NC-17, Lupin/Sylvia/Xander, Jigen/Sylvia

Conventions and Madness

Lotus looked up as someone called her name, frowning at them. She didn't know this person.  She looked around the open-air market, but all of her family was elsewhere.  No one had wanted to look at plants with her and her Uncle Marcus was over looking at ritual weapons again.  "You are?" she asked.  The man stopped in front of her and bowed.  "Again, a name and a reason for making me stop," she said firmly.  "Or else I kick your ass."

"I am Mar Ducal," he said firmly, staring down at her.  "You are Lotus Goemon, daughter of Fujiko Mine."

"How dare you mention her in front of me," she hissed, eyes narrowing.  "Who are you and what do you want?"

"We merely wanted to inform you that your mother was in custody," he said, stepping away from her.  "I was sent as a messenger to your father.  May I follow you back to him?"

"Marcus!" she yelled.  He came trotting back.  "He wants to talk to Father about the bitch."

"Do not say such words," Marcus chastised gently, giving her a reprimanding look.

"My mother, Uncle Marcus," she said icily.

"Oh, never mind then," he said with a small grin for her.  He looked at the messenger.  "Follow me.  Lotus, you are not to leave this area of the market until one of us come for you.  I trust some of the people around here to protect you."

"I can protect myself," she said impatiently.  "Go, before he makes me want to hurl.  Probably a fireball."  Marcus led the messenger off and she took a deep breath before going back to her shopping.  Her teacher's lists were quite extensive and she had no idea what a few of them were for yet.  She moved onto the next stall and the woman inside gave her a long look. "I'm learning herbal magic," she said with a shrug, handing over her list.  "I don't know exactly what all of them are yet."

The woman gave her a disapproving look.  "Very well.  Come inside.  You will burn if you don't."

"I'm wearing sunscreen, and I don't know you that well.  Besides, I'm a Goemon, I don't burn."

The woman's look softened some.  "You are Lotus?"  She nodded.  "Then I will help," she agreed.  "My ways and yours are complimentary and your Order has advised those of us friendly to aid you where we can since you do not live near them most of the time."

"Cool beans," she agreed, letting the woman help her shop and taking her advice on who to talk to about what she didn't have.   She came out of that section of the market with a few large bags, including some seeds and instructions on growing them.  Some of this was much more complicated than she had thought it would be.  Some of them had to be carefully gathered at certain times with certain implements.  One of them wouldn't grow well with any magic around it at all.   She was going to have to find out how to do a garden when she didn't stay in one place for very long.  Maybe that teleporting spell?  She ran into a familiar back and grimaced.  "Ishi...."  She stopped and looked at the man, then blinked a few times.  "Well, you look like you're family, but I don't know you.  Who are you?"

The man gaped at her, then shook his head.  "I'm from the Clan of a Hundred Nations."

"I'm Lotus Goemon."

"Then we share ancestors," he said respectfully.  "Is your father about?  I seek him."

"You'd have to follow the ranting.  They're somewhere."  She looked around then shook out her fingers after taking out a small piece of her father's kimono, from the seam nearest his armpit, and cast a small tracking charm on it.  Then she followed it right to her father.  "Look who I ran into, literally."

"Kenshi," Goemon said, staring at him.  "Why are you here?"

"I came to speak with you," he said quietly.  "She uses magic?"

"Often," he said, looking at his daughter.  "Here?"

"Tracking charm," she defended.  "I've got a lot of gardening to do."  He scowled.  "Seriously.  My herbology lessons are starting, father.  I am a nature person."  He shook his head and left it with the others while he walked his clansman off.  "Who's he?"

Ishi looked, then shrugged.  "Never seen him before."

Lupin coughed.  "They're from the same clan," he explained.  "So they're probably distant cousins."

"So, are you going to let my mother rot, like she deserves?" Lotus asked him.

He shrugged.  "We haven't talked about it yet, Lotus."

"Fine," she sighed.  "Disrupt our lives more, Uncle Lupin.  I've still got a lot of gardening to do."  She took her brother's arms.  "I'm going to need some help in the garden, and you need a break.  It'll be helpful."

"Why do I have a sudden vision of me pulling a plow?" he asked.

"Because you think in Imperialist times?" she suggested.  "Maybe a rototiller, but it's mechanical and has a motor so you'd be pushing the plow.  Mostly I'll need someone to help me plant things and mark them."

"You do realize we're leaving again in another four weeks?" Jigen asked.  She nodded with a sigh.  "Fine.  As long as you keep that in mind."

"I try really hard, Uncle, but I've got to learn it sometime."

"We know," Lupin assured her.  "We'll help you however we can, you know that.  Even if someone does have to teach you how to move yourself around the country to get to your garden back at the house."

"She's not old enough yet, it can do odd things to her body," Xander told him.  "Once in a while is fine, depending on it daily could warp her structure.  She'll turn into a garden gnome or something."

"Uncle!" she protested with a scowl.  "Mean bastard!"

"Language," he father snapped without looking to see which one it was.

"He said I was going to become a garden gnome!"


"Fine.  Sorry, dad."  She stuck her tongue out at him and her brother smacked her across the back of the head. "Ow!"  She looked and found Kenji leaning down to do it.  "Meanie!"  She took him to hold, patting him on the back.  "Don't pick up bad manners, Kenji.  Become more like your middle name."

"Baba," he said, showing off the stuffed sheep he had found.

"Awww, isn't that cute," Xander cooed.

"I had one of those."

"You took away what little sanity we had with it at the time too," Lupin assured her.  "Not only was it grazing on the sheets, you used to dance it across us and keep babbling bababa all day."

"Hey, I didn't say moo, give me some credit," she complained.  "I couldn't have been much older."  She grinned at her brother.  "That's a very pretty sheep, Kenji.  Can you say sheep?"


"Close enough," she agreed with a smile.  She kissed him and handed him back.  "Here you go.  They're stronger than I am.  Where are my bags?"  Sierra coughed and waved them.  "Thanks, guys.  I also got the recipe for a killer skin helping masque that we'll work on tonight, as soon as I find some natural oatmeal."

"That way," Jigen said, pointing.  The whole family walked that way, trusting Goemon to catch up.  He looked at Bix, who had Yu on her back.  "You all right?  We can take some of them."

"No, I'm fine," she promised.  She pointed behind her at where Fred and Sarah were leashed to her obi.  "They're behaving again."

Xander looked at Lupin.  "When was the sheep thing?  I don't remember that," he said quietly.

"While you were doing all the conventions in the US and we couldn't find you," he said with a grin.  "That's why we were already insane."

"Okay then."  He grinned back.  "I didn't want to think I still had some gaps.  You know, don't want to make you work that hard again," he said with a nudge.

"Oh, it was my pleasure," Lupin assured him smugly.  "Then again, if you want, I can always try again, just in case you've got any gaps left."

"If I have to be good, he should have to be good too," Arsene complained.

"He's an adult, they can get away with shit," Ishi reminded her.  He stiffened when he saw a guard coming their ways.  "Yo, 'rents?"  The adults all looked at where he was looking.

"You'd think, in this day and age, that people would have tolerance by now," Xander complained.

"Tolerance is next to impotence on the bigot's list of evil things," Arsene said.

Her father looked at Jigen.  "Do I want to congratulate her or reprimand her?"

"That was a cute quip," he offered.  "No talking about impotence around your father, Arsene.  Remember, if he catches that disease, your other father will go insane and take the rest of us with him."

"Fortunately they make drugs for that now," Lotus said grimly.  "Not for women with that problem of course, but for men there's all sorts of help."

"Sis, I'm sure you can find something herbal for those times, I'm also sure you'll have a lot of fun testing it when yours fails," Ishi said smugly.  She hit him and he winced, rubbing his arm.  "Ow!  Shrew!"

"Keep it up," she warned. "I'm learning transformations next."

"Daughter," Goemon snapped as he walked up behind them.

"Father, he started it.  Kindly get your thong out of its present twist and rejoin the rest of us wearing comfortable underwear."  He glared at her and she glared right back.  "He started it, not me.  He reaped the rewards of his crap this time.  Either start to treat us fairly or don't do it at all."

"I saw you hit him."

"You saw me hit him because of the insinuation he just made," she corrected.  "Get it right!"  She stomped off.

"Enough of the sniping!" Xander said firmly.  "Or else I'm pulling out the baby midol!  For all of you!" he said, glaring at Goemon.  "Ishi started it and she finished it.  Quit picking on the girl for sticking up for herself.  One day, your life may depend on hers and her skills."  Goemon looked down.  "Thank you!  Finally!"  He shook his head and went to look at a stall off the walkway.  He felt a hand on his pants and looked down, unclipping Fred to pick him up.  "Hey.  Did you want a cuddle?"  He cuddled his son gently.  "There, how's that?"

"Bad?" he asked, pointing at the knives.

"Only if they're used on you," he said with a grin.  "That's very good though.  Good boy, Fred."  Fred grinned and gave him a sloppy kiss on the cheek.  "Thanks, little man.  Come on, let's go calm down Uncle Goemon."  Goemon was still glaring at his daughter's back.  "Goemon, we love you, man, but would you mind joining us here in the twenty-first century for a few minutes please?  I know you love the traditional ways and we love that about you, but girls are allowed to defend themselves, even against those pesky boy creatures.  Don't believe me, ask Bix.  Love the daughter that you have, man, not the daughter you thought you had. Otherwise we're leaving you with childcare alone tonight while we go out and party on the beach."

Goemon gave him a long look.  "It is not right that the children fight so."

"Then yell at your son for insinuating that she'd be testing impotence medicines on herself."

Goemon glared at his son, who wilted. "Apologize, now."

"Yes, sir.  Sorry, Lotus."  He didn't get an answer so he trotted off the direction she had gone.  "Lotus?"  She was either ignoring him or not in hearing distance.  "Lotus?" he called a bit louder.  "Come on, dad wants to apologize and so do I."  Still no answer so he trudged on, finding another part of the market in front of him.  He found his sister in front of a weapon's stall.  "I'm sorry, sis."

"Go away before I test it on you, and take that antique we call Father with you," she hissed.  "I'm tired of being bad for having internal sexual organs."

"He just yelled at me for picking on you," he promised.

She turned to look at him, the knife comfortable in her hand.  "Really?  And what about how it's automatically my fault each and every time you start on me?  Is that suddenly going to stop too?"

He swallowed, noticing how the hand with the knife had just clutched the handle tighter.  Her arm looked like it was fighting the action to stab him.  "I'm sorry, Lotus. I'll work on my habit of picking on you.  I really will.  I'll be a better big brother."

She snorted. "Yeah, and that'll work for how long?"  She turned away and went back to her browsing, taking that knife and another one for chopping herbs.  "Thank you."  She paid and took the packages, heading off in another direction.  "Tell father I'll be back tonight."

"Lotus, you're ten, you can't be out without an escort," he called after her.  "It's not healthy.  People can attack you."

She spun and glared at him.  "Really?  And now I'm helpless as well?  I sure as hell kick your ass each and every practice, Ishi.  Go away before I prove it in front of everyone here."  She turned and stomped off again.

He gave her a head start then tracked her through the market, shadowing her.  He was right, someone did approach her and she did quip him first and then hit him when he tried to grab her.  He started to move closer, but Lotus got him onto the ground and had one of her new daggers at his throat before he could move.

"People who would drag children away make me violent and ill," she warned.  "You do *not* grab a child and take them with you unless they're your own."  She pressed the dagger a bit more firmly against his throat.  "I will kill those who try to harm me.  I am a daughter, but I am one hell of a bitch in my own right and very well trained."  She got off him and grabbed her things, kicking him to get him off one of the packages so she could tuck the dagger back into it.  "Go away, now."  He scurried backwards until he ran into something then stood up and ran off.  She glared at the nearest shopkeeper.  "It seems to be a bad day for thinking I'm helpless."  She walked around that section, looking over all the wares.  She found a few pots she liked but she wasn't in the mood to carry them.  She looked at the shopkeeper. "I may be back for some of those.  I'm learning to garden."  She walked on, ignoring the people staring at her, including her brother.  "Ishi, go away!" she called.

"Fat fucking chance," he said as he walked up to where she was waiting.  "He could have more friends."


"Lotus, we're children, we're not supposed to have to fight idiots like that. That's what parents are for."

"Yeah, well, he's got two new sons who need his special brand of instruction, the same as you did."  She pushed past him and headed into a darker feeling section of the market.  She thought about turning around but she knew this section led to the outer wall and if she turned around she'd probably run into someone worse.  She decided to walk past the peddlers of flesh and liquor instead.  No one here could beat her and if they tried then she'd deal with them, one way or another.

"Where are you going, little one?" a large female asked.

"Out of the market.  I know the outer wall is near this section."

"Do you not have parents?"

"I have a father, he's being an asshole.  As is my brother, who probably went running for him.  All I want to do is leave."

"There are those here who would harm you."

She snickered. "I'm not the innocent I seem," she offered.  "I'm a warrior in my own right.  They'd have one hell of a battle on their hands."  She nodded politely.  "Thank you for not trying to grab me."  She walked around the woman and the woman did try to grab her but she dodged the attempt and put her onto her stomach on the pavement within moments.  "Do not try again," she said complacently.  "I'm not in the nicest of moods."  She turned and glared at the men standing around.  "I've already had to kill to protect myself, get out of my way."  A few of them gave her a long look so she pulled out the dagger, tucking the other knife down her shirt.  She flexed her grip to make sure it was solid, then walked again. "Move or be hurt.  Remember, I'm at that height to hit your stomach.  Or lower."  Most of them got out of her way but a large man stood in her way so she growled.  "Move, now."

"No," he said with a chuckle.  "You'd never hurt anyone."  She moved in a flash of light and his pants were falling down around his ankles. "Needed to see it first?" he laughed.

"No, I needed to make sure it was there before I cut it off," she spat.  "Men like you should all be castrated and kept in pens.  All men should."  He laughed longer then lunged for her but she got him across the throat, barely, as she jumped up to get over his shoulder.  She walked away wiping off her dagger.  "I warned you.  I'm not the nice little girl I appear to be."  She headed on, finding the gateway a few streets over.  The guard gave her an alarmed look.  "I took a wrong turn," she explained.  She put up the dagger.  "For cutting herbs."  She smiled at him.  "I'm learning how to garden."  The guard gave her a longer look.  "Really."

"They did not hurt you?"

"I'm taking self-defense lessons.  The one who tried ended up on the ground. My father teaches it."  She straightened up.  "I've got to get back.  Where is the cab stand?"

"The next block down.  Let me walk you down there, just in case."  He walked her down to the cab stand, making sure she got into one.  "She came out of the East Gate," he warned the cabbie.

He looked at the girl, then at the guard.  "Her?"

"Her," he agreed.

"Fine, I'll be careful."  He got into the cab and looked back at her.  "Are you going to rob me?"

"It'd be stupid of me to announce that I was, but I'm not," she said gently.  "I just need to get back to my hotel.  I got turned around and hurting someone always gives me a headache."

"Fine."  He pulled away from the curb.  "Which hotel?"

"The Imperial."  He sped up, taking her there.  It was a higher class hotel, but not palatial by any means.  It was somewhere tourists liked to stay.  She paid what was on the meter without question and left a small tip before heading inside.  The woman at the desk gave her a long look.  "I got separated because my father was being a butthole.  I'm going upstairs.  Can I have someone let me in?"

"Of course."  She called over one of the bellhops, giving him a temporary key.  "Take her up to her room."  She watched as the girl walked off.  Then she made a note on the daily log in case something came of it.  She didn't want to get in trouble for a young girl running away from her parent.


Ishi walked into the suite and sighed in relief.  "She is here!"  The rest of them charged in.  "Do you know how stupid that was!" he shouted.  "You could have been killed!"

She looked up from her mixing, giving him a bland look.  "You're making me have a prozac moment.  I'd leave me alone now."  He backed away from her.  She went back to mixing.  "Had you called here, they would have told I was back.  Think of the obvious, it is what you trained us to do unless we were in danger."

"You mean like walking past the child molesters?" Xander asked.  "Nearly getting kidnaped, little things like that?"

"I was perfectly safe.  I do have a bit of training in case you didn't realize."

"Yes, but you put yourself in a situation where you had to use it.  That is not what you are to do with your training," Goemon reminded her. "That was to get away in case you needed it, not to allow you to go out and seek fights.  You are not an assassin, you are not an adult, and you are not fully trained yet."

She gave him a long look.  "No, but I sure as hell proved I'm good enough to get away from people when I get turned around because you sent my constant annoyance after me again.  Really, father, think about this.  If it were my brother, would you be ranting?"

"Yes!" he said firmly.  "Had he done this I would be taking it out on him.  The only thing stopping me at the moment is that you're younger!"  She scowled at him and he glared back.  "You are not to leave my side for the next six months, daughter, for any reason."

"Unless we're on a job," Lupin inserted.  "Then she can stay at the hotel."

"Fine," Goemon agreed. "That would be safer.  There is nothing that should have prompted you to go through that section of the market.  There is nothing that should have given you the idea that you are trained enough to deal with those sort.  You're ten, not fifty.  Not fully trained either."

"Goemon, quit spitting," Xander said calmly, walking closer slowly, just in case Goemon lost it and lashed out at them.  "Lotus, you put yourself into a lot of danger.  There was no reason to do that.  You could have gone around that section.  You could have easily gone around that section and had a direct line to the gates.  The fact that you chose to go forward into a situation that was more dangerous than you could have realized showed that you have bad judgement.  That was a situation that none of the adults would have gone into alone."

"Only a few of them tried anything and I stopped them!" she defended.

"Honey, two of the people down there were mine," Lupin told her calmly, arms crossed over his chest.  "They knew who you were.  The fact that any of them tried you even knowing who you were is a bad thing."  She gaped at him and he nodded.  "Yeah, they did.  That means that they were either testing you or didn't care because they wanted you that badly.  They wouldn't have stopped if one of my people hadn't come out and stopped one of them.  The guy you nicked on the throat was also shot in the blubber.  That's why you got away.  Otherwise we'd be pulling your ass out of a room and killing people on your behalf while your father brought you to the hospital."  She went pale.  "You are not well enough trained to handle real combat yet.  Neither is Ishi, for all that he's had to on occasion.  Neither of you have enough experience or training yet.  Your father took *years* to get to the point where he is and most of that after puberty had set in.  We started earlier with you guys, but you're only about half trained at best."  He shrugged at her hurt look.  "The truth may hurt but it's better you hear it from me than your father blistering your ass for you.  By the way, that knife technique wasn't that good. Your grip was backwards and it could have taken it out of your hand, leaving you weaponless until you had pulled the other out."  He sat down and Fred launched himself into his lap.  "Hey, Fred."  He patted the baby on the back.  "We like you, Lotus, we want to keep you alive and around.   Can you maybe help us with that?"

"Sorry," she said meekly, glancing at her father.  "I just got so mad and I knew that section had a gate nearby."

"Then the wise thing would have been to stop, pull out the map you were given, and look it over," Xander said firmly.  "Not to boldly go where no other children go.  You're not a starship."  She grimaced at him.  "Do you know what those sort do to children?" he asked, his voice going up.  "How they hurt them repeatedly and then kill them?"

Goemon looked at him.  "Calm yourself.  It was managed and she will not be that dumb again," he ordered.  Xander tried but he ended up hugging Sarah until she complained, and she never complained.  He looked at his daughter. "Even though I was wrong to chastise you for retaliating, you were even more wrong to stomp off that way.  It was a childish action."

"No, father, it kept me from hitting someone, namely you."  She stood up to him.  "You may not realize this, but my powers can and will come out under emotional stress, like what you give me constantly because I'm a girl.  I walked away to save you."  She stomped off, slamming her bedroom door.

Goemon looked at Marcus.  "It's true," Marcus admitted. "That's how I got chained to a floor and berated for months on end.  Magic is partially based on your will and your emotions.  Hers were running high and she did control it.  The fact that she kept going was wrong but the desire not to smite you wasn't."

"She can do that?"

"She'd regret it later, but she could easily have hurt you badly at the very least," Xander agreed.  "I can and I'm less powerful than she is.  I've seen Rupert take someone out with his when he got upset."  He looked up at his buddy.  "She shouldn't have gone that far away and she shouldn't have kept going, but it showed some sense to take herself out of the situation that was upsetting her that way."

"Walking away is always preferable to acting against someone harming you," Marcus agreed.  "There could have been any great manner of things she could have done.  Think about what she did to the kitsune the last time she got so mad at them.  That was only a tree."

Goemon nodded.  "Thank you.  I will talk with her further once she's calm."

"No, it's time to finish this," Ishi decided, going to pull his sister out of her bedroom.  He grabbed her and carried her out kicking at him, putting her in front of her father.  "You've got to listen this time, Lotus.  You're good to not smite father dead, but you kept going.  You could have asked me to walk you back.  You could have come back and gotten one of the other adults, who always stick up for you.  Hell, even I would have walked you out by then.  Show a bit of sense now and then, that's what we're yelling about. You walked into the section of drunk, horny, stupid people who were ready to nail anything that moved, pretty or not.  Since you're pretty, you're young, and you're little, they would have loved you.  It's time you heard the truth.  You've got an ego the size of Lavelle's when he's shooting targets.  It's going to be your downfall."  She opened her mouth and he scowled.  "Do not start, young lady!  You nearly fucked up your life so badly that nothing would have made it better!" he shouted.  "You nearly died horribly, with torture beforehand!"  She swallowed, nodding.  "The smart thing, what you've been trained to do, was to get someone bigger to walk you out because that's the wise thing for children to do when they're surrounded by bigger people.  You are a child.  I am a child.  All of us but Father and Uncle Jigen might as well be children and we all know better than to walk into that section without backup!"  She flinched.  "Now, you worried father ill.  You worried everyone ill.  Dad actually got sick when he heard!  I want you to apologize and I want one now!"

"You're not my parent," she hissed.

"I may not be, but I'm the closest you're coming to someone still giving a damn about your continued existence outside of a convent school at the moment."

"Not true," Goemon interjected.  "Ishi, it is for me to correct her, not you, though you were much calmer than I had expected."  He forced his daughter to turn around.  "You endangered your life on purpose.  How do you think we would have felt if you had died?"

"Dad, there are days when I'm pretty damn sure the only one who'd miss me is Arsene and the good kids," she said honestly.  He looked stunned.  "It's kinda obvious you didn't want me to be your daughter."

"No, I did expect to have a normal little girl," he admitted.  "Not some fierce woman who is willing to endanger everything over a temper tantrum."  She sighed. "It is true and you know it."

"Father, reality here, okay?  You blame me each and every time Ishi and I get into it.  Even when he starts it.  I'm always at fault.  Is it because I'm not some traditional woman?  If I turned into Bix would you actually start to love me again?"

"I've never stopped," he said calmly.  "I've never stopped loving you, but you do require more correction than he does.  Your temper is greater, your attitude is atrocious, and there are times when I think you and Arsene are switching bodies."  She groaned.  "I would like you to be *my* daughter, not Lupin's.  Not Marcus'.  You seemed to prefer them.  You never come to me for anything, not since you were six.  I wish you had.  I would have shared many more things with you, but I don't understand you most days.  I do not understand magic, nor do I understand the connection you have to every tree, plant, and blade of grass on the planet.  I would wish that you would work with me to understand you better.  I would listen if you tried, daughter.  All I can see so far is that you have an attitude problem that needs to be corrected in a few of you children."

"Gee, dad.  To be a woman in crime, you've got to be a bit stronger," Lotus said bitterly.  "Don't believe me, ask Uncle Xander."

"Oh, no, you're not laying this at my feet," Xander said quickly.  "You may need to be a bit stronger and better, but that doesn't mean that your attitude, Arsene's attitude as well, are needed.  That's arrogance, not ability.  Only ability speaks in our lives.  You guys have ability but you don't have the attitude down yet.  Because of that no one would ever hire either of you at the moment.  Name, skills, and all that good stuff is great, but people want the people that they trust to do the job and not pull an attitude or brag about it."

Lupin nodded. "True.  The attitude needs to be pared back.  None of the fences will take attitude.  None of the other bosses will take it. No one really wants to deal with it. You may be good, but in our world actions always speak louder.  Words always detract from your actions."

"And today your actions were that of a six-year-old," Goemon finished.  "Therefore, you are grounded to the room, or to my side, until you have corrected it.  In that time, you will be training harder since you seem to want to get into trouble.  Your other lessons will be pushed back until then."  She gaped at him.  "I do not care, daughter.  Your attitude sucks."

"It does," Jigen agreed, grabbing her to sit down with her.  "Remember when you were little and you met Tokyo's Don?"  She nodded. "Well, even he's noticed your attitude.  He asked if it was puberty, he was hoping you weren't ruined."  She swallowed.  "Now, you're smart.  Figure it out."

"I just want to be treated like an equal," she whined.

"Then act like it," he noted.  "Ishi should know better than to pick on you.  He now feels horrible because you could have been killed when you walked away from his fighting with you."  She looked down again.  "It would have partially been his fault if you had gotten hurt."  He tipped her chin back up.  "You've got a choice.  You can finish growing up or you can keep on this way and become someone's spoiled princess since no one will ever hire you.  I'm sure Ethan knows a nice few boys you can date if you want out of the life."


"Tough," Lupin said calmly.  "He's right.  Your attitude is so wrong it's not funny, Lotus.  Sometimes parents have to yell to protect you.  The same as your big brother is supposed to be watching out for you."

"The same way you do Kenji and Yu," Xander added.  "He's right. You've got that snotty cheerleader vibe down real well, Lotus.  I'm sure you're gonna love it when you start school this fall.  There's going to be a bunch of girls around who have that same attitude for anything beneath them."

"I'm not beneath them!"

"You will be unless they find a use for you or until you prove you're better.  All the training in the world won't impress them.   You're going to have to be yourself and figure out your place in a new social hierarchy and your first day will determine that.  Your attitude is going to get you shunned by everyone."  Xander sat down, looking over at her.  "It's pitiful that you can't figure out how to control your temper by now.  You should be able to express yourself better.  On the other hand, your brother has a habit of trying even your father's patience.  You're both in that bad area of time where your lives are going odd.  You're going to have to figure it out soon though, because you're creating your adult persona at the moment.  Unless you want to be branded as a bitch for eternity, I'd straighten up soon and figure this shit out."

"I'm sorry my temper got the better of me, but you've got to admit it's unfair!" she complained.

"We do, and your father agrees," Xander reminded her.  She looked at her father and he nodded.  "That's why each and every time you two fight, you're both getting it in the ass."  He stood up.  "Now, go to your room for the rest of the night.  We'll get dinner sent up for you."  She slid off her uncle's lap and went back to her room.  "I feel bad now," he admitted.

"Me too," Goemon agreed.  He looked at his son.  "This is partially your fault.  You know better as well."

Ishi sighed. "I don't know why I do it, it just seems fun."

"It's part of being a brother, but you're doing it a bit too much and taking too much pleasure from it," Xander told him.  "I've observed this from other families with children.  Now, go to *your* room and think about it."  Ishi nodded and headed that way.  Xander looked at the other kids.  "Nap time!"

"Some of us are too old to take a nap, Father, can we read instead?" Melissa asked.

"As long as it's either a textbook or something fun," Lupin agreed. "Nothing trashy, Arsene."

"I've still got a history paper to do," she reminded him, going to the room she was sharing to work on her homework.  Lotus was lying on her bed staring at the ceiling.  "You really were in danger.  Daddy nearly blew steam out his ears when someone called him."


"Next time you'll know better," Arsene reminded her.

"She's to be thinking," her father called from the other side of the door.

"Yes, dad."  She pulled out her history textbook and flipped to the correct section, getting down all the pertinent facts for the paper that was due in a few days.  "At least school'll mean that we get real teachers and less papers."

"Papers are good," Lotus assured her.  "It means I get to pick what I want to learn."  She flipped onto her side to look at her buddy.  "It was dumb, huh?"  Arsene looked at her and nodded quickly.  "I'm sorry I worried you guys."

"You've got this great habit of reacting and then thinking, Lotus, switch the two sometimes."

"Memo from the pot to the kettle re: color issues," Xander said from the doorway.   "She's supposed to be thinking and you're supposed to be doing homework.  We won't have you behind when you go in, even if we have to take the summer off and drill knowledge into your heads."

"We're not behind, I'm a year ahead in science," Arsene complained.  "So's Lotus."

"Yes, but you're both behind in history and geography.  Ishi's behind in grammar. You're all behind in something and most of it's about six months behind.  So therefore you will all study.  Or else you'll be put into a lower grade.  That would separate you guys more and we don't want that.  We want you guys to go in for the same grade."

Arsene sighed. "Yes, dad."

"Thank you.  Lotus, remember that you do have a philosophy exam to take."  He closed the door and went to curl up on his end of the couch.  "She's going back to her homework," he said as he sat down.  "Now what?"

"Now, we've got to plan what to do with them during jobs," Lupin pointed out.  "Bix asked for a few weeks off."

"We have a job coming up?" Xander asked.  "Why didn't you tell me?"

"We're deciding on rescuing Fujiko again or not," Jigen said bitterly.  "I'm in the 'not' category myself, even if she's suddenly found God and become a nun."

Xander looked at Goemon.  "Do you want her back?"

"Not the point," Lupin pointed out.

"It is," Xander said calmly.  "Her coming back will impact him the most, and his kids the worst.  I'm sure one of the kids will probably try to attack her.  If she doesn't kill us for coming."  He looked at Goemon again.  "If you want her back, I'll help you.  No questions asked."

"I'm not sure what I want yet," Goemon admitted.  "I do know that I don't want her in jail."

Ishi slipped out of his room.  "Are we discussing the mother?"  Everyone stared at him.  "I'm speaking for the children," he pointed out.  "If she rejoins the group it will directly impact Lotus and myself, plus Arsene has promised to cap her the first time she snipes at any of us or ignores one of the babies."  He looked at his father.  "She's not the woman you married, father.  I doubt she ever will be."

"That may be, but I do owe her something for having you four," Goemon reminded him.

"Gratitude isn't a reason to rescue her, father.  It's a reason to get her released."  Goemon looked stunned and his son shrugged.  "Personally, I'm still confused about her and all that stuff.  I'd love to pound her into the dirt some days but then again she is my mother and I feel as if I should like her at least a bit.  Lotus feels the same way."  He nodded so he looked at Lupin.  "Can this be done without direct intervention?  Sending her something to help her free herself?"

"She's injured," Jigen said bitterly.  He lit his cigarette and took a deep pull from it, exhaling slowly.  "She's got a broken leg and some marks on her back from some light beatings for information."

"Then that's wrong and we should stop it," Xander agreed.  "Are there others in that jail who are not supposed to be in there or who don't deserve it?"  Lupin nodded.  "Then we can legitimately free them all and have Fujiko just be one of the numbers.  We can set her up in a safehouse we won't be visiting in the near future if we have to.  A broken leg isn't fatal."

"I like that idea better," Jigen agreed.  "Goemon?"

"I can stand behind that," he admitted.  He stood up.  "Son?"

"I don't personally want to see the woman but torture is something I won't allow to go on without fighting against it. Plus, even if you had to go personally to free them all, it would be an easier plan than taking over the prison."  Xander groaned.  "What?"

"Other timeline, Ishi, don't worry about it," Lupin said, looking at Xander.  "It wasn't a half-bad plan, Xander.  It was a hasty one, but it was the best we could have hoped for at the time and it did give us enough time to finish the rescue.  Quit complaining about it.  We were more upset about you taking down the Immigration facility in LA."  He looked at the others.  "Can we do that?"

"We can," Goemon agreed.  "It would be for the best if I didn't have to see her yet."  He got up and went to pick up the infant that had just screamed in pain.  "Sarah, what's wrong?" he asked gently, picking her up to look her over.  "Did Arsene's pet bite you?" he asked when he noticed she was holding her arm.  She shook her head and pointed at the bed she had been climbing out of.  It had a sharp spot and had scraped her.  "Come, I will clean and bandage that for you," he soothed, taking her to the bathroom.  Lupin came in to check on him. "She was scraped on the bed.  We should complain about that."

"We will be," Lupin agreed, patting Sarah on the head.  "Is he spoiling you?"  She stuck her tongue out.  "Don't do that," he said with a grin.  "Someone might try to steal it."  He made a grab for it but she sucked it back in too quickly and giggled.  "Good girl.  When she's done, bring her out with us.  Fred's already toddled out scowling and yammering about the bed."  He went back to his seat, moving his precious son from it. "She's fine, the bed bit her."

"That will be fixed or I'll be throwing the bed and the manager out the window," Xander growled.  Jigen kept him from moving.  "I'm going to complain."

"No, I'll complain.  That way the guy can live long enough to fix it," Jigen said, giving him a look.  "Find us plans on this prison."  Xander sighed and went to look it up in the database of buildings the thieves bulletin board kept online.  Jigen shared a look with Lupin as he stood up.  Sometimes Xander was just a scary person for no reason.  "I'm gonna do that.  Be right back."  He headed down the stairs, walking up to the front desk.  "One of our kids just got a bad scrape from a bed," he told the desk clerk.  She gave him a 'so' look and he sighed mentally.  "Manager," he suggested coolly.  She pushed a button on the phone and he came out smiling. "One of our little ones just got scraped on one of the beds."

"I'm so sorry," he said, blinking a few times. "Is she all right?  Does she need a tetanus shot?"

Jigen rolled his eyes.  "Dude, she's not quite two.  She's had her booster recently, but the bed still dug a really pretty line into her arm.  I'm the calm one at the moment."  The manager nodded, understanding that.  "Her actual father wanted to throw you and the bed out the window."

"We'll switch it out right away," he promised.  "Will a rollaway be fine?"

"Sure.  We'll be leaving sooner than expected anyway," Jigen noted with a shrug.  "Someone in the family is in trouble."  He walked away, going to take pictures of her arm, just in case they needed them for further reference.

"Why are you humoring him?" the clerk asked.

"Because that is a famous gunman. He's Lupin's gunman.  He's the stable one."  She looked like she got it.  "The other gunman, the one with silver hair will not only throw me out the window he'd probably torture me first for harming his little darling.  Lavelle is the one who went after Geneva because someone there wanted to kidnap one of his children.  I'm aiming for self preservation."

"Good idea, sir.  Shall I call maintenance?"

"Please.  Let's put the best rollaway in there.  I'll go up personally to look at the bed.  We'll have to clean it anyway if there's any blood on it."  He went to make a note in his log about the switch, just in case someone decided to be really mean and sue them.


Fujiko looked up in misery as she heard whistling.   Only her door on the whole ward hadn't opened.  The other prisoners had laughed about that as they had fled the building.  She stood up, looking at the person coming up the hall.  "Lupin?" she breathed, resting against the bars.  "Get me out of here, please?  Pops was here and I was the only one who couldn't get out."

"Not quite.  There were a few serial killers who had the same problem," he admitted, leaning against the bars.  "We did it so you could go to a hideout."  He opened her door and handed her crutches.  "Come on, I'm driving you over there and handing you the phone."  She gave him an odd look.  "Then the rest of us are heading back on vacation.  We need one and Yu is really happy to have his dad at the moment.  He hasn't been feeling well."

"Oh."  She hopped after him, wincing at each move as it stretched her back.  "Slow down."

"We don't have a lot of time, Fujiko."

"No princess or any other names?" she sneered.

"You're not mine to treat that way," he reminded her, opening a side door.  He nodded at Xander to cover them.  The cops could be there any moment now.  "Come on, car's just around the corner.  Lavelle's got everyone else."

"Fine.  Thanks.  Hi, Xander, how're the kids?"

"Perfect, as always.  Your daughter managed to nearly kill a child molester.  She's got your temper."

"Fujiko, this can wait," Lupin announced.  She hobbled after him and got into the car with a wince.  "Once you get there, you can call someone to look you over.  They'll be able to get you decent enough to leave the country."  He started the car and pulled out, heading off down the street as fast as he dared.  He pulled into the parking garage under the apartment building they had a small apartment in, helping her out and up the stairs.  He let her inside and handed her the phone. "There you go."  He turned but she caught his hand.  "What?"  He turned to look at her again.

"You're not going to help me do anything else?"

"Fujiko, you left.  You destroyed Goemon and you left.  He's my friend, you're his ex.  That should explain it all to you."

"We're not divorced yet," she said bitterly.

"And you won't be.  He's made himself very clear on that point.  He wants nothing at all to do with you because of your attitude, and he won't divorce you because he doesn't believe in it.  Feel lucky we came at all.  Your son reminded us that we couldn't tolerate torture in jails.  Otherwise we wouldn't have come."  He got free of her and handed her back the phone.  "There, call someone to come in and check you over so you can leave.  There's a small stash of money in the kitchen if you need it and a small bottle of advil around here somewhere.  Later, Fujiko."

"Cold bastard!" she hissed.

"Yeah, well, that's why we were so perfect together," he pointed out.  "I've never abandoned you in your life, yet you're more than capable of doing it to everyone and everything in your life.  I'm damn sorry I couldn't talk Goemon out of marrying you.  Then again, we wouldn't have Ishi or Lotus, or even Kenji or Yu."  He left, heading down to his car.  He was through with that woman.  He found Xander leaning against the side, holding a cloth to his arm.  "You all right?"

"Myron's a damn good shot," he said grimly.  "Got me from a moving car.  We split up.  Jigen took Marcus and I'm here with you."

"Fine.  Get in.  We'll get you cleaned up once we hide for the night."

"Outside of the country, Lupin.  I don't want to be here.  They're heading for the border homeward."

"Not a bad idea," Lupin agreed, getting in to drive.  Xander slid in next to him and tipped the seat back, but did put on his seat belt.  "You're sure you're okay?"

"It's only a graze.  I've had worse."

"Fine.  As soon as we stop I'm going to baby that for you."  He backed out and headed for the roads, speeding up as soon as they hit the highway out of town.  He saw the roadblock and looked at Xander.  "Run it or stop?"  Xander didn't answer, he was deep in his mind or meditating.  Lupin looked ahead again as they came up on it.  He saw a shimmer and gasped.  "Xander?"

"Magic.  Become Henri again, Lupin," he moaned.

"Of course.  Cover that better."  Lupin stopped at the guards, rolling down his window.  "Bonjour," he said cheerfully.  "Is there a problem with tourists?"

"No," he said grimly, waving them on.  "Your friend all right?"

"He ate the wrong thing," he said with a grin.  "I warned him but he is young and foolish."  He rolled up the window and hurried on.  "Just another mile and you can drop it," he soothed, reaching over to touch Xander's trembling hand.  They barely got out of sight before the illusion dropped.  "Good job, Xan."  He didn't hear anything so he looked over.  Xander was pale and shaking, but he wasn't answering.  "Xander?"  He pulled off the road and looked behind them as he shifted over to check him.  He was still breathing, he simply wasn't conscious.  "You must have worn yourself out.  I'm going for the border and we'll be safe soon," he whispered.  He turned around and started the car again, heading for the nearest border crossing, not caring that it was to an Islamic country.  They could get a flight out of there as long as they weren't caught.  At the border he changed to the access roads, knowing that Zenigata would stop them since he had been standing there.  That trenchcoat said it all.  He got them over the border at an unguarded spot, then headed for the nearest airport.  Iran was not the country he wanted to be in.  Maybe he should have headed south instead, but this way had safety faster, which was better for Xander. He found a small smuggler's airport he remembered from long ago and found it flourishing, so he pulled in there.  The people there gave him shocked looks as he got out.  "Morning," he said in Arabic.  "Is Raul still here?"

"Yah, he's retired though," one of the guys said, looking him over.  "I know you."

"Good.  We need to leave the country."  He closed the door.  "My partner's got food poisoning."  They all winced. "Exactly, and we're being blamed for a prison break over the border.  Can one of you help us?"

"For the right price.  Say ten thousand apiece?" one of the guys noted.

Lupin nodded. "Cash, diamonds, or credit card?"

"Cash is always welcome, especially American or British."  Lupin broke into his stash and pulled out the cash, handing it over.  Then the pilot and he got Xander into the old, rickety plane and they took off.  "Which destination?"

"Somewhere we can hide in," Lupin suggested through the open door.  "Not Cairo and not Athens.  Somewhere safer."

"You got it.  Gibralter?"

"Decent enough," Lupin agreed.  He had a hideout near the airport there.  He picked up the bottle of water he had gotten out of a machine, forcing some down Xander's throat.  He'd need it later and he guessed a reaction headache was a bad thing from the last one.  He wished he had some of those pills but they had used them all.  He'd use his cell but this plane would probably die from the clashing frequencies.  Jigen knew he'd be going somewhere safer.


Lupin looked around the old hideout, grimacing.  "I thought it was supposed to be cleaned each week," he complained.  But that was all right.  He could clean it easily enough.  It would give him something to do while Xander slept for a few hours.  Someone tapped on the door and he growled, looking out the peephole.  "Oh, wonderful," he muttered, going back to his cleaning.  Pops could break down the door if he wanted him that badly, and then Xander still wouldn't hear him.   He ran some soapy water into the sink, noticing it came out that way.  "This is not a good thing."  He sniffed, it smelled like bleach.  "Runoff from the washer?"

"Oh, probably," Zenigata said as he strolled inside.  "Your boy all right?"

"No."  He turned to face him.  "Gonna try to arrest me again?"

"Ah, but you see, I know you won't hurt Lavelle."  He smirked.  "And he's helpless."

"Yeah, and Jigen and Marcus are still around, as is Goemon."

"Yes, but they're in another country and we're moving you tonight."

"If you try, it'll kill Xander."

"It won't actually.  See, I asked Dawn."

"She's had power headaches?  The doctor said to keep him flat and not move him.  It's the same headache as Japan."

Zenigata shrugged.  "What do I care?" he asked happily.  "There's two death warrants out for him anyway.  I get credit, even if he's dead."  He pulled out a set of cuffs.  "Now, come on, Lupin.  You know how this is done.  I gotcha."

"Yeah, yeah," he sighed in defeat.  "And then I'll get away, you'll hop around and scream.  It's the same old story.  Besides, his warrants were taken too, weren't they?"

"Yes," Zenigata said happily, "but he killed those poor criminals.  Their people want him."

Lupin snorted.  "Considering they weren't dead when we left?  He didn't kill them.  We can prove he didn't kill them.  I administered the sleeping pills."  Zenigata's face fell.  "Yeah, so I know they didn't die from them.  One Xanax each wouldn't have done more than dope them for a few hours."

"No, they were stabbed," Vecchio said as he strolled in.  "Ambulance is here, boss."

"Good.  Lavelle's in the bedroom."  He looked around with a grimace. "I could have sworn I had a cleaning lady."

Vecchio snorted.  "Yeah, she died last year.  Sucks to be you.  Lavelle's dagger was in the guys' body."

"Xander doesn't carry a dagger."  Zenigata stiffened.  "He never has.  A sword sometimes but not a dagger.  Not anything more than a pocket knife.  He says he cuts himself on them so therefore he doesn't even try.  Besides *I* administered the Xanax.  They were only given one each."

"No, they were stabbed," Ray Kowalski said as he walked in, smirking at him. "Still, ya helped with a prison break."

"Whine.  They were torturing people who were innocent.  That makes them the bad guys.  The others all stayed."

"Except Fujiko," Zenigata said with a scowl.  "You're not getting out of this, Lupin."

"Hey, try.  Oh, Ray, he's got a reaction headache.  The doc in Kyoto said to keep him *flat* and give him a lot of fluids.  He was on some sort of migraine medicine with a sleeping additive.  We ran out back then."  He looked at Zenigata again, then at Ray, shrugging.  "I'll cop to the breaking into the prison and letting out the non-criminals, but we didn't kill them.  You can't even prove we killed them.  Lavelle doesn't carry a dagger and you know that."

"I do," Ray admitted. His boss gave him a hurt look. "What?  He doesn't!"

"Fine.  We can debate that with the prosecutors.  Go with Ray.  Lavelle's tricky.  He's gotten up after a bad accident and fought vampires."

"Sure, boss."  He went that way, going to help Ray cuff the other guy.  "Poor guy.  His head's got to be pounding for him not to even feel us in here.  Usually he's jumpy enough to start awake."

"You've actually gotten this close?"

"Yeah, I broke into his room one time during a con.  Last time I tried," Ray noted grimly.  "I woke up naked in the middle of a potted tree with a sign on me saying I was a bad, bad man who wanted to jump some of the little school girls.  I had the worst headache of my life, a suspicious taste in my mouth, and...."  He ducked as Xander sat up, backing away quickly, pulling Ray with him.  "No, Lavelle, we're putting you in an ambulance.  The cuffs are for the paramedic's safety," he said calmly.  "It's Ray.  We're taking you to the hospital.  Lupin's been taken by the boss, and you're in trouble too, but we're going to get you some good medicine."  Xander held his head, shaking it.  "Yeah, we are."

Xander pulled something off his neck and put it beside him then laid back down while it ticked.  He didn't care, as long as the light and the noise stopped.

Both Rays looked at the bomb, then at each other.  "Boss!" they yelled. "Bomb!"

"Xander!" Lupin snapped, coming in, one cuff already off.  "Sorry, he's unconscious again. You know better than to try and leave me like that!"  He swatted the firm butt.  "Now, give me the damn passcode!"  Xander hissed something.  "What was that? I don't speak snake," he said firmly, hands on his hips.  "Now, Lavelle!  Or no playing later."


"Xander, bomb, bad things," Lupin pointed out in a gentler voice.  "Give me the passcode so we don't die?"

"Quit!" he whined, starting to cry, holding his head to stop the pounding.

"Fine, let me stop it for you," Lupin soothed, knocking him back out.  He looked at the bomb, trying all the numbers he knew Xander usually used.  It came up with his birthday so he tossed it out the window.  Then he looked at the other men, shaking his head. "This is so much worse than a migraine.  This is why he had medicine in Kyoto."  He left them there, going back to his cleaning now that his nemesis was tied up to a kitchen chair.  He took the time to call Jigen.  "Is your boy in bad shape too?  Xan's got another one of those headaches. No, he just tried to blow himself up so we'd leave him alone.  No, Pops, both Rays, so I'm guessing the Mountie and his dog are somewhere."

"Wolf," Ray Vecchio said as he came out. "I can still arrest you."

"Sure you can," Lupin said smugly.  "And you can be tied on top of your boss's lap and in case you didn't know he's slept with a guy in the past."

Ray shrugged. "So?  Fraser and I aren't quite that tight but gay men don't scare me.  After all, I'm standing this close to you," he sneered.  He pulled out his cuffs.  "Hang up the phone and turn around, Lupin."

"Oh, please."  He pulled a bundle from his pocket and threw it at Ray, making him sneeze as it exploded.  "You're so obvious!  You've got to be better to take us down!"  Someone coughed and he looked back, finding the Mountie behind him.  "See, like him."  He listened to the phone. "No, we're fine.  See you soon, Jigen."  He hung up and turned, grabbing the Mountie and tossing him onto the ground, kneeling on his back.  He growled at the wolf, getting laid back ears.  So he pulled his gun and pointed it at the hat.  "I can always cap him.  I am a bad guy."

Xander wobbled out of the bedroom and slapped everyone, including his lover and the wolf, until they all quit making noise.  "Enough!" he yelled, then he whimpered.  "Some of us are in pain," he said impatiently.  "I will kill whoever says the next word, even if it were my own child.  Now shut up!"  He flopped down on the couch, curling up again.  "Ow."  He squeezed his eyes shut. "Lupin, drugs?"

"I've got a call into a dealer," he said quickly, getting up off the floor.  He grabbed his gun before anyone else thought of it, then checked the wolf.  "You'll be fine, boy," he whispered.  "Stay there.  He's in pain."  He helped Ray K up.  "We like you enough to let you live," he whispered.  "Go, take Pops with you.  He meant it."  Ray scowled at him. "Hey, then stay, but stay silent and still."  Someone pounded on the door and he grimaced, tackling Xander before he could kill whoever had just sent the noise reverberating through his head.  "What!"  The landlord came in with a baggie. "Thanks, man.  His head's killing him.  How much?"

"Fifty American."  Lupin tossed over his wallet and got one of the pills into Xander's mouth, letting him swallow it.  He looked at the men, then at Lupin.  "Aren't they cops?"

"Yeah, but they're in danger so we're keeping Lavelle from killing them.  He's got a bad migraine."

"They make real drugs for that," he said, tossing back the wallet.  "You got problems with your cleaner?"

"Apparently.  We've also got a water line that's hooked up to the outflow of the washer."  The landlord sighed.  "Can you please fix that so I can clean this place?"

"Sure.  Get him out of here."  Lupin grinned and stood up, hefting Xander over his shoulder and out the door.  The cops weren't moving, even after he came back to get their bags and Xander's weapons stash from the dresser.  He waved as he left.  The Landlord looked at the cops.  "Good idea.  Lavelle is deadly and odd in the head.  If you didn't know that, you should figure that out.  Boy's gentle as sin with lovers, friends, and his kids, but let him get upset with you and you're history.   I've seen him pout a working girl to death and kill a few people.  That boy's not right in the head."

"That's why we want to stop him," Zenigata said, trying to get free.  "Get me undone!  We've got to catch him."

"Give it ten for the drugs to work.  They're heading up the road for Paris," Ray K said, looking at him.  "Personally, I'd rather not explode from Xander's headache, sir.  I may give my life in the line of fire, but not from that one."

"Are you afraid of him?"

"Aren't you?" Ray Vecchio asked.  "That's why you called us, sir.  We're good at what we do.  Benny?"

"Diefenbaker's fine," he noted, dusting himself off. "I agree, let the drugs work.  Lupin will relax then and we can easily overtake him on the road.  That would spare civilian lives."   He looked at Ray K.  "Where would they be heading on that road?  Since you seem to know Lavelle best."

"Barcelona.  There's a convention coming up," Ray noted smugly.  "He's going in costume and Lupin's going with him.  It's a smaller one but it's anime centric.  So I'm betting on Inuyasha to make a reappearance or him to go femme again."

"How does he do that?" Ray Vecchio asked.

"That choker's got something to do with it," Ray said with a shrug. "Haven't figured out more yet.  Those two compliment each other.  Lavelle's steady, he needs attention and love, and he's the rock of support.  Lupin's a bit more wild and makes him loosen up.  He needs that sort of loyalty from his people, and even Jigen could turn on him but Xander never would.  Lupin could shoot the guy and he'd let him.  It's the sort of guy he is," he said at the confused looks.  "Xan's like that.  If you're his buddy, you're his buddy for life.  Otherwise he wouldn't help Dawnie at all, or her family."  That got a nod from Zenigata.  "You know that guy we saw at the convention?  The one with the .45?  Think of a bad version of him, without the innocence.  That's Lavelle."

"It is," Zenigata admitted.  "Are you scared of him?"

"Yeah," Ray admitted.  "I've seen Xander fight firsthand.  The only way to take him out is long distance.  If you're close enough to hit, you're in deep.  If you're within shooting or sword lengths, he'll kill you.  Without a worry for it.  Even his convention buddies aren't immune probably.  Teddy might be, but not the rest of us.  He's said that when it comes to the final moment, one of us will win."  Myron came running in.  "They got away.  Xan's got that same headache from Kyoto.  He nearly blew us up with Lupin."

"He slapped Diefenbaker," Vecchio said grimly.

"Xander likes all kids and animals," Myron said, looking confused.

"It's a power headache.  He exceeded his maximum levels of power," Benny told him.  "I'm guessing however they got past the road block did it."

"Xander can use illusions.  With him down, the team's not nearly as invincible.  Goemon's with the kids and Bix.  Marcus and Jigen are elsewhere.  We can take the two of them in Barcelona, but only if we're really, really careful," Ray offered his boss.  "Lupin relaxes during them.  Xan'll still be in pain most likely.  So we can get them."

"Yeah, but we can't get more people in there," Myron noted.  "He knows everyone at the Paris and the Barcelona cons.  They all know him and who he really is.  Someone's bound to warn him if more cops file in."

"My, there's the five of us," Ray noted.  "We should be able to take down one relaxing crook and one who's in a lot of pain from his head."

"Fine, we'll do it that way," Zenigata agreed, finally getting free.  He stood up, rubbing his wrists.  "Are you sure?"

"Lupin wore jeans and t-shirts during the last convention, and that was while Xander didn't have his memories.  He was wearing sneakers.  Old, scuffed up sneakers."

Ray Vecchio nodded.  That sounded right to his experienced ears.  "For a man like that to dress down, he must have felt secure and like he was on vacation.  What about the kids?"

"We're in deep fucking shit if Ishi, Arsene, or Goemon show up," Ray assured him, walking him outside.  "They're the fandom boys in the house and Arsene likes to go watch the chaos.  Ishi is damn good.  Goemon is still himself.  And Arsene is every bit her father's daughter, both fathers.  She's another Janus prayer person.  She lives for the chaos and destruction."

"She's also skilled, knowledgeable about arms and tactics, and good enough to get past officers," Zenigata said grimly.

"She's eight," Benny pointed out.

"Nine," Ray K corrected.  "And we know, Benny."  He smirked at him.  "With six warrants for theft to her credit already, one during a convention last year."  He looked stunned.  "Word was that her dads chewed her a new one for doing it so young.  She's agreed ta stop but she'll do some minor shoplifting now and then to make sure she's in practice.  Now they're working on her mouth and her attitude.  Cusses like a sailor."  He smirked.  "Ishi's a younger Goemon, with only two-thirds of his father's skills but all his uncle's moves.  He's learned every single trick Xan could teach him with the sword and then learned off movies and anime like his uncle did.  The three main kids, Arsene, Ishi, and Melissa, are the next generation together.  There's two cop wannabes at the moment, plus the younger kids and Lotus, who's not made her choice.  She's good enough but she's a wiccan of sorts."

Benny blinked a few times.  "How do you know this?"

"I asked Xander during a convention," he admitted, opening the door to the car.  "Like all parents, he brags about his kids."  He smirked at his boss. "Don't he?"

"Him and Lupin both," Zenigata agreed, getting in to drive.  "What's the major problem?"

"Ishi, Goemon, and Arsene showing up," Myron pointed out as he got into the back with Ray.  "If any of them show up, we're fucked, sir."

"Language," Ray Vecchio warned.  "Some of us have delicate ears.  Like the wolf."

"Sorry, Ray.  It's true though.  Ishi has taken out people who were bothering his sister.  They did that at the market.  She stomped off in a snit and he followed her, finishing off a few of the people who tried her and she got away from.  She's not as fully trained but her magic is much stronger than Xander and Marcus put together.  She's the next Willow from what I've heard."

"She's what?" Zenigata asked.

"Ask Dawn, sir.  It's one of her sister's former friends and she'd know and be able to explain it better.  Let's just say that Lotus is powerful and leave it there.  Like even some of the nature spirits don't like to tangle with her.  None of the strange crap people like to deal with her or Xander, though a few of them will bow to him.  Lupin might as well rule the world of crime.  Jigen's Jigen and Goemon's Goemon.  Marcus is a lesser version of Goemon, with some odd skills too.  Xander's like water, smooth and flowing, always moving.  Marcus is like wood or stone, he's strong, still, calm, everlasting.  Think of him like an American or British Goemon.  The honor code and all, but not the full training as a samurai.  Ishi is like his father, only smooth like Xan is.  He's the best of both worlds, at least by the time he finishes training.  Arsene is her father's baby girl.  Exactly like him, down to thought patterns.  Melissa is her planner.  She's not much of a shooter, but she can when necessary.  She's the steadying influence to Arsene's wild tangents.  Arsene thinks something'll be fun and Melissa makes sure it'll be that way.  Ishi's their backup and Lotus on occasion.  They think Fred'll be a mini-Lavelle.  Sarah'll be out of the life due to her heart condition and Xander said somethin' cryptic about her and the kitsune."  Myron grunted.  "That leaves Alex, who's supposed to be a mini former Xander, his white knight side.  So said Ethan and all his prophecies.  Then there's the new ones, Yu and Kenji.  Kenji may be a sword guy, but for some reason I can't see Yu doing it.  He's gentle like."

"You know an awful lot about them," Ray said suspiciously.

Ray gave him a long look, then snorted. "I'll run down any criminal in any country, Vecchio.  You know that about me.  You've always know that about me, ever since we met.  I'm not backing down from the challenge, I'm going to work smarter this time.  The kids are an important part of this.  They'll mount a rescue effort and probably can pull one off, even without an adult present.  Melissa is that good."  Benny shuddered.  "So, yeah, working smarter instead of harder gets the job done with these guys.  The boss proved that with all the times he's nearly had him and then Lupin got slippery and got away.  Xander even gave a demonstration a few months back about how to get out of handcuffs and out of cells.  He's a slow lockpick, but he can do most things.  He admitted he's still learning that art.  He is, however, skilled in fighting.  He's been battlin' since high school."

"I can't imagine suburban California as a gang haven," Benny said, looking confused.

"Yo, boss, pull over for a minute at the next really dark bar you find," Ray ordered.  "It's time ta prove a point."

"Fine.  I've already had this lesson so I'll stay out here with the engine running."  He found a vampire bar and pulled over, letting the rest out.  "I pity that man," he sighed.  "It's a good point but they're going to razz him for years.  If Lavelle doesn't kill him."  He winced when the trunk popped open and a small body climbed out, getting out to stare at her. "Arsene!  That's dangerous!"

"Shut it, Gramps," she said coldly, slamming the trunk. "Someone had to back up daddy and I volunteered.  Now then, leave Uncle Ray alone. He's neat.  We like him.  We like you.  We kinda sorta like the other guys too, but you won't catch us.  We're the Emperors of crime.  Catching us is a lifetime's work and they don't have that long left either."

"I can arrest you now," he warned, pulling out his cuffs.

She snickered, then snorted and shook her head. "You never give up, do you?" she said fondly.  "I hope like hell you're around when I fully come out in my debut.  I'll make sure it's really special just for you."  She pinched him on the arm.  "Now, what prophecies about Alex?"  She tapped her foot.  "I've not learned to play nicely, Gramps.  I'd give."

"Ray said it, not me."

"Yay.  I'm sure your wife knows."

"She might but she's never told me."  He glared down at her and made a grab for her, so she did a wonderful spinning kick, getting him on the chest.  "Ow!"  He backed away rubbing his chest.  "You're a mean little girl."

"You bet," she sneered.  "I'm every bit my daddy Xander's daughter most of the time, and daddy Lupin's the rest of the time.   Then again, I'm here to extend an invitation to you since we're going to be going to school this fall.  That way you're not bored when the first thing the 'rents do is take a long vacation to a nude beach.  I offered to help them pick out a wet nurse for Yu, but daddy said it wasn't going to be necessary."  She shrugged then snickered as Vecchio backed out of the bar.  "Ooh, did the big, bad vampires scare you?" she cooed, jogging past him. "Hi, guys!" she said happily, waving at them.  "Daddy Lavelle said that he'll be seeing you guys soon."  The room mostly emptied, all the vampires running for the exits.  A few of them looked really confused though. "He's the consort they carved the marks into," she explained. "They can kill you on sight.  He can literally walk through hell and kill everyone."  Those demons fled as well, leaving a few humans who had been food, with their permission or not.  "Anyone else?"  One demon appeared in a gout of flame, staring at her in shock.  "Hey, Torrence.  Aren't you so cute!"  She squealed as she ran over to hug his seven-foot body of pure muscles. "You're just an adorable little fluffy demon kitten.  Even my little Lupin the Fifth would adore you!"  She pinched him again then strolled out with the wolf.  "So, wolf, wanna meet my baby?"  She pulled her out, letting him sniff her. "Isn't he cute," she cooed.  The wolf barked.

"What are you doing to his familiar?" Lotus asked as she appeared out of thin air.

"I'm showing off my little Lupin the Fifth.  That way they can get along if something happens."  She nuzzled her baby, then let it sit on her shoulder under her hair.  "Torrence just showed up."

"Ooh!" she squealed, heading inside to hug him as well.  "Hi, big purple guy."  She pinched him and grinned at him.  "Daddy's got one of those reaction headaches.  Is there anything better than the medicine?"

"Heroin takes it away," he offered with a shrug, "but we've heard that's not good for humans."  She shook her head.  "Then perhaps some Water of Life?  Ethan may have some of that if you ask and plead long enough for Janus to give him a break from teaching Rupert his place on top of the altar."  Lotus blushed, but Arsene snickered. "Sorry, but Janus has taken a ...personal interest in how Rupert's trained."  He shrugged.  "Probably the medicine is the best bet.  Or a healer."

"That's a good idea.  Thanks, man," Arsene agreed.  "Come on, Lupin the Fifth, let's find ourselves a healer for the family.  The 'rents are really old anyway, they could probably use one."

Ray K's eyes bugged out and he spluttered, it was only Zenigata who could speak.  "Lupin the Fifth?" Zenigata choked.  "You're much too young!"

She moved some of her hair, exposing her baby.  "This is Lupin the Fifth.  Why would I want a kid?  We're all insane."  She strolled off, taking Lotus with her once she had gotten something from the demon's back for him.  "Maybe Homer will know," she told Lotus.

"Maybe.  I've been wanting to meet him.  He seems very nice."

"He did."


Lotus boldly walked into the bar and sat down next to the man at the long wooden counter.  The bartender opened his mouth so she glared at him.  "Yes, I'm allowed in here.  My sister's parking the car.  We're midgets, all right?"  He backed off, but didn't even bring her a soda.

Arsene strolled in and a few people gaped, so she grinned and waved, signing one autograph on the way.  She sat on the man's other side.  "Homer Peacekeeper."

He finished his drink before looking at them.  "Who are you?"

"Lupin the Fourth," she said smoothly, holding out a hand.  "I'm looking for help to find someone for my stepfather, Lavelle."

He shook her hand, then Lotus's.  "You're a Goemon so you must be Lotus?"  She nodded, smiling at him. "This is not the place for children."

"Yes, because I'm *so* childlike.  Please."  Arsene grinned at the bartender.  "Can my sister and I have a soda?"


"Fine, be that way, I'll go release the guys who were pulling on ski masks to rob the place."  He quickly brought them sodas.  "Thanks, love."  She grinned at him, taking a long sip before looking at Homer.  "So, we need a healer of some sort or another.  The stepfather has a wicked headache from overuse of his powers. He threatened to blow us up if we made any noise and he nearly blew up my dad and some cops just to make it stop.  We'd actually like to find one for the whole family, but Fihad seems to have disappeared."

"Someone even slightly legitimate or with legitimate connections would be for the best," Lotus offered.  "Arsene's out of her Ritalin as well.  We'd like them to be the family healer for things like accidents, gunshot wounds, times when daddy got injured fighting demons again.  Little things like that, and if they can help me learn that art as well it'd be a great bonus."

Homer Peacekeeper let out a few quiet chuckles. "You don't ask much, do you?"

"Well, no," Arsene said mildly, pouting a bit.  "We're not asking for a thief to join the group.  Maybe an accessory position, like an assistant or something, or a second nanny at times, but only if they felt they had to stay in that close of contact with the family."  She grinned at him, leaning against his massive arm.  "Let's face it, Daddy Lavelle gets into a lot of trouble and needs that sort of person around."

"Especially after us older children start school," Lotus noted.  "Then they'll be more free to pull jobs again."

"In addition to the normal teenage problems that you and Ishi are starting to have with your balance," Arsene added.

"Enough, children.  There is one I know of.  I'll send for him on your behalf.  Where are you two staying?"

"Wherever we can get in for the night.  Daddy and Daddy Lavelle are headed for somewhere quiet."

"Do they know where you are?" an American voice asked quietly.

Lotus looked at him and grinned.  "Bastian Morales.  A pleasure to meet you, sir."

"How did you know who I am?"

"It's an odd vision of a possible other timeline," she said with a shrug.  "You sometimes helped our stepfather Lavelle to stop some wicked injustices."

"You're who?" he asked.

"Lotus Goemon and Lupin the Fourth," she said, waving at Arsene, who waved.   He blinked a few times.  "We're here asking Homer to help us find a healer for the family to depend on, hopefully one who can ease an overuse headache."

Bastian sat down, staring at them.  "You're little kids."

"Yes, we are," Lupin agreed with a grin. "But very talented little kids.  I'm already a great thief in my own right."  She put the bartender's silver dagger on the bartop when he looked at her.  "I didn't want the weapons out of my sight," she said with a smirk.  "I'm not that uncareful."  She looked at the two adults again.  "Please, Peacekeeper?"

"I will find one for you," he agreed.  "You probably need one more than most.  Bastian, were we to meet today?"

"We were, but Lavelle was supposed to come here as well."

Lotus dug something out of her pocket and handed it over. "He's presently living the sedated lifestyle.  The headaches are so bad he nearly blew himself and Lupin's dad up to make the cops trying to arrest them stop chatting.  Her father was working on that last night and I figured I'd save him the trouble, just in case."

Bastian opened it, snorting at the opening.  "He knew one of you would bring this to us.  It's the three things he could find on Xander's laptop.  Are any of these what he called you about?" he asked, handing it to Homer.  Who read it and shook his head.  "That's fine. Where is he, girls? That way we can get into the laptop ourselves?"

"They're in Barcelona, just not at the convention hotel.  They're in the one that the royalty likes to stay at because it's so quiet."

"That's not far from here," Homer noted, standing up.  "Come, girls, we'll drive you there."

"Sure.  Beats having to hire a driver all the time," Arsene agreed, finishing her soda.  "Don't you want the rest of yours, Lotus?"

Lotus put some money down on the bar.  "No, go ahead and have it.  Maybe it'll help the bouncing problem."  Arsene gulped it for her and they went off with the two operatives of their other father.


Arsene walked up to the check in desk and looked up at the snotty looking man.  "Where's my father?"

"Who is your father?" he asked snidely.

"Lupin the Third."

"He's ordered us not to disturb him."

She chuckled.  "Dude, he's my dad.  I'm sure he'd be more pissed if you didn't call up there right this moment."  He glared at her. "Fine.  Lotus?"  Lotus knocked him out so she climbed up onto the counter and over it, checking the computer for a room number, which she called.  "Dad, I'm back, and we've brought Bastian and Homer Peacekeeper.  Yeah, in the lobby.  No, the snotty man gave us shit so I had Lotus knock him out.  Thanks."  She hung up and walked around the counter since the door release was on this side.  She rejoined the party.  "Dad's on his way down.  He had to put on shoes."

"Fine," Bastian agreed, smirking at them.  "You two are something else.  Ever think of being spies?"

"I always assumed it was part of the calling at times," Arsene told him.

"I'm still considering my options.  I'm a bit sensitive," Lotus told him.   Homer walked away to use a payphone, coming back a moment later.  "Did you call the healer?"

"I did.  He can home in on me to come here."

 "Cool," Arsene agreed, smirking at her father as he came off the elevator. "Hi, daddy."

"Hello, dear, you're grounded," he said fondly.  "I told you not to leave the rest of them.  You left Goemon with only Ishi to protect him."

She snorted.  "They were only being hounded by women, dad.  They can handle that."  She waved at hand at the adults.  "These are the two who escorted us back.  They need into the laptop."

"I tried," Lupin offered.

Bastian grinned.  "It's all right. Two of them were the codes of who to call in and where to meet.  The other wasn't something that he'd normally call us for.  Can we look in his laptop?"

"Sure.  It's upstairs, just be very quiet.  Xander's having another rough hour."  He led them back to the elevator.  "Lotus, are you all right?"

"Just fine, Uncle Lupin," she said brightly.  "Thinking, that's all."

"As long as you're fine," Lupin said happily.  He let them into the suite.  "The laptop's on the desk in the living room.  Girls, do not bother Xander."

"Of course not," Lotus said, rolling her eyes.  "We do have some sense, Uncle."

"Shoot, I wanted a hug."

Someone tapped on the door so Lupin answered it, staring at the man on the other side in shock.  "Who are you?"

Homer looked back.  "Come in.  The hurting person's in the bedroom.  An overuse headache, Lupin?"

"Yeah, he created a really strong illusion after being grazed by a bullet."

"Very well," the man in black with black hair noted.  "Let me look him over."

Arsene looked at him.  "You look like a Snape."  The man stopped to stare at her. "Are you from a world with an Iggy?"

He shook his head.  "Though I have heard of him when I was sent to that blasted bar," he said grimly.  "You know of that place?"

"Yeah, and Auntie Dawn might be able to send you back, but she's busy puking up her guts right now with the new baby."

"We'll send you to her as soon as Xander's better," Lupin promised.

"Actually, dad, I was thinking that we could use a family healer," Arsene offered casually.  "Because things like this do happen and Fihad seems to be gone."

"That's a good idea but you're still grounded," Lupin assured her with a grin.  "This way, please."  He led the way into the bedroom, leaning down to whisper next to Xander's ear.  "Homer and Bastian are here to look at your laptop."  That got a moan.  "Plus there's a healer here to look you over.  All right?"  Xander nodded, eyes squeezed tightly shut.  "Thanks, love."  He backed out and went to see if they could explain this program to him.

Xander blinked at the man over him.  "Wow, you look just like a Snape."  The man nodded.  "Cool.  Potion for the headache that won't knock me out?"

"We'll see.  If it's overuse it will be harder to cure."

"I've tried to add more power but it burns."

"Then you've emptied your reserves and it would take a few days for that part to heal."

"It's been a week."

"Let me look."  He examined the young man carefully, taking note of the demonic taint that infused him, and the scars that his examination showed.  Someone had mistreated the boy horribly in his life.  He cast a general healing spell and watched as it bounced off.  So he pulled out a book with the most unusual healing spells in them, from his personal collection of course, and worked on him from in there.  Xander soon was pain free but weak.  "That should solve most of it, but you'll need to rest."

Xander nodded.  "Thank you.  I'll nap in a few minutes."  He slid out of the bed so he could wobble into the next room and whisper in Bastian's ear.  "That's why I called you two specifically."  Bastian gave him a long look.  "I thought you two might be the most interested in this one and it has the potential for going very wrong."

"Then we'll watch the wedding."  He steered Xander back into the bedroom.  "Sleep so your lover can have you later."

"It's probably going to be a few days, and I accept that," Lupin said dryly.  "Go back to bed, Xan."  Xander nodded and padded back to his bed, curling up again.  This was much nicer so he sighed in relief before drifting off.

Snape walked out with a potion in his hand, handing it to Lupin.  "For when he wakes in the morning.  That should take care of some of the burnout he's feeling."  He looked at him.  "You do know one who can help me back to my own world?"

"Or two or three," Lotus admitted.  "One's a chaos sorcerer, one's the Key.  Plus Ethan's got a bunch of friends he can usually blackmail into helping him."

"The problem being that Ethan is possessed at the moment by Janus to facilitate Rupert's training, and that Dawn is presently in the middle of morning sickness," Bastian noted.  Snape nodded slowly.  "So it may still take a bit but those two working together are your best bet."

"Even should it take a year, that would be fine," Snape agreed.  "I'm sure some sort of temporal weave could be added to the spells."

"Probably," Lotus agreed.  "We had to do that when we jumped timelines."  Arsene nodded.  "Uncle Lupin, can he stay at the main hideout so I can learn from him?  My herbology stuff is still kinda confusing."  Snape looked down at her.  "I'm a nature witch in training.  Not at all like your kind, but definitely a witch."  She floated over Arsene's stolen house keys.  "Those are Uncle Jigen's."

"The housekeeper wouldn't mind and the main hideout is pretty and quiet when we're not all there," Lupin admitted.  "That would save you on funds and you'd only be asked to heal us when necessary and deal with Lotus' education.  I know her father hates Ethan."

"Yeah, dad doesn't exactly want me to become the next chaos witch.  Technically, I've been blessed by a Japanese order that's sorta like Druidism."

Snape nodded once.  "That would be acceptable.  I'm not a true healer, but potions can fix most things."

"Most of the things we get into only take a bandage," Arsene offered.  "Gunshot grazes, maybe an odd wound or two from training.  Unless Ishi slips again with his dad's sword and then it'll take off his hand this time."  Lotus shivered.  "So, basically it'd be an easy job and you could teach Lotus how to deal with plants."

"Yeah, the Order's teacher sent me a whole list of plants I'm supposed to find and try to grow, but we keep moving so I'll have to move myself back and forth to a garden to deal with them."

"I said you could have a spot at the main hideout and you could stay there if you wanted," Lupin reminded her.  "Xander said moving yourself that way constantly is a bad thing.  You don't want to end up being a garden gnome, do you?"

"Well, no," she admitted.  "Won't dad be upset?"

"No.  You're grounded anyway," Arsene pointed out.

"True.  Then that would be fine," she agreed.  "If you can get daddy to agree."

"He'll agree, I know he will," Lupin assured her.  "Go for it, kiddo.  Create a portal instead of the moving thing."

"Yes, sir."  She concentrated really hard on her room, getting a small portal.  "Poo!  I never get it big enough on the first try."  Arsene hugged her and she drew energy off her to make it bigger, grinning at her success.  "Now all I have to do is to remove the barrier and lay them over the boundaries," she said as she did it, and viola, the portal was open.  She led the teacher back across it, watching as he walked across.  "Sorry, I keep forgetting some people are taller than me."

"That's fine.  It is a good effort.  Now decreate it."  She canceled it and he looked down at her. "That was not what I meant."

"Yeah, but each and every time I try to retract it, I get a sucking void spot for about an hour.  I don't know why and no one can tell me."

He straightened up.  "Then we'll start back at the beginning, then work on your herbology and potions lessons."

"Yes, sir."  She followed him upstairs.  "How about this one?" she said, opening the last door on the third floor.  "Eww, never mind.  Hasn't been cleaned in years."  She led him back downstairs, giving him a room on the bottom floor, which was meant for the severely injured who couldn't climb the stairs.  "Bertina, it's Lotus, and I've brought a teacher," she called. "Daddy Lupin said it was fine."

"That's nice."  She walked in, wiping off her hands.  She squeaked and pointed.  "You're an actor!"

"No, I'm a Snape," he said grimly.  "I've been accused of that before."

"It's a cross-realmal thing," Lotus assured her.  "We're hooking him up with Uncle E and Auntie Dawnie as soon as they're normal beings again.  Until then, I'm learning from him."

"Fine," she agreed.  "We usually don't set out real meals unless the whole family's here, so feel free to raid the kitchen or to ask for something around those times.  I usually make myself something small if you wanted to join me.  Mistress Lotus, that one patch of ground is already tilled and waiting on you.  I had the gardeners do it."

"Thanks."  She beamed and hugged the woman. "You're the bestest housekeeper a group of thieves could ever want."  She let her go and led her teacher up to the room they used to work in.  "This is the room Uncle Lupin said we could use for magic practice.  Uncle Marcus is also chaos incarnate sometimes and Uncle Xander was tainted by the demon who hurt him a lot.  So they can't really teach me much but Uncle Marcus is teaching me the ritual versions of magic."

"I can continue with that," he admitted.  "Most of the time a full ritual isn't necessary."

"Oh, I know.  I'm thinking I'm doing more on-the-run casting than anything."  He scowled at that.  "Sorry, but sometimes it's necessary."

"It may be, but your personal energy fields are not as extensive as you believe.  They never are.  Sit.  We shall begin with the most basics of manipulation."  She obediently pulled over pillows for them and sat down across from him to work with him.  She was a bright student who wanted to learn, a change in his life.  Too bad most of his students weren't like that, not even the Slytherins he had just taken over.  He couldn't wait until he got some decent students, but Draco was only four at the moment.


Ray looked around the convention's first day, then at Misty, noticing the badges still on her desk. "They're not coming?"

"No, Lupin's in town.  He popped over yesterday to get some DVD's for Xan, but he's still got a bad headache so they're running a few hours late.  Maybe by tomorrow."  She grinned at Myron, giving him a hug.  "Hey, babe.  We love you guys.  Are we going to have a shootout?"  Myron shrugged, smirking at her.  "Fine.  If you can manage it, remember there's little kids around."  She looked at the Mountie, then at Vecchio.  "First timers?"  They nodded.  "Well, just stick with these two and it'll be just fine."  She grinned at them.  "This is also where I should warn you that Goemon and Marcus are both here.  Marcus wanted to test the waters and Goemon is looking for a birthday present for his son, who is presently grounded for sneaking his sword out again."  Ray shivered.  "Yeah, so we're giving you fair warning."  She sat down and wrote out badges for the others, handing them over.  "We'll include you under Ray and My's admittance packages.  They're nice that way."  She smiled at the dog, then at the handler.  "Unless he's in a harness, he can't come in.  We've got someone who's *majorly* allergic to any pets.  Arsene's had that same problem with Lupin the Fifth.  Well, that and the ferret likes to try and steal people's popcorn."

"He'll go upstairs for now," Benny promised.  "Thank you for the warnings, ma'am."

"Honey, I'm a Misty, not a ma'am.  Ma'ams are older women who are married and Myron there won't even let me date and woo his pretty butt."  Myron blushed, heading into the convention.  She stopped Zenigata, giving him a long look. "I swear to you that if one of your people hit one of the kids, Lavelle will smash you into your component atoms.  He's done it in the past.  And in a past that's not ours."  He gaped.  "Yes, some of us did get that flash of bright headache when they transferred in.  Do not take them in the main room, Zenigata.  Not unless you want your newest one to be an orphan."  He nodded, following his men inside.  She grinned at the next man coming past her, Marcus.  "Hey, Marc?"  He stopped to kiss her on the cheek.  "Thanks, babe, but you're a bit too nice boy for my tastes.  I was gonna warn you that Ray K just showed up."

"Oh, wonderful," he said, staying smiling.  "Then I suppose we'll see, won't we."  He winked and headed inside anyway.

"An even playing field is all well and good," she reminded herself.


Lupin walked Xander into the convention late that night, grinning at Misty.  "Did you wait up for us?" he teased.

She smirked at him.  "Hell yes, I'm still waiting for you to give up on Xan so I can have a shot at him, even for six weeks."

"Six weeks of Xander-lovin' is more than enough to addict you, dear," Xander said smugly, winking at her.  "Any of our crew in?"

"Marcus is here.  Goemon's come and gone with a present for Ishi.  They may be back in the morning, we're not sure yet.  Ishi snuck his sword so he's grounded at the moment, but that one girl who likes to follow him around pleaded and begged, got down on her knees begged, for Goemon to let him come and ground him afterwards.  Apparently her mother thinks she only likes bad boys."  Lupin snickered, shaking his head.  "Ray's here."

"Yay," Xander said with a grin.  "I've already had that warning from a few sources.  Is Jonas around?"

"Oh, yeah, leering at the school girls."

"Thanks.  I've finally got that stupid Chronicle done so I'm handing it over.  Anything that comes later I'll send separately."  He paid his fees and took their badges, looking down at himself.  "Do I look all right?  I know I'm not in costume yet."

"They're upstairs in your room."

"Cool."  Xander walked over to the desk and checked them in, taking the keys to go change.  Lupin stalked him to change himself, then they came downstairs as Dick Tracy and a school girl.  "How did I let you talk me into this again?"

"Because you know I'm missing my women?" he suggested.

"Good point, but I'm still having odd feelings."

"Hey, not asking for more than maybe a few days a month in female form for a few hours," Lupin offered.  "Not jobs, nothing else."

"As long as we're agreed on the industrial strength condom coming between us," Xander said dryly.

"Sure, Xander, whatever you want," he agreed quickly.  He took her hand and kissed the back of it.  "Besides, now you're young enough to be one of those innocent little girls," he said with a leer.

"Yeah, I guess.  But next one I get to be male and drag you into a better costume."

"Sure, babe, anything you want," he agreed happily.  "I won't even ask you to sleep like that."

"Good thing, too.  I can't sleep on my tits and that means I can't sleep on top of you."  She pinched him on the arm as she strolled past with a wink to Misty.

"X...Xan?" she stuttered. The girl nodded with a smug little smirk.  "Damn it, I want to know how to do that!"  Lupin leaned down to whisper in her ear.  "Shoot.  Will it work for me?"  He shrugged. "Can I try it on?"

"Sure, babe, but it's meant to change genders."

"So?  I've always wondered why men were like they were."

"Then come see us at the end of the convention if we're here."  He followed more slowly, going to find his dame.  He ran into Zenigata first and skirted around him, heading on to where he could hear squealing going on.  Only his dame made those noises and they should all be for him.

Xander had found Benny and had squealed and latched herself onto his arm to coo up at him, making him blush as red as his uniform was.  She was presently playing with his lariat and hitting on him badly.  She grinned at Ray as he walked up.  "Ooh, and another strong man," she cooed, smirking at him.  "Friends?"

Even Vecchio had to blush at this one.  The girl was nearly indecently exposed in that costume.  She was rubbing herself against Benny's hand and she was smirking at him like she was going to eat him too.  "Yeah, we're friends, but can you let my buddy go?" he said finally.

Ray K frowned, then suddenly smirked and strolled over, grabbing Xander to kiss her hard.  "Hey, Xan," he said softly, pinching her on the nose. "You're in so deep," he said smugly.

"If you try anything in here, Ray, I'm going to be forced to end your brilliant career.  Remember, I'm not the most helpless of women."  She kissed him again and he fell to his knees.  "Oh, Dickie," she called, waving at him. "Wait for me!  I love a man in a trenchcoat."  She trotted after him, stopping at Jonas to hand him the book.  "For your reading pleasure," she said with a smirk before disappearing.

"Damn it, he's went femme this time!" Jonas said angrily.  "How does he do that!  Those have got to be real!"

Teddy patted him on the back. "It's the choker, man.  We don't know anything else but we've figured out it's the choker."  He looked at the three cops, nudging the others to look, then clap. "So, Ray, now that you've felt the power of Xander, feel better?"

Ray got up with a growl to stalk that man...woman...whatever he was this moment.  He found her in a clinch with Dick Tracy and paused, then rolled his eye.  "I don't know why you came as a good guy, Lupin, you can't pull it off."

Lupin came up for air and looked at him, blinking a few times until the words registered.  "Because I've always wanted to be a brawler.  Instead I'm a lover."  He strolled his baby on, watching as she pinched Ray.  "Now, now, mine and only mine, babe.  No others or else I won't be giving you back that ring of yours."  She pouted at him so he pulled it out, sliding it back onto her finger.  "Mine?"

"Yours," she squealed, hugging him and kissing him again. Someone coughed so she waved her hand with her wedding ring on it.

"Never mind, he just popped the question. Next time, find a darker corner, guys."  The person did a doubletake, then groaned.  "No, Lupin, we like you too much to have Xander kill you!"

Xander pulled off to look at him, grinning at him.  "I am Xander."  The guy gaped and he grinned.  "Sometimes I'm just a different Xander."  He took his baby with him around to show off his ring to all his buddies.  They hadn't seen it before and he wanted to show it off.

Zenigata looked at Ray K.  "A word of advise on obsessions, Ray.  They only grow over time."  He stalked after Lupin, knowing he wasn't going to be able to catch him while there were still people around.

"I'm not growing an obsession!" Ray called after him.

"Damn, kid, you weren't kidding," Ray Vecchio said faintly as he walked up to him.  "No wonder you only watch for the perfect moment."  He shook his head, looking at him again.  "Is he always like that?"

"Oh, yeah," he said with a grimace.  "And more.  Yo, Benny, flank them.  Let's herd 'em like elk or something."

"Of course, Ray."  He took Myron and together they flanked the pair.  The two Rays stalked after them, making sure that the guys were always moving away from them toward an open ballroom without a lot of people in it.

Ishi walked in and his girlfriend pounced him, kissing him hard.  "Amanda!" he said, smiling at her. "I've missed you too."  He shook her mother's hand.  "Hello.  I'm Ishi."

"I had hopes of that when she kissed you that way."  She looked around. "No escort?"

"He's upstairs dropping off our things and I've got a few uncles in the convention."

"Yeah, Lupin's here as Dick Tracy and he just proposed to some little school girl," Amanda said excitedly.   "Doesn't he think Xander will be upset?"

Ishi grinned.  "That's a family secret but she's my auntie anyway.  She just hasn't been able to wear her ring in a bit.  Come on so we can look around.  I'll do the costume stuff tonight."  She hugged herself up to his side and put his arm around her shoulders then walked him off.  Ishi waved at Jonas, Paul, and Teddy.  "Hey, guys.  Dad's upstairs."

"That's good.  Hands above the waist, young man," Teddy ordered, smirking at him.  Ishi's hands were both above that line so he grinned.  "Good job.  Marcus is over by the refreshments section and the others are being plagued by cops.  The whole team minus the wolf."

"I saw him in the lobby," Ishi admitted. He kissed Amanda gently and handed her over. "I'm going to see if I can help Uncle Lupin, you stay here for just a moment and I'll be right back."  He trotted off before she could do more than start a pout, heading through the crowds. He saw the cops, and Myron's hair, so he followed them stealthily, sliding into the room before the door was shut.  He considered his sword, then the gun at his back, then the men around him.  He decided on a lesser weapon this time. Using his sword would get him sweaty and his woman wouldn't like that.  He pulled it quickly and snapped off four quick shots, each to a leg or an arm, making all the cops scream.  "Sometimes the truest test of a master is that he doesn't use his best weapon because it's overkill or it's unworthy of the weapon to only wound," he told Ray K when he turned to point his gun at him.

"Do not try.  I like you, but really.  My girl will get a bit upset at me for killing you."  Ray's gun went limp in his hand as he gaped at him.  "Yes, me.  I did take those lessons as well.  I'm a better shot than Lupin and Jigen, the next generations.  Way to go, Uncle Lupin.  Um, Uncle Xan?  The skirt's a bit short.  I can see the lack of panties and the thong."  She tugged it down.  "Much better.  Dad's upstairs and I left my lady pouting.  Have fun all."  He headed back, putting the gun back up.  He gathered his girlfriend and winked at Paul.  "They seem to have sprouted leg or arm injuries, and someone *might* want to tend to them.  If Uncle Ray doesn't pull his head outta his butt again."  He walked his girl on, taking her to get something to eat.  "I know I'm hungry, want some hotdogs?"

"Sure, Ishi.  Are you okay?"

"Oh, yeah, I just made my feelings known," he promised. He winked at her mother.  "I promise I'm not a bad influence on her, I have no designs on her virginity, and I'm not looking to be your new son-in-law at this moment in time."  She nodded, giving him a long look.  "Trust me, it's not what you think."  He got them out of the way of the ambulance crews, then led them on to buy lunch.  His allowance could go for this.  He could always talk his Uncles out of some extra money later on.

In the ballroom, Lupin had pulled Xander back into the darkest shadows.  "Did you know Ishi was that good?"

Xander nodded.  "Yeah, Jigen and I both made sure of it.  Goemon knows he can shoot."  She kissed him. "Let's go back out there?"

"Only if I get to put you in a slightly less naughty skirt, Xan."  She unrolled the top of it, lowering it a bit more.  "Thank you.  Now I can't see the edge of your pert little butt."  They walked out another exit heading back into the main convention area, passing by Misty again.  She held up a finger.  "Wasn't us, it was Ishi," he noted quietly.  "They took him away from his girlfriend."  He smirked.  "My baby's trained him very well."

"Goemon just walked in. He's looking for him."

"Food probably," Xander offered.  "Am I okay?"

"You're more decent now," she admitted.  "One less turn of the skirt please."  He unrolled another turn and she nodded. "Better, thank you, Xander.  Later tonight, after all the kids are in bed."  He smirked and winked, letting her see the ring.  "Ooh, that's so you!  I'm jealous.  I need a man."

"You could date Marcus.  He's presently doing four people and it's upsetting his training," Lupin offered.  "Or Goemon's kinda free, but he doesn't believe in divorce."

"Or, hey, you could date Bix," she offered.  "It'd be a nice thing and you two get along well enough."

"Naughty, Xander," she said, swatting at him.  "Go play."

"Fine, just giving options," she said happily, heading inside with her mate.  Goemon gave them an odd look when they ran into him.  "Ishi should probably be near the food."

"I've noticed, as well as the stink around him."

"He did it before we could react," Lupin said grimly.  "Wounds, all of them."  Goemon looked impressed.  "Definitely need to talk to your son with you this time."

"He doesn't like it but he sees it as a necessity sometimes," Xander assured them.  "Jigen and I both noticed that it didn't affect him so we sat him down to talk to him.  That's why we worked him up to being able to wound them."  Goemon relaxed a bit.  "C'mon.  I wanna meet the girlfriend."

"I have.  She seems quite nice," Goemon offered.  "Plus she goes to the same school."   He noticed the ring and grunted. "It's about time."

"Yeah, well, I had to wait a few days," Lupin said smugly.  A man in all black with a stuffed raven on his shoulder stopped them by taking up most of the aisle.  "Hey, Vicious."

Vicious turned and gave him a look.  "A good guy, Lupin?"

"I got stuck at the last moment," he said with a shrug.  "So I decided I'd rather be a fighter than a lover for a bit since I've got the lover part down so well."

Vicious looked at the young girl, then at Lupin.  "She'd better be over age."

"I am," Xander assured him.  "The same as when I didn't have my memories.  He wanted to be on the arm of a woman this time."

"You're not quite old enough to register as 'woman', dear."  He glared at her, then noticed the choker.  "Xander?"  She nodded, smirking at him.  "Damn it!  Hey, you're not in the costume contest though!" he decided happily.

"If he wanted, I could stay in female form and just go upstairs for my female warrior costume," she offered smugly.  "It's a killer outfit."

"That means I can go as Jett, or as Joxer," Lupin said happily.

"Or as Jace," Goemon noted dryly.  Lupin glared at him so he raised an eyebrow.  "It does fit on occasion."  He took Xander's arm.  "Since you are a Japanese school girl."  He walked her on, taking her to find his son.  "Son," he said when he found him.  Ishi jumped, then gave his father a guilty look.  "Hmm.  Were you a bother?"

"No, he's been very polite," the mother assured him.  "Scary though he can be."

"They were all wounds.  We've trained him well," Xander assured her.  "Plus his father's trained him to be a shy young man who can't seem to not blush when a pretty girl looks at him."

"Auntie, could you maybe pull that skirt back down?" he pleaded.  "I don't like you that way but I'm unable to stop staring."

She rolled her eyes.  "Fine, let me go change into my warrior woman costume."  She strolled off, taking Misty.  "I need an opinion on the legality of a costume."

"Sure, Xan."  She followed her up to the room, smiling at the outfit that she brought out.  "Wow.  That's so Heavy Metal."

"Isn't it though?" she asked with a grin.  "Let me slip into it, so we can make it legal enough for the convention."  She went into the bathroom to change, and to change her form just a bit so she was a bit smaller chested, since this outfit wouldn't do with that big of a chest.  She couldn't get it all the way off since Lupin had put it on but she could make a few subtle changes.  She came out in it and Misty gaped so she looked down.  "Bad?"

"Um, penis," she said, pointing at it.  She blushed and went to fix that as well, coming back a moment later.  "Better," she squeaked.  She looked at the top.  "Not quite legal, Xander."  She watched while she fiddled with the choker, then something clicked and she groaned.  "What?"

"It's locked now.  Only Lupin can take it off me."  She looked up.  "Yes, Janus?"  A voice whispered through her mind, telling her why he wanted another child.  "I'm not giving birth to Joxer or Jett, thank you."

"Honey, they're a show," Misty pointed out.  Xander held up a finger.  "Okay.  I'm sure you'll explain it."

Xander listened.  "Hey, if it happens, it does, but I don't want to force it and I don't want more.  We have a spare, put Ethan into it."  He shook his head. "Sorry, Janus has taken a proprietary interest in my sex life.  He needs two more kids so one of his favorites can be reborn."  He shrugged.  "So I'm stuck in this form.  Is this legal?"

"Not unless you can do something about the top not being quite so showing."

She got a scarf and carefully tucked it around her breasts to pad them a bit, and the extra material gathered on top.  "How's that?"

"Better," she agreed.  "I like that though.  Got a sword?"

"I can't carry a katana with this outfit, but I do have a sword," she offered, picking it up.  She strapped it onto her back, the strap going between her breasts.  "There, good enough?"

"Shoes?"  Sandals were found and laced up her legs.   "I can consider that legal enough," she agreed, leading the way back downstairs.  Lupin was lounging in the entry, manning her table for her, so she pinched him.  "Look behind me."  She got out of his way, so he could fall to his knees to worship the body.  "She also got a voices-in-the-head call you might want to talk about."

"Yeah, I heard.  Janus wanted more kids so his favorite priestess could be reborn," he repeated.  He crawled over to his woman, nuzzling her legs.  "Oh, my God," he whispered, looking up in awe.  "I want you here and now, Xan."

She smiled at him.  "That's Amazon to you, man."

"Of course."  He stood up and straightened out his tie and jacket, then his hat.  "May this humble man escort you around to slavishly pay for everything for you?"

"As long as you can find the offspring first.  He needs to be warned.  I'm the backup plan to get the kids.  I suggested we put Ethan into the spare choker."  Lupin snickered, shaking his head.  "He'd do it very well."  She strode in and Jonas saw her first, squeaking in horror. "What?" she asked innocently.  "Surely such a Watcher as yourself has heard of us Amazons?"

"I have," he said, starting to drool.  "May I offer my services to your tribe's continuance, m'lady?"

Teddy looked then groaned and shook his head. "I seriously doubt Xander will let you touch her, Jonas."


"Yeah?" she asked smugly, smirking at him.  She looked around.  "Goemon and the kids?"

"Food court," they said in unison, Jonas wiping off his mouth.  "I borrowed Misty, it's legal."

"Barely," Teddy snorted.  "Pull up the scarf a bit, Xan."  She adjusted it a bit, then the leather and chainmail holding up her breasts.  "Better.  Thank you."  He smacked Jonas unsubtlely, both of them watching as Xander strode off with Lupin leaving a drool trail behind him.  "Why do I think their sex life is never boring?"

"Gods, a woman like that would kill me," Jonas hissed. "But I'd gladly accept that fate."

The others of their group burst out laughing, it was good to see Jonas brought down a bit in the ego department.

Xander walked up to Ishi, looking down at him.  "Nephew."  He looked up and gaped.  "You are to report to the amazon's village tonight, nephew."

"Yes, Great One," he teased back.  "Will they be teaching me, a lowly man, more?"

"Of course."  She smirked at the mother.  "Same woman, different costume."

"So I can tell."  She blinked a few times. "Is that legal?"

"Barely.  I had Misty check it for me."  She adjusted the cups again then hitched on the accessory straps around her neck.  "There, better now.  No more shifting."

"Thank you for that, Auntie," Ishi said quietly.  He grinned at the mother.  "As you can see, our lives are never dull.  Go away, Auntie, and shag Uncle Lupin for a bit?"

"Going, but remember, we are all watching out for you."  She took Lupin's arm and walked him away.  "I brought you a leather set," she whispered.  "You can go as Jett."

He kissed her on the cheek.  "I'd never get out of it before jumping you," he vowed.  "Maybe on the way home."  He heard a quiet voice.  "Xan, if you take off that choker it may not work for up to a year," he warned.  "If it can be taken off.  Janus just put Rupert into the second one and super charged it."  She swallowed.  "It's your choice, but you've got to realize that it may not come off."

"It snapped when I fixed myself."  She looked down at her body, pulling him into a dark corner and sending a desperate plea to Janus to fix her choker one way or another.  If it wasn't going to work at all, then she would go change, but if not, she'd need some help at the moment.  Her penis had come back out.  She felt a tingle through the choker, and picked up the desperation of the plea, sending as much frantic energy as possible to her God.  She even vowed to do whatever was necessary, just don't leave her both.

"Calm down," Lupin whispered in her ear, his voice deep and reassuring.  He touched the choker and ran a finger over the rubies.  "I can fix it, but you'll be female," he whispered.  She looked at him and swallowed.  "For a year, Xander.  Can you take that?  Can my precious one live that way for one year?"

"What of cycles, Lord?"

Lupin smirked at her.  "If it happens, it does, my precious one.  He has prayed for a girl like him.  As has Goemon, but I would not gift you that way.  You are perfect where you are.  Would you consent?"  She touched her forehead to his.  "Your body does not lie, it likes this form."

"Yeah, but I hate being female all the time.  I'm a man."

"Then you could be both."

"Then I'd rather be a girl for the year, Lord."

"As I will it, so shall it be, my precious.  Now close your eyes."  She closed her eyes and he took one of the rubies out of the bottom row, which made it flash and hold in the power, which changed her to the woman he wanted her to be.  "There, open your eyes."  She opened them and had to adjust the outfit.  He made it shift a bit, covering her more.  "That way you do not get into trouble, my queen.  My High Priest was quite correct, you would have been my perfect consort.  You and Lupin both.  So I bless your union and that with Jigen.  Be theirs for the year then pray to me, my queen.  I will help you and you should not have to worry about a child unless you will it.  Rupert can bear the twins I'll need and they'll have to be born live before I can bring forth my perfect one.  It is not your onus this time."  He faded from Lupin's mind, leaving them curled up together.

Lupin came back to himself and kissed Xander.  "Xan?"

"Present," she whispered.  "Don't hate me."

"I could never hate you, babe.  I know how bad it can be to be one so both would be worse.  We'll deal with it."  He kissed her again.  "You're hot that way but you're mine."  She looked into his eyes.  "He can't have you.  You're my consort, my woman."  He tucked the ruby in his pants pocket.  "We'll deal for this year, got it?"  She nodded stepping back.  He moaned.  "Oh, I so like that body," he whined.  "Wanna duck out early tonight?"


"Sorry, couldn't help it, babe.  You're delectable.  You've got the body I could only dream of you having.  This is what I had hoped Sylvia would be when I helped you create her."  He pulled her closer and kissed her again.  "Love you, no matter who and what you are.  No matter what, you're *my* consort and my prize."  Xander blushed.  So he grinned back.  "Good enough?"

"Yeah, I guess.  We'll have to tell the others.  At least he didn't say he was going to make me give Goemon the daughter he had wanted."

"No, I think that'll be his second wife," Lupin said wisely.  "Who won't be the one he expected at all."  He walked her back into the crowd after she adjusted herself.  "I do like you in that outfit," he admitted.  They found Goemon and Ishi looking for them.  "You guys okay?"

"Just fine," Goemon assured him.  "What happened?"

"Janus just supercharged the chokers once he had Rupert into one," Xander told him.  "It seems there's a prophecy that his favorite priestess of all time couldn't come back until so many children of his could be born.  There's two left then she can be reborn."

Goemon nodded.  "The problem with this is?"

"I'm trapped in the choker for at least a year," Xander told him.  "Or I would have been trapped as both."  He thought a quick prayer to his God, wishing and hoping that Dawn's latest was the twins so he could have Rupert himself.  After all, he deserved Rupert and Rupert deserved him and Ethan.  Marcus came trotting up.  "I'm supposing you got the mental memo too?" she asked dryly.

"Yes, I did, and I informed Jigen of it as well.  He didn't seem to be shocked, but then again he had been looking at the other choker when it was retrieved by Janus' hand and a statuette left in its place.   He did excellently on your body, Xander, I must say."

"Yeah, me too," she agreed dryly, smirking at him.  "This means that Rupert will be pregnant soon, if not today. Can you handle that?"

"Of course.  I often had the odd twinge to kiss your stomach," Marcus admitted with a blush.  "Are you?"

"He said I didn't have to.  That he had two more that had to be born before his favorite one could come back into being.  I'm personally hoping Dawn's carrying those two so he can have Rupert himself."

Marcus smirked.  "One can only hope. It would be a great honor to bear for Janus that way."

"You can always volunteer," Lupin pointed out.  "That would fix that problem you seem to have about sleeping with four people.  Hey, you could even do like those priests did, to Cybele."

"They castrated themselves, Lupin," Marcus said grimly.  "I'd be miserable and take it out on you lot."  He grinned at Xander.  "I could volunteer.  Would you aid me?"

"Of course.  We could even let Ishi deliver her."

"Her?" Ishi asked.

"His favorite one was a female."

"Oh.  Okay then," Ishi said, nodding a few times.  "Not gonna happen, guys. I don't like having to help with births.  The next one I want to see is my own child's or helping Lotus through hers."

"Ah, the other point," Lupin said, looking at Goemon.  "You'll have the daughter you expected some day, big guy."  Goemon looked stunned.  "He said so.  Fortunately we don't have to hunt him down, he promised Xan wasn't going to be having it."

"That would be for the best, yes," he agreed.  "When?"

"No time frame set," Xander admitted.  "But he wasn't thinking it was soon I think."

"Then if it happens it does," Goemon agreed. "If not, I have Sarah to teach."  They all grinned at him.  "I do."  He looked at them, then at his son.  "No females, son?"

"Her mother got called out on an emergency c-section.  She's an OB."  He grinned at his auntie.  "How long?"

"A year, or more."

"Hey, it could be worse.  You could be both."  Xander nodded quickly.  "Besides, they love you like that just as much and respect the hell out of you because you are a scary woman at times."  Lupin nodded quickly at that one.  "See?"  He grinned.  "Come on, I need to shop.  Auntie, can I have some cash?  I bought lunch for my lady."

"Honey, my wallet's in Lupin's pocket. Ask him."

"Of course you can," Lupin promised, handing him a few hundreds.  "For the excellent wounding job.  You, like Xander, will be showing off all you know sometime soon.  Marcus, did you need an allowance too?"

He snorted.  "No, I've managed to save some of my cuts."  He led Xander off.  "You do look smashing in that outfit, Xander.  I've never seen such a wonderful looking woman."

"Love you too, Marcus, but I've got two men already.  I don't need more."

"I was only pointing myself out in case something happens," he said smoothly, smirking at his coworker.  "Otherwise I'd have to fight for you and Jigen would kill me in my sleep."

"That's right, he would, and I'd get to turn you into bait," Lupin agreed happily.  "Possibly while Jigen was killing you.  Xan, do we need to pull out some clothes for you?"

"Only if they don't fit," Xander pointed out.  "My leathers should still fit.  They might be a bit loose in places though."

"We'll figure it out, babe."  He pinched her, then gave her an innocent look.  "What?  You looked like you could use a good feeling up."

"Lupin, go change back into yourself," she ordered, pointing.

"Only if you go shave," he said smugly.  She sighed and walked upstairs with him, going to do that.   Misty came back from getting a soda, staring in shock as Lupin came down as himself and Xander came down in the outfit. "Is that the same one?"

"It got altered a bit," Xander quipped, waving a hand around.  "Bless Lord Janus.  Pray really hard, he wants more followers."

"I thought all kids would be his at first," Misty said dryly.

"Mine was," Teddy agreed.  He whistled. "Yeah, now that's the Lupin we know and adore.  A beautiful woman on one arm and her armed to the teeth.  Hey, Xander, can you use that thing?"

"Of course I can.  Not as well as my katana, but I can use it."  She kissed him on the cheek. "How's the daughter?"

"Doing quite well.  She's having a girl moment with a few friends though so ...."  He trailed off.  "I'm gonna call home.  'Scuse me."  He went to check on his little girl.  She didn't know that many girls and he had just realized that.

"An honorable man would not need to seduce her, she would have already agreed and he would only have to please her to keep her attention," Ishi said wisely.

"Really, son?" Lupin asked.  "Know that for a fact do you?"

"My lady said so," he retorted, sticking his tongue out.  "So there."  He strolled off, finding Ray had come back.  "Hey, Uncle Ray."  He stood in front of him.  "You knew we'd stop you," he said quietly.

"Yeah, but we never expected it ta be you," he said meanly.

Ishi shrugged.  "Why do you think I train?  For that matter, feel lucky I am that good."  Ray nodded quickly.  "Now, we're having a family moment.  Janus had to stick Uncle Xan as a girl for the next year."  The older man groaned.  "So you're probably not gonna see a whole lot of him or Uncle Lupin for a while, and probably not Uncle Jigen either."  He grinned at his uncle.  "She's wearing her warrior woman costume and Uncle Lupin got ordered to change back.  Go say hi, he won't hold it against you, he knows it's your job, man."  He walked around him, heading for the comic stand.  His subscriptions had run out so he was a month behind on some things.

Ray walked to where he could hear Lupin cackling, shaking his head until he saw Xander's outfit. "I thought he said warrior woman outfit, not Heavy Metal outfit," he said, frowning at Xander.

"Nearly everything but Xena said women wore things like this," she pointed out smugly. "You don't like?"

"If I ask, would you bear kids for me too?" Ray asked bitterly.  "They'd be great cops."

Xander kissed him on the cheek.  "I understood even then, Ray.  You had to try."  She wiped her lipprint off his cheek with a grin.  "You're forgiven for having a job that wants to capture or kill me.  I expect it of you.  Not that you'll get another chance like that one."

"No, we won't.  Zenigata just got ordered back to the office with all of us.  We're to leave you guys alone.  Speaking of, kids, school?  So we can plant a person?"

"The same one Amanda goes to," Lupin said smugly.  "My woman, Ray.  No bearing kids for others or I'll kill them."

"Besides, what would Myron say?" Xander asked smugly.  "Or the other Ray?"

"The other Ray would probably get pissed at me," he admitted.  "Tell the kid he did good.  All clean with that new low-residue gunpowder.  They were all easily fixed."  He looked over the outfit again, shaking his head.  "I guess you won't be Inuyasha for a bit.  Or one of the Mice."

"Hey, there was a female on that show, and female mice," Xander pointed out.  "Not that I remember them that well.  Thank for reminding me I need the tapes to refresh myself."

"Fine, be that way then," he sighed, heading on.   He shook his head.  Xander was unique.  Too bad he wasn't on their side.  The good guys would win with someone like him on their side.  They always had in the past.


Jigen looked up as the door opened and Xander walked through it, raising an eyebrow. "That's not your usual female form."

"No, but it's comfier," Xander admitted, sliding into his lap.  He held up his ring and Jigen grinned, kissing him.  "Hmm, had a recent smoke?"

"Of course."  He kissed her again, making her straddle his lap.  "I like that outfit."

"Thanks, I got it off the cover of an animated magazine," she said between kisses.  Someone goosed her so she squealed and jumped, looking back at her grinning son.  "Fred!"

Lupin laughed from the doorway.  "Hey, he's got my appreciation for beautiful women."  He picked Fred up to sit him on his lap, sitting beside the other parts of his trio.  "Say hi to the mommy, Fred."

"Mommy!" he said happily, hugging her.  "Daddy!"

"Same person, little guy.  Don't worry about it," Xander said, giving him a kiss on the head.  "You behave."

"I 'have," he said proudly. "I help."

"Good boy.  Where's the other kids?"

"They nap.  Help Lotus.  She boom!"

"Lotus?" Lupin called.  "Are you all right?"  Their healer walked in and stared at Xander.  "The choker, it does that and she's stuck in it for at least a year."

"Oh.  My."  He shook his head to clear it.  "I suppose there's a good reason?"


"Ah."  He nodded.  "Very well then.  Lotus had a bit of a temper tantrum earlier at something in the woods and exploded so the rest of the children had to help her calm down.  Sarah was quite good at it and they're all napping.  By the way, I've given Sarah something for her heart condition. It should help some."

"Thanks, man," Xander said, grinning at him.  "We worry about her."

"As you should.  May I study that device?"

"The book on it is in the library, the red leather volume writing in Cyrillic," Lupin told him.  "It's the Deermere choker."

"Thank you.  Fred, should you be helping them?"

"Yes," he said, pinching his mother again.  "Mommy!"

"Fine.  I'm going to look that up and go back to lesson plans for Lotus.  She put me in a room down here."

"Not an issue," Lupin promised.  "Whatever you need, tell me, and beware of Arsene's mouth."

"We've already met," he said with an evil smirk. "It seems I won."  He walked off, Fred stalking him.  Anyone who was reading was stalked by Fred.  He loved books.

Lupin stole a kiss as he stood up.  "Come on, Xander, let's check on your clothes.  I don't want you to have to run around naked or in that, unless you want to wear it."

"Most of the kimonos should still fit," Jigen offered, helping her up.  Then he helped unbind her skirt panels so he wouldn't have to see her thong anymore.   He followed them upstairs after setting the alarm, noticing that Xander was down to the thong and no bra in sight.  "Don't fit?"

"Nope," she said grimly.  "They're all too small."  She held up a dress that had been a favorite of Jigen's, sliding the slinky knit creation over her head with a wiggle.  He moaned as she settled it into place, looking at herself in the mirror.  "I look like a ho."

Jigen walked over and picked her up, tossing her onto the bed so he could move the skirt up and kneel behind her.  He undid his pants and slid into her body in one smooth stroke.  "I like you in it," he whispered in her ear as he worked her body hard.  "Damn, I've missed this part of us.  As soon as you're back, you get me."  Xander shivered and got to her knees, letting him pound her into the bed however he wanted.  "Good girl."

Lupin watched from his seat, smirking at them.  He had known Jigen couldn't resist.  "Did she have a barrier this time?"

"No," Jigen said, working harder.  "Not a single one."  She moaned under him so he pulled out to lick her, flipping her onto her back so he could chow down in her wetness.  She wrapped her legs around his back and kept him there, holding him in place.

Lupin chuckled as he stood up and stripped, coming over to help pleasure her.  "See, I told you we'd make it more than happy for you this year," he shared, kissing her.  She pulled back to pant and he stroked himself. "Want it, babe?"  She nodded, accepting his cock to kiss and love for now.  It'd be getting her later.  "Jigen, more," he ordered. "She's not near in that state of ultimate pleasure yet."  She sucked harder and his eyes started to roll back in his head.  "Oooh, Xander!" he moaned.

Jigen forced the tight thighs apart, then smirked at her and shoved Lupin away, mounting her again.  "My woman for right now. You can have him after I'm done with you."  He flicked her clit with his fingernail and she shivered, letting him do whatever he wanted to her.  "I've missed you, Xander.  Not only this part, but the fun little guy you can be at times.  This just brought it all back to me.  I was gonna pounce when you got home, but this big git beat me."

She squealed as she tightened around him. "More!" she pleaded.  "I don't care if you only like me for my tits!"

"Honey, I love you for more than that," Jigen promised, stopping to kiss her.  She gave him a long look.  "Really.  I love you for more than being a woman sometimes.  Or else I wouldn't let you have my ass at all.  You're mine, Xander.  Swear it."

"Yours," she breathed, seeing it in his eyes.  "Yours, Jigen."

"Mine," he agreed with a feral grin, starting again.  She continued to stare at him until he came and collapsed across he chest.  "Damn it, I wanted to do more."

"You can," Lupin promised, laying beside them.  "Or I can.  Remember, she's *ours*, Jigen.  Not just mine or yours, ours."

"Yours," she agreed sleepily.  "Can I please get off now?"  Jigen's fingers went back into play and she squealed once, coming around him, forcing him out of her body.  "Thanks."  She wrapped her arms around his body, holding him.  "You can cuddle up too, Lupin."

"How about we switch this so you're on the pillows?" he suggested, helping Jigen move her.  Then they each got a side of her and stroked her until she fell asleep.  "Jigen?" he asked quietly.  Jigen gave him a long look.  "You're sure?"

"I'm sure, man.  She's ours.  I just had to make sure she was mine too."

"Thanks, Jigen."  He grinned at him.  "Wanna help me take care of this ache I've got?"

"No," he snorted. "That's Xander's exclusive property from now on."

"Do whatever you two want," Xander murmured. "I like watching you suck each other."  She opened her eyes halfway, watching as Lupin moved over to kiss Jigen, and Jigen gave in gracefully to finish him off while Lupin sucked him clean and to sleep.  Then Lupin licked her clean and settled the comforter over their bodies so they could rest.  They could do it better later.


Ray K sat in his apartment drinking a beer and staring out the window.  He had decided he was jealous.  Xander did whatever she, he, they... whoever wanted and always managed to get away.  He would probably never catch her.  He could find out things from her, which he would do just in case Xander slipped up, but he could never be her equal in the field.  She was better than him and knew how to go around the good guys because she had been one.  At that moment, if he could find out who had hurt Xander and made him turn from the good guys' side, he'd beat their heads into the ground and then bury them. He shook away the violent thought and took another gulp of the cool liquid.  Benny came out of his bedroom and gave him a gentle hug. "Thanks, man."

"You're welcome," he said quietly.  "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Nah.  I just realized that I'll probably never catch Xander, and as long as he's with Lupin we'll never catch them either."

"They're an anomaly," Benny reminded him.  "They're not all like that.  We're here to stop the average crook, or ones who are slightly better."  Ray looked at him.  "There are always extraordinary people, but we're normal, human police officers.  Unless we can find one who was raised by Lupin, or who is on the same thought pattern, we'll never catch them."

"So I should go ask the kids who wanna be cops?"

"That may help, but I doubt they'll ever try for their family members.  It isn't honorable or right, Ray."  He sat down across from him on the windowsill.  "They will be the ones taking over for us however.  They are the sort that the world needs to stop more like that group.  The same as it took time to bring down Al Capone, it will take time to bring down Lupin.  We may have to chip at his empire, but even he makes mistakes."

"Yeah, but he covers those," Ray sighed, leaning against the window.  "It sucks that they do these things and no one, not even the other bad guys, can stop them."

"It may, but they don't prey on the innocent.  Remember, we're after those who prey on the innocent more often than not.  They go after those who are already on their side of the law."

"So they're like good guys working undercover?" he asked.

"You've heard it yourself, Xander had been a white knight and now he's the dark knight.  He's the one who takes out the worst of the dark for those others.  The children will be the same.  Especially the one who shot us all."

"I had no idea Ishi could shoot," Ray admitted bitterly.  "I'm guessing they trained them all, but still, the kid's good."

"Ah, but they perfected the art of cross-training on Xander and Marcus," Ray Vecchio said as he came out of his bedroom.  "They crossed over, then they brought in their own skills to teach the kids.  I feel really sorry for the world of crime when Arsene starts to work on them someday.  The sad fact is, we're outclassed and outgunned by that group.  We can do something around them, we can chip away at them, but we may never get those five or six.  Was that woman actually Xander?"  Ray looked up at him and nodded.  "You're sure?"

"Very.  I've seen him do it before.  He puts on the choker and it changes him over.  I also know that only the person who put it on can take it off."

"That's a dangerous relic," Benny noted. "I'm surprised he plays with it."

"They trained him in it," Ray said with a small shrug.  "Besides, Lupin loves women and Xander loves Lupin.  He hates the choker at times, gets no respect most of the time, but he will wear it for them.  He said this time was a treat for Lupin.  Then he got stuck," he said bitterly.  "Lupin enjoys his body a bit too much in that form."

"Why not?  She's eighteen, she's firm, tight, and has tits of doom," Vecchio said dryly.  "What's not to pant after?  If I were able to, I'd do it too."

"Me too," Ray sighed.  "And I have.  You know what?  She forgave me.  Said she expected us to try it, because that's the job.  Said she didn't mind.  I think the torture got her mind a bit too much sometimes."

"Torture?" Benny asked.

"Yeah, see, he had a friend who gave him to a higher level demon as a sacrifice to stop something or other, which it didn't.  Did it against Xan's will too.  Xan was tortured by the thing for about nine months then released.  After it had carved symbols on his body that can stop any and all demons cold.  After hurting him for months on end.  When Xander found Jigen, he was barely back and barely human. Taking care of him brought Xander back."

"So he's a nurturer," Benny said thoughtfully. "That would explain all those children."

"Most of them he had, just not here," Ray told him.  They looked confused.  "See, there was a small time slip.  Zenny remembers it, Dawn does, they do, Misty does apparently.  My and I both did once we saw Zennny.  That one ended so the kids ended up running for their lives back in time to switch a few things around. So they're from there, but they're kinda from here if that makes sense.  If not, I can't explain it better."

"No, it does," Vecchio admitted.  "He had them all?"

"All but Arsene and Sierra, and any Goemons."

Benny looked thoughtfully across the city.  "Then he will die to protect them and his family.  He's a pack animal, he defends and hunts for the pack.  I've noticed the same thing about that young man."


"Yes, him."  Benny looked at them again.  "He will protect Lupin and his family unto his death.  Even if it does come at Lupin's hand.  The real question is, can Lupin be cold enough to do that to him?"

"Yeah," Ray K said, nodding.  "I think he can.  Jigen probably could if necessary.  I doubt it'll come to that though.  Xan's got some major powers behind him.  That choker's a hallmark of Janus' personal attention.  Janus personally helped Lotus switch the kids back.  Anything like that would be destroyed, and Xander would then get really mad at Lupin.  Though he'd probably still protect him from farther away.  Definitely if the kids were around."

"The problem is, how to get them apart?" Vecchio asked.

Ray K shrugged.  "There's not a way as far as I've seen.  Lupin knows what he's got.  So do the others.  Even the kids understand that.  Zenny said Lupin had been on long-term vacation due to burnout, then Jigen found Xan and Goemon got married.  The group came back together and Xander had the other kids follow him.  David and Dawn left without finishing their training, but that was because they got slapped with reality."

"Our Dawn?" Vecchio asked.  Ray nodded.  "She's a thief?"

"Art thief.  Good enough but she couldn't kill.  She refused and they made her see that it might be necessary, so she left.  David did for the same reason, he took his skills and went back to the light to fight in LA with Connor and them."  He finished his beer and put the bottle down.  "Marcus needed more help and he could live the life, so he stayed.  Xander found a home in the life so he stayed.  And then the kids showed up here.  They're unstoppable.  If we get the adults, the kids will get us.  If we stop the kids during a job, the adults will kill us."

"As any good parent would," Benny agreed.

"That's not an issue, we've seen them be good parents," Vecchio reminded him.  "Even though they're warping the kids to their side of the law.   How can we separate them?  So far I'm not seeing a way."

"Well, the kids will be going to school this year," Ray offered lightly.  "Xan was talking about beaches."

"He'd probably be a beach baby anyway with where he grew up," Vecchio agreed.  "Are they going together?"

Ray shrugged.  "Probably.  Goemon might go meditate in Japan in the woods, but I think they'll go together.  He did just have that bad breakup and the younger kids'll still be with them.  Marcus may help Ethan and Rupert, but he'll come and go.  The main three and the kids'll probably at least be together.  Then they may or may not do jobs during it."

"They can't get too far away from civilization, Sarah's got a heart condition," Vecchio pointed out.

"Xan and Marcus can both pop around the world pretty much at will," Ray said bitterly.  "That's not an issue."

"Can we get that woman, what's-her-name, to turn on them?" Ray Vecchio asked.

"Maybe, Fujiko hates them with a passion.  She didn't wanna be a mommy."

"Inspector Zenigata said that she had been Lupin's girlfriend before she ended up marrying Goemon," Benny offered.  "Would one of them still defend her?"

"Jigen won't," Ray said, shaking his head.  "Jigen hates her.  Her own daughter hates her.  Ishi hates her.  Xander hates her, but he'll help Goemon.  Lupin abandoned her after getting her free.  Even if she showed up, they'd be wary.  She gave up her own kids because she didn't wanna be a mommy.  Keeps thinking Goemon's cousin, the nanny, is gonna take her man too."

"She seemed like a very nice, traditional woman," Benny noted.

"His family history is full'a samurai," Ray K told him.  "She's the daughter of one."  The men groaned.  "So she's not gonna help us and if we go for the kids, she'll break out the badass for us.  She may be nice, but underneath that kimono is a tiger waitin' ta come out."  He got up to get another beer.  "Unless we can get them to have a major fight somehow and break apart, or we can pick them off one by one from afar, we're screwed on catching them."  He popped open the bottle, then shook his head.  "Fortunately there's plenty of others out there.  I don't wanna be like Zenny in another ten years."  He took a long drink.  "He thinks I'm gonna be like him, he warned me about obsessions."

Ray Vecchio gave him a long look.  "It's always harder when you know the crook as a friend."

"Yeah, but Xander, the one at the conventions, is a nice guy.  He's the guy he used ta be, before the moron gave him to the demons.  It's only on the job that he's different.  Then he's a cold and sure asshole.  Lupin's had to deal with insecurity from him, but none of it ever shows on the job.  On the job he's focused, calm, cool, and just fine unless there's an emergency that's medical in nature."

"He plans and if they go too far astray without a backup, he panics," Benny suggested.  Ray nodded.  "Does he still feel pain?"

"Other's," Ray agreed. "He's got some nerve damage from the torture.  Seems I heard he had open sores for two years and no one knew."

Vecchio gaped.  "Damn it!"

"Yeah, I know," Ray agreed.  "He's borderline psycho.  Lavelle is a *different* person from Xander.  But they're kinda the same.  It's only a half-layer in his mind.  Sorta like a side program in the great computer of his mind."

"So we're dealing with a serial killer who still has some conscience, just not about his job?" Benny asked.

"Possibly," Ray K agreed.  "See, he can be cold on the job, but let there be a kid, a puppy, a kitten, anything cute or furry and he'll coo and pet it ta death, then calmly shoot something and go back to it. It's like the killing was him squishing an ant or somethin'."  Ray took another drink.  "Then Lupin'll praise him and give him his cookie of choice, usually sex."   He handed Vecchio a beer since he was in there and the man seemed to need one.  "It's like it's not registering in his mind.  I've seen him, in that other timeline, take out a whole mess of people at a convention to protect the kids from the thieves hitting a jewel show.  The same one here that Arsene hit.  He and Marcus took them out, showed how good they were by only wounding them, then went to have a drink and Xan changed before going back to the convention. I'm guessing it's from the torture or from huntin' demons in high school."

"He was hunting those vampires in high school?" Vecchio asked.  Ray K nodded.  "He was a good guy?"  Ray K nodded again.  "Can we find the person who turned him and kill him?"

"Possibly. He's in LA somewhere near David," Ray said with a small shrug.  "I heard it was Marcus' father.  With the way they talk about it, I'm not surprised if it was.  Before that he was the support behind the army of the light.  Then he was given and things changed.  Jigen helped him recover.  They took him in as a family and did something that the others didn't, listen and trust him.  The one he worked with, Dawnie's sister, she never listened to him.  Always thought he was a duffer of some sort."  The men groaned.  "So he proved his worth and she ignored him.  She left for Cleveland and he stayed in LA to work with them.  He did good work there, and then Marcus' father did that to him."  He took a long drink.  "Got that from him when he was drunk.  That's all he'd say about it, but he was ready to cry.  Something had just triggered the memories again and he was in misery.  I ended up getting Misty to use his phone to call his buddies.  They came for him and stayed upstairs in the rooms for the next two days."  He finished that beer and tossed it into the trash, turning to look at his friends again. "See why I wanted you two ta come help?"

"I do," Vecchio agreed.  "Ma wasn't happy but at least I'm doing a good job, except for today.  What is that kid?"

"Goemon the Fourteenth.  He's a samurai in training, but Xander's taken his training in hand as his mentor.  So he's learned to shoot, learned how to use his sword, and I have no doubt he's going to the assassin's academy someday soon if his dad doesn't find him a private master to train with, the way he was."

"So the kid's a mini Xander and Goemon together?" Ray Vecchio asked.  Ray K nodded.  "Does his father know?"

"I guess so.  He seems to be proud of him.  Xander taught him somehow to learn off anime and movies.  Xan's learned off a lot of anime. He's good because of it, and he's just unsure enough to not show Goemon until forced."  They all looked pissed at that.  "That's why Zenny said he could be reformed back to a good guy."

"Can we exploit that insecurity?" Benny asked.

"Nope," Ray K sighed.  "He knows he's good, he hates to look stupid in front of his teachers.  He was doing it behind Goemon's back."

"That leaves us with snipers or a lucky job where they're split up," Ray Vecchio noted, sipping his beer.  He grimaced, looking at the label. "Lite beer?"

"Do you know how hard it is to find good beer in Paris?" Ray countered.

"We're close to Germany and Britain!"

"Yeah, but they don't import here.  The French consider it beneath them.  That's why they make wine."

Ray rolled his eyes.  "I'll find the beers next time," he said firmly.  "There's got to be an import shop in the city."

"Twelve bucks a six pack," Ray K countered.  Vecchio winced.  "Exactly. Which is why we've got lite beer in the house."

"We'll figure that out," Ray promised him.  "That's sickening.  I like wine but I can't stand living on it.  You can't watch the Bulls with wine. It's blasphemy."

Benny held in his smirk at that assertion.  "I'm sure we can find somewhere to get beer, perhaps getting it shipped or something."  He looked at Ray again, giving him a small smirk.  "Have we set up the machine to tape the games in case we're on another continent?"

"I did," Ray K agreed happily.  "All the Bulls games, all the Cub's games.  We're set unless we seriously lose power for a long time and miss one, and then we'll be able to get a copy from Frannie, we'll just have to wait two weeks for it."

"Good enough," Ray Vecchio agreed lightly. He took another drink, at least it wasn't wine.  "What are we doing about food?"

"Dude, we're in the city of food," Ray K reminded him.  "You can walk out of this building, find two bakeries, three cheese shops, and seventeen restaurants within two blocks.  If you wanna cook, the nearest grocery is about four blocks away."  Vecchio snickered.  "Seriously.  Speaking of, on the other side of Zenny's former block there's a great restaurant.  It's not expensive, it's got a lot of good food, good portions, and even Lupin likes eating there since Xander does.  I got that one from Lupin himself.  He gave me a whole list of restaurants that the group like to visit which are cheap, but good.  Including an American sports bar.  Xander found that one and lived in it for about a week and a half.  He doesn't even like sports that way, but he was missing being American."

Vecchio snickered, shaking his head.  "Okay, so we'll only have to cook on occasion, like when we're too tired to order food and pick it up."

"Six of the places deliver," Ray offered.  Vecchio gave him a dirty look.  "Hey, you can cook all you want.  I'll do dishes and eat.  I like ta eat and I suck at cooking."  He grinned at him.  "So we'll let you decide. I'm for Chinese tonight though."

"With our luck, we'll order and the phone will ring," Benny said dryly.  As if summoned, the phone did ring.  "Or sooner."  He got up to retrieve the screaming device.  "Yes?"  He listened to Myron.  "Why are we going to Istanbul?"  He sighed.  "Of course.  Stop by to pick us up, we'll be ready in a half-hour."  He hung up. "The commissioner is sending us to Istanbul.  Apparently there's a serial killer down there taking out the market.  They requested assistance and he had remembered that Dawn had done some work there recently."  They went to their rooms to pack bags, and to get Dief's harness from the closet, then went down to meet up with Myron and his SUV.

"Can we stop by for food to take on the plane?" Ray K asked.  "I'm starved."

"How do you stay so skinny?" Myron complained.  "Call it in and we'll drive by to pick it up, or you can make do with fast food."

Ray pulled out the menus he kept in his wallet, calling in an order, then let Vecchio have it to put in his own.  Otherwise they wouldn't get fed until after breakfast.

Myron shared a look with the Mountie. "How did you put up with those two?"

"Easy, they liven up the job," he said lightly.  "Being out in the middle of the woods is much more fun with either of them."

"Better you than me, man."

"Hey, Xander suggested we should date, My," Ray K said with a smirk.

"I'd kill you, skinny.  You know that."  He grinned back at him as they stopped at a light.  Someone on a bike zipped past them and a familiar car came roaring past them to follow her.  "Looks like Dawnie's pissed at her old man.  He's yelling out the window at her.  Something about leather?"

"It's the outfit," Vecchio noted, closing the phone.  "The usual Chinese place."

"I'm for that.  Did you guys get me anything?"

"Yup, just what you like," Ray K said with a smirk.  "You too, Benny.  He really minds those catsuits?  I don't know why.  She looks hot in them."

"He's a jealous spouse, like I'd be," Ray Vecchio reminded him.  "That's the problem, people look at her in them."

Ray K snorted.  "He needs ta loosen up.  He's in the city of love, with a hot chick half his age, who's stuffed up with his baby.  He'll have a real heart attack soon if he don't."

"We've advised and warned him," Myron reminded him. "He doesn't want to listen."  He stopped outside the restaurant, letting the two Rays run inside.  He rolled his eyes.  "I serve with a bunch of goofballs."  His phone rang so he answered it.  "Yeah, sir?"  He listened, then rolled down the window.  "Hey, Ray, Zenny said to get him some egg rolls and to get Dawnie some broth!"  He rolled the window back up.  "Okay, sir.  Anything else?  No, we're heading in now.  Yes, sir."  He hung up and leaned his head back, letting the wolf lick his face. "Thanks, Dief.  You're the most normal guy on this whole detail sometimes."  He petted the soft fur while his owner laughed.


To Part 37
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