The Scene from part 4

"You fuckwit," Xander said snidely.  "You're going to die horribly for this.  I will make *sure* you die horribly for this.  Not only will you die horribly, I'll make sure that you're torn into little tiny, fucking pieces and *eaten* then regurged and eaten again!"

The kidnaper sighed.  "That's not very nice language."

"Fucking yay!  What the hell did you expect from me?  Me to be Mary Fucking Sunshine!  You *kidnaped* me!  I'm on fucking vacation!  Things like this aren't supposed to happen on vacation!"

"Stop it or else," he warned mildly, smirking at the boy.  "I can gag you again."

"If you do, I can't breathe, and if I can't breathe, you die a more horrible death sooner," Xander vowed.  At the very least Dawn would avenge him and make this person pay.  Jigen would probably help and so would Lupin but he doubted they'd be able to hold back Dawn.

The man sighed and shook his head.  "You leave me no option.  I'll have to discomfit you."  He walked over a narrow shelf in the cave.  "Do not even think about trying to call anything here to help you.  This cave is a holy place, it cannot be defiled by anything evil.  Even the marks on you are neutralized here because of the nature of the spells and goings- on in here."  He opened the wooden box on the shelf and pulled out a six-strand choker of diamonds with one ruby in the center front taking all the space over the adam's apple but the top and bottom rows.  He gently bowed to it then brought it over.  "I consider you unworthy to wear this but it will definitely make you shut up!"  He hitched it around the bound man's neck, then stepped back as the magical aura encompassed him.  "As you can tell, this one will change you.  You will now suit my vision of what you should be," he said with a devilish smirk.  "I can promise that I will not defile you until and unless I am thwarted so I would suggest you stop protesting, tell your friends to cooperate, and leave me alone while I think."

Xander, now female, with red hair, growled.  "I will kill you for this!" he, she, shouted.  "You are a dead man!"  She struggled against the leather cords binding her, but they were only getting tighter.  "I will see you eviscerated for this!  Holy cave or not, I will defile it with your blood!"

Return Trip

Xander walked into Goemon's house with his new daughter and saw the flash of silver right before the big, painful bright light.  Then he woke up.  He looked around.  He was in a cave.  His captor was opening a wooden box on a shelf.  He remembered this part!  "NO!  You are not putting that damn choker on me!" he yelled frantically, reaching for any magic he could get to get him free.  "If you even try, I'm going to kill you!  Do you hear me!  I know what'll happen.  Janus just showed me to the end of my fucking life and I refuse to be a girl for half of it!"

His captor looked at him, frowning.  "What?"

"Inside that box is a choker, diamonds and a few rubies, yes?"  He nodded.  "It's to change people's gender, yes?"  The man nodded again, slower this time.  "I just saw what'll happen.  You put that on me and I'll end up having children!"  The ropes binding him finally broke and Xander stood up, coming over to shake that man.  "If you do that, I'll be perverting Lupin and Jigen and turning them into Daddies!  You can't do that to us!  I won't let you!"

"Fine," he agreed, backing away from the crazed man slowly.   He had no idea what was going on, but he knew that Janus did favor the boy.  That left only one option, running and pleading for his life. "How about we deal with this a different way?"  He picked up his phone, dialing the house.  "Come get him.  He's gone insane.  Kept saying something about a vision and Janus."  He looked at the boy.  "How can you be sure?"

"Who do you think it was that made sure I'd have kids!" Xander yelled.  "You're not going near that choker ever the hell again!"

Lupin's voice came across the speaker in his ear, sounding very calm and the man agreed instantly.  "That's fine.  How bad was the vision, Lavelle?"

"Bad."  He moaned, curling up around himself now that the initial panic was over with.  "It was horrible!  I was a mother!  I was a girl!  I had tits, man!"

Lupin's voice came on again so he told him where he was.  "Thank you," he said quietly, hanging up.  "Lavelle, I'm going to leave you here.  Your boss is on his way.  I'm going to disappear."

Xander looked at him.  "If you had done that, then you would have gone to Greece to beg at Janus' main temple for your life to be spared," he said coldly.  "I'd do that anyway."  The man nodded and gathered up his things, leaving the choker there.  Then he ran away.  His car passed the jeep carrying the thieves on the way in but he didn't even think about stopping.  Not even when his tire was blown out and he drove off the narrow cliff-side road.  Xander jumped and spun around, reaching for a gun he wasn't wearing when he heard more footsteps.  "Lupin!"  He ran over and hugged him as hard as he could.  "Don't touch the choker!  Please, Gods, don't make me wear that thing!  It'll be the end of us and I'll be happy in it after a few months of reconditioning, but I don't wanna be a mommy or a daddy yet and it's horrible and life's not right in it and I had tits and Jigen and you enjoyed them but I still hated them part of the time.  Please, man, don't make me wear that thing!"

"Shh," Jigen soothed, taking Xander to hold so Lupin could breathe.  Since he was purple it was probably necessary.  "It's all right.  We're here.  Tell us about it, Xan."

Xander looked up, eyes still wide and scared.  "Janus showed me what would have happened if that idiot had put the choker on me.  It was bad, man, really horrible.  The times visiting Imperial Japan weren't that bad but still!  I don't need tits!  I never wanted tits!  I make an ugly girl no matter what Gramps said!"

Lupin nerve pinched Xander until he was unconscious.  "Okay then."  He looked around, noticing the box.  He carefully flipped it open, smirking at the choker inside.  "I'm thinking this had something to do with it," he admitted as he closed the box and put it under his shirt.  "Let's search the rest of the cave then we'll take him home.  Maybe he'll be more coherent when he wakes up."

"I'm still stuck on him having tits," Jigen admitted.  Xander shifted in his arms so he sat down with him, patting him on the back.  "I wish there was a way we could know what spooked him so badly."

"Hey, Marcus!" Lupin called.  He and Goemon both came in.  "Goemon, take him to the car and keep him asleep if possible.  Marcus, he said he was granted a vision by Janus.  He's frantic.  Is there anyway we can see it too?"

Marcus shrugged.  "Possibly, but it might radiate to the others.  It'd probably be best to do it at the house, so we all have beds."

"That's fine," Jigen agreed.  He handed over his burden.  "Thanks, Goemon."  He followed Lupin around the cave, finding a few other odds and ends, nothing really precious but a few interesting ancient pots and things.  It would give the kids a good look at some antiques.  Then they headed home.  Marcus was chatting with someone on Xander's cellphone, writing down instructions.  Goemon was watching Xander.  Dawn and Fujiko had been left at the hideout due to capacity restrictions on the jeep and David was still hiding from all of them.  Lupin got them back to the house without incident and everyone inside.  Xander was put into Lupin's own bed, he expected him to be there anyway.  Jigen headed to his own bed once his student was settled, then he laid down.  Marcus came in and brushed something across his forehead and he felt a tingle.  His eyes itched so he closed them.  Then the bright light happened.


Lupin woke up a few hours later, holding his head.  "No!"  He looked around, the box was still on his dresser. He almost made a move for it, but not really wanting it near him now that he knew.  Xander had been right to panic.  This was very bad.  So very bad.  He'd be panicking too if he had to be a woman part of the time and learned to live full-time as one.  He looked down at the calmly sleeping Xander and hugged him for the younger man's comfort, of course, so he could think.  It was a useful tool but they would not allow Xander to ever wear that thing.

Jigen walked in.  "You okay, boss?"

"Fine, Jigen.  You?"

"I didn't get too much.  Mostly abstracted images."

"Oh, I got the full thing," Lupin said darkly.  "We had kids.  Not that I mind having a female fourth of the line, or that one specifically, but I think I'd rather have a male one.  Girls are really bothersome."  Jigen sat down on the small space near Xander's feet.  "Did you get to see her?"

"Her?  I saw a her."

Xander moaned and woke up, struggling for a minute until some inner sense told him that it was Lupin holding him.  "I'm not a girl, right?"  He patted his chest down and sighed in relief.  "Thank you, Janus.  If you can make sure that doesn't happen, I'll do anything you fucking well want," he called.  A statue appeared beside him.  "Yeah, even that."  He patted it on the head.  "I'll set up something later, that okay?"  The heads didn't talk. "Even better."  He looked at Jigen, who was looking confused.  "What?"

"I didn't get it," Jigen told him.

Lupin stood up and grabbed the choker, handing it to him.   "No," Xander said, taking it from him.  "You can only hitch this on yourself," Xander instructed calmly. "Whoever puts it on can take it off, no one else.  Hitch it yourself, both clasps."  Jigen hitched it on himself and then he squeaked.  "Exactly."  The thing came off and was handed back.   "And I was stuck in and out of that for years," he told Jigen, sounding much calmer now.  Now his voice only had a touch of hysteria on some of the higher words.  "I had kids.  We had kids.  We had twins, Lupin had kids with someone else, and they were all kick ass, but then we all had kids together.  It was damn odd.  Goemon had three and Fujiko died during the third one's time inside her but we weren't sure if she really died or not.  I had an underground going that helped and supported all of us without Lupin finding out.  It was damn strange, man."

"I'd probably find out about that underground of yours, Xan," Lupin promised. "Besides, we'd never stick you in that choker.  I don't want five kids."

"Seven together.  Ten with Goemon's third on the way."

"Hey, three of those were his," Lupin pointed out.

"True," Xander agreed, calming down again.  "I like kids, and I'd love to steal one some day to raise and train, but not from having one myself.  I never want to experience labor ever again."  He shuddered and Lupin rubbed his back for him.  "It was fucking horrible!"

"It was," Lupin agreed gently, putting Xander back into the bed and tucking him in.  "You rest.  I'm going to check on dinner.  I'll let Jigen know the rest, okay?"  Xander nodded, yawning for him.  "Good boy."  He led Jigen out, handing the necklace to Goemon.  "You need to hide this," he said seriously.  "You may not destroy it, we don't know what would happen, but you have to hide it.  Fujiko can never wear it.  It can't pass out of your family's hands, and you have to know what it does to make sure of it."

Goemon nodded.  "What does it do?"

"It changes gender, makes men able to have kids," Jigen told him.  "That's part of what Xander saw in that vision.  I make a damn ugly woman."

Lupin gave him a sideways look.  "You'd have looked better if you had bigger tits."  He looked at the shocked samurai again.  "Seriously.  If anyone puts it on another person, only *they* can get it off again."

"We should destroy the unholy thing," Goemon told him.

"We don't know what'll happen if we do," Jigen pointed out.  "Magic's funny that way."

"Besides, it could be really helpful on a job or three.  I don't want to have to use it, but I want it safely away from Xander."

"Why?" Dawn asked as she joined them.  "What does it do?"

"It changes sex," Lupin told her.  "In the vision Xander spent a very long time in it."

"Eww.  A female Xander."  She shuddered.  "Nastiness.  Anything else?"

"Yeah, you got Buffy's kids," Jigen said.  "I remember that part."

"Huh?" Goemon asked.

"It was necessary.  Something worse was coming, her sister was a bitter twat.  The usual.  She and Pops hooked up, had lots of little Pops."

"Extreme ewww!" Dawn said, swatting at him.  "Don't say things like that!  It's sickening!  I might not be able to eat ever again!"  She stomped off.

Lupin looked at Goemon. "All because Xander could fill in the female role," he said, nodding.  "Plus, you had three kids.  A boy this time, a little girl right afterwards, then a boy in about five years."  He walked off, shaking his head.  "We liked the mini-you, Ishi."

"Ishi?" Goemon asked woodenly.

"Shortened.  Otherwise we would have had to call him the Fourteenth all the time.  He was one kick ass warrior in training when we died in the vision, Goemon.  Used your sword to avenge us.  Lotus, the daughter, was a very magical little witch.  Talked to tree nymphs.  The youngest was too young to know what he'd become yet."

"I'm having myself fixed tomorrow," Goemon decided, heading into his room to hide the box.  "You may not touch this.  It is an unholy relic that we must keep protected."

"What is it?"  He opened the box and she gasped.  "Ohh, that's pretty."  He snapped the lid shut before she could reach for it.  "What's it do?"

"It changes gender.  Xander apparently ended up in it a lot and became a woman.  Even had her own children."  Fujiko looked horrified.  "We must protect it.  It can only be removed by the person who put it on."

"We'll pass it onto our child," she agreed, stroking her stomach.  "Are you happy?"

He smirked at her.  "Quite.  Are you not?"

"No, I'm good.  It's just odd, thinking about me being a parent.  I never really thought about having a little girl before."

"I believe we'll find it's a boy," he said quietly.  If the vision had affected Lupin that strongly then some of it must be the truth.

She backed away from him.  "If it is, will I *ever* get to sleep?"  He laughed and shook his head.  "That's fine.  I'll figure out how to lock you in a closet or something on occasion."  She headed out, going to check on Lupin.  He was having a large drink, scotch in a water goblet.  "You okay?"

"Hell no."

"Okay.  Anything I can do?"

He looked at her.  "I figured out why you died, and that would have been in quotes," he said, leaning against the counter.  "See, Xander's vision was over the course of a number of years.  Near the end of it, you had died, but your body wasn't in the casket."  Her mouth opened.  "Apparently, from what little I had been able to find out, if you were living it was because you had found someone you loved.  You gave up everything, including your two born kids and husband, for him.  We couldn't be sure if you survived the removal of the baby, but if you were living, you had given it all up."  He took another drink.  "If that ever happens, tell us!"  He walked away, going to find a spot to meditate.  He didn't do it often, but sometimes it was necessary.  It had seemed so real, like he had lived it.  Damn, he wondered if Xander had kept any of the knowledge from it.  He finished his drink and sat down, calming himself.  He wanted to incorporate the new stuff.  He wanted to keep a lot of it.  It explained Xander to him, but it gave him a lot of good ideas.

Upstairs, Jigen was looking at himself in the mirror.  "I made a really ugly woman," he reminded himself.  "I never want to do that again.  Never, ever.  Not even to save my own life."

Xander was sleeping the sleep of the magically suppressed.  Janus was making sure he kept the knowledge.  Since he had decided to change most things when he had been sent back, he would have to make sure the boy kept all the knowledge.  The world needed at least three of those children to continue.  Or else everything was lost.  Somehow they would have to have the children still come to be.  Janus fiddled a bit, erasing it from Jigen's and Goemon's mind.  He let Fujiko remember that it was a harmful thing, something that could destroy minds and that they were guarding it.  He found his future worshiper begging to be told what was going on.  He gave him a simple message, 'go ask Ethan', and left it there.  The rest weren't involved.  Though, Janus did like the idea of Dawn and Zenigata.  They evened each other out.  The interesting and amusing man had quit having so many fits after she had captured him. Perhaps that would stay....


Xander woke up much calmer, nearly able to think clearly now.  He got out of bed and padded to his room, putting on some workout clothes.  Then he headed outside to work on his form.  He realized he was doing something from the vision and stopped himself, looking down at his body.  "How in the hell did I do that?"

"I was wondering something along those lines," Goemon admitted as he joined him.  "From the vision?"

"From the vision, you taught me a sneak-attack style, something more to my usual and former hunting habits.  Then we trained a lot, I helped you with Ishi, then your family got into it during a few trips back in time."  He shook his head. "That was just odd."  He shuddered.  "I'm going to go insane after that," he said conversationally.

"You will not," Goemon assured him.  "Show me, let me see.  Perhaps it is something you can keep out of that miserable life."

"It wasn't miserable," Xander said forcefully.  Then he sighed and sat down, looking up at his teacher.  "It wasn't miserable," he said more quietly.  "I was happy most of the time.  Kids, secrets from Lupin, and all of it.  I liked what I was doing most of the time.  I didn't even mind being pregnant until the last one, then I was always so tired.  You spent most of our time alone carrying me back to bed."  Goemon chuckled at that.  "But I learned a lot.  I finished growing up.  I didn't even mind being a girl most of the time since both Lupin and Jigen liked it so much.  Sure, sometimes I got really pissed that I had to be female to get any respect most of the time, but I was good at what I did. You taught me how to wear a kimono and act more properly in female form once I discovered one that looked half Japanese.  You even taught me to enjoy tea sometimes."  Goemon gave him a frown, Xander never liked tea.  "Seriously!  Oh, if we're going to do anything near the time Ishi's due to be born, I'm not delivering him."

Goemon shuddered.  "That's a bad thought.  Why did that happen?"

"We were doing a job on a cruise ship and there were other thieves.  They had tried to do a knock out and steal number during dinner.  Fuji went into labor that night.  One that got away capped the doctor.  The others refused to help so I got to do it with Gramps telling me what to do.  It was nasty."

"I'm assuming it was," he agreed, patting the boy on the head.  "Come, let us work on this new knowledge.  Perhaps you can keep some of it."

Xander stood up, looking at him.  "Goemon, I was shown it for a reason," he said quietly.  "At least some of them have got to be important.  Ishi's your son.  Trained, loving it, happy with being the next you.  Your daughter Lotus was the next White Witch.  And I think she's one that's important."  The other man looked stunned.  "I don't know why.  All I know is that it's important.  There's not one now.  There hasn't been since Willow went dark way back when.  Maybe there's a balance thing out of whack.  I'm not the one to ask, but I think it's important.  I think we need to talk to Ethan.  Would you go with me?"

"Of course," he agreed quickly.   "What of Marcus?"

"He was fine once the demons cured his magic addiction by making it so he couldn't read more than three words without having a headache," Xander said bitterly.  "Dawn and Pops got together.  David left with Gunn after some serious stuff went down between them.  Dawn had to straight because of her nephews.  Buffy had to do something so important that she had to give them up.  Oh, we've got to find Lupin's grown daughter, Demara.  She's a slayer and Buffy will never get her trained right."

"I want to hear all of it," Goemon said firmly.  "This is too odd to be believed."

"Oh, trust me, I know.  By the way, the house you bought, loved it.  You adored it too.  Even Fujiko didn't mind being so far away from everything."  He looked up.  "Yo, Ethan!" he called softly.  Ethan appeared, still holding his head.  "Is that your headache or mine?"

"Does it really matter?  It's from the same vision," Ethan complained.  He looked at Goemon.  "Yes, you must have Lotus at least.  She'll be getting pregnant within a month of having Ishi."  He looked at the boy.  "Should I show him?  Janus tried to remove it from everyone but you and Lupin.  There's got to be a reason.  I can't see myself being turned into a vampire being a good enough one."

"True," Xander agreed with a small grin.  "You're going to the doctor's when?"

"Tomorrow morning, even if I have to take hostages," Ethan said grimly.  "Brain cancer was not what I needed to end my life."  He looked at Goemon and transferred over the important parts, sharing the headache.  He looked at the boy.  "You're different."

"No, I'm not."

"Yes, you are.  Your magical aura is more stable," Ethan said, studying him.  Then he suddenly got it without any divine help.  This was the Xander from then, he had been sent back and put into this body to do something important.  He did a quick binding, keeping the boy in that body, and letting him full control of the knowledge he retained.  It was amazing how he had found that spell in his library right before being called over.  Apparently Janus couldn't directly interfere more than this.  "There, practice everything you've recently done, Xander."  He stared into the brown eyes.  "The world is counting on you yet again," he said quietly.  "Some things are different but some are not.  Make sure that the important things remain."  Xander nodded and hugged him.  "Thank you.  Do you want me to work on that formula?"

"I will beg or sleep with you," Xander agreed, giving him a grin.  "Deal?"

"It's enough to know that I can and that it might help retard the growth's growth."  He looked at the house, then at Xander.  "I'll work on Marcus tomorrow, once his training is firmed up.  It was Lotus who sent you back."  He disappeared.

"Who named my daughter Lotus?"

"Fujiko.  It was all she could think of."  He shrugged and grinned.  "Okay.  Willing to work out with me for real?"  Goemon nodded and took off his kimono, bowing to the younger man.  "Thanks, man, I need this."  Xander bowed back and took up his first position.  "We both know I hate attacking first."

"True," Goemon agreed, attacking him.  He was surprised, this Xander was quite good.  As good as Marcus was with the demon's memories, if not better.

Upstairs, Lupin watched them go at it, watching carefully.  Xander was smooth as water.  He glanced back at Ethan.  "He's the one from there, isn't he?"  Ethan nodded.  "Why?"  He watched the two warriors go at it again.  "Is there a good reason?"

Ethan sighed and moved closer.  "As near as Janus showed me, there was an attack on the house as Xander and you were bringing back your youngest daughter," he said quietly.  "They snuck into the house and took out Goemon, Jigen, and two of the children.  Goemon's son got the thieves as they went for Xander.  Lotus sent Xander back to save him and everyone in a fit of desperation.  Some things will be changed since you're not rescuing him from Seville.  David will never force him to learn how to use the choker."

"But he kept all that."

"He did," Ethan sighed.  "I doubt he'll want to use it.  Before he was very inclined to use it.  It brought Jigen to his bed along with you.  You two shared him," he said at the confused look.  "Jigen only liked him as a female for the longest time and you liked him both ways.   Hence the first two twins.  By the way, that Fourth you had, you need to have her I believe.  You also need to find your daughter Demara."


"She's a slayer and would you really leave her to Buffy's training?" he asked gently.  Lupin shook his head.  "Then you should find her and find her a good trainer.  Xander should help her, as should Marcus.  Marcus became quite a stud when he was forced away from magic.  We'll be fixing that as soon as you bring him to me in a few weeks."  He glanced outside again.  "The sad thing is that it's not nature that created them that way, it was those two.  Ishi was nearly a little Goemon clone.  He was a very happy baby.  Precocious, strong, smart.  The others were the way they were because of Xander."

"Then I'll get him to help me when I have to have a fourth," Lupin agreed quietly.  "This will tear us apart."

"It won't," Ethan pointed out. "It didn't before.  Goemon came and went.  Fujiko complained about all the sex she got, and the times when she didn't get any.  Xander went to his anime conventions.  You managed a life even with all the other things.  His network was important, that's why he told you," Ethan decided.  He felt it was right.  "Ishi and Lotus are important.  Melissa and Savanna. Your little Fourth.  Melissa and Savanna are...were the two sides of their mother.  Your Fourth was you.  Ishi was him.  Lotus was Willow reborn, basically," he admitted at the hard look.  "Figuratively.  The world needs some of them somehow.  Sometime."

"But not right now."

"No, not right now," Ethan agreed.  "The only things that must happen right on schedule are Ishi and Lotus.   Even if Goemon wins the naming of his daughter by being there this time.  It really was a desperation move on Fujiko's part.  They wouldn't let her leave without naming the baby."  He shrugged.  "I'll start work on that formula tomorrow after I come back from the doctor's.  I know it was important.  It gave you enough time to do the work of the Powers for them, on the darker side of the playing field.  Sometimes the chosen warrior is the black knight."  He disappeared.

"So now we have a black king, knight, rook, and bishop.  And possibly a queen if we need it," he admitted, watching Xander kick and Goemon barely duck.  Jigen tapped on his door and walked inside.  "Xander kept it all from the vision," he said, letting him see.

Jigen whistled. "I've never seen Goemon sweat like that.  Oooh."  He winced, that had to have hurt, but Xander got up and ducked under the next hit, punching him and getting out of the way.  "Ow.  Poor guys."

"Goemon's testing him.  I've never seen Xander do that before."  He shook his head and let the curtain drop.  "So, we'll have to do some adjusting," he admitted.  "When it's a month before Goemon's son is due to be born, we'll not be on a cruise ship."  Jigen's mouth fell open.  "We were pulling one last job.  Fujiko went into labor while there.  Xander had to deliver Ishi."

"I like that nickname," Jigen admitted.  "I'm supposing Fourteenth isn't something he likes?"

"Probably not.  We have to make sure this one is a boy."  Lupin looked toward Goemon's room, then toward Dawn's.  "I'm not sure what to do about her thing with her nephews and going straight."


"She had to take Buffy's sons from her and raise them.  She went straight, worked for the ICPO, didn't turn us in, and made Pops happy."  He shrugged.  "I don't know.  It's like a fairytale to me most of the time.  Like a really vivid dream."

"Good," Jigen pointed out.  "Xander probably needed the stuff he learned."  He lit his cigarette and took two puffs before handing it over.  He took the shot and stuck himself. "Thanks, needed that."

"Go to sleep.  I'll finish it for you."  Lupin sucked in a deep breath of smoke, holding it in for a while before letting it go.  He went back to watching Xander.  The boy was nearly flawless as he flowed.  Goemon was like his sword: strong, silent, deadly, efficient.  Xander was like water: always moving, smoothly flowing, wearing you down with attacks that weren't killing.  Then he closed in for a killing blow, getting Goemon down but stopping just before something bad happened.  "Wow," Lupin whispered, taking another drag.  Xander looked up and grinned at him, waving.  He waved back and smiled.  That was not the angst king they were used to.  This Xander was calm.  He was assured.  He was confident.  He was deadly sex on two legs and making him hot just watching him wear out Goemon.  Marcus on full automatic was nothing like this guy.  Goemon got up and grabbed the practice swords, tossing one to Xander.  Xander grimaced and got another one, putting that one back.  Goemon gave him a small look but apparently accepted it.  Lupin knew from the handle it was the heavier one of the group.  So Xander's experience there was showing as well.  Xander attacked first this time, making Goemon shudder as he moved out of the way.  He knocked the boy down and sat on his back, chastising him greatly.  Apparently some things never changed.


Lupin looked up as his door opened.  "Yeah, Xander?" he asked.  "Problems?"

"Nightmares."  He walked in and laid down next to him.  "Is this okay?"

He smirked at him.  "Why would I take this away from myself?"

"Good point."  Xander pinched him.  "Smug bastard."  He curled up next to him, using the flat stomach as his pillow.  "Are you okay?  I know some of it got transferred to you."

"I'm fine.  Shocked.  You made an excellent woman after a bit."  He stroked over the dark hair.  "Have fun playing with Goemon?"  Xander nodded, closing his eyes.  "Good.  I want you to keep it up.  For whatever reason this happened and I want to turn it to our favor.  Got it?"  Xander nodded again, softer and less movement this time.  "You nap, Xan.  I'll protect you from the nightmares of labor."  He felt a small smile as an arm came around his stomach.  "Good boy.  You rest."  He stroked the dark head, making Xander purr.  "If you want, I'll even let you go to an anime festival before we head home."

"Mmmmm, con," Xander whispered, snuggling in.  "Fank you."

"You're welcome. You rest."  Lupin stayed up, reading quietly while Xander used his stomach as a pillow.  It was comfortable.   In the morning he'd have to take this new Xander for a test ride, make sure everything was still the same.  He smirked at that thought, Xander was a wonderful way to wake up.


Xander skipped down to breakfast the next morning, energized, energetic, and very awake.  Lupin had gone back to sleep after having sex.  Xander beamed at everyone.  "Good morning."

"Do you think you can do that quieter next time?" Fujiko asked dryly.  "You woke me up, twice."

"Sorry," he said with a totally unrepentant grin.   He sat down and grabbed food, piling his plate high. "Lupin said he'd wake up again later," he told Jigen when he opened his mouth.  "He needed a nap."

"I bet, with the noise you two made," Dawn agreed.  "It sounded like a big orgy in there."

"Nope, just us," he said happily.  He looked her over, then beamed brighter.  "So, if the vision is right, we need to start watching your sister for troubles.  Do you want first watch or do you want to do a 'net watch?"

"Why?" David asked.

"A soul eater eating some of the potentials."

"Oh."  David and Dawn shared a look, then looked at him.  "When?" she asked.

"Starting sometime next month.  Oh, the maze," he said, snapping his fingers.  "Jigen, I want to go through it by myself.  Would you like to go with me on a pass?"

"Sure, kid," he agreed, nodding slowly.  "Why?"

"Because it made my reputation in the vision.  People actually saw my hair and got scared."  He smirked at him.  "I got a lot of respect from it.  People actually thought I was going to take over a local syndicate."  Jigen's mouth fell open.  "You didn't get that part?"

"No, not really.  Not that I mind.  Just us?"

"I'd go but I'll be really fat then," Fujiko announced.

"It's better if you did not go anyway, who knows what might touch the child," Goemon said, patting her on the stomach.  "I do not want either of you in danger."  He looked at Xander.  "How did we go through before?"

"Just me, me and Jigen, then the group, minus Dawn and David."

"Why didn't I go?" David asked.

Xander looked at him and sighed.  "Your dad decided to repossess you," he said honestly.  David scowled at him.  "Think about it, David.  Think about things like what happened in that story Jigen told you about Singapore.  This has been like a vacation, it really has.  Jigen and I working together got caught once.  Nearly twice," he admitted at the cleared throat.  "The second time was my fault, I fully admit it now, Jigen."  He looked at David again.  "Crime isn't fun and games.  It's serious, hard, exacting work.  This is the time when you're supposed to be thinking about that."

David nodded.  "I can see that.  Fujiko's told me a few stories where she narrowly escaped."

"Usually by fucking the rest of us over," Jigen pointed out.

"True," Fujiko agreed, wiping her mouth off.  "This is the time for that, kids.  Dawn, you're a great thief.  You've got great potential, but you're still short on some very basic skills.  David, you've got some potential, some abilities that the others don't have, but you'll have to do this with the group.  You'll have to learn to shoot, how to defend yourself and your team.  The maze would be a sure way to prove that to you.  It's a test for thieves.  It's got obstacles you can't go around or over, you have to go through."

"I nearly died the year I went through on my own," Jigen admitted.  "That was when I was younger, stronger, tougher, and more willing to be an ass."

Xander nodded.  "This year's, unless it's changed from the vision, will be a paranormally- tilted one.  I don't want to talk you guys out of it, but I don't want you guys to dance out of your training without knowing what's going on."

"What else would I do with my skills?" David asked derisively.

"You'd go work with your dad and be the warrior for the light that you could be," Marcus pointed out gently.  "Your skills are very suited to that.  Think about how many times you've heard your father say that they needed a backup force.  Before they had the Sunnydale crew, and then they had Xander there.  Now they don't and they're suffering from having a lack of qualified applicants."

"So you want me to do that?"

"No," Xander said firmly, making the boy jump.  "I want you to think about everything you've been told.  I want you to think about how bad prison is, how dangerous being a thief is, how many times we've had to use gunfire as a way to get out of things and needed extra guns.  If this is our last year, guys, we're not really ready to take on the world of crime by ourselves.  Yeah, I'm trained.  Marcus has some training and he's working hard.  I can barely open a lock or a rotary dial.  I can use the electronic lockpicks.  Dawn can open a few more locks.  David, you can do some of that too.  Marcus is better suited to what Goemon does, being the backup or being the rear guard unless we need something in his field."  Goemon nodded, that was his job most of the time.  "I can't do it all, and I don't want to do it all.  I want and need to have you guys as trained as possible after this year is done with.  If you guys decide to stay, I want us to go through the maze as a team.  All us students."

"Gladly," Marcus agreed readily.  "I do need the testing.  My field skills aren't as advanced as I'd like them to be."

"You're trying to set a line," Dawn pointed out.  "Make it a 'this' or 'that' choice."

"No, I'm not.  I'm injecting reality, Dawn."  Xander stared her down.  "Do you know how many times we've had to shoot people, killing them?" he asked gently.  She went green.  "That's something you need to get past.  It happens and I can't be the only one.  I'm great, but I'm not God."

"I can shoot but I'm not that great," Marcus admitted.  "David, you've taken some range lessons, how are you doing?"

"Crappy," Jigen informed him.  "He can hit the paper now, it's better than it was."

Goemon nodded.  "Were this the older days, you four would already be ready.  Unfortunately, technology has moved on.  Marcus needs more range time and more field training.  Xander has most of his down now.  David and Dawn, we will begin to put you with and against them.  Marcus, I want you to work with Xander after breakfast.  Jigen, please take them to the range."

"Done," Jigen agreed, putting some jam on some toast so he could eat.  "Eat, kids.  You'll need it.  Xander's right, your year's nearly up."  He took a bigger bite, looking at Fujiko.  "I figure by the time you're ready to come back, they should be ready for field trials."

"That'll be about six more months," she agreed, stroking her stomach.  "I want to find out if this is a boy or not.  It would probably unhinge the future Xander saw if it wasn't."

"Hey, they make ultrasounds for that," Xander pointed out.  "I'm sure we can get one."

"We can," Goemon agreed.  "Xander, where was that house?"

"In the pass between Iga and the next town, the one with the open-air market and the community hospital.  On that town's side barely.  It overlooked the valley.  Had some nice acreage."

"I think I know of it.  One side faces the mountain?"

"On the other side of the pass.  She looked at that one but the other was bigger and had better views."

"Hmm."  Goemon sipped his tea and nodded.  "Then I do know the one you speak of.  It is a most pretty house."  He looked at his wife.  "We might look into that in the future."

"I'm still not a baby machine, Goemon."

"I know.  I wish you to not be one.  I can't see me having that many children."  She relaxed again.  "As it happens, it will."  She nodded, smirking at him.  "Though, I do agree with Xander.  You will be near a hospital when it is time to give birth."

"Women did that for centuries without drugs or doctors," Dawn pointed out.  Xander got up and came back with the doll they had been using for training, putting it in front of her.  Beside it went a medium grapefruit.  "What's that?"

"Babies come out about that size, maybe a few pounds lighter," Xander told her, staring down at her.  "Your body stretches to the size of the grapefruit.  She'll be pushing something about twenty inches long and about eight pounds out of that grapefruit.  She'll want drugs."  Dawn's mouth fell open and she whimpered so he looked at Fujiko.  "Drugs, right?"

"Drugs," she agreed, looking stunned, nodding as well.  "I will want drugs.  I will castrate anyone who keeps me from them."  She looked at Goemon.  "If I feel that much pain, you're being castrated as well."

"If necessary, I will allow it," he assured her, patting her on the hand.  He removed the doll from the table before he had to stare at that image any longer.  It was a sickening thought.  "How would women stand doing that ten times?"

"Or more," Marcus pointed out happily.  "My father's grandmother came from a family of sixteen children, fourteen of which survived to adulthood.  Her mother had twenty-three.  There were some triplets."  Fujiko whimpered and wrapped her arms around her stomach.

"Enough, some of us are trying to eat," Jigen pointed out.  "If she has more than five kids, we'll have her fixed and put on mental drugs."  He filled his mouth and pushed that image out of his mind.

"I will have drugs," Fujiko said firmly.  "I don't care how, from whom, but I will have drugs!"

"We'll steal you some if we're not going to be near a hospital," Xander soothed, stroking her back to calm her down.  "Remember, he kicks when you get upset."  She nodded and calmed herself.  "Hey, little guy," he cooed, patting her stomach.  "How are you, little Fourteenth?"

She swatted his hand.  "Go eat."

"Fine."  He grinned at her as he sat down.  "Feel lucky, that choker means...."  Marcus kicked him and shook his head.  "No what?"

"No.  They didn't share most of the vision with you and Lupin," he said quietly.

"Okay."  He shrugged and dug into his pile of food.  "Goemon, are we doing sword or hand-to-hand first?"

"Sword first, you need more work in that area," Goemon said firmly.  "You still slouch."

"Yes, sir."

"You will use *all* your skills, Xander, not part of them this time.  I noticed it last night, you were still pulling your blows.  You will not do so today."

"Yes, Goemon," he said, looking whipped.  Then he grinned at him.  "Even so I don't show Marc up?"

"No, not even then.  If you beat him, do so fairly so he may learn to do it in return," Goemon told him.   "Otherwise we will spar again tonight and I will be forced to correct you again."

"Did you finally spank him?" Dawn asked with a curious, yet impish, grin for him.

"Not yet," he said.  "I don't believe it would help him any.  Next time he misbehaves, we'll have to do one of those obnoxious and nauseating group hug things."

Jigen shuddered.  "Goemon, some of us are still trying to eat.  Thanks a whole lot for ruining that for us."

Xander grinned at him.  "You don't want to hug me?"

"Keep it up and I'll be the one spanking you, without giving Dawn any watching privileges."  Xander sighed and shook his head.  "Xander, coffee, now," he ordered, pointing at the pot.  "Before you drive me insane."

"You won't have me today," he defended.

"Bull.  You'll be in the range within four hours."  He handed down the pot of coffee, watching as the young man fixed himself some.  "Ah!  No sugar!"

"I agree, you don't need the extra bounce it would give you.  It appears Lupin's already given you that."

"Are you saying he's sweet?" Marcus teased.

Goemon gave him a look.  "The only way for you to properly find that out is to go upstairs and sleep with him yourself," he noted.  Fujiko choked and spluttered, so he comforted her by patting her on the back.  "Feel free to, Marcus."

"Yes, Master."

Xander giggled wickedly.  "If you do, can I watch?"

"No!" Marcus said, blushing brightly.  "I'd never do that!  I'm not like that!"

"Sure you're not, Marcus," Xander said dryly, smirking at him.  "Ask me later how I know that."  Marcus blushed brighter.  "Good."  He looked at Jigen.  "As for my range time today, I was going to go gun shopping instead since my last one may or may not have disappeared."  Jigen shook his head, sipping his own coffee.  "You're sure?"

"I'm sure.  I got your bag from the beach.  It's got sand in it, but it's still here."

"Yeah, but I wanted something specific and special," Xander said with a hint of pout.  "We need to go back to the other hideout anyway to hide the choker.  Can't we stop in Paris and do the gun shows?"

"On the way home," Lupin said tiredly as he joined them.  He took Xander's coffee and his usual seat, sipping one while he got comfortable in the other.  "So, what do we have planned for today?"

"Xander is going to use Marcus as a training aid," Fujiko told him.  "And he'll be giving a real workout or Goemon's been asked to spank him this time.  Xander wants to go gun shopping.  David and Dawn have range time today.  Xander wants to run the maze."

"Really?" Lupin asked, looking at him.  "Why?"

"You don't remember?" he asked quietly.

"Oh.  Well, yeah, I do," he admitted, then he shrugged.  "The same as last time?"

"Sure.  Plus I'll go with the students if they want to try it."

"Sure," Lupin agreed, nodding.  "Fujiko, can you find those forms?"

"Sure, Lupin.  I'll be stepping out due to my rotund size."

Xander looked at her.  "At least it's not twins, triplets, or quads.  Or, hey, one of those times when some women had eight."  She shuddered and smooshed herself against Goemon's side.  "Imagine how big you'd be then."

"I'd never get out of bed," she snorted.  She shuddered.  "That's a nasty and evil thought, Xander.  Did you go back to Hell and take over?"

He cackled.  "No, but it's sounding like a good idea," he admitted.  "When I die, I'll do that and release any of you down there with me to run things."

"That would be a punishment for some of us," Jigen reminded him, giving him a glare.  "More coffee, Xander.  Now."

"Fine," he sighed, grabbing a clean cup and pouring himself some more coffee.  Lupin held out the stolen cup so Xander refilled his too.  "There.  Anyone else?"  Marcus shook his head, then shuddered.  "What? You don't want to punish certain older generations?"

"For that alone I'd take being a demon," Marcus admitted, giving him a long look.  "What else did you get, Xander?"

"Kids.  Some jobs.  The choker thing.  Some skills.  Some weapons.  The fact that some day soon Gramps is going to file to make his quest a team instead of a solo mission.   You became the nanny to the horde.  Ishi's a great warrior in the making because we all made it seem so fun.  A few little things like that," he said with a negligent shrug.  "Nothing earth shattering."

"Jobs?" Fujiko asked.  "Anything good?"

"Gold bullion in a few years. A few jewel heists.  A heist while Marc and I were playing at an anime fancon."  He grinned. "I made one killer Inuyasha."

Goemon gave him a long look.  "I'm sure you would.  Wasn't he the half-demon?"  Xander nodded.  "I remember you making me watch an episode with you."  He looked at his wife, then down at his son.  "We need to make sure this one is a son," he decided.  "Just in case things are being changed."

"If they have, then other things might have changed drastically too and I'll be in the dark about most things.  I do know one thing we have to change somehow but I don't know how if the result is what's important," he said miserably.  Lupin looked at him so he leaned over and reminded him of a small town in Germany and what resulted, namely Lotus being a witch.  "That."

"Ethan said she was important," he admitted. He finished up his coffee and pulled over the rest of the food, digging in.  "We'll figure it out, Xander.  We've got months until then."  He patted his arm where it was on the table.  "What first?"

"First, I need David and Dawn to get a good lesson in what it's like on the streets," he decided.  "That way they can make their own decisions."  Lupin nodded, understanding what he wasn't saying.  "Then I think I need a new gun.  Jigen said my old one had sand in it so I'll try to clean it but I still want another one.  Something simpler and interchangeable this time maybe."  He shrugged.  "Sorry, Jigen, I like my automatics."

"Not an issue, kid.  I think you do better with them."  He patted him on the back.  "This would be after Goemon lets you kick Marcus' ass."

Marcus snorted.  "We'll see about that."

Xander looked at him and licked his lips.  "Sure we will.  Goemon, I'll need a sword to practice with so he can use his real blade."  Goemon choked on his bite of food, making Fujiko and Dawn pat him on the back.  "Sorry, but it'd be better for both of us, right?"

"I'll find a way to guard the blades," he agreed.  "What had you been using?"


Goemon stood up.  "In the hallway, now."  Xander followed him, even letting him shut the door so no one could hear. "How did you know about that?"

"Easy," Xander said, leaning against the wall.  "Wife gets jealous.  Wife makes wish.  Wish sends us back to when the manners lessons I was taking off you would be more appropriate.  I was holding it for your second son."

"Oh."  He blinked a few times.  "We went back then?"  Xander nodded.  "Oh, dear."  He shook his head quickly.  "I hope that will not happen."

"If not, then the sword's lost to history," Xander pointed out.  "I was the reason they made it and I promised to give it to your next son."

"Very well, we will come to that when it happens.  What else had you been using?"

"Regulation length katana.  More of a decorative blade most of the time.  I'll need a new one and I'll need to work some major magic soon.  Wanna help?"

"No thank you.  What of Marcus' magic?"

"It's great, and wonderful, and dangerous.  We'll need to make sure he doesn't become addicted this time around, hopefully without the reading thing happening.  Though if it has to...."  He shrugged.  "I can't argue with it."

"I understand.  I wish to know."

"I wish you had seen it," Xander admitted. "It would make things so much easier sometimes.  Oh, the heavier practice blade is bent to the left."  He went back to his seat so he could finish breakfast.  "Marcus, go change.  You'll be sweating hard today."

"Fine, Xander.  Shall we bet on the outcome?"

Xander looked at him and smirked.  "If I win, what are you willing to give up?"

"I'll help you pick out a new blade?"

"No, I'm good on that," Xander admitted.  "How about....  If I win, I get a ten-pound box of the *good* chocolates from that little place in Switzerland.  If you win, I'll give you a backrub."

"Deal," Marcus agreed happily.  "Should I wear shorts?"

"Only if you want to.  You'll be spending a lot of the time on your back begging for mercy," Xander quipped.

"We'll see," Marcus said smugly.  He finished his juice and went up to change, letting Xander follow to change himself.  He joined Goemon and Xander outside, noticing Xander was in a pair of running shorts and a tank-top.  "Are we ready?"

"Give me your sword first," Goemon ordered, taking it to cover the sharpened edge.  Just in case Xander still had a few faults or an accident occurred.  He handed it back.  "There.  Join him."  He got out of the way, sitting down to watch them, his own sword resting against his shoulder as Marcus lunged and Xander blocked and parried.  He grunted in pleasure.  The boys weren't holding back this time.  Xander was giving it all he had while trying very hard not to strike with all his force.  "Xander, do the routine fully or face me," he ordered.  Xander stopped holding back and put his back into it, stunning Marcus.  Marcus was quickly at a disadvantage and had to duck a blow and try to strike from the side.  Xander moved in to kill him, getting him across the side of the neck with the blow he used.  "Enough.  Are you all right?"

"Fine," Marcus said, sounding shaky.  "Xander?"

Xander shrugged. "I learned from it too.  Want me to attack first this time?  And should I use the really special and intimidating stuff?"

"Please, I would like to see it," Goemon agreed.  Xander waited until Marcus had moved into a 'ready' pose and then attacked with a whoop of a battle call and a spinning attack that made Goemon's eyes hurt and made him feel quite dizzy.  "Xander," he said calmly.  "Do that slower."

"I can't.  I can only do it quickly.  I tried, I fall."

"Ah."  Goemon stood up and moved closer.  "Then do so again.  Marcus, the only way to save yourself would be to duck under his non-swinging arm."  Marcus nodded and readied himself and Xander did it again, while Marcus ducked.  Goemon looked at him.  "Did you by chance learn that off a cartoon of some sort?"  Xander blushed and nodded.  "Ah."  He nodded slowly.  Then he swatted the boy.  "I wish to see the rest of them, young man."

Jigen lounged in the doorway, snickering.  "Got you this time," he said happily.  "No more learning things off cartoons."

"You, quit.  I know where you're ticklish now."  Xander faced off with their trainer, lunging for him, going in the sequence he had trained with.  Goemon parried two attacks, ducked another two and tripped Xander on the last one.  "See, that's my problem with that one."

"You need to leap higher in the air," Marcus offered.  "Come down and expect to hit him on the knee, not on top of the foot."

Xander stood up and did that last one again, taking his advice, and it worked.  Goemon ended up on his back, looking up at the boy.  "Sorry," Xander said sheepishly, helping him up.  "I didn't mean to run into you actually."

"No, it's instructive," Goemon assured him, dusting himself off. "Very well. We will work some more with this.  I want you to get Marcus up to speed enough to be able to fight against you for real, Xander."

"Yes, Goemon.  Marcus?"  Marcus sighed and stepped back into the ring, already feeling the ache in his shoulders.  "Ready?"  Marcus nodded, and Xander attacked, a simple thing, slipping one of the new moves into the familiar pattern.  Marcus scowled at him and attacked back, showing what he could do when he relied on the demon's memories.

By the time both of them had sunburns, Goemon had seen enough to not only have a headache, but also to be proud of them.  "Enough," he said finally.  "Get a drink, come back for hand-to-hand.  Xander's learned a new style from that vision and I want to test it.  Marcus, are you all right?"

"Can he do it against someone else, Master?" he pleaded.  "I ache."

"Are you giving up?" Xander taunted, smirking at him.  "Am I getting my chocolates?"

"Hell yes!  I never want to face off against you ever again!" he said hotly.

"Good, then there's one move I absolutely want to train into you," Xander told him.  "We got to the point where we could switch weapons during a fight," he explained.  "I want him able to do that.  It's handy and I need to stay in practice."

"Agreed," Goemon said firmly. "It would be handy.  You two can do each other's jobs.  Do so slowly.  I'll attack."  He picked up Xander' sword while Xander picked up the gun he had brought out, a plastic model they often used out here.   He moved at Xander with the sword, and Xander showed how they had done it.  Marcus looked stunned and switched back, then back again.  "Very good.  Now let's do it a bit faster."  He came at them for real this time and Xander managed the switch but Marcus was still a bit fumbling.  With practice it would come.  "Good enough for today.  Get ready for some hand-to-hand work with me, Xander."

"Of course, Goemon.  Always happy to please and all that rot," Xander said in his best Ethan impersonation.  He bowed and attacked, dropping the gun on the way.  Goemon's sword was handed off blindly as he blocked a punch and the boy let him have it again.  Xander beamed at him.  "You said not to hold back."

"I did," he agreed.  "If you injure me however, I will sic my wife on you."  Xander started to pull his punches and Goemon growled.  "That was not what I meant and you know it.  Continue and do hours of pushups today."  Xander came after him again, not pulling any punches but going slower.  Marcus stood there, mouth open, watching as they battled back and forth.  Finally, Goemon won by ducking a very pretty blow and getting Xander in the stomach with his knee, making everyone watching wince.  Goemon patted the boy on the back, leaning down to get next to his ear. "Very well done, Xander.  I am quite impressed with my training style.  Now you will teach Marcus how to counter you."

"Tomorrow?" he asked, standing up with only a minor wince.

"Definitely.  For now, go find the gun that you want online so Jigen may approve of it then help on the range after you put something on your sunburn.  You as well, Marcus, put something on your arms and neck."  Marcus bowed to him and went to do that.  He patted Xander on the back.  "Are you all right?"

"Fine," Xander admitted, bowing to him.  He took his weapon and the gun inside, sliding past Jigen.  "Let me change and I'll bring down the book I found it in."

"You can wear that if you want," Jigen offered.  "You can drip down there if you want."  Xander shrugged, then winced and took the aloe gel from Marcus to slather himself with it.  "Let me," he offered, getting the parts on Xander's back and shoulders that he couldn't reach.  "There.  Range, now."  Xander trotted that way, only stopping to put up the weapons and grab that book for him.  Jigen looked at the gun, nodding at it.  "Impressive."  He handed it back.  "Do the normal targets, in order."  Xander picked up his ear plugs and glasses, then slapped the first clip into the gun, doing his center-mass target first.  "I said the normal way, Xander.  Wounding then inward."

"Sorry."  Xander switched targets and started off with the wounding ones, realizing that he had changed it around sometime in the past.  Or at least in his past.

Dawn and David watched, looking horrified as Xander took shot after perfect shot, only missing one by the way he swore after it.  Since it was on his blind side no one really said anything, but then again he would work more on that later.

Jigen nodded, liking what he saw.  "Good."  He patted the boy on the back.  "Very good."  Xander beamed at him.  "Now, let's see if you can do the same thing for those two."

Xander looked at them.  "David, in front of me," he ordered.  The boy walked over and let Xander position him, even letting him wrap his arms around him.  "Aim down the spike.  This gun fires off to the right so compensate slightly, not more than ten degrees."  He moved the gun into position for the boy and helped him fire the first one.  "Now you do it."

"Can you move?"

"No.  You should be able to do this without wincing or moving from the recoil."

"Fine."  David tried the next few, then Xander guided his hands again, letting him get the feel for the weapon.  It was much different than a crossbow.  He finally got one in the center of the target and grinned at Jigen.  "Closer."

"Still not good enough," Jigen reminded him.  "Do another clip, same target.  Try for the center this time, kid."  He watched as Xander walked David through the reloading process to make sure he had it.  "Back off, Xan."  Xander backed off, watching with a tilted head as David started off again, finding the feel after the third shot.  He was still firing too high but it was much closer than he had been.  "Good enough for now.  Report to Goemon.  Dawn, your turn."

"I hate guns."

"Guns and gun battles are a part of the life, Dawn.  Not many of us fight with swords and crossbows these days.  Unless you want to go live with some elves...."  He burst out in giggles, then shook his head.  "Sorry, flashback.  Unless you want to go live in the Forgotten Realms with the elves, front and center."  She sighed and came over, letting Xander help her.  "There, now you do it this time."  She tried, but she was still flinching.  Xander sighed and shook his head, looking at Jigen.  "Dawn, for each time you miss, I'm taking away a grand of your next part of the cut," Xander decided.  "You have to do better.  We'll be relying on you to cover our backs the same way you'll be relying on us."

"Why?  You'll be there," she said bitterly.

"Dawn, even I'm not bulletproof.  Jigen's been shot a number of times and Lupin had to fill in for both of them.  What are you going to do if I'm injured or dead and you're the only one with a gun?"

"Beg Marcus to help me with a portal?"

"Not good enough," Xander told her.  He grimaced and touched her head, showing her the scene he wanted her to imagine.  It was him lying on the ground bleeding.  Them with guards all around, Marcus with his sword and David with a smaller wound.  "Now, what are you going to do there?  You don't have the time to cut yourself to make a portal.  Marcus is guarding us.  There's sixteen guards and either they die or we all do."  She ran to get sick.  "Sorry, but it's the truth," he called after her.  He looked at Jigen.  "The Paris job during my first year, that standoff, only with us kids and me being injured instead of you."

"Reality sucks sometimes," Jigen agreed.  "It happened, it can happen again."  He went to find the girl, finding her still getting sick.  So he waited.  When she came out, he tapped her on the shoulder. "That scene happened the first year I trained Xan.  Our fourth month together and I was the injured one.  He took them all down efficiently and then got me out of there.  He waited until we were hiding in the car to break down.  Can you do that?"

"Will I have to?"

"There's been more than one of those on the job in the last five years, Dawn," Jigen said seriously.  "Which is why Xander wants you to make your choice and to base it on reality, not on stealing pretty artwork sometimes."  He walked away to talk to Lupin.  "Dawn's just broken past that 'I don't have to shoot' thing she had going.  Xander broke her."


"The Paris job I got injured during.  He showed it to her and she got sick."

"Good," Lupin agreed, smirking as he put his feet up.  "How is he?"

"Just fine.  Missed one shot out of seven clips, a little off to one side.  Probably over compensation that time."  Lupin grinned at him.  "He got David to hit the center of the target on his own, but not in the center-center, just in the circle."

"Excellent!" Lupin agreed happily.  "How did the thing with Goemon go?"

"Goemon's so impressed he's wanting to switch students," Jigen admitted, sitting down across from him.  "What happened then?"

"An extra twenty-eight years of training," Lupin said simply.

"Oh."  Jigen nodded slowly.  "No wonder.  Who trained the kids?"

"We all did.  You got the gun course from what I remember."

"That's probably better anyway.  Where's Fujiko?"

"At the local doctor's office getting an ultrasound."  He shrugged.  "We'll know soon."

Xander stuck his head in.  "She's back, she's shocked.  The doctor said he *thinks* it's a girl but he couldn't tell for sure."

"We'll see soon then," Lupin decided.  "That's what amnio's are for."

Xander beamed.  "Thanks, boss.  Need anything?  I'm headed out for soda and to mail a letter to someone."

"Go for it," he said with a hand wave.  "You've earned an afternoon off as well."

"No thanks.  I wanted a catalog from a place I remembered, just to see what their spring models were."  He hurried out to Fujiko's bike, since she said he could use it, and took it into the nearest town. He saw the person watching him and gave them a long look.  They looked away so he smirked and headed on.


Fujiko walked out to where Goemon was, resting on his arm to catch her breath.  "The doctor couldn't be sure.  He thinks it's too early to tell, but he thought it was a girl."

Goemon raised a brow, looking down at her.  "Really?"

She nodded.  "Really.  We'll have to do another one in a few weeks."

"That's fine."

Jigen stuck his head out the door. "Lupin suggested an amnio."  He pulled back in and shoved Dawn and David outside.  "Here, your turn.  Xander got them both to hit the target this time."

"Then he deserves a reward," Fujiko snorted, patting Dawn on the back.  "Even if it's not your strongest suit, you still need to get good enough at it to save your own ass, Dawn.  Trust me, it will be the difference between you living and dying some day."  Dawn ran off to get sick again.  "Huh.  Maybe she made her decision," she mused as she went inside to get a snack.  "Hey, where's the peanut butter!"

"In the cabinet," Lupin called.  "Your special cabinet, Fujiko."

"Oh, yeah, thanks," she called back, opening her special cabinet.  Everything a girl might need for a food craving was in here.  Sweet, salty, hot, and peanut butter to go on top of it all.  She smiled as she pulled down the peanut butter, the jalepenos, and the pretzels.  Then she found some bread for a sandwich.  The baby kicked her but it settled down as soon as she started to eat so it apparently liked this one too.  She'd have to remember this for after she was pregnant.  Right before she castrated her husband if he *ever* tried to sleep with her again.  Outside David yelped and she chuckled, shaking her head.  "I think he likes doing that to them."


Lupin came upon Xander in his bed again and smirked.  "Back for more?"

"Oh, hell yeah, but can I suggest something?"  Lupin shrugged as he stripped out of his clothes.  "At the end, can you just nudge upwards? I've got a really sensitive spot there," he admitted with a grin.

"Hey, I can try," Lupin agreed, finding the lube already waiting for him and the hole opened.  "Naughty you, did you do all this already?" he teased, slicking himself up.  He pushed in slowly but Xander sank back onto his lap and wiggled a bit.  "Ooh, desperate?"

"Oh, hell yes."  Lupin did as ordered.  "Just before there."  He tried it again and Xander winced.  "After that scar.  Yes, there!" he shouted when the spot got hit.  "Thank you, God and Janus!  The man has found the right spot yet again!"  Lupin laughed, tickling his playmate as he rode him, making him squirm and laugh while he gave him what he wanted.  He'd be tired, but Xander might go jump Jigen finally.  Xander continued to help him by pushing back onto his lap, until Lupin finally sat down and pulled the boy back.  "You do more of the work, Xan, my thighs are tired."

Xander went to town, making Lupin swallow whatever smart comment he had been about to say.  The boy did everything he knew he loved with this man of his and he knew he was going to become addicting soon.  Lupin finally came and Xander grinned down at him.  "Feeling old or should I go on?" he teased, leaning down to kiss him.

"God, Xander," Lupin panted.  "I feel like I just ran a marathon!"

Xander snickered as he slid off the limp cock, picking up his favorite toy to play with it.  He spread himself out so Lupin could see him and went to work on himself, making the other man's tongue hang out.  "Whenever you can get it back up again," he promised, working himself harder.

Lupin moaned and leaned down to kiss him, taking over the toy.  Xander needed longer arms if he was going to do it that way.  "I'm going to nickname you Bunny."  He twisted the toy as it slid into the well-lubricated hole, making Xander keen with need.  Then he got a wicked idea and found the bigger vibrator, using it on his studly little student.  Xander screamed and nearly levitated off the bed, or he might have really done it for a second, Lupin couldn't be sure.  Besides that, the boy was writhing underneath his hands and his cock was leaking and hard.  Lupin gave him a few gentle touches, just a dragging of his fingers, but that was enough.  The boy came with a shout of his name and went limp.  "Good, now you're as tired as I am," he said happily.

"I am?" Xander asked, looking up at him.  He pulled Lupin down to kiss him and let him rest on top of him.  "I can hold off on rounds two and three until you wake up."

"Fuck, I'm getting you a sex slave, Bunny."  Xander pinched him.  "You are!"

"I'm not a little pink bunny with a drum," he pouted.  "I simply take times when I'm really...."

"Overly stimulated?" Jigen suggested from the door.  "I'm buying one of you a gag and I'll expect it to be used so some of us can get some sleep."  He looked down at Xander.  "You, behave.  We need Lupin living, Xander."

"I'm not trying to kill him," Xander defended.  "I simply need some excess energy worn out.  I can't keep imposing on Goemon to wear him out."

Lupin sat up and opened his mouth, then shook his head.  "Never mind, I took that wrong at first."  He laid down beside Xander again.  "You could always come help him."

"I don't like men," Jigen reminded him firmly.

"Jigen, if someone else doesn't start to help him out with this, I'll die," Lupin told him.

"Then let him go wear out a whorehouse," Jigen suggested.  "Just play safely, Xan.  We don't want to lose you, huh?"  He walked away.

"This is not one of the countries you can do that in," Lupin said quietly. "Please don't try."

"Wouldn't think about it, boss.  So, can I go down to Fujiko and complain that you're sexually harassing me?" he asked with a bright grin.  "Watch her splutter?"

"No, sexual harassment is only if it's unwanted," Lupin said, putting an arm around the boy's waist.  "Stay here.  I need a good bed warmer. The sweat's chilling me."  He snuggled in and got comfortable, falling asleep on the padded shoulder.

Xander smirked at the ceiling.  "Now that I'm awake again, I think I can start working on my plans to regain some lost things," he whispered, carefully planning out how to do things like he had before.


Fujiko was holding an envelope in her hands, turning it over and over again.   That's how they found her a few weeks later.  Finally, Jigen got tired of it and took the envelope, opening it.  He nodded, handing it to Goemon.  Goemon broke out in a large smile, smirking at Xander.  "It is a boy," he announced.

"Yes, Ishi's a great little guy," Xander said happily.  "I'll have to find him a few stuffed animals soon."

"You will not spoil my child," Goemon said firmly.

Xander leveled a look at him.  "Goemon, we will spoil your child, even if we have to go behind your back to do so.  What other children are we going to get to spoil?  Besides, it'll make the fact that you do most of the nasty stuff apparent."  Fujiko snickered.  "Oh, please, do you think Lupin will be changing diapers?"

"I can't see that," Lupin agreed.  "Diapers are nasty.  Goemon can have all of those that he wants."

"Well, it'll probably be him, me, and Marcus.  They're ruin Fujiko's nails," Xander told him.  Goemon looked at his wife, who nodded.  "That's okay, I don't mind.  Babies are cute and cuddly little demanding monsters.  Then they grow up to ask embarrassing questions."

"Such as?" Goemon asked.

"Think about it, Goemon.  He'll ask why you're making mommy scream, eventually you'll have to explain girls to him.  He'll ask you all sorts of embarrassing questions about why girls aren't built like him too."  Goemon was bright red now.  "Exactly.  And that's just the sex ones.  Eventually you'll have to tell him not to remark on the ugly outfits, strange crooks we run into, or Gramps."

"Hmm.  True," Goemon agreed.  He looked at his wife again.  "You can give the talk about girls and boys."

"No way in hell," she said dryly.  "Lupin?"

"Oh, no, not me," he defended, holding up a hand.  "That's not my field, I only sleep with them.  Xander can do it."

"Sure, Xander's very good at it," Xander agreed.  "Xander had to help have part of that talk with Dawn."  Dawn nodded.  "Since then, I've actually figured out what to say."

"Good.  You stuttered through mine," Dawn put in.  She smirked at Fujiko.  "It's amazing, you're still down here."

"He has self control," Fujiko retorted.

"We will celebrate this later," Goemon assured them.

"And still be more quiet than Xander," Fujiko added.

"Yeah, but I was having fun.  Forcing yourself to be quiet when you want to be loud is a perversion of the act.  It's like you don't really want to be there."

"Hmm, true," Lupin agreed.

"Guys, can we get off the topic of sex," Jigen asked.

"Please," Marcus begged.

"Sure," Xander agreed.  "So, when am I getting my chocolates?"

"I ordered them last night," Marcus admitted.  "I had them sent to Murami so she can forward them."

"When you do, I'm holding the box," Lupin said firmly.  "You will not eat the whole box in two days this time."

"Yes, Lupin," Xander agreed sheepishly.  "I didn't mean to bounce into you."

"I don't care," he said, eyes wide.  "You won't ever get that much chocolate again!  Ever again!"

Dawn chuckled.  "There were some days when he had a coke and a candy bar for lunch back in Sunnydale," she shared.

"It was more nutritious than the cafeteria," Xander defended.  "Snickers have peanuts and good stuff."

"Now I know Rupert was insane," Marcus said dryly, glaring at Xander.  "He let you have caffeine and chocolate at the same time."

"Let didn't really come into it," Xander assured him with a bright grin.

"They make collars and leashes to train people with," Marcus retorted.

"Yeah, and he never pulled one out with Buffy, don't know why, but he didn't.  Though, thinking about it, one of the jobs was at a Master/sub event in Germany to get a lot of pretty colored jewels.  Wanna go, Marcus?  I promise, you'd make a really pretty sub."

"No, thank you," he said with distaste.  "I've never wanted to be that to anybody."

Lupin looked at him.  "I never wanted to be a dancer either, but I did for a job."

"And you sucked at it," Jigen pointed out.

"True," Lupin agreed. "I learned though."

"Yeah, but you still sucked," Jigen reminded him.  "We have it on tape so you can see how bad you sucked."  The younger generation snickered.  "Seriously, he sucked bad."

Lupin blew a kiss at him.  "Thanks, Jigen.  Good to know you were watching me dance around in those really tight tights."

Jigen snorted.  "Not working, I was looking at the head dancer to see when she was gonna kill you, man.  Just like always."

"Uh-huh.  You weren't watching me in those really tight tights?"

"Children, some of us are trying to eat," Fujiko said firmly.  "Oh, damn, I just sounded like a mother," she said miserably.  She looked at Goemon and pouted.  "You made me a mommy, damn you!"  She got up and walked off sniffling.

"Mood swing," Xander said happily once she was gone.  "Goemon, this is when you should chase her."  He got up and followed to comfort her.  "I love those things."

Lupin pinched him.  "Brat.  Behave."

"I try really hard," he defended, then he lost it when he smirked.  "But sometimes I can't be."  He grabbed his breakfast to go, going to work out outside with David, who he drug with him and his plate. "Come on.  You need the work.  Punching is great, but we'll probably run into a boxer."

"Can't I eat?"

"You did eat, you had a whole plateful of food, now you're going to fight.  Then you can eat again."  Xander finished off his breakfast, leaving the plate in the kitchen.  He shoved David outside, following so he could close and lock the door behind them.  "Good.  Now assume the first position."

"Isn't that Marcus' job?" he asked bitterly.

"Yes, but Marcus hasn't eaten yet.  That means you get me today, dear.  Let's go.  Attack."  David sighed but attacked and Xander put him on his back.  "Now, let's try that seriously, David," he suggested with a touch of smirk.  "Like you mean it this time."  The other boy got up and attacked this time, losing his temper a bit.  "Better!"

He blocked and hit back. David tried really hard, but he ended up on the ground again, this time face down.  "Damn it."

"Well, you're getting better."

"We don't fight like this on the streets," David complained.

"David, you're not on the streets anymore.  You'll be in museums, in houses, and even occasionally in alleys, but you're not on the streets anymore.  You'll be fighting people who trained to fight most of the time.  I'm not asking you to duck bullets, I'm asking you to learn to fight to save yours and my ass."  David sighed but got up and started again.  "Better," he agreed.  "Much better."

"I get it, Xander, but it's not like that."

"David, we'll be relying on ourselves.  The older group is going to go on vacation as soon as we're trained so they get some time alone.  It'll be just us pulling jobs, getting into trouble, and having to run for our lives."  David stopped, staring at him.  "Do you think we won't be?  There are warrants out for us.  There's one for you already for that library job.  It's only going to get worse.  The truth is, the cops might win sometimes.  Are you prepared to fight and/or shoot your way out of that situation?"

"No," he admitted quietly, staring at him.  "That vision was very instructive, huh?"

"It was," Xander admitted, "but I'm giving you a chance to make a real decision before your father jumps onto you and probably tells you all this."  David grimaced.  "He'll probably be there when we go to rescue Buffy.  She'll be calling in about six or seven weeks.  By the maze, I want you to make a real decision.  I want you to base it on facts.  I want you to base it on what could and will happen.  If you do this, you're not going to have a family.  You're not gonna have a bunch of kids.  You're not gonna have family Christmas moments.  You'll be lucky to live until you're forty.  Or you'll be lucky not to get arrested.  Your choice, but I want you to see reality.  Marcus and I have nothing to lose.  He has no past that can really impact him. You have a family.  Dawn has some family that might come to depend on her some day.  There may be times when we have to do the slayage stuff still since all the potentials are in the US.  Can you handle that and crime?"

David slumped.  "I don't know, Xander."

"Then you sit down with Lupin and you make damn sure you can," Xander said firmly.  "He'll let you go back to being a fighter for the light.  Let's face it, there's not enough of them.  Your dad could use you and your skills."

David nodded.  "I'll do that."  He tried the door and found it locked.  He patted himself down but Xander handed him a paperclip.  "Eww."

"Tough.  It's a skill even a good guy needs."  David knelt in front of the door, working on the lock.  Xander checked his watch.  After ten minutes he got the door open and walked inside shaking his head.  "David needs help with locks," he announced to Lupin when he ran into him.  "Ten minutes and he couldn't get the back door open."

"How long did it take you?"

"Forty-five seconds to get the paperclip out and about a minute after that," he said with a shrug.  "I'm not a lock pick, I know that."  Xander grinned at him.  "So, if they do decide to leave, they'll be quiet about us.  I can guarantee that and so can Marcus.  Will we get to erase his record?"

"Probably.  You can do that?"  Xander nodded.  "Oh."  He blinked a few times.  "That's damn handy.  Why didn't you tell me you could ensure they couldn't tell on us?"

"You haven't asked.  Dawn probably won't but a simple compulsion to never tell on us would be enough.  David should work with the same thing.  They can be overcome but it'd take a lot of hard work."

"Good."  Lupin patted him on the back.  "Very nice, Xander."  He walked away to find David, who was looking pitifully at the door.  "What happened?"

"I couldn't get the paperclip into the last tumbler," he said miserably.  He looked at Lupin.  "Xander suggested I have a reality talk with you.  He said I probably won't ever have a family, Christmas, or live past forty."

"Well, you might have a family but you'd probably never see them unless you do what Goemon did and even then it's dangerous.  Kids take stuff and it's harder to run with someone that small.  Christmas happens no matter what but you probably won't ever have any of those mushy scenes where you're gathered around the tree singing carols and drinking eggnog.  As for forty, the average age for a great thief to either die or get captured is thirty-eight.  It goes down in proportion to how bad you are at it."

"At my level?"

"Current level?  Twenty-five if you're lucky.  Probably from a homeowner."

"Oh."  He slumped down, then looked at him.  "Xander doesn't want us to do the job, does he?"

"No, he wants you to make a real decision based on reality," Lupin corrected.  "We've been trying, Xander's simply got a stronger sense of what needs to happen to make you see.  We don't expect you guys to take on the stuff we do - especially not the strange and unusual, but to do any of it you'll have to be better.  Xander's right about that.  He's more than ready to go out and work.  Jigen and I both think so.  He's got skills you guys don't.  He's having to cover for some of you guys since you're not learning the other necessary things.  If you all go to Russia, more than him needs to be able to speak one of the local languages.  If you go to the museum, more than Marcus needs to know about art.  Marcus needs some time and you've got until Goemon releases him for field testing to make it up to the level where he's at now.  The maze is a good way to show that to you."

David nodded.   "I'll consider it.  Can you go over tumbler locks again?  I don't know why I couldn't get the last tumbler on the back door."

Lupin looked at it, then at him.  "There's only four."

"There is?"  He frowned at it. "It wouldn't turn."

"The thing turns backwards, kid."  He patted him on the back.  "Come on, even Xander needs more work on locks."  He walked him back to the workshop.  "Xander, we're doing locks," he yelled.  Xander came jogging down the stairs, dressed in real clothes.  "Were you going out?"

"Yeah, I was gonna take Marcus out to case something magical with me," he admitted, slicking back his hair and tying it back.  "I can hold off though.  I know I suck at locks and I need to be better."  He grinned at the locks laid out for their benefit.  "Hmm.  He picked up one he wasn't at all familiar with, checking it over carefully.  "Five or six?"

"Six," Lupin said, watching the boys.  David stuck with the simpler ones and worked his way up as practice.  Xander tried that one and when he got it open in a somewhat acceptable time he moved onto something harder, stretching his range.  "Xan, do the handcuffs for me," he ordered.  He clapped them on the boy's wrists, watching as he undid them with a bent paperclip.  Not the fastest ever, but correct and in an acceptable enough time.  "How far up can you go?"  Xander pointed at one lock.  "You have opened it?"

"I've been working on that one.  I think I've got it."  He picked up the intricate lock and worked on it with a screwdriver instead of a real pick.  It opened and he looked at his watch.  "Not fast enough but I'm not working on speed yet."

"It's a good thing," Lupin agreed.  "Two minutes is way too long, Xan."

"I know.  I need to know how, then work on speed.  It's how I work better."

"Fine.  Then start over and start working on speed.  The later locks can be lessons between."  Xander nodded, working on the lower ones to lock and then unlock them.  He was speedier when he was trying to be speedy but his picks weren't as coordinated as they should be.  "Calm yourself.  Speed is a good thing but so is doing it technically correct."  Xander redid that one, going a bit slower.  "Good.  Thank you."  Jigen came in to watch.  "Xander's getting better.  He's working on doing it at speed."

"Good.  Where were you going?"

"I just heard about something magical sitting in plain sight and I wanted Marcus and I to look it over," Xander admitted. He went onto the next one, getting it open faster than usual, but still correctly and without the scratching noises.  He smirked at Lupin.  "Good?"

"Very good.  It still needs to be a bit faster, but that's much better than usual.  David, you as well, start back at the beginning.  Lock then unlock going for speed.  Speed is often the key."  David nodded, moving around Xander to do that.  He met up with Xander soon and went around him.  "Yeah, I know, but Xander only needs to know how, you need to be more than technically proficient with it."  Xander gave him a little look through his lashes.  "Even if you want to, you can't be good at everything, Xander."

"I know.  I suck at many things.  That's not an issue for me."  He went back to work on that one lock, it had given him troubles for months.  "Permission to use WD-40?"

"Go for it.  I keep a small can in my stuff too," Lupin admitted dryly, watching as the boy unstuck the tumblers then did it again.  "Good enough.  Move on."  Xander moved on, working on speed again.

Jigen nodded.  "Good job, Xan.  I'll tell Marcus you need him for something magical and to put on real clothes."  He headed out shaking his head once he was out of sight.  Xander was still under the impression that he had to be the whole team by himself.


Xander stopped the car and turned to look at Marcus.  "Okay, here's the deal.  I need to work on my teleporting.  I can't do that at the house because I don't want them to know I can do it.  It's handy but it's tiring.  I have the placement of where we need to go.  I have the thing to put in its place.  We port in, replace, port out, do some minor gun shopping, then back to the house.  Got it?"  Marcus nodded, smirking at him.  "Thanks."

"How did you learn that?"

"In the vision, from Ethan."  Xander parked the car and put on the security system.  It looked like they might have ducked down to the beach so it'd be fine.  Unless Lupin or Jigen came looking for them.  He took Marcus' hand, showing him the photo of where they were going.  Together they could spread out the energy loss a bit.  They went there, knocking out two guards in the room, then cut open the heavy glass case, replacing something, then disappeared when they heard another guard coming to check on the first two.  The gun shop wasn't open but Xander knew where the owner was so he got him while Marcus rested, then they bought his new gun and headed back to the car, which had Jigen leaning against it.  "Sorry, baby present," he said with a small smirk.  "Technically, it's got a guardian spell on it.  I figured it'd be a good thing for Fujiko.  Oh, here, so you can look it over.  I even bought it," he said patiently when Jigen didn't say anything or take the new gun.

"You're holding back on us, kid."

"Well, it's magical and I can do it, but it's damn tiring and I can't take others with me," Xander told him. "Unless they're doing the same spell."

"Oh."  He grimaced.  "So only useful when you're alone or when we need you to get into a room?"

"He'd have to know exactly what the room looked like," Marcus told him.  "Like with Dawn's portals.  You have to have a very clear view or an extremely good picture."  He handed it over.  Jigen's mouth fell open and he stared at them.  Xander held up the necklace.  "Xander needed to work on it to strengthen it."

"But I can still only do about three of them a day or I'm too tired to move," Xander complained.  "Marc, you get to drive.  Jigen, following?"

"Lupin's in town."  He got into the back and plucked Xander's cellphone off the seat to call him.  "I found 'em.  Xander needed magical practice.  They stole something for a welcoming present for the baby."  He hung up.  "Home, kids."

"Yes, Jigen," Xander agreed.  "Come on, Marcus."  Xander looked back at him.  "We both know Marcus and I need to learn to work together better, Jigen, and I still share and tithe."

"We still want to learn about these things as you're learning them."

"I learned it in the vision," Xander complained.  "You knew about it there."

"There's not here, Xander."

"Yes, Jigen," he said miserably.

"Good.  Home, Marcus."  Marcus got the car turned around carefully and headed back to the house slowly.  "We need to work on your driving skills as well."

"Please.  I don't have my license yet."

Jigen grunted.  "That'll change as soon as we get home."

"Thank you, Jigen," Marcus said politely.  "Can you teach me how to drive a getaway car as well?"

"Oh, yeah.  That's part of the driving lessons."

"Thank you."  He sped up a bit, feeling more confident.

"Not around this corner," Jigen and Xander said in unison.  Marcus slowed down again and they made it around the sharp corner.  Then he sped up again.  "Watch the ruts," again in unison.

"You two are scary when you do that," Marcus complained, watching for the ruts in the road.


Lupin walked into his study, slamming the door.  "Give, now," he ordered.  Xander held up the necklace, making him stop and stare at him.  "You stole a single piece of the crown jewels?"

"I put something in its place," Xander defended.  "It's a welcome to motherhood gift for Fujiko.  It's got a guardian spell on it.  No one can poison or stab her when she's wearing it."  He let Lupin hold it.  "I always tithe you, Lupin.  I simply needed the time working with Marcus to get used to him and the magical practice that this called for."

"It was rather simple," Marcus agreed.  "A simple in, out, knock out the guards and cut open the glass job."  He looked at Xander.  "You were a bit fast with the glass cutting."

"That's because there were fifteen other guards in the tower.  We were positioned directly out of line of sight of the surveillance cameras but I wasn't going to trust the glass cutter not to show up."  Lupin flipped on the radio, and they all waited for a news update.  Eventually it came on and it did say that someone had broken into the tower and had nearly taken something but hadn't managed it before they had run from the guards.  "It wasn't in the front of the case so they probably won't check it," Xander quipped, relaxing again.  "So, can I give it to her?"

"Yes, Xander," he sighed.  "How many times a day can you do that?"

"Three and then I'm out of energy for a good few hours.  I also have to have an extremely detailed picture of where I'm going.  Down to any people and any dust."  Lupin sighed.  "It's not the most useful skill but I need to keep in practice, just in case."

"True.  It could get you out of a jail cell though," Lupin pointed out.

"Which is about when I expect to use it," Xander admitted.  It had been the biggest time he had used it before. "So, if the other two decide to skip, can we stay with you guys or should we make a go of it together?"

Lupin smirked at him.  "If they go, you're staying.  There's no way in hell I'm letting you out of my sight now.  You're much too good.  I'd hate the competition."

"You mean he can't do things on his own?" Marcus asked.

"He'd have to tithe and it had better not compete against the group's stuff," Lupin pointed out.

"Deal," Xander agreed.  He burst out laughing.  "The announcer thinks you were in the Tower.  Should we call and correct them?"

"Sure."  Lupin dialed the request line for the radio station.  "This is Lupin the Third.  Would you please tell the announcer...."  The announcer came on and the radio went quiet.  "It wasn't me.  I'm on vacation and nowhere near Britain.  You can pass that back however, but it definitely wasn't me.  I'd be glad to meet the thief who did, just to compare notes, but it wasn't me.  Pass that on, okay?  And can you play some George Thoroughgood?"  He hung up and looked at the boys.  "Get changed.  Present it to Fujiko on the way upstairs, boys.  Say it's from both of you."  Xander nodded and undid his hair, following Marcus out the door.  Lupin snickered.  "They're so transparent sometimes."  He made sure the phone was on the hook since no new noise had come from the radio, but it had been hung up.  He stayed to listen, noticing the announcer sounded breathless when he came back but he did play the song he wanted.


Xander tapped on the room where Fujiko and Goemon were sitting and arguing about names.  "He'll have to be a fourteenth or you'll have to have another one," he pointed out.  Fujiko opened her mouth, then nodded, waving them inside.  "We come bearing gifts that we have carefully stolen ourselves," he announced.  Marcus walked in with him and closed the door.  "I needed the magical practice so we went to retrieve this and put something in its place."  He and Marcus sat on the coffeetable in front of them, handing over the necklace.

"It's warded to protect you against stabbings or poisonings," Marcus assured her.

"Wow."  She looked at the sapphire and diamond necklace, then sniffled.  "This is so pretty, guys!  Thank you!"  She hugged them both and then looked at her husband. "See, they get very nice presents."

"They do, but we're still going to get official welcoming presents," Xander assured her.  "Or at least I will.  That's a just-in-case thing.  I didn't want you to be vulnerable and like I said, I needed the practice."  He grinned at Goemon. "I'm not trying to show you up, man.  We love you guys."  He patted her on the stomach.  "Can I still call him Ishi?"

"That makes the most sense as a nickname," Fujiko agreed.  She put the necklace on and then took it off.  "Ow."

Marcus checked it over, then checked the baby.  "Ah, it's an opposite to his innate skills," he said appreciatively.

"Then I'll wear it after he's born," she said firmly.  They nodded.  "Good.  Thank you, guys."  She hugged them again and went to put it up.

"Magic?" Goemon asked quietly.

"Magic," the boys said together.

"Ah.   Next time try for something more practical."

"Oh, we are," Xander assured him.  "I'm getting him a really soft and pretty bear."

Marcus nodded, flipping his hair back.  "I'm getting him some footie sleepers."

"Those are more than welcome," Goemon promised.  He patted them both on the head.  "Are you tired?"

"I need a nap," Xander admitted.  "I might misjudge my swing and hurt someone."

"Fine.  We will work on that then."  The boys groaned.  "Neither of you are perfect."

"Of course not, we're not you," Marcus said dryly.  "Please, master, we're both exhausted and we do know how to fight like that."

"Very well.  Then nap and you can aid me with the other two's lessons."  They nodded, going up to their rooms to nap, Xander even went to his own room to nap.  Goemon went to meet with Jigen and Lupin in the kitchen.  "Two of them are ready to fledge from the nest."

Lupin looked at them.  "If the other two don't go, would you guys object to them staying?"

"They're handy to have around," Jigen pointed out.  "I could use the backup.  Xander leaves me the better targets anyway."

Goemon shrugged. "It would give me more time with my son."

"Then we're agreed?"  They nodded.  "Good.  If the other two don't go into the life, then we'll keep those two.  If they do, then we'll watch over them and accept them when they come running back."

"We need to do a field trial.  I've never seen Marcus work," Jigen pointed out.

"He works much like Goemon, only without the cutting everything," Lupin sighed.  "He's more focused on being a well-rounded fighter thanks to Goemon's training and your working with him.  How was his driving?"

"He doesn't have a license and he acted like a newbie."

"Then we'll have to fix that.  I agree, we should pull a job."  He looked at them.  "Any favored targets?"

"I can't believe they went *there* and did that," Jigen admitted.  "That took balls."

"Where did the necklace come from?" Goemon asked.

"The Tower of London."

"Ah."  His eyes went wide and he pointed. "How did those two manage to get in there in such a short time!"

"Teleporting," Lupin said dryly.  "He tell you the three times in a day thing?"  Goemon nodded.  "Think he was lying?"

"No," Jigen said firmly, shaking his head.  "He wasn't.  He was too tired to drive on the way back.  He landed shaking and ready for a nap."

"Okay.  Then I want a real skills list of what they can do magically."

"I'll work on Marcus about that," Goemon offered.  "Anything else?"

"Anyone have a good target?"

"Jewelry show next month," Dawn said from the hallway.  She walked in with the paper.  "It says it's heavily guarded and in a place that's nearly impossible to get into."

Lupin looked it over, then nodded.  "It's hard, but not terribly difficult.  Some disguises might work."

"Something easier, Lupin," Jigen said quietly.  "David won't be able to pull that."

A book thumped onto the table between them, making them jump.  Then Ethan appeared.  "These people are vexing me beyond all sense," he announced.  "Could I perhaps talk you into stealing the three things I need from there for that potion?"

Lupin smirked at him.  "What sort of challenge is that?"

"I had Xander do it last time and he nearly got caught."

"Ah." Lupin nodded, looking at the section in the book.  "Where is this?"

"There are some catacombs underneath Cambridge.  Almost no one knows about them.  They're from the days when the Church ran everything in the world.  They used to hide artifacts down there.  There are no new guardians but the old ones aren't dead yet and they're fairly picky about whom they let down there.  Xander had to go in as a priest."

"Um, last time?" Dawn asked.

"In the vision. Some of us experienced it like it really happened."  He looked at Lupin again.  "I desperately need the things down there.  It isn't much of a challenge for more than one of you, but I don't know how to do it on my own.  I'm not a thief."

"Good point," Lupin agreed, flipping the page to go on.  "Let me think about it.  I'll give you an answer tonight while you make up a magical skills list for the boys."  One was handed over.  "Really?" he asked, smirking at him.

"It figures you'd want one after that stunt Xander just pulled," he said dryly, but he was smirking.  "That boy is the reason why you got gray hairs."

"He's caused a few of mine too," Jigen agreed.  "How long is that thing?"

"That is spells they should know if they don't already.  Protections, wardings, warnings, things of that nature.  Plus a few healing spells.  Xander needed that dreadfully the last time I knew."  He waved a hand and disappeared.

"Show off," Dawn said bitterly.  She couldn't do that.  She looked at the list.  "That's long."

"Then we'll let the boys go through it and see what they already know and what they need to learn."  Lupin handed that to Goemon.  "Get them to do that when they wake up, Goemon."  He went back to reading.  "I think this would be a more than acceptable trial.  Not too hard for a group, but you'd have to work as a team."  He shrugged and pushed it over to Jigen.  "You think?"

"Anything in it for us?"  Lupin whispered in his ear.  "For that I'd sleep with Ethan," he noted, reading over the section describing the place.  "Pack, Dawn.  We'll be leaving in two days so your group can do a job."

"We're not ready."

"By now you should be," Lupin reminded her.  "Two of you are."  He looked at her.  "And you can't use any magic near there.  It's blocked."  She sighed and went to find David.  He looked at the older ones.  "Fujiko could pull this one by herself if she could charm one of the priests."

"I doubt it," Jigen pointed out.  "They'll make it or they won't."  He closed the book, looking at Lupin.  "We'll be there to guard against death, right?"  Lupin nodded.  "Good.  I'm wondering if they're related to the mass of disappearing bodies recently that way."

"One way to find out," Lupin pointed out cheerfully.  "Research time."  Jigen sighed and followed him while Goemon dealt with their students.  By dinner that night, Marcus and Xander had taken over the research duties, leaving them to relax for a while.  Or in Jigen's case to try and beat David and Dawn into gunmen.


Xander looked at the cave entrance in front of him.  It was dark, it was dank, and it smelled bad.  "BO," he complained, shaking his head.  "They have water."  He straightened his clothes and wandered inside, nodding at the men who were gathered in front of the inner entrance.  "Hello.  I'm here to authenticate the artifacts."  He handed over the copy of the letter Lupin had sent on Cambridge's letterhead last week.  "I know it's a bit hasty, but there is someone who's depending on this for their dissertation."

"We do not let anyone near them," one of the men, the man in the middle, said.  "They are not open to gawkers, especially profane ones."

Xander raised an eyebrow.  "Really?" he asked.  "And who are you to tell me that I can't do what I was sent here to do, when I'm on my own campus' property?"  The man sneered.  "That's fine, I can bring down my department head."  A friend of Lupin's.  "Shall I call him?"

"No, you should leave," the man spat.  "You are not one of us, not one of the holy chosen."

"No, I'm not," Xander agreed.  "Why would I want to follow a God whose main point is conversion against the free will we supposedly have?  Or one who seems to damage every native culture He comes into contact with?  I'm sorry, the God I believe in gave us all free will so we can make fools of ourselves at times so we have reasons to repent."  The men looked stunned.  "Welcome to the twentieth century.  Now, move, or I'll have you removed."

"We cannot leave the cave," another of the men said, stepping forward.  "The only way we may leave is our death."

Xander looked at him. "Then one of you is a walking dead person for those girls you've been killing," he said dryly.  They gasped.  "It was rather obvious it was one of you.  Now, the college has said that these artifacts shall be examined and verified or you'll all be leaving the caves without the college's property.  After all, your Church gave it to us.  We're looking over our property."

"They are holy relics!" the spokesman said hotly.  He lunged at Xander and Xander put him onto his back.

"If they were truly holy relics, they wouldn't need guards," he sneered.  "Now, move.  Or else I'll have you removed.  Your choice."  He walked past them, looking over the artifacts laid out on a table.  An altar table to be exact.  "Hmm, magical setup."

"Bite your tongue!" the young man said angrily.  "Our Church does not practice such profane and unholy things!"

Xander looked back at him.  Then he flipped open the book and read from the front cover.  "As this book now belongs to the Priest, Father Fipperson, and the only White Mage within the Church, so the materials inside will be used for the Will of God and how He deems its usage.  Only the Angels will guide me on my magical journey and that to aid God in his Creations."  He closed the book and looked at him.  "You were saying?"

"They're not like that!" the headman said, advancing on him.  Xander pulled a gun and shot him on the calf.  "How dare you!"

"Shut up," Xander said bitterly, glaring down at him.  "Your Church used the very things they supposedly hated in the herb healers and the natural women of the world.  They used it to their own advantage time and again.  Your church has put out more propaganda in the last six centuries than anytime before, except for the Witch Trials.  And since that was mostly to gain property and to gain revenge, I don't think you should say anything further.  Now, we will be examining these things.  If you do not like it, feel free to walk out of here."  He looked at the younger man.  "How did you come to be here?  There's not supposed to be any additional men added to the original three."

"My mother gave birth to me and gave me to them."

"Ah.  Yes, we've seen a report on that," he admitted bitterly.  "How she was kidnaped, raped, held hostage until she gave birth, then sent on her merry way.  Pity."  He looked at the altar setup again, grimacing.  "Where is the cauldron, the silver brush, and the dagger?"  He looked again and the men gave him a horrified look.  "Yes, I do know what's here."  He walked around the cavern, finding the hidden area easily enough, the rock stuck out.

"No!" the headman moaned.  "Not those."

"Shut it or next time I'll hit your stomach."  He wiggled the rock out, brushing the cobwebs out of the way.  The silver wasn't tarnished and it wasn't glowing precisely but it was still in very good condition.  He carefully brought each piece out, ignoring the spiders that came out to attack him for destroying the webs.  He blew at them and they faded, disappearing totally.  He looked on the underside of the cauldron.  "To Janus I bless thee," he read, then shrugged.  "Authentic even."  He carefully added them to the setup on the table, then looked it over again.  "Something's still missing."  A spider crawled out and he flicked it off the table, stomping on it.  "Quit that, or else," he warned to the room in general.  He turned and found a larger spider so he picked up the silver dagger and stabbed it, then wiped the ick off on his pantsleg as it died in front of him.  "Good."  He found the missing item quickly and put it onto the table. It glowed and he said a quiet prayer to Janus and the God some of it was consecrated it to.   The glow faded and a big box appeared.  "Thanks be to you, Lords."  He gently packed everything.  Then he bowed to the priests.  "Your valiance has been noted.  You are free.  Report to the nearest church for reassignment."  He walked out with the box, wincing as his pants started to be eaten as soon as the spider's blood reacted to the air.  "Ow, owowowowow."  He handed off the box to Marcus and stripped off his pants, watching as they were eaten.  He managed to get his wallet and everything out, then rubbed his sore thigh.  "I think I need some burn creme."

Jigen handed him a trench coat.  "Put it on before you're accused of flashing someone."  He glanced around as the students moved around them, then walked them to the car.  "Hard?"

"One big spider demon.  Some baby spider demons.  A few insistent priests.  Did we get the cops in there?"  Jigen nodded.  "Some of them aren't bad."

"No, some of them aren't.  They're also not there anymore," Marcus pointed out.  Xander glanced at him.  "They disappeared when the light did.  I was watching.  The others are still there and they were the ones mentioned in the police reports.  What are we doing with the rest?"

"We'll hand them to Lupin's friend," Xander told him.  "They're not worth anything outside of a scholar's home or library."

"After your buddy Ethan looks them over," Jigen reminded him.

"Yeah, but some of them aren't Janus's things.  Some of them are Christian."

"Then those will probably go back to the college," Marcus agreed.  They got into the car, letting Xander hold the box in his lap while Jigen drove.  Marcus would have driven but Jigen was still having flashbacks from his last lesson.  "Should we stop by the Watcher's Council and have them robbed as well?  They have many priceless things now that they've rebuilt."

"Sure," Xander agreed.  "After this.  That's not for fun and profit, that's revenge."

"Sure, kids.  We'll watch your back while you do that," Jigen said firmly.

"We'll need to rob their DNA banks as well," Marcus said thoughtfully.  Jigen stopped the car and turned to look at him.  "Really.  They keep a genetic piece for each slayer they have material on and they keep one on the best Watchers and important lines."  Jigen's mouth hung open.  "My grandfather's is in there.  Father and I were a disappointment but I suppose my sister is beloved by them."  Jigen shuddered and started the car moving again.  "Did they get one on Buffy?"

"Yeah, Giles took blood, hair, and some skin a few years back, after we first started. He said it was mandatory and they'd send someone else if he didn't.  He took it off a wound though so she wouldn't miss it."  He shifted the box to his other leg.  "These holy things are getting heavy, Jigen, and my leg's still burning.  Can we go faster?"

"It's a few hour trip, Xan," Jigen reminded him.  "Unless you can do that popping thing to get there faster."

"Not with the artifacts."  He handed them to Marcus.  "Here, you watch them."  He looked down at his thigh, then nodded.  "Pull over.  I'm going to get this fixed before my skin melts."  Jigen stopped the car and Xander got out, stretching up then disappearing.   He landed in Ethan's study, pulling off the coat quickly.  "Hey, Ethan, I need an anti- corrosive.  You got any made up?" he called, looking down at where his flesh was starting to blister.  Lupin and Ethan both joined him.  "You know, if I could feel that really well it'd probably hurt."

"What did that?" Lupin asked.

"Spider demon's blood."  He looked at Ethan.  "It hurts."

"Of course it does."  He went into the kitchen, making up a neutralizer.  He handed the paste over.  "Slather that well and rest.  The artifacts?"

"With Marcus and Jigen."  The phone rang.  "Hopefully that's not Jigen saying the dagger took over Marcus and had him stab him."  He worked on his thigh while Ethan answered the phone, looking at Xander occasionally.  Ethan said something quietly and hung up.  "We in luck?"

"No, the dagger didn't.  The cauldron did.  Marcus just started telling dirty jokes apparently."

"Well, it was blessed in Janus' name," Xander quipped, spreading the stuff out evenly.  "It's still burning.  Got a manual?"  Ethan found it and pulled it down, letting Xander snatch it to look through.  "There it is," he said, handing it back.  "Doable?"  He winced.  "This stuff is still burning."

"Absolutely," Ethan agreed, going to make some of that with cream of tartar instead of baking soda this time.  By the time he came back, Lupin had the wound cleaned and this time Xander sighed in relief when it was slathered on his thigh.  "There.  Next time, don't do such foolish things."

"I wiped it on my pant leg," Xander defended.  "After I stabbed the thing.  It started to burn after I got everything out."

"The fresh air wasn't tainted with its essence," Ethan pointed out.  He checked the boy over, removing the few spiders from his hair and putting them into a bottle.  "I have a use for those.  Come, Xander, let us bathe you.  By the time you're out and cleaned up, they'll be here."

"I can do that," Lupin offered.

"You can help," Ethan said with a smirk.  "Xander is quite fun to bathe but I can share sometimes."

"I thought you gave him up."

"I have but that doesn't mean I don't like the boy any longer."  He walked his charge into the master suite, then into the bathroom once Lupin had paused to admire it.  The tub was big enough for all three of them to climb in but they put Xander in there and got him cleaned up.  The nearly-obligatory groping and squeezing got some laughter from the boy but they all enjoyed it quite a lot.  Jigen came in, interrupting their fun.  "What?" Ethan asked.  "We're cleaning off the burns."

"I don't want to know," Jigen pointed out.  "We're back.  Everything's downstairs.  Marcus is locked in the library."

"Thank you," Lupin said with a grin.  "He's being giggly."

"It's probably from the acid," Jigen said grimly, heading down to deal with the artifacts.  Xander came down in a pair of boxers and a t-shirt, his wound clearly showing.  Jigen hissed in sympathy.  "Ow."

"Very ow.  Never put baking soda on that.  Cream of tartar is the correct remedy."  He bowed to the box then unpacked it and laid it out correctly.  "Okay, we're done," Xander announced.  Ethan walked in and a few things rattled.  "Hey, he's giving you back to the college.  Quit."  They settled down.  "Sorry, holy artifacts and Ethan don't always mix," he explained.  "At least if they're not holy to Janus."  He got out of the way, watching as Ethan picked up the things he needed and the other things associated with Janus, then Xander repacked the box and Marcus got to take it back to the college.  "What am I doing now?"

"Go look up healing spells," Ethan told him, taking things to his work area.  He started work on the potion, relaxing once he had done so.  Everything was still perfect, even though he did have to clean the blade a few times to repurify it.  "Next time, stab the spider with something other than the sacrificial knife," he called.

"Sorry, Ethan, it was at hand."  Xander walked into the library and to the healing section, pulling down one of the three books so he could find something for his thigh.  It really ached.  Jigen came and sat at the research table with his crossword.  Xander's hand inched over and he snatched it, grinning at him.  "Hi."

"Hi.  Give it back."  Xander gave it back.  "Thanks.  Now go fuck Lupin senseless to cure that mood."

"I'll wear it out tonight, once I'm healed again."  Xander turned the page, reading over the short spell.  He tried it and it worked part of the way.  He sighed and moved onto something harder, doing it again.  "Oh, come on, if you don't heal, I can't get laid," he complained.  This time the healing spell worked completely and Xander went to find clothes.  He and Ethan were about the same size.  "Ethan, I'm stealing clothes and heading out to get laid.  Need anything while I'm gone?"

"Wear underwear this time, Xander," he called.  "Or else buy me new clothes."

"Yes, Ethan," he sighed, shaking his head as he went back upstairs.  He grabbed the suit he liked from the closet and put it on over his boxers and t-shirt, then stole a pair of socks and shoes too.  His wallet was found in the trench coat.  His keys were too.  He checked his wallet, then sighed and made a call.  "Murami, do I have the right cards to spend a lot?"  She read off the numbers.  "Yup, I've got those. Thanks, babe.  I'm going to have fun.  Want Lupin or Jigen?"  She requested Lupin so he handed the phone over with a blown kiss. "I'm off to get blown."  He disappeared, heading to London and a house he was quite familiar with from his time.  It was time for them to get to know him again.  He walked inside and bowed, then grinned. "I'm desperate, go for very long times, and need it very badly.  Anyone free?"

The Madam looked him over, then nodded. "Obviously."  She'd heard it before and he probably only lasted a few minutes.  "Payment up front."  Xander handed over his special card and she gaped at him.  Then she looked at the name then at him again.  "Oh, damn, you're him."  He beamed and nodded.  "Fine. I'll have a room set up for you.  Need anything special?"

"Got any guys?"

"A few, I'll send them up in spurts."  He strolled after her to the room she would make his, getting ready for the first girl.  She knocked and walked in confidently.  She would leave crawling and pleading for fluids, but he had a lot of fun and so had she.


Lupin looked up as Ethan came out of the study with Marcus.  "He okay?"

"He's fine.  Dawn is on her way back with David.  They've got nearly a full trunk of supplies.  Her sister just called Marcus.  There's been an incident."

"We figured there might be," Lupin agreed.  "When we get there, we'll deal with it."  He stood up.  "Jigen, we're going to Cleveland.  Where is your student?"

"He's still probably wearing out the whorehouse," Jigen said as he joined them.  "He's in London somewhere."

Xander appeared, then disappeared and got his wallet, coming back while he was stuffing it in his pocket.  "Sorry, nearly forgot that.  What's up?"

"We're needed to help Buffy."


"Because she's got something eating people."

"Hmm, that thing again," he said dryly.  "Sure.  As soon as Dawn's back so she can make the portal thing."  He looked at Ethan.  "I'll get it cleaned and send it back."

"Thank you."  He shook his head.  "Have fun?"

"Much.  Cost me nearly ten grand, but I had a lot of fun," he said with a smirk.  "Quality house."

"Obviously.  How many did you go through this time?"

Xander shrugged.  "I lost it in the middle of it.   It was one of those pleasure-only moments."

"So you did the beserker thing on pleasure?" Lupin asked.  Xander nodded.  "Feel better?"

"Much.  I'm not even bouncing now."

"Good," Jigen agreed.  "I hate it when you bounce, Xander."  He handed over the weapons he had been keeping for the boy.  "Yours I believe."

"We'll need silver bullets and things," Xander pointed out.   He looked at Marcus.  "Do we want to buy or steal?"

"Steal," he said with a wicked grin.  "I know the inside of the safe."

"Oooh, show me, show me," Xander said excitedly, bouncing a bit.  Marcus sent over the mental picture and they disappeared, coming back together with armfuls of stuff.  Xander had to lean against Ethan for a good few minutes but it was enough until he could lie down.

Marcus stroked his new crossbow, grinning at Ethan.  "They shouldn't miss it too much.  We didn't take near half of the crate of silver bullets or bolts."

"Good," Ethan agreed with a small smirk.  "Let me get you something to carry those in."  He went to find them a bag, letting Xander nap until Dawn got back.


Giles looked up as the portal opened, gaping at the people coming through.  "Xander," he breathed.

"Morning.  The thing under the parking garage still?"


"Dawn!" Buffy yelled, grabbing her to shake.  "What are you doing!"

"You called," she pointed out, knocking her backwards.  "I brought help.  Xander's better than I'll ever be."  She shrugged and waved at Angel.  "Hey, pile of ashes in waiting."  She looked at Lupin and grinned.  "This, of course, is my sister Buffy.  That dark and gloomy one is Angel.  The one next to him is David's father, Gunn.  The one next to him is Fred, and she's cool so we protect her.  Behind the counter is the shocked Giles.  Xander, who gets to go?"

"Like I care?" he suggested.  "No Gramps?"

"He's out trying futilely to get his boss back," Giles said, looking confused.  "You came back?"

"You called for help, I'm in a bloodthirty mood," Xander pointed out, heading out the door.  "Anyone who's following, follow."  He tied back his hair as he walked, letting Lupin stay to taunt his friends with Jigen if he wanted to help.  Marcus stayed to pilfer books, he couldn't resist.

Jigen looked at Lupin, then at Giles, who was glaring at them.  "What?  You didn't call?"

"We did.  We called for David and Dawn, to change their minds."

"Oh, well," Lupin agreed.  "You want one, you get all of us."  His phone rang and he answered it.  "Yeah, Goemon?"  He listened. "That's fine.  She's more important.  Stay there and pamper your son and wife.  No, we're heading back for the maze after this.  Sure.  You behave.  No more tickling the son from the inside for a few days."  He heard the blush pop into being. "Sorry, couldn't resist.  Keep her napping and happily in bed.  We'll be home soon.  No, Cleveland."  He hung up.  "She's having cramps and possibly false labor pains.  He's waiting hand and foot on the stomach of doom."

"It's what I'd expect him to do," Jigen agreed, sitting on the edge of the table.  "So, David, this is your dad?"  David nodded, grimacing.  "Did you want to talk to him?"  He gave the boy a nudge.  "Xander did suggest you talk to him since this might be the last chance if you finish your training."

"Leave my son alone," Gunn said angrily.

"Hey, he makes his own choices with us," Lupin told him.  "If he wants to be a thief, then we'll finish training him.  If not, then we'll have to deal with him."  He shrugged.  "It happens."

"You're a cold bastard," Angel said, glaring at him.  "I thought my heart didn't beat."

"It doesn't," Dawn told him snidely.  "Xander's threatened to lock the knowledge behind something so strong so we can't tell about it if we come back."

Buffy looked at her.  "What is wrong with you?"

"Having you as a big sister."

"Oh."  Buffy looked hurt.  "I tried, Dawnie."

"Do not call me that!" she snapped. "You lost that right when you turned on Xander and supported Willow sending him to Hell."  Buffy slumped farther.  "Good."  She glared at Giles.  "You still alive?"

"To date," he admitted. "I haven't seen Spike yet."  Lupin looked at him.  "Ethan and I are as linked as he and the boy are," he admitted quietly.  "I know it all."

"Good."  Lupin looked at Jigen, then nudged him when he saw Marcus nose-deep in a book.  "That looks familiar."

Jigen looked and nodded. "It does."  He looked at Giles.  "Wasn't there something about an antidote for the slime this time?"

"I've started it already," Marcus noted, lifting his head.  He smiled at Fred.  "Hello, dear."  He kissed her on the cheek.  "How are you dealing?"

"Much better now, Marcus, thank you."  She ruffled his hair, earning a disgusted look.  "Sorry, but you're so cute!  Such a little book geek."

He smirked at her.  "And a very good swordsman."  He smirked at Gunn, who turned away from him.  "David, this is the person that you'll have to deal with if you don't decide to go on with your training.  Goemon said to burn your bridges now since you have the chance."  Marcus continued to read his book, at least until Lupin took it from him.  "What?"

"Do not get that deeply into it," he warned quietly.  "We do not need another Willow."  Marcus nodded, giving him a calm look.  "Understood?"

"I do, Lupin, and I agree.  I don't need what I did before."  He took the book back.  "This is on healing.  I figured we'd need it soon enough."  He slid up onto the table to read.  "Where's Gramps?"

"Still beating on the demon to try and get his boss back," Giles said, leaning on the counter to keep himself from harming the men in front of him. "I'm surprised.  No choker?"

"Goemon has it," Lupin told him.  "Xan had a panic attack when he saw it.  Faith?"

"She followed him."

"Good, then she and Xan can handle the demon," Lupin pointed out.

"Since some of us remembered things, some of us took a few matters into our own hands," Giles said, pressing a button in front of him. A cage dropped around the table.  "I believe the inspector will be quite happy with us."

Buffy nodded.  "Very."  She looked at Dawn.  "You can join them or us."

"Or I can kill you all," Dawn pointed out dryly.  "Or Xan can."

"Xander won't," Buffy said smugly.  "He'd never hurt me."

"Bet me," David sneered.  His father caught him by the back of the collar.  "Xander said he'd cap you damn quick, father.  Just for you watching a few times.  See, he could see who watched and who didn't."  He glared at Angel.  "I think he's got a special part of Hell for you."

Inspector Zenigata walked down from the room he had been hiding in.  "Ah-ha!  We trapped you."

"And we'll still be rescued," Jigen sighed, looking at Lupin, who shrugged.  "Days?"


Zenigata snorted.  "That other gunman's being taken out by my boss.  The demon was killed earlier."

"Yay.  What makes you think Lavelle can't fix him?" Lupin said with a small chuckle. "He's better than I am in some things."

"Still, he won't get past my boss."  Faith walked in.  "He in custody?"  She shook her head, then fell forward, gurgling up blood.  "Faith!"  He walked over to check her, finding the stab wound in her back.  "What happened, did that bastard do this to you?"  She shook her head, clawing at his chest.  "What happened?"

"Demon, higher court," she moaned, then fell unconscious.

"Get her some help," he ordered, looking at Giles.

"I've already called an ambulance," Giles promised.  "What of Xander?"

"Xander's probably already taken care of the demon and your boss," Lupin told him.  More cops came rushing in and carried Faith off, then got their cage rolling.  "Isn't this table heavy?"

"It is," Marcus agreed, popping outside of the cage with the table.  Then he laid into a few of the cops.  David came down to help but he was knocked out.  Dawn cast something at them, stunning most of them.  Marcus looked at the cage door.  "I can't open that.  Is that a dagger blade or a screwdriver?"  Dawn moved him out of the way and went to get it open but Buffy tried to grab her.  So Marcus knocked her out with a calm strike across her windpipe.  The Inspector was backed away from them, looking on in horrified shock.  Marcus sneered at him.  "Some of us are very well trained, Inspector."  He saw the back door open and looked back at Xander.  "You all right?"

Xander walked in, calmly buttoning his shirt.  "Just fine.  The demon was snacking on the cops.  Hey, Gramps, your boss needs medical attention.  He fell down to worship the giant cock."  He looked at the cage, then moved Dawn and got it open for her.  "There."  He waved.  "After you.  Dawn, home."

"She's staying!" Buffy said as strongly as she could, and Giles shouted it.

"That's up to her," Xander pointed out, nudging Dawn.  "Up to you fully, princess."

"Xan, I couldn't do it," she said.  He nodded.  "I...I froze."

"I know."  He patted her on the back.  "If you or David want to stay, that's up to you.  We'll take your warrants out.  We'll block you from saying anything about us.  Then we'll let you go."

She nodded, swallowing hard.  "I think I need to."

"That's fine.  Open the portal to the main house.  We'll go back there.  Marcus, weren't you going to steal books?"

"Already packed," he said smugly, helping Dawn with the portal.  "David?"  David choked as his father grabbed him again.  "Let him go, it is his choice."

"He's a minor."

"He's eighteen," Lupin corrected. "He's able to make his own decisions."

Gunn let him go when Angel laid a hand on his arm.  "Fine."  He gave his son a shove. "Go with them and die or come back home and get forgiven."

Xander looked back at him.  "If he comes back home, he'll be Connor's second. He'll never trust any of you ever again except for Fred."

"And I'm Connor's helper anyway," Fred agreed.  "David?"  He looked torn.  "I need you, Connor needs you.  We're the last warriors for the light outside the Slayers."

David looked at Marcus.  "They need me."

"We knew already," Lupin promised.  He watched as Xander did both compulsions and blocks. Then he smiled at Dawn.  "We'll pack things for you and get rid of any remaining stolen stuff you have at the house.  Yo, Pops, take good care of Dawnie.  She won't have any warrants and she's the one doing all the profiling stuff."  He and Jigen walked through, Xander and Marcus behind them.  Marcus had to call a book back but the portal closed behind him.  Behind them, Dawn fell to her knees crying.

"Good.  Now that you're back, things are going to change, Dawn."

Dawn got a sudden flash from the Powers.  She stood up and sneered at her sister. "You're right, things are going to change, Buffy.  In the next two years, you're going to lose everyone in this room but David, Fred, Gunn, and me.  Giles will be turned.  Angel will probably die, he'll be sucked somewhere again and made to deal with that realm for a bit.  The potentials are going to find that you're not the great chief you pretend to be."  Buffy screamed and went for her, but Dawn knocked her down, silently thanking Goemon.  "That's right, Sister dear, the Powers said I'm to stay.  At least for now."

"You're going to jail," Zenigata said coldly.  "You have warrants, no matter what those crooks do."

She snorted and shook her head.  "No, I don't.  You see, I'm not real," she told him.  He looked stunned.  "I don't have fingerprints like normal people.  I don't have normal person DNA.  I don't have anything like that."

"Are you some sort of mutant?" Gunn demanded.

"No, sweetie, I'm the Key," Dawn reminded him.  "I'm a fucking ball of energy.  I can shuck this mortal body and do another one with a bit of work.  I know how to now.  That's what the Powers showed me.  For good guys, you certainly do a lot of bad things."  She looked at David.  "I'll be out with you soon, babe.  You rest."  He nodded, looking calm.  "Or else I'll take over Europe.  There's no slayers over there and there needs to be a few of them."  She looked at Giles. "Minor flaw in your plan, Giles.  Removing all the potentials means that anything that happens where they were will still happen.  It doesn't move just because you moved the girls."  He moaned.  "Europe's being overrun.  That leaves Xander, me, and David to cure it until we can find a few of the potentials and train them in the proper manner.  Don't bother us."  She looked at Zenigata again.  "You know, in the vision Xan had we got together, I have no idea why."  She disappeared, taking her nephews with her.  She smiled down at them.  "Hi, guys.  I'm your Auntie Dawn."

"Mommy talked about you," the older boy said, smiling up at her.  "Are you a nice lady now?"

"Yes, Morgan, I am a very nice lady," Dawn promised, patting him on the head.  "But your mommy's having some problems and none of us want you hurt.  Therefore, I'm going to be taking care of you from now on.  We're going to find a house, find some of our own potentials and train them the right way.  Along with you two.  Got it?"  They nodded, following her up to the house she had bought in the last year as a personal hideout.  She showed them to their rooms, then checked on the phones.  They were on.  She called Xander's cell, giving him the address.  "Send Demara to me, the Powers told me it was necessary.  I've got my nephews."  She hung up and went to her own room to look at the things she had kept here.  A few judicious sales should set her up for life.

Back at the magic shop, Zenigata was jumping up and down in rage.  "How could you let her get away!"

"Oh, quit," David said coldly.  "Dawn is a power unto herself.  She's the only one who can ever hope to catch Lavelle.  She's also one of the few people in Europe who *has* to survive to a very old age.  Now, you can either help her with that or not.  Your world is threatened and you're throwing a kiddie fit.  No wonder you can't catch Lupin."  He looked at Fred.  "Is Connor around?"  She nodded.  "Then let's do that."  He walked her out, ignoring his father totally.  He had a lot of groveling to do.

Angel looked at Gunn.  "If I'm sucked somewhere, I'm putting you in charge of LA's operations," he said firmly.  "Let the boy prove his worth. Let him do his job.  Make up with him between the battles."  Gunn nodded and Angel walked out of the shop, heading to track Fred to give her instructions.  He couldn't find her.  He couldn't find David either.  He did find Spike, and found himself unconscious before he could do anything else.  Then he found himself hit a few times and owning a few bones broken.

"Well, now, look at what I found," Spike said with a smirk.  "How fun.  For me."  He laughed and drug his sire off into the night. He could get the others back later.  No more lust spells on him, Rosenburg's taint was now gone. Things were going to be different now.  He stopped when he saw a lounging figure at the end of the alley, frowning at it.  "Go away, pillock."

"Oh, I can't do that," David said smoothly, advancing on him.  "I could care less that you have Angelus, Spike, but I will warn you.  Don't turn Rupert.  It will make some people very miserable, including Lavelle."

"Who the bloody hell is Lavelle?"

David smirked at him.  "You know him. It should come to you soon enough."  He stroked the vampire's lip with a thumb.  "Have fun with him, Spike, but remember, turning Rupert means that he'll be around to head the Watchers for a very long time.  Think about it before."  He winked and walked off.  "Try to leave Faith alone too, she supported Xander.  Her and Fred."

"Xander?" he asked, frowning.  "What's this got to do with Xander?"  He didn't get an answer so he dropped Angel onto the ground, looking down at him until he woke up.  "What the bloody hell did you do to the whelp!" he demanded.  "This cryptic shit is for plonkers like you, not for me."

Angel swallowed.  "Xander was given by Wesley," he hissed.  He knew his life was forfeit within minutes if he couldn't talk Spike out of this.  He could see the carnage in his eyes.  "He's a consort against his will.  We all know about him."

Spike paused, then shuddered.  "Heard about that when I was in Hell.  Nasty shit, poor sod."  He shrugged. "He's livin' though.  You're not."  He vamped out and lunged at Angel.  Angel tried to get away but Spike had broken both his legs.  Angel fought him off as best he could, but Spike was still whole and Angel was getting more and more injured. "Spike, don't," he pleaded.

"Poor thing," he cooed.  "Does it hurt?" he sneered. "Good.  Have a taste of the hell you put everyone through with this brooding crap."  He looked up.  "Yo, Rayne.  I've kept my end."  A portal opened and sucked Angel into it.  "Good riddance," he sneered.  Then he turned and went back to the magic shop.  He had some business there.  The Fred person was cute and shy, but she was feisty.  She was like a good Glinda, only geeky.  He had admired Tara so he'd leave her alone.  Gunn was going to get it though.  He was trying to yell at a kid who had to be his son.  Spike strolled in and vamped out.  "Welcome home party for me?" he asked.

"Spike," Buffy gasped.  "No, it can't be!"  She backed up, grabbing a stake.  "We saw you walk back into the Hellmouth."

"Yeah, but someone higher up thought the world wasn't fun enough for you anymore."  He released a gas grenade and waited while everyone choked and passed out.  Then he smirked.  "Where to start?"

Dawn appeared, tapping him on the shoulder. "Don't, Spike.  Do you *really* want Rupert as a childe for your entire life?"

"Hell no, Ethan said I could make him a minion and then break him."

"Hmm, do that and the world loses them both," she agreed.  "Sorry, some things are important.  Leave it with this.  Oh, that young guy is David.  He's cool.  He and I just spent the last year and a bit training with Xander."

"Xander?  Training how?"

She grinned and kissed him on the cheek, earning a shove and a dirty look.  "You'll find out.  I'm not allowed to tell, the same as David wasn't.  Now rush off before Buffy wakes up.  Tell her I'm saving her sons from her life."  She disappeared.

Spike laughed and walked over to wake Buffy up, glaring down at her. "Had a chat with the niblet.  She said she's saving your sons from your life."  He strolled out the back door, heading home.  H was tempted to eat the guy in the trench coat but he would probably taste funny since he had a breathing mask on.

Zenigata looked around the scene in horror.  What in the hell was going on!  What had Lupin drug him into this time!  How was he going to survive this!  He calmed himself.  "That girl, she knew and she will tell me," he muttered, leaving to track her down.  She had to leave some trail somehow, no matter how many times she just appeared somewhere.  She had when she was an art thief, she would now.  She might have trained with Lupin, but she wasn't him and he had given up on her.  She'd be much easier to catch.  That new one though, he would have to worry about him.


Xander looked back as the front door of the maze opened, shrugging at the guy running it.  "I tried, man.  Can you make it less sensitive to me?  I really wanna run it."

The maze guardian looked at him, then nodded.  "I can.  Step out of it, sir."  He watched as Xander walked back through the gateway, then adjusted it so it was four times as hard and much past the level of survival for most people.  "Try that."  Xander nodded and walked inside.  "People like him shouldn't be allowed to do the job," he said bitterly.  "They warp it for the rest of us."

"Actually, I'm this way against my will," Xander called back.  "Can you turn it up again.  This first creature is still bowing to me."  The guy let him back out and cranked it up all the way, then let him walk through.  "Thanks.  Like I said, I didn't choose this, it was done to me.  I only wanna be the gunman Jigen knows I can be."  He strolled on, finding the obstacles in his path had multiplied.  This would take all his skills and memories, but he could do this.  Even if some things changed he could do this.  He felt a sharp sting on his side and pulled out his knife to get that bush, moving on after spraying his side with an antibiotic spray.  He had made the same mistake last time, it was time for him to start paying attention.


That night, Xander looked over as someone joined him at his table. "Hey, Tornado."  The woman looked stunned.  "Sorry, bad habits and all that. What's up?"  He ate another bite of pasta.  He'd need the energy tomorrow when he and Jigen went through the maze.

The fifth in command for London's syndicate looked him over. "Some people say you're very good."

"I am very good.  I just got done with my solo maze tonight."  He shrugged.  "I'm going again tomorrow with Jigen, then the group goes the last day so Lupin can get used to us."  She gaped.  "What's up?  Your boss causing problems again by being a bigger thief and a slavedriver?"  She swallowed and nodded.  "I know how that can be.  Tell me what's been going on?"

"He tried to kill Millicent last night."  Xander's eyes hardened.  "You know of her?"

"Yeah, and she'd be the one I'd put in charge.  Is she okay?"  Tornado shook her head.  "Can she be made okay?"

"Only if you can do that funny healing thing that some people claim they can.  She's nearly brain dead."

Xander sighed.  This would definitely change things.  "I've got to wait until after the mazes, but I will gladly come help you with this."  He patted her on the hand.  "In return, I need someone to help me set up things to soothe myself.  I need people I can go to for information and security reasons."

"I won't tell on my own people."

"I'd never ask you to," he promised.  He never had.  "What I have in mind is something like Lupin's network.  I love my boss dearly, he's a great guy, but I need my own.  I'm not always with them and I need something like that sort of network.  Anything you did for me I'd be paying for."  She nodded, relaxing again.  "I'm also looking to start setting up some things.  I'd be letting you watch over them for me when I'm not there. Making sure no one broke in, things like that."

"I could do...."  She stopped and swallowed.  "He followed me."

Xander looked back and shrugged. "So he dies a more horrible death."  He ate another bite.  "Disappear, act like I insulted you after I invited you."  She nodded, slapping him then flouncing off.  "Ow."  He rubbed his cheek, then went back to his dinner.

"I know you're acting," a male voice sneered.

Xander looked at him.  "Really?  How?"

"Because no one doesn't wet themselves in front of me."

Xander stood up, staring the man down.  "Why would I want to do that?" he asked lightly.  "Because you're so big and bad?"  The man nodded.  "Then check the maze standings.  They should be updating soon."

"You won't live to see it."

Xander shrugged.  "Try.  I'm sure it'll make your people happy when I kill you."

"You're nothing."

"No, I'm a Lavelle.  Get it right."  The man backed up so he glanced behind him.  "I've got it, Lupin."  He looked at the guy again.  "Leave, now.  I don't deal with people who rip their own people off for profit.  It actually makes me a bit...upset.  As for your girl, I invited her over. We all know about my...appetites."  He smirked.  "She didn't want to play.  Pity, but her choice."  The man backed away further.  "Go.  Now."  The man ran off.  "And play in traffic while you're at it!" he called after him.  "Save me the train fare!"  Horns honked and they all winced as cars crashed together.  "Huh.  Cool."  He sat down, beaming at Jigen and Lupin.  "You're early."

"We came looking for you.  They made the maze harder?" Lupin asked.

"Just for me.  It'll be fine for all of us together."  He ate another bite.  "Am I buying dinner?"

"Sure, Xan," Jigen agreed, waving a waitress over.  He ordered dinner and some wine.  "Thanks."  She looked at Lupin, who nodded that he wanted what Xander had.  She left them to it.  "You've still got your wallet on you?"

"I've got my card on me," Xander corrected.  "My wallet's back in the hotel."

"I noticed it was on your bed," Lupin agreed, handing it over.  "What was that about?"

"He's making his people tithe him sixty to seventy percent, plus charging fees to sell stuff."  He ate another bite.  "Unfortunately, he's hurt the person I would have preferred to have take over."  He ate one last bite and leaned back.  "Sorry.  I'm a bit tired."

"Hey, perfectly understandable."  Lupin's phone beeped and he pulled it out, looking at the update for the maze.  "You're in second in the maze."  He looked up.  "Interesting."

"Who's first?"


"She's cheating.  We all know she's cheating.  She called up a demon to carry her through it."  He wiped his mouth.  "They'll be watching the tapes tonight."  He leaned back confidently.  "So, after this, what am I doing?"

"You know you can't build your own empire without me knowing now, right?" Lupin pointed out.  Xander nodded.  "Then why try?"

"Because they were handy when I was pulling things myself and I miss my houses.  You never got to see the one in Japan, but it was beautiful."

"I'm sure," Jigen agreed.  "But we'll still know."

"And I'm still going to do it.  I miss some of the things I retrieved.  I'm not going to hide it but it's not going to hurt things, right?"  Lupin shook his head. "Then did you mind?"

"No, just pointing out that you don't need to hide things.  Wow, that's Hal," he said, nodding politely at the man walking up to them.  This man had been Sweden's intelligence community.

Xander looked up and grinned.  "Hi.  Lavelle."  He shook his hand.  "Are you watching the maze tapes?"  He nodded.  "I thought so.  Did Syndy cheat?"  He nodded again.  "Does that mean I'm in first?"

"That depends.  Your maze was different."

"They had to make it harder for me.  I emanate where I was taken and used against my will.  The things bowed to me so I had them make it harder so I could still go through.  Didn't anyone else have theirs made harder?"

"Syndy now did.  She'll be rerunning it tomorrow."  He looked at Jigen, then at the both of them.  "We shouldn't have so bad a problem when you go together."  Xander shook his head.  "Good.  So far you're the only one who's had their made harder and one of three who survived.  The other one was after your time."

Xander nodded.  "I'll accept any fair outcome.  It's not fair that she did that.  If she wants to play on that level, I could bring out my own skills and beat her at it in a lot less time."

"How?"  Xander rolled up his sleeve to show him the mark.  "You're him," he said wisely.  "We heard you had joined this side of the life."  Xander grinned at him.  "Fine.  Yours was a legal pass-through.  The singles' maze will be done tomorrow for the remaining members and those who cheated.  The doubles' mazes will be after that or the next day."  He nodded at Jigen again.  "We'll test you both before you can go through.  You mute him some."  He walked on to talk to another maze entrant eating after their turn through.

"How hard was yours?" Lupin asked. "I thought it was doubly hard."

"They started at four times.  I did it at the top level," he admitted, sipping his wine.  The waitress brought the other two their foods.  "May I please have some more breadsticks?" he asked.  She nodded and went to get them for him, then left them alone with the check.   Xander put down one of his cards, then pulled out another one when the manager sent a dirty look his way.  "Sorry about that," he said when the waitress came back with his card.  "I'll get that straightened out later."  He handed over the unlimited one and called Murami on his cell.  "Which ones are at their limit?  I only used one."  He listened to her check while she ate.  "Sorry, I'm doing dinner too.  I'm buying tonight."  She mumbled something.  "Thanks."  He waved the waitress back and handed her the third card.  "Sorry, I took that one shopping and the payment hasn't reached it yet," he admitted sheepishly.  "I have mates with expensive tastes."  She shrugged and this time it went through.  "I did pay it," he defended.

"I know, Murami makes all the payments for us," Lupin agreed.  "Are you poor now?"

"Not hardly," Xander snorted.  He swirled his wine around, then grabbed a breadstick and nipped the end off.  "There's a tithe waiting for you in the mail."  Xander ate another bite, looking at him. "Forty percent is good enough, right?"

"Twenty would probably be fine," Lupin assured him.

"Yeah, but I couldn't break that up that much," he said with a grimace, eating another bite. "Eat up, Jigen, there's lots of plants in this one."

Jigen dug into his dinner.  "Thanks for this, Xan.  How are you getting rid of things?"

"That's the other reason I needed to build that network," he admitted.  "To get rid of some things."

"We have people for that," Lupin reminded him.  "I'll get you hooked into mine."  He and Xander shared a look.  "Not that I didn't like yours, but it'll take some time."  Xander nodded.  "What was this new one?"

"Hmm?  Demon holding cavern."  He finished that breadstick and reached for another one.  "Nothing too major, just big and heavy."'

"Do we want to know?" Jigen asked.

"Not if you want to eat."

"Thanks."  Jigen ate another bite.  "This is a really nice place.  Expensive?"  Xander shook his head. "I'll have to remember this."  He ate another bite.  "Will we have problems with the group one?"

"No, Goemon seems to blanket anything I can do when we're fighting together, so does Marcus.  You blunt me some.  I always radiate more when I'm alone.  Ours should be nearer to the normal level than not."  He took another sip of his wine, then grinned at Lupin.  "You're staring.  Am I that fascinating?"

"Yes.  There's a lot of stuff I don't realize yet, even with that vision."

"Yeah, but then again it's always been that way.  No one's ever seen the full me.  They're usually happier that way."  He shrugged and looked calm and peaceful.  "The same as no one's ever really known the full you."

"No, no one does," Lupin agreed, thinking about it.  "Hell, I know more about you than I do about Jigen's past, that's enough for me."

"Thanks, boss."  Xander grinned at him then pulled out a gun and shot someone trying to stick up a nearby patron with a sucker-cup arrow.  "Don't do that in front of me, I might get offended and have to do something really nasty."  The man with the gun ran away.  "Sorry about that," he said, putting back up his toy.  He looked at Jigen again. "I get to do a lot of that."

"You have how many weapons on you and you fired a toy?" Jigen asked.

"It worked."

"Good point," Lupin agreed, nodding as the patron left the restaurant.  "And it didn't scare anybody else."  He dug into his dinner, eating quickly.  "This is really good.  I've got to come here again."

"I like eating here," Xander offered.  "It's nice, peaceful, and the traffic's close enough to hear but not smell."  Both senior crooks nodded.  "Ooh, Gramps," he said, nudging Jigen under the table to look.  "He's pouting."

Lupin and Jigen both ate quicker.  "Finish your bread," Jigen ordered.

"Yes, dear."  Xander nibbled on the one in his hand and grabbed another two to take with him, then they left once the older men were done with their dinners, slipping past Zenigata on the way to the car.  He was mumbling about his own car being missing.  Once they were safely inside, he cackled. "Oh, yeah, Gramps lives on the other side of this block.  That's the other reason I like eating here.  He never looks for me there."  He handed over his extra breadstick when Lupin looked back at him.  "It's a harmless bit of fun."  He relaxed and nibbled on his breadstick.  "How's Fujiko?"

"Going still," Lupin sighed, pulling out into traffic.  "Hotel?"

"Yeah," Xander agreed.  He patted himself down.  "I left my wallet on the table."  He grimaced and concentrated, bringing it to him with his headache.  "I think I could use a nap now.  I'm due in Murami's office first thing tomorrow morning."

"That's fine," Lupin agreed.  "I'm sure you'll be nice to her."

"Oh, I will.  I adore the woman. She makes me good interest."  He stretched out, closing his eyes.  "Tell me when we get back there."

"Fine," Lupin agreed, looking down at the boy.  "Bike?"

"Safely parked in a secure garage."

"Good boy."  Lupin switched lanes and headed toward the park.  Since Xander was napping, they could relax for a bit and watch the night start off.  He glanced at Jigen.  "What's wrong?"

"Nothing.  Just thinking."  He glanced back at Xander.  "I did see us being together."  Lupin nodded.  "I can't do that."

"We're not asking you to," Lupin pointed out.  "I might be tired from wearing him out, but we'll go on like this for now."

"Lupin, he's wearing you out."

"Unless he suddenly takes Marcus or you in hand, there's no cure for that," Lupin pointed out.  "Besides, it's not like I *object* to having great sex and being on top."

"You top him?"

"Yeah, each and every time," Lupin said.  "Why?"  He noticed the blush.  "Oh, you saw one of those rare times.  Yeah, it took ten years and a few crises but we did wear you down about that.  It was really rare."

"I wish I could remember all that too," Jigen said bitterly.

"You'd miss the kids, Jigen," Lupin said quietly.  "I know I do."  He looked at him.  "Sometimes things have to happen certain ways."  Jigen grabbed his head and winced.  "Getting more of it?"  Jigen nodded so he shifted over to stroke his back. "It's all right, quit resisting.  Just let it flow through you."  Jigen passed out.  Lupin looked up.  "That wasn't very polite."

"We've never been known to be polite," a deep voice said from Xander's mouth.  "He won't remember much more of it but it might help that some."  Lupin looked back at him.  "What?  You expected me not to keep an eye on you after my darling one did that?"

"Well, no," Lupin admitted.  "I just expected some subtlety."

"Eh. I try."  Xander's shoulders shrugged.  "Once again, he won't ever feel any more damage from anything that was done to him.  I've weakened the line between he and Ethan as much as possible.  As for the whole sex thing, that's between you three.  He will have to take up the choker sometime to save you.  It must happen at least once.  The twins are important.  As are you first two."

"I already had one picked out."

"Then use it but don't expect it to be the same, Lupin the Third.  Things are not changing that far.  He won't need his network the way he did but he will still want some of it.  Encourage that.  Encourage him to steal the pretty purple and green crystals as well.  Marcus has seen his problem and will not become addicted.  That leaves the problem of Lotus coming to be.  She must.  The world will need replacements for all of you and a few lost warriors.  We were wrong to expect him to do it for us.  Oh, the ship thing?  It still might happen, only in a different manner.  It could be worse or better.  One never knows."  He shrugged again then Xander went limp.

Lupin looked at Jigen as he woke up. "I hate it when people take over Xander's body."

Jigen gave him a funny look.  "Huh?"


"Oh.  Sorry, boss.  He okay?"

"Yeah, just fine. Just a funnel."  He patted Jigen on the shoulder.  "How's your head?"

"Just fine.   Now that I know some things, I think we need to talk, boss."  He glanced back at Xander, then at him.  "Want to take a walk like men?"

"No, we can do it here.  He probably already knows anyway," Lupin sighed.

"Good.  That unappreciation thing we were doing, it's got to stop.  I hated it before."

"Me too, I never realized I was doing it until Xander reacted though."

"Then this time we've got to be a bit more aware.  Now, which of the kids *have* to be born?"

"My first two, your first two, Ishi and Lotus.  The others were extras or special in other ways."

"Plus the last one so another old me is born," Xander said tiredly.  "Keep it down, guys."

"Sorry, Xan."  Lupin looked at Jigen.  "It'll happen however it does," he said quietly.  Jigen nodded his agreement to that.  "Then we won't worry about it until we have to have Lotus born and turned toward magic."

"Goemon will kill us," Jigen pointed out.

"Not if we don't tell him."

Xander sat up, resting his head on the back of the bench seat in front of him.  "He knows, guys.  I told him that first night.  He knows all about Ishi and Lotus.  He understands but it pisses him off in a few creative ways.  He'd rather the kids had a choice in some things."

"She will," Lupin pointed out.  "Outside of Ishi being able to fight with his father's sword, the magic stuff won't make it so she can't do things."

"Especially since Morgan won't be Pop's anymore," Jigen offered.

"Good point," Xander agreed. "I'm still wondering what *had* to be changed to prevent that last thing from happening."

"I have the feeling it's you living in that choker or your network, those seem to be the biggest two changes," Lupin offered.   "If so, it might have already changed enough."

"I hope so."  Xander grinned.  "I'm still not stealing those power holding crystals for him.  He can leap off a tall building without a cape."

"That's between you and him, Xan," Lupin agreed, answering his cellphone. "Yeah?"  He grinned.  "Hey, Murami.  What's up?"  He listened to her say something about her office not being a good delivery point.  "Sorry about that.  Xander didn't know where to send it this time.  I'll teach him better."  He grinned at her quiet words of what was in it.  "He said he couldn't break it up.  That makes me very happy.  Do you need to talk to him, he's napping in the back seat."  He handed the phone back.  "Murami."

Xander listened to her short rant. "I'm sorry, sweet and generous one.  I knew we were going to be in town and I had to ship it out since I couldn't carry it with me. I'm sorry they disturbed you.  Usually I use my mailing system but they're about to be raided and I didn't want to risk this one."  He listened to her calm down.  "Are we still on for ten?"  He smirked.  "Good.  I'll see you then.  Yuppers.  Have a nice night, Murami."  He hung up.  "She intercepted it through the usual mailing system."

"I figured as much," Jigen agreed. "What was it?"

"A fist-sized sapphire," Lupin said happily.  "Have we been checking for portals?"

"No, this time I warded everything around me so none can open without me knowing the second it starts.   This time there will not be a new hellmouth in Fujiko and Goemon's bedroom."  Jigen looked back at him.  "It opened while she was looking one over."  He looked at Lupin.  "How's your daughter?"

"I've been looking for her but I haven't found her yet. Her mother said she's away at school.  I've checked all the usual ones."

"Have we tried a 'net search?" Xander asked.  "Googling her name and all that?"

"I hadn't yet," Lupin admitted.  "I'll do it once we get back to the hotel."

"Provided no one turned us in for tipping so badly," Jigen reminded him.

"It was shitty service, of course I didn't tip well," Lupin said firmly.

"That hotel did get much better in a few years," Xander agreed.  He relaxed again. "Let's go back and check on the room.  I could still use a nap before my early morning meeting and the maze tomorrow night."  He yawned and slumped down in his seat.

Lupin started the car, backing out of their spot.  He headed back to the hotel, taking them somewhere else when he saw all the cop cars.  The one he decided on got him a funny look from Jigen.  "What?"

"This is where she ran to after that fight," Jigen said quietly, glancing back.

"And?  Are you planning on being deflowered here?"  He got out, letting the valet take the car.   They headed in and got a suite, then took Xander up to it so he could nap.  Their stuff would be gotten back tomorrow.


Xander peeked into Murami's office, grinning at her.  "Ready for me?"

"If you're ready for me," she agreed happily.  He walked and she shook his hand.  "How are you this morning, Lavelle?"

"Fine.  You?"

"Well enough.  I need my masseuse."  He walked around and worked on her neck, making her moan.  "Damn, you're handy.  Now I see why Lupin keeps you around."  She patted him on the hand.  "That's enough."  He walked back around to his seat and sat down.  "Now, you mentioned knowing that some things had to be done.  What?"

He pulled out the list he had made.  "These."  She looked it over, then looked at him.  "It's an odd thing, and I know you don't like odd things."

"No, I don't.  How do you know about these and the dates and what's needed?"

"Um, the strange odd thing. See, I kinda got a really long vision."  She gaped at him.  "Seriously.  Lupin got it, Jigen got it, Goemon didn't but he knows some of it."  She shook her head.  "Want me to prove it?"  She nodded.  "Fine.  Today we'll have a rerun of the maze.  Syndy should be announced dead in about five minutes by my watch.  You can check the maze stats."  She turned on her computer and got onto the site they were updating the statistics on.  She glanced at him, then at the clock.  Then she hit the update button and gaped at it, then at him.  "The first time she had a demonic minion carry her around the danger.  This time she couldn't.  They set it a bit too high for her power levels but she managed to get past everything until around the middle of the maze if everything was the same.  Some things have changed a bit."  She checked on it, then nodded and sighed, picking up the list again.  "Sorry, I know you hate the strange stuff but I want some of the things from that back."


"Murami, it would have been my life if the kidnaper had put that necklace on me."


"A diamond and ruby choker.  It changes sex."  Her mouth fell open. "Yeah, some things need changed and quickly.  So, can we work on that?  And did you get the money I had wired?"

"All safely in that new account you wanted set up," she admitted.  "I suppose I don't have to understand, Lavelle."

"Xander, Murami. You deserve the right to use my proper name."  He saw her glance at the wall screen and grinned.  "Really?"  She shook her head quickly.  "Special friend?"

"Mostly," she admitted.  "Dawn?"  She came out.  "I'm sure you two know each other."

"Of course," Dawn agreed, hugging Xander.  "I didn't want to spook you.  What'cha doin'?"

"I'm getting back some of the stuff I had in the vision."

"Oh.  Why?"

"Because I liked it, Dawnie.  It's amazing, but I was a great thief.  Even better than now."  He kissed her on the cheek.  "As you can see, only a few things are this year's and that one may need a closer eye kept on it. The scientists were killed halfway into it and I'd like them to finish the work this time."

"I'll see what I can do," Murami agreed.  "Thank you, Xander.  I like challenges."

He grinned.  "Oh, that's nothing, but don't worry about it, Murami.  Did you remember to pay off my exclusive card?"  She nodded.  "Thanks.  I called to check on it last night and it hasn't made it on there.  It actually got refused last night."

"I'll check on it for you," Murami assured him.  "There will be some in a new name soon."  He nodded and kissed her cheek before leaving them alone.  "Now, what is that all about, Dawn?"

"I was sent to make sure that he was doing some of the same things.  Can I see the list?"  It was handed over.  "Oh, goodie, he's going after the guys who want to build the battle armor and the comic company.  They always made him happy."  She grinned and handed it back.  "Other than that, I just need you to liquidate my stuff and set it aside.  I'm setting up a trust for my nephews since Buffy's been convinced to sign custody over to me.  I've also got to find a few of the potentials and have them trained.  Europe won't continue correctly without a few slayers here."  She waved and walked out.  Outside the building she was grabbed and pulled into an alleyway.  "Zenny," she said, smiling at him.  "What's wrong?  Are my warrants still in effect?"

"No," he said bitterly.  "They're not."  He looked her over.  "What did you call me?"

"Zenny.  It's a pet name."  She grinned at him.  "What's up?"

"I want to know why that guy in Cleveland and Lupin both think I'd ever touch you."

"Well...."  She made a face, then sighed.  "Okay, it goes like this.  Xander got a vision the other day from Janus. It was what his life would have been had the kidnaper done something specific.  Everything is mostly the same as it was in it, but some things in it have to happen."

"I don't believe in Janus or visions."

"Yeah, well, magic exists," she said, pulling out a cigarette for him and lighting it without the help of his lighter.  "As I said, it does exist.  Lots of things exist that most people don't like to think about."  He took a few quick puffs.  "Let's head to my house to talk this over.  The babysitter is going to be nuts if I don't make it home soon."

"Do you have anything to drink?" he asked.

She nodded.  "A fully stocked bar and the kids'll be napping in a few hours.  Come on.  I've only got to stop at the store for dinner."  She walked away, letting him follow.  "Which way to the nearest store, Zenny?"

"East and don't call me that.  The only people who get to call me pet names are the ones I'm sleeping with."

She looked at him and smirked. "That's up to you."

"You're still a crook."

"No, I was a crook.  Now I'm a single mother living off the proceeds of her former bad living and doing some profiling for your boss."  She got in to drive, speeding through the traffic once he had buckled up.  "Don't worry, the kids'll behave.  They're good most of the time.  My sister had them in a baby military academy.  I'm still trying to fix some of that.  It's unnatural for little kids not to laugh and play."

"She tried to file charges of kidnaping against you," he said bitterly.  "Someone overrode her, saying she wasn't competent to make those decisions."

"She's probably not.  The Watcher's Council didn't like that she got pregnant in the first place.  Fortunately, I'm going to be an excellent mother."  She pulled up in front of the market.  "Anything in particular you want for dinner?"

"Anything's fine.  Get whatever the kids like," he said tiredly.  She walked inside and he realized he had just agreed to have dinner with her.  Her, a crook.  One who had already tried to seduce him.  What was he doing?

She came out with two bags and grinned at him.  "I leave all such important personal decisions to you," she reminded him when he opened his mouth.

"Do you read minds too?"

"No, but your eyes show very clearly what you were thinking.  I'm not seducing you, merely offering if you want.  I'm lonely and you look like you are."

"You didn't sleep with Lupin and Lavelle?"

"I slept with Lavelle a few times and Lupin once."

"Then why leave them?"

"Because Lavelle made me see what the life was really like and I didn't want to kill people.  I'd much rather steal things and not have anyone notice me.  I don't want to have to train to kill someone just in case.  I don't want to be lethal, I wanted to be good."

"That's not how it usually goes."

"I know, which is why I'm not with them anymore."  She turned onto a suburban street.  "Hold on, we've got someone following us."

He glanced back. "It's one of us."

"Good.  Yay.  I'm still protecting my house.  I'm paranoid that way."  She spun around the corner and down an alleyway, then hid in a darkened driveway while they went past.  Then she backed out and continued on their way.

"Want me to blindfold myself?"

"Why?  They don't have a reason to arrest me and you're nice enough to have visit now and then."  She pulled into her driveway and closed the gate behind her.  "There, now for the security system."  She flicked it on and someone yelled. "Sorry," she called, letting them go.  "Must be the neighbor or the yard guy."  She walked into the house, letting him follow. "Guys, I'm back," she called.

"Hi, Auntie," Morgan, the older one, said happily.  "Bad guys come over.  They wanted to talk to you about getting rid of Uncle Xan."

"Well, they're just dumb then, huh?" she asked happily, pinching his cheek.  "Come on, let's go put up dinner.  Then I'll drive them off.  Got it?"

"Yup, but can they keep Jerry?"

Dawn handed the bags and the little boy to the cop. "I'll be right back."  She walked out onto the back patio.  "Let my nephew go or else," she called sweetly.  "Lavelle won't be the one you're worrying about."  A man stepped out of the bushes with a scared, quiet Jerry.  "He okay?"

"He's fine.  We want the one known as Lavelle."

"He's going through the double's maze today," she said with a wave of her hand. "Go find him."

"It is not for that reason," he said bitterly.  "He is one of us yet he does not honor our ways."

"He honors your ways very well, Traxson Bishop.  He just does it in his own way.  The guy isn't your lapdog.  He'll never be your lapdog.  He honors the covenant he made.  He even warned you that the Cairo facility was going to be raided. How is that not honoring you?"

"Still," he said coldly, "he is not one of us.  We should not make a deal with him.  He is untouchable to us."

"Yo, Xan?" she called.  Marcus appeared. "They think Xan's not talented."

Marcus burst out laughing.  "I'm sure he's not, that's why they had to turn the maze up to the highest setting for him," he agreed.

"Those things are unholy and not of us."

Dawn looked at him. "Yet, I'm still considered one and that's what I do."  She hit him with a light pinch of power and he jumped, letting her nephew go.  "In the house, Jerry."  He ran that way, starting to cry now.  "You better pray if he's hurt."

"I can fix it."

"Good, then do so," she agreed, crossing her arms.  "Before I have to walk inside and tell the good Inspector exactly who you are."  He blanched and looked toward the house, and Jerry's voice started to babble at high speed.  "Thank you.  Off my lands and away from my family.  Doing such things only results in being sent to Hell."  She grinned suddenly.  "Unless you want to go there?"  He shook his head, putting a hand on his sword.  "Pity."  She opened the small portal she had set up for defensive purposes and sucked him in, then looked at Marcus.  "How's the maze looking?"

"Xander came in first for the singles' maze," he admitted.  "He and Jigen are about to go through now."  He disappeared so he could inform Lupin of this event.

Inside the house, Zenigata stared at her in shock.  "Who was that?"

"There's a select group of very talented people who train the others like them.  They usually end up being the power behind the power.  Legitimate and illegitimate businesses both prosper from having their help.  I was given some training by them.  They and Lavelle have a non-confrontation pact."

"You don't have to keep calling him that.  I saw his license last night."

"Really?"  She smirked and pinched him on the cheek.  "Aren't you so cute."  She took the boys to check them over, then got them calmed down by playing a board game with them.  "You could help."

"I've always sucked at board games," he admitted bitterly.  He sat down to watch them, relaxing in the friendly atmosphere.  "Will you help me catch them?"

"I can't.  Xander bound any and all knowledge of what they're doing now from being spoken."

"I heard that part at the shop," he agreed.  "What about otherwise?  You probably know that boy better than anyone and he's the one making Lupin stronger."

"He'll also be the reason Lupin retires and sits back to run his empire from a beach somewhere."

"Another part of the vision?"

"No, in that they had kids."  She made her move and the boys pouted at her.  "Hey, I can't change the spinner," she pointed out, patting them on the head.  "What should we have for lunch?"

"San'wich?" Jerry suggested.

"Sure, I can do that," she agreed, smiling at them.  "Then you guys can go down for a nap," that got a scowl, "while I talk to Zenny."


"That's still your decision and your name's too long for the guys here to say."

"Fine," he sighed.  "If I quit complaining, would you stop?"

"Maybe," she said, shooting him a wicked grin.  "We'll see."  She went back to helping the boys play until they were fully calm and would continue to behave while she made them lunch.  When she brought out the lunch tray, she found the boys in the Inspector's lap getting read to.  "You do very good at that," she said softly, putting the tray on the floor.  "Once the story's done, guys."  They wiggled but didn't get down.  He had a very nice, deep, soothing voice when it wasn't hysterical or angry.  Once the boys had eaten and put to bed, she leaned against his chest for a hug.  "You do that very well.  Your voice was quite nice."  She kissed him and felt the power arc through her body toward his.  "Hmm."

He felt like he should be shocked but for some reason he wasn't.  It felt good and right to him.  Like he had on the day he had accepted his badge.  He picked her up and took her to an empty room, letting her steer them.  He even accepted some gentle instruction from her, something he never did with anyone else.  In the end, it was worth it.  He was limp with exhaustion and more than happy to hold her for a while so he could nap.  She kissed him gently.  "What was that for?"

"For being so good."  She wrapped him in her arms and pulled him closer.  "You rest, Zenny.  I'll make a big dinner."

He realized he wasn't going to get rid of that ridiculous nickname now but for some reason he didn't seem to care.


Xander and Jigen came out of the maze with Jigen holding his side and wincing and Xander looking really pissed at something.  "Not go well?" Lupin asked, sitting Jigen down to look at his side.

"They added something that shouldn't have been in there," Xander said darkly, going to look at the people who ran the maze. "Since when was a human assassin with a long bow part of the maze?"  They looked stunned.  "If not, they're dead but you might want to search for others."  He stomped back to Jigen's side, helping Lupin deal with the wound.  "He'll be fine."

"He will.  It's not that deep," Lupin agreed, binding a long bandage around it to give him some pressure over the hole.  "Let's get him back to the hotel.  Can you do anything about it?  Like a healing spell?"

"I can try but it might not work real well," Xander offered.

"If he does, it would disqualify you all," the guardian told them as he walked up to them.  "It would be seen as enhancing what he already had."  Lupin gave him an incredulous look.  "Even that jolt of healing he did inside to heal the other one may be counted against him."

Xander pulled himself up to his full height, then shook his head.  "Hal!"  The big blond man walked out of somewhere and over to them.  "We were attacked in the maze by something that wasn't supposed to be there.  I'm not allowed to try and heal the injury?"

"What were you attacked by?"

"Someone with a longbow," Jigen said, handing over the arrow tip.  "We took it out of my side in there."

Hal looked at it, then at Xander.  Then down at the guardian.  "How did a human get in there to lie in wait?"

"I have no idea," he admitted.  "But they can't use healing spells.  He gave the other man one while in there."

"As he should have.  There are to be no other human menaces in there.  Is he still in there?"

"Not unless he could live through a head shot.  I deposited most of him in the middle of a sucker bush," Xander admitted.  "Can I or can I not try a healing spell on his side?"

"You may.  As long as you do not make him better than he was before all this started.  He can only be as good as he was when he came in to register."

"That's fine.  All I want to do is to take care of the hole and the pain."

Hal nodded.  "That is welcome enough.  I will find this human."  He walked through the wall of the maze, then came out a moment later with someone in tow.  "Was he dressed like this one?"

"Dark blue but the same ninja-like outfit only with a long bow."

"Ah."  He let the man go, lifting his hood off him.  "You are of the same clan?"  He nodded, moaning in pain.  "Why did you attack these ones?"

"To make our people the ones on top."

Xander punched him.  "That's why we hold the maze, so it's a fair contest. That's why my single one got turned up."  The man looked horrified.  "There's no way your people could beat me anyway.  Now, be a good little boy and plead for your life. You tried to take out my mentor."  He pulled a gun and the guy wet himself.  "Beg and plead."

"Please, I am sorry, my master said I was to do this.  We have done it for the last fifteen years."

"And you guys still couldn't beat my scores," Lupin pointed out.  "Xan, put it up."  Xander didn't move.  "Lavelle," he snapped.  Xander slumped and put it away.  "Challenge him to a hand-to-hand."

"Deal," Xander purred.  "Here and now?"  The guy shook his head and pulled out a microphone, talking into it.  Two more of them appeared.  "Which one of you?"  One raised a hand so he looked at Hal.  "I know you have a space ready for fights.  May we use it?"

"Go for it," he agreed.  "I'll have your mentor looked after with Lupin."  He led them into the arena, letting them feel the sand under their feet.  "When one of you wins, the portal will open again."  He left, shaking his head.  That thing was foolish to take on a ninja.  Even a bad one was highly trained against a student.  He heard a shriek and winced but didn't go rushing back.   Ten minutes later the portal opened and Xander walked out, looking calm, cool, and collected.  He nodded at Hal, then looked at Lupin.  "How did you win?"

"Easy, I pummeled him until I killed him.  I'm good at that," Xander said with a small smirk.  He held out a hand.  "Lavelle.  Also known as Xander Harris."

Hal shook it. "You're not naturally part of the life.  Where are you from?"


"Ah."  He blinked a few times then looked at the boy.  "You're the changed one.  The black knight?"  Xander nodded.  "Then we welcome to our side of the life, Lavelle.  May your days be interesting and less stressful than this maze was for you."  He let the boy go.  "Honori, there are many who need to talk to you in Athens."

"I heard when Dawn called.  I'll deal with the ones who want me dead later."  Hal looked stunned.  "One of them tried to take one of Dawn Summer's nephews hostage so she'd kill me for them.  Won't work, but Thraxton tried really hard before she got rid of him for it."

"Ah.  I had wondered what happened to him.  I will pass that back.  Welcome to the family, Honori."

"I'm still holding my mutual aid pact," Xander assured him.  Hal laughed.  "Seriously.  Lupin's got the skills I'm learning."  He grinned. "But he is really good in bed."  Lupin growled at him.  "You are."  He grinned at Hal again.  "I need, like, six more of him around though."

Hal shook his head.  "That would probably destroy the world, Honori.  Come see me when this is all done with, in a few months, we will work everything out."

"Sure, Hal.  Thanks for the help earlier."  He walked over to where Jigen was getting fixed by Marcus.  "Is he okay?"

"Just fine," Marcus agreed, ending the short burst of healing.  "The hole is mostly gone but some of it's still remaining."

"I can't feel it the same way, it'll be fine," Jigen said as he sat up.  "Xan, the assassin?"

"Dead."  He shrugged.  "I let my temper come out and then get relieved.  He's a mess."  He took Jigen's arm and led him out to the car.  "How about we call masseuses up?  That was one nasty bit of plant fighting this time."

"I wouldn't say no to a good massage," Jigen admitted.  "After that I can use some pampering."  He glanced back at Lupin, who was asking Hal about what was going on.  "You've just turned him into a hyper kitten of curiosity."

"That's okay, I'll give him answers when and if he interrogates me," Xander said smugly.

"Remember, we need you both awake and able to go through it together tomorrow," Marcus said, frowning at him.  "You wear him out horribly, Xander."

"I haven't done that since I went to the whorehouse, Marc. Geez.  Should I bring you the next time I go to wear things out?"  Marcus blushed.  "Then leave off my sex life.  Just because I'm active enough to need two or three lovers a night doesn't mean I can't restrain myself sometimes."  The people waiting for their tun in the maze looked at him and he grinned.  "I'm gifted that way," he said smugly, continuing to let Jigen lean on him.  "Come on, we'll get that nasty injury looked at and then I'll get someone to come up and spoil you rotten for going through with me again."

Jigen looked at him.  "You need something to fuss over," he noted.

"It'd be nice," Xander admitted, "but I can hold off."  He nodded at Marcus to get the door, then paused and walked backwards, letting Marcus close and lock it.  "Hey, who ordered the cops outside?" he called.  There was a massive crackling noise and they opened the door again, walking past the crispy piles of ashes.  "Good job.  I want that toy."

"You don't get that weapon," Jigen said firmly. "You don't need a new one.  You and Marc are like little kids each time you get a new weapon.  Even Goemon rolls his eyes at you."

"Goemon does that at me a lot," Xander reminded him patiently.  "He thinks I'm too playful for my own good.  At least until I do things like earlier."

"Earlier?" Goemon asked from behind him.

Xander looked at him.  "Stupid ninjas decided to cheat for their side by sending people into the maze to kill the other participants.  I let out my displeasure on one of them in a physical manner."

"In other words, he beat one to a pulp," Lupin said as he joined them. "In you get, Goemon.  You can sit between the boys so Xander has to leave Marcus alone.  Xander, you may not have the laser gun.  I'd hate to see you with it and it's incredibly heavy.  Marcus, can you try to heal him a bit more later?"

"Of course," he agreed happily.  "Come sit, Master."

"I'll keep my hands to myself," Xander offered nicely with a bright grin.

"I can cut them off.  Do not pinch me, Xander."  He sat between the boys, looking at Xander.  "Why are you this hyper?"

"He's used to taking care of everything and then doing the job," Jigen reminded him.

"Hmm.  We must make him slow down after this then."

"He just asked someone to clone me so he had five or six of me," Lupin shared.

"Only if the world wants to end," Goemon said, staring Xander down.  "That many Lupins and someone would have to die."

"Nothing would ever be safe," Jigen agreed.

"It is now?" Xander and Lupin asked.

Xander stuck his tongue out at him.  "Just for that, I won't tell you where I'm going tonight until I get back."

"We're going to dinner, then you're going to bed by yourself," Lupin told him.  "That way we're both ready for the maze tomorrow."  Xander gave him a horrified look.  "I mean it, Xander.  No sex tonight."

"I wasn't going to, well maybe a bit with one of Paris' prettier street girls, but nothing more than that.  Nothing like a marathon session like in Cleveland."

"Good," Goemon and Jigen agreed.

"Teach him to control that, Goemon?  Please?"

"I'll try," he sighed.  "Starting after the maze.  Where were you going tonight?"

"There's a whole building full of pretty things just screaming at me to release them from their capture and make them part of my collection," Xander said pitifully.  "I was gonna do that for them.  I hate hearing jewels scream for release from the bad meanies."

Goemon smirked at him.  "That innocent little boy act must get you many places, with us it does nothing.  We did see you make your first kills."

"Yeah, but I'm still a good boy," Xander insisted.  "Eighty percent of the time."

"Fine," Lupin agreed, pulling over and letting him out.  "I'll get Jigen his massage.  I want you back by midnight, no later."

"Sure, boss.  I was gonna go in during the dinner thing tonight."  He waved and jogged off to do some minor shopping first.  Then he gathered his invitation and new cards off Murami and escorted her to the dinner, chatting pleasantly with her the whole time.  Halfway through dinner he excused himself and went to break into the safe quickly, coming back without it showing on his body and without the alarms going off until a good thirty minutes later.  He smiled at his friend, then patted the back of her hand.  "I should take you out dancing tonight, you look very nice," he promised her.

"You could, but I have to be at the office at nine tomorrow.  Some other night?"

"Hey, anytime.  Just ask me."  He kissed the back of her hand and patted it, going back to dinner.  She laughed and ate another bite.  Someone came in to scan them but Xander was apparently fully shielded since nothing on him set off the scanner, just like he had planned.  The guard moved on and then had a talk with their host.

"I'm sorry to cut dinner short tonight but we've had a small attempt at a break-in and I'd rather you all be safe than have to face down such horrible people.  Perhaps another time?"  The other diners nodded and left, chatting and talking to each other on the way out, Xander and Murami with them.  Once in the cab, Xander smiled at the driver and handed over fifty Francs.  "She's on the Champs, and I'm in the Radisson."  Once at her apartment he walked her up to her room and handed over a very pretty green diamond, then kissed the back of her hand again and trotted back to the cab.  He took it back to the hotel and headed up the stairs, stopping to get the messages at the desk and Lupin from the bar.  In the elevator he pulled out a bag and handed it over.  "I gave Murami a green one for agreeing to let me escort her tonight."

"Wonderful."  He looked inside, then at Xander.  "Wow."

"Thanks."  They walked into the room, interrupting Marcus throwing a fit.  "What happened this time?  Did you lose your half?"

"No.  Just blowing off some steam," he said, flipping back his bangs.  "Is that the rest?"

"Minus a green diamond I gave Murami for being such a charming escort.  She even knew about it beforehand.  I invited her to go out dancing with me but she said she had to get up early."  He sat down to write out an email to her, a funny, cute, thank you note for the wonderful night and he hoped they could do it again, without the theft in the center, soon.  Then he got up and grabbed six of the stones laid out on the clean sheet, tucking them into his pocket.  "Those are for my collection.  The rest are good.  I said I'd share."

Lupin looked at them, then split off their twenty percent and divided the rest up equally, including the ones in Xander's pocket.  "You need more lessons in gem evaluation."

"Why?  I'm collecting the pretty ones," Xander said, looking confused.  "I'm not going for value, I'm going for pretty or not pretty in my personal collection."

"That makes sense then," Jigen agreed, looking at the pile.  "Marcus' is bigger."

"Xander got seven that he liked."

"Six.  Unless we're counting the one I gave to Murami?"  Lupin nodded.  "That's fine then, what can we do about these tonight?"

"Tomorrow," Lupin said calmly. "After the maze.  Tuck your shares away, boys.  We'll deal with it on the way home."  He looked at Jigen once the boys went to their room, then shook his head sadly.  "Still hyper."

"Goemon said he'd work on that with him."

"Good."  Lupin examined the stones he had picked, smiling at the niceness of them.  "We can split this up three ways.  That way Goemon can give Fujiko something special for giving him a son."

"You mean besides a daughter soon?" Jigen taunted, smirking at Goemon.  Goemon grunted and shook his head, flipping onto his side to sleep.  "Poor guy, she must be wearing him out."

"Probably," Lupin agreed.  He put their cuts into individual bags, handing Jigen his and putting Goemon's inside his kimono for him.  Goemon slapped at him. "Giving you your cut."

"Later, Lupin. I am not your toy."

"Fine, I won't pay you then," Lupin said, smirking down at him.  "It's not like you can't use them as a present for a deserving wife."  Goemon looked at the baggie, then at him.  Then he looked at the door.  "Xander, come tell Goemon about this one."

Xander peeked his head around the door.  "It was a dinnertime rush job," he said with a shrug.  He ducked back into his room and Marcus came jogging out.  "Fine, be that way then."

"I believe I will."  Marcus smoothed his hair down.  "Xander's in an odd mood," he said.  "I'd suggest we find him a girl but the last I heard he was having to pay extra for how he wears them out."

"He has to pay extra?" Lupin asked, looking stunned. "Not even I have to do that!"

"Yup," Xander called.  He came out, dressed again.  "I'm going down to the dance club.  I'll be back by midnight."  He grabbed a key card and headed down there, going to have meaningless sex in the bathroom.

Lupin looked at Jigen.  "Was I that bad, ever?"

Jigen considered it.  "No.  You slept with a lot of women but I don't think you paid most of them."

"He hasn't had much chance to seduce anyone on the job," Goemon pointed out.  "We should give him some."

"There was that woman in the paper who offered her whole family fortune if anyone could make her have an orgasm," Marcus said primly.

Jigen blinked a few times.  "Where did you get that?"

"The London Times yesterday morning.  It says she's in perfect health but her husband was always a horrible lover and she wanted just one before she died.  She's in her eighties.  Still rather pretty from her picture."

"I'll launch Xander at her later," Lupin agreed.  Maybe that would take him a few days. "Put the clipping on his bed, Marcus."  Marcus nodded, going to do that off the online version.  His email beeped so he answered it, smiling at the one from Murami.  He clicked on it, reading her speech about how she was going to have to be very careful around 'the flirt' because he was enough to make a woman want to consider dating for real.  "Hmm.  Maybe we should point him at a few women like that," Lupin said.  "Murami had a great time.  Calls Xander a big flirt.  Said he's a great dinner companion and the next time he needs her for something like that, give her a few hour's notice."  He answered back, then sent her some flowers.  "She's a great woman."

"She is," Goemon agreed. "Are we sure this isn't some spell around Xander to attract women to him."

"Again?" Marcus called.

"Again?" Jigen and Goemon called in unison.

Marcus came out to lounge in his doorway.  "During high school there was a botched love spell.  He had wanted to get his girlfriend back since she dumped him on Valentine's Day so he could dump her.  Instead it got everyone but her and they were so hot for him they were going to kill him and each other since only they could have him.  Even Willow.  He had a witch named Amy cast it."

"Wow," Lupin said, shaking his head.  "I'd have taken advantage of that."

"Xander didn't," Marcus told him.  "He showed some honor in that.   No matter how many times Buffy or anyone else teased him, he didn't take advantage of any of them.  Not even when Willow asked him to take her virginity, even though she was dating Oz at the time."

"Hell, the boy has some honor then," Jigen said, shrugging.  "Better than I could do. What's he oozing now?"

"Confidence and charm," Marcus said dryly.  "All an act of course, but definitely fun."  The room's phone rang and he answered it.  "Yes?"  He listened to the manager telling him that Xander had rented a second room for the night, but that he would still be back.  "Thank you, I expected as much."  He hung up and looked at Lupin.  "Xander's having an orgy downstairs in one of the single rooms.  He said he'd be back later."  He went back to his room to finish polishing his sword.

Jigen burst out laughing, holding his side.  "Oh, damn, our boy's bad."

"I never got to do that," Lupin pouted. "I always tried to keep it one-on-one, except for some twins and two groups of triplets."  He looked at Goemon.  "I think he needs some help.  He's obviously got a problem."

"Yes, his body is used to having two willing love slaves to temper and hold his sexual prowess," Goemon reminded him.  "He probably got it multiple times a day from each of them."  Jigen shuddered.

"In other words, the boy's cock is like an elevator in a busy building and eventually it'll have to take a holiday and slow down," Lupin filled in.

"After some time without enough his drives should slow down or drive him insane.  Whichever it decides or both."  Goemon closed his eyes.  "What should I get the woman?"

"A necklace or a ring," Lupin suggested.  "Something that makes her feel pretty.   Go for something mushy, yet not sweet.  Something that says you love her in spite of her gaining weight and being pregnant."

"I love it when she's like this," Goemon admitted quietly.  "She seems more womanly right now.  It is quite arousing."

"I'm sure it is," Jigen agreed.  In the vision he had taken Xander nearly constantly when she wasn't sick with the twins.  "Try for something non-sexual but pretty.  Necklace definitely since a bracelet might not fit if she's bloated."

"Hmm.  I'll have to think about that," Goemon agreed.

"Goemon, we've got to talk about the other one," Lupin said, sitting across from him.  Goemon opened his eyes to look at him. "She's got to be a witch.  It's got to happen.  The light doesn't have anyone to balance out the bad guys."

"How would they do that?"

"In the vision, they had to taint the baby to save her and her mother after Collins got her.  She was the bait to fix him."

"I see."  Goemon sat up, looking at him.  "This time we'd have to taint her as well then."  Lupin nodded.  "How?"

"I have no idea, but we're bringing this to you now so you can't get upset with them later."

Marcus came out and looked down at Goemon.  "The easiest way would be to bless her around the same stage.  She was at the end of her first trimester from the notes Xander made.  Doing so this time would also help but we'd need to make sure it was a girl or we'd have to do it again."

Goemon groaned.  "Even one day may change things."

"Yeah, and we can't be sure when she got pregnant again," Jigen pointed out.  "So, we'll have to do something."

"That needle test, can it be done earlier?" Goemon asked.  Lupin shook his head.  "Then how do we do it?"

"Then we may have a son in between the daughter and son," Marcus pointed out. "A magically active one who will be one hell of a warrior, a miniature Xander with control."  Goemon cracked a smile at that image.  "We don't know yet, Master."

"I will think on it," he agreed.  "We will do what we must."  He laid down again.  "I would not kill you for doing that now that I know why."

"Let's face it, the world's been without a balancing witch since Rosenburg went bad," Marcus pointed out.  "There are many flavors of power and we'll find her one that suits you as well as her."

"Thank you.  Go sharpen your sword, it was dulled earlier."

"Yes, Master."  He went back to taking care of his primary weapon.

"For some reason, Marcus reminds me of a beagle puppy," Jigen noted.  Lupin and Goemon both snickered at that.  "He does."  He shrugged and went to his own room to lie down with a sigh of relief.  His side hurt.

Lupin looked down at Goemon.  "We'll do whatever we have to do to protect the kids, Goemon."

"Thank you.  Go away.  She wore me out again."

"Sure, have a nice nap."  Lupin went to his room to play with his new diamonds.  They were small but quality pieces.  Very nice choices from Xander.


Six days later, Xander knocked on the door, looking at the butler. "I was invited?" he suggested, slipping inside and handing off his jacket.  "My name is Lavelle."  The man gaped at him.  "She invited me personally."

"She's in the study," he said, leading the way.  He tapped on the door before opening it.  "Madam, Lavelle is here."

"Thank you, George."  She stood up and smiled as Xander walked into the room, kissing her hand.  "You are charming."

"And quite good, m'lady.  Sit, please.  I'd rather not have you discomfited while we speak."  He helped her sit on the couch, sitting across from her.  "I understand that you needed a special service from me?"

"I've heard that you're quite good at the art of sex."

"I am," he agreed with a small smile.  "I specialize in making my partners so happy they pass out."

"Very good.  I have not been able to find anyone who could give me what I've wanted for so long.  I wish you to try, young man."

"I can do that.  I should ask first, any heart conditions or anything?  I don't want to hurt you."

She shook her head.  "Not that I'm aware of.  Would that make a difference?"

"I hear some people with heart conditions can have a bit of a harder time with such things, but I mostly didn't want to have you die on me in the middle.  Such a rush of activity should raise your heart rate."

"Very well then.  Where would you prefer to work?"

"Wherever you're most comfortable, m'lady.  This is for your pleasure and however you want it should be good enough."

"Then let me bathe, young man."  She stood up and he stood up to take her arm, walking her up there.  "Are you going to help?"  He nodded. "Really?"

"It's all part of what a good lover should do for his woman.  He should pamper her before, during, and after such events.  Just hitting it and forgetting it is for slimebags.  I try very hard to be a gentleman about such things.  The same as I would never tell anyone I knew what I had done to give you the orgasm you so clearly deserve."  She blushed a bit as he stripped her down slowly.  "Relax, I'm not here to hurt you, only to please you beyond what you've ever had before."

"I've had some that were nearly there," she admitted.  "Close but not close enough.  I want one of those that you read about."

"Some women don't have those.  They have smaller, gentler ones, like a sigh of relief after finishing off your sundae."  She laughed at that.  He ran the bath water, adding some bubbles.  Then he helped her into the not-too-warm water and went to work sponging her body.  By the time he was done, she was quite ready for him.  He got her out and toweled off, then onto the bed so he could go to work.  He used the utmost delicacy and precision to send her crashing over into her first one.  Then he followed it up with a more wild ride, letting her have a second and a third one.  On the fourth one, her voice screamed out in relief and she went limp.  He patted her cheek, trying to rouse her.  He checked her pulse.  He checked her breathing.  He didn't need to do CPR yet.  He got a warm cloth and bathed her again, then tucked her in, taking care of himself in the bathroom while she napped.  He was sitting beside her when she woke up and gave her a smile.  "How was that?"

"Can you do it again?" she pleaded.

"Not today.  You need to rest between times, dear."  He patted her on the hand.  "I don't want to harm you or have you die under me."  She blushed a bright pink and rang for a maid.  "You should have some hearty food and some juice.  Your body went through a lot of energy."

The maid showed up and curtseyed.  "Yes, ma'am?"

"Bring me the papers, Celeste, and some dinner for us.  Some juice as well."  She nodded, leaving them to do that.  "The papers are what I promised."

"That's fine," he agreed, smiling down at her.  "Won't your children be upset?"

"No, dear.  I never had children.  I have a nephew and he's horrified, but then again he's very stiff.  Like his uncle was, he's a proper man who has no idea what pleasure is for."  She squeezed his hand. "Please don't harm the boy."

"I'd never do that.  Though I would encourage him to make a fruitful match.  I have a friend who has a sister who lives up the road.  The Wyndam-Pryce family is quite old."

"I've heard of them.  What did happen to that young man Wesley?"

"He tortured someone and they got him back for it from what I understand.  I work with Wesley's son, who is a warrior in training, and his sister is one who went the way of most of their family's people."  He got up to answer the door at the timid knock, letting the maid in to set up things for them.  "Thank you, Celeste.  I can feed her," he said with a grin and a wink for her.  She blushed and left.  He curled up beside Barbara, feeding her delicate bites of dinner.  "A real lover takes pleasure from his lover's pleasures, even the most small ones."  She moaned as he fed her, then he kissed her.  "I think you're fairly neat, Barb."

She smiled.  "Thank you, Lavelle.  Read the papers?"  He took them to read while she fed herself for a bit.  He looked at her.  "The marriage is not mandatory," she offered.  "I normally would but you'd probably kill me soon."

He laughed.  "I had to check earlier, you passed out quite suddenly and you worried me sick."  He fed her another bite, then helped her sip her juice.  "There, that's enough.  The rest can wait."  He dove in to help her some more, making her squeal like a teenage girl in front of their favorite pop idol.  You'd have thought he was doing magic but he wasn't.

Someone stormed into the room.  "Not done yet?"

Xander looked back at him.  "No, I decided she needed many of them to compare all the different levels.  The first four weren't enough for me," he said smartly.  "You know, I know a girl who'd love you for being so stuffy."  The younger man blustered.  "I'll introduce you later."  He went back to pleasing his lover, making her sigh and squeal and wiggle under him until he did it just right again then she went off with a loud squeal of pleasure and stopped.  "Shit."  He checked her pulse, then got to work on her.  "Call the paramedics," he ordered.

"You killed her?"

"Her heart stopped. Call the fucking paramedics!"  The young guy did so, stammering out what was going on.  Xander continued to work.  "So, Steven," he panted as he worked, "you going to be a problem?"

"No," he said grimly.  "She wrote me out of the will a great many years ago for the sin of liking a girl that was unworthy of me."

"Let me introduce you to Amanda.  She might like you anyway."  The paramedics rushed in.  "She got off and her heart stopped.  It was her fifth one today.  The first this round."  He got out of the way, letting them work.  The nephew helped him up.  "I'm sorry, I asked earlier about heart conditions just in case.  I did not want this to happen."  The younger man blushed and nodded, looking down.  "She went out in a burst of pleasure, Steven.  It didn't hurt her."  He checked himself over, then gave the boy a pat on the back.  "Let me call Amanda.  Have her come sit with you tonight."

"Fine," he said weakly.  Xander picked up the phone and had to verify who he was twice before she believed him.  Eventually the young woman showed up.  "Hello," he said quietly, smiling at her.  "Lavelle said you'd spend some time so I wouldn't have to be here alone.  Would you like some dinner?  I'm not going to touch you, I only need to hear voices other than my own."

"That's not a problem," she assured him.  She stopped to look at Lavelle, then grimaced.  "You are him.  I saw your picture on the way over."  He nodded, patting her on the back.  "Give this to my brother," she ordered, handing over a key.  "Father's."  She walked on.  "What happened, Gregory?"

"Steven," he corrected.  "I prefer my middle name."

She smiled.  "That's fine then, Steven.  What happened?"

"You know about my aunt and her wishes to have one moment of pleasure?  Well, he gave her five of them and the last one stopped her heart."

"I'm sorry."  She hugged him gently.  "Come, let's clean up her room.  Make sure things are in order."  She found the bundle of papers, reading it over.  "Well."  She looked up.  "He's the new Lord?"  Steven nodded.  "Is he kicking you out?"

"I don't usually live here.  I live in Highleigh.  It's my mother's."

"Really?"  She smiled at him.  "I pass that on my way to work each morning. I'll escort you back.  Should you call her?"

"I probably should, but she probably already knows.  She has this fantastic network of people.  She's the one who suggested Lavelle."

"He is quite good from what I hear but fairly overwhelming to be with.  I've heard him compared to an incubus before actually."  She shrugged. "I know he's human."  She rang for the maid. "Is Lavelle still here?"  She nodded.  "Hand him these, he'll need them."  She handed over the papers.  "Then tell him to go find a room in town."  The maid nodded and left.  "I hope he'll keep them."

"I'm sure he will.  He won't be here most of the time but they're part of the house.  It's in the will," he admitted with a smile.  "My aunt said so."

"Very good of her to do.  Most people don't consider the help when things like this happen."  She stripped off the sheets with his help and remade the bed with clean linen. Then she escorted him around the house to make sure things were in order.


Xander accepted the lawyer's papers and nodded, shaking his hand. "I'll be back soon.  Arrange with the person at the number I gave you to have their salaries paid.  They can gladly stay," he agreed.  "I'm traveling most of the year so I won't be in attendance for most of it."

"Yes, I'd suppose your profession would preclude you staying at one house for very long," he said dryly.  "We could fix that if you retired."

"Where's the fun in that?" he asked with a grin.  "Speaking of fun, I'd better leave before someone gets snooty.  I'll be in and out.  Tell them I might redecorate some of the suites to suit myself but nothing *too* drastic.  I usually have very good taste."  He waved and ran down to his car, getting in and driving away before the sirens he could hear got closer.  "Poor Gramps," he sighed as he shifted upwards.  He stopped at one point to pick up the cat beside the road, wincing as it tried to get into his shirt to get away from the thing chasing it.  "Naughty, you," he chastised.  The wolf slunk off.  "Come on, kitten.  Yes, the Xander will take good care of you unless you have a human already."  He heard crying and looked at the child running across the fields.  "Is the cat yours?"  She stopped and shook her head.  "Then I'm going to take it home."

"Thank you.  I don't know why my doggie does those things but it's bad and I want him stop."

"You need to talk to Amanda Wyndam-Pryce.  She can fix him."

"Thank you, Mister.  Is she a vet?"

"No, she's a healer of animals."  He grinned.  "You behave. Any others?"

"She has kittens."  She ran away and came back a few minutes later with a basket.  "Here, for her."

"Thank you."  He patted her on the head, feeling the demonic taint in her.  He looked down at her. "Maybe you shouldn't let your dog feed off your blood anymore, okay?"  She looked stunned and he grinned. "I'm a consort, child, and if the dog becomes a danger to regular people then something bad could have to happen."  She nodded and ran off.  He got into the car with the basket and the three kittens.  "There we are.  Lupin will *adore* you," he promised, patting her gently as he took off again.   He went to the nearest train station and got on the one to take him to the Chunnel with his car.  It was a much nicer trip.


Lupin looked up as Xander walked into his office with a copy of his paperwork.  "So, Lord Lavelle," he teased with a bright grin.  "Feel better?"

"Much."  He gave him a kiss.  "I stopped a baby demon from infecting her wolf puppy too."  He gave him a second kiss.  "Where's Marc?  His sister gave me something for him."

"Out back, as usual."  Lupin gave him a pinch.  "Hurry up.  I'm bored."

"Oh, I've got a cure for your boredom," Xander promised with a smirk.  He jogged outside, pulling out the key.  "From Amanda.  She said it belonged to your father."

Marcus looked at it, then tucked it into his pants pocket. "Thank you.  Did you get the dreadful shrew set up with anyone?"

"My lover's nephew.  He lives near her, understands her stuffy nature, and she can kill his mother, the succubus."  Marcus smirked.  "So it'll give her job security."  He shrugged.  "It's making her happy."

Jigen came to the doorway with the kitten in hand.  "Xander, why are there three cats in the house in a laundry basket?"

"We have cats?" Xander asked.  "Wow!"  He rushed over to stroke the kitten.  "Hello, precious one.  Did you sneak in to be loved by the big, bad thieves?" he cooed. "You are such brilliant kitties, yes you are."

"No cats, Xander."

"I didn't carry them in," Xander defended.  He looked over as Lupin came out to see what was going on now.  "Look at what snuck in," he said happily, holding up his darling one.  "Isn't she just so precious and cute!"

"No cats, Xander," Lupin said firmly.

"You said I couldn't bring a cat home.  I didn't.  She snuck in, she must want to love us."  She purred in his arms.  "Yes, you are adorable," he cooed, walking her back to the living room where Jigen had been resting.  He hadn't put the basket in there but then again, strange things did happen around them.  "Ooh, look, there's a fourth one."  He reached down to stroke it, earning a short hiss from the mother.  "I'm being good.  I'm returning this one."  He settled the kitten back into the basket, petting the mother gently. "You got any more coming, mama?"

Lupin and Jigen backed away from the door, looking at each other.  "I know he brought them inside," Jigen protested.

"Unless you can prove it, we have cats," Lupin pointed out.  "That was what I told him. He couldn't bring a pet into this house.  I never said anything about a pet that was already in here."

Goemon came down the stairs, giving them a long look.  "What has Xander done now?"

"We had some cats sneak in to use a laundry basket with one of Xander's shirts in it," Jigen told him dryly.  "We now have a momma cat and a few kittens."

"Ah." Goemon looked in the living room, seeing the happy look on the boy's face.  "He's not bouncing and it will be good for him.  The first time it's not taken care of well enough, we will give them to someone who will care for them better."  He walked away, going to make his wife something sickening because she was hungry again.  He seemed to do a lot of that these days.  Hopefully this stage would end soon as well.  He came back and found his own apprentice playing with the older kittens.  "Do not become too attached.  We do travel most of the year."

"That's right, you could send them to your new house," Lupin agreed, silently thanking Goemon for sticking up for them.  Xander gave them a stubborn look.  "It's not fair to leave them alone most of the time, Xander.  You can give them to Dawn."

"They adopted my shirt, they obviously want me," he said firmly.  "If they had wanted to go live with Dawn, they would have snuck into her house and adopted her clothes."  He went back to petting the babies.  "You guys are so tiny!  Now all you need are names."

"No!" Lupin shouted as he headed for an aspirin.  "No naming the four-footed thieves, Xander."

"How else are they supposed to know when you want them and when to come play with you?" Xander called back.

Lupin came back after taking something for the headache he knew he'd have soon and looked at the young men.  "We may keep *one* cat after they're weaned.  No more.  One. Got it?"  Xander pouted at him.  "The others can go live with Dawn and her new sons.  You can even sneak them into Zenigata's house so he can give them to her.  We will not keep more than one of them and if you pout at me I'll make you give them all to him," he warned quickly when he saw the pout starting.

"But Ishi will need a pet," he said sadly.  "It's a great teacher on how to love something.  I never had pets, Lupin."

Lupin felt his heart stretch, then snap, but he forced it back into shape.  "Now you can have *one* cat and you're going to take care of it, Xander.  The housekeeper will not clean the litter box.  The housekeeper will not feed it.  You will take it to the vet's, get it fixed, get it all its shots.  You will do everything for *your* pet and share it with Ishi when he's old enough.  One, no more."

"Yes, sir," Xander said miserably.  "The mommy might miss it though."

"The mommy won't miss it," Marcus assured him.  "They send them away anyway."  He patted him on the back.  "Maybe we should keep the one that's pure black?"

Xander looked at them and one of them meowed.  "See, that one thinks like us.  He's begging for attention."  He stroked that one.  "You guys will love Dawnie's house.  I promise you guys you will."  He pouted at Jigen.

"Do it again, have none of them."  The pout cleared up.  "Thank you."  He went to make himself a strong drink.  "Please let Fujiko be allergic," he prayed.  Cats hated him.  He found her in the kitchen watching Goemon make her a snack.  "You're allergic to cats, right?" he asked.

She shook her head. "No.  Why?  Do we have a cat?"  Jigen sighed and nodded.  "Good."  She beamed.  "I've always wanted a pet.  I never had one."

Goemon looked at her.  "All my family's were useful pets."  He handed over the sandwich and a glass of milk, which she frowned at.  "The doctor said you needed more milk or your bones and teeth would become weak.  Drink it, wife."

"Yes, dear," she said dryly, gulping down the milk.  Then she started in on her sandwich. "How did we get cats?" she asked between bites.

"Apparently some snuck into the house," Jigen said bitterly.

"Snuck in, really?" she asked.  "I guess that's what I heard crawling around in the attic last night."  She shrugged.  "Okay by me.  Are they cute?"

"I guess.  I'm not an expert on cats.  Xander wants the gray one that's youngest.  Marcus seems to want the all black one."  He took the cup of coffee Goemon poured him.  "I guess there's some sort of rule about those who use magic needing to get along with fussy creatures like cats."

"Maybe one'll go to Ethan then," Fujiko suggested.

Xander strolled in with the basket and Jigen shuddered, leaving the kitchen.  "See what snuck in?" he said happily.

She leaned closer to his cheek, kissing him and whispering in his ear.  "I heard you," she told him.  He kissed her on the forehead.  "Which one is ours?"

"Marcus wants the little dark one.  I want the baby of the group."

"That's because we'll keep the whole group longer and you're hoping he'll relent," Goemon pointed out.  "If they had to leave tomorrow, which would you choose?"

Xander looked in the basket and the black cat gave him a disdainful look.  The other one, the pure, darker black one that seemed to blend into the shirt most of the time gave him an adoring look.  "Her."  He patted her on the head.  "She loves me."

"Then we'll keep that one," Fujiko agreed, letting that one sniff her fingers.  The mother growled so she sneered at her. "I'm one too.  I'm not touching them, just letting the baby's new pet sniff me."  She stroked the mother's head.  "You'll make a fine watch bitch for Dawn's kids."

The cat they had chosen purred at them and the others kicked her out of the basket.  She would get along just fine in this house of misfits.  She graciously allowed them to pet her for a while before she went in hunt of the other humans.  She would have to enslave them all to be allowed to stay. It would be hard work but she could do this.  The other young kitten was easily amused and loved her because of her color.  The one behind the desk relented when she jumped into his lap then onto his desk and purred at him from on top of whatever boring things he had been working on.  He even relented enough to stroke her head.  She headbutted him for more then licked his fingers, liking this one a lot.  He was good at grooming her.  Then she hopped down to check on the last one, the funny cub in the hat.  Humans were odd creatures, but she could learn to like him.  He was sitting up doing a thing with a book and a pencil so she curled up in his lap and decided this was a good place for a nap for a few minutes.  Surely he wouldn't mind.

Jigen looked down at the cat in his lap.  "You actually like me?"  It snored and he groaned, shaking his head.  "Fine, you can stay, hell spawn."  He did pet her a bit, filling in another word on his puzzle.  She was good at inspiring him to find the right word.

Of course, when she followed them to dinner, she became Xander's cat again and he got to make her a nest in a nearby chair.

The End.  For now.

To Part 28
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