for doing this one. He'll be focused and ready to teach you all new stuff." He grinned and tickled Ishi a bit, earning a frown instead of a scowl. "In the meantime, he wanted you to hold his sword for him, Ishi. It's a great honor and he wanted you to learn what it looks like and feels like." Ishi nodded and hugged it to his body. "Good boy." He grinned at them. "Now, you and Lotus have another job, and it's just as important as his meditation. That's why he felt he could go now. You see, we're going to be teaching the girls how to defend themselves."
"We teach them what we know?" Lotus asked hopefully.
"Yup, you two are going to help me teach the girls their first lessons. That'll make sure that you've got them down correctly and that they'll get them down the same way." He grinned. "Neat, huh? Your dad has to go live in the woods without ice cream or chocolate, but you guys get to help the girls up to your standards and learn their other lessons with them." Ishi relaxed. "Trust me, little guy, he's coming back. I promised him I'd come and get him in one month if he forgot what day it was. He'll be back in a month or I'll make him cry." Ishi frowned at that but he nodded that it was fine. "So, are you guys up for that?"
"Sure," Lotus agreed. "We like the girls. It'd be good to have other girls to workout with."
"Eventually. For right now, they'll learn the stuff you guys learned a few years back and slowly move up. You guys need more knowledge than they do. They need to be able to defend themselves from bad guys. You guys need to be like your dad. That good with you?"
"Yes," Ishi said, holding the sword tighter. "I'll make father proud."
"Good boy, Ishi. I knew I could count on you two to help me with that. In return, we'll add you guys to the girls' lockpicking and aiming lessons. Deal?"
"Deal," Lotus agreed, hugging him. Then she hugged her brother and the sword. "We'll do okay. It's only a month."
"That's right, it's only a month," Xander agreed. "We'll make sure you guys aren't going to miss him too much. We'll take good care of you and all that."
"The mommy?" Ishi asked.
"I didn't see her, that's why I brought you guys down here. That fine?" They nodded. "If we have to, we'll switch back up there and just bring the girls." The kids grinned and hugged him. "Okay, let's go do the bath thing so you guys can do your morning exercises with me, then we'll get the girls the stuff we'll need in a big shopping trip. We'll start on the exercises tomorrow." They nodded and Ishi walked away with the sword still clutched to his chest. "Ishi, I promise, he's perfectly safe. He's not that far away even. He's just up at his sensei's house. He needed some quiet and you know the girls are kinda noisy."
Ishi nodded, giving him a look. "Very noisy. They're like Uncle Lupin." He went to shower first, laying the sword on his bed and covering it with the blanket so it'd be safe. His father would be proud of how well he'd take care of it while he was gone.
Lupin came out of the bedroom and helped Xander up, giving her a hug. "Good job," he whispered. Xander smiled and kissed him. "He's really going to meditate?"
Xander glanced around. "He's still upset and confused about Fuji," he whispered back.
Lupin nodded. "I can understand that. One month?"
"One month and then I'm going to go get him." She grinned and went to shower. "Are you going to help us shop?"
"I probably should since I can't find your wallet," he admitted, following behind to help her with the bath. She always needed help reaching her back these days.
Xander looked at his daughters, giving them very serious looks. "Okay, girls. You know that we went shopping for all this stuff yesterday and I know you didn't understand, but I'm going to explain it to you all now." He smiled at Ishi and Lotus. "I've decided, with your father's help, that you're to take the same lessons Ishi and Lotus are." The girls looked stunned. "Not as intensely. After Goemon comes back, you'll be getting one lesson a week. For right now, I want to get you guys up to the point where you can hold off someone trying to kidnap you. This is to go with screaming 'not my daddy' and all that stuff we've already taught you." The girls nodded. "In addition to that, we're going to start working on your lockpicking and shooting skills. I think you're old enough to know how to fire a gun in case it becomes necessary. I don't want you to have to, but I'd rather have you safe around them. So, for the next month, we'll be working on that stuff. You guys will be working with Ishi and Lotus after breakfast, and then you'll all be taking the other lessons after your naps. If you do really well and try your hardest, we'll let you guys pick out one present each. That good with you?"
Little Fourth raised her hand. "Why do we all need to know how to pick locks, mommy?"
"Because sometimes good guys get put into handcuffs by bad guys," he explained, smiling at her. "It's something that's a stalling tactic and even your daddy and I have done it. That's why you all need to know." She nodded, looking satisfied. "Any other questions?"
"Why couldn't I have a pink gi," Savanna pouted.
"Because it's not a good color for a gi," Xander told her. "I'd rather you stick with natural colors, Savanna. It's traditional to wear white or gray." She sighed and nodded. "Good kids. Okay, let's work on the first thing. Ishi, didn't we teach you how to fall first?"
"Daddy taught me how to meditate first," Ishi told him, looking very serious. "Our first physical lesson was how to fall."
"Your daddy kinda skipped the meditation stuff with me," Xander admitted with a grin.
"Still, I would rather do this how daddy did."
"Sure. Okay, each of you take two kids. Ishi, you take Melissa and Arsene to work with. Lotus, you take Sierra and Savanna." They nodded and took their girls to opposite ends of the yard while Xander went back and forth to help them. Lupin came out and Xander walked over to hug him. "They're doing okay so far."
"I'm still not sure I like this idea."
"I'd rather them have some training and able to hold off someone for a few minutes until we can get there than to be totally helpless," she said firmly. "If you won't teach them how to pick locks, I will. I'm not the best at it, but I can definitely get them out of handcuffs."
"I wasn't saying I wasn't going to, I think it's a bit advanced for them. I don't want to make them think we're pushing them to follow us."
"We're not. We're teaching them necessary things. Even if two of the girls go to the light as cops, they'll still need to know how to pick a handcuff lock. Someone will try sometime." Lupin nodded, accepting that reason. "Besides, we're not sure which one's going to go where yet. It's not fair to teach two of them and not the others on speculation that they might become good guys. Good guys still get kidnaped and hurt. Trust me, I did."
"I don't doubt you did," he soothed, giving her a smile. "I'm all for a gun safety lecture too, but crossbows?"
"They're damn handy and it's a similar aiming method. You never know, the twins might take after their fathers in that area. They could be great shots. If so, then they can take all the training I did with crossbows and before I got to Jigen, plus all the stuff he's taught me over the years until they're teenagers."
"You'd let them go work that soon?"
"No," she snorted, "but we can let them start to handle things on their own by then with us watching over their shoulders. The same way you were going to do with us when you were training us."
Lupin smirked. "You're a font of good ideas today." He kissed her and went to help them with these lessons. Xander went to help the other group, getting Lotus' group. He wondered why they had split them up that way. Did good guys need better meditation techniques too? He'd have to ask Dawn. Maybe Xander had picked up some sort of magic ability from them or something. She'd know.
Jigen came in from his first lesson with the kids holding up two perfect target sheets and three nearly perfect ones. "Lotus has sucky aim," he explained.
"That's normal. She's sensitive. I doubt she'd even be able to hunt unless she was going to starve. I'll work with her alone tomorrow." He looked at the perfect ones. "Melissa and Savanna?" he asked hopefully.
"Melissa and Ishi."
"Wow." He grinned. "Put 'em on the fridge. We'll add to them as the month goes on I'm sure." Jigen nodded and went to do that. "How far off did Savanna get?"
"She's got an aiming and flinching problem." He tapped one that pulled to the right. "This one," he said, tapping the next one, "is Arsene's. She's got an opposite problem for the same reason. Sierra just flinches." All hers were high. Lotus' barely had any on the paper. "She might get on better with the other sort."
"Hopefully," Xander admitted. "It'd be useful." He shrugged and went back to making dinner. "One day down, twenty-nine more to go."
"How did they do in meditation?"
"Lupin spoiled them rotten for getting the breathing part down. Ishi got Arsene and Melissa down to that point and relaxed. Lotus got Sierra and Savanna down a bit farther. They were nearly there." He smiled as the kids came in. "You guys go clean up." They nodded and trooped that way, minus Lotus who cleaned up at the sink to help him. "You don't have to, sweetheart."
"Do so, I like to cook veggies."
Xander hugged her. "Don't worry, we'll be working with bows next. I think you'll do wonderful with one of those." She beamed at him. "It's much more like your nature stuff."
"Good," she said firmly. "The gun felt icky in my hand. It was heavy and cold."
"Well, your bow is aluminum, but the crossbow is wooden," he offered. "Your arrows are aluminum while we're training you then you can switch to wooden ones and a wooden bow. That good for you?" She grinned brighter and nodded. "Good girl. Set the table for me?" He pointed at the stacks of stuff. "You can help Uncle Jigen."
"Sure." She pulled Jigen over to get his help carrying stuff, then carefully and precisely set out each place setting for everyone, having to rearrange only once when she miscalculated the number of people. She grinned at her Uncles and they smiled back and she got a pat on the head. Then she went to flop down in front of the computer to look at the day's comics. It was helping her reading a lot. They usually had smaller words. Her brother came out to help her and they got through all of them together. Yahoo had added new ones so they even went back a few days on them. It was good reading practice.
Dawn looked up as someone tapped on her office door, getting up to let them in. "Yes?" she asked the messenger.
"I have a package for you, Mrs. Zenigata." He held out his clipboard. "If you'd sign?"
"Who's it from?"
He looked at the large envelope. "I don't know. It doesn't say, but it's from Iga."
"Japan?" she asked hopefully. He shrugged and showed her. "Yes, it is. Thank you." She took it after signing. She even tipped him a bit. "Thanks." She sat down and opened it, smiling at the nice pictures enclosed. Xander was starting to show now. The kids were sprouting very big, just like hers. Underneath them were some folded papers. She pulled them out, then grinned at the copied range targets. She pushed the button on her phone for Ray's cell. He answered it from the range. "We got a prezzie from Xander," she said, then hung up. He and her husband hurried up, and she laid out the range cards. Two of them were marked first try in Jigen's handwriting and the rest were dated. "They're doing really good."
Ray looked at them, then smiled at Lotus', it was still off. "It looks like he's convinced his men to train them."
"Yeah, but he said he thinks two of them will go to our side," she said with a grin. "He said he'd send them to some sort of cop summer camp or something." She leaned back, smiling at her husband. "See, I told you teaching the kids gun safety and stuff was the right way to go."
Zenigata snorted and looked at the targets closer. "Two of them are very good. Two of the girls are still off by a bit of true center."
"They're five, Zenny. It's a great thing," she reminded him dryly.
Ray chuckled. "It is. I'm damn proud of the kids." He took the note to read, chuckling at it. "That's another good thing." He handed it over. "Any other news from there?"
She checked the envelope and pulled out something with Ray's name on the envelope. "For you."
He looked it over, then opened it, then burst out laughing. "He remembered my birthday." He put it onto his desk and shook his head as he walked away.
Zenigata shook his head again and followed. "You're not coming to the range?"
"I hate range work. I'm good enough to hit a target if I have to but I'll never be a marksman, Zenny. We both know I'm not good with guns."
He smiled. "I like you the way you are, Dawn. Don't worry about it." He locked the door behind him, leaving here there to look at the pictures again. He had noticed that Ray's card had another picture in it. "What was that picture of?"
"His new costume," Ray said with a grin. "He's found a way to make his Inuyasha costume conceal his pregnancy. Plus there's a picture of him with a kitsune and a dragon."
Zenigata groaned and shook his head. "I don't want to know about that fandom stuff."
"I doubt it was. They looked pretty ethereal, like they weren't really there." He handed over the picture. "I think they were the real thing."
"The Imperial Dragon," Zenigata said flatly. "The boy stole the Japanese Emperor's dragon?"
"From what he wrote, it liked Lotus and she's playing with the princess now and again," he said with a small smirk. "For all that her dad complained, she's still liked."
"Wonderful. Just what Japan needs." He handed back the picture and went to take out his aggression on his picture of Lupin's smirking face over top of a target. The range supervisor let him do it each month he came in, they were used to his unique version of stress relief.
Xander walked up to where Goemon was sitting and sat next to him with a small grunt of complaint. He looked around the small camp. "The old house taken?"
"Some mystic moved into it," Goemon said quietly, eyes still closed. "It's not been a month."
"It has so, a lunar month." He looked at him so he grinned. "It has. It's been one full moon cycle."
Goemon shook his head. "I should have seen that one coming." He relaxed and slumped a little. "It hasn't helped."
"Then let me impart some wisdom," Xander said, giving him a serious look. "Emotions are not meant to be understood. Not by normal humans. They're meant to be experienced, savored in some cases and pushed aside in others." Goemon gave him a frown. "Seriously. You've probably been back and forth over this thing so many times you can recite in your sleep, even if you weren't having nightmares. Now, you need to see if you can move on after it. There's probably no forgiveness if you haven't found it in the last month, but there can be moving on if you want to."
Goemon looked startled, then smoothed out his expression. "I'm not sure yet."
"Only you can make that decision, big guy."
"True," he agreed dryly. He patted Xander on the back. "How are the children?"
"Ishi is a crack shot with a gun or either kind of bow. He sucks as a lockpick though. Your daughter sucks at shooting with anything but a wooden bow, though her crossbow is slightly better because it's not so much work for her. She's great at the teaching thing. Ishi has been holding your sword like most kids hold a teddy bear since I handed it to him." Goemon did look pleased at that. "They've been very good at helping the girls learn their first few lessons. They're almost at the stage where I'd trust them to beat back an attempt at kidnaping them until we could get there. That was my goal and I'm pleased with how it went."
Goemon nodded. "Good. I'll look them over once I come back."
Xander nudged him, then grinned. "Which will be tomorrow. I promised your son. He's got a calendar and everything, big guy."
Goemon sighed. "I'm not sure I can live in the same house as Fujiko yet."
"Then don't, 'cause she's off in Paris working on her clothes." Goemon frowned and shook his head. "Lupin sent her to find me something actually. He gave her enough for a few outfits of her own as well. She's looking for non-ugly maternity clothes."
"Excellent of him." Goemon was still frowning. "When is she expected back?"
"Next week sometime." He gave him another nudge. "You need to get cleaned up. You look like the stereotypical scruffy mountain man." The scruffy beard and tangled hair really wasn't up to his usual look. He nudged him again.
"Stop it, Xander."
"I see you've forgotten your last lesson from your sensei." He judged his moment, then pounced Goemon, pinning him to the ground while he tickled him. "Laughter is the greatest gift," he repeated the words told to him. "Living in the present is what life is supposed to be." Goemon managed to get him off but they were on the edge of a cliff and Xander was overbalanced. Goemon managed to catch him and help him back to a safer spot to sit. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. Thank you for reminding me."
Xander gave him the most wicked grin he could manage. "If you don't come back, I'll teach Ishi how to do that too."
"You are cruel and mean to me." He kissed her on the forehead. "How did you find me?"
"Tracker in the backpack."
"That's what I thought." He looked around. "It's late."
"It is; we could camp here tonight. Didn't like the tent?"
"I'd rather look up at the stars. I'll help you set it up if you feel you must."
"I must. Bugs love me too much right now." He grinned. "You missed the first panicked kick in the night. The baby woke Jigen and not me." Goemon laughed. "If you want, I can set up the tent."
"If you want. I want to think on what you've said." Xander nodded and grabbed the tent package, unpacking it and setting up the poles and full tent. "You're good at that."
"Ah." Goemon nodded. "I had thought I recognized the bundle from back then."
"I had forgotten I had shrunken it and put it into my purse after I stole it," he admitted. "It came in handy during hunting trips." He paused. "Do you know that Lupin still thinks I slept with you back then?"
"He is possessive of what is his."
"So are you but you don't go off if Fujiko leaves for a few months."
"No, but I know she would not cheat on me outside of jobs. You have that unfortunate history of prostitutes."
"Yeah, well, they weren't taking care of those needs at the time and they knew about it beforehand most of the time." She finished anchoring the tent with the plastic spikes and sat down beside him again. "We have their range cards hanging up on the fridge at the house."
Goemon smiled at that. "It is odd but probably appropriate to this odd family I have."
"Yeah, I guess it is. We're getting ready to head back to France. We found another bug the other day. Again in my underwear drawer."
He snorted. "I'm sure they got a kick out of it, Xander." She leaned against his arm and he relaxed totally. "I used to have this same sense of peace with Fujiko."
"Yeah, then you both got older, became parents, and had shit happen in your lives. Welcome to reality, Goemon. Things never get to stay comfy and nice for very long."
"They do for some."
"Those people don't have our lives. They have nice, safe existences where they die from a heart attack at work. They don't die by the gun and they don't die during a heist. That's not our lot in life."
"I know, but sometimes I do long for it."
"So do I, but I doubt I could stand it. I hated working for minimum wage. The hatred I felt for myself at each of those jobs wasn't worth it. I feel happier now. The price isn't too high for me."
Goemon nodded. "It's not usually for me either, but sometimes I do wish and wonder what it may have been like as a normal person."
"Working to save up for your old house as a permanent dwelling. Worrying about layoffs. Having a complacent little wife who was good to you and supportive. Going to school meetings. Going to staff meetings. Working every day, eight hours or more a day, fifty weeks a year. Then finally retiring to a minimum income and slowly fading away."
"Sometimes that does not sound so bad," he offered quietly.
"Yeah, sometimes it doesn't, then I remember the stress I had when I was working before. How I was always too tired to do anything after work even if I did have the money. How even my nights off were spent too exhausted to do more than sit in front of the tv and veg. How cut off I felt from everyone and everything because of that. Even when I was slaying I felt cut off. Some of that was the crew, but not all of it."
Goemon put an arm around him. "I doubt I could have lived your life."
"That's why so many normal people turn to heavy alcohol drinking and drugs. They need it to not give in and kill themselves." Goemon nodded so Xander put his head back on his shoulder. "I like this life better. I get to make my own schedule. I get to be the geek I am and no one says anything when I come out with a Star Trek quip. Most of the time," he admitted with a grin. He heard a twig snap and grimaced. "Think that's them?"
"I do. They are insanely jealous of you. We should break them of that habit."
"I don't think you'd survive being shot."
"Hmm. Probably true. They're both very good shots." He kissed her on the forehead. Then he picked up a rock and threw it at the people he could hear moving around, hitting one by the groan. Thunder pealed overhead. "We should find shelter before it starts again."
"Pack up the camp and I'll let you share my tent tonight." Goemon nodded and let her go, letting her slump on her own. "Goemon, I think something's wrong with one of the twins. She's not very active."
He came back to look at her. "What makes you think that?"
Xander looked up at him. "The fact that one of them never kicks. One of them never seems to move. One of them is very quiet. Plus, I've seen a few pitying looks from some demons we've run into. Even from Marcus when he popped around the other day." Goemon frowned. "I don't want to worry them."
"They deserve the right to know. We should get you checked out."
"We should, but I'm not sure I want to know."
"That is dumb."
"Yeah, but a worry is better than absolute truth sometimes. This way I can convince myself it's nothing; she's just a quiet baby."
"We'll go to the doctors as soon as we get back tomorrow. Mothers often have knowledge that others do not." Xander nodded, going into the tent to lie down. Goemon finished packing his things up again, bringing them with him as the first raindrops fell. He went to gather up the food, bringing it back. "Have you seen anyone?"
"Not yet. Fihad said I've absorbed as much healing energy as I probably can so he's not going to be able to help me anymore." Goemon stroked her back. "I don't want to worry," she said angrily.
"You should worry. Good parents do. I do about my children when I don't get to see them." She nodded, resting against his shoulder again. "How long have you been holding this inside, Xander?"
"A few weeks now."
"The truth," he said firmly.
"I thought something's been wrong since the first day," Xander admitted quietly. "Nothing felt like it did last time. I convinced myself that it was normal."
"It may be. We'll find out when we take you to see a doctor. If your men do not, I will drag you there myself." Xander nodded and relaxed. "Good boy." He patted him on the head. "What else did you bring with you? I noticed you brought a pack."
"I thought you might need another day up here with some company to get used to people again so I brought food and a few bottles of water." She dug one out and handed it over. "There you go."
"Thank you. The local stream has not tasted right." He sipped it slowly. "Am I cooking?"
"I brought food." He handed over the sandwich and got a bright smile. "I thought you might be tired of rice and jerky. It's chicken."
"You are a wonderful friend, Xander," Goemon noted, taking a large bite. It was excellent after so much time with only rice and jerky.
Xander woke up from another screaming nightmare and felt someone holding him, so he turned to that body and sobbed pitifully. "Don't let it be that," he pleaded.
"They did an ultrasound, found the baby was really sick. I had to keep changing doctors because no one knew anything. They kept saying they could only see half of the baby, and they kept saying that the baby's heartbeat was too slow. She was really sick, and then I got taken and held hostage. I had to give birth in Iran, and it was horrible. The nurses treated me bad and I got torn and all sorts of stuff, and when I came back the guys didn't even seem to notice. They didn't try to come after me or anything."
"Such foolishness is not real," he said firmly, making her look at him. "There is no situation where those men would not come after you. Nor would they leave you in the hands of a kidnaper for any length of time. Nor would they allow you to give birth alone." She sniffled but still looked miserable. "What is troubling you?"
"I dreamed about our time back in time in Vegas, while I was alone," she admitted.
He snorted. "I doubt it was exactly the same." She shook her head. "Then do not worry about it, Xander. It will not happen. Even if something managed to incapacitate them, I would come after you. Marcus and I both would." Xander nodded and curled up against his chest again. "It is a horrible thought that is from your insecurity. They adore you, even when they do forget that you're around for days on end. They'd notice it if you weren't in the house, believe me they would."
"So they only ignore me when I'm around?"
"Not all the time," he chided gently, smiling down at her. "Have they not been better since you came back?" Xander nodded. "Then they wouldn't do it again." He patted her gently. "You have seen some generalities but it's usually your mind pointing out something that needs your attention. In this case, I believe the birth will be harder and this is your mind reminding you that you must have that one looked at. Once you have done that, I can almost guarantee that those men of yours will not let you out of their sight."
"Another week of handcuffs?"
"Possibly, if Lupin doesn't build you a cage," he said dryly. "Your men are overprotective to a greater extreme than I've seen anyone be." He patted her on the back. "Try to rest, it's not early dawn yet." She nodded and laid back down, staying curled up against his side. He stared up at the top of the tent for a bit longer, listening to the rain tap against the plastic and the puddles outside. If he was correct this time, it was going to be horrible, but he had given him a lot of clues. If he had to, he'd go after her. No one should have to give birth by themselves.
Xander walked Goemon back into the house, smiling as he fell down to hug his children immediately. "We're back. Goemon needs a shower and a shave but we're here."
Lotus tugged on her father's beard. "You do look funny, daddy," she said with a bright smile. "Are you back?"
"I'm back," he agreed, kissing them both on the forehead. "I'm back and we're going to spend a lot of time together." They beamed at him. "Is your mother back yet?"
"No," Ishi told him. "She's shopping." He got free and ran to his room, coming back with the sword. "I was very careful with it, daddy. It is shiny and clean too." He handed it over then crawled back into the lap.
Goemon looked at it, then smiled at his son. "You did excellently with it. When it's your turn, I'm sure you'll take very good care of it." He gave him an extra squeeze. "Then we'll have to work on finding your sister one." Lotus hugged him as hard as she could.
Ishi grinned up at him. "Did you have a good meditation?"
"I managed to figure a great many things out," he agreed. "I shouldn't have to do it again for a few years." He gave them another squeeze. "I should bathe and shave."
"Not yet, daddy," Ishi ordered. "You can shave later. Uncle Xander, they at the house."
"I figured that when they didn't come running," he said dryly, picking up the phone. "Yo, we're back," he noted when someone picked it up. "Yes, give the father that message exactly and run up here, Arsene." He smiled and hung it up, coming back to the living room. "See, I knew it was the right idea."
"It was, Xander. Thank you." He smiled. "Is your horde coming up?"
"Their fathers are asleep. That way they can get their own hugs and disappear when I go back."
"That's fine. We'll be calling for an appointment tomorrow." Xander nodded, looking more relaxed.
"Why she need doctor? She sick?" Lotus asked.
"One of the babies isn't kicking enough so I was going to have someone take pictures of her," Xander told her.
"Ooh, baby!" Lotus squealed, coming over to hug her stomach. "Hi, babies!" She patted her gently then ran back to her father's lap before her brother could take it over. "I like babies."
"I'm sure you'll get to help with them all the time," Goemon promised. He looked outside. "Usually the children are here by now."
"Usually," Xander agreed. He went to look out the door. "They're not even on their way yet." He shook his head. "I'll be back later."
"That's fine." Goemon went back to hugging his children.
Xander walked down the hill, meeting his kids on the way up. "Go get quick hugs then come back," he ordered with a smile. They hadn't been ignoring him after all.
"Daddies say to go right to bed, they spoil you," Arsene repeated. "Not even bathe."
"Fine. Thank you. Come back within a half-hour." She headed into the house, listening to the silence. "Hmm." He headed back to the bedroom and laid down on the bed, and was pounced by Lupin. "Hey, easy!"
"No you're not," Lupin said with a grin, kissing her. "You're going in tomorrow at ten. Next time tell us, Xander."
"Sorry, I wanted to go and come back with information."
He pinched her. "Tough shit. You're going in with us." He kissed her again. "I'm glad you're back. You gave Jigen a bad headache with that rock."
"That was Goemon. He thought he hit you."
"No, I ducked." He grinned and kissed her again then went down to kiss her stomach. "Hi, kids. It's the daddy."
Jigen came out of the bathroom with a big bruise on his forehead. "Remind me to hit him later for this, okay?"
"Sure." She held up a hand. "Cuddle?"
"Love one." He laid down on her other side, holding her tightly. "Did you get a picture of the scruffy guy?"
"I didn't actually," Xander admitted. Lupin got out of the bed and went to take a few and repossess the kids. She smiled up at him. "I take it I'm under house arrest?"
"Nope. Lupin's just happy that he didn't hear you two making out last night." She rolled her eyes. "Don't worry about it, he'll get over it eventually." He stroked her stomach. "Next time, tell us, Xan. We need to know these things."
"Sorry. I wanted to go and find out then come tell you."
"Yeah, well, I'd rather worry with you. Like he said, ten in the morning we're due at the hospital in town. They've not only got a good ultrasound department but also one of those new little cameras they can use to spy on the kids without hurting them." He gave her a gentle squeeze. "After that, we're going back to France. We're not sure how the bugs keep getting stuck in the house but they do." She nodded, yawning a little. "You nap if you need to. I know you're in that stage."
"I am," she admitted, rolling until she could curl up against his chest. "Wake me if you want to do more than cuddle."
"Sure, brat, we'll do that." He gave her a pinch on the butt and she chuckled, but fell asleep. He looked over as Lupin came back waving his camera. "Get a good one?"
"Tangled hair, scruffy beard, and all," he said proudly. "You convince her to let us come tomorrow?"
"She didn't say anything about it," he admitted. "I think she's kind of relieved. Whatever nightmare you heard last night must have really scared her."
"She was crying on him. He said it was one of those 'we abandon her' ones again. We let her stay with the kidnapers and the birth was hard and done in Iran."
"Fuck that shit," Jigen said dryly. "There's no way that's happening." Xander mumbled against his chest. "Never, ever. You're not leaving our side even if we do have to handcuff you." She shifted some and went back to her snoring. Lupin laid down on her other side and put an arm over both of them. "Thanks."
"Welcome." Lupin kissed the back of her neck. "She could probably use a shower too."
"Yeah, but I don't mind a sweaty and stinky Xander as long as it's not too bad. Definitely a shower before bed tonight but it's okay for right now."
Someone pounded on the door. Lupin grimaced as he got up to get it. He frowned at Ray. "What? Someone finally decide we could go on the run again?"
"Hell no," he said bitterly, walking inside. "Someone shot Zenigata."
"Is he living?" Lupin asked worriedly.
"So far. It's serious, but not fatal. He made it to the hospital in Norway. They've transferred him back to France."
"We'll be back in a few days," Lupin agreed. "Xander's got an appointment in the morning and we'll leave as soon after that as we can."
"Thanks." He glanced toward the bedroom, then stepped closer. "He ordered me to come to you, Lupin. He didn't want you to go after them."
"We'll see," he said dryly.
Ray nodded. "That's what I thought you'd say. Even our boss suggested you'd be going after her."
"I'm not allowed to tell you, Lupin. He ordered me not to. He said he wants to get her himself."
"Wonderful but I'll hear anyway."
"Maybe, but I'm still not allowed ta tell ya," Ray said with a small smirk. "He does want ta see ya though and his boss said she's still not relenting, not even if the boss dies in his memory." He shrugged and looked around. "Anyone else here?"
"Xander's napping on Jigen. I'll get the word out."
"Fine. Thanks." He nodded at the bedroom. "Tell him the picture was cute." He headed out, going back to his car so he could head back to capture this bitch. She would be his.
Lupin shut the door then found his laptop and brought it into the bedroom. "Did you hear?" Jigen shook his head. "Someone shot Pops."
"Fuck 'em, they're dead then," Jigen said simply. "Who?"
"Ray wasn't allowed to tell us. We're not supposed to go after her."
"Her," Lupin agreed, glaring at his screen as he logged onto the internet, then the thieves' bulletin board. Immediately two people popped up and told him the situation was handled. His curt response probably didn't win him any friends, but the information came fairly quickly from Fujiko, who was staking her out. "She's in Denmark right now. She's a minor thief. She wanted to up her reputation."
"What's wrong?" Xander mumbled.
"Someone shot Pops."
Xander sat up, looking at them. "Who? I want this bitch."
"Her name's Mary Margaret. She's a small-time hood. She thought it'd up her rep," Lupin said bitterly. "Pops wants us to stay out of it."
"Yeah, of course I will," Xander snorted. "Can we topple her or make her so miserable she turns herself in?" They smiled at her. "I'm all for letting her tell on herself."
"That's a great idea, Xan. Fuji's watching her right now." He typed a message and she responded that she'd meet them in a few days. "Okay, we're going to your appointment and we'll leave tomorrow night. I've got a plane meeting us tomorrow night to take us back to Paris. We'll drop the kids there with Marcus and head off."
"No, we'll drop the kids with the official nanny and take Marcus with you," Marcus said from the doorway. "What happened? Ethan heard a nasty rumor that had Gramps shot." He leaned against the side of the door. "Are we finding this person of questionable intellect?"
"We are, and then we're making her so sorry she gives herself up," Xander told him. "After my appointment."
"That's fine, Xander," Marcus agreed stiffly. "Are you all right?"
"One of the kids isn't kicking and I've had a lot of problems with thinking something's wrong."
"Then we should go today," Marcus said firmly, standing up straight. "Get dressed. If they don't bring you, I will."
"We've got an appointment at ten," Jigen told him.
"Relax, she's not getting out of our sight for a long time," Lupin added, smirking at him. "Our husband, not yours. If you want to spoil and coddle someone, find your own."
"I would, but Ethan won't let me," he said bitterly. "Goemon wanted you to destroy those pictures you took of him. He said he scared himself when he went to shower." He turned and headed for the kitchen to get a drink. All the kids were with him. They were all getting dressed. "Come, children. We'll work out for a bit together, see how far Lotus and Ishi got you." The girls ran for the lawn, all but Arsene, who went through the window. He smirked at her. "Nice job. Assume the first position." They all started off on their first physical lesson that wasn't how to fall.
Lupin walked into Zenigata's hospital room. Everyone else was giving him a few moments alone. He nodded Dawn outside and she left them alone. "Hey, Pops."
Zenigata opened his eyes to look at him. "Can't I arrest you yet?" he asked weakly.
"You could try if you wanted to, but your boss said no," he admitted with a grin. "I asked her myself for you." He checked the monitors. "We know who did it. We've got her under surveillance."
Zenigata grabbed him by the wrist. "Don't. Let the law actually work."
Lupin leaned closer, grinning wickedly. "Xander planned this one, Pops. She'll be giving herself up." The cop laughed and started to cough so Lupin helped him calm down. "You gonna live to see my next two? One of them's got a weaker heartbeat but Xander's little kitsune friend said they'd be taking her with them when she was older so we wouldn't have to worry about her. Oh, we brought you a tape to watch," he said, walking it over to the VCR and putting it in. "For when you can't sleep." He grinned at him. "You get better. We want you to welcome our kids who're going good into the ICPO, Pops." The door opened and Jigen and Xander walked in. "I gave him the tape."
"Good. I think he'll like that," Xander said, smiling at him. "Hey. I've been in that same spot." He gave him a careful hug. "I want you to get better, Gramps. The light can't afford to lose you too." He pulled back and grinned. "Besides, who else will send Ray to taunt me? If you're not there, he can't go to conventions, he'll be doing paperwork."
Zenigata snorted. "You're transparent, Xander."
"Only to some who know me very well. You've obviously studied me like Goemon has."
"He was trying to figure you out," Jigen told him, patting him on the back. "How you feelin', old man? Better than after yer heart attack?"
"About the same really. The pain killers are very nice."
"That's what I enjoyed most about being shot too," Xander agreed, pulling off his backpack and handing it over. "Here, things to do while you're stuck in bed. I doubt you're getting out of one anytime soon, even if they do release you."
"Thank you. Books?"
"Books, puzzles, pictures, a reason to yell at Morgan." He winked. "You'll need to step up and talk to the boy soon, Gramps. He'll need a good daddy so he doesn't turn into me."
Zenigata growled lightly. "He won't. I'd never allow him to be a crook."
"Um, not that part of my life," Xander admitted. "The part that used to go to clubs each weekend and have orgies."
Zenigata paled. "He's only eleven."
"Which is the average age for puberty," Jigen noted dryly. "It's also very cute watching him blush at his girlfriend."
Zenigata dug in the pack, coming up with the 8 X 10 glossy photo of his son and his girlfriend, with him kissing her. He growled deeper. "That shit'll stop as soon as I see him," he agreed, looking up, but they were gone. The door was just shutting behind them. He smirked and shook his head. "Just like the crook. Can't say goodbye." He turned on the tape, one eyebrow going up at Lupin's entry.
"You know I hate goodbyes. Don't worry, I've got a similar one in case you die so I don't have to embarrass myself by breaking up at your funeral. You'll like that one," he admitted with a smirk. "Xander helped me write it." He cleared his throat and an arm came around to hug him. "Thanks, princess." He looked at the man on the bed again. "Anyway, we thought we'd show you some things that'll make you grin. They always say that laughter is the best medicine." He put on a clown nose and Zenigata burst out in light chuckles. "See, you feel better." Lupin's grin picked up. "Now for some cuteness to go with it." The picture switched to a shot of the kids working out with Xander. "Pay careful attention to Savanna and Sierra," the voice-over, Xander's, instructed. "Learn their faults now so you can compensate for them when they come work for you."
Zenigata grinned at the kids working out. The two mentioned were very good. The scene switched to one of them learning how to shoot a bow and those girls weren't that bad. With the gun they were much better but that was to be expected. Then it went to the kids trying to pick handcuff locks and he burst out laughing, bringing Dawn back.
"We figured it's a necessary skill for good guys too, I wish I had known it when I was younger," Xander's voice said overtop of the kids complaining about not being able to get it.
Dawn slid onto the bed and hugged her husband. "They're very special," she said dryly. "I'm not sure if they're special enough to need mental help or not, but they're definitely special."
He patted her on the back and handed over the picture. "They are, and they're also very good."
She groaned and shook her head, eventually hiding it against his shoulder. "I'll talk with the kid and give him the sex talk."
"Let Xander do it. I don't know what to tell the kid."
She looked at him. "Let *Xander* do it? You want him to give our kids the sex talk?"
"Can you think of anyone who knows more about it?" he noted.
"No," she admitted, grinning at him. "I'll tell him you said that. Goemon told him the same thing."
"Hmm." He hugged her and they finished watching the kids work out with their parents and uncles. They were going to be great. He was glad he wouldn't have to chase after the fourth one. She was looking to be better than her father ever was. His kids were in for a hard chase of her and her sister Melissa.
Xander looked over as their target walked into the ICPO headquarters. He gave Lupin a smug look and they switched to the bug they had implanted on her. She started to stammer something about being stalked by them so they zapped her in a very delicate place. She grabbed her head as the pain radiated up from the inside of her nose, then told him the truth. That she was turning herself in before Lavelle and the rest of them could kill her because she had shot Zenigata. Feet went running and they heard her grunt as she was carried to the floor and cuffed as painfully as possible, then carried off. They heard a scanner going over her and chuckled, they had been found out, the doctor who pulled the thing out said so. That was fine though, their primary mission had been accomplished. Besides, if she backed out, they had another one planted and she would be quite sorry when the clit ring it was attached to blew up.
Lupin hadn't wanted to be nice about that, and had made sure it sent a clear statement not to try it again.
Xander looked down as his phone beeped, answering it. "Lavelle. Speak." He frowned. "They have what?" He grunted. "Done. Thank you, Elizabeth." He hung up and looked at his husband. "Marcus was taken hostage by the remaining Watchers. I'm due in England."
"You're not going alone."
Xander kissed him. "All I'm going to do is go shoot them, take him back, and then burn the Watchers to the ground, dear. We're all fine." He stood up and headed to the bike, deciding to take the train over. It'd take him there and he wouldn't have to switch from a plane to a train and then a car. He could even ship his bike.
Lupin watched him go, then called Jigen. "Marcus was taken by the Watchers. Our wife is going to rescue him. No, she said killing them then burning them out." He hung up and headed for his car to go home. He kept on the transmitter as long as possible. It was very entertaining listening to her sob about all the torment they had given her. They had stolen her targets before she could. They had killed a mark before she could. They had even started rumors about her! They were so mean! He snorted at her adolescent whining. His daughters would be more adult by the time they started pulling jobs. He'd never put up with a whiny teenager.
Xander walked into the Watcher's Council's building and past the receptionist, who didn't have a chance to say anything. He headed directly up to the lab, walking inside and backhanding the guy in his way. "Morning," he said cheerfully, grinning at them. "Give me Marcus Wyndam-Pryce back and I won't kill you all, yet." They all looked stunned. "You've got very little time, I am pregnant and that nasty need to pee is your time limit. I should warn you I had a good quart of water on the way in." Marcus was released from his table and handed over. "Thanks." He waved and dropped something onto the ground, then walked his buddy out. "So, they found that the baby's weak but not totally weak and my buddy Yurinish said he'd take her in," he chatted as they walked out. They ran into Wesley in the foyer. "Huh. Were you in for a meeting?"
"No, I came to get my son from the murdering and thieving bastards," he said firmly, glaring at Xander.
"Whine, Wes. Marc is ours now. We like Marc. We put up with his eternal bookishness and all that reading to him so he can learn new things even. You can't have him back."
"I think he meant the Watchers, Xan," Marcus said, giving him a smile. Above them an explosion went off and they all looked up there, looking incredibly pleased. "Good job. Let's go home, shall we? Did she turn herself in?" Wesley stopped his son. "Yes?"
"I'd like to talk to you today. Would that be acceptable?"
"Fine, Father. Go visit Ethan, I'll be up there this afternoon."
"Thank you." Wesley followed them out and went to his own bike, watching as Xander and Marcus took off on their own. He shook his head. "That boy," he said in disgust. He wasn't sure which one but they were both children to him. He sped off to find Ethan's house. He knew he had hidden it but he surely wouldn't mind since he could help him with that small lump he had developed last month. The gateway was standing open so he went up to check on him. He found Rupert standing over him, and glared. "Get away from him."
"Pillock, who do you think takes care of him?" Giles sneered, vamping out.
"My son, who will be back later. Ethan, I came to see if I could help you with that lump."
"I don't think it'd do much good," he said weakly. "It seems to have spread."
"Are you taking his out?"
"It's either that or being truly demonic."
"Hmm. I can do the soul restoration if you wish." Ethan nodded so he went to get the things to do that. He came back and found Giles turning Ethan to his side of the battle. He did the restoration spell on both of them, making Giles howl. "Good," he sneered, giving Giles a smug look. "It's no better than you deserve. Welcome back to the side of the light, Rupert. Ethan, your magic will still work. Now, what is wrong with my son?"
"A head injury," Ethan said, feeling stronger. "He can't read, it gives him great headaches. The demons did it so he couldn't turn into you."
"Wonderful," Wesley said dryly. "I'll work on fixing that." He looked at them. "Don't try to eat me or my son. You won't like the consequences." He went to look in the workroom for the healing herbs he'd need for his next spell fixing. He knew his time was running short and he had to do something to make sure the light didn't fade completely. Xander wasn't enough of a warrior anymore, especially not being pregnant. Maybe he should have another child, that might help them even more. When his son showed up, he locked him to a chair and started on the healing spell. His son fought but he kept going after slapping him on the head. The demon who did this was going to be very sorry when it turned back on him. He'd remove it after that.
Marcus stumbled back into the main hideout in France and collapsed onto the couch beside his mentor's wife. "I'm healed," he whispered hoarsely. "Ethan's a vampire now, he was too ill to continue and Ripper turned him. My father healed me after souling them both." He passed out.
Fujiko looked down at him, noticing the new bitemark. "Xander!" He came jogging in. "Marcus just gave me a message. He said he's healed, Ethan's a vampire now, someone named Ripper turned him, and then his father souled them?"
"Huh. Marcus?" Xander called, moving closer. He checked for a pulse. "He'll live. Ethan only took a bit of dinner from him. He'll need some protein badly soon." She nodded and went to find the housekeeper or Lupin, someone who could cook. "Marc?" Marcus looked up at him. "You're fully better?"
"The demon undid the damage he caused to happen. I can read again. Ethan's a vampire. Ripper turned him and my father souled them both. He's feeling mortal. He went to have a few more children." He sat up, holding his head. "I have God's own headache from that mucking about in there. First a healing spell then the demon." Xander grabbed the nearest bottle of tylenol for him and handed it over. "Thank you, love. You're a saint." He took five and laid back down again, closing his eyes. "Wake me for dinner?"
"I sent Fujiko to get you something with protein. You okay?"
"Like a pickle," he noted dryly. "I saw my sister."
"Really? What's she doing?"
"She's presently not liking her life at all. She's frustrated at the Watchers and is ready to leave them. I suggested she bear heirs for someone and she got quite upset at me." He smiled, still leaving his eyes closed. "She was not happy at all that I get to have a life and she's a research Watcher."
"She could have run away too, and she can always take her skills and go do something less important," Xander noted, giving him a pat on the stomach. "Is Ethan in pain?" Marcus shook his head. "Good. Thanks for the info. We're upstairs looking at furniture." He went to tell the others, including Goemon. "Hey. Ethan's a vamp now."
"Wonderful," Jigen noted bitterly. "Will we have to kill him?"
"Hell no, Wesley souled him," Xander said smugly. They both giggled. "Him and Rupert both." He beamed when his men looked at him in awe. "Not only that, but Marcus is now healed. His father pulled something out of his ass and fixed it."
"Good for him," Lupin said happily. "That means he can research later to his heart's content. I'll make sure he eats." He pulled Xander next to him. "What about the round crib? Did you like them?"
"Yes and no. I don't like that it's in iron. I don't see why we can't use the other's cribs for these two."
"Because I want to buy new furniture," Lupin said simply. "Won't iron help them somehow?"
"Yeah, but it's heavy and if they knock into it'll hurt more than the wooden ones would."
"So we'll get better crib padding," Jigen said with a small shrug. "What are we doing their room in?"
"Animals?" Xander suggested. Arsene and Sierra's room had teddy bears and elephants; Savanna and Melissa's room had fantasy creatures and fish. It'd be fitting and carry on the theme. "Maybe jungle animals?"
"Primates and zebra's?" Lupin suggested. "Something like that or should we go with real fish and mermaids?"
Xander pinched him lightly. "If you want fish and mermaids, we can do that. It's your house."
"It's their rooms," Jigen pointed out helpfully. "A boy and a girl is a nice switch. It'd be nice to have a boy around that wasn't tied to a destiny sometimes."
Xander looked at him. "Well, I did get told that this one would follow me and that if I had another boy it would be a white knight." She smiled at their shocked looks. "What?" she asked innocently. "They did say the last one was possible and what it would be if it happened."
"Janus," Lupin grunted in irritation. "We've had enough kids, Xander."
"Okay, so this boy will be a mini Lavelle. Should we buy him a suit so he gets used to ties?" Jigen suggested. Lupin tossed a pillow at him, making him laugh. "A starter pistol?"
"No," Xander groaned, holding her stomach. "How about a protection pad. She just kicked him and he kicked me." Lupin and Jigen both came over to stroke her stomach. "Thanks." She laid back, letting them do it. She liked it when they spoiled her. They were very good at it.
Fujiko tapped on the door and walked in with a tray and a box. "Here you go, Xander. I know you've got to be hungry."
"Thanks, Fujiko." He smiled at her. "They just got into a kicking contest."
"I'm sure they'll be good kids," she said, heading out.
Xander looked at Lupin, then at Jigen. "Marcus?" he called. Marcus came in a moment later. "Can you test her for another possession?" he asked quietly.
"Her husband has asked the same thing and I have looked. It appears that they've made up because, unlike that strong bout of the flu she had a few years back, she is in the same state you are, only with less time in." He snatched a french fry and headed back downstairs to the library. He had missed reading. He found a book he had enjoyed and sat down with it, smiling because his eyes weren't burning and his head wasn't throbbing. Though it was clear he needed glasses now. "Master?" he called when he heard someone walk past the door. Goemon stuck his head in. "Could you please excuse me from lessons tomorrow to get my eyes examined?"
"Of course. Was it fixed?"
Marcus grinned at him. "Fully. I'm back to what I once was."
"Excellent news. If you need glasses, remember to get a pair for working out in." He left, going up to talk to his wife. This new one was unexpected in the extreme. He tapped on their bedroom door and walked inside, then into the bathroom, where she was doing a test. "It is positive," he noted as she dropped a few drops of urine onto it.
She put it down and looked at him. "I'm sorry."
He kissed her. "I'm not. We thought you were possessed again." She sighed and hit him on the chest. He smirked, that was more like it! He picked her up and brought her to the bed, going to celebrate this new one with her. A second son would be wonderful. His daughter was nice but he didn't understand her and he was horrible at doing more than brushing and braiding her hair. Boys were much simpler.
Zenigata looked up as his son Morgan entered his hospital room and nodded at him to lock the door. Once his son had done so he held up the picture. His son blanched and sat down weakly, already shaking. "I think we should talk, son."
"Dad," he said weakly. "She's just so amazing. She takes my breath away and all that good stuff."
"That's wonderful, you're still eleven and she's fifteen. That could not only get her into trouble but you're too young to do that much with her." He put down the picture and picked up the note cards Xander had sent him. "Sorry, but it's not like I've had to deal with some of this recently." He cleared his throat. "Son, since you've noticed girls aren't aliens or something like that, we've got to have a talk." He looked at his son. "You might as well come closer." His son came and sat beside him, giving him a hug, so he gave him the cards to read so he wouldn't have to say any of that out loud. It was embarrassing!
"Who sent over the information?"
"Your Uncle Xander."
"Cool. He'd know all about this stuff." He grinned. "Can I at least hold hands?"
"That's all you're allowed to do. You may kiss her on the cheek or forehead only, son."
"Yes, dad." He went back to his reading. Damn, his uncle was cool! This had all sorts of stuff on it, along with diseases that had graphic pictures attached to the back of some cards. There was even a long description of childbirth and a picture of a baby out to the forehead. It was really sickening and nasty. "That is so sick," he said, showing it off.
Zenigata frowned as he took it to look at. "That's your sister's birth! How did they get that?"
Morgan chuckled. "They were probably watching to make sure you didn't need any help, dad." He gave him a hug. "Thank you for helping me through this."
"Oh, we're not done, son. We'll be meeting this girl as soon as we're home for a long dinner and a talk about you two. You have rules to live by now. You also have responsibilities. I won't be a grandfather for at least another ten years. Nor will I be attending a wedding before you've either graduated college, a police academy, or you've been working for at least a year in a less skilled job."
Morgan nodded. "Okay, but in return I want a hike in my allowance." His father raised an eyebrow. "I'm nearly a teenager, dad, and things are expensive at my age."
"Son, I buy you nearly anything you want. Your mother buys you clothes and shoes. What would you need more allowance for?"
"Comic books? Going with Uncle Ray to a convention next year?" he asked hopefully.
"We'll see." He grimaced. "Five more dollars a week but you also have to take on another task around the house."
"I'll do my own laundry if Aunt Dawn would show me how and I'll never complain about loading the dishwasher. I will complain about doing it by hand, but the dishwasher isn't so bad. If you give me a ten dollar raise."
Zenigata thought about it. It was a fair trade. "Fine," he agreed. "Plus you have to help the younger ones with their new schoolwork. After all, you do still have a nine o'clock curfew on school nights so you can't go out and do much."
"Can I take her to the movies this weekend?"
"We'll see," he said dryly. "Any and all dates will have a chaperone."
"Yes, dad." He gave him another careful hug. "You're very nice. Much nicer than my real one."
"Did he come back again?" Morgan nodded. "Did you talk to him?"
"I did. He wanted to. We sat in the open in the park and talked. That way he couldn't try what he did last time and take me back with him. I told him all about my girlfriend, my life, and all that good stuff. He seemed upset for some reason."
"That's because you're almost a teenager and you're rushing, son. Your Aunt Dawn and I do understand, we were young once ourselves. We just did everything later in our years."
"That's fine. You keep saying kids are getting older younger, I guess I'm proof. Should I keep these and give them to Jerry?"
"Yeah, we'll do that," he agreed, putting an arm around his son's shoulders. He'd have to get someone to look in on this guy. He didn't like him and he kept reappearing.
Morgan coughed. "Dad, did you send Uncle Ray to threaten my real father?"
"No," he said, starting to smile. "Did he?" Morgan nodded. "Good. Ray has good instincts." Morgan gave him a look. "He does. I don't want that man thinking that he can steal you from me. You're my son too, and I have custody of you."
"The sperm donor actually said that you had other sons, you didn't need me and Jerry."
Zenigata snorted. "Fat lot he knows. He's never been a father. I'd rather see you go to Lupin's side than his." He picked up the phone to call his house. "Dawn, it's me. Morgan and I just had our talk. Yes, he read it off the cards," he sighed. "No, he told me about Ray interrupting his meeting with his biological father. Said we had more sons, we didn't need these two." He pulled the phone away as she shrieked. "That's why I'm telling you," he said patiently, chuckling as he hung up on the string of swears. "Your Aunt's rather pissed at him at the moment."
"Let's hope she doesn't tell Uncle Xander to go kill him," Morgan noted. "That would be bad and then you'd have to arrest her."
Zenigata nodded. "That's true, I would," he agreed. He'd probably fight with himself for a long time first, but the law might win that argument. Maybe. Maybe not. He'd hopefully never have to find out. He hugged his son closer to him. "I'm supposed to get out in a few days."
"Good. Then we'll have dinner with her next weekend?"
"I could agree to that," he agreed. "She looks like a nice girl." He smiled at his son. Only one more year and he'd have to have this same talk with Jerry. Then he'd have a daughter and then another two sons. "How will I tell your sister about this?"
"Easy, you had her the cards too," Morgan noted with a grin. "She can read. I made sure of it."
"I know you did. At least I'll be home more often now. Ray can go head up any field activities from now on."
"Yeah, Uncle Ray did say he wanted someone to kick him in the head over that part of the job," Morgan admitted. "Said it'd only be fair. He said as soon as he's found a recruit to take his place, he's only working in-country. I think he's finally ready to find a new boyfriend."
"What boyfriend has he had?"
"Dad, he was dating Uncle Myron when he was alive," Morgan said patiently. "They were always together when you weren't around."
"They were? I thought Myron only held him during nightmares."
Morgan sighed and rolled his eyes. "No, dad, they were having sex. Trust me on this, they were having sweaty, fun sex. I walked in on them once and Uncle Myron about had a heart attack before Uncle Ray shooed me off."
"They had sex in our house?"
"Well, they were staying there then," he offered.
"That long ago?"
"Yeah, dad," Morgan said patiently. "Since probably that second convention."
"Oh." He blinked a few times. "Well. Maybe I should have a talk with him about the facts of life as well. He's young enough for that."
"Yeah, but he's presently flustered. He's got this *major* crush he's avoiding on a younger woman. Just like you and Auntie Dawn," he chuckled.
Zenigata snickered at that. "It's worthwhile. They make you feel younger. How old is she?"
"Presently eighteen. She's a cop too. She's just come into the unit."
"Ah, her," he said wisely. "I had thought he was being a bit too courteous to her. I'll talk with him later. Thank you, Morgan."
"You're welcome, dad. Dad, can I go visit Aunt Bethany this weekend?"
"Sure. Say hi to the crooks when you crawl over the wall to visit with the Goemon kids."
"Yes, sir." He gave him a long hug. "You feel better. I'm gonna go put these in a safe place for Jerry." He took the cards, making sure they were all there, and headed back to the house to show his Aunt. He had tried but he couldn't call her his mom, it felt odd in his mouth. "Uncle Ray," he said when he saw who was downstairs. "Hi." He gave him a hug. "Dad wants to talk to you about the facts of life."
Ray blanched. "Oh, damn." He shook his head and sighed. "Later, kid. I'm supposed ta take you home."
"Okay. I got given the long speech from Uncle Xander, though dad, via cards."
Ray looked at the stack, then nodded. "Xander would know." He got him into the car and back to Dawn's safely, then headed back. He found his boss alone and walked in, giving him a sheepish look. "I have no idea what that's about, boss. I really don't. I'm trying so hard to get over it," he said pitifully.
"Ray, sometimes you can't ignore it," Zenigata sighed. "I tried to ignore Dawn and look how that turned out. Twenty years of difference and she's all I ever needed in life."
Ray grinned. "I know, but mine's I feel like a molester."
"I understand, Ray. We'll figure it out. You might as well be like one of my kids sometimes anyway." He held up the pictures. "Know anything about her?"
"She's picking on him but it makes him happy. She's like a mini-Faith and Morgan's too much like a mini-Xander."
"Ah." He had heard that tale so he understood the reference. "As long as she doesn't try to jump him, I won't have her arrested." He grinned at his officer. "So, I hear you want hurt this badly?"
"Only so I don't have to go into the field all the time. Think I could get Lavelle ta shoot me too?"
"Probably not," Zenigata admitted. "He seems to like you too much to injure you too badly."
"Maybe Jigen then," he said, considering it. "I'm too old ta chase people through malls and dodge traffic in a foot chase. I'm nearly forty." He sat down in the visitor's chair. "She's eighteen!"
Zenigata laughed. "I understand, Ray. I met Dawn when I was forty-four and I tried so hard to fight it off."
Ray sighed and looked at his hands, nodding. "So am I. I don't even know if she feels the same way. For her it might be a harmless flirtation thing and then what'll I do?"
"Then you'll move on." Someone knocked on the door. "Enter!" he called. A young woman walked in. "You are?"
"Sir, reporting for duty," she said, saluting him. "Emmajean Tackleberry, sir. I was assigned to your unit and told to come introduce myself. I'm every bit like my uncle and I was raised at the academy. I'm rated at the sharpshooter level and I have three years street experience before I applied to join you, sir. I have no trouble filling in whatever position you want me in." She went to 'parade rest' and tipped her chin up. "Sir, my Uncle Mahoney sent me with a message for Ray." Ray waved a hand. "Sir, he said I am to cling to you as my advisor. I've never really traveled before and that's one of the reasons I took this job, that and to be out of the city. I couldn't take the local idiocy and bureaucracy any longer. It was getting to the point where the paperwork was more important than the busts."
"That's why I left Chicago," Ray agreed, grinning at her. "Welcome to the unit. The boss is now grounded to local chases and the office only. He'll probably be working from home for the next six months when they allow him back on duty. I lead all field things at this moment, though I hate it. I'll help you learn how to pack a small bag tomorrow."
"Thank you, sir."
"Ray," Ray instructed. "I hate being 'sirred'." He grinned brighter. "You got a place yet?"
"Yes, sir." She blushed. "It's not much but I can sleep there."
"That's about all you'll need six months out of the year." He patted her on the shoulder. "Relax, we're all buddies here."
"Thank you, Ray. I hope I live up to your standards. My uncles and aunts at the academy taught me everything they could once my uncle Eugene brought me into the family business. Surprisingly enough, it was at the suggestion of a crook." She shook her head. "I don't know why, but it was."
"Lavelle," the men groaned, shaking their heads.
She nodded. "How did you know?"
"He's one of those odd cases," Ray told her.
"We can't chase him or the rest of Lupin's gang any longer. The chief said they're invisible to the law," Zenigata added.
"Huh. Then my uncle would appreciate a visit probably," she admitted, then she grinned again. "When should I show up tomorrow?"
"We tend to go nine to six," Ray told her. "That's when we're in town. There could be a chase at any moment. Like I said, you'll want to have a bag packed and at hand at all times. Include extra ammo, it's harder than hell to find it in some countries, even as a cop. I've ran out before and been unable to get any legally." Zenigata gave him a look. "Yes, I went underground, but I busted them afterwards," Ray defended.
"That's fine. As long as you arrested them," he noted. "You do what you have to sometimes."
Emmajean chuckled. "Sir, I was in Vice. I know that one by heart." Ray whimpered. "Something wrong?"
"No, I spent some time there in Chicago myself," he admitted, smiling at her. She smiled back and he felt a twinge in his gut. He blinked a few times. He never had that with the other one. She was always chasing him, reminded him of his Stella. This one was nice. She kinda reminded him of her uncle. "Do you like anime?"
"I like some comics but I'm pretty traditional. I'm an 'x' groupie. Why?"
He beamed. "Come ta my place tonight for a welcome to the unit dinner. I've got a massive anime and comic collection. We get to go to the cons too, we get a lot of people that way." She beamed and nodded, saluting Zenigata again and leaving with her new boss.
Zenigata chuckled. "Wonderful for him, really. The other was too pushy. This one is just soft enough to entice him and she's older. Nearly twenty-five. Her uncle's idea was a good one. I'm glad I hired her."
Ray walked up behind Xander in the small comic store and hugged him hard. "Thanks, buddy."
Xander grinned at him. "You're welcome, Ray. I thought you two might get along pretty well." He turned and hugged him back. "You be happy with Miss Emmajean. Don't treat her too gently, she's not a doll." He got free. "How's Gramps?"
"Better. They're releasing him today," Ray told him. "How's Morgan?"
"In withdrawal over his girlfriend going away since he stood up for not having sex yet. Lotus gave him a long cuddle. For being six she understands a lot of things." He beamed at Emmajean. "Hi, I'm Xander. We're buddies." He patted Ray on the back. "The new X-Men Extreme is out. I keep forgetting to have that one mailed to me." He shook his head as he walked away. "Will I see you at Paris-Con this year?"
"Oh, yeah," Ray called after him. "We'll both be there." He smiled at Emmajean. "That was Lavelle."
"Oh." Her face lit up. "That's Uncle's friend? Lavelle?" He looked back. "Uncle Eugene wanted to see you soon."
"Tell him I'll see him when they start that summer camp next year. I'll be bringing two kids over." She nodded and went with Ray to help him finish his stack. He was much more into the comics than she was. Xander chuckled and paid for his stack, and the stuff he had on order. "Thanks." He paused and grabbed his stomach, pressing on it. "Ow. That was a bad pain."
"Ulcer?" the guy behind the counter asked.
Xander changed form. "No, labor pain. It's an illusion." She shrugged and took her bags, going to lean against the side of the car. She was clutching the roof rack when Ray came out. "Hey, um, Ray, can I get you to drive me so I don't crash on my way to the hospital?"
"What's wrong?" He came over to touch Xander, noticing how tense she was. "Cramp?"
"Labor pain," she squeaked. "Big, nasty one. Hate these things." She squeezed her eyes shut. "Ow."
"Shh, Xan. Let's put your stuff into the trunk and then I'll drive you over," Ray promised, putting things into the trunk for his buddy. He got in to drive, Emmajean taking the back without a question. They headed for the only hospital he knew about. "You're going to a normal one, right?"
"Yeah, am," she noted, breathing hard. "Have to call the hubbies."
"I'll call Morgan, he can get it to them, he's still up there," Ray soothed. He pulled into the Emergency Room parking lot and parked the car, then got Xander out and inside. "She's in labor," he said. "She's carrying twins and one has a weak heart. Xan, doc?"
"We'll call him right now," the nurse said, taking Xander with her. "Should we call anyone?"
"I'm doing that," Ray called, watching as she was led away. He turned and found Emmajean with his cellphone. He found the number and hit send. "Morgan, it's Ray. Yeah, fine, not now, kiddo. No, Xan's in labor here in Paris. Can you hop the wall and go tell them?" He grinned. "Thanks, Morgan. Sure, we can visit the new twins." He hung up. "Okay. Let's go get my car and bring it here."
"I called Stacey. She's doing it," she promised, leading him to the waiting area. "We can stay until her friends get here. Does that mean he's actually Sylvia too?"
"Oh, yeah, that's him," Ray agreed. "That choker thing does it."
"Ah." She looked impressed. "Good thing it's not me. I'd hate to be a guy now and then."
"She gets to change at will. She seems to enjoy it greatly."
"I'm glad. With two husbands I would too." She grinned up at him and noticed his blush. "I don't need two, Ray. Really."
"Not that," he said, coughing to clear his blush. "Um, I wanted to ask if you wanted ta....."
"Have a baby? Someday. For right now, I'd take dinner."
He pinched her. "Smart ass," he said fondly. She kissed him and he found his head swimming. "Now I know what Dawn meant about kissing the boss that first time," he noted. He pulled her closer and kissed her again. "You're great."
Morgan climbed up the tree and used it to get across the stone wall, landing in the backyard of the neighboring Lupin estate. Doing so startled Ishi and Lotus. "Lotus, your Uncle's in labor in Paris. Uncle Ray brought him to the hospital." Ishi went running and she came over to hug him. "Thanks, little bit." She chuckled and pinched him, leading him inside.
Ishi ran into the room where his father was reading with Marcus. "Uncle Xan's in labor in Paris. Uncle Ray took him to the hospital." His father leapt up and ran to find the expectant husbands. Marcus gave him a look. "Not going?"
"Not yet. It'll be a good ten minutes before they leave. Xander didn't have a bag packed." He turned the page, then marked his spot. "Or I could stay here with you lot until they're back since the nanny is off today." And for the rest of her short life since Jigen had found her teaching Melissa how to apply makeup to entice men.
"Okay. Morgan's here. He told us."
"That's fine as well," he agreed with a smile. He led Ishi out to the front hallway, watching as Lupin and Jigen ran down the stairs. "Bag?" he called. Jigen ran back up the stairs to get one. "I'll stay with the children and come up tonight," he promised.
"That's fine," Lupin agreed, patting himself down. Ishi found his gun, his keys, and his wallet. "Thanks, kid. Go play or whatever. Make sure Morgan doesn't kiss your sister again." Jigen came back down the stairs with Goemon right behind him and a small bag. "We ready?" Jigen nodded and they got out to take off.
Fujiko came out far enough to look down the stairs. "I can stay, Marcus."
"I'll do it, Fujiko. You rest, dear. I was going to monitor Morgan and Lotus' interaction." She grimaced. "They are rather cute and he would be attuned to her side of the fence."
"Fine. She's too young to do more than talk about kittens and stuff anyway." She went back to bed, her doctor had said she was to be on bedrest. Or else. She believed in his or else.
Ishi scowled up at Marcus. "She's too young and so is he."
"I know, and so does he. That's the beauty of having her fall for a decent young man like Morgan will become. He won't rush her or push her." He walked them back to the kitchen, listening as Lotus told him about the new spell she had learned. Morgan was quite appreciative and supportive, without looking like he was interested in her for more than her company and chatter. It was a good thing in his book.
Lupin ran into the hospital room, stopping when he saw the non-heavy Xander. "She already had them?"
Jigen walked closer, looking at her stomach. "She's got some padding here," he said, pointing at her lower stomach. "I think they did a c-section."
A nurse came in. "You are?"
"Her husbands," they said in unison.
"Ah." She smiled and nodded. "She said there were two of you." She looked over as more people came in, including one who should be resting at home. "You should be in bed, Inspector."
"I will be later," he said grumpily. "Dawn's behind me somewhere." He turned his wheelchair around. "Someone laid a death threat on the children."
Lupin nodded. "Okay. Where are they and can they stay in here with us so we don't have to haunt the nursery with weapons?"
"We'll talk to our security people, see what they say," she shared. "Mrs.... Which last name does she go by?"
"Harris," Zenigata told her. "Her maiden name. What's on her forms?"
"That'll work, it's her identity when she's in danger," Jigen noted.
"Fine. Mrs. Durman did say that we might have such problems so we've already talked to the nursery people. Let me get the babies in so you can look at them while she sleeps. We had to sedate her, she kept going on about foxes? They think it was a funny reaction to the local." She left to go make those calls. She had some protective husbands. Both of them were armed. Now she knew why this one got a private room instead of a ward room.
Lupin paced back and forth around the room. "Who sent the death threat?"
"Fucker," Jigen said bitterly. "We'll deal with him later."
Goemon walked over to where Xander was shifting. "Good morning. Do you feel better?"
"Headache," Xander moaned. Lupin and Jigen both rushed over to help her sit up and get her some water. She gave them weak smiles. "The daughter's fine so far. Her heart's still pretty slow."
"That's fine, we'll deal, Xan," Lupin promised, giving her a long hug. "I'm sorry we were late."
"It took me by surprise. I was comic shopping. I changed in the store too." She winced as she shifted. "Ow."
"Hell, they know you enough by now to know about you," Jigen assured him. "If not, we'll go explain it to him."
"He's a nice guy."
"Which is why we'll only talk," Lupin promised. The kids were wheeled in and they ran over to look at them. "Can we tell which is which?"
"The girl is blood sample one, from her locket, and the boy is blood sample two, from her bracelet," the nurse said after consulting her forms. "Whichever of you bled into each of those."
"The boy is Lupin's and the girl is Jigen's," Xander offered.
"The doctor in Britain said I was only putting out girls," Lupin said in shock. Xander shrugged and pointed at her stomach. "Good point. If you can get pregnant, they can give me a son." He grinned at Jigen. "I have no idea what to name him."
"Fourth will be mad if you switch her name," Jigen said dryly. He wheeled his daughter over to the bed. "Here we are. A very tiny future princess of the house."
"We'll be getting a heart monitor for her bed just in case," Lupin noted, picking up his son. "Hey. Welcome to the family. I'm the dad."
Goemon smirked at him. "Now you know how I felt when I first held my son." He looked at the inspector. "And how he must have. Daughters are always different."
"They are," Xander agreed, smirking at Jigen. "So, does this mean you're gonna help with that one to take my place?"
"We'll see," he said firmly. He kissed his mate gently. "Thank you."
"Welcome." She smiled and kissed him harder. "I ache."
"I bet." He sat down to stare at his daughter. She was tiny and he didn't want to hurt her. "She's so much smaller than the twins were."
"She is, but the nurse said she'd be fine," Xander promised. Zenigata's phone rang and he answered it, then his eyes lit up. "Did our warrants come back?"
He hung up with a snort. "Hell no, I'm not that lucky." He looked at Lupin. "The person who threatened you child just apparently walked into the station and gave herself up without any encouragement from anyone. She had heard the rumors about you six."
Lupin beamed. "Good, it'll keep me from killing her this week." He went back to cooing at his son. "We should name you, yes we should. I have no idea what, but we should name you."
"Name him after Jigen," Goemon offered.
"Diasuke," Lupin said, looking at Jigen, who shuddered. "Middle name, Xan?" She snored on. "Okay. Middle name," he told Jigen, who smirked. "We were talking about Michael?"
"No," Goemon said, shaking his head. "Marcus' head would swell."
Zenigata pulled out a book and tossed it to Goemon since he didn't have his hands full. "Here. For Fujiko as well. That way you don't end up with another naming situation. When is she due?" They all looked stunned. "Morgan told me."
"She's only three months along but the doctor told her to stay on bed rest because her blood pressure was up," Goemon told him, turning to men's section. Then he looked at the cover, and at the Inspector. "Biblical names?"
"They're traditional, even if you don't believe."
"We could name him after Fihad," Jigen offered. "What's his first name?"
"That is his first name," Lupin noted. "We could go like Xander's names for pets, book related."
"That means the kid would have to be a Fred or a George," Jigen noted dryly. "My daughter's not being named Hermione either."
"Sarah," Xander mumbled. "Sarah Emile Jigen. Frederick Oliver Lupin." She shifted onto her side and went back to sleep against Goemon's stomach.
"Not to be pushy, but move," Lupin told Goemon when he noticed the position. "That's a bit too close for comfort."
Zenigata burst out laughing. "You're worried about *him* stealing your spouse? Him?" He grabbed onto the handles of his wheelchair so he wouldn't fall out of it. He was grabbing his chest by the time he was done.
"Old man, quit, before you hurt yourself and end up back in here," Jigen warned, coming over to steady him. "It's an odd obsession but we're working on it."
Lupin pouted at them. "Grumpy bastards." He looked at his son again, feeling incredibly virile. He gave Jigen a long look, he'd be testing that virility later.
"I saw that look, I'm putting back on the anti-invasion underwear," Jigen told him, sitting down to look at his daughter again. "Hey, Sarah." She grunted and flailed a bit, making him smile. "Yeah, hi."
"My next one should get to stay in the hospital," Goemon told himself, making everyone look at him. "What? My last two have not been able to."
"Let's hope we don't have to run with you and a newborn again. Fujiko's pregnancies are horrible luck for the rest of us," Lupin reminded him.
Goemon shook his head so Jigen grimaced. "Her pregnancies have been bad luck and she's had really odd deliveries," Jigen reminded him. "After all, we all got caught during her last one. The first one we nearly lost Xander a few times." He looked at Goemon. "Try to keep her contained this time, okay?"
"I will try," Goemon offered. He felt himself be grabbed and blushed. "Lupin, I believe your wife needs your attention. She's trying to grope me."
"Xander, that's not us," Jigen said gently. She shifted and rolled over until she was nuzzling against his rear. "Thanks. You keep Lupin from playing with that for me." He gave Lupin a look. Then he grinned. "That's one way to keep you out of me."
"Fat chance," Lupin said smugly. "I have a son, I'm feeling incredibly virile."
"That is how Lotus came to be," Goemon told them. "Remember that lesson."
Both men looked at him, then nodded. "We will," they promised.
"We'll be picking up a big box of condoms on the way home," Lupin agreed.
Zenigata looked at him. "You think she'll let you touch her before she stops bleeding?"
"Yup, sure do," Lupin said smugly. "Last time she was sucking us off within a week. She's addicted."
"Women all over the world would look at her and ask if she was insane," Goemon agreed. "She is their drug of choice."
"She helps me plan things," Lupin protested. "Hell, if it weren't for her, we'd probably have taken up the job as second in command in Europe."
Goemon looked disgusted. "I'd rather start a school."
"Aren't your kids enough for you?" Zenigata asked bitterly. "We don't need *better* crooks in the world."
"We're firm believers in raising the standards of crooks everywhere," Lupin told him. "Just like my grandfather was."
"And what would he say about having a female fourth?"
"After seeing her range scores and her abilities at lock picking, I'd hope he'd be really proud," Lupin said smugly. "If not, he can come tell my ass himself." Marcus appeared and for a moment Lupin went very pale, then he regained his composure. "Timed that?"
"No," he said, grinning. "Dawn showed up just now to watch over the children. They're most anxious to come see their new siblings." He looked at the still in her bassinet. "She is rather small," he noted, coming over to look down at her. "Hello, princess." He picked her up and Jigen made a horrified sound. "You can't leave her alone. She's a normal child, even though she is weaker and smaller. You must treat her like the others or she'll start to become like her father when you first met him." He looked down at the little girl, seeing the open eyes. "Hello, darling one. I'm Marcus. You'll find me doing a lot of your care. As you get older, you'll learn to appreciate that while your sisters try to change you." Lupin snickered. "They are most happily waiting on that." He shrugged. "It's their first one. They're young yet." He handed her to her father then went to look at the boy, knowing he wasn't going to be prying that one from his father's hands. Lupin had so wanted either of his girls to be boys. "Hello, dear, and what's your name going to be?"
"Xander said Frederick Oliver." Lupin looked at where Jigen was sitting. "She about fits in his hand."
"She is very tiny but probably within parameters for a twin birth. They're usually smaller." He smiled at his mentor. "Are you looking forward to yours'?"
"Definitely. I can't wait to see my second son." He gave Lupin a smug look. "I'll have two."
"Bastard," Lupin muttered. "That's okay, I'll make sure Fred here learns to like your second son or Ishi as his mate."
Goemon looked horrified. "No, our children may not date!" he said firmly. "I would not allow that!"
"Shh!" Xander ordered. "Or have the next one!"
"Sorry, Xander," he said, modulating his tone. "Lupin, that is a horrible idea. One of them must have a fifteenth."
Jigen gave him a look. "We'll hand that one the choker and the fertility spell," he offered.
Goemon shook his head. "If you so much as try to do that to my sons, I shall cut you into tiny pieces. So small that not even Dawn could find you."
"Sure you will," Jigen teased. "What'll happen if they do it on their own? After all, we've got Morgan and Lotus looking like they're in love already." Zenigata moaned. "Time for the pain medicine?"
"No, a horrible thought!"
Xander looked at him. "Shh! Or I'm fixing it so *you* can carry *your* next one too!"
"Sorry, Xander. Forgive me, but they were just suggesting...."
"Gramps, face it. Morgan's attuned to magic. It's been around him since before he was born. Lotus is a mini-Willow and Morgan's definitely his mother's. Of course they get along and he's supportive. If they end up together, that'll be fine. Even if he ends up a cop I doubt she'll be thieving very often. It might be the next you and Dawn sort of pair." He looked relieved at that. "As for the other ones, Ishi's got a fascination for Melissa," he told Goemon. "He always has stared at her much harder than his own sister. He's also got a small one for little Arsene. I think they confuse him totally though. They're doing boy things when they're girls. The other two aren't even on his radar. He knows that they're going good and he respects them for their convictions and sense. The two new boys will either be his best buddies or his future lovers. One or the other because they'll be together most of the time. Hopefully his brother will be a friend, but we can't discount that sometimes." Goemon looked sickened. "As for Melissa, I sincerely think she's going to go for the softer sex. She'll pick someone like me, someone who will support and understand if not directly help, and cling to them like the world will end. Sierra's the other I think could be bi. I don't think she'll ever pick. I do think little Arsene will play the field like her father. She's already got her father's eye for beauty. She was staring at a model at the park last week." Lupin winced. "She was also staring at the male model and talking about how she would help his hair since it looked so limp." She looked at Jigen. "As for the last one? Personally, I think she's going to be like Marcus. We'll never find out until she tells us."
"Marcus has a lover?" Lupin asked.
"He's been sleeping with Ethan for about two years now and one of Ethan's other students as well. And I think he's going to be telling us something soon?" he suggested to Marcus.
"Um, well, yes, she was a Watcher as well," he admitted. He scratched the back of his head. "We broke up when she decided to take a running leap off the face of the earth one night. I suspect she might have found out she was stuffed up but I can't find her to ask her."
"Marcus, if you had asked, I would have helped," Lupin reminded him.
"I did start to but I figured she didn't want me to know." He shrugged. "Sometimes people are like that. I will respect her wishes but I will be on the lookout for her and her offspring. The only thing I do know is that the Watchers don't have her, that's how I got captured by them." He looked at his master. "If I had any idea where she was, I'd go take custody of my child and bring it home with me."
"Okay, so you've got a mini Ripper somewhere," Xander offered. "Which family?"
"Ripper's niece actually," he admitted. "I've asked him, he didn't know where she was."
"Call Spike's house," Xander sighed. "She was with him earlier in life."
"Spike's dead," Lupin reminded him.
"Yeah, but his childe isn't."
"Good point," Jigen agreed. "Okay. You should be resting so we can spoil you later without you falling asleep."
"Thank you." She sighed as she got comfortable again. She pushed the button and the nurse came in. "How much longer do we have to stay here?"
"Your daughter will need a few days of monitoring," she instructed. "You and your son can go home tomorrow, ma'am." She took the children and put them back into their basinets. "There we are. You can visit them later. They're being put into a specially monitored room." She wheeled them out, taking them back to the nursery. The mother had looked tired, obviously her husbands weren't letting her rest.
Lupin came over and laid beside her, giving her a long hug. "Thank you, Xan."
"Mm. Welcome. Go nap." She gave him a light shove. "I'm sore and hungry."
"We'll get you some dinner," Jigen promised. "Want a weapon, just in case?"
"No, I'm good," Xander admitted. "I was wearing one, it's under my pillow. The nurse was really shocked but then I told them about the possibility of someone breaking in here to hurt me or the kids. She decided I knew best about such things." She gave him a weak smile. "Go play with Lupin. I'll be in better shape after my nap."
"Fine, dear," he said, kissing her. "We'll come back tonight with a decent dinner. Chinese?" She nodded, smiling at him. He hauled Lupin up and let Goemon herd him out while he made sure everyone else left. He smiled back at Xander.
Xander laid down and closed her eyes, liking this alone thing for the moment. She felt the earth shift and barely heard a monitor going off, but she wasn't there any more.
Lupin and Jigen both stiffened when they heard automated 'code blue' message for their wife's room, turning and heading back at a dead run. They, like the nurses before them, found the bed empty.
"I'm going to kill them," Lupin hissed, going to find out which demon had done this. One of the nurses was saying something about it being him and he looked at him. "I'm Lupin the Third. That was Sylvia. I sincerely doubt we stole her since we're looking for her." The nurse whimpered and fell down in a dead faint. "Thank you. Marcus!" Marcus came jogging back. "Something took her."
His face went blank, then he nodded. "She'll be right back. She apparently nearly killed him for it. The automated message stopped broadcasting and a nurse came out of the room looking very confused. "Is she back?" Marcus demanded. The nurse nodded, still looking confused. "Thank you. One of us will be sitting with her at all times." He went to look in the room, coming out looking a bit upset. "Someone wanted to congratulate you both. You'll need to go unwind her." They pushed past him and paused in the doorway.
Xander was sleeping peacefully on the bed, wound around many times with many strands of jewels and necklaces and belts of all descriptions. Her hair was also braided and bedecked as well.
"Fucking bastards," Lupin ground out, going in to help uncover their wife again.
Jigen looked at Marcus. "Can't you go kill them for us?"
"Of course I can. All I'll have to do is tell my father." Marcus took a picture, then grinned and headed off to LA. He appeared in the hotel, startling David, Connor, and the newly returned Angel. "Where is my sperm donor?"
"In the library," David said, grinning at him. "How's Xander doing? I know she's near due."
"She just delivered today. Her daughter is a bit small and has a weak heartbeat. Her son is larger and very strong. Lupin was quite proud of himself for finally having a son." He let him see the picture. "Then that happened." David moaned. "Father!" he shouted. Wesley walked into the room and Marcus showed him the picture. "Which one do I have to kill?"
He took the picture, frowning. "It looks like Spike's doing actually. That large, stylized 's' in the center of his chest with the rubies." He handed it back. "We know he made some sort of deal to move higher in the chain if there was an opening. Xander staking him freed him to take that job. How is he?"
"Just barely delivered by caesarian. One boy and a girl this time." He tucked the picture away. "Is there anyway you can open the portal so I can go have a ...discussion with his patron?"
Wesley smirked. "I have one better. Spike?" Spike appeared, looking smug. "I believe my son wants to talk to you."
Marcus released his sword and pulled it with his standard battle cry, lunging at the demon. Spike backed away quickly, looking scared. "Leave Xander alone!"
"Shit!" Spike said, disappearing. He headed back to the hospital and waved a hand, piling all the jewels onto the floor. "There! Make him stop!"
Lupin glared at him. "You're dead."
"No, I made a deal to move up," Spike said smugly.
"No, I mean you're dead now," he hissed, moving to draw his gun. Spike left again.
Jigen gave Lupin's arm a pat. "Relax. Spike would never hurt Xander or else we'd get to unleash her markings on him." Spike reappeared with a chest. "What's that?"
"Baby present, same as those were. I'd never touch her. She's a nummy one but I know better. Even the big guy won't touch her. The git made her fucking dangerous!" Marcus appeared and he ducked one swing, trying to hit him, but the boy was better than his father was, ever, and much better trained than Spike had ever been. He finally had to give up and run.
Marcus forced himself to calm down and put up his sword. "I don't believe we'll have too many more problems," he said stiffly. "If we do, now we know who to go kill." He jumped as the door opened and Goemon came back in. "Are the children all right?"
"Quite. Dawn said Spike just appeared and gave them something to play with. Then he left with a vow to never come near Xander again, not even if the boy called on him."
"I'm still feeling the need to kill and maim," Lupin admitted, looking at Jigen. "You?"
"No, not really. I know Spike would never harm her. If anyone knew what Xan was capable of back then, it was him. I think there's some respect there."
An unfamiliar man appeared, bowing to them. "Hello. My Lord and Master said I was to come give his congratulations and hand you this for the untailed ones," he said, handing over a small box. "He said it was for the girl specifically so we could bring her up to us when the time was right." He nodded at Lupin. "My Lord and Master also said that your son was very strong and he longed to work with him some day in the future."
"He was busy?" Marcus asked.
"He was unfortunately. His own harem of wives pounced him and he couldn't get free. Many saw Xander's pregnancy as a reason to have a kit of their own." He smiled at Goemon. "He also said that your son was very interesting and that he would be watching over him to see if he fulfilled his promise to become a great one like his father."
"Thank you for us," Lupin said, handing the box to Jigen.
"What sort of demon are you?" Marcus asked.
"I am an incubus. I'm the envoy to the Kitsune courts."
"Ah." Marcus nodded. "You're the one Xander said was nice to him." The demon nodded. "We thank you for that. Thank your Lord for the presents and tell him I hope he has many kits to follow in his footsteps." The demon smiled and left. Marcus looked at the stunned Lupin. "That one kept him from being pounced on by a visiting elf." He shrugged and looked at the pile of stuff. "Shall I get a large box?"
Lupin looked at it, then nodded. "Please. It can go with the other demon things he's gotten." He waited until the kid was gone to look at Goemon. "You teach him that?" He shook his head, looking smug. "Good. I was hoping you weren't encouraging that attitude." He glared at the pile of jewels as they moved. "What is that?"
Jigen got down and looked through it, coming up with a pure white cat with blue eyes. "His kitten," he said, holding it up. The cat batted at Lupin and purred.
Lupin sat down, shaking his head. "It can go back to the house. The kids would probably appreciate it. Since we don't have to run, the arguments about animals and pets is probably void."
"Having a pet teaches responsibility and caring," Goemon told him. "That's why my sensei had a hunting beast." He perched himself on the foot of the bed. "You two could go yell, I'll be here for a bit." They nodded and went to throw a fit outside, then to have a cigarette. That's where Ray found them later on. After hearing what had happened, he decided a fit was a good idea and told Dawn, who went to yell at Spike for them.
Xander allowed himself to be carried inside, she was still really sleepy so it was fine with her. She even allowed Goemon to carry her up to her bed and tuck her in. The kids were put into their cradle next to the bed so it was extra fine with her, as long as she got another nap. She looked down as something pounced her toes, frowning. "Lupin said I couldn't have a kitten," she pouted. "No fair, you said I couldn't have a pet!" she called.
Jigen came in with a bottle for later use. "Spike sent it with all the crap he piled on top of you in congratulations." He put the cat off the bed and looked down at it. "My bed is not yours. Neither is the cradle. Get used to it." He laid down beside Xander, putting the bottle on the bedside table. "Lupin said we could have one for now."
"The kids get one and I don't?"
"No, you guys get to share the cat," he promised. "That way you can pass that onto the kids too."
"I guess that's okay," she sighed, rolling against his chest. "I'm still sore."
"I know you are, Xan. We'll take good care of you while we spoil the kids."
Xander nodded. "You'd better or I'm taking both your credit cards and taking all the kids to Orlando."
Jigen did the math in his head. Six kids, nine amusement parks. They'd be fully broke by then and have to go back to stealing to survive. Not even Bill Gates would have money left. "We'll spoil you so much you become a brat," he promised gently. The cat hopped back up. "You, shoo. Off the bed." It settled itself beside Xander's feet, on the other side of her.
She chuckled. "Good. You spoil me. I'd hate to have to bankrupt you two and have to support your habits and mine."
"All we'd have to do is to sell your baby gift stuff," Jigen teased. She looked at him. "Really."
"How bad was it this time?"
"We couldn't really see more than your face underneath what Spike sent. The cat was somewhere inside it all." He shrugged. "A good ten pounds worth at least." Lupin came in. "She wanted to know how bad the demonic baby presents were this time."
Lupin picked up the cat and put it onto the floor. "Go sleep with the kids." The cat hopped back up and went back to napping beside Xander's feet. He picked it up to look it in the eye. "Either you learn to not sleep on our bed, or I will lock the bedroom door so you can't get in here at all," he growled. "Understand?" The cat gave him a pitiful meow so he put her onto a nearby chair and she stayed there until she got up to wander. "The haul was a few billions of Euros worth, Xan." He crawled in behind Jigen. Xander had made it very clear that he wasn't touching her yet. He stroked up Jigen's back and got swatted for it. "Hey, all I was doing was rubbing your back."
"I know you, that's an attempt to get into my ass again."
"Well, I wouldn't mind," Lupin promised with a grin. "I do seem to have this streak of horniness running through me."
Xander lifted her head. "If I let you into my ass, would you leave the poor guy alone? He's got to be sore from this morning. And last night. And before dinner. And that nap sex you two had while I was being bathed."
Jigen gave him a hug. "It's all right, he can pull off like Marcus does." He stroked her sore stomach, earning a swat. "Just trying to help you nap again."
"If I do nap, he'll jump you again."
"He won't, I promise," Jigen told him. "You can have him next time, whenever you're ready. Until then, the only sex he's getting is his hands." Xander grinned and nodded, cuddling closer. "Good girl. You nap." One of the kids sniffled so he looked over. "You're fine. This is home." He yawned and went back to sleep. "Thanks."
Lupin leaned over his shoulder. "Meanie," he whispered in Jigen's ear. "I'll get you for that later."
Jigen looked at him. "Goemon said to tell him if you didn't leave me alone. He said he'd finally get around to killing you."
"Sure he will," Lupin said, laying back down. "Can't I have the Xander?"
"Nope. Mine. You'd jump her again." He noticed the cat walking on top of the headboard. "I'll give you credit for trying, but we can sneak better than that. Off the bed." The cat huffed and continued to stroll. He hopped down on the other side of her pet's body, curling up beside her head. Jigen picked her up and dropped her off the side of the bed. "No."
Lupin chuckled. "We finally get Xander and Marcus house trained and Goemon trained not to leave the door to the roof open, now we've got another one."
"Arsene," Jigen called. She came running, grinning as she crawled up into the bed with them to hug. "Hi. Can't you take the cat?"
"Cat?" she asked, peering down at it. "Hi, kitty. What's your name?"
"Doesn't have one yet," Xander mumbled. He patted her on the head. "Go play with the cat for now. Mommy's tired." She squealed and grabbed the cat before it could hide, taking it with her to show the others. "Thanks. Door?" Goemon walked past and shut the door for her. "Thanks!" She rolled onto her side with a grunt of pain. "I hate being sore. I didn't push them out, I shouldn't be this sore."
"It'll ease soon," Lupin promised, leaning across Jigen's side to stroke her back. "Pretty soon you'll be up and chasing after our little monsters." She snickered. One of the babies let out a wail so he hopped up to get her, bringing her back to cuddle and coo to. "What's wrong with you, Sarah? Are you hungry?" He accepted the bottle from Jigen, letting her suck on it. Like her dad, she sucked down the milk very well.
To part 18
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