Educating the Masses.
Jigen came back from his doctor's appointment and saw Xander storm past him. He grimaced, following her knowing something was not right. She was either having a mood swing or Lupin had come back a day early and had gotten onto her about the Chicago thing and then she had a mood swing. One of the two, and both were bad for him. He grabbed her and put her over his shoulder, carrying her to the elevator, and then to the apartment, thankfully not a long walk. "How does Goemon do this," he complained as he set her down. "He's always carrying Fujiko and the stomach of doom these days."
"He's not just out of the hospital," Lupin pointed out, giving him a look. "Very manly, Jigen." They both looked down at Xander, who was sitting very stiffly. "I wasn't criticizing." Jigen snorted. "You weren't even here," he reminded patiently.
Jigen shook his head and went to the kitchen, turning down the sauce in the pot. "Xander, is this nearly done?"
"Nearly. Add some more herbs." She stood up and pushed her skirt down. "I'm leaving," she said firmly, glaring at Lupin. "Before I do something you'll regret." She stormed out again and neither man followed her.
"Very womanish," Jigen noted.
Lupin frowned at the doorway, nodding his agreement. "It was," he agreed, looking at Jigen. "All I did was start a conversation about Chicago."
"Leave it alone, Lupin. She did what she felt she had to do and she settled down the mess up there. Besides, Zucko drew on her first. He broke the protocol for meetings and he drew on her first." Lupin winced. "And now you've upset Xander over doing something he felt he had to do. Have fun groveling in Geneva. I'll be in Greece with the kids in about a week."
"At least it's partially good news," Lupin said bitterly. "A week more?" Jigen tasted the sauce and made some herb adjustments, then pulled it off the heat to rest while he made some pasta to go underneath it. "That any good?"
"It's better now. Xander was making it weak and I added some extra herbs." He rattled the box of pasta. "We'll need more soon."
"We can always go shopping. We won't be doing much of anything else for the next few days." He came in to help, tasting the sauce himself. "I'll add salt to mine," he noted, going to help scrounge dinner out of the meager kitchen cabinets.
Jigen gave him a look. "The doctor said I was doing much better and that not even the kids having another Disney fit should raise it again."
Lupin shuddered. Their children had ganged up on them, starting with a pitiful rendition of "Disney, daddy," each time they had looked at one of them, and ending in an attempted kidnaping with Marcus' help. It had raised his blood pressure too so he understood Jigen's revulsion. "That's great. We'll go back to Greece and wait for this fit to be over with."
"You think it's going to be that simple?"
"Yes," he defended.
Jigen shook his head. "I'd call Fujiko and see what sort of present is meant to make up for making Xander feel incompetent and a hindrance. We did it to her enough, she should understand."
Lupin gave him a look. "It won't be necessary. It was just a mood swing."
"If you say so, boss. You're the man if you can bring her out of that. Maybe a night on the town where we'll let her finish her salsa dancing lessons," he muttered as he ran water for his dinner.
"Salsa dancing? Xander?"
"Yeah, in that same dress and those same shoes. I had to pull her away from the little gay dance teacher and the cop watching her on his night off. She's made quite a nuisance of herself recently. Kissed that one chick. Got the younger kid all hot and bothered. The older one is sweating each time her name is dropped near him."
"Xander's version of chaos and dissension. I'm impressed yet again," Lupin admitted, leaning on the counter. "All I did was ask her what part of our standing orders she didn't understand."
"Maybe it was you who forgot that she gets bored easily and this was a *friend*, one of the only ones she has, who asked her for the favor." Jigen gave him a look. "Think about it, if Pops asked you, wouldn't you have done it against your grandfather's orders?"
"Probably," Lupin admitted, not liking that thought. "I guess it did stabilize Chicago again. Everyone's happy there and no one got fired or killed except the idiots." He looked at Jigen, then the clock. "How far is the nearest bar?"
"She's given up drinking already," Jigen said patiently. "You might try calling but I doubt she'll answer her phone yet."
"She's got voicemail," Lupin reminded him, picking up the phone to dial hers. "Xander, I'm sorry," he said quietly into the voicemail. "I really am. Please come back? I only wanted to talk about it, see if we can work out a way for you to do things more subtly. Please?" He hung up and smirked. "That should work."
Jigen shook his head. "I sincerely doubt it." He turned up the radio that had been on, listening to the report of the shooting uptown. "Either she's involved or she's solving it. That was one of her buddies."
Lupin groaned. "Fucking hell. She needs to be chained to the bed again. She's always in trouble."
"He's like that, Lupin. We've known that since the first time we each met him. This isn't any different." He checked a piece of pasta, then drained it and poured some of the sauce on top, dishing it up for himself. "What are you having?"
"Jackass," Lupin said, glaring at his back. The announcer came back with the report that the shooter who had taken hostages and had shot people had just been taken out in a surprise move by the local SWAT teams. Or someone near them. The SWAT commander wasn't saying anything and neither was CSI director Cane. Lupin's scowl got deeper, and he had the feeling he would be wearing that look for the next few days once they found wherever Xander had went to sulk.
Xander walked into the nice mansion and nodded at the butler. "Is the big guy in? I need some advice."
"Of course, Sylvia, let me check with him." He walked back to the billiards room his boss was in. "Sir, Sylvia is here," he said quietly. "She said she needs some advice. She looks rather miserable."
"She's alone?" he asked, looking confused. His butler nodded. "Fine, bring her to the library. I'll head right there." You never saw Lavelle alone anymore, something bad must have happened. He went into his office to check his latest intelligence on that one, finding an interesting note. He headed into the library, frowning already. "What happened, Lavelle? Lupin get onto you about Chicago?"
She sighed and nodded, swinging the foot she had propped over a footstool. "First thing. I need advice."
"You need to justify it to yourself again," he corrected.
She looked at him. "After the fact, isn't it the same thing?" she asked bitterly. He nodded and sat across from her. "I was asked by someone."
"A cop someone?"
"No," he said. "I do have groupies and sometimes they do email me requests. In this case, it was something that I felt I could do. Vecchio's a damn good cop. He's proved it again and again. I find him one of the few worthy of my respect." The Don of Europe's Dark Syndicate nodded. "So I went there and came in with jet lag of course. Long flight from Africa. I got there, Zucko called a meeting and Marcus agreed for me. Perfectly normal for us. He got me up, and I do all the formal stuff I need like showering. I get downstairs and he's broken the rules of engagement. He's sent goons to pick me up nearly two hours early." The Don winced, they were very strict on meeting etiquette around Europe. "Exactly!" Lavelle agreed, putting her foot down to lean closer. "Then, not only does he do that, but I correct them by kicking them a few times and stuffing them in the trunk. I drive to Zucko's after finding some pastry for breakfast. It was a craving," he admitted at the dry look he got. "I get there, Frankie tried the same thing you did when we first met, the gamesmanship. Started out saying I didn't look like my age." The Don snorted. "So I gave it back, laid it out and told him I wasn't taking his contract on Vecchio, that I was there to fight against him if he tried. At the end, his butler drew on me so I got him first, then turned and found Zucko had pulled as well so I got him too. Neither fatal with some good immediate care. I left, covered up all the stuff that no one needed to know, and went to sit with Jigen while he recovered."
"And the first thing Lupin did was to try and do his 'caring' routine and talk to you about it," he finished. She nodded, looking miserable. "It sounds like you had a perfectly good justification for such action, Lavelle. Do you think Lupin won't agree?"
"I know he won't agree. His grandfather came back for a visitation right before we had to evacuate the main house in France. He said we needed to fully retire or our next job would either kill someone or get a warrant restarted. I told Lupin I'd be subtle as I could when I pulled jobs by myself. I'm not that old and I feel younger when I'm doing more than childcare!"
"I understand," he soothed, handing over a tissue. "I'd heard you were knocked up again. Are you okay?"
"Really tired. Sore. Starting the emotional bullshit."
"I had wondered why you came in as a female this time. I never get to see you like this unless either Lupin or Jigen are with you." He looked over her unconservative outfit, something that Fujiko would wear if she still had her younger body.
"Unfortunately the morning sickness is easier in this form," she said bitterly. "It's true, women have stronger stomachs for nastiness. I find I don't puke when I stay like this through my third month." She stroked her stomach. "I don't know what to do. I don't want to go back until they're tired of bitching me out for being myself. I don't want to leave them either. I nearly quit on them in Miami. I did walk away from them before I threw a real fit and inadvertently quit. I don't want to quit the group."
"In the old days, you used to take a vacation when these things happened," he offered. "I do have a few jobs you could pull if you wanted. Strictly shooter stuff of course. One of them is even the odd sort that you seem to draw to you."
"It's not Dawn, right?"
"No, I'd never offer you the contract on Dawn or any of Zenigata's people," he agreed, giving her a faint smile. "Would you like a drink while we discuss it?"
"I'd almost rather have some pudding," she offered. "I feel like shit."
"I'm sure you do. After all, you just barely got free of the last one. I know you remember what Fujiko was like when she was carrying Lotus; how she had a personality change so drastic she became soft and motherly. No woman should be forced to have one back-to- back. It's not healthy for them and I doubt it's any more healthy for you."
She gave him a faint smile. "I'm still considering the sneak attack castration plans." He gave her a 'huh' look. "Fujiko made them after having Ishi. She keeps threatening to castrate Goemon for knocking her up again. I've seen them, they're nearly brilliant."
Goemon walked in, grimacing at Xander. "You return and leave us with the children? Your heathens need you, not me and not Marcus." He hauled her up and put her over his shoulder. "Come along, Xander. You're needed by your offspring."
"Goemon, put her down right now," the Don ordered icily. He looked at him. "That is not good for her in her condition! Now!" Goemon gently set Xander down and frowned at him. "Not only was her stomach, but her uterus was pressing against your shoulder. You probably put her into a great deal of pain and I know you can make her miscarry by applying the wrong sort of pressure this early on in the pregnancy."
He rolled his eyes. "I have done this before," he noted. "She was not pressing where you thought and my shoulder is padded. I have done that many times to Fujiko. For at least another month she is fine. After that she would have to be carried the other way, as I do my wife most of the time." The Don stared at him in shock. "I did the same for my first son, I am hoping that similar results will occur if I bond with him early enough."
"Calm down, you're giving me a headache," Xander complained, standing up and wobbling. Goemon caught her as she passed out, letting out a long sigh.
"There, you see, it's bad for her," the Don said. "It was too soon and her body's out of order. Then your boss had to go and fuck things up by nagging at her about Chicago. I should take her away from you."
"Only if you wish to die," Goemon said firmly, picking her up again. "Some of us do not see her as some round-bellied accessory to her husbands. Some of us see the person she is in her own right and all her skills. Still, her unique touch is needed by all our children. She has ways with them that the rest of us can't compare with and they need her more now." He nodded and left with her, taking her out to the car, where Fujiko was waiting on them.
"Am I a bad mother?" she complained as he got in.
"No, you are very outrageous and odd to the children. You are nearly a fantastic beast in your own right. You speak down to them, whereas Xander is more natural and speaks on their levels. It is a matter of being naturally maternal in his case and your life was never centered around nurturing others the way his was. Drive."
"Fine." She put the car into gear, looking over at Xander. "She doesn't look that great."
"She passed out while we were arguing over her. I caught her before she hit the floor. He was correct, it was much too soon and her body would be rebelling greatly."
Fujiko nodded. "Remember what I was like?"
"That constant tiredness, the mood swings that seemed to drain you for days. Plus the baby was more active and harder to carry. In this case, I believe we should take her away from her men until they learn to appreciate her."
"I had in mind restarting our school again," he admitted. "Marcus is well-able to fill in for me. Xander could be helpful in teaching any students I might take in. Plus the children could come with us. Arsene has been quite worried about her."
"I know. If you want, go for it," she agreed. "Unlike Lupin I know you won't sleep with her." She glanced at him as they were stopped by a red light. "Did she give my castration plans a compliment?"
"She did," he agreed, smiling at her. "I do not wish to leave you."
"Goemon, I would beg if you left me alone for a few months," she admitted. "Come back for the last month or so. That way I can walk around on my own and do all that neat stuff." She gave him a long look then took off again once she noticed the light had changed. "Besides, she looks like she could use the rest and you could use the time meditating and taking care of someone who needs it more. No one knows where your school is besides Lupin anyway, so you'll be safe enough there to give her a rest."
"We should go then," he agreed. "I will take the children with me."
"Hey, have fun. I'll keep Marcus just in case the other two run out of excuses and come hunting you guys. Have fun and all that. Should we just stick them on the plane?"
"After the trip to Orlando?"
"Good point," she admitted, smirking at him. "I'll send Marcus and he can come back the next day." He nodded and she took the turn to the airport. "Where is her kimono stash?"
"In the things that were packed in Japan and sent back to her house." Fujiko did a u-turn and headed back to Xander's house. "Are you certain?"
"Yup, immensely so, Goemon. She needs you more than I do right now. I had her when I went through the same thing. She filled in for all the stomach rubs, the crying jags, the mood swings, and all that great stuff that nearly drove me insane. You've got that same patience with pregnant women so I think she deserves the same treatment. Let's face it, Xander gives and gives and never seems to get much in return. I still bet Lupin slept with Lara."
"He did not," Goemon said firmly, checking on Xander. He gave her a harsh look, nodding down at her.
"Fine, if you say so," she agreed, giving him a look in return. She parked in front of the house. "Hurry back. I can always ship other things." He nodded and went inside to gather her clothes for her. He found the kimono stash easily enough, finding the ones she could workout in on top of the others. The others were folded more neatly, these were simply folded for space and lack of energy by then. He found a suitcase and her briefcase, packing things for her. He even went pawing through her underwear drawer to find her something from in there. Once he was done, he walked them out to the car, making sure to set the alarm and lock the door behind himself. The new syndicate in town would not think twice of bombing his beloved house since he had brought down the old order. He climbed back in, showing her the bag. She nodded and plucked out the passport Xander should use, handing it over. "There. Now let's get you to Japan so I can send the kids there. It'll be a relief to be more than the mommy for a bit." She turned them around, heading back to the airport. "Is her ATM card in there?"
"It is," he admitted. "I checked her wallet. It's all in there."
"Good. Call Murami and warn her where you'll be heading. That way she can authorize any strange purchases and ignore the others." She glanced at him. "Did you remember male clothes?"
"For most of those it is the same. I gathered workout clothes and kimonos she had exercised while wearing in the past." He settled himself deeper into the seat. "I do like this car. Did you steal it?"
"Unfortunately I rented. I'm not quick enough right now to steal a car." She turned back onto the airport's road, heading to drop them off before Goemon could change his mind. The stubborn bastard might make her keep the kids if it would make her turn into a mother like Xander was. She had never wanted to be a mother like that one was. It was a horrifying life she had been living, always being conscious of what she did and what she did around them. It was her version of hell. She waved as he got them out of the car, murmuring in Xander's ear as he walked her inside. She pulled away with a smirk. "Maybe we'll all get lucky and claim her as some sort of official mistress, take her away from Lupin. He could use a good dose of adulthood again. It'd make him more fun."
Goemon watched the car retreat, then went back to speaking quietly to the barely awake Xander. "I am worried about her again," he noted. "I want us to take the children and hide them from Fujiko and whatever plans she has in mind for those men of yours."
"I should be behind them."
"They will come for you if they need you, Xander. Jigen can handle this one." She nodded and yawned, letting him take her card to purchase their tickets back to Japan. "The children will be sent fairly quickly," he assured her.
"You two do make a cute couple," the 'reservation expert' said, smiling at them.
"You should see it when we're dressed traditionally," Xander quipped tiredly.
"I'm sure you two are adorable," she gushed, handing over their tickets. "Gate thirty- eight, and please make sure that all weapons are stowed or sent away," she said, looking directly at Xander.
He nodded and held up a hand. "Let me courier them. We're going to train the kids." He sent them through the airline's courier with Goemon's sword. They'd be waiting for them on the other end. Now they could get through the security checks quickly and easily. She followed him to the gateway, only stopping to get some soda and a small burger. "Who is coming with the kids?"
"Marcus will accompany them then travel back however," Goemon offered. He helped her sit down, making sure she was comfortable. "You can sleep on the flight."
"I'm sure I will," she agreed with a small smirk. "Feeling lost without the belly of destruction?"
He chuckled, sitting next to her. "I have felt that way recently. She never lets me stroke my new son."
"I think Fujiko's suddenly hit her midlife crisis," Xander told him, leaning her head on his shoulder. "I'm not yet but I'd kill for a real bed."
"If we have to, we'll have someone move yours from the hideout up there," he promised, patting her on the back. "It won't be long before those men of yours find you and apologize."
"I'd rather that they learned I do have some damn sense. Just because I can mood swing doesn't mean everything is." She looked up at him, then realized where she was resting. "I swear, Lupin came up and asked, literally, what part of the instructions I hadn't understood. Like I didn't tell him I wasn't ready to retire yet? Or that I could do things on my own, and usually do them subtly? He's seen me in action and he never stops to think I'm more than a tool for his use." She slumped a little. "Between that and Jigen teasing me and calling me a brat, I don't know what to do about them anymore."
"A small separation should fix most of that," he assured her, giving her a gentle pat. "Plus, we'll have time to finish the children's most important part of their education. By the time Fujiko is out of whatever phase she's going through, the children will be fully indoctrinated in our ways." She beamed up at him. "I would never think of taking your fun away, Xander. I'll help however I can until you're unable to work."
"Thanks, Goemon. Maybe all I needed was another friend." She leaned against his shoulder again, falling back asleep.
He smirked down at her. He was quite good at handling pregnant women. If he ever went straight he'd have to look into that as a career. Maybe some sort of marital therapist for that time.
Unbeknownst to them, someone was taking their picture, very interested in the scene they appeared to have going. This could get him a bonus with the Don for sure.
Lupin looked up as his lunch was interrupted by a woman waving an envelope. "Lupin the Third?" she asked. He nodded and signed for it. "Have a nice day."
He opened it, frowning at the paper inside. "Divorce papers?" He pulled out his phone and called Jigen. "Did you just get a strange package?" He grunted in annoyance. "No, someone just delivered me divorce papers." He put them down. "I don't know. Start the usual checks. I'm sure she's either with the kids or sulking in Geneva." He listened while Jigen sent out a 'where are they this time' message on the thieves' bulletin boards. He choked when he heard the answer. "He's what? No, I want to see that picture. Send it to my phone." He waited, watching as it downloaded. His scowl was going to be permanently etched onto his face. The picture of Goemon carrying Xander was followed by them in an airport, cuddled up together. Then it was followed up by them heading onto an Air Japan jet. He put the phone up against his ear. "Still going to tell me I'm paranoid?" He hung up before Jigen could say anything, picking up the papers to read them. If she wanted out of their bed, Xander was going to have to fight him for it and he could and would take out Goemon on her. He frowned and reread a sentence. Then he picked up his phone and called Jigen back. "They're fakes. I know what real ones state and this one isn't. Someone's trying to split up the group. Were those photos manipulated any?" He scowled again. "Fine. Let's head to Greece tonight. I want to check on the kids suddenly." He choked, dropping his phone. When he had caught his breath, he picked it back up again. "Excuse me, she did what?"
Jigen's answer made him pick up the papers, toss down some money without looking at it, and hurry back to the apartment to pack. How dare Xander take his children and go live with Goemon!
The European Don looked around this ...quaint town with a grimace of distaste. Too many fake people for his tastes. He walked into the small apartment building and headed up on the elevator, noticing that there was no security force. "How dumb are they?" he muttered. He stepped off and ran into the people he was looking for coming out. "Inside, both of you." Their jaws dropped. "Now." They let him into the apartment, dropping their bags to sit across from him. "Things are now officially out of hand, boys. Not only was your spouse taken away from me by Goemon for her own health and well-being, Fujiko has set part of this up. I know you've seen the pictures. They're real."
"Goemon really carried her?" Jigen asked in a flat voice. The Don nodded. "Why?"
"Because she had just passed out at my feet. She came to me for validation of what happened in Chicago. I agree, she had no choice in the matter. They were drawing on her, she had to do it."
"She didn't have to be there."
"Lupin, if Zenigata had asked you for a similar favor, you would have done it without question as well. That one is loyal to all her friends and family."
"Then whose sick idea of a joke was the divorce papers?"
"That is from a problem I wanted Lavelle to look over for me. Since she not only passed out but she managed to fall asleep in a crowded airport as six flights were boarding, I don't think she's in shape to do it. That leaves you with your boy Marcus. He'll be back after escorting your children to Goemon's school. With Fujiko's permission since she's not feeling very maternal at the moment. I know he'll take good care of her while you're away. I also know that Goemon understands her better than either of you ever could. They have that same picky nature about their skills and the same form of outlook on life most of the time. Goemon really should start a school of thought based on revelations from his son's upbringing, but I think your Lavelle understands that." He stood up. "Until you two do, maybe you should help your boy take out this problem we seem to be having with the magically active prankster who likes to interrupt jobs to laugh at the thieves." They shuddered. "I will let you know this. Your Lavelle is very tired. Her body is rebelling. Normal women have problems having one right after another. It wears the body down horribly. Since she's not really a woman most of the time, it's affecting her worse. I'm sure Goemon will get his fill of carrying her around. He seems to enjoy it most of the time." He left them there, going to talk to a few old friends who had retired down there among the plasticine people.
Lupin looked at Jigen. "Am I more or less jealous now?"
"I'm just confused," Jigen noted. "Why did she go to *him* for validation?"
"Because I fucked up," Lupin admitted. "He's right, she's probably not in any shape right now to be doing any of this, but she did. She went to help a friend, just like she ends up in Cleveland now and then for the same reason." He shook his head. "So we need to find this prankster," he said finally. Thinking about Xander was giving him a headache and making him depressed. "You know, if we don't get her back soon, we'll lose her to Goemon for good."
"We won't," Jigen said firmly. "He won't put up with her odd moods when she's not pregnant." Lupin gave him a harsh look. "He won't."
"He's mellowed on them over the last few years. Now he teases her about her bouncing instead of trying to correct it." Jigen groaned. "We've got one shot left. Do you have any idea what it would take to make her come back to us?"
"I don't know. A new house? Better sex? The old us back again?" He stood up with a groan. "I don't fricken' know, Lupin, go ask Goemon."
"Better yet, we need to ask Ray," Lupin said as the thought hit him. "Goemon will try to keep her. That's the prevailing attitude of anyone who has close contact with Xander for long periods of time." Jigen gave him a 'huh' look. "The demons, Buffy, the rest of the twats there, us? We all wanted to keep her after we got to know her. I'm sure Goemon feels the same way."
"I'm pretty sure Goemon feels like her brother, not her future husband," Jigen said bitterly, silently adding an 'I hope' to the end of that.
"I hope so," Lupin told him. "The same as I hope that I can kick his ass if he doesn't. For right now, we need to find this prankster, we need to kidnap Ray for a few hours, and we need to get Xander back. What about Fujiko?"
"She sent her kids off to Japan. I think she's missing her fun years."
"Quite possibly," Lupin agreed as he stood up. "Come on, we'll start in Geneva. That's where the fake divorce papers came from." He grabbed his phone and called his daughter's. "Arsene, it's daddy. Tell mommy that the papers aren't real and I'm not accepting that they're real. If she gets a set from me then she knows they're not real. Okay?" She repeated it back to him. "Thanks, dear. No, we're going to stop someone for the European Don. Yeah, him," he said patiently, ignoring his daughter's problem with classifying people by what they had for lunch the day she met them. Jigen understood and snickered. "When you see mommy, you give her a big hug for me and ask her nicely to call me, okay? Tell her we miss her and we'll be up in a few weeks to check on her and see if she wants to be cuddled by us. Thanks, Arsene." He hung up and looked at Jigen. "They're getting ready to get off now. Fujiko wasted *no* time on sending them to her." They grabbed their bags and headed out again, this time making it to the airport and their flight to Geneva.
Xander looked up as someone called her real name, frowning at the woman. "What?" she asked tiredly, waving a hand when she came closer. "You needed something?"
"I have some official papers for you," she said, smirking at her.
Xander look at the papers, then at her. "No way in hell, bitch. Go away."
"I think you'll find I can take the children from you."
"Goemon!" He came over, taking the papers and ripping them up. "Thank you. Come on, kids. Before the nasty lady tries to take you somewhere you're not wanted and will be hurt." She walked her kids away, making sure they were all there. "Lotus!" She hurried after her, after hugging her father.
Goemon stood in her way. "You will not come near her," he said quietly. "Or else she will have to protect her children from you. She is an excellent mother."
"She isn't a she," she said archly.
"She is at the present moment. She does change now and then but it allows her to understand them better. Now leave before I lose my temper as well." He strode off after his children, helping them gather their few bags. "Come, we're going somewhere she can't find us." He took Xander by the arm when she yawned. "How did she know you weren't always a female?"
"Some people do," she admitted. "I'm guessing it somehow leaked from Zenigata's crew." She gave him a miserable look. "I can kill her, right?"
"If necessary," he agreed. "I'll help." He got all the children into the cab and sent them on a short shopping trip. There was almost no food in the school's kitchen and the children would need some things. By the time they got there, it was dark. It made the lights on the police car show up wonderfully. Goemon got out and told the cabdriver to wait.
The driver looked back at Xander. "Why are they after you?"
"Because some evil bitch decided that I'm not a good enough mother. I've only given up my life for them and stopped working." He grimaced. "You know, that whole teaching them thing didn't seem to impress them either. She's a prejudiced bitch and I'm going to kill her soon."
"They might not like that," he warned.
Xander pulled out his gun and loaded it with a slap of the clip into the butt and a pull of the slide. "Yay. Fuck if I care what they like. You touch my children over my dead and decomposing body and you'd better hope I never come back."
The driver nodded. "Good. Mothers like you are rare."
"Speaking of rare," Xander said, pulling her daughter's cellphone out of her purse since she was sleeping. She looked through the phonebook, coming up with the local emergency number. She dialed it and frowned when someone answered it. "It's Sylvia, give me the Don," she ordered. "I know that. It's either talking to him or killing the social worker and I suspect that she'll do good in some other family." The phone was handed over. "It's me. Social worker?" She listened carefully. "No, Goemon's dealing with her, I'm armed and having a small mood swing. Yeah, my kids. No, my kids." She grimaced. "Why? Then let them prove it," she said calmly. She hung up and put the phone back. "I'll be right back." She nudged Ishi. "Watch the kids for a few." She slid out of the back of the van, heading to the police car. The gun was blatantly in her hand. "Listen, bitch. I'm as much a woman as you are or I wouldn't be pregnant right now." The social worker gaped at her, then at the gun, then back at her. "If you want proof, I bore the twins myself. We have video footage of it if you want to see it. Just because I'm not always like this doesn't mean I'm less of a woman. Trust me here, I get the same crappy treatment you do. Now, you can either back the fuck away from my children before I give up more of my life for them, or find out exactly how much I've learned in the art of torture while having a mood swing."
"You're pregnant?" she hissed. Xander nodded and laid her hand on her stomach. "No." She pulled back, shaking her head. "It's not possible."
"It is possible, I have been before. As a matter of fact, I'm only five months postpartum on my last pregnancy. Would you like to see them too? Or perhaps ask the kids what they've learned from me in the last six weeks? Or even who does most of their care when I'm around?"
"She is an exemplary mother," Goemon agreed. "Xander, please give me the gun. You're not rational."
"Fuck being rational! She's trying to take my children, Goemon! I will kill anyone who touches my children!" She stomped back to the van, getting in and hugging Ishi for all he was worth. "Why can't the world be populated with people like you and your father," she complained.
"Because it would be boring and people like Uncle Lupin would go insane," he pointed out, smiling at her. "Can I go hurt her?"
"No. I don't think it'll be necessary. Your father's coming back." Goemon got in and nodded for the driver to drive on. "Is it fixed?"
"She can't be sure yet. The law states anyone who's not the same gender they were born as cannot be a parent," he said bitterly. "Since you're obviously still you sometimes, it doesn't really cover you. May I please have that gun, Sylvia?" She handed it over. "Thank you." He put it into his inner pocket. "They'll be back in a few days."
"Can I hurt them, father?" Ishi asked. "It is not honorable to have them doubt how good Xander is."
"It may not be, son, but we cannot hurt her yet. As much as it pains me to say it, it would only bring more problems."
"Then the kids and I will leave," she told him. He gave her a look. "I'll take 'em all."
"I know you will. That is what upsets me." They shared a look as the cab pulled into their driveway. He paid the cabdriver and opened the back door, waking up the children as they carried them inside. The driver got the bags because no one would trust him with the kids.
The former Don of Tokyo looked around the empty front yard of Goemon's house, scowling at it. "Where are they?"
His wife walked out of the house and smiled at him. "They have not been here, I suspect they're at Goemon's school, husband." She kissed him on the cheek. "Do you know where that is?"
"Vaguely." He made sure the house was closed up then got into the car with her. "Do you know where Goemon set up his school?" His driver shook his head. "Damn. Head for the next town over. There's a small road up to it, most of the way." He saw someone pop in and held up a hand. "Hold on. That's his apprentice." He rolled the window. "Marcus, where is the school exactly?"
He looked stunned. "He never mentioned it to me. He said that we could go for some of my later training but it hasn't come to pass yet." He walked over to the car. "I got a most panicked call from little Arsene. Aren't they here?"
"They're at this school," the Don's wife told him. "Can you lock in on one of them?"
"I can," he admitted, smiling at her. "Thank you for the idea. I'll set up some sort of homing beacon for you both." He stepped back and closed his eyes, concentrating on Xander's energy signature. It was all over the score. He groaned and focused on Lotus, finding her easier. He went to where she was, staring down the big bear. "Huh." He pulled his sword and cut into its stomach, making it roar in pain and run away. "Much nicer," he decided, looking around before heading into the house. He found Arsene sobbing in the corner. "Are you all right, pumpkin?" he asked, smiling down at her.
"Mommy upset," she sobbed. "Bad lady try to take us last night. They say mommy the bad lady," she cried, clutching him to cry on him chest.
"Shh. No one would ever dare touch any of you knowing how good Xander is at being the mother, Arsene. It will not happen." He pushed her back a bit and wiped her tears. "There you go. Now please go set up a telltale on the gate, all right? The Don over Tokyo, the marshmallow fluff man, wanted to talk to your mother about this." She nodded and went to do that with Ishi, who had been trying to hit the bear with an arrow. Marcus looked around before letting out a string of invectives that would make his father blush. Someone clapped and he turned to find Melissa standing there, giving him an evil look. "I believe we're working on it now, dear one. How are you?"
"I came to check on Xander. Arsene called in a blind panic just a moment ago. Are you sure you're all right?"
"I'm fine. Ishi and I were in the woods working on our bows." She walked in and hugged him. "Arsene's mimicking mommy's mood swings. She'll be fine soon."
"I hope so. I want this situation solved quickly. I can't stand to see things like that happen to good parents." He gave her a gentle pat and a smile. "Where are the other adults?"
"Goemon's chopping wood so he doesn't lose control and mommy's in the bathroom. She said something about going to deal with this situation."
"Thank you, dear one," he said, hurrying to where the bathrooms must be. He tapped on the doorway, hearing a muffled 'go away'. "Xander, it's Marcus," he called. "Arsene called me, she was frantic. Are you all right?" Her 'no' was a bit stronger. "May I please come in? I want to check you over." She opened the door and handed him a bottle before walking past him. He looked at the bottle, then blanched. "Xander, you were thinking about that?" he asked in shock, following her outside. "There are other ways."
She stopped to look at him. "Marcus, I'm in trouble okay? They think I'm a bad parent because of what the choker allows me to do. I can't prove I'm good unless I can take it off. I can't take it off while I'm pregnant and it'll mean losing the other kids!"
"Calm down," Goemon said, coming around the house. He looked at the bottle, then at Xander. "There are other ways."
"There might be, but I'm not seeing them."
He moved closer. "Remember the last time you said that? How we ended up breaking out of one jail to break into another?" Xander slumped and nodded, resting against him. "Thank you. Let the rest of us handle it, Xander. We are watching out for you."
"You can go finish off the bear I had to injure before it hurt someone," Marcus offered, stuffing the bottle into his pocket. Xander would get it over his dead body.
"Bear?" Goemon asked.
"Bear, Master, he was bothering your daughter. I split into his stomach but did not succeed in killing him." Xander yawned and Marcus looked alarmed. "Perhaps I should go myself. The Don of Tokyo is looking for you both. I had Arsene put something on the gateway." He hurried off, taking the bottle with him. That was a bad sign. Xander hadn't been sleepy with the other ones.
Goemon led Xander inside and laid her down on the couch. "Stay there for a bit." He went to meet the car he could hear coming up the driveway. The Don got out. "We would appreciate the help," he said, shaking his hand. "I have just made Xander take a nap."
The Don gave him a long look. "Getting attached to her would be dumb, Goemon."
"We are friends, nothing more," he said stiffly. "Come inside? We have lemonade made." He led the way into the kitchen, getting them something to drink. The kids all passed through to get some of their own then went back to whatever chores he had set them to. He shrugged at the incredulous look. "Fujiko was not feeling up to the strain of dealing with all of them."
"She was feeling old and wanted to be the woman she was before she was a mother," the Don's wife told him. He sighed and nodded. "Then expect to have them for quite a while and the new one when it comes."
"I expected such anyway," he noted, taking a sip of his lemonade. He grimaced. "Koolaid. I'm sorry. I let Melissa make it."
"It's not a problem, Goemon. We've had it around our house too," the Don said gently. "I have sent word to support Xander but I don't know if it would help. I do know that the original social worker is working on her behalf now that she knows why she should."
"Original?" he asked.
"Since she changed her mind, her boss reassigned the case." He took another sip, staring at Goemon, who shuddered finally when he figured it out. "We don't know what this one's problem is."
"If we could remove her it might help," his wife suggested gently. "Is she near retirement?"
"No, not in the least. Ten years on the job, not anywhere close to the age of retirement," he said bitterly. "If anything happens and they try to take Xander to court, I want you to know that the children come to me and I'll send them back to Lupin if he doesn't hear and come running." Goemon nodded, relaxing again. "I know right now he's in Europe with that stupid prankster that has been causing problems. The Don over there asked them to take care of it personally."
"Wonderful," he said dryly. "Then I suppose that Xander is mine to protect and take care of." He glanced toward the living room, then back at their guests. "She is quite tired," he noted.
"Goemon, a regular woman doing this could find herself so ill with the exhaustion that it would not be unreasonable for her to need time in the hospital. How our foremothers ever did it I'm not sure, but then again they died early. I have no doubt that contributed to them dying younger than we do today. This could very well shorten her life span," the wife assured him. "We like her, we want her around."
He nodded. "I do as well. Xander is a very good friend."
"Is that why there are pictures floating around of you carrying her from the Don's house and her sleeping on your arm in an airport?" the Don asked, smirking at him when he scowled. "Lupin has seen them by the way. Someone sent them to Jigen to verify the rumor that you two are going together now."
"She is married, as I am," he said stiffly. "It's not honorable."
"No, but sometimes our ancestors took on a second wife, more of a mistress, to spare her a worse fate with his wife's permission," he noted smugly. Goemon glared at him. "Just suggesting," he said lightly, smirking now. His wife elbowed him. "Sorry." He looked outside and chuckled. "Little Savanna doesn't know when to quit, does she?"
Goemon looked outside and went to take the axe from the young girl. "You're not old enough for that yet." He carried it inside with him, ignoring the disgusted whine of noise. "No," he said as he closed the door. He looked at the Don, blatantly putting the axe on the counter. "Thank you for noticing."
"You're welcome. The kids are quite energetic and lively. They make Xander happy. We like it when Xander is happy because then Lavelle doesn't come out to make my life a living hell. She doesn't come in to steal my wife's vases with her kitsune friend. She doesn't come to visit the children in the nursery, nor does she go talk to the Imperial Dragon."
Goemon muttered something and took another drink. "I'm sure she'll be very busy now, as busy as we let her," he offered.
"Hopefully," the Don said smugly. "As for the problem of that social worker, I don't know what to do." He shrugged. "I can have her hit. I can have them all hit."
"No, it would not be wise. They are needed to help the children who are in real trouble." Goemon looked out the window when he noticed the wife staring, then smiled at her. "The first son," he said proudly.
She looked at him. "He looks very controlled. Does he still play?"
He nodded. "I understand the question but he is very much a normal boy. He teases the girls mercilessly and occasionally still tries to give away his sister." She chuckled, smiling at him. "Xander has helped me quite a lot to see that my son needed more of me than my training. Since the first day she has handed the baby to me and told me to go sit with him." He finished his lemonade then opened the back door. "Where is Lotus?" he called.
"Helping Uncle Marcus trap the bear," Ishi called back. "He said she had to since she called it up, father." He jogged up to the door and hugged him. "I think I've figured out how Uncle Xander does that spin kick," he said proudly.
"Very good. We'll see later." He nodded and went back. "Start on your katas as soon as you've gathered the rest of the children," he ordered. He nodded and went to do that. It would save his sister from having to kill something. She was very gentle and shouldn't have to. That's what brothers and uncles were for after all. Goemon pushed the door mostly shut. "It helps that they're close in age. Xander potty trained them the same way. Getting one to do it and then bribing her heavily." The Don's wife snickered, nodding. He smirked at the Don. "It happened within days. We had more trouble with my son because he had a fascination of going off the back porch." He poured himself some more lemonade then glanced in the living room. He frowned and walked out there, sighing in defeat. "Xander?" he called. He checked the bathroom and all the bedrooms. He came back looking quite grim. "She's not here."
"Of course not. That person was threatening her cubs. She is quite fierce in the protection of children," the wife said gently. "We'll track her for you if you don't find her first."
"Quite right. Xander is a wonderful mother," her husband said, standing up. "I hope she's learned some subtlety?"
"She often uses such," Goemon noted. "You have no idea of half the things she's done and neither do the rest of us. I suspect this will be one time that she'll start with a threatening letter and then move on to a shot from the top of a tall building."
"Most likely," he agreed, giving Goemon a fond pat on the arm. "Keep up the good work and bring them to play soon. My own children could use the steadying influence."
His wife kissed Goemon on the cheek. "If you would set this up full time again, we'd gladly send some of them to you for beginning lessons." Her husband looked at her. "I would."
"I would prefer he do their advanced lessons if they chose his path," her husband told her. He looked at Goemon. "Nothing against you, but I'd like my children cross-trained if they came to us."
"I have done some of that myself," Goemon admitted. "Teaching Xander and Marcus has been quite eye-opening. Not only in the area of personalities, but also in their own areas and upbringings. I've watched how Jigen trained Xander and he is quite interesting to watch work. Even though he does chew gum and pop bubbles when he's undoing a bomb," he admitted dryly.
"Scared you?" the wife teased.
"Made Lupin jump," he corrected dryly. "I wasn't there. He had me out in the car waiting on them." He led them back to their car, looking around. "How did she get anywhere?"
"She can travel the same way Marcus can," the wife reminded him quietly. Goemon nodded, opening the car door for them. "We'll watch out for her, Goemon. She is much too delicate right now for this sort of stress. Leave it to us if she doesn't solve it the easiest way of all." She slid in and let her husband shake the samurai's hand. Once they were on the way she leaned against her husband's arm. "I'd rather he started at the beginning, husband. He would teach them not only honor but many useful ways of thinking."
He smiled down at her. "He can't deal with most women, wife. He doesn't understand modern women."
"Yet he's handled Fujiko and kept her out of our hair and out of trouble. He's handled Xander beautifully as well. He seems quite adept at finding a woman and spoiling her with his attention and affection. I doubt he'd be one of those husbands who would refuse to do small chores around the house."
"True," he agreed. "I'd still rather they trained the more modern way first then learned the old ways. The world is moving on and even Goemon has to change some to go with it." He gave her thigh a pat. "Have you checked on the children recently?"
"No. I figure they're fine."
"Try now. I want to make sure that they haven't burned down the house or killed their nanny yet. Our oldest daughter was quite emotional earlier."
She chuckled. "That is the function of the onset of womanhood. To make women appreciate their emotions." She did pick up the carphone and call home. "How are our children?" she asked when someone answered. She laughed and handed it over. "Our daughter was found talking with a young male in the garden."
"Hmm." He grimaced and took the phone. "Who was he?" He raised an eyebrow. "Really?" He scowled. "Absolutely not. She is not going anywhere without a chaperone from now on. Make sure of it." He hung up. "We will have to talk to her."
"I already have, husband. I asked and Xander kindly sent me a copy of the cards he used with Dawn's nephews." He looked at her. "They were quite thorough and it gave me the chance to remind her of how we felt about premarital relations."
"Good. How thorough were they?"
"They included pictures, including one of a child out to about its eyebrows during birth." He shuddered. "Exactly. Between that and babysitting the youngest while he had colic I do not believe she'll need much encouragement to use birth control and to not have many of her own."
He gave her a smile. "It was a brilliant thing." He picked up his briefcase and opened it, taking out a paper to read and look over. "Should we sell the house in Kyoto?"
"I've never liked it," she reminded him. "See if one of the children wants it."
"They can buy their own once we're gone," he said firmly, signing the paper and pulling out the next one.
The head of Social Workers in Tokyo walked into her apartment and flipped on the light, then squealed and backed against the door. "Who are you! Why are you in my apartment!" she demanded.
Xander looked at her, giving her a bland look. "I believe we need to have a discussion," he admitted, pointing at the couch. "Sit."
"I'll push my security button!" she threatened in near hysterics.
"Do so, get those cops killed as soon as they walk through the door, and then we'll talk while their bodies cool. Sit." She inched over and sat across from him. "You are pursuing an action against someone who I happen to look up to as a mother. Someone who has worked to bring down pedophiles, child abusers, and help those children who live on the streets. Her children are healthy, well cared for, and taught quite well."
"You speak of Sylvia," she sneered. He nodded. "Her children are not healthy!"
"They are quite healthy," he said calmly. "As that folder in front of you can attest to. That's their doctor's reports since their first checkups. Even when she was working full- time she managed to get them their shots and make sure they were well taken care of." She picked it up and looked through it, then tossed it casually onto the couch. "She is also home schooling them because she does not believe the general population could help them any. The file beneath them is a list of what they're learning and what level they're at."
"She is not qualified to teach."
"She may not have a college degree, but she is quite knowledgeable. If you ask any who have studied her, you'll find out that she's taken many college courses in her free time. She's studied five languages in her spare time to the first level, and speaks Japanese as a matter of formality. She also has done many accounting classes, a few business classes, and has been struggling for years with a programming textbook. All because she was bored." He waved a hand around. "She is more than qualified to teach the children until they need to take their placement exams, whether here or in Europe." He leaned forward, giving her a long look. "Then there is the fact that they're not Japanese. Her four children are European. Their father is American. She is by no means Japanese or a citizen of Japan. She may visit for a few months at a time, but I doubt your sovereignty over her or her children."
"While they are in our country, they are subject to our rules, including the schooling ones."
"You'll find that her children are six, below what your compulsory education standards say," he said calmly. "You'll also find that they're well beyond that point. Since her oldest two and the ones she cares for are speaking three languages at the level appropriate for their ages and working on Arabic at the moment, I doubt that you could have a beef with their education. They're already proficient in higher maths. She's got them doing multiplication and small division at the moment. She's also teaching them grammar lessons from each of the languages, with an emphasis on the ones she speaks best."
"Don't you mean you?"
"Do I?" he asked dryly. "Do I look like Sylvia?"
"No, but you do look like Lavelle."
He smirked. "That is a common misconception. One even Zenigata has been known to make on occasion. We're not the same person in the least."
"Then that choker is something you wear to confuse people?"
He touched the choker. "This was a present from an unkind jailer at the time of our acquaintance," he said quietly. "At one point in time Sylvia and I were both held at the same place and tortured by the same person." She gasped. "You have no idea what we went through for the nine months of our incarceration with that one. We were tortured so horribly that I still have violent episodes when people try to force me to take off my clothes in front of them. She never lets any but her husbands see her scars. She has some that are quite damaging to her." She shuddered. "Point in fact, most people don't consider the thing that had us human, most consider him demonic. With the way he cut into both of us and tortured us sexually, physically, and mentally we're lucky we're presently right in the head. Fortunately, Lupin and Jigen fixed that for us."
"She's married to two thieves. How good of a mother can she be?"
"She's an excellent mother. For her children who want to go straight she is teaching them the skills they'll need that she has. She's arranged for them to find mentors in the fields they like to dream about, cops who can steer them toward the education they'll need. We've also managed to find a haven for them to learn at which will start running a small childhood camp next year. That academy has people that both she and I like."
She nodded. "I understand. What of the people who would try to harm them? The other thieves?"
He chuckled dryly. "Who in their right mind would dare hurt any of our children? No one wants to face me down for hurting Sylvia's children and they're nearly as scared of Goemon and the rest of them as they are of me. No one with any sense would ever dream of touching our children and the ones without are just as likely to touch others' children as well. As a matter of fact, we broke up a pedophile ring in Miami because one of them dared to come near Goemon's daughter." She shuddered. "Indeed," he agreed. "They decided to admit to their cellblock their crimes instead of face us. They knew it would be better and more healthy for them, and that their deaths would be nicer. None of us let anyone like that anywhere near my children. Or her children. Or Goemon's children. Anyone who tries dies a most horrible death." She opened her briefcase and pulled out a picture, showing him by putting it onto the table. "I haven't seen that one." He picked it up to look at. It was Savanna, naked, clutching her teddybear and sucking her thumb while she slept. He grimaced. "That was in the hospital. Sylvia was having her younger brother and sister. She fell asleep while she went down for some tests." He handed it back. "I would be interested in knowing where that came from."
"As would I. You say it was in the hospital? Which?"
"Memorial in Paris," he said grimly. "The same one Zenigata was in after he was shot in the chest." She made a note and put it onto the picture. "If you ever find who took that, I'd like to know," he said calmly. She gave him a look. "Right now, we're discussing this so Sylvia isn't going to shoot you." He stood up. "I ask that you look at the actual evidence. You may come up and see the children to talk to them, but I will not allow anyone to harm them or to take them from her. If she's an unfit mother than the rest of us would step up and take over for her. The children have loving fathers." He bowed and left.
She went limp, shaking now that he was gone. She picked up her phone and called her security company. "How did Lavelle get into my apartment," she complained. "Yes, here!"
Xander watched the woman as she talked to his kids, grimacing at the complaining Melissa was doing about them. "Oh, stop it," she snapped. Melissa gave her a guilty look. "Won't work, princess. Not on me. Try it on Fujiko, it might still work with her." Melissa nodded, going back to eating her sundae.
"The children had a recent vacation?"
"Their step-father cheated on me. I took his credit cards and the children and went to Orlando, Florida." She shuddered and Sylvia smirked at her. "We did *all* the parks."
"I won the shoplifting contest," Arsene said proudly.
Sylvia coughed. "Her father is Lupin the Third and she is Lupin the Fourth," she said dryly. The social worker nodded about that. "Did you need to see anything else?"
"Where is your primary residence?"
"The primary one just had a problem with the structure so we're moving around the other hideouts right now," she admitted. "We've just gotten back from Florida. Right now we're staying with Goemon and his children." She grimaced. "He's as involved in their education as I am," she said dryly. "My children will be able to handle it if some scuzzy bastard comes near them until we can get there to help them. Even the ones who'll become good guys."
"We do lots of exercises," Sierra agreed. "Daddy not let us have pink Gis, but we do lots and lots of stuff in our white and gray ones."
"You're learning the martial arts?"
"The same as I did," Sylvia noted.
"Fine. I can see that you do care for them. Their education is quite odd but advanced beyond their ages. Their skills are quite advanced also," she said, glancing at Arsene, then back at the mother. "I will file a report that you are to be left alone. I will require proof from an official in education that their education is not lacking. For now, will you be able to stay in the country for the next six months?" She shrugged. "What about the younger two?"
"Goemon's enjoying diapering things again," she said with a small smirk. "He's remembering what fun it was before his last one is born."
The woman nodded. "Very well then. I will leave you alone, but be warned. I am watching."
"Of course you are." The woman leaned down to get into her face. "What?"
"Inspector Zenigata was quite forthcoming about your choker and how you were tortured," she said quietly.
"Did you expect me not to be able to split myself up after that?" she asked in a deadly hiss. The woman shook her head and stood up again. "To me, that's how I see them. The same as I see Sylvia and Lavelle as vastly different."
"Fine. I would wish that you be looked over."
"Thank you. Tell me if someone gives you grief over this. I know that others will stick up for me." She clutched her head and bent down, grabbing the woman before she could move. "Sniper," she ground out. "Bad. Replacement worse." Arsene came over to pat her gently. "I'm fine, princess. Call your Uncle Goemon." She pushed over her phone and Arsene called him from the phonebook.
"Uncle G? Mommy just developed a sudden splitting headache." She looked at her mother then back at the social worker. "No, she said she'd leave us alone but mommy said something about a sniper. We don't want her hurt because mommy said the next one would be worse." She smiled at the social worker. "Sit. He's just around the corner."
"Fine." She got free and sat down, watching as the girl hung up and went back to teasing the other children. "You are gifted in that manner?"
Xander finally forced herself to relax. That had been a horrible vision, full of a court proceeding and having the choker taken away and destroyed. Then there had been her own death because the child had come in the middle of the night and Goemon had been squeamish. She blinked the tears away. "I'm not usually," she admitted. She stroked her stomach. "This one is right on the heels of the last two and there's no telling what's going on inside my own body sometimes," she noted. She found her calm spot and dropped herself into it, forcing her mind to push aside the horrible vision. She reached to the kids' table and took her phone back. "Arsene, you'd better be back within thirty seconds or you're grounded to the loft tonight," she called. "You too, Sierra."
They came back, looking guilty. "I tried to stop her from shoplifting again," Sierra defended. "It's bad, mommy."
"It might be, but I told you kids to stay with me and not to stray. We don't want to have to kill anyone for daring to touch you." The kids shuddered and Lotus came back from petting the tree to make it feel better from the smoke it had absorbed. "Thank you, Lotus. Where is your brother?"
"He and Daddy just walk in with the stroller," she said, smiling at the odd lady. "You're not a thief?"
"No, I make sure all children have good homes."
"Then why you come see us? We have good home. My mommy and their Mommy are very good to us and our daddy gives us ice cream sometimes. Their daddy spoils them rotten," she said wistfully. "Their daddy might even buy them a pony."
"I sincerely doubt it," Xander said, looking at the pouting girls. "It seems that Arsene wants to miss out on the movie tonight." Arsene came back with a glass of water for her. "Thank you." She kissed her on the forehead. "That was very nice, but I told you to stay right with us."
"Yes, mommy." She sat down and did her best to be good. Finally she giggled and nudged Melissa pointing at a woman across the food court. "She's wearing a puppy coat."
Melissa looked over. "I think that's supposed to be raccoon," she said, grimacing in distaste. "Eww."
Xander looked, then looked at her daughter. "It is raccoon with a rabbit trim. Very good." They beamed at her. "Leave the woman with bad taste alone. You can't eradicate bad taste the world over. We'd have to start with Fujiko's trunk of thin clothes." Goemon coughed as he appeared. "We would. Did you see the picture of her on the bulletin board this morning?"
"I had and I shuddered to think of the men leering at my son inside her." He looked around and counted heads. "You're all fine?"
"They are," the social worker agreed, standing up to him. "But I will be watching. She had some sort of ...thing and saw a sniper."
"Very well," he agreed. "Children, hurry up." They finished their sundae like magic and gathered around. "Arsene, I want her to carry you out. You are quite obviously your father's daughter. We will be with her and all look quite happy at her decision." He helped Xander up. "Can you walk?"
"Yeah, but I won't be able to drive," she complained, still clutching her forehead. "It's like a cold milk headache but magnified and all over." He gave her a gentle pat to the back. "Thanks. I saw a horrible case if she died. The person who took it over took us to court. I had to take off the choker. I died because of it since you couldn't cut out the newest son." He stroked her back as she shuddered. "They destroyed it to supposedly help me past my torture and Lupin was too busy to come snatch them."
"It would not happen. Not even the world's biggest diamond would keep them from showing up to help their children. Not even the prankster would be in their way." She leaned against his side. They followed the social worker out, helping her into her car. He looked up at the nearest sniper spot. "There," he said, nodding.
The social worker pushed her button and said something into it. A few security people ran up the stairs and captured that person before he could shoot her. "I thank you. I will still be watching," she said firmly, getting in to head back to her office and do her report. Thieves apparently had to be much more knowledgeable than she had thought.
Goemon picked up Xander and carried her to the car, letting Ishi take control of the stroller and the girls. "You need to rest," he ordered. "You have not been resting."
"Fine, Goemon," she agreed quietly. "Can you drive?"
"I can, or I can get us a driver," he noted, helping her into the passenger's seat and buckling her in. He watched as Arsene and Savanna did the straps on the baby seats then got themselves. "Excellently done," he praised.
"Can I have the movie tonight too?" Arsene asked. "I only stole the lady's necklace." She held it up.
"I got her bracelet," Melissa offered.
"We will go by and drop them off. It is best not to aggravate her. She could make you live with someone else."
"The daddies wouldn't stand for it. They'd steal us back," Arsene said firmly.
"So would we, little one. Calm down," Xander ordered. "It'd just cause some momentary problems and she was trying to be good." She glanced back, seeing the confused look. "Her job was to check and make sure that you guys were being treated well and taught things. Other parents aren't as great as yours. Sometimes they're mean and beat their children badly or don't feed them and things. Her job is to take out the parents like that. She thought that since we're thieves that we must not love you like we do. She's since found out she was wrong, but pissing her off could make her change her mind and make her watch you guys harder."
"Which could mean a juvenile facility if you're caught shoplifting," Goemon said. He shut the door and got in to drive. Xander and Jigen had forced him to learn the basics, though he hardly ever did it. He slowly drove them back to this house and got them inside and cleaned up for dinner. He had to come and get Xander out of the car, testing her pulse before carrying her onto the couch. She was quite tired and ill, he was worried about her. He went to call his family's doctor, bringing him up to look her over. "She just had a set of twins," he said quietly while they stared at her. "Now she is pregnant again because her men are not careful enough. She slept the whole way back from Tokyo and while I carried her into the house."
The doctor got down to look her over, finding out what was wrong fast enough. "She needs to take some vitamins and needs to have a better diet, Goemon." He stood up with his help. "I can prescribe her some things to help. Can you make sure she eats?"
"She is not getting ill."
"Some women don't," he offered, doing up his bag. "I thought Fujiko was your wife."
"She is. This is Sylvia, a coworker. She is Jigen's mate."
"Ah." He nodded and looked around. "No worrying father?"
"They're in Europe. They nagged her and she walked away. I shamelessly stole her for my own helper. Will she be fine?"
"She should be. She may need to deliver in a hospital instead of here. How was her last one?"
"C-section," Ishi said from the doorway. "Arsene had another of her mother's mood swings and called her father." He grimaced. "Uncle Lupin is livid. I could hear the shouting from across the room."
"On the matter of the social worker?"
"That too," he agreed, heading into the kitchen. "Father, should I work on the vegetables?"
"Please," he said loud enough for his son to hear him. He looked at the doctor. "Is there anything we can do right now?"
"Right now," he said, digging inside his bag again. "I do have some very good prenatal vitamins. She should have known to take them."
"She never has in the past."
"Then her doctor was remiss." He handed them over. "That is higher in calcium and iron. I'll order you some medicines at the pharmacy in Iga. Does she have any allergies?"
Goemon's eyes widened and he pulled up her purse, searching it for the wallet, and the card she carried inside it. He handed it over. "Those that we know of."
"Very well." He copied it down and handed it back. "Make sure she gets up to eat. Make sure she rests. Carry her around all you like. It's good exercise. Make her get some gentle exercise however. Some calm walking in the woods or the like." He bowed and left, heading back to his car.
Goemon set the vitamins down and went to find Arsene and her wonderful cellphone. He took it from her bed and hit the send button, getting Jigen. "Calm him. Now." He waited while Lupin snatched the phone and they fought over it. "Quit, children," he snapped. "Your own act better." They settled down on the other end. "The social worker has agreed that the children are wonderful and need no further intervention. No further work was needed than getting her to talk to them and Xander making her feelings known privately. As of right now, your wife is considered very weak." He rolled his eyes at the protest from the other end. "Your wife had a real vision. She had a splitting headache. She is officially on bedrest from now on. The doctor said to make her rest, take vitamins, and to get only gentle exercise. If you cannot behave, you will not get her back until the baby is born. Which will have to be in a hospital according to him." He hung up and went to help his son prepare dinner with the girls. "Arsene, do not worry your father so in the future. He was worried that he would have to come steal you from another family." She nodded, looking ashamed. He gave her a gentle hug. "It is a normal feeling to want help. You have already surpassed your mother in many ways since she's never asked for help in her life." He gave her a gentle smile. "Now set the table. You as well, Lotus. Quit playing with the herb pots." He cut up the meat, his son wasn't allowed to play with the sharpest of knives yet and it would take one of them.
In the living room, Xander rolled onto her side and gave the vitamins a dirty look. "I'm fine," she said quietly. "I'm perfectly fine."
Goemon came out and lifted her chin up. "If you do not follow orders, I will let your men come fuss over you," he said quietly. She settled down and nodded. "Thank you. You rest until dinner. You can take your first pill then. We will get your other medicines tomorrow." He went back to cook dinner. His son was definitely not allowed to play with the stove yet. A wok over a campfire perhaps, but not the stove.
Lupin hung up his phone and glared at Jigen. "Did he just say he was stealing her from us?" Jigen nodded. "We really should kill him."
"Ooh, is the little Lupin monster upset?" a voice cooed sarcastically before the woman appeared. "Is his favorite plaything gone? Been stolen by the big, bad samurai?"
Jigen pulled his gun and shot her. "I've had enough of that."
Lupin gave him a look. "The Don wanted her alive."
"Yay." He walked away. "We should head to Japan."
"We should," Lupin agreed, following behind him. "After a talk with Pops." Jigen gave him a look. "I heard Zenigata was quite insightful about Lavelle and Sylvia."
"Shit. I pity Dawn now." They got in, Lupin driving this time, so they could leave the area to the people following them around.
Zenigata woke up to someone covering his mouth and glared at the man above him. "Let me go," he ordered through it.
Lupin bent down. "Don't even try to complain, old man. Dawn's asleep with the aid of a gas canister. The kids are the same way." He pulled a chair over and sat down. "I came to thank you for being so helpful with the social worker. Xander had to work his ass off to keep from killing her or taking the kids." The man on the bed blanched. "Exactly. Not only is that something that Xander doesn't want bandied about, but he did not want anyone to know about his torture at all. Fortunately the social worker was appeased after talking to the kids. It seems Xander's been teaching them a lot and she's very impressed. Even more impressed that Arsene and Melissa took her jewelry without her noticing. It seems she was a petty thief in her very young days." Zenigata swallowed, starting to sweat. Lupin gave him a cold look. "You nearly had our children taken and given to someone who wouldn't love them like Xander does. You nearly got those same people killed and at least one social worker and the cop they'd be bringing with them killed. You nearly got Xander to commit to taking an herbal abortion pill." Zenigata hopped up and went to get sick. "Good," Lupin called. "Now you know how I feel." The cop came out, looking miserable. "With all the times she's saved you and you do that to her?" he accused. "I should leave you to her. Fortunately she's so sick and weak that Goemon's carrying her everywhere. And we can't go to her because of that social worker." He stood up. "I hope you're satisfied with your day's work, Zenigata. I no longer protect you." He walked out, going out to drive away. He went to find his daughter and get a long hug. Her boyfriend had better not mind.
Zenigata lay on his bed, thinking about this mistake. This was the one thing that he couldn't forgive himself for either. He had seen how happy that boy was with being a parent. It suited him fully. He rolled over and held his wife until she woke up and gave his head a shove. "I messed up," he whispered.
"Thought I had a gassy taste in my mouth," she murmured, giving him a long hug. "How did you mess up?"
"I gave a social worker the truth about Xander," he admitted. "I didn't praise her enough though. I only gave her the facts."
She sighed and gave him a squeeze back. "Is she dead?"
"No, Lupin said she saw sense after talking to the kids." She gave him an extra squeeze. "I messed up so bad. He said Xander thought about that herbal pill thing." She shuddered. "I made him think about that."
"They started well before you gave her any information," she promised. She looked out the window, thinking uncharitable thoughts about certain thieves. This wasn't her husband's fault! She would have to write him a nasty email in the morning. When she finally made it in there she found one waiting on her from Jigen explaining what had happened. She grimaced and shuddered. Her husband had some fault but he didn't need to tear into him that way. She replied and made a reasonable, if screechy and preachy, argument in her husband's defense.
Xander woke up in the morning in a bed and looked around. "Where am I?" she asked, sitting up and rubbing her eyes. A familiar form brought in a tray. "I'm back here?"
"Only for a day, Lady Xander," her maid said quietly, brushing her hair off her forehead. "Come bathe. We have some very pretty things for you to put on." She helped her into the bathroom, bringing the tray with her so her mistress would eat. She needed to eat. "How are your twin kits?" she asked quietly, working on Xander's mass of hair.
"Tiring. The baby girl has a small heart condition, it's weaker than it should be. The boy is doing just fine. They're both very happy and spoiled babies."
"Excellent. That is what we were hoping for." She got the last knot out and moved to draw the bath water. "Eat, mistress. You have to eat or this one will be weaker as well." Xander obediently ate her breakfast. "Good girl," she praised, taking the tray and helping her into the bathtub. "Here we go, let me get your back for you. I could never reach my back when I had my own kits."
Xander nodded, bending forward. She had missed this sort of spoiling. Lupin and Jigen had scrubbed her back the first time when she stopped being able to reach it herself, even with a backbrush. Her shoulders ached already so she shifted a bit, wincing in pain. "Do we have anything I can take for them?"
"I'll have something made for you," she promised, working the soft soap into the oily skin. "I'm using something with tea tree oil, it should help some of the problems your skin is having." Xander nodded, letting her do whatever she wanted. It felt good and she needed this spoiling. It wasn't like she could get Goemon to scratch her back for her.
To Part 22
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