Trying Really Hard
(sorry, couldn't come up with something better)

Goemon woke up and looked around, noticing he was up before all the children.  He started to get out of bed but found a scroll floating beside his bed.  He snatched it and unrolled it, frowning at the simple words.  "One day," he growled.  "Then we will assault your world and retrieve her.  She needs to be resting."  The scroll disappeared with a pop and he got up to go start breakfast so he could bathe.  This was not how he had expected this first month to go.


Xander walked out of her room, following the page to the meeting chamber.  She bowed to her host.  "You wanted to see me so bad you couldn't wake me up?" she teased gently.

"I tried, you wouldn't wake," he admitted, coming down to help her into a chair.  "Sit, Xander.  You are quite tired."  He stroked a hand over her forehead.  "I brought you up here to have one of our healers see you and your daughter when he takes you back.   You obviously need it.  Where are your mates?  Have they abandoned you?"

She sniffled and shook her head, looking miserable.  "No, we had an argument.  I did something I felt I had to do to help someone out and protect an officer I can admire for his skills.  Lupin got a bit upset with me and started to nag.  I couldn't handle it in the shape I'm in so I left."  She pulled a handkerchief out and wiped at the tears.  "I hate hormone swings."

"I always hated to see them on my mate too," he soothed, stroking over her hairdo.  "You are fine and still admired.  You are quite a woman and man in your own right without them."  She gave him a watery smile.  "Would you like to walk?"

"The doctor said I wasn't to do more than gentle strolling," she admitted as she let herself stand and followed him out of the meeting area.  They strolled through the gardens.  "Why did you really take me?"

"I wanted to talk to you about your youngest daughter.  I'm afraid that the time you spent up here may have affected her.  We've shielded you this time," he said quietly at her frown.  "Our healer thinks that may be why she is so much weaker than her brother."

"I'm pretty sure it had more to do with how I couldn't stand food for nearly six months," she admitted.  "I was in pretty pitiful shape myself when I gave birth."

He patted her on the hand over his arm.  "I understand.  Still, we would like to talk to you about having her up here as a representative.  She has the bloodline to be our envoy to the European syndicate.  We have been needing a new one and she is the perfect candidate."

"She's not even a year old yet."

"I know, which is why we're talking on it now.  If possible, we'd like to pop around on her and look in on her," he admitted with a grin for her.  "You have to admit, we could teach her much."  Xander nodded, then pushed in a hairpin so her elaborate hairdo quit shifting on her.  "Would you like to sit?" he asked as they came to a bench.  She nodded and sat down so he stood in front of her.  "You really are weak," he said, again stroking down her cheek.  "You should not be so."

"It's carryover from the last one on top of this new one."

"I understand, but you are not in any shape to be worrying about anything."  She blushed.  "Are you well otherwise?"

"Yeah, Goemon and I agreed to take the kids back to Japan."

"I saw," he admitted with a smirk.  "Your daughter is quite adorable in her pink nightgown."  She grimaced.  "Did you mind that I peeked in on her?"

"No, the fact that someone put her in pink."  He shrugged lightly, then winced.  "Sorry, my shoulders ache each time I get pregnant."

"Some people carry stress in their neck, you obviously carry it in your shoulders."  He moved and worked on a hard knot.  "Would it be acceptable to you for her to take up that position?"

She moaned, then nodded.  "As long as her father agrees."

"We thought to ask you first since you spend more time with her but I will pop around tonight to ask him."  He gave her a hug.  "Is there anything I can do to help you feel better?"

"No, I'll be fine," she said, giving his arms a pat.  "They'll eventually come spoil me again."

"I'll make sure they know they're needed for such tasks.  Even if it was your fiftieth kit they should be the same as the first."

She shuddered.  "I'm not having any more after this one."

He laughed and gave her a squeeze.  "I understand.  You have enough for any two people counting the others."  He walked back around her.  "I read the books that your son was named from.  Quite cute.  Hopefully he'll live up to his name."

She looked down at her stomach, laying a hand on it.  "Janus said this one was going to be my white knight side," she said softly.  He tipped her chin up.  "I have no idea what to name him."

He leaned closer, tickling her with his whiskers.  "Junior," he said slowly and clearly, then grinned.  "For now, let us have our healer look you over."  He helped her back up and inside to the healer's chambers.  "Here she is," he announced.

"Ah, Lady," he said, bowing.  "Come in and get comfortable.  I don't see many human mothers but I have seen many kitsune mothers in my time."  She sat down, watching this human as he worked.  "You know one of us?"

"I knew Fihad when he was alive," she said quietly.  He gave her a small smile.  "You are like him?"  He nodded.  "Then I need you to look at my daughter."

"I will.  For right now, I'm going to do this the normal way.  I have some things I can get your friend to make for you."

"Will they work for or against the human doctor's prescriptions?"

"Probably with, we'll check once he has gathered them.  Now, for the first thing, you need a good massage.  We can handle that here."  He helped her up and into another room, getting his personal masseuse to help her back and shoulders.  She was much too tense.  He went back to confer with his lord and master.  "She will be fine," he promised.  "She is quite tired and sore.  She needs time to recuperate peacefully."

"She has other kits that she's taking care of," he noted.  "Hers and others."

"Then someone needs to get onto her husbands.  That is not good for her."

"No, but she seems to enjoy it."

"That may be, but she needs more help than she has presently."

"There is one there with her.  He does quite a lot more than most men usually do."  The doctor nodded.  "You may speak with him when you take her back."

"Of course, Lord.  Thank you."  He bowed and went back to work some magic on the poor woman. She hadn't finished healing from the last incident and needed his help.  He noticed she was quite full in that area so he switched the type of magic he was using, using a touch of chaos to heal her.  It soothed most of her internal bruising and the other nastiness left over from her last bout of pregnancy.  Human men should not be allowed to do this to their women.  He would have to find the husbands and tell them off.  If he was allowed to do so by his master.


Jigen woke up when a furry thing brushed past his face, reaching out to snatch it thinking it was their damned cat walking next to him again to beg for attention.  Instead this one slapped his hand and huffed in irritation.  He opened his eyes, looking at the being.  Then he got up and went to nudge Lupin awake.  "There's a message."

Lupin sat up and rubbed his eyes.  "What?"

"Just like your daughter," the messenger said dryly, crossing his arms so he could level his most impressive glare at them.

"When did you see Sierra?" Lupin asked, scowling back.  "Don't give me that look, she left, not us."

"Still, you should have known better.  Your wife is weak, tired, and ill.  Yet, you are not even on the same continent.  Should we make it so she doesn't remember more than you've recently died and she's clinging to the one she's with?  We can do that you know."  He flicked his tails about a bit.  "It would be my pleasure to see the woman taken care of like she deserves.  You may not realize this but you did not pay attention to her during her last pregnancy, nor this one."

"We paid her a lot of attention," Jigen defended.

"Then why did you not send her to a healer when she couldn't keep food down for months on end?  You didn't leave her to try and deal with the awkwardness of a pregnant body that wouldn't bend or reach the way it would before this happened to her?  You didn't go out and find new companionship since she was pregnant?"

"I never cheated on her except that once, and she knows about that," Lupin said bitterly.   "Did she tell you I did?"

"I meant other people to talk to, but if you had been mine I would have had you fixed," the Kitsune Lord assured him.  "As is, she was so ill our healer nearly begged to keep her for a few days.  Since she's going to look over her daughter, he said he could stick around there for a bit to help her more.  She is so ill that it is even worrying her protector.  By the way, we like him much better.  We see him taking care of her and carrying her places.  We do not see you treating her like she is special or delicate.  You'd almost think she was a hunting dog in whelp the way you treat her."  With a flick of his tails he disappeared.

"I think it's time for us to go steal the Ray," Lupin said bitterly.  "Before we get bitched out again."

"Are you sure you want to do that?"

"I'm very sure.  We didn't...she didn't eat last time?"

"I remember making a few sandwiches but I think I ate those," Jigen said, thinking back.  "I remember her eating with us and the kids."

"No, she sat there but I don't remember her really eating.  I remember her sharing a plate with Lotus a few times."  He looked confused. "Why didn't she say something?"

"Because she's Xander?" Jigen suggested; that pretty much explained everything to him.  Lupin nodded so it must have been good enough for him as well.  "I'll give you first shower."

"Thanks."  He got out of the bed and padded into the bathroom in his boxers, going to finish waking up.  Ray had just gotten back from a long and nasty chase, he'd probably spend all day in bed, with Emmajean if he could manage it.  They'd have to tie her up.  She was in for quite a shock, she'd never been treated to their special attentions.


Ray looked up as handcuffs went around his wrist, grimacing at the men standing beside him.  "You could have knocked."

"Yeah, but this is important," Jigen said, pulling a chair over so Lupin could have the end of the bed.

"Xander's sick as shit," Lupin told him.

"The six-tailed one told us that," Ray interrupted.  "She needs spoiled with attention, not things."

"Can I do the honors?" Emmajean asked.

"Go for it," Ray agreed happily.

She got free of the handcuffs and picked up a foam bat, hitting them both with it.  "You idiots!  Leaving her alone!  You didn't pay any attention to her last time and you nearly lost her then!  Now you come here instead of there to ask us what to do for her?  You're married to her!  You helped make her who she is!  Figure it out!"

Jigen stole the bat.  "If we could, we wouldn't be here," he pointed out.  "All we know how to do is get presents."

"That's a start," Ray suggested bitterly.

"What do we get her?" Lupin asked.  "Fujiko was much more straightforward.  We only had to get her jewelry."

Ray groaned and shook his head.  "I don't think she *wants* anything, you duck schmuck.  She wants you to pay attention to her.  To coddle her, to treat her like the fragile being she is.  To scratch the spots on her back that appear whenever she's knocked up.  She's your wife, treat her like you would your wife!"

"We do," Jigen defended.

"By leaving her alone with Goemon for three months?" Emmajean asked.

"It hasn't been three months and he took her with him," Lupin defended but he was slumping a bit now.  He knew they'd been wrong about this.  "We had to stop that idiot prankster."

"I heard how ya did it too," Ray noted.  "Not smart, Lupin."

"Hey, not our fault," Lupin defended.

"Yeah, right," Emmajean snorted.  "Try the other one, it makes me bark."  The men gave her a look.  "What did you do during the first one?"

"They took her out to dinner, to shows, bought her nice clothes and chocolates, took her on long walks, and stuff like that," Ray told her.  "She told me at a convention."

"As soon as we did, she complained," Jigen told him.

"Of course she did.  She's not used to being treated decently by anyone," Emmajean said, taking the bat to hit him a few more times.  "Idiots!  Almost all men are idiots!  I swear you're both idiots!  What did you expect *Xander* to do?  Beg for more?"

"Lupin, you've called her your treasure, your prize, and all sorts of other gushy thief mushy stuff.  Treat her like it," Ray suggested.  "Before Goemon does."

"A woman could get addicted to being carried around," Emmajean said with a small grin.

"You'll weigh nearly as much as I do when you're fully gone," Ray protested.

"Congrats," Lupin said tiredly.  "Don't make out mistakes.  We thought we were honoring her wishes."

"Lupin, when have you known her to truly know what she wanted and be able to express it outside the bedroom?  You treat her like your mistress.  And now that she's pregnant you're treating her like she's an inconvenient mistress.  She's the sort of woman that Goemon's mother was.  She's womanly. She loves the kids.  She probably doesn't much mind being pregnant, but you're about at the end of your rope.  She will hang you for this.  She's already been so upset that...."  He shook his head and took a deep breath.  "I'm not going there."

"We heard about the near-taking of the pill," Jigen offered, holding his head now.  "We thought Goemon would watch out for her and get her calmed down.  He'd make sure she'd call when she wanted to see us."

"Did you ever stop to think that there might be a reason why Goemon understands her?" Emmajean asked.  "The woman is everything he's ever expected in a wife, yet she has no interest him.  They're best friends and fighting buddies.  There's been rumors that people have begun suggesting that he take her from you because he would understand her more of the time."

"Carry a girl and she's yours forever," Jigen said bitterly.  "We want to fix this."

"Good," Ray agreed.  "Then I'd start with a nice apology and dinner out.  Away from the kids.  Remind her that you liked her long before she ever thought of motherhood, and that you liked her for more than her dirty mind and quick draw.  Fujiko never felt sexy while pregnant."

"She did," Lupin countered.  "Goemon made her feel that way."  He stood up.  "Thank you.  Any idea about the housing situation?"

"Yeah," he snorted.  "Fix it before she decides to find one on her own.  The one wherever isn't big enough but she'll definitely find one for all of them fast enough."  He rattled his chains.  "Let me go."

"The key's in your nightstand, they're your set," Jigen said tiredly, following Lupin out the door.  "Dinner?"

"Dinner is a good start.  Let's stop and find her something special on the way too.  A day won't hurt or help anything," Lupin suggested, giving Jigen a look.  "Do you think he would?"

"I know he would.  She's a damsel in distress and he's a samurai."

"Yeah, I guess his code of conduct will have her sleeping at his house and being second mother to his kids by the end of the month," Lupin said, starting to sound depressed.  "Maybe we'll find something in Tokyo.  I don't want to wait."

"Sure," Jigen agreed, following him as always.


Lupin looked at the reservation girl at the airport in shock.  "Excuse me, I'm a what?"

"Sir, you've been reported as a danger to the airlines," she said quietly.  "I don't know why."

Lupin looked around, then whistled and pointed at the nearest guard.  "You, come here!"  The guard came over, giving the woman a look.  "Tell her who and what I am."

"He's Lupin the Third, he's a thief.  Why?"  Though, he noted mentally, he didn't look like the carefree thief you saw in all the old wanted posters.  Age must have hit him hard.

"Because someone's trying to keep us away from our wife, Sylvia, while she's pregnant and ill," Lupin told him.  "Have I *ever* been noted for bombing things?"

"No," he agreed, shrugging at the reservation girl.  "Not ever.  He's more likely to steal a plane than to blow one up from his reputation."

"I can't get around that.  Someone turned him in as a threat to all airlines."

Lupin leaned down and pounded his head on the counter.  Jigen stepped forward.  "Listen, babe, our wife is ill.  So badly ill they're putting her into the hospital.  We need to be there.  Isn't there *some* way we can get around this thing?  We're not going to blow anyone up.  It's not our style."

"I'm sorry, I can't make you any reservations while this is here."  She gave them a pathetic look.  "You might be able to find a private plane possibly, if they don't check."

Lupin nodded, looking at the guard.  "Did Zenigata do this?"  He shrugged and escorted them to the private plane desk.  He felt sorry for the womanizing man, he had been brought this low by a dame.  "Hi.  Someone malicious is trying to keep us away from our wife."

"Our wife?" the woman asked, looking at them.  "Oh, you're him."  She grimaced.  "Who?"

"Not a clue," Jigen admitted.

"All we know is that they're spreading lies.  We'd never hurt anyone who wasn't a target and the airlines haven't ever been a target," Lupin said smoothly.  "We like you guys.  We've trusted you guys for years, even to ship weapons through for us.  I don't know what's going on."

Jigen pulled out a piece of nicotine gum and chewed it slowly.  "Dawn," he said finally.

Lupin grimaced at him.  "It's her husband's fault that she's so damn ill!" he snapped.  Jigen gave him another shrug.  "Fine."  He looked at this new person.  "Our wife is in Japan.  She's sick and pregnant.  She's so badly off our partner keeps carrying her around."  She winced.  "She accidently got pregnant right after having the twins."

"Poor woman.  No condoms?"

"They keep breaking," Jigen said dryly.  "We don't know why.  We think someone cursed us that way."

She sighed and looked in her computer.  "Well, we have a few people who won't care.  Including one who's under threat of investigation of smuggling."  She looked at them.  "He'll be in later tonight."

"Nothing now?"

"Not that won't refuse because of these...rumors."  She shrugged.  "Can't you wait that long?"

Lupin sighed and shook his head, pulling out his phone.  "Murami, you're gonna be pissed with me, sit down and take deep breaths when you see the purchase I'm going to make," he warned, then he hung up.  He put down his special credit card, the unlimited one.  "Any near bankruptcy?  I'm under orders to add to the family's holdings anyway."

She frowned at him and looked behind her.  "Hey, Olivia, I've got a solution for you," she called. A tough woman came out of the break area.  "These nice men have a pregnant and ill wife they desperately want to go to.  They're so desperate they want to buy an airline."

Olivia walked closer, looking them over.  "You look familiar."

"He's Lupin the Third," the guard said helpfully.  "Someone's keeping him from his wife by spreading rumors that he's a threat to all of you."  And a pathetic older man he was becoming too, he even looked miserable.

"And it's just not true," Lupin said, starting to sound desperate.   "I swear it's not."

She grimaced and nodded.  "My plane is up for sale, along with my skills.  It's fairly old, but reliable."

"Hey, old we can handle.  Will it get us to Japan?" Jigen asked.

"We've flown in so many prop cargo planes over our career that we sigh in relief whenever we see any sort of jet," Lupin noted.  She snickered.  "Honestly."

"I believe you," she admitted.  "I respect your mate.  She's a tough woman.  She looking for a girlfriend on the side?"

"We'd have to talk about that," Jigen told her, giving her a look.  "Lupin gets really jealous sometimes."

She snickered.  "Fine.  My plane's up for two-point-six mil.  My skills are sixty-thousand euros a year."

"Done," Lupin agreed.  "And you agree to give the kids lessons when they're older."

"Fine," she said with a wave of her hand.  She looked at the credit card, then at him.  "You're going to pay the interest rates?"

"Our financial manager will pay it off this year," he said smugly.  "It happens in our field."

She snorted and went to run it, punching in the amount.  Then she gaped and looked at him, making him nod.  "Wow.  I'm adding on my yearly fee up front."

"Deal," Lupin agreed suavely.  "I'm good for that.  We'll have to bring her back sometime."

"Sure.  She okay?"

"She just had twins then the condom broke," Jigen told her.  She shuddered.  "Yeah.  She's so ill Goemon carries her around everywhere."

"That poor woman.  Ever think of a vasectomy, boys?"

"Just as soon as she'll come hold our hands," Lupin told her.  "I don't need more kids, I love the ones I have, and all I really want is for her to be all right."

"Good," Olivia said firmly.  "I'm sure she'll help you with that during a mood swing."  She handed back the card and the slip, watching as he signed it and then answered his phone.  She snickered at him pleading with someone.  "His financial manager?"  Jigen nodded, chewing on the gum harder.  "You can smoke on mine."

"Bless you, you saint," he said, kissing her on the cheek.  "Lupin, come on.  Can we go now?"

"Give me two hours.  Go find a really pretty present.  Nothing that'll get me arrested, but a really pretty present."  They nodded and headed out to find her something.  She looked at the reservationist, then the guard.  "His credit card paid that much without a blink."

"He's a world-renowned thief," the guard suggested.  "They probably couldn't spend it all.  It's either this or the kids won't have to steal," he said smugly.

The reservationist leaned closer.  "You missed today's paper," she said smartly, smirking at him.  "He cheated on their wife.  She took their credit cards, the kids, and went to Orlando to do *all* the resorts.  The kids shoplifted about three grand total, American," she shared.  He gaped and Olivia looked horrified.  She nodded.  "Really."

"He cheated on her?"

"Apparently he admitted to it.  He's learned his lesson.  From the gossip, she threatened to go to Rodeo drive next time with that female thief, Fujiko."

They all snickered and went to share that around.


Lupin looked at Olivia as she walked between their seats.  "Thank you," he said, giving her a look.

"Not an issue.  I'd do anything for a good woman and I heard she was quite good."  She walked back to the galley and pulled out a soda.  "Get your own, boys.  There's no stewardess around here."  She smirked at them.  "Unless you want to hire one and give me someone to sexually harass."

Jigen smirked back.  "Sure.  Find yourself one."

She winked.  "I think I can do that.  So, what'd you get her?"

Lupin opened his briefcase and pulled out a brochure.  "I got her a nice vacation, one where there's a doctor nearby.  We got her some presents too."  He pulled open the velvet case and showed it to her.  "Those do it you think?"

"I think she'll probably like 'em a lot.  No flowers or candy?"

"I've got a sixty-pound box of chocolates being shipped to her," Jigen admitted.  Lupin looked at him.  "It's harder to get food through Customs than it is weapons."  He put out his cigarette.  "Thanks for this, Olivia."

"Hey, you guys were pretty fair and Sylvia is really pretty.  I figure by now she's probably really tired of men and their things."  She went back to the front.  "Hey, Lupin, remember to find her cute swimwear.  I doubt she'll go nude."

"Thanks, Olivia."  He closed everything back up, looking at Jigen.  "Give me one."  Jigen tossed over his lighter and pack.  "Thanks.  You think she'll talk to us right away?"

"No," Jigen admitted. "Another good reason to send the chocolates ahead."

"Yeah," Lupin agreed, pulling one out and lighting it.  "Did you know Melissa said we should both quit, that it was bad for them."

"It is," Jigen admitted, taking the pack and lighter back.  "What are we doing about a house?"

"I don't know," Lupin sighed, tapping off some ashes.  "I love the main hideout in France.  I don't like any of the others as much.  Of course, we could find a good one nearby and have it."

"There's that big one on the other side of Zenigata's mother," Jigen suggested dryly.  "Or the one on the other side of the Imperial ranch."

"I've always liked that house.  It had many easy entrances," Lupin agreed.  "Plus there's a horse ranch next door so the girls can go stare to their hearts' content."  Jigen nodded, liking that idea.  "You think she'd like it?"

"I do and it's on the market," he admitted.  "They're in tax debt.  They snorted too much of their fortune."

 "Hmm.  We can suggest it to her and see if she likes it."

"Or, hey, Mark's father's place is going up for sale.  He's retiring to Sydney."

"That is pretty country but I'd prefer the wetter part of the country."

"Yeah, I don't like the desert either but Xander might," he noted.  "She grew up near there."

"She hated the desert during the Arabic jobs," Lupin reminded him.  He took another drag then tapped off more of the ashes as he watched it burn.  "I don't want to bankrupt the kids."

"Lupin, we're not going to do that.  Your fortune is pretty vast."  Lupin gave him a look.  "Isn't it?"

"It is, but I haven't added much to it," he admitted.  He finished the cigarette and put it out.

"That's a waste."

"It might be, but we'll have to sit down with Murami soon.  That is if Dawn hasn't done something there too."

"If she did, we get to cap her, right?" Jigen asked.

"Yeah, if she did something to Murami, I am going to kill Dawn."

"Good," Jigen agreed, tipping his hat down so he could get comfortable in his chair.  "Wake me before we land."

"Sure, Jigen."  Lupin pulled up his laptop and logged onto the satellite system.  "Olivia, will a satellite link bother your instruments?" he called.

"Nope.  Why?"  She came back to the doorway to look at him.  "You've got your own satellite?"

He smirked.  "Yeah.  It came in handy and we snuck it onto an early NASA flight.  It was too handy not to have."  She rolled her eyes.  "At least this way I can chat with someone and check the bulletin boards for new information."

"Go for it."  She went back to her driving.

Lupin logged on, calling Murami through it.  "Hey, princess."  She snickered.  "You okay?  Jigen just pointed out that Dawn's campaign against us getting near Xander could affect you."

"I'm fine, Lupin.  We had the yearly raid like usual, nothing out of order here."


Murami looked at the agents in her office.  "I'm talking to a client, can't you people leave?"

Zenigata looked at her, then shook his head.  "No, you have proof, I know you have proof."

"He never does anything but hand me money, Inspector.   Nor has he ever.  I've demanded it to be that way because I didn't want to know.  I've also handled his father's will and things of that nature."  The phone in her hand said something and she smirked, handing it over.  "It's for you."

"What?" Zenigata growled.  He went pale.  "What?"  He looked at Murami.  "You helped my wife too?"

"Well, I do have her retirement account," she admitted.  "I've also got the account where she put all the pawned money.  Why, Inspector, did you need to look at them?  I'll need her permission."

He growled and tossed her back the cellphone, picking up the desk phone to call his wife.  "Dawn.  Are you still in the life?" he demanded.  He growled louder.

Emmajean came over and took the phone from him. "Dawn, your mate is about to die of a heart attack."  She listened then sighed.  "Dawn, if you piss Lupin off, he'll start a campaign against you personally.  You're keeping Xander miserable for longer."  She rolled her eyes.  "Dawn, listen to yourself!  Your big brother is pregnant, ill, and so weak that she *has* to be carried everywhere.   Even if she's mad at them, she'll need them.  She'll need them now."  Dawn appeared and she hung up the phone.  "Now fix it."

"I can't fix all of it," she admitted.  Her husband stared down at her. "Don't give me that look!" she snapped.  "They hurt you!"

"Dawn, he acted exactly like he should have.  If someone had helped you be that badly hurt, I'd have come and threatened them too."  He crossed his arms, glaring at her.  "What did you do?"

"I listed them as a danger to the airlines," she said quietly, looking down at her feet.  "I got onto the thieves' bulletin boards and put out rumors that Sylvia is on her own or joining up with just Goemon because her men dumped her."  She glanced up at him.  "And that the baby was Goemon's."  He grunted.  "Also I kinda, um, did what Xander did to that pedophile last year in Japan and sent some of their money to a charity."

"I fixed that," Murami offered.  "Dawn, how could you?  Xander *needs* them.  I heard from her, she sounded so weak and tired that I was worried about her.  Lupin was nearly crying when we talked last night.  He was drunk and depressed about her.  The woman needs to be held and comforted while she heals."

"They accused my husband of...!" she started but her husband clamped a hand over her mouth.

"I admit that I fucked up, Dawn.  I didn't give her more than the facts of what she's capable of.  I didn't give her anything about the woman's education or background beyond the torture and that they're the same person.  I didn't say anything about what I had seen about how good a mother she is to those heathens.  They may be thieves for the most part but they'll be like him and Lupin, they'll have morals and a code of conduct.  They might even be as straight as Goemon is."  She looked really miserable.  "Now, you will fix this.  I will not see that one die because you got petty for me fucking up."  He stormed out.

Emmajean chased after him, catching him.  "She loves you enough to stick up for you," she said quietly.  "Even against her friends and family."

"She shouldn't."  He got free and went out to head out for some fresh air.  He hated it when he had to side with that crook, but this time his wife was wrong and she needed to fix it before he could lose his temper further at either one of them.

Emmajean went back but stopped outside when she heard Dawn sobbing pitifully.  She took a deep breath then walked in and grabbed Dawn.  "Come on, we'll go fix this," she soothed.  "You have to fix this before Xander hears."  Dawn nodded and let herself be led out. "We will be watching you of course, ma'am," she said, nodding at Murami.  "Do you do straight clients too?"

"Mostly I just deal with Lupin and his crew.  Even if she had managed to take all of their money, they could live off Xander's money."  Emmajean looked impressed for a moment then sighed.  "No one knows what Xander's done over the course of his career.  Not even Lupin.  Him I do have information on but you'll never get it because it's all in my head.  Now, please leave."  Emmajean nodded and led Dawn off, taking her back to the office.  Murami picked up the phone and called Lupin's number, getting his laptop by the noise.  "You okay, boss?"  She put him onto speaker so she could sit down and rest.

"Just fine, Murami.  They gone?"

"They are, and Ray's woman led Dawn off to help her fix this.  By the way, I stopped her trying to steal your money earlier."  He grunted in annoyance.  "She was in tears, boss.  Her own husband walked away from her this time."

"Pops did what?" Jigen asked.

"He said he fucked up and it was his fault for not telling the whole truth.  She tried to defend herself and he stormed off."

"She turned against Xander for him," Lupin said bitterly.  "It's good to know that we found her limit.  How was the cop?"

"Emmajean looked glowing.  Zenigata was so disgusted he needed to go have a smoke.  He looked about ready to cry too."  Both men grunted this time.  "How are you traveling?"

"We bought a plane and a pilot's service," Lupin told her.

She winced.  "Ow.  Now I know why you warned me.  Thank you.  Do I have to work out pay slips or anything?"

"No, she put the year's onto the credit card too," Lupin admitted.  Fortunately he couldn't see her grab her chest and groan.  "You okay?"

"Fine, boss.  Thanks for the warning.  I'll pay it off quickly.  Say hi to Xander for me and tell her to call, that I want to be a vicarious mother through her this time."

"Sure," Jigen agreed, sounding like he was smiling.   "You sure you're okay?"

"I'll be fine with some drugs," she said, hanging up and going to take something for her headache and chest pains.  Her clients would drive her to drink some day soon.  They'd probably even help her by buying the first few rounds.


Xander looked out across the bridge.  It was a nice bridge.  Fairly busy.  He was back in disguise so no one knew he was him or Sylvia.  The bridge overlooked a big river, a smooth, flowing, peaceful river.  It was really nice here.  She leaned on the railing to watch the water, letting her mind flow away with the water.  "Being a fish would be easier," she told herself quietly.


To part 23
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