Notes: Will Start out before Epi in part 23, but then will cover up to that point and end afterwards.
Xander looked around the table, grimacing in distaste at the looks he was getting. Since he was in female form still, he suspected some of them didn't understand that women were the tougher species, but then again.... "Does anyone have anything they *have* to say about my furry friend? If so, say it now or forever hold your peace. And I do mean that." No one said anything. "Good. Any other odd ideas coming from that?"
"Since you're acting as the envoy, aren't you serving their interests?" one woman asked.
Xander looked at her. "Melnorma, if I was serving their interests would we be having this meeting? I mostly explain you guys to them. Like any good diplomat, I smooth over things that some idiots have done and make them mostly leave you guys alone."
"They help you," she pointed out.
"Well, not really," she admitted with a frown of concentration. "It's very rare that we go do anything *together*. We're more social friends than partners or anything. I like the guy, but he can teleport and that's not exactly my best talent," he said dryly. She chuckled. "Besides, it's more of an acknowledgment that I'm good. They respect me because I'm good and I protect them in return. From what I understand, I'm the first envoy since Don Dolune sent someone." That got some impressed looks. "I do not know who that was or I'd refer you to them."
"Fine," she said, waving a hand. "Then I have no objections."
"Why don't we just name you in charge?" one really young guy asked. He was obviously taking style tips from Lavelle and attitude tips from Lupin. "Since you seem to be a lynchpin in the European syndicates, it would make sense."
"Paperwork, ewww," she said, scowling at him. "Naughty!" She balled up a piece of paper and threw it at his head. "Bad doggy!"
He smirked. "If you say so. You'd do it very well."
"Then I'd have to play more politics. I hate politics and I hate covering for people. Besides, it would take me away from my kids. I like my kids and they're being home schooled. Lupin said this would be his version of hell as well so drop it."
"Fine," the young guy said smugly. "You run a family in your own right."
"Which is why I'm doing this. Lavelle will be taking over for me sometime later. Lupin's doing some of them, Jigen's doing some of them, and we're all being very respectful of Goemon or else. Do we catch my meaning here?" Everyone looked stunned. "He just lost his wife, people. The first person I hear picking on him, like the one I nearly caught last night, will be losing body parts. Goemon did teach me as well. Do we have a clear understanding?" Everyone nodded. "Good. That is the only rule I'm making besides we can keep it polite, even icy yet polite, but the first cranky person means I get to have a mood swing too." She leaned back, patting her stomach. "Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the real business here. We all work for someone else. We all also do some freelance work. We know most of the people who Lupin is meeting with in the other room. That means we all have an idea of who should run it. I'd like at the most three good suggestions out of the sixteen we have to pass on to him."
"By talking them up or down, then the others would know the new people's weaknesses as well," Melnorma pointed out.
"That's because I understand that we have to be able to trust our bosses to some degree," Xander explained. "If I didn't trust Jigen to have my back instead of trying to shoot me in the back, I wouldn't be the shooter I am. The same with Lupin. I know you've had some problematic run-ins with a few of the men because you're female." She nodded. "Things like that need to be known about so we all understand every fault of the person who's coming in. I don't want this to turn into open warfare and I certainly don't want someone in the office who's going to kill us all after a job."
She nodded. "Reasonable. Then I'm nominating Lupin."
"He won't take it," Jigen noted as he walked in. "Mine's done." He handed over a piece of paper. "The seconds wanted these two."
She looked at the names. "Nobi? Out of Vienna?" He nodded. "And the other is Justina. Interesting."
"She's fair, she's strong, and she has the ability to tie three of the largest factions together by marrying well," Jigen pointed out. "It would create more peace and her kids would be better suited for it, especially her son Kyle."
"Kyle is one kick ass second for his mother's businesses," the young guy noted. "Also, she appreciates the odder of us."
Melnorma looked down at him. "She hates having other women in the business. She sees us as competition."
"Yes, but she's not really actively hostile toward you," the young guy pointed out. "She's definitely got a point, some of the females in the business aren't that stable, like her during her last pregnancy." She nodded. "Plus, to be fair, there's not that many female freelances and you'd mostly go through others for your sort of assignments instead of taking one directly from her."
"True, but she could influence it so we wouldn't get as many jobs."
"Then her husband would be of more importance. Justina's a great businesswoman," Jigen pointed out. "For the *Family* stuff she'd not be as good as her son, who's only sixteen. His father would have been the ideal solution." A few people shifted guiltily. "I get it, guys, it's not an issue." He lit a cigarette and someone snatched it and put it out. "There's ventilation."
"Tough. Do that in your apartment not around me."
"Fine." He put his hands in his pockets. "My group came up with the suggestion of giving Brock a chance to be Kyle's new step-daddy. If not him, then definitely Don Lugasa's second son, idiot though he is."
Melnorma thought about it, then nodded slowly. "If you could get Brock to agree, it would suit all of us. He is known to be rather hard though. Very strict. I'd almost wish that Gryphon would marry her."
"He's terminal, sweetheart," Jigen admitted.
"Shit, I hadn't heard," she said, scowling at the polished wood of the table. "Fuck." She shook her head. "Okay. I like Justina but she would need a settling influence and I don't like Brock. Anyone else have a few suggestions?"
"What about Nobi? I've only worked around him once," Xander asked.
The young guy shuddered. "I'd rather not go there. If you guys are really bored, can you take him down next?"
"Just because he doesn't like the odder people in the life," Melnorma started.
"No, he loathes us. He threatened Lupin earlier," Jigen told her. "He threatened back with a mood swing. The guy laughed so Lupin said you could kick his ass later, Syl."
"Thanks, Jigen," she said with a fond smile and a touch to his hand. "I'll do that as soon as we're done."
"I still say you should do it," the young guy noted. The others nodded. "Or Lavelle."
"Taking away mine or Lupin's fun would make the rest of us cranky and we'd have to take it out on someone," Jigen said firmly, looking at the young guy. "Besides, Lavelle hates paperwork. He can't even remember how to balance his checkbook."
"There's seconds for that," Melnorma pointed out. "Have Lupin run it, let Lavelle or Sylvia deal with the hitters. Let you deal with us if they're indisposed. Let Goemon deal with the tougher issues. It's the perfect and best fit."
Xander looked at Jigen, who sighed and nodded, so he changed back. "As some of you were aware, we are the same. It's a boon from where I was taken hostage once." He put his feet up on the table so his stomach would quit hurting. "Sometimes it's easier." Everyone gaped. "Another good reason not to make it us."
"You pass very well," Melnorma noted. She frowned at his stomach, then reached over to touch it. "Holy shit, you're pregnant."
"Just a few days over six months." He smirked at her. "I had the twins and Fred and Sarah too by the way." She withdrew her hand. "There's a lot of strange shit in my past and it's a herald of that. It won't be affecting the kids and it doesn't really affect me." He looked at the rest of the table. "Of course, the first one who pushes this around so I get picked on about it, I'm still letting myself mood swing on them. My Sylvia side might cry after killing them horribly but the rest of me would only piss on them." Everyone nodded, looking quite sincere. "Anyway, we've got to give off a recommendation. Any others?"
"I like Justina but we do need a more family oriented person that's not Brock," the young guy noted. Everyone nodded, they liked that solution best. "How about... Jigen?" He smirked at him until another paperball hit him. "Sorry, Syl...Lavelle." He shook his head. "Don't you get confused?"
"No, we call him by his real name at home," Jigen said dryly. "He's only Sylvia or Lavelle on the job." The door opened and Ishi walked in. "What's wrong, little man?"
"I'm bored and I'm preventing myself from killing the girls," he said, crawling into Xander's lap. "Can I stay?"
"For a bit," Xander offered, patting him on the back. "For those who don't know, this is Goemon Ishikawa the Fourteenth." Everyone waved weakly. "Goemon's oldest is very good already." He grinned and tickled him. "What did the daughters do this time?"
"Arsene and Melissa are making stupid plans and I told them so," he pouted. "It's not good and I don't want to help."
"So don't," Jigen offered. "Tell us instead so we can stop them from creating hell on earth tonight." Ishi leaned closer and grabbed his tie to pull him down and whisper in his ear. "How did they get that idea?"
Ishi shrugged. "I don't know but I think Uncle Marcus did it."
"I'll talk with Uncle Marcus myself," Jigen said firmly. "They'll stop or they'll be grounded to the apartment, no dinner out." Ishi smiled at him. "You can only go out if you've done all the chores your father set for you." Ishi nodded. "Good." He patted him on the head. "As you can tell, the next generation is already taken care of."
"Well," Melnorma said, shaking her head and smiling at Ishi. "Hello, young man. I'm Melnorma."
He shook her hand. "Hi, I'm usually called Ishi so we don't confuse me with Father. Are you a hitter or a second?"
"A hitter," she admitted with a smile. "You're quite polite but I'd expect nothing less from you. Are you going to take your father's spot?" He nodded. "Excellent. I hope to see you later in your training. I'm taking over the academy." Everyone looked impressed. "It's my turn." She smiled at him. "Do you want to learn how to be an assassin?" He nodded. "Then I may see you during that part of your training."
"Thank you. I look forward to it. Auntie Sylvia does a lot of my training so far." He got comfortable in the lap. "Sissy said that Justina is having a bad week. That she's going to get hurt, Uncle Jigen."
"Lotus say how?" He shook his head. "Then I'll talk with her. Want to come with me?"
"No thank you." He smiled as he snuggled in. "He's comfortable and this time I can hog him without the girls complaining."
"You're not taking away from their attention," Xander soothed, stroking his back. "You never need to worry about that, Ishi." He nodded, shifting sideways. "Sorry."
"That's okay. The Syndicates started out as real families, it's good to see that some of us keep the old ways," an older man on the other side of the table noted. "Is she going to die, young man?" Ishi shook his head. "Just be upset?"
"To Lotus, having a bad week can mean breaking a nail, losing her homework, or being attacked," Jigen admitted, leaving to talk to the girl.
Xander grinned at the old man. "I can tell you really want to suggest someone we haven't thought of."
"I had been going to suggest my own boss. He's level, steady, and unfortunately married. Justina would make a wonderful business partner for him or a second and her son could learn that way."
The young guy looked at him. "He's not very flexible on the new ways. I heard he can't stand hackers."
"He respects their jobs, not their flaky natures. The same as he hates Lavelle and Lupin for theirs."
"So he's a serious businessman," Melnorma said, considering it. "I've never done anything for him. Is he any good?"
"He's good to his people. He's fairly steady, he's fair. He won't put up with shit and he loathes Lupin. That's why he sent me instead."
"He does know that coming after us or the kids means we get to retaliate and have to do this again?" Xander suggested. The old man nodded. "I'm figuring that's why he only complains about us?"
"Often and loudly," he said with a grin. "He won't put up with anyone who's odder or who does odd things like your group is known to. He's one of the most fair however. He's hired Lupin in the past to fix something for him, just did it through intermediaries."
"Which is where Justina would fit wonderfully," the younger guy noted. Everyone nodded, liking that idea. "Would he be able to work with someone like Lupin the Fourth?"
"By the time she's old enough, he'll be retired and Kyle could be in charge," the older guy pointed out.
"Excellent idea," Xander admitted. "I'm not sure if Kyle could stand little Arsene but I'm supposing he'll have to." Everyone snickered. "Like the tide, an irritated Lupin will always come back." That got more laughter. "By the way, those of you who are missing things, it was probably the girls. Come up and ask the parents and we'll search their rooms. Arsene and Melissa like to have contests on who can steal the most. They stole a lot in Orlando."
"Why did you take off that way?" the young guy asked. "If it's not too personal."
"Lupin slipped up and I decided I was pissed so I took his cards, all the kids, and went to Orlando," he said with a smug look. "He's since learned that lesson." Everyone shuddered. "Exactly."
"It was fun. We had to talk Arsene out of stealing a dolphin," Ishi offered.
"Hmm. Melissa wanted to steal a Donald costume. There for a few hours she thought he was the real Donald Duck." That got a few muffled laughs. "They're only nearly seven."
"Good point," Melnorma agreed. "You're doing very well with them. How is their education being done?" Lavelle wiggled his fingers. "There's a wonderful set we use at the academy, I'll send you a few of them to look over."
"Thank you, that would be helpful. I'm doing the best I can, but sometimes the kids stump me."
"As they should. That's one of the functions of children." Ishi gave her a look. "All adults forget some things about being a child."
"The brain only holds so much," Xander agreed, patting Ishi on the back. "Sometimes things have to be forgotten for more important things, like watching your nephews being born." Ishi gave him a confused look. "I caught you, little man. I watched you being born."
"You did?" He nodded. "Wow. Was I gross?" Xander nodded again. "Ick." He shuddered. "No woman of mine will ever have children."
"You'll have to carry on the family name some day but that's not for a long time yet," Xander soothed, stroking his back. Ishi gave him a disgusted look. "It's not *that* bad, Ishi, trust me."
"I do, but you're always tired."
"That's because there wasn't any time between Fred and Sarah and this one. Otherwise I'd be perfectly fine, like I was with them."
Ishi put hands on each side of his face, staring into his eyes. "You were always napping with the twins too, Uncle Xan-Xan. I'm never doing this to a woman." Xander lunged forward and kissed him on the nose. "Eww!" He wiped it off and swatted at him. "Grumpy." He settled in, scowling at the table. "Are we picking someone who'll like us when we start working?"
"We're trying very hard," the older man noted. "I think my suggestion could do that and if he can't then the next generation, who is a bit older than you, would be able to fully."
"Any complaints?" Melnorma asked the silent members, who shook their heads. "Then let's suggest that plan." She took the paper Xander held out, writing it down. "All in accordance?" Everyone raised their hands. "Then let's find the bars and have a drink. I don't even want to know how those kids got out."
"I'm fully female as Sylvia," Xander noted. "The twins came out the hard way both times."
She whimpered. "You insane thing," she said in awe. "Two sets of twins and you're having another one?"
"This one wasn't planned, but then none of them have been to date. It simply seems to happen sometimes when we're not real careful. Then I get stuffed up and Lupin and Jigen try really hard to be sweet and nice about it. The same thing happened with Lotus. That's why she's only nine months younger than Ishi here."
"Only nine months?" the young guy asked. "I thought breastfeeding and recent birthing were hormonal methods of birth control."
Xander snickered. "No, that's a myth. Otherwise I wouldn't be pregnant. I'm assuming many women each year say the same thing when they go in for their six-week postpartum checkup and find out they're pregnant." He looked horrified. "Also, there's a myth that periods tell you when your next cycle is, it's wrong, kid. Take it from me. Periods tell you when your *last* cycle was. Always remember that."
"Condoms save on laundry too," the older guy said dryly.
"They certainly do," Xander agreed. "And make very interesting presents when you're sending a message to someone when they wake up and find one next to their ear on their pillows." Everyone shuddered. "Hey, that's what I do a lot of. I like giving the gift of odd messages." He grinned at Ishi. "I snuck in on him one night and gave him blue hair."
"Mother was not impressed," Ishi told him.
"I heard. She yelled at Lupin for it." He gave him a hug. "Good job," he whispered. Ishi nodded, clinging to him. "Okay, if there's no new ideas, then I'm going to adjourn so we can get some ice cream and keep the girls from stealing everything shiny you own." No one said anything. "Adjourned. Have fun until the lunch." He stood up, carrying Ishi with him.
"Let me walk. I'm heavy," Ishi complained. "You shouldn't lift things." He continued to be carried. "Father, Uncle Xan-Xan is carrying me!" he called.
Goemon came out of a room and sighed, picking Xander up and taking her up to the couch to lay her on there. "Rest," he ordered. He took the papers his friend held out. "Interesting." He went to show them to Jigen, who decided that the hitter's plan was better and since he was with most of the seconds they liked it too. Goemon brought it to his group of specialists, getting their recommendations. Most of them were truly freelance and it really didn't matter but a steady hand was always better to work with. Then that one went to Lupin via Arsene since Goemon caught her trying to break into a snack machine.
Arsene walked boldly into the room her father was in, handing over the folded paper. "Mommy's group came up with it, Daddy. Everyone else seemed to like it." She looked at the rest of them, then waved and smirked at their shocked look. "No, I'm not a myth." She giggled, sounding like a lighter version of her father's trademark cackle. "I'm the Fourth."
"Yes you are," Lupin said, giving her a fond grin. "A very good Fourth. What did you get caught doing?"
"Trying to break into the candy machine to get Lotus a candy bar. She's pouting."
"Bring her down here, I'll cuddle her for a bit."
"She's frustrated, daddy, not sad." He gave her a look. "Fine, I'll share you again," she sighed, heading up to get Lotus and bring her back down, dragging her the whole way. "Here," she said, climbing up and forcing Lotus to come with her by not letting her go. "This is Lotus Goemon. She's Uncle G's daughter."
One of the bosses smiled at them. "You are definitely your fathers' daughters," he praised. "The adults need to do some things. Can't you two go play?"
"I am playing, I'm playing with your head," Arsene said with a bright grin. "I enjoy it."
He roared with laughter, shaking his head. "Definitely a mini-Lupin," he agreed once he calmed down.
"She's also an astounding thief with her step-sister Melissa. Between the two they shoplifted about six grand worth of stuff out of the theme parks in Orlando."
"I wanted a dolphin but Ishi told Mommy and Mommy didn't think I could do that because it would hurt it," Arsene said earnestly. The others smiled at her. "I had everything set up too. I wasted perfectly good blackmail material on the guy to fish my pretty baby out."
Lotus patted her on the arm. "It's okay. You can always use it later. I doubt he'll be getting a job anywhere else since he's a menial." Arsene perked up.
Lupin hugged them both. "Good job." He looked at the table, then at the person on his immediate right. "There was a suggestion made by the hitters, the seconds, and the specialists. They were asked to suggest based on stability, strengths, and to share any weaknesses that might affect the meeting group." He looked at the person directly opposite from him. "They managed to find a compromise. A two-tiered compromise." Everyone sat up straighter. "They all wanted Bob to head things, citing his connections, his family oriented training and structure, but they wanted Justina to second with him so her son could one day take over." Everyone looked from Bob to Justina and back. "I'm assuming that everyone thinks that he'll let Justina handle the odder things and people so he doesn't have to know."
"I would," Bob agreed, leaning back. Lotus stared at him. "What?"
"You're odd but you'll live for at least ten years. You really will have to get over your fear of the unusual. One day I will be a powerful witch."
"I'm sure you will, but I wouldn't have use for one."
"I can already enforce growths around houses to make them stiff and so no one can get in." He gaped at Lupin, who nodded. "See? You have to get over it some day." She looked at Justina. "You like us?"
"I respect people with different skills," she noted. "Even the odd ones. I'm one of the few who likes your Uncle Lavelle's comic book habit."
Bob looked at her, then nodded. "What about your son Kyle?"
"He's also exactly like his father," one of the other men pointed out. She glared at him. "Sorry. His dad was one I could have supported instantly."
"Us too," Lupin admitted. "That was the second tier of the suggestion. That his mother take the second's job so he'd get a good bit of on-the-job training and get to know the various people. Letting her handle the odd things would leave Bob to run the monetary front and to make the bigger plans and to consolidate the smaller elements." He handed the paper to Bob. "Do we have any counter suggestions?"
"I do," one of the men noted. "I still say you'd make a better one than they would together and Kyle would benefit by working with you anyway."
"We'd loathe the job and we'd have to kill anyone who might come for the kids," Lupin pointed out. "That'd decimate Europe's power plays within a year."
Bob looked at him. "True, but it would get things done. We all know I'm due for surgery soon." Justina gasped and he gave her a gentle smile. "Something routine, dear. Nothing too tragic or horrible." He looked at Lupin again. "Plus, I've heard rumors that you have envoys?"
"To the Kitsune," Lotus said proudly. "Sarah will do that instead of Uncle Xan-Xan."
"Xan?" Justina mouthed.
"Lavelle," Lupin told her. "His real name."
"Oh." She nodded. "I thought that might be a stage name as it were."
"No, a middle one," Lupin admitted with a small smirk. He looked at Lotus, then at Arsene. "Did he tell them?" Arsene nodded, grinning at him. "I'm guessing there was a good reason then." He looked at Bob. "When are you going in, how long is it going to take to recover, and can we get Justina up to date for you?"
Bob laughed, nodding. "My thoughts exactly. You deal with the others around the world and you know enough about us to take any of us down." Lupin nodded, giving him a small smirk. "I also know that I'm not going to be able to take over immediately. I don't want to undermine Justina."
"It would solve the housing lag for me too. We're living in Norway right now. I'd feel the need to be closer to central Europe." She looked around. "This is really nice, Lupin. Which one of you owns it?"
"Lavelle and Sylvia."
"Oh." She pursed her lips, looking like a duck's bill. "Think they'd sell it?" He shrugged. "I'll ask later. If not, maybe they can tell me who their contractor is."
"Lavelle and Sylvia," he said dryly.
"Really?" She smiled. "At least I'd trust him." She grinned. "Think they could?"
"Six months pregnant," Lotus said quietly, looking at her friend.
"I knew it!" one of them said, jumping up and pointing at Lupin. "You're gay!"
"No, I'm indiscriminate," Lupin said patiently. "Get it right." He looked at Justina. "I know he looked at a lot of places before he bought his house here. He might be able to help you. Or Jigen might, he's got a condo around here." She looked thoughtful. "Again, you could move anywhere. It's a wonderful thing to have a 'net connection and a phone."
Bob snickered. "Yes, but I'd like to be in the same city as my second. Sending documents makes them less secure. I presently live in Flavora, Italy. It's a tiny little town near the assassin's academy."
"Woman offered Ishi a chance to go there," Arsene said, smiling at her father.
"Really?" he asked, grinning at her. "That's very good eavesdropping, princess."
"Thank you, daddy. Can I have ice cream with Ishi?"
"Let Lavelle have him, princess. He needs her more right now." He kissed Lotus on the top of the head. "We spoil her rotten." He tickled her and she swatted at him, giving him a look from under her lashes. "We don't?"
"No. I don't have any new dollies," Lotus told him.
"We'll have to fix that, won't we?" he cooed. She nodded and rested against him again. "Of course, my princess needs to pick out a new doll too."
"I'd rather have a leather skirt," Arsene tried.
"Not until you're old enough to look good in one, daughter."
"Yes, Daddy," she sighed.
"You're very good at that," Justina pointed out. Lupin nodded, smiling at her - a very happy look without a touch of smugness. "I'm assuming your other heir is going straight?"
"Sierra and Savannah both want to be cops. One wants to be a Crime Scene person. The other wants to take over her Uncle Ray's job and chase her sisters around the globe," Lupin shared. "That leaves these two, Melissa, Ishi, Goemon's youngest, my son Fred, and the new one who could follow in our illustrious footsteps." Lotus tugged on his hand. "Yes, dear?"
"Fred be like Uncle Lavelle, Unclie. Kenji be like his kitty name."
"Thank you, dear."
"She'll be following in Marcus' footsteps if she stays in the life." Lotus tugged on his hand. "Yes, dear?" he asked patiently.
"Which one? The current one?" She shook her head. "Then where might it come from?"
"He big. He brat."
"Oh." He blinked a few times. "Who's his daddy?"
She shrugged. "Not know. I not hear that."
Bob coughed. "She could be speaking of your son, who approached Jerome for training last year," he said delicately.
"I have a son?"
"You don't?" Justina asked. "I thought you were ignoring him because of his mother."
"No. I didn't realize I had another mother to deal with. What did she name him?"
"Oh." He grimaced. "Anyone got a handy picture?" No one produced one. "I'd like to meet this son. I've never heard about him. It's good enough that I have two older daughters as well."
"Lupin, invest in stronger condoms," Bob said, giving him a long look. "Before you take over the world."
"I'm the empress of his empire," Arsene told him. "And a Kender."
Bob pressed his lips together until he could say politely, "I'm sure you are, Arsene." Then he excused himself and went to laugh his ass off out in the hallway, leaning on the wall. When he calmed down, Lavelle was across from him. He reached over to touch the moving stomach, looking up at her. "You're the same after all?" He nodded. "I thought so. Why do you pretend?"
"Because I can split myself off into parts. Sylvia and Lavelle have almost nothing in common." He shrugged. "Which one?"
"Arsene. She pronounced herself an empress of her father's empire and a kender."
"She is. Trust me, I'm putting her in a top knot soon." He walked into the room. "Why are Ishi and I the only ones eating ice cream?" Lotus and Arsene scrambled down to follow him back upstairs. "Come on, guys. Let's figure out where Melissa is searching this time. Then we'll work on Lotus' plants after the treat and after Arsene and Melissa tally up their thefts so everything can be given back." They passed through the tv room, gathering Sierra and Savannah from the couches. "Melissa, ice cream!" he yelled as they ran up the stairs in front of him. She popped out of a hallway and joined them. "We're ending the theft contest. We'll tally with the daddies after ice cream then let people have their things back. Stealing during this meeting will only cause problems." He shooed them into the apartment, pausing to look at Bix as she did a kata on the porch. A light dawned in his head and he shook it, heading into the kitchen to help Marcus dish out ice cream. "Jigen, want some ice cream? Bix, ice cream!"
"She'll get some after her workout," Marcus noted, licking off his finger. He handed off the last bowl and the kids found places to perch and nibble. He looked at Xander. "You were staring at her, expanding your harem?"
"No. Her movements seemed very similar." He shrugged. "Don't worry about it." He grabbed an extra scoop for himself, earning a frown from Marcus. "There's two of us." He walked out to sit on the porch, closing the door so the babble couldn't interrupt her. "So, you're the last of the other side of the family?" he asked, taking his first bite. She blinked at him, then moved on again. "You don't have to answer that."
"You're breaking my meditative state."
"Sorry. Don't worry, there's always nap time." He took another bite and she relaxed, going limp. "Marcus dished you up some."
"No, I'm good." She stared at him. "Don't tell him."
"I'm going to have to tell him. He thinks he's the last."
"He is the last, of his side."
"I remember. We went back and visited in the time of the fifth and sixth." He grinned. "You look exactly like the one who was a slayer."
She nodded. "My great-grandmother." She sat next to him. "Please, Xander. Let me tell him."
"You've got two weeks. He deserves the right to know."
"I will," she promised. "Marcus found out my first name."
"I noticed how you moved. What is your first name?"
"Hmm, and I thought some American mothers were bad," he mused, taking another bite. "Get some ice cream and come back to it, Bix." She nodded, doing that. "Interesting times you will live in, young one." He patted his stomach. "Don't worry, we're eating the ice cream." He winced as the kick happened. "What? I know it's not raspberry but we're in the wrong place for gelato. Sorry."
Xander looked down the table at Lupin. "We need to soothe a craving," she told him. She was back in female form for those who didn't know. "I've been craving raspberry gelato or ice cream all day."
"We brought the machine, we'll make you some later," Lupin said, cutting up the next bite of steak. "Can you wait that long?" She considered it, then nodded. "Okay. We can do that later."
"Berries are out of season," Justina noted, looking at Xander. "How are you feeling?"
"Six months along."
She winced. "I remember."
"It's not too bad, but I'm tired all the time still. I just got done having the twins when this one came to be." She stroked her stomach. "Not that I don't love her or anything, but wish we had waited a bit."
Jigen nodded. "No more."
Xander grinned at him. "We do have that appointment in nine days."
"Nine days? You're here instead of where your OB is?" Justina demanded. "Lupin, how could you take her away from her doctor at such a delicate stage!"
"Easy, she volunteered us," Lupin said, giving her a look. "I didn't demand. I want her near a very good hospital this time, just in case. I want to have many discussions with the man as well and learn all that I can about how to make sure it can't happen again."
"They make operations for that," one man put in. "Have her be fixed."
"Having me be fixed leaves him without me for a few days to a week. Having him fixed inconveniences him for two hours," Xander retorted. "It's faster and can be done in the office." The man looked horrified. "Welcome to the new millennium and women's lib. We are in charge, or else you wouldn't be here," she said, glaring at him.
"A wise man never argues with a pregnant woman," Goemon told him.
"It is often disastrous," Melnorma added. "By the way, in case you hadn't heard, I am now in charge of the family's school. I have tended a tentative invitation to Ishi when he's of age, Goemon." He looked at her, then nodded once. "You would let him?"
"I would. It would be beneficial. If he chose that path."
She nodded. "Of course. I wouldn't take him otherwise." She smiled at him. "Would you consider looking over some of the students?"
"I might," he conceded. "Are there any who are special?"
"One or two. One female is very good with a gun. The other is a master of poisons. That one wanted you on his Mastery board."
Goemon nodded. "I would be honored. I will speak with you later." She nodded, picking up her fork again. "Lupin, Lotus wanted to ask if you could make sure she didn't have to eat meat tomorrow. She got upset today when her brother helpfully told her what lamb was."
"Sure. We can buy her some stir fry tomorrow, Goemon," Lupin agreed gently, smiling at him. "Did we have a talk with Ishi?"
"It's normal big brother behavior," Bob told him. "We all did it at least once to our sisters. Is he trying to give her away as well?"
"He thought it would be an excellent wedding present to give her to Lupin and Jigen," Goemon shared. Everyone laughed at that. "It is normal?"
"It is," Bob admitted. "I tried to sell mine to a cashier once. Fortunately she told my mother and she kicked my ass over it." He ate another bite. "You're very careful with us, Lupin. The more paranoid among us thank you."
"You're welcome. I didn't want anyone to say anything about a chance of poisoning." He looked around. "That's why all the food is prepared in front of you." Everyone nodded and went back to eating. He looked at Bob, who waved a hand, so Lupin tapped his glass. "The higher ones have come to an agreement on who should be in charge. That means we'll be meeting with the smaller groups and families tomorrow to get their opinions." A few people looked pissed. "This way we could see the more intense opinions of the ones who have the most to lose," he said.
Xander looked down the table. "The rooms only fit so many people and we did specialist groups and seconds today. The more traditional ones. They're the ones who're going to have to bear most of the burden of the decision. Those who don't like it can take it up with me, and you might as well walk off the edge of the roof now." Everyone looked at their plates and ate quickly. "Thank you. We did the best we could on short notice. We only had a few day's warning." She cut into her pork chop and looked at her husbands. "Lupin, can I be pampered tomorrow with a good breakfast like you used to make?"
"Sure," he agreed, smiling at her and patting her on the hand. "I can make you breakfast tomorrow. Bacon and eggs?" She nodded. "That's fine. It'll let Marcus sleep in until the girls pounce him again." Xander grinned at him. "Eat. We want her to get bigger and stronger."
"She's already too damn big. She's the size of a water buffalo calf." Goemon choked, grabbing his water to clear his throat. "Sorry, Goemon."
"No, it was not an analogy I'd expect to come from you," he said soothingly.
Jigen looked at the more minor people. "We decided that if you couldn't figure out how to get along with a pregnant woman you couldn't figure out how to get a working alliance in Europe going. It's the same skills." He cut into his pork chop then picked up the bones to nibble off of. "Tell the chef he did great, Lupin. They're really good this time."
"I'll pass that on," Lupin agreed with a small smile for him. "I thought to give him a good trial. We need a new cook at the new house."
"New house?" Xander asked, looking hopeful.
"I'm not sure which one yet," Lupin admitted. "But I do have a few good choices for you to look at," he said with a smile. She beamed at him. "Do you want to live next to Ripper or by some horses?"
"It's in France," Jigen offered. "The other's in Britain."
"I figured that Ripper and Ethan weren't moving," she said dryly, grinning at him. "Would that mean snow?" Jigen nodded. "Lots of snow?"
"The brochure said nine inches annually," Lupin admitted. "But it's *hours* from the city. The other's in France, an hour closer to Paris, and just as big."
Xander tipped her head to the side. "I wanna see them in person. Can we do that on the way back?"
"Between appointments," Goemon said firmly. "I do not want you to miss this one."
"Fine," she agreed, bouncing and shifting. "Thank you, guys."
"You're welcome," Jigen said with a small smirk. "We like keeping you happy."
"Keeping you happy makes the rest of us sane and the kids happy too," Lupin agreed.
Goemon snorted. "Keeping her happy means that you don't have more migraines or make yourself bald."
"You forgot the kids making *sure* she's happy and content," Jigen pointed out. "By any means necessary."
"Including trying to send us on a long job," Lupin said dryly. Everyone looked at him. "Or did someone else suggest we go loot that new pyramid?" Everyone shook their heads. "That's what I thought. The email wasn't quite grammatically correct. I thought it might be my darling Fourth."
"It was Melissa actually," Jigen said proudly. "Her plan. Ishi wrote the email. Arsene did the research for them."
Justina burst out laughing. "I can see my son will adore working with your children, Lupin. They'll keep him on his toes for the rest of his days."
"Why not, they do it to us," Xander agreed dryly. He looked over as something came over the edge of the roof. "'Scuse me." She stood up and grabbed Goemon's sword, and with a credible yell went after the vampire. It fought back, but not well enough. Xander had it killed within moments. Then she dusted off and handed it back. "Thanks, Goemon. I left mine downstairs." She sat down and smoothed her napkin over her skirt. "So, Lupin, are we going to have to do Disney Tokyo?"
"Probably. The kids have mostly been through it," Lupin admitted. "All but the math requirement." He shook his head. "That poor resort."
Bob drank some of his wine, then looked at Xander. "How did you do that?"
"Easily. I was trained to do that first," Xander said simply, giving him a slightly smug look. "Did you need me or Lavelle to take care of such a problem for you?"
"No," he said weakly, blinking at him. "You are well trained."
"I am. They made sure of it." She smiled and patted Goemon's hand. "He was quite patient with me and my tripping problems." She grinned at Jigen. "And he helped me aim past my tits." She picked up her fork and went back to eating. "Eating faster means dessert comes quicker." Everyone went back to eating, talking quietly about that wonderful attack.
"Next time bring your own weapon," Goemon chided gently. "I taught you better."
Xander sighed. "Yes, Goemon, but it didn't go with the outfit." He looked at him and licked his fork. "My sword's going to the new one." Goemon looked stunned. "Lotus won't ever use one," she said quietly, "and the short sword would be better for her anyway."
Goemon considered it. "It would," he agreed. "Whichever follows in my footsteps will get mine, yours can go to the other son." He patted her on the hand. "Thank you for being so thoughtful."
"I told the smith who made it that you'd be having another son some day. That's why he balanced it to the right like the rest of the family's swords."
"His family gave you a sword?" Bob asked. "I thought they were all dead."
"It was an odd thing, Don," Xander admitted. "A very long and complicated story. Maybe some other time?" He nodded, looking content with that explanation. She looked at Goemon. "I believe you should work out with Bix. She needs someone to watch her. I noticed a form fault, the same one you tried forever to cure in me."
"I will watch her tomorrow," Goemon said, smiling. He looked at Lupin, who had a raised eyebrow. "What? She would know, she had that same one."
"I remember you strapping that body brace onto her back," Jigen agreed.
"She looked really smooth earlier on the porch," Lupin told him.
"I'll watch tomorrow," Goemon said, stopping the discussion. He knew Xander was saying something and he needed to figure out what. He glanced at her and she tipped her head to the side, looking at his watch. He moved it and she pinched him. He frowned but continued to eat quietly.
Xander looked at Lupin. "Are we going back to the school or back to Goemon's house when we head back?"
"We can go to whichever one Goemon is ready to go to," Lupin said quietly.
"I will have to face the house soon anyway," Goemon said. "Best to get on with it. That way we can be found."
"That's fine," Jigen agreed. "We'll be there with you for a while."
"I would hope so since her due date is three months from now." Goemon gave him a look. "I would demand that she have all checkups this time."
"So do I," Lupin agreed, saluting him with his wine glass. "I'm glad you love my wife as much as I do, Goemon." Goemon blushed. "Not that we mind you being a big brother to her, it's refreshing to know someone is looking out for her when we're not around."
"I look out for all my students," Goemon reminded him.
"I know, which is why we trust you with her," Jigen said with a smirk. "Otherwise I might be jealous of the baby's attachment to your backrubs instead of mine."
"Guys," Xander whined.
Justina smiled at him. "All fathers are like that. My own was like that until he died."
"I'm sorry." She looked at the other woman. "I know some people if you wanted to move on." Justina's eyes went wide so she grinned. "Just checking."
"No, I think I'm fine so far," she admitted. "Though I wouldn't mind." Xander gave a meaningful look down the table then at her. She looked and then looked at Xander, eyes wide. "You think?"
"I do, I know." She winked. "At least for fun things. He might be skittish still."
She nodded, licking her lips. "I'll check on that. Thank you, Sylvia." She looked at Jigen. "I'm sure that the baby appreciates his backrubs more because his hands are quite strong from all the swordwork he does. I know when I shook his hand he nearly crushed me without thinking about it." Xander nodded quickly. "Feel good?"
"The man could make millions being a masseuse," she said simply. Goemon blushed again. "You could, big guy. You're wonderful at working out the leg cramps I have."
"It is something I am used to doing," he admitted. "It is no problem."
"Teach us that technique," Lupin ordered. "I want to do that this time. I missed doing it with the twins."
"That was your own fault," Goemon reminded him. "The girls would have loved you to have been closer." He looked at Jigen. "I'll teach you as well."
"Thanks, Goemon. I could use it in other times."
"Hey, maybe we can work that into a job," Lupin suggested.
"You're still working?" Justina asked. "After they took you off the lists?"
"We're bored," he countered. "Plus we still have to teach the kids."
"In other words, I'm still working and Lavelle's still working," Xander told her. "The kids are being taught by the example I set and their stories." She looked at Lupin. "Someone told me about a very pretty emerald." She licked her lips, making him raise an eyebrow and smile. "Yes?"
"We'll see. You are delicate," Lupin pointed out gently. "Slaying things is much different than doing a job." Xander frowned and started to pout. "We'll see," Lupin said more firmly. "I'm not having you hurt and I'm not having the baby hurt either."
"Fine," she agreed with a small sigh. "Make me stay at home and be the mom."
"You are very good at it," Goemon pointed out gently. "The children all adore you and cling to you as the only stability they seem to have." She looked up, giving him a sad look. "I understand. We will do whatever we can to ease the burden on you." He patted her hand. "Please do not pout?" She sighed and nodded. "Thank you, Sylvia." He let her hand go, watching as she got up and hurried down the ladder to the house. "I do not know what that was."
Jigen wiped his mouth and headed after her. "I'll go." Someone stopped him and whispered in his ear, forcing him to glare at him. "None of your business." He got free and climbed down the ladder. He heard Xander getting sick and went into the kitchen to get her some soda. She always needed it afterwards. "Too spicy?" he asked when she came out, handing over the can of soda.
"No, odd surge. I don't know what that was." She sat down at the table, getting comfortable. "I don't think I can go back up there."
"That's fine. You're pregnant, it's understandable." He gave her a gentle hug. "Want me to stay with you?" She shook her head. "You sure?"
"Yeah. It sends the wrong expression." She looked up at him and blew a kiss. "Have fun at dinner."
"It's boring. I'll have fun planning a visit tonight."
"Can I help?"
"No," he said with a smirk. "I can do this one on my own." He headed back up the main stairs, walking out into the warm night. He took his seat again. "She's fine."
"Are we sure?" Lupin asked. Jigen nodded. "Good. I'll go down after dessert."
Jigen nodded. "That's fine. I'm going to do the bedtimes stories."
"I can," Goemon offered. Jigen gave him a long look. "I can."
"That'd be fine, Goemon," Lupin agreed happily. "If you're comfortable doing it." Goemon nodded. "Then we'd love to let you explain why princesses don't ride out to save the prince instead of the other way around."
"Because the people who wrote the stories were from long ago when women did no more than house and farm work," Goemon said simply. "They were incredibly short sighted."
"Xander told them it was propaganda against women's lib and women being able to do the job," Lupin told him. Goemon snickered, shaking his head. "She did. I heard her say it. I had to tell the kids that the people were incredibly old fashioned and believed women were there to be pretty and have babies."
"And then Arsene asked if you weren't like that," Jigen reminded him.
"I had a long talk with her that night," Lupin agreed. "She finally understands that having the twins was Xander's choice."
"Kinda," Jigen corrected.
"Okay, accidentally her choice," he admitted.
Justina looked at him, wiping her mouth. "Perhaps you should steal a condom truck, a full condom truck?"
"We did, they break," Lupin said bitterly. "Hence Fred and Sarah."
"And my twins," Jigen agreed.
"Is Sarah yours too, Lupin?" Bob asked casually.
"No, Sarah's mine," Jigen admitted. Bob looked at him like he was insane. Jigen just smirked. "You wanted more information?"
"No, I don't believe I need more of a mental image," he said delicately.
Justina looked at Lupin. "I'd like to talk to her soon if I may? Share motherhood secrets and the like."
"Sure, if she agrees," Lupin agreed happily, smiling at her. "I'm not forcing her into this, really."
"I'm sure," she agreed. "Still, a working mother always has little tricks and I found a few that were quite useful that I could pass on."
"Sure," Jigen agreed. "She could use some support right about now. All she's got so far is Goemon." Goemon gave him a cool look. "Though he is very attentive. He carries her everywhere."
"It was necessary, she was weak," Goemon defended.
"Fortunately you're stronger than I am," Lupin told him. "I could never pick her up and carry her all through the school."
"Perhaps you should lift weights," Goemon suggested dryly. Lupin gave him a look, then snickered. "She could use the attention."
"I know, and I'm working on a way to spoil her. Chocolates you think?"
"She's still sick, I wouldn't do that," Jigen offered. "That emerald?"
"It'd piss her off," Arsene said as she popped up behind him. "Hi!" She waved. "I snuck attacked."
"Sneak is appropriate in that sentence," Justina offered, smiling at her. "You are quite good at that. You'll make a wonderful thief."
"I know," she said proudly, handing over the necklace. "I found that downstairs on the floor."
"I wondered where it had gone to." She looked at it.
"You *found* it?" Lupin asked her.
"Chill, the clasp is broken," she said firmly. "She could have found it legitimately." She looked at the girl. "Pony up when you steal things, dear, it builds your reputation."
Arsene hugged her. "Okay. Is the cute blond guy waiting in the entryway yours? He kinda looks like you but he's really big and strong and cute."
Justina smiled. "I'll tell him you think he's cute. That is probably Kyle." She stood up. "Excuse me for a moment, Lupin." She walked down the stairs, following Arsene. "Did you want to be introduced?"
"Okay. I like cute guys."
"You definitely are your father's daughter." She gave her a pat on the head as they came out on the ground floor. "Kyle?" He looked at her and smiled. "What happened?"
"I got really bored, the pizza guy hates us, and I know I'm involved so I decided to come see what others have planned for *my* future."
She hugged him. "I understand and we'll talk later. We're having dinner. This is little Arsene Lupin the Fourth."
He smiled down at her. "You are adorable." He pinched her cheek, smiling at her blush. "It's okay, you'll grow up to be more stunning than your father ever was." He looked at his mother again. "Shall I escort you back to dinner, mother?"
"Please, dear. Tell your father that we're on our way up," she told Arsene. The girl nodded and took off running. She leaned closer to her son's ear. "She has a crush on you, son. She thought you were cute."
"Just what I need," he said dryly. "Like I don't have enough problems with that because of my girl at home?"
"I told you she was a whore, son." She took him back up the stairs, walking out onto the roof. She saw the men with the guns and sighed. "Lavelle!" Gunfire exploded and two of the three men fell backwards. Then someone groaned. "You too can die," she offered.
Lupin coughed. "Please don't upset her," he pleaded. "She's very fragile, Justina."
"I know. Her?" She looked at him and he grimaced. "He's not here yet?"
Xander came up the stairs with the shotgun as Lavelle, pointing it at the other person. "Next?" he said dryly. The other guy whimpered. "I don't care if you're a cop. Leave. Now. Before I get cranky." The guy dove off the edge of the roof, grabbing the ladder on the way down so he could scurry back to his car. Lavelle walked over and looked over the side. "I've already disabled it. Run!" The man looked up and lifted his hood, then ran off. "Hmm. Big nose." He looked at Goemon, who looked stunned. "Did the idiot have kids?"
"Who would sleep with him?" Jigen asked.
"He was powerful, some would place a pillow over his head or use a position that wouldn't let his face be seen." Lupin grimaced. "If it was, we're going to have a talk."
"Sure," Jigen agreed. "Soon." He looked at Lavelle. "The other two?"
"Dying. I called the ambulance. You guys be quiet up here." He stomped back down the stairs, letting the cops and paramedics in. "Top floor. They're on our porch." They came running up the stairs. "They were climbing up to the roof dressed all in black with weapons," he explained, handing over his gun. "Another one slid back down the ladder. He ran. I only got a glance at his face when he looked up at me."
The cops looked at him, then around. One of them dared to smirk at him. "Out of shape, Lavelle?"
Lavelle grabbed him by the throat, pulling him closer. "No, I'm not," he hissed in the guy's face. "I'm not fat. I'm not out of shape. It's a fucking growth, thank you." The man went pale. "Now, are you going to take the guys with you or can I have them?" Lotus tugged on his arm. "Back to your bedroom, Lotus."
"Let him go, Uncle. Please? He's trying to be good." Xander looked down so she gave him a cute, serious look like her father would. "Please?" Xander let him go with a groan. "Thank you," she said seriously, giving him a hug around the thigh. "You're very good at protecting us, Uncle." She looked at the cop rubbing his throat. "Aren't you supposed to be doing something?" He nodded, heading off. "Sit and read to me?" she suggested.
He sat down, letting her sit in his lap. "What should I read to you?" She handed over a book. "You want to learn about portal magic?" She nodded. "Only if your father agrees. Let's find one on temporal magic. It's applicable to making plants grow very fast." She smiled and nodded, getting that book for him. "Good Lotus." He checked the index then turned to the second chapter. "Temporal magic is magic that deals with time," he read. "As you progress through this chapter, I will attempt to explain the complex issues that are involved with temporal magic and how some of them can be gotten around as you deal with the paradox principle." He scanned the rest of the page. "As we progress with time, you must remember to keep in mind the paradox principle and how it can be used and abused to do what you need."
"Paradox principle?" the other cop asked in awe.
Xander looked up. "The Paradox Principle states that you can affect yourself and other people's timelines by observing, interacting, or simply appearing in their line. It also states that you can only be in one place three times and that if you interact directly with yourself it can freeze time and make the warp and weft of the timelines unravel by giving yourself information that can create a loop in time, thereby sticking you in that spot forever." He looked down at Lotus. "When dealing with plants, it's not quite as complicated. Plants can't go back and screw things up for themselves by talking to their seedlings." She nodded, gripping the book. "Can you read the next sentence?" He pointed it out.
"The Paradox principle is important to use positively instead of negatively," she read slowly, "because using it to your advantage will negate it to some degree and leave you with the most useful parts." She smiled at him. "Was that right?"
"It was," he praised, giving her a squeeze. "Go on. It'll make more sense if you read it and I explain it." She nodded, working on the next sentence in her head before going on. Xander looked at the cops. "They were climbing up the ladder and I got them from below."
"That's fine, Lavelle. I know you were only protecting your children. Which one is that one?"
"This is Lotus." He grinned at Jigen as he walked in. "Help them?"
"I was ordered to take the magic book from Lotus," he said dryly, taking the book from her. "Your father said that was much too advanced for you. You can't quick-grow plants yet."
"I can so! I did the tree house!"
"You did what?" Xander asked, looking down at her. She looked hesitant, then looked at the cop with them. "We'll be talking later about that, young lady. You are a bit too young to do something so major. An herb is one thing, a whole tree is another." She nodded, pouting at him. "Thank you, Lotus."
"I was being careful but the tree is so small that it's hard to balance in the tree house so I grew it," she defended.
"We'll be going back there so everyone can look at it for you," Jigen said quietly. She gave him a long look and he nodded. "Your father said so."
"Thank you, Uncle." She reached over and hugged him around the waist. "You're very nice to put up with us."
"We love you, kiddo. We don't mind putting up with the bad things most of the time." She nodded and went back to her room, taking the book with her since no one was watching. Except the cop, who coughed and pointed.
"Bring it back," Jigen ordered. It floated out. "Thank you." He grabbed it out of midair and put it back into his husband's hands. "Here. You keep it."
"I bought it, it's mine, I probably should," Xander agreed.
"Lavelle, I know this is listed as your house, but why is there a meeting?" the nice cop asked quietly. "Something bad?"
"Keeping the area stable," Jigen said firmly. "Don't worry about it."
"We're not, but we were all ordered to find one of you and ask that question. The local cops want to leave you alone. We all really, really want to leave you alone," he said, eyes wide. "We just don't want to have to bring out the riot gear. My baby's going to be born in another five months and I'd like to be there for that."
"Your first?" Jigen asked. He nodded, grinning and producing an ultrasound picture. "Boy?"
"You're really good at that."
"We read Sylvia's as well," Jigen admitted, handing it back. "Our last is due in another three. We want the same peace."
"Thank you." He hurried out to help the paramedics gather everyone and left after them to make sure no one was going to be left behind.
Jigen looked at Xander. "How did you do that?"
Xander blushed and looked at his lap. "Um, I kinda was chasing someone and he went into the Police officer's Ball. I, ah, kinda, um, took him out before he blew them up?" He glanced up and blushed brighter. "Sorry, but it saved a lot of grief and I wanted that idiot. It was his bad luck to run into the ball."
"Pops laughed long and hard about that," Lupin said as he came down the ladder. "Good job." He gave him a short hug. "You okay?"
"Just fine." He grinned. "They were very respectful."
"As they should be," Lupin agreed gently. "Why don't you curl up in bed? We called dinner short tonight."
"I'm going to the store right now to either find you some raspberry ice cream or gelato, or to buy the ingredients." Xander beamed and kissed him before padding into their bedroom. "Stay here, just in case," he ordered quietly. "She still needs to rest." He grabbed his wallet and walther, heading out into the dusk. He found the one assassin wannabe and got him in the knee from behind, then left him there. "Next time, ask permission to attend," he said as he walked over him. He noticed a little kid looking at him. "He tried to hurt my wife," he explained. "She's going to have a baby."
"Wow. You're very good." She ran off to tell others. And another rumor was added to the mythology of Lupin the Third.
Bob looked around at the lesser people, all of them were gathered in the hotel's meeting room. "All right. Let's get started." Everyone stared at him. "Yes, the larger groups chose me to head and Justina," he said, pointing at her, "to second me. Her son Kyle is hers and Morgan's." Everyone looked stunned. "There was talk of having him follow after me." A few people looked pissed. "I haven't worked with many of you."
"All you bigger groups are the same," one man yelled. "You all run over us!"
"No, we didn't. We're here to let you get to know us and see if you have a better solution."
"Hell, I'd be better than you," another man noted. "You've probably never been on the streets."
"He and I both have," Justina said quietly. "I came up the ranks of hitters. He came up the ranks of specialists." Everyone stared at her. "Yes, there are female hitters in the world, as Sylvia proved last night." She stepped forward. "We don't want to run you over. We do want stability." She looked around as the whining noise started, then scowled. "That sounds familiar."
"Fuck!" Sylvia said as she appeared. "Everyone sit still! If you move the thing will hit you. I can only guard so much area." She turned and looked up, raising a hand and muttering something. The whining stopped but a large explosion went off, contained by the shield she had constructed. Then she wobbled until Bob caught her. "It's safe. We're having it swept," she said quietly. "Give it a few minutes." She passed out.
"Hell!" Justina said, coming over to help. The shield failed and the bomb fell to the stage. "Someone clean this up and put it into a baggie for the locals. Someone call Lupin too."
"On his way," a small furry body said as he appeared. "I told him about the bomb." He knelt beside Xander, laying a hand on her stomach. "Shh." Everyone stared at it in shock. "The baby is fine. The shields we put on her held." He looked at Bob. "Welcome. My Father wanted to know if you would like this one to keep being our envoy."
"I don't mind in the least. He seems to be good at it." He picked Xander up, carrying her down to the seats. "Move." Four people moved so he laid her across their seats. Goemon rushed in. "She's fine, simply unconscious."
"If she is unconscious, she is not fine," he said coolly. He noticed the young kitsune, giving it a long look. "You are a mere infant, why are you here?"
"I was browsing the proceedings and I saw the bomb start off. I told her." He skipped down, hugging Goemon. "Can I play with Lotus?"
"You may," he agreed. "Gently of course."
"Sure. Thank you." He disappeared, landing back in the apartment. "Hi, Bix!" He skipped into the room he could feel Lotus studying in. "Your father said we could play."
"Let me get this one right first," she said absently, working on healing the plant next to her. Finally she shrieked and jumped up and down, then went back to it, getting it this time. Then she grinned at him. "What did you want to play?"
"Sure." She led him out to the porch, where Arsene drew out a board for them. "You can go first."
He grinned and picked up a marble, tossing it onto the board.
Lupin walked into the meeting room, looking at the bag of things and the cops standing around it. "Decided to include the locals?" he asked Bob.
"One of the pieces had their sticker on it," Justina admitted. "We think one of them built it and I'd rather keep peaceful relations with them. It was my decision."
"That's fine," Lupin agreed, looking down at Xander. "She's sleeping."
"She passed out after doing something that created a wall between us and the bomb."
"It's called a shield," Marcus admitted from across the room. "A very strong one if it contained all the blast without moving." He walked over. "The sweep is done, there's no others."
"Thank you," Bob said, smiling at him. "You're very useful, Marcus."
"Thank you, Don." He looked at Lupin. "I can't bring her back like this."
"That's fine, I drove," Lupin admitted. "Now, why is everyone cowering?"
"Because the cops came rushing in and didn't arrest anyone?" Justina suggested.
"Because Sylvia *appeared*," Bob said firmly. "Then one very young kitsune, according to Goemon, came to help."
Lupin nodded. "One came for her just before she left the apartment too." He looked around. "Okay, help me lift her since Goemon isn't around."
"Those bird arms of yours not that strong?" one woman asked smugly.
Lupin looked at her. "She's six months pregnant. I don't want to drop her." She backed off and lost her smirk. "Thank you. Sylvia is precious to us. Anyone who hurts Sylvia or our kids gets hurt worse in return and we'll have fun." He let Bob pick her up and hand her over, then staggered out under her weight.
Xander, of course, chose to wake up. "Huh?"
"Shh, relax. Let me get you into the car."
"I can walk."
"Hush. Now I see why Goemon does this all the time. I do need to lift weights." The valet ran for his car as soon as he saw him, coming back and opening the door as quickly as possible. "Thanks." He got her settled into it and then turned to hand in the ticket and tip the man. "We're going back to the apartment if anyone asks." He got in to drive, making sure Xander was fully buckled in correctly before speeding off. Then he carried her to the elevator someone had finally managed to turn on, taking her upstairs. Jigen met him at the door and took her, putting her into the nest he had made on the couch for her. "Bob and Justina had it well in hand," he assured Jigen.
Goemon walked in when he was summoned, looking up at the stage. "Yes?" he asked calmly.
"They want Lupin to lead Europe."
Goemon looked at them. "Doing so would make us live out our version of hell and take us away from the important task of our children," he said simply. "Lupin said so."
Bob waved a hand. "See? I told you he won't take it."
"Then name Lavelle," the woman protested. "We all know and follow them."
"Lavelle is the one most involved in the children," Goemon told him. "It is usually he and I who do most of the childcare and Marcus who acts as the nanny when we're without one." He looked at Bob. "They're serious?"
"As anything," Justina said dryly. "Fortunately no one's suggested Jigen do it."
"As is," Bob said, waving a hand. "Yo, shut it." Everyone shut up. "As is, I'm not going to be able to take over for a few months anyway and Justina will have to move. I'm due to have surgery. Lupin will be filling in until I'm recovered and then he'll be handing everything over to me. He'll be the one smoothing over all the rough spots that the last few have created with the other Syndicates."
"Next we have to do the same thing in Japan," Goemon admitted. "Sylvia has an appointment in six more days."
"That's fine, Goemon. We're agreed that everything can be done from somewhere else until we're ready to get some established headquarters. Can you please ask Lavelle and Sylvia if they're willing to sell the other building?" He nodded. "Thank you." He looked at the group. "I promise, Lupin and I are very tight. He passed it onto me. He said he didn't want it, even Goemon said so."
"Most of us don't know much about Goemon," one woman in the back pointed out. "We only know him from the posters and the legends of his sword."
Goemon sighed and pulled out his phone, calling the apartment. "Jigen, it is I. There is a push to name Lupin." He listened and hung up. "Lupin will be back in another hour, though he is quite peeved because you're taking him away from his pampering routine for Sylvia."
"You know," one smartass offered. "We could name Marcus. He won't protest. He's been cross-trained the same way Lavelle has been. He's more stiff and British than not so we wouldn't have to worry about the playful nature Lavelle can show. Plus, we'll get Lupin anyway." A few people looked thoughtful. "They'd never leave their student to flounder and fuck up Europe."
"Marcus is *my* student," Goemon informed him.
"Yeah, and you'd protect him and Lupin goes with you on that," he said with a shrug. "We'd still get him in a supervisory position."
"I'm going to ask his opinion on things," Bob said dryly. "But I want to see what Marcus would do if you suggested that."
"I don't," Goemon said darkly, scowling at him. Bob winced and backed away. "Marcus is very involved in what he's doing." He turned when the door opened, waving Jigen inside. "No Lupin?"
"He's holding Sylvia while she pukes." He looked at the group, then moved onto the stage. "Everyone see me okay?" They all nodded. "Good, Lupin said to fuck yourselves. If he had wanted it, we wouldn't be having this meeting." He jumped down and patted Goemon on the arm. "He's fixing lunch too."
"I'll be back within an hour hopefully."
"Good. Lotus and her buddy are reading books on complimentary and matching magics together to do greater things. Xander's involved, Marcus is working out and we can't get him out of his meditation, and they keep getting them back from me and Lupin. Bix is still shopping."
Goemon groaned, shaking his head. "I shall return." He followed Jigen back to the car, letting him drive them back to the apartment. "My daughter is too strong-willed for her own good."
"We see a lot of you in her too," Jigen agreed.
Goemon glared at him. "I am not that stubborn."
"Sure, Goemon. Keep telling yourself that," he taunted. Goemon hit him on the arm, making him wince. "Thank you for not hitting the one on the wheel." He pulled into the garage and headed up the stairs, finding the apartment in a shambles. "Lupin! Xander!"
"Children!" Goemon called. They searched the apartment, finding Lupin gassed in the bathroom and Xander unconscious again but with one hand raised. There was a small trickle of blood off her palm. He got her turned over and checked her over. "She'll be fine.
We must find the children."
Jigen opened the door. "Kids!" Arsene came running and hugged him. "What happened?"
"Bad peoples!" she said. "They take Bix and other babies!"
"The tapes," Goemon called. "Arsene, is Marcus still here?" She shook her head. "Did he follow them?" She nodded. "Good. Come sit with the mother." He headed for the security room downstairs to look at the tapes. Six black-coated figures walked in and then the screen went blank. He growled, pulling his sword and cutting the machine. "Fine, we will track Marcus." He pulled out his cellphone as he walked. "Bob, it is I. The children were taken. Lupin was sedated. Xander is unconscious again. All we have is Arsene. Marcus is following them." He walked in and found Marcus in the middle of the floor. "What are you doing here?" Marcus didn't answer, only held up something from where he was laying. "What is this?" He read the address. "Is this where the children are?" He looked down but Marcus was now unconscious. "Damn!"
Jigen came out of the bedroom, looking at the note. "That's Xander's house." He took the phone from the limp house. "Bob, we need help at Xander's house. Yes, that one." He hung up and went to look at the available weapons stash. He found a few copies of his own gun and some of the ones that Xander liked best, then walked out. "Arsene, I want you to stay here with them. One of them should wake up, tell them to stay here and to guard Xander." She nodded, sucking on her thumb. "Someone will be back soon." Someone knocked on the door so he opened it. "Kyle, can you babysit?" He nodded, looking confused. "Someone took most of the kids, our nanny, knocked out Lupin, Xander, and Marcus. Watch them." He walked past him, heading for the car. There was no way someone was doing this to his family.
Bob hung up and waved for silence, but Justina whistled. "Someone took Lupin's children. Lupin's unconscious, as are Lavelle and Marcus. They need support. Can anyone provide that?"
"On it," one man said, getting up and heading out with his people.
Justina looked at Bob. "Who was that?"
"That was an Interpol agent," he said fondly. "I do believe that was Ray's attempt at disguise." He looked at the rest of them. "As is, we will go back and search our things and the main building. Those who want to help, they're going to Xander's other house."
"The one he restored?" one woman asked. He nodded. "I know where that is." She stood up. "To me." Her people followed her out. You didn't touch a kid on their watch.
Justina looked at a few others. "You, you, and you, organize a defense watch here. We'll do the one back at the other building. Report to us each hour." Everyone nodded, following the orders. It seemed like the thing to do and someone was in charge.
Bob smiled at her. "Good work. Call your son?" She grabbed his phone to call her son's phone, getting him. She smiled as she walked away. "The rest of you sit down and work out the problems we're going to have. This is why Lupin didn't want the job." Everyone but one guy nodded and left to talk amongst themselves. That one man stood up. "You are?"
"A better second than yours."
"My personal one has been with me for many years. She's a very good businesswoman. What can you offer me?"
"Easy, I can make this all go away," he said, waving a hand. The hand was shot. He screamed and held it, glaring at the woman in the back.
"Lavelle and I may be on the outs, but no one touches Lavelle or his kids," Dawn said coldly. "No one." She walked closer, kicking him under the chin, then she handcuffed him. "Let's see how Ray and Zenny like you, smartass." She found a switch on him and kicked him until he groaned. "What's the switch for?" He glared at her. "I can shoot you again. No one here will say a damn thing."
"Dawn, relax," Bob counseled.
She looked at him. "I don't like you." She looked down at the idiot. "Fine. Then we'll do this *my* way." She made her hand glow, just a simple illusion, and laid it on his forehead, making him cry out and writhe from the imagined pain she was creating. "What does the switch do?"
"It sends the message to kill them," he shouted, pleading.
"Thank you." She carefully pulled the batteries out and tossed them aside. "Let's go. You're staining the carpet." She hauled him up and drug him out to the cop car that had brought her. "He admitted to being the ring leader of the group who just kidnaped Lavelle's children." The cop looked stunned. "They're working on it. Let's get him into official custody." He nodded, taking off to get that man into an interrogation room. They could use this to make him speak and give them something on the others in the room.
Jigen looked at the house, squinting at the quietness it had. "No screaming."
"They're not dead," Goemon said firmly.
"No, they're not," Jigen agreed. He turned when he heard a quiet footstep. "Emmajean?" She nodded, putting her cap on backwards and pulling her gun. "What are you doing here?"
"Kidnaping is a police matter," she reminded him. "Ray's behind me. More are behind them. Let's go."
"Been in there?" Goemon asked.
"Twice now. Ray was really disappointed that he didn't get to go through Xander's anime collection. Each minute puts them further into danger."
"We're going," Jigen agreed, taking second point. Goemon got her other shoulder and they let her lead the way in. She had the body armor on and they didn't. He handed her the keys with a nudge and she used them, heading inside.
Ishi was holding a long dagger and scowling at them. "They're gone." He handed it to his father. "They pissed me off."
"I'm sorry, son. Is everyone all right?" he asked, hugging him.
"Mostly. Lotus has a bad headache. She stunned a few. Uncle, the babies are upstairs napping in the mirrored room with Lotus. Everyone else is in the tv room watching cartoons. They're in the dining room." He stomped off, going to tell the other kids it was all right. "Auntie Emmajean is here with Uncle Jigen and Father."
Melissa looked up and then got up, giving him a hug. "It's okay. You protected us. We still love you," she promised gently. He got free but she grabbed him again and this time the other two held on too. "You're our hero, Ishi. You protected us."
He let himself be held. It was rather...nice. His father came in and he looked at him. "They said I was their hero."
"You are," Goemon agreed, smiling down at him. "You did very good, Ishi." He gave him a gentle pat to the head. "We will gather the rest of the children. Is your sister fine?"
"She's fine and she's using the brother as a teddy," he assured him.
"Thank you." He headed up the stairs, finding two last people in Xander's own room, one of them hanging from inside the closet and the other lying on the bed in a puddle of blood from his head. "I wonder who did that."
"I don't," Jigen said, shaking his head. "I don't want to know, I'm not wondering."
"An excellent idea," Goemon agreed. "Let us gather the others. I want to hold them."
"Sure." He followed, grabbing Lotus and Kenji, letting Goemon get Fred and Sarah this time. "TV room?"
"Yes." He walked them down there, sitting down with the children to hold them all. "It was quite a defensive action," he praised. "Whichever of you thought that up did very well."
"Thank you," Savannah said quietly, clinging to her aunt. She looked up. "It's not bad?"
"No, it's not bad," Emmajean promised. "You can ask your Uncle Zenigata or Ray if you don't believe me. Even we have to take out the bad guys sometimes." She nodded and settled in for a longer cuddle. "Sierra, did you want one?" She shook her head, hugging her Uncle for now. "That's fine, whenever you're ready." She tapped her collar. "The kids are safe. They took them out." She unclipped her radio and tucked it back inside her vest. "Here, let's wait for Ray."
Ishi looked at his uncles as they came in. "They slapped at my sister," he said coolly. "I dealt with them for that insult."
Zenigata nodded, picking him up to hug him. "I'm glad the crooks taught you enough so you could defend yourself, Ishi. Good boy. You did what you had to do." Ishi nodded, relaxing against his chest. "Goemon, I'll give him back in a moment," he said softly.
"I'm not worried. I know you would not dare harm my son." He gave the ones he held a squeeze. "Two are upstairs. The others are in the dining room."
"Kids!" Xander yelled, hurrying in.
"Ishi protected us," Melissa said, sniffling. "He saved us."
Xander picked her up, holding her as tightly as he could. "Oh, God, you're all right," he said, sniffing her. "Thank you, Ishi."
"Welcome, Uncle," he said softly. He looked at Ray, who went to check on the bodies. "I found a dagger."
"I put it in the kitchen, in the sink," Jigen said from under his pile of kids.
"I didn't think I left any," Xander murmured. He sat down, pulling Savannah over to hug her too. "You're okay too?" She nodded, letting him be clingy. He relaxed, then looked up at the cop. "Give me Ishi. He deserves the best cuddles." Ishi was handed over. "You are so good," he whispered. "You did what you had to do. Never doubt that you did only as much as you had to." Ishi gave him a trusting look and nodded. "Good boy." He held him as tightly as he did the girls. "You're all okay. That's all that matters."
"Dawn captured the one who suggested he could fix this," Ray said as he came back with the knife in a bag. "Ishi, man, you did good. You saved the girls. Those men were very evil."
"Then it's a good thing I can't get to them, huh?" Xander said coolly. "Ishi, I love you, little man."
"Thank you, Uncle Xan-Xan." He kissed him and got out of the strong arms, transferring himself to his father's lap. He even held Fred so he could share the proper hugs from his father. His father smiled and nodded. "You're sure?"
"You did wonderfully. Much more than I expected you to be able to do," Goemon praised. "You did exactly what was needed and you protected them. I am very proud, son."
"Thanks, daddy." He rested his head against his shoulder. "Can we go home now?"
"We'll be going back to our house later tonight. The others will be following later."
"Fuck that, the meeting's over," Jigen said firmly. Lupin rushed in. "In here. Ishi saved them."
"Thank God." He bent down, giving Ishi a long hug. "Thank you, Ishi. You protected my greatest treasures." He grabbed his kids to cuddle, leaving Jigen his. "Thank God you're all right."
Lotus looked at him. "Where kit?" she asked around her thumb.
"He ran home," Goemon told her. "We'll check on him later."
She nodded. "Thank you, daddy." She leaned against his chest, more than happy to help hold her brother for now. "Love you, Ishi. Thank you."
"Welcome," he said gruffly. He closed his eyes. "I need a nap."
"I think we could all use a rest," Goemon agreed, standing up and taking the children with him. "Car?"
"Bix?" Xander asked.
"She was still out when we were taken, daddy," Melissa told him. "She's coming back later. She had to get something from the library and she said it'd take hours. She left just after you fell asleep."
"Thank you." They trooped out to the cars, letting Zenigata take them back to the apartment this time.
Zenigata looked at Lupin. "Are you taking it over?"
"Hell no. This might happen again," he said quietly. "I'd have to destroy everyone for that."
"Good. Thank you. Leave tonight." He dropped them off and drove off.
Ray leaned on the roof of the car as Xander got out. "You know, I love that house, Xan. You did a great job with it."
"Thanks." He gave him a light smile. "I think it's too small for all us though."
"Really?" Emmajean asked hopefully. "Really too small or just crowded?"
"With all the kids? There's no way." He nodded at the apartment building. "I'm selling this to the new syndicate as well. Send me an offer." He walked inside with the twins, taking them up to hold them. Once they were in there and Arsene had gotten to hug everyone, he looked at his lovers. "Did Bob want this place?" Lupin nodded. "I can agree with that."
"Really?" Lupin asked. She nodded. "What about the other one?"
"Emmajean just gave me the most hopeful look," he sighed. "She was rubbing her stomach too. Their apartment is really small and the local branch is getting a new commander. If it's not Ray then at least they could move their base of operations here. It'd let them get to the other assassins easier. I know Dawn's selling her house to move this way."
"At least you know they'll love it," Jigen agreed. "It's your house, I won't argue."
Xander nodded. "Then I'd like that. I'll have to take all my stuff to the new house." He looked at Lupin, who smiled at him. "That's okay, right?"
"We'd love to host your anime and kimono collection, Xan, you know that," Lupin pointed out. "Now all we have to do is find a house."
"If we do, can I have a pony?" Arsene asked plaintively.
"Two of the houses we're looking at have horses next door," Jigen told her. "We're not buying a farm."
Lupin looked at him. "Why don't you like horses?"
"Because they're smelly, rude, and they eat a lot, then they crap even more. I'm not shoveling shit for anyone, man."
"Fine," Lupin agreed. "They can visit the neighbor's horses." The girls all gave him adoring looks. "Goemon? Any preferences?"
"I liked France," he admitted. "I like my home better."
"Father, if we're not with them at least part of the time, Arsene and Sierra will stalk you," Ishi pointed out.
"You guys are welcome to come live with us for however long and however often you want," Xander promised. "The same way we'll be coming over to cuddle you all the time."
"You'll stalk us too?" Goemon asked dryly.
Lupin smirked. "Only if she wants to be tied to the bed and made to watch us play."
"You're being irrational again," Xander pointed out dryly. "Are you sure I'm the pregnant one?" Lupin's eyes went wide so she smirked. "We'll pick up a test pack tonight in case." He looked around. "Someone call Olivia so we can leave as ordered. We'll go back to Goemon's for now. We'll figure out which house is the new one while there." Lotus called the phone over, holding her head. "You, no more until the headache goes away," he ordered. "Or it'll make it permanent."
"Yes, Uncle," she said sleepily. She rested against her father's side. "What about the books?"
"They can be packed up and put into storage," Lupin assured her.
"Not that you'll be reading them for a very long time," Goemon added.
"No, but Marcus might," Xander offered. Goemon gave him a look. "Fine, I'll behave and keep my books to myself."
"Thank you," Goemon agreed.
"Even the sex manual collection downstairs," she finished.
Lupin looked at her. "I haven't seen them yet."
"Here we go, he's gonna pout because you wouldn't show him the naughty stuff," Ray said from the doorway. He nodded at Xander. "Really?" He nodded. "Then how does this look?" He walked in and handed over the paper. "Lupin, Zenny was serious."
Lupin took the phone, dialing the phone he had given Olivia. "Hey, it's me. We're being asked to leave the city. We good to go?" He smirked at Ray as he hung up. "We'll need another day."
"The asshole said you hired him," Ray countered.
"Really?" Lupin asked, starting to sneer. "I think I should have a discussion with our friend then, shouldn't I?"
"Lupin, you're still a crook," Jigen pointed out.
"We don't have any warrants against us. I can walk into any police station in the world," Lupin said smoothly. "The only way for him to see the error of his stupidity is from direct contact."
"Done," Xander agreed, standing up. He looked at Ray. "I paid more when I bought it and fixed it up."
"You did the work?" Ray asked, taking it back. "That was the lowest we could go. How much higher were you thinking?"
"Deal," Ray agreed, pulling out another form. "Plus another three. Emma wasn't sure of current exact value."
Xander signed his name and handed it back. "I'll want to go through it again." Then he disappeared. Finding Dawn was easy. Knocking her out and becoming her was even easier. She followed Dawn's marker on her husband, strolling into the interrogation room he was trying to get the man to confess in. She coughed and the man sneered at her. Xander looked down at him, then he smirked. "You know, most people aren't aware that I trained with Lupin and Lavelle," she said smoothly, moving further into the room. The other man swallowed. "There's a loophole in Interpol's laws of conduct with criminals. It says I can use any method accepted by a member nation of the UN." She licked her lips. "That includes all those nice countries like Saudi. Or those few countries where people can be tortured legitimately."
"Dawn," Zenigata said, looking shocked. "What are you doing?"
"See, I heard him saying that Lupin hired him. So I talked to Lupin." The man behind the table swallowed. "Lupin's exact words were 'fuck, I hope Lavelle doesn't hear about this, I'll be down tonight to correct his misconception'." She smirked at him. "Now, I doubt that Lavelle hasn't heard. He's a great crook, but he sucks at lying to his spouse." The man let out a small moan. "His spouse, who is pregnant and won't be able to sneak out to come...visit you, will tell Lavelle." She leaned down, getting nearer to his face with her cold little smirk. "Then Lavelle will come before Lupin ever has the chance to," she said in a 'poor baby' voice. "The only hope you have of avoiding Lavelle is me. Not my husband, not the local cops. Me." He whimpered as he licked his lips. "If you tell me *everything*, the real story, then I *might* be able to protect you. Hear the might there, because Lavelle will...be...livid," she purred. "I've seen him that angry. I'm sure you heard about the local Don a few years back? And he only *thought* about hurting one of the twins."
"I want a deal," he whispered hoarsely. "I want a solitary cell and I want a deal."
"Do you really think Lavelle can't get past that? After all, Lavelle is *very* talented. Look at how he stumped Miami five years ago. Or Peru the year after that. Or even the one in Mexico City." The man blanched and shifted his seat backwards. "What makes you think that this jail is any more secure than the one there?" she purred with a small smirk. "I might be able to talk Lavelle out of ...visiting you, but I'd need a really good reason. He's all for redemption as long as it's your own idea. Like the woman who shot my husband, Zenny." She stood up, looking down at him. "I know you heard about that."
The crook looked at Zenigata. "Is that true!" he demanded. "Can she stop him from killing me? He did a horrible thing in Mexico City from the rumors. I...I can't die like that!"
"We couldn't prove one way or another that he did that one," Zenigata said bitterly. "If you have proof of it, it might help you some more."
"Lavelle is a ghost, man, no one can get him! He's Lupin's retribution! He's Jigen's ghost! He's Goemon's bitch! He can destroy this whole city! You've got to save me! I can't die like that!"
"Then tell us," Dawn encouraged smoothly, nearly purring in delight, as if this was pleasing her greatly. Then again, it was. "I can make sure Lupin leaves you alone and he's the only one who can stop Lavelle this time. Jigen will let him do you."
The real Dawn walked in with three cups of coffee, making the man shriek and back away from her as fast as his chair would move. "What?" she demanded. "Coffee, Lavelle, or is the baby getting upset with it still?"
"Well, no, the baby is still very upset with it," he admitted, changing back. "Thanks, Dawn. Sorry about the gas thing." He smirked at the crook. "See? I can get you anywhere."
The crook walked over and kneeled at Zenigata's feet, hugging him around the knees. "Protect me and I'll tell you everything, man. I swear, everything I've ever done, every scrap I have on Lupin, everything." The cop's eyes lit up. "Just don't let him have me!"
"You made my Godson kill people," Lavelle said, staring down at him. The man looked stunned. "That's right, Goemon's son took them out. Those that his daughter and my kids didn't. You forced a nine-year-old boy to kill."
The crook swallowed. "I'm ... I'm sorry, Lavelle. I was ordered."
"By? I want the name of the person who ordered this. I want to have a longer discussion with them."
The man nodded. "I got it through Merle."
"Thank you." Xander nodded at Zenigata. "It'll take us an extra day to leave, the plane's being fixed at the moment." He strolled out, nodding politely at the cops he passed. "He kidnaped my kids, I was making my feelings known," he said when one opened their mouth and held up a finger. "Don't worry, he was a flunkie." Everyone who heard that shuddered.
Xander looked down at his captive, smirking at him. "Morning, Bob." Bob struggled. "Don't even. I did them myself. Your guards are unaware that I'm up here. You and I need to have a discussion." He straddled the older man's chest, looking down at him as he pulled out a small, hair's width dagger. "You see, I talked to Merle. Merle told me who gave him the money to have our kids taken." The man tried to talk but something was holding his lips closed. "I don't need a confession, Bob. This is your only warning. If you're going to be taking over Europe, you'd better learn some important facts. Lupin and those of us who run with him are laws unto ourselves. *That's* why we ran the meeting." He looked horrified. "Oh, I know why you did it. Merle was very informative," he said with a small smirk. Xander used the blade to cut off the man's shirt, showing it was *very* sharp.
"Now, I believe we need to conclude this lesson. All I have to do is to pick a reminder. Should I slice something off so you can't ever touch another child again? Should I make you a pretty picture as a vampiress I used to know put it? Should I maybe start with your hands and then move down?" The man tried to speak again but his lips were sewn shut with his tongue between them and there wasn't any getting around that. "Maybe something less graphic?" The man nodded. "Are you *sure* you understand the lesson? Harming my children, any of my children, real or relative, is not the brightest thing to do. Harming my children means that I get *angry*." He leaned down, staring into his eyes from mere inches away. "You don't want me angry, do you?" he asked quietly. The man shook his head. "Good. Then we're in agreement. I think I can let you off with a warning." He sat up and looked at the slightly flabby chest. Then he nodded and lifted his dagger, using it to write.
Do Not Fuck With Lupin.
It was a very pretty message.
One he would always remember each time he saw his chest.
Lavelle got off his chest and looked down, wiping his hands off on the blankets. Then he picked up the salt shaker he had filled earlier. He carefully sprinkled it over the wiggling chest, making him scream. "Hush." The man tried but he couldn't follow that order. The salt and herbs was something that was used in Africa by those tribes who did ritual scarring to make sure the cuts raised. "There, that's good enough I think," he said with a smile for his victim. "Remember. I can and will take everything you hold dear. I'll enjoy it. I'll enjoy your girlfriend *very* much." The man looked horrified. "Not like that," he said with a small chuckle. "I'd never hurt another woman, Bob. You should know that by now. You remember our talk. If I have to come back, the next one will be smaller, yet hurt much more." He strolled out of the house, heading back to the apartment complex, with a stop on the way to clean up in the hotel room he had rented for the night. He walked into the apartment clean, dry, and in the suit he had left in earlier. "Hi." He kissed Lupin gently. "Can I have a cuddle?"
"Sure. Just as soon as you tell me where you were." Lupin smirked at him. "I know you too well, Xander."
Xander leaned against his chest, kissing him gently. "I made my feelings known and instructed him on the proper way to treat our children. Nothing else." He grinned up at him. "Now can I have a cuddle or should I try for Jigen?"
"He's already asleep."
"I guess that means I'm all yours," Xander said with a sexy smile. "How did you want me?"
"On your knees with your hands behind your head," Ray said from the doorway. He waved a tape. "Torture, Xander?"
Ray walked over and popped the tape into the VCR, letting him see it. "Silver hair. Your height. Looks a lot like you in that shot."
Xander grinned at him, then shook his head. "That's not me, Ray."
"Xander, I watched you come out of his house."
Xander undid the collar at his throat, becoming Marcus. "I'm still not Xander." He shrugged. "And I can prove it wasn't him."
Ray gaped. "No way!"
"Way," Xander agreed as he came out of the bedroom, clutching the wall. "I had a sudden bout of vertigo earlier or else I would have went." Lupin looked confused. "I couldn't very well leave him alone," he said coldly. "He tried to hurt our kids. That's punishable by death in my book."
"In mine too," Lupin admitted, looking at Marcus. "I'm going to spank you for that."
"I figured you would have realized it," he said with a small shrug. "I usually can't be that Xanderish." He looked at Ray. "Now you know it wasn't him."
"You can't prove that in court!"
"I can so. We make masks all the time," Marcus pointed out. "Even if you tried all of us, there would be reasonable doubt as to which of us it was."
"You're in Geneva," Ray pointed out, holding up a finger. "The Brit system isn't in effect here, Marcus."
Marcus shrugged and shook out his hair. "Then arrest me, Ray. It would make you look quite wonderful and enhance my own reputation when I escape."
Goemon came out of the main bedroom with his son, giving Ray a dirty look. "You're keeping up the children and Xander."
"You're all together?" Ray squeaked, falling backwards until his back hit a couch and he struggled onto it. "Xander?"
"Not really," Xander admitted with a small shrug. "Hey, Kenji. Did you wake up?" he cooed, taking the baby to hold. "Do you need to eat something? I'm sure Fred and Sarah won't mind sharing." He sat down, letting the baby latch on. "The milk is still there," he said at the confused looks. "It's just a smaller tit in this form, but not by much."
"Xander, that's his son you're feeding," Lupin noted. "Since when are you breast feeding Goemon's son?"
"You want him to have to drink that fake, nasty, unhealthy formula instead?"
"Well, no," Lupin admitted. "But I don't like you being the wet nurse either. Breast feeding is a very personal thing in my book."
"Lupin, it's not like I'm letting Goemon suckle," he said dryly. "This is Kenji, he's the baby. There's a difference." He looked down at the baby. "Hey, little guy. I'm the auntie. It's all good though. Your daddy won't mind." He winked and the baby batted at him, sucking harder. "Yeah, you do it the natural way. No one minds in the least," he cooed.
Jigen came out, looking down at him. "He doesn't look like Fred."
Goemon shrugged. "He took him and did it. I did not ask."
"Chill, Goemon, we know," Lupin soothed. "Xander, you're freaking him out."
"Goemon, did you really want to feed him another bottle?"
"Well, no, but his mother is gone."
"Mother's milk is mother's milk. It's not like I'm not going to be the pseudo-mother anyway!" The baby pulled off to fuss. "Shh, you eat, little guy. You need the food. Yes, I am nummy and wholesome and the other men can whine." He stood up, carrying the baby into the bedroom to do this with him.
Lupin looked at Goemon. "I'll stop it if it bothers you."
Goemon shook his head. "It's odd, but not that odd. I almost expected such at some level. Xander is very giving and caring." He looked at Jigen.
"It doesn't bother me, I love watching the kids nurse."
"I felt much the same way," Goemon sighed.
"We're not sure she's dead," Ray said quietly. Goemon looked at him. "There's been someone spotted who looked a lot like her." He shrugged. "The Boss didn't want you to know, Goemon. He said it'd only hurt more."
"I had such thoughts myself," he admitted sadly. "To us, she is dead. I mourn my wife, no matter what plane she is on." He went back into the main bedroom. "May I help?" he asked from the doorway. "I don't wish to touch or anything."
"Sure, Goemon. Come sit and watch. It's nothing sexual." Goemon blushed but did so, pulling a chair over to watch his son eat. "Ignore Lupin."
"He's very possessive. I would be as well."
"I'm sure but we'll be fine."
In the living room, Lupin closed the door. "We'll work that out tomorrow," he told Jigen.
"I'm fine with it, man. The baby needed it and Xander offered. He's like that. He'd give his heart to the kids if he had to."
"I know, but to feed another's kids?" Lupin asked. "It's really personal. I want to be the only one who gets to see that!"
"Throw a fit, Lupin, lose him for good," Ray said as he stood up. He walked over to Marcus. "Stay in the city."
Marcus kissed him, making him go limp. "If I must. I'll do a sweep of Xander's house so you don't have to." He licked his lips. "Run away, Ray, it did rather excite me." Ray's eyes went wide and he ran out. Marcus looked at Lupin. "I agree, Xander is doing this because she might as well be that boy's mother as well. To her the children are all hers. Therefore she's taking care of them the way she would her own. The first complaint will bring a fit of epic proportions and another bout of depression." He wiggled his fingers. "I'm off to talk to Bix."
"Leave her alone, Marcus," Lupin said tiredly. "She won't go for you."
"I know she won't, I want to know her secret."
Lupin looked at him. "Then you can wait for her to tell it to Goemon, it's up to him to officially tell the rest of us." He walked into the bedroom, laying down on Xander's other side, resting against her. "Is he hungry?" he asked gently.
"You over your fit?"
"Yeah, I understand, Xan. I won't fight you feeding him. I won't let Goemon taste you like he did his own wife, but I will let you feed the baby and he can watch as long as that's all he sees."
She smiled at him. "I'm proud, there wasn't a fit in sight."
Lupin grinned. "Thanks, Xan. After him, I want to play with the baby."
"Sure." She pulled Kenji off, letting him belch. "You still hungry?" He made more sucking faces so she let him have the other side. "Have you been ignored, little guy? You're really hungry."
"He's always hungry and Ishi was the same way," Goemon said quietly, watching his son eat. "Thank you, Xander. You are a wonderful near-mother to my children." Xander sniffled. "Do not do that. We appreciate all you do for us and the children." He touched her arm, making her look at him. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. I don't mind in the least. I like being the mom most of the time, and the rest we have Bix." He stroked over the baby's hair. "Hurry up before your uncle gets impatient."
Lupin chuckled and rested his head on his thigh. "Don't worry, I can wait for such important things." He stroked up the inside of his mate's thigh, earning a shiver. "I never imagined you being this much of a woman when you first got that choker. Passing as one, yes. Living as one if you had to. Being this womanly and loving? I had no idea." He kissed the moving stomach. "Hi, daughter."
Jigen came back in. "Pops decided that Marcus was right when Bob refused to make a complaint." He closed the door. "He still going at it?"
"He's really hungry. I don't think he ate earlier." He looked down and broke the suction but Kenji sought him out. "Hey, what's wrong?" he cooed, making the baby relax again. "It's still there. Just take a few breaths." Kenji wiggled and batted at her, eventually finding the nipple again to suck some more. "What's up with this new son, Lupin?"
"Paul? I finally got a picture of him and he's got to be mine. He looks just like me. He's about twenty. His mother's a party girl and he was raised in a foster home most of his life. His grandmother had him for most of that. She was a strict Christian lady. He rebelled and found out about his family when he saw a picture of me and realized he looked just like me. So he wrote Pops and asked if there was a way to test his parentage against my records. Pops had the test run. Paul's training under Jerome and he's not half-bad from his reports. I'm meeting with him once he's done with his training. He's getting used to the idea."
"And the daughters comment?" Jigen asked. Lupin looked guilty. "Give."
"I have another daughter about that old. She's a socialite. Fairly well off because of her mother's inheritance. She wanted a child so bad and her husband was impotent so she invited me in to steal a diamond brooch and to cure their problem. Her husband knew, he watched the whole thing. He was another breast man, she had a wonderful set and my daughter's beautiful. Looks almost exactly like her mother except for her eyes." He smirked at Jigen. "She may not know and I promised not to tell."
"Ehh. I guess that's fine," Jigen admitted. "Why didn't you use them?"
"Because the will said he had to have a Fourth," Xander reminded him.
"Plus, I decided I wanted to like babies," Lupin admitted. "I talked myself into it. I was right, I love the kids and being a father. They're nearly as fun as pulling jobs to me most of the time."
Jigen patted him on the back. "Remember, this one may be mine."
"Sure, Jigen. This one is probably yours," he said with a small sigh of regret. He patted Kenji on the back. "You nearly done? I want some of that too."
She laughed and pulled Kenji off, letting Goemon take him to burp. "There, all fed. He's a happy baby again."
"Thank you, Xander. I appreciate this." He left with his son, leaving them to do...whatever in private. He did not need to know how three people had sex together.
Lupin arched up, curling up in Xander's lap to lick over his nipples. "Hmm. Sweet." He sucked a bit, until Jigen pinched him. "What?"
"Switch sides so the real babies don't starve," Jigen ordered. He kissed Xander. "Love you."
"Love you right back," Xander said with a smile, moaning as Lupin latched onto the other side. "Easy, those are sensitive." She looked down, noticing the uncomfortable way he was laying. "Like you're the baby, Lupin. Not like that." Lupin shifted, laying across her lap like he was really nursing, and moaned. "Shh, you can lap at me whenever you want," she soothed.
"If he keeps it up, you'll start to produce more," Jigen pointed out.
"I'm already producing too much," he offered, kissing him again. "I'm always half-full even after the twins get done." He stroked through Lupin's dark hair, earning a purring slurp. "Don't choke, dear."
"Not." He pulled off to pant like the kids did. "Damn, that's something to make you drunk." He pulled Jigen down, kissing him. "You never tried any," he said smugly.
Jigen licked his lips. "Odd." He took a small taste for himself, pushing Xander to lie down on her back. "Now I know why Kenji wouldn't let go."
"Still sensitive!" Xander squealed, arching up into the hard sucking mouth.
Lupin got Xander out of his pants and the rest of his shirt, then went to work licking him. "I've got adult milk."
Jigen pulled off, looking at him. "You're better at drinking that kind anyway." He unzipped his pants, letting them fall to the floor, then stripped down to nothing, not even his hat. Xander pulled him closer, sucking on him like Lupin was sucking. "Oh, good," he groaned, moving slowly. "You've spoiled me, Xan. I'd never be with another woman." He started to move faster, he couldn't help it. Xander groaned around him and it was nearly over. Jigen pulled out of the wet cavern, looking down at her. "I want to see you as Sylvia. Would you?" She changed herself, making Lupin switch to licking in mid-swallow. "So pretty." He laid down next to her, stroking her firm, round breasts. "I like these on you."
"I miss his male side now and then but I've got to say, I love this form best," Lupin agreed, licking her wet pussy as deeply as he could without actually entering her. "I love you like this, Xan."
"So pretty," Jigen agreed, stroking her stomach. "So ours." He chuckled and latched onto her outtie belly button, making her wiggle and swat him. He laughed and went back to her breasts, making her moan and arch up into both their mouths. "So ours."
"As soon as she's done with this one, she goes back to Lavelle for six months," Lupin ordered. "That way we don't get hooked only on her."
"Mm. Lavelle," Jigen moaned around a nipple. "Strong body. Strong cock."
"Long, hard cock," Lupin agreed, working on her clit again. She was writhing underneath them and letting out cooing noises. "We need to find a happy medium."
"Mm." Jigen pulled on a nipple, making her yell and arch up into his mouth, giving Lupin a better reach into her, which his tongue took.
"More," she panted. "I'll be both."
"You will?" Lupin asked, raising his head. "For at least a week?" She nodded. "After the birth?"
"Now if you'll go back to what you were doing!" she said, using a heel to push his back down. He dove into her muff, licking and sucking, then switching to tongue fuck her. She was liking this. She was moving with it. Jigen was playing with her breasts now, weighing them and sucking on them. "Please," she pleaded. "More?" Jigen shifted so she could have his cock, and she went to town on him. Jigen groaned, making Lupin look up at him.
"Oh, yeah, babe," Lupin agreed, shifting up. "Get me wet, Jigen?" Jigen pulled off so he could lick Lupin a few times. "Thank you." He moved back, inserting himself. She moaned and spread her legs. He put her legs around his waist. "I want to be all you need, Xan. Let me?" Xander tossed her head on the bed, nodding. Lupin moved gently, working his way in and out of her body while she was pleasing Jigen and he was getting his own taste of milk. Lupin took the breast he wasn't on, suckling hard. "Come for me," he murmured into it. "Come for me, pretty one." Xander started to chant and wiggle.
"Just a bit more," Jigen agreed, moving fast enough to ram her mouth now. She did something with her tongue and he came with a muted shout, feeding her his spunk. She drank it greedily before pulling him up to share some with him. "Oh, damn, babe." He kissed her deeply, then they watched Lupin getting his own pleasure from her. He had both things he wanted, a tit and her body. He was moaning and sucking hard, and thrusting harder still. Jigen moved up behind him to tease his balls.
Lupin arched up, letting go of the nipple when it slipped free, yelling as he came. He collapsed, panting on her stomach. "Damn, so good," he breathed, stroking her stomach.
"Please!" she pleaded.
Jigen moved Lupin, going down to help her finish off. She came in his mouth and he licked her clean, then lay down on her right side since Lupin had slid off to the left. "Were you serious?" he asked eventually.
"I can be," Xander offered.
"I don't mind. I like you both ways, I simply like you more in this form while you're pregnant," Lupin offered. "I can see the changes better." He stroked the upraised stomach, earning a purr of contentment. "If you want to be both, I'd be happy." He reached up, whispering in her ear while she got the first clasp undone. "Cock, balls, pussy, tits, all of it, Xan. Just like you really are inside your head." She moaned and clicked it, changing just a bit. "Ooh," Lupin moaned, licking her tits. It hadn't changed but Lavelle's cock was there now.
"Perfect," Jigen agreed, moving lower to please her this time. Xander went into his mouth easily and he played as long as he wanted, never quite letting her come. One of his fingers found her opening and teased it, making her whimper and shift. "Come on, Xan. Just one more for us," Jigen promised, teasing her both ways.
Lupin was kissing her and fondling her breasts. "I love you, Xan. You're amazing. I like you in this form as much as I do the other one." Xander moaned and arched up into his kiss. "Please, would you take me too? Suck one me like I do you?" She nodded, shifting under their hands so she could lick him and Jigen could have her bottom half where it was hanging off the edge of the bed.
Jigen stood up, diving into the warm hole immediately. She was more than ready. She was pleading for it. She wanted him. He went harder than he normally would, but she was bucking up into his thrusts and he was loving this. The cock bouncing wasn't throwing him off any. This was clearly a vagina he was in. He came with a bellow, pushing in as far as he could.
Lupin came with a quieter moan and went limp. Xander had to get free to finish herself but she didn't mind. It was very intense and satisfying. She pulled Jigen down next to her, curling up between her men. "Night," she whispered.
"Night, Xan," Lupin said, kissing the back of her neck. "Rest, I want to get a long look at you tomorrow."
"Yes, dear. Night, Jigen."
"Night, minx." He looked at Lupin, and they both looked at the collar. "Still there?" Jigen asked. Lupin nodded. "Good. Sometimes I want her to be fully one or the other. I like this form though."
Lupin reached a finger down to scoop up some of the mess Jigen had made, licking it off his finger. "So do I." They both jumped when a baby let out a loud cry, Jigen getting up to get whichever it had been. He came back with both twins, letting them latch on. After a bit, they switched the kids and let them such again. It was much easier on her.
Xander looked around Goemon's house and tied back his hair. "Go play outside," she ordered, grabbing a few cloths and some cleaner from under the sink. "No one's even dusted recently." She started back in the bedrooms and worked her way out, cleaning everything so it was spotless. Every nook, cranny, bathroom, headboard, even the porches got cleaned. By the time she was done she was exhausted and nearly shaking in fatigue but it was clean. He looked around. "I hate nesting." Lupin snickered and grabbed her, holding on tightly. "I'm fine."
"You're not fine, you just cleaned the house. You're sweaty and dirty and I didn't make you that way. I should be jealous." He helped her into their shower, testing the water before sending it out of the showerhead, but also holding her up and helping her get clean. She moaned under his expert hands, letting herself go with whatever he wanted. "You are so beautiful."
"Thanks. If I gain weight this time, I'll remember that."
"Weight is fine, as long as you're not enormous. A little bit of weight is okay."
She turned in his arms. "If I got fat, you'd start looking around." She kissed him gently. "Can you please get rid of that thing on my back?"
"Sure, turn around. I'll pop the pregnancy pimples for you." She did so, leaning against the wall so he could get them all. He grimaced but it was part of what husbands did. As soon as they were all done, he washed the area very well and got her rinsed off.
"The rest of us would appreciate the hot water too," Jigen said from the bathroom doorway. "Goemon said so."
"We're nearly done." Lupin gave them both one last rinse then turned off the water and got her out, drying her off. "There we are. All clean and taken care of. Did you want to hang out on the porch or in the living room?"
"I'm going to do some gentle working out with Goemon," she decided, grabbing some workout clothes before they could protest and heading out while slipping it on. She walked out onto the lawn, smirking at him. "The house is clean."
"Good. You should be resting."
"I'm bouncing with energy. Please?"
"Fine. Do your usual set of katas, without the kicks." Xander nodded, moving off to the side to do them. "Remember, Ishi, any time you teach a woman and she is pregnant, she will have form and balance difficulties because of the excess weight she's carrying, especially if it kicks in the center of a movement." He walked over to help her with her form, letting the kids learn from this as well.
"Would teaching someone who's overweight be the same thing, Father?" Lotus asked. "I know Auntie isn't but would it be?"
Goemon smiled at her for the thoughtful question. "Quite likely but the constant practice should begin to help such problems. Very good. Now, I know you know this set, follow her." Ishi nodded, watching where she was so he could match her movements. "Excellent, speed and timing is perfect, son. Lotus?" She took a deep breath and moved into it. "The truest sign of a master is that he can match his speed to that of his helpers or opponents. Though there are times when you want to move faster, moving faster will also tire you out more." He smiled as he watched them, noticing Xander substituting a lower kick for the others. "Good, Xander. We'll work on your balance later." She kept her focus, not even nodding.
Lupin came out onto the porch, leaning on the railing to watch them. She was really pretty in the sunlight. Glowing, soft, deadly. "That reminds me why I like Lavelle so much," he said when someone joined him.
"It should," Zenigata said bitterly. Lupin jumped, looking at him. "Ha! Got you again!"
"What do you want, old man?" Jigen asked from behind him. "Some of us saw you come in."
Zenigata looked at him. "There's been a small problem. The new head of the Euro syndicate just died on the operating table. His new second was just shot at. Her son is at school." He grimaced. "Geneva's now a war zone in the making."
Lupin groaned, holding his head. "Fucking hell!"
"What?" Goemon and Xander called in unison.
"Someone killed Bob and tried to kill Justina."
"Bring Kyle to us," Goemon instructed. "Then take care of it." They locked eyes. "I will protect them, take Jigen."
"If he's going then I am too," Xander said, stopping to look at them. "They will stop because I said so if they don't when you ask politely."
"No," Zenigata said firmly, shaking his head. "Not allowed." Xander gave him a cold look. "Whine, kid. You're pregnant."
"And I have perfect aim still," Xander pointed out. "Which other syndicate didn't like it?"
"We're not sure. We think it's out of an Arabic country but otherwise we don't know."
"Hmm. Iran's?" Xander asked. Lupin looked thoughtful. "If it is, you're going into Iran alone, Lupin."
Lupin frowned, looking at him. "Another nightmare?"
"A horrible one while I was off meditating," Goemon told him.
"You have those too? I thought only Dawn had those. You get some truth and some hint of things that are going wrong?" Zenigata asked. Xander nodded. "Hell. Must be a Sunnydale thing."
"Probably not. Dawn didn't fight all that often in Sunnydale. I'd say it was more like a hell thing." She walked up to the porch, looking at Lupin. "Can we stop them?"
"I can," Lupin agreed. "If it's them, I want you here. Somewhere safe. It'll make the kids feel better."
"Fine," Xander agreed. "But if it's Euro-centric?"
"Then I still want you here, where you and the kids are protected," Lupin ordered. "No arguing, Xan. If I have to, I can take Marcus with us. That'll leave you and Goemon to deal with this issue and with the baby if it comes early."
"It had better not take that long," she said dryly.
"If it does, then I'm going to throw a fit," Lupin agreed, smiling down at her. "Better?"
"Fine. We'll even look at houses while we're fixing it," Jigen offered. Her face lit up. "Deal?"
"Deal," she said, starting to pout. "I can't help?"
"You're our emergency backup," Jigen told her. "I want to save you for special occasions. Not the everyday or the mundane."
"That's fine. Then you might want to get into my stuff and get my weapons stores."
"I can do that," Lupin agreed. "Thank you, Xan." He looked at Pops. "File?"
"The one on this?"
"We're staying out of it. It leads to less loss of life." He smirked. "I thought you might not have logged in today. It was all over the bulletin boards." He strolled off cackling, taking his wife's portal back to their house to pack some more.
Lupin walked into the living room, opening his computer and logging onto the satellite uplink. As soon as he was on and his screen name showed people started to demand things from him. "Whoa." He typed in a polite demand for information, pointing out he had been flying a few hours ago. A concise report flowed back to him from a screen name he didn't know. It was worse than they thought. "Jigen, we've got to go back tonight."
"I'll call Olivia," Jigen agreed, doing that on his way to pack.
"Pack for me too. There's some panicking people." He typed in that he was coming back, logging onto another window to start his own chatroom. Someone from his many people was always around. Six of them popped up begging for orders. So he sent them out to do things for him. One of them went to tape houses so he could look them over. He saw a small note from one of his local contacts and looked up. "Goemon!" He came running in. "This house isn't secure." Goemon looked horrified. "The locals are out for blood too."
"I'll protect them."
"One of them bought a rocket launcher and ran off many copies of your picture, Goemon. You can't exactly defend against that." They shared a look. "Go to the hiding spot. Take Xander, take the kids. If you have to, send him and the kids to the Kitsune if they'll allow it."
Xander strolled in. "Why wouldn't they? Though I've gotta say my backup spots are rather pretty." He looked at Goemon. "Wanna come visit my places?"
"If you wish," he agreed quietly. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, very sure. There's enough room." He looked out in the yard, then up the hallway. "Kids?" Arsene popped out of her room with her glasses on. "We're moving just in case. Someone tried to hurt some of the people we were just meeting with." Arsene scowled. "I've got a place in mind. We'll be going in secret. From now on, you cannot tell anyone where we live, got it?" They nodded. "Good. Pack everything." They nodded, doing that. Xander looked at Goemon. "That means we'll have to disguise you a bit too. That okay with you?" He nodded quickly. "Good." Xander sat down beside Lupin, opening a third window to type in an email. One appeared back within moments, an all clear and we'll move everything out of storage for you. She replied and stood up. "Okay. Disguise number one. Can you look a little bit less like you? Maybe traditional but not quite you?" Goemon frowned but nodded. "Good, go do that. Put your hair up and all that. I've got to get something of mine. Marcus!" Marcus appeared. "We're moving. You're going with Lupin and Jigen in my place. If they're hurt, I'm hunting your ass down and killing it horribly. Got it?" Marcus nodded, looking quite serious. "Good. Go help the kids pack. Get Bix to Dessier street." Marcus' eyes widened. "I knew I'd have to retire some day, man, that's why I put this into motion. Do it." He nodded. "Also, get me something to wear. Something traditional. Something that'll fit my pregnant ass."
"Yes, Xander." He disappeared.
Lupin gave him a look of awe. "You have your own network of people? I thought I had one of those."
She smiled and kissed him gently. "I learned it from you, babe. Hurry back. Remember that name, there's only one in the country where we're going. Just in case we're being bugged." He accepted the outfit from Marcus when he came back and the sword. "Thank you." He changed into Melody and headed back to change clothes and pack the few things that he had pulled out already. By the time he came out, he was a proper Japanese woman and Goemon had the kids dressed and packed as well. "Okay. I'm moving this whole house into storage, Goemon. It'll be months before you can paw through it. Is there *anything* you think you'll need?" He grabbed two books he had been meaning to read. "Good." Outside a car pulled into the driveway and honked. "That's us. Outside, kids." They trooped out together in pairs, Ishi and Arsene in front. Xander countered. "Kenji, Sarah, and Fred?"
"I've got them," Jigen offered.
"Kiss them goodbye now, Jigen. That way we're not associated." Jigen looked stunned. "Not until it's solved. Or else I'll have to solve it for you." Jigen nodded, kissing her, then the kids. She took Sarah and Fred, letting Goemon get his own son. They walked out, getting into the back of the limo. He noticed the baby seats were already in there and smiled. "Good work," he said quietly, strapping them in. Goemon got in and strapped his own kid in. "They okay?"
"Fine. Lupin agreed, but he is sad," he said quietly.
"This is a safe spot. The driver's my crew."
Goemon gave him an astonished look. "You have employees?"
"Yeah. Don't you?" She gave him a pat on the thigh, then looked at the kids once they were rolling. "Lotus?" She looked up from her reading. "Thank you. There's been a problem in Europe. The people we were just meeting with were hurt very badly. We're going somewhere safe while your fathers take care of it with Uncle Marcus." Ishi opened his mouth. "We couldn't leave you with just me, little man. So we're going together for right now. To anyone who looks, Goemon's going to be acting like the father for all of you horde." They all nodded and Arsene sighed. "Trust me, empress of the empire, it's going to be okay. You won't mind much and we can still call them all the time. They'll be back as soon as they can. But for right now, we're the family of my real name, Alexander Harris. I own a publishing empire. I make comic books." They nodded and Ishi grinned. "I also own a few houses. We have guards. Bix is on her way." They all nodded. "Remember, until this is solved, your new last name is Harris." Everyone nodded. "Even yours, Fourth."
"Okay," she agreed. "Can I still be Arsene?"
"If you want," he agreed with a smile. "Any questions so far?"
Lotus raised a hand. "Making comic books pays really well, Uncle?"
"It does, but I've also made some wise investments at times. Murami doesn't handle all my money, just in case something like this was to happen. It endangers her more," he explained at the upset look. "She agreed with me."
"She thought it was a good idea, Melissa," Goemon said quietly.
"This was the original backup plan for retirement, guys. So for now we're going to be living it. I live it now and then when I have to. Not even your daddy knew about this one so we should be safe. Got it?" They nodded. "Good. Now, we're on our way to the airport. We're going to a very nice place in the US. We're only going to speak Japanese and you kids will get to speak all the English you want."
Ishi raised his hand. "There are traditional enclaves in the States?"
"There are. We'll be in one for a day to make sure everything's fine, then we'll be moving to England. Once there, things will get a bit smoother. The US is the intermediary step. Within a week, everything should be going well." Everyone nodded. "We will be protected and I don't want you kids to worry. If you're worried, come tell me." They all nodded. "Good kids. Now do whatever you want. The trip to the airport is a bit longer since we're going to Tokyo's."
"Yes, mother," they agreed mostly in unison. The babies cooed.
Xander looked around his hidden palace in London, smiling at Lotus' reaction. "Have fun with the vines. We all know I don't like flowers." She ran over to one to check it over. Then frowned and moved onto a real one. "Sorry, the plastic ones were to fill in. Goemon, the rooms are on the next floor up. This one is purely meeting areas. The top two floors are the real living area. You'll have the workout space on the third for your own." He nodded. "Girls, up the stairs, Ishi, your room is on this end. It's got race cars." Ishi hurried up to deal with that. "If you guys had told me you were cleaning out my house in Geneva I would have had everything moved here already." She smiled at Bix as she came down, bowing to her. "Great one, how are we today?"
"This place is amazing, Xander. How did you get permission to merge the three buildings?"
"I own them."
"Oh." She grinned. "And kept the outside looking like every other building on the street. Good job. Mistress Lotus?" Lotus looked at her. "Let us go to your room first, dear." Lotus nodded and followed her. "The kitchen is stocked, the guards are in place, and the security system is confusing."
"All normal for me," Xander agreed. She looked at Goemon. "It's not Japan but it's comfy. It's clean. It's got a lot of marble. I was having funny marbley feelings when I decorated." She grinned. "Can we handle this?"
"I can," he agreed, giving her a hug. "Thank you, Xander. Let me go up to my room."
"We've got a suite, Goemon. You get your own room. I get my own room. We share a living area."
"That is also agreeable," he agreed, taking her arm to steady her on the way to the escalator. "Much nicer than the stairs."
"I had to fill out *so* many forms for this," she said, patting it. "But my knees are starting to ache." They came out onto the second floor and the garden area. "Lotus, your room first, you can play with the veggies soon."
"Thank you, Auntie. I love it here." She hurried back to her room to unpack.
Xander led the way to the master suite, opening the double doors. "I'll leave these open. The first one is the bathroom. The second is the weapon's closet. The third is mine, the one on this side is yours." Goemon nodded, helping her into her room before going to his. Hers was dark and soft, very welcoming. His was a bit harsher but more like he preferred in its starkness and lighter colors. He noticed he had a porch and walked out onto it, noticing he had a wonderful view of the river from here and the sky above it. Xander walked in, changed to a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. "Liking it?"
"I do," he agreed absently. "Where are the stairs?"
"In the garden area." She led him back out, walking him through the buildings that used to be three large brownstone apartment buildings. The garden area led out to another porch. The stairs were another escalator. The kid's rooms were all along their hallway and down another was the kitchen, the living room, the dining room, and the library. Upstairs was mostly open but a good bit of it had padding put down already. There were windows that were tinted from the outside but looked out onto the sky from the inside. If you looked in one direction you could see all the taller buildings. Around them were mostly houses however and everything was very nicely put together. Even if there was marble everywhere. Fortunately the floors up here were wood or had built-in padding.
Xander patted some of the padding. "I had to explain myself for *days* to get this right."
Goemon gave her a look. "It is quite well put together, Xander. Thank you."
"Hey, I like you," she admitted with a grin. "Ishi!" He came jogging up the escalator. "This is the practice area. Think you can handle it?"
He looked around, nodding. "I do like it, Mother. Thank you." He hugged her and went down the down side of the escalator, staring at his feet. "This is so much easier than an elevator," he called back.
Xander beamed and headed back down with Goemon, scooping Lotus out of the plants. "Play with the veggies later. We'll have to do some clothes shopping soon too. You're growing again." She tickled her, making her shriek and wiggle. "Yes, you are. You're gonna be as tall as your daddy!"
"Stop it!" She swatted at her, grinning at her father. "Do you think I will?"
"I think it is possible. My mother was." He patted her on the head. "Do not ignore your lessons for the plants, daughter. Xander, computer?"
"Oh, yeah." Xander led him into the study, and through a side door. "Computer lab. There's another one at my desk but it's set up for my stuff only and I hate having to put back in passwords."
"That's fine," Goemon agreed, looking around. "Cup holders?"
"Expecting the kids to not bring food or drink in here in unrealistic. So everything's spill and food proofed. Come see my setup. These don't really go online without a password. Only to a few research sites." He walked back out to his desk, turning on his computer. He pressed the eject key on his DVD player. "Sorry, it's balky. I don't know why it does that." He typed in his main password and his wallpaper popped up, a picture of all of them together. Then windows opened and showed him two bulletin boards, a chat room, and his new email messages. "See?" He typed quickly into the chatroom, then scanned the bulletin boards. "This one is the thieve's and that one's Lupin's personal one. I added it recently when I found it. This chatroom is my people's one. I've got someone following Lupin around to watch over him. The emails are up and downloaded. Let's see, I've got two mushy ones from Jigen, one mushy one from Lupin, and a quit having me followed from Lupin." He chuckled as he opened that one, responding that he had to make sure he wasn't lying to him about what was going on and Tornado was there to help if he wanted or needed. Then she searched the rest of the emails. "Mostly nothing new today so far." She got up, letting Goemon sit down and look things over. "Feel free to come browse both bulletin boards whenever you need to. The button to add yourself as a separate person is the blue one."
"I know. Thank you, Xander." He typed in his usual screen name, his name, and sent it to the list. A few people greeted him and gave him some other information, which Xander's people had already put in.
A phone rang and Xander lifted the drawer holding it before picking it up. "Yeah?" He listened. "Yeah, Tornado, tell him. He's already spotted you once and I want you there. Then he can pout at me. I'm not leaving him without backup this time. Since I can't be there, you're my next best thing. Yes, dear one, I meant it. No, I'm safe. I'm hidden with the kids and my belly of doom." He grinned. "A girl. Sure. You can even pounce Jigen if you need to. Just don't hurt him and do not try to kiss him this time. Thanks, love." He hung up and picked up the cellphone that was lying in the drawer. "There, now I'm hooked back in. The next call he answered on the cellphone. "Hey, Jigen," he said quietly, grinning. "Yes, I did. Because I can't be there with you. This way Tornado can help you and tell me what's going on. Because I know you'll keep things from me, Jigen. I've known you for *how* long?" She chuckled. "Yeah, Goemon's on the bulletin board right now. No, Tornado doesn't know where this one is. Hold on." Ishi walked in. "What's up?"
"There's a delivery man and he bade me give you this," he said, handing over the card.
Xander looked at the design, then nodded. "That design means that they're special people, like your sister. We have a mutual aid pact with them. Let them deliver the stuff from Geneva. You can help me sort out the kimonos later. Here, talk to your uncle." She handed over the phone, letting Ishi take it with him. Then she looked at Goemon, who was smirking at her. "Neat, huh?" she asked with a wink.
"Very, Xander." He stood up. "How long have you had this place?" She blushed. "Xander?"
"Um, six years." She looked down at her feet. "I know that the life is dangerous, Goemon. I knew that Lupin could have died at any point in time and we'd need some way to protect you and your kids and then our kids. So I created this identity with Murami's full support and started my own network. It's fairly profitable and I'm still part of the gang." He looked up. "I would have told Lupin if he had found out."
"I know. You're honorable. Do you tithe to him still?"
"No, but he gets some of the best presents from it," Xander admitted with a grin. "Come on. Let me show you the rest of the bottom floor." She led him down there, watching as the kids helped by shoving boxes out of the way. "Do not let Lotus use any skills, she's still got a headache."
"Of course not, Xander," the delivery man said, smiling at him. "Hiding?"
"Europe all but exploded. I wanted the kids safe. We're staying until this one is born." He stroked his stomach. "Janus said she'd be my white knight side."
"She will be, I can see it shining from her already. This is all the stuff you had in storage already. The things from Geneva will be up tomorrow. Also, that student we thought you might get? She's proven that she's more pyrokinetic than not. So we're keeping her for a bit longer. We'll tell you when she's ready."
"That's fine. I didn't expect her until after she turned sixteen and made that choice anyway."
He bowed. "Thank you, Honori. Did you need more from us?"
"No, just my stuff," she sighed. "Do we have any plant people that Lotus can talk to?"
"We have one, but she does defensive plants. I think you know of her."
"I do, and while she's cranky and mean, it's a skill she should also cultivate sometime." He looked at Goemon. "The group from Cairo reformed."
"I can see that. Defensive plants?"
"Ones who defend the home and family, Great One."
"Then that would be fine, but I do watch over her training very carefully."
"Of course," he agreed. "We'd never think otherwise. She has you, the Honori, and her other teachers to look over her skills." He went out and came back with another load of boxes. "This would have been a good exercise for the kinetics."
"Hey, there's some in town," Xander pointed out dryly. "I'm showing him the bottom floor." He winked and strolled on with Goemon. "Come on. Defensive plants are very useful. The vines are like that. She helped me with them." She stroked his arm as they walked, calming him down. "Okay, here we have a meditation room." She opened the door to show the pitch black room. "There's a low-watt bulb in there." She closed the door and moved on. "Then we have various store rooms and storage spaces. This one is always pleasing to me." He opened that one to show off the things that people had stolen for him. "Then there's this one," she admitted, opening a small door inside to let him see the rolling, multi-drawer tool carts. She pulled out one, stunning him with the diamonds inside. "I have pulled solo jobs. I never ask for tithes but my people know I protect them and listen to them." She shut it and locked the door again, handing him a key. "Your copy." He strolled them into the back area of this floor, letting him see the statues littering the floor. "Some new, some old, all very pretty and stunning and none missed," she said fondly.
"You put copies in place?" Goemon asked quietly, glancing around.
"The place is totally secure, Goemon. The security force are mine. The delivery people are mine." Someone whistled from the doorway behind them and they turned to find Ethan. "He's the only one who knows where this place is. Did you tell Marcus?"
"No, at your request I did leave it alone, Xander." He walked over, stroking her stomach. "Quite strong already."
"Thank you." She got away from him. "Don't touch, Ethan."
"Fine." He smirked at him. "In residence for real?"
"For a bit. You know what happened on the mainland?"
"I do, and the local Don is cowering in fear at the moment."
"I'll pay her a call tonight."
"Is that wise?"
"Very," Xander admitted. "Don't worry, we know each other." She pinched him on the arm. "I was showing him around."
"Good. I'm sure it's stunning from his point of view. Are you hitting the Tower?"
"Again? I try very hard to never hit the same place twice."
"I know, but they've got the new exhibit up."
"Then we'll have to go sightseeing. Maybe Arsene will like that." She winked. "Be good, Ethan."
"Can I have that one nude statue?" he asked, pointing at it. "Ripper so liked it when it was in the museum."
"Sure. If you can move the heavy thing. It weighed a ton."
"Thank you." He kissed him and laid powder around the base of the statue, taking it with him.
"That's the only magic outside of Lotus' that'll work in the house. And only a few rooms. Ethan had to come up through the tunnels on the way in." She walked him back out, watching as the local members of the Cairo group moved the rest of his stuff. "Anything good happening?"
"Not yet, Honori," the main person admitted. "There should be an update by now."
"I know. I'm heading to my office, kids. Arsene, you and Melissa come see me when you're done playing. Let Goemon play with his kids. Bix, I'm breast feeding all the babies so bring them all to me when they're hungry. Good guys play for now in the tv room and we'll get your stuff sorted out later." Everyone nodded. "Good."
"Can't I help unpack?" Arsene asked, looking hopeful. "There's many pretty things."
"Sure, but I was going to show you the computer lab." She gave up the boxes with the possible treats for that. "Come on, Melissa." She trotted after them, heading up to the office. "The kitchen is at the end of this hallway. You two are to stay out of the bottom floor unless you're sent down there for something," Xander instructed. "It's mostly storerooms. Got it?" They nodded so he let them into the computer lab. "I have it set up so you can get into your email accounts, the encyclopedia sites, and not much else without a password. On my computer is a preset to the bulletin boards and my personal chat room for my friends. I do not want you on my computer, girls. Deal?" They nodded, smiling at him. "Thank you. The drink holders are to be used and the trashcans are also to be used. Any spills you clean up immediately and I'll have someone teach one of you hacking." She went back to her desk, sitting down to read the update from her people on the mainland. "Interesting." She forwarded it to Lupin, in case he didn't have it yet, then she thanked him.
She picked up another phone and hit a preset number. "Give me the Don. Yes, it's Sylvia. Thank you." The local Don came on almost immediately. "Calm down, we're dealing with it. No, I'm hiding. No, I'm not in the city but I'll be popping around soon to check on you. Is London secure? Because I do have the kids and I am pregnant," she pointed out dryly. "Thanks." She listened to the state of affairs in London, nodding when she expected things. Only two things worried her. "That thing with Harrod's, stop it. I like the guy who owns it. He's very nice to me and flirted with me." She smirked. "Good. The other thing, the thing with the street punks? Find them and tell them we'll be running a summer camp this year if shit's solved. Yes, that's fine. Because they're irritating me and if I get mugged I'm going to have to kick some ass, pregnant or not. Which would then bring Lupin and Jigen onto their asses."
"And me," Goemon said from the doorway.
"And Goemon. He's guarding me and the kids. Thanks, babe. Sure. You have fun. Kisses and gropes." She hung up and grinned at him. "We're running a summer camp this year for the local thieves in case things are better."
"That's fine, Xander." He walked in to read the update coming in. "That is worse."
"Actually it's better. Someone blew up a rival who was going to get into Lupin's way soon." She winked at him. "Lupin's probably throwing a fit though. You could call." Arsene brought out the cellphone. "Thank you, Princess."
"Welcome, Mommy. Can I see?" Xander nodded so she climbed up into her lap. "Which is which?"
"This is the thieve's bulletin board," she said, pointing at that window. "This one is Lupin's personal one, that's why it's called Wolf's Head. The other is a chatroom for my people and they know I check it every few hours."
"Wow." She looked up at her. "Can I say hi?"
"Quickly." She changed screen names for her, adding her in as AL The Fourth. "There you go. Type away."
Arsene pulled the keyboard closer and typed in a quick message to her father that they were fine and everything was okay. One crook wanted to know what she thought she was doing playing with the real crooks so she found him on her mother's chatroom window by searching his name and then typed in what she knew of him, letting her mother correct it for her so she didn't spill too much information. Then she sent it with a spitting smiley face. Jigen came up and said hi. Her father came up and praised her and told off the other guy. Then he told her to get her mother.
Xander opened another window and typed in her screen name and password, then typed in an 'I'm here, she's on my lap' message. The two girls shared a smirk. So she typed in a 'we're unpacking and making cookies' message too.
"Cookies?" Arsene asked.
"Sure, later." She gave her a squeeze. "Tell your daddy to read his email."
She typed that in carefully and sent it, earning a chuckle from him. Then she typed in that she had to go, her own email was waiting on her and her contacts were impatient sometimes. She sent out a general 'bye' and left to go back to the lab.
Xander typed in her message and then closed the second window, changing screen names back. "This bb is not really secure, Lupin. I just got a 'lurker's notice' and saw Emma." Lupin put out a 'hi, Emma, how's the babies' message and got a few log off messages. Then he let out a chuckle and added the new information to the list so they could use it to their advantage or not. A private chat window opened and Xander typed in quickly. They shared information and Lupin said they'd be talking about her own group. She pointed out that she was sharing and he had never told her she *couldn't* so it was good. Then that they were safe, she loved and missed him, then she ended the chat session and hid herself on the bulletin board. She smirked at Goemon. "Want to get back on and monitor for me? I'm hungry."
"If you want." He took her place, getting comfortable in the very nice desk chair. "I like this."
"It's made to cradle my pregnant butt comfortably. Arsene, we'll make cookies after dinner, for movie time."
"Thanks, dear." She headed out to the kitchen, finding Lotus and Bix making sandwiches. She grabbed something from the freezer and put it into the microwave. "Sorry, the baby's cranky."
"That's fine," Bix said with a smile. "Is everything all right so far?"
"Great so far. We're all set. Even if I had to liquidate the store rooms we'd still be fine." She gave her a hug. "Tell him this week or I will," she whispered. Bix nodded, heading to the office to do that. "Now, Mistress Lotus, how do the plants look?"
"Quite healthy. The gardener came in a bit ago and he agreed to walk me through them tomorrow. He didn't have his book here."
"That's fine. If you want, you can take out most of the plastic ones and replace them. Just remember to look behind them. Some important switches are behind some of them."
"Okay." She beamed at him. "How's daddy?"
"He's fine, sweetness. He's in the office if you wanted to bring him some lunch." She nodded, taking her sandwiches and milk with her to sit with him. "Food!" The other kids came running and she pulled out bread, milk, various meats, cheeses, toppings, and peanut butter and jelly since Sierra never ate anything but, putting them on the island with the chairs around it. "There, go for it. Ishi, the plates are behind you. Lotus is eating with your father in the office. We'll have a real dinner in the dining room later." She took her food out of the microwave, stirred it, and put it back in for another few minutes. "I talked to your fathers. They're fine and well. Things are going smoothly." The girls nodded. Bix carried in Fred, handing him over. "Hungry, little guy?" Fred cooed at her. "Let me get dinner out and then I'll feed you. Ishi, run a workout after naps. Sierra and Savannah, I want you to stay off the first floor. It's all storage areas. I mean it. You as well, Arsene and Melissa. Ishi, there's a special meditation room down there, it's the only place you're allowed to go. Any breaking of that rule means that we can't go take the tour of the Tower of London and see all the jewels." Everyone nodded. "Thank you. For those who have earned their next Disney trip, we're postponing it until either the crisis is over or until after I give birth, whichever comes first." Everyone nodded, smiling at that. "You have about six weeks left if you're not there yet." Ishi nodded, he knew he wasn't at that level in math. "Melissa, after dinner, show everyone the computer lab and tell them the rules. I'm putting you in charge of that. Do not use the computer on my desk. Ever. It's got special stuff on it and I don't want you guys into it yet."
"Yes, mommy," they said in unison.
"Good. Thank you." The microwave beeped. "After this, go rest. Do the workout. Get cleaned up and pretty up your rooms until dinner. Then we'll set out chores and stuff tomorrow with Goemon." Everyone nodded, starting on their sandwiches. "Good kids. I'm going up to my room. It's the double doors at the end of the other hallway. Goemon has a room in there too." She headed that way, taking Fred with her. "Come on, precious. Let's have some nummy mommy food."
Arsene looked at the other kids. "She let me chat with daddy. He's very pleased with her." They all grinned and ate faster. They were a bit tired from the plane ride. "Where's the workout room, Ishi?"
"Upstairs. It's got a very nice view."
"What's on the first floor?" Sierra asked.
"Just a bunch of store rooms," Ishi said with a hand wave. "Statues and stuff that she probably had taken out of here." He took another bite. "It'll be fine. We have cable." The girls nodded in appreciation and someone found the bag of chips, handing them over. "Thank you. She always forgets the chips."
Lupin looked up as their guardian angel was brought in by Marcus. "So, Tornado?" Lupin asked. She nodded. "Why do you follow Lavelle and Sylvia?"
"You don't know that they're the same?" she asked cautiously, inching toward a seat.
"No, I do, but I didn't think it was common knowledge. So, why do you follow my Xander?"
"Because she's amazing. The old Don was screwing us over. She heard us complain." She shrugged. "She had a talk with him and he retired to Venezuela. No more sixty percent tithing."
"Sixty percent?" Jigen asked. "That's outrageous."
"Plus taxes and fees if we had him sell things for us," she told him. Jigen shook his head. "So Lavelle waltzed in and fixed it. The current Don is really nice. She's skittish now and then but she's damn good to us. Now we have thirty percent tithing, five percent seller fees, and she'll back us up. Besides, anyone who can walk into the Tower and take a single thing is someone I want to work for, even if they can be flaming assholes at times."
"Interrupted her anime fit?" Lupin asked.
Tornado nodded quickly. "Twice now. I have bad timing."
"It's okay, we've done the same and we're still living," Jigen offered.
"Yeah, but you're sleeping with her. I'm not. I had Lavelle when he was still single. I nearly needed a hospital bed I was so wrung out. My friends brought me to the emergency room that night when I admitted I was too tired to drink. Lavelle's bedroom antics and energy should come with a warning label."
Lupin snickered. "She's never done that to us."
"Feel lucky, man. Feel really lucky. I was too tired to swallow." She relaxed a bit. "So when she assigned me to watch over you two and Marcus I did it without question. The woman obviously earned your trust, we love her and love working for her, so we figure we might like you. It's like an umbrella plan. We're covered under her umbrella and you cover her with yours."
"I can see that," Lupin agreed. "I had no idea her things were this extensive." She snickered. "She's never said anything about this to us."
"Yeah, well, we've been helping him out with solo jobs now for years. Ever since the maze thing when some of us approached him. We figured you had a good network but you were older school than he was. He didn't mind and talked to us like we knew our shit. He accepted that we were a network already and that we needed someone to organize things for us. She got us all hooked up with a set mailing list, chat room, pagers and cellphones of a specific and unlisted brand. We helped her with information on jobs. She helped us with stuff for our jobs. She pulled some spectacular stuff that no one knows about."
"The Tower?" Lupin asked, leaning forward. She nodded. "What did she do? We never heard a thing about someone even trying them."
"She stole a single piece of jewelry and replaced it with fakes. It's been there now for four years. The insurance guys only do random checks each year to make sure the collection is whole. She's gotten away with a single piece each year for the last four years." Lupin's mouth fell open and hit the desk. She beamed. "Really. This year's was a brooch I think. She said she'll be taking the kids on a tour of the facility this year instead of doing anything. Last year she nearly got caught because a guard wasn't on his regular path."
"She's doing small, spectacular stuff so no one hears," Jigen said in amazement. "She never tells us this stuff."
"Xander?" she asked.
"Good point," Lupin and Jigen agreed together.
"We've had this revelation before as well," Lupin admitted. "She never really tells us unless it's something that had to be done very openly." His computer beeped and he looked at it. "Hmm. Someone did find out that a single piece of the crown jewels was missing." He sent back 'it wasn't me, make sure the hubby knows,' to Dawn. "There, that's settled. My MO helps out with that." He looked at Marcus, who held up a pretty diamond necklace as he appeared. "The Tower was you?"
"It was a diversion," he admitted smugly. "There's something better going on in town and I wanted the cops diverted while it happened." He sat down to mail it back to them, then changed the address to Dawn's. "There. We may not favor her but it'll stump her for a few days." He set it into the outgoing mail basket and took off his gloves. "That way Xander can finish moving stuff out of the storehouses in London without being noticed."
"Store *houses*?" Jigen asked. "What is my woman doing?"
"Last year she had a thing for statues," Tornado admitted. "Some really pretty ones and the stone mason she chose was really good."
Lupin chuckled, shaking his head. "Our Xander is a loon, Jigen."
"She is. I still wanna see these storehouses," Jigen said, sounding grumpy and pouty.
"Not even I know where they are," Marcus admitted. "I've only sent a few things to them for her. Have we heard from my Master yet?"
"We have. He's on the bulletin board monitoring for Xander right now," Jigen admitted, pointing at the computer.
Marcus rushed over to connect with his Master, typing quickly as only someone who writes many papers a year can. "Lupin, if we're alive I need off late next month to defend my dissertation at Cambridge."
"That's fine, Marcus. What field are you in now?"
"History." He smirked at him. "Did you think they had one on magic?"
"They do but it's exclusive," Tornado noted. "Xander chairs it. It's somewhere in the humanities building. It's a research elective minor."
"Well," Marcus said, looking put out. "He should have told me. We are friends."
"She probably didn't want you getting sucked too deeply in again," Jigen pointed out. Marcus grimaced but nodded. "So, your specialty is what?"
"Being obvious apparently," she said bitterly. "She didn't tell me to hide myself so I didn't. Most people over here know who I am and most of them know who I work for and who I *really* work for. It's amazing. Lavelle's known and respected everywhere but her home country."
"Of course. That's the way it always goes," Lupin agreed. "I get the same thing from the French." He moved Marcus by opening a drawer and pulling out some tapes. "Where do we send these to?"
Tornado took them and looked them over. "Pick up!" she yelled. Someone appeared, a young girl. "Here, for Lavelle. House pictures?" Lupin nodded. "House pictures."
"Thank you." She took them, clutching them to her chest as she disappeared again.
Marcus looked up. "She's in training that way?"
"It's wonderful training for her," Tornado noted.
"You're part of the Cairo group?" Lupin asked.
She burst out laughing, shaking her head. "Hell no! I'm not part of those jumped up nancy ponces! What made you think that?"
"The fact that she was."
"No, she started out and then transferred out for training and stayed with them. Her training master is a former Watcher."
"Oh." Lupin blinked a few times. "I think we need to talk to the dread vampire Ethan."
"He's not home," Marcus muttered, typing again. He sent that email to Ray and went back to telling his master what he had done. "He's in Jamaica to look at the newest zombies. He's missing having someone to clean the house."
"There's a slave market for demons and zombies?" Jigen asked.
Marcus looked at him and nodded. "Of course. What else did you expect?"
"Good point," Jigen admitted, pulling out a cigarette to light and suck on.
"Give me one," Lupin demanded. Jigen handed his over and lit another one. "Thanks." They stared at Tornado. "Since our beloved spouse hasn't told us. You will."
"Sure. She would if you asked."
"She'll try to hide something," Jigen pointed out.
"I only know the people in my section and one person in another. She built us like the old resistence cells."
"Wonderful." Lupin took his keyboard and mouse back, sending an email to Xander about this new network that seems to be coming out of the woodwork, a polite request for information and support.
"Of course she will, that's why she sent Tornado and the other two," Marcus said, taking them back from him. "Tony, darling, are the other two in town?"
"One is, one's traveling this way. Why?"
"I figure they'll want to meet with them too." Marcus finished that email and sent it off to that contact, then sent one to Xander about what he had just promised. One came back that it was fine. To expect Bastian and Homer. "She's sending a hitter and a spy."
"Who?" Lupin demanded.
"Bastian Morales and Homer Peacekeeper."
"Homer works for her?" Jigen asked, his mouth falling open. "Since when?"
"Since about four years ago," Marcus said, glancing at him. "It's more of a mutual aid pact, like she has with Cairo. The same as I do." He wrote a message to Homer. "I've told him we'll be shopping for clothes at seven tonight if he's in. Bastian is already in town I think. I thought I saw him at Interpol earlier." He saw a return message from Ray, the header in all caps. "Oh, dear, I've caused a bit of a blood pressure spike in Ray it seems." He sighed and opened it, pointing out once again that he was covering for Xander's movements to protect the children. He sent it off and one came back almost instantly in a calmer voice, signed by Zenigata telling him to run and leave France before they traced him. Marcus chuckled and said he was bouncing off Lupin's satellite, he wasn't in France. He was in China. Then he sent it and stood up. "I'm off to create more diversions until you need me, Lupin. Anything going on tonight?"
"The meetings started earlier," Jigen told him. "Have fun, be back by midnight, kid."
"Yes, Jigen." Marcus took off, heading to China. He had always wanted to see the Great Wall. There was supposedly a few tombs marked by its placement on the map. It would make his History diss perfect if he found them.
Lupin looked at Jigen. "Is Marcus like a backward Indiana Jones?"
Jigen nodded, calming himself. "Probably." They looked at Tornado, who swallowed. "Give, kid, now."
"Fine," she agreed. "Got a map?" Lupin found the atlas he had requested and handed it over. "Let's see. We have a cell here," she said, pointing at an area in rural Germanly. "We have a cell in Egypt. We have a cell in South Africa somewhere. We have three cells in the US, one in Mexico, and two in Canada to catch the incoming immigrants and things. We have one in Brazil. He usually goes to Carnival with most of them," she admitted with a grin for them. "She was hot last year, dudes."
"I'm sure she was," Lupin agreed, reaching for his bottle of aspirin. He poured out five or so and handed off the bottle to Jigen. "Here, you might want these too."
Jigen took out four and took them, then went to pour himself a drink. "How many of these are demonic?"
She looked at him. "Some cells have demonic members of the lower classes, never the upper idiots and bungholes. You know, thinking about it, if we all died before her, she could probably use us to take over Hell." She went back to the map. "I know she's got a house somewhere in the Pacific Islands. She's got a cruise ship somewhere. She's got a private security firm that she owns. She's got that publishing company that does her beloved comics and anime. She's apparently running an anime-centric convention next year in Paris." She grinned at them. "I think she wanted to call it Ray-Con. Like death rays but also a play on his name to taunt him." She went back to the atlas, tracing over California. "I think she owns something else around here but I'm not sure."
Jigen sat down, feeling lightheaded. "She built her own empire and we never realized," he said flatly.
"A partly legit empire," Lupin agreed weakly. "How?" He looked at Jigen. "Didn't we keep her busy enough?"
"Xander is a multi-tasker and she has someone who runs things with her. She also said once that someone named Murami helped her solidify her plans and looks over a few things but not many of them because she didn't want to know about it." She handed back the atlas. "We don't know everything she does, Lupin. We thought you did."
"That's it, I'm tying her down and interrogating her," Jigen announced.
"We could let Pops do it," Lupin suggested. "Or Ray."
"She's pregnant, Lupin, she'll cry."
"She'll also feel betrayed and hate you forever and ever," Tornado offered. "She did this out of her vacation each year mostly. The people she has running things for her are very good. You might ask Marcus when he comes back about her second from Athens."
"Athens?" Lupin asked, perking up. "That's where the Cairo group moved."
"Technically they moved to Thessaly, but yeah, same spot basically," she agreed with a small smirk. "One of them was nominated to watch over things for her and run them in her absence. We mostly do information gathering. People like Bastian and Homer are bonus members."
"Where do you fit in London's cell?" Jigen asked.
"Second in command. My Lady, the Don, is head over it. Xander was soothing her earlier from what I heard. She said she's not in London but we're pretty sure she is with what Marcus was just doing. Another bonus member."
"I think I can retire knowing the world is in wonderful hands," Lupin said tiredly.
"She said she'll be handing it all over to the children some day," Tornado offered.
"So Arsene will get Lupin's and Melissa will get hers, and together they'll make the biggest underground crime syndicate in the world," Jigen said flatly.
She considered it, then nodded. "Yup." She grinned. "Pretty neat, huh?"
"Very neat," Lupin agreed. He thought about it. His spouse was his equal and Jigen's equal. "There will be no more protecting her for her own benefit."
"Guys, if she didn't like it, she wouldn't let it happen. We all know Xander can leave if something bothers her."
"True," Jigen agreed happily. "So we'll treat her exactly the same."
"She doesn't tithe to us anymore," Lupin said miserably. "She used to share everything with us."
"Where do you think those surprise presents came from?" Tornado said with a snort as she stood up. "I'll see you both tonight while you're shopping. You might ask Bastian. He might know more." Someone knocked on the door so she answered it, nodding him inside. "How long have you been waiting?"
"About a half-hour." The man who walked in was tall, tanned, a Nordic God looking man with light brown hair that reached his shoulders. "Lupin, Jigen, I'm Xander's third in command for emergency situations such as this. I'm Bastian Morales." He bowed to them. "What can I tell you?"
"Everything," they said in unison.
He laughed. "Of course. Have fun watching from across the street, Tornado. Zenigata is hopping mad, literally." She laughed as she walked out, leaving them alone. "Let me guess, you thought she only made friends?" They nodded. "She did. Some of us she got started. Some of us she got turned around. Some of us she slept with and we realized that we'd do anything for the man. Damn is that one hot bitch in heat." He grinned then shook his head quickly. "Sorry. I had her for a weekend."
"Are you an official spy, Bastian?" Lupin asked.
He sat across from them, taking the desk chair instead of the couch. "I was. I got tired of the backstabbing and politics. I thought I had retired and then Lavelle walks into the bar I'm sulking in. He's not that spectacular to look at, but he smirked at me and I could see his eyes. They spoke volumes so I bought him a drink." He shrugged. "He took me back to his room. We had a weekend. Suddenly I have a mission, a cause, and a boss I can admire. All while keeping myself retired most of the time and having any vacations I want. We've only had one conflict and that was me delivering something. It took me a day out of my way and I understood why later. She had me send a coded message to someone who was breaking up a child farming ring. It was too delicate to email."
"She runs her empire on the 'net?"
"Yeah. I've only met a few others. Tornado and I have met a number of times. That whole train trip? We got the car to the right place, created the diversion that let you guys get away, and then followed you home to make sure the baby would be fine."
"Wow," Jigen said quietly. "We had it."
"I know, but she wanted to make sure that everything went smoothly. We're like an insurance policy. If something major is happening and something needs to be done in a subtle way, she'll do it. If something major is happening and she needs puppet masters, she has Tornado and I pick up some of the piece and be her field commanders. Her other field commanders are mostly gone right now. She evacuated those of us she could. Her cell in Germany was halved. They all took sudden vacations when the violence came their way and most of them went to Russia to help Marcus track down the people who hurt Fujiko Mine. By the way, no one's sure if she's dead or not. I've seen the autopsy report. It was a minimal one since the bullet hit her in the chest. They basically closed the stomach wound, dug out the bullet, and ran the fingerprints." They nodded. "That came up as Fujiko. There was no later looking once the casket was closed. There was no in-depth search or autopsy done. They were more than willing to accept it at face value."
"Which is the hallmark of an over-taxed system," Lupin agreed thoughtfully. "I'm sensing a but."
"The but is that there is a single letter tracing the hit back to Fujiko herself. It's in code. It's talking about a picnic with the person who hired the hitter. It's not conclusive. It's also not damning and no one can tell one way or another since the original body disappeared."
"Was Marcus in on it?" Jigen asked.
Bastian shook his head, flipping back some of his hair. "Not in the least. She knew how he'd react."
"But he cut the child out," Lupin pointed out. "From her body."
"Yeah, and the cops saw him doing that. I'm betting he wasn't paying that much attention and that something was odd with that. He said she had been dead for up to a half-hour. Most kids can't survive in a water sack that long breathing on their own."
"So he was panicking enough to not notice any irregularities and Fujiko herself could have planned this," Lupin said thoughtfully. "I'm still not telling Goemon. He's said she's dead to him."
"If she's alive and I find her, she's dead anyway," Jigen said coolly.
"Good. You can keep me from torturing her," Lupin told him. "He deserved better." His phone rang and he answered it. "House of Ear Wax, Main Q-Tip here." He listened to Dawn have a quiet fit on the other end. "We didn't do it. Get over it, Dawn. No, it was not me or Jigen. We're sitting here talking with someone who Xander works with when she's not with us." He smirked at the sudden cessation of noise from the other end. "Anything else? He went to China. Then you have fun moving, dear." He hung up. "Why didn't we remove her from life?"
"She keeps Pops occupied now and then," Jigen reminded him.
"Oh, yeah. Maybe she should get knocked up again." He made a note on the pad in front of him to encourage that then looked at Bastian again. "Sorry. She's always had bad timing."
"I know. I know Dawn. She doesn't know she works for Xander." He grinned. "What can I tell you to make sure you don't treat her differently?"
"Nothing. We're still going to grill her later," Jigen told him.
"But you could make sure we do it in bed instead of simply tying her to it and asking until she comes clean," Lupin added.
Bastian let out a long laugh. "She lets you tie her down?" They nodded. "Then you guys are already in. Ask the woman, she'll tell you. She'll probably even let you help her sometimes. It's about time for another Tower run."
"She said she's taking the kids through it this year," Lupin told him.
"Good. It'll be good training for Arsene."
"You know the kids?"
"I followed her to Orlando as a precaution. Someone was hunting for her. You never noticed but I was one of the security guys at the hotel." They gaped and he wiggled his fingers. "I am a spy."
"Obviously!" Lupin agreed, nodding. "Thank you for the help."
"Not an issue. She protects innocents and I appreciate that in a boss since my former one didn't." He stood up. "Now, let's go shopping. You both look ratty and nasty and she'll hate that." He held out an envelope. "From her."
Lupin took it, laughing at the prepaid shopping card. "Just like we do to her now and then," he said, standing up. "Come on, old guy. Let's get pretty for the wife and the meetings. Maybe we can find a new weapon supplier."
"I'm supposed to take you to the supply closet as well," Bastian told them, following them out. "I brought my Jag. Did you want to use it or your car? It's pretty distinctive."
"Let's take yours," Jigen told him. "It's muggy today and you probably have air conditioning."
"Sure do. Coldest I could find." He led them down to his car and got them inside, then got in to drive. "Supply closet first or after the shopping?"
"What's a supply closet?"
"Supplies for her use and any of us who need it's use. A small apartment that has guns, ammo, books, spell books, clothes, a few prepaid cards for emergencies or dinner ordered in while changing bandages. Bandages. Some minor drugs for really bad things. Plus a bedroom and an older computer to hook onto the internet through a special satellite service."
"Mine?" Lupin asked.
"I have no idea," Bastian admitted. "Want to head there first?"
"No, Pops just pulled out behind us," Jigen told him.
"Oh, we can lose him." He sped up, heading into the confusing mess that was Parisian traffic at rush hour.
Xander looked at her computer as a new report from Tornado popped up, smirking at the praise and warning of imminent questioning. She sent back a short one of praise and told her to be safe. She hadn't heard from Homer so she called his phone. "Homer, buddy, hadn't heard from you. You okay?" She listened to his speech on interrupting his meditation. "I thought you were going to guard my boys' backs." She smirked. "Thanks, Homer. Yeah, Bastian picked them up, Tony's in town too. Have fun and I'll intro you to Goemon tonight if you want." She grinned at Goemon as he came out of the lab, waving a hand. "Sure. If they come to London, I'll come flying in to have some great sex and breakfast. You and Goemon can get together. Sure, beat Marcus for me too. Tell him it wasn't necessary but that if he had fun he should have kept it, not sent it back. Oh, Ray's headed for London too. He got given the Tower case. Happy meditating, Peacekeeper. Let me know when you need me." He hung up and looked at Goemon. "The boys decided to tackle it from here since two of the major players flew into town to escape the mainland. Want dinner out?"
"I would not mind. Bix can watch the children," he agreed. "What of the movie night?"
"It'll be after the kids are in bed," she pointed out. "There's a supply closet in town, we'll let you meet Homer there. It's safe and he knows where it is. I'm going to make myself stunning for my men." She stood up, heading for her favorite closet. She looked at the array of clothes. "Hmm, short or long?" She heard one of the kids sneaking in. "Short or long dress tonight?"
"Do we have to dress for dinner?" Arsene asked as she hugged her around the waist.
"No, but your daddies are coming in for a few hours and I was going to pounce them." She grinned down at her. "If they're here for more than an hour, they'll come see you guys tomorrow."
"Won't that break our cover?"
She grinned down at her. "That is a very good question. Fortunately I've already included an answer, which is a safe tunnel to another location. You'll be going there to see them." Arsene beamed at her. "Now, should I wear something short or long tonight?"
"Wear that one, mommy. I've never seen it in your closet so they've probably never seen you in it," she offered, pointing at a costume.
"Dear, that's a cheerleading outfit," she explained. "That's not really for wearing out." She grinned down at her. "That's from a job." She grabbed a short black skirt. "But I do have something similar. Find my red velvet shirt, sweetie."
"Yes, mommy." She went to grab it and the black heels her mother so loved, laying them on the bed. "What are you going to wear underneath?"
"Bra and panties, plus some stockings. Guaranteed to make your daddy lose his mind and forget all about mommy's little secrets, like this house." She winked. "When you get older, you and Melissa will get my whole network that's around at the time and you'll get your daddy's too."
"Wow. That's a lot of people," she agreed. She beamed. "Are they good?"
"They're very good. Now scoot so I can take a shower and get partially dressed. I won't be going until after the movie time." She squealed and headed out to tell the others. She strolled into the bathroom, taking a long shower to prepare for this. She missed her men.
Marcus slapped his phone, grabbing it to answer it before it could ring again. "Yes, Lupin," he said quietly, furtively glancing around.
"London," Lupin ordered.
"Yes, Lupin." He hung up and casually strolled away from the other gawkers, heading into some trees to send himself off. He landed in Heathrow's bathroom and strolled out, heading out of the airport with a bag he kept in a locker just in case things like this happened. He went to the supply closet to get something different to wear, then went to watch out for his family, just in case something happened on their way in.
Lupin looked up as their table was invaded by a waiter, who whispered in Jigen's ear. "Xander?" he asked.
"I don't know. A brunette." He looked out as the stunning brunette walked up to them, eyes wide when he saw the outfit. "Lupin," he ground out.
Lupin looked, menu falling from his numb fingers. "Xander," he said in awe. The blood red velvet shirt was just tight enough to accentuate the extra weight of her chest and loose enough around the stomach to mostly cover the belly. The short black pleated skirt reminded them of a cheerleader's but it was slightly shimmery. He stood up, letting her sit between them. "Xander, wow," he said in awe. He watched as she crossed her legs and the tops of her stockings showed. "Stockings too?"
She kissed him gently. "Stress break," she purred with a small smirk. "If you're around tomorrow I promised the kids a chance to see you both." She gave Jigen a come-hither look and he shifted closer for his own kiss, growling and stealing another one. "Thank you. You do that so well." She licked her lips. "Shall we? I'm famished."
"We should," Lupin agreed, nodding fiercely.
"It won't get you not questioned," Jigen noted. She kissed him again and his eyes half- closed. "Still didn't work, Xan."
"It wasn't meant to. This is a break from the problem. That can come later." She blinked at him and he nodded, accepting that since he moved closer to play with her thigh. "Don't drool yet, Lupin, you'll need that spit later, I promise you."
"Oh, yeah," he agreed in a lighter growl. "We should eat, huh? You'll need your strength. Where did Bastian go?"
"He's with his honey at the moment. Homer's with Goemon at a supply closet. He's always wanted to meet him." She ran her fingernails up Lupin's thigh, making him shiver. Then she smiled at Jigen. "Feed us?" she asked cutely.
"Of course, babe. You know I like feeding you all sorts of things," Jigen agreed. "Salad? Steak?"
"Scallops and noodles. Shrimp as a second choice."
"Sure," Lupin agreed, waving the waiter over. "She wants the scallop and shrimp alfredo." The waiter looked at him so he stroked her stomach. "She demands."
"Oh." He nodded and smiled at her. "You can't tell, ma'am."
"Thank you." She batted her lashes. "The baby also wants some soda. Can I?"
"Of course. We carry some for the children. We have Pepsi."
"No coke?" she pouted. He shook his head. "Dr. Pepper?"
"That we do have."
"Then I'll take one of those, with only a bit of ice to keep it cold." He wrote that down. "Plus can they have some breadsticks to tease me with?"
The waiter blushed and nodded, writing that down as well. "Of course, ma'am. For you, sir?" He looked at Lupin who was staring at him. "Food, sir?"
"Oh, yeah. Um, the steak salad. I need to have a lot of energy so put a lot of croutons. French dressing on the side."
Jigen coughed. "I want the shrimp scampi," he ordered. "Water to drink."
"Water for me too, we'll need it later," Lupin told him.
The waiter blushed brighter and took their menus, going to hide and take care of his little problem.
Xander flicked a finger and said a few words, putting up an 'ignore me' spell on the front of the booth. Then she kissed Lupin again. "My pretty baby boy. So nice to me."
Jigen stole her to kiss. "My turn."
"Hmm, aggressive, Jigen. I like you like this." She smiled as someone walked up to their booth. "Hmm, Ray," she purred, waving him inside. He frowned, walking in. "I came in to have dinner, you're interrupting. What's going on?"
"There was just an explosion," he said grimly.
"Where?" she asked calmly. "I know it wasn't anywhere near the kids."
"No, not near the kids. It was in the park. No one's claiming it yet but it blew up six of the major problems."
"Really?" she asked, stroking her men's hands and playing with their fingers. "Ray, we both know I'm not great at explosives. Why come to us with this?"
"I figured you'd need to know to fix this shit," he said quietly, glancing around. "I don't want to know, just set up peaceful relations again. Just keep the collateral damage down, 'kay? That's all we're askin'."
"Oh, sweetie, it's already fixed," she cooed, smiling at him. "That's why it was safe enough for me to come in for dinner...and breakfast." He blushed and backed away. "Go play, Ray, I'm at *that* stage." He went pale and hurried off. "Poor guy. I'll have to get Emmajean to pounce him tonight."
"Naughty you," Lupin chided. "Teasing another man?" He kissed her ear, nibbling on that special spot just below it. She moaned and leaned against him. "My precious tease, Xander. So good."
"Very hot," Jigen agreed. "I could have sworn I taught you explosives."
She smiled and kissed him, making Lupin switch targets to her neck. "I know. It still wasn't me."
"Someone of yours?"
She shook her head. "Not in the least. Kyle's uncle got a bit pissed at someone," she said with a wink. Then she smirked at Lupin while leaning on Jigen. "Can I make you sore, babe?"
"You can make me anything you want," Lupin promised. "How much longer should this run?"
"Hopefully not for more than a couple of weeks." She ran her hand over his thigh again, making him shift and moan. "Be a good boy. The baby and I are very proud of you, Lupin."
"Good." He pounced her for a real kiss, making her moan.
"Food first and then pouncing," Jigen ordered. "Let the poor woman eat."
"I had snacks with the kids during our movie time," she admitted, tipping her chin up so he could run a finger up her throat. "You like? I switched perfumes."
"I do like," he agreed quietly. "I haven't been the victim of a playful mood in a long time, Xander. We're still going to ask you questions."
"Tomorrow," she promised.
"Fine, tomorrow," he agreed. The waiter brought their drinks and breadsticks, ignoring how Lupin was nibbling on his woman's throat. "Thanks."
"Welcome," he squeaked, hurrying off. This was going to be a long night for him. Fortunately, by the time they were done, they had tipped him very well as well. He used it to take a pretty waitress out and have some fun of his own.
Lupin looked around the simple apartment once the kids had left, searching for the opening that they had come out of. "Ah-ha!" He found it and opened it. "There's a tunnel with a doorway."
"It only opens for certain people," a new voice said from behind them. They spun, looking at him. "Jigen."
"Homer. Goemon. Have fun last night?"
"It was quite interesting to see his version of the art," Goemon agreed. "She has said it was a DNA reader."
"Yeah, but you were at the other place," Lupin said, moving closer. "Weren't you, buddy?"
"I was but I do not know where it was. The car's windows were heavily shielded. All I know is that she gave you clues. She said so."
"The rest of us don't know where this safe house is either," Homer offered. "Bastian's waiting back at the supply closet."
"That's fine," Lupin said with a hand wave. "I hate things like this. She's taunting us, I know she is."
"There's no headquarters?" Jigen asked.
"It's her laptop. Technically her headquarters is wherever she is at the moment. Right now it could be in a suitcase for all we know. She *said* she's in Spain but she's always very security conscious. She would have only told the locals that she was around if she wanted them to know and expected to need some local help." Homer grinned at them. "You certainly taught that women right."
"Too right," Lupin said miserably, walking up to the door. He saw the reader and the handprint. He put his hand on it, wanting to see what it would do. A small needle pricked him and then disappeared, then it went red and locked. "Hey!"
"She hasn't coded us in yet?" Jigen asked.
"Apparently not. Homer, are you coded?"
"Not for this one, sorry, Lupin." He patted Goemon on the back. "I'm going to start watching the newly paranoid idiots. The ones who Bastian gave the messages to last night. Want to help?"
"Yes," he agreed. "It would be good to be in the field again."
"Don't worry, you'll have to train the kids," Homer reminded him, walking him off.
"She said something about Dessier street," Jigen offered.
"That's about four blocks from here," Lupin said thoughtfully. "She trooped the kids that far and built a tunnel like this that far?"
"It looks like one of the old access tunnels for the Underground," Jigen noted. "Old stonework with old mortar."
"Yeah, it is," Lupin agreed, looking around. "Fine. Let's go there. Maybe we can find a clue." He didn't want to admit it but Xander had stumped them this time. "I want to know about all this and she did promise to tell us today."
"She did," Jigen agreed, lighting up once they were outside. The apartment hadn't had a great air flow and they hadn't wanted to open the windows. They strolled the four blocks, looking around at the apartment buildings. Older buildings, smaller. The tallest was only four stories. Jigen looked up, then tipped his head to the side. "Some of the bricks don't match on that one," he said, pointing up at that building.
Lupin looked around then smiled at a nosy neighbor watching them. "We're looking for an old friend. Japanese guy with his kids? Just came in a few days ago?"
"Oh, him," she agreed, waving a hand at a building down the street. "He went in there. Seemed dour if you ask me. You famous or someat?"
"No," Lupin told her. "I'm an impersonator. I do Lupin gags for birthdays and bachelor parties."
"Oh. Pays well I guess," she admitted. "This here is a quiet street most of the time."
"Yeah, he likes the quiet," Jigen agreed. "Thanks, ma'am." He headed for that building, hoping she had been correct. If not they'd have to explain why they were breaking into someone's house. "You think she bought a building and renovated it like in Geneva?"
"Probably. A single apartment wouldn't fit them all." He checked the buildings, then looked at the other one, then back. "Huh. Similar construction."
Bastian pulled up and got out of his car, leaning on the roof. "Guys, that's SIS headquarters," he said firmly.
"Which one is hers?" Jigen asked. He pointed behind him at the other one. "Thought so. Thanks. Coming in?"
"Oh, no, thanks, really. I don't like little kids. They're scary creatures." He grinned. "But I am off to solve another problem for her. She said so." He winked at Lupin. "Think I could steal Marcus for a while? She thinks he's being a bit too obvious."
"Sure, have fun with him," Lupin agreed, nodding. Bastian grinned and got back in, speeding off. "I think she arranged that."
"Of course she did." Jigen waited until he sped off before turning to look at the door. Two MP's were standing there. "Looking for the Japanese guy with kids."
"I know who you are. Goemon's across the street. Tell that Yank buttfucker to stay on his own land," one of them said nastily.
"Thanks, guys, really," Lupin said with a wink. "Have fun and all." They walked across the street to the building with the extra floor. The door was locked so Lupin picked the lock, and it still wouldn't open. He searched the frame. "No other locks."
"I think it's welded," Jigen said, examining a hinge. "Yeah, welded." He looked in awe. "She ...." He shook his head, looking at Lupin. "You want left or right?"
"Right. Left would be too usual for her." They went to the right door, finding it also welded. The left building's door was also welded. Lupin stepped back to look at the front of the buildings, finding a small pathway in the grass. "Hmm." He followed it, bumping into the single step that was cleverly hidden as a planter. He searched the wall, finding the hidden lock, and picked it, walking inside. Jigen followed, looking around at the lush jungle they had wandered into. They weren't aware that a blinking light over their heads had betrayed their entrance but the security guards had their faces on record so they didn't come attack immediately. Lupin headed for the only hallway he could see, looking in each room. The darkened room stumped him but he let it go, heading for the storerooms instead. "She's a fucking collector," he said, looking around in awe. "Wow."
"Someone should be missing some of these," Jigen pointed out, looking at the paintings. Lupin found a closet and opened it, finding the tool chests. "Art supplies?" Lupin picked one and they gasped. "Never mind." They carefully locked the chest and the closet again, wandering around the other store rooms. They found most of the stuff from Geneva in the last one, then found the room with all the statues. They headed back down the halls, going to the front room again. There had to be some way upstairs. Jigen finally found an escalator. "I think she's feeling old."
Lupin hurried over, taking it up. They walked out into another garden space and Lotus, who had two vials. "What's that, princess?"
"Anti-toxin for the vines." They drank it quickly and she beamed. "Good boys. Auntie said you could wander around, the baby's kicking her ass and she's gone back to bed."
"Thanks, Lotus. Have fun gardening."
"Yes, I am," she said happily, heading back to her vegetables. "I like tomato plants."
"We'll have to plant some for you sometime soon," Lupin admitted, heading down one hall. He found bedrooms so they headed down the other one. They found the kids in the computer lab, giving them all hugs. Jigen checked her desk, turning on her computer. "She locked it."
"The password is in the locked center drawer," Melissa told him. "It's some sort of jumble of letters." She went back to her online math lesson. The mother had gotten them some educational CDs.
Jigen found it and typed it in, getting the screen back. "Wow, I remember that picture," he said fondly, smiling at the large version of her favorite picture as a wallpaper. He raised the screens, seeing the panicking person on one. "Lupin, it's Tiff."
He hurried over, typing at her quickly. He got her calmed down and explaining, then he passed on an order and an evacuate the area order. His bulletin board lit up with confirmation from the local people and one paranoid person in Spain. "There." He checked the other windows, seeing the hostile talk on the main bulletin board. The other one turned out to be a chat room with a report coming in. He sat down, moaning at the feel of the chair. "Help Arsene please?"
"Sure, Lupin. We'll pounce the wife soon." He went to help the kids with their lessons.
Lupin read the report quickly, typing in a comment about something. The person sent back a 'huh'. Lupin identified himself and typed in his question again. The person wrote a blush, a stammer, and then offered a file for download. He took it, reading it over as well. It explained everything. So he gave her the same order since she was in the same area as Tiff had been. Then he switched back to the main bulletin board and stopped all the arguments quickly by yelling 'shut up'. Then he changed screen names and said it was him, that he was handling matters. That if they could come to an agreement then everything would be much easier. Even an alliance would be better than the fighting recently.... By the end of his speech a few people had agreed to talk to each other, because he said so. He typed into all three that he was going off-line to sleep for the next four hours. Anything that important could be done via phone if necessary.
The phone on the desk rang and he answered it. "What?" He listened to Bastian, who explained a few things to him. "Thanks." He repeated that into Xander's chatroom, getting instant confirmation from her people. He put it into his bulletin board, and got mostly positive responses. He told the other bulletin board that they were calling a truce for the day. That there were four people causing problems. That he wanted a conference chat at ten that night, Paris time. Then he clicked the 'hide me' button and leaned back to watch them chat without him. Only a few people looked upset. One of them he clicked on to chat privately, explaining himself to Kyle's uncle and new guardian. He was promised his support so he locked the computer again and then he went to find his wife. Jigen shadowed him up the other hallway, finding the room at the end of the hall to be the adult's room. They looked. One was open and it was light, airy, and sterile. It had to be Goemon's. The others yielded a bathroom, a weapon's room, and a bedroom that was dark, smelled nice, and had a high, very soft bed with a cooing body on it. Lupin moved Kenji back to the empty crib and then they pounced their wife together.
"Get off, 'm sore," she whined sleepily. "No more nursing for an hour, I'm empty."
"That's okay, I have other things in mind," Jigen whispered in her ear. "Naughty mother." He stripped the nightie off her and tossed it behind him. Lupin got her panties off her and tossed them away, then they stripped themselves to pleasure their wife. She was amazing and deserved it.
Xander stretched and wiggled, letting them do whatever they want. "If you'd lick, I'd really like it," she offered. They obliged by moving lower and licking her together until she was mewling above them and thrashing on the bed. "Guys! Need more!"
"We're workin' on it, have some patience," Jigen ordered. He grabbed the lube and worked on preparing her gently, then they divvied her up and he got her front while Lupin got her rear. They slid in together, making her come and tighten around him.
"Sounds like she needs more," Lupin said smugly, stroking her stomach. This way he wasn't so tempted to feast on her breasts. He pushed in more and felt Jigen do the same until they were both buried to the hilt in her. "Ours," he said in her ear, reminding her. "Our nympo darling. Our woman. Our bitch."
"Our slut," Jigen agreed, moving a little bit. "Our bad boy. Ours." She nodded, thrashing between them until they gave in and gave her what she needed.
Lupin panted in her ear. "I'm fucking impressed, Xan. I had no idea until I saw your computer. You are one amazing man. It makes me love you even more to realize that you're my equal."
She let out a yell, coming from that. Jigen gave her a happy look. "Just wait, Xan, we're not done yet." He moved faster, letting Lupin play with her clit while he pleasured her his way. She was shaking between them so he slowed down. "Too much, babe?"
"Shh, we're workin' on it," Lupin promised, moving a bit faster himself now. He and Jigen matched speeds again and she followed them anywhere they wanted to go, coming right after they did. "Our good girl."
"Very smart and wise," Jigen agreed, resting against her front. "Damn, you're wonderful in too many things."
"Definitely my equal," Lupin agreed, stroking her breasts. "It makes me hotter each time I think about it, Xander. I had only hoped to find someone who understood and enjoyed my nature but to find out that you share it and you revel in it like I do. It's intoxicating." He kissed her neck, making her moan weakly.
"We'll let you rest," Jigen promised. "You nap and then we'll feed you and spoil you some more."
"We have a whole four hours."
"'Kay," she agreed weakly. She closed her eyes. "Loved me into a coma."
"I know we did," Jigen soothed.
"We missed you and your naughty mind," Lupin told her. "You rest, we're right here."
She hummed and nodded, licking her lips. "No milk?"
"Not yet. We'll help you feed the babies later," Lupin promised.
"No, want some milk."
"When you get up we'll get you whatever you want."
"'Kay. Feed the babies." She yawned and snuggled into his chest, falling asleep on him with a big grin on her face.
In the center room, Goemon had just picked up his son and was carrying him off. "That was not something you needed to know about right now, Ishi."
"Father, what were they doing? She was chanting and crying and laughing all at once."
"That was sex, my son. It is an adult art."
Ishi wiggled until he was put down. "But why? She's already pregnant." His father blushed. "I can ask her if you want."
"No, I can handle this," he said firmly, coming up with a good answer. "Adults do ...that for more than procreation, son. It is pleasurable." He forced his mind away from the images of him and Fujiko. "As you grow older, you'll find that you're attracted to certain people. I will be teaching you how not to let it control you life."
"Will you teach me how to make my woman scream in pleasure like that?"
Goemon winced. "That is a matter of focus. As you pay attention to your kata and your body, paying attention to your lover's body will give them great pleasure and then you'll find your own. That is to be done only when you believe they are the most special person you could possibly have. Otherwise, like your Uncle Lupin, it will rule your life."
"He seems very happy with the auntie."
"Yes, but before they met he was very...free with his affections and it did not make him happy, son. It made him need more and more because he could not find that spark that made it more than stress relief. Allowing it only when it is special is more satisfying than not. Again, this is a discussion for when you are older and your body starts to rebel against your control of it."
"Yes, father," he agreed, thinking about it. "Was that why you and mother used to hide during our naps?"
"Indeed," he agreed gently. "You do not have to always make her pass out. Sometimes a good backrub is as satisfying for you both." He patted him on the head. "Now. You knew better than to intrude on their bedroom. Why did you do so?"
"The delivery people are back and they gave me a different card this time." He handed it to him.
Goemon looked at it. "Marcus!" Nothing happened. "Hmm. Come, we will talk to them." He walked down the stairs with his son, looking at the person who had presented the Interpol card. "You are?"
"Here for Lupin the Third," he said grimly. "There is a large problem and Interpol hopes he can solve it."
"He is presently asleep. I will have him call in later."
"I'm afraid I can't do that, sir."
Goemon put a thumb on the latch to his sword. "Can't?" he repeated.
He backed up nervously. "No, sir. The commissioner wanted to see him immediately."
"We are in the middle of a crisis right now," Lupin said as he came down the escalator. "Nice speech, Goemon. Good job." He looked at the man. "I'm sorry, we're presently dealing with a fucking revolt in the European Syndicate. What's so damn important?"
"Inspector Zenigata was taken hostage earlier, Mr. Lupin. It was someone trying to get your attention." He pulled out a paper and handed it over. "He wants to see you."
"Where are they?" Goemon asked.
"Not here," Xander called from the next floor. "And they're toast. Dawn went off. She loosed the gates of hell on them. He's back in the hospital." She went back to her office to call around and get them some help. His personal physician went to take care of him and he was moved to a private facility, one that would let Dawn stay all night if necessary. The older two were old enough to babysit for a while with some monitoring so he sent someone to do that as well, telling Emmajean to watch them. Then she sat back and stretched before going for a weapon and going to *deal* with this personally. She teleported out, landing in the small warehouse where people were yelling at each other. She calmly fired a shot into the ceiling. "Who took Zenigata hostage? You gained the wrong attention." Someone behind him cocked a gun so he spun and fired then shook his head, turning around again. "Sorry, the pregnancy is tiring me out. You interrupted my sex romp with Lupin. He's unconscious so you get me." He pointed his gun at the people he knew had done it. "I heard it was you. What a fucking shock. You paid for the last hit." He cocked his own gun. "Gonna beg or pray?"
"You're nothing," the man spat.
"No, I'm not a nothing, I'm a Sylvia. Get it right," he said patiently, blowing his stomach out. Then she pointed at the other four, hitting them around the same area. She hit someone who was pulling a gun, wounding Ray. "Hey, Ray." She strolled over, looking down at them, shaking her head. "Fucking with Zenigata makes Dawn upset. Dawn getting upset means that she throws a fit. Things in Paris go wonky when she throws a fit and then I have to deal with it. It's much nicer not to upset her, thereby leaving me with more free time to fuck Lupin back into my feather mattress. If you live, this is your only warning. Next time, I'm going to be really mean." One of them lifted a gun so she pointed hers at his dick. "You wanna try that?" He shook his head quickly, dropping the gun. "Good, you did find reason and rational thought. Congratulations. Most of the rest of us managed that at the age of seven. Fortunately our children will be much better than you." She turned and stomped off. "They'll live if you get them help. If the ambulance takes over ten minutes they might not make it." She shrugged. "Pity, but less work for me in the future and I can retire again. See you at Ray-Con, Ray." She disappeared, leaving one stunned cop, five injured men, and a siren outside growing.
Ray finally shook his head and called in the incident, noting it had been a rival gang member. He wouldn't go into that over the radio. He looked down at them. "Who decided to piss off Lupin by kidnaping Zenigata?" One man groaned. "Stupid fuck. You made him so upset that she took the kids and went into hiding. He hadn't had any in a week." They all whimpered as more cops rushed in. He held up his badge. "I didn't even get to fire on them," he reported.
"Who was it?" his boss demanded.
He blinked. "We sent a message to Lupin to negotiate and got her?" Ray nodded. "Why?"
"Because she's his wife, they were just having sex, and he's unconscious, sir. She's nearly seven months along now."
"Oh." He nodded slowly. "All right. I want filled in on all this. Apparently things have happened that I'm not aware of."
"You didn't get the report on Lupin being married and buying the wedding ring?" He nodded. "Sylvia's the wife."
"Oh." He nodded, understanding that. "Fine. I expected Jigen."
"Sylvia and Lavelle were their students. Besides, if Lupin's unconscious then Jigen probably is too. She's married to both of them."
"They're all together?"
"No, sir, Goemon just lost his own wife, Fujiko Mine."
"Oh," he repeated weakly. "I'm assuming this lack of moral fiber is because they're crooks?"
"No, Goemon isn't joining in. He was very faithful and very upstanding. He's simply an assassin." His boss nodded. "Sylvia did say she'd be at the upcoming anime convention, as usual. I'm going as well, also as usual. Would you like me to set up an interview, sir?"
"You go to those things for real?"
"I have since I was very young," Ray admitted. "I always tape and hand them over still in the machine so they know I haven't altered anything."
"Good." He looked happier at that. "I don't think an interview is necessary." He looked at the bodies they were carting off. "Is this normal for her?"
"She's nearly seven months pregnant, sir. We're lucky this is all she did," Ray said seriously.
"Oh." His eyes went wide. "Seven months along?" He nodded, turning and walking away. "At least it was solved. Make sure we know who and have them sign their confession, Inspector. Good work cracking this one. Don't worry, I won't mention this one ever again. Your boss will probably be retiring but we'll be moving your unit to Geneva anyway. Do have fun with that. Please don't let me know about such things in the future." The door slammed behind him.
Ray snickered. "Poor guy, maybe he should read Zenny's reports." He looked at the guy who had moaned. "Did you do it?" The guy nodded weakly. "Confess and I'll keep Lavelle from showing up next with Lupin and Jigen in tow. Sylvia can only keep them occupied with her body for so long you know."
"I did it," he whispered. "If you protect me, I'll confess."
"Good," Ray agreed, following him out. He held up his tape recorder. "You just tell me all about it. Before they come back." He hit the record button, recording over the message his wife had sent him this morning. Fortunately he had already heard it all. The man babbled quickly confessing everything he had ever done that was really bad.
Xander appeared in her study, wobbling a bit. She dropped her gun and padded back to her room and the bathroom, taking a shower. She was helped by Jigen when he came in to steady her. "Pops should live. The people who did it might live but Ray had it." She blew a kiss. "I'm tired now." Then she slumped in his arms.
Jigen got her rinsed off then carried her back to their bedroom, putting her back onto the bed and covering her up. Someone turned off the water and he found Bix there with a towel. "Thanks. You okay?"
"Just peachy," she said lightly. "She okay?"
"Probably. We'll know soon." She nodded and left them alone. Jigen got her reclothed and tucked in again, then went to talk to Lupin. "She's fine. She dealt with it."
"So I can see," Lupin agreed, reading the screens. "There are many panicking people at the moment." He grabbed the keyboard and wrote out a quick message, basically that the kidnaping had taken him away from sex with Sylvia, and Sylvia had a mood swing because of it. To leave Interpol out of it. Then he leaned back, watching the people calm down. He looked at Jigen. "That should finish the rest of the problems."
"Considering that the main problems were there and giving Ray their life histories, I'd hope so," Marcus said as he strolled in. "I believe someone yelled for me?" They looked over his mis-buttoned shirt so he gave them a casual smirk. "Did you think I was asexual?"
"You never mention that you're dating so we never know when you're taking time out to go play with the boyfriend," Jigen told him.
"I like them both, Jigen. Bastian is simply ...outstanding." He smirked. "Is it handled?" Lupin shrugged. "When will we know?"
"Not for a bit. Let's have you stay nearby, got it?" Marcus nodded. "Good."
Ishi stuck his head in. "The auntie said that there is a magic restriction on the house. The only things that are allowed are plant magic and coming in or out, but you can only do it in certain rooms." He looked at his uncle. "I'm doing my second practice, would you like to come help?"
"If I'm not needed, I left my boyfriend in bed, Ishi. I'll be back in a while." He tried to disappear and groaned, heading out the door to do it from outside.
Jigen looked at Ishi. "I'll come watch if you want. Lupin can spoil our girl for now."
"Arsene said she found a laptop in the drawer that usually holds a tower, Uncle. I do need someone to monitor me. I'm off balance again."
"It's the beginnings of puberty," Lupin told him. "It's compensatable and you'll be fine in a few years."
"Wonderful, just what I need." He headed out, letting Jigen follow him up to the next floor. "We like the escalators."
"So do I. My knees don't hurt with them." He looked around the large space. "This is nice. What's the fourth floor area?"
"We're not sure. We can't find a door to it."
Jigen looked at the ceiling until he found a small thumb nook. He found a stick and pulled it down, getting out of the way as the ladder dropped. He climbed up and looked, then came back down. "The mainframe computer." He used the stick to put up the ladder and close the hatch. "Okay, let's figure this out. You are growing again, your pants are too short."
"Another thing my father won't like."
"That's why we used to make mine into shorts," Jigen shared. "Go for it, kid. I'll sit here." He found a good spot in the sun and watched as Ishi started on his kata. "Your weight's too forward, it's like you're leaning."
Ishi corrected himself and started over. "That did help."
Lupin opened the laptop, humming while it loaded. Then he smiled when the same windows popped up with a few more. "Oh-ho, other monitoring systems." He found the power cord and took it with him to the bedroom, coming back to lock the main computer since his daughter was talking to the other crooks about a plan she had for the Louvre. "Not today, princess. We're in serious times and we like that painting."
"I like it too. I want to look at it every day."
"Not right now, princess," Lupin repeated, locking it and taking the code with him. He set up on the bed with Xander, watching her nap while he monitored the situation and tried to figure out where the other safe houses were. Some of them had external temperatures. That told him one was in the Nordic countries. One had a 'Bay temperature' listed so he decided it was probably in San Francisco. One was obviously in Japan but he couldn't decide which one. Another one was in France. This was a really nice setup. Xander moaned and blinked up at him. "You did great." He kissed her gently. "I'm fucking impressed, my Empress. So blown away by your skills." He kissed her again. "We shiver at your feet for being able to do all this without us realizing."
"Did I scare you?"
"A little. I only had a moment of thought that you were doing things behind my back but then I realized that you don't do things like that." He kissed her again. "You astound me. You are more than worthy to be not only my wife, but my partner." She sniffled. "No, don't cry."
"You've never called me your partner before," she said, crying against him.
"You deserve it. You have for quite a while." He stroked her back. "Would you explain this to me?"
"Sure." She shifted so she could look at the screen. "One's not up." She lifted that window, looking it over. "Huh. Someone really dumb tried to break into my house in San Francisco. Stupid of them." She clicked on that box and a security report came up. "Oh, good, they were arrested and beaten." She sent back a 'thank you' and moved back to the main screen. "Okay, this is my command center. From here I can reach out and touch any part of my empire. I can consult with my publishers, I can consult with my restaurant, and I can consult with my security company." She glanced back and Lupin had his look of concentration. "Relax, I made it kid-proof but also idiot-capable."
"So I should be okay with it," Lupin agreed, smirking down at her. "You own a restaurant?"
"You want us to starve?"
"Well, no," he agreed. It made sense in a Xanderish way. "Which house is which?"
"These aren't all the safe houses, just the ones with the more important things in them. This one," she said, highlighting it, "is here and someone was upstairs. They tripped the alarm." She canceled it. "Probably Arsene."
"Jigen went up to watch Ishi so it was probably one of them. What's up there?"
"The big, main computer setup. I have a hacker who logs in a few times a week to make sure it's all running right. He's a space geek to so he took over your satellite and made sure it was working right. When that one's dead, we'll be sending up one that's specially built for high-speed communications. We've already got it being built." Lupin's mouth fell open. "Most satellites aren't meant to work for more than ten years, dear. It's short- sighted to think that the kids won't need it."
"Good point," he agreed, shaking himself. "Wow. You've really put some thought into this."
"I'm building it for the kids," she said with a small shrug. She clicked on another property. "This one is the one in 'Frisco. The main thing there is the presses."
"Presses. To make vital documents, things like that?" He nodded, looking impressed. "Then we've got Mexico City," she said, clicking on that one. "The temperature reading is broken, still. I haven't gotten around to fixing it recently. It's fifty degrees off." She looked it over. "The last storm broke a window so it's being fixed right now. This number represents the number of people in the house. The one next to it shows which sectors of the house they're in, what rooms basically. They're in the kitchen and living areas instead of in the office. Though the one in the office is hopefully the security guy." He sent a quick note and the security company sent back that it was one of their people watching them. "An easy few extra bucks an hour," she agreed, sending back an 'okay' and 'I'm explaining it to the husband right now' message. A new one came back of 'husband? We thought you were male'. She chuckled and replied that she is, but that he had typed that in, he was actually her trainer and he was testing her defenses. She signed that one with her special sig line and they sent back an 'okay' response. A new screen popped up and she got her form changed before the video resolved. "Hey. This is my trainer."
Lupin waved. "Hi," he said. "He's got a headache so I'm being nosy and demanding."
"That's fine, sir, we wanted to make sure." He looked at Xander. "That stupid black streak came back?"
Xander fingered it. "It keeps doing that, I don't know why. Sorry to have worried you. Any other problems?"
"The safe house in Norway was broken into, I know you don't have that on monitoring yet. It was someone who was trying desperately to get out of a bad storm. We moved them to a safer structure and had the repairs made automatically. The one in Spain is having another leaking roof moment. Weren't you going to get that and the thermometer fixed?"
"I called someone to fix the roof in Spain. I'll be looking over it personally in a few days. Anything damaged?" He shook his head. "In the workout room again?" He nodded, grimacing. "Then we'll get it fixed. The thermostat needs to be fixed and I'll be sending someone to do that while I fix Spain. Anything else that needs my personal attention?"
"No, sir. Thank you, sir. Have a nice day and I hope you feel better." He disappeared.
"See, now get off," she said, winking at him. The link cut and Lupin chuckled while she turned back. She disabled that feature for a few minutes, making it audio only. "Then we've got the house in Spain that has a leak in the roof. Hmm, people in there."
"Isn't that the Moreno estate?"
"It is, and someone's going to be spanked. I left someone in charge down there."
"They're holding a wedding this weekend," Lupin reminded him. "It was in all the society pages."
"Oh, yeah. Your daughter's wedding actually." She clicked on the next one. "This is a business summary one. The security company is doing very well. The restaurant is doing iffy but that's normal this time of year. The publishing house is behind a week in their figures, but again that's normal for them. Last month they had a few delays in getting books out with an editor who was on maternity leave. They've figured it out and she's tele- commuting from work." He lowered that window. "Never close anything. I've got them auto start and it might screw with the view. It's done it before. I know you know what these three are by now." He nodded, kissing her shoulder. "Thank you. Hmm, Paris is having more problems."
"I sent out an order and then a clear out of the area order. Bastian said it was necessary to get them all out of there. I evacuated mine too."
"That's fine," she agreed, typing in a 'I'm here too' message into hers. She got a report from most everyone. "Good." She typed in a 'hold steady, it'll be over with soon' and switched to the main thieve's bulletin board. "We've got a panicking person again."
Lupin looked and gave a simple, easily understood order. Go take a nap. She sent back a cyber-salute and said she was doing so. "Sleep deprivation."
"Been there, done that, remember the paranoia." She raised the last window, letting him see it. "This is my finances." He gaped then looked at her. "What?" she asked. "I save most everything."
"Xander, how many jobs have you been pulling solo?"
"Um, about as many as I pull with you?" she suggested. The audio link clicked. "Yeah?"
"Ma'am, is your boss around?" the security officer asked respectfully.
"Sure. Hold on." She changed back to Lavelle, thus lowering her voice. Lupin moved and he enabled the video link. "What's up?"
"Sir, there was a request by the police to do a search of the Bay house. They have a warrant."
"What are they looking for?"
"Drugs, in my house? Are they insane?" He nodded. "Got a number?" It was held up. "Thank you." She grabbed the phone and dialed it. "You are trying to raid my house for drugs? I don't use drugs. I'm a publisher. I own a restaurant." She listened. "Fine, you will still have to wait for someone from the security company to appear. Because if you don't, then you're breaking the law. There has to be someone there in a position to let you through the house. The housekeeper is not in that position. Yes, I'm quite sure. Thank you." She listened then the security person came on the line. "Hey, it's Xander. Let them in, we have to. Point out that all the drugs in the bathroom are *legal* and *prescription* and mostly old, but let them look. No damage. How did they get this idea?" He snorted. "So a busboy at the restaurant I own is caught selling drugs and they decide that the whole place is a front and that I'm a drug kingpin? Sure I am," he said dryly. "Have fun making fun of them, Barry. Sure, no property damage. Yeah, then you can nag and deride them all the way out. Tell me later. No, I've got a headache and my trainers' here. Thanks." He hung up and looked at the guy. "Idiots decided that I'm a drug lord because a busboy in the restaurant was using."
The security man on the video link snorted. "They're desperate, you know that, sir." He glanced behind him. "Some of us do know, sir."
"About your other side, sir. A few of us have read the papers and seen the wanted posters." He leveled a look at Xander. "Really."
Xander beamed. "Good! I expected at least one of you to have figured that out." The other guy laughed and shook his head. "Let's face it, I've been caught before. I'm trying to be careful though and not get you guys involved in my life."
"Oh, we know about that too, sir. By the way, someone figured out that a certain Rembrandt was a fake. You know how some of the guys don't like guarding things like that."
"Which is why very few of you are allowed in this house," he pointed out.
"It's being taken care of," Lupin said, lying down again. "We're having a yard sale." The security guy's eyes bulged. "What?" he asked innocently.
"Oh, shit, you really are him," he whispered. Xander nodded. "But you're....you're... you're doing spy work!"
"I am. That's my part-time job, the same way the other stuff is."
"Oh." He nodded. He took a deep breath. "There are no warrants?"
"I'd never expect you guys to do things like that if I had them."
"Thank you, sir, for understanding."
"Hey, I'd never do that to you guys. Part of your specialness is that you're honest. Don't worry, we'll be moving some things out so no one can say anything or even think that they've been associated with my other part-time job."
"Yes, sir, thank you, sir. I hope you feel better."
"In about another two months," he said dryly, sitting up. "It gets a bit stranger from here." The man's eyes bulged. "I'll understand if you want me to sell the company."
"No," he said, staring at him. "You've never made us a part of your business interests. You've always kept us out of that area. We can and will object if we find any stolen artifacts but nothing more than we would do in another house. Thank you for honoring our natures."
"You're no good to anyone if you're not honest and trustworthy. I'd expect it from you guys. Besides, half of them have been presents." He grinned and wiggled his fingers. "I'm supposed to be resting. Tell me tomorrow if you need anything changed."
"Of course, sir. Thank you, sir." He hung up. It all made so much more sense now. Now he knew why he wasn't supposed to say the guy's name out loud, it might upset some of the other guards. All the little anomalies clicked into place and suddenly he fully understood. He dialed the other section heads, getting them on a long conference call. "I just found out who our owner is," he admitted. "And both sides of him." One of them laughed. "I know some of you might have gotten it sooner but we've never had to deal with him in the past. Should we do anything about this? He's said he's moving anything that might be seen as being illegal out of the houses we monitor. He said he wants us to stay honest and to stay out of that lifestyle. He said he's a spy part time too." The voices in his ear discussed this, filling in those who didn't know.
Goemon walked into the house and shut the door against the rain, finding his daughter waiting on him. "What's happened?"
"Auntie is napping, the plants have all been helped, and I'm bored."
"Nope." She stood up and let herself be hugged. "I'm bored."
"Then we'll go workout."
"I just got done," she pouted. "I'm *bored*, daddy."
"Then let us find some way to make you unbored, daughter." He carried her up the stairs, taking her to his room. "Now, what is underlying this pouting mood?"
"I've done my usual stuff but I can't play."
"There's nowhere to play? I find it hard to believe."
"Well, there is, but I miss my tree and my friend who lives in my tree."
"As soon as it is safe we will go back there," he promised. She beamed at him. "For right now, it is too dangerous to do much of anything. Can you endure for a few more weeks?"
"Can we go to the park at least?"
"I will arrange a trip tomorrow."
"Okay." She snuggled into his arms again, enjoying this hugging thing. "Aren't you lonely, daddy?" she asked quietly.
He stroked her back. "I am, but I can endure as well," he answered. "If I find someone else sometime then I will. If not, then I will not and I will have to accept that."
"That sucks, daddy."
"I know, and do not use such language."
"Yes, daddy." She beamed up at him. "You could date Bix."
"I do not think she would want to see me in such a way," he said gently. "She is looking to find someone who does not fight, daughter. Someone who wants to treat her like your Uncle Lupin treats your Aunt Xander."
"I would, but I would also have to leave every now and then and it would upset her greatly." He patted her on the back, pushing her back a bit. "Now, why do you not play with your brother? I'm sure he is bored."
"He's thinking a lot. He said I'm a pest."
"Brothers can occasionally be bothersome that way," he agreed with a small smirk. "What about the other girls?"
"Them? They're younger and they don't like playing the same stuff. I don't want to play house or dollies, or anything like that, so they're mad at me."
He kissed her on the top of the head. "You will be fine, daughter. It will stop soon, I promise."
"Yes, daddy." She hugged him again. "Can I just cuddle for a bit?"
"If you wish. I was going to lie down and read." She nodded, resting against his chest while he picked up his book. He smiled at the first snore. "So much like your mother sometimes," he said gently, stroking her hair.
"A year or two makes a lot of difference at this age," Lupin agreed from the doorway. "Arsene doesn't understand why Lotus doesn't want to play with them either."
"For all that they are advanced, the other girls are only seven and she is nearly ten now."
"Which means we'll have to talk about dating soon," Lupin pointed out with a small smirk.
"Bite your tongue," Goemon warned.
"Fine. I won't mention that Ishi was drooling over a woman at the mall earlier. We're taking the girls shopping separately since he's having an anti-girl week."
"Will you teach her like you did Xander?" he asked quietly.
"Sure. You knew I was going to teach her society manners anyway." He shrugged. "She can learn how to flirt when it's necessary. I'm sure the little Zenigata clone would like that."
"I do not think she will seriously date Morgan."
"We won't know until it happens," Lupin pointed out. "Until then we'll just have to wait and see." He shrugged. "But I will be helping all the girls with bras, dresses, boys, things like that."
Goemon nodded. "Thank you. I have no idea what to teach her about that. With the sons, I can teach them as I was. With her, I have no idea how to do so."
"Teach her the same thing, Goemon, or she'll pout," Lupin pointed out. "It can only help her with her chosen field." He grinned again. "So we're going to the mall tonight to take all the girls shopping. Should I get her a training bra?"
"Training bra? What are they for?"
"For teaching you how to put one on and get used to wearing one."
Goemon looked down at his daughters' slight form. "I do not believe it is necessary."
"Yet," Goemon said tiredly. "When it is, then we can do that. Or let Xander do so."
"Sure. That's probably a better idea. Man, I'd hate to see Melissa and Savannah's sets. Sylvia has a nice size set and they look natural on her."
"They could be flat, like their father."
"They could but I doubt it," Lupin said, shaking his head. "One day, we'll look at the kids and have to tell them that they're hot." He strolled off, going back to taking care of his wife and the future baby. "I just had a revelation," he announced as he climbed back into the bed. "It'll only be a few years before we'll have to tell the girls how hot they look in short skirts."
Jigen looked at him. "That's a sickening thought. Keep it to yourself. They're six."
"The average age for puberty is eleven," Xander noted quietly. "I'm doing the bra talk when it's time."
"See, ten years," Jigen told him.
"Jigen, it's a worry each father has. With their stunning mothers, they'd have to be pretty at the very least." She looked at him. "Don't worry, you won't mind when it's time. Even if they look like you, they'll still be decent enough. After all, you got laid thousands of times even though you have a cackle that raises hair on necks and a high forehead that some people say makes you look like a chimp." He frowned at her. "Repeating."
"Uh-huh. I still managed to get you."
"That's because you're very talented," Xander agreed smugly. "Otherwise I might mind that biting problem you seem to have with my shoulder when you're behind me."
"Good point. So you're saying the girls will be cute and we won't mind?" Jigen asked.
"No, we'll mind their lovers," Xander told them. "That's something to hope against, that your darling little girls don't get a reputation like yours."
Lupin pulled back with a moan. "No!" He shook his head. "Not allowed! There's no way in hell! I'll send them both to a convent!"
"With yours and her lust levels, Fred might never make it out of bed," Jigen said, looking disturbed.
"We'll be getting Goemon to teach them self-control," Lupin said firmly. "Before my nature taints them that way."
"Sure," Jigen and Xander agreed, smiling at him.
"Thank you. There will be no bras until they need them and nothing from any Ann Summers catalog until they're adults."
"Unless they buy or steal them," Xander said.
"Unless they buy or steal them and then we can confiscate them," Lupin agreed happily.
"Is this like the revenge thing? It's going to get more and more elaborate until your head starts to ache?" Jigen asked.
"When you disappeared up to the kitsune without telling us, Lupin started this revenge thing. It fed off the one he built when you left us to do the convention circuit."
"Oh. How bad did it get?"
"I had you spread out across my desk at the main house, covered in butterscotch topping, licked clean, spanked and begging," Lupin said proudly.
Xander looked at him and licked his lips. "First, I'm one of those who firmly separates food and sex. I don't believe people need toppings, it masks their tastes. Secondly, you couldn't tie me to that desk, there would be no way you could do it without hurting me greatly. Third, if you *ever* think about spanking, caning, or whipping me you lose me permanently. Got it?" Lupin gave her a stunned look. "Seriously."
"I'd never do that to you," he promised, moving closer to hold her. "I'm sorry, I was venting in my head so I wouldn't yell at you."
"That's all it had ever be," she said stiffly. "I am not going to be spanked or caned."
"Never," Jigen agreed, brushing a hair behind her ear. "I'd never let him do that to you."
"Good." She let them soothe her back into a semi-resting state. "We need to do the yard sale thingie."
"We do," Lupin agreed. Jigen looked stunned. "So she doesn't piss off her security guys. How are things looking, Xander?"
"I haven't checked in a few hours."
Lupin checked his watch. "I've called for a conference chat at ten Paris time. That'll give me enough time to read over the recent entries to all the lists. Want me to stay up here?"
"Go ahead and use the office so you won't fall asleep," Xander said sleepily. Lupin kissed her and got out to do that.
Jigen hugged her harder. "I'd never let him spank you, Xan. If he does stuff that bugs you in bed, you come running to me and I'll take you away from him until he apologizes or gets too sneaky." She nodded, yawning against his throat. "You rest, our Goddess." She nodded again, curling up around him. That had been close but it was understandable with her upbringing. She didn't even let them spank the kids unless they had done something like trying to play in the middle of the street.
Morgan Zenigata dropped his fork and looked at his aunt. "Aunt?" She nodded, chewing harder so she could answer whatever question he had. "May I bring a girl over for dinner." Her fork dropped from her fingers and her mouth came open, with the food still not fully swallowed. "Eww." She swallowed quickly and drank some to make sure her mouth was cleared out. "There's a girl at school that I really like."
"You know we're moving soon, right?" she pointed out. He grimaced and sighed, slumping in his chair. "I'm all for you seeing someone in a meaningful way, Morgan, but I'm not sure if you can sustain this thing with her while we're in Geneva. I don't want you hurt."
"Why can't I stay? My school has boarding."
"No." He opened his mouth and she held up a hand. "Morgan, I know you know what happened earlier." He shut his mouth and nodded. "Well, it's nearly happened a few others times, including to you guys. I'd be really upset with the world if something like that happened. I don't want to be upset with the world, but I would be. That's why we're so protective of all you kids."
"Yeah, but I'm not some little kid!" he complained. "I'm nearly fourteen."
"Yes, you are, and there are people who kill people my age every day for fun in the world. The same as there are people who like little kids in the wrong way who'll like you even more because you are nearly adult." He shuddered. "I know, it's disgusting. We're trying to protect you from them."
"They're not in Geneva?"
"With all the work Lavelle did there, there might not be a network down there," she admitted, then she shrugged. "It doesn't matter, son. I can't let you board in France while we're living in Switzerland. It's much too far away. If you wanted to board in Switzerland, we might come to an agreement." He brightened up. "Besides, even if she's the most beautiful and special, she's still only about your age and that means you've both got some personality changes coming. Believe me, I've changed tons since I was your age. Even from your age to twenty I changed a lot."
"Yeah, and you saved Uncle Xan during that," Jerry, Morgan's brother, pointed out. "You were in hard training by then."
"Actually, I was twenty-one when I joined Lupin, I was pulling jobs on my own before then, Jerry." She grinned at them, tipping Morgan's chin back up. "I don't mind if you bring her over for dinner once this current crisis is averted. Until then it's really dangerous to be around you guys and I know you don't want that." He shook his head, pouting again. "I tell you what, you write your Uncle Lavelle tonight and see if he's looked into any of the schools down there. If not, we'll start looking now. We'll decide together, even if we do have to board you."
"He probably won't talk to us since you screwed him over so bad," Jerry told her. She looked stunned. "He's still very angry with you. I talked to him a few days ago and he requested that I not say your name in front of him."
"But... he came to get the people who got Zenny," she said, thinking about it. "No, it's not right."
"It is, Auntie. Uncle Xander is really pissed at you for trying to hurt him. I don't even know which city he's in."
"I don't know either," she admitted quietly, looking down at her plate. "Well, as long as he'll still talk to you guys, then the adults will deal with each other later," she decided. "Talk to him tonight, Morgan."
"I'm going to," he agreed. "What did you do, Auntie?"
"I got really pissed at him," she sighed. "Someone in Japan turned him in for being female only part of the time and the CPS people came to look at him. Zenny told them who and what he was, without ever saying anything about how good of a parent he is. He also told them he had been tortured. Xander had to work really hard to get out from under the hole Zenny created and Lupin retaliated. So I retaliated back. Now we're not speaking."
"Then it was Uncle's fault?" Morgan asked.
"He gave her the facts without any mitigating circumstances," Dawn told him. "This is one of those times when the world isn't black or white, it's actually many shades of gray. He went with the black and Xander was a lot lighter gray than he told her." She picked up her glass of wine, taking a long drink. "He's sorry he did it and so am I, guys. It wasn't fair to him and we realize our mistakes."
"That doesn't mean he'll ever forgive you," Jerry told her.
She looked at him. "I know. That's why you should never get yourself into such a thing. Never, ever do that to someone, guys. It's horrible." They nodded, starting to eat again. She considered it, she had messed up so badly she didn't even know if Xander was living or not most of the time until he popped up on Interpol's radar. This time he had stuck up for her mate for some reason. She got up and grabbed the phone, calling Ray. "Why did he stick up for Zenny?" Ray sighed and told her the two things he had figured out. The people who had done this were the same ones creating the instability and that he was proving that bringing cops in was a bad idea. She thanked him quietly and hung up, sitting down to watch out the front window. She didn't like her thoughts. "I fucked up so badly," she whispered. Her youngest came toddling in and climbed up into her lap since it was empty. "Hey, Sasha." She gave her a hug. "It's okay. Mommy will fix this nastiness."
Her daughter gave her the most trusting look because she was the mommy and could do anything, even fix teddy bears.
Xander looked around Goemon's house when they got back to it two months later, smiling at the messiness and her lack of desire to clean it. "The nesting phase is over!" she said happily.
Goemon frowned at her. "I wish it wasn't. I hate cleaning the house." She pinched him and headed out with Lotus to look at the tree the treehouse was in. Goemon followed, noticing that the tree was now three times the size it should be. "Lotus, we will be speaking," he said firmly.
"Well, yeah," Xander agreed, removing her hand from the tree. "She didn't strengthen the insides any either." He looked down at her, frowning at her. "Remember how you had to balance things out to make them quick-grow?" She nodded. "You didn't. We've got a lot of work to save this tree. Or else the first good wind could knock it over."
"My tree!" she said angrily.
"That's why we're going to save it, so you don't hurt the nymph." Lotus looked stunned. "Remember, the tree's health is directly related to hers. Now, settle in and focus. You didn't expand the interior tissues at all, it's like it's hollow. That means it's not very strong." She nodded, sitting in full lotus in front of her tree, hands on the trunk. "Now, focus on the growth part of the spell. Make sure the interior tubes and conduits are whole and able to be gotten through as you make that part grow," he said more gently, kneeling behind her. He stroked her back while she worked, feeling the magic she was working. "Like that, but make sure the sap can get up and down, Lotus. Trees aren't solid inside, they've got veins." She added some veins to the rings she was building, working outward to expand the tree's insides. She got halfway and hit a block, making her moan. "Finish it up for now. You can come back tomorrow. Lock it down like Marcus showed you with the multi-stage spells." Lotus moaned but did so, then she collapsed. "Good girl. Come on, we'll go have a bath." She picked her up and carried her past her father. "She's fine, she needs a nap, that's all." She got her into her room, running her a bath and settling her into it. Lotus woke up and looked at her. "Head hurt?" She nodded. "Do you realize what you did now?" She nodded again. "Do you realize why I made you fix it?"
"So I wouldn't kill the nymph. I felt her, she's very weak, like a hollow tube," Lotus said, looking up as her father came in. "I did it wrong, daddy, I nearly killed my friend." She sniffled. "I'm a bad witch."
"You're not," Xander said firmly. "You simply overstepped your boundaries. From now on, you will come get either myself or Marcus when you do such things until such problems are automatically fixed as you do the spell." She nodded, hugging her. "Good girl, Lotus. You're working on fixing it. Tomorrow morning at dawn we'll go back to it. That should make it strong enough to hold for now. We'll talk to your friend tomorrow." She nodded, sinking down in the water. "You rest," Xander said, letting Goemon help her up. She looked in his eyes, seeing the anger. "She had to learn this lesson," she said quietly. "Everything she does impacts someone or something. This time she nearly did kill that nymph by acting without thought. It's the first rule all people with any power are taught. You can do whatever you want as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else." He nodded curtly. "I'm helping her fix it, Goemon. Marcus and I have been remiss in teaching her that part of the art. She's old enough to understand and I don't want to live through another Willow episode." He walked out, going to check on the tree with Marcus' help. "She didn't expand the insides."
"We should put the nymph out of her misery," Marcus said grimly, glancing back toward the back of the bathroom. "Hysterical tears when you told her?"
"I didn't let it get that far, I sat her down and had her start to fix it."
Marcus nodded. "Reasonable. She's strong enough to do so and old enough to realize the lesson. When are we starting again?"
"Tomorrow at dawn." He nodded outside. "She got a few good rings built most of the way up." They went out to look it over, expanding it up to the top of the tree. The nymph came out and they checked her over for illness, curing the small case of blight in one of the roots for her. "There," Xander soothed. "We're helping her fix the tree. Next time tell us." She nodded, fading back into the bark. Xander and Marcus set the spell again then stepped back to make sure it stayed and didn't backslide any. They turned and found Goemon standing there. "Hey," Xander said tiredly.
"That was cruel."
"Cruel would have been having her chop it down to spare the nymph further pain," Marcus told him. Goemon looked stunned. "She seriously injured the being she called to live in this tree that she supposedly guards. She made promises. You've taught her what they are and this sort means that others are dependant on her."
Xander stepped closer. "It's something that can be fixed, Goemon. Feel really lucky. Otherwise it would have really hurt her when it died," he said quietly, noticing Ishi nearby. "She shouldn't have done this without supervision and she knew it. She did it anyway and didn't have anyone check, and actively put up a barrier to make sure neither of us would notice it unless we were actively looking at the tree."
Ishi walked over. "Did she hurt the nymph?"
"A little. She made the tree bigger but didn't add any of the important stuff inside. It made it like a big hollow area. Which made the tree weaker and that makes the nymph weaker. The first big storm it would have died." Ishi shuddered. "That's why we have to make her fix it, so she understands. Understanding is what's important here. The thought patterns you make at this stage of development will stay with you forever. We're not being mean, but it's got to happen. I'm not going through another Willow episode. Ever."
Marcus patted him on the back. "I agree. Willow was power without control and horribly problematic when she did magic."
"Plus the whole 'ending the world' thing when she lost her soulmate," Xander agreed. "The magic addiction. The sucking magic from books to kill and destroy." He shuddered, wrapping his arms around himself. "I'm preventing it from happening. After this, she'll understand the respect she's got to have. She had it there for a while and then we had to stop her lessons and she got a bit wild."
"As Marcus did," Goemon said. Xander nodded. "As you did?"
"I never had the opportunity. I watched my own magic uses too much. The most I ever did was a weekend of lounging and making myself comfortable by bringing treats in and running my bath that way." He looked at Marcus. "Where is her trainer?"
"She died two years ago and I assumed the order was sending another to her," Marcus admitted.
"Well, apparently they haven't. She'll have to learn the control necessary before she explodes as a teenager."
"Explodes?" Goemon asked, looking worried now.
"Explodes. Xander didn't have magic when he went through puberty, he's not intimately familiar with the feeling of the magic whipping through your body, calling out a seductive tune that makes you want to dance with it as the submissive partner. The times that it acts without your conscious thought. The times when it lashes out at the children picking on you and tries to harm them, and how bad it is when you try to control it at that late stage. The soul ripping agony of your first kill being on the playground when you can't control it. The way the Watchers trained that out of you was to tie you to the floor on your knees and berate you until you gave it up or they had to move onto sterner punishments to force you back into control and hating your abilities." Ishi hugged him. "I'm fine, Ishi. Thank you." He gave him a gentle pat. "We're not letting her get to that state, Goemon. I swear she will not go through the same problems."
"Would not nature magic be more gentle?" Ishi asked.
"Is a hurricane gentle? Or a tornado? An earthquake?" Xander asked. Ishi shuddered. "That's all nature. Like other forces, nature just is, it's not any one thing but a combination of them. It's soft, gentle, sweet, horrible, ripping, destroying, and creating all in one. That's why it's so easy to get lost in the magic. At least most of mine is from a destructive force. Using my form of magic makes the world change, Ishi. Using Marcus' form of magic makes the world change differently but it's also so very powerful and seductive to use."
"Even moral training doesn't help sometimes because sometimes the path you're on has to use something harsher and you must be able to do so, or die and have others follow you into death," Marcus admitted. "The line between good and true evil is very thin, Ishi, always remember that. While being a bad guy or a crook is one thing, true evil is another. You must never become that and you must never let your brother or sister become so."
"They wouldn't," Goemon protested.
Marcus looked at him. "Do you know how close I came?" he asked woodenly. Goemon stepped back. "Ethan found me on that line, Master. That was when he started to teach me and I got too involved trying to make sure it couldn't use me ever again. I'm preventing your daughter from following my path even if you send me away."
"I would not," Goemon said. "It's still not necessary. She is a sweet child."
"Goemon, the strongest witch this century used to blush at the mere mention of kissing," Xander said tiredly, leaning against the tree. "She was so sweet and shy that she stuttered around new people. She was a sweet little geek who no one really liked except a few people who could see past the shyness to the real girl underneath. She used to look disturbed when people kissed on tv, even a short kiss before leaving. She couldn't watch soap operas because they embarrassed her so much. She was scared of her own shadow most of the time. She was so sweet that people genuinely smiled at her on the street who didn't know her because she smiled first. She was the happiness patrol without needing the medication. She was so innocent she didn't think the world had bad things until they were shown to her. She never consciously used her magic against others unless it was to protect herself once she knew that bad things existed in the world. This girl could ignore bruises on her best friend's arms as something he did on the playground because she refused to see that the world could be like that. Then one day, her magic became active. She floated things, helping with the problems in her life. She found out bad things existed and they were much stronger. So she studied."
He sighed. "She didn't get lost in it, she reveled in it; it became her reason for being and her whole existence. Change clothes? Why take the five minutes when you can snap your fingers. New hairdo? Sure, think about it. Girlfriend argue badly with you, make her forget about it. Then one day, her magic started to use her. She became addicted to the rush and the power. It got more and more intense until someone stepped in to stop her. Her girlfriend did so and she came back down, until the girlfriend got shot. Then she went back to it and lashed out at the world. She sucked dark magic, using it to kill and maim. She took her pain and anger and decided that everyone should feel it. She pulled up a temple to the darkest of the dark Goddesses. She fed power into it until it could feed itself from the surrounding magic. *I* stepped in to stop her. I took the full brunt of her magical hits six, seven times," he said bitterly. "I survived the spells, the power rush, and got her to cry. That release saved the world and severed all bonds we had." He stood up and walked off.
"That was Willow," Marcus explained. "She was truly an innocent little school girl, someone who never saw a kitten that she didn't love and never saw a bad thing happen. Her worst worry was a 'B' on a test. Lotus is about half as strong as I understand it." Goemon nodded, closing his eyes. "Now, Xander's probably not going to be back tonight. Remembering her hurts him. We are going to make damn sure Lotus does not turn into her or me," he said quietly. "Sometimes that means that hard lessons will have to be learned. Learning them now means that they sink in." He walked off to calm himself by starting on his katas.
"Should we be worried?" Ishi asked.
"No," Goemon said, shaking his head. "She will not. We can keep her from doing such things." He looked at the tree, touching it. "She did not mean to do this, but I do understand." He looked at his son. "What she can do is no more than the physical training you are receiving for her. It is a tool. The same as a drill can hurt you, so can her powers. If you fear her or for her she will know and it will make it worse for her." Ishi nodded, looking like he understood. "They are not all like that. Her first trainer wasn't."
"Then perhaps we should find one of them to teach her," Ishi suggested.
"I will call a friend who can do such," he agreed. He hugged Ishi. "Love her, she is still your sister. She is no more today than she was last week."
"But if she can become scary...."
"It is the duty of this family to make sure she doesn't," Goemon told him. "Without blocking her skills and without making her hide them because she thinks we're afraid of her." Ishi relaxed again. "It is a tool, son, not the whole of her skills. They are correct, she should only do spells with others watching out for her. She is still a child. I sometimes forget that you're both so young." He patted his son on the head. "Go yell at him for that stupid form fault he seems to have acquired again." Ishi trotted off. Goemon went to talk to his daughter, finding her crying on her bed. "I know you did not mean to hurt her." He walked in and shut the door. "Did you?" She looked at him, shaking her head. "Then we will fix it so she and the tree are stronger. It is a tool, daughter. Not the whole of your skills."
"I'm not bad?"
"No, you are not bad. The only wrong was doing this in secret where others could not monitor you. You are still a child and still need guidance. Even as I can teach you new things, so can those two uncles. Learn from their mistakes and those that they witnessed so you don't follow them blindly." She nodded, sitting up to hug him. "Shh, you are fixing your mistake. That is all any could ask of you at this point. From now on, we will simply be more careful."
"I don't want to destroy the world."
"That was a unique circumstance, daughter." He pushed her back to look down at her, tipping her chin up. "She was in pain and grief. She was also stronger than you. She was more into fighting with her skills."
"I know you can, the art is finding out when you *should*." She nodded. "As you age, that decision will become more clear. That is the purpose of aging. Until then, your uncles will be watching out for you and for Sarah since she has some power of her own." She nibbled on her lip. "What?"
"Where are the babies, daddy?"
"In the living room. They're crawling around on the floor." He wiped her cheeks off. "It is important to not lose confidence in yourself. If you do not want to do harm then you will not intentionally do harm. It is no more and no less than another tool in all your skills."
"Okay." She hugged him again. "Let's go play with the babies. I need someone to cuddle."
"Of course." He carried her out, letting her get down to play with the babies while he went to make himself a strong drink. He was teaching her cautious and thoughtful action, she would not end up like that. He finished his drink and made some tea, hoping that someone other than him would be here tonight. He'd need milk otherwise.
Xander walked through the town, looking in all the windows. He noticed someone following him and glanced back, raising an eyebrow. "What?" he asked in Japanese.
"Who are you?"
"A friend of Goemon's." He shrugged. "Why?"
"We do not get many strangers around here." He walked closer. "It is rare we get a stranger."
"I've lived here for a bit now. For that matter, I don't remember you being here." The man looked stunned. "I'm Xander."
"I'm Kochi." He shook his hand. "Welcome to the town again." He smiled. "Would you tell me about Goemon?"
"He's at home," he admitted with a small smirk. "There's not much I can tell you without his being mad. You'd really have to meet the guy to get to know him. He's complicated that way." He shrugged. "I'm window shopping. You can escort me."
"Thank you." They continued on down the street, looking in the windows. "Where are you living now?"
"With Goemon. I'm helping him with his newest son."
"You're a nanny?" he asked, sounding shocked.
"No, I'm a friend with children of my own. They're with their other family right now." The man nodded, looking like he understood. "It's nothing to worry about. Goemon just lost his wife. He needed the help so we all jumped in to help him." He stopped to look at a calligraphy set. "I wish mine was better," he sighed, heading on.
"There's a bar ahead. Want to get a drink?"
"I'm not allowed to drink right now." He kept himself from patting his stomach. He was in male form and most men didn't get pregnant. "The medicine I'm on," he finished weakly.
"One drink wouldn't hurt."
"Yeah, it would. I'd get really sick later when my medicine reacted."
"You could have something non-alcoholic while I drink."
"Nah, I'd better get back," he said, smiling at him. "Maybe some other time. I'm going to be around for a while." He turned and headed back up the hill, stopping in the market to get some diapers. They always needed them. He was coming out when he found out his new friend was waiting on him. "You're persistent."
"I am. You seem very nice."
"I am very nice most of the time, but I still have to help with the baby. He'll be pulling his hair out soon. His son is doing some odd things, like trying to eat crayons months too early." The man looked stunned. "I said I have some of my own," he reminded him.
"I'm sure you do." He followed him up the hill. "Wow, he lives all the way up here?"
"It lets him spread out some." He glanced over. "I promise, I don't need escorted home."
"That's okay, I always wanted to meet him." Ahead, there was a bend in the road. He put his hands into his pockets, slouching some. "So, how many does he have now? Three?"
"Three," Xander agreed. That was common knowledge, he could say that much without endangering them. He was getting his usual bad feeling and noticed that the road was a bit muddy up ahead. He looked around, then nodded mentally, walking on the other side of the puddle. The guy lunged so he ducked the blow and kicked him in the back, wincing at the pain going through his stomach. The guy came at him again, this time with a knife. So Xander kicked it out of his hand and put all his varied knowledge into making this person the sorriest person to try this in years. When the guy was face down in the puddle, he flipped him over with a kick and looked down at him. "Who are you and which one do you work for?" he asked calmly. He felt another pain and winced. "Now! I don't have time for this game."
"Really? I know Mercury. He works for me part of the time." The man gave him a hurt look. "Hello, maybe I should reintroduce myself. My name is Lavelle." The man gurgled, then crunched something and went limp. "Fuck." He picked up the bag of diapers and dragged the guy off the road, dumping him in the bushes for now. She leaned against a large rock until the current pain went away. "I hate this part of being pregnant." She flagged down a passing cop car, pointing behind her at the bushes. "He attacked me." The cop gave him a funny look so he looked at him. "I'm a friend of Goemon's. He attacked me."
"I saw you walking with him."
"He was trying to pump me for information. If you don't believe me, ask his corpse. He bit something that went crunch and killed him when he found out who I am."
"Who are you?"
"Lavelle. And I'm in a bit of pain. He's in the bushes." He leaned over as another pain went through him. "Not good," he moaned.
"Are you ill?"
Xander glanced around. "Just get me back to Goemon's. He'll explain everything."
"Fine," he agreed, getting her into the back of the car with the diapers. His partner stayed with the body. "What happened?"
"He found me window shopping. He chatted me up, I turned down a drink, I went to buy diapers that we needed, then he met me outside the grocery store. I got a bad feeling when he followed me, still trying to get information from me. We passed the bend in the road and he came at me with a knife. I knocked him aside, he came back, I kicked his ass. I looked down to see who he worked for, he told me some ridiculous story, then I introduced myself. This isn't the way home," he noted. The car backed up and took the other road. "He got this horrified look and bit the whatever that crunched and killed him. He would have lived otherwise." He winced as another pain went through him. "Just get me home. Please?"
"We're nearly there." He pulled into Goemon's driveway, looking at the boy who came out. "Stay here."
"Sure, not moving," he agreed. "Unless I end up at the hospital for this. Then I'll be back quickly." She let Ishi help her into the house, letting him take the diapers. "Little man, tell your father someone tried to kick my ass on the way back." She fell onto her bed, wincing in pain as she turned herself back into a woman.
"He's not here, the migrant workers came to get him to settle an argument." He looked around, hugging the diapers to his chest. "What's wrong?"
"I'm in labor, Ishi. The baby's coming," she said impatiently. "Go find Marcus."
"He disappeared again."
"Fuck!" She took a deep breath, holding his hand as the latest one washed over her. "Okay. Pick up the phone, call Lupin's cell. If you can't get him, get Jigen. Get someone. If you can't get either of them, get my cell out of my bag and dial the number four. Hit send. Tell the person where we are, that I'm in labor, that we were attacked, and that I'm the only adult around here. Then tell him Mercury sent someone to try and kill me." Ishi nodded. "Good boy. Out." Ishi raced out to do that. She got up to change clothes. There was no way she could deliver in jeans and a t-shirt.
Ishi rushed into his sister's room. "You have to watch the babies. Xan's in labor." She hopped up and went to help, taking the diapers before he destroyed them. He grabbed the phone, sitting on the arm of the couch while he called his first uncle's cellphone. "Uncle Lupin, pick up!" he demanded when he got the voice mail. He keyed in the emergency code, making it ring through. "Auntie Xander's in labor and someone tried to kick her ass. We're alone with her. What do I do?" He took the deep breath Jigen ordered. "There, better now!" he snapped. "She's in labor. She got brought home by the cops. It's only me, Lotus, and the babies. What? You want me to do what?" He shuddered. "I'm not qualified to do that!" He hung up and tried his father's cellphone but it rang in the bedroom. He tried Marcus' and it came up as out of service. He went to get Xander's from her bag, dialing the number four and hitting send.
A speed dialed number popped up briefly and he listened to the gruff voice on the other end. "This is Goemon Ishikawa the Fourteenth. Xander is in labor. We're alone with her. It's me, Lotus, and the babies. Daddy's somewhere outside. Marcus left us. I don't know what to do and she said to call you and tell you Mercury sent someone to kick her ass. I don't know!" he shouted. He took the deep breath this person ordered. "There, better now?" he snapped. "No, the cop who brought her back said for her to stay here. I don't care! I don't know them!" He took another deep breath. "Fine, I'm calmer now," he said icily. "No, Dawn and her husband are allowed nowhere near us. She nearly got us taken by social workers for no reason. They can fuck themselves," he said in that same icy, calm voice. "Dude, I'm ten." The voice gave him orders. "I tried them, I got Jigen on Lupin's cellphone and they weren't exactly helpful. No, the others are with them. Thank you," he sighed, looking up and saying a quiet prayer. "I'm still ten, you want me to do what?" he asked, sounding shocked. "Eww!" He was calmed again and he went to look in on Xander. "No, she's in great pain. She's presently gripping the mattress with her nails. Fine. I do what? I catch, I tie it off, then I cut it. Got it. Thank you." He hung up and handed the phones to his sister. "Whichever one calls, answer it. If the father gets here soon, he can do this. If not, I'm the oldest."
"I'm a girl."
"You'd have to help the baby out, Lotus." He pulled himself up to his full height. "If some six-year-old in Kansas can do it, I certainly can. I'll simply force myself to forget everything. Pray for father, okay?" He hurried to wash his hands. This was one of those things that you should have clean hands for. Someone pounded on the door so he went to answer it. "Who are you?" he demanded. The man looked stunned. "My aunt Sylvia is in labor! What!"
"Sorry," he stuttered, backing up. "Tell him it wasn't me, there's someone else using my name."
Ishi grabbed the phone and dialed that number, handing it to him. "I told him, you do the same then leave." He headed back to wash his hands again, then grabbed the things the voice had said he'd need. This was going to be sickening but he was a junior samurai, he could handle this stuff. He had handled killing, this couldn't be much worse.
Jigen hung up and looked at Lupin, coughing to interrupt his banter at the card table. "Ishi was just panicking. Something about Xander being jumped."
"If she made it home, she's fine," Lupin said, adjusting his cards and letting his daughter see them.
"She's not fine, he babbled something about her and the baby," Jigen said calmly. Lupin glanced at him. He shrugged. "Ishi was in a blind panic, I told him to check on her and he went 'eew'. Said he wasn't qualified."
"Isn't Goemon at home?"
Melissa grabbed the phone and dialed her mother's but got a busy signal. "It's busy."
"She's not due for weeks," Lupin pointed out. "I'm sure she's just chatting with someone." He laid down two cards and his daughter shook her head. "No?"
"No, the odds of you completing the hand you want is very bad, daddy."
"Listen to the girl, Lupin. She's smart."
"Fuck you," he said fondly. He picked up those and she selected the cards he had wanted to keep, tossing them away. His new three came and she smiled. He now had two pair but they were low. She had been right, it wouldn't have helped him with his flush at all.
Melissa tried the phone again. "Now we're not getting any answer." She looked at her father. "Something could be very wrong."
"No, that was Fujiko's gift during the last few weeks of her pregnancy," Lupin quipped. He grinned at his daughter. The others were playing with the local Don's kids in the other room. "We'll head up there in a few hands."
"Yes, daddy," she said, smiling back. "Bet, daddy." He grinned and betted, making two of the other three players still in the game groan and toss down their cards.
"She's not good enough to bluff yet," the other noted.
Arsene grinned at him. "How do you know? Have you met my mommy?" He groaned and set down his cards. Lupin raked in the pot. "This is fun."
"It is," Jigen agreed, staring at Lupin. "We should head back. If she's in labor, then all she's got is Goemon and remember how he reacted to the last ones?"
"She'll be fine. They've got Marcus and she's got people locally."
"They're at Uncle G's house, daddy," Arsene reminded him. "No one's out there but older people and a few farmers."
Lupin sighed and took the phone, dialing Xander's. When he didn't get an answer he tried Goemon's. No answer in three rings so he hung up and tried the house number. That got a babbling Lotus. "Whoa, slow down, Lotus. What's wrong?" he said slowly and clearly. She repeated what she had said and he held his head. "Is she all right?" he asked patiently. He nodded. "How far apart are they?" He checked his watch. "Why hasn't she gone to the hospital yet? Oh." He nodded. "Okay, we'll be back as soon as we can. Go stand on the porch and yell your father's full name, sweetness." He hung up. "She's having false labor pains. The cop who brought her home told her she should stay there." He looked at Jigen. "One more hand and then we'll go back."
"Fine. But she gets to kill you, not me. You've got the keys."
Lupin nodded. "As usual." He accepted his cards, letting his daughter help him. She had a real feel for poker.
Lotus hung up and rushed out onto the porch, moving around the babies. "GOEMON ISHIKAWA THE THIRTEENTH, GET YOUR ASS HOME!" she shouted. She bit her lip and looked at the tree. "Nymphly?" She came back out. "Are you okay?" She nodded, looking much better now. "Are there any of you near where he is? The auntie is in labor and I don't know about bringing babies into the world." The nymph smiled and disappeared, heading to talk to her friends. Ishi came to the door. "Uncle Lupin said to yell for him."
"That's fine. Bring the babies back inside. They shouldn't be out there. It's windy." He went back to helping his aunt. He walked in and noticed that a head was coming and she was gripping the headboard. "Shit!" He rushed over to help her by supporting the head and guiding the baby out. Then he laid it on its back and tied off the cord with dental floss like the voice had said. "One or two ties?" he asked desperately. The baby wasn't crying. He looked up but she was unconscious. He cut it and got the baby out of the way. "Lotus, help!" She was bleeding from it. He handed over the baby and tied off the cord. "Get it breathing. She's got stuff in her nose and mouth."
She did the baby CPR she had learned recently, then swept out the nasty crud with a finger and tried it again. The baby coughed weakly. "Come on, I don't know how to help you," she panicked. She looked at her brother then lifted a finger. He caught it and scowled at her. "To help!"
"No. Do it the normal way. Magic is a last resort." He went back to helping her. Something else was coming and he wasn't sure what it was but it was nasty looking. "I hope that's not a baby," he said, starting to chew on his bottom lip.
Lotus did another sweep with her finger and the coughing got a bit stronger. She did another breath and the baby gasped. "There," she said, slumping against the wall. "Oh, damn, I'm lightheaded."
"You'll be sore bottomed if father hears you say that," he noted, taking the nasty thing. "Eww." He carried it into the sink and dumped it in there, washing off his hands. Then he came back to help her. She was still bleeding but not as much. She was also still unconscious. "Where did that person run to?"
"Out. That's all I know." She looked at him. "He left her phone." She looked out in the hall as running came toward them. "Who are you!" she demanded long before they could reach them.
Goemon rushed in. "She gave birth?" He took the baby to check over. The baby squalled so he hugged her. "You're all right, Alexandra," he soothed. He calmed himself and handed the baby back. "I'm very proud."
"Can I get sick now?" Ishi asked in a quiet voice. His father nodded so he ran to do that. He came out and found him bundling her into a blanket. "Not that one. It was a baby present," he complained.
"Hush. Blankets wash." He nodded at the baby. "Wrap it up as well. We can take them both to the hospital." Lotus carefully wrapped her in a towel and let her father have her. "Now call an ambulance." Lotus did that. "I'm very proud, son. I'll sit with you once she's at the hospital."
"We can watch the babies," Ishi promised. "It'll be a relief. They're normally yucky not super yucky like that was." He earned a smile for that, adults were weird. "We tried everyone, dad."
"I know, son. You did excellently. Relax now. I'll be back in a bit." He walked out to meet the people pounding on the door, letting the ambulance crew take the baby first. "My son delivered him for the mother. She's still asleep." He handed her over, watching as they checked her vitals. "I'm coming, they can hold the house steady for a few hours." He stopped his other son from leaving with them by putting him back inside and closing the door. Then he went back to put Fred back inside as well and hurried back to the ambulance. His sword was safely in the house. He wouldn't need it right now. "She was attacked on the way home from what my daughter babbled when I opened the door." The paramedics nodded and took off, taking them to the local hospital. One of them tried to remove the necklace but he stopped him. "It does not move. Ever. It is a remembrance." They nodded, marking that on the chart they were starting. "She was a few weeks too early. Is the baby fine?"
"She's fine, sir. Calm down."
"I am," he said sternly. "This is calm!"
"Fine," the paramedic agreed, humoring him. Even though his hair was standing on end and he was fidgeting. That was not calm, normal Goemon behavior. "How old is the boy who delivered her?"
"He's ten. He'll be eleven in another five months," Goemon admitted, staring at her. "She looks quite pale."
"It's not a problem," the paramedic assured him.
"She had this one right after the last one. The last one was twins and this one was an accident. Her husbands are somewhere."
"This is Sylvia?" He nodded. "Thank you. We picked up Lavelle's attacker earlier. Was she with him?"
Goemon leaned closer. "She is him. This is a great secret but she changes." He looked stunned so Goemon touched the necklace. "It was from where she was tortured once."
"Oh!" He nodded. "Understood. Then we won't touch it." He had seen many cases of trauma induced split personalities, it was all good for him. If she wanted to pretend to be male now and then that was fine with him. "What number child is this for her?"
"She's had two sets of twins before this."
"Wow." He smiled as they pulled into the hospital. "Should you call her father?"
"I should but I don't have my phone with me and I can't remember the number." He snapped his fingers. "I know Xander's and the son can call them."
"Give him a long hug later, this is very traumatic for children. I'm sure he'll never want to have one of his own." They got them out and into the emergency room, him hovering right behind her until a nurse sent him to call the house.
Ishi finished the drink he had poured himself. His father wouldn't mind him drinking a small sip of saki *that* much. He picked up his aunt's cellphone and dialed Jigen's. "Your daughter was slimy, purple, and bloated when she came out," he said in greeting, sounding much calmer to his ears. "I do not ever want to do that again. That was horrible and she was bleeding!" He hung up and went to hug his sister. "I don't know how Mother did it three times but I am never letting my woman do this. I'll date men first!" he said as he squeezed her.
"It's okay. They make drugs for that if she had gone to the hospital, but the cop said to leave her here," Lotus reminded him, patting him on the arm. "I'd like to breathe, Ishi, please?" He let go a bit and she snuggled in, watching the babies. "We'll have to feed them soon." She had put them back into their carriers and they were wiggling and playing with fingers and toes at the moment, but they could start wailing at any moment.
"Father will be back soon. If not, we'll figure it out when necessary." He hugged her harder. "That was disgusting. Even worse than killing that first guy."
"Shh," she soothed, turning to hold him. "It'll be okay, Ishi. She's fine and everyone's okay. You were the man of the family and you did really good. Your woman will have doctors and drugs around." He nodded, letting himself be soothed. "You can cry if you want. It helps."
"Boys don't cry."
"Father did when he found out mother was gone. Besides, you're too little to worry about that yet."
He sniffled and nodded, hiding his face in her shoulder. "I hope she's okay," he said miserably. "She didn't wake up."
"She's fine," Lotus soothed, patting him on the back. Fred belched and she looked at him. "Next time don't suck on the empty bottle," she chided. "All you get is air in your tummy."
Jigen hung up and looked at Lupin. Then his breath caught. "Ishi said the baby came out purple and bloated," he said, trying to sound calm for the kids. Lupin looked at him. "He said she came out purple, bloated, and slimy. He said she was bleeding." Lupin sped up, looking very worried now. "We should have left earlier."
"We should have, and I'll kick my own ass about that forever," Lupin agreed, taking a turn sharply.
"Daddy, if you kill us, mommy will be very upset," Melissa yelled.
"Sorry," Lupin said, slowing down slightly, enough to maneuver. As soon as they hit a straight spot he sped up again. They had to get to the hospital. They had to get there. She had to be okay.
Goemon looked up as her room's door exploded inward, getting up. "Where were you!"
"Where were you!" Lupin shouted back. "We left her with you!"
"I went to solve a problem and Marcus left them alone!" Goemon shouted back. "This was not my fault!"
"Quit!" Arsene screamed. "No fighting about this! The mommy is more important than any of this petty shit and she would not appreciate this!" She stomped her foot and stomped to her bed, climbing up to hug her. "Mommy, wake up, please? The daddies need sense." Xander moaned so she hugged her harder. "Come on, mommy, you're worrying us." Xander gave her a light shove. "No, it's me, mommy. It's okay." She shifted, being very careful of the IV. "Please wake up?"
"Let her sleep," Goemon said gently, picking her up. "She is fine. They sedated her."
"Why?" Jigen asked hoarsely.
"The birth was hard on her," Goemon pointed out. "She was in your bed. Ishi had to help." He hugged Arsene hard. "The baby is under watch in the nursery." Jigen and Lupin both wavered. "She was bleeding when I made it back to the house. Not heavily but some. They were worried about her continued health. It will be a few days, especially since someone tried to attack her on the way home." He let Arsene down when Sierra tugged on his arm, relinquishing her. "I went to solve a local pair's argument. I left Marcus with them."
"Marcus Wyndam-Pryce, you had better have a damn good explanation for leaving the children alone!" Lupin growled. Marcus appeared, looking stunned. He grabbed him by the front of the shirt. "You left the children alone?"
"I didn't know that Goemon had left," he defended. He looked in the bed, then went pale. "Xander!" He teleported out of his shirt, looking down at her as he fed magic into her tired body. "You can't die."
"She's merely weak," Goemon defended.
Marcus glared at him. "Where were you? I didn't see you go or I never would have left!"
"I left to take care of an argument down the hill," Goemon admitted. "I didn't see you at all."
"Enough," Jigen ordered. "Now's not the time for that. Marcus, can you heal her a bit?" Marcus nodded, going back to it. "Lupin, Goemon, no more breast beating. She'll do enough of that for us all later. Right now, we need to check on the kids. We need to check on the new baby. We need to set up a rotation here so she's never alone." Lupin nodded, heading to check the nursery. "Goemon, go home. Take Marcus. Do not yell at him. Take the other kids, Marcus."
"Yes, Jigen. Bix is on vacation, shall I call her?"
"Please," Goemon agreed. He let the girls go as soon as they had all gotten a hug from their mother. He looked at Jigen. "She should be fine. The nurses said so."
"Thank you, Goemon. You did what you could." He gave him a pat. Jigen sat down in Goemon's chair to watch over her. She looked so tired lying there. Like she wasn't really in her body. He got up and pulled out a small pin, tapping her foot with it. Xander moaned and looked much more lively. "No more leaving your body for a stroll," he ordered firmly. She blinked up at him. "Hi. We finally made it." She struggled to move so he came over to help her sip some water. "How are you feeling?"
She grabbed his ear and pulled on it until his face was in front of hers. "I'm going to kill you," she hissed. "Ishi delivered her." She let him go and went limp again.
"We were on our way back," he said, stroking her arm. "We weren't planning on staying for longer. I'm sorry, Xander."
"Keep that thought," she agreed. She closed her eyes and opened her mouth, letting him give her the straw to suck from. "Thank you. Go 'way."
"Not a chance in hell," Jigen said firmly. "I may not have been there but I'm not leaving." He pulled the chair closer, holding her hand. "I'm sorry, Xan."
"Yup, I am," he agreed. "You can torture us later. Lupin went to check on the baby so I could have you first." She shrugged then winced. "Just rest. You can yell at us later." She nodded, opening one eye to glare at him. "Fine. You can yell, rant, and scream later," he agreed with a small smirk. "We'll still love you and we've learned our lesson. You're not getting away from us for anything, woman." She snorted and closed that eye, letting herself drift off. Lupin came back ten minutes later. "Problems?"
"Fussy nurses." He came over to look down at her. "She okay?"
"She woke up to swear at me. I said she could yell and rant at us later."
"Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. I'm already yelling at myself." He perched himself between her feet on the bed, settling in for a long wait. She shifted and her feet went into his lap so he worked on them, soothing her restlessness. "The kids all okay?"
"I think Ishi's probably going to have nightmares," Jigen offered.
"I don't blame the kid," Lupin agreed, working on her ankles for her. She kicked him so he lifted one up and kissed the side of her foot. "It's just me."
"I hate you."
"That's fine. You can hate me all you want, my love." He smiled when she looked at him. "I'm sorry, we thought Ishi was talking about you being in false labor. We hurried back as soon as we heard." She snorted and pulled her feet away from him. "Hey, let me soothe you, Xander. You know we adore you. We never would have made you go through that alone if we had known."
"One of my guys turned on me," she said quietly.
"No, there's two guys running around with that name. It was the other one," Lupin told her. "The first actually called the card game we were in to defend himself. He was coming up to protect you but then Lotus scared him off."
"Why didn't they call an ambulance?" Jigen asked.
"The cop who brought me home told me I should stay there. I guess they thought it was an order." She shifted tiredly. "Quit. I can't sleep when you do that."
"I won the toss to look at the baby first," Lupin soothed. "She's very pretty, Xander. Very fine little hair. Kinda chubby. She's already charming the nursery staff." He grabbed her foot to work on it again. She grunted. "Let me, Xan. Since I wasn't here to help you this time I want to make you feel better. I'm so sorry."
"You will be," she vowed.
"That's fine, you can do whatever you want to make us feel like you did," Jigen promised. "Even a memory thing so we feel it like you did."
"Ishi delivered her."
"I know and we're gonna find that kid a huge present in thanks," Lupin agreed. He gave her a hopeful look. "I'm sorry, princess."
"You are so. Should I steal you a tiara to prove it?" Lupin asked, hoping for a smile.
"I look horrible in mine."
"Well, they obviously didn't create it right then," he soothed. "We'll just have to get you one that's made just for you," Lupin cooed. She pouted at him. "Anything you want, princess."
"I know," he agreed, smirking at her. "That's why your feet are sweating." He crawled up and kissed her gently. "I love you, dear one."
Jigen came up to get his own, forcing Lupin out of the way. "Me too, Xan."
"Hmmph. We'll see."
"Sure we will," Lupin agreed, moving back to work on her calves. "You deserve so many treats. Five kids is a lot."
"Hmm. Goemon will need me to pump."
"The new one gets first draw," Jigen said firmly. "The others can do formula now."
"Formula's fake," she defended.
"I know but you'll still be feeding this one first, Xander. I want her to have every advantage. That way she can grow up and pick on Ishi and tease him about his girlfriends." She let out a small laugh at that. "Got it?" She nodded. "Good." He stroked her arm around the IV. "We'll work it out. I'm sure you'll have enough for all them and Kenji." She nodded, closing her eyes again. "You rest, Xan. You need your rest. The girls are going to coo you to death over this new one."
"Ishi probably thinks it's a conspiracy to make him the last guy on earth," Lupin said dryly.
"Not true, there's Fred," Jigen reminded him.
"Okay, true," Lupin agreed brightly. His son was amazing. "They're probably crawling around the house right now."
"They've probably pulled an Ishi and are trying to escape," Jigen corrected.
"Speaking of correcting, I had to get onto Lotus today. Her father was not happy," Xander admitted, her eyes still closed. "She did grow the tree in the backyard without doing it properly. I made her sit down and start to fix it. I said we'd start on it again tomorrow."
"That's fine. He's not mad, just upset that you had to be stern with her," Lupin soothed. "If he were mad, he wouldn't have panicked when you had little Xandra."
"She's not a junior?" Jigen asked. "We all thought she was."
"I guess," she sighed, flipping onto her other side. "That side hurts."
Lupin kissed her on the hip. "That's okay. We'll be buying a new mattress for Goemon's house so we'll make sure we get a soft one for you, babe."
"The nurse didn't say I was bleeding that heavily," she pointed out.
"Sweetheart, you gave birth on the thing. That's got nastiness built in."
"Plus, the rule of similarity probably will help with something else," Lupin said. "I think it's that rule. If something's used for something, then it can be used to invoke something similar or something like that."
"So a bed where I gave birth can be used in fertility and birthing rites?" Xander asked dryly. He grinned and nodded. "If someone tries, I get to pull their balls up over their head and tie them behind their head, then pierce their ears with the ball part." Both men nodded, holding in their winces. "Glad we've got that settled."
"Hey, five is enough for anyone," Jigen promised.
"We'll need to do genetic tests on this one," Xander said tiredly.
"Why? It's never mattered to us," Jigen pointed out. "The only one I don't really claim is Arsene and that's because the big booger would pout."
"Gee, thanks," Lupin said dryly. "But the idiot is right, we don't care. They're our kids, no one else's. I treat the little Jigens like I do the little Lupins, except for Arsene, and then I spoil her rotten so she truly becomes a little me."
"Yeah, the other kids complain about that," Jigen agreed.
"I'll try better," Lupin promised. "I don't mean to exclude the others."
"Good. I'm sure Sierra will like that." Lupin winced. "She's been complaining the most and has fought with her sister. Arsene said it was because she was going to be a good guy. She's thought about turning to crime because of this."
Lupin sighed. "I'll work with her tonight," Lupin promised. "You guys do good treating them the same."
"No I don't," Jigen told him. "I still treat Savannah differently. I tend to compensate by breaking them up so I get the two thieves together and then the two good guys."
"I noticed." Lupin went back to stroking Xander's legs for her. "We'll work it out with them. I don't spend that much time with Ishi either."
"True," Xander agreed sleepily. "But you try and the kids mostly realize that. I make up for a lot of that."
"You were the most genius thing I ever did," Jigen told her. She snorted. "You were. It was like a bolt of inspiration hit me when I decided to keep you. I'm much more miserable without you."
"Mushy," Xander teased, opening her eyes halfway to grin at him. "So very mushy."
"Yeah, but you made me that way. Just don't tell the other hitters, okay? I'd never hear the end of it." He gave her a gentle kiss. "You're amazing. I need to tell you that more often."
She nodded. "I would appreciate that. I might even let you sleep with me sometime this century."
Lupin smirked. "That's okay, until you're better I'll sleep with Jigen."
"Only if you're on the bottom," Jigen defended. "Remember, I do have anti-invasion underwear. I can wear them in the shower and get more pairs."
"Guys," she complained. "Trying to nap and laughing hurts."
"Sorry," they said, grinning at her. She smiled back and drifted off again.
Lupin looked at Jigen. "You'd do that to me?"
"Hell yes," he agreed. "Each and every night if I have to. My ass only goes to her pleasure."
"Well, it would be her pleasure. That way we wouldn't have to touch her and it would make her have orgasms while she watched," Lupin offered. "That would make her happy because we wouldn't be touching her while she's sore, yet she could still get off."
Jigen shook his head. "That was weak, Lupin. Try again later."
"Fine," he sighed. "I'm still having manly feelings and I guess I'll just have to wear them out by convincing you to bottom for me."
"How would you do that?" Jigen asked, stretching out to taunt him. "I can't think of a way you could *convince* me to open my pants for you."
"Who said you'd have to open them," Lupin said with a leer. "After all, am I not the best blow of the three of us?" Jigen cocked an eyebrow up. "Hmm?"
"Well, I think you two are tied for that," Jigen admitted. "You've got different techniques."
"Hm-mh. And I bet you don't remember me making you throw your back out with one either?" Jigen growled. "Or how I soothed you for days since she wasn't around?" Jigen's growl got louder. "Or how I could *easily* do it again," he teased, licking his lips. "I promised you it'd happen some day."
"We're going to be taking care of the kids, boss. No time for fun."
"They all nap," he said with a wicked grin. "More than enough time to make you howl and bay at the moon." Jigen swallowed. "Or don't you want to be my baby, Jigen?"
"Only if you reciprocate," Jigen said smartly. "I'm not our bitch."
"But you do it so well," Lupin pointed out.
Jigen snorted. "Not happenin' without some turn-around, man."
"Fine," Lupin agreed. "You can have my tight, nearly virginal ass if you give me yours."
"To do whatever I want?" Jigen asked.
"Within the bounds of pleasure."
Jigen smirked. "We'll see if you like it. If not, I'll do you the regular way."
Goemon walked into the house, grabbing his children to hug. "You both did excellently." He sniffed. "Did you need that drink, son?"
"Father, do you realize that I helped deliver a baby today?" he asked dryly, pulling back to look at him. "That I had to look at my aunt's most private parts as they stretched beyond normal human limits and she pushed out a ten pound baby? That I had to help her clean up afterwards to some degree?" He shuddered. "I think I need another one."
"Childbirth is natural, son. It happens to most women sometime." He patted him on the back. "No more drinking." He smiled at his daughter. "You have done very well as well." She beamed. "How are the others?"
"They're fine. We changed diapers and Ishi said that it was less nasty. I put a steak in the oven. We don't have any formula but we gave the babies some water." She looked at where the other girls were holding them. "They took over when they got in here."
"We had to go back for formula and diapers," Marcus admitted as he carried in the bags. He let Lotus take half of them and Ishi took the others. "I am sorry, had I known I would have been here," he offered. They nodded patiently. "I would be. But for now, I must find Bix."
"Let me," Goemon said, heading into the nursery where the transport ring was placed. He stepped in and off the other side on the Kitsune's lawn. He looked at the palace. "I didn't think it glowed literally," he noted. He shook his head, heading into the palace. Some of the kitsune gave him odd or dirty looks. "Where is my nanny, Bix?"
"In the nursery," one of the maids said. "How is the Lady Xander?"
"She had her daughter a while ago and they are both doing well so far. My son was forced to deliver it unfortunately." She gaped at him and he nodded. "I was off settling a dispute and Marcus left as well. Which way is the nursery?" She led him to there, opening the door for him. "Thank you. We will be leaving soon." He walked in, finding the only human in there quickly. She was a foot taller than most of the other beings. "Bix." She squeaked and looked at him like he was scary. "Come, we will talk," he noted, taking her by the arm and leading her out onto the porch. He closed the doors. "Whatever secret that is upsetting you, let it out. Xander just had her daughter and you are needed."
"She did? She's not due for weeks," she wailed.
He shrugged. "She was attacked on the way home. She went into labor during it. Ishi had to deliver her." Bix winced. "Now, tell me."
She glanced around but the doors opened before she could say anything. "Goemon, where is the man who tried to kidnap my kit?" the lord asked bitterly.
"Dead probably," he said dryly. "My son and daughter had to take out most of them, with some help from the other children. We were attending an emergency and Bix was off doing something."
She hung her head. "I failed to protect them," she said miserably.
The Lord snorted. "Of course you did. Because you can control the average human idiot's actions?" She frowned at him. "Do not give me that look, Bix, or I will paddle you myself. You were running an errand. The children were safe when you left. There were others in the building who could have watched out for them. They did not. Though I am sorry your son had to kill so young, Goemon."
"He finished out this year by delivering Xander's daughter," Goemon told him.
"Really?" He grinned, his muzzle pulling back to show off the wickedly sharp fangs. "Interesting. Is she fine?" Goemon nodded. "Good. Do you find this one acceptable?"
"I do, but something is worrying her and she won't tell me."
The kitsune pinched her. "Tell him, kit, before I have to punish you again and sell you into marriage."
"Yes, Lord." She looked at him. "I'm the last of the family Goemon. Not you."
He considered that for a minute, then held up a finger. "Of the other side, correct?" She nodded. "Then we welcome you fully into the family. So?"
"Goemon, the family has been split for centuries!"
"Yes, and I was not part of that and considered it foolishness. Fighting over a woman is stupidity and it showed we needed to breed better." He grimaced at her blush. "Now, anything else?"
"My line was headed by a Slayer."
"Are you one?"
"No, but any child I bear may be."
"Again, so? Xander trained under one, he trained a few of them. We do not care. Though you would have to find a mate to do that with. I would not accept you playing like Lupin did."
She nodded. "I accept that. Are you sure?"
"Hush!" he ordered. She looked down. "I thought I was done with self-esteem problems when we finally cured Xander of hers. Yours will have to find a cure quickly before you pass them on."
"She's young, Goemon."
"As was I, once, and I got over mine. Bix can get over hers. As such, I will expect her to resume her training and to help me with my children's training." She nodded. "That should cure that bad habit of putting herself down greatly. Now, anything else?" he asked calmly. She shook her head. "Then finish packing and come along. Lotus and Ishi had to take care of the babies by themselves after delivering little Alexandra. My son also had a drink to forget seeing her in labor and looking at her that way." He grimaced. "I would not want to either."
The Kitsune Lord howled with laughter. "Goemon, you are too much!" He slapped him on the arm. "It can't be that bad."
"It is, humans do not deliver as easily as foxes," Bix defended. "Come, let me pack my room." She led the way back to her room, packing quickly. She didn't have that much left up here. She bowed to her mistress and lord. "Thank you for housing me while I worked for you. I enjoyed it greatly. I hope my future charges and children are much less active." They laughed and let her go, letting Goemon help her.
"Wait," the lord demanded, summoning a trunk. "This is Xander's. We thought to leave it up here for her but we're renovating that wing this year. Tell her to bring back something pretty to tease us all with when she comes back up."
"Of course," Goemon agreed, taking that trunk and letting Bix get hers. "Come, Bix."
He snorted. "At least I'm not your nephew."
She chuckled. "I traced it, we're third cousins."
"More than close enough for children," her mistress called after her.
"Sorry, dear, but he is adorable," she called, waving her hanky.
"Forgive her," she whispered to her blushing boss. "She is a match maker." He nodded, stepping into the transport ring. They came out in a dark spot. She cleared her throat. "Xander just gave birth, do you really want to make her take care of you?" They sent them back to the house with an extra few bags. "Thank you." She picked them up and tossed them off the back porch. "That way no portals can open here." She came back and gathered her things, taking them to her room. "Is this going to be big enough?"
"This is my house," Goemon told her. "It only needs to fit me and my children. They will shortly have their own. Hopefully."
"Xander has one locally," Marcus offered from the kitchen. "Hello, Bix."
"Nosy bastard," she snorted, giving him a look. "Behave or I'll have Bastian spank you." He shuddered. "Thank you." She looked at the Goemon children. "Very good work, children. Ishi, I'm quite proud. You kept your cool for most of it. Lotus, you're well on your way to fixing the problem even I can feel. I applaud your sense and delicateness." Lotus sniffled. "Even if you had to have it pointed out to you, you're still fixing it. No truly generous and soft soul could ever leave such a problem after they've created it. Ishi, you will help me unpack?" He nodded, following her into her bedroom. "Thank you, dear."
"You're welcome. It's keeping me from the liquor." He shuddered. "How do you get away from that image?"
"You think of other things." She smiled at him and kissed him on the cheek. "You will find many new things to think of soon, Ishi." He blushed and nodded, looking at his feet. "Certainly not with me, young man."
"You're not that much older than I am."
"No, but I've been around for a very long time, Ishi, and your father would sooner have another son from his own body than see something like that." He nodded. "Besides, we're fourth cousins, dear."
She nodded, smiling at him. "Years ago the family split due to a feud. I'm the last of the other side."
"Oh." He sat at the vanity and watched as she unpacked. "You enjoy kimonos?" She nodded. "So do I. Can you teach me about them?"
"If your father agrees."
"Thank you, Bix." He gave her a light hug then went to talk to his father. "Father." Goemon looked at him. "I think we need to have a talk."
"Come onto the porch," he agreed, bringing out mugs of tea for them. "What is wrong?" he asked once the door was closed.
"I find myself drawn to a woman, father, and it is definitely not appropriate."
"Not your sister, correct?" he asked firmly.
"Father, I would sooner rip my penis off than touch that heathenish brat," he said seriously. "Women like her set my teeth on edge. All playing and flirty. Who needs a woman like that." He wrapped his hands around his mug. "No, I was talking to Bix and found myself with odd thoughts about her, even after she admitted we are related."
Goemon sipped his tea then got up to get something to add to it, coming back to talk with his son. "Son," he said finally. "There is much you need to know about women. I am not the person to tell you all of it, that would have been your mother. Even though she did have a skewed sense of femininity." He took another long drink. "As is, it will have to fall to myself and your Aunt." He looked at him. "Bix is a wonderful girl."
"She's only fifteen."
"Yes, and she's been around for hundreds of years, Ishi. She is much more worldly than you are. While I would not mind if she were the one to teach you, I do not believe I could sanction a long-term relationship with her and at this time you are not ready for even the former. When you are older, if you feel the same way, then I may allow it. Until such a time, we will have to work harder on your self-control. Like your sister's magic, your body is about to react without your permission. My own training master used to laugh at mine quite often. Fortunately I am kinder than he ever was," Goemon said, finishing his tea. "For now, let me say that what your body wants is not what it needs at this moment in life, and that you can learn to ignore it. Doing so would be for the best."
"I had heard that mother was quite ...lusty, father. Won't that harm my self control?"
Goemon grimaced, then nodded. "If so, then we will figure something out. When I let my own control go, she was quite pleased and always sated for months. I'm hoping you can find the same control eventually. At least until you choose a path or a wife." Ishi blushed. "I will not allow you to have premarital relations with a woman, son. Not unless it is quite clear that you are staying with her for good. After you become engaged. That had better not happen before your training is done." Ishi nodded, sipping his tea. "Today you saw the worst that a woman's body can go through, my son. It is not always like that, but it is not always much better. I would have you trained at least before you decide to discover that for yourself."
"Father, should I pour some brandy into my tea for you too?" he asked.
"Impudent son," he said with a small smirk. "For that, you will now have an extra hour of focus and meditative work with me each day." Ishi nodded, letting him have his tea. "Thank you, son. I want you to know that you can come to me about anything, but I may have to get answers off your aunt about some things."
"I understand, dad. I'll get the full sex talk from her. I hear she does pretty good."
Goemon smiled at his son. "Thank you, son. That makes me ecstatic. It really does." He finished the tea and stood up. "Do we have a clear understanding?"
"We do," Ishi agreed. "But can I tease her? She blushes very prettily, father."
"Son, you're too young."
"Father, I found that my thingie worked last night," he said quietly, glancing furtively around.
"Then we will get you the extended version of the talk as soon as your aunt is able. Until then, learn its many states, son. That way you can learn to ignore it when it decides to rear up and tries to control your life." He patted his son on the back. "Do not pick on your sister, please."
"Fine, father. Even though she is a brat."
"Tough, deal with it. This new one will be like your own sister and she'll be just old enough to pick on you when you start to date. Consider it karma for all the things you've put her through so far, son." Ishi shivered so he hugged his son. "We will get through puberty together, son. We will survive this stage. Now go play." Ishi ran off and Goemon went to get a real drink before calling Jigen. "My son has his first crush and his penis is about to rule his life," he announced grimly.
Melissa looked around the edge of the doorway. "What's a penis, Uncle G?"
Goemon handed her the phone. "Ask your father." He took his drink and his younger son out onto the porch to play with him.
"Daddy, what's a penis?" Melissa asked. Her father choked and she grinned. "Is that like those other words that Arsene says to mean a dick?" Her father dropped the phone and she cackled, hanging up on him. She went to tell Arsene that she had mortally embarrassed her father. They were keeping count.
Jigen winced, holding his head. "I think I need drugs now." Lupin reached over to pat him on the back. "My daughter just asked what a penis was and said your daughter has a lot of other names for it," he told him. Lupin choked and groaned, sobbing as he rested his head against their wife's side.
"It's okay. Puberty comes to all us sometime," Xander reminded them. "Soon it'll be bras and panties. Save up this angst for then."
"No, bad thought!" Jigen said quickly. "No bras, no panties, nothing like them!"
"Then she'll probably flash someone," Lupin said miserably, looking at him. "My daughter is exactly like me."
"Maybe we should get a divorce," Jigen offered.
"Too late," Xander sang happily. Then she cackled, enjoying this show.
To part 27
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