Note: Death Warning off screen.
Endings and Beginnings.
Lupin looked up as a slightly familiar figure appeared beside his bed. "Yeah?" he asked tiredly. He hadn't slept in a few days. They couldn't get near Xander because Goemon was protecting her as hard as he could. She wouldn't come to the phone because she was either upset or asleep. The chocolates and presents had been signed for by her but she wasn't saying anything in return.
"Lupin the third," Anyanka said dryly. "Husband to my former lover, the one who helped me ascend after death." He sat up, giving her a harsh look. "Now you recognize me?"
"I do," he admitted. "You only show up for Xander."
"Yes, I do," she agreed, smirking at him. "The problem then becomes what to do about you when a wish comes true." He scowled at her. "Someone wished that Xander would find peace. Real, true peace. The sort that he has never known and probably won't until he dies."
"No! You can't," he said, standing up to get into her face. "I won't let you."
"You have no say over it." She leaned closer and stole a kiss. "Fortunately, I like the loony bastard. I like him enough to give you one chance to fix this. One wish and it can't be totally counter to Xander's own."
"Xander made it?" he asked, thinking madly. "What was his?"
"That he be able to real peace, true, real, soul-healing peace."
Lupin swallowed. "Then I wish...." He looked over as Jigen walked in with a small grocery bag. "Xander made a wish."
"Peace. Real, soul-healing peace."
Jigen blanched and grabbed the table. "Then what is she doing here?" he demanded. "Go stop him!"
"I can't," she said firmly. "I can offer him a wish to counter Xander's. I can offer him a chance but I can't mitigate the first wish."
"Then I wish Xander's saved by someone who gives as much of a damn about him as possible."
"Done," Anyanka said, disappearing.
Lupin looked back at Jigen, who frowned. "That should have sent us."
"Or one of his groupies," Jigen countered.
"Or Goemon," Lupin noted. He looked up. "Anyanka, would you let us know what's going on with our spouse?" he called.
A portal appeared and showed them where Xander was leaning on the bridge, one foot braced and the other slightly off the ground as she leaned over to look into the water. There was a...content look on her face, something neither of them had seen in a long time. They both shuddered. Someone, a little boy, came up to Xander and tugged on her robe. "Ma'am?" he asked politely.
Xander smiled down at him. "What's wrong, little one?"
"My puppy's lost. Can you help me find him?"
"Sure. Let's start with the nice officer over there. Most people report lost puppies to him." The boy looked scared. "Don't worry, he won't hurt you. I won't let him and if he's the least bit mean I'll smack him good. Okay?" The boy nodded and took her hand, letting her lead him over to the police officer. "Hi. This little guy just came up and asked me to help him find his lost puppy and I haven't seen a parent," she said quietly.
The officer nodded. "I've noticed one running around in the little bit of ornamental trees," he offered, smiling at the little boy. "Come on, we'll go see if that's your puppy. Ma'am, would you like to come along?"
"Sure, I was only watching the leaves float past." She followed them, letting the little boy hold her hand.
"No," Jigen moaned, shaking his head. "No, no, nononononono."
"That's not a cop. The uniform's wrong," Jigen told him. "She's not in Kyoto or Osaka. That's their uniforms."
Lupin whimpered. "This isn't what I meant."
"He does care and he's the only one there who might," Anyanka noted as she reappeared.
"Then I want one," Jigen said, glaring at her. "That's not fair and you know it."
"Fine. I can do that. What's your wish?"
"That Xander had real friends around him before that boy came up to her, ones he wanted to talk to and who he trusted. Whether it's Goemon or us doesn't matter, but he needs to get over this."
"You're willing to let Goemon have him?" she asked. "He'll cling to whomever saves him for a bit."
"If I have to," Jigen told her, looking miserable. "I'm obviously not what she needs most of the time."
"No, she doesn't need men who don't pay attention to him," Anyanka noted. "Nor does she need this stress. Earlier she found out that she's starting to have high blood pressure as well."
"Then send us to her. We're trying to make up for it," Lupin pleaded. "Please, Anyanka. He's ours. We've learned our mistakes. We want to be there for him. We've sent messages and tried to talk to him but Goemon keeps us away and Xander himself won't talk to us, no matter what we do."
"Of course not," she snorted. "You couldn't just show up?"
"I don't remember where the school is," Lupin told her. "Jigen never knew."
She waved a hand with a sigh. "I have to grant the wish," she admitted.
"Can I have a second one?" Lupin asked. She gave him a look. "I want it to be us who goes to help him, not Goemon, Marcus, Ethan, Fujiko, and especially not the kids."
"I don't want the kids to see him like that either," Jigen agreed bitterly. "Are they okay?"
"They have no idea what's going on," she admitted. "You're sure? You think she'll listen to you?"
Lupin stood up. "I do. She does love us, even when we're fuckups of the highest order."
Anyanka nodded. "Then you've got about ten minutes. She was unconsciously standing on the railing. She doesn't realize she's doing it."
She disappeared and they appeared on the bridge behind her, with no kid in sight. They flanked her, Jigen turning to lean against the railing guarding them. Lupin leaned beside her, close but not intimately so. "Understanding the water meditation?" he asked quietly. She nodded. "Then could you explain it to me?"
"Water just is. Like time it wears down things, but it's always the same. Yet it's not really the same because each drop of water is moved from the spot where it had been sitting by the time you blink. So it's the same thing, yet it changes all the time," she said quietly, continuing to stare down at it. "It never has any doubts about its path, no moral imperative, nothing that conflicts with its natural goal - to get to the ocean and make more baby water."
Jigen let out a quiet cough. "Yeah, and it don't have feelings, wants, or desires. It's always there."
"Yeah, it's always there, somehow always in the background of everything, yet it can be ornamental and showy when it wants to be. It can be life-giving and nourishing, or it can be harsh and cold and kill and destroy," she admitted quietly.
"Like you," Lupin said. Xander looked at him. "We've been trying to talk with you. We got worried."
Xander frowned at him. "I tried to call but I ended up falling asleep after dinner."
"It wasn't an accusation, Xan, it was a statement of fact. We miss you and we're worried about you. There have been all sorts of rumors about you being too sick to live."
"Nah-uh. I've countered all those," she said, still frowning at him. She glanced at Jigen, who moved a piece of her hair behind her ear. "How did you guys find me here?"
"Easy. We had some mystical help," Jigen admitted.
"Not Dawn, we're on the outs with Dawn," Lupin admitted, stroking her arm. "Your ex helped us."
"You made a wish for peace," Lupin said gently.
Xander looked up. "That was peace spelled 'peace' not 'piece'," he complained.
"We have no intention of touching you that way until you're all better and strong enough to mouth off to us again," Jigen said firmly.
Lupin nodded. "As a matter of fact, we're going to get vasectomies as soon as you're well enough to go with us. I hear they're pretty painless these days." Xander looked shocked. "We never wanted to hurt you, Xan. I wanted to talk to you about it. It was really dangerous and I was scared for you." She shook her head slowly. "Yeah, I was. Chicago's like New York, only with less dirt. It's one of those very complicated cities and I didn't want you to have to worry the rest of your life about some person you pissed off by stepping on their toes. I'd never want that for you."
"Or you and the kids?"
Jigen snorted. "They might try to hurt us, but we'd still protect you and the kids," he said, stroking his fingertip up her cheek until she shivered. "Sorry. I wanted to comfort you."
"Then why not come up right away?" she asked.
"Because I didn't know where the school was, neither did the kids, and Goemon said we had to wait a few days until you were better rested," Lupin told her, giving her a hug. "Come back down, Xander." She looked really confused. "Look where you are, sweetheart. Come to me." She looked down, then looked really confused.
"Your mind was concentrating on the peace and it did what it wanted without your body overriding it," Jigen told her. "It wanted the peace too." They helped her back down then each took an arm, strolling off. "Should we get you something to eat?"
"Please don't. I've got morning sickness this time like Fuji had with Ishi."
"Then we won't make you eat, but how about a drink?" Lupin asked, pointing at a nearby beverage cart. "Lemonade? Water?"
"If they've got it," he promised, giving her a gentle squeeze. They found the cop they'd seen earlier and looked at him, then at the beverage cart person. "Since when did Tokyo's cops wear Osaka's uniforms?" he asked, pointing at the guy.
The cart owner frowned, then shrugged. "I don't know. What is he doing with that child?"
Xander glared at the man, making him look up. "I'd run," he suggested. The man took off running. "This is where I need to be thinner."
"He'll get his," Lupin promised. "This is the Don's favorite park. He'll have guards around."
"He's in Ireland this month."
"I heard, some of his guys will still be here playing with the geese." He nodded at the cart tender. "Do you have any pink lemonade?"
"In a bottle. Minute Maid," he offered, pulling one out. "Quite cold."
Xander touched it. "Got any that are somewhere between that and outside temperature?" He nodded and dug around, coming up with one. She smiled and pulled out her wallet but Lupin was quicker. "I can get it."
"Why? I'm good at buying you good presents," he admitted, letting her take her drink and then walking her off. "It's odd, but I never liked buying Fujiko presents. I like buying you things though." He gave her a look. "Guess that means I like you more."
He stopped and kissed her gently, cupping both cheeks with his hands. "I do. I have for a very long time, Xander Harris. No matter what form you're in I still like you a lot. I might even love you but I've never sat down and weighed it out against what I thought love was." She sniffled and he grinned. "None of that. I can be mushy. Cry on Jigen if he gets mushy." She nodded and hugged them both.
"Come on, we'll drive you wherever."
"I took a cab down."
"So? Is it waiting?" Lupin asked. She shook her head. "Then we're good because I don't know where the school is."
She looked around. "I don't see your usual rental."
"That's because we got sent there, we didn't drive over," Jigen said quietly. He was resisting the urge to pull her closer and hold her, it wasn't what men did in public, but he did put an arm around her back. "How much is cab fare back there?"
"Close to two hundred dollars."
Lupin winced, then shrugged. "That's fine. We can stop at an ATM."
"I need to call Murami anyway. Someone said that my credit card bounced earlier."
Lupin handed over his cellphone. "She's 9 on the speed dial." He took her other side, holding her hand as they walked out of the park.
Xander drank her lemonade, listening to the cheerful greeting. "Murami, it's Xan." She said something. "Who did that?" She grimaced. "I'll get her later. Why did you turn down my treats for the kids?" She started to look confused. "Yeah, my special Visa declined." She stopped, listening as the woman went over the accounts on line. "Who did that?" She groaned. "Damn that bitch!" She took a deep breath. "Can we get it back?" She slowly calmed down. "Yeah, thanks. Love you too. You are the bestest." She hung up and handed the phone back. "It seems that when Dawn went to bankrupt you guys earlier today she got my accounts instead. Only two of them and only two of the smaller ones. Both of my emergency ones, so about six million." They winced and shook their heads. "I'm about to have a meeting with Dawn in the middle of a graveyard at midnight. She has no idea what the fuck she just did." She dialed Dawn's cell from memory. "You bitch," she started out. "How dare you touch my money! How dare you try and keep my men from me and touch my money! That is no excuse! Yay! Do you know what he told her! In graphic fucking detail!" She winced and dropped the phone. "Ow."
"Shh," Jigen said, pulling her closer and helping her sit down. "We're right here. It's just pain. Calm down and it'll go away." He looked at Lupin, who was tucking the phone back into his pocket. "Can we hit an ATM on the way?" Lupin nodded. "Then get us a cab. I want her sitting down where we can get her calm again."
"I'm fine," she protested. "It was just a pain."
"Bullshit," Jigen said, frowning at her. "You're too damn tough for your own good, Xan. That had to have hurt if you crumpled in on yourself like that. Let us fuss."
"Fine, just get me off the ground, it's chilly," she complained. "Besides, I promised the kids treats."
"We'll be the treat today," Jigen told her, helping her back up. "I wish I was as strong as Goemon. You don't need ta be walking."
Lupin picked up her lemonade and hurried to get them a cab.
Goemon looked at Anyanka. "I'm satisfied," he noted.
"Good. It seems they do care." He nodded, looking at the picture again. "Think they'll do it again?"
"I believe Lupin will become hyper-protective soon. She'll probably have to do this once more to get any freedom back." He glanced at the child who had made the wish, a very complicated and devious wish at that. "Are you satisfied, Savanna?"
She nodded, playing with her silver streak. "I am. Mommy's happy and the daddies are coming back soon." She looked at the demon. "Thank you, ma'am." She bowed to her then to Goemon. "I'm going to go play on the rope jungle. Please?"
"Go," he agreed, giving her a gentle pat. He smirked at the girl's back. "That was a plan worthy of her mother."
"It was," Anyanka agreed. "Complicated but it gave them all the impetus they needed to mend this. Jigen actually said he'd rather lose her to you for a while than to lose her permanently."
He grunted. "We'll see. I thank you for telling me what she had wished."
"Oh, we're not allowed to fuck with Xander or his kids unless there's a damn good reason or we believe he wouldn't mind. So now I'm off to fuck with Dawn," she said cheerfully. "Expect to have Xander's money back by tonight or an equivalent amount." She wiggled her fingers. "You'd make one killer punishment demon. You're sure I can't talk you into that or an incubus position?"
"No, I believe I'll pass," he said dryly.
She shrugged. "Pity." She disappeared.
Goemon opened a bottle of holy water and poured it where she had been standing then went to mark all the doorways like Xander had done a few weeks back.
Little Arsene looked up as the cab pulled up, then she screamed and went running, just far enough away not to get run over. "DADDIES!" She hugged both their legs, watching as her mother was again carried inside. "She okay?" she asked as she followed them. "Baby brother okay?"
"Your baby brother's fine," Jigen said, smiling down at her. "That was good to stop where the cab couldn't hit you, Arsene."
She beamed and went to help the other kids by tucking in the mommy so they could hog the fathers for a bit. When they didn't leave the bedroom they adapted and crawled into laps and around them. "Mommy, you find some of the best treats," Arsene said happily, giving her arm a hug. Fred was napping on her now so she couldn't really hug her like usual.
Goemon walked in with a tray of glasses for the adults. "Why did you not just send a tracking device?"
"I tried, you tossed it out," Lupin told him.
"Ah. Sorry." He shrugged and helped Xander sit up a bit more since she didn't look comfortable. "How are you feeling? You forgot your vitamin this morning."
"They taste bad," she whined.
"Still, you must take them and the healer's medicines. He'll be back tonight and he will pout if you're not better." She sighed and took them off the tray with her glass of juice. "Thank you, Xander." He let the others take their own glasses of juice. He patted his son on the head. "Let them cuddle for now, son."
"When is mommy coming home?" Ishi asked.
"We left her heading for Russia with Marcus," Lupin soothed, patting him on the head. "You can cling to Xander with our girls for now if you want." Ishi nodded and hugged himself back to her side, he was next to the floor so he wasn't in the way.
"Why was my wife headed for Russia?"
"We don't know," Jigen admitted. "I know we need to have a meeting about Dawn." He gulped his juice and handed it back so he could cuddle the kids. "What have you guys been doing?"
"I've been training," Lotus said from the doorway. "Sierra, we still help with dinner tonight?"
"Sure," she agreed, smiling at her friend. "We'll help, Uncle G."
"Thank you, girls. We'll cook in a bit." He gave the men a look, then smirked at Xander. "We must let her rest."
"I'm fine," Xander protested. "I haven't had cuddles all day."
"I'd suppose that you'd want your husbands to cuddle you more," he said gently.
Melissa looked at the kids. "Guys, the parents want to cuddle," she said, sounding almost exactly like Xander would. They pouted at her. "Hey, it's movie night. We can hog them during it. They'll have to come out and then we can sit up and nibble and tell them things during the adult one." They each got their share of hugs then left to go to their chores.
Goemon smirked at them. "She is quite good at motivating the others." He left them alone, taking his son to hold him. "I'm sorry your mother isn't here, son."
"I don't want her to be possessed again, dad," Ishi said quietly.
"If she were, Uncle Marcus could fix it," he promised. "If not, Uncle Xander would definitely scare it away." His son gave him an adoring look. "Now, get your textbooks. You have not done much with them and I want you to be smart enough to do many great things." His son gave him one last hug and went to get his textbooks, tackling his math first. It wasn't his best subject, and Xander couldn't find anything that he likes to relate it to yet. Most of the other girls came in to do their own when they saw what he was doing, all but Lotus, who went to 'commune with a tree' by sitting under it and working on her reading.
Lupin stroked Xander's arm. "Want to shift over so you're in the middle?" She nodded and shifted over, letting Jigen have her other side. "Thanks. We feel better when we're both around you." He gave her a gentle kiss. "Vanilla?"
"Vitamin," she said. "Tastes nasty. Big, huge pill too."
"I saw," Lupin soothed. "But if it'll help you heal, then you need to take them." He went back to stroking her.
"How are you feeling really?" Jigen asked. "The demon said something about your blood pressure?"
"It's a little high. The doctor I saw earlier said I was going normally for such extreme circumstances. He did want me to watch my diet. I had a soda before they did a finger stick."
"Why did they do one of those?"
"Because I was dizzy," she admitted, looking down at her son's head. He was sucking his thumb. "He's so content sometimes."
"Of course he is. He knows you love him no matter what he'll end up being," Lupin soothed, starting to stroke her hair now. "The same way we do you." She gave him a look, then rolled her eyes. "Seriously. Even if you made us go on the run for real again, we'd still love you."
"Even if we had to take down everyone in Chicago to do so," Jigen agreed. He shifted closer to rest his head on her shoulder so he could stare at the son. "Hey, Fred." His son shifted in his sleep, getting more comfortable between her breasts. "Isn't he heavy?"
"He's good," she promised. "I had to do that."
"I know you did," Lupin promised. "I understand. It was pointed out that if certain cops had done it back in the day that I'd have done it for them too." He gave her another stroke then moved in to cuddle her too. "Sorry if we're crowding you but we missed you."
She sniffled. "No mushiness. I can't take it."
"You cry if it'll make you feel better," Jigen promised. She sniffled harder and hugged them both as much as she could with how she was laying. "You do know I was teasing when I called you a brat, right?" She shook her head so he looked up. "I was. I know you're not a real brat. You don't cause trouble on purpose."
She snorted. "Thanks, Jigen. Really."
"Hey, everyone causes some problems by accident. It's what the human race is here for," Lupin promised. "We'll help him find a better mushy name for you soon." He touched her stomach, feeling the hardness. "Wow. You feel like a melon in there."
"The doctor said that was normal, that it'd be better as soon as I relaxed."
"Then let us help with that," Jigen ordered. "I give great foot massages. I also do pretty good with shoulders."
"I can do really great lower back ones," Lupin promised, "plus we haven't spoiled you any recently." She looked shocked. "I haven't. A lemonade isn't spoiling."
"No, but the offer of a vacation in the Caribbean and the chocolates were," she said quietly.
"Hmm, so's the jewelry we found for you," he said, nuzzling her neck, "but that's still in my things." She pushed him away. "Sorry. I was doing what the cat does."
"I noticed. Where is the cat?"
"It stayed with the stomach of doom. Apparently it's supposed to go to Goemon's next son," Jigen told her, smirking at her. "We'll see it when she sends the new one back here to rest."
"She's hit her midlife crisis," Lupin admitted, going back to stroking her stomach. "She's missing being twenty and wearing flashy clothes and making men drool."
"Then she needs to get over it," Xander said firmly. "Ishi needs a mother and Lotus really does!"
"Yeah, but I think she expected you to fill in there too," Lupin told her.
She sniffed in disdain. "Of course I am. Ishi is like my own son, the same as Arsene and Sierra are. They're all my kids."
"See, then she doesn't have to worry about it so much," Jigen noted. Someone knocked on the door and both of them stilled, then groaned. "Enter!" Jigen called.
Melissa came in and shut the door, making them both sigh in relief. "Ishi's dealing with math, daddies." She came over and crawled in with them. "We don't mind sharing the mommy with Ishi, Arsene, Sierra, and Lotus, plus the new one. We like them all. They're like our sisters and brothers anyway. Ishi did ask where his mother was however. He wants to see her soon."
"I'll do what I can," Lupin promised, giving her a kiss on the forehead. "How have you been?"
"Pretty good, but we need to talk about Savanna. She's got mommy's planning skills and she's presently conspiring against Arsene." All the adults stared at her. "Who do you think made the wish?"
"She made a wish," Xander said flatly. Melissa looked at her and nodded. "Through Anyanka?" She nodded again. "Why?"
"To get you three back together again. She and Arsene were really miserable and they wanted you to be happy, mommy."
"Savanna!" Xander yelled. "Come here!" She came in and then squeaked when she saw their looks. "In and shut the door." Her daughter did so and climbed up with them, giving her father a hug. "What wish did you make, daughter?"
"To have you be happy and fix this," she admitted, looking pitiful. "I wished that they'd be able to go to you and you could work things out and come back happier so you wouldn't be so tired and they'd be able to carry you around instead of Uncle G." She sniffled and wiped her nose with her hand. "I'm sorry, but it helped, right?"
"It did," Jigen agreed, "but that could have been really dangerous."
"Nah-uh, I set it so it had to be your own idea to work things out. The demon didn't make you do anything you normally wouldn't and it was after Mommy was already on the bridge."
"Uncle Goemon found out and stepped in to make sure she couldn't force you to do anything," Melissa admitted.
"Tattletale," Savanna sneered.
"No," Xander said. Both girls looked hurt. "Well, yes, she is, but sometimes there are good reasons for it. Like when you caught Lotus playing with her father's sword and told us. In this case, it could have backfired a lot, Savanna. Any of us could have gotten hurt or the demon who came might not have been Anyanka."
"I called her directly," she said hopefully. "I planned it all, mommy. I wrote it all down so I'd get the words right and everything. Wanna see?"
"Sure," Lupin agreed. She hurried to get it. "Melissa, thank you for letting us know that she was doing dangerous stuff. You're a good sister to the horde." She beamed. "Only in times when it's really important though, got it?" She nodded and went to go back to her spelling. He got up to close the door once Savanna was back, taking the notebook to look inside. "Wow. She really did plan this, down to the words. Much better than our countering ones, Jigen."
"What?" Xander asked.
"Anyanka came to us to see if we wanted to make a countering wish," Jigen admitted. "Lupin wished that someone would go help you who liked you as much as possible, thinking we'd be taken. But we weren't. Instead I had to go in and redo his so we'd get sent there so we could plead and beg."
"Which is exactly what she had planned," Lupin said, handing over the notebook to the mother before curling up next to her again. "That is very detailed, Savanna."
Xander groaned and put it down. "I'm not sure if I should be proud or upset."
"Be both," Jigen suggested. "I am." He looked at his precious oldest daughter. "Kiddo, you nearly screwed up badly." She opened her mouth. "Ah!" She closed it and pouted at him. "It's good that you planned it out, but you did try to manipulate us. That's not allowed."
"It did," Lupin agreed. He gave her a fond smile and a pat. "It was a plan worthy of your mother as well." She beamed at that. "But you still should have let us handle it. It could have hurt her a lot."
"Un-uh. The demon said that her heart was making a wish already. That's why she was on the bridge. I represented a chance to fix it for him," she repeated. "The demon said so."
"Hmm," Xander said, looking at his daughter. "Fine. It was a great plan, Savanna. You're very good at this stuff. I appreciate the hell out of it. I do not want you to ever do it again. No more wishes unless things are going to go horribly wrong and someone will die."
Savanna leaned up to get into her face. "Mommy, you nearly did," she said quietly. "Uncle G is so worried that he made a wish for you to be okay again." She gave her a kiss on the end of the nose. "Did you tell them about Sarah yet?" She shook her head, giving her a small frown. "Then do so. I wanna see Daddy squeal in joy too." She beamed at them.
Lupin looked at her. "What's up with Sarah?"
"The healer made her a little bit stronger," she admitted, frowning at her daughter. "You're still in trouble for making that sort of wish."
"Yes, mommy," she said patiently. "Tell them!" She bounced a bit.
"Apparently my kitsune buddy likes Sarah for the position of envoy from the European syndicates," she told them. "That way she'd be protected, not have to worry about her heart condition, and she's got the bloodlines to do so."
"Wow," Jigen breathed, looking at Lupin. "I'm impressed. Hey, fuzzy tails," he called. The kitsune appeared, giving him a dirty look. "It's not like you told us your name."
"Good point." He looked at Savanna. "That was a plan worthy of a thief," he praised. She scowled. "It was." She pouted. "In the future, ask if it's correct if you have a doubt."
"Yes, sir," she pouted, looking at her parents.
"I agree," Xander admitted. "It was plan worthy of me stealing that gold from Cairo." Her daughter snorted and hugged her around the stomach. "Thanks, now go back to whatever. You're not grounded since it didn't work out that badly. Next time you'll be spanked." Her daughter gave her a look, then left to go back to her homework. "She just demanded that we tell them about your plans for Sarah."
He hopped up, sitting on the foot of the bed. "It would be most helpful. We haven't had one since Dolune's days. Plus we do have healers all around and other things. She's going to be slightly magically active anyway. It's part of why she's so weak according to our healer. That solves your problem of protecting her and ours of not having an official envoy."
"Who are you using now?" Lupin asked. The kitsune pointed at Xander. "Oh." He looked at Jigen. "She's your daughter."
"I like that idea," he admitted. "She'd be safe?"
"There's always minor politicking about in the courts, but she'd be safe enough. She might even find that she loves someone up there," he said smugly.
"Um, cross-species stuff might upset me," Xander noted.
"We do have other humans," he said dryly, grinning at her. "You don't think she'd adore my youngest daughter?"
"I do, if only because she's got very soft fur, but I don't want to think about martial relations. Ever, if possible."
He paused, then shuddered. "You're correct. I'll make sure she doesn't sleep with her." He grinned at them and his tails waved around. "Would that be acceptable to your parents?"
"I wouldn't mind," Jigen admitted. "She'll be safe and if she likes it I'm all for it."
"Good. Then we'll pop around now and then to help her with protocol." He frowned at Xander's stomach and moved closer, touching it. "You were upset." She nodded. "You should not be." He took her with him, leaving her son there on the bed where she had been lying. She went directly to the healer's quarters. "She was upset and her men fixed it for her. She's still cramping however." He turned her over into his careful care.
"Poor thing," the healer soothed, taking her into his healing baths. "Come, you rest in here and then we'll do another massage."
She sighed and did as he said. She couldn't argue with him, the spell on the suite made sure no one could fight the healer about his orders.
Lupin carried his son out of the bedroom, finding Goemon watching the girls carefully chop up vegetables. "The six-tailed thing took her," he explained at the confused look. "Sarah's to be an envoy." Jigen came out with a fussy Sarah. "Bottles?" Goemon got them some and handed them over. "Thanks." They sat down with the kids to feed the babies. "Hey, Ishi, what's wrong? You're scowling at the book, little man."
"I hate math," he said bitterly, putting down his pencil. "It never makes sense like it does for Savanna or Melissa."
"Hmm. Have you tried looking at it in different terms?" Jigen suggested as he sat down. Ishi nodded, pouting at him. "What have you tried?"
"Gems, gold and silver, chains."
Lupin looked at the book. "Long division. I'm impressed, Ishi." He considered it. "Okay, then let's go at this another way. How about this. Have you done areas yet?" Ishi nodded, looking hopeful. "Okay." He thought about the image he wanted to build in the boy's head. "Beside you is a huge blue dragon. It's like the Imperial beast who likes your sister. It has skin that's shedding. The beast is about six feet high and about as long as the driveway. How much skin is that?"
"He's mostly barrel shaped," Ishi said thoughtfully, picturing it in his head.
"Nah, he's pretty trim so he's a big cylinder," Jigen told him.
"So he's like a pipe then." He sat down to work it out. "Father, how long is the driveway?"
"About half a mile to the gate," Goemon said, giving them a look. "Dragon?" he mouthed.
"They like them," Lupin mouthed back.
Ishi pushed over his paper. "Like that, Uncle Lupin?" Lupin smirked and nodded. "Wow. Okay, now what?"
"Now, you've got make your sister a coat out of it so that nothing can hurt her," Jigen told him. "It'll take about two yards of cloth to do so by the pattern so maybe three just in case you get a weak spot." Ishi worked that out. "After that, you want to make yourself some armor. It'll cover about from your shoulder to your hips. Don't worry about sleeves, they'll get in the way of your fighting with the sword." Ishi went to measure himself and then figured that out.
"Remember to double it for front and back," Sierra said helpfully, working on the same problem. "Like this, daddy?" she asked, letting him see.
"Very good," Lupin agreed, giving her a pat on the head. "Ishi?" Ishi came back and did that part of the problem. "Now, can you get both from the dragon's skin? If so, how many times?"
Ishi worked that out, then smiled at him. "Two and a third times," he said happily. "So I can make Lotus an extra coat, just barely."
"Good job," Lupin praised.
His father kissed him on the head. "Good job," he agreed. "Can you apply that back to your current math problems?"
He looked at it, then nodded and started working on the first one. "If I make the big number the whole cloth and the little one the amount that has to come out, I can do that."
"Good. Next comes fractions," Jigen said fondly. "I hated fractions."
"I was pretty good at them, I did mine in areas," Lupin admitted. "Things like ventilator pipes and things." His daughters looked at him like he was God and Melissa snorted.
"I'm doing mine in carat weight," she said proudly. "Mommy said so."
Arsene spit at her. "I don't need that. I've already got that down. She wanted me to do it again with measurements because I needed more work with them."
"That's fine. You're still little. You've got time to learn all that you'll need to know," Lupin soothed.
"Does that mean we can take a few days off and go to Disney Japan?" Sierra asked innocently, giving her father her best begging look.
"I don't think they'd let any of you guys in," Jigen told her, starting to laugh. "They've got your pictures somewhere so they won't let you guys in accidentally."
"So we'll learn the art of disguise," Melissa said with a negligent shrug. "We need to anyway."
"True," Lupin agreed, looking at Jigen, who frowned, then at Goemon, who looked horrified. "If you guys get to the point where you're doing equations by the end of the summer, then we'll go."
"Plus you'll have to be at least three chapters in your language books," Jigen added.
"And at least two more in geography and history."
The kids sighed, then nodded. It was doable if they actually worked at it.
Ishi looked at his father. "Father, I need the next history book, I'm nearly done with mine."
"Congratulations," he said proudly. "We'll move up as soon as Xander can find the next one."
He nodded and went back to his math. It made so much more sense now. "Uncle Lupin, how would one make a kimono? I think they're really fascinating."
"I don't know," he admitted. "Has Xander assigned you a research paper yet?" He looked up and nodded. "Then why not do it on that? Start with the encyclopedia for reference terms and where to look. Then we'll start online." Ishi nodded, going back to his homework. "Did you want to do that for a living?"
"No, but I think they're really pretty. They're like wearable art and I like Auntie Xander's collection." He looked at his father. "Where are the others?"
"They're back in Geneva," he admitted. "I only brought the practical things."
"We need to find a new formal house," Lupin sighed.
"Can we have a pony there?" little Arsene asked cheerfully.
"No," Jigen said. "No ponies. If you're lucky we'll find a house next to one where some live."
She frowned. "Horsies are good, Uncle Jigen. They make us move better. Like dance classes." The other girls nodded. "We learn how to ride and all that stuff."
"We'll see," Lupin admitted. "When you're older you'll get dancing lessons and that stuff. Things that'll make you fit in better with the higher levels of society." They all beamed at him and went back to their homework. They had a goal now, they'd have to meet it. He saw the incredulous look from Goemon. "I did. Grandfather found a few people who could come in for short-term teaching assignments. I learned how to dance, how to do some minor acrobatics, and things like that."
"Really?" Jigen asked. Lupin nodded. "Then why did I get to teach Xander how to tango?"
"Because you wanted it more," Lupin said like it made perfect sense. "She had just become yours and you needed to bond."
"Fine," Jigen said, shaking his head. "I get to set up the curriculum."
"Of course you will, Jigen. I'd never dream of teaching your daughters anything without you." He smirked. "Not even about boys and girls."
"I believe Xander has done that quite well," Goemon said, interrupting the friendly argument. "He provides some very detailed cards on the speech for certain parents." They both looked at him. "That is why I said he could teach Ishi at the first sign of puberty." He went to help the ones doing vegetables. "Very good, girls. Very even, Savanna." He patted them on the back. "Go study, I'll do the rest." His daughter pouted at him. "I'll save you some of the vegetables without the meat, daughter." She nodded and went to the table to do her homework too. "We're having stir fry tonight," he noted.
"That's fine," Jigen agreed.
"I can help cook if you want," Lupin offered.
"No, it is suitable to the house and their growing needs." He pulled out a wok to start on his part of the dinner. If his son wasn't allowed to cook with the stove, the others definitely weren't. There was no telling how bad the fire would be if Savanna got to play with it. She thought they were pretty.
Ray looked up as someone brought in a wad of paper. "What's that?" he asked, taking it to look over.
"One of the bugs you've planted in the past came active a few days ago, Inspector. We've been monitoring it, but today something odd just came up. We thought you'd want to know." He nodded and left.
Ray sat back to read the transcripts, frowning at the content. "When did I plant that one?" he muttered, continuing on. There were a lot of long pauses and things said by the kids. Finally he came to the last page and sat up. "That house is in Geneva! Damn it, we couldn't ever find his private house!" He picked up the phone to call his boss. "Yo, Boss. One of the bugs I planted on one of them in years past just came active. I know which city Xander's house is in now. Yeah, Geneva. Did you want me to do anything with this?" He grimaced. "I know, but you're not here." He chuckled. "Fine. Sure, I'll save the transcripts for you. There's a lot of long pauses and nags for Xander to take various meds. No, she's still pretty weak. No, like extremely weak. Yes, sir, of course I will, sir. You have fun at that meeting." He hung up. "And maybe I'll get to look at Xander's comic and anime stash," he said happily. He had wanted to see how extensive the thing was. Plus her kimono collection was supposed to be really great. He looked up when he heard a noise and passed out as a dart hit him on the arm.
"Unfortunately, you'll have to ask Xander about that, Raymond," Marcus said dryly. "It looks as though I'll have to deal with this myself." He headed off with the transcripts, dropping them into Lupin's lap. "They know the city, we'll have to pack up Xander's house for her immediately. Where?"
"I'll hire movers to get everything packed and stored," Lupin promised, pulling out his phone. He called his best friend in Europe. "Hey, Murami. We've got to pack up Xan's house. The cops put some sort of bug on us and now they know where it is, city-wise. They'll want to go through it if we don't."
"Ray did say that he wanted to paw through Xander's collections." He looked up and frowned. "I'll be right back. Fujiko's alarm just went off." He disappeared before anyone could even open their mouths to protest and didn't come back.
"Murami, Marcus was just here, he said something's up with Fujiko," Lupin said quietly. "I don't know, they were headed for Russia." He nodded and hung up. "She'll track them. Get onto the bulletin boards. I want to know who's been bragging." Jigen nodded, going to find their laptop and do that. "Goemon, it seems someone wanted to talk to your wife," he said, glancing at the kids. Goemon's face went completely slack. "We're not sure yet. Murami said she'd heard a rumor that Fujiko sent Marcus out to do something for her last night."
"That stupid woman," Goemon said, switching to French. His own son didn't understand it that well yet.
"Who is?" Ishi asked, showing he was much more proficient than his father had thought. He looked at him. "Did something happen to the mother?"
"We're not sure yet," Lupin admitted, keeping in the same language. "We're checking it out now. She sent Marcus away last night for some reason." Ishi slumped and leaned back in his chair. "If there's any way, Ishi, we'll help her."
"I know you will," Ishi said in English. "You used to like her. Mother said so." He closed his books. "Father, I'm going to get rid of the anger."
His father gave him a hug. "I understand. I'll come check on you in a while, once we know anything. Do not tell your sister." He nodded and left to start off on a long, involved, physically draining kata. Goemon looked at Lupin. "She sent him off last night?" Lupin nodded. "Why?"
"Murami didn't know."
Jigen came back. "She sent him to find something to soothe a craving, something that had to come from Germany. She asked someone to watch out for him while he was there." He put down the papers, then looked at Goemon and shook his head. "I'm sorry, man."
"She's gone?" he asked, sounding dead.
"Someone just popped up and said that he had the child, but his typing was rudely interrupted by Marcus and his sword. Marcus let it be known that anyone who touched you and your family felt the wrath of him and Lavelle, as had happened to that one. That's all he said."
"What's going on?" Arsene asked, looking at her father. "Is Auntie Fujiko okay?"
"We don't know yet, dear. We do know that Ishi's younger brother is born and we're waiting for Marcus to come back." She nodded and went back to her studies. "Why don't you guys go do that in the living room?" They packed up everything and went in there to work on things. "I'm sorry as hell, Goemon."
"It is not your fault," he said stiffly. He closed his eyes and forced himself into calmness. "Fate has played against us many times but this time she did not take enough into account. I could not change it by being there."
Marcus came back, his shirt bloody, and a screaming baby in his arms. "I'm so sorry, Master," he whispered, handing him over. "She was already gone when I got there. It was fast. He shot her. I took the baby." He fell down crying. "I failed."
Lupin forced his face up. "You didn't fail, kid. She sent you away."
"I warded the baby, not her."
"Well, anything affecting her would affect the baby," Jigen pointed out. "It was reasonable and you'd find out when she was in labor before she did." He helped Marcus stand up. "Go clean up. The kids can't see you like that." He nodded and trudged off. "Goemon?" He was staring at his son.
"Goemon," Lupin said, putting his son onto the table so he could stand up and take the baby. It woke the father enough to have him look at him. "Let's get the baby cleaned up and checked over. We'll bring her back to France." Goemon shook his head. "No?"
"Here," he ordered, taking his son to clean him up. He let his own emotions out when they were alone. In his own way he had loved Fujiko but he had always felt it wasn't enough for her. Now he couldn't try harder.
Lupin walked in and hugged him. "Hey. It happens in this life. She adored you. She had since you proposed that way, big guy. She loved you enough to not force you to deal with her at her worst." He turned him around, letting him vent his tears on him. "Shh, it'll be okay," he soothed.
Jigen came in and took the baby to clean up. "Hey," he said in greeting, working on getting the slime out of the soft fuzzy hair. "I'm an uncle. You'll get to see a lot of us soon." He got that part cleaned then worked on the tiny chest and arms. "You're nastier than your big brother was."
"The blood is dried on," Goemon told him. "As is the birthing fluid." He pulled back and wiped off his face. "I want her buried here."
"We will," Lupin agreed. "Wherever you want unless she left orders to the contrary with Murami. She didn't say anything when I called her."
"Thank you." He took his son back. "I want to do this."
"We can help, Goemon. That's what friends do," Jigen reminded him. Goemon nodded and let them help both of them.
Lupin walked out to where Ishi was meditating and tapped him on the shoulder. "Hey." He squatted down in front of him. "We need to talk, little man."
"Mother's gone," he said flatly. Lupin nodded. "Who?"
"Someone Marcus killed."
"Why wasn't he there?"
"Fujiko sent him off on a pasty hunt in Germany. By all indications she knew that this person was after her and decided to take him on alone." He tipped the boy's chin up when it fell. "Your mother was always very confident of her skills, Ishi. Sometimes too overconfident. I doubt even Marcus being there would have helped. The local cops said it was a sniper shot from a roof across the street."
Ishi swallowed. "My brother?"
"Inside. Marcus had a telltale set up on the baby so he could rush back at the first sign of labor. You wouldn't know this but Fujiko usually didn't feel the first few pains and he knew he'd need to be there sooner because of her age and things. As soon as he felt it he went back and ... took the baby. Fuji Kenji Morris is inside taking his first nap."
"Morris? After the old cat in those commercials?" he asked, losing his grief for a moment.
"Your mother demanded in her papers that this one have that name in it. She was apparently having some odd moods while pregnant this time. In short, we'll be bringing her back here in a few days, as soon as they release the body. Murami will be coming back with it." Ishi nodded. "I want you to know that our arms are always open for you. As far as I'm concerned, you're one of ours too. The same way I see Melissa and Savanna. You and Lotus are our kids. I know Xander feels the same way too." He moved some of the dark hair. "We haven't told Lotus yet but she knows something's wrong with her mother. Your father wants you inside. He's in shock. If you want to cry with him, you can. I know you can. If you want us, you can have us."
"She's not back yet but as soon as she is I'd expect a long cuddle," Lupin admitted, giving him a faint smile. "She is rather like that." He nodded and got up, heading inside to hold his father. His father was great and manly, but she was his weak point. Lupin got up and went to find Lotus. "Hey," he said once he found her. She looked up, tears already streaming down her face. "Did someone else tell you?"
"I can't feel her."
Lupin picked her up and held her. "I know you can't, sweetheart. We're still here for you though."
"He's inside." He gave her a squeeze. "Your dad could use a cuddle too." She nodded and got free, running inside to hug him. Lupin went to take the other kids aside and help Jigen tell them. He hadn't managed it yet.
Murami looked up as Dawn appeared with something. "What?" she asked flatly. "Causing more problems?"
"No. I can't fix the other one I caused," she said bitterly. "They needed the money, that's why I gave it to them. If I made them give it back or took it back it would hurt their orphanages." She put the bag down. "This is to replace what I stole." She backed up. "I'm sorry. I overreacted because I was protecting Zenny."
Murami nodded. "I understand, Dawn. I would have done the same thing if it had been done to my husband while he was alive." She pushed the bag aside. "There's news and I'm not sure if Lupin wanted you there or not. Fujiko was shot."
Dawn went pale and found a chair by feel. "Is she all right?" Murami shook her head. "The baby?"
"Marcus had a telltale on the baby. He took it from her body as the police got there. They let him go when he told them what had happened. She'll be released in a few days and be going back to Japan then."
Dawn nodded, swallowing hard. "I'll tell Zenny and Ray. Thank you, Murami. Tell Xander I'm sorry." She disappeared, taking off running through the halls to her husband's office to cry on him. "Fuji was shot," she sobbed.
Zenigata pushed her back. "Is she all right?" She shook her head. "Oh, damn." He held her closer, trying to calm her down. Ray came in, looking confused. "Fujiko Mine died."
"In Russia," he said, handing over the folder. "She sent Marcus off on a pastry chase to get him out of harm's way. He came back in time to greet the cops and to take the baby from her, then he disappeared again. The cops said it was necessary, he only told them a few things." He took Dawn to hold while he read the folder. "Shh, the baby's fine. He's with his father. They'll take care of him and the rest of that family."
She pulled back to look at him. "If I hadn't fucked up so badly then she could have been with them."
"Not even, princess," Ray said firmly. "Fujiko went off to have one last bout of fun. She had a midlife crisis moment and headed off with Marcus to protect the baby. She told one local thief in Russia that she was sending Marcus away with the baby once he was born." Dawn looked stunned. "She wanted to go be wild and have fun again. She didn't want to be a mother for a few months. She knew Xander wouldn't care if she took off for a bit and left the kids with her, so she did. She intentionally sent Marcus away knowing that there was a new hit out for her. We're lucky Marcus saved the baby at all." She nodded, clinging to him again. "I'll email Lavelle in a few minutes, Zen."
"That's fine. I can just as easily email Lupin and ask if we can go to the funeral." He tossed the folder down. "They don't have any idea who?"
"All they know is that Marcus found him and took him out since he was bragging that he capped her and the baby. He was on the bulletin boards when his typing stopped and Marcus interrupted to note it was him now and that Lavelle and he would be going after anyone who hurt their kids. Not Lupin, not Jigen, not Goemon, Lavelle - with Marcus backing him up. She said that the people on the board at the time decided it wasn't worth it to them to *ever* go near any of those kids until they were old enough to join the life, and then they expected them to follow in the same wonderful principles. Fujiko had her laptop on and was chatting on it when this happened. The cops literally interrupted while he was taking the baby out so Marcus tersely explained what was going on. Their own coroner noted she'd been dead for nearly thirty minutes before he took the baby." They both shuddered.
Dawn straightened up. "I can't get to them."
"We'll go the normal way, Dawn," Zenigata said firmly. He pulled something out of his desk and looked it over, then opened it and checked the phonebook. "Have the crooks had their numbers changed?"
"I updated my old phone last year," Dawn admitted. "It's current."
Zenigata nodded and sat down, pushing the send button. "Hi. I heard. We're all sorry."
Jigen looked at his phone, then frowned at Lupin. "It's Pops."
"Give," he ordered, taking it from him. "What do you want?" he demanded. He scowled when he heard the quiet words. "Thanks, means a lot." He hung up and tossed it aside. "I'm not talking to him."
"Obviously," Goemon said as he walked in. "What did Zenigata want?"
"To tender his 'sorries' and to ask if he could come to the funeral." Lupin gave him a look. "You didn't get to hear yet how Dawn decided to fuck Xander over." He shook his head. "You know that Zenigata shared some information with that social worker?" he asked briskly. Goemon nodded. "We went and faced him down about it. I no longer protect that man and he knows it. So Dawn decided to take it out on Xander. Gave some of his money away to charity without asking him. Had us listed as enemies and threats to all airlines. Things of that nature. We managed to get here by buying an airplane and a pilot's yearly salary." Goemon looked stunned. "It was literally the only way we could get here."
Goemon came over and hugged him. "Dawn has always been as fierce in her protection of what was hers as you are," he noted quietly. "I'm sure she feels horrible." He pulled back. "Zenigata and his people may come as long as they are respectful." He picked up the phone. "Is it in here?"
"Yeah, that one's mine," Jigen admitted. "It's under P."
Goemon nodded and found it, hitting the send button. "You may attend the funeral if you are respectful and decent. If not, then we do not need your presence." He hung up before anyone could say anything. Then he went back to the kitchen. Cleaning was making him feel better.
Lupin looked at Jigen. "Keep me from making it a double one," he requested quietly, going to lie down with the babies. He needed to rest to get Xander through this.
Jigen sat down, staring outside. "We need to find a new main hideout and stay there, together," he told himself.
Goemon came out and handed over a brochure. "Here. It was mailed to us by someone. It's next door to someone named Ripper."
"That would be Rupert Giles, vampire bastard," Jigen said dryly, taking the brochure to look over. "It's nice."
"It is, and he has horses as well," he noted, going back to his cleaning. "Or there is that old Imperial farm that's being sold."
"We've thought about that one," Jigen admitted. He settled in to read it. This one had everything they needed, including enough space for all the kids to train and roam. Plus the people next door raised hunters and jumpers. That meant the kids could go stare at horses when they wanted a pony. Plus, it got a supposedly beautiful coat of snow each year. He walked it into the bedroom Lupin had decided was theirs. "Here. Someone sent it to Goemon. Or he suggested the Imperial ranch again."
Lupin looked at it. "Where is this one?"
"Britain. Next to Ripper's estate."
Lupin looked up at him. "Gee, I wonder who sent it," he said bitterly.
"Probably Ethan. You know how much he likes Xan still." He sat down, smoothing down some baby hair. "You guys need to sleep in a bed."
"They're fine for right now, Jigen. They're comfy and cuddlesome." He looked through the brochure. "Nine inches of snow annually?" He shuddered. "That means we'd be nearly snowed in."
"Xander might like snow. He's never really been around snow during the winter except during jobs," Jigen pointed out.
"Maybe. I'll let him see it to see if he wants it or somewhere else. I'd like somewhere warmer, somewhere we don't have to travel forever to find real civilization."
Goemon walked in with something. "Marcus just brought that. This one is from Ethan and Ripper personally. Ripper relented when he realized it meant he'd have to see children daily." He looked at them. "Were we coming with you?"
"You know you're our family too," Lupin said, staring him down. Goemon nodded. "If you don't want to, you don't have to, but we'd never complain if you did."
"Then I might like that idea," he admitted. "It would be best for the children not to be alone right now."
Jigen punched him on the arm. "You too."
Jigen smirked at him. "You're mushy."
"I'm allowed," Goemon said firmly, glaring at him. "I can be as mushy as I need to be. I can also steal your wife from you now since I'm a widow." He gave them a look. "Do not strike me again."
Jigen smirked at him. "You're protesting too much."
Goemon sighed, then shook his head. "You are transparent. I will come with the children when we go." He went back to calling the appropriate people to deal with these things for him. Fortunately she had left some instructions in an email to Murami and him through Lotus' email account.
Lupin looked at Jigen. "Nice job," he said quietly. "All we have left is Xander."
Jigen sighed then nodded. "That'll be the hard one."
"It will," he agreed, looking over this one. "This is really nice. The Watcher's Council is getting rid of a lot of their property. We can add this to the family estates and split it up among the kids."
Jigen took it to look over, smirking at the blatant desire for them to be closer. "I guess vampires do have a heart."
"I guess so," Lupin agreed, stroking the kids' back.
Marcus appeared at the gateway, bowing to the kitsune guarding it. "I must speak with the Lady Xander. It is most imperative. Family business of an unpleasant nature." The guard looked him over. "I am Marcus Wyndam-Pryce. She does know me. I'm Goemon's apprentice." The kitsune led him up to a grand castle, making him wait in a little room. Finally Xander's kitsune friend came in wearing regal robes of state. Marcus bowed properly to him. "I'm here to inform Xander of some unpleasant, yet necessary, news, Lord of the Kitsune."
Marcus looked at him. "Fujiko Mine was killed earlier today." The fox spirit groaned and shook his head. "Her son was saved by me, but I got there nearly a half-hour after she had died."
"Fine. Do not break it hard. She is back in the baths. Wait here. I'll retrieve her. We were going to bring her back tonight." He walked away, his robes sweeping the floor as he moved. He tapped on Xander's door, walking in at her grunt. "Xander." She looked up, then went back to placing a pin exactly into her hair. "Here, let me." He finished her hair for her. "There, how's that?"
"Good. What's wrong?" She turned to look at him, careful not to scrape her stomach on the table. "You look upset, something wrong with your kits?"
He shook his head. "No, dear one. Something wrong at your home. Marcus is here to speak with you."
"My kids?" she asked, starting to breathe harder.
"No!" he said firmly, forcing her to calm down. "Fujiko." Xander's face fell. "Come, I'll lead you to him." He helped her stand up and tie her obi. He looked at her kimono. "I've never seen that one. It's very pretty. Did you steal it?" She blushed and nodded. "I must say, you have wonderful taste. The red and gold motif is wonderful on you." He took her arm as she put on her sandals and walked her down the halls. "Prepare yourself, it is not happy news."
"I didn't figure it was if he came all the way up here." She knocked on the door then walked in, stunning Marcus. "I liked it," she defended.
"You look adorable in it, Xander." He helped her into the room's lone chair. "Fujiko was shot."
"I figured it had to be bad. The baby?"
"With Goemon. I had a telltale on the baby so I could get there for the labor. The baby wasn't feeling much distress until about a half-hour after she died." Xander hung her head, shaking it. "I did get the upstart who dared to do such a vile thing. It was fast, a perfect sniper shot. I doubt her heart had any chance to do more than beat once. There was almost no blood around her."
"Thank you. I should go back. Goemon will need me." She stood up with a small grunt of annoyance. "This is the bad part of being pregnant." She bowed to her friend. "Thank you for hosting me again and fussing over me. Will we see you soon?"
"You will," he promised, kissing her on the cheek. "They need you more right now. You'll see me within the year." She nodded and let Marcus lead her away. He sighed and shook his head. "Goemon could do it without you," he whispered. "You make us more stable up here."
Xander appeared and her men had the instant dropped jaw reaction. She blushed a bit. "I liked it," she defended.
"You look adorable in it," Lupin breathed, then he coughed and elbowed Jigen unsubtlely.
Jigen swallowed. "Really darling, Xander. I take it you heard?" She nodded and moved, letting Marcus come back. "Goemon's locked himself in his room."
"Thanks." She headed that way slowly, going to give him a hug. She undid the lock with a hairpin, then put it back as she walked inside. "Hey." She knelt beside his futon, looking down at him. "Goemon?" He blinked up at her. "I just heard." She stroked a hand down his cheek. "I'm so sorry."
Goemon nodded, pulling her closer to hug him. "Thank you."
"Hey, you deserve better. So did she." Goemon looked up at her. "No one deserves to lose a spouse or a child, Goemon." She went back to soothing him. "How is the baby?"
"The baby is fine," he said tiredly. "He's over there if you wanted to look." She shook her head. "No?"
"No, you need more cuddles than that one does. He's got tons of people to cuddle him and you don't. Or won't. I guess I never got the point of that part of manliness." She shifted closer so he helped her lay down next to him. "Shh, I'm here. You rest and I'll protect you while you think and rest." He nodded, putting his head against her shoulder. "You're the only one who hasn't said anything about my outfit," she teased.
"It's darling, and very you, but it is dark in here." She created a small light and he snorted. "Trying to induce them into jumping you sooner? Put that out?" She put out the light. "That is a maiden's robe," he chided.
"I know, but they both had their mouths open in shock."
"That's because it does suit you. You are the most adorable thing in that. My mother got married in one such robe." He stroked her stomach gently when he felt movement. "Calm down. I am not taking your fathers' spot, I am simply letting her comfort me."
"I'm all for hugging," she promised, smoothing down his hair. "Do we know anything?"
"Just that the Russians aren't being very cooperative," he offered. "Other than that, only what Marcus has shared."
"I'll get onto Marcus later then," she promised. He nodded and she felt his eyelashes move so he must have closed his eyes.
Lupin stuck his head in. "Goemon, not to be insulting, but we didn't mean you could *steal* our wife," he joked weakly.
"I'm cuddling him, he needs it," Xander told him. "You can have some in a bit unless you want us to shift over so you can have my back. It's not like I've ever slept with him, Lupin."
"I know," he said as he came in and shut the door. "Scoot." They shifted some and he curled up behind Xander. "I know Goemon needs you but some of the rest of us could use you too. Ishi's looking for you to hug you too."
"We need one room wherever we're going permanently that has one of those big, native beds where everyone can nap together," she decided.
"We're moving?" Goemon asked.
"We're looking at things for a new main hideout since no one seems to be able to close the one in France," Lupin admitted. "We'll be kidnaping you and the kids if you don't come along."
"That would be a very loud house," Goemon noted. "I doubt we could meditate at all."
"Goemon, we're looking for a place the size of the one in France. You can have your own section of the roof even," Lupin teased. He looked across Xander's shoulder. "I promise we won't mob you."
"Fine," he sighed, smirking up at him. "You do fuss greatly."
"Yeah, and Xander loves me for it."
"Nearly as much as I do when you become an overprotective boob," Xander agreed, adjusting her pleats so they covered her better. "There. Now rest. I'm still tired. Even though I did get a few great massages, some nice soaking time, and a very nice dinner." Lupin kissed her on the cheek. "Thanks, Arsene." He shivered and wrapped an arm around both of them.
"I am not Jigen. Get off," Goemon said patiently. Lupin pinched him but his hand did move to wrap more around Xander's stomach. "Thank you. How he's put up with you for this long I do not know. You are very clingy."
"Yay," Lupin said dryly. "Another thing Xander likes about me."
"Keep it up and I'll go sleep with the kids," Xander warned. They quit playing. "I know it's stress relief, but you're giving me a headache, guys. Really." They both cuddled her better. "Thank you." She closed her own eyes, letting Goemon wrap her up again. He needed the cuddle more than Lupin did. He was just jealous and it showed.
Outside the door Ishi backed away and went to Jigen's room, tapping gently. "Why is your wife and Uncle Lupin cuddling my father?" he asked.
"Because your father needed some cuddles, the same as you did, kid. C'mere." Ishi came over and hugged him, relaxing in the stronger arms. "This is all Xander's doing for your dad, I promise. No matter how many times Lupin thinks she'll be stolen she won't be."
Ishi nodded and crawled up beside him, taking the comfort offered. "I do understand. I was going to get the same from her. The girls are very clingy tonight."
"All girls seem to think that the best thing after bad things is a hug," Jigen advised wisely. "Sometimes you've got to humor them." He stroked the soft hair. "You take a bath tonight?" Ishi nodded. "Good kid. You rest." Ishi nodded and relaxed, closing his eyes and letting himself be comforted. "Poor little guy," Jigen said quietly once the boy was asleep. "Raised in this madhouse. Maybe we should find Goemon a nice, normal woman who can help him sometimes. Or a really good housekeeper for the rest of us." He went back to his reading. He wanted to know exactly what he should be doing with Xander since she was so fragile and the healer had given him the book. It was very informative on kitsune pregnancies as well.
Ray walked up to the woman behind the desk. "I'm here to claim a body," he said gruffly. "One Fujiko Mine."
"She's already been buried," the secretary said, giving him a dirty look. "Who are you?"
He flashed his badge. "Interpol. You'd better hope her family doesn't hear of this. They wanted her buried back in her homeland, with them."
"Bah! She was a thief," she said dismissively.
"Did you find any current warrants for her arrest?" he asked coldly. She stared at him in shock. "Did you?" She shook her head, looking confused. "Then that makes her a former thief, one who has helped us a few times to capture some people who were worse. Now, as for her not having a family, her husband has already called a blood debt on the person who hired that man to kill his wife. Her children would also like her closer as well. If you buried her, you're going to be digging her up at your own expense and writing a very long letter of apology to her husband for going against his wishes."
"She has no family," she said firmly.
"She does, I sat there and watched her wedding as part of my surveillance. Not only is her husband Goemon, but she was also one of Lupin's gang and he has personally stated that she'll be brought back to be buried as her husband demands or he's going to come back into service to make your miserable, cold, dreary country sorry. Now, where is she?" he asked coldly.
"We buried her in a numbered grave," she said, pulling open a filing cabinet drawer. "I'm not sure who you would go to talk to about having her dug up."
"That's fine, right after this, I'm heading above you to your boss." She blanched. "Now, file." She handed it over. "Thank you." He strode off, heading for the highest person in the local ICPO office. He tapped then slapped the door open. "We've gotta talk," he said coldly. "You buried Fujiko Mine's body without her husband's permission. He has *vowed* to come make everyone involved in that sorry and his boss, Lupin, has promised to come bankrupt every one of your country's banks."
"Who are you?" the head asked carefully.
"Inspector Ray Kowalski. You can call Zenigata if you need proof. He got the threat from Lupin personally."
"We did not know she had family."
"Then you obviously aren't logged into any of the files or the ICPO systems. It lists in her files that she doesn't have any current warrants, has actually helped us on occasion, and does have a husband. Her wedding was put under surveillance by Zenigata personally." The man swallowed. "Now, we've got a problem and I'm here to solve it for ya. I'm one of Zenigata's boys and we'll be fixing it now."
He picked up the phone. "Let me call him." He dialed the Paris branch. "Get me Zenigata," he demanded.
Zenigata answered his desk phone. "Zenigata," he said tiredly. He sat up and looked across the room at Ray, then blinked. "Yeah, that's my guy," he said, nodding. "Yeah, he's there for her body. Yes, I did get a few threats from Lupin in my email if we didn't hand her back to him. I'm not sure, I passed them over to the field operative who handles that for me since I can't go into the field anymore. Yes, that would be Ray," he agreed. Ray's head popped up and he had the classic 'huh' look on his face. Zenigata held up a finger. "Yes, I would say that you burying her against her husband and children's wishes will probably get a great many people killed. I've studied Goemon as part of Lupin's gang now for decades. I have never once seen the man cry, not even when his children were born. I saw him cry over this one. I'd say any and all threats are legitimate and they can always think up worse." He smiled. "Thank you for your cooperation. Yes, please tell Ray to call me later," he requested. "I want to know what he had to do to fix this one. We're trying to protect life and property this time, it's more important than our need to honor all the rules. Thank you for your cooperation." He hung up and looked at Ray. "Do you have a twin?"
"No, but Xander does do a mean version of me," he noted. He went back to his freecell game. "They buried her?"
"They did and someone went to fix it. They're you apparently."
"That would be Xander," Ray agreed. "I wish him luck, I hated that place the last time I was up there." He blanched and looked up. "Shit, Sergovina."
"The blonde I had drinks with," he groaned.
"You slept with her?"
"Um, yeah. Wasn't married then," he noted dryly. He pulled out his desk drawer and the phone that had been delivered to him weeks ago. It only had one number in it and he dialed it. "It's me," he said in greeting. "There's a cute blonde, Sergovina Rusklana. Yeah, her. How did you know about that!" He grimaced. "Fine. Yes, we did, thank you." He hung up. "He was watching us have drinks," he said in a funny voice.
"Probably wasn't the first time," Zenigata said dryly. "Not much else to do up there it seems like. Especially when you can't go sightseeing because you're on duty."
"Is that why Commander Minsk kept trying to get into your drawers?" he asked with a grin. His boss gave him a cold look. "Just askin', boss, really," he said with an innocent grin.
"Are you sure you're not Xander and the real you is there?"
"I know I'm not there. Remember, I had ta go help Emmajean puke again this morning. Xander wouldn't do that."
"Xander's had a lot of morning sickness this time. I'm sure he'd be able to help her quite well," Zenigata said, leaning back to watch him. "Too bad he's a wiggly person too." Ray gave him a harsh look. "Come on, I know it's you, Lavelle."
"Actually, it's not me," Ray told him. "Lavelle is in Russia. Jigen and Lupin are in Osaka to get the guy who was usin' kids ta get Lavelle into his custody to try and rape and kill 'im. Goemon is back at his school mourning and watching the kids. But that's okay because I'm still good," Ray admitted as he pulled off his choker to become Marcus. "Morning."
"Marcus?" he asked, looking shocked. "You're that good too?"
He smirked. "Of course I am. Who do you think taught me?"
"Xander," he said bitterly.
Marcus smirked as he stood up. "Got it in one," he said fondly. "Any word on the main house? Lupin wanted to know but he's refusing to even say your name at the moment. Something about making Xander miserable."
"That was Dawn, not me," he defended. "I told her not to." He stood up. "Where is Ray?"
"With his wife, who is still puking I believe. Her uncle got injured in a shootout and a small riot. She's flying to his side with Ray. They wrote you an email I believe." Zenigata turned on his computer. "Now. I believe it's time we talked, Zenigata. Lupin is quite peeved at you. Jigen will back him up in his honest and reasonable anger. Xander nearly spits each time he says your wife's name and young Ishi has decided that you had something to do with all this mess. I am the only one who you can justify yourself to." Zenigata gave him a confused look. "Ah, then you don't know. They did find the person who wrote the letter and shot her. I did actually. He was busy composing an email to you about how he had, and I quote, taken out your dirty laundry so you were once again clean."
The cop's mouth fell open and he sat down again. "They were going to come after me?"
"More to the point, I believe they wanted your attention and approval as a very clean and worthy cop. So therefore he was trying to clean up after you. No Lupin, no taint, no obsession, then you could go back to being a regular cop. I do not believe he was working alone. I do believe that he was working with a young man who is one of Lavelle's groupies. I do also believe that he would attack you if you came to the funeral. You or your family. As none of us are willing to speak to your wife and only I am willing to speak to you now, I thought it best to warn you. Since I have, I'm going to go back to talking to a realtor about a house." He waved and disappeared.
Zenigata picked up his phone, calling his house. "Dawn, watch out. The person who shot Fujiko wasn't acting alone. No, Marcus was just here. He said he's the only one who would warn me." He slumped. "Are you sure?" He nodded. "Thank you." He hung up and put his head down. "I don't want this anymore."
Xander walked out to the plane, seeing a familiar body checking it over. "Hildegard?" She turned and he realized his mistake. "Sorry, you reminded me of someone I met long ago."
"No, I'm Olivia. Hildegard is my step-sister. How'd you know her?"
"She helped me out of Istanbul way back when," he said bitterly. "I was in pretty bad shape at the time too."
She looked impressed. "Then you're...." She noticed the body. "That her?" He nodded. "We've set up a secure resting spot for the flight back." She led the cargo people to the hold, letting them lock the casket into place. "Thank you." She went back over the locks as the supposed cop joined her. "You're Lavelle," she said quietly. He smiled at her. "Get that a lot?"
"Quite." He waved a hand at the doorway. "We ready?"
"Just one last shipment. Marcus needs to join us." She straightened up and closed the door, making one person yelp. "Nosy bastards."
"Probably the local Interpol." He went to the door leading into the plane. "Marcus?" Marcus looked back at him. "Great. Can we go, please?"
"Sure, right on it," she agreed, moving past him. "How did you do that?"
Marcus smiled at her. "Trade secret."
"Cute." She checked the door, making sure the handle was fully locked since he hadn't. She looked back at them. "Lupin still hasn't hired me a stew to sexually harass. If you want something from the galley, go ahead and get it. We've got some crackers, some nuts, and some soda."
"I'll do that soon," Xander promised, rearranging his choker to become Sylvia. "Morning." She grinned.
"How did you do that?"
"Huh." She came over and kissed her, then grinned. "That's why I took this job, so I could do that." She went to start the plane. "Tokyo, right?"
"Yup," Xander agreed, buckling in. Marcus handed him a bag. "What's this for?"
"For when your stomach rebels, Xander. It was bad enough I had to see Emmajean doing such. Oh, Ray wanted you to know that her uncle will be fine, it was a minor gunshot wound to the arm, but that his favorite gun was trashed during it."
Xander groaned. "Poor Eugene. I'll have to send him a card. His mother gave him that one." The plane started off and he looked out the window. "Hey, Olivia, you might want to hurry it up. We've got a cop car behind us." The plane turned onto a runway and the cop car went in another direction. "Good, they're after someone else this time," she said happily. The plane taxied and lifted off, heading back on its mission. Xander did indeed get sick and was quite nasty for half the flight.
Xander looked across the small gathering of people for the funeral. It was a nice day, kinda breezy and warm, but nice enough. Fujiko probably would have gone outside to read on a day like today. On the other side of the casket were Zenigata's crew. On this side was Lupin and his crew, plus the local former Don and the present Don. It was a great show of respect and Xander could only hope his was like this. The kids were all back at the house with a very serious woman guarding them courtesy of the new Don. Only Ishi and Lotus were in attendance. It was their mother and their father had given them the choice. They had decided to come but they knew they had the right to go running for the car if they needed to. It had taken some maneuvering to get her body back from Russia, mostly on Xander's part. The minister at the end of the casket closed his book and stepped back.
Lupin stepped up first and put down a white rose, then stepped back to lean against Xander's side. Jigen stepped forward and put down a blue one, he had never felt as strongly about her as Lupin had. Xander sniffed his then put his own white rose on the casket, moving to let Lupin fully lean against him. It wouldn't look too odd for those watching even though he was in male form. Goemon let his children go up before him, then he put down a white rose of his own. The others stepped up to pay their own respects. Xander watched particularly hard as Zenigata and Dawn stepped forward. They were very respectful and he couldn't fault their manners in this case. He and Dawn shared a short look but his eyes were behind sunglasses and hers weren't so she couldn't tell what he was thinking. He saw her stop and look back at the casket before taking her husband's hand. Then they walked off together with Ray and Emmajean behind them.
Xander waited while the other crooks spent their respects and said quiet words of mourning to Goemon before coughing quietly. "Goemon?" The samurai looked at him. "Wasn't there supposed to be a body in there?" he asked, looking at him.
Goemon nodded, swallowing hard. "There was. Is there not?" he asked quietly. Xander shook his head.
"I don't know," Xander admitted. "I didn't think to look back in Russia. It was heavy enough and it felt right somehow. Now it doesn't." He looked at the minister. Then he looked at Lupin. "Take the kids to the car," he instructed. Lupin nodded and walked over to where the kids were waiting for them, taking them to the car. It was a bit away and didn't have a direct line of sight. Xander looked at the minister. "Is there?"
"No," he admitted, shaking his head. "There was at first. Now there is not. I have no idea what has happened to it."
"Was she dead?" Jigen asked.
The minister sighed. "Undoubtedly dead, sir. I do not know what happened."
"Who had access?" Xander asked.
"No one not of the temple. I do not understand."
Goemon stood as straight as he could. "How would one move a body out of your temple without someone knowing? There were guards."
"I don't know." He looked at the picture of Fujiko on display, then shrugged. "I've seen many bodies, but this one had makeup already on it. I do not understand," he repeated, seeming to plead.
"Marcus said he removed the child," Jigen said firmly.
"Yes, and I did not see any sign of any marks other than the autopsy marks," the minister admitted. "I'm so sorry."
Goemon nodded. "I thank you. She obviously is dead, even if she is not." He turned and Xander and Jigen escorted him back. "Tell no one."
"I'm not," Xander promised. He took his hand and held it. "If this was her will, then she had her reasons. If it wasn't, then we'll find out and do something about it."
Lupin stepped out of the car, looking at them. He smiled and took Xander's other hand to hold. "It'll be okay. We'll let you steal Xander all you need, Goemon."
Goemon gave him a look. "I'll come if I need such comfort," he admitted, climbing into the back of the car with his children. "Are you both all right?"
Ishi nodded. "We'll be fine, father. Thank you." They both moved closer, hugging him as hard as they could. "Would you be upset if we hugged Uncle Xander too?"
"Not in the least. He is quite good at comforting after bad things happen. He comforted me after you were born and after Lotus was born," he said with less enthusiasm than normal.
"Okay," Lotus agreed. She smiled as Xander climbed in, moving over to sit in his lap. "Can I cuddle you now?"
"Sure, kiddo. My lap is open to either of you. You remember that, Ishi. You don't have to be a big, strong, tough guy right now. It's normal to want to cry."
"Even I want to," Goemon agreed. His son sniffled and let go of all the pain he'd been holding inside. Lotus shifted back over to hold him too. Her big brother needed her now. Goemon looked at Xander. "If it does, then we will act. Until that happens, we will not go looking."
"We won't," Lupin admitted. He took his usual spot beside Xander in the back of the limo, holding onto him. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. The baby's not too bad right now," he said contently, resting against his husband's side. "I'm going to go for a walk in the woods later."
"That's fine," Jigen agreed. "Want company?"
"No. You two can hog the kids tonight, I want to spend some time alone."
"That's fine," Lupin agreed, giving him a gentle squeeze. "Why were you staring at Dawn?"
"Because I was evaluating my chances of beheading her," he said honestly. "She tried to hurt me and the kids. I won't stand for it."
"She replaced the money and she said she was sorry," Jigen offered.
"Yay. She wasn't. Now I know where her limit is." He shrugged, giving him a look over the top of his sunglasses. "I'll have to wait and see if something needs to be done."
"If it does, we'll do it for you," Lupin promised. "That way you don't have to." He went back to stroking the hard stomach. "We'll be fine and you'll take a nap on the way home." Xander nodded and yawned on cue, stroking her stomach like that always helped make her sleepy. "Good boy. You rest, Xander." Xander nodded, putting his head on Lupin's shoulder and closing his eyes. Lupin removed the sunglasses and put them aside, making sure Xander would nap. "You guys could nap too," he offered. "It's a few hours back to the house."
"Yes, Uncle," Lotus said dutifully. She curled up against her brother, scowling when he pushed her away. "I need cuddles too!"
"Sorry," Ishi said, pulling her closer again. "I don't want to be clung to."
"Tough." She nuzzled his shoulder and fell asleep with her arms around his stomach.
"You try to rest as well," Goemon ordered. "The girls will be quite fierce in their desire to cuddle you later." Ishi nodded and closed his eyes, leaning against his father's side. He waited until Lotus was snoring and Ishi was drooling on him to speak again. "Was I unfair to her?" he asked quietly.
"Hell no," Jigen said firmly. "If this was her idea, I'll kick her ass for ya." Goemon gave him an understanding look. "You don't do that to your mate and kids."
"Thank you." Goemon relaxed. "If what was said was true, then something else is going on. I would like to know what."
"As would I," Lupin agreed, glancing down at Xander. "I think he'll find out first and tell you."
"Do you think this was her idea?" Goemon asked. "You have known her longer."
"I might have, but you knew her better than we ever could," Lupin pointed out.
"What does your heart tell you, Goemon?" Jigen asked.
"It tells me that it was not her idea, but that could be denial. I have noticed that I turned a blind eye to her stunts in the past."
"We won't let you this time, buddy," Lupin promised. "We'll even take her out to a woodshed for you if necessary." Goemon nodded, looking down at his children. "Even if it weren't true, then she wouldn't be coming back," Lupin said gently. "She knows this was a permanent step. There is no going back after this." Goemon nodded, looking relieved about that. "If you even think you see her, I want to know immediately."
"I will," Goemon assured him, looking much relieved that they weren't going to make him deal with this alone. "Xander brought up a point. Marcus is most active recently. She is going to be back in bed relatively soon if her health gets worse again. We need to be somewhere more stable for the children and I do not want to go back to the house yet."
Lotus woke up when they hit a pothole and blinked at him. "Daddy?" He gave her a gentle smile and pushed some of her hair around. "We're not going home?"
"Not yet. I do not want the pain of the house yet, Lotus."
She nodded. "I understand. It reminds me of mommy too." She gave his hand a pat then moved it out of her hair. "Don't make it too messy or Arsene will complain."
"I won't. Would you like it if we found a nice house to stay in for a while?" She nodded.
"How about if we found a nice lady to help Xander with you guys until after he gives birth?" Lupin asked. "Would that be okay?"
She looked at him. "She take the place of the mommy?"
"No, she'd be taking Marcus' place," her father told her. Ishi woke up and blinked at him. "We were talking about finding a new nanny for a bit since Xander will be back in bed as soon as we get home. Would that upset you?"
He tipped his head to the side. "Not to take Mommy's place?"
"No, not to take her place," Goemon agreed. "Someone to teach you when we are all busy and to help Xander with your care while she is ill."
Ishi gave him a serious look. "Then I do not see a problem with a formal nanny. Uncle Marcus is obviously busy since he wasn't there."
"He blames himself, Ishi," Lupin told him. "He blames himself for not being fast enough to protect her. He's very mad at himself and he won't be back for at least a week. I knew he'd want to say his goodbyes in private." Ishi nodded. "It doesn't mean he loves you less."
"Why wasn't he fast enough?" Lotus asked.
"Because your mother sent him off to soothe a craving the baby had," Goemon told them. "She sent him away and he put a telltale on the baby. So he felt it when the baby started to struggle. He went back then and saved your brother but he was unable to save Fujiko."
"Oh." Ishi stared out the window. "Did he try?" he asked it.
"He did," Lupin assured him, making the boy look at him. "Your Uncle Marcus loved your mother like his sister. He never would have left her alone if he had known what would happen. That's why he blames himself."
"He turned all his anger at the people who got your mother on himself for not bein' fast enough," Jigen told him. "He's just as upset as you."
"Okay," he said quietly, staring at them. "Who is this new nanny person?"
"We're not sure yet but the old Don, the one who came up to visit when you first got there, said that he knew of one," Lupin told him. "We'll be meeting with her first, then you guys will get to meet her. Deal?" Ishi nodded and hugged his sister so she'd ease up on his ribs. "It's okay, kids. We'll be right there with you the whole time. We're not letting you guys go off by yourself for a very long time."
"Yes, sir," Lotus said tiredly, closing her eyes again. "We should nap. Melissa will want to cuddle."
"Melissa needs her own boyfriend. I'm not hers," Ishi said firmly.
Jigen shuddered. "That's a damn scary thought," he noted. "Those two having a kid some day."
Goemon gave him a look of horror. "No. Lords no. Please, not that."
Lupin snickered. "That would be one stubborn kid," he agreed in a lighter tone of voice. Both the twins were as stubborn as Xander and as prone to giving way as an elephant napping in the sun across a road. Ishi was nearly as stubborn. That kid would drive their parents insane. Not to mention the grandparents. Xander snorted and woke up, looking at them. "Ishi said Melissa thinks he's her boyfriend."
Xander shuddered. "Just don't, Ishi. She'll drive you insane." Ishi pouted at him. "Seriously. It would be one of those times when you'd be legitimately leaving on long vacations each month."
Ishi nodded. "I won't. I don't like girls, they're yucky."
"That's a good thought, son," Goemon agreed, patting him on the head.
Commandant Mahoney looked up as two more of the kids coming in for the camp appeared, coming out of a cab. He smiled at them, it was obvious who at least one of their parents were. One looked just like Jigen. He walked over to take their bags. "Hi, girls. Sierra and Savanna?" They nodded, grinning at him. "Which is which?"
"I'm Sierra," she said, shaking his hand. "I'm going to take Uncle Ray's spot one day."
"And I'm Savanna. I want to be a CSI," she said proudly. "I'm also a gun person. I've got a message for Eugene, sir. Is he here yet?"
"He's out by the range doing his daily practice. Don't you want to get settled in first?" She shrugged. "Okay. We'll get you settled in first and then you can go see him. Or later today since you'll have him over your group." He led the girls to the check-in desk, smiling at Jonesy as he checked them in. "These two are Sierra and Savanna.... Girls, what last name did he make you go by this time?"
"I'm a Lupin," Sierra told him.
"And I'm a Jigen," Savanna told him. "They said it was pretty useless hiding it."
"Okay," Jones agreed, finding their forms. "Here we are." He smiled at them and let them sign their names. "We have you in Building 'B', Sierra. It's more for the people who don't know what they want to do or for those who want to be general cops. Savanna, you're in a pretty small group. You're in Building 'J', which used to be the boy's dorms. You'll have the technical people and the computer people there. Okay?" They nodded so he handed them maps. "There you go. Ask any officer if you get lost." They beamed and trotted off. He looked at Mahoney. "Is that really a good idea?"
"They want to be cops. Lavelle trusts us to treat them fairly." He shrugged. "He donated the money for the camp when we came up short. It came legally through some financial granting place. I asked and the Governor said we could run it." He shrugged. "What better way to show them how bad it can be?" He went to help some other lost kids. Hightower had scared some earlier by being so big and scary so it fell to him.
Savanna snuck out onto the range. "Mr. Eugene, sir?" she asked. He looked down at her, taking off his sunglasses. "Hi. My mommy said I was to give this to you," she said, handing over the brightly wrapped package. "He said it was pretty hard to find but that you needed one because you were one of his favorite buddies to play with and that he knew you'd miss your old one." She beamed because she had remembered the exact message. "Oh, he said there were pictures in there too underneath your present." She looked at the range. "Are we gonna get to use real guns? Our mommy made sure we can shoot already when he taught the other kids. I can use a gun, a small crossbow, a regular bow, and a bolo. Plus a stake, a kendo stick, and I'm a really good planner," she bragged.
"Wow. You're already very well trained, Savanna." He patted her on the head. "Thank your mommy for me, okay?" She nodded. "Now, go get changed. You've got line-up in a few minutes." She ran off and he opened his present, giving the gun inside a watery grin. "Oh, Lavelle," he sighed, touching the forty-five lovingly. "I found one of my own but it wasn't the same. This one is exactly like my old one." He pulled it out to touch it. It was perfectly balanced and had just the right grip for someone who would use it. "Wow."
Mahoney coughed. "Gene?" He smiled and showed it off. "Lavelle?" He nodded. "Cool. Anything else sent with the girls?"
"Pictures." He handed over the box while he loaded his new gun and tried it out a few times. It was exactly the same. "Wow, just like Mom's."
"Wonderful," Mahoney agreed, giving him a pat on the back. He smiled at the picture of Ray being frantic and pacing beside Emmajean's bed during her labor. He laughed at the picture of Lavelle and the kids with Lupin's head peeking in from the side. He nudged Eugene and handed them over. "Here."
"Thanks." He smiled at them too. "Man, Lavelle's got a wide family. Oh. I just realized. Savanna called him the mommy and called him a he."
"He did say he was pregnant when he popped around for the wedding."
"Yeah, he did," Eugene agreed, looking at both pictures. "He's got a big family." He tucked them both into his wallet and then went to help with line-up. "Attention!" he called as they appeared. The kids all went to attention.
"Thanks. Welcome to the first annual Children's Camp," Mahoney said, moving forward to talk to the kids. "You know you're here to see if being a cop is the right thing for you. Most of your parents are cops, though a few of yours aren't." Savanna snickered at that and he gave her a look. "Some of your parents have even been on the other side of the law," he agreed, shaking his head. One boy raised his hand. "Yes, son?"
"Sir, my father said he was ordered to raise little cops by a gunman. He wasn't sure if I was eligible or not."
"You are. He told us what Lavelle told him. Don't worry about, son." He smiled at them. "For the next six weeks, we'll give you a taste of the police life. You'll learn a lot about the law. You'll learn a bit about what the academy can teach you. We'll even give you all a gun safety lecture."
"That's my part and I'll need to know tonight who else has already had that lecture," Tackleberry interrupted. Those two girls both raised their hands with one other kid. "Thank you." He took down their names and would pay special attention to them on the range. He had no doubt Lavelle's daughters would respect it but others wouldn't.
"Also, you'll get to learn something about some of the specialities. Some of you already know what sort of cop you want to be. In case you hadn't noticed, we've split your groups up so the more technical could go through their things together and those who wanted to be other sorts could go through as a group."
One boy nudged Sierra. "I bet you're one of those dweebs," he sneered.
"No, that would be my sister, Savanna Jigen. I'm Sierra Lupin. Get it right, putz. Before I use you for a practice dummy." She faced forward again and raised her hand. "Commandant, my parents said you could arrange for those of us who had daily physical exercises to do them? Who do I speak to about that and taking my first blackbelt test?"
"You'll speak to Lieutenant Jones about that," he said, smiling at her. "You're going for a blackbelt?"
"Technically, I'm not sure where I am. I'm being privately tutored in that and I needed to know where I was in relation to others. Thank you, sir." She quieted down when she noticed the others staring at her. "What?" she demanded. "My parents said so."
"Other kids take riding lessons, she got martial arts classes," Mahoney soothed.
"Yeah, not at all like our sisters," Savanna said bitterly.
"You could still go bad," Sierra reminded her.
"But I don't want to! I want to work with guns but not shoot people like the dads."
"Enough," Eugene called. The kids settled down and nodded at him. "Thank you." He stepped forward. "I want you all to break up by floors and buildings. I'll have the technical people underneath myself and Lieutenant Hightower," he announced. "Go to the field on the other side of the building. You'll meet up again for dinner." The kids from those floors trudged over there. "All yours," he said happily.
Mahoney smiled at him. "Thanks." He looked at the remaining kids, staring at the two Zenigata children. "The rest of you will be underneath me, Jones, and Proctor. Consolidate your lines." They moved in to fill in for the blank spots. "Good. Now let's go over what you'll be doing schedule-wise each day for the next six weeks."
Xander looked at the kids attending their first summer camp. "Okay, guys. Let's find some order here." The kids all looked at him and gathered closer. "Thanks. I'm Lavelle. I'm a gunman. You're here to learn if you want to be a thief or not." They all nodded. "As such, we'll be teaching you a bit about the skills you'll need to cultivate." The older kids snorted. "You guys, pipe down or go clean toilets." They quit. "Thank you." He looked at them all again. "As I said, I am a gunman. I am also a decent enough lockpick, a fairly good thief, a decent enough swordsman, and a lot of other things. The other thieves with us will be helping you where I'm not competent enough to teach you anything. Lupin will, of course, be doing impression management and lock picking. Goemon will be in charge of physical activities, including scaling walls, climbing ropes, and will be helping Lupin in teaching the art of breaking and entering. Jigen and I will be teaching you gun safety and expanding your knowledge of them. He likes old school stuff and I like artillery. I'll also be doing the art of disguise," he admitted with a grin. "I know a few of you won't want to go into the life after we're done with you. We respect that. We also won't have the camp in the same place next year." Everyone nodded, that seemed reasonable enough. "Good. Now, we've sorted you by age. Since there's some of you that are older, yet only partially experienced in the minor things, we'll be doing rotations of lessons. You older kids get us first thing in the morning while the younger ones get Goemon. We don't like mornings nearly as much as he does."
Ishi snickered. "You can say that again."
Xander grinned at him. "Hush, Ishi." He rolled his eyes. "Some of them are our own kids. We know that they've had the benefit of our experiences for way longer than most of you. We're not asking you to live up to our standards in the next six weeks. We're asking you to do your best and to try. For now, you older kids go to the craft building and go see Lupin. Ishi, I'm making you a team leader of the younger group. Paula, I want you heading the younger teenagers, from ten to fourteen. Mike, I want you to head the kids from fifteen and up. Got it?" They nodded. "Good. Mike, you're team A. Go see Lupin. Paula, you're team B, go see Goemon. Ishi, you're team C, go unpack now. Then you're to go see Jigen. He's not ready for you guys yet." They headed off, heading for their assigned buildings.
Lupin came out of the building and gave him a hug. "Good job, Xan," he whispered, going back to teaching the arts he knew.
Xander skipped off to the range to help Jigen set up the small pistols. "Lupin said I did good," he repeated.
Jigen gave him a kiss. "You do good with the kids. You're a natural mother, and sometimes a Natural Mother to deal with," he teased. Xander hit him on the arm and stole another kiss as the kids joined them. "You guys unpacked and junk?" They all nodded. "Good. How many are we missing?"
"Four," one girl said. "You don't like girls, Mr. Jigen?"
"I like 'em just fine, but Lavelle and Sylvia are unique cases. It keeps them sane," he told her. "Don't worry about it. You won't catch us again." The kids tittered and giggled. Ishi led the last kids to them. "All here?" Ishi nodded. "Good. Ishi, step up and show 'em what they're doing."
Ishi stepped forward. "I'm not the greatest with guns, but this is one," he said, holding it up. "It's a pistol, an older thirty-eight revolver. Jigen says they're very accurate if the shooter is any good." He checked it and then let the kids look it over. "Are we practicing loading today?"
"We are," Jigen agreed. "Good kid." He patted him on the head. "Get back into line." He waited until everyone had gotten to see the gun. "On the side is a little switch. Did any of you not see it?" One girl raised her hand so the gun was handed back to her and she searched until she found it. She dropped it when the cylander popped open. "It's okay," he said patiently. "Lots of people have that reaction to the older guns." It was handed back and he showed it to them. "This is the only way to load this thing. You put the bullets in so the thick part rests on the outside and the tapered end goes inside." He put one in to show them. "Got it?" They nodded. "Good, file up slowly and get your own and a set of bullets. We'll practice that today before going over the gun safety lecture. Once you have yours loaded, put it on the shelf in front of targets. Each of you take one." They nodded and came up to get theirs.
One girl struggled and struggled but she couldn't quite get the thing inside the hole. She burst out in tears.
Xander moved over to her. "Hey, it's all right," he soothed, giving her a pat on the head. "We can't be great at anything. Let me show you." He showed her how to put the first one in instead of her trying to put it in backwards. "Now you do it." She did the next five. "Good job," he praised, smiling at her. "Now put it on the shelf." She did so, taking the last open spot. He and Jigen shared a look. This was going to be a long six weeks.
To part 24
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