Memories, Nothing More Than Memories.
Xander woke up and looked around the room in the dim light. It was familiar, like he had lived here before. "Ow," he complained, rubbing the back of his head. "What happened?"
"You got hit on patrol," a soft voice said beside him in the dark. "Don't worry, I'm watching you to make sure you're fine. Go back to sleep, Xan."
"Yeah, I can do that," he agreed, lying back down again. He blinked at the room he could see. It was so familiar. "Where am I?"
"You're home," the voice promised. "Everything will be all right again."
"Okay. I'm gonna nap now." He yawned and let himself drift off again. "Night, Buffy."
"Night, Xander." She got comfortable to watch him sleep off his small head injury. Nothing more than a bump, but it was necessary.
Lupin looked around the house, then at the silent kids. He groaned. "Okay, this is unnatural. Make some noise, please?"
"We're not feelin' the vibe of noisiness," Melissa told him. "Otherwise we would have already torn up the house twice today."
"It's not my fault," Lupin said tiredly. It had been nearly two weeks and they still hadn't heard anything from or about Xander. "We've looked everywhere, guys."
"We know," Lotus reminded him. "You have updated us each night at dinner. That doesn't mean we're happy or that we want to make noise." She looked around again then sighed and went back to her schoolbooks. Her next birthday was in a few days and it was not going to be a happy occasion. Neither were Fred and Sarah's since theirs came right after hers. "We need to shop for Fred and Sarah's birthday," she hissed at Melissa. Her sister smiled at her and nodded, then went back to her book.
"Yeah, Lotus, what do you want for your birthday dinner?" Lupin asked, desperate to find *something* to make some noise in the house.
"I don't care," she said with a wave of her hand. "Ask Father."
"At least your father can cook," Savannah offered. "Mine can't boil an egg."
Melissa giggled. "That was funny," she agreed lightly. Jigen had been trying to make them some hard boiled eggs and had ended up boiling them so long the pan had boiled dry, the eggs had exploded, and the things had went everywhere. "Maybe he should put on another show for Lotus' birthday?"
"It was nice to hear you all laugh," Lupin offered. He'd do anything, he'd even repaint the kitchen again, if only the kids would laugh and play again. "Plus, we've got to go over the school stuff tonight. We've got it narrowed down to two, including the one where Ishi's already got an admirer."
Arsene snorted and shook her head. "I can't imagine him dating."
"We'd have to help him understand girls," Lotus agreed.
"Hmm, and what to get as apology presents," Melissa agreed. "Don't worry, it'll come for us soon enough too."
Lupin shuddered. "Let's try to hold that off for a few years, okay? Ishi's not ready to start really dating anyone either and you're nowhere near ready."
"Of course," the girls said in unison.
"Thanks, guys. Trust us, you'll give us mental problems later over that issue."
"That and clothes," Arsene agreed happily.
"Yeah, and clothes," Lupin sighed, looking defeated. Why did he have to deal with girls? Boys were so much easier as teenagers. A bit of rebellion, a bit of youthful stupidity. No bras. Instead he might have to steel himself to take his beloved offspring bra shopping sometime in the near future. Lotus was already starting to sprout. He firmly went back to his book, ignoring that thought. She wasn't sprouting, she was too young to germinate.
Xander looked at his range scores, then at the gun in his hands. "Man, what did I get possessed by this time?" he asked in awe. "I was good before but never this good." The man running the range course laughed and patted him on the back. "Thanks, man." He handed over the gun and looked at his score sheet. "What is wrong with my depth perception?"
"That head injury seems to have done a bit of damage to your sight," he said, walking around the boy. He was dressed all in black/gray camouflage clothing but he had come into town to offer his services to Rupert after getting out of the military. Rupert had told him to take them in and train him, so they were living with him. This was his basement. Buffy and Willow were working out in another room Xander knew, and he had opted to try the pretty guns. "That was good though."
"Thanks." He grinned and took down his target, going to show the others. "Look what I did."
"Wow, Xander," Buffy said, grinning at him. "That's great." There was only one dent in the perfect blowout of the center of the target, one where he had placed it only halfway in the center of the destruction. "I guess you get crossbow duty from now on."
Willow hugged him. "You're so damn good."
"Thanks." He beamed at them and went to tuck the range sheet in his room. He found the housekeeper and grinned at her, showing off his range score. "I have no idea what possessed me to let me do this, but I did good."
"Congrats, kid. Why don't you go watch tv or something?" Xander nodded and tucked his score sheet away before trotting back to grab the girls for some free time. The 'housekeeper' filled in another notation on her clipboard and went back to checking Xander's monitors. He had been having nightmares and they didn't know why, but they wanted to stop them or the project would be over with for their two participants.
Lupin walked Bix into the next comic convention, smiling at her new friend. "Here we are." He let her walk away. "It's us," he told Misty. She smiled and looked around. "Still no word on him," he sighed. "But I wanted to feel closer to him and Bix had a date." He waved a hand back at where she was chatting with a few of Xander's buddies. "So we'll be staying over this time."
"That's fine. Xander got a suite?"
"Yeah, it's just easier and she's got her own room. I would have brought Ishi but he's grounded." He signed them in and then went to the check-in desk. "I'm here to take up Xander Harris' spot. I'm his husband." The guy behind the desk gave him a dirty look, then a double take. "Yes, I am like that. It keeps me from having more kids."
"Is Mr. Harris not staying this time?"
"He's missing and we're hoping he shows up," Bix said as she walked over to where Lupin was standing. "We were coming with him anyway. That's why he started to get suites."
"And you are....?"
"His nanny. He's fixing me up with a few of his friends," she said with a small grin. "They're very nice."
"Oh." He glanced at Misty, who nodded. "This is very irregular."
"Yeah, but what else do you expect from Xander?" Lupin snorted, handing over his credit card. "It was supposed to be me, him, and our student anyway."
He pulled up the name and nodded that all three names were noted. "Fine. I can do that since your name is on the registration." He took the card, running it through the machine, then looked at him. "An unlimited?" Lupin nodded. "Oh." He handed it back and along with the box to sign. "There you are. It was prepaid but this will be put toward anything extra you might need." He took the box back and finished the check-in, handing over two cards. "No child?"
"No, he's grounded."
"Ah." He smiled. "Have a nice convention, sir, ma'am." He waited until their backs were turned to shudder. He headed into the back to tell his manager about this odd one and was assured that Xander, or Lavelle as he was better know, had been very good last year and had protected the convention from a lot of bad things happening. They hadn't even had a theft in the hotel during the convention because everyone knew he was a true fan who would pout after you broke his happy mood by making him kill you.
Lupin ran into Jonas and Paul, giving them a nod. "Hey."
"You came back?" Jonas asked. "Without Xander?"
"Yeah," he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. "I couldn't sleep the other night so I went to read through his collection and found out he was missing a few numbers. I was thinking I'd get some of them here for him," he admitted sheepishly. "That and I brought Bix back. She's changing." He looked around then at Jonas. "Anything new?"
"There is a tad bit of an oddity that Ethan told me to tell you," he admitted. "Buffy's missing and presumed not to be dead." Lupin looked confused. "She's wherever Xander is. We've narrowed it down a bit. She's in the US."
"They can track them at all?"
"They can track Buffy a bit. We don't know much else," Jonas admitted. "All we know is that they're together, in the US, and a few of the old codgers have decided that they've run away together to make more baby slayers."
"I doubt it," Lupin said bitterly. "Xander said our eleven are more than enough." The guys looked stunned. "Mine, Goemon's, all of ours together."
"Oh, wow," Teddy breathed. "Eleven kids is a lot."
"The last one's due any day now," Lupin assured him. "Then we're due for either a Fujiko ass-kicking by Lotus, or having her disappear into the night."
Bix walked up to him and smiled at the guys. "Good morning."
"Good morning to you as well, Bix. That is a very good costume," he said, looking over her outfit. She was going as Kikiyo, Inuyasha's former girlfriend. "You do her very well."
"Thank you. I feel like her some days." She walked around Lupin and took Teddy's arm, walking him away. "Are any of the booths up yet? I wanted to see if any of this new series I've found is available yet."
"They're just starting to put things up now," he offered, walking her that way. "Lupin, go find Paul and he'll tell you who to go to for those," he called back.
"Thanks, Teddy." He looked at Jonas. "Now give. All of it."
Jonas groaned. "We can't find the exact location and it is Willow's magic. A very young Willow's magic."
"She may be, but she's apparently alive and about to enter college by what Ripper's said of the magical aura. Before she lost Oz was how he described it, but after graduation."
"Hmm. So why the taint?"
"The hellmouth, what else," he said flippantly, grinning at him.
"But it's dead."
Jonas shook his head. "It was destroyed, but the power still pools there, Lupin. It had to have power pooling to be able to open and operate the way it did. So either they're on a new one that has as of yet to open," he offered.
"Or they're in Sunnydale."
Jonas nodded. "Exactly, but we can't get into spy satellites to check on Sunnydale."
"Even if you did, there are ways around those," Lupin said thoughtfully. "It's the best lead we've had yet," he agreed. "Thank you."
"Not an issue. Ripper and Ethan both suggested you get Lotus a set of concentration crystals for her birthday by the way. They said she needs more work on her magical focus." He smiled as he strolled off, his message done for this trip, and he had earned his all-reasonable-expenses-paid-vacation courtesy of the Watchers Council. The vampire Ripper had warned him not to put in a reimbursement form for a six-hundred dollar comic again, but he did have a fifty dollar a day spending allowance. Which was quite generous when combined with his own savings.
Lupin went to call Jigen, leaning against the wall. "Jigen, it's me. Yeah, Bix has been taken by the guys already. No, I talked to Jonas, the guy who works for Ripper." He smirked. "Yeah, him. Anyway, he's got some new information. I'm going to plug in later tonight and send it to you. Let Melissa and Arsene look it over. No, Buffy's missing as well and they're together wherever." He nodded once. "I knew that. We'll deal later, but I'll send you the information tonight." He hung up and went up to their room to set up Xander's laptop and start to work on things. He had a few favors owed in the US.
Jigen came out of the office and whistled. "Arsene, Melissa, office now!" he yelled. They came running down the stairs. "There's been some new information and Lupin wanted you two to look it over. It'll be coming in tonight."
"Buffy's missing and at the same spot," he said, looking at Melissa. His daughter was a brilliant planner, like her father and Lupin were.
"Well," Arsene said bitterly. "Is it their own free will?"
"No," Jigen snorted. "You'd have to meet Buffy to know this, but she's a bitch, kid. Like you without getting any candy for weeks." Arsene relaxed. "So we know that they're being held together."
"When is Uncle Lupin sending it?" Melissa asked.
"Then we'll help," she agreed, walking Arsene off to think in private. The other kids would be very upset once they found out so it was better if they came in with information already in hand. "Who would want to kidnap dad and a slayer?" Melissa asked.
"I don't know, but I don't like this, daddy didn't like her," Arsene reminded her. "Remember, he went off on a few 'Buffy bad' rants the last time he had to do anything in Cleveland." Xander had spent two days ranting about her if she remembered right. Why would he be with her now? "So, who would want an older Slayer and Daddy Xander?"
"Thinking like Pinky and the Brain, someone who wanted to take over the world. Thinking like a strategist, he's an awesome weapon if you can get him on your side. He can teach as well so that means that he can create more awesome weapons. Namely us," Melissa offered. "In that case, I'd say either a general who had some hidden agendas or some rich eccentric who wants to take over the world."
"Gee, there's so few of those in the US," Arsene said dryly. "That's probably only five or six hundred people."
"It's narrowed it down from billions," Melissa pointed out sarcastically. "So now we have to narrow it down further."
"I don't know yet, but we will," she promised. "I'm not losing him either," she assured her, grabbing her hand to hold. "Even if we have to go help."
Arsene nodded, hugging her. "Okay. We'll do it together."
Jigen walked into the room where they were sitting, frowning at them. "If there's a rescue, you'll be back at the room guarding it with Goemon or Marcus, whichever we don't bring. You are not going to die going into a rescue situation. We'd never be able to live with ourselves if you died." Arsene gave him a long look. "Who else would embarrass your father at the mall if you died?" he teased, reaching down to fluff her hair for her. "We'll find him and bring him back, and then we'll make sure he's okay and everything's good."
"Yes, daddy," she said, looking at him like she knew he was going to do just that for her. "Thank you."
"Hey, we like you guys and Xander. You're neat because he made you that way." He smiled at his own daughter, then went back to the office to wait on the download. Lupin was miserable and he wasn't much better, so they'd have to find Xander as soon as possible. If only to save all their sanity.
A few days later, Lupin paced his office while he thought. He and the girls had uncovered something but none of it was making any sense. There was no paper trail, nothing to suggest what they knew was, had to be, going on. Which meant that it was either deeply covert or it was a special pet project and they were privately funded. That was probably the worst scenario because a privately funded project had more to lose by being exposed usually, and the fallout was usually more extreme. This would take some careful planning. Now if only they had some floor plans and an exact location. He looked at his computer before sitting down to log into a spies chatroom under his other pseudonym, which got him asked why he was bothering them *this* time. He typed in the short message then waited. He had done a lot of work on their side of the fence and they would help him, too many of them knew and owed him. Finally someone came back with something, noting that he was grumbling about handing this over. Lupin copied the information into a new window then asked some more specific questions. One person started a private chat with him, sparing the rest of the spies.
When he had sucked as much information from them as he could, he found Xander's list and sent out a call for help, letting them know that Xander had been taken - and that he had possibly been under mental coercion. A few people volunteered, including a welcome 'voice' from Bastian and Homer, two of Xander's Lieutenants from the other timeline. They had a lot more information than he did, including what may have been happening. He copied it all down and sent them a heartfelt 'thank you'. He pushed the intercom button on the phone as he logged out. "Someone knew something!" Feet came running and soon everyone was staring at him, even Fujiko. "Xander has been taken by a special group who wants to have better warriors without training them." He took a deep breath. "The guy in charge used to be in charge of other special projects in Sunnydale." Jigen's eyes narrowed under the brim of his hat slightly, but Lupin had noticed it. "They're still there, thinking that we don't exist and Bastian thinks they may have made him believe he's a teenager again. The bad thing is that he is being held with Buffy and Willow. Or a reasonable facsimile of them."
"He thinks he's that young with the aches he's been having?" Goemon asked quietly.
Jigen looked up. "Marcus!" he snapped.
Marcus appeared, looking very confused. "What?"
"Your other boss get that potion done?" Jigen asked. Marcus nodded. "Did someone steal it?"
"How did you know?"
"Because the guys who have Xander have made him and Buffy believe they're teenagers," Lupin said bitterly.
Marcus let out a string of curses, impressing the hell out of Arsene and her father, while turning to slam his fist into the wall. "Where are they?" he ground out. Everyone stared at him. "Where!"
"We think they're in Sunnydale," Goemon informed him.
"Where would that be?" Jigen demanded.
"The base," Lupin said. "We'll need plans."
"Oh, allow me," Marcus growled, sending himself to Rupert's office. He stormed inside, slamming the door behind him, and grabbed him to slam him against the wall. "The people who have Xander are in Sunnydale," he said coldly. "They've stolen Ethan's aging potion. They want to make them theirs." Rupert went pale. "You had plans for that base. We want them."
Rupert nodded. "Of course you do. Let me have them found. May I move?" Marcus let him go so he moved to the phone, calling the archives. "Marcus is here. He needs the plans for Sunnydale and the Initiative. They think Xander is being held there," he said quietly. He glanced at Marcus. "No, I don't think they'll need it," he admitted, turning away again. "If we had a strike team, I'd gladly send them with them, but we don't at this moment. They were killed as you know." He grimaced. "That should be fine. They're used to going into hostile atmospheres and coming out alive." He hung up. "It'll take them a few minutes to find them, Marcus. You know what a wreck the archives have become recently." He looked at the young man, seeing the rage. "It was not us."
"I know it bloody well wasn't you," he snapped. "But the people who did this are going to pay for the rest of their very short lives. For that matter, I'm going to make the end of their very short lives quite painful, as painful as what Xander's mind has to be screaming at him about his children."
"Calm down," Ethan said as he walked in. "What's going on?"
"Someone knows where Xander is," Marcus said, glaring at him. "They've made him a teenager along with his former best friends. He's in Sunnydale."
"Fuck me," Ethan hissed, shaking his head. "All right. The records are coming up. I'm going to head home and then meet you at the manor house. I don't care about what else is going to happen, make sure all the adults who need my help are there." Rupert gave him a shocked look. "I was making that potion to prove I could, Ripper. Xander's asked me for a bit for his mates so he doesn't have to lose them too soon. I agreed. Get over it." He turned and left, heading back to his house.
Marcus took the folder once it was brought in and disappeared, handing it directly to Lupin. "Ethan's on his way over," he said quietly. Lupin and Jigen both looked at him. "If they used the potion on them, then you both will be getting some as well. There's time enough so far."
"Agreeable," Lupin admitted. Jigen gave him a shocked look. "Sorry, but my knees ache," he admitted. "I'm tired of aching." Jigen shrugged and they got down to studying the plans. "How did they get in there when they took the place down?"
"The airshafts and the elevator shafts," Marcus said, pointing them out. "I've read the account and I've seen pictures of the town. The building that was sitting on top of it was demolished last year. That probably leaves something in the woods." He stood up straight. "I'm going with you."
"That's fine," Lupin agreed, smirking at the shocked look the young man had on his face. "You've proved that you can handle a field situation and that you can control your anger until you have a way to let it out safely. As long as you can hold to that then we'll let you go. We'll call one of Xander's contacts to watch the kids with Bix." He looked at the plans again. "Half of these are marked destroyed."
"Yeah, but these aren't," Jigen said, pulling them out from under the plans. "Where was this?" He let Marcus see.
Marcus considered it, then shrugged. "Somewhere by he college. I can't be sure exactly where without a map to overlay it. It's not next to the hellmouth or the college, but it's nearby. Maybe Spike would know. I could call him."
"No, that's fine," Lupin promised. "We'll deal with that later. For right now, let's find a way in. I want a path through that place before anything else. That's got to come first." He took the plans from Jigen, looking them over. "Standard, mostly down three hallways. It looks like a survialist's bunker," he said thoughtfully. He noticed someone sneaking into his lap so he hugged Melissa. "Wanted to help plan?"
"Yes." She looked at the plans, then grimaced. "Why are there so many reinforced rooms?"
"I'd say they were necessary to the former owner's point of view," Jigen told her. "Got any idea?"
She stared at the plans, then up at him. "We need to know which ones are rooms and which are practice areas or sitting areas. Uncle Marcus, can you do that?"
"I can try," he admitted. "Ethan is coming. If I can't, we can together."
"Can we maybe get one of the demons to look for us?" Melissa suggested. "A few of them owe Daddy a lot."
"We can try, if we can't scry," Marcus assured her. "I'll even go ask the putz myself to call someone if we must."
"We should get to LA, that way we can rush up there once we have a plan," Jigen noted.
"Or those cabins," Lupin suggested. "They're closer still."
"Yeah, but won't that cause attention?"
"Not really. The guards think we go up with Xander. Marcus could have been there. Or Rupert."
"Rupert was there but he didn't register himself," Marcus noted. "We could say that we're looking for Xander, that he's up there in the woods."
"They keep track of visitors," Jigen told him. "A clipboard, but still."
"Then can we go to the next town over?" Melissa asked.
"There's no 'we' with people under the age of consent," Lupin said firmly. "We'll bring him back to you guys, but I'm not taking you into that sort of danger. We'll get some of Xander's crew to watch you if we can't get Jerry to come help Bix or something."
"We could stay with Auntie Dawn. That way they know which schools to send their kids to."
"Yes, you can," Lupin agreed, hugging her. "We'll drop you off in the morning. Jigen, make the plans to move us. I want us as close to LA as possible. Private plane if necessary." Jigen nodded, heading to do that. "Melissa, I want your word that you'll be back here making sure that your father has a good place to come heal. He'll need some of it. Got it?" She gave him a long look. "Sweetheart, they've got guns and they'll want to use them. I don't want you guys hurt. I certainly don't want you to die from a gunshot wound. Therefore you are all staying here, even Ishi. Here, with Dawn, or wherever."
"Yes, daddy," she said quietly, staring up at him. "But you had better bring him back or we'll be very upset with you." She slid down and went to tell the others.
Arsene stuck her head into the office. "We can get ourselves to Auntie Dawn's, dad. That cool with you?"
"Yeah, go ahead," he agreed. "No further than her house and I will be watching, daughter," he vowed.
"Dad, we want him back. We're smaller but we're not good enough for that yet. I don't want to face down the military." She closed the door and went to order the kids around. They would listen to her. She went to answer the door when the bell rang, looking at the man on the other side. "Since when do you use the door?"
"Since I couldn't teleport with these things," he said, walking inside. "Office?"
"Yeah. Go ahead. They're moving themselves closer while they plan."
"Thank you, Arsene. I look forward to working with you when you're grown," Ethan said as he breezed past her. He kicked on the office door until Marcus opened it, letting him inside. "Here, take these. Janus has agreed not to do the two hours of aging at the beginning. He's a bit miffed at the moment."
"Can he get us intel about the place?" Lupin asked.
Ethan looked at the plans, then pulled something out of his pocket, handing it over. "Try that. It's a current map of the underground tunnels." He checked his bottles then handed Jigen his. "Drink, now, it's worse cold. Marcus, I didn't get you one but give this one to your other Master," he said, handing one off. He handed the last one to Lupin. "Xander was given some. I've felt it. I've also been interrupting his nightmares. He doesn't remember you at all, Lupin." He slumped at the growl. "I've tried but I can't break it."
"Then we'll have to," Lupin sighed, looking at him. "Thank you, Ethan. You're very helpful."
"Only at times and only for those very special few," he reminded him. "Your family might as well be a family of high priests all on your own." He left to talk to Lotus, giving her a warning stone so she'd know when someone was coming near them. "Do not go," he ordered gently. "You can't win against those sort."
"Will live," he promised, patting her on the head. "Though they will be cranky with injuries when they get back. Have fun at Dawn's. She has no idea you're coming. She and her husband are having a personal moment together," he said with a grin. He looked at the others, waving them closer. "Shall I move you?" They nodded, running to grab 'on the go' bags they always kept packed in case, then came back to wait with him. "The babies as well?"
"Sure, why not," Arsene said with a shrug. "Bix could use a few days off." She looked at her twin, who went to gather the little kids and diaper bags with Bix's help. "Are we portalling in?"
"Oh, yes, dear. Right into their backyard, right outside her warning shields," he said with a smirk. "I trust you can break in easily enough. She's a bit out of practice and Zenigata doesn't even bother anymore." He created the portal once they were all gathered, watching as they walked through with the younger children. He closed it behind Savannah, who always took the last spot, then looked at Bix. "Take a few days off, dear one." She frowned at him so he changed back to the Kitsune's younger son. "I know, but it's necessary. The cubs are miserable without him. Even Father has been."
"Then we welcome your help. The potion?"
"Does what it's supposed to do. Ethan's at home though, he let me come up. We understand why that one was so upset. We'd be upset too if Xander was ours and he got kidnaped, especially after a stupid argument that shouldn't have happened." He flicked his tails and disappeared.
Bix sighed and went to get Goemon from his room. "Cousin?" He looked up at her, then went back to cleaning and sharpening his sword. "The plans are downstairs. The children were moved to Dawn's. You're leaving soon."
Marcus leaned in and held out the bottle to him. "Yours, Master."
"I do not need it."
"You'll bloody well take it or I'll shove it down your fucking throat," Marcus ordered. Goemon stared at him in shock. "Now!" Goemon took it and drank it quickly. "Thank you! I swear, this desire to not touch magic has gotten out of hand, Goemon. It's helpful. Just like in that other timeline." He walked away, heading back downstairs. "Goemon took his."
"Good. The kids?"
"The kitsune pretending to be Ethan sent them to Dawn's."
Jigen looked at him. "That wasn't Ethan?"
"The last time I knew Ethan was a bit taller than four-foot-three and had fewer than two tails," Marcus said dryly. "He was good, but he is still young." He crossed his arms. "What do I need to pack in the way of weapons?"
"Your sword and body armor," Lupin said, looking up at him. "Pack a small bag as well." Marcus nodded and jogged off. Lupin looked up at Jigen. "Feeling younger yet?"
"I do," he admitted. "My fingers don't ache now." He traced a line of pipe. "That looks promising."
"It does," he agreed. "It's also very big. I'm wondering if that's their escape hatch or their main entrance." He looked up. "Marcus, call the people in LA, we'll need up-to-date information about Sunnydale."
"Done," he called back.
Lupin went back to his planning, not wanting to have any surprises this time.
Marcus walked into the Hyperion, nodding politely at Fred. "Where is he?"
"In the library," she said, glancing behind her. "Is this such a good idea?"
"They're using Xander as a test subject and to take DNA," he said coolly. "It's an excellent idea and they're going to be quite sorry."
"I knew your grandfather's temper had been passed on," Wesley said bitterly. "What's happened?"
"That military project we kept getting hints about has Xander and Buffy, Father, plus Willow."
Wesley frowned, then shook his head. "She's dead."
"She's not, and Xander's a teenager again. We need current information up there and a guide if possible. Can you call someone or should I?"
"You call demons?" Fred asked, looking confused. "Why?"
"Because sometimes they're useful," he said with a shrug. "My master is waiting, Father."
"Fine, I'll get someone to meet you at the edge of town," Wesley agreed. "With us."
"Fine, whatever, but we'll be killing people, don't be squeamish." He turned and stomped off, going back to the car. "He's calling someone and they'll be meeting us at the edge of town, with himself."
"Yay," Jigen said dryly, watching the street as Lupin drove on. "This would be a pretty drive if it wasn't for the town at the other end."
"Pretty things are often deadly," Marcus noted. His teacher looked at him. "They are. That's why succuba are so effective. They're very beautiful, but very deadly." Goemon nodded and went back to his thoughts. "Master, it was a momentary stupidity."
"I shouldn't have doubted him," Goemon noted quietly.
"We all have odd thoughts, yours simply came out," Jigen reminded him. "Don't even offer him your sword or I'll kill you myself."
"I'm sure we could transform him into something, that way he can watch the children," Marcus offered. "Ethan has a whole shelf devoted to transfiguration and transmogrification."
Lupin glanced back at him. "Why am I not surprised?"
"Because he's Janus incarnate?" Jigen suggested.
"Possibly," Lupin agreed. "Thanks for the reminder. Let's hope the aging thing doesn't happen after we're done."
"It won't," Marcus said surely, smirking at him in the rear-view mirror. "Janus would never risk Xander. Speaking of which, speed up. This is the American highway system and the speed limit is sixty-five." Lupin sped up, going a bit faster than he should, but they were going just as fast as the rest of the cars so it was probably all right.
Zenigata walked into his kitchen later that night and paused when he saw the girl making a sandwich. "What are you doing here?" he asked, looking confused, but adorably so by the look Melissa was giving him. "I know you have a home."
"They finally went to rescue Daddy," she said quietly, finishing her sandwich and handing it over. "Here, it sounded like you worked off some calories and you've got to keep up your strength so Dawn won't have to do all the work when she gets baby envy again."
"You're *all* here?" he asked, his jaw coming open to let out the whimpering noises he was making. "Why me!" he said, looking up.
"You wanted us to stay at home without any guards? We'd have to wear out our worry somehow, and that'd probably get you called out of bed and away from the warm Dawn snuggly blankie you use each night if you're a smart man." Arsene asked as she walked in to join him. "Gonna eat that?" He took a bite of the sandwich and headed up to complain to Dawn about her friends and relatives. He found her humming and feeding Kenji. "Baby envy?" he asked.
"Remembering," she said with a sad smile. She looked up at him. "Our kids were hell, Zenny. We'd never survive having another baby in the house."
"We might," he offered. "I'm in semi-retirement, just teaching the newer guys." He came in to share the rest of his sandwich with her. "The others are lurking downstairs."
"Ishi and Lotus are working out in the attic. That's what woke me. Then Kenji screamed to be fed and I had to answer it." She stroked the soft, dark hair. "He's so sweet."
"He is," he agreed. "Goemon's kids are very special. I can't wait to see the last one. Fujiko's not around?"
"No, she's probably still locked at the other house," she admitted. "Lotus is having some doubts about not harming her." She stood up and put Kenji back into the bed he had been lying on, letting him snuggle back into Alex's side. "There you go," she whispered, walking her husband out. "Sorry, but they knew the kids would try to go and they're going against the military." He shuddered. "They did the deaging thing to Xander and my sister. They're teenagers again." She led him into their bedroom and handed over a vial. "Take it, it's worse when it's cold."
"No." He handed it back. "I don't need it."
"You'll take it or I'm shoving it down your throat, Zenny. I'm not being left alone in another ten years." He frowned slightly. "No, it's not a reading, it's a fact. You've had some health problems. Lupin keeps making you have chest pains. I don't want to lose you. Now, eat the thing for me and I'll do whatever you want," she promised. He shook his head but did hold her, kissing her gently. "Dear, take the potion."
"I don't need it, Dawn. I'm not that old."
She made him look her in the eyes. "Can you honestly say you don't want another ten years with the kids? With me?" He shook his head. "Then take the stupid thing! Please!" she begged. "No one has to know that you're going to be younger."
"It'll be obvious."
She stroked the graying hair with a small smile. "Plenty of men do their hair these days," she reminded him. "Please? I'll do whatever you want if you take the potion."
"Dawn, I don't need it," he said firmly.
"Zenny, you nearly died earlier while you were playing with me. I don't want to wake up next to you being cold!" She got away from him and glared at him. "If you won't, I'll have to play dirty. I know what to put that into and you'll never suspect. It may deage you further than you want, but it'll be worth it to me."
"You're being manipulative," he warned.
"I am not! You're going to die on me soon!" she shouted, stomping her foot. "I'm not losing you! The kids and I can't stand without you! I'll go back!"
He grabbed her and pulled her closer again. "You won't go back," he soothed, holding her tightly. "I know you won't. You'd do me proud, Dawn, just like you do now."
"I'm still having the urge to redecorate with all new pretty things," she whispered. "I won't stop and that'll get me killed, leaving the kids to Lupin or your aunt."
"If you hand my kids to Lupin to raise, I'd have to hurt you," he said smugly. "You're very transparent, but I don't want it." She kissed him and he groaned, wincing as his occasional pain started again. "I can live with it."
"Yeah, but I can't live without you," she whispered. "Please, Zenny. I can't stand to be alone. I'd go insane. Please?"
She pouted at him and he felt himself caving in. "I don't want the kids to think about magic solving all their problems."
"Considering only one of them has any power I don't think it's a problem," she assured him. "None of them really know what I do in my workroom except researching."
"Fine," he sighed, taking the potion. He felt it work and looked down at his hands as the skin firmed back up. "I think it worked better this time."
"It might have. Xander and Buffy were deaged to teenagers." She snuggled back against his chest, feeling his body respond. "Give it ten minutes and then I'm all yours," she promised with a small grin.
"Good. This old body could use some attention," he agreed, holding her. "Want a backrub?"
"That depends, do you want to settle the kids into the living room?"
He reached over and pulled open the door. "Find a bed that's not occupied and nap!" he called. Then he closed and locked the door again, smirking down at her. "Better?"
"Much." She grinned and snuggled in harder, so he picked her up and carried her to the bed, making her squeal. "Oh, Zenny!"
"This is something I missed," he admitted, tossing her onto the bed before pulling off his shirt. "You are taking the pill, right?" She nodded, taking one in front of him. "Good girl. We don't need more kids." He let his pants fall and dove into his wife's body to pleasure her. He had missed pleasing her since his health had turned again. She was so vital and lively. He felt a tingle of power moving from his lips to hers and pulled back. "Another one?"
"Nope. A leak, sorry." She pulled his head down, kissing him harder. "No verbal components being said." She kissed him again. He laughed and played and teased her. She deserved it for being so manipulative. Not that he minded, he didn't want to leave her alone so soon either.
Downstairs, Lotus was looking up at Dawn's room. "She's fully occupied for a bit. How do we want to do beds?"
"I call the couch in front of the tv," Ishi offered.
Morgan, Dawn's younger nephew, walked in and looked at them. "Why are you here?"
"Because our daddies had to rescue the other one," Ishi told him. "So we're being babysat by your Auntie Dawn."
"Oh." He grinned and nodded. "Okay, I like that." He gave Ishi a hug. "You sleep my room? We have a sleepover?"
"Sure, Morgan," he agreed, patting him on the head with a grin. "Let me grab my things and we'll come up. The girls can sort themselves out." Morgan beamed at him and helped him get his things. Morgan had always liked him, he was kind of like an older cousin he could look up to in the little guy's mind he guessed. That and he told better stories. The girls would find a place to sleep that wouldn't be in the way. Even if Arsene did pull her 'climbing in with you' trick on them.
Lupin looked around the wreckage of the town, holding in his shivers this time. Now that he knew what had happened it was just as creepy here as some of the ancient prisons he had been in, even though probably no one died here. He looked at Jigen, who was manning the device to find the nearest underground tunnel location, then at Marcus, who was ignoring his father in favor of stretching his arms. "No helpers?" he asked Wesley.
"He'll meet us down there," he said grimly. He walked over with a sigh and opened a tunnel, then grimaced at the sealed area underneath. "That wasn't like that recently. I was only up here a few weeks back."
"I'm assuming whoever has Xan did it," Jigen said absently. "Here, we've got one." They walked over and opened the portal, heading down through the remains of the basement into the sewer system. "Surprisingly enough, this doesn't look like its purpose."
"That's because it was never meant to carry waste, only vampires," Marcus said bitterly. "The Mayor built this town to attract demons and humans for them to snack on." He looked at the map, then back at his father's companion, Connor. "Who are we meeting?" Connor shrugged. "All righty then."
"Angel's just came back. He's been lurking around up here for a few days," Wesley said. "You could try talking to me, son."
"Why? Did you want cussed out today?" he asked primly. He forced his lips to quit pressing together, then followed Lupin down into the tunnels. Goemon was going first this time. "Lupin?" he whispered. "Will he be all right?"
"He'll be fine, Marcus. Just give them a few minutes alone." He gave him a small smirk. "I had no idea you knew so many curses."
"Oh, yes, I've taken lessons from each city we've visited. They each have their own unique way of saying 'bugger off'. I thought about going for a linguistics paper on that fact but then I'd have to explain how I had heard so many versions of that popular phrase and most of the teachers I've seen don't really want to know that much about my life." He smirked at him. "My history degree is going quite well as well. I'm giving a speech in a few days if you'd like to attend."
"Hey, if we're not busy, I'll gladly go," Lupin agreed. "You're a good researcher, Marcus, we appreciate the hell out of you enough that going to a dry and boring lecture won't hurt us. Will it, Jigen?"
"I've heard him speak and he's not that dry. A bit boring, but then again it is history, boss."
"My God, that was nearly a compliment," Marcus teased. "Are you ill?"
"Nope, not yet. I'm waiting to see how Xan is before I get sick," Jigen said, smirking back at him. "Yo, vampire!" he called out. "I'm tired of this haunting."
"Fine," Angel sneered as he came out of another tunnel. "Are you trying to let them hear you?"
"No, but they're supposed to be on the other side of the city."
Angel grimaced. He didn't want to admit they were right. "Wes, how is my office?"
"Doing quite well. Connor has been wonderful in his protection," Wesley praised. "He's quite a manager when he gets past the point of grunting and pointing at things he wants. Fred quickly broke him of that habit by dressing him in a caveman's outfit one night. It took him a few days to figure out what she had done, but then he finally got the point and made himself quite serviceable."
"Ya know, a 'he's okay and the office hasn't fallen in this week' probably would have sufficed," Connor said dryly. He glanced at Marcus. "So, he's your old man?"
"Yes, he was about the age I was when I joined Lupin when the Watchers told him to spurt into a cup and then picked out who my mother should be."
"Yeah, people who want to rule the world seem to have ideas like that," Connor agreed, grimacing at Wesley's back. "It's hard to image chaos man there as one of them."
"Oh, I was," Wesley said bitterly. "I was young though."
"Excellent reason for being an ass, father. Not good enough for myself, but I'm sure my sister must like it."
"Marcus, had I been able to, I would have liberated you and your sister from those horrible bitches," Wesley said firmly, turning to look at him. "I did not want to leave you there, I had no other option."
"Because your job came above and beyond me, I knew that," Marcus assured him.
"No, because my life was not safe, son. Think about what I ran into in this town alone!"
"Father, it wouldn't have mattered much to us. After all, by the time you got sent here, I was already chained to a floor most every afternoon to keep me from killing a bully with my abilities." He walked past him, glancing at the map. "Angel, how much farther?"
"Not much," he complained. "What is going on?"
"These people took Buffy and Xander. We're going to get them back. Pretty self- explanatory," Jigen said dryly. The vampire glared at him and he stared back. "You know, we should probably thank you. Without you and Wesley going evil again, we would have never had Xander as ours. For that, you won't die by my hand this time." He glanced at Lupin. "How much farther?"
"Another tunnel, this one smaller in diameter it looks like," Lupin told him.
"It is smaller, but not in height," Angel complained. He made the turn and brought them to the side entrance. It was sealed but they had said they could deal with that as long as they could get inside. He watched in shock as Marcus stepped forward with his sword drawn. "You can't expect to cut that with a sword," he moaned.
Marcus sneered at him then took a trial swing to judge his clearance. Then he grunted as he cut through the center of the sealed door. It fell apart, clanging onto the floor. "You were saying?" he sneered. He got out of the way, letting Lupin and Jigen lead the way. Lupin and Jigen were striding down the halls like they owned them, guns ready and out, and trademark sneer and non-expression in place and ready to be used on someone dumb enough to take what was theirs. His and his master's objectives were to find Xander, and if possible the other two, and to get them out of there while Lupin and Jigen 'threw a fit on them' as they had said. He had wanted in on that but he knew the older men had more claim of vengeance since they had taken their lover. He walked in, listening to the sound of an alarm somewhere. Someone had an alarm clock. He headed that way, checking on those rooms. It definitely wasn't his friend so they were sliced open quietly and he moved on. Goemon was following him and he knew he was checking his technique. He paused when he heard the whispered hiss of the sleep spell, casting a counter for their party, or at least those who had come from France with them, plus Connor. They moved down another hall, tripping an alarm, but not much caring at the moment. They finally found the three rooms that housed the three children, and his master cut open the middle one. Buffy squealed as Marcus walked in. "Hush," he ordered calmly. "Rupert sent me."
"Giles is okay?" she asked, bouncing up to hug him. "Are you a Watcher?"
"Bloody hell no, woman," he said bitterly. "Why would I want to be a stuffed-up prig of an amoral, bitchy creature. We were sent to free you and to give you to Angel, plus to pick up Xander."
"But Xander likes it here. So does Wills."
"That's fine, I'm sure he'll want to know what's going on," he said patiently. "Come. Which is Xander's and which is Willow's?"
"Xander's on the end," she said, pointing at the door next to the corner. "He said his nightmares were getting worse so he moved down there."
"I have no doubt. Pack anything personal you'll want to keep," he ordered, moving to get that door but his master was already headed that way so he freed Willow. He put her over his shoulder and walked back out, tapping his mike. "I've got the girls. Goemon is going for Xander."
"Head back to the tunnels once you have him. We'll be out shortly," Lupin ordered. "We've found the main command center and we're not happy with the people trying to burn the records."
"Records?" Buffy asked, her nose wrinkling.
"Yes, dear, they've been fucking with your head now for weeks," Marcus said patiently. He took her arm and walked her back to the tunnels. "Connor." He came back to help, taking Willow from him. "Here, this is Connor, he's a relation to Angel and he's protecting LA these days. He works with Cordelia sometimes. Stay with him."
"Who are you?" Buffy asked him, looking really confused. She had been asleep and the explanations she had been getting weren't quite helping her wake up yet.
"I'm Marcus Wyndam-Pryce," he said dryly. He grinned. "Don't worry, we'll figure all that out later, after we get you topside and checked over."
"But he said Sunnydale had been hit with a big bomb, we're sheltering down here." She wrapped her arms around her.
"No, dear. That's not what happened," Connor said, taking her to lead her away. He could tell the way they had come, he had marked it. He had to let her go when she saw Angel and ran to hug him. "Fine, hug the vampire," he said dryly. At least David would be waiting for him at home with his sprained ankle propped up. Connor heard a scream and looked back but shrugged it off and carried his burden outside with his father's helpful dragging of the slayer.
Goemon tapped briefly on Xander's door before breaking the lock and walking inside. He saw the boy with a gun in his hand, backed into a corner. "Put it down, Xander. We're here to rescue you."
"I don't know you!" he said angrily. "I'm liking it here!"
"I'm sure you are, but you were training with me and you liked it much more. It's much more helpful." He gave him a bland look. "Ethan and Rupert sent me, Xander. Come along. Pack whatever you want and all will be explained to you soon enough."
"Ethan and Giles are working together?" he asked, looking really confused. "Why? Did the world end already?"
Goemon shook his head but he was smiling faintly. "No, Xander, it was more that Ripper came back and showed them both what they needed. Come, pick up your things and lets go."
"But I like it here."
"Yes, but the children are waiting on you," he said calmly. "As is Arsene."
"Is he my friend?"
"Boyfriend," he admitted. Xander's mouth opened, then he shook his head quickly. "We know they've done things to your mind. That's why you don't understand. All I ask is that you come with us and hear us out. Then if you must you can leave for a bit to figure things out again."
He looked around his room. "I have to pack."
"Hurry up. Take only the essentials. You have a house-worth of things back at our house." He helped the boy pack his clothes and the weapons lying around his room. Then he walked the boy out, having to drag him through the doors. "Come along, Xander."
"But the bomb," he whined, dragging his feet.
"It was not a bomb. That was a lie to keep you down there. The town was destroyed a few years ago by the hellmouth imploding as you told it." He drug him all the way back up to the surface then turned him over to Marcus before heading back down in to help his cohorts. He found Lupin tying his tie around the gunshot wound in his thigh. Jigen was wounded on the arm, and there was a large standoff with a good dozen guards. He started to deflect bullets with his sword and smelled the unmistakable smell of someone wetting themselves. He growled and moved forward, intending to end these creatures for good! They had hurt his family and he would be done with them.
"Goemon, the bomb," Jigen called. "We've only got ten minutes!"
Goemon sliced the last few guards then followed them out, letting Lupin lean on him. "Is everyone else out?"
"I haven't seen Wesley," he admitted. "We left him back in the office with the bomb."
"Wesley!" Lupin yelled. "Now!" They hurried toward the surface, Lupin watching his watch instead of his step. They made it up there and had about two minutes to wait and pick off guards and vampires before the explosion shattered the ground. He winced and sighed. "I think Wesley must have gotten out."
"He could have went magically," Marcus assured him. "If not, the family fortune is mine again." He shrugged as he walked over to where Xander was sitting, staring at the hands that had just staked six vampires, and he wasn't even sweating. He had checked as soon as he had sat down. "Are you all right, Xander?"
Xander looked up at him. "No! How did I do that?"
"You train with my master, Goemon," he said, pointing him out. "You're a wonderful assassin, Xander. You have been now for a few years."
"Years? I'm only sixteen, man!"
"Oh, shit," Jigen said, staring at him. "You are?"
"You are?" Lupin parroted. His eyes were comically wide as that information seeped into the other parts of his mind and let him see exactly how bad this was going to be for him.
Xander nodded. "Yeah. Why?"
Jigen looked at Lupin. "Is he legal?" Lupin whimpered and shook his head. "Fuck!" He sighed and lit up a cigarette, taking as many puffs as he could before he felt light-headed. Then he handed over the half that was left. "I'm doing better."
"I noticed. Good job," Lupin praised, patting him on the back. "Okay, kids. Let's clean us up. Xander, we're heading back to France tonight. Are you going to be okay to travel?"
"I live in France? Like the home of rude, smelly, nasty people?"
"Home of every comic convention that you've ever wanted to go to," Marcus corrected.
"I like comics?"
"Oh, shit," Lupin said, shaking his head. "We've got to fix that. Did anyone get the records?"
"If I know my father, he took them with him," Marcus said dryly, pulling out Xander's phone to call his second home. "Ripper, did my paternal unit drop off some records with you lot? Yes, about that. No, we need to know what's been done to Xander and Buffy and Willow." He looked at the girl. "If she's not, then she's had some excellent plastic surgery," he admitted. "Yes, LA would be fine. No, Xander's sixteen and just asked if he liked comics." He hung up and looked at his boss. "Ripper and Ethan are headed for LA with Dawn. We need to get back there before someone comes to investigate."
"Too late," a voice called. A dark-skinned, bald man walked down the crater to where they where gathered. "What the hell is going on?"
"Easy, we're rescuing people from the evil bastards who wanted to use Xander," Marcus told him. "I would have thought someone might have told you, Inspector Banks."
"Do I know him too?" Xander asked.
"He's kinda cute," Buffy offered, grinning at him. "Hi, I'm Buffy," she said, holding out a hand.
"Inspector Myron Banks, ICPO," he said, shaking it.
"Oh, you're a cop?"
He smiled gently and she relaxed again. "I doubt you've ever done anything that would warrant Interpol watching you, young lady. However, most of the rest of these people aren't as lucky." He looked at Xander. "I know you're playing a prank, Xander. So quit."
"Am not!" he protested, letting Marcus help him to his feet. "Who are you?"
"You see him all the time at the comic and anime conventions," Marcus said patiently.
"What's a convention? Is that like where all the geeks get together to wear odd costumes and be geeks?" Marcus nodded, smiling at him. "But I'm not like that! I'm not a geek."
"Sure you're not," Buffy said, talking down to him. "Who was it that *had* to have the new Captain America a few weeks back?" She gave him a long look. "You are so much a geek your blood type is geek, Xander. Now give it up." She grinned at Myron again. "Why are you chasing him? He's only sixteen." Lupin moaned again. "Is he gonna live? Because I know how to tie a great tourniquet."
"No, he'll be fine," Jigen assured her. "Come on, let's get back to the car. Goemon, you sit with Xander, I'll take front and Lupin can wait back there with you. Marcus, you can drive. Thank you for your help, Connor. You seem pretty cool." Jigen looked at Lupin. "Do you think the download went through?"
"I know it did. I checked before we ran out after those guards. It was done then. They were using a really pitiful system. I'm sure the girls and Oz can crack it easily." He walked over to Xander, tipping his chin up. "We'll do whatever we have to do to get your memory back, Xan. I swear to you on thieves' honor." The young man gave him a long look, then nodded once. "Now, let's get back to LA. We've got a flight to catch and it'll be better if you're surrounded by familiar things. Besides, we've got to protect Zenigata and Dawn from the kids."
"You have kids? Do I play with them?" Xander asked.
"And then some," Jigen sighed. "Car, Xander, please." Xander nodded, taking his bag that way. "Marcus?"
"Coming." He looked at Willow, then at Buffy, then at Connor. "I wish you luck."
"Me too," he agreed dryly. "Make sure Ethan doesn't leave something behind this time. Last time he left an incubus and it upset David horribly."
"Only one? He had been contemplating a few," Marcus said with a grin and a wink. "I'll be by soon. Keep David happy." He jogged after his teammates, getting into the front seat to drive. "Which way again?" Jigen pointed. "Of course, the road," he said, shaking his head quickly as he started the car and headed up the road to edge of the crater. Jigen pointed on his side so Marcus headed that way sedately. "Do we have to go back to LA?"
"No, I'm sure Ethan could find the cabins," Lupin offered. "We could say he's Xan's kid."
"I do not think he needs to be in this den of evil for much longer," Goemon said firmly. "He needs to go to the house so he can heal."
Xander looked at him, then pressed his lips together for a second. "What did you do that was so wrong you forced the stick up your butt to twist?"
Goemon coughed, blushing a bit, but he did look at the young man. "I was confused and made a very bad accusation against you that I knew was wrong when I said it," he admitted. "I was jealous and upset and you paid the price for it."
"Okay...." He considered it for a second, then nodded once. "And is that an apology?"
"I can wait to give you a real one until you remember," he offered. "Do know that I did not mean what I asked, I knew better even then, I was confused and upset."
"Okay then." Xander nodded, looking over at Lupin, who was crashed in the other seat. "What about you? Did you send me away?"
"No, Xander, you ran away," Lupin said quietly. "You were hurt and pissed and you took off for a bit to cool down, and then you were apparently kidnaped." He shifted with a small grunt of pain and a moan. "We're all damn sorry we let Goemon say that thing, but we didn't know he was going to. We want you back, Xan."
"What was I doing?"
"You were taking all my son's time and attention," Goemon admitted. "I asked you if you had a closer relationship than what you had admitted to."
"In other words, you accused me of sleeping with your son," Xander said bitterly. "Am I?" Goemon shook his head. "You're sure?"
"Quite. My son got so mad at me he swore at me. I knew it then, but I was not thinking clearly or else I never would have let out something so outlandish. I know you are not like that with my son, that you only like those who are older and more experienced, and that you would never harm a child, especially not one you thought of as your own."
"Then why would you think such horrible things about me? If you're my friends, shouldn't you like me more?"
"You've been kinda odd and a bit distant recently, Xander, and you were spending a lot of time with the kids. Goemon had an odd thought pop up because of those and that's what his mind decided must be happening. Sometimes the parental part of the brain takes over," Jigen explained.
"Oh. Okay. And we all know I'm not like that?" They all nodded. "Good. Thank you. Now what?"
"Now we go home, work on your age issues, and your memory," Lupin told him. "It's got to be in there somewhere." He looked at the back of Marcus' head. "You probably could speed up a bit, a bicycle just passed us," he said dryly.
"The road's uneven and I don't want to break an axle or something," Marcus retorted.
"Which one are you again?" Xander asked.
"I'm Marcus. We're the others' students together."
"Oh. Okay. When did you learn how to drive?"
"Last year. Jigen made you give me driving lessons."
"I drive?" Xander asked, sounding happy about that. "Cool, I drive!"
"And ride a motorcycle," Jigen told him, glancing back at him. "Calm down. Lupin does most of the driving in the group." He faced front, pointing out a large pothole. Marcus let out a frustrated sigh and he dropped his hand. "Fine, I'll leave you alone. Just don't kill us all."
"I'd never do that," Marcus said impatiently. "Though the urge seems to be striking. This road is very dark."
"Headlights on?" Lupin asked.
Marcus grunted but he did check. "Yes, thank you," he said dryly. "Even on brights."
Xander looked out the front window. "That's not a natural darkness. You can't see the stars but there's no clouds."
"I swear to the Gods that if I have to fight a demon at this moment, they're going to be sorry they were ever hatched," Marcus muttered. He got a bright clue and placed an illumination charm on the car, making it light up. It was much easier to see now. "Ah that's better," he said in relief. Now he could see.
"If the cops stop us because of that, we're all in deep, you know that, right?" Lupin said patiently.
"You can walk," Marcus snapped.
"Sorry, you're doing good. Remember to cancel it once we hit civilization," Lupin said quickly. "Man, I thought my grandfather was a touchy driver," he muttered, sharing a look with Jigen. Who laughed and shook his head. "Marcus, can we say patience?"
"Can you say sexless," Marcus snapped back. "Your lover is underaged."
"How did he deage fifteen years?" Jigen asked. "Ours only went ten."
"I have not a clue," Marcus admitted, digging out his phone to hand over. "He's the last one I called."
Jigen hit the send button, dialing that number. "Hey, Ripper, question," he said in greeting. "How did Xander deage fifteen years. No, sixteen." He grimaced. "Thanks." He looked back at Lupin. "He's gone walking through the house shouting for Ethan to quit playing with the other vampires." He listened to the surly grunt. "How did Xander deage to sixteen?" He waited through the shocked silence and the spluttering. "Yeah, fifteen years, not ten. How?" He listened as the man grabbed a few things to flip through, coming up with a 'not a clue'. "Okay then. Connor's getting his crew back to his place with Buffy. We're taking Xander back with us right now. No, Goemon just explained it and apologized. Yeah, really to the house. We'll let Marcus and Bix pick up the kids tomorrow. Why?" He smirked. "That's fine though. He needs the chaos, right?" He hung up, looking back at the trio in the backseat. "Ethan's not sure how he deaged that far but he's looking into it. Then he'll work on fixing Buffy afterwards. He's leaving Willow alone for now. The kids are driving Pops nutso. Totally, he came out with his hair standing on end like he had been tugging on it again." He smirked at Xander. "Don't worry, we'll get it fixed soon enough."
"Doesn't your dad like the kids?" Xander asked.
"Pops is a nickname, he's not any of our parents," Goemon said quietly. "He asked?" Jigen nodded. "How did he know?" Jigen glanced at Xander. "Point." He looked at Lupin. "I'm sure we'll be seeing a happy inspector in a few months."
"Whoa, another cop? Are you guys bad guys? I thought I hunted demons or something."
"Well, you do," Jigen admitted. "Don't worry about that right now, Xander. You're not wanted by the cops. Got it?" Xander nodded quickly. "Good. Marcus, we're heading onto the main road, you can go faster now that the destruction is over with." Marcus sped up with a sigh.
"Light spell," Lupin reminded him.
Marcus stopped the car and got out, walking up the road to scream.
"Okay then, we'll let him destress. Jigen, can you drive? I'm in pain."
"Sure, boss." He got out, leaning on his door. "Hey, bright boy. Want me to drive? Lupin can get critical at times."
"No, really?" Marcus said bitterly. "Go ahead. I left the keys in there. I'll get back home myself so I don't have to deal with any of you complaining about my driving. It's not like I've been doing it for over a year!"
"You can have more practice when we get home, kid. Get in. Xander might need you."
Marcus slumped and came back, taking Jigen's seat so he could drive. He buckled in then turned partially around. "How are you feeling, Xander? A headache? Any car sickness?"
"No, I'm pretty good," he admitted. "Do I usually get carsick?"
"Not usually but sometimes your sinuses bother you and you do get a bit queasy. Tell me if you do and I'll make Jigen stop so you can rest for a bit."
"Sure. You're really kinda nice. I usually like you, right?"
"Oh, definitely. We spar together all the time," Marcus assured him with a small smile. "Don't worry, we'll have someone fix this for you before your head starts to hurt."
"Sure. Can I nap?"
"Go ahead," Lupin said soothingly. He looked at Marcus. "I'll do a review of high-speed driving with you when we get back, while my thigh heals."
"Yes, Lupin," he said with an eye-roll. He turned around to face forward. "The other direction, Jigen, unless you want to head North."
Jigen turned the car around and headed back the other way, heading for the signs that said 'LA'.
Dawn looked up as she was pounced by the vampire Ripper, scowling at him. "Get your cold, dreary body off me," she complained.
He laughed and smirked at her. "Oooh, should I find a heating pad?"
"We have stakes around here," Zenigata said from behind his newspaper. "She did teach me how to use one. Are you here to pick up the kids?"
"No, they'll be doing it later tonight or early tomorrow morning. We just heard from them, they have Xander back. He's sixteen," he said smugly. The newspaper came down and the inspector looked very interested in that bit of news. "Plus he has no memories of any of this. Didn't even realize he had kids from what we've heard." He smirked at them. "Ethan wanted to know if you had his book on memory charms, Dawn."
"Of course I do. It's in the study, second locked bookcase beside my desk." He nodded and headed that way so she looked at her husband. "Try it," she said, knowing what he was thinking. "Lupin will shoot you for real this time."
"If he's sleeping with someone underaged, then he's in violation of the law," he said happily. "I can arrest him on that."
"There's no one to make a complaint," Dawn warned. "Plus, I doubt he's sleeping with Xander at the moment. He wouldn't take advantage of him. A young woman yes, but not Xander. Besides, a sixteen-year-old Xander was a geeky, skinny thing with muscles."
"Who looked good in a speedo," Oz said as he walked in. "Sixteen?" Dawn nodded, giving him a small grin. "Poor guy." He shook his head. "Wish I was, then I wouldn't be furry now and then." He looked back behind him as Ripper came back whistling happily. "Find something?"
"My diary." He waved it. "And his book. Thanks, Dawn. He wanted a call whenever you had a few free moments to help him brainstorm. My other self is frustrating him again. He's ready to stake him to the lawn naked for a bit. Again." He winked and disappeared, heading home.
"Again?" Oz asked, shaking his head. "We should have the 'protect our librarian better' speech with Ethan." He looked at Dawn. "We're done."
"Good. Ethan could use the notes."
"He might, but they weren't keeping them in the computer files."
"None?" Zenigata asked. Oz shook his head. "Nothing at all?"
"Nope. I'm guessing he was either behind or doing it on paper. In which case Wes probably saved them. It's interesting, he wanted to know how Xander did all that, and then was going to breed him to Buffy and Willow to get two great warriors for him to raise."
"The boy would have kicked his ass," Zenigata said dryly.
"Only if he was alive," Oz pointed out. "Not much reason for him to be after sucking him dry of sperm a few times." He sat down between them. "From what little he did note, he was about two weeks away from doing that to Xander. He wanted the first one to be a warm transfer and neither of the girls was in the right part of their cycles." Dawn shuddered and her husband reached across the table to grab her hand to hold. "His last note was that he was frustrated. Xander had always seemed so powerful and super-strong before but the deaging seems to have taken some of that."
"More likely it's the lack of memories. The reason Xander's so strong is because he's survived all he's went through," Zenigata pointed out. "Half of his strength is stubbornness." The younger people looked at him. "Seriously. I've had to chase a few people who have lived through horrific events. They're always harder to catch because they've lived through horrible things that make your soul go numb. It hardens them to surviving even though everything is taken away from them. That's why Xander's so hard to catch and why he can and does so much within the group. Not because Lupin prompts him, but because he's making backup plans."
"He does," Dawn agreed, shocking Oz. "While I was still there, he was always studying something because he *knew* David and I wouldn't take it on. He's learning languages as far as the first level so they don't have to deal with it. He learned accounting so we didn't have to deal with it. Even back in that other timeline he had backup plans. Including his anime company and a security company that was totally separate from his real life." Zenigata nodded, thinking about it. "The guy is not gonna be caught for some dumb mistake, some bimbo with big tits, or even for those who want to catch him. He'll die on the job."
"It's more likely he will now," Zenigata agreed. "Before he had the stabilizing influence of being older and having lived longer. Now he's a teenager again. Lupin and Jigen can't sleep with him or they're in trouble and they know it. They can't really stabilize him to the point where he had been. We're about to see the return of the Lavelle who went through multiple whorehouses in one week and wore a good number of prostitutes out."
Oz shook suddenly. "I can't imagine Xander being like that. He was always one of those guys who wanted affection."
"Which he gets, but not that way anymore," Zenigata said happily. "That'll make him easier to catch."
"If he doesn't have to retrain everything," Dawn pointed out. "That means they'll be spending more time at home for at least another six months."
"It's been too long, Lupin will go on a job soon," the inspector said wisely, going back to his morning paper. "Dawn, are you all right? You looked pale."
"I'm fine," she promised, looking around. "Where are the kids?"
"Arsene and Melissa were helping me," Oz admitted. "I think they went to play in the backyard with your kids. Either that or Ishi and Lotus are running katas and they're all doing that." He stood up and pushed back down his shirt. "Need anything since I'm up?" Dawn held up her coffeecup so he refilled it for her. "Anything else?"
"Make sure none of the kids have died yet," Zenigata told him. "They put that horrible picture in the paper."
"I saw," Dawn said with a small smirk. "I think you looked adorable all messed up from me." She smirked at him when the paper lowered again. "You did."
He 'humph'ed and then took her coffee to get a few sips of it. "We need to talk about redecorating our bedroom, Dawn. I feel like I'm floating in mid-space."
"You don't like the dark blue theme?" He shook his head. "Hmm. Lighter blue? Something in the medium range?"
"Or green," Oz suggested, walking away.
"Green is a good color," he agreed. "Maybe a light green. Or some tan. I do like tan."
She patted him on the hand, taking back her cup. "I'm not painting our bedroom the color of your overcoat, Zenny. It looks like dried mustard or that nasty diaper filling color. Not a chance in any hell." He frowned at her. "You should change overcoats anyway. You said yours had ripped pockets."
"We'll see." He folded the paper and stood up with a stretch. "Done?" She nodded, gulping the rest of her coffee. "Good. Then let's get to work on your half of the closet. You really don't need all those catsuits anymore."
"Tough." She beamed at him. "You know I still wear them."
"I do," he agreed with a blush. "Quite shocking, especially when the Commissioner walks in to find you leaning me against the wall and starting to mug me in that red one." She leered at him. "Dawn, you nearly gave him a heart attack."
"Did not. He said we were cute newlyweds. That's why he told us not to have sex in the changing rooms like everyone else does." She reached over to tweak his stomach, grinning at him. "I'm not giving up my wardrobe unless you're gonna buy me a whole new one, Zenny. I like my catsuits. You like me in them."
"Yes, but I'd like to have them kept around the house," he complained. "Going out to the store in one makes people stare at you. I'll have to get jealous."
"Why? I'm not giving it away, babe, or selling it. The only person who gets me now is you." She tweaked him again, grinning when he scowled. "Are you jealous that the big, butch, smoking woman hit on me?" she teased. He nodded, pulling her up and around the table to kiss her as hard as he could. "Hmm. Maybe we should go stare at the bedroom to figure out what color we can both stand." He smirked and led her upstairs to spend some alone time with her. It was his favorite thing about their marriage of convenience.
Hey, anyone want to write the scenes from where Ethan, Ripper, and Rupert get to LA to deal with the diminished Buffy and WIllow?
To Part 34