Note: Still before the epilogue in part 23.
Xander looked down at the kids, smiling at them. "We're going to Geneva," he announced. "There's a very important meeting that we have to run so other bad guys can't get overly upset and kill each other. We'll be shifting everyone to an apartment over there for a few weeks, then coming back here."
"Should we pack?" little Arsene asked.
Xander nodded. "Yes, you should," he agreed. "Pack anything you absolutely can't do without for the next three weeks to a month." They nodded and went to do that. "Remember to include your school books," he called after them.
"We'll pack one bag with them," Lupin called. "Bring them to the table." He kissed Xander gently. "How are you feeling?"
"Tired and cranky. You?"
"About the same actually since you kicked me all night," he admitted with a small grin. "Getting me back for her?"
"Yup." She smirked at him. "Is it working yet?"
"Definitely, but Jigen wanted to know if you'd nap with him for a while. He didn't get kicked and I made it seem like it was special."
"Okay." She headed into the bedroom to lie down. "I'll pack later," she said when Jigen woke up a bit. "I'm cuddlesome now."
"You're troublesome," Jigen countered. "No kicking." He pulled her closer, wrapping himself around her so she couldn't kick him without a lot of effort. "Now sleep."
"Fine," she sighed, resting her head next to his. She burped and he grunted, letting her go a bit. "Sorry. Let me brush my teeth and take something for my stomach."
Jigen helped her onto her back then flipped her over, holding her from that side. "Better," he decided. No stinky breath from Goemon's miso soup and pickled radishes. No belching in his ear. No possible kicking. No baby kicking. And she wanted to be cuddled. It was great for him. Let Lupin have her front, it was probably his kid anyway.
Xander drifted off, gently stroking her stomach. "Wow. You are one strong baby, baby Jigen," she whispered.
Jigen smirked. "Not necessarily," he whispered once he was sure he was the only one awake. Xander flipped over and snuggled into his chest, letting the baby kick him for a bit. "Oh, well, payback is a bitch." She nuzzled him and he patted her on the back. "No wiping your nose on my chest, Xander."
"Sleep," Jigen ordered. Xander nodded and drifted off again. Jigen looked at Goemon as he came in. "You're the expert, what's with her and the nose-wiping?"
"It's called nuzzling. It's a comfort action." He stood at the foot of the bed. "Why are we going to Geneva?"
"To host that meeting."
"Which she'll be doing."
"Are you going to let *Xander* go to Geneva by herself, like this?" Jigen asked dryly.
Goemon considered it, then shook his head. "I withdraw the question. What is this new hideout like?"
"I have no fricken' idea," Jigen admitted. "I've never even heard of this place before. You'll have to ask her and the baby."
Goemon nodded. "I'm sure we'll all fit somehow. Lupin has called Olivia. She'll be meeting us tomorrow morning." Jigen nodded. "I had heard rumors.... Is she seriously attracted to your wife?"
"She likes to flirt," Lupin said from the doorway. "Does this mean I get to pack for both of you?" Jigen shrugged. "Good. Then it can only be better than Goemon's attempts, which left her without anything but workout clothes." He came over, packing her things quickly. She hadn't brought that much with her. "Nothing pretty, Goemon?"
"I figured you would be taking care of that, as you should," he said firmly.
Lupin smirked at him. "Fine, we'll buy her more pretty things. You can help."
"Then no one would watch the children."
"We're not bringing Bix?" Jigen asked.
"I had forgotten about her."
"She's one quiet woman," Lupin agreed. "I didn't even wake up when she came out to do breakfast this morning."
"I was already up," Goemon admitted, sitting on the foot of the bed. "Are we sure this is necessary?"
"Think about it, Goemon. If we don't go, then everyone and their brother could start fighting again," Lupin pointed out, stopping his packing to make his points. "We're being asked to handle the situation for everyone, to make sure that some sort of arrangement is worked out and the truce starts up again. Otherwise, Europe and Japan will both be massive war zones."
"Then we'd have to move to the US to get away from them all," Jigen offered. Goemon shuddered. "Exactly. Even if we went to Hawaii, we'd still never fit in. So let's take the time to do this. We'll be back in time for her next appointment so we can bother the doctor with her. Then we'll settle back and help the kids to make their Disney Tokyo goal." Lupin shuddered. "Tough, we promised."
"We did," Lupin agreed patiently. "I still hate Disney. Can't we steal from them?"
"With all the shoplifting the children did, I'm surprised that they didn't have to restock the resorts."
"Hey, we kept Arsene from bringing home a dolphin," Xander said tiredly. "It was hard work doing that." Lupin whimpered, shaking his head. "It was a pretty decent plan too. All she needed was to know how to drive a truck and a crane."
"Oh, damn," Lupin winced.
"She had someone nearly blackmailed into it," Goemon added. "Melissa helped quite a bit."
"Shit," Jigen said, shaking his head. "Our girls are amazing, Lupin."
"Tell me about it," he said with a bright grin. "Just proves it's the father's contributions that make the kid so special." Xander gave him a harsh look. "Mothers have a lot but thieving skills obviously come from the father." She lunged up, grabbing Goemon's sword before he could react, but fortunately he caught her around the waist and took it from her. "Sorry, didn't mean to insult you," he said, running away.
Goemon looked at her. "You still telegraph your intentions."
"Yay." She laid down with a huff, glaring at Jigen. "Feel the same way?" He shook his head slowly. "Good, lay there and be a good body pillow."
"Yes, dear," he agreed, nodding. She was one scary bitch! He looked at Goemon, who smirked. He kicked him on the thigh. "That's it, no more lessons with you, samurai. I'd hate to wake up one morning looking like my daughters."
"Sorry," Jigen said quieter. He pulled her closer, holding her tightly. Goemon snickered, walking out with a smug air. "We need ta fix him up on a blind date."
"It's too soon and you won't do that to my buddy."
"Aren't we buddies?" Jigen demanded.
"Yup, which is why I went after Lupin for that crack. Notice you're still whole."
"Hmm. Good point. Did you get his pants?" She looked up and smiled. "Good girl. Demand a treat now. Just like every other woman on the globe." She pinched him, making him wince. "Yes, dear." She snuggled back in, getting comfortable. He laid there and let her do whatever she wanted. She was one scary bitch and she was all his.
Outside, Lupin was looking down at the gaping hole in his pants, taking long breaths and sending many silent prayers she had missed him by mere microns. She had even gotten his underwear in a few spots.
Their pilot, Olivia, walked back to where Xander was curled up in her chair, leaning down to kiss her gently. "Hello, precious one. Going home and leaving them?"
"Going to host some meetings so Europe doesn't explode into conflict," she said tiredly, grinning at her. "Leaving the men just seems like a good idea at the moment. They never let me nap."
"After doing this to you, I'm sure they're feeling quite manly. I'm sure it's natural." Xander nodded, she had experienced this problem before. "Then you try to rest. Let me look after the little Lupin, the little Jigen, and the little Goemon with the nanny."
"Sure, have fun," she agreed with a yawn. "Savannah, help her look after the kids until the daddies get on?"
"Sure, mommy," she said quietly, looking over from her history book. "You napping again?"
"Yeah, I think I will," she agreed, closing her eyes. "Be good, kids."
"I'll watch them, Auntie Xander," Ishi said calmly, looking at Arsene and Melissa. "This time you won't be able to steal anything from anyone."
Melissa held up a set of keys. "Really?"
Olivia coughed and took them, holding in her smile. "Very nice work, I hadn't even missed them yet."
Arsene held out the sunglasses. "Here, I think you dropped these too. I found them," she said in her most innocent voice.
"I think we should nickname you Kender."
"What's a kender?" Sierra asked, bouncing in her seat. "Are they neat, like elves?"
"When you get old enough, read the D&D novels, kids. You'll like the kender. They're always finding things."
Xander snickered. "I can see her being one. She'd look really cute with a topknot." She shifted to her other side. "Can I lay it back?"
"Not until we take off, or the gravity push could hurt your back." She looked over as Lupin, Jigen, and Goemon walked on, closing the door behind themselves. "We all here?"
"Finally," Lupin agreed, smiling at Xander. "Got another kiss?"
Olivia smirked. "Of course. I figure she's probably tired of men after all the times you've woken her up to make sure of your virility."
Jigen shook his head. "Not me, I never wake that woman up. I can hold off until the morning." He looked at the girls, seeing Arsene looking confused. "What?"
"What's a D&D novel? Can we read those yet? She said I was a kender."
Lupin coughed, then couldn't hold it in any longer, he had to cackle madly and lean against Goemon for support. "Oh, so bad, yet so right," he gasped. "I'll have to get the first set."
"They might be above them," Olivia pointed out, heading back to the cockpit. She came back and took the keys that Ishi had taken from her hand from his, giving him a pat on the head. "Sneaky little thief." She went back to the cockpit, starting the plane before the kids could take the keys again. "Who am I going to be teaching to fly my beauty?"
"Teach Ishi first. He looks bored and it can only help him in math," Jigen told her. Ishi gave him a stunned look. "She's going to teach all you kids how to fly."
"Cool," Ishi agreed. "Can I learn how to fly an ultralight too?"
"Not until you're old enough to buy one for yourself," Goemon said firmly. Jigen gave him a look. "Those are dangerous."
"Traveling any way is risky," Lupin said, calming himself down. He sat between the two future thieves. Jigen sat with Lotus and the other two. Goemon got to sit with the little kids. Xander started to snore. "Do we have word on Marcus?"
"He's no longer drunk but he is in Russia still," Goemon said quietly, looking at his son. "He said he would come in for the meetings."
"It'll be fine, Goemon," Jigen assured him. "We'll help you all we can."
"Yeah, we all know Xander won't let you out of her sight any more than we will," Lupin agreed. He looked around. "Did we forget Bix?"
"We sent her on ahead," Jigen reminded him. "To look at the apartments for us."
"Oh, yeah. Cool. Thanks." He shrugged, getting comfortable. "Any time now, Olivia."
"I'm doing an engine check with him. We have low pressure." She came out and opened the door, heading down to check the hoses again, then came back wiping her hands off. "There, fixed. We had a slipping hose. Easily fixed."
"Will it come off while we're flying?" Sierra asked, clutching her sister's arm.
Olivia shook her head. "Not in the least, little one. The pressure of the wind will keep it in place. Even if it did, we have redundant systems and nothing bad can happen when I'm flying you. Now, let your sister have some feeling back in her hand and relax. It'll be a pretty short flight and you can work on your reading."
Sierra nodded, slowly releasing her sister. She looked at her Uncle Jigen. "What does redundant mean?"
"Look in the glossary," Jigen said dryly. "Like you would for any other words." She nodded, taking out her book and flipping back there to look it up. She relaxed, looking much more calm. "Good girl."
"What's redundant mean?" Arsene called.
"Look it up," Lupin ordered. "If she has to, you do too." She sighed and grabbed the dictionary. "Spell it out mentally if it helps," he said when he saw her scanning the page.
"Reden?" she guessed.
"Redundant?" He nodded. She found the entry and passed the book onto her stepsister.
Savannah looked at her Uncle Lupin. "Are backup plans redundant?"
Lupin grinned at her. "That's a very good question, Savannah. No, they're not. That's wise planning because you can't know everything that might happen. There are all sorts of variables that could affect a job that no one can really anticipate."
"Cops," Jigen agreed.
"Barking dogs," Goemon offered.
"Pops," Lupin said. "Not exactly a cop, but still." He grinned at her. "Plus freakish weather, asleep guards, guards who thought they heard a noise, guards who are with their girlfriends in a closet somewhere."
"More guards being hired or the ones you've bribed not showing up that night," Jigen added.
Goemon snorted. "Walking into an unannounced party. Freakish weather patterns that mean it's sunny going in and a hail storm when you come out."
"Car trouble," Jigen and Lupin said in unison, then grinned at each other.
"The car being blocked by people who double-parked," Jigen added.
"Road construction that's suddenly cut off traffic to move a large truck," Lupin agreed. "Plus buyers who don't want it when they get a better look at your haul. The price of gold shifting."
"A few too many poker games," Goemon said bitterly. Jigen and Lupin both nodded at that one.
"That's why you should always have backup plans and a way to save some of your money," Lupin instructed. "Even if it's only a savings account. We learned that lesson early on because we didn't save enough and sometimes had to pull jobs right after the last one because we were broke."
Arsene patted him on the hand. "Is that why you convinced Auntie Money Lady to join you?"
"Yes, that is why I convinced Murami to join us," he said with a smile. "Good deduction. Are you sure you don't want to be a cop?"
"Why? They're boring, daddy."
"Good point, princess." He patted her on the head. Olivia finally started to taxi, getting them into the air fairly quickly. "Break out your books. You all have some homework to work on." They sighed but did as ordered. He might take away all treats if they didn't.
Bix looked around the apartments, nodding in appreciation. They weren't exactly sterile but you could tell that not many people had stayed there yet. The room she was in was done in tans and creams, making it quite light and yet fairly solid feeling from all the wood furniture. It had a slightly rustic look, but it was all very French as well. Not French Country, just handmade instead of machine made. Interesting. She went to look in the bedrooms. There were four of them, which made her think someone was going to be sleeping on the couch, but they would manage it for a month she had no doubt. She headed in the other direction, looking in the kitchen, the study, and the porch. For some reason there was a ladder up to the roof from there. She came back in and found a cleaning crew. "Hello," she said softly, startling them. "I'm the nanny."
"They're coming in today?"
"They should be here within four hours. If you're using bleach, one of them is very pregnant so can we open the doors?"
"Sure, but you might get birds," the younger woman of the crew noted.
"That's fine." She sat down, watching as they went around to dust and clean. Once they were done, they went down to do the next one down and Bix held out a hand, saying a short spell. All the listening devices they had planted landed on her hand, allowing her to bundle them together. She chuckled. "Well, I'm sure they'll be happier and less stingy in the lower rooms," she decided, picking up a book to read. Someone had left an older Xanth novel there. Much nicer than the stodgy books in the library on demonology and magic.
Lupin walked in the front door, looking around with a small look of amazement. "Wow." He walked into the living room, dropping his bag on the chair. "Bix?"
"Bathroom," she called. "Be right out."
"Okay." He smiled as the kids trooped in, herded by Goemon, who was once again carrying Xander since she was still mostly asleep. He looked at Olivia. "I'm not sure how many rooms there are. If there's not one for you, I'll put you up in a suite."
"That's fine," she agreed, putting down Xander's bag and briefcase. "Guys, go find your room." Most of the kids headed that way, Ishi followed his father to help him tuck his aunt into bed. She smirked at Lupin. "You've got some competition."
"I know," he said dryly. "But Goemon's honorable. Ishi's the harder one to get around." Jigen came in with the baby carriers. "Get 'em all?"
"Yeah. Left my stuff in the car though."
"I'll get it," Lupin agreed, taking the carrier to put them on the couch, then going to do that for him. The poor man had fed all the kids on the plane. He deserved a break. "Someone scan for bugs soon."
Bix came out of the bathroom shaking her hands. "We'll still need hand towels in there." She walked over to check the kids, smiling at Olivia. "Hi."
"Hmm. Wanna be a stewardess on the flights, honey?" Bix blushed. "Oh, you are adorable," she cooed, pinching her on the rear. Bix blushed brighter. "Fine, I'll leave you alone until you're ready to try woman-lovin', dear. Need me for anything else, Jigen?"
"Not yet. Bix, do we have room for her?"
"There's four rooms that I saw."
Xander padded out and pushed a button, opening a wall. "Five rooms." She walked into the kitchen, getting a can of soda, then obediently went back to bed before Ishi could fuss at her.
Bix glanced in there. "I can take that room and leave Goemon the third room with two beds. That way he can have his son with him."
"Ishi's not old enough yet to appreciate girls," Jigen told her. He looked at the kids, then at her. "What about them?"
"It's good practice for the girls," Bix told him.
"Not for many years," Lupin and Jigen assured her together.
She chuckled. "That is also a function of babysitting. Either you learn that you don't like children or that you'll be an excellent mother and that you'll adore them all."
"Like you?" Lupin asked.
She nodded. "By the time I was the girls' age, I was already helping in the nursery. My clan's leader took me in and I helped with his family's children most of the time. When I was taken by the Kitsune, they were nicer about it, but still."
"No hopes for some of your own?" Jigen asked.
"I haven't found a man worthy yet. There's not many human men up there you know. The healer is three times my age. Most of the other young males are young, brash, and stupid creatures. They might improve with age, but I have no desire for someone whose main goal in life is to fight." They both nodded wisely. "That's also why I came back. I figured I might be able to find a man who meets up to my exacting standards somewhere on this plane."
"The world is half-full of them," Lupin agreed, smirking at her. "Goemon?"
"Is not what I want."
"Really?" he asked, looking interested. "Who might be?"
She blushed. "I have no desire to be with a fighter. I'd lose them sooner." She pinched him. "I can find my own dates, thank you. Going out with the girls means that I meet many men."
"And women," Jigen added.
She blushed. "And them too, though I am not really like that," she admitted.
Lupin gave her a hug. "Just tell us if you need off for a date or something, Bix." He headed into the bedroom, startling Olivia, who was working on Xander's shoulders for her. "I said you could kiss her, not grope her."
"I haven't gotten to grope her yet," Olivia said, giving him a smug look. "I'm slowly taking your place."
"I noticed." He nudged her out of the way and blew on his hands, moving to work on her back himself. She moaned and arched up into his hands. "Better?"
"Lower and to the right." He moved, making her sigh in contentment as he worked on a sore spot. "Hey, Olivia, did you want to crowd in with us or would you rather go to the Hyatt?"
"I'd rather go to the Hyatt," she offered. "Fewer kids there." She grinned and winked at Ishi. "You'll be a stunning man when you grow up." He blushed and grabbed his aunt's soda to hide behind while he finished it off.
Lotus wandered in with a book. "Mommy Xander, what's this book on?" she asked, letting her see the spine. "It feels sparkly."
"It's on void magic, sweetheart, not your sort."
"Oh, okay then." She went to put it back. Her father followed her, taking her out of the study and locking the door. "Hey! My doll is in there!"
"I'll get it in a moment," he promised, sitting her in the living room. "Help your uncle watch the babies." He went to look in the study, shaking his head at the narrow range of readable books. There was one bookshelf full of books they could read themselves or to the children, but nothing really caught his attention. He did find his daughter's doll and carried it out to her, locking the study again. "I believe we should probably leave that room alone. Xander seems to have decorated it in early Watcher."
Marcus appeared, giving him a long look. "It's not that great a collection. I call the patterned couch before anyone else can get it." Olivia chuckled from the bedroom's doorway. "Good evening, Olivia. Have a nice trip over?"
"Tolerable. The plane needs some fixing so I'm going to check into the Hyatt and do that." Lupin handed her something. "You sure?"
"Don't spend me broke or anything, but for the plane repairs and reasonable expenses."
"Thanks, boss. You're nice to work under." She pinched him on the butt and strolled out, going to find a room first and then look over her poor baby.
Lupin looked at Marcus. "Where have you been?"
"Mopping up that idiot's power base in Russia." He handed over an envelope. "From the syndicate in Moscow. They're not happy, but they're also mostly in jail for daring to send that idiot after her." He sat down on the couch he had chosen, looking at the children. "Hello, dears. Are we pretending to nap?" Fred cooed and kicked his feet. "Just as I thought, you are rather sneaky, aren't you?" He got up, letting the children free and taking Fred to hold since he was awake. "How have you been?"
Fred cooed at him again, liking this human spoiler very much. He made sucky faces and Marcus produced a bottle, letting him have it. It was such a good slave for him.
Goemon looked at the baby's expression, then at the father. "I believe he'll start to have the same problems Ishi did soon," he said wisely. "He's got that Emperor look on his face."
"He is, he's the only Lupin son," Lupin agreed brightly. "He is an emperor of the empire with his sisters, the empresses." He sat down, looking at the babies. "Hey, Sarah, are you awake?" he cooed.
"Let her sleep already," Jigen said, shaking his head. "Hopefully this one will be yours so you can spoil another girl rotten."
"I doubt it, but I wouldn't mind," Lupin said, staring down at the daughter. Goemon's son burped so he cleaned him up, then lifted him up to hold for a bit. "Hey, there Kenji. Happier now?" Kenji blinked up at him quizzically. "Don't worry, the world will get clearer soon enough."
Goemon took his son and went to sit with Xander for a bit longer. His sons needed to bond and she was the only female available now.
Xander looked up as his buddy appeared, grinning at him. "What's up?"
"I've come to hide for a bit since it's not appropriate to be at the ceremony and to ask if you wanted to attend my kit's First Magic Making ceremony."
"The one you helped with his bow work the last time," the Kitsune Lord admitted. "He'll be doing his first official act of magic today."
"Wow. Sure. Will it take long?"
"I hope not. I don't like staying on the human realm for too long and I can't be up there. That way no one can say that I helped him." He waved a paw around. "It's protocol."
"Oh, I understand. Let me get changed?"
"You have clothes in your room," he said, tweaking her nose. "We found one of your own this time."
"What happened to my stuff?" he called.
"Ray found out where your house was," Jigen called back. "We had it put into storage so he couldn't paw through your anime." He came to the door. "No pun intended," he said dryly. "What's up?"
"My son's First Magic Ceremony is today and he wanted Xander to attend."
"We've got those meetings starting tonight," Jigen pointed out, leaning against the door.
"It shouldn't take more than two hours," the Kitsune Lord promised. "Please? He's in a blind panic."
"Sure," Jigen agreed. "Lupin's handling the greeting stuff." He smirked as Xander climbed out of the bed. "You behave. We don't want to have to come get you this time."
"You could come if you requested," the Kitsune suggested. He checked his claws, glancing at Jigen. "We wouldn't mind. With his delicate state and no official escort up there, it would be reasonable to assume bringing her husband."
Jigen looked in the other room, catching Goemon's eyes. He got a waved hand. "Thanks. Should I change?"
"At least put on a tie, dear. It's an official ceremony," Xander pointed out, hurrying to change her looks. "Sylvia?"
"Definitely." The Kitsune Lord grinned as she changed. Her stomach stood out so much better on this form. "She is quite large."
"She is and she's tiring me out, but I love her already," Xander agreed. She looked over. "Hair things?"
"I found some for you. I pulled up a whole outfit. The usual maid is waiting on you."
"Cool. Let's go." Jigen finished tying his tie and they went with him, landing in her suite. "Thanks. Have fun teasing Lupin and the kids."
"Of course. I adore your children, Xander. Fred is quite the little kit in the making." He disappeared, leaving them together.
Xander picked up a small gold bell and rang it, bringing her maid running. "We just got told. Clothes?"
"Here, Lady Xander," she said, holding out the outfit she had been checking over. "There is a spot but I managed to get it out." She helped Xander out of her old clothes and into the new outfit, tying the obi for her. Then she sat Xander down, working on her hair. "How are you feeling?"
"Tired," Jigen admitted. "This last month has really kicked her ass."
"I see." She glanced at him, then rang the bell, bringing another maid. "Help him into something more appropriate."
"I can wear this," Jigen protested, but the woman was already stripping him out of his black suit and blue shirt, putting him in a softer, silk suit and a lighter shirt. "At least it's nearly the same."
"Yes, but it's more appropriate for the ceremony," his maid told him. "The hat?"
"Stays," he said firmly.
"Any human cloths could make the spell backfire," she explained, looking apologetic. She ran off, coming back with two hats, one bowler hat and one cap. "Would either of these work for you, sir? We don't have any fedoras in the closet right now."
"I'd look British," he noted, staring at them. Xander stood up and whispered in his ear, making his eyes half-close. "Fine, the driving cap is what she wants and I can't refuse her or the baby right now." It was handed over and his other suit was bundled up. "It's clean."
"I know, but we'll be storing it in a special chest so the unnatural fabrics can't contaminate anything up here. It's been a problem in the past. Lady Xander, our Lord and Master wanted to know if you wanted to start keeping an outfit up here."
"I'll bring something up my next trip," she agreed, letting her maid finish with her hair. "We done?" They nodded. "Good, let's go." She took Jigen's arm and they strolled out together, Xander nodding at each person they passed. "Ah, the Incubus' ambassador," she said fondly, taking his hand to shake. "Well met."
"Well met, Lady Xander. Is this one of your mates?"
She nodded. "This is my mate Jigen." She stroked his arm. "He is quite overprotective."
"With your past I would be as well," the ambassador agreed, holding out a hand. "I was not the one who took her. I have nothing but respect for her." Jigen shook his hand, nodding in greeting. "It is quite nice to meet you, I tasted your partner once for a quick snack, he was quite filling."
"Yes, he certainly is," Xander agreed dryly, making the demon laugh and Jigen give her a look. "You don't find him a full meal's worth?"
"And then some," he agreed, shaking his head. "Where's this thing taking place?"
"In the interior garden," the ambassador told him. "I'm not invited, but it is a quite impressive accomplishment. He's created one of the few time switchers. This one should give an hour forward."
Xander looked impressed. "Wonderful. It's been a while since you guys have had a mage around from what I've heard."
The incubus sighed and nodded. "Definitely, and he is quite conscientious, if a bit odd and stringent on the rules. That is the purview of the young however." He bowed to them. "Have a nice ceremony. If you wish to speak afterwards, I'll be in my rooms."
"No, we're only up here for this. We're hosting the meetings in Europe," Xander admitted, walking on with Jigen. "Next time we'll have lunch."
"Of course, thank you, Lady Xander," he called after them, smiling and waving. He looked at the maid who had stayed. "He is quite strong willed. Didn't react to me at all."
"Goemon is more so," she shared quietly, glancing around. "I saw him back then, he was quite strong." She winked. "And now he's a widower." She skipped off to spread the news.
Xander and Jigen walked into the garden, nodding at the others gathered. "We were invited by the kit's father," she said quietly, smiling at the young fox spirit. "I am quite happy to witness this ceremony. I'm looking forward to learning from you so I can teach Lotus some more."
The boy looked stunned. "The nymph liker?" She nodded. "She's fully human?"
"She is," Xander agreed. "Goemon's her father." She took a seat with Jigen's help. "I heard you're making a time switcher? That's very prestigious."
"It is," he said proudly. "I've practiced now for years. If I might ask, who is your escort? We've never been introduced."
"This is Jigen, one of my mates. Jigen, this is Konish. He's the second youngest?" she asked. The kit nodded. "The second youngest of our host's kits."
"Hi." He shook the paw gently. "Good luck."
"I certainly hope I won't need luck." He stepped back to his mentor's side, looking at him. "That girl is human?"
The mentor snorted. "I doubt it, even if they don't realize it. No humans do magic." A flare of magic went up and Jigen suddenly had a lit cigarette in his mouth. He stared at Xander, who shrugged. "You aren't fully human either," he said darkly.
"I am, I'm simply tainted, thank you," she said stiffly. "If you don't believe me, you can ask the ambassador."
"Enough," Konish said firmly. "Petty bickering comes later, after you're all drunk." Xander chuckled and smiled. "Thank you. My father?"
"Safely bugging Lupin," Jigen agreed, sitting beside his wife and putting an arm behind her back.
"Trying to make sure Sarah takes my place some day," Xander added.
"Interesting," Konish admitted, stepping up to the table where his things were. "The rest of the ceremony went earlier. If I may?" He looked at his mentor.
"Should you turn this into a temporal switcher, you shall pass into adulthood as a mage and as a kitsune lord in your own right," he intoned. A bell rang overhead. "Remember your training, boy."
Konish swallowed and laid a paw on the small device, saying the complicated spell with his eyes closed. Eventually he stopped speaking and backed away. "I believe it should be our envoy's right to test the device," he announced. His mother gave him a smile for that courtesy. "If you wouldn't mind, Lady Xander?"
"Will it affect my kit?"
"No, it shouldn't," he said kindly. He walked over, helping her up. "If you wouldn't mind?"
"Touch the blue switch to go ahead, the red one to come back," he said quietly. She nodded and touched the blue switch, sparkling up and disappearing. He frowned and looked at his mentor. "An hour forward should be blue, correct?"
The mentor smirked at him. "You are stronger than you thought, Konish. You've managed to send her backwards instead."
"Um, explanations?" Jigen requested.
"She'll be right back," Konish admitted, looking panicked. He glared at his mentor, who backed up. "You gave me the right spell, correct?" The man flinched, seeing his father's resemblance quite well. "FATHER!" His father appeared, looking completely calm and unruffled. "The device went backwards."
The Kitsune Lord looked up, then slowly took a few deep breaths. "How long ago?"
"Just moments," Jigen offered. "What's going on?"
"First Ceremonies are always done outside so that any buildup, whether from anxiety or anticipation, can be cleared and not make the first spell too much stronger. The reason the castle is shiny is because of one such incident indoors," Konish told him, turning to look at him. "I made mine a bit stronger, but it went backward instead of forward."
"She'll be back soon, Jigen," the Kitsune Lord soothed. "As soon as she gathers her bearings. Going backwards is often disorienting." He smiled and patted him on the back, exerting some force to knock him out. "Son, how many sparkles were there?"
"A great column of them, Father."
"Fine. Now I know how Xander met my own father." He took Jigen with him, putting him down onto the couch. He found Lupin and Goemon both staring at him in shock. "He's only asleep. I seem to be gathering a few new memories of the past at this moment. I'll be right back."
"Lotus," Lupin ordered.
She did something and the Kitsune Lord found himself trapped in the apartment. "Well," he said, frowning at her. "That is quite advanced, Lotus, congratulations."
"Thank you. Where's Auntie? We miss Auntie."
"She'll be back shortly, sweetness. The device sent her backwards instead of forward and she should be right here very quickly." Lotus grinned. "If I can go to make sure of that?"
"No, you'll be staying until she's back," Lupin agreed.
"When is she?" Goemon asked. The Lord looked at him, giving him a stare down his muzzle. "No," he said woodenly. The Kitsune nodded. "How?"
Goemon looked up. "Let my ancestors have some patience with her then," he said gently.
"Excuse me?" Lupin asked. "She's when?"
"She's back with his ancestors again," the Kitsune admitted, flinching when Lupin started to look pissed. "I'm sure she's on her way back. She had the device with her."
"She'd better be," Lupin agreed. "She's six months pregnant!"
"She won't age and neither will the baby until she's back in her proper time," he promised. "That is the way the spell works. We often use the backward function for medical reasons."
"Good. She'd better be back!"
"She will be," he soothed, knocking him out too. "Goemon, we should proceed as if nothing has happened for the moment. She'll have to be back by tonight, even if she had to live all the way through to this time." Goemon nodded, standing up. "Shall I watch the children?"
"Yes. You cannot leave this apartment anyway." He headed downstairs to greet the newest group that should be coming in soon. He met them at the front door, nodding them inside. "Welcome to the meeting."
"Where is Sylvia?" the second in command asked haughtily.
"She met with a friend suddenly and had to visit with him. She'll be back shortly, by tonight at the latest."
"No, he will be here tomorrow." He showed them to the last apartment. "This is yours. There may or may not be listening devices. We found some earlier and have not had the chance to sweep for them. We have detectors if you do not."
The lead nodded, looking at him. "I hear you're honorable, we'll trust you that far, but we brought out own. Dinner?"
"Is at nine. The other major people are here in the building. We have the top apartment and there is a meeting room above you, with the other half of the floor being taken by a recreation room with a television. Feel free to check them over as well."
"Where's Lupin?" the second demanded.
"Asleep. The children have been quite demanding. Jigen is also asleep." He bowed. "If you need anything, I'll be somewhere, simply yell for me." He walked off, going to check on the others and the extra spaces. The recreation room was quite comfortable. Two pool tables, a large seating area around the television, which already had people watching soap operas, and a few snack and soda machines. "Are we expecting many more?"
"They're being greeted by Dolune's last person at the other hotel," one of the men watching tv told him absently. "They'll be in for dinner tonight."
"That's fine. We're eating on the roof. Food's already being sent up." He went to check on that, finding the tables set up under some netting and the serving area being set up. "Will we be ready in time?" he asked.
"We will be," the cook told him. "Thank Lupin for this opportunity."
"I will. The others staying here are all in."
"Good. Thank you, sir." He went back to directing things, setting up his cooking area. That way no one could say anything about any additives and no one could say that anything was poisoned. He even remembered to set out the test kits in case someone was *really* paranoid.
Goemon headed back to their apartment to check on everyone. He found Lupin awake and moaning. "The chef is nearly set up."
"Good. Thanks. I called the hotel the others are at, they're mostly in, but one group is feeling put out."
"Are they major?" Jigen moaned, sitting up.
"No, they're not, but they think they are. They're taking up a suite now and we're sending a car for them later." He looked up at the fuzzy being. "How much longer?"
"Certainly by dinner," he admitted. Then he snickered. "I had often wondered how Xander had met my father. I didn't think I had introduced her the first time they had went back there." He went into the kids' room to play with them for a bit. Human children were often more fun than kits.
Lupin looked at Goemon. "Is she safe?"
"If any of my clan are around, they would protect her," he promised. "She was known to be under my protection."
"Good. One less worry," Jigen agreed, lighting a new cigarette and taking a long puff. "My clothes and hat are still up there."
"They'll be down soon too," the fox spirit called.
"Good." Jigen took another long drag, nearly halving the cigarette. "Poor thing."
"Poor her, poor us!" Lupin shouted, standing up. "We've got to do this without her and we're not exactly known for being partisan."
"We'll survive and move on," Goemon said quietly, stopping the fit in the making.
Xander woke up on the lawn, groaning and holding her head. "Damnit." She sat up, looking at the kitsune guards staring at her. "When am I?"
"When?" one asked, looking horrified. He looked at the device another had picked up. "When was that made?"
"After the new millennium." She stood up, still holding her head. "I need to go back. It was a mistake during a First Magic Ceremony." She looked up as a familiar, yet younger, kitsune ran out to stare at her. "Good, you're still alive."
"Yup. Your kit's First Magic thingie went phooey and I'm back here again. Can we get me sent back soon? I'm six months pregnant."
"Wow." He blinked, then looked up. "FATHER!" His father strolled out. "Apparently my own kit's First Magic went wrong as well."
"It seems to run in the family," the current Lord of the Kitsune admitted, staring at Xander. "Do we know you?"
"I'm Alexander Harris. From the next millennium. I've been back here before but I was with Goemon."
"Ah, I heard of that. We can send you there."
"Can't you send me back to my own time?" she suggested. "Like I need to be?" She patted her stomach, weathering the kick. "We're not looking forward to this birth in the least."
"Oooh, you are with kit," her friend said, rushing over to pat her stomach. "Hello, baby. Boy or girl?"
"Girl. She'll be taking my place as the new White Knight."
The father looked horrified. "You're demonic."
"I'm tainted. I was given against my will. I'm also the envoy from the European thieves to you in my time. My daughter will be taking my place officially." She shrugged, dislodging the paw. "Your father's giving you horrified looks," she said quietly.
The Kitsune straightened up, looking at his father. "Can't we please send her back? We don't want her kit to be harmed, Father. She is quite the thief and assassin in her own right."
"You are?" The Father looked at her so she pulled out a foot-long hairpin, waving it around. "Oh." He blinked a few times. "Our Court Mage is fairly old, we'll see what we can get from him." He nodded at his son. "Escort her, son."
"Yes, Father. Are you hungry, Lady Xander?"
"No, thank you. I'm still a bit nauseous now and then." She took his arm, walking with him and the guards behind her. "If you want, I can remove the hair things," she offered, not looking back.
"If it wouldn't be an imposition," one guard agreed.
Xander pulled out hair pins and handed them back, plus the silver dagger she always carried in her bodice. "There, all my weapons but my hands and feet." She grinned back at them as they turned a corner. "I'm very well trained." She walked into the meeting chamber, bowing to the others present. "It was a First Magic Ceremony problem," she told them. They all gossiped. "I see there's no incubus here?"
"No. We're not on bad terms with them but we never thought to offer them an envoy's position," her escort noted. "Is there in your time?" She nodded. "How very interesting. Anyone else of note?"
"The second or third son of some Elf. Nasty conceited bugger who thinks he's spectacular because he's got pointed ears."
"As do most elves," their host noted dryly, taking his throne. "Someone find Mangus!"
"Coming, Lord," came the quiet, crackling voice. He walked into view and looked at Xander, then at the device. "Oh, dear. Demonic?"
"Given against my will as a consort," she admitted. "Long story, totally unbalanced my time. The Powers actually punished their own warriors over it." The mage looked impressed. "This one's," she said, squeezing her friend's arm, "second kit had his First Magic rite today. It was supposed to send one an hour in the future. It sent me *all* the way back here from the next millennium." The mage scowled and took the device to look over. "He said a red switch."
"It's disabled," the mage told him simply. "Who was this kit's mentor?"
"Roalsinth. He had been studying under Rossenworf, but Rossenworf retired from politics."
"Oh." The mage looked disturbed. "We're only to the second in this time. I'd say his mentor sabotaged it." He went back to looking it over, shaking his head. "This would take another First Magic rite and another very anxious kit to make it send you back." He looked at Xander, then came over to touch her choker. "I can't believe that fell into human hands."
"I've had it for a while now. It's how Janus decided I should be paid back for being given, along with helping me bear kits of my own." She patted her stomach. "I'm six months along."
"You will not age until you reach your proper time," he assured her.
"Will also not develop any further. For you both, time has effectively stopped." He stared into Xander's eyes. "I'm not sure we can send you all the way back."
"We can't fix the red switch?"
"It was never coded into the spell. His mentor did not like humans in the Court?"
"Not in the least," she agreed. "He didn't think humans could do magic."
"Oh, no," the Lord sighed. "At all?" She nodded. "Then what can we do? We can send you to your guardians until we find a solution."
"Is it a matter of raw power? I can siphon off of my future captor's magic if I need to," Xander offered. The mage gave her another funny look. "Hey, I didn't choose it, someone chose to give me. I had no say in that decision." The mage nodded slightly. "You can do a memory transference?"
"I can." He laid his fingers against her temples, using the back of his hand to filter it out. He stepped back with a gasp. "No!"
"Unfortunately," she agreed bitterly. "Like I said, I can suck some of Hell's energy if you need it."
"No, no, it's not as necessary as redoing the spell would be. To do that would take a few weeks at the very least." He looked around, then at the human. "There are very few humans around here right now, Consort."
"Not an issue. I've been around the demonic since I was born, little did I know at the time. I've even hung out with vampires in the past."
"So I saw." He looked at his Lord and Master. "It will take me weeks, Lord."
"Then we should send her to the humans to watch over. That way the baby is not tainted by us." He noticed her stroking her stomach. "The Goemon clan will protect you?"
"Probably. Goemon himself isn't with me this time though." She glanced around. "Right at the moment, I could use him."
"Then they should protect you," her friend said firmly. "I will go with you, Xander." He took her hand and rushed her out, taking her to the woods. "Change, dear one." She undid the first clasp of the choker then redid it, becoming more like she was last time. "Close."
"Yeah, I know," she admitted. She did it again and he nodded. "Thanks for this."
"Ehh, not an issue." He walked her up to the gate, startling the clan. "Hello."
"Kitsune!" one man yelled, pointing.
"I'm not here to steal, only to return one which was returned to us," he said, letting Xander step forward. "I believe you know her?"
The new head of the clan stepped forward. "Barely. Xander."
"Sixth." She bowed. "It's not my fault. This one's future kit mismagiced me back here." She shrugged, then winced, stroking her stomach. "I won't be here long and they wanted to get rid of me."
"You're not a problem. You take care of many needs." He came over, taking her hand from the spirit. "Thank you for returning her. If we may be of service, tell us."
"You're already of service to us. My father is quite upset that this happened and messed up his precious garden," the future Lord admitted with a small smirk. "Take good care of her. Behave, Xander. We'll figure it out for you." He disappeared.
Xander stepped through the gate. "Did the Fifth die?"
"He did, a few months back," he said gently. "No relative this time?"
"No, it was a First Magic rite. A ceremony to celebrate the official start of his adulthood. I was up with another mate."
"He never told you," she said flatly, stopping him to look at him. "English?"
"I do understand," he said slowly in English.
"Good," she said, switching to her native language. "Your relative was not my intended. He was guarding me for my intended. The Fifth titleholder said to say we were betrothed. The child I carry is my husband's. Goemon, my Goemon, is my best friend and my buddy. He and his children are staying with us while he mourns his wife." The man nodded quickly. "This one is fully a Jigen."
"Yeah, it's not an old line," she admitted bitterly. "I won't be here for more than a day." She groaned and bent over. "Stop it, daughter," she whined. "Not now."
"Get the Grandmother!" he snapped in Japanese. Someone went running and carried her out. "Grandmother, they sent her back while pregnant."
"The Kitsune said I wouldn't develop more until I reached my correct time," Xander admitted. "Doesn't keep her from kicking me." She straightened up with help, waving at the shocked old woman. "Hi. Me again," she said dryly. "A kid mismagiced me during a First Magic rite."
"Hmph. Children should not be allowed to do that." She took her hand and led her inside.
"Great, another woman," one of the new guards sneered.
Xander looked at him, then stepped closer. "Repeat that?" she suggested coldly. She glanced at the Sixth, who waved a hand. "As I requested, repeat that?"
"You are naught but a woman," he sneered.
She backhanded him, then kicked him. "Get up. Say it again." He stood up, spitting some blood out. She attacked, making him back away and cower. "Good," she said, sneering at him. "I am more man than you will ever be, even pregnant, tired, cranky, and with swollen feet." She stomped into the house, making the watching warriors clap. She came back out. "Hey! You still have my weapons and my hair pins!" she yelled at the sky. They fell beside her feet. "Thank you!" She gathered them up, tossing the knife at the man who rushed her, getting him in the shoulder with the silver dagger. "There. That should teach you to be more cautious yet not hinder your movement." She walked over, grabbing it and yanking it out. "Next time, do not discount a woman. We have to fight many things, including idiot men who believe they are God."
"Who do you think protects the farm while we're hunting?" the Sixth asked. "She made sure they would be trained. I much appreciate that my wife doesn't want to fight, but I treat mine better."
"Good." She headed in to sit in front of the fire, curling around her stomach. "I ache, Grandmother."
"I understand, Xander. We all do." She stroked her back, making her calm down. "You rest. All expecting ones should rest." She nodded, falling asleep right there. The Grandmother smiled at her great-grandson. "She will be fine."
"Is she really? They said the baby would not develop."
"Probably not. She is tired and frustrated. Perhaps a gentle hunt tomorrow?"
"That would be fine," he agreed. "That was quite a toss of the knife."
"She is trained," she reminded him. "As she proved on those men who attacked the last time she was here."
"True. Thank you, Grandmother. I will leave her in your care." He went to put the warriors through their paces again. Some of them had obviously forgotten about her, even though it had not quite been a year.
Xander came back from the hunt with two regular foxes and a few other small animals, handing them to the other women to clean. "There, food and fur." They giggled and bent together to figure out what to do with the fur she had provided them. "Any word yet from the many-tailed creatures?"
"Not yet," Grandmother said patiently. "You can bother them tomorrow, Xander. For now, come taste this." She walked over, tasting what was on the spoon. "Too salty?"
"A bit, but then it's not my usual taste sensation." She shrugged. "It's stew. I haven't had stew in months."
"Very well. It should last well enough," she noted, putting it back over the fire. "Let's find you a place to sit. You could use some more womanly chores I think."
"Sure," Xander agreed. She liked this older woman, she trusted her not to hurt her. "I need to do a summoning circle," she said thoughtfully. The old woman gave her an odd look. "They can't deny me help. They turned me into the person I am when I was taken prisoner."
"Do you believe the Kitsune Court can't send you back?"
Xander sat down, looking at her. "Their mage was really old and said that the young one who mismagiced me's mentor sabotaged it so he couldn't bring me back. The 'back' switch wasn't coded into the spell." The old woman gasped so Xander looked behind him. "You are not welcome in this house," she said, standing up.
"I am not here for them," the demon growled. Xander pulled the silver dagger. "You expect to kill me with that?"
"No, I expect to kill you with the marks on my body that one of you carved into me." She loosened her collar and the demon bellowed, holding his eyes. "Now then, I believe you weren't invited?"
"No, I come bearing a message," he pleaded. "Please, do not kill me."
"Fine, we will leave these people alone and you will tell me this message before I do finish you off and drag your mangled body back to hell. Outside!" The demon ran and she bowed to Grandmother. "I may be back or not. It depends on how long it takes me to kill him if he hurts someone." She strolled out, glaring at the demon's back. "Stand down, he's going to leave and he's going to tell me whatever it was he absolutely had to tell me." The demon nodded, falling to his knees. "Now then, what?" The clan elder handed her a sword. "What was the message?"
"I was sent to retrieve you," the demon whimpered. "You are a strong unbalancing person. You are destroying the local order by being here."
"Then send my ass home!"
"My Lord wishes to, Consort! I swear, he vowed it was not a trick! He knows what was done to you by our kind and he vows it is not a trick! Please!"
"Fine, leave," Xander growled, lunging. The thing disappeared. She took a deep breath and handed back the sword. "I'm going to kill part of hell. You have a nice night."
"Consort?" the elder asked.
Xander loosened the top of her kimono, showing off the marks. "I was once taken hostage by one of the higher ones, who tried to claim me by torturing me. He thought he owned me until he died and I was rescued." She pushed the collar back into place to make his stunned look go away. "That is one reason why your clansman guards me. To keep them from coming back."
"No wonder the Kitsune like you," one of the younger sons noted.
Xander grinned at him. "Partially, that and what I'm able to do on my own. It is the reason why I'm so strong. I had to survive and it forged me stronger than any sword ever made."
The elder nodded. "Understandable. Only a strong person would survive. If you can, there is one who is torturing the countryside, eating sheep."
"What's it look like?" Xander asked, starting to frown. "Not many prefer sheep."
"About three feet tall and about as wide," the younger son told her. "It's purplish and it hates sunlight."
"Hmm. That could be two things. One of them hates music. The other hates humans, it eats sheep to try and drive the humans into leaving. Both are killed with judicious use of fire or silver in delicate areas, namely the crotch. The first also can be killed or driven off by discordant enough music. I know Greece had a few problems in my time with those things. Try the music first. Also, try coating the wool with something pungent and slick, that way it can't get hold of it and you can smell them when they run."
"Thank you, Xander," the clan elder said, smiling at her. "You picked this up from your capture?"
"No, I picked it up when they pushed it into my head as a punishment for not breaking fast enough," she admitted bitterly. "Along with some other handy facts. It's very handy when you go to fight them all the time." She smiled and disappeared to the nearest portal she could feel open. The demon was staring at her. "Leave the Kitsune alone unless you have been invited."
"I mean them no harm," the demon said. Xander growled and it fell at her feet, groveling. "Please, consort!"
"Take me to your Lord and Master, I will speak with him or kill him."
"Yes, Consort." It touched his foot and moved him to the Nether Court. "Here you are, Consort. May I leave?"
"Go." The demon hurried out, not even looking at the demon on the throne. "You yelled?" she asked bitterly.
"I do not know why you are what you are," the Dark Lord admitted.
"Then read my memories. Without touching me otherwise."
"Thank you, Consort." He came down, towering over her and put a very gentle hand on her head. Then he flinched and backed away, looking horrified. "I am sorry, Consort."
"Good. Now, can you help me get back to my native time?"
"Not really. Their magic is not ours."
"I knew that," she snapped. "That wasn't the question."
"You dare talk so to him!" one of the courtiers said.
Xander took off her outer kimono, leaving the shift underneath. The demons all screamed and ran off, all but the top one. "No pain?"
"Much pain, Consort Alexander. Please, rerobe." She raised an eyebrow, crossing her arms over her chest. "I mean you no harm, Consort. No matter what I did to you then I mean you no harm now. Your child will one day destroy part of us and I would not change the balance to correct what happened to you." He sat down and Xander put back on the kimono, but didn't hitch it. "What would you have us do so you cannot unravel the present time's history?"
"I want to be sent home. It's really pretty simple."
"Our magic is not theirs, but there is some similarity. Tell me, in your time did we have an envoy to their Court?"
Xander nodded. "An Incubus."
"One which would not be able to hurt them, but is quite good at passing on messages and self-protection," the Dark Lord agreed. "I will send an emissary to them. Until then, may we find you a place to rest? I know that your condition is not comfortable at times." Xander shook her head. "Surely you do not want to go back to the human realm."
"Yes, I do, I don't trust you or your kind."
"I know you do not, but I will not touch you. I will make sure that none of my demons touch you. Or you could stay with them?"
"If they would allow it. I doubt the clan would allow me back after you sent your messenger."
"I doubt that would come to pass, but it is best if you're not there. There is a battle tonight."
"I am trained."
"I know, but you are also pregnant."
"They are my clan as well, as Goemon is my teacher. They are my duty and my privilege to protect."
"Then we will send you back for that," he agreed, waving a hand and opening a portal. "Change, Consort, it will be easier."
"You wish a boon?"
"I can go kill some of them and use them." The Dark Lord looked stunned so Xander changed clothes then summoned some fighting leathers to him from the wardrobe closet the Incubi kept. He put on the boots and walked through, heading through the woods at a quiet run. He came upon the raiding party and grimaced. "I know you," he whispered. He heard a branch creak behind him and turned, hitting the guy he didn't know and killing him quickly by snapping his neck. Then he lifted off the bow and arrows, plus all the other weapons. Except the ninja stars, he didn't know enough about those to not hurt himself or someone who wasn't his target. Then he notched an arrow and let one fly at the raiders, making him shriek and die. The others jumped up, swords and bows in hand, looking around for their attacker. "This is not an allowable action," he called in Japanese. "It is not honorable nor will it be tolerated." Some people rushed for his position so he climbed a tree quickly, getting them from above, and a few more in the camp. Then he casually jumped down, staring down their leader. "You try the Clan Goemon, you try me. I am quite happy to kill you all for their honor."
"You are gaijin," he laughed.
"I am? Are you sure?" He put the bow onto his back and pulled the sword. "Then test me." He bowed and the man lunged, letting Xander do what he did best, dance to the side and hit him as he ran past. "Sorry, I'm not a wall-to-your-back fighter." He attacked, destroying him to ease the rage inside him. It was a good release. The others screamed and scattered so Xander looked at the newcomers, then waved. He went to find another target, taking on a warrior wearing their device that had been at the clan's compound earlier. "Are you one of them?" He fell to his knees, begging and pleading for mercy. "That is for the elder to decide," he announced, knocking him out.
"Who are you!" one of the warriors demanded. "Foul demon!" He raised his sword but Xander turned and glared at him. "Xander!" He backed off and bowed. "Is this what they caused in you?"
"That too," he admitted, brushing back his silver hair. "Elder, I believe he may have been passing information." He looked but the idiot was moving. Xander flipped a knife, burying it in his ankle. "I told you not to move!" The man cried out and cowered. "Good!" He turned back around, nodding at the woods. "There's more out there. They summoned things. Go back to the compound, guard the women." They ran off that way. Xander started the spell to banish the demonic, finishing it and wavering for a moment before taking off as well. He lunged into the middle of the battle with a yell that would make Goemon start in fright and started to hack at anything nearly resembling a human.
"Hold!" the elder yelled. They surrounded Xander. "Calm, Xander."
Xander dropped the sword, then pulled his bow, drawing to hit the being in the house. It screamed and the woman it had been trying to eat screamed as well. "I didn't get her." The elder went running. Xander walked over and sat on a stump, holding his stomach. "Changing gender is not fun," he instructed.
"You can?" one of the women asked timidly. Xander looked up and nodded. "The baby is still in there?" He nodded, letting her pat his stomach. "How do you do that?"
"A very strong spell, it was a gift in reparation for what happened to me." He stood with her help. "The Grandmother?"
"It was stripping her of her magic," the elder said from the house. "Can you help her?"
"I can try," Xander admitted, heading that way. He looked at the elder as they met in the doorway. "You know I didn't bring this, right?" He nodded, getting out of the way. "Grandmother. Let me look you over," he said gently, kneeling beside her. He brushed her hair back and ran a gentle hand over her forehead. "The damage is extensive but let us see what we can do."
"No," she said weakly. "I will not be healed this time."
"Grandmother!" the elder shouted. "You must let him!"
"I will not!" she shouted back. "It is my time! My husband awaits me!" She grabbed Xander, locking eyes with him and putting a bloody hand on his stomach. "What is mine is now hers. Guard her, guardian, she is the Light." Then she passed out.
Xander worked to stem the flow of blood from the wound in her stomach but it wasn't stopping. "Elder, do I follow her orders or yours?" he demanded.
"Hers," he said bitterly. "She was always aware of such things." He walked over and helped Xander up, watching together as the old woman gasped and died with a smile on her face. "We will bury her with full honors."
"I'll do whatever I can to help," Xander agreed, lifting his chin. "Including change back."
"It does not matter to us, Xander. Now that the rest of us know, we do not mind." One of the women grabbed Xander and put him behind her. "Are you mad?"
"I am protecting her! She bears the next Grandmother!"
"Yes, sweetheart, for my time," he soothed, giving her a hug. "So the Light can live on in my time." She relaxed under his gentle voice. "Now, you go rest. We will be very busy tomorrow with the funeral." She nodded, wandering off and lying down. Xander shrugged. "It works with my kids too." The elder burst out laughing and Xander gave him a careful hug. "It's all right. She outlived nearly everyone in the country she was born with." The elder nodded and walked him out. "I couldn't help her," he announced. "Jin, your wife is asleep. I talked to her like I would my daughters and she fell asleep." He nodded, walking inside to check on her. Xander looked around the woods. "There are still others out there. I'll be back in a while."
"We can fight!" one of the warriors said.
"Against things like earlier?" Xander countered. "Can you find the one inch of their skin that makes them vulnerable without dying? The Clan needs you more now than it did before. Others may be coming to take advantage of the weakness they think the other caused. You're staying!" He grabbed his sword and bow, taking more arrows off a few dead bodies. Then he jogged out into the woods, going to fix this before something worse happened. How dare someone send demons against his clan!
The elder looked around. "Grandmother pronounced him a guardian, though a strange one. We will support him until he comes back. That was the Lady Xander's other form."
"Even the Light must hire assassins to take out the worst of the dark," one daughter noted calmly. "So has my Watcher told me."
He nodded. "Exactly. I would have his training looked at when he comes back. Even though he is pregnant, there is much we can work on with him. Our clansman trained him oddly and while I understand why, I wish him to have the purer form of the art he has chosen as his main one." They all nodded, moving to clean up the bodies. "Bury them in a single grave, mark their clan marking on it and send a letter with their badges and any good armor back. Let it be known that none come near us."
The warriors cheered and the women proceeded to loot the bodies for anything useful.
The Kitsune Lord looked bemused. "I had wondered why we had an envoy from Hell in the form of an incubus," he said, making Lupin give him a funny look. "It is an anomaly. We do not allow most demons into our court, yet we do allow an envoy into the court and allow him great access to our people. I even listen to the present one because he has some good ideas and knows people and their ways." He waved a paw. "It is not the norm for other Spirit Courts to allow regular demons."
"Why is he there?" Goemon asked.
"Xander told the Dark Lord that in our time we had one, he saw that it was a good idea, and then he sent one to help with the magical problem of Xander's. He told us all that by the way." He looked over as the door opened, waving his tails in greeting. "Evening, human." He looked at Lupin again. "Xander is so far fine."
"Thank you. You still can't leave."
"Xander?" the man said, staring at the Kitsune. "You're a fox? A walking, talking, multi-tailed fox?"
"I'm a Kitsune, the head of my people," he said stiffly. "I am no more a mortal fox than you are a mortal aardvark." He looked at Goemon again. "We were also told that Xander helped defeat an attack on the clan but the Grandmother died during it. He is presently with a Watcher." He flicked his gaze at Jigen, then smirked. "It is quite odd how families sometimes intertwine for generations."
"Kitsune are myths," the man said, looking confused. "Are you one of those people who dresses up for fandom stuff? I know Lavelle's like that. Are you a buddy of his!" he demanded.
The Kitsune walked over to him and grinned, showing his teeth. "Do I look like a mere mortal in a costume, dumbass?" The man instantly got a hurt look on his face. "There is more to this world than you can appreciate. Currently, we favor Lavelle and Sylvia as envoys to our kind from your kind of thief. In the future, one of Jigen's daughters will be our envoy to your kind. If you cannot accept this, then why do you want to rule over a people who know of us and treat us with respect?"
He reached up and slowly pulled on an ear. "Oh damn," he whispered, turning and running away. "There's a demon down there! They're friends with Lupin!"
Lupin groaned and covered his face with a hand as he shook his head. "Okay." He looked around, then smirked. "You can't get out yet! I know how to get up there now! I'll send Jigen!"
The Kitsune Lord came back with a present. "I was only retrieving Xander's birthday present," he defended. "Please don't send Jigen. He didn't like his last trip into our realm." More men ran in and he waved, grinning at them. "Hi," he said in his best American accent. "How are you?" They all gaped and a few whimpered. "Thought he was kidding? We *adore* Lupin and his gang, but especially like Lavelle and Sylvia. Her daughter will one day serve as an envoy to us."
"They met through Goemon," Jigen said helpfully.
The people stared at Goemon, who grimaced as he fed his son. "I am feeling unreasonable at the moment since my son will not sleep." They backed out, heading back to call the others and talk about this.
"Hopefully they don't think that's how we do everything spectacular," Lupin said faintly, looking at Jigen. Jigen snorted and shook his head. "Good."
An older man walked in and looked at the kitsune, then at Lupin. "Envoy?"
"To their Court," Goemon told him. "Sylvia and Lavelle act as such until Sarah is old enough."
"You don't run things."
"No, but we know enough to keep the two worlds separate most of the time," Lupin admitted. "Sylvia's up helping them with something right now. A kit that's having a problem."
"Oh." He nodded. "We should name you the head."
"Do it and watch everyone die," Jigen warned.
The old man laughed. "I'm sure it wouldn't have to come to that, Jigen. Calm down. We'd let you play second to him. It would afford you a lot of protection for the kids."
"We let Lavelle handle anyone who touches the children," Goemon said gently without looking up. The old man shuddered. "Exactly." He did look up. "Is there any word on what I called you about?"
"Not a thing, Goemon. They swear up and down that it was she who died. The only identification they had was from Marcus, who was cutting your new son out at the time. They went with that." He shrugged. "I'll do some more checking but you never told me why you wanted to know."
"Her casket was empty," Jigen said quietly. "If she's misburied we want to move her to her proper spot for him and the kids."
The old man nodded. "Then I'll keep looking. It's possible that it was simply that. They gave you any casket to dig up. I am sorry she died, Goemon."
"Me as well," he agreed quietly. "Thank you for your help."
"Hey, this is the sort of thing I don't even need a favor for," he admitted. "This is something that's wrong. You don't mess with someone's dead." He nodded at the fox spirit. "Dolune would have loved this, Lupin."
"I only met them through Lavelle," Lupin said dryly. "All his fault."
The Kitsune nodded. "I only met him because I was after a treasure in a house where he was rescuing a kidnaped daughter."
"Another thing we have to inadvertently thank Fujiko for," Jigen admitted. Everyone nodded. "How was dinner?"
"Decent enough. Most everyone growled at each other, sticking to safe topics such as monetary markets, fantastic crimes, and whether or not this was all a big trap."
"If it was, we would have taken you out when you walked in the front door," Jigen pointed out.
"Which is what I told them. Most of them listened. Some of them think Lavelle's going for something exotic and he'll be popping up soon."
"Not for a bit," Lupin admitted. "Not for a very long time." The old man nodded and left them alone. "I want him back," he told the Kitsune. "I miss my pregnant one."
"We are going as fast as we can. I promise, it all happened back then and nothing I do now can make that speed up."
"Fine, as long as someone's working on getting him back," Jigen agreed. "I'd hate to see him after so long without us."
"We'd never walk right again," Lupin agreed.
Jigen looked at him. "I was thinking more the miserable part than the sex part but you're right."
Lupin grinned. "I often am."
"Unless there's a woman involved," Goemon said, having the last word. At least until his son belched and cooed.
Xander walked through the twilight, enjoying the crisp air. This is why she loved going to Goemon's house. No smog. No pollution. No noisy beasts, cars, or neighbors. She saw a cabin ahead with a plume of smoke and a light in the window and snuck closer, finding a man lounging in the doorway waiting on him. "Mystic, how may I address you?" he asked politely in Japanese.
"You may address me as Mystic, none else have I been called in years," he admitted, looking the boy over. "You are not natural?"
"I am very natural, it's the result of higher magics." He crossed his arms. "I am searching for more warriors against the Clan Goemon. Have you seen any?"
"There are a few in the valley, but they are Watchers." He stood up, moving closer. "I do not know of you, yet you are familiar."
Xander drew in a breath. That nose and those eyes. "I know you."
"It is not often that such connections occur. Where do you know me from?"
"From my time. There is one, he looks just like you. As my children do." He smirked and he knew he had seen that look before. "Great one, I am known as Alexander."
"Welcome, Alexander. A warrior?"
"A guardian tainted against his will."
"A guardian was where you should have stopped." He reached over slowly and put a hand on Xander's stomach. "She will be fine but you will have a while before you make it home. Tell your mate that I said she was fine and to make her the guardian you should have been trained as."
"I have every intention of it if I'm around," he agreed calmly. "If I'm not, then Goemon will."
"Excellent. Sometimes the light is in need of harsher methods to scourge the dark. Would you dine with me?"
"I don't want to rob you of food."
"I'm sure you're not. Come, eat. You must be starving. The child feels hungry."
"The child is rather cranky about all such things," Xander agreed, following him into the cabin. "The Watchers, are they those who watch or those who train?"
"Those who do both, they come for a girl of the clan." Xander grimaced. "If you interrupt the time flow, it can back up and change streams."
"I know but I hate the Watchers."
"I'm sure you have your reasons. She will stay local until she dies an honorable death." He brought over two wooden bowls and a small pan of food. "Here, eat, guardian. You must keep your strength up. You may rest here tonight as well. The Clan will need time to get used to this new you."
"I'd rather I went back and was the other me. It was easier."
"A woman's life is not easier than a man's."
"No, but I can handle their chores and the pregnancy goes better in that form. In this one I simply look fat." The mystic laughed, shaking his head. "How did you come here?"
"I came from the continent. I was brought here by a dream, and then I shall move on again. I do not know why I was sent, only that the Powers said it must be so because of the darkness that gathers in this valley."
"Some of it isn't demonic."
"No, some of it is the clan war that is going to happen soon. Some of it will be the handover of power when the Emperor dies. Some of it will also be the problem that you represent. The Kitsune will start to solve it and they can find you here. It may take a few extra years back in your own time to fix things, but you are up to the challenge."
Xander nodded. "Thank you, wise one. How may I repay the meal?"
"If you could find a meat beast, I'd be most pleased," he admitted. "Or if you could teach me why my aim sucks."
Xander beamed. "As I have recently with my own children."
"If you would not mind."
"I would not mind. I would feel honored." He nodded and took out a few pieces of food to nibble on. "Please, I don't want to take your dinner."
"You are not. I ate earlier. I made that for whichever guardian came this way."
"There is more than one?"
"There is you, the girl, and one of the boys. He shares the same gifts as the Grandmother and I do."
"I felt. It was her time, it was not painful to her." He patted Xander on the hand. "Eat, before I feel the need to scowl." Xander dug in, eating quickly. "Good boy. Then you must rest for a bit. You must be tired." Xander shrugged. "You aren't?"
"I've felt worse."
"I'm sure but the baby needs rest."
"The baby needs many things, rest is only one of them. The other would be to develop again."
"It will happen soon, Xander. I vow it will. The Dark One has said so as well. Apparently you scare him."
"I scare many people," Xander said dryly between bites. He belched and finished up the food. "I thank you. I'll look for a food beast for you tomorrow."
"That would be fine. There is no hurry." Xander nodded and yawned. "Take the pallet in front of the fire." Xander got up and padded over there, laying down around his sword. "So easily ordered. My line in his life must be quite strong." He cleaned up the dishes and sat down to watch the boy sleep. He was important. His dreams had shown him that much. He looked over as the girl walked in and nodded her inside. "He is resting."
"Good. Does he hate me for what I am?"
"He hates the trainers you have now for what they are," he corrected. "We have apparently been very bad to him in his life." He patted her on the hand. "Learn all you can from him, Mai. He is quite smart and knows how to defeat many things, including his own nature." She nodded, sitting down to listen to him tell her about other creatures.
Xander was gotten by his friend a few days later from the clan compound. He had even waited while they held the funeral then gently tapped Xander on the arm. "Hi," he said weakly. "Time?"
"It is," he agreed, nodding at the clan elder. "Thank you, you have done wonderfully guarding this most precious burden for us." He took Xander back to the house, letting her gather up the things she wasn't leaving here, then took her back to the court, where he settled her into a room and got her someone to help her bathe. Humans could be dirty sometimes and his father would be sensitive to that. Once Xander was cleaned, coiffed, and ready, he led the way to the audience chamber. "Our Mage has got it reconfigured finally," he shared. He bowed to his father. "I'm sorry, she was in the middle of a funeral."
"I understand," the Lord said, smiling at Xander. "We can get you partially back."
"Within a few years," the incubus told him. "None of us together can do the whole thing. We'll get you as far as we can, and then hopefully your friend there can help you in that time?" He looked at the young Kitsune, who nodded. "That's fine then. Thank you. Come, Consort, we'll need to do the same thing over and have found a young one who is nearly ready for his First Magic." He led the way to the garden but Xander walked past, heading for another one. "This way, Lady Xander. That one...." He paused. "It happened there?" She nodded. "Then we should move it. Gather everything. I'll escort her." She gave him a wary look. "I would not hurt you, Lady Xander. I would never hurt you even if I could." She nodded, letting him escort her. The things were quickly set up and they watched while the kit did his first spell, then they got together to add some power to the reconfigured device before handing it to her. "The blue button if you wouldn't mind."
Xander closed her eyes and pushed the button. She found herself in Paris and looked around at the night sky. "Well, I'm closer," she decided, heading to find a newspaper stand or machine to find out the date. His future plans would need him to do some things depending on how close he was to being in this time. He found out it was the same year he had gotten pregnant with the twins and his mind quickly supplied a plan. "Murami." He checked his wallet, his cash was applicable now. He hailed a cab and took it to her office downtown, tipping the cabbie a bit. Then he got out and headed upstairs. She always worked late and it wasn't much past dark. He knocked his usual knock then walked in, making her gasp and reach for her gun. "Whoa!" he shouted, holding up a hand as he changed his image to who he usually was. "It's me, Murami. We've got to talk."
"What's wrong? You're on a train."
Xander relaxed. "Good, then I'm not creating a paradox."
"Paradox?" Her gun dropped from her fingers. "You're pregnant!" Xander closed the door and walked in, moving to stand in front of her. She hesitantly reached out to touch her stomach, then withdrew when the baby shifted. "Holy God, Xander. What is going on?"
Xander pulled out his wallet and handed over his most recent license, the one he had gotten not even six months earlier. "I'm not supposed to be here. It was a mistake in a spell. Not cast by me, but still. I just had another delightful interlude in Imperial Japan." He sat down, stretching out. "I ache, Murami."
"Want a soda?"
"You are a goddess," he pleaded. "Thank you."
She nodded, getting it for him. Then she sat down to look over the license. She slowly looked up at him. "Two-thousand-five?" He nodded, popping open the can. "That can't be. It's not even two-thousand-three yet."
"As I said, I'm not supposed to be here." He sat the can on his leg, holding it steady with one shaking hand. "How much do you know about what Marcus and I specialize in?"
"I heard about the slayage stuff, though I don't believe it. Frankly it's too fantastic." Xander nodded. "Is this about that?" He nodded again. "Something got you during a fight?"
"No, a friend's kid's first spell ceremony went wrong due to his mentor. So I went far back in time and they could only get me this close to home. The baby won't develop until I'm running forward again. I won't age until then, but that leaves a few problems. Ones named Lupin, Jigen, Goemon, and Fujiko."
"Oh," she said flatly, handing back his license. "This isn't a practical joke?" He shook his head. "Are you sure?"
"Murami, I'm on a train here, you said so yourself. In three days I'm going to escape with Jigen outside of Vienna when we switch tracks. I'm going to head to the house I just recently bought to go back to repairing it. Lupin's going to be told he can't impregnate his mothers because they're having their periods so he's going to follow me because I just pulled a spectacular diamond job in Russia. He's going to find me sleeping on the lawn. He's later going to find out that I'm pregnant with twins, thus getting Fihad brought back to life."
"Oh, hell," she whispered, eyes wide. "Do I look like an anime character?" He grinned and nodded. "Not a joke?"
"Not a joke. I wish it was a joke. I'd love to say it was a joke. I'd really love to be curled up with Goemon rubbing my back because this little girl is heavy and he does it the best. But I can't and now I need to make some plans with you since I can't really pull jobs right now."
She calmed herself and nodded. "I understand, Xander. I don't think you should pull a job. Being in two places at once will only start some odder rumors than normal. What do you want to do?"
"I just thought of something earlier today when I was making possible plans during the funeral's crying portion. I own a building in Geneva." She grimaced. "Besides the house."
"I do in my time."
"Oh." Her eyes lit up. "Oh!" He nodded. "Where?" He leaned forward, putting his soda on a coaster to write out the address. "That's a wreck."
"Yeah, but if I'm staying here until I hit the place I left, then I have time to deal with it. It'll let me wear out some frustration too."
"Okay. Let me think." Murami got comfortable and thought it over. "That would keep you out of sight, mostly. I'm supposing you know when you were in town and you can always hide yourself easily with that choker. Since you said the baby won't be going forward until you are, then you won't have to worry about a delivery problem. We'll have to arrange for contractors."
"I am a contractor, Murami."
"Good point. So we'll have to get supplies. Plus some furniture and things. That may take a few months." She looked at him. "I remember the building."
"So do I. Now I know why it struck such a chord in me too," he said dryly, sipping his soda. "I haven't had this in nearly three weeks," he told her. She shuddered. "Oh, don't worry, there's been a few good fights back then. I was with Goemon's clan yet again."
"Again," he agreed with a small smirk. "The other was a problem with Fujiko and a wish." She shuddered. "My feelings at the time. At least Goemon went back with me that time. This time I got to go all by myself."
"Poor baby. What do we need to do right now, Xander?"
"I need a room, I need some clothes. I need that building and I'll need a lot of stuff because I remember building it suddenly." He grimaced. "I hate those suddenly appearing memories." He shook his head and wrote out a list for her. "Here you go. I'll need that." He pushed it over and handed the pen over too. "I know I have an overflow account that I never touch. I usually use it to pay for any sudden shopping trips and I don't pay that much attention to my balance sheets. Which I will be curing myself of in the future by the way. Just so I know when things like this will be happening again." She snorted, shaking her head. "Seriously. This makes two. I honestly don't know if the Rule of Threes applies to such situations so I'm being cautious." She nodded. "Can we use that account?"
"We can," she admitted. "I was going to have to siphon off some of the interest soon anyway to keep it under the payback maximum on the more open accounts." He nodded, taking a longer drink. "How can you stand drinking all that soda?"
"My body appreciates it," he said with a one-sided shrug. "I like my body and it likes it so I don't argue with my body most of the time. Besides, the baby likes it too." He grinned. "It's a girl this time. The twins are Jigen's and they're both girls. Talk me out of Amanda. You did it the last time."
"What are their names?"
"Savannah and Melissa. Savannah has silver hair."
"Okay, I'll remember that," she agreed, nodding slowly. "Just that?"
"If I can stay out of the way and I can find some magic books then I might be able to figure out how to get back by myself. The Kitsune have a definite range of ability and I have a range of my own, only I usually only study battle spells and the like."
"I don't need to know. I'll authorize that account. I've got your spare ATM card, I don't know why but a thought came to me that I needed it."
"It's always a wise idea to keep an extra one with the way I travel sometimes," he said bitterly. "I'm still sorry about that whole cruise ship fiasco."
"Not an issue, Xander. I was happy to help you then." She got up and he carefully looked away while she opened her safe. She brought out a small envelope and a bank envelope. "You recently gave this to me to hold. Should I?"
He looked at it, then frowned. "I didn't."
"Um, no, I didn't," he admitted, looking at her. Then he grinned. "I told you the Rule of Threes applied." She handed it over with a hand wave. "Thanks, Murami. How long should it take to buy the building?"
"To buy the building, get the permits, and all that stuff? Maybe a month?"
"Okay, then I'm going to find a modest hotel and lounge around for a month. I'll be looking in the local magic shops for new books while I'm here in town. I'll give you a phone number tomorrow. Is this card only to that account?" She nodded. "Okay. The PIN is 1325, right?" She nodded. "Thought I hadn't changed it in years." He stood up with a grunt and a pat to his stomach. "I and the stomach of doom are going to, probably, the Radisson. We'll call on you tomorrow afternoon, a phone call. I don't expect to be up before then." She nodded, walking over to give him a hug. He noticed she searched his back for straps. "It's real." He lifted his vest, letting her see his full stomach. "See?"
She nodded, patting it. "Thank you, Xander, for not trying to do this behind my back."
"I'd never do that, Murami," he admitted with a grin. "We love you. Did you know that the future Fourth calls you Auntie Money Lady?" She laughed. Then her eyes went wide. "Yes, there is a Fourth and she's one kick ass kender." He winked. "Don't tell Lupin that, he'll have to figure that out for himself."
"Xander, can you tell me anything?"
"You're still living in my time. You've watched over us all and lived through the small tragedy and the large one we've recently had. The timing on this sucks, Fujiko just died in Russia about a month ago." She slumped a bit. "It was a quick sniper shot while she was pregnant with the third baby. He's adorable by the way. Goemon's besotted and he's pouring all his energy into the kids while we pillow around him to make sure he doesn't roll off the edge of the table of grief." He shrugged. "It happens in our life, Murami."
"I know," she said softly. "Thank you, Xander. I'll be waiting to hear from both of you."
"Don't expect the me from here until we leave the train outside of Vienna. Oh, Pops is going to be married soon. Start looking for a tasteful present to suggest to Lupin instead of his big bottle of viagra." She snickered, shaking his head, and he hugged her again before leaving. He headed for the Radisson, knowing it had comfy rooms. On the way he stopped to change his appearance back to Melody and then he visited two ATM's to get some fresh cash. He found an open shop and walked in to get some clothes, weathering the many pats to the stomach. By the time he checked in, he had everything but dinner and there was a McDonald's attached to it. He walked up to the front desk. "Is there a room open?" she asked in a honeyed accent. The desk girl smiled and nodded. "I'm in town on business and I'll need to be in one for at least a few weeks, maybe longer. I don't need a suite, but something nice and with enough room to pace would be great."
"We have a businessman's room," she offered. "It's got a bigger desk."
"That would be fine. Thank you." She put down her card and the woman checked her in. Once she had her card, she went to the restaurant to get dinner, then went up to rest. It was time for a nap.
The Kitsune Lord showed up about six weeks before Xander was about to begin moving forward again. "I know it's been a long time," he defended at the opening mouth. "You know how magic runs though."
"I do. I was hoping I wouldn't have to keep going this way. I was also hoping to see you last year."
"I know, and I wish I could have done that, Xander." He smiled and held out a hand. "Ready?"
"Hell yes. Should I leave the clothes?"
"Bring them." Xander packed quickly and they popped forward to the correct time. Xander sank to her knees with a groan of pain, holding her stomach. "Give it a moment," he soothed, squatting down to pat her on the back. "You'll be fine soon. She's fine, I can read her energy signatures." Goemon came out to the study to look in on them. "She's fine. She's readjusting."
"It's just after midnight," Goemon offered, coming in to pick her up. "Follow." He carried her into the main bedroom, making her men scramble to get the bed ready for her. "She's in some pain."
"It's nothing," the Kitsune said. "The baby's shifting and kicking hard because it's growing again. She got out of the habit and now she's getting used to it again." He put down the bag. "Xander, will there be another?"
Xander looked over and nodded. "To go back and make some things ready for me, like giving Murami some cash for me and things."
"That's fine, we'll work on that together," he promised. He bowed to Lupin. "Am I done?"
"Thank you," Jigen said, giving him a short head fur ruffle. "You brought her back to us."
"I do adore Xander," he admitted. "She makes life interesting and we're all about that." He smirked and disappeared with a twitch of his tails. He collapsed onto his bed, letting his favorite mates comfort him.
"Why did he only have four tails?" Goemon asked.
"I'm supposing he came forward since magic was stronger last century," Jigen said with a shrug. "I'm not worried about it, Goemon. She's back, that's all I care about." Xander let out a tremendous belch. "Lupin, food."
"Going," he agreed, heading for their kitchen. He found Bix cooking. "For Xander?" She nodded, handing over the first pan. "How did you know?"
"You've been talking about it all day and the cusp of the new day would be safest," she pointed out. "That way there would be no interference or chances of misjumping. It was logical knowing my former master." She smiled at him. "We'll check the baby tomorrow before the meetings."
"Sure." He carried in the food, letting Xander pig out while they checked her over. He didn't even care when a very warm green pepper hit his bare back. He wanted to taste her, make sure she was all right. He licked her stomach and her taste exploded across his tongue, making him moan in delight. "Xander."
"Still," she quipped, eating faster. Then she hugged Goemon. "You okay?"
"I'm fine, Xander. I'll leave you three alone to comfort each other." He padded out, sitting in the living room again. "What is a Xanth, Bix?"
"An alternate world where magic works and everything is a pun." In the bedroom Jigen moaned loudly and she grinned at him. "Sounds like it's back to normal." She came out to sit with him. "Is she all right?" He nodded, giving her a short sideways look. "What? Food on me?" She checked herself.
"No, just wondering how much of this you knew."
"I wasn't there when you went back and I wasn't privy to information last century either," she pointed out.
He raised an eyebrow. "How old are you?"
"Technically, I'm fifteen. I'm also closer to three hundred." She grinned. "Time runs funny up there in case you hadn't noticed."
He leaned closer. "Do not tell Lupin that. He will throw a fit," he said quietly. Then he patted her on the knee and went to his bed, taking the book with him. It sounded interesting enough. Ten years ago he would have tossed it aside as trash, but he had learned so much more since then so he now knew that it was possible.
Bix leaned back, getting comfortable on the couch. Marcus appeared, staring down at her. "What?"
"Who are you really?" he asked, looking her over.
"None of your business, Marcus. Take a nap."
"I'm not tired."
"Be that as it may, it's after midnight and it's going to be a long day. Take a nap." He grimaced but did settle down. He recognized the sound of authority when he heard it. She brushed her hair back. "Thank you."
"Don't worry, Bixana. I will not tell him," he said with a smug smirk at the ceiling.
She stood up to look down at him. "Do try, he won't believe you," she pointed out. "Now quit before I kick your ass." She sat down with a sigh and picked up the nearest magical book to read through. It was quite interesting, she had never really studied void magic.
To part 26
To Main Index.