Xander woke up being cuddled by one of the kids and looked up, waving listlessly at Arsene. "What happened to Ishi?"
"He's out beating the snot out of Lotus for being a brat," she said, sounding honest. He frowned at her and she sighed. "In chess, daddy, promise. His daddy would kick his ass if he ever really beat her up." She slid off the bed and opened the door. "He's awake!" she yelled. Then she flipped on the bedside light, it was softer than the overhead. "Dinner," she said happily as her father carried in a tray. "You missed it, daddy, we had to get Auntie Fujiko to put things back. Her husband said she had enough clothes and she could only get five new outfits. She pouted and tried to dress us like tramps again but daddy Jigen stepped in and picked her up, carrying her all the way to the ice cream place and handing her a ten yen note to get something for the baby." She curled up beside him, tucking the napkin around his neck. "There you are. Here, I'll help."
"Out," Lupin told his daughter, giving her a look. "Feeding is something only lovers can do, not daughters. Go help Demara unpack."
"Yes, daddy." She hurried out, bringing back the fork that she was still holding. "Sorry." She hurried out, closing the door behind her. "He's feeding his lover," she said with a smirk for her partner, Melissa.
"Awwww," Melissa said happily. "Good. Daddy needs that from both daddies."
Demara coughed. "All right, this is very odd. The last I knew, my father didn't date men. Jigen didn't date anyone, and Goemon didn't have children, and since this was last year, things need to start being explained. Now."
"Are you going to be a good girl or a bad girl?" Melissa asked.
"I'm a slayer, dear, I just am."
"Oh." She frowned and looked at Arsene, who nodded. "Fine, we'll tell you all of it." She sat on one side of her big sister and Arsene got the other side. "Okay, first, we're not from this dimension."
"Our timeline was recently closed but we're Xander, Daddy's, and Daddy Jigen's," Arsene added.
"Oh. All right, I can see that. You got sent here?"
"Well...." Arsene said, biting her lip. "Lotus?" Lotus stuck her head in. "How would you explain this to her?"
Lotus walked in and looked up at Demara, then sighed. "All right, to start with, in our timeline, you did know about us. You were there on and off as we were growing up. Buffy ended up training you after all, but we got you for a lot of it whenever you got tired of the bitch princess." She grimaced and looked at the door, then at Demara again. "In this timeline, while the parents were in Bali, Xander was kidnaped. Uncle Xander was taken hostage by a chaos person who wanted a holy statue for some odd reason. He had a special choker, one that changes sex. He put it on Uncle Xander. That's where the two divided. In ours, Uncle Xander got stuck in it because of David, another student of the parents, and he had to learn to be a girl now and then. He got really good at it too. So good that Janus and the Powers That Be decided to reward him for surviving being given against his will by Marcus' daddy, who I will someday kill." She licked her lips. "So, he had Melissa and Savannah. He also had Fred and Sarah. He had Alex too. My actual mother had Kenji but she died during it, we think. So Mommy Xander stepped in and fed him mommy milk. She'd have done it for me but my mother wouldn't let her and had to do some of it anyway since we were on the run and couldn't find formula. Dad was happy with it though so she went along with it. Arsene and Sierra come from separate mothers but they were to fulfill the will."
"So, you were born over there, they are your parents. What happened to bring you here?"
"Our world ended," Arsene said quietly, looking at Lotus. "Little Alex is a lynchpin. She protects things, she's going to be Daddy Xander the next generation. Someone attacked us all as they were bringing her home. Some of us died for a moment but Lotus fixed that. They got Alex as she and the mommy walked in the door."
"And you were switched here?"
"I kinda made a very strong prayer while we were fixing things," Lotus admitted. "Janus heard, called the kitsune to help. Uncle Xander got sent back to see if he could fix it, starting at the kidnaping before the choker was put onto him. So he refused it, got free, the idiot died, and things changed. What just happed in Europe happened later in our timeline. Just over the last year actually. We even got to help in the meetings to pick the new heads in Europe but it went sour at the end." Lotus shifted a bit, changing her stance. "So, we knew that things were going to be horrible. The kitsune had a long talk. They added me to it since it was my things that were getting things done. We decided we should come back. The daddies needed us and a few of us were needed to keep the balance in the world. So they sent most of us back. Ishi and the babies had to stay behind. They couldn't send Alex until the end, even though I had brought her back, and they weren't sure they could send Ishi since he's the one that our mother is presently carrying. So we did the spell to be sent to whatever city their daddy was in and Uncle Xander had to run with us from London."
"I heard about that part," Demara admitted. "Then who is Dawn?"
"Dawn is Buffy's little sister," Melissa told her, patting her on the thigh like some women did to each other on tv. "She's a former thief but she had to go straight because she couldn't be the sort of bad girl that would survive the life. She didn't want to have to hurt anyone, even to save others."
"Oh. And somehow she got with the inspector, and things happened...." She trailed off, nodding. "Got that part. So you're here. Any particular reason?"
"Just to exist," Lotus admitted. "To keep the world going. I'm one of the balancing things. Me, Alex, Arsene, and Savannah. Though the kitsune really liked Sarah because she'll be their next envoy." Demara smiled at that, Sarah had curled up on her earlier and informed her she was taking a nap by chanting it as she drifted off. "So we have to be, but without the choker, Uncle Xander couldn't have those others and I might not ever have come to be because my mother's going odd," Lotus sighed, "and I want so much to be punitive at the moment and I know father would be disappointed in me for it, but I know what's going on. She's not possessed." The others looked stunned. "I asked Uncle Ethan to look and he said she wasn't. Uncle Marcus said the same thing. She's just being mean." She was picked up by the big sister and held. "Thanks." She let herself be comforted. "So, now we're here, the world will move on, and pretty soon the daddies will be letting us take over."
"And some of us will be getting specialized educations," Arsene finished proudly. "Ishi's already been told he'll go to the assassins' academy if he wants to."
"I'll be getting a lot of lessons from Uncles Marcus, Ethan, and Ripper," Lotus agreed. "Melissa is getting some now from all the daddies along with Arsene so they have a working team when they're older. Fred was going to be a mini Lavelle when he grew up before but we're not sure about now. Alex is still a next version of Uncle Xander. She'll get the choker." Demara gave her a squeeze. "Kenji will be a fighter of some sort probably but we're not really sure how or what sort," she admitted with a small grin. "Mother thought Ishi was kidding when he said he thought he'd be like his kitty name." She shrugged and slid off the welcoming lap. "So, now you know."
"I do," she agreed. "Seems a bit fantastic, but then again I've heard of some of the things that my father's done."
"Oh, that's *nothing*," Arsene assured her, leaning closer. "Uncle Xander and Uncle Marcus know *magic*. They use it on the job."
"Wow." She smiled at the children. "Then I believe I'll fit in just fine. Who is that other woman?"
"Bix? She's Uncle Goemon's cousin," Melissa told her. "She said her side of the family was started in the great Slayer debate that split the family. She was on that side."
"Guys, we need to help Auntie Fujiko find herself again," Arsene stated firmly. "She's so anti-mother that it's hurting Ishi and Lotus, plus she's never touching Kenji anymore. She needs to be fixed."
"She does," Lotus agreed bitterly, glaring toward where her mother was resting. "I don't want to be alone with her. I remember what she did last time and I don't want it to happen again. Besides, she's *scared* of me. Ishi's scared I'll end up a monster, but he's scared of my gifts, not of *me*. She's scared of *me*." She slumped a bit then straightened up. "I don't mind if father takes us away for a bit. We're at that age where I'm more interested in grown up things than the rest of you girls are. Mommy Xander said to give it another year and we'd be fine again but for now that the difference is showing." Melissa gave her a long look and Arsene looked startled. "He said it was normal." She shrugged. "I'd take her word on it."
"You don't like dollies?" Arsene asked.
"Not as much as I used to," Lotus admitted sheepishly. "I'd rather learn some grown up stuff to show that I'm not a little kid. Daddy said if I wasn't so sensitive I'd start learning the sword in another year but he said I didn't really need to worry about slicing things open because of who and what I am." She grimaced, pursing her lips like a duck's bill. "Mother wants me to shop. To stare at popular stars and coo and sigh. While they're cute, they'd never understand me anyway and I know I don't have a shot with any of them. Mother says I'm missing out on an important part of childhood development by not being a groupie. Dad says I'm practical. He thinks I'm great the way I am."
"Your father does love you," Xander said from the doorway, walking in and closing it behind him. "Hey, Demara. If I ever embarrass you by walking around in my boxers, tell me." He knelt in front of Lotus, tipping her chin up. "We love you, munchkin, we really do. None more than your father. You wouldn't know this but he was *so* stoked to have a little girl. He actually thought you'd be simpler than a boy to raise," he said with a grin. She laughed and hugged him. "Thanks. Most of us want you to be yourself, Lotus. Whoever that becomes is up to you. We're all here for you, but you can't totally snub your mother that way. Your Uncle Lupin thinks that she'll change after she gives birth to this new one. Your dad thinks so too. Uncle Marcus and I were thinking that she's possessed already."
Lotus pulled back and shook her head. "I asked Uncle Ethan about possessions and he explained them to me, even how to check, and I suggested we try it together on the mother. She's not."
"Well." He nodded after a moment of thought. "Then she's just having a 'me only' moment that's lasting a bit too long. We'll always be here for you. No matter what. Even if you have to run away to come back to us, all you *ever* have to do is call and we'll be right there. Got it?" She nodded, giving him a very serious look. "Good. 'Cause we love you both. You're great kids." He grinned over at Arsene, then at his daughter. "What are we planning for this new one?"
"Making her mother be a mother," Melissa said quietly. "Fully." Her face hardened and her eyes seemed to shine. "I'm not her nanny, daddy."
"No, you're not," he agreed. "Have you been taking care of Kenji?" She nodded. Arsene did too. "How long has this been going on?"
"Since we got here," Lotus said miserably. "Anytime the daddy isn't around."
He kissed her on the forehead. "Then you let me handle it, Lotus. You too, girls. We won't let Kenji suffer but you're not old enough to take care of a child. You're seven. Lotus is only nearly ten." He stood up with a moan of pain. "I'll be glad when Ethan's done with that medicine. Maybe I'll take a few sips too." He patted Lotus on the head. "You're a wonderful girl, Lotus. As great as my own and I love you like my own. Got it?" She nodded, smiling at him. "Good. Then anytime you need it, the Xander home for wayward Samurai-in-training is open to your whole family. Anytime you need us, you call. One way or another. We're not letting you go." He patted her on the head. "Demara, I'll be working with you and Ishi tomorrow since his father's taking his mother out for an ultrasound. We'll start on the basics and see how far you've gotten. Ishi's a great trainer, he's been working with the girls. So have Lotus and Bix." She nodded, smiling at him. "Then we'll move into crossbows, how to stake properly, and what you can stake and what you have to use a rocket launcher on." He grinned and walked out, closing the door behind him. He walked into the kitchen where Jigen and Lupin were teasing each other. "You two are so cute together," he cooed, making them jump. "Ooh, did I scare you?"
"Yes, stomp next time," Jigen said, giving him a fond look. "Why are you out of bed?"
"I heard Lotus explaining everything to Demara and I stayed to listen. Since when are our children old enough to take care of Kenji?" Lupin caught the plate that slipped through his fingers before it crashed, but his expression stayed shocked. Xander nodded, crossing his arms. "Anytime Goemon's not around. Melissa and Arsene both admitted to it and Lotus backed them up."
Ishi pushed open the door and walked in. "Mother wanted to know if there were any more cherries I can make her choke on," he said, his face as hard as his sister's had been. "I thought it was just me."
"No," Jigen said, shaking his head. "And it's not Bix either. She panics when Bix tries to help so she gave up." He put his dish towel over his shoulder and turned to lean against the counter. "What did our planning genius suggest?"
"Arsene and Melissa suggest we make her be the mother," he said quietly, hearing someone in the halls. "Cherries, I'm not sure, Ishi. Thank you for the hug, dear." He grinned at him and winked, getting an understanding look in return. He opened a cabinet. "The type you put on ice cream."
"Did I hear ice cream?" Arsene called, running in and grabbing her father to hug, making him break the dish this time.
"Ishi, what's going on!" Fujiko called.
"Arsene sneak-attacked her father," he called back. He opened the fridge, then shrugged at the full bag of cherries. "The bag's empty, mother, someone will have to run out to the store." He closed it and walked away. "Sorry, I didn't see any."
"That's fine." She patted him on the back as she walked into the kitchen. "You dropped a plate, Lupin?"
"I had to grab my girl," he admitted with a grin. "She's wonderful at sneak attacking. Ishi's great at it too. He snuck up on Xander."
"His father's good at that too," she said grimly, grabbing a soda without looking in the fridge. "Eww, diet."
"Sorry, mine," Jigen said, taking it. "Have to keep my girlish figure for going through heating ducts. Goemon's a good cook and I'm gaining weight."
"Oh." She shuddered. "It's still nasty."
Xander got into the fridge and found a can of regular soda. "Here, last one until one of us runs out."
"Thanks for that. Get me cherries and walnuts?" He nodded, looking passive until she left. Then he glared at the door.
Lupin smirked at him. "We'll fix it, Xan," he said quietly.
"We will," Xander agreed. "Or he'll be a widow. I won't put up with the Don doing that to her spouse."
Jigen snickered at that description. "We'll do whatever we have to do to protect our friends."
"He might be mad for a bit but he'll appreciate it some day."
"Now all we have to do is to find Bix a boyfriend," Arsene put in. "That way she quits moping in the nursery."
"Soon, princess," Lupin assured her. "When she's old enough to date for real." He patted her on the back and put her down on the other side of the broken dish. "Get me the broom and the dustpan then run and do your homework." She nodded, grabbing them and then leaving the adults alone. Lupin looked at Xander. "Feeling a migraine coming on, Xan?"
Xander looked at him, then sighed and nodded. "I am. All that power earlier gave me a dreadful headache, it might even take a few days to cure," he admitted, sounding sorry for it. "I'm sorry I can't do much to help."
Jigen gave him a hug. "We understand. All that energy had to whip through you and it must have upset your body somehow. You go back to bed. We'll pamper you for a bit longer." Xander nodded, taking the bag of cherries and the last two regular sodas with him. Jigen smirked. "He is so bad sometimes."
"He is, but I agree with the reason," Lupin pointed out. "Let's work with the common skills pool tomorrow. Got it?" Jigen nodded. "Good. It won't hurt Demara to do that and Ishi and Marcus can work on her hand-to-hand for a while too." He cleaned up his mess then tossed it away. He finally looked at Jigen. "Are you coming back to us?"
"I don't know, man. I have no idea what's going on in my head."
"We're leaving it up to you, Jigen. I can't make that decision for you and I doubt you're going to get a female Xander soon." He shrugged as he grabbed the next dish to dry and put away. "Dishes aren't doing themselves and it's not fair to Goemon to make him cook and clean."
Jigen went back to his washing, handing things over as soon as they were rinsed. They were a good team.
Xander wandered listlessly out to breakfast and put his head down on the wood of the table with a soft moan. "I don't feel good."
"Let's hope you're not catching the flu the children came with," Goemon said, testing his forehead like an experienced father. "You're not warm. Do you ache?"
Xander lifted his head, giving him a long look. "Only my head." Goemon nodded. "I think I'm energy wiped. I overused yesterday."
"That is perfectly understandable," Marcus agreed lightly, buttering his toast. "Why don't you go back to bed, Xander? I can work with Demara and Ishi this morning while Goemon takes Fujiko to the doctor's and Jigen and Lupin can work with the other children on something."
"Thank you." He got up and wobbled for a minute, then wandered back to his bed, where he got naked and climbed back in, grinning under the covers until he fell asleep again. Marcus hadn't even been let in on the plan and he had done wonderfully.
Marcus looked at Goemon. "I've done that once myself, back in tenth grade. It was most painful. I had a headache for a week." He popped that bite of toast into his mouth and chewed. When he swallowed he smirked again. "It comes to all of us and hopefully this will discourage Lotus from doing something that massive."
"The time switching thing did that," Lotus assured him. "I was sick from that, not from the transfer or the flu." She smiled at her father. "Should I work with Ishi, Father?"
"If you want," he agreed, smiling back at her. "You are quite good at the beginning lessons. If your uncle doesn't work with you, I want you to work with the other children or make Bix take a break later and work with her. She needs to keep in practice as well."
"Yes, daddy." She smiled at her uncles. "What are we doing today?"
"We were going to go over historical robbers and the people that they robbed from," Lupin said happily. "You get some of the best antiques from them because they always tried to hide things with the most modern technology they had at the time."
Ishi snorted. "I saw something on the Discovery channel about them having to rebury an ancient tomb because the modern air was ruining it and they couldn't preserve it. So they spent all that time and money digging it up so they could measure and take pictures, then they poured sterile materials back over it."
Lupin nodded. "That's often the case, especially when you get things out of the water. We can't replicate it and you have to work really hard and really fast so things don't breakdown. Especially gold." He sipped his coffee. "Modern treasure hunting is a hobby of ours in our off moments and it's exacting work."
"I thought that's what we did all the time," Jigen told him.
"I meant underwater treasure hunting," Lupin said, giving him a smirk. "You know, where we dive and your hat gets wet?"
"We haven't done that in years," Jigen agreed. "Then again, no one can figure out how the Egyptians got so much done that we can't today either. Ancient scrolls are much hardier than anything we can do with the same materials today."
"How do we discover the lost knowledge?" Lotus asked.
"We try really hard to figure it out, or we steal something and then work on duplicating it," Lupin told her, smiling at her for the good question. "Today we were going to start with Egypt and work our way forward to all the treasure that Alexander the Great had moved around his empire. That should take most of the morning, then you can join your father when he gets back and Ishi can come help us again."
"Okay. We can drag Bix with us during the naps." She looked at her father. "Is that all right?"
"That's a very good use of our time," Goemon agreed. "Provided they let us out of there on time."
"If not, I'll hog Bix for a few hours, Daddy." She paused then looked at him. "Father, I know it's not in my future, but shouldn't I learn the same lessons as my brothers, just in case I need them? I mean, Ethan gets attacked sometimes and every now and then he has to hunt down a component, literally, so shouldn't I know how to do that? Even though it squicks me badly."
"Squicks?" Goemon asked.
"Makes her ill or nauseous, grosses her out," Jigen supplied. "Had to look it up online when Arsene used it about dinner a few nights ago."
"Oh." Goemon looked at his daughter, watching her for a few moments, then he nodded. "I can see it in that light, though you will still be stopping at the bottom-most level of the training. You should learn how to use any weapon that may be at hand. I had no idea that you'd have to hunt."
"Neither did I, but Ethan said sometimes he has to. He said sometimes he needed fresh stuff." She shuddered. "Which is really nasty, but if I have to use the other person's type of magic to counter them then I should at least know how."
Marcus coughed. "Usually you can find a counter within your own tradition, Lotus."
"Still," she sighed, rolling her eyes. "Uncle Marcus, if someone unethical did what we had done and went back in time, would my nature magic be able to counter it?"
"Well, no," he admitted.
"And, if like the last white witch had to do, I have to fight a massive demon will my nature magic work that well?"
"No, nature magic can do many things and it can hurt them but there's not many things in it that can kill from my knowledge."
"A branch flung through someone's heart will kill them," Goemon pointed out. "I hadn't thought of her needing that sort of solution however."
Marcus nodded. "Most of the time you can't really drive them off, Master. You have to...dispose them I'm afraid. The slayers do this as well."
"Very well then, I will teach you the basics of swordwork," Goemon agreed. "You will also learn how to hunt and track as I did. You and your brother can start those lessons together. Your swordwork will not begin until after your next growth spurt."
"Yes, daddy, thank you," Lotus said cheerfully. "I'll even sweat."
"Yes, you will," Ishi said, frowning at her. "Show off."
"Bite me," she sneered.
"Sorry, daddy." She smiled at him. "He's always so mean because he's older."
"Lotus, quit picking on your brother," Xander yelled from his bedroom. "You upset him too much and he'll start hurting you in practice. He is older, even though you're both little kids."
"Yes, Uncle," they sighed.
"I'm sorry we woke you, Uncle," Ishi called back. "Have a good nap."
"Thank you, I was trying to. Goemon, get Arsene in it too. She could use the lessons on control before she starts to hit puberty."
Goemon spluttered, eyes wide. "Puberty?"
"Girls go through it too," Jigen sighed sadly, shaking his head. "She might be like her daddy there too."
Lupin chuckled, smirking at him. "Don't you wish? With her luck, she'll like Melissa. She doesn't seem to like boys."
Jigen looked at Goemon. "Please, teach the kid some control before she pulls a Xander and sleeps with a whole house of ill repute and wears them out."
Goemon gulped his juice, then nodded. "Definitely. We'll start work on that this afternoon. Long before the hormones start to rule their lives." Lupin grinned at him. "I should put you in that class as well, but you're too old to learn new tricks." Lupin blew a kiss. "Remember, your lover is ill. You can do no more than pamper him for the next few days."
"Yeah, but I need to spoil Xander more often so he spills more secrets. I had no idea he was doing the society thing." He glanced at Jigen, then back at Goemon. "You know, all the girls will soon be asking for bras and things. We'd better get together tonight and decide what to tell them."
"Hopefully I'll be one of those women who don't need bras because I'll have small tits," Lotus said wistfully. "Not like the mother said hers were like at my age."
"Who told you to call them that?" Ishi asked angrily.
He frowned. "That is disrespectful of your own body, sister. Do not call them that again in mine or Father's presence."
"Yes, great wise one," she said smartly. "Does that mean I have to codename your body parts too?"
"Enough," Goemon warned.
"You shouldn't know anything about mine."
"Oh, yeah, because you can't see that anywhere on tv, not even on animal planet," she said scornfully. "Hello, was watching HBO the other day and Real Sex was quite informative."
"Yeah, because you'll ever need to use that knowledge. Girls like you don't get boyfriends. They get cats and nothing else."
"Enough!" Goemon yelled. "Lotus, you may not watch that filth until you are old enough to buy the cable yourself. Ishi, apologize and then do ten pushups in the corner, in the handstand position. Lotus, pick another corner and do five of them for watching that trash," he ordered, pointing.
"Yes, Father," they sighed, glaring at each other.
"Sorry you'll never have a boyfriend," Ishi muttered.
Lupin slapped him across the back of the head. "Surly little boys who can't learn to get along with girls even when they're surrounded by them will never, ever find a date, Ishi. So unless you want to start going for bully boys and biker gangs, I'd stop soon and learn to appreciate your sisters."
"Yes, sir," he said miserably. "I don't like boys that way," he defended, pouting at him. "Those sort are smelly too. That's just nasty, Uncle Lupin."
"Good, then learn to get along with the gentler sex," Lupin said firmly, staring him down. Ishi nodded and patted his sister on the back as he went to his own corner.
"Should my son ever take up with a biker, I'll blame it on you," Goemon said, frowning at Lupin. "Thank you though."
"Welcome. I'm sure it's just a stage, like when he thought frogs were better than sisters because they were slimy."
"Yes, but then Lotus coated herself in vasoline and motor oil," Jigen reminded them. They all shuddered. They hadn't gotten her fully clean for two days. They had to throw out her clothes and sheets because they couldn't get it off there.
Lotus looked at her brother. "I'll get a good boyfriend so you can see how good it is," she taunted quietly.
Ishi glared at her. "I like girls, just not your sort. Real girls, with brains and sense."
"Children," Marcus warned. "That's another five for each of you for continuing this stupid argument. Or else I'll make it so you both like cats."
Goemon smacked him on the arm. "You too, twenty, in the same position," he ordered, pointing at a clear space of wall.
"Yes, master. I was only trying to help," he pouted as he went to do that himself.
Fujiko came out of their bedroom, looking at the children. "Fighting again?"
"Yup," Lotus panted as she worked to get her last one in. "There, done." She flopped down and wiggled her arms to get the feeling back in them. "Now I don't need to do my arm work today."
Ishi snorted. "I doubt that'll happen. Bix is just as stern as dad." He got to his feet and pulled his sister up, walking her back to her seat. "Sit there and learn how to be a proper woman from Uncle Lupin so you get more than cats."
"Unless certain little boys want to find themselves in magical chokers so *they* can learn to be proper women, I'd quit," Fujiko warned.
"Mother, that would destroy my sense of self, my self-esteem, and make me suicidal," Ishi said, frowning at her. "That would be akin to torturing me by removing my body parts. The UN and the Geneva Conventions frown on such things."
Lupin snickered, putting his head down on his plate.
Jigen tossed a napkin at Lupin's head, holding in his smirk. "You've got grape jelly in your hair." He looked at Ishi. "The Geneva Conventions are only for war criminals."
"It would be a war should she attempt such a maneuver," Ishi vowed, eyes narrowed as he looked at him. "There would be many awful acts of attrition that I can think of. Including burning all her clothes and making her wear a proper kimono like a proper wife." He gulped his milk, then looked at his father, smiling at him. "You were going to chastise me for hiding some skills I was learning off Uncle Xander's anime, father. Shall we?"
"Go warm up," he said, swatting him as he walked past. His son was transparent sometimes, but it would be a war he would help his son with. "I'll work with him until it's time for us to leave," he told his wife, nodding at her. "Lupin, the jelly has been infected by your hair. Others won't want to eat it."
Lupin sat up, still laughing as he dished out a big dollop and put the dish farther up the table, which meant that Lotus could have it. "I agree, that would be a war. We'd have to help the little guy." He stood up, going to wash the gunk out of his hair before it got stiff.
"Ishi would make an ugly girl so we'd have to help him," Melissa pointed out from her seat, stunning her father.
"Besides, that sort of device should only be put on if you know that you want to change gender, or to try it out before the operation," Arsene offered.
"How do you know about such things?" Fujiko demanded.
"The Discovery, Home and Leisure, Health, and TLC channels," she said promptly. "I also know about face lifts and how bad they can turn out. You could look mummified or worse if you go to a bad surgeon. I hope I never have to have plastic surgery."
"Hope you keep all your hair too," Sierra put in. "TLC said that more and more women these days are suffering from pattern baldness due to contaminants in the air and water, plus the bad things in the food that can mess up your body and complexion like nothing in history ever could. And there's no real cure for it because you can't get away from ground, air, and water pollution."
"There's always hope that humanity will smarten up and live like the animals do," Lotus offered gently. "Or even most native peoples. Humans are the worst predators in history and those of us who complain about getting cancer from other people's car exhaust and cell phones are branded as heretics and meanies."
Fujiko looked at her husband. "My daughter is odd and mentally challenged because of who?"
"It's scientific fact, Mother," Lotus said, rolling her eyes. "Seriously, if you ever read anything other than the Smithsonian for jobs and fashion magazines for teenagers, you'd know that. I mean, Scientific American had a whole issue devoted to the water pollution problem. Even that fancy water that comes straight from glacier and underground runoff, that stuff they bottle in France, is starting to show pollutants because we've messed up the Earth so badly. No native would *ever* let their land get that bad." She looked at Arsene. "We need to start cleansing treatments to get rid of that nastiness in our skin. My herbalism book, the one I got for my last birthday from Ethan, has some wonderful herbal and vegetable compounds we can use to clear off the smog and nastiness we gather by being outside."
"It'd probably help the usual teenage acne problem too," Savannah pointed out. "We could all use that. Daddy had some bad ones from what he told me."
Arsene shuddered. "Then we'll start doing that each weekend. Maybe we can prevent skin cancer from it?"
"That's more a need for sunscreen each and every day, even if we only sit beside the window. The ozone layer is fairly thin in certain places," Melissa reminded her. "Thankfully we're not in a spot where it's *gone* or we'd have to go out wearing reflective devices over our *whole* bodies, and then how would we look cute?"
"Or start going out only at night," Arsene suggested.
"That would work," Melissa agreed, looking at Lotus, who nodded enthusiastically. "Then maybe we should start doing that more of the time. Daddy?" Jigen looked at her. "Can we please pick up some appropriate sunblock so we don't die of skin cancer?"
"Sure. I'm all for not being burnt to a crisp," he agreed. "As long as you don't get paranoid about it."
"That's fine, dad," Arsene agreed with a smile. "I've got dry skin anyway and I know there's some moisturizers that have some."
He nodded. "We'll pick some up later when we take Ishi shopping."
"Thank you." Lotus smiled at him. "You're very understanding."
"I've already had one mole looked at from where I burned so bad as a kid every summer and the most recent research stuff did say that burning a lot as a kid does mean you're more likely to get it."
"Fortunately they've only had two good sunburns their entire lives," Goemon pointed out.
"Do you mind, Daddy?"
"No, I believe it is a prudent and reasonable thing to put on sunscreen every day," he admitted. "You can remind me," he offered. She beamed at him and reached around her mother to hug him. "Thank you, finish eating. Lessons will be starting soon." All the kids dug in and then hurried to the room they were using as a classroom, the office.
Lupin looked at his girls as he came in. "Very well reasoned, girls. We'll make sure to talk to some good skin care people about what to get. Especially since not all of you have dry skin and you have combination skin, Arsene. You've already got oily spots on your nose and forehead."
"Yes, daddy," she said happily. "Can we go?"
"There's no way I'm dragging you guys to the mall by myself," he said with a bright smile. "Do I look insane?" They laughed and hugged him but settled in to work with him. Ishi could catch up and he taped his lectures anyway for the younger kids to use later on.
Fujiko looked up as her youngest son wailed, then sighed and got up. "What?" she asked him, expecting an answer. Instead he continued to scream. She picked him up and he screamed louder so she patted him on the back like her husband did. His ear-piercing wails got a bit softer but he was still crying.
"Change him," Xander yelled from his room. That was as much help as she had gotten from him in the last two days. His headache was still making him pissy.
She sat him on the bed and opened the diaper, then backed away. "Eww!" she called. "It's gross!"
Xander opened the door, scowling at her. "What do you think your ass looks like after you get done?" He looked at the boy, then at her. "While you're at it, you might try feeding him, it's been nearly six hours." He walked away, leaving her door open. He looked at Lotus, who was nibbling on her top lip. "Quit that, it'll scar," he warned, pouring himself some juice. "He's not in danger, it's a nasty diaper."
"She hasn't fed him since this morning," she said quietly.
"He's fine." He sipped his juice and gave her a hug. "Don't break," he whispered into her hair. "Just two more hours." She nodded. Lupin had said that if she didn't take care of the baby for eight hours, he was going to talk with Goemon and help him get her help. He walked back to his bedroom, listening to the baby scream. It was getting on his nerves too. He heard the front door slam and went out to intercept whoever. "Who gave you permission to walk into my house?" he asked the cop.
"The wire we left is driving me insane," he gritted out.
"Yeah, me too," Xander agreed, sipping his juice. They shared a look and he shrugged. "You can wait until Lupin gets back if you need to. I'm going back to bed. My head still hurts." Over the last two days, he had talked himself into a good headache. Either that or it was the constant wailing of Kenji.
"Damn it," Bix shouted, stomping in there. "I can't take it anymore, Fujiko. Can you not change a simple diaper? If not, then ask and I'll teach you!" Kenji quieted within moments and she walked out holding him, looking at Xander. "I know you're in pain," she said quietly, "and I know your head is throbbing right now because even I can feel it a bit. I've got to go to the store. Can you watch him?"
"I will if he can't," Zenigata offered. "That was driving me insane. The other person listening wanted to call Children's Services on her." He took the baby carefully and sat down, holding him gently.
"He needs fed," Xander said quietly, going to make a bottle for him. He came back and handed it over. "Thank you. I'm going to take something for this so I should be able to spell you in a few minutes."
"The crooks were coming back anyway," he said bitterly. Xander nodded, going to take the medicine Lupin had gotten him when he found out he really did have an exertion headache. Then he came back out in time to watch Lupin walking through the door. "We've got to talk," he said.
"This looks like you're taking my son and leaving him for the inspector," Goemon said dryly.
Zenigata looked at him. "No, your wife let your son scream non-stop since about thirty minutes after you left," he said coolly.
"He did?" Lupin asked, looking at Xander.
"Mostly I want comforted cries. She got him to stop about every hour. That's also his first bottle since I went back to sleep after you left."
"Yes, and the bug in your room echoes your snoring beautifully," Zenigata said sarcastically. "And your muttering." He looked at Goemon. "I know she sent the nanny away and told her not to touch this one. I know that Lotus has been itching to help and won't, for whatever reason. I know Xander wanted to help and couldn't. But this shit's gotta stop. I came in to intervene so you don't get a social worker here. The rest of the kids are healthy, content, and happy. I don't know what the problem is here. Besides the fact that his mother can't or won't change diapers, won't feed him, and won't pick him up."
"I did, I picked him up each time he cried," Fujiko said from the doorway, walking down the hallway. "What are you doing listening?"
"You're crooks, what do you think I'm doing listening?" he asked snidely. "Do you want this child taken from your custody?" She slowly shook her head. "Then take lessons from the people who know what they're doing. They're all around you. Bix is underage, yet she still knows a lot about kids."
"She was a nanny with the kitsune," Xander offered. "Let me, you'll upset him more." He took the baby, yawning down at him when the baby yawned. "I know, those are contagious, little guy. How about I deal with you for a bit? At least until I fall asleep."
"What happened to you?"
"Calling up the powers of hell gave me a headache."
"And you can't fix that?"
"I can, the medicine knocks me out." Xander looked at him. "It's like my brain ran a marathon without any training, Gramps. It hurts. It aches. It's getting better, but it aches. That first day was pretty mild compared to the next morning."
Lupin nodded. "It was. The first morning he came out looking a little pale and shaky, just having a minor headache. By that night he couldn't move without wincing and his head's been throbbing. We had to take him to the ER the other night. May I?"
"He's my son," Goemon said. "Give me my son."
"Hey! I never get to hold him," Jigen complained.
"You have a baby daughter to spoil!" Goemon said firmly. "He's my son. I get to baby him."
"Guys, not making my head ache any less," Xander said over the complaints. He glanced at Fujiko, who was looking very upset. "Now. If you want, we can make sure this never happens again. I can teach you how to change diapers, mix a bottle, do all that neat stuff."
"Teach her how to give him a bath. She nearly drowned him yesterday while you were unconscious on the couch," Zenigata said bitterly, glaring at her. "It's sad that men are better mothers, Fujiko Mine, but you need to change. Who's going to raise your next one?" He stood up. "I've done my duty so there won't be any social workers. We don't want to hurt the other children," he said, glancing at Xander and then Goemon. "Some parents are very overprotective and deadly when things like that happen." He straightened out his jacket. "I'll be listening."
"That's fine, we're leaving in another week or so anyway," Lupin told him. "Have a nice campout. How are the kids?"
"Tolerable. Adjusting well enough. Dawn's an amazing mother. It's like her whole face brightens each time she sees one of the kids, even her nephews. She's happy being a mother and a wife." He let himself out, heading back to the van. As he got in, he looked at his student. "I've seen Lavelle call the cops on some parents," he told him. "They were trying to make Fujiko be a mother for a change. They wouldn't have let it go on for another day but I couldn't let that happen anymore."
The student nodded. "I understand. No baby should have to cry like that." He closed the door behind his mentor.
In the house, Goemon had won the argument and was holding his son while Xander drifted off in a chair watching them. He looked down at him and smiled. "We will be more attentive, Kenji." He stroked the damp hair. "Were you sweating?" He kissed his forehead. "Lupin, he's running a fever. Fairly high."
Jigen grabbed the thermometer, Lupin held the baby while Goemon got to use it on the poor kid. So Jigen got to be puked on when the baby did that while being supported face down so the rectal thermometer could be used. "That's green," Jigen noted, looking at his shoes. "Xan?" Xander 'hmm'ed at him. "Green puke and a fever?"
"Baby doctor's in the rolodex, under baby."
"Thanks." Lupin looked at Lotus. "Can you get that and call?" She nodded, doing that. He pulled out the thermometer when it beeped. "One-oh-one."
Lotus found it and dialed, bringing the phone over. Then she went to get a damp washcloth for the baby and for her uncle's shoes, handing them both over. Finally, she took the baby and sat down, crooning at him like she would her plants or kittens. "It's all right, Morris. We love you and we'll get this fixed. It's probably just a bad belly." He started to get sick again so she rolled him onto his side, patting his back to make sure he wouldn't swallow it. "That's all right, I clean up," she promised. "That's why some intelligent woman invented the washing machine that you didn't have to rub things on a rough board in."
"A guy did that," Jigen told her. "He probably did it for his wife or mother though." He took the baby, cradling it gently when it started to cry again. "Hey, calm down. We've got you. It's all right." Lupin hung up. "ER?" Lupin nodded. "Okay. Xander's keys?"
"Our dresser," Lupin said, hurrying to get them. He came out and patted Lotus on the head. "Find a reward, kid, you did good." He, Jigen, and Goemon took the baby, leaving Xander with the kids, who were all working out with Ishi but Lotus.
Ishi walked down the stairs, looking at his little sister. "Is he fine?"
"Probably a stomach bug. Babies get a lot of them," she offered. "Let me change then I'll get the juice."
"Let Xander do it."
"Mother, he's asleep. His mind aches with the stress of destroying half of Geneva. If you don't know what that pain feels like, let me tell you," she snapped, making her mother's mouth open. "It feels like someone's using an oil drill to excavate a cavity in the very back of your mouth, a dirty one with the taste that comes with it, plus the fact that your brain feels like its swelling while your skull shrinks. That's on top of the exhaustion of the body from where the energy whips through you and you have to force it to stay on the path you want. Not to mention the pain that he was in emotionally because they were attacking us children. If anything, he'll probably need a good week more before he can do more than sleep and eat. If the pain's subsiding this fast, I'm going to making sure he can't do magic for at least another month. No choker, no other magic for another month because it will cause a relapse. If you don't believe me, go ask Marcus. He's had two or three of these to my single one saving the other children and sending them back here." She stomped off to change clothes.
"Get back here!" Fujiko snapped.
"Oh, shut up," Xander said bitterly, standing up. He stared down at her. "It's bad enough that we left you alone with *your* son. The one you complained because you don't get to be a mother to him. We let you be a mother. You flunked. Your daughter did everything right, including the putting him on his side thing. You didn't even realize he was warm, and that temperature was a good three degrees higher than it should be. The baby felt hot to me too, but I've been having hot flashes so I thought it was me," he said honestly. "If you want to be a mother, Fujiko, then be a mother. Learn how. Bix and I will gladly teach you every single trick we've ever used. Hell, I've learned things off her because she's been doing this for years. When she got drafted by the kitsune, cars weren't even a gleam in anyone's brain. She took care of little, fast things that liked flip their tails at you for fun. She helped me a lot when I was ill with Alex. Hell, she got the kids to quit sulking and let out their grief in good ways. She's a wonderful mother. I'm pretty damn good at it. Lupin's good at it. Jigen's good at it. Goemon excels at it. If you asked *any* of us, we'd help you."
"You left me with him knowing I didn't know what to do!" she shrieked, then she hit him. He backed away, rubbing the spot. "You knew I couldn't take care of him."
"Fujiko, little kids Ishi's age have kids sometimes, and they can figure out how to read the directions on a canister of formula and make a bottle. They can figure out how to change a diaper after looking at the thing, then at the one that's been properly applied already. If you had *asked* even I would have come help you. You didn't. You let the baby lie there and scream his head off because you were looking at magazines."
"They said to let him cry."
"Not for an hour straight!" he yelled. She backed away, cowering some. He calmed himself, and incidentally made his head hurt less. "Ishi, upstairs." He shook his head. "Now." Ishi shook his head again, coming over to lead his mother away. "I wasn't going to hurt her."
"No, but I am," Ishi said as he pushed his mother into her room. "It's best you stay in there for now, mother. Lotus is about to lose her temper and I doubt it'll be pretty. You'll cry again." He closed the door and walked back, hugging his uncle until his sister came out, then they hugged her between them. "I will be a father like mine," he said quietly.
"I'll be a mommy like daddy is," Lotus agreed, snuggling in.
"Are we all hugging?" Demara asked. "Is Kenji okay? He's not screaming."
"They just took him to the ER. He was puking and had a fever," Xander told her. "Oh, there's bugs in the house. Tell Arsene and Melissa, okay?" She nodded, going to do that. He looked down at them. "You two are always welcome at our house," he whispered. "No matter why or when. You two are always welcome to come running to us. You, your dad, your baby brothers." He heard crying and straightened up. "I want to feel sorry for her."
"That's Bix," Lotus noted, going to comfort her. "Shh, you did right," she offered, hugging her. "It was the right thing to do. Uncle Xander's not been able to and we had to fill in."
"I can't stand to see children in pain," she moaned. "I can't. It hurts."
"Shh, there's shielding for that," Lotus soothed, working a small spell to put her out. Then she tucked her into the bed she was sitting on, Arsene's since she had the last room on the hallway. She walked out, closing the door gently, then stormed up the stairs. "Marcus, Bix is empathic." He stopped what he was doing to look at her, already frowning. "She was in tears because Kenji wasn't feeling good. I knocked her out. Arsene, if she's not up, you can camp in my room tonight." Arsene nodded quickly. "She needs shielding if she doesn't have any or work on them if she does. She was in tears because he was hurting."
"That's fine, dear. You did correctly," he promised, patting her on the head. "Let me check on her. There's warding I know that I'll teach you tomorrow." He smiled at her then trotted down the stairs, finding Xander nearly in tears. "Are you all right?"
"How can you be so bad to your own kid?" he demanded.
"It's not hard. You simply don't care enough to care." He hurried to check on Bix. Xander's emotional storm wasn't going to help her any if Lotus was correct. He found a young Kitsune poking her. "Little one, we just had to sedate her," he said quietly.
"She my nanny," the baby foxling told him seriously.
"I know she was. Did you need her?" The fox nodded, pointing at his tail. "Oh, dear, you've broken a bone. Okay, let me shield her and then I'll take you right to the Lord, all right?" The baby nodded, clutching his leg while he worked. As soon as he got done, he picked up that one carefully and activated the token he had to get to the fox realm. He walked past the guard. "This one came to see Bix to get his tail unhurt," he explained as he walked through the gateway. He headed right for the throne room, the only place he knew up there. A woman screamed and pointed. "Shut it," he warned. He bowed to the Lord. "This little one came to see Bix because his tail's been broken somehow. We have her sedated because Fujiko refused to take care of her child when Xander was asleep with a headache."
"With what he did to those people threatening his cubs, I'd expect one hell of a headache too," the Lord agreed, smirking down at him. "Medication?"
"Fairly powerful. Kenji still managed to wake him repeatedly. He said his brain ran a marathon without training."
"Yes, that does explain it rather well." He came down to take the small foxling. "I still like Lotus's explanation," he said with a smile.
"I didn't get to hear that one. Was it good?"
"It was. Especially when Xander told her she was a failure as a mother. By the way, it's probably that plant he was chewing on in their room. Not harmful but definitely an emetic."
"The one in the blue vase?" The Lord nodded. "How did he get that?"
"He's crawling, barely." He grinned wickedly. "Thank you for taking care of this one. Have you seen his sister?"
"No, but if she's off target any, there's a police van outside the house we're in or she might be in the gardens. Feel free to come look."
"I will once I get this one to the healer's. Guard Xander. He's already upset." Marcus nodded and left via the portal he had opened. The Lord looked at the mother, who had screamed and pointed. "It's a good thing he went looking for Bix. Too long and his tail would be permanently bent. Healers please," he said, raising his voice a bit. One came running. "This one's got a broken tail. He went looking for Bix for comfort. I'm going to send someone to look for his sister down there." The healer nodded, bowing quickly as he took the baby off. He looked at the guard, who was young and liked watching humans. "Go. The Inspector doesn't know but he knows about the supernatural." The guard nodded and bowed, heading down.
In the van, Zenigata was looking at the baby fox that had crawled in his lap and was cuddling him for all he was worth because she was scared. One hand gently came down to pat her on the back, and his other scratched her ears. A cross between what he did to the cats and what he did for his kids. When the bigger one showed up, he was still looking stunned. "She limped in, her right rear leg is injured somehow and she's shaken. She's terrified of someone."
"Her uncle was dosed with a fairy shot," he said bitterly. "He lost control and went on a rampage in their house. Her brother appeared inside. Little one? Talia?" The baby fox looked at him. "We have a healer waiting, little one. Come with me?" She nodded, lunging over at him, waving back at her protector shyly before hiding her head. "Thank you, Inspector. Our young are precious to us." He bowed and left, heading back to the palace. "Right rear leg and her wrist," he said as he handed over the baby to the healer. She cried out. "Shh, I'll be right here."
"Want him," she said pitifully.
"He's a human. You can visit him and his cubs soon for treating you so well," the guard offered. "The Lord will allow it." She nodded, staring at him and holding his hand as the knockout shot was given. Putting her ankle back into place was going to hurt. He stayed, no kit should be alone. "The other?"
"His tail's fine. It was dislocated and only had a small fracture," the healer assured him. "Where was this one?"
"That inspector that follows the Envoy Xander around was comforting her. He was listening to their house and she found her way into their van and his lap." They shared a smile. "He was scratching her ears and patting her back."
"I'm sure he didn't know what to do with a baby like this one. He must have pets."
"Cats actually. The Envoy's cat had kittens and he and his wife, the Key, got most of them."
"Ah." He nodded as he worked, humming gently to set the bone. "There, that should hold. Now all we have to do is cast it."
"Oh, good," the Lord said as he walked in. "Where was she?"
"With the inspector, like you thought. I said she could visit to thank him, sire, I hope I didn't overextend your generosity."
"No, I like him. He's honorable and he's quite funny," the Kitsune Lord admitted. "Besides, his wife is trouble incarnate." They shared a grin. "Will this one be fine?"
"Just fine, Lord. It's easily set and we'll cast her later, as soon as I know everything is starting to heal."
"Excellent. How was Xander?"
"I didn't check on him, Lord, shall I?"
"That's fine. I'll check on him later tonight," he promised. "Our future Envoy said her third word today. Of course it was a human swear," he said fondly. They all shared a laugh and he went back to calming down the mother.
Goemon walked back into the house. He, Jigen, and Lupin had talked and he had listened to the tape the cops had made earlier. Zenigata hadn't even said anything when he had opened the door of the van, simply handed over the remote for the player and a set of headphones. Lupin had told him about the children and Xander doing all the baby care for Kenji because Fujiko wouldn't allow Bix near him. Jigen had explained that everyone had decided to let Fujiko be a mother for real. That the headache thing was real, just that it hadn't been that bad on the first day. He put the tape on a faster speed so he could browse through the day and sighed when most of what he heard was his son screaming. Once or twice Xander had called out some advice, which was correct as far as he could tell by listening to the peculiarity of the crying. Unfortunately she hadn't taken much of the advice. He slowed it down at the fight, then handed back everything and walked into the house. Lupin and Jigen had taken all the kids but his out for ice cream. Bix was still asleep from what he could tell. She was talking in her sleep again, mumbling about something furry tickling her. He found Xander asleep on the couch with his son watching him and Lotus eating a sandwich at the table. "Didn't you get dinner?"
"I couldn't eat then," Lotus admitted. "I felt sick. Uncle Lupin told me to make myself a sandwich whenever I felt I could eat. Auntie Bix is in Arsene's room. She's empathic."
"I heard you shouting," he admitted. "The Inspector let me listen to the tape." He looked at his son. "Where is she?"
"I brought dinner in to her a while ago," Ishi told him calmly.
"She was doing what?"
"She was listening to something on her CD player and reading a book." He stood up smoothly and walked over. "Father, we love you dearly. We missed the mother. This isn't her. She's not possessed. She's selfish." His father nodded, looking very sorry. "We don't blame you, Father. We know this wasn't the woman you married. You never would have married her if she had been like this. We understand that. Lotus and I talked to Uncle Xan when he was awake last time and he said that she used to be much nicer, that she loved you. He also reminded us that we can stay with them while you and mother work this out however."
Lotus got up and hugged him, then their father. "Daddy, we support you in whatever you want to do," she offered, staring up at him. "We love you. We love most everything about you. We respect you and adore you. But if that woman comes near me to put me into a short skirt again, I'm going to scream. Again. You weren't there when I had to change clothes while we were out at the mall. Three different people asked me how much I charged and was I really as young as I looked."
"I had wondered why you came out crying," Goemon said, hugging her gently. "I'm sure it wasn't her intention, just her bad taste, daughter."
"I don't care, daddy. I'm learning how to be a woman from guys. They understand me better. Even Ishi understands and treats me like I have some sense. She wanted to put me into a thong, daddy! A thong! At my age!"
He gave her an extra squeeze, then hugged his son as well. "Then we must do something." Xander fell off the couch and he smiled. "For now, take him back to his room and stay in there or go upstairs. I won't demand that you meditate to get rid of the anger. It's perfectly understandable. Your Uncle Xander feels it strongly enough to have to hold himself back from hurting her. I saw that earlier."
"He barely restrained himself when he shouted at her," Ishi admitted quietly. Xander's head lifted over the back of the couch, his eyes half closed. "You need a bigger napping spot, Uncle. Let's get you back to bed."
"Bullshit," Ishi said firmly, taking him by the arm and pulling until he stood up. "Bed, Uncle Xander. Don't embarrass me."
"Son, do not swear," Goemon reminded him gently, smirking at his back as he and his sister walked their uncle to his room to put him back to bed. "I thought putting a drunken Lupin to bed was bad," he said, shaking his head. He walked into his room without knocking.
"I didn't invite you."
"It's my room," Goemon pointed out.
"No, it's my room," she said, rolling to face him. "Mine alone since you don't seem to care a bit about me. You left me with that screaming, crying, sick thing and without warning me I was being tested."
"Fujiko, there was no test. No matter what you would believe. You're a mother, they expected you to do some motherly things while they did what they were supposed to be doing."
"I'm not supposed to do that!" she yelled, pointing at the crib.
"You are. That's what mothers do," he pointed out calmly, standing firm. "As I said, I have no problems taking care of the child or encouraging Xander to help me when he's well. For that matter, you took out your other source of help when you wouldn't let Bix handle the child."
"She's not the person I picked! She's not our nanny."
"She is, I chose her while you were gone," he said firmly, staring down at her. "As soon as this one is born, I will give you keys to my house in town. You can do whatever you want but sell it. The children will be with me. Until that time, you are to stay within sight of one of us."
"Afraid I'll do something to your precious son?" she sneered.
"I'm afraid that your hormones are making you unreasonable. This was the best compromise I could make. Otherwise I was going to have to commit you. Lupin was going to demand it for the safety of Xander and the other children."
"Yeah, like he cares," she snorted.
"Fujiko, Lupin changed diapers, fed the children, and was there when they were born whenever he could be. His own, Jigen's, and mine. He has done more for my children than you seem to have other than giving birth to them." She stood up, but she didn't quite come up to his chin without her heels on. "That won't work on me," he said bitterly. "I am not going to be intimidated by you. I also will not put up with you harming our children."
"I wasn't *harming* him," she defended.
"Then you simply weren't watching him at all when he crawled over to the plant that's supposed to be on the dresser and ate it?" She looked at the plant she had moved, then scowled at it. "That's what made him ill. Easily solved once we realized he had eaten a non-toxic plant." She sat down, staring at him, looking like a kicked puppy. "Again, that look will not work with me," he said firmly, and he meant it. "If you wish to be a mother to our children, then we will help. If not, then you can disappear once this one is born."
"I'll file for a divorce tomorrow."
"I told you, I don't believe in that institution," he said calmly. "I am hoping that some day you come to your senses and come back, but I will not divorce you." She looked stunned. "I'm sorry, but it is not something I believe in and I will not allow my family's name to be drug through the mud like some common garbageman's. There will be no divorce and you can't do that without my cooperation. If you should try, you'll find I will fight you over it." He turned and walked out, then looked at her. "Do you want this room or should I move all the baby equipment?"
"I'll go sleep in a hotel."
"If you leave our sight, you'll be sleeping on a mental ward," Jigen said from the doorway. "Where's Xander?"
"I had my two put him to bed. Is he not there?" Jigen shook his head. "Then look upstairs. One never knows with Xander." He looked at Fujiko again. "If you want to remain their mother, then we will help you learn, Fujiko. No one's asking you to go on without guidance ever again."
"Sure," she snorted, starting to laugh. "Because it's so easy."
"Bix was twelve when she was chosen and she got it. Lotus is doing it and she's nine," Jigen told her. "Kids in the US have kids at sixteen and some of their parents have made them raise them. You're nearing forty, Fujiko. You should be able to get past that by now. Diapers are bad, but that's no excuse. Even I get that pleasure. It's balanced out by them cooing at you in happiness as they eat." He walked away with the baby. "Xander!" Kenji sniffled. "Yes, we're looking for the mother," he soothed. "Xander?" He opened his door and found the lump on the bed had shifted. He walked in and found it was Ishi, who was sleeping soundly. "Ishi, man, what's going on?"
Ishi raised his head and opened his eye. "Young kitsune got pissed. Tried for Lotus, Xander drug him out of here by his tails with her," he slurred. He put his head back down. "Stun grenade. Hurts. Nasty. Bad."
"Go rest on the couch. We don't want to lose you to a concussion." Ishi nodded and rolled off the bed, heading for the couch. "Goemon, did you hear anything about a concussion grenade?"
"No, but I did hear a door slam right before I walked in. Why?" He came out of his room.
"Because your son said a young kitsune came for Lotus and had one. He's got a small concussion probably. I sent him to the couch."
"He's fine, simply stunned," Lupin called. "Kenji?"
"Sucking on one of my shirt buttons," Jigen offered, walking him out. "Xander drug the young thing out of here by his tails. How many tails, Ishi?"
"Looked like fifteen but then again I'm still seeing triple." He half-opened his eyes then took his brother to hold. "C'mere, help make me feel better. We can feel bad together, baby brother."
"Thanks, Ishi." Lupin patted him on the head then looked around. "Bix? Marcus?" Marcus appeared, looking attentive. "How do we get up there?"
"The Lord is presently yelling at the little idiot for challenging Lotus," he offered delicately, stepping out of range of any fists and definitely out of grabbing range. "He said that she was powerful but still too untrained and no humans should have gifts like hers. So he was going to make sure that they couldn't. At which point I followed Xander and then smacked the little bastard soundly before wrapping him in ropes that weren't there before and suspending him from the ceiling, then handing Xander his favorite foam bat so we could beat the little thing. He's still giggling about it." He smiled. "Anything else?"
"Xander's still ill."
"They gave him something for his headache, which made him puke, but it's making it better as we speak. He should be back down to a normal headache by tomorrow."
"Good," Jigen agreed. "Can we beat the brat?"
"No, Lotus is presently instructing Xander on how she wants to hit him; each and every place would hurt greatly." He grinned and disappeared, bringing back Lotus, who was still fuming, and Xander, who went to puke.
"The Kitsune seemed to think that humans don't have magic," Lotus fumed. "I showed them! They've now got a huge ass tree in the middle of their throne room and it's going to keep growing and then I'm going to invite a family of imps to live in it!" she said angrily.
"Daughter," Goemon said, staring her down. "Enough." She glared at him. "It is not all of them, just some who did not have the knowledge that they needed."
"Try any, daddy," she said bitterly. "Including their magic teacher, who believes that no human can do anything. He thought we were there to be their slaves. Boy, did he ever find himself wrong when he started to nibble on one of his tails. I am not putting up with such disrespect from them toward my people! I am a witch! I am human, no matter what that idiot trainer thinks, and I am nearly perfect!" she yelled. "He can fucking well bite me!"
"Lotus!" Goemon shouted. "Language!"
"Father," she said calmly, looking at him. "There are times to swear. I feel that when your whole race and reason for being has been insulted that it's one of them." She stomped off. "Where are the others?"
"In the garden," Lupin called. She stomped that way and they all winced when the door slammed. "Damn. I feel really sorry for the kitsune."
"Me as well, even the ignorant ones," Goemon admitted.
"Not me," Jigen said happily. "I'm damn proud of the girl."
Goemon looked at him. "You would be." He checked on his boys again, noticing that Ishi was asleep but that his younger son was nibbling on Ishi's neck for him. "Son," he said, picking him up. Ishi tried to struggle but his father patted him on the head. "It's me." Ishi let him go and he knew then that his son would be the proud bearer of the family's name. He protected their family against anything he could.
The Lord of the Kitsune, who had quite ruffled and disarranged fur, appeared behind Goemon and coughed gently. "If I may, there's a few people who would like to apologize to your daughter Lotus before her tree eats us or the demonic envoy suddenly becomes able to affect us again," he said quietly.
Goemon snickered, pointing toward the garden. "She's out there getting Melissa and Arsene to help her plan something."
"Oh, please, not that," he hissed, shaking his head as he walked that way. A guard appeared and he waved a hand. "She won't hurt me. I protected her. She likes me." He opened the door and peered out into the twilight. "Lotus, dear," he called gently. "There are a few people who owe you an apology. Would you be willing to hear it?"
"Lotus!" Xander called.
"Fine." She stomped inside, glaring at the kitsune, who was about her height. "I'm not pleased."
"I noticed that when your wonderful tree tried to eat my tails, dear," he said with a small smile. "They were truly dumb and would appreciate you allowing them to apologize. They had no idea what they were talking about. They've only watched humans once or twice from the mirrors. They've never interacted. Now they know better." He patted her on the back. "Come, let them apologize and take down the one you've turned into a pinata. Then we'll talk about that magnificent tree and how you made the demonic envoy affect us. You're quite strong, young lady, and we want to make sure that you've got the *best* trainers so you can do everything that ever comes your way." She relaxed at that, letting him take her away. He came back a moment later with a vial. "For Xander's head in the morning," he said quietly. "I have a bigger one waiting on me." He disappeared again, leaving some fur behind. Apparently he was shedding from the stress.
Goemon laughed, shaking his head. "My daughter is amazing," he said proudly. He went to make a bottle, knowing Xander couldn't breastfeed with the medicine in his system. He found a few made and silently thanked his wonderful children. He hoped his last one would be just as good.
Demara joined him and took the baby to cuddle. "I hope you're okay, Morris. You're a pretty neat baby when you're not screaming your head off. Yes you are. Even though you are the world's best birth control, you are still a very good baby."
"Some day you may change your mind," Goemon told her.
"Then I hope someone commits me," she said seriously. "I couldn't put up with that day after day. Babies need things and I hate being needed. Wanted is different but being needed sucks." She handed him back gently. "I may be willing to babysit now and then. That enforces the lesson that I don't want children. Do you think I could skimp on my chosen duty?"
He shook his head. "Probably not."
"Why not?" she begged. "I hate it."
He smirked at her. "Because if you don't, then Xander will have to."
"Have you noticed he's not quite well?"
"Yes, which is why we wanted at least four of you in Europe, so he wouldn't have to go out."
"And have fun?" she snickered. "I meant he wasn't quite right in the head, Goemon. He changes gender at the drop of a hat, changes personalities the same way. I'd almost think he had multiple ones in his head already, but I can't make that judgement without asking or being telepathic."
Goemon laughed, shaking his head. "Xander is unique, Demara. There are not any others like him."
"Thankfully?" she teased.
"Quite," he agreed. "Hopefully we can keep Fred from being that way with careful monitoring."
"I'm all for that. He was bouncing around earlier asking if he could shoot another gun."
"Just after a dose of medicine. Someone tried to break in through the warehouse. They were not happy to be shot in the ass with a paintball gun." She turned and left him alone, going back to her room. She found her little sister in there and gave her a hug. "What's wrong?"
"Bix is still in my room and Lotus is fuming. So I'm hiding in here until I can curl up with daddy." She grinned up at her. "Did you tell anyone about the people who tried to break in?"
"I told Goemon. He didn't seem that surprised."
"I doubt he was," Jigen said from the doorway. "Arsene, don't crawl in tonight. I don't have any clean pajamas."
She looked at him, then smirked. "That would be different how from the last time I caught you in the shower?" He blushed and walked away. "I love doing that to him. He hardly ever blushes. Now Goemon, he blushes all the time. I can even get dad to blush."
"I'm impressed," Demara praised. "What did you do to do that?"
"I walked up to a really pretty man and asked if he wanted to sleep with my father since he was grouchy and my mother was being a twat, plus his mister was cranky because his wife was cranky. I had to explain that wasn't a mister the male version of mistress, then he got it. Daddy was out with Fujiko at the time. Did it quite loudly too, he heard me over a dinnertime crowd at the mall. Auntie Fujiko broke out laughing and had to sit down. Daddy simply groaned and blushed and shook his head, saying something about little kids and bad ideas to have them. The man nodded and said he wouldn't normally take up an offer like that, but if he was that good to have a matching set then maybe he should give him a try. Gave daddy a phone number."
Demara chuckled. "I adore you already, Arsene. You are more than worthy to be the fourth." She gave her another hug. "You are so wicked, little one," she giggled. "I wanted a picture of that."
"I've got one. I stole one of daddy's tieclip cameras and I used it then. It's on mom's laptop."
"You'll have to show me tomorrow." She kissed her on the forehead. "I believe they're all in their room. I heard their door shut."
Arsene got up and went to listen at the door, then waved and went to climb in between her father and her mother. Xander grunted, daddy patted her, and Jigen got out of the bed and headed for the couch. She giggled and hugged her parents to her. She didn't mind the trio but sometimes you just had to get them alone for the special things to happen.
Lupin woke up and felt the usual need for his mate, making him grin even as he opened his eyes. He shifted closer to kiss Xander awake but a headbutt to his stomach made him stop and look under the covers. "Out, Arsene," he ordered. "Now."
"Hush!" she whined, wrapping herself around Xander's stomach. "Mine! Get your own."
"He was mine first," he said, prying her off and putting her onto the floor in an upright position and giving her a little shove. She growled and pounced him, knocking him onto his back so she could cuddle him, then fell asleep that way. "Damn it," he hissed.
"Now you know how those natives who sleep with everyone all together in the same bed feel," Xander said sleepily. He blew a kiss. "Later, dear. Otherwise she'll be grumpy and we'll be stealing something to make her less cranky."
"Bunny slippers," she mumbled. "Need new ones anyway." She nuzzled in and then nipped her father when he moved. "Quit. Bad horsy. I'll put the sharp and pointy bit on you if you try to buck me off again."
Lupin rolled over carefully and deposited his offspring on the empty pillow. Then he rolled back to hold his mate, at least he could do that. Xander gave him a gentle kiss and a smile. "Morning."
Lupin pinched him on the back. "Behave."
"Or what? You'll find me a saddle?"
"No, I won't go find you a new treat today."
"Never mind, I'm angelic and special," Xander said sweetly, smiling and everything.
"As any used car salesman," Lupin agreed smugly. "You haven't been angelic since the first time you looked at a guy and drove him insane with need. Probably your third or fourth man." He kissed the pout away. "That's okay, I like you being wicked and evil. It's a better match for my brilliance." Xander chuckled and moved closer, cuddling in as best he could. "Good boy. What sort of treat would you like?"
"Surprise me," Xander requested, kissing the soft throat in front of him. "Mmm, morning Lupin tastes good enough to be breakfast."
"No playing with food items while I'm trying to sleep," Arsene demanded. Her father gave her a push with his foot and she went rolling off the bed to sprawl on the floor. "Mean shits!" She stole the blankets and huffed off with them.
"Hey, naked Xander, I like naked and open-air Xander," Lupin said happily, indulging in his usual pre-breakfast snack.
Jigen walked in with the blankets and closed the door, locking it and putting on the chain. Then he walked over to lay behind Lupin and curl up next to his back. "Morning."
"Morning. Joining in already?"
"Watching to make sure I can do that," Jigen admitted. "That okay, Xan?"
"Sure. I'll have you sucking me down in no time," he said cheerfully, going back to teasing his mate's sensitive throat. He liked it when he did that.
Jigen laid there and watched it all, wondering if that really felt good. How could it feel good if you had to stretch it before hand? Then Xander leaned over and kissed him after sucking on Lupin, sharing some of the spunk. He decided it didn't taste bad, just different. When Lupin was ready, he flipped Xander onto his side facing Jigen and then took him quickly. Xander moaned and wiggled until Jigen got really brave and lent a hand. Xander used his hand quite well and then they were limp together, Jigen realizing he had come too. He curled up next to them, letting Xander cuddle against his chest. Now he had partial information to base this decision on. He knew Xander would let him watch all he wanted for a while so he'd be able to figure it out soon. Hopefully.
"Daddy, you need to get up and feed us so we don't starve," Sierra called. "No more lounging in bed with the mommy panting and gasping against you, your babies are hungry!"
"Jigen, you can walk straight, go feed them," Lupin whined.
"That was a Lupin calling, you could tell by the mouth," Xander pointed out helpfully.
Jigen moved closer. "Xander, can you cure that able to walk thing?" he asked. Xander chuckled as he pounced, making sure Lupin had to get up and feed the kids.
"That's playing dirty, Jigen," Lupin complained, but he did get up and clean up so he could feed his starving children. He opened the door, finding Sierra there listening. "You can't operate a toaster?"
"No," she scoffed. "That's a parent's job. Just like the stove is. I can't microwave breakfast so therefore I need an adult. If I didn't, you three could shag yourselves senseless for another four hours each morning for all I care."
"You're getting cooking lessons," Xander called. "Oh, baby," he moaned, going back to what he had been doing. "Toast is easy, use the handle and the bread. Shut the door, Lupin, he's teasing."
"Don't tease, Jigen, you know how much he hates it," Lupin agreed as he shut the door. The kids could make toast or go wake up Marcus. They wouldn't starve in the next hour or so while they got Jigen broken in for their pleasure.
To Part 31:
To Thieves' Index: