Lupin the Third walked off the plane and looked at the limo, then a familiar beep pulled his attention away. He grinned madly and looked at the other adults following the children. "I'll meet you at the house," he said, scurrying off before anyone could help him.
"Daddy, wait for us," his daughter Sierra called, starting to pout.
"Sweetheart, daddy needs some personal time."
"You get enough of that with mommy and daddy Jigen," little Arsene yelled.
He stopped and turned to look at her. "That's a different sort of time. This is for me and only me." He grinned. "You'll understand when you have kids, dear." Then he jogged off to his car. "Love you, Murami," he said as he hopped the door and slid into the two-seat Benz. "Want to ride with them?"
"Oh, no. You promised me a ride and I'm cashing in on it," she said fondly. He laughed evilly and beeped before speeding off.
Back at the plane, Xander was shaking his head. "We'll see him by tomorrow morning and Murami will keep him out of trouble."
"No she won't," Goemon assured him. "She's helping him exercise his need to be a normal man again. Children are daunting enough but when they come in large groups you have to spend some time alone."
"Are you sorry we showed up?" Lotus asked pitifully.
"No," he said honestly, "but we weren't used to you. Before you grew up with us. Now you're simply partially grown. Besides, Arsene probably drove him off with her mouthiness." He got everyone into the limo, helping Jigen buckle the children in. "There. We can go once Xander gets in."
Xander stood outside and had a flash. He knew he didn't have visions so he wasn't sure what was going on, but he waited them out. The first was followed by a second one, and then reality appeared normally again. No dog, no more odd things. Only the rented stewardess bringing down their cats. "Sorry about that," he said, smiling as he took the bags. "We didn't mean to leave them."
"That's all right, sir. We had to pry one out of the overhead compartment anyway," she said with a smile of her own. "You have quite a family."
"Yes, I do," he agreed dryly, making her laugh. "Thanks." He pushed the cat carriers into the back of the limo then climbed in, looking at Jigen. "I want to know what was going on just now."
Jigen handed over the note that had appeared on his seat. "For you."
Xander opened it, then grimaced. "Remind me to knock Anya around later, okay?" he asked happily. "She wanted to get back together with me. She was trying out possible wishes."
"Wonderful," Jigen agreed. "You can hurt her later. Is that all the cats?" Xander counted, then nodded. "We have all the kids?" Goemon nodded. "Everyone has their stuff, right?" Goemon nodded again. "Then let's go home." The driver pulled away from the plane. "We travel like fricken' royalty these days," he complained quietly. "We never just take off and go."
"There's a solution for that, but you'd hate it," Xander offered. "And it's not available for at least another year."
"Which would be?" Goemon asked.
"School." The other adults looked stunned. "Specifically a year of boarding school. It'd do the kids good to mix with normal kids." Jigen nodded at that. "Plus, we could concentrate on the new one and the babies. They need us more right now. Sarah's having more health problems. Fred's getting ready to start giving us hell. Alex is going to be walking soon. Why did I have so many kids?"
"The condoms broke," Jigen reminded him. "A year?" Xander nodded. "Only one year?"
"Unless they beg," Xander offered. "It'll teach the kids how to blend in and how to make other friends. It can only help their development. Of course we'll have to be really picky so we can keep the kids together, but it shouldn't be too hard." Jigen shrugged and Goemon looked thoughtful. "It's not like we can't keep an eye on them. It'll also expose Ishi to girls who aren't his family and help him deal with the female species."
Goemon nodded. "It would," he admitted. "Plus this year will be hard on them." He looked at the napping children, then at the other adults. "We will have a meeting about this tonight, after bedtimes." They nodded. "For now, let us worry about Fujiko."
"She's in Spain," Xander told him. "I asked on the bulletin board. Told them to let us know if she moved. I'll be heading down there tonight."
"Are you sure that's wise, Xan?"
"Yeah, I'm sure."
"You're still weak," Goemon pointed out.
Xander shook his head. "Not really. I'm fine, guys, and we'll be fine. She'll be coming home with the baby. I'm not delivering this one. I delivered the first two." They chuckled at that and his wide-eyed look. "Seriously, I'm not. They said she's laying low because she expects one of us to pick her up immediately. Give her two days." He grinned like a politician. "And if she won't come back then we'll be delivering the baby down there from a mental hospital." Goemon frowned at him. "I'm not letting her hurt you again, big guy. Get over it." He looked at Jigen. "That means you have to deal with the kids."
"Not a problem," Jigen assured him. "Even the younger ones are good some of the time. At least when they nap."
"Ah, but there is an ancient secret to getting them to stay in one spot for a while," Xander said, holding up a finger. "Reading." Jigen snickered. "Seriously. Books, books on tape, books on cd, they'll stay until they get bored."
"So, nothing epic, but the latest things would be fine?"
Xander nodded. "I was reading the kids the dictionary the other night to get them to sleep. It was the only book I could find."
"I'll try it while you're gone," Jigen promised. "Maybe it'll help save what's left of Lupin's sanity too."
"Hey, if we send the kids, Dawn's got to send hers or else her spouse will pout. That means Gramps and she will be alone in the house for a while longer."
Goemon snorted. "Probably not long enough. Those two are like rabbits."
"Yeah, but they're trying to give the world enough cops to stop all of us," Jigen said dryly, smirking at him. "Think about it. There's us, the new group, the group the younger kids will probably make." Goemon shivered. "Exactly, man. It'll be massively bad for the world of cops."
"Like we care?" Xander asked.
"True," Jigen agreed. He patted Sarah on the head. "You've got to see the doctor tomorrow. Yes, you do." She yawned up at him and blinked a few times. "Sleep, little one. You need it." She settled in again, getting comfortable. "Poor Murami, she's going to be playing pool for hours," Jigen said sadly. "Lupin's on his own for a few hours and she's the only other adult present."
"I'm sure she can keep him in check," Goemon said. He looked at Xander. "How are you bringing her back?"
Xander grinned. "Don't worry, it'll be good."
Xander felt the body behind him on the bike stir and pulled off to the side of the road, looking at her. She shrieked under the full helmet so he lifted the visor. "Running was the wrong thing to do, Fujiko. Lupin sent me to get you." He grinned and checked the chains that attached her to the bike, then the helmet. Her hands were separated by the placement of the chains. She was basically strapped to the back of the bike. No harm to her or the baby. Even her legs were secured. The nice guards at the border had given him an odd look but he had shrugged and explained that she had run away with their baby. Then he had patted her stomach and said that he was taking her home so they could argue in private and she could have the baby. Then she could leave. The guard had nodded and let him through and the French ones hadn't really looked at them. So now they were on a back road in France, heading for the hideout. It was rather odd, but she was settling in. She was calmer now. She was mumbling.
"What?" He leaned closer and she repeated herself. "Sure. Next place we stop. Of course, if you try to get away, I can easily shoot you so you're comatose but the baby's fine. Remember that, all right?" he asked coolly. He started the bike again and put down her visor before taking off. As promised he did stop and let her use the bathroom but not even her pleading eyes at the waitress and truckers could help her get out of this one. Xander leaned on the counter, smiling at the waitress with his best 'cute little boy' look. "She ran with my baby. I want the baby even if she doesn't want me. I'm taking her home to make sure she doesn't hurt my son. My first born son. She threatened to kill herself by jumping off a bridge right before she ran away and I don't want that for my baby." The waitress patted his hand and made sure the truckers left them alone on the way out. He got her strapped back on, even though she struggled, then he climbed on and started the bike. "Thank you." He sped off. "It'll take about two days to get home," he called back. "That's okay though, they're not expecting us for a few days anyway." She moaned something but he didn't hear her, he was speeding up.
Lupin finally made it home and looked around. It was quiet. It was too early to be nap time and it was quiet. "Jigen?" he called, hand on the doorknob.
Melissa came out of the living room. "He's napping on the couch, Daddy." She gave him a gentle and polite hug. "Welcome home. Did you have fun being by yourself?"
"I did, and it was invigorating," he assured her, giving her a squeeze. "Let's go see the others."
"Uncle, we need to talk," she said firmly, leading the way to his office, where all important things were discussed. "Are you mad at Arsene?" He frowned, shaking his head. "She thinks you want to get rid of us because of her mouth."
"I'd like it if her mouth calmed down," he admitted, "but I don't want to get rid of you guys. What gave you that impression?"
"Daddy and Uncle Goemon were complaining about traveling with so many people, especially us. Arsene thinks that we're imposing and being a bother. She's been very good. She doesn't want to go to school."
Lupin raised an eyebrow, then smirked. "Oh, school isn't a punishment, dear." He pulled her closer again. "School will teach you how to rule others. You'll learn how to get along with people you don't know and be able to practice charming people who do know you. I went to day school and I learned a lot from it about how to manage targets."
"They were talking about boarding school. Sarah's sick and the littler kids need the parents so we were going to have a year at school. Even daddy said so."
"Really?" He looked a bit surprised. Xander? Boarding school? "I promise, we'll talk about it and explain everything to you, but you can tell Arsene it's not about her mouth. Got it?" She nodded. "Good girl. Now, where is Xander?"
"Bringing back Auntie Fujiko. They'll be back tonight sometime."
"Good. Where is everyone else?"
"Most of us are watching tv with the younger kids. Uncle Goemon is meditating in his room on the anger issues he has with his wife. Lotus is outside with Uncle Marcus looking at the complexities of the garden. And I'm here with you," she said happily. He smirked down at her for being so transparent. "It's not a bad thing?"
"No, sweetheart, it's not a bad thing. School can be good for you if you take it the right way." He patted her on the back. "Come on. We'll discuss the school thing tonight. For now let's be happy about Arsene not trying to embarrass us." He led her back to the living room, letting the kids mob him. "Hey, guys. Missed me?" They nodded, those who understood, and the rest simply wanted a hug. He got down on the floor with them, hugging each of them in turn so they wouldn't get jealous. Then he settled in to watch cartoons with them. "Why are the mice trying to take over the world?"
"Because they're like that," Arsene said quietly.
He kissed her on the side of the head. "I don't like your mouth but that's not about that." She gave him a long look and he nodded. "Really. It's more about letting you learn how to get along with people. It's not a punishment, simply another step in your training."
"Okay, I can accept that then," she said quietly, shifting so she could lean against his side. "Thank you, daddy."
"For coming back."
"Honey, I was going to come back. It's just that sometimes adults need time to be someone other than the daddy. You guys are wonderful and I wouldn't change it, but sometimes I want to be around big people and hear big people talk and those sort of things."
"That's fine then," she promised, snuggling in. "The little mouse is the smart one."
"Thanks." He settled in to watch with them, now that his precious ones weren't confused any longer. When Jigen woke up, he glanced back. "School?" he mouthed. Jigen nodded. "Why?" he asked patiently. Jigen mouthed something back and Lupin shook his head. Jigen nodded. "No."
"It's better at this time, Lupin," Jigen said quietly. "We'll talk later." Lupin nodded, making sure he understood they would be. "There's reasons." He stood up and looked outside at the sound of a motorcycle. "Sounds like Xander made really good time. Let me help him with her." He walked outside, watching as Xander pulled up. Fujiko was locked down so she couldn't move. "How did you get her past customs?"
Xander took off his helmet. "By saying he had run away with my kid and that I was taking him home so she couldn't hurt him or herself." He fluffed out his damp hair. "Let's get her inside and upstairs. I could use a nap." Jigen nodded, coming over to help undo Fujiko.
"Jigen, get him away from me, he threatened to hurt me," Fujiko demanded once the helmet was off. "He threatened to kill me twice."
"No, I threatened to shoot you so you'd go into a coma and the baby would be fine," Xander corrected, "and I said it three times." He grinned suddenly, looking toward the house. "Good thing you didn't want me to prove it, huh?" He produced the keys so they could undo the locks, then marched her up to her room, where she was let inside and locked in. "Is it thief-proof?"
Jigen nodded. "Goemon and I made sure last night. Lupin's back too. He wasn't thrilled with the school ideas."
"Yeah, me either, but it'll help, ya know?" He fanned his sweaty hair again as he walked down the stairs. "I'm back and she's still living," he announced as he walked in. "She was not a bit of trouble on the trip." He smiled at Lupin. "Hug?" Lupin held up an arm so Xander got a hug. "Another mission accomplished, though quite without subtlety. We can chat later." He headed up to his room, taking a shower before falling into his bed. He hadn't dared sleep when she was undone. It had been a long few days. He was asleep within a few minutes, long before any of the kids could sneak up to cuddle him.
Savannah turned around and went back downstairs. "He's napping," she informed the other kids.
"He probably didn't sleep while he had our mother," Lotus said bitterly.
"I heard her say he threatened her," Ishi said quietly, glancing around. The adults were in the kitchen at the moment. "I'm not sure if I should be upset about that or not. She probably needed it, but she is my mother and I feel I should be upset, but I know how she can be so she probably deserved it."
Lotus patted him on the arm. "However you feel is right for you," she promised. "I want to cheer him on, even if he really did hurt her at the moment."
"Kids," Lupin warned as he walked in. "No more talking like that. We shouldn't hurt her because she's afraid of being a mother. We should hurt her for her actions on occasion, but not for those."
"She was perfectly willing to let our baby brother die," Lotus said firmly.
"We never would have let that happen, and neither would you. Even with the worst headache in history, Xander still tried to help now and then, even though your plan did call for her doing all the work herself. Some people aren't meant to be mothers. Your mother is one of them." He looked at the other kids. "You leave Fujiko to us, guys. No tormenting, no taunting, no plans, nothing. Unless you really want to talk to her, let her sleep." They all nodded, but he could see Arsene's fingers crossed. "None of that either, empress. We leave her alone. If she wants to leave after the baby's born then that's her thing." They all sighed and nodded. "Thank you. Now, who knew what I was ordering for dinner? I forgot."
"Pizza," Melissa suggested hopefully.
"You lost the toss," Sierra said, frowning at her. "Brat. We won and we wanted Cantonese."
"We can have pizza within the next few days," Jigen said as he walked past the doorway. "No pouting. Xander asleep?"
"Yup," Savannah called, smiling when her father came back. "Crashed on his stomach with his face in the pillows and he's *snoring*."
"Then I guess we won't have to worry about leftovers for him," Lupin agreed. "Where did I put the sheet with the food order?" Jigen handed it over. "Thank you. Why didn't you call it in?"
"I did, I got you your usual and I got Goemon his usual," he said smugly, heading to the work area. "I'm going to do something important."
"Another crossword puzzle?" Sierra asked hopefully.
"Later, kitten. Right now, I've got to sweep the house for bugs."
"I'll help," Ishi offered, getting up and jogging after him to help. He hugged him. "Do I want to hurt her or not?"
"You're a kid and she's your mom. It's always complicated," he assured the boy. "Next time, you'll want to hurt her more probably. It seems to build."
"Why is Uncle Xander asleep?"
"Would you sleep if it was just you and your mom and she was trying to get away?"
Ishi shook his head immediately. "Not if she was trying to get away."
"Then that's your answer." He ruffled the dark hair. "There, now you look more like your uncle and less like your dad."
"My father would shit ponies if he heard you say that," he said with a bright grin.
"I've never heard it put that way before," Lupin said from the doorway. "Did you remember to order extra duck sauce?"
"Lupin, we've been partners for how long?" Jigen asked.
"Never mind," Lupin said happily, heading to his office to work on their next set of plans.
"Hand me the phone," Jigen hissed, making Ishi laugh but hand it over. He dialed the number from memory. "Did I remember to ask for extra duck sauce on the Lupin order? Yeah, extra all the sauces but soy. And chopsticks?" He nodded. "Thanks." He hung up. "I swear, one of these days I'll forget my hat."
Ishi gave him a gentle nudge. "That would require you to take it off." He grabbed one of the detectors. "I'll take the third floor and work down, meet you in the bedrooms." He headed off, jogging up the stairs.
"Better you than me kid, you've got better knees," Jigen told the empty room. He grabbed his detector and started in the kitchen, the most likely place for bugs. He didn't sweep Lupin's office, he'd be cranky if he was interrupted while he was working.
Outside, the Interpol officers were marveling at the plans. "How does he do that?" Ray asked his boss. "We can't even get closer than five inches from it with a warrant."
"Easy, he's a Lupin and they're good at that," Zenigata said bitterly. "Too bad they're off limits for anything old. I just know he'll pull something soon though, I know it. He can't resist."
"Sure, boss, whatever you say," Ray agreed. This man had offered him twice his salary, he had jumped on it right away. It wasn't so different from Chicago, they just had a bigger precinct.
Lupin walked out of Fujiko's room and looked at Xander. "You threatened to kill her?"
"No, I threatened to put her in a coma until the baby was born," Xander said bitterly. "Why?"
"You probably shouldn't have threatened her."
Xander stepped closer. "Lupin, she hurt Goemon. She hurt him tons. I don't like it when people hurt my friends, it makes me upset. If this was another criminal, you'd be all for hunting them down."
"Yes, but she's not," he said tolerantly. "We can't hurt her."
"We can hurt her. Especially if she tries to run again. What do you think Goemon's going to do if she hurts his son?"
"He'd be a lot more pissed to be made a widow."
"Maybe, but I'm willing to take that chance," Xander said, turning around and heading for his room. He slammed his door and stared at his closet.
Lupin walked in and shut the door more quietly. "You leave this house before we all go or without an assignment and I'm going to hunt you down and paint you pink," he warned. "Right before I put you in the biggest gay bar I can find." Xander frowned at him. "I mean it. I know that your standard answer is to run when things go bad so you don't have to fight over personal things. That's not going to happen anymore, Xander. We need you here. We need you around. We need you to soothe that crying brat in the other room," he sighed when Sarah started again. "Please?" he begged.
"Again, I'm not the nanny."
"No, but she's your daughter."
"I know that. And I'm predicting Jigen's got her already." Lupin looked out the door and Jigen came out of the nursery with the fussing baby. "Was I right?" Lupin nodded. "Good thing you didn't put money on it, huh?" he asked dryly. He shook out his hair. "I don't want to fight. We both know this."
"I know, which is why I wasn't arguing, simply stating my case."
"Which is fighting, Lupin," Xander pointed out. "You may not have been shouting but I refuse to have fights with the kids here."
"Normal couples fight, Xander."
"No they don't."
"Yeah, they do. Trust me on this." He stepped closer slowly. "Your parents fought?"
"Like cats and dogs."
"I'm sorry about that. That's not normal, nor is the shouting, screaming, or slamming things. Leaving isn't a better answer though. The kids will start to feel abandoned. They're already worried that you want to send them to school for being smart mouthed."
"Well, I did figure it might tame that some, but that wasn't the reason."
"I know, I asked Goemon. It is a good idea, I can agree with that." He gave him a hopeful smile. "Now, can we please get over this? You really shouldn't have threatened Fujiko and doing so made her even more determined to get away."
"Which means she won't be pouting and sulking in there," he pointed out. "I didn't get any sleep on the way back but I didn't expect to." Lupin nodded. "Are you done?" Lupin nodded. "Good. Do we have a job coming up soon?"
"I was going to teach the thieves among the kids how to case a museum tomorrow. I figured you'd probably take the other two to do good guy things since I'm not sure what good guys do."
"We do go to museums, Lupin," he said, rolling his eyes. "Good guys are the same as bad guys; it's only their jobs that are different. Mostly they're the same though." Lupin shrugged, he had no idea. "We'll take them all to the museum and let them run free, then we should take them to a less boring place. Maybe the children's museum or somewhere fun like that. Maybe an arcade."
"Okay," he agreed happily. "As long as we don't get stuck with them by ourselves."
"Do you want me to hire a second nanny?" he sighed. "I'm sorry as hell that Janus made me so fertile. I had no idea I was fertile at all and then it kept going after he promised to stop it. I love the kids, but I'm sorry if you're disturbed by them."
"I'm not," Lupin said gently, giving him another hopeful smile. "I love the kids, overwhelming though they are most of the time. As they get older, it'll get easier, but for right now most of them are very clingy, very boisterous, and very in need of personalized attention. I'm not sure I have the strength to do all that every day." Xander snorted, sitting on his old bed to look up at him. "I don't know where you get the energy, Xander. I really don't."
"Even I take breaks from the kids, Lupin. That's why we have a nanny, so none of us have to be perpetual parents. I know you miss your carefree bachelor days. Give it a few years and you'll have it back."
"Hey, I'm not complaining," he offered. "I love the kids. I even love being attacked by them before my morning coffee. The little guys are great. They're like a force of destruction each and every time we unleash them on somewhere. Hell, they make a great cover too. I thought about pulling jobs by letting them run wild somewhere as a cover actually." He grinned. "But you're right, I'll be happier when they're all teenagers. That's why I'm having myself fixed next week."
"I'm not getting back into that choker."
"Ever?" Xander shrugged. "Why not?"
"Because I started to get confused about which one I was. I wasn't Xander, Lavelle, or Sylvia, I was some odd hermaphrodite in between. Besides, Jigen only liked me when I had it on. You didn't really seem to care, but you liked me more as a partner when I had it on. I like being male. I like having boy parts and male feelings. Screw being a girl, I hated having tits."
"Why didn't you say anything?"
"Would it have changed anything?"
"Probably! We wouldn't have even suggested it, Xander."
"Well, now you know. It'll only be for special occasions, like special birthdays, anniversaries, and rescues." Lupin frowned at him. "They are special occasions."
"True," Lupin agreed tiredly. He rubbed his face. "Xander, we wouldn't have let you wear it as often as you did if we had known it was bothering you or that you were starting to have doubts about yourself. We didn't want that."
Xander stood up, looking at him. "Then what would have happened?" he asked quietly. He shrugged at the shocked look once Lupin figured out what he meant. "It was worth it then, it's not now. I'm sorry, but it's not."
"It's not a problem," Lupin promised. "I don't want you in it if you're having doubts about your sense of self. I never wanted that, got it?" Xander nodded, looking calm. "Good. Now come to bed. I don't want you working out at night."
"Someone has to stay up to make sure she doesn't sneak out."
"I set the alarm. Besides, Goemon's thinking about going in to talk to her some more."
"It's too soon," Xander told him. "Even if I hadn't drug her back, she won't listen to him yet."
"I know, so does he," he soothed. "Come on, let's go to bed. Hopefully without the kids." He drug Xander with him. "You think a second nanny might help?"
"Yes," Bix called from the nursery. She came out wiping her hands off. "We've got another case of diarrhea, Lupin. I'm going to have to run out for diapers before the morning." He handed over the keys and she looked at them like they were aliens. "I don't drive." She handed them back with a frown. "Cars weren't around when I was born, remember?" She looked at Xander. "You up to taking me out so you can get some ice cream?"
"Sure," he agreed, taking the keys. "Do we have money?"
"I raided the diaper fund," she agreed, following him down the stairs. Once they were in the car, she shifted to look at him. "I agree, Xander. Don't let them pressure you into using it before you're ready. It's a wonderful gift but too much use will probably keep bothering you. You're not the gift that keeps on giving. You're their lover and they should respect that, no matter which body you're in. You're a wonderful gunman and thief from what I can see."
"Thanks for the pep talk, Bix, but I'm fine."
"I'm sure you are," she agreed, smiling at him. She leaned over to kiss his cheek. "You're fine and all's right with the world. At least for now." She settled back into her seat. "Now, am I forgetting anything?"
"That's it, formula. That and we'll need some baby cereal too. Maybe some cans of food or some canned fruit." She shrugged. "Everything we should be able to find at a single store."
"Good, because the only thing that's open is a convenience store this time of night," he pointed out as he pulled into one. "Want my help?"
"Sure. You can help carry." She slid out and he followed, leaving the car running. The clerk gave them a scared look and she grinned back at Xander, then at him. "Relax, we're buying diapers for the kids."
"Okay," he agreed, eyes wide. "Do you want me to try and open the safe or just the registers?"
"Dude, why would I want to rob this place? It does almost no business at night," Xander said, staring him down. He grabbed the packs of diapers Bix handed him and two cans of formula, letting her pick out the jars of baby food and boxes of cereal. He heaved them all to the front, putting them on the counter.
"Ca...ash or charge?" the clerk gulped.
Xander sighed, looking upward for a second, then looked at him. "Kid, if I was going to rob you, you'd already be tied up in the office. Relax. Your little place here is convenient but not real busy. I'd probably only get a few hundred dollars. I don't need or want it. So just calm down so we can get stuff for the baby. Okay?" he asked, smiling at him. He heard the sound of water hitting the floor and snickered. "Dude, I'm not even carrying at the moment. Calm down. There was no reason for that."
Bix joined him, mentally tallying the purchases. "Grab another pack of diapers. We'll leave the money here for when he calms down," she suggested. He nodded, jogging to get them, then taking everything out to the trunk of the car while she packed up the baby food. She placed the money in front of him. "Here," she said gently. "For whenever you're ready and calm again. Diapers are all gone by the way." She walked out, getting into the back to put the bag up. Then she slid in again. "That was odd. Do you often cause people to wet themselves in fear?"
He shrugged. "Usually I'm not around long enough to find out," he admitted, backing the car up and zipping off. "I hope he doesn't try to report this. It'd cause unnecessary problems."
"I'm sure he won't. We left the money and the tapes would back us up," she assured him, patting him on the thigh. "Well, you do have muscles. I never see them."
"Sorry, baggy clothes are better sometimes," he admitted, shifting up. "Um, Bix, hands off my thigh please? I'm not real comfy with that." She blushed and withdrew her hand. "Thanks. I haven't been hit on in years." He shifted down as they came to the gate, zooming through it so it could close behind them. He backed the car up, letting the gates open again, then pulled up beside the fairly obvious van, reaching over to open the door. "We left money for the kid, but he was scared to death," he called. Then he slammed the door and headed forward again to park the car. He made sure the security system was back on and the gates were electrified, then helped her haul everything up to the nursery, where Jigen was fighting a losing battle with Fred and his fountain. "Hey," he said, tickling him. "You behave so we can put a new diaper on you. Then you can nap and wake us up in the morning. Yes, you can," he cooed. Fred quit being obstinate and let them diaper him with one of the new ones. "There, that's my good boy," he purred, patting him on the back for a few minutes before laying him down and covering him. "You nap. We'll bring Sarah back soon." Fred gave him an adoring look but did stay there without fussing. "You wouldn't believe it. The kid at the store thought we were there to rob him. Wet himself in front of Bix."
"Interesting," Jigen agreed, shutting off the main light, she had a light on in the bathroom, she could use that for now. He drug Xander back to their bedroom, letting him take Sarah. She belched a few times for him then obediently went to bed as well. Jigen drug Xander back into their room and locked the door. He even remembered the chain so none of the little lock picks could get in. "He said the kid wet himself."
"Cool," Lupin agreed, smirking at him. "That reading thing really does work. Thanks for letting us know about that." Xander nodded. "Aren't you coming to bed?" Xander shook his head. "Why not?"
"Because I wanted to sleep?" he suggested.
"We won't molest you, Xan. Get into the bed," Jigen ordered, pointing at the spot between them. "Now."
"Okay then. I wasn't aware we were married again."
Lupin gave him a long look. "I thought it was a foregone conclusion but we can do it again if you insist. Hopefully without the potion and the drunken stupor that night." He pulled Xander down and stripped him, tossing everything toward the basket. "There, much better." He put his book aside and snuggled up to Xander's side, stroking his stomach. "I had no idea you were so well-muscled."
"Neither did Bix until she patted my thigh."
Jigen looked at the boy's thighs, then nodded. "Pretty nice. You need some definition to be a bodybuilder but you look like a runner right now."
"Well, I have been doing that," he pointed out.
"You need to sleep more," Lupin ordered. "Start now." He closed his eyes.
Jigen wrapped an arm around Xander's waist. "Night, Xan."
"Night, Jigen," he sighed. The lights were turned off and he waited until he heard snoring then carefully slid out of the bed and headed down the stairs. He met Ishi in the hallway, and frowned at him. "Reason for being up?"
"Can't sleep. You?"
"I only get four hours a night, kid. Come on, let's work out outside. We'll be really quiet." Ishi nodded and followed him outside, picking a spot that couldn't be seen from any of the windows and that no one could hear anything if they chatted. "So, why can't you sleep?"
"I've just figured out that my life sucks. I won't be able to make any friends at whatever school you send us to."
"Why would that be?" he asked, stretching his arms. "Hand-to-hand?" Ishi nodded and assumed a defensive position. "I don't attack first." The boy shrugged and attacked so Xander blocked his kick and hit back. "Why can't you make friends?"
"Because no one would understand me. I don't understand myself."
"Hey, I don't understand you but we're buddies, right?" he asked, blocking another hit. "For real, Ishi."
"Yeah, I guess we are," he agreed, actually trying to hit his uncle now. "But kids are different."
"Only for the first few months. Then you'll meet someone who thinks you're odd but neat." He grinned as he ducked a blow and spun around to catch the boy and toss him onto the ground. "Get up. Let's go for real. No one can hear us."
"Really. I know all the dodges and I know you've been holding back again." Ishi had the grace to look embarrassed. "So show me. I'm not your dad, I won't judge you. I can probably help with some of it."
"I've been watching how you and Marcus fight and picking up on some of that," Ishi admitted, attacking like Xander would. The older guy grinned and attacked back, really going at it. "Easy! I'm still a kid."
"Sure you are. A samurai in an eleven-year-old body."
"I won't be eleven for another four months," Ishi reminded him, letting himself attack harder. "You're good."
"Yup, and your father still has no idea," he said with a catty smirk. "I'm not worried about disappointing him, I don't like to look stupid in front of others. That's why I hate public speaking." He attacked first this time, making Ishi back off and block, but he was doing it well. "You need to do that faster."
Ishi sighed and sped up his attacks, really going at it. "It's much nicer working out with you than Father. It's like he expects so much and I can't live up to it."
"He only expects you to be yourself," Xander instructed. "Trust me, he's never expected me to be anything other than Xander or Lavelle, whichever I'm doing at the time."
"Demara thinks you have multiple personalities."
"She might be right," he admitted. "At least borderline. Fortunately I'm not bad enough where they try to take over for each other. It's more like a comfy suit to me." He ducked a good flying kick and scored on Ishi, wincing. "Sorry. I'll help you hide the black eye tomorrow."
"I'll tell Father I hit myself in my sleep. I've been doing that recently. That and the growing pains."
"Oh, I remember. Those used to be the only thing that would ever wake me."
"You wake up really easy."
"Now. It was a survival thing, Ishi. Don't ask me to explain." The boy backed off, looking worried. "Don't worry about it, kiddo. It was before you were born or thought of. Got it?" Ishi nodded and lunged, attacking again. Xander got him on the chest, making him gasp. "You okay?"
"Fine," Ishi panted. "Don't hit so hard," he whined.
"Sorry, kiddo. I'll go easier on you from now on. Unless you want to go to bed with an ice pack."
"No, I'm still not tired. My mind's running around in circles," he admitted, straightening up so he could attack again. "There, better," he decided, attacking faster. Xander beamed and threw in a move Ishi hadn't seen. "That's cool. Teach me that?"
"Sure!" he agreed happily, stopping the fight to teach the boy his special moves. "When you're good enough with your sword, I'll teach you that spinning attack I do too."
"Coolness. You're a great uncle, Xan." He hugged him and moved through it slowly, letting Xander shift his shoulder out and move his arm for him. "Wow. I never even thought of a roundhouse punch in that way."
Xander beamed. "I know, it's pretty cool. You should see Marcus when he goes full demon." He showed off another one, which was weaker. "I usually do that one coming out of a back handspring." He did it over, this time with the tumble and Ishi gasped, giving him an adoring look. "So now you've got to learn some gymnastics too," he said smugly.
"Okay. Can you teach me that?"
"Some. Your mother taught me what I didn't learn off watching events on ESPN. We can do that later. The girls can start you on cartwheels and tumbling."
"Sure. It'd be nice not to be the teacher for a bit." He followed the next few moves, getting into this new style. It wasn't what his father did, but it was quite interesting and useful. He could already see the uses for it the next time he wanted to surprise his father.
Goemon walked into the dining room and paused to look at his son. "How did you get the black eye?"
"Hit myself while I was asleep," he lied, sipping his juice. "Uncle Xander and I met in the kitchen last night. He suggested I learn some minor tumbling as well, that the girls could help me with that. Would that be all right?"
"It would be fine," he agreed. "You both need to sleep more at night however."
Jigen and Lupin walked in. "Why do you have a black eye?" Lupin asked. "Did someone hit you?"
"I did while I was asleep. It's from the growing pains I've been having." Ishi stood up. "I'll warm up while you eat, father."
"Sit, son." Goemon sat beside him, moving his robe to look at the other bruise. "That was from what?" His son gave him a helpless look. "Is someone beating you?"
"No, I was learning something new," Ishi admitted, sounding as pitiful as he could. "Please don't be mad?"
"Xander!" Goemon snapped. Xander came in from the kitchen with the coffee pot. "What did you hit him with?"
"A half-strength heel strike. I misjudged how far off he was. He said he was okay." He gave his teacher the puppy eyed look. "Please don't be mad, I told him to get an ice pack."
"I'm not. Simply wondering what you were teaching my son this time," he said dryly, staring the younger man down. " I believe it's time you showed me these moves, son." Xander would fuss and not do everything, his son was young enough to want to show off. "All of them if you wouldn't mind."
"I can't do a back handspring," Ishi pointed out. Goemon groaned and shook his head. "It's a brilliant attack, Father."
"Xander, you will show me that one," Goemon said, standing up.
"I haven't had caffeine yet, are you sure you want to do this now?" he asked, waving the pot around. Jigen took it and his mug from him. "Fine, now is good," he agreed, leading the way to the room with the mats for practice. "Just in case, I don't want to misjudge and hurt you too," he explained. "Out!" he ordered, pointing. Everyone left and he reached up to disconnect the cameras. "All of them?"
"All of them," Goemon said firmly. "Every hidden trick that you're going to teach my children. Each and every single move, Xander. Now."
Xander sighed and took off his shirt, then did a forward handspring and attacked his teacher, making him go on the defensive. Goemon looked startled but did block that one, backing up a few steps. Xander continued, driving him back to the wall. Goemon ducked one and Xander caught him around the waist, tossing him onto the mat. "Sorry, I used to watch wrestling too. All that spandex." He grinned down at his teacher. "Should I go on?"
"Definitely," he said as he stood up, moving back to the center of the room. "We will see how good you really are. All the way, Xander. I can protect myself against you."
Xander shrugged and attacked again, this time coming in low and hitting him hard, but Goemon was barely touched. He moved out of the way and Xander followed, expending himself chasing him, mostly. He did get in a few good blows, including the same one that gave Ishi his black eye. "Sorry, teacher."
"Keep going," he said firmly. "All of them, Xander." Xander tried the puppy eyes again. "It's not working." Xander groaned and nodded, hanging his head. He took a deep breath and launched into a series of all the moves, going smoothly, yet quite fast. Goemon was blocking well enough but the few that required tumbling made him move. The others were fairly well taken. Goemon finally stepped away from him when he repeated. "Is that all?" Xander nodded, grinning at him. "Then you do those quite well. You may teach my son all of those, but make sure he uses the safety equipment to learn how to do the tumbling. That flip backwards to gain some space then rushing in again was quite good. Are there any more sword moves?" Xander nodded. "We'll look at them tomorrow. Today, you have the day off." He opened the door and walked out, rubbing his stomach. "I passed him out of hand-to-hand," he announced as he walked into the dining room. Marcus choked on his sip of water, giving him a horrified look. "He is very good. Son, use the safety equipment to learn how to tumble."
"Yes, Father. Did you get to see the new sword moves too? He showed me a few of those."
"I'll be seeing those tomorrow. You are not to run off and practice without a monitor again. He'll be teaching you with Marcus from now on."
"Yes, Father," he said happily.
"Yes, Goemon," Marcus said. He frowned at Xander. "When did you learn things like that?"
"I figured some stuff out and I'm a master at watching martial arts movies and cartoons. I picked stuff up. There, ESPN and gymnastic events, Star Wars, wrestling, all sorts of places. They've been going around in my head now for a while."
"You'll have to show me so I can find a counter," Marcus said.
"Most counters are the standard ones," Goemon assured him. "You are nearly there. Then we'll move onto something else."
"You are," Goemon said firmly. "Eat. Ishi, I will see these moves that you've learned so far."
"Yes, father. He taught me sixty but I'm only really good in about a third of them." His father raised an eyebrow. "I know, you wanted to see them before they hurt me. I'll go through them today like a kata. How's that?"
"Excellent. Do the same, Xander. Add them to your daily routine." Xander nodded, sipping his coffee. "Thank you." He looked at Marcus. "You are still ahead in your sword," he promised. "We'll be passing you from my teaching soon. By the holidays probably."
"Thank you, Master." Marcus smirked at Xander. "Now we have to find you a sword."
"I've got one ordered," Xander admitted.
"Your own Tetsiga?" Marcus teased.
"What does that mean?" Goemon asked.
"I always thought it meant demon's tooth, since it was made from one, but I haven't found anyone who can translate it for me yet," Xander admitted. "It was Inuyasha's."
"Ah. The one you go around as at those things you go to."
"Xander, the very fact that you're that involved means that I should take your anime from you," Lupin warned nicely.
Xander glared at him. "You do know I haven't had much caffeine yet, just got into a major battle, and that people who take my anime end up dead? Like those people in Paris who tried to rob me after ParisCon found out?"
"The very fact that you can say that with a straight face means that you're addicted and that you should not have any more anime at all," Jigen pointed out. "We should ban it from the house."
"Try it, see how it is to go without sex for the rest of your lives," Xander said sweetly.
"Xander, there's this thing called reality and we'd like to have you join us. You're fixated on this half-demon creature," Lupin pointed out. "I don't like it. It's like you're being mental or something."
"I am not!"
"Then go without your anime for one month."
"Sure, if you go without sex," Xander said smoothly. "'Cause try it, it'll dry up faster than anything."
"We're trying to help," Lupin tried.
Xander stood up, looking down at him. "Take away my anime, find out how wonderful that choker feels, Lupin. Not that you'll need it after I cut your dick off, but I'm sure it'll make you feel better to be a full girl." He walked away, heading up to his room to sulk.
"The problem with his like of anime is?" Goemon asked.
"That he goes places, dresses up as this half-demon, and does things like learn off the cartoons," Jigen told him. "It's like he wants to be the creature."
"He is about the same as a half demon," Ishi pointed out. "Perhaps he feels kinship? Besides, he's learned more off other anime and manga than Inuyasha. He's learned from a great number of them actually." He picked up some more eggs, adding them to his plate. "You really should apologize. He's probably packing again."
Jigen stood up. "You want this one?"
"Yeah I do," Lupin said, standing up and heading up the stairs. "Xander?" Xander threw the lock and the chain on his door. "Let me in, Xander. This is my house, you are my husband."
Xander opened the door, glaring at him. "I think we had this discussion last night, Arsene. I'm not your spouse here. Nor am I your slave. When looking I don't see a ring or a collar that would mark me as your property and something you could give orders to. I can feel enjoyment from other things than you you know." He slammed the door and got the lock thrown before Lupin could try to get it open. He did up the chain as his lover got the doorhandle open. "Out!"
"No! Open this door or I'm tossing it all out!" Xander spit so he pulled back and kicked it in, walking in and slamming it behind him. "You're addicted, Xander. That character isn't healthy for you and we're trying to be nice about it. You need to give up the anime and all that stuff. Before you become so submersed that you can't come back out."
"Oh, bite me!" Xander said angrily. "I like my anime, it makes me happy, Lupin. It makes me laugh. It makes me want to read. It makes me have fun. Things you're not." Lupin looked stunned. "So, the Xander's anime stuff will be staying, or else Xander and his anime will be going together. Take your pick but do it damn fast so I can find a room for the week."
Lupin's mouth fell open. "You'd leave me over this?" Xander nodded. "I don't make you have fun?"
"No, hardly ever. You treat me like Fujiko does most of the time, I'm there. Well, guess what, I'm not there. I'm here. I'm human, believe it or not, and you've just crossed the line from lover to keeper. I'm not having it. I don't need a keeper. A lover, a friend, even occasionally a boss, not a keeper. Not a master. Nothing like that. So choose!" He sat down, staring at him, arms crossed over his chest. "Well?"
"I don't want you to go, Xander. It's just bothering me that you're identifying with a half- demon!"
"Then maybe you should actually watch it with me and see what I do," Xander said coldly. "Then again, it might be a cold day in hell before I let you curl up with me ever again." He stood up again, poking Lupin in the chest. His finger was caught and Lupin pulled him in for a deep kiss. "Get off." He shoved him back. "I'll have you know that before I got white hair, I went as another character. Another supernatural one. Now, my hair happens to be white, like his. It means I have an easier time winning the costume contests. After all, there's not many characters with white hair, nor many who look like a freak!"
"You don't," Lupin said calmly, letting him rant.
"I do so! What guy my age has a full head of white hair? What of them has scars like I do or the lack of feeling here and there that I do? Huh? I'm a fucking freak, Lupin, and I've finally come to grips with it. Inuyasha is my way of letting go. It's fun. It's companionship with people who *want* to understand me and usually do without trying. Unlike you and Jigen, the world to me doesn't revolve around gold, gems, and artwork. I have other interests. I'm sorry if that bothers you, but that's who I am. Who I've always been. Jigen knew I went to the cons about six months after he took me in. I left him to go to one in Sacramento. I won there too, only as a Marvel character."
"I didn't know you did costume contests. You never said anything," he said, looking faintly shocked, better than before.
"You never asked! You never showed an interest! You think I'm some little kid, well yay. I like my comics and my anime. I like most of my life, but I'm starting to regret some things, namely ever rolling over for you."
Lupin winced and sighed, sitting on the bed. "I'm sorry, Xander. Sit, talk like civilized people?"
"No." He backed away. "I'm not going to be sweet talked into giving in. I am allowed my own life, Lupin. I can make my own decisions and usually do a damn good job of it. You can either accept that or not. It's getting to the point where I don't care anymore." Lupin nodded, giving him a long stare. "Fine. What?"
Lupin cleared his throat. "You never shared that with me."
"You never asked."
"I tried once or twice."
"Try next time during the commercial, not when I'm watching the stuff?" Xander suggested bitterly. "The same as I know better than to talk to you when you're watching that show where they go through all the famous homes on A&E."
"Okay, I can do that," Lupin agreed. "Can we please not fight? I hate fighting. I really, really hate fighting. This is why I didn't take a full-time lover before you. I didn't want to do this stuff."
"Fine. Next time don't *order* me to give up part of my life because you don't understand."
Lupin stood up, looking in his eyes. "Then make me understand. I'm asking now, there's no anime on, nothing to distract you. I have no idea what you get out of this stuff. I've never been that big of a fan of anything. Maybe I'm missing something. All I was saying downstairs was that particular character was worrying to me," he finished calmly. "He's a half-demon and I know you still associate with some of them. I'm worried that you're associating yourself with him. That you want to be like him."
"Why would I want to be an uncontrolled, surly, nasty guy with a sword that's too heavy for him half of the season? Or for that matter, chase around a reborn spirit and his formerly dead lover? I don't need that in my life, thank you." He stepped back. "If you want to understand, I'll show you."
"Good. I'd like that. Today?"
"Or tomorrow," Xander admitted, checking his calendar. "There's a convention coming next week. We can go then if you want." He looked at Lupin again, who shrugged. "That's fine. I'll bring you with me. This one's a multi-fandom and anime one. Goemon can go look at the Vulcans, you and Jigen can follow me around while Marcus cowers upstairs."
"Hey, I can do that. Do I need to dress up?" Xander gave him a long look. "Fine, I don't know enough yet to do that. I'll follow you around and take notes if I have to."
"Then you'd look like those people who come to study us," Xander said dryly. "We've had a few of them doing papers for their Humanities classes."
"I can understand that. You are a very unusual subgroup that is probably interesting to study. Most subgroups don't equate their group affiliation with fake characters." Xander rolled his eyes. "I know you understood that."
"I did, and it's not totally like that. More like we want to be more like a certain type of character. At the Star Wars ones, you find a lot of people who are Jedi, but who aren't necessarily any one Jedi."
"Oh." He nodded. "That makes more sense. Then what about guys like you, who do identify?"
"Some do want to be more like their characters. Inuyasha is one of the few I can pull off easily and I do good as him."
"Okay. So you would be others if you could change your hair color and things?"
"Yeah." He smirked. "See, it's not that hard to understand. It's also not an addiction."
"If you say so. If I find out differently, then your anime is being packed up and put into storage until you're better and we'll dole it out slowly. I've been watching you, Xan. You spend about a third of your cut on your hobby."
"Tell that to the train collector who pays six hundred dollars for a single car and then spends thousands to build their own world for their beloved trains," he said dryly.
"I've always thought they needed help."
"Then you're probably going to hate the convention and if you try to take my anime, we're through," Xander said simply. "If you can't understand me, why are we dating?"
"Because you make me happy? You give me good ideas, you make me laugh and want to play, you've taken the tedium out of the job. I thought you knew that." Xander nodded. "That's not enough?"
"Sounds kinda one sided, Lupin."
"I thought I made you happy too," he said, trying not to sound desperate. Maybe he should have stuck with someone so he understood how arguments went when you're a couple. "Don't I usually make you happy?" Xander wiggled a hand in the air. "Is that because I don't spoil you or because I'm doing something wrong?"
"See, you can ask me things," Xander said happily. "It's a wonderful change."
"I don't ask you things?"
"No, you act like the boss you are during a job most of the time. Other boyfriends get toys and treats. They get nice dinners. They get talked to for no reason. That's one I'd like to happen actually."
Lupin nodded, he could understand that. "I'm sorry if I haven't. I know you're not invisible."
"Good. It's a good place to start," Xander said firmly. He frowned and picked up his cell, finding a number in his phonebook to call. "Jerry? Are any of us in town yet? My boyfriend is not of the understanding me sort." He listened. "Hey, that's fine. Oh, yeah, that's fine. I'm staying in the hotel so I'll just reserve my room for a few extra days. Thanks, man, see you there." He hung up. "We're going to be there Sunday night. The convention doesn't start until Thursday but some of the pre-events are pretty neat and you'll like them more anyway. You must promise me that anything you learn there will not be used for a job. It's the same promise I had to make."
"I don't want someone's comic collection anyway," he assured him. "Sunday? What about the kids? Or didn't you want to bring Jigen?"
"I'll bring Jigen to the one in Geneva. It's the same convention, it travels around."
"Okay." He nodded. "What should I bring?"
"Clothes." He smirked. "Normal, human clothes."
"Sure. I'll pack casual stuff and only one suit." He gave Xander a hug, looking much happier. "Thank you for being willing to explain it to me, Xander." He left, going to talk to the others. "Xander's going to explain this whole anime thing to me at the next convention. We're leaving early Sunday. We'll be gone a week."
"Can I go!" Arsene yelled. "I wanna be a Powerpuff Girl!"
"That's next month!" Xander called back.
"Cool. We'll be really good for Bix and Uncle Goemon," Arsene promised. "I won't mouth off or anything."
Lupin smiled. "Thanks. You may get Jigen too. Xander said he was taking him to Geneva. It's the same event, it travels. Goemon, you were invited to the one next month as well." Goemon gave him a long look. "He said you'd like the Vulcans."
"An interesting proposition," Goemon agreed. "I'd be delighted."
Jigen looked at him, then shook his head. "You're so bad sometimes. Was that a joke?"
"If you couldn't tell then your sense of humor needs work," Goemon said firmly. "Marcus, help him with that today."
"Yes, master," he said happily. "Do I have to go too?"
"No," Lupin promised. "I won't make anyone go."
"I'm going to go as Bubbles," Arsene told him. "I'd make a good Bubbles, don't you think?"
"Shouldn't you go as the dark-haired one?" Jigen asked. "Or is she Bubbles? I never got them straight."
"I would, but I like Bubbles more and this way I can learn about wigs. Daddy Xander said so."
"Okay," Lupin agreed, nodding. "We'll work on that. Anyone else going to that one with Xander and Arsene?" All the kids old enough to understand that question raised their hands. "Are we all going in costumes?" They all nodded. "Why?"
"Because Daddy Xander said we should," they said in near-unison.
"I'm going as Sailor Moon," Lotus told him proudly. "I've already got my outfit." Her father looked at her. "You didn't forget it, right?"
"No, it's in your closet upstairs. I had wondered why you had such an outfit." He patted her on the head. "Son?"
"I'm going as a ninja, father."
"Very well. Do you need an outfit?" Ishi nodded. "We'll find you one then, son." He looked at the twins. "What are you two going as?"
"I'm going as a schoolgirl," Melissa told him. "They're often very helpful but no one seems to notice how useful they are."
"I'm going as Strawberry Shortcake. It's an old favorite that's been coming back," Savannah said proudly.
"I'm going as a Care Bear or a Smurf, I haven't decided yet," Sierra offered. "Ishi, are you sure you want to go as a ninja? You could go as Tuxedo Max or someone cool and a bad guy."
"Uncle Xander said he'd find me one who carried a sword but most of them have odd hair," Ishi noted.
Xander walked in and handed over a DVD. "Here, go as Inuyasha's brother - the main bad guy - or Miroku."
"Wow, I can go as a real bad guy," Ishi said fondly. "But his hair's white, Uncle."
"They make wigs for that, Ishi. Or you can go as the priest."
"Well, he does have an interesting power with that wind tunnel to the void in his hand."
"On his hand," Lupin corrected.
"No, it's a part of his body. It's slowly consuming him." He looked at his uncle. "Then I could carry the staff. Can we find me one?" Xander nodded. "You're sure?"
"Oh, yeah. Jerry said one of his friends' kids went as Miroku for most of his teen years. He's willing to sell the outfit. I'm going to be meeting with him this time. Wanna come this time too?"
"Sure," Ishi agreed happily. "Can I have my own room?"
"As long as you're nearby and we can check on you," Xander said patiently. "And your father agrees," he added when he saw Goemon's look.
"I believe he's a bit young, Xander."
"We'll be in the same hotel."
"Yes, but your mind will not be on him. Next year perhaps. The ones where we can go in larger groups definitely, but such individual events are best left until I trust him not to watch inappropriate things all night on the tv."
Xander snorted. "Goemon, he'd be at a viewing party. They're most of the night. This year's is Cowboy Bebop."
"I could go as Spike or Vicious," Ishi pointed out.
"We'd have to do food color your hair for the green," Xander pointed out. "But you're right, you could. You can do a mean Spike, Ishi."
"But he's a *good* guy," Arsene pointed out.
"So's Bubbles," Jigen reminded her. "If you want to go as a bad guy, go as the spoiled princess."
"No, I already have my outfit and I like how Bubbles loves everyone and animals. I can be a good guy for a few days. Ishi's older though so he should be like he's going to grow up so he doesn't get confused switching back and forth."
"He can go as whomever he wants," Marcus offered. "His training will cover that, Arsene." He looked at the others. "I would gladly watch the children next week with Bix so I don't have to attend the later one."
Lupin grinned. "Done. You guys be good for Marcus too." They all nodded patiently. "Good kids. We should eat. What were you doing today, Xan?"
"Checking my outfit to make sure it's correct. If not, I'll have to go to my storage building and find my other one and fix the few rips and a blood spot or three."
"You could go as Iceman if it's not right," Ishi offered. "Or you could go as Vicious. He uses a sword, but you'd have to find the crow."
"I thought it was a raven, but I could probably do that," Xander pointed out. "Or, hey, it's close enough, I could go as Snape."
Jigen looked at him. "Bring things like that into the house and I'm going back to my room. I can't imagine you making potions."
Xander beamed. "Actually, I'm not horrible at it. I'm not a Longbottom at all. I'm more a Weasley at it."
"Yay. No potions in our bedroom, Xander."
"Sure. I don't need one yet. Hopefully I'll never need the little blue pill that cures marriage woes."
Goemon spluttered on his juice while Marcus choked on his eggs. "Xander! We're trying to eat!" they said in unison.
"Is that Viagra or one of the newer versions of the popular erection drug, daddy?" Melissa asked.
"It's viagra," Lupin said. "I think I want a tylenol or six now. Goemon?"
"Aspirin is good for your heart," Lotus said, patting him on the hand. "Good choice, daddy." She smiled at him. "Now all we need to do is to get you to wear sunscreen all the time and you'll be really healthy for a very long time."
"You can help me apply it the next time I'm working out without my robe," he offered.
"Daddy, your robe gapes and that part can be burned too."
"I wasn't the last time we were in Egypt. I'll be fine, Lotus."
"Okay," she sighed, giving him a sad look. "We don't want to lose you because you get sick from the sun."
"I spent most of my youth outside and bare chested, it won't happen, Lotus."
"If you say so. But if you develop melanoma, then I get to say 'I told you so' to you."
"If you wish," he agreed, taking the handful of aspirin. Half went into his pocket and the other half he took immediately. He looked at the two future thieves. "You both have very bad habits of blurting out things that should not come from any child's mouth. Perhaps you should quit before we take away the convention?" They pouted at him, looking like really miserable, wet, kicked, homeless puppies - the strongest puppy eyes there were. "Tough."
"I'd never be like them, daddy," Lotus assured him, leaning on his arm for a hug.
"Thankfully. If you spat out stuff like Arsene, I'd have to beat you more often," Ishi said firmly.
"Son, pushups," Goemon ordered, pointing at the corner. "Ten, now."
"Yes, sir." He sighed but got up to do them.
"Frankly, I agree, Master," Marcus offered. "I'd have to try to correct her too."
"There is another free corner, inhabit it," Goemon ordered, pointing at the other side. Marcus sighed but got up to do his punishment. He looked at Lotus. "You are very well read, Lotus. I appreciate you looking out for me."
"Someone has to since you're not married anymore, daddy," she said seriously. "I'd let the mother do it but I doubt she'd do a good job." One of the kittens walked in. "Out, Homer. You're not allowed in this room and you know it." He dropped the mouse beside her chair and meowed, hopping up to get affection. "Oh, you found a mouse. That's a good girl, Homer." She took her cat from the room before anyone could say anything. "That's a very good girl," she cooed. "Mommy loves you, yes she does. You are a mighty hunter and mommy's very proud of you." She cuddled her cat then let it down, giving it a few more pets. "You're still not allowed in the dining room though." She gave it a pat on the tail. "Go nap, you deserve it." Her cat scampered off and she went back to her seat. "That was very good of her. She likes to lurk in the kitchen."
"Take the dead rodent out back and bury it," Lupin ordered, looking green. "That doesn't belong in here either and it's gross."
"Sorry." She picked it up by the tail and carried it off to dispose of it. She laid it out on the ground so her bird friend could come down and eat it. It was hungry and he did need meat now and then. She washed her hands, making sure they could hear it, then went back to her breakfast. "Should I let the cats hunt the rest or do we have some humane traps around?"
Jigen looked at her. "No humane traps. Traps definitely."
"The cats might snap them," Xander reminded him. "It'd hurt them a lot. Let the cats hunt them, Lotus. They're good at it, they did it for centuries."
"Sure, Uncle Xander." She dug into her breakfast. "Father, when is my practice today?"
"Late this afternoon. Ishi will have my early in the afternoon. I'm going to go back to bed, I seem to have a headache." He wiped his mouth and left.
"Don't forget the pills you put in your pocket, daddy," Lotus called. She grinned at her brother. "What are we doing this morning?"
"Lessons," Jigen said firmly. "Every last one of you will be sitting in here with your textbooks." They all sighed and nodded. "Good. Thank you." He looked at Xander. "I'm assuming you'll be in your room strutting around to break it in?" Xander nodded. "That's fine. I'm gonna agree with Goemon, my head's starting to ache. I'm gonna nap. You kids behave." He left, going to curl up on the cot in the nursery. The little kids didn't give him headaches, it was just the first daughters that did it to him.
Lupin looked at the kids. "I'm going to be in the office."
"You might want to sweep for bugs, we found a few the other night but you were working so we didn't disturb you," Ishi offered.
"I'll do that after I get done eating." Xander gave him a sideways look. "Don't forget to modify your registration."
"I won't. I have the person's home phone number for things like that and the hotel's included. If she can't fix it, I'll do that after I add you to my registration." He smirked at him. "Bring money, I always do. Most of them take cards but it takes forever to run them so the new good stuff is gone."
"Sure," Lupin agreed tiredly. "How much?"
"I usually only bring a few hundred, but you can bring however much you want. You never know, you might find something you like from one of the older series. Star Trek TOS is still pretty hot."
"TOS?" Lupin asked.
"The original series."
"Oh." He nodded. "I grew up watching that. Maybe I will browse a bit." He looked at the kids, then back at Xander. "We'll be carting all them through the equivalent of a shopping plaza?"
"More of an open-air market set up in a ballroom and they'll be good or they'll be sent home," Xander reminded them. They all nodded, grinning at him. "Good, kids." He looked at Lupin again. "See, they can be reasonable."
"What are they getting in return?"
"I'm taking them to Disney Paris."
"By yourself?" he asked.
"I refuse," Marcus said quickly before Xander could open his mouth. "I'd rather be flayed and chopped for sushi."
"Corner, now," Lupin ordered. "Some of us are still trying to eat, Marcus."
"Yes, sir," he said miserably.
"I was thinking about asking Bix to come with us. I did okay before," he said smartly.
"Hmm. You did," Lupin agreed. "I'll help Jigen watch the toddlers. You can bring Goemon again too if you want."
"Father might get upset with you," Lotus said, patting him on the hand. "We'll have to talk him into it and make him want to come with us. After all, there are worse places he'd rather not go instead."
"True. The mall," Ishi offered. "During that frenzy like last fall or during the holidays."
"Orlando," Arsene offered.
"That new pretty dress shop with all the flowers and singing things," Sierra added.
"You're odd," her twin retorted. "Flowers? Singing flowers? If you bring one home, it had better stay in your room. I might get sick."
"Arsene," he father warned firmly.
"I would! They're cute and cuddly and they sing happy Barney-like songs about friendship and sharing and love." She made a gagging noise. "Puke."
"Meanie," Sierra said. "Some of us like happy things. Just because you're a wannabe vampire doesn't mean the rest of us are." She stomped off.
"Sierra," Xander called. She came back and pouted at him. "Listen, honey, some of us aren't the most cuddly and cute of things. I don't like those flowers either. If you do get one, try to keep it somewhere that your sister won't have to hear it sing. Like the nursery. The kids would probably like it." She smiled and hugged him. "Thanks. Now finish your breakfast so you can all do your homework."
"Yes, daddy," they said, digging in.
"We could make Uncle Goemon go with us to get our ears pierced," Savannah offered. "I wanted to have someone professional do mine. That means a piercing studio, which are usually part of a tattoo shop."
Lupin looked at her. "Can't we have them done at a store?"
"The gun isn't sterile, dad," she scoffed. "We could get infections and those people aren't really *trained*. The place I want has a sign that says their piercers went to a special school in San Francisco and all graduated with honors. Plus they have a certificate on their wall stating one of the guys is a paramedic in case someone passes out or something."
"Fine," Lupin agreed, nodding.
"They usually only take older people," Xander pointed out.
"I asked, he said he could do ears, or noses, with the parent standing there watching," she assured him. "He said I was very bright not to go to those people without training using the unsterile equipment. You never know who it was doing before you. Their blood may have splattered or something." Lupin's green tinge became more teal colored. "Sorry, daddy. We'll discuss it later, when you're not trying to eat."
"No, I agree, we'll go to the good place with the well-trained people."
"Can I get my belly button done?" Arsene asked. "It's very fashionable. Auntie Fujiko said she was considering it because it was so fashionable."
"Not until you're older," Xander said patiently. "At least sixteen. After all, fashions change. Right now there's a fashion to split your tongue, are you going to want to do that too?" She shuddered and shook her head. "See? So maybe belly buttons won't be fashionable when you're older. The same with tattoos. Eighteen on that."
"When can we wear makeup?" Savannah asked.
"When you've worn a real bra for at least a year. Before then you may have some kiddie body sprays, nail polish, and some kiddie lip glosses. Nothing else." They nodded, accepting that. "When you're old enough, we'll be teaching you how to put on your makeup."
"What if Ishi wants to wear some?" Arsene asked. "Like the boys in the mall."
"Then we'll teach him too," Xander agreed. "That'll be his decision if he wants to walk around in eyeliner and mascara."
Ishi looked at him. "Only if I suddenly turn into a real vampire," he said dryly, arching an eyebrow up. "I am not that sort of boy, Uncle Xander."
"Like I said, that'd be your decision and we'd support you to your own father," Xander reminded him.
"Thank you, but no. Perhaps a piercing or something, but not makeup."
"Your dad's got a tattoo," Xander told him.
"He does?" Lotus asked. "Where?"
Lupin coughed. "That was a drunken bet, Xander. He had no idea what he was doing. Let's leave it there, kids."
"Where is it? I've never seen it."
"It's on his upper right thigh and the only time you'll ever see it is if he's running around nearly naked again," Lupin said. "No more questions."
"Fine," she agreed. "Can I ask him?"
"No," Xander said, starting to laugh. "He gave me the most horrified look when I mentioned it to him. Don't ask." He winked and she beamed at him, scraping her plate so she could get more food. "Good girl. Lessons start in a half-hour." The other kids ate frantically so they wouldn't be stuck until lunch.
Lupin followed Xander into the hotel, looking around. Everything seemed pretty normal so far.
Xander leaned over to hug the check-in girl. "I'm back again and I brought my boyfriend. He's promised to be just as good. We need anything?"
"The pre-events have already started. Someone got here late last night and they're doing a movie and zine swap." She checked her computer. "We've got you in. Usual room?" He nodded as he handed over his credit card. "All right. You're in," she said cheerfully. "The pre-registration desk is in ballroom four, with everything else."
"Thanks, love." He headed that way at a brisk walk, tapping before walking in. "Hi, all," he called, waving. "Anything for me?"
"Oh, Xander!" a big, blond man with a beard called. "We've finally got that new comic that everyone's been talking about. Come see. It's killer."
"Really?" He smiled at the check-in girl for the convention. "It's me again. This is my boytoy, Lupin. He's made the same vow."
"To me please," she said firmly.
"I'm not going to steal anyone's collections," he said honestly, one hand over his heart. "I'd never do that. Xander would kill me and chop me into tiny pieces. He said so."
She smiled. "Good!" She handed Xander his packet. "All ready for you, dear. No costume?"
"It's tight so I'm having it adjusted," he admitted. "Otherwise it's very nice." He blew a kiss. "Talk to you at dinner." He jogged over to his friends. "Hey, guys. What new comic? Oh, that's the boyfriend. He's of the not-understanding-the-Xander sort at the moment. He thinks this is an addiction." The guys all laughed.
"If he thinks you've got a collection, he should talk to Philip," one of the guys, a smaller, thinner, nerdy looking guy said. "He's in the bar sulking because he couldn't get an authentic light saber."
Xander hissed. "Poor guy. He's got one from the other trio too." He shook his head. "Maybe next year." He carefully took the comic, flipping by only touching the bottom corner. He looked at the cover. "That brat!" he said angrily. "How dare she?"
"You know Buffy?" Jerry, the blond guy, asked. "How?"
"Hey, Xan," another guy said as he walked up to them. "What's up with the newbie?"
"He's my boyfriend. He thinks I'm addicted."
"Oh." He smiled at Lupin, shaking his hand. "Welcome to our little world. Don't worry, he's perfectly normal. You should talk to Philip if you want to see addicted. Does this mean we can't win you in the poker game this year, Xander?"
"Probably not," he agreed dryly. "Lupin might mind."
"Poker game?" Lupin asked.
"Long standing joke, relax, guy," Jerry said with a grin. He shook his hand. "I'm Jerry. Xan, I've got the Miroku outfit in my room so you can look at it."
"Thanks." He handed the comic back to the owner. "It was so very nice of her to forget everyone else who helped her. I really should go kick her ass someday soon," he complained. He looked at Lupin. "Guess who got her own comic? Without her witch, her warrior, her werewolf, her vampires, only her and her watcher." Lupin shuddered. "Can't I please go kick her ass?"
"No, Xander. It's not worth it," Lupin soothed. "Which company? Maybe you can point out that it's not a good story line or something."
Xander looked at the back of the comic, then suddenly smirked. "Oh, that's just perfect," he said, showing it to Lupin. "I believe I'll be visiting them in person." He handed it back with a grin. "She's so fucked."
"Hey, Xan, you once said I could ask you about your past and where you're from if I won you in our poker game. Where're you from?" Jerry asked casually.
The guys all gaped, and one whimpered. "You really know *the* Buffy?"
"Yes, and she's a twat," he said. "Fast, strong, blonde, only dates vampires or tough guys, doesn't like to think or research. Leans on people until she decides they're getting too much attention. Know her real well."
"Hold on. Sunnydale. Didn't it get blown up or something?" the newest guy asked.
Xander scratched the back of his head. "Well, kinda. More imploded than exploded. You might even say sucked down. Fortunately everyone got out." He shrugged. "We tried." He patted Lupin on the back. "This is my boyfriend, Lupin. This is Paul. The blond guy is Jerry, he's Thor for obvious reasons. Paul usually comes as the Silver Surfer but I hear you've got a new guy?"
"I'm playing Batman this year. I got a near-perfect condition stuntman uniform from the anatomically correct movie." They all congratulated him and patted him on the back. "So I'm using it."
"Good job!" Xander encouraged. "The guy with the comic of the ho is Morton. He's an accountant. He usually runs a zine stand."
"I am this year too. My brother can't ever get away from work for these so I get to come and man his stall while I watch everyone else. I'm usually a jedi."
"I'm Horace," the last guy said, waving. "I'm stereotypical. I'm a hacker."
"Have you heard from Oz? Wolfboy-on-Zen?"
"I have, he's headed back toward LA," Horace admitted. "Should I pop up a 'Xander said hi' for you?"
Xander nodded. "Yeah, that'd be great. I haven't seen him since he went to Tibet to find control." He glanced around. "Is this all of us?"
"No, everyone else ran out for lunch," Paul admitted. "Are you dressing your newbie up?"
"Not this year," Xander admitted. "Next time if he's coming with me. I'd better feed him before he becomes grumpy. Oh, hey, I'm bringing the other boyfriend to Geneva and the kids are all coming to the family oriented one next month. You can meet my whole horde, including Goemon's kids." They all looked impressed. "Jerry, catch you in a few?" He nodded. "Thanks, call upstairs for me to tell me when." He walked Lupin out. "So, those are the core of my buddies. Everyone here knows who I am but they know I'd never hurt them or their stuff." He walked into the bar. "Hey, Phil, can you spare a few to talk to my boyfriend?"
"Does that mean I can't win you in this year's poker game?"
"Sorry, but he'd mind. He's not of the sharing variety. But I'll still give backrubs." He trotted in and hugged him. "I heard, man, I'm sorry. Maybe next time." Philip sighed and nodded so Xander put down a twenty on the bar. "For whatever he needs. My boy can buy his own." He patted Philip on the back. "Have fun. I'm going to unpack." He headed up the stairs, leaving Lupin one of the keys. Part of the promise said that they couldn't break into the rooms either.
Philip looked back at the newbie, then smirked. "I don't bite."
"Good, I know a few of Xander's friends do," he admitted as he took the barstool next to the youngish man. He was probably in his middle thirties. Had a wedding band on. Had thinning hair. He looked like the standard, middle class, office worker. "Xander brought me because I thought he was becoming dependant and addicted on his anime stuff. Everyone said to talk to you when they heard that."
"Hmm. They probably want me to tell you about my collection. You made the vow?"
"I'd never touch another kid's comic collection or anime stuff. Xander said he'd chop me into sausage."
"Good." He grinned, pulling out his wallet. "My collection is currently worth approximately seventy thousand dollars," he said, opening the pictures. "I mostly do Star Trek and Star Wars. I'm a real Stars person as they say." He grinned and Lupin looked in awe at the pictures of him with all his stuff. "I'm making my own museum."
"Wow. And I thought Xander's storehouse was big." He handed it back. "How did you collect that stuff?"
"Conventions, the internet. The usual ways. Did anyone tell Xan about the new comic?"
"Yeah, he knew Buffy," he said bitterly. "After meeting her, I'm not real impressed. The blonde hair is fake, the tits sag after two kids, and she's got a nasty temper."
"Wow. Bummer, but I guess it's understandable and all. Aging hits us all." He ran a hand through his hair. "So, you're Lupin the Third. Xander owns an anime company, and I'm one of the few who knows that tidbit so far, and you don't understand your lover and gunman?"
"I try really hard, but sometimes I can't. I never even came close to liking anything this much."
Philip nodded. "It takes a special sort to be a dedicated fan. Just look at sports fans or those people who collect the miniature trains."
"The people who build the train yard in their basement are those I don't understand either. Most of the people I know who collect things do it to look at them. I know a few doll collectors and a few who collect costumes but they don't wear them or go to conventions."
"Yeah, they're collectors, but we're *fans*. We're the sort who'll write a company to put a show back on the air. It worked with Star Trek and it worked with the Sentinel."
"I've watched Star Trek, I grew up on the originals."
"In first run?" Lupin nodded. "Wow. I got second generation reruns, but nothing from the first run. Was a big deal made?"
"I was over here and most people didn't understand why it kept going. The French aren't exactly big science fiction buffs."
"Pity. Pity we didn't have DVD players back then too. I'd kill for a full set of the original run. After the original, things got edited a bit more each new generation it was rerun to. The first runs had less commercial time than they do now."
"I noticed that while I was watching the kids watch cartoons." He shrugged. "I don't own a network but they're making major money off it. I consider them borderline crooks."
"Yeah, us too," he sighed. "One of them wouldn't sell me his light saber."
"It's all right. Remember, he's got to die sometime and then most everything will probably go on auction, unless he's managed to turn his son to his fanish activities the way Xander has. Goemon's son, Ishi, really wanted to come this time."
"He's how old?"
"Nearly eleven. We'd have to sit him in a separate room and Goemon wouldn't agree."
"Wow. I didn't know you guys had kids that old."
"Odd story, but yeah," Lupin admitted. "Xander said he's bringing the whole horde here for the family oriented one and Jigen gets to escort him around in Geneva."
"Interesting." He grinned. "So, we really can't win him this year?"
"Does he often bet himself?"
"No," Philip laughed, punching him on the arm. "It's a long-standing joke. See, Xander has a book that has Spock as a captain. A single book. He said if anyone else can prove it's a fake he'll give whoever wins this year's poker tournament a night of pleasure, mostly backrubs and things like that. We've all found the book though so he's won each year so far. Now it's just a long-running joke." The outer door opened and he looked over. "Hey, Jonas, come meet Xander's boyfriend."
"You mean Xander's a puff?"
"That's pouf," Philip said with an eye roll. "Learn the proper slang, dear. Lupin the Third, Jonas Quimby. Yes, his mother named him that. As you can tell, he's American."
They shook hands. "Hi."
"Xander made me come so I'd understand him better. I thought he was addicted."
"Xander? Not really. Not like some people. Right, Philip?"
"Bite your tongue. I lost the battle to get the light saber."
"Poor thing," he soothed, hugging him. "You'll get it next time. Maybe Obi's will come up." He waved. "I'm off to check in. I'm not staying at the hotel. A local fan is putting me up." He left them alone.
Philip ordered another beer. "You want anything?"
"No, I think I'll go pounce Xander for a bit. It's nice not to have the kids around."
"Yeah, it is," he sighed, looking happy. "My own son's back at the house being a jock. He doesn't understand me at all. Borderline psychotic too. I had to move my collection before he torched it last year. He thinks I love it more."
Lupin shook his head. "Kids are different than things you collect to most people. Ours are." He shook the man's hand again. "I hope I run into you again soon. Have a good drink on Xander, he'll appreciate it." He headed up to their room so he could catch his breath. Xander glanced at him from behind his hair. "That guy has over ten thousand items?"
"Closer to twelve with all his trading cards." Xander went back to reading his packet for the convention. "I found a rip in my costume."
"Can you get it fixed?"
"Oh, yeah, I went to the guy who made it and showed him. Plus I showed him my new was still too tight. He's fixing it right now. So I'm gonna have to be someone else until I get it back. Think I should go Marvel and Iceman or badguy and go Vicious?"
"What about someone like Lucius from the Potter books?"
"I'm not a blond," Xander pointed out. "There's a guy here who does that one every year and he's excellent. I've faced him the last few years in the costume competition. The only problem with Vicious is that I don't have the bird." He frowned. "I don't feel right bringing a bird in for just this event and then releasing it. Nor do I feel I should honor him by using a stuffed bird." He looked up again. "It's a quandary."
"What about that one white-haired guy in the one you were watching last night?"
"That was hentai, Lupin, porn."
"They make anime porn?"
"Oh, yeah, there'll be a booth set up just for that for the next few days. It'll disappear at the start of the convention since there'll be kids around." He went back to his reading. "I should call Misty. She gives good advice." He grabbed the phone and dialed the front desk. "Can you connect me to Misty? Thanks, love." He hummed while she was gotten. "Hey, it's Xander. I just found a rip in my usual outfit. I'm debating what to do. Vicious or Bobby?" He listened to her. "But that means bringing a live bird in and then getting rid of it afterwards." He snickered at her suggestion. "Of course I could. That's a very good idea. Thanks, Misty. Sure, tonight. Love you too. See you for dinner with my new bird." He hung up. "We need to go to a certain place to borrow a bird."
"Borrow a bird?" Lupin asked, smirking when he saw the devilish look Xander had on his face. "All right then. I'm all for borrowing things. Are we giving it back?"
"Oh, yeah. It's a specially trained bird. It needs some attention anyway. It'll make them pay more attention to it." He grabbed his jacket and they headed out together, him leaving a note for Jerry. Lupin joined him outside, looking shaken. "What? Have the aliens landed? They don't usually get here for another two days."
"No, I just saw a wookie. I complimented him on his costume and he laughed and said it was his natural pelt, tugged on it to show me."
"That's Teddy. He's like that naturally. His mother said she always wanted a teddy bear and she got him." He grinned. "Teddy's a sweetheart. Another one who wanted to win me." He flagged down a cab, getting one nearly instantly since this was a good hotel. "Hey, we need to go to the Native Bird Conservatory please." The driver nodded, speeding off once Lupin was in.
Xander walked into dinner with his bird on his shoulder the way it should be and his sword in his hand. His costume was flawless and he had the attitude perfect when he wanted to use it. "What's wrong?" he asked.
Philip tapped the top of the loaf of bread on their table. "Journey bread."
Xander grimaced. "Move back." He pulled his sword and sliced it cleanly into five parts. "There. We should be able to pick out the softer stuff in the center." He handed a treat to his bird since it hadn't moved. "Good girl." Everyone stared at him. "My usual one had a rip. It's being fixed."
"Oh." They nodded en-masse.
"You make a good Vicious, Xan," Teddy assured him. "Just right with the hair that long. So, Lupin. Aren't joining in on the fun?"
"Not this time. This time I'm trying to understand Xander better." He sat down and let Xander sit next to him, feeding the bird a piece of dried banana. "You're very calm."
"He does shows for kids. I'm sure he'd have to be."
"All right, freeze. All illegals and bounties are under arrest," a male voice said from the doorway.
"Come in, Spike," he said smoothly. "You can stop me from trying to corrupt this innocent one to my side of the syndicate war." He stroked Lupin's chin and smirked at him. "Won't you, pretty? You want to be a bad boy."
"One hundred percent," he vowed. "Each and every day."
"Aww," Ray said, shaking his head. "No mush, guys. Vicious doesn't have a geisha." He looked at Xander, then frowned. "I know you."
"I know you too, Inspector. How are you today, Ray?" he asked with a bright grin.
"Aren't you supposed to be Inuyasha?"
"Outfit had a rip," he admitted. He shook the guy's hand. "So I'm Vicious until I get it back, and mean and nasty the rest of the time." He grinned again at the light laugh. "Listen, I'm on break, you're on break. I'm not starting trouble, I don't care if you do. I'm not here for you."
"I'm here to watch you though," Ray said happily. "Gets me paid admission and hotel room."
"Congrats, soak Gramps for all he's worth. I'm going to Geneva with Jigen and then the family one with the kids in tow."
"Cool by me," Ray agreed. "Myron can take that one."
"I missed Myron," Xander sighed.
"Missed how?" Ray asked.
"Um, odd stuff," Xander explained quickly. "Join us. Guys, Spike here is Inspector Ray Kowalski, Interpol. He works for Zenigata now." They all shook hands and introduced themselves. "My honey is here to figure me out. He'll be going through the hentai table tomorrow." The other guys, including Ray, laughed. "I, on the other hand, need to write some people about that new comic."
"Yeah, Zenigata said you knew her," Ray agreed. "That bad?" Xander nodded. "He suggested you tell Dawnie."
"Not an issue. I'll call her later," Xander promised with a wink. "Do you know how many people think we used to be an item?" Lupin choked but Ray snickered, shaking his head. "No? There's whole mailing lists and archives devoted to us as a couple."
"Sorry, Xander, but I like girls. I like 'em much more than boys. Otherwise I'd make them happy." He grinned at Xander. "Then again, you could make me beg."
"Too much work. Are you a big fan of Bruce Lee too?"
"Yeah, but I'm not any good at that stuff. Pity, but there it is."
"I am," Xander said happily. Lupin put a hand on his thigh under the table. "Chill. This is my extended family. Ray's just joined it, he should know. Gramps does too. He knows I train with Goemon."
"True," Lupin agreed. He stroked the hard thigh. "Why did we get hardtack?"
"Because the cook fell asleep with the bread in the oven again," Philip shared. "It's tradition at least once during the convention. Not to be rude or anything, but no sex in front of us, okay? Some of our wives are nasty little things who like us to sleep on the couch."
"I wasn't even going to try and tease him," Lupin promised. "A big man like Xander should be allowed pouncing rights." Xander blushed but cleared it away quickly. "If I do come back next year, who should I come as?"
"If Xander sticks as Vicious you could be a henchman," Teddy offered casually. "That would allow you sunglasses and a uniform, partially in red if I remember right." Xander and Ray both nodded. "Or you could just come as yourself. I know one of the companies is looking for you, Lavelle." Xander smirked. "Yours?" Xander nodded. "Do they know?" Xander shook his head. "Good job!" He looked at Ray. "Do you always do Spike?" He nodded. "Eh, not my fav but it suits you. Lupin, pick someone who suits you, that's the most important thing."
"He could be that super stretchy guy, the one who wears the sunglasses," Philip offered.
"Not a bad idea," Xander agreed. "I'll take him to the comic shop tomorrow and let him browse." He winked at Lupin. "We'll find you something for next year."
"So, it's the puff," Jonas said as he walked up to them.
"It's pouf, Jonas, get it right," Xander said, frowning at him. "Puff was a magic dragon that lived by the sea."
"No, not that song," Lupin moaned, holding his head.
"Sorry, most people get Disney songs stuck in their head, he gets that one and the little teapot."
"Fortunately, my kid is a boy," Philip said happily. "I never had that problem. My father turned him into the jock he couldn't turn me into by the age of four."
"Should we go hurt him for you?" Xander asked seriously.
"Too late, but my son will eventually learn there's more to life than sports. He's not good enough to go to college on it."
"Remember, desperate kids are dangerous," Lupin warned. "My own are that way when they want chocolate and mine are only seven."
Ray snorted. "That's true, and your daughter is presently in trouble, we think. She stole a Renoir."
"That's my baby," Lupin said proudly. "Which one?"
"From where?" Xander asked. "She's supposed to be at home."
"From Zenigata's aunt's wall."
Lupin shook his head. "It's a fake. I've seen the real one and stolen it twice now. The colors are wrong on it, they're too bright." He sipped his water and nibbled on a piece of the bread. "That's not bad if you discount the crust."
"We usually do," Jerry agreed. He pushed his horned hat back. "So, Xan, you gonna fill us in soon about that whole Buffy thing?"
"I'm hoping to get it stopped, make that a limited edition."
"She's probably using it to train the distant slayers," Lupin sighed. "Without Rupert's direct support she's basically alone."
"Hold on, Slayers? Plural?" Jerry asked.
Xander nodded. "Our witch buddy had to do something drastic to save the world. There's been two since she was revived in tenth grade and more after that." He picked up his water to sip. "Nasty thing I did. I liked Kendra."
Lupin patted him gently. "It's all right, you had to do what you thought was best. You were too young to know any better." He looked at the guys. "Needless to say, she had some helpers that aren't in the comic."
"Yeah, ratings hike when it's a pretty girl all alone," Jerry agreed. "What's with the battle armor?"
"Pure fiction," Xander said with a smirk. "That girl went out in tank tops and shirts so thin and wispy she was barely not naked. We and her vampire honey used to tease her about it."
"She's probably trying to set a good example now," Lupin offered.
"Probably. Maybe that was Marcus' dad's idea."
"Probably," Lupin agreed.
"Marcus' father?" Jerry mused. "Your running buddy?" Xander nodded. "How is he connected?"
"Rupert got fired and they sent his father as her second watcher. Stiff prick then he turned tough, and then bad. Now he's demon bait."
Paul suddenly sat up and stared at him. "I have issue two at home. She had a friend who acted as bait. Xander...." His mouth opened and Xander nodded. "Well, at least she included you."
"In a bad way no doubt," Xander agreed dryly. "As usual. I was only watching her back before I was trained, guys."
"No, nothing major in the least," Paul agreed with a smirk. "How bad was that thing that made the town implode?"
"Hellmouth opened. Sucked everything inside. We even told the state people that, they thought we were high on acid or damaged from the trauma of the event. They decided on trauma at the end because it would be less paperwork." He sipped more of his water. "Can we change subjects? I don't need nightmares."
"Sure," Jerry agreed. "Hey, Lupin, you still think Teddy's a wookie?"
Lupin blushed and nodded. "Yeah, kind of. Sorry."
"No problems. My mother said she had always wanted a bear and she got me." He looked at his arm hair. "I need a trim."
"They make treatments for that stuff," Lupin offered. "I know some good people."
"Do you know how hard it is to condition my whole body?" Teddy asked with a grin. "Especially my back? My wife's understanding but our hot water tank isn't that big. It'd take me forever."
"Do a leave in each Sunday afternoon," Xander suggested. "Shower it out that night."
"Nope, sorry, Sunday's my day for nookie." He smirked at them. "Yours?"
"Anytime I can catch him," Lupin said with a shrug and a wicked grin. "He's really fast and he hardly ever sleeps." The guys laughed. "Seriously. He only sleeps four hours a night. I can't make him stay in bed."
"Hold over from school and patrol days," Xander admitted. "It comes in handy. I get in more practice time than Marcus does."
Lupin looked at him. "Xan, could you please quit learning moves off anime...."
"Again?" he whined.
"I was going to add without supervision," he said firmly. "We don't need you hurt. Think about how bad it would be if you had to go without sex while your back healed." Xander shuddered. "Exactly, and I remember you've hurt it once." This was the argument he should have used back during their fight, it had come to him too late though.
"Fine. I'll let someone watch me," he sighed.
"That's all I wanted," Lupin promised. "Thank you." He blew a kiss. "Now, when's dinner coming?"
"Not for another hour or so. The cook went back to her nap," Paul told him.
"The same as every year I've been here," Xander quipped. "Sit, Jonas." Jonas pulled up a seat and sat down beside Teddy.
Ray answered his phone. "Yeah?" He listened, glancing at Lupin. "Thanks, boss." He hung up. "Your daughter's off the hook. They found a big note saying that bad taste is bad and should be eliminated, especially with copies as obvious as that one and where the painting was hidden."
"That's my girl," Xander said proudly.
"Melissa's his," Lupin said at the confused look. "The Fourth is mine and so is one of the future cops. The other of those is his. Fred's mine too."
"Wow. You've got a huge family," Teddy told him. "How?"
"Strange stuff so odd that you wouldn't believe me if I told you," Xander admitted.
"Try," Jonas offered.
"I'm dedicated to Janus and he adores me. There was a slight timeline switch between realms. They're ours, just not from here yet." The guys looked stunned. "I told you so."
Teddy nodded once, then looked at Lupin. "Truth?" Lupin nodded. "Damn, Xander. Now wonder you get to come as Inuyasha."
"You're dedicated to Janus?" Jonas asked. "Why?"
"So he'd leave my life alone," Xander said plainly. "It worked better that way." Lupin nodded again, a lot stronger this time.
Ray chuckled. "Zenigata explained all that to me when he came to hire me. How are you two coping?"
"Better now," Lupin admitted. "The kids are exhausting but decent enough most of the time. We like 'em."
"We do," Xander agreed. "We love the kids. Right now is adult time though so they're being babysat by Jigen, Goemon, Bix, and Marcus."
"Who's Bix?" Jonas asked.
"The nanny. She's a wonderful young woman. Really steady and caring."
"You could come as a kitsune next year," Lupin suggested.
"I'd look dumb as a plushy or a furry," Xander promised, blowing a kiss. "Thanks for the idea though." He grinned. "I'll show you later, dear." He looked at Jonas again. "You're not usually that interested. Watcher's?" He nodded. "Figures. Watch your back, man. They've still got daggers to spare."
"I've heard that from Ripper," he admitted. "He hired me, asked me to tell you to leave Buffy alone about her training materials and to get you to write a Chronicle or a Diary for their archives if you'd be so kind. He also said it was fine if you trained Demara. He agreed, Europe needed the help."
"Gee, thanks, it's good to know he likes what we're doing," Lupin said dryly.
"Was that the vampire Ripper or the human Ripper?" Xander asked.
"Both. The human one hired me, the vampire one is currently fixing the Watchers. Most of them don't realize it yet." Xander snickered. "So if you could tell Marcus he'd like a letter as well, he'd be most happy."
"Marcus likes to visit Ethan so it's not a problem," Xander pointed out. "I can probably write a Chronicle for him. Hopefully it'll keep others from my fate."
"You could make it a comic," Paul suggested happily.
Morton joined them and nodded at everyone. "I just received the shipment. Xan, your zines are in." He sat down, grinning at everyone. "Remember, I'm not getting up before ten this year, please?"
"Sure, Morton," Xander agreed. "All of my order?" Morton nodded. "Coolness. And prepaid too."
"Yuppers," Morton agreed happily. "Someone's already writing Buffy fics."
"Wow, already?" Xander asked. Morton nodded. "Any good?" He shook his head. "Who was she with?"
"Eww. Ripper's like, fifty," Xander said with a near-perfect imitation of Buffy when someone had asked her back in high school. "He's ancient!" The other guys laughed. "That's an exact quote by the way. I don't mind older guys, I can still stun them with my skills." Lupin nodded and the other guys laughed so he pinched him. "You behave or I'll make you come as Sonic next year." He looked at Jonas. "How far back was I supposed to go?"
"As far back as you can reliably recall," he requested. "Ripper said he would have asked you himself but he fears another fit if you two come into contact or worse."
"No, I spared him before because he wasn't totally involved," Xander pointed out. "I don't like him, but he wasn't helping their side."
"I'm proud of you for that," Lupin promised. "I would have taken out their whole side if it had been me. Jigen would have too, he said so a few months back when we were discussing the whole thing with Ripper."
"The thought had crossed my mind but I'm not that petty most of the time," Xander told him. "I got the ones who deserved it and the last one's come back so I really do want to go *help* him again."
"They turned him into another version of you," Jonas said calmly. "Without the white hair. He was tortured a lot like you were and all the same symbols are carved on him and everything, Xander. Ripper said so. The vampire Ripper said so." Xander leveled a look at him. "I know it doesn't make it better, but the guy's suffering greatly. You let David do it for you," he said with a small smirk.
"How do you know about that?" Xander asked.
"I broke into the archives when I heard your name mentioned in the halls and I read Ethan's account. I was caught and chewed out as well. I'd never tell anyone else but I didn't think I was giving privileged information that your boyfriend wouldn't know."
"No, he knows. He and Jigen helped me finish healing after it."
"Two years later," Lupin pointed out. Jonas' eyes went wide. "So, no, I don't think Marcus' father suffered near enough but we're letting him live for now so Xander doesn't have to do his work too."
"Thank you," Jonas agreed. "I'm sorry, Xander, I didn't mean to intrude, I simply heard your name and got curious, then I couldn't put it down."
"That's fine. It would read like a horror story, and hey, it's one less thing I have to put into my Chronicle."
"Wow, he really does know Buffy," Paul said in awe. "Do you work for the Watchers, Jonas?" Jonas nodded. "Why?"
"Because they needed people with sense, skills, and personality. They're breaking the potentials back into groups again and I'm in charge of research for my team. I work under Ripper's, Rupert's, direct supervision." They all gaped. "So yes, the comic isn't *pure* fantasy but Ripper said it wasn't technically factual either. He warned me not to approach you, that you'd rant about that comic for a good few days."
"Already done that," Xander assured him. "I know the publisher, I'm going to be having a word with him about the anti-factual things in it. After all, a witch, a werewolf, a warrior in training, and a few vampires will make the story more interesting and we don't want the future girls to be isolated the same way. Right?" Jonas shook his head. "Then they need to understand."
"We've got the older girls and trust me, Ripper and Ethan have *definitely* made them see that them alone is not as strong as working together or with people who want to help. Ethan pulled out all sorts of examples from Buffy's own life." He smirked. "He's fine by the way, he said to reassure you. They found it and removed it all."
"Good. I'll go tease him in a few days about having only half a head of hair." Xander grinned. "Okay, subject change time. What's next?"
"Well, tonight we're all doing the outfit stuff," Jerry noted. "My hat's dented."
"It lends authenticity," Lupin offered.
"But no one's supposed to be able to hit Thor."
"You can say Loki dropped a rock on you or something," Lupin suggested.
"True, and it'd be just like him. Hey, Xan, you could have went as someone off Herc. You'd make a killer Joxer."
"I used to be Joxer, now I'm Jett," he said smugly. "But you're right. I'd need to do my hair though."
"We like your hair," Lupin said, smoothing a few stands down so the bird would quit trying to catch them. He fed the bird another bit of dried banana then smirked at Xander. "Fine, you're right, the pets aren't so bad sometimes."
"You don't like Dancer?"
"Dancer tried to climb into my pants with me the other morning," he reminded him dryly. "I don't like our cats that way, Xander."
"You guys have cats?"
"They're Lotus'," Xander said, glancing at Lupin. "All but the ones I adopted."
"They're probably meowing pitifully at Lotus because you're not there," Lupin suggested.
"Yeah, but the kids have probably tied all the adults up in the bedrooms and are having a party," Xander said smugly. "My daughter is a planning genius after all."
"Gets it from you," Lupin agreed.
"Yes, she does," he said proudly. He pulled out pictures to show the guys. "These are my horde. Mine and Jigen's, mine and Lupin's, Lupin's, and Goemon's kids." The guys passed them around, smiling at them. "Ishi's one kick ass samurai in training."
"You two should put on an exhibition match," Jerry offered, handing them on. "He's how old?"
"The outfit might not fit him then," he said thoughtfully, looking at the next picture. "The former owner was a bit of a geeky kid and this one boy looks stronger and bigger than him."
"Ishi's about up to my shoulder," Xander admitted. "He's built like his dad, but really muscular. Not that Goemon's not, but Ishi's got his standing out right now because he's having a growth spurt with low weight."
"How do you know Goemon's got good muscles?" Teddy asked, leveling a look at him. "Some poker games going on up there?"
"What else would we do when we're waiting to pull a job?" Xander quipped. "Not that I'd ever get the big guy. Mostly it's from working on some cramps he's had in his back in the past. He's got some really good and tight muscles. Puts my big, heavy butt to shame."
"Xander, you're not that much bigger and you're definitely as well muscled," Lupin said firmly. "Even Bix saw it, that's why she groped your thigh."
"She was patting me on it to reassure me that I shouldn't let you put me into the choker before I'm ready. Bix would never grope me. Hey, Teddy, are you looking for a girlfriend?" He shook his head. "Shoot. Know anyone who is?" Four of the guys at the table raised their hands. "Bix is Goemon's cousin. She's really sweet and nice. I'll be bringing her to the family oriented convention because she wanted to come. Would anyone be interested in meeting her?" They all nodded. "Cool. She's a bit young, just barely legal by French standards, but she's another that's got a longer history than she should."
"Is she a samurai too?" Paul asked.
"She's had some of the training but not that much," Lupin told him. "She's very well trained, but she was working with some ...nature spirits."
"Kitsune exist?" Jonas asked. "One of the teachers *insisted* that they weren't real."
"I'll encourage one to become a plague," Xander said sweetly. "Anything I can do to make some of the stubborn or bad Watchers retire I'm for." Jonas snickered. "Seriously."
"Oh, we wouldn't mind in the least. She's one of the older ones. Even Ethan hates her. She's simply knowledgeable."
"I'm sure she is," Xander said dryly. "Let's see how she likes having some living examples in her rooms at night." The waiter brought dinner. "Can my friend have some raw chicken, sliced into strips please?" he asked. A dish was handed over. "Thanks. You guys are excellent, that's why we like coming here." He carefully transferred the bird to the table so it could eat. It cawed and dug in, eating hungrily. "Good, bird." He stroked the back feathers. "Yes, you just needed someone to show you how special you are."
"Eat, Xander," Lupin said patiently. "No playing with the pets at the table." The waiter brought back a tray stand with a small tray on it, giving the bird a table and a perch all to itself. He put it on top of a plastic drop cloth and Xander grinned as he transferred it over. "Thanks," Lupin said, nodding at him. "We tip people like you." He smiled and left. "I'll call tip."
"Fine," everyone else agreed. It would mean more money for the convention.
The day before the convention was to begin, Xander ran into a figure in the lobby of the hotel. "Vicious," he said in greeting.
The man looked at him, then grimaced. "Got tired of being the half-demon pup?"
"No, my costume had a rip. I can't get it until tomorrow. It was my second choice." He grinned. "I'm not taking your place, man, you do Vicious much better than I ever could."
"Yeah, but you've got a real bird," he sighed, looking at the bird.
"You can have him if you hand him back to the Native Conservatory people and tell them that he was spoiled rotten and treated like the great bird he was."
He smirked. "You stole a bird for the convention?"
"Borrowed. I'm giving him back. They weren't appreciating him anyway." He stroked the firm beak. "See, he loves people. They were being mean and keeping him in a tiny cage all the time then making him perform for kids."
"I would, but being arrested is not my thing," he offered.
"That's fine, we can easily hand him back." He winked. "He's been a good bird, a very good bird," he cooed as he held up a treat. The raven snapped it up and gulped it then nuzzled his ear. "See?"
"Wow. He takes to hands very well." He held a finger up and the raven slowly put his head down. He scratched the back of it, making the bird happy by the sounds he was making. "There you go, Torrent. By the way, he's in the paper. They think he escaped."
"Good." Xander grinned. "I can't wait to get my own costume back. Oh, my lover's wandering around in there. Be nice to him, okay? He thinks I'm addicted." They shared a smile and Xander went on. He had always liked Vicious. He ran into Ray in the hallway, he had been waiting for him apparently. "Yes?"
"You're giving him back, right?"
"Oh, yeah. We're showing them that he should be treated better."
"Good." He stood up. "Should I?"
"No! He's not to be caged."
"I wasn't going to. He can ride my shoulder back to the place. I'm not gonna be mean to a pet or a kid, Xander."
Xander stroked his bird one last time then handed him over. "Here, have the treats too," he said, handing the bag over. "Be very careful and move smoothly. If you startle him, he'll dig his talons in and they're sharp."
"Sure. Thanks. They probably deserved it but still. There are impressionable young people around."
"Sure, take all my fun," Xander said dryly, heading for the room to change. He couldn't be Vicious without the bird. He looked at his available outfits and sighed, then called his kimono guy. "Hey, it's Xander. Are they ready yet?" He grinned. "Really? Be right there!" He hung up and looked around before transferring himself over there. He walked out of the alley and inside, accepting his packages with many bows. "Thank you, great one," he said in Japanese. "This makes me quite happy. Do I owe you more?" The man waved a hand so he bowed deeply. "Thank you. You have made this one ecstatic." He jogged out and sent himself back once he was back in the shadows, then back to the hotel room once he grabbed a few more things out of his closet at the storage building. He laid his outfits on the bed, looking them over. "Hmm." He checked each one over very carefully, nodding at the excellent condition it was in. He tried on his new one and it was stiff, but it fit properly. His old one was more comfortable but it was faded. So he kept the new one on and put on his shoes and socks, then headed down with his sword. He bowed to the registration person as he walked past her. "Oh, come on," he said as he walked in and found Lupin. "You're in my way." He smirked.
"You take on the attitude very well," Lupin admitted. "But don't use it with me. I pinch in the middle of the night so you don't get any sleep."
Someone dressed as a schoolboy ran up to them and panted, leaning against Xander. "Inuyasha, there's another here. Looks like he leapt off the film. He's it down to the attitude."
Xander nodded calmly. "Lead me to him. I'll give up my spot if necessary." The boy led him off, leading him to where the other one was checking in. "Hey."
The other kid looked up, then smirked. "You're too tall."
"I may be." They walked around each other. Each had an excellent outfit. Each had a good sword. The new kid had the necklace. "I see you chase after school girls and the dead love of your life."
"I see you're the uncontrolled me," he said firmly, looking Xander over. He nodded. "I heard of you. You win a lot of costume events. You're still a human." Xander rubbed something on his right wrist. "Oh, I can tell. It's not an issue."
Xander grabbed him and dragged him aside. "How did you get here?"
"Easy." He flicked his tail and became a kitsune. "Sorry, Xander. I'll change if you want."
"No, stay. I'll change. You deserve it for being so good." He grinned and winked. "Go have fun. Tell my lover I'm changing and yielding to you."
"Sure." He flicked his tails and became Inuyasha again. Then he bowed. "It was nice meeting with you. Thank you for yielding the floor to me."
"You're right, I'm too tall." He patted the kitsune on the back and walked him out. "We agree, I'm going to yield. He's new at this and he wants it more." The waiting people laughed and cheered him for being such a good sport. "Now I need to be someone else and unfortunately my raven just left." He glanced at Vicious and grinned. "Got any good suggestions?"
"You could become a standard demon," Vicious offered.
"No, that'd border on hentai and we all know the rules." He frowned and tapped his finger on his chin. Then he grinned and headed for the elevator. "Save me some stuff, I'll be back in a few."
"Sure," the people who knew him called.
One of the people in the crowd looked at Vicious. "He's like that Ruse comic."
"Definitely," he agreed dryly. "Then again, look at who taught him," he said with a point at Lupin.
"Xander taught himself that," Lupin said, smirking at him. "He's right, you do have the attitude down better."
"I try," he said smugly. "Come, let us party until our dear shape-changer comes back." He tapped Inuyasha on the back. "Since when do you have a tail?"
"Oops." He hid it and grinned. "Sorry."
"That's all right. It happens sometimes. What are you really?"
"A kitsune. I'm young and Xander wanted me to have fun my first time down here."
"And you chose to go as someone else? You could win the costume things hands down."
"Ah, but why would I want to do that as myself?" he asked smugly. Vicious nodded and patted him on the head. "Thanks. No Lotus?"
"She's coming to the family oriented one next month," Lupin said as he joined them. "What is he becoming now?"
"Not a clue," they both admitted.
Back at the house, Sierra checked the locks on the doors, then grinned at her twin. "They're in."
"Cool," she said happily. "Come on, we need to do stuff now that we have the house all to ourselves." They ran downstairs, joining the other older kids. Bix and Marcus were with the kids in the nursery. Goemon was locked in Xander's old room. Jigen was locked in the shared bedroom. Lotus had promised that she knew how to send food into them without them having to open the doors. "Okay, we need to pull a job," Arsene announced. Savannah and Sierra both looked at her. "How else are you two going to learn what crooks are like if you don't help or study us?"
"Good point," they agreed.
"What did we want to do?" Ishi asked. "I need to sharpen my sword if it's something major."
Arsene looked around, then smirked. "We need to do that stupid gem show that's being held in two days time. They're already set up. Can we?"
Ishi considered it, then nodded. Melissa frowned. "It'd take some work, Arsene, I don't even have a setup for it. Do we know where it's being held?"
"We do, the thieve's bulletin board was most helpful. They think daddy set us an assignment to figure it out on paper." She handed over a disk. "Here, plan it, let me know within four hours." Melissa nodded. "Ishi, sword. Lotus, are you coming?"
"I'll stay and guard," she offered. "I don't like hurting people."
"Okay, you can hold the cab for us or the limo. Whichever we get." Lotus nodded. "Ishi, we'll need some of the smoke and knockout grenades. Are you two in or not?" she demanded of the good guys. "We could use the bodies."
Sierra and Savannah looked at each other, then nodded. "We need to learn how it's done so we can figure out other crooks later," Sierra decided. "Studying the best will let us learn the flaws the others use."
"Deal," Arsene agreed. "Melissa, work. Ishi, work on your stuff. Guys, let's show the daddies." They all cheered and headed for their assignments. Sierra would be picking out their clothes. Savannah could get them a rented car. Lotus went to the kitchen to put down kitty and human food.
Upstairs, Jigen smirked and pulled out his cellphone as soon as the door lock was thrown. He called Goemon's phone. "Our kids are being sneaky," he said in greeting. "Sure, we can follow 'em. Can you get out? I can climb down. They forgot the arbor." He laughed. "Sure, I'll meet you there." He hung up and walked through the hidden passages, coming out in Xander's old room. He looked at Goemon. "They're good."
"Too good," he said dryly, glaring at the door. "We should follow them to make sure they don't have any problems."
"Yeah, well, it's not a problem. Our kids haven't learn subtlety yet." He looked around and pressed on a piece of wall, opening another passage. "The escape hatch to the garage." He pressed it again and the door closed. "How long do you think?"
"A few hours. Ishi needed to sharpen his blade. They'll need to plan things. Which job do you think?"
"Artwork or gem show. Probably the gem show. Arsene was doing a bit of homework on the bulletin board about it. Her dad saw it last night and wrote me from the hotel."
"Hmm." He smirked. "An excellent test."
"True," Jigen agreed. He glanced around again at Xander's things. "Lupin and Xan are gonna kick themselves for missing this one."
"They won't be. The gem show is in the same hotel."
"Good point," Jigen agreed happily. "I'll call Lupin on the way in." He heard a squeal downstairs and looked out the peephole all rooms were equipped with. "I don't know what that was."
"We could sneak down there and look," Goemon offered.
"No, if it was trouble, the kids would have yelled. They know we can break locks and you've got your sword, right?" He turned when he didn't hear anything, noticing Goemon's frown at the door. "You don't?"
"I have the second one, I was working with it earlier. It's the same, but it's balanced a bit differently due to the extra wear it's had."
"Can you use it?" He nodded. "Good. Then we'll let the kids believe they've pulled a fast one until they come out. Then we'll catch 'em."
Downstairs, Ishi was wiping his father's blade so the demon blood wouldn't corrode it. "A worthy target for elimination," he said, spitting on the body. "Never dare to appear here again." The demon dissolved, leaving a gooey mess on the carpet. "Watch out for the spot in the hallway, the demon dissolved," he called as he walked. "I have Father's sword."
"Fine," Arsene agreed. "Can you use it?"
"Of course. I've been sneaking out every night for the last three years to practice with it. I'm very good with it."
"That's fine then," Arsene agreed. "Melissa has an idea already. Let's get it done, people." They headed into the sitting room with the laptop, just in case the office had bugs. It's where Lupin planned and they never knew if he bugged his own office.
Lavelle came down the stairs as his new character, and everyone who knew him stared. "What?" he defended. "Did you think I didn't watch cartoons growing up?"
"He's a six-foot-two, walking, talking white mouse who rides a Harley," Jerry said in amazement. "It fits him perfectly. Vinnie's a bit reckless, fun loving, loves rock and roll, and rides a motorcycle."
"It's the mouse version of Xander," Lupin agreed. "Do you see any suit signs?"
"No," Jerry admitted, looking at him. "Can he do that?"
"Xander? I have no clue," he admitted. "I'm starting to realize I don't know very much about Xander on some levels." He walked over and grinned at him. "So, Martian boy, you gonna go for a ride tonight? You didn't bring the bike."
"I did so. My second one's at the storage house and I'm having Murami send it over later." He walked his boyfriend into the convention. "So," he said with a rakish grin of his muzzle. "What should we do now?"
"We should make sure that's a costume," Vicious called. He walked over and felt the soft pelt, making Xander giggle. "Stop it, I'm not groping you for fun." He found the zipper and then sighed. "It's a real costume," he announced. He looked at the outfit. "He's authentic, down to the distressed leather." The other costume hopefuls groaned. "Would you sit out of the costume stuff next year?"
"I'm going as a security officer to the family oriented one so I can track the kids. It's a movie prop costume but I won't enter that one."
"Good enough, I'll be there," Vicious agreed, striding off, using his sword's scabbard to part some people out of his way. He found Ray lounging to watch Xander. "The rat is yours."
"He's a mouse," Ray said, grinning at him. "Up to a duel?"
"No, thank you. I only know enough to look impressive with the blade. You use your gun for work."
Ray snickered. "True. And so does Vinnie so maybe I'll challenge him." Someone squealed loudly and he sighed. "Sounds like he got the tail to work too."
Lupin looked at him. "Unhand the damsel, she's not in distress, Vincent." Xander sighed but let her go. "Thank you. Grab me if you want to grab someone. Or aren't I evil enough to take over the world and warrant your attention?"
Xander looked him over. "Well, you are prettier than any bloated, smelly, Plutarkian slimebag," he agreed. "I guess I could." He used his robotic controls to whip his tail around and catch Lupin so he could be drug closer. "Do you really want to try and take over the world? We'd have to fight, babe."
Lupin smirked. "Your room or mine?"
"We're sharing a room." He nuzzled him before placing a gentle kiss on his nose. "There, mouse style." Then he let him go and strode off.
"Xander, can you actually ride a motorcycle?" Misty, the person who squealed, called.
"Yup, sure can." He turned to grin at her. "Fully and perfectly, babe. Up for a ride?" He wiggled his eyebrows. She blushed. "It's being delivered. I had to have a scrape taken care of. Dodging around those potholes you know." He skipped off to stun his friends and awe his rivals.
"Xan, how did you do the tail?" Morton called when he saw him.
"Servo motors and tiny robotics. I learned it from Lupin." He waved at Paul, heading over to talk to him. "Hi."
"Shit," Paul sighed, shaking his head. "At least I don't have to compete against you. Mine's in the prop category."
Jonas walked over when he saw the tail flipping around some. "Xander, that had better have a zipper," he said firmly. "Or else I'll have to report you to Ethan and make him laugh if you get stuck."
"No, it's a costume, just excellently done," Xander said smugly. "You like? I put in small robotic elements to make it more real." He nuzzled Jonas' cheek then nipped him on the neck. "Now, behave, you naughty Jedi padawan." He winked and walked off, going back to his collecting things.
Vicious looked at Lupin. "Can't you keep him occupied so some of us can win the costume contests?"
"I try," Lupin said dryly. "I try really hard. You'd think ten kids would help that, but no! Not Xander! He takes most of their care, helps me plan, pulls some of his own jobs, and runs the rest of us into the ground. And this has been since he's slowed down!" The nearby people shook their heads. He looked at them. "I'll have to have him help me find a character for the next convention." He followed the blushing females. "Xander, your tail had better not be flipping up skirts," he said firmly. "I'm not sharing your big, hairy body."
"Gee, Lupin, I didn't know you swung toward hairy men," Teddy called dryly. "Should I come up at any particular time tonight?" Lupin blushed. He chuckled. "Joke," he called after him. "My wife would kill me."
"Mine too, Jigen'd get really mad at me," Lupin called back.
"If he wasn't married, I'd fix him up with Bix," Xander said when Lupin came up to him. He wrapped his tail around Lupin's wrist and grinned at him. "Caught you again, you evil overlord wannabe."
"What do you mean wannabe? I'm taking over the world in a slow and methodical process so my daughter can be the empress." The stand owner gave him a long look. He beamed. "Lupin the Third," he said, shaking her hand. "Xander's one of the best prizes I ever stole." He noticed the mouse was looking embarrassed and pinched him on the side. "Behave. Remember, you're a good guy at the moment."
"Yeah, I can use all my former memories of being a good guy to help me," he agreed brightly.
"Crap, it's a six-foot talking mouse," a young boy said. "I told you Mars was real and that they were gonna invade us," he told his friend, who ran off.
Xander looked after the kids. "They need help," he noted. The stand owner laughed and nodded. He took his change and his bag. "Thanks, babe. More evil to slay and cheese fries and hotdogs to eat."
Lupin looked around the costumed and uncostumed people, shaking his head. "Our kids will fit right in with this insanity," he decided, having to follow since that tail was really strong. "Xander, your tail is very strong and I can't crack safes if I don't have feeling in my hand," he complained. It was loosened some but he still followed the tugging of the tail. It was a handcuff he could appreciate. He caught Ray's eye and grinned. "He caught me."
"I can see that," he agreed. He shook his head. "You poor thing, having to sleep with a species that isn't anatomically compatible."
"Said who?" Xander quipped. "We certainly hit on enough chicks in Chicago." He smirked and walked on.
After dinner that night, Xander walked Lupin around the various suites that were doing things, letting him browse. He heard a familiar voice and stopped to look, then grinned and nudged Lupin. "They got impatient."
Lupin watched as the kids strolled toward the elevators, looking like they belonged, they had just been out for a stroll and a look around but their parents were now waiting for them upstairs. He checked his watch, then groaned. "Gem show." He hit himself on the head. "Damn it. I should have figured the kids would do this."
Morton looked at the kids, then at them. "Yours?" Lupin and Xander both nodded, smirking at him. "Gem show upstairs?"
"They decided to prove it was their turn to be the bad guys," Xander said fondly, grinning now. "My kids are so great."
"How did they talk Savannah and Sierra into it?"
"Probably by pointing out that they'd need to know how to do it to counter future crooks. We should give them the same lessons so they know how anyway, Lupin." He put a hand on his arm until the elevator doors closed. "Should we follow?"
"Oh, yeah. The guards will be armed." They headed for the stairs until the fire alarm went off. "Crap," Lupin said, heading up the stairs at a dead run. "They stole gas canisters too!" he called back.
Xander, sensibly, took the elevators up. He came out on the floor, breathing through the compact breather he usually carried with him, heading through the smoke for a good vantage point. His new goggles were handy for that too. He had been presentient when he had stolen them with the grenade launcher. He watched as the kids smashed the cases and grabbed the whole trays, smart of them not to pick the individual jewels off. He grabbed Lupin and pulled him behind him, allowing him to steal the goggles. They both hid when the kids, in full gas masks with infrared and night vision goggles trooped past. They headed down into the crowd still running down the stairs, stuffing their gear away while they walked. Xander glanced at Lupin, who went in to look things over, before following the kids out. Lupin joined him and Xander nudged, pointing at their partners waiting on the kids. They both stood back and waited, nodding at Jigen when he spotted them.
Jigen nudged Goemon, who nodded as well. They supposed it had to be Lupin and Xander, though they weren't sure who the mouse really was. They got out of the car and headed over to the hired car, grinning at the driver before he could close the door. "They all in?" The driver swallowed. "They're ours."
"Oh. I guess that's all right then. Saying goodbye?"
"More like they're grounded," Jigen agreed happily. He and Goemon both looked inside the car. "Hi." He smirked at them. "You guys are in so much trouble. Now get out and take a wave, Arsene." Arsene and Melissa both waved when they saw their fathers. "Take them home," he told the driver. "They can drive through somewhere for dinner if they must." He handed over a few bills. "Try for something somewhat healthy. We'll meet them at the house to look over their haul."
Goemon took his sword, frowning at his son. "You were not ready for that yet."
Ishi decided he might as well lay it all out and go for balls-on confidence this time, he was already in trouble what more could his father do to him for this? "Father, I've been sneaking it out to practice for the last three years."
"Really?" he asked dryly. Ishi swallowed and nodded. "Then we will be talking, son. Go home. You may get a treat on the way, but you are to go home." He stood up and closed the door, locking it. Jigen checked the handle. He looked over as the car drove off, never noticing the shadow that had snuck around them from the other side of the car. "Should we protest or praise?"
"I'm going for a mixture. The other two will praise so we'll hand out faults."
"They did pretty good upstairs," Xander noted as he joined them. "They stole the whole trays instead of single gems. Only left a few because their smoke cover was running out."
Lupin nodded. "They did very good, very inline with their skills and abilities. Nothing too hard that they couldn't do. Nothing over-planned. Did you give them money for dinner?" Jigen nodded. "Good. You guys praise and we'll give an honest critique when we come back." He steered Xander back inside, noticing a kid waiting on them. "Letting them divide up the take?" he asked their nephew.
Ishi nodded, hugging them. "I trust Arsene and Melissa. They'll behave or I'll pout and whine plus I won't teach them anything else." He grinned at Xander. "Can I stay?"
"Sure," he agreed, patting him on the back. "I don't think the costume will fit you but you can go without this year, kiddo." He walked his nephew up to the desk. "Our boy here wants to join the convention. Is there a room open?"
"We have a few suites left," she offered.
"Then we'll take that and give him ours," Lupin said. "Keeping one of the keys of course." The check in girl smiled and nodded. "Can you block the porn on the tv?"
"Sure. Not a problem," she agreed, continuing to type. "On the same card?" Xander nodded. "That's fine." She handed them another set of keys. "There you go. The registration desk is still set up if you needed them."
"Sure do," Xander said happily, dragging Ishi with him. "Misty!" She turned and grinned at him. "This is Goemon Ishikawa the Fourteenth. My beloved Godson and nephew. He snuck away to attend with us. He'll need admittance."
"Sure. Does he do the older anime or the kids?"
"Both," he admitted. "I never really got the point of Dragonball, any of them, but I do Gundam and I do most of Uncle Xander's with him." Lupin nudged him. "Oh, I swear I will not steal anyone's collections or touch their precious things that are convention related. They are safe from me. You have my word of honor." She smiled and hugged him. "Thank you."
"You're a good kid, Ishi," Lupin noted. "We'll let you call your father later to tell him you snuck away." He looked at her. "The kids were here."
"The gas thing upstairs?" she guessed. He nodded. "Gem show?" Xander beamed and nodded. "You must be very proud of them."
"Oh, we are, and we're going to give them much praise and a fair assessment of what they just did," Xander admitted. "Then they're going to give it back." Lupin looked stunned. "They're too young and they weren't covered by that, Lupin."
Ishi coughed. "I think Arsene is looking to liquidate things on the way home. She had someone meet them at a fast food place." Lupin burst out in giggles, hugging him. "Thanks, Uncle Lupin." He grinned. "I was a good boy, I waited in the car."
"I'm sure you were, but the only cop around here is Ray and he's probably still grumbling upstairs."
"Good. I was still a good boy. I didn't touch any of the jewels." He accepted his packet. "Anything going on tonight?"
"A few viewing parties, some more comic swapping and buying. No costume?"
"I was hoping that Miroku would fit him but I think he's too big. Where's Jerry?"
"Ballroom three in the Gundam viewing."
"Thanks," Xander said as he and his nephew strolled off together. "You've got to meet the guys. They're still doing the viewing stuff, I know they are. It didn't affect most of us at all. Nice job with the smoke by the way. Very well done."
"Thanks." He let his uncle open the door then walked in. "Hi," he said when everyone looked at them. "Are we late?"
"Jerry, my man, this is Ishi." He patted him on the back. "He snuck away to join us."
Jerry shook his hand. "You made the vow?"
"On my honor," Ishi agreed seriously.
"Good. Come sit and watch. You're right, the costume won't fit him. That's okay though, I know someone else who wanted it for their daughter and it'll fit her for a few more years." He pulled Ishi into the empty seat beside him and put an arm around his back. "So, you're young. Do you get Gundam?"
"I do actually and it's one of my favorites," Ishi offered. "I've even begun collecting the statues and the models you can put together. Plus the video game. It's helping my hand- eye coordination."
"Excellent. It's good that you know what fun is and that it's not all training. Xander, we're doing Gundam."
"Not my area of the field, man. Ishi, we'll shift stuff around, then we'll be in ballroom four. Come find us when you're done." Ishi nodded, grinning at him. "Come on, we can trust Jerry. He runs an orphanage in his spare time."
"Sure," Lupin agreed. "Have fun and be good, Ishi." He followed Xander out. He was starting to see why people like these things. Conventions were kind of fun. Jigen might not like it, but he could appreciate it. "We need to have one of these for thieves."
"We'd never get them all in the same building without them thinking it's a trap," Xander pointed out.
"Good point, but it'd be fun. We'd need to make tapes of their greatest plans and hits though. Like the assassins do."
"I went to their shopping day, it was kinda fun, but very quiet in there," Xander noted. He pushed the button for the elevator, then looked as someone grabbed his tail. "Hi," he said with a smile. "Don't bite that, it's got electronics in it, kid. Um, mom?" he called. Three women turned to look at him so he pointed down. "Did one of you have one that likes tails? Mine's got electronics in it." A woman rushed over and grabbed her son, patting him as she walked away. "It's okay, I've got some too," Xander assured her. "Mine usually grab my legs." The mother smiled at him as she went to talk to the others. The elevator opened and Ray opened his mouth but stayed in there while Lupin and Xander walked in. "It wasn't us."
"It was the kids," Lupin told him.
"I noticed. Xander, please watch your tail. I don't like guys that way." He removed the tail from his crack and frowned at him. "Behave, or at least try."
"Sorry. Hit the button," Xander admitted, taking his tail to hold. "I was trying to make it move. A baby just gummed it."
Ray snorted, shaking his head. "Why am I plagued with you?"
"Because I'm fun, cute, and need a really good cop to catch me," Xander said smartly. Then he kissed him hard before they got off on their floor. "He tastes good."
"He should, he was eating chocolate earlier," Lupin agreed, taking the tail to stroke. He heard the boy shift and the leathers squeak when he got hard. "Ooh, is your tail *sensitive*?"
"Don't do that here, man. I don't want Ishi to sleep on the bed where you've taken me hard." He looked down the hall, waving at a cleaning lady. "We're shifting rooms so our nephew can have this one. Can you remake the bed?" She nodded, going to get her cart instead of treating the stain on the carpet. "Thanks." He walked in and they packed everything quickly, heading up to their new suite. "Hey, more room for my stuff," he said happily, hanging his costumes on the rack behind the door. He undid the headpiece and heard a growl, turning in time to be pounced. "You want me on the floor? When we have a couch and a bed?"
"Quiet, tease." He pulled off the headpiece and then the nosepiece, putting them carefully aside so he could kiss his mate. "Get out of that fur bodysuit unless you want me to take you through it." Xander wiggled and flipped over, letting him get the zipper. He moaned as it was lowered. "Good, tease. Very good. Keep yourself like that." He got him stripped and hung the costume up, then led Xander to the bed, where he pushed him down onto it and pounced again. This was his real reward. Xander was his again and he understood him a bit better. More than enough reason to celebrate.
Goemon looked up as his son walked in chatting with his uncles. "Did I not say you were in trouble?" he asked calmly.
"I found my costume for next year," Ishi said happily, hugging him. "I was a very good boy and I met a lot of people who are very interesting, plus a girl who goes to a local school we should look at. She said it's quite nice and it does board." He held up his t-shirt. "Uncle Xan won another costume contest, this time as a Biker Mouse." He headed up to his room with his bags.
"Do I wish to know?" Goemon asked.
Xander handed over the picture. "He's a good guy but the tail thing is very fun."
Ishi skipped back down the stairs. "They gave him a special award too since he had to go through a few characters this time. He was the best shape shifter there they said," he announced proudly. The other kids clapped. "Plus, Uncle Xander found a *ton* of new anime to show us."
"Yes, he did," Lupin agreed dryly. "Having seen the people who are really addicted, Xander's only on the edge of that area." He looked from Goemon to Ishi and back. "He was good the whole time," he promised. "He got our old room, we had them block the pay- per-view porn. He behaved excellently while in the convention."
"He still snuck off."
"Hey, he's a future thief and assassin. It showed skill to sneak away from you and Jigen," Xander offered. "I've got to put my costumes up. Vinnie's a bit heavy." Lupin nodded so he headed up to his old room. He'd have to do that again next year. He came down to find the two men still staring at each other. "Goemon, we treated him like we do the girls. He was very good."
"He still broke the rules I set."
"And for that you can ground him. Until then, he was very good. He did get a kiss from a girl for being so good. They had a small exhibition among the really big fans of Star Wars with fake light sabers and Ishi noted that both of them were moving oddly. He took one when offered and showed them both up. Someone said it was too bad he's not shorter, then he could be Yoda."
"The things I teach him are not for the amusement of others," Goemon said firmly.
"Goemon, when you were young, you can't tell me you didn't show off for the clan's girls." Goemon shook his head. "Not at all?"
"No. That would have been showing off and it was not encouraged."
Xander rolled his eyes. "Okay then, normal young men do show off, it's part of how they attract mates and earn respect. That's how he got the kiss and the recommendation of the school. She was only a year older and she was really in awe of his arm muscles there for a bit. Her mother and I both chaperoned while Lupin laughed his ass off, but he was very honorable, polite, and decent to her."
"Still, he broke my rules and he showed off. He was grounded."
"And he still is and you have every right to add extra time because of it," Xander pointed out. "Relax, Goemon! You knew we had him. He called you."
"I did not talk to my son."
"Ishi, who did you talk to?"
"Sierra. She said father was in bed. I talked to Lotus as well."
"We told him," Lotus defended. "Did you forget to call again last night as well?"
"Oops," he admitted sheepishly. "I was at the dance, watching the other teenagers to see what they were doing. I had no idea that dances included dancing with others."
"Another event we chaperoned," Lupin said quickly before Goemon could open his mouth. "There were a lot of parents there, it was mandatory if the kids were attending." Goemon calmed down and seemed to relax. "He should have called, but we had to put him into his bed. He fell asleep during the dance."
"Fine." He looked at his son. "You are grounded for an extra week."
"Yes, father," he agreed, nodding in agreement. "I do deserve it for being so bad about not calling and worrying you. It is not honorable to worry you that way and I understand that. May we talk about this school? It sounds quite fascinating and is just up the road, between here and Paris."
"We'll see," Goemon said, watching his son. "Go to your room, son, we will still be talking about you practicing with my sword without my permission."
"Yes, father." He trotted back up the stairs to put things away. He had only put things on his bed before.
"Come on, Goemon, you know very well we were watching him. You know I'd never let anything happen to your son," Xander pleaded. "He was really good. He had a lot of fun. Sure, he was cute and young and adorable and some of the girls tried to chat with him, but he did what you do and blushed heavily and clammed up." Goemon's mouth fell open as he looked at him. "Ishi was much loved by the ladies. They all thought he was adorable and strong. That was before the demonstration. He did that out of respect for his future art. He was a wonderful kid and he didn't even try to sneak into the more adult sections of the convention. Not even when the girls following him around like a harem suggested it. He was very good and polite to all of them. Half the convention was watching him for us if we weren't within direct line of sight. I had friends all over and they all adored him, helping him find his character. Please let him come with me?"
"Fine," he sighed, walking away. "My son and I will be talking. Next time, make sure the girls leave him alone."
"Ishi's one hot little kid," Lupin pointed out. "He got fans without letting anyone know who he was." Goemon let out a moan. "Just think, you can laugh when our girls start dating," he soothed.
Goemon nodded. "Count on it." He headed up to his son's room, finding him arranging pictures. He looked at them. "You look good in that outfit, son." His son grinned weakly at him. "I am disappointed that you could not follow my orders. You knew better."
"I'm sorry, Father, but they were having fun and it was fun. Please don't be mad?"
"Son," he sighed, sitting on the bed to look at the boy. He looked him over, noticing he was not the young boy he used to carry around anymore. His son was tall, strong, straight, and his hair was messy. "Smooth your hair. You look like a Potter."
"Sorry, father," he said quickly, smoothing it down. "Someone suggested I should go as Draco."
"No, I think not, son," he said dryly. He pulled him over to hug him. "From now on, ask if you want to attend such places. I would have allowed it if you had asked. Perhaps not this one, but the one in Geneva definitely," he assured him gently. He looked at the boy. "Do you understand why I worry?"
"Perfectly. There was a bad person at the dance. Xander's tail nearly got broken when he hurt him with it."
"His costume was as one of the Biker Mice From Mars. I have the series on DVD if you wanted to watch it with me." Goemon nodded, he could do that. "He made a killer Vinnie. He was even challenged to a riding contest and won hands down." He grinned. "You would have liked it. People were there to get together with people like them."
"I'm sure I would have. We'll go to them together from now on." He stood up, patting his son on the shoulder, which wasn't as far down as he thought it should be. "You will not be attending Geneva because you are grounded, but the next one you may go to and I will be escorting you from now on so you don't have to watch your uncles grope."
"They let me have their single room and got a suite since that's all that was left. They had a key to my room and everything, father. I promise, I was well watched and they saved me from the girls. Why did they follow me around that way and make odd suggestions?"
"Because, son, you are tall, strong, and handsome. Girls are like that from what I understand." He patted him again. "Did you find your character?" Ishi nodded, opening his closet to pull down the hanging bag so he could see. "It does fit you," he agreed, smiling at him. He recognized it from a great many cartoons he had watched with his son. "Put it away and join me outside, son. I wish to see what you truly know. Do not become like your Uncle Xander and hide things from me. I welcome you becoming better than I am."
"Uncle Xander doesn't like to look dumb in front of others. I didn't want to disappoint you."
"You are not, son. You are already beyond where I was. Then again, we started your training earlier and you have more teachers. Still, I would rather see than not see and have it surprise me some morning when I'm not totally awake." He steered his son outside, handing him the practice sword. "Show me." He put his aside and picked up a practice blade as well. He noticed Lotus watching and looked at her. "You don't need to help."
"Of course I do, I'm cheerleading."
"Fine," he agreed, blocking Ishi's blow just in time. He looked at his son. "Attacking when they're not paying attention?"
"In real fights you can't always wait for them to bow properly and some don't understand."
"Then you don't take the first blow, son. Any other time you may attack but if they're not honorable enough to properly acknowledge you then you will not attack that first blow." Ishi nodded and backed away. "Be like your uncle in that part, just not the hiding things part."
"Yes, father." He grinned. "Can I do what I did at the convention?" Goemon nodded and the boy attacked, quickly, deadly accurate, and interspersing some tumbling. Goemon was quite pleased, his son had found his style and he was very good. Now he recognized that move. "Yoda," he teased as he pushed his son back.
"Mini, thank you." He attacked again after brushing some hair out of his eyes. In the middle of the attack, he did something unexpected, almost dance like.
"When did you watch the Three Musketteers, son?" he asked fondly.
"Last year sometime. Fencing looks interesting." He ducked a blow and got around his father, attacking from the side and making him move. "Sorry, Uncle Xander's and Uncle Marcus' styles seem to fit me best."
"That is fine, son. Not all battles are fought face-to-face across a field. It is good that you know both styles. Hold." Ishi stepped back, panting hard. "Enough for a few moments. We'll work on your endurance as you age." He stepped closer. "You are more than worthy to wear the family name, son. You are very good." Ishi beamed and hugged him. "Thank you." He hugged him back. "I'm very proud of you and how well you've learned. Soon you'll have to have another teacher." He kissed his son on he head. "Now, let us work on a few of those moves, you looked a bit unbalanced."
"It's this growing stuff," he complained as he pulled back, subtly wiping his cheeks. "I'm always off balance and I'm feeling odd, dad."
"Of course you are," he agreed gently. "As did we all, son. I spent my thirteenth year wishing my feet would quit growing." Ishi laughed at that. "We can work on some balance work instead. It will help with that and with your acrobatics."
"Can I take tumbling lessons for real?"
"If you desire and your school has them. If not, we'll arrange it somehow." He walked him inside, taking him to the gym. "From now on, all that you learn will happen in here and you are not allowed to practice anything new outside this room and without supervision. Just as we tried to enforce with Xander we will enforce with you. The woods are not a place to learn how to fight. At least not yet. That's an advanced lesson." Ishi nodded, putting his practice blade down carefully. Then he took off and did a small tumbling run for his benefit. "Excellent." He was impressed. His son needed more formal training in that though. "Lupin?" Lupin ducked his head in. "Do we have someone to teach him and the girls tumbling?"
"I can find someone," he offered. "Just tumbling?"
Ishi cartwheeled and picked up his sword on the way. He stood up and brandished it.
"Just tumbling then," Lupin agreed. He shook his head as he headed for the kitchen. "Tumbling now."
"It's good for them," Jigen offered. "Fujiko wanted to see you today."
"Fine." Lupin accepted the glass of tea. "Is Xander napping?"
"Yup. Am I going to have to hide in fear in Geneva?"
"No, be the smooth, quiet man we know you can be and it'll be fine," he promised, patting him on the back as he walked away. "I had fun."
Jigen nodded slowly, then added a shot to his tea. "I'm sure I will. Maybe I won't have hives." He went to lounge in the study, reading to the kid that was sitting in there waiting to pounce him. "Hey, Fred. Bored?" He nodded, climbing in his lap with the book. "Sure." Jigen put his tea aside, he wouldn't drink around the kids.
Jigen looked around the convention, then at Xander, who was a big gray mouse. "You enjoy this?"
Xander nodded. "It's only getting started. Lounge around if you want. They're expecting you to be with me. Everyone knows." He trotted off to chat with his friends, letting Jigen make his own way over. You didn't force a man like Jigen, you let him choose his own approach and let him make his own entrance. "Hey, guys."
"No fair, Modo this time," Jerry complained. "You make way too much money, Xander."
"Hey, I had the kids help me build it," Xander complained. "It was training for them to build little things to do surveillance for them." He grinned and his muzzle followed. "So, what's up today?"
"Nothing much. We expected you yesterday."
"Sorry, had to talk to someone. She didn't think I needed a new bike, but I convinced her."
"Is that what you call getting on your knees and pleading for the wreck?" Jigen asked as he joined them.
"Well, yeah, with her," Xander agreed with a grin for him. "Guys, this is my other boyfriend, Jigen."
"Hey," he said, nodding once. "Do all of you guys dress up?"
"Only the dedicated ones," Jerry said, taking off his helmet to straighten out his blond hair. "You could have."
"Lupin said I could be myself and you'd like me better," he said dryly.
"You could be one of the American gangsters from a movie," Paul offered. "You're dressed like they are and you can't see your eyes." He grinned at Xander. "No sword?"
Ten guys in Reagan masks ran in with shotguns and pointed them at the room. "Freeze!" one yelled. "This is a stickup."
Xander pointed his hand cannon at them and fired, taking out four of them. "Shoot, I need to fix the aim on this thing."
"That's it, you've been spending too much time as Goemon, Xander. You're grounded to the range when we get home."
"Yes, Jigen," he said sheepishly. "The aim's off. I'm not used to having one that's part of my arm."
"Yay. You're spending the next month in the range with me to make sure you don't lose your primary skills. I picked you to be a gunman, not Goemon Jr."
"He's got one of those," Jerry noted. "Ishi's damn good."
"He is," Jigen agreed. "So's Xander, but he's been slacking off in his primary area."
Xander pulled his other gun and shot the others in short order, all wounding blows. "There, see, I haven't lost my skills. It's just this new gun that's throwing me off." He stuck his tongue out. "So there." He put it up and waved at someone, jogging off to hug them, getting in a tail-around-the-waist as well.
"Xander!" she said, swatting him. "No more tail teasing! Naughty mouse!"
Jigen shook his head. "Sorry, I think it's about time I tamed the mouse."
"Not that mouse," Paul said smugly. "Trust me, you won't get him tamed soon."
"Wonderful," Jigen said dryly, moving that way. He caught the tail and gave it a tug. "Your tail should only go around me, hotshot. Not the dames."
"Since you're offering," he said, turning to hug Jigen and carry him off. "We'll be back in a bit. I've got to rumple him."
"Put me down, Xander," he warned. "Or no new anime." Xander put him down and nuzzled him fondly. "Get off. If you can't kiss me for real, then don't nuzzle and don't promise." Xander kissed him and then hummed, skipping off to find his new toys. He *needed* new toys. Jigen shook his head, groaning a bit. "That boy," he sighed.
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