Lupin Family Fun.
Arsene looked at her cohorts, then sighed. This just sucked. She looked at where her students were, shaking her head. "They suck," she whispered. Melissa grimaced and nodded. "Are we noting this?"
"Oh, I am," Lotus agreed bitterly.
"I'll do the next one."
"That's DeMarllion. I'll do him and you do Wyatt." They looked across the park at the unrealistic thief who wanted to steal part of a statue. "How is he going to get that off?"
"Short of a hammer and chisel, a jackhammer, or explosives, I don't have a clue," Ishi admitted, stretching out on his portion of the bench they were sharing. "Cop."
Arsene snorted as she watched the obvious cop watching the boy. "Okay then. Either he's sloppy and ineffective, or he's got a really good cover."
"I'm not taking that chance," Melissa decided. She got up and strolled over, leaning against the boy's arm. "Cop," she whispered. "Messy guy in blue and tan." He stiffened and nodded. "You can come back. I'm doing your evaluation." He nodded, walking her off, taking her back to the bench. "Okay, are we aborting our afternoon activities?" she asked as she rejoined them.
"Remember how I said that if we got stopped by someone you didn't know me?" Arsene asked the young thief. He nodded quickly. "Remember that."
"Because I've already got stuff out for me," she reminded him. "We came in already trained." He pouted. "Sorry, but we've been with the 'rents now for *years*. School was to give us chances to socialize."
"And sometimes we snuck away from the parents," Ishi said dryly.
"Usually those were more fun," Melissa agreed. "Did your dad ever figure out what we brought back from that rescue?"
"Nope," Arsene said smugly. She crossed her feet, watching as a few more cops showed up in the park. "Okay, it's getting crowded and they're taking my sun. We're heading to do a snack." She got up and they followed her off. She nodded at Melissa, who walked the boy off like he was her boyfriend. Ishi and Lotus took off together since it was clear they were siblings to anyone who could ever wonder. Arsene kept going, heading for her new favorite place to get gelato. She paid for a small dish of lime gelato and went back out to sit on the porch, watching the people go by. She noticed a few of their students were out watching things as well and groaned. Shit, they couldn't follow orders. They were so screwed if the cops found them. She ate another bite, catching the eye of one of the boys, who jogged over and whispered in her ear. "Fine. The park was getting crowded. It was like a convention of people in overcoats with hats and badges." He looked stunned. "So be careful. The others are heading back to the hotel." He nodded and went back to his watching. He was staring at the people doing drawings of the buildings, not a bad hobby. He was a bit obvious, something he'd figure out with more training. If the cops didn't shoot him this weekend. She ate another bite, looking around. She slumped down when she saw Zenigata walk past but he was reading a file so maybe she was fine. She disappeared once he had gone past, missing him turning and looking at her seat, looking quite confused.
Melissa looked around in horror as shots broke out, groaning because she was alone with the thief-in-training. "You are so dead when we get back," she hissed as the boy ran past her. She pulled her gun and took a deep breath before stepping out and hitting whoever was shooting at them, trying not to pay much attention to who she hit. He had a gun, he was going to kill her, he could die. She ran after the thief-in-training, dragging him into a small club and to a corner table, smacking him across the back of the head. "Stupid asshole," she hissed in French.
"I didn't know!"
"Bullshit!" She sat him down and pulled out her phone, dialing the hotel. "Problems. He hit a hitter's house." She hung up and glared at him. "Okay, this is your problem. How are you getting out of this?"
"You!" She calmed herself since the music was quieting again. "You didn't do your research. This was your assignment, your plan. I got you out of there alive. You're going to either have to find a new target, or deal with this and go next year."
"I don't have another year," he hissed back.
She glared at him. "Then you can be fucked up the ass, dear. This is your plan. What's next?"
"Why are you being so mean to me?" he whined.
"Because you chose a house without knowing a *thing* about the owner!" She got up and headed up to the bar, handing over her fake id and card. "All I want is a glass of wine before I kill him." The man looked at her, then at the id. "It's not my first and I'd prefer scotch, like my dad. I'll take wine." He snorted and got her some, handing over a glass. "Thank you." She took her cards back once he had run it, heading back to the table with it. She sat down so she could relax. "All right. Have you decided on which way to go?"
"I don't know about any other targets."
"You've got two days, kid. It's not going to get any easier. And if they saw who I was, we're all fucked." He shivered and nodded, seeming to curl up around his stomach. "So, your choice."
"I want to do something else," he decided. "It'd be safer."
"Good idea. Where?"
"Where did you get yours?"
"Napoleon's museum where he stashed church stuff."
"Oh." He pouted, that didn't sound very exciting. "Maybe we should check on the others? Can we go back to the hotel?"
"We can," she agreed, gulping her wine. "I needed that." She stood up and walked him out, hand on his arm in case he decided to go off by himself to cause her more problems. She noticed the people staring at them and glared back, pausing to talk to someone she sorta knew. Her dad had introduced her once. "Hi. Should I give my father your respects?"
The older man looked down at her, then nodded once. "School trip?" She nodded. "Very well then. We won't kill you." He looked at the boy. "Either of you."
"That'd be a nice change," Arsene said as she appeared behind them. "Hey, 'Lis. We're surrounded by idiots."
Melissa sighed. "Okay. I'm coming. Thank you, sir. He's *very* sorry."
"He's not the worst," Arsene said dryly. She nodded at the hitters. "Morning. Having a bad day?"
"She shot one of us!" one of them said angrily.
"You were trying to blow my ass away! Of course I did," Melissa reminded him. "I don't want to die at my age!" She rolled her eyes, looking at his boss. "Did you hire him for a skill other than his brains?"
He laughed and nodded. "Indeed. My daughter likes him." He caught her look. "He's talented in other ways."
"Hopefully I can find one of those when I'm ready to settle down," Arsene said, leading the boy off. "C'mon. We're going to go back to the hotel. He's *very* sorry he bothered you, sir."
"Make sure it doesn't happen again, Lupin." He smiled at Melissa. "Are you looking for a more calm and sane job?"
"No, I like Lupin. I keep her sane and out of the worst trouble. Otherwise we would be redecorating each and every job." He laughed and she grinned as she walked off, heading after the others. "How bad?"
"Someone can plan how to break the three others out of jail and use them as their targets," Arsene offered bitterly. "Lotus is throwing a fit."
"Good. Which ones?"
"DeMarllion. Hendricks. Percival."
"Oh, shit," Melissa sighed. "Two females?" Arsene nodded. "They okay?"
"So far. We'll see later on I guess." She stopped and leaned against a building, looking around to make sure they were alone. "They weren't even on a job. They were out sightseeing. They paid too much attention to a diplomat and they had them arrested on suspicion charges. Ishi's casing it. Lotus is dealing with the Headmistress since they were out without us and without our permission. Oh, and Dad's not in town, but yours is."
"Oh, crap," she sighed. "He'll hear."
"Probably," Vecchio called down from above them. "What did you do?" He leaned out the window.
"Are you following us?" Arsene said in disgust. "I don't like you that much, that's dad." She looked at Melissa. "Home base?"
"Home base," she agreed, taking off with the boy in tow.
Arsene looked up and flipped him off. "It's a school assignment, thank you. We're teaching." She strolled off, heading to find a drink. These kids were going to drive her nuts. No wonder their parents drank so often. "I'm never having kids," she complained as she walked. "I was sure before but I'm going to cut that shit out so it can't happen."
"I can help you with that," a silky, deep male voice said from behind her.
She spun around and glared at the human who *dared* speak to her. "What the fuck do you want?"
"A young woman such as yourself should never be out by herself," he said as he strolled closer. "You could run into all sorts of things."
She snorted. "Then maybe I should introduce myself. I'm Lupin the Fourth." He considered her, then burst out laughing. "Think it's a funny name do we?"
"No. You are *exactly* like your father."
"Yeah, well, some days he thinks I'm a female clone of him. Anything else? We're here on a school trip and I'm being driven insane by the other students. I'm going for a drink."
"At your age?"
She sighed and looked up, sending a silent prayer. Then she attacked him, going hand-to- hand until she got to the rake that was in the bushes nearby and then hit him a few times with it. "Yes, at my age," she sneered, spitting on him. "Go away. I don't need men like you. I only like men with taste, skill, and a big dick. You don't fit any of those." She stomped off, going back to her hunt for a drink. This weekend just got better and better. Now she had to deal with Vecchio, with the assassin who had just tried for her, and the other students. Fortunately she had pulled her job first. All of them had and sent back their projects to the school. Now if only she could ship off the others as easily. She shrieked as someone grabbed her hair, turning to kill them for it. He got her free of her gun but she was still very well trained. By the time she was done, Vecchio was on the ground bleeding and moaning. She picked up her gun and glared at him. "With the day I've just had, I should shoot you in a horribly painful place. Too bad Mom'll get pissed if I do that." She pushed her fannypack around and pulled something out. "Oh, well, guess I'll have to make due." She glanced around before frisking him, then noticed someone coming toward them. "Help! He tried to attack me!" she yelled, backing away from him, zipping up her bag with his badge and gun in it. "He's a bad man!" she called, acting like her age for a change. A few men came running, including the assassin. "He tried to grab me, I had to hurt him," she sniffled. "He's a bad man!"
A cop came jogging over. "What's wrong?" He looked from Vecchio to the girl and back. "What's going on?"
"He tried to grab me!" she shouted, stomping her foot. "He's a bad man!"
"He's a detective," the cop noted.
"So he grabs me by the hair!" She threw up her hands and stomped off.
"She's got my badge and gun," Vecchio admitted as the cop helped him up. "That's Lupin the Fourth."
The cop looked stunned for a moment, then blew his whistle and ran after her, but she had disappeared. He came back. "It's all right, Inspector."
"It's not. She's here on some sort of school trip."
The cop started to swear as he called that in. "We're a target for the Academy this year. Lupin the Fourth is in town." He put up his radio and helped Ray to the boat coming toward them, getting him into it. "He tried to handle Lupin the Fourth by himself," he said proudly.
"Poor thing," one of the other cops sighed, helping him to a bench seat. They went back to the station, this needed to be reported to a higher authority.
"Ray tried to get me," Arsene announced as she walked in. "The cop knew him so my 'he was trying to snatch me' routine didn't work." She flopped down on the joint couch, looking around. "That's it, we're doing this the Lupin way," she decided. Lotus sat up and stared at her. "Tough. You," she said, pointing at the remaining female. "Are you done?" She shook her head. "Target?"
"Statue from the Guggenheim." She pulled out the pictures. "It's about ten inches tall, on a table, and there's only a pressure plate for an alarm. The guards are lax, tired, and not armed." Melissa looked at them, then handed them off. "Is that okay?"
"That's fine," Arsene agreed. "But Vecchio told them who I was. I heard him tell the second cop that I was Lupin the Fourth. That means that the guards could pick up. Ishi, go with her tomorrow, help her case the place." He nodded. "Lotus, I want the jail scoped out. I want to have an idea. Take Melissa with you if you have any doubt. Melissa, I heard, nice job," she finished. She stretched then stood up and took off her skirt. One of boys whimpered. "Yay. Get over it. Daddy and Mom said sixteen or there'll be a political marriage instantly." They quieted and curled up in their seats. "Thank you. Boys, you got targets?"
"Yes, ma'am," Wyatt said quietly. "And I can share if I have to."
The other boy looked at him. "I've got a good one."
"We need you to pull it off without notice," Melissa reminded him. "Blowing up a statue is not unnoticeable." She glanced at the door and coughed, nodding at it.
Arsene growled and pulled her gun out, walking over to yank open the door. "Good, it's you." She pulled him inside and slammed the door. "Hey, Uncle Jigen, can you run interference? We've got to do a few things very badly." She sat down, taking the bowl of fruit Lotus handed over. "Thanks. Grapes?" Ishi handed over his grapes so she sat there and snacked, considering. "All right. Wyatt, John. You guys are going for the idiots. Plan it with 'Lis and Lotus. I don't care how you do it, but get the other students back. You can use them as your project. They definitely came from Venice," she said bitterly, eating another grape. She looked at the female. "Get yours tomorrow. The town's too hot. Ladies, get the boys and other girl out tomorrow afternoon if possible."
"The plans are available on the bulletin board," Jigen offered, sitting down beside his little girl. "I heard. You okay?"
"I'm fine, daddy. He was going to kill us." She snuggled into his side. "Where's Uncle Lupin?"
"Being a prick." Arsene looked at him. "He and Xander are having a bit of a spat about that upcoming apocalypse. Xander'll have to go hide somewhere and pretend to be a normal. He can't even call from what we've been told. Lupin and I think it's a trick."
Arsene waved a hand. "Kinda. Yeah, he needs to get the mother's trust. He needs to act like a normal. That doesn't mean he can't take the odd weekend off until she delivers. So said the talking heads." She ate another grape. "Did I remember to take pictures?" Melissa shook her head, making Arsene groan. "Fuck!"
"Language," Wyatt complained. "I'm still an innocent."
"Not for much longer," Melissa assured him. She looked up at her dad. "Okay. Are you being the monitor?"
"No, I'm going to be distracting the cops."
"Gramps is in town. I tried to get away from Vecchio but the cop knew him so my 'he tried to grab me' didn't work," Arsene told him. "It's like we were cursed or something."
"You should ask about that," Jigen said seriously.
"Oh, I'm going to," she assured him dryly. She looked back as the doorknob rattled. "I'm busy having sex, go away," she yelled in Arabic. Someone on the other side giggled and they were left alone. She looked at Jigen. "Can you create that sort of distraction?"
"Sure," he agreed smugly. "Not a problem. Goemon's around here too."
"Even better," Melissa agreed. "Are both Ray's here?"
"One's off duty. Vecchio's visiting some distant family and Zenigata's not letting them out of his sight just in case Lavelle shows up."
"No!" Arsene said quickly, shaking her head. "No, not Mom. That'll become a panic." Jigen nodded, shrugging lightly. "Please. Not that."
"Wasn't going to suggest it. It's your show, I'm just a bit player this time." He got comfortable. "Ishi, if you've got some time, your dad wanted to see you again."
"You guys can come up when we get back," Melissa promised, grinning at him. "You're sure you can play bait?"
"Yeah, as long as I don't have to wear a short skirt and heels."
"That's a bad image," Arsene told him. She considered it and shuddered. "Eww."
"Sorry. I'll go. Just remember, we'll be watching, kids." He and the girls shared a look before he left.
"Good. Okay." Arsene looked at the other female. "Get yours tonight. Can you do that?"
"Probably. It'd be easier, less people watching." She stood up. "Who's watching me?"
"I will," Ishi said. "Just in case. There's been too many people trying to kill us this year." She nodded and they headed out together.
"Ishi, gun?" Arsene called.
"Got it covered. Got the sword." He locked the door behind them.
Arsene looked at Melissa. "Get the plans for the jail. I want them out as early as possible. I'm tired of this job." Melissa nodded and pulled out her laptop.
"Shouldn't we be doing that?" Wyatt asked.
"I'm a resource. I'm getting you plans. You'll make the assault plan and we'll follow you," Melissa promised. She glanced at Arsene. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah. It sucks, but yay." Everyone nodded. "Get to it, people. I'll do mine on the way out of town as an extra diversion. Lotus, you're taking the notes for them if possible, or tape it if not." She nodded. "Good. Let me know if you need me as backup, or if you need Ishi."
"On it," Melissa reminded her. They settled in to make their plans, letting Arsene plan her own second job. Since she hadn't gotten the proof that her thing came from the town doing a second one would keep her from having to come back the next year.
Arsene got up and went to call the teacher who was listening for them. "Hey," she said in greeting. "Not only is Gramps and his Rays here, but so's Uncle Jigen. He's being a diversion. Shit has hit the gondolier and he's a smelly bastard." She listened. "No, let's see. We've ran into a hitter, who Melissa had to shoot. We've run into Vecchio twice now inadvertently. We've got three arrested students because they went off without a chaperone. No, they were staring at some diplomats apparently and someone thought they were odd and bad. So we're going to use that as a few of the heists. No, DeMarllion is one of them. Idiot did it to himself probably. Speaking of, did you get mine? I didn't take pictures or anything." She grimaced. "Not an issue. Yeah, I can do that, just in case. No, we're doing that tomorrow and heading home. No, Vecchio told them who I was. I gave the kids that rule when we got here. They're listening so far. Yeah, that's fine. Just checking in." She hung up and strode back out, taking the rest of the grapes to nibble on. "Okay, we're cleared with the school. Include the change of plans in your reports. I want someone to know what really happened." They all nodded so she went to the bathroom. "I'm showering. Don't flush." She shut the door and went to relax. She needed some hot water pounding her back. This had been a horrible day.
Arsene walked through the gathering, her camera pin was taping everything from the lapel of her red bolero jacket. Her dress was a simple, classical black dress and her stockings and shoes were nice, yet practical. She smiled as she grabbed some punch from the passing waiter, nodding politely at him when he looked shocked. "My parents are here." He nodded and went on. She walked off, going to find something good here. It wasn't her favorite idea but she could prove it and that's what was important on this assignment. She saw a few pretty pieces of jewelry, heading for one old, loud, gauche matron who wasn't really liked by a lot of people with the way she had a circle of non-interference around her position. "Hello," she said in excellent French. "I'm Lisette. I'm here to observe how to do the job." She held out a hand. "Are you a diplomat yourself or an Under-Minister?"
"You think highly of me," the woman said, looking her over. "Which group is yours?"
Arsene looked around and pointed at someone she knew something about. "One of his assistants is my father. I find the job fascinating and I'm hoping for a diplomatic post myself some day, so he let me come as long as I was relatively discreet."
"Ah." She looked the girl over again. "Well, you're obviously of good breeding and have some taste. At the very least you'll make a good diplomatic wife."
Arsene grinned. "Why would I want a man to be a stepping stool? All they're good for is being a back to step on at my age." She sipped her punch. "Are there any other hopefuls here?"
"Not many," she said dryly. "Most of them went on the sight seeing trip." Arsene shuddered. "You didn't want to go?"
"I don't particularly like water and small crafts give me the willies."
"Ah." She smiled more. Now she had something on this one. Arsene liked this one, she was a good target. "I'm Gladys Pretrovich."
"The Greek ambassador's special friend?" The woman looked stunned. "I did do a bit of studying before I showed up. I heard he had brought you because you were quite savvy and able to see through most of these petty games that they like to play to get one over on the others." She took another sip of her punch. "I don't blame him. Sometimes you've got to be able to see deeper than the polite society face."
"I like you," she decided. "Who are you really? His assistants are all female, young lady."
She smirked. "I'm here on a school assignment."
"Hmm. Which one?"
"The Assassin's Academy. I'm Lupin the Fourth." She finished her punch. "School assignments suck."
"That is very true," she agreed. She looked around and pointed at one woman. "She'd make a wonderful target."
"I wouldn't want to curse the others when her baby causes a mood swing," Arsene sighed. "Otherwise I'd gladly do it. Of course, we've got to send things back this time."
"Hmm. Then go to the woman with the big nose. Tell her you're Domini's niece. She's got many of them. You'll find something," she said smugly.
"Thank you. I hope to see you at other social events in the future." She shook her hand and walked off, heading to the woman who had been pointed out to her. She was wearing some stunning pieces. One of them nearly made her drool. It was a waist chain of rubies. It went wonderfully against her gown, but against Arsene's own it would be even better. She smiled and nodded politely at the woman. "It was suggested that I come give my regards to the queen of the fete. I'm one of Domini's nieces, Lisette." The woman hugged her. "Thank you, my lady." She pulled back and smiled at her, glancing around. Oops, a cop. She looked up. "I should probably make a discreet exit soon. I'm the only young woman here."
"You are, but you are quite the consort in training." She stroked the girl's face. "Yes, you will do wonderfully in the life. You have taste, you have class. You show signs of good breeding and you're intelligent. You even speak like you were trained at some of the finest academies."
"I was," she admitted. "Though, my mother was the one who trained most of my skills. She's doing the same job without the formal training."
"Good. That is how it should be." She looked around. "What is that odious commoner doing here?"
"He's being mean. Should I lead him off?"
"Please, dear. I look forward to seeing you later." She kissed her on the cheek, then patted her on the back. "Do have a good day, dear."
"Thank you, ma'am. I plan on it." She walked off, not showing anything out of the ordinary. She noticed a hint of chain was peeking out and tucked it back into her skirt's waistband, acting like it was one of those stupid hanging straps. She smoothed down her skirt again and headed out past the cop, smiling brightly at him. "Hi." He looked watched her for a moment before following her. She disappeared, heading to where the others should be waiting. She smiled as the car pulled up beside her, getting inside. Ishi took off again, smoothly heading up one of the few roads out of town. "Are we all here?"
"Melissa has the others in another car. They left before us." He tooted as he drove past where Goemon was sitting, waving at him through the window. He sped up as they found a road heading back in-country. "The plans went according to the guy's plans. We're all doing good. All we have to do is get out of town and we're fine."
"Which means we'll hit a roadblock," Lotus said from the back seat.
"If we do, I'm killing them. I want a damn good soak." Arsene sank down some and pulled the pretty waist chain to show off. "Ah, pretty." She stuffed it into the pocket sewn on the inside of her skirt, right above the top of her stockings. "Speed up, Ishi. I feel nasty."
"Sure, Arsene. Tell me if we need to stop for supplies or anything."
"Just go faster."
"Of course," he agreed dryly. They hit the highway and he sped up. He wanted her Majesty, the Queen of PMS, back to her deep bathtub and hot water as soon as possible. It'd save his sanity because his sister wasn't that nice either. It was definitely not the time to be a guy in this group. He'd have to help them find a way to stop those nasty things.
Melissa shoved her students into the meeting room, shaking her head. "The others are right behind us. We weren't followed. I shot out Vecchio's tires." She gave them another shove. "Two of the students have much to present. The other's with the others. You did get our stuff, right?" The Headmistress nodded, giving her a dry look. "It wasn't our fault. They snuck off, they stared at the diplomats. They got arrested and things went to hell from there." She found a seat and pulled it over, sitting down. "Go ahead, Wyatt. You and John have a good one to give them." She glared at DeMarllion. This was mostly his fault.
Wyatt walked forward and presented his notebook. "Here, Headmistress. These are our notes of this weekend." He took two steps back. "There was a complication to our orderly plans but with Arsene's and Melissa's help we were able to make new ones and get new targets. As you can see, our fellow students were definitely part of Venice when we had to take them back. We came here directly from the jail. Our plans worked very well. I got the females free while the other was gotten by my compatriot. We did use others as diversions, namely Melissa's father and Arsene. We had many complications during the time. I personally hope to never have anything like that again. Not only were there ICPO Inspectors. There was a Police Convention at the same time as the fandom convention and the diplomatic summit." He cleared his throat. "We did use resources that may not have been allowed, including Melissa and her wonderful bulletin boards."
Melissa sighed. "We had to get the plans for the jail off the Bulletin Boards. I oversaw their plans but let them do the majority of it. Lotus, Ishi, and I acted as backup when they went in. Ishi and I ended up helping a few times but it was either us helping or them staying there."
"It was an extreme circumstance," the Headmistress agreed. "I saw your ideas for the weekend and they were indeed the best choice. They left each student free enough to do their work but with the oversight available in case something happened." Melissa clamped a hand over her mouth and ran off to get sick. "What happened?"
John cleared his throat. "My original target was a home invasion, as you know. I chose a...bad target to put it mildly. I chose a hitter's house, ma'am." He looked down at his feet. "I was dumb not to do more searches on my target and she ended up having to shoot someone to save myself and her. Then she yelled at me and had a glass of wine." He looked up at her. "I was an idiot and I fully admit that my problems did not help matters any. Fortunately Melissa and Arsene met with the hitter's boss and he understood the assignment's nature. He said he held no onus against us for me being stupid."
"Good," she agreed calmly. She looked at the marksmanship teacher. "Go to the girl."
"I will. I'm letting her heave for a bit first. She'll have to work through it."
"She's gentle," Wyatt protested. He looked back as the door opened and Arsene walked in. "Melissa couldn't hold it in anymore. She's puking."
Arsene tossed over her camera and the waist chain, then went to comfort her sister, but found Ishi had already beaten her there. She sat on Melissa's other side, hugging her too. "You had to do it, 'Lis," she whispered gently. "There wasn't a choice. You did what you had to do and you saved you both. That's what's important." She looked at Ishi. "We had this same talk with you."
"You did," he agreed. He gave her another hug. "You did good, Melissa and I'm proud of how well you did. You protected yourself, that's all that matters to us. That we didn't lose you."
"I still shot him. I killed him."
"No, you severely injured him," Arsene admitted. "Trust me, sis. He's not dead. He's complaining a bit too much to be dead. Your dad said so when I called him to tell him we were free of Venice earlier." Melissa nodded, wiping off her face. "Now, can we go back to our presentation and root for it when the Headmistress kicks those three idiots in the ass?"
"Sure." She let Arsene and Ishi help her up and back to the meeting area. She nodded politely. "Sorry. Reaction."
"It's all right," the marksmanship teacher assured her. "We *all* got sick after the first time. I got sick for the first ten or so. It's normal. It means you're keeping your humanity. Good job, you protected yourself and your team. I give you high marks for that. You've learned what I could teach you." She nodded, sitting down again.
The headmistress coughed. "Enough. We'll get to their presentations soon enough." She looked at the three again. "Did you get a chance to do your own jobs?"
"They wouldn't let us go back," DeMarllion complained, pointing at Ishi. "He said we were leaving and we had to go or be left behind."
"I wasn't going to stick around in a city full of cops who want to hunt my ass down and hurt me," Arsene said dryly. "Gramps and his Rays were bad enough but there were over fifteen hundred extra cops in town for the ICPO convention. All of them with my cute little face on a wanted poster and nine warrants to get me on."
"Nine?" Ishi asked.
"Yeah, um, I had a job I fucked up on a few months back. I forgot a camera," Arsene admitted bitterly. "Vecchio seriously needs to pull the thong out of his butt crack."
The Headmistress nodded once. "I've had days like that," she admitted. "Apparently you've had a full weekend. Arsene, what is this?"
"The Doge's mistress's waist chain from the event today. I was being an extra diversion, outside of Jigen Senior and Goemon Sr. I think you'll like the tape. The Greek Ambassador's woman is *really* good. She saw through my act, got me to go bug her target, and laughed while I did it. She was pretty cool. She had me pretending to be one of the top courtesan's protégé's."
"You'd do well in that role. Especially in that outfit. It's very pretty," the marksmanship professor assured her.
"Thank you, sir. Um, I kinda need to change. I'm having one of those *girl* days."
"Go," the Headmistress agreed. "We'll watch your tape later and let you make your report." Arsene nodded and jogged off, her shoes clicking on the stone floors. She turned her glare on the others. "Ishi, Lotus, Melissa, Wyatt, John, and Tara, you may wait in the halls for your turns." They nodded, heading out to eavesdrop. She looked at the herbology teacher, who set up a shield on the door, smirking at the groans. "Thank you." She glared at the boys. "You knew you were not to leave your monitor's possession. That you were not to go off on your own without telling them where you were going and what you were going to do. Those rules were set down for your safety." Someone pounded on the door and she smirked. "Good. It sounds like the parents are here. Let them in."
Lupin looked up as Jigen walked into her room. "Did they have to sneak you in?"
"No," he said with a smirk. "But your dad is downstairs." He gave her a hug. "I'm damn proud. You did good with bad circumstances. You pulled a plan out of your ass with no forethought, and you got your team out. You also managed to intrigue one of the top assassins in the Mediterranean. You even managed to piss off Vecchio worse than usual. You do the family name proud, kid."
"I also managed to have another vision of the apocalypse. He needs to protect her but he can't go as a normal person or we'll have to do an emergency-save the day that you're due to be killed with Daddy."
He paused, then nodded once. "Discuss that with him, baby girl."
"I have. He agreed. We made different plans for that incident and he's helping Dawn with her custody thing." She stood up and gave him another hug. "We need to celebrate."
"That's why we're here." He smirked and led her out, taking her down to the main hall. "Here she is, Lupin."
"I don't know why I'm not allowed up there. It's not like I'd hit on the girls up there." He hugged his baby. "I'm so damn proud. You blow my mind, empress."
"Thanks, daddy. Did you congratulate Melissa on holding it together until we got back here?"
"I did," he promised, kissing her on the top of the head. "Oooh! I miss you. Let's go to dinner."
"Sure," Ishi agreed, smirking at his father. "We passed with distinction. Even Wyatt passed with distinction. They did a good job with the jail break."
"Good," Lupin agreed happily. "C'mon, I'm hungry." They piled out, going out to the car. "Yes, I got a limo. That way we could all go."
"Fred and the kids?"
"Bix," Lupin said smugly.
"Daddy Xander?" Melissa asked.
"Pissing off the cops."
"He's not coming?" Ishi asked.
"Later." Lupin got them inside then slid in after them, finding the kids had guns. "Um...."
"Nice try, Uncle Ray, but you don't do a good Daddy," Arsene said with a smirk. "The real ones?"
"On their way here but Zenigata is after them," he said, slumping down some. The other cops gave up too. "What gave it away?"
"You didn't slap Melissa on the ass," Lotus told him.
"You didn't check out the girls in miniskirts," Melissa offered.
"Daddy says 'empress' in a more special tone," Arsene told him.
"Daddy would have hugged me too," Ishi pointed out.
"Lupin's in France with Fred, who's got chicken pox," Jigen put in. He smirked at him. "Though, Lavelle has already dealt with Gramps and Vecchio. Something about an auction...." He grinned unrepentantly. "Surprise."
"Shit!" Kowalski groaned, taking off his disguise. "It took us months to find this place."
"Good." Arsene opened the door and got out, leaning on the hood of the limo. "Hey," she called to one of the guards. "They're cops. Did you want them?" He whimpered, then put out a desperate call for backup. Other guards came running. "Leave the Ray and Daddy Jigen," she ordered. "We'll make the Ray really sorry."
The Headmistress came out and took Ray. "We won't hurt this one. Lavelle called us earlier," she said with a grin. "Unfortunately our last one wanted to leave a bit too much. We've agreed that any of these three would be *excellent* to prove your points, Arsene. Good job." She walked him off, talking quietly to him. He looked back but she walked him on.
Arsene got back in with a smirk for the other kids, holding up the wallet. "So, where should we go?"
Jigen took it. "Out to dinner. Yo, let's go," he called to the driver. The limo pulled away and they headed off campus for a celebration dinner, Lupin style.
Lavelle walked up to the woman he was supposed to be guarding, handing her a flower before sitting across from her at the table. "Hey. I was sent to guard you and the baby." She dropped the flower, staring at him. "Someone wants to hurt you and the baby. They're going to try to pull an 'it's unholy' deal and kill you both. The baby's important and someone else sent me. How would you like to play this?"
She stroked her stomach. "What's going on?"
"Your baby is a small matter of prophecy. It's going to be a force for good, mostly. It'll be a warrior for chaos at times too. It'll be helping my baby daughter eventually. That's enough to make me want to protect you, even if I hadn't been asked." She nodded slowly. "I know," he admitted with a grin, "it sounds insane." She nodded quickly. "Let's put it to the test. Have you been kicked out of church yet?" She scowled and nodded. "Then there's something wrong. Do you remember how you got pregnant?"
"No," she said quietly. "I thought I got drugged while out drinking one night."
"It's possible, but I doubt it." He grinned. "We can even do a DNA test. I know what it'll show. So, if you want, I can set you up in a nice place, pay the bills, and protect you wonderfully. Then you can start over once you've delivered and recovered. You could even go international if you wanted."
She shook her head. "All my family's here."
He nodded. "I understand that. So I can offer a different solution. There's some people who're friends of friends. One's who kinda need some help too. I can help you both by setting you with her. It's not that far away," he promised. "But it'll keep you away from that cult up the road. It'll help her because she can watch you for a while. It'll also allow us to protect the most precious resource you carry."
"Where would I be?"
"That's still far away."
"A few day's," he agreed, still grinning. "Or we could move you together. I'd have to get her from Utah but I don't think you'd mind her too much. She's got animals. She's pretty nice. She's got a shitty job at the moment."
"Who are you?" she asked. "All your message said was that I had to meet you over the baby." He took off his ball cap, letting his hair free and she gasped. Only one person had hair that color. "You're that thief." He nodded, looking calm. "Why me?"
"The baby," he said honestly. "I've been ordered to protect the baby, make sure it gets born and baptized within three days of birth. Frankly, I'm the best trained there is with knowledge of what pregnancy is like." He grinned. "Wanna see pictures of the kids?"
"No, that's okay." She looked at him, licking her lips. "This is wrong."
He put back on his hat, then touched her hand. "The baby has to be protected. One way or another, we'll have to protect you. At least this way you'll have a better way of doing that. I'm not going to hit on you. I'm not going to be taking the child from you. I'm not going to do more than set you up somewhere protective. I figured you'd rather have the truth than have me hired on at the crappy job you've got and starting something with you undercover." She shuddered and shook her head. "See? Honestly isn't always comfy but it's usually a better policy."
"How would you know?" a familiar voice said from behind him. "That's not really your forte, boy."
"Because, Gramps, this is Janus' last child." He looked back at him. "I was sent to protect her and the baby. Otherwise people are going to kill him and he'll have to do something about it, like with your wife." He looked at her again, smirking. "Up to you. I won't do more than protect you from afar. I'm not bringing any of my hauls near you, I'm not involving you in the life. You can tell your family that you're accepting a job offer out of town if you want." He could feel the glaring and glared back. "What? I'm doing what I'm supposed to!"
"You're still a wanted thief."
"Yay. I'm also one of the few people who knows where Kowalski is." He looked at her again, then winked. "Small problem with his group, especially since we're not wanted for the rest of this year. On his suggestion I might add," he added with a smirk and a smug wink for her. "So, can I get someone to help you pack your things?"
"This is all really sudden."
"Hey, all you have to do is hide and be a pregnant woman. For that I'll make sure you're well taken care of and that you've got a good nest egg to start over with the baby. How's twenty grand sound to you?" Her jaw dropped and he shrugged. "Before I did this, I worked the crappy job circuit. I remember how much it costs to move and start over. I also remember what it was like to find a semi-decent job and work long hours at it but not get anywhere because of it. It'd be up to you exclusively. You could decide what you wanted to do with it. I'd be the child's protector when things started to go wrong again."
"He'll be in trouble?"
"On and off," he admitted. "His father's Janus. He's got to have some problems. It'll probably be minor, like bullies and things," he offered. She nodded. "It won't get any easier the other way. It'll get harder. And hey, I'm not asking for anything other than you to get yourself somewhere safe and lounge around. You can have all the contact you want with your family. The next time you'll see me is at the birth if you accept. It doesn't even matter what you baptize him, as long as he is."
She looked up at the cop. "He's serious?"
"Unfortunately," he agreed. "My wife got asked to intervene as well but she didn't know how best to do it."
"And this other woman?"
"Is a fic writer," he said with a grin. "You'll like her. You already know her." She blinked a few times and he giggled. "I'm a fancon whore."
"Oh. Okay." She looked at her hands, then up at him. "No funny stuff?"
"Hell no. I know what being pregnant was like. I'd never do that to one of us." He stood up. "C'mon. I've got movers coming so you've got to gather the cats."
"Were you going to kidnap me?"
"Yeah," he said honestly. "Because someone's coming this weekend to hunt you down and kill you both. So I'm saving you until you're moved." He walked her on, taking her back to her rental trailer, summoning in the moving people once she had her cats gathered. They were quickly whisked off into his version of the witness protection program.
Lavelle wandered into the convenience store, nodding at the woman behind the counter as he headed back to the cold cases. He found a decent flavor of Boone's Farm and brought it back, having to wait in line behind the guy already at the register. He noticed the fidgety gestures and mentally groaned. Not tonight! The guy tried his crap with a fake gun and he had to laugh. "No, dear, guns are much heavier than that piece of plastic," he assured him, putting down his bottle to pull his own gun out. "See, they're also usually shinier. Now, if I'm going for a matte finish, I use this one," he noted, pulling that one. He cocked it and rested it against the idiot's temple, making him piss himself. "Now then," he said with a smirk. "Do you know me?" He shook his head quickly so Xander took off the hat he was wearing, letting down his pretty silver hair. The crook still looked clueless but the woman behind the counter squealed.
"You're fucking Lavelle!"
He grinned and nodded. "Sure am." He looked at the boy again. "As in the world famous gunman and thief, yes," he said dryly. "You're bothering me. This store is protected while she's here. Get over it and go away, before I have to toast your ass. It'll be a funny funeral I'm sure." The guy ran out, heading right into the turning cop car. He put his guns away and leaned on the counter, grinning at her. "All packed?"
"Why would I be?"
"Because I've got a job for you. I've got someone who needs a companion to watch out for her while she's pregnant. You were suggested. You stay with her in a house with all utilities paid in the Midwest and you get a twenty grand nestegg. You can bring any and all pets if you want." Her mouth opened as the cop walked in. "He tried to rob this nice young lady," he told the cop, who took one look at him and backed out quickly. "C'mon. Let's go."
"I can't just leave!"
"Bullshit. Call your manager. I walked out *many* times when I had this sort of job back in Sunnydale."
"How did you know who I am?"
"Misty told me." She groaned and slapped herself on the head. "She's a fic writer too. You'll get along well. Hurry up before he decides to find his balls." She called her supervisor and then headed out with him, taking the back door so she could get her coat and things. That way the poor cop wouldn't have to piss himself again. He walked her off into the night, letting her get her things and her pets, then he drove her to the nice place she'd be staying. He let her out and helped her carry stuff inside, then grinned and left, heading back to Lupin's side. The watcher in town was going to do just fine. He dumped the rental car and decided to teleport back, landing in the foyer of the main house. It was very quiet so he checked his watch. "Hey, nap time," he said happily, heading to the kitchen. The office was on the way and the others were in there. "Done," he called as he walked past the doorway.
"Get in here," Lupin called.
Xander backtracked and walked in. "Both targets are together and safe. Janus's last kid will be safe and there's someone in town watching them for me. I even got to torment Gramps."
"Fine," Jigen agreed. "We still haven't seen you in weeks."
"Let me get some soda and I'll be right back." He headed into the kitchen, getting himself a drink of soda before heading back into the office. He found a good seat to lounge in and got comfortable, letting his jacket hang over the back of the chair. "New plans?"
"Not yet," Lupin admitted. "Comfy?"
"Much." He sipped his soda. "Why?"
"Just checking." Lupin looked at him and grinned. "So, how was the Tower this year?"
"That's next month." Lupin held up a newspaper and Xander snatched it, reading it. "That's so unfair! But hey, at least Zenigata was honest and said I had been in the States that day. Wonder who that is." He tossed it back, getting comfy again. "Who'd impersonate me? Besides Marcus now and then."
"We're not sure," Lupin admitted. "The problem is, he's got you down to a 't'. Even how you brag and swagger sometimes."
"Down to the whorehouse," Jigen agreed. "Some of the girls knew it wasn't you by the way."
"That's cool. I knew I was unforgettable." He grinned at them. "It still wasn't me."
"This could be a problem, Xander," Lupin pointed out.
"Then I'll call the person out. Unless Ethan made a clone of me, there shouldn't continue to be a problem." He took another drink. "I'll call around tonight to see who this person is. One of my people should have a clue."
"Bastian said he was a street hood trying to get your rep to make it easier and sweeter on him," Jigen offered.
"Huh. Cool. I'll call him in a bit." He finished his soda. "Anything else on the plans, outside of the kids' lessons?"
"Fred's got an ear infection and Sarah's helping him pout. Alex has gotten the gun lessons and she's doing wonderfully with them," Lupin told him. "Marcus went over crossbows with her."
"So, basically I'm not needed?" he asked bitterly.
"No, we need you," Jigen protested. "We just thought you'd like to pick which convention to go to next. There's four coming up soon."
"I've got stuff in to all of them," Xander pointed out. "We can go to any of them."
"I was going to treat since we haven't gone to one together for a while," Lupin offered.
"Okay. Paris is next but there's almost no one there that we'd know. I went last year and not even Misty and Teddy were there."
"Really? Why?" Jigen asked.
"Teddy was busy, he had to work out of the country. He was there at Germany. Paul and the guys were there but no one else that I remembered." He finished his soda and put the glass down. "So I'm open. The best chance we have to get most of the old gang back together is Italy. We need to go talk to Ray K anyway. Gramps is getting antsy and Vecchio is growling more often. We need to find a way to make sure he can't tell things."
"Can't you block it like you did to Dawn?" Jigen asked.
"Ray's immune. I tried that once before and the first thing he did was to go tell Gramps. Chemical?"
"There's a chance that it'll work, but not much of one," Lupin offered. "It's not foolproof."
"Well, that's an idea at least," Lupin offered as she walked in the door. "We're back," she said with a smirk. She gave an extra wink to her uncle because they had talked earlier that day. "And we brought a guest because he was pining over Bix."
"Good. How much does he know?"
"He doesn't remember the way up there, just that it's in Italy and that it's way up a mountain." She sat on Lavelle's lap, giving him a grin. "And we bring grades," she announced, handing over her report card. "We're going back next year."
Lupin grinned at his baby girl. "Of course you are. You're not sixteen yet." He flipped it open and squealed, getting up to hug her. "I'm so proud! All A's!" he praised.
Xander hugged her. "Congrats, daughter. Much better than I ever did." He grinned at her when she looked back. "The others?"
"Are putting up their crap."
"I want those report cards!" Xander yelled.
Arsene wiggled a finger in her ears. "Ow, Mom! I needed the hearing in that side!"
Melissa walked in with three report cards on a silver tray. "Here. Ishi's collapsed. He drove back and we made it in a day. He's found a new girl who's presently letting him sniff her." She grinned at her daddy. "Hi."
"Hand it over," he demanded, holding out a hand. She held out the tray, letting him pick up hers. He opened it and then nodded, smirking at her. "Straight A's and good remarks with a wonderful report from the Marksmanship teacher. I'm impressed, daughter." He pulled her over to kiss and hug her. "I'm damn proud of you," he whispered. She winked at him. "Anything else new?"
"Yeah, I've got a secret admirer. We're meeting next month at the Italian conference. By the way, we got to take off a week early because the others were waiting for their exams. We all passed everything well enough to be excused but one class for Ishi, math. He took that yesterday so we could leave early. The teacher graded it specially." She smiled at Goemon as he came in, presenting the tray. "For you, Uncle G. Report cards."
"You're a week early."
"We only had one final for the whole group and Ishi took his math final early so we could come back and bring Ray. He's presently hugging Bix in the garden."
"I saw." He opened them and smiled. "Lotus got B's in everything but herbology and Physical Education. Ishi got all but one A, that was in Math, which he was struggling with. I am very impressed. Where might my children be?"
"Ishi's napping. He refused to let anyone drive." Arsene held out hers. "Here." Goemon took hers and then smiled when he read the remarks. "Melissa did even better."
Melissa handed hers over. "I've been doing much better and the range teacher was very impressed. We're going back next year."
Goemon looked at her and nodded. "I can agree to that. Both children did wonderfully and seemed to enjoy their time there." He patted her on the head. "I'm proud of both of you. Very well done." He handed the report cards back and headed off to find his children. "Lotus." She grinned at him so he hugged her. "I'm very proud. You did very well."
"Thank you, daddy. Ishi's already snoring." She smirked up at him. "Did you see the remarks?"
"I did and I'm very impressed. You are definitely my daughter."
"Thank you, daddy." She gave him a squeeze. "We're working on something for Uncle Ray so he doesn't have to go back." She winked and walked off, going for a snack. Ishi hadn't wanted to stop for anything. She made extra and walked a tray outside, coughing to break up the hug. "Food?"
"Thanks, Lotus." He sat down, looking at her. "I won't tell," he promised.
"I'm not the one who's worried or who'll shoot us if you do." He hung his head. "She said you could go as long as you could not tell. Not wouldn't tell, couldn't. I'm working on something herbal but I can't promise yet. I'm not letting Ishi be shot for that. I can't."
"I understand," he agreed.
"But, for now, you can stay here," Lupin said from the doorway, leaning against the door frame with his trademark smirk. "We'll protect you for now. Then again, this will make you a bigger target."
Ray shook his head. "I'm still a cop."
"I wasn't going to change your mind about that," Lupin promised, walking out to sit by him. "We'll figure it out so you can go back to work. Otherwise you might steal Xander from me," he said smugly. "I'd like to get it before the convention in Italy, Lotus. Doable?"
"Possibly. We're combing the herbal legends for something. We're working on it."
"Dad, should I send a message saying he's safe?" Melissa called from the kitchen. "I'm making lemonade."
"Bring some out please, Melissa," Bix called.
"Sure." She brought out the pitcher. "Mix I'm afraid. I haven't been home long enough to squeeze twenty lemons and pound the sugar myself."
Ray chuckled and held up his glass, letting her refill it. "Thanks. Is someone telling the others I'm free?"
"Yeah, Lavelle and Arsene went to do that," Lupin admitted. "Hopefully Vecchio's slept sometime recently. He's not been doing a lot of that recently. I trust you," he assured him, "but I'm not losing my daughter for you."
"No, I understand," Ray admitted. "I get it and I agree. I wouldn't take that chance either. I'm a cop. I might be forced to tell or even have it slip out accidentally. I don't blame you."
"Thanks." He stood up and went to went back to his study, going to talk to Jigen.
Lavelle and Arsene walked up to the front of the building that was holding Zenigata's family and his unit. He rang the bell, leaning causally against the screen door. "Hey. I bring a message from Ray."
Vecchio came down the stairs and pulled his gun. "Get your asses in here."
"Chill, Vecchio. He's safe." Arsene boldly walked inside and looked up at him. "He's safe. They said as long as we could make sure he couldn't tell where the school was he could come back. So we're working on blocking that particular information but nothing else. There's a few of my classmates you guys'll be dealing with in the next decade." He growled and she shrugged. "He's safe. He's with Bix right now and we're watching him until Lotus can figure that part out."
Lavelle walked inside and put his hands on his daughter's shoulders. "He is. They brought him back when they came home. He's safe, he's well. We're bringing him to Italy with us and hopefully by then we can release him into your custody. They weren't mean to him. He looks like he's gained a few pounds actually."
"I want to see that for myself," Zenigata demanded from the top of the stairs.
Lavelle pulled out his phone and tossed it to him. "So call the boss, have him put him on the phone. You can see him in Italy, but if he's not had that blocked then we can't let him go. They'll kill the kids if he tells where the school is."
Zenigata nodded, that made sense. "He's really fine?"
"Call him," Arsene encouraged. "He's probably speed dial 2?"
"Yeah, on that phone one is always voicemail." He waited while Zenigata hit that key.
"Crook, put my boy on." Vecchio jogged up the stairs to listen too. "Are you all right?" He relaxed, nodding and looking down at them. "Are you sure?"
Vecchio took the phone. "Don't be an asshole, Kowalski." He heard the quiet explanation and nodded. "Thank you but it's still dumb. Yeah, fine." He hung up and looked down at them. "He's safe?" The phone beeped and he looked at it. "New picture?"
"Open it, press send," Lavelle instructed. They did and both of them sighed at the picture that came across. Ray was healthy looking and happy, plus he was waving at them. "So we'll let him and Bix take long walks while Goemon glares at him and the kids pump him for convention stories." They glared at him. "Not our choice," he reminded them. "If I could block him like I did Dawn, I'd do that. He's unfortunately immune. Can I have my phone back?"
"The correct phrase is 'may I'," Dawn said as she joined them. She looked at the picture, then at them. "Lupin's study?" They nodded. "He's free?"
"Sorta," Arsene offered. "We have to make sure he can't tell where the school is or else they'll kill us," she said earnestly. "We're working on it."
"He's immune to what we did to you," Xander told her. "It's making it difficult."
She nodded. "Bring me to him, maybe I can help."
"You can't go there!" Zenigata said harshly.
"I've been there before," she reminded him, kissing him on the cheek. "I trained there, remember?"
"No," Lavelle said, looking up at her. "If you think you can help, you email Lotus. Lupin said no visitors to the house." His phone rang. "I'd answer that. It might be about the custody thingy." He looked at Dawn again. "She filed yesterday. Her new husband is the push behind it. Her ex is long gone. He died a few years ago."
She sighed and answered the phone. "Lavelle's house of sluts." She listened. "Yeah, I know him. Why?" She grimaced, then growled. "Fine. We'll be there. Why, yes, this is. How kind of you to realize that. Don't worry, we'll be having a *long* talk as soon as I get back there." She hung up and tossed it back. "We'll be having a meeting so we can see Ray ourselves. We'll have to discuss this in detail and I'd like to see him."
"Sure, but we'll still have to figure out how to guardian that information."
"We were planning on the convention in Italy," Arsene offered. "That's in a month's time. Do we have it?"
Dawn nodded. "Yeah, the date for the custody hearing is in four months." She stomped off.
"Lupin and I agree, we're supporting you on this," he called after her. "Your sister's toast." He looked up at Zenigata, giving a little shrug. "We think you're much better for the boys. Also, expect a short visit later." He walked his daughter out, taking her back to his sports car of the moment. He sped off once they were inside, letting her drive. "Nice job," he told her.
"Are you ready to piss yourself?"
"Yup, sure am."
"There's a burger place. Pull in, we'll get milkshakes." She chuckled and pulled in there, hurrying into the bathroom before he could even get the door open. It was understandable. Those were some scary cops. He went to the bathroom then treated her this time. She deserved it.
Lupin tapped on the door late that night, giving Vecchio a smug look. "We need ta talk about Morgan. Where's Pops?"
"Really? Where was he earlier today?" They stared each other down and Vecchio broke, going to get the father. This was apparently something important for Lupin to drive all this way. "Him."
"What do you want?"
"We gotta talk about Morgan, Pops. Got somewhere quiet?"
"Yes, this way," he ground out. He led him to his study and locked them inside. "What about Morgan?"
Lupin pulled out a security camera photo and handed it over. "I was going to offer to train him, that way he has a better chance of surviving." Zenigata sat down, staring at his son being taken by the security guards. "It's not his first time. Lotus let slip that he had been thinking and dancing on the line."
"That laptop?" he asked coolly. Lupin nodded. "How long ago?"
"Nearly a year ago. He's stuck to minor shoplifting but he's got Dawn's skills." He sat down, crossing his feet. "I'll leave this up to you but I will take him on as a trainee if he seriously wants to go that way. That way you don't have to worry about killing him some day. We'd get him a second's position if I'm any judge of character."
Zenigata glared at him. "You've known for how long?"
"Before that school job. Lotus told us at a parent/teacher night at the Academy. She didn't want him to be hurt. She likes him a lot but she knows that he's not into the life. She knows that it won't work out so she's trying to protect him from himself. She brought it to me so I could either tell you or I could offer to train him. The kid's got some decent skills at shoplifting. The fact that he managed what my nephew didn't speaks well of his skills. I also know that this sort of thing can ruin your career as well as his. We'd miss you." He grinned and waved a hand around. "So I'll let you take the offer to him. If he's serious about joining my side, I'll get him trained and I'll support him as someone's second in command. I can do so quietly. It'll be like he's away at school, that way it won't mess up the custody thing that's going to become messy enough without this." He stood up. "By the way, your younger step-nephew Jerry? He's going to demand to stay here. By US law, he's old enough to make that decision. He'll fight for you and so will we. I leave it up to you." He strolled out like nothing had ever happened, nodding politely at Vecchio. "See you in Italy at the convention." He let himself out and disappeared into the night.
Zenigata came out of his study with a large drink. "Ray, go get my nephew," he said firmly. "I'd like to talk to him." Ray gaped. "Now."
"Fine. Sure. What happened?" Zenigata held up the picture. "Ah!" He hurried up the stairs. He came back down with his nephew. "In there, he's waiting." He shoved him toward the office. "Now."
"Yes, uncle?" he asked as he walked inside, deciding to be bold. His uncle took another drink but held up the photo he had received. "I thought it might be something like that." He sighed as he sat down. "It was momentary stupidity."
"Really? Lupin said you managed something his nephew didn't, to steal a laptop." He finished his drink and put the glass down with a thump on his wood desk. "Lupin also said if you really wanted to go into the life, he'd train you. He'd make sure you got a safe enough position as someone's second-in-command. He said he'd try not to let this impact my career but we all know that's a lie." He stared down his nephew. "Anything else you want to confess to?"
Morgan looked at his hands, making a decision. He looked up at his uncle. "I was trying it out, nothing more. I've been fascinated with Lotus for years now, you know that Uncle." He nodded, looking like he was trying to stay calm. That was much better than Morgan would be able to do in his position. "I've been thinking about joining her but I realized that I can't do what she does. I can't be the ruthless brat Lupin the Fourth is. I realize I will probably end up in jail before I'm thirty if I continue on this path."
"And your decision is?"
Morgan sighed. "I think I love her, Uncle."
"You'd have to kill people," he pointed out. His nephew nodded. "You might have to kill a number of people. You do realize this?" His nephew nodded again, not looking at him. "Then this is your choice. If you want to go with Lupin, I'll allow it. You will not be allowed to talk to the other children about what you do. You will not be coming into my house again. I'm sorry, but I'm not risking everyone else's career for you, nephew."
"I understand." He looked up at his uncle. "I didn't want to hurt you."
"I realize this was youthful stupidity but it's now time for you to make an adult decision. Which path do you want to be on?"
Zenigata nodded. "I know. Love and honor are two different things that are often at odds. Look at Kowalski and his dating their nanny. It will look bad on him. He'll never go up in the ranks."
"Ray wouldn't like that anyway."
"I know. So does he. He also used part of that in his decision making process." He got comfortable. "Now, it's time for you to make your real decision. Do you want to follow Lotus or would you like to stay a part of the family?"
Morgan slumped down. "I don't like it when I steal. I hate the feeling I get. I was trying it out, I didn't want to do it full time really. I was kinda hoping to use it to understand her better."
"And do you?"
"No. Well, yeah, I kinda do understand why people get a thrill out of it but it wasn't for me. I know Lotus doesn't. Did she tell you?"
"She asked Lupin if he'd teach you if you were to follow her path. He offered, I found out from him. Which, by the way, is why I'm going to be sleeping on the couch tonight so my drunkenness doesn't piss off your aunt." He got up to pour himself another drink. "Want one?"
"I'm only sixteen."
"You're man enough to steal a laptop, you're man enough to have your first shot." He handed it over. "It is your decision, Morgan, you have a week to make it."
"I'm not going to follow her, Uncle Zenny. I don't want to be a crook. I'd like it if she wasn't a crook too, but I guess I can't have everything." He sipped his drink, making a disgusted face. "Eww, that's nasty."
"That's liquor, son. Learn it's uses. You'll probably drink over your women more than once." He sat down with his, sipping it gently. "Get up and put some sprite in that. Saki doesn't go well with cola." Morgan got up and poured a good amount of sprite into his glass. "So you're staying?"
"Yes, sir." He sat down, drinking more. "I'm sorry I embarrassed you."
"Frankly I'd be surprised if one of you didn't turn that way. It's like some sort of curse on cops to have one of their kids go bad." He took a long gulp. "What else have you gotten?"
"A few pieces of clothes. A few games for the laptop. Do I have to get rid of it?"
Zenigata gave him a long look. "Selling it now would mean I'd have to arrest you. You will be sending the store a check for the amount of the laptop with an anonymous note saying you stole it and this was the worth of it so you're doing reimbursement." He finished that glass. "If you don't, I'm going to kick your ass before I kick you out of the house and make you live with your mother."
"Yes, sir. Can I take it out of my college fund?"
"Yes, do that." He stood up. "We've got something else to discuss. Word was given to us that your mother has filed a motion to regain custody of you."
"Over her dead body. I think she'd be the only one Auntie Dawn could ever kill," he said at the hurt look. "I couldn't."
"She couldn't either but I'm almost willing to offer to shoot her myself," Zenigata admitted bitterly. "Go to bed. Let me tell Jerry. Expect to have a trip to Cleveland soon." His nephew nodded and got up. "You made the right choice."
"I know. Thanks, Uncle Zenny." He left, going back up to his room, thinking about what he had done. He had royally messed up and he didn't blame Lotus for telling on him. He'd have to write her later. He found his aunt in his room and groaned. "Not you too!"
"Shut it, now." He nodded, hanging his head. "Should I be packing you a bag and shipping everything or not?"
"No, ma'am. I decided I was an idiot. I was doing it to try to understand Lotus better. I didn't like it and I didn't get that thrill factor from him. So I turned down Lupin's generous offer to train me and I'm staying. If that's okay?" he asked, sounding hesitant.
"Yeah, it's fine, kid." She stood up and pulled him closer, giving him a hug. "I got the point of the problem but no more. Never again unless your survival is at risk." He nodded against her shoulder. "What did he tell you to do?"
"Pay for it and send an anonymous note. He said to take it out of the college fund." She nodded, patting him on the back. "I'm sorry, Auntie."
"Not an issue. There's more problems than this ahead. Just don't tell anyone or we'll have a problem at the custody hearing and let me tell Jerry."
"Yes, ma'am. Thank you, Auntie."
"Not an issue. I can't really say anything considering what I used to do." She chucked him on the chin. "Now, sleep it off, Morgan. Is he sleeping on the couch?" He nodded. "Good. I hate liquor breath." She left him there, leaving him to write Lotus. She came back and took the laptop. "You're still grounded by the way."
"I was going to write Lotus and tell her she was right to tell Lupin on me."
"Yay. You can do it tomorrow, once Zenny doesn't have a hangover." She shut off his laptop and put it in his desk. "Go to sleep. Now." She walked out, her heels clicking on the hall's hardwood floors.
He waited until everyone was asleep then got up to get his laptop, writing her a long letter. He'd love to have her if she'd turn to his side, but he couldn't join her and he couldn't be with her if they were on opposite sides of the law. Like his aunt and uncle, without the nastiness that sometimes came out during their fights. Ray came in and snatched it. "Just let me send it," he whined. "I'm breaking up with her unless she joins me on my side."
Vecchio gave him an incredulous look, then walked away with the laptop, shaking his head. He wasn't ever that dumb about women. Was he?
Lotus came out of the study room, looking very confused. "Mom?" Xander stuck his head out of the office so she headed that way, sitting next to him. "I just got a message from Morgan saying that he was going to have to break up with me if I couldn't join his side because he couldn't join mine. That there was no way we could date because he couldn't stand living in my life and if I ever wanted to go good, I was more than welcome to join his. Am I confused or did I send signals I wasn't aware of?"
He patted her on the back. "Probably not, but Morgan does have his natural mother's focus on what he wants and believes is good for him. So, no, I don't think there were any signals going on. I think he was smitten."
Lupin looked up from his paperwork. "You didn't send any signals, Lotus. He got confused and thought you were his."
Goemon stuck his head in the door. "Did you say something about my daughter and dating?"
"Morgan sent me a confusing email. He said he can't join us here so we can't date, unless I join him, which he knew wasn't likely. So he'd love me forever and I was always welcome to come back to him. I wasn't aware we were dating."
"You're not," Goemon said firmly. "You're much too young for dating anybody."
"That's *so* not the point, daddy. Think about it. Morgan thought we *were* dating. He just broke up with me because he can't be a thief and he knows I can't take his life. He said if I wanted to turn good, I could come back to him and we'd be happy together on the straight side." Goemon blushed at that. "Father! You're being a pervert!"
"Sorry, daughter. That was a very...loaded statement. I apologize."
"Why? We all know she's straight," Arsene called from up the hall. "She was drooling over *two* thieves, Uncle G."
"How many times have I told you not to bug the office!" Lupin yelled at his daughter.
"Yay." She stuck her head around Goemon's side. "Where's the fun in that? Speaking of fun, daddy, we *all* need to go shopping. Otherwise I can't wear any of my bras. They're all too tight."
"Why are you telling *me* this?" he demanded.
"Um, because you're in charge of my inheritance?" she suggested boldly. "And hey, if you don't bring me, we'll have to bring a male *mom* with us. Who'll only get hit on, sleep with a few of the salesgirls, and well... they'll probably give us a discount so when can we go, Mom?"
"Later this week," Xander said patiently, rolling his eyes at his child. "You are so bad."
"No, bad is that I'm out of underwear and all my bras are *way* too tight. Unfortunately, I got your rack." She headed for the kitchen. "I need work on the balance beam!" she called as she walked away. "My tits are throwing me off balance again."
"Some of us did not need to know that, Arsene Lupin the Fourth!" Marcus shouted from upstairs. "Stop it now! Before you have Alex and Sarah speaking such words!"
"Oh, blow me, Uncle Marcus. Get over it." She flipped her hair back, making him pause and shudder, then turn away. "What!"
"Nothing. Go put on *real* clothes." He stomped off, going to clear his mind with a long series of katas. He did not want to think about what he had noticed about her.
He would not think about her like that.
She was still the same child who used to sit and play with his hair while she sucked her thumb.
She was not growing breasts, she was not growing up, and she would not be an object of desire for anyone.
Especially not him.
He whimpered at that thought and hit himself on the forehead to clear his mind, going back to his centering before starting off again on his katas. He would not do that to the children.
"I'm hot, get over it already," Arsene called from the kitchen doorway. She walked past the office again. "We're out of soda."
Lupin came out and grabbed his daughter, looking her over. Then he frowned at her. "Put. On. A. Bra."
"They're too tight! They're cutting off my ability to breathe. Would you rather I be a panting young woman in hot clothes with a nice ass?" He groaned and walked back into the office, slamming the door. "So, can we *please* go shopping soon!"
"Quit yelling!" Jigen shouted from the range.
"Sorry, we were discussing why all my bras are too tight and the consequences of me using them anyway."
"You and me both," Melissa said dryly. "I think I'm getting my wish." She cupped her chest and looked down at herself. "Yup, they've grown."
"Oh, gross," he complained, stomping up to the office to hide with the other adults. "We've got to stop that puberty crap, Lupin. She can't grow up any more."
"Tell me about it," he said, handing over a drink. "My daughter's got a rack like her stepmother. Marcus just freaked himself out."
Xander chuckled. "It was kinda cute. Arsene is *exactly* like you, Lupin. Just think, Fred's next." He stood up. "So, when and where are we taking the kids shopping?"
"Here, have my card," Lupin ordered, tossing his wallet over. "Just take them and get them into something shapeless and not form fitting."
"*Your* daughter?" Xander asked with a smirk.
"Wipe it or else," Jigen ordered bitterly. "I want to see my daughter in something that makes her look like a little kid again. Try for pigtails if you can."
"So... you want her to look like a stripper?" Lupin asked. Jigen growled at him. "Never mind. It's the same problem I'm having. Just get them suitably covered and strapped down so we don't have to notice that they've got tits."
"Fine," Xander said dryly. "One problem with that. They've got a formal event this summer from the school. It's about two weeks after the convention in Italy. They have to look suitably and reasonably adult, and they must be wearing formal gowns, or in Lotus' case a formal kimono if she wishes. It is a parental event as well. It's a meet-and-greet event for the new students."
"Fine. Work on that today. That's in six weeks. Find them something stunning." Lupin waited until he had gone to gather the kids to groan ad flop down. "Why did we have kids?"
"Your grandfather's will," Jigen said dryly. "Mine was an accident, which I liked a lot. At least until she hit puberty."
"I thought the day they got their pills was bad," Goemon said from the doorway. "They've all gone. What is this about a formal event?"
"It's a meet-and-greet," Lupin said bitterly. "They've got to be in formal gear. Fully formal gear."
"Hmm." Goemon walked off, going to his favorite meditation spot. He still hadn't come to grips with his little girl growing up. Seeing his son as a competent adult had been very hard. Seeing her as one and old enough to like boys was even worse for him. And he still had two sons to go. He sat down and calmed himself, watching as Marcus frantically worked himself away from his thoughts. "Stop," he ordered. "Pause. Breathe. Recenter. Start again."
Marcus nodded, stopping and hanging his head. "I'm sorry, Master Goemon."
"It's not as bad as mine are."
Marcus looked at him. "Yes it is, they're not my children." He grimaced and shook his head quickly. "I've got to stop that."
"Yes, you do," Goemon agreed. "Hopefully not about my daughter?"
"No, sir. Arsene."
"It happens to all of us," he admitted. "We will work on it. Recenter and start again, Marcus."
"Yes, master." He took a few cleansing breaths and started off again, letting himself get lost in the motions so his mind would quit and not let him hear it working.
Goemon thought about his children growing up. Lotus had once been the same age as Yu. She had been sweet and cuddly. She had been a little baby. Now she was a near-adult. She was on the pill. She had breasts. She liked boys and boys liked her. And soon she would be wearing formal wear and showing off to a great many thieves. He held in his growl at that thought and calmed himself down again. She would not be marrying a thief. She would marry some day but it would be someone he would approve of. If he wasn't there, his son would be approving of her choice of husband. One of them would still be around if he wasn't and Bix would help her pick someone suitable. She had good taste in men. He did like Ray, he always had. He treated Bix well and she was happy with him. He would gladly hand her care to him. His daughter, she needed someone just as good. Perhaps Ray would help her find one once he married Bix. It would make him happy, no matter where he was. He felt someone hug him and opened his eyes, giving Ray an odd look. "What?"
"She's always going to be your baby, Goemon. Other people with kids have said the same thing. Even when they're old ladies with grandkids, they'll still be your babies." He walked off, going back to Bix's side. "C'mon, let's go play with the fishies."
She smiled and patted him on the hand. "It's okay. I like you even though you're weird."
"Which is better than my ex, who thought I was weird to spite her and make her life difficult."
She gave his arm a hug. "I like you because of it."
He grinned at her. "Thanks."
Goemon shook his head. They were odd, but they were good. He liked them together.
Zenigata knocked on the hotel room door, wincing when he saw who was opening it. "He's here?"
"They're both here," Melissa noted, letting him and Vecchio, who was sneaking up behind him, in. "Bix, Ray?" They came out of the bedroom, straightening each other out. "She was helping him fit his costume better. He's gained ten pounds since we brought him to the house." She flopped down and curled up in a seat, looking at them. "Sit. Daddy Lupin made the food with Lotus. I'm the chaperone. Bix can stay if you guys want or not." No one moved. "Sit!" They sat and stared at each other. "Gods, people. He wasn't hurt."
"No, I wasn't," Ray agreed gently. "The Headmistress and most of the teachers were pretty nice to me. A few of the kids were scary. I was teaching in both tracks, the thieves and the assassins."
"They train assassins there?" Vecchio asked Melissa, who nodded quickly. "Doesn't that cause trouble for Ishi?"
"No. He's a thief. The assassin's teachers pouted at him but they knew he's a thief. There's a few teachers in common. They give us who can shoot advice too."
"How is that working for you?" Ray asked.
"I'm better. I've worked through having to shoot that guy to save me and John. I've gotten to the point where I can do it if necessary but not for fun. I'm not Ishi and I'm not my dad, but I'm more than good enough to save our asses." She grinned at Bix. "Can you help me with my dress tonight?" She nodded. "Thanks. I'm still not sure. Mom said I looked great, she teared up, but I don't want a dress that'll make people cry."
"I'm sure it was because you looked so grown up," Zenigata said dryly. "You're all very grown up now."
She grinned. "Flattery won't get you left alone with him." She shifted. "Get comfy. Take off your shoes, your jackets, your ties. Talk, please." She snapped her fingers. "Oh, Lotus had a message for Morgan. They weren't dating, they can't break up."
"Huh?" Zenigata asked.
Ray snickered, shaking his head. "He wrote her a note saying that since he couldn't be a thief, he couldn't date her anymore. But that if she wanted to join his side he'd love her forever and take very good care of her. He all-but begged and pleaded for her to come across to our side, boss. It had that air of 'nobility and high speech' that just made her confused and everyone else laugh when she let them read it."
"I'll talk to him about that," Vecchio said dryly. "You don't look bad."
"Thanks. Lupin cooks well. The kids are decent. Xander let me into his anime collection," he shared with a grin. "Lotus thinks she's got something and we'll be testing it later tonight. If so, I'll get to go home with you when we're gone."
"If not?" Zenigata demanded.
"If not, then we've got two backups in place and we'll be releasing him as soon as one of them work," Melissa assured him. "Arsene's tired of watching her mouth around him because he keeps smacking her across the back of the head for her language."
"She's got a potty mouth!" he snorted. "She deserved it."
"I agree," Bix said quietly.
"So do I, but she is a Lupin. She's supposed to be shocking and odd."
"Yeah, but she's shocking people like your dad."
Melissa smirked at him. "That's always been her favorite game. You should have seen it when she targeted mom for a whole week and actually got him to blush!"
"She did?" Vecchio asked. Melissa smirked and nodded. "Why?"
"She threatened to paddle us if we repeated it."
"Was that when she got the drugs?" Zenigata asked sarcastically.
"No, that was the night she managed to squick the whole house. Not even her dad could deal with that one."
"What did she say?" Ray K asked.
"That was right after Mom was deaged. She said that if her dad didn't want him, he was younger, prettier, and closer to her age so she'd take him."
The three cops thought about that, then shuddered.
"Hence her getting drugs," Bix said with a smirk for Melissa. "Did she bring any to the school?"
"No, we had plenty of targets for her to get that mean streak out on," she assured her smugly. "Three of them even got kicked out because of their own stupidity while we were watching them. They ran off during our school exercise."
"What was that about?"
"You had to steal something. It was your plan, your target, your research, your report," Ray told them. "They sent everything not broken back. There's a special place for the broken stuff but only a few things joined the Closet of Shame this year."
"That's what you get when you steal delicate porcelain and then expect it to travel in your suitcase with your shoes. That's why we went for practical stuff. Wooden statues. Jewelry. Pictures."
"Ishi's statue broke."
"Ishi noted his statue was broken when he got it," she corrected. She reached over and nibbled on a covered cracker. "Eww. Goat cheese. Daddy Lupin made that one." She finished it but didn't get another of those. "His pictures showed a major crack in the same place it had split. So it did join the closet but it wasn't totally his fault."
"Did Lupin the Fourth take hers back?" Vecchio asked.
"You know, I don't know," Melissa offered. "She stole a piece of jewelry. I haven't seen it around but I can't be sure. I don't think she did since we didn't hear about it going missing. The Academy is nothing if not a gossip hole."
"They didn't have much else to do there," Ray offered. "It's in the middle of nowhere. There's not even a town close by."
"No, but we did get to go sometimes. Oh, Amanda and Ishi broke up around that parent/teacher thing. She said it was too hard to do that long distance with him."
"She's probably happier now," Vecchio offered. She nodded, grinning at him. He looked at his buddy again. "You're sure you're fine?"
"Just fine. I've been good. The kids made sure I was protected when a few of the kids wanted to prove they were big, bad, tough guys. Arsene belittled one of them until they walked away crying."
"We also took care of the ones who wanted to kill Zenigata," Melissa said dryly. "The assassins are odd and some are kinda stranger than others, but they saw reason when Lotus went off on them."
"Lotus?" Zenigata asked, looking stunned. "Her? She's a nice little girl."
"Who is just as deadly as Ishi, without the sword. She took him out into the woods on a challenge and kicked...his...ass," she said, smirking as she drew it out. "He came back so disheartened that he had to be counseled because they thought he might be suicidal. And she was having a *good* day."
"Arsene is the master of the low blow and the crude innuendo. Lotus is one of those who's quiet and will kill you," Ray shared. "Some of the assassins are going to be problems for a while. I was told it didn't matter if I told about the kids I taught, as long as I didn't tell about the school's location and nothing that could identify it."
"It's been around for a *long* time," Melissa shared. "It'd be a pain in the ass to move it."
"It would," Vecchio agreed. "It's probably in an old manor sorta house and they're getting rarer and rarer each year."
"No, we could build a new one, one with warm floors and heating ducts that didn't blow stenchy stuff. We've had a few mice that died recently in the heating system."
"You're surrounded by woods, it's understandable," Zenigata said. She sat up so he shrugged. "We've known something about the Academy now for years."
"Yay. I'll make sure to tell them that."
"It's easier to have them all there. At least the thieves who come out of there don't do stupid things," Zenigata retorted. "Unlike ones who are just apprenticed or do things by themselves."
"Yeah, but they make for interesting stories," Kowalski said to break up the tension.
"I've still got to report that," Melissa noted dryly. "If so, expect a midnight visit from our headmistress. She won't be mean about it but you may end up being questioned for a few hours while Auntie Dawn sleeps soundly beside you."
"That would be fine, as long as she didn't hurt anyone else," Zenigata said, staring her down.
"The rules of the family that run the school state that no one who was trained there can run the school," Kowalski offered. "She was trained by field work. They're nice though, the assassin's track has a minor in it for bodyguards. They used to do some serious CIA training as well."
"Interesting," Vecchio agreed. He picked up a cracker to nibble on one. "That's an odd cheese."
"If it's not goat then I'm not sure what Lotus and Daddy Lupin did," Melissa offered with a shrug. "You know how he is about food. By the way, does anyone know why my dad drinks wine and won't touch a beer? You'd figure with his background that he'd like beer more."
"Who knows," Zenigata said bitterly. "I'll ask him the next time I question him." She stared him down and he suddenly shuddered. She was her father's daughter, protests about shooting people beside the point. Jigen didn't like to kill but sometimes he had to. This one hated it but she definitely would to protect her family, he could see it in her eyes at that moment.
"Do you have any plans yet for your coming out party?" Bix asked to break up the staring contest.
Melissa grinned at her. "We're narrowing down targets at the moment. It'll be a group thing."
"Hmm, kids in one spot and adults in another?" Kowalski suggested.
"That's one idea. Or the same target but the adults would go for one thing and us kids would officially come out for the other, which would prove we're better because we'd be going second, after they'd be paranoid and tried to up the security. Arsene likes that idea."
"I'm sure she does. It's foolhardy and gaudy," Zenigata said sarcastically.
"Actually, they were thinking an art and jewels thing. She likes jewels and the 'rents like art a bit more. Either that or simultaneous jobs." She grinned brightly at him. "Just think, two Lupin teams starting next year for you to chase."
Zenigata groaned, rubbing his chest. "That's a bad thought, kid. Why don't you do something useful with your life?"
"You mean besides redecorating some ugly houses?" The cops all stared at her so she smirked at them. "We didn't steal anything, just redecorated. It needed it, even Arsene was horrified by the use of pelts *everywhere*. Plus, hey, massive poacher."
"Unfortunately the B&E statute of limitations has run out on that job," Vecchio said grimly. "He was very pissed at you guys."
"He had bad taste. He deserved it."
"Was that the guy with the rubies?" Kowalski asked, looking slightly confused.
"No, that was a different thing," Melissa assured him. "We're talking about this guy in Paris who was a poacher. We decided to help his bad taste by redecorating for him one night. It was much nicer the next morning and he only had animal accents after that. His pelts all found their way into storage where they could be cared for properly." She shifted. "Has anyone realized that our sixteenth birthdays are coming up soon?" They all gaped at her and shook their heads. "Yeah, Ishi's is first, just in a few weeks, but then ours are in the next year or so. Of course, Arsene's going to try things out soon after that. She's made that decision already. She's been curious much too long and it's driving her nuts."
Kowalski gave her a long look, then cleared his throat. "Give us a day's warning if possible so we can evacuate the city, okay?" he requested. The other cops stared at him. "Think about it. Your first kid starts to have sex. Her dad will probably walk in on that. Where do *you* want to be?"
"Far, far away," Zenigata admitted dryly. He shook his head, that thought just made him want to take a long, hot shower with a very stiff brush. "I can't imagine Goemon when his daughter starts to date for real."
"Neither can he," Ray said with a smirk for him. "He's still meditating on the fact that she's growing up. It's not working yet."
"Can you blame him? He keeps seeing her as this little baby girl who used to give him these adoring looks as she peed on him. That's why he won't train her the same way he does Ishi. Before you ask, it's always been that way. She's very well trained but she had to go through Ishi and mom to get it. She's actually just as good, if not better, at the sneaky stuff. She'd make one hell of an assassin if she could kill people with forethought and intent."
"Well, we've always said Ishi was like Goemon and Lavelle had a kid," Vecchio agreed sarcastically. "So I guess Goemon's real child is Lotus."
"And Kenji," she offered with a wink. "He's just like his father, down to the scowl when someone tells him something he *knows* his daddy won't like. He's even learning the same style his dad uses. So he's Goemon Jr."
"Speaking of the other fandom people in the family, where are they?" Kowalski asked.
"Downstairs at the convention," she said with a grin. "Being Ishi and Goemon."
"And Lavelle?" Vecchio asked.
"You know, I'm not quite sure where mom is," she admitted, looking up. "Hey, Mom? Are you playing or working?" The room's phone rang so she grabbed it and listened, then hung up. "The pregnancy case is having an ultrasound today so he's back with her."
"He's got another kid stashed somewhere?" Vecchio asked in horror. Weren't these ones bad enough?
"No, Janus' last kid is being carried," Zenigata admitted. "Dawn and he were both notified that they'd have to protect her."
"As was Lupin the Fourth, dedicatee of Janus," Kowalski allowed.
"Fuck," Zenigata said bitterly. "She is?" Melissa nodded, giving him a smug look. "Damn it."
"Eh, it makes it more interesting sometimes," Melissa said with a shrug. "She's the one who gets head's up from above when things start to go to hell. Everyone's *real* cautious about mom being happy. Something about him being able to take over hell and have fun with it."
"Didn't he once promise that if Lupin or Jigen died first he was going to take it over and make them do all the paperwork?" Vecchio asked.
Melissa giggled. "He still does. They get this horrified look on their faces, like that's the worst torture in the world. It tends to make them leave him alone when we're in the lab."
"Yuppers, I'm just as mechanically inclined as mom," she said proudly. "Those mouse costumes were very handy. We've done all sorts of neat weapons systems for them."
"On second thought, stay a thief, Jigen. You're less of a threat to the world that way," Zenigata said bitterly.
"Hey, we're not the people who're building the battle robots in Japan, like the anime kind. We just fund them," she said with a grin. "Their mechanoid suits are *really* nice. Not too hard to live in for a few hours, not too difficult to work on, and very well-hidden wiring."
"So we're going to be seeing Gundam-style robots soon on battlefields?" Kowalski demanded.
She shrugged. "Not exactly. They've got a few of those but they've also got personal armor suits. They're nicer, they protect a person and they're less complicated but they're more functional for the average soldier."
"Great," Zenigata drawled. "A good reason to bring back armor piercing bullets."
"They're not susceptible to armor-piercing rounds unless they're fired from something like a grenade launcher," Melissa said smugly. "I got to go to the trials for the first suits. They're very good. I even got to climb into a suit and use it. It's not the most intuitive design for me but they're programable so each person can use their own settings. When they tinkered with how each control worked, it worked wonderfully for me. It'd take about six weeks of training in it to get an average person up-to-date on its uses but it's more than doable for an army situation."
"The first one of those we see, I'm retiring," Vecchio announced, shifting to get more comfortable on his part of the couch.
"I'll stand there and take pictures, but I'll go with you," Kowalski agreed happily. "I'm good but not quite that good."
"They've even got K-9 units in the thinking process," Melissa offered. "Speaking of which, we don't care if you steal the wolf back. We kinda liked Dief. He used to let us pet him. But, and this is a big but, we've also seen Frasier recently. Ishi saw him recently," she added at the incredulous looks. "Only his self control kept him from killing the guy in the mall they were both in."
"If I see him, I'm gonna kick his ass," Vecchio promised her. "That's not how you be a good cop."
"Good," she agreed. "Let's hope you get there first. The 'rents don't know he saw them and only Daddy Lupin's monitoring us." The phone rang again so she picked it up. "Yeah?" She listened, then sighed and hung it up. "Correction, Goemon just switched off and now he's upset. So stay out of his way tonight, 'kay, guys?"
"Sure," they agreed, all nodding. That was always a wise idea. Those who had seen Goemon running on a collicky baby/lack of sleep high still had nightmares about him eviscerating a goat for daring to bleat at him while he was trying to rest. The pieces hadn't been big enough for dog food after he had gotten done with the poor beast.
Arsene wandered around the convention, listening to the various stories going on around her with a happy smirk on her face. She loved conventions. There were cute boys her own age that she could lust over and her father couldn't say a *thing* about. There was a lack of work, but she always got some great ideas from some of the anime. She stopped at one stall selling videos, listening to the people behind her talk about some anime producer who was a *major* player in the business and who had a lot of ideas in storage, filing the name away for later research. She wouldn't rob anyone of their comic or anime collection but then again, he probably had other things to his credit by now. She bought a dvd and moved on to check out some of the other stalls. She heard someone else talking about the same guy and grimaced at what that woman was telling her daughter. So, the guy had a thing for school girls and was known to use them and toss them aside like trash huh? Interesting. She started searching out the rumors and found a few more about how the guy liked to pick up people from conventions and then they disappeared. A few had gotten free and gone back to their families but the only thing ever said about them was that they weren't the same as when they'd been taken. She found her daddy and grinned up at him as she leaned against his arm, whispering in his ear about what she'd heard. "How about him?"
"He sounds like a good idea to get," he agreed, patting her on the back. He held up the video he was looking at. "What do you think about this one for your mother?"
"I think we're the only ones allowed to call him mom," she said dryly. He scowled at her so she shrugged. "You know how he can get about the gender stuff, dad. Otherwise, I think he's got some of that set." She looked at the booth tender. "Does Lavelle have that one?"
"Xander?" she asked, considering it. She pulled out a notebook and flipped to a page she had on what he was looking for. "Yeah, he's looking for four and five, but he's got the others of the six-piece set." She looked at Lupin, who was pouting, so handed over the sheet. "That's the last time I knew, which was Paris this spring, Lupin." She grinned at the young lady. "Are you Melissa or the younger Lupin?"
"No, I'm a Lupin," she assured her with a bright grin. "Mom's out somewhere right now with someone else's kid. He's protecting the mother and baby-to-be."
"Good for him," she praised warmly, smiling at Lupin. "Though I'm sure you're upset since you probably haven't gotten snuggles recently."
"Not in months," he sighed, handing back the book. "Got anything on there?"
"Actually, I have managed to find a few of them," she offered. Lupin grinned and leaned over to kiss her on the cheek, paying the small price happily. Xander would be a happy guy again. He'd been down recently and Lupin wanted to see him grin again. "C'mon, empress, let's go look at naughty stuff."
"Sure, dad. We do remember that my birthday's next month, right?" she taunted with a mean smirk at his shudder. "What's wrong, daddy? I'm nearly sixteen."
"Daughter, you can't start dating yet. I'm not ready for it yet." He put his arm back around her back. "None of us are ready for you guys to really start dating yet."
"Too late," she said happily. Oooh, there was Melissa's stalker. She nudged her father gently, pointing at him. "We need to talk to him with Uncle Jigen. That's Melissa's admirer." She got free and skipped over, grinning brightly at the boy. "Hi." He flinched, turning to look at her. "Yes it's me. Melissa's up watching that cop in his interactions with the others so she'll be down later. Until then, let me introduce you to her uncle. Dad?" Lupin scowled at the boy. "Ice, this is my father, Lupin the Third. Ah, there's Uncle Jigen. Are they done?"
"No, Goemon had a headache," he admitted. He looked at the boy, then snorted. "So you're him?" The boy nodded, looking calm and cold. "Do you think you're good enough for my baby girl?"
"I'm the top rated student in the assassin's track," he offered. "I'm the fourth best shot at the school. We've been paired recently on some exercises. I even had to get around her to do my sixth year exercise." Jigen shrugged. "I do like your daughter. She is *fine*, she is calm, she's smart, beautiful, and has a body that's perfect. Why wouldn't I want your daughter, Mr. Jigen?"
Jigen patted him on the back. "Remember, hurt even her feelings and meet me in a duel, kid."
"That's fine, sir. I'm more than good enough. I beat Lupin's ratings this year," he said smugly. "As did Ishi and Melissa."
"Shit, I hadn't heard that. I'm impressed," Lupin admitted. "Though I did do mine during a bout of the flu so bad I was hospitalized later that night," he admitted when Jigen looked at him. He looked at the boy again. "You're having dinner with the group, kid. Before you get anywhere near his daughter, you've got to get past her crew and the parents."
"I told you it'd be horrible," Arsene reminded him smugly.
He shrugged. "Fine. When and where? How formal?"
"Wear what you've got on, kid," Jigen told him. "We hate formal dinners and it won't impress her." For some reason, he liked this kid at the moment. "We'll eat before the showings tonight since she wanted to go to one of them. Probably around the corner."
"Yes, sir." He bowed slightly to them. "I'll see you then. Is she due down today?"
"Not until dinner," Arsene offered. "Kowalski was put into our care so she's monitoring him and Gramps."
"Very well. I'll see you then. I'll meet you at the desk." He walked off, going to find his hopeful girlfriend a present. He really did like her and it was a good sign her father hadn't shot him on sight. Lupin was doing good getting him accepted. That bribe of his porn collection had been worth it and he had needed new stuff anyway.
Lupin looked down at his daughter. "You like him?"
"I liked him enough to let him bribe me to introduce you guys before you saw him with Melissa," she admitted smugly. "So I tripled my porn collection." She strolled off, going to the hentai section to find something new and naughty for her collection.
"I almost like the kid," Jigen admitted.
"Then we won't let Goemon slice him on sight," Lupin agreed, glancing around. "Have you seen Fred?"
"Nope," he admitted, tipping his hat back some to glance around. "Look for a girl with a nice rack yet?"
"I've seen plenty but I haven't heard that little giggle of his yet," Lupin sighed. He walked over to where Misty was sitting, leaning down to whisper in her ear. "Fred's missing."
"He's with the Amazons," she said with a grin, pointing them out.
He looked at the leather-clad women, groaning when he realized that his son was under one's short skirt and nuzzling her ass. "Thanks."
"Eh, they know he's a Lupin. He introduced himself," she said with a wink.
"Wonderful." He strolled that way, coughing gently. "Can I have my son back? He knows better, really."
"You're Sylvia's man," one of them said after looking him over.
"Yeah, and Fred's definitely our son," he said smugly, pointing at where he was rubbing his head on some woman's pubic mound. "Fred!"
Fred came out and smirked at him. "Mine!"
"Young man, you may not touch women like that without their permission," the head Amazon chastised gently. She picked him up so he laid his head on her breasts, getting comfy and giving her a grin. She looked at Lupin and handed him over. "He is definitely your son."
"He slipped the baby leash," he said proudly. "We even had it locked." He walked his son off, quietly having a word with him about not snuggling up to strange women. He found Jigen and Ishi eating fries at a table and sat down, letting his son steal a few for them. "He likes tough women. He was trying to get inside an Amazon's panties and inside the leather bra of another one."
Jigen shook his head. "Let's hope he doesn't find his own Fujiko."
"Yeah, definitely," Ishi agreed. "So, you've met Brad?"
"His name's *Brad*?" Lupin snickered.
"Around the school, he's known as Ice, but yeah, his real name's Brad Lagostini."
"Huh. We'll have to pump Pops for some info on his family," Jigen said dryly. He dunked a fry in cheese sauce and handed it to Fred, who grinned and gobbled it up before stealing the cheese for himself.
"Hey, mine," Ishi complained, taking it back with a scowl. "Keep it up, little man, and I'll teach Kenji how to pounce you."
"He not a girl," Fred pouted.
"No, he's not a Lupin at all," Melissa said sarcastically from behind them. She tipped Fred's face up to kiss him on the forehead. "Behave, Fred. Girls don't like boys your age. They like boys Ishi's age and if you torment them you'll never get big enough." She sat down and took her father's remaining fries for herself. "Lotus took over for me." She glanced around.
"He's coming to dinner with us tonight," Jigen told her, watching his daughter blush. "He seemed decent enough."
"Really?" she asked, looking shocked. "I like a boy you actually like?"
"So far," he corrected sternly. "As in we'll see."
"Sure, dad," she agreed quickly. "I'm sure you'll like Ice once you get to know him a bit better. He's a sweet guy. He got me a deer's heart last month from his hunting trip."
"I'm not sure that I shouldn't be worried about that," Lupin sighed, shaking his head.
"It was sweet," she defended. "It had a nice note too. Then he sent me some wildflowers he had found on the way back."
"Icky flowers," Fred announced.
"You'll never get a girl if you don't give them flowers," Ishi told him.
Fred pouted and wiggled until he got down, stomping off to the nearest pretty woman, who he climbed up and hugged against the chest. "My daddy meany," he explained at her shocked look. "They say I should like flowers. Flowers icky."
Lupin looked back at her, shrugging. "Can I have my son back? Unfortunately that's a family trait to snuggle up that way."
"Well, he *is* a Lupin," Melissa said dryly, making Ishi snicker and swat at her arm. "He is!"
"Undoubtedly," he agreed, getting up to get the baby for them. "C'mere, Fred." He walked him back to the table, raising an eyebrow at his lack of food. "I am still a teenage boy," he reminded them. Lupin handed over a twenty Euro note so he could get them more food. "Thanks, Uncle." He walked up to the seller, getting stuff with Fred's help. Fred like to snack too. Besides, he was trying to flirt with the salesgirl taking orders, making her blush. "He's a Lupin," he explained when he took the tray. "It's genetic."
Melissa looked across the table at her boyfriend, smiling at him. It had gone very well so far. It was now dessert and only Fred had complained about him and that was because Melissa hadn't let him snuggle up to her this time. She had noticed something interesting, Vecchio had come to the same place, seen them, turned very pale, and left suddenly. He had nearly run over Zenigata in the process. She'd have to talk to him later.
Fred, however, was not in a good mood. His snuggly sisters were his, not some slimy boy's. He glared at Brad. "You hurt my sister, I kill you," he announced.
Lupin sniffled and wiped a tear off. "I'm so proud, son, your first real threat," he praised, giving him a hug.
"He's had a big day," Jigen reminded him. "He proved he could pick locks and escape harnesses without you noticing. He got under the skirt of a woman, inside the tops of two more, nearly breastfed off one of them, and now he's made his first real threat."
Brad took the direct route, looking at the little boy. "I don't want to hurt her. I want to date her. I want to make her smile and happy, and someday I want to have sex with her."
"Well, that's okay then," Fred decided. "She's very snuggly."
Melissa blushed. "Fred!"
"You probably are," her father noted. He looked at the boy. "If you even think about trying before she's sixteen, I'll castrate you before we marry her off in a political marriage to someone horrible. Got it, kid?"
"Yes, sir," he said promptly. He knew the old guy meant it. "I'd never touch anyone who wasn't sixteen. I'll be seventeen by the time she's sixteen so I really won't have a problem with that. My father once told me eighteen or else he'd hand me to some skeezy guy on the Vegas strip."
Lupin smirked at him. "We thought about that, but some of the kids might like that," he admitted, glancing at his daughter.
"I'd have to kill him if he was that nasty, daddy. I do have taste." She glanced around and pointed at someone a few tables away. "What do you think about someone like him physically?"
Brad looked, then looked at Arsene. "Probably not much style, little dicked, and not pretty enough to be on your arm," he said dryly.
She sighed. "I know, but pretty guys with good taste and a good body are hard to come by. I'd almost have to go to LA to find one."
"Fat chance, daughter," Lupin said firmly.
"Yes, daddy," she sighed. "I'm sure I'll find someone to make due with while I figure things out in fourteen months."
"Fourteen months?" Lupin squeaked.
His daughter smirked at him. "I'll be sixteen in fourteen months, daddy. Aren't you counting down the days?"
"No!" he said hotly. "I'll be damned if you're picking up someone on your birthday either."
"I can wait until the day afterward," she offered sweetly.
Jigen covered her mouth. "Shut up before he has a heart attack," he ordered, making his own daughter snicker. "You too."
"When is your birthday?" Brad asked.
"A month before hers," she said smugly.
"We'll have to throw you guys a party at the school," Brad said simply, smiling at her. She beamed at him. He grinned at Fred, making him pout at him. "I'll be nice to her."
"She's still my snuggly," he pouted.
"You can snuggle Lotus," Arsene offered gently.
Fred snorted. "She not as snuggly as you and sissy."
"Speaking of sisters, aren't ours due back soon?" Melissa asked to change the subject.
"Three days after we get back," Lupin agreed, smiling at her for that obvious change. "Hey, Fred, Sierra and Savannah are coming home in a week or so."
"Sissies?" he asked happily. They were *very* snuggly! "I steal them, he can have sissy 'Lis until they leave, then I steal her back."
"And by then we should be back at school too," Arsene said happily.
"I come?" Fred asked, looking up at his father. "Me go too?"
"Nope, not yet," he promised. "Soon though. How about when you're eleven?"
"Just like Harry Potter," Brad offered.
"I go to Hogwarts?" Fred asked in awe.
"No, to the Thieve's and Assassin's Academy," Arsene told him. "Only Lotus goes to Hogwarts classes there."
"Wow," he breathed. "I wait. I have wand?"
"I'll see if Lotus will make you one," his father promised patiently. He glanced at Brad. "He was named after one of the Twins."
"I figured as much. Lavelle was very nice when he came up to threaten me a few days ago," he admitted.
"Mom?" Melissa asked.
Brad smirked at her. "I woke up with him sitting beside my bed reading my file from the Academy, including my report card. He praised my skills with obscure weapons. Said I should learn a crossbow too. He also said I should ask you to that stupid meet-and-greet function," he said with a slight blush but not looking away from her eyes. "He said your dress was spectacular and that we'd look good together if I wore my blue suit."
She smiled at him. "Okay."
Jigen coughed, then got up to get another glass of wine from the bar. His daughter had just made her first date for a formal event and it was with a good assassin candidate. He wasn't sure if he should praise his baby's taste or shudder in horror. "Give me a shot too," he ordered calmly. The bartender gave him an odd look but got him one. He slung it back then took his wine back to the table and his dinner. His little girl leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. Just don't show him the bad baby pictures," she pleaded.
"I'd never do that to you," he promised, patting her on the back. "They're in Murami's safe."
"Thank you!" She grinned at Arsene. "Are we showing the 'rents our dresses before the event?"
"No," she said with a shrug. "Mine still needs hemmed so it's at the tailor's."
"Bix was helping me with something on mine," Melissa admitted. "But I'm still not sure I like it. I think it makes me look cute."
"It did," Arsene offered. "But that other one made you look hot."
"Cute is better," Lupin assured her quickly. "We'd rather you be cute."
Melissa opened her wallet and handed over the polaroid she had taken earlier, making his jaw drop. "I looked better in the other one. That one's a bit more something that Savannah would wear I think."
Lupin wiped the drool off his lips when Jigen kicked him under the table, handing over the photo. "I couldn't help myself," he said weakly.
Jigen looked at the picture, then at his daughter before tenderly handing it back. "I think I need a drink now." He headed back to the bar.
"May I?" Brad asked.
Melissa smirked at him. "You'll see that night." He grinned and nodded, pushing back some of his black hair. "Dark blue would be appropriate no matter which dress I wear."
"Sure," he agreed. He could do that. "Guys don't have to wear tuxes, do we? I know we did last year."
"Our letters said formal gear," Lupin said with a shrug. "That's why I've got this really great red dress. Mom was *killer* when it came to finding us our stuff. Even Lotus will look like a queen."
"Lotus is a queen of her clan," Ishi said dryly as he walked up to them. "Ray's in bed, all snuggly and alone. Dad's retired with a headache and Lotus is off at the dance tonight. We should go," he told Lupin the Fourth.
"Go," he said tolerantly. "Brad, I'll expect you to not grope her tonight."
"Yes, sir, I'd never do anything she didn't want and I'll stick to kisses only."
"Good, because I got named the chaperone by my father and Uncle Marcus," Ishi said, staring him down. Brad shrugged, that was fine with him. "Okay, let's go."
"Me go?" Fred asked.
"Not until you're old enough to grab onto a girl properly and dance with her," Ishi told him, patting him on the head. "When you start school, we'll start letting you go with us to clubs. I first went when I was eleven."
"I was nine but I snuck out," Arsene offered as she wiped off her mouth. "Later, daddy." She kissed him on the cheek, then pinched Fred on the cheek. "Be a good boy. No more trying to feed off pretty women." She followed the others out the door, waving at their uncle as they walked past him. "Dance tonight."
"Behave, girls," Jigen called after them. Once they were gone he groaned. "God damn it. My daughter just got her first real date." He slung back another shot and waved for a fourth. The bartender gave him an understanding look and poured it for him.
Lupin and Jigen snuck into the dance with Misty, Xander's friend who ran all of the convention registration desks, watching their kids on the floor. Melissa and Brad looked good together and she was smiling up at him, while only one of his hands was on her waist. Ishi was dancing with two girls and laughing. Lupin the Fourth was checking some boy in the corner with Lotus, then they headed back out to blend into the crowd. Lupin was giving the boys come hither looks and they were responding. Lotus was giggling at some boy who had just said something in her ear but was dancing with him, her soda in her hand. Jigen nudged Lupin when he saw the boy try to slip something into her drink, but Lotus caught it before they could move in. She very gently took him out of action and tossed him into the corner with the passed out boys. "What happened to them?" Jigen asked Misty.
"They were drunk and being obnoxious. Lotus dealt with them and one of them came after Lupin's butt so she kicked his in return for the pinching he was doing," she said proudly. "Their parents are already on the way in."
"Good," Lupin agreed, watching his little girl. It was like watching Xander on the dancefloor with cute people. "Xander taught her that too," he said sadly.
"I noticed. Melissa dances just like him too," Jigen sighed. He chuckled as Brad got another boy in the nose for daring to touch his girl. "I like him," he decided. Lupin nudged him and grinned. They both looked over as the door opened and Vecchio and Goemon walked in. "On duty?" Vecchio nodded. "Lotus," he said, pointing at the bodies.
"Wonderful." He stopped to watch the kids on the floor, shuddering for a moment. "I thought Xander was good."
"They're naturals. They've got good rhythm and the music loves them," Jigen said simply. "Goemon, Ishi's being flirted with."
"So I can see." He coughed between songs, getting some kids looking at him, including his son, who grinned and waved. A faster techno song started and the crowd started to writhe, including his daughter. He growled but Lupin kept him from going out there. "Let me go," he ordered calmly.
Lupin made the other father look at the bodies. "Your daughter did that," he said proudly.
Goemon shook his head and got free, heading out there to drag his children away from the others. His son obediently came when tapped on the shoulder but his daughter smacked at his hand. To be fair she was facing away from him. He tried to grab her arm but then had to defend himself because she tried to throw him onto the ground. "Daughter," he said firmly. "Now." She looked startled when she saw him and shrugged, following him off the floor. "Are you all right?"
"Daddy, I'm not a doll," she said firmly. "I'm fifteen. I can dance and play with the other children when I want to," she snapped, heading back onto the floor.
"Daughter!" She growled as she turned, he heard it under the music and could see it in her face. "You will obey."
"You will fuck off," she retorted. "I'm going to go have fun now. I don't get a lot of chances to do that with people who believe I'm not fragile." She headed back out, going to the far side of the floor.
Ishi coughed. "Dad, maybe you should talk to a few of the teachers at the school," he offered gently. "She's not fragile. She pulled her own, very difficult, job for the project. The rest of us went for easy things because we knew we'd have to monitor the other kids. Lotus did something so difficult she got yelled at for it. The teachers thought it was dumb, but very well done. She's not fragile. Maybe you should give her a real test, father."
"She won't be doing that."
Ishi hit him on the arm. "Dad, grow up. She's better than I am and she's got your style." He went back onto the floor, rejoining his friends.
Lupin looked around Jigen at his friend. "Maybe you should test her tomorrow. There's a gym here. She can use Ishi's sword."
"She uses a sword?" Jigen asked.
Lupin nodded. "I've caught her with one," he admitted. Goemon frowned at him. "She's been pulling Xander moves," he admitted. "I thought I was going to catch Xander doing katas and I caught her. She's just as good as you are, only without the will to kill things." He walked over to where Vecchio was waking up the kids, kicking one who was clearly faking on the foot. "Get up or I'm letting her helpers come get you up." Most of the boys groaned and sat up, all but two, one of which was still unconscious and the other was holding his head. "Seeing double?"
"Going to be sick," he said in a tight British accent. "I'm never drinking again, dude."
"Good. Bathroom's behind you and about fifty feet away," Vecchio told him. "Come right back out here or else. You can be arrested for underage drinking." The kid groaned and got up, running that way to get sick when the world started to spin. Vecchio looked at Lupin, then glanced back at the other two. "What's wrong?"
"Goemon's not seeing his daughter as a reality."
"Hmm. Isn't that a traditionalist thing?"
"Kinda," he admitted. He helped one boy up and steadied him. "Bathroom's that way, follow the sick sounds." The boy headed that way, hand over his mouth. "I'm damn glad my kids don't do this."
"You and me both. Lupin the Fourth's dangerous enough without liquor," Vecchio said bitterly. He stood up with a small moan. "Speaking of which, I owe her for bruising a rib."
"She's sorry, she was stressed," Lupin said with a small smirk. "You know how bad it can be to teach morons who think they know more than you."
"Yeah, but still!"
"She'll apologize or I'll ground her again," he offered. Vecchio snorted. "Really."
"Fine." He got the one who was still out awake and standing, then led them away. He could come back for the other two.
Lupin walked back to Goemon's side, giving him a look. "You okay?"
"Give her a try then," Jigen offered. "It's the only way to know."
Goemon nodded and walked off, heading up to his room again.
Lupin grinned at Jigen. "I'll see you later. Misty, my love, would you like to dance?" She chuckled but let him lead her out there to writhe with the kids.
Jigen shook his head and leaned against the wall, being the responsible adult of the group yet again. He stared at his daughter for a bit, but Brad was behaving. He had kissed her but it was gentle and quick. He could get to like that boy if they made it serious.
Lotus woke up to a rude shove to her arm. "What!" she demanded grumpily. She hadn't gotten hardly any sleep last night. She opened her eyes, then frowned at her father. "Yes, father?"
"Practice, downstairs, ten minutes," he ordered. "Bring a sword or sticks." He walked away, closing her room's door behind him.
She raised an eyebrow, then sighed and got up, going to take a quick shower. She found her brother in there brushing his teeth. "Am I going before or after you?"
"You're going instead of me," he said softly, staring her down. "Uncle Lupin caught you. It's time to show your ass, sister dear." He kissed her on the forehead. "Good luck kicking his ass."
He nodded. "You should. He's gotten to the point where he believes what others are telling him. Finally." He pushed her toward the shower. "I've got my practice blade in my case. I'll get it for you."
"Thanks." She got into the shower and turned on the water, then started on her hair. She'd have to hurry so she had time to warm up. When she finally got down there she was a few minutes later. "Sorry, Ishi was in the bathroom."
"That's fine. Do you need time to warmup?" She nodded, picking a corner to stretch and bounce in. He watched her, not having seen his baby girl this way before. She was very strong. She had good conditioning. She stripped down to a pair of shorts and a sports bra, then grabbed what he recognized as his son's old sword. He nodded at her choice and stepped forward, taking off his gi. "Whenever you're ready," he offered.
She gave him a long look. "That's the only place where I take after Xander," she noted. He shrugged and did a light thrust, and she countered by blocking it and trying to eviscerate him. He frowned but matched her intent. He wouldn't intentionally try to hurt her but he was going to go fully out like he did on his son. It was time to test his daughter. By the time she fumbled he was sweating heavily and panting and so was she. "Halt," he ordered. He bowed deeply to her. "Very well done."
"Thank you." She bowed back. Then she flopped down, staring up at him from her position on her back. "I'm tired now."
"So I can see." He sat down next to her, staring down at her. "You are my daughter," he said, choosing his words carefully. "You do my style of fighting, as is proper. You are still a girl however, and the codes do not say anything about female samurai. However, they do say things about female assassins."
She patted him on the arm. "I hate to kill things, father. I'm still very empathic with most things. I'm simply not the china doll you thought I was for the last fourteen years."
He nodded. "So I saw. You're very well trained. How?"
"You wouldn't so I went to Ishi and Mom."
"Ah." He nodded once, having expected that from what others had said. "Very well. I will continue your training. There are still things you can learn."
"Thank you, father." She sat up, shifting to face him. "Can I please be trusted not to be a whore like Sierra or a dolly that needs protecting from the world? I'm not some delicate court lady."
"No, you are not," he agreed dryly. "Do you wish to take training as an assassin?"
"I have been, dad." She pulled something out of the scabbard and handed it over. "The other half of my report card. My herbology teacher was collusion in getting me trained by the assassin's sword teacher. Brother didn't know."
He nodded once, then pulled her closer to kiss the top of her head. "Then I accept you as your are, daughter. You are not fragile. You are just as strong as your brother, even if you do have days when your moods are overtaken by your hormones." He let her go and gave her a gentle smile. "You have proved your point."
"Thanks, dad. Would you like to see my dress for the formal event? I'm really not sure about it. It's pretty and I look good, but I don't like it."
"If you'd like, though I do not claim any knowledge of fashion. You could go in a formal kimono."
"I'd rather be able to move in case something happens."
"I understand. That is why I wear what I do instead of more formal clothes." He stood up and helped her up, giving her a real hug. "I'm proud of you," he said quietly. "Do not let it go to your head, but you did very well."
"Gee, dad," she said with a smirk for him. "Way to improve my ego."
"You and your brother both have no problems in that area." He handed her the scabbard and nodded at her to put it up. "Let's get cleaned up for brunch."
"Yes, daddy. Would you ask Uncle Lupin to help me? Mom said she didn't like it either but it was the only one that looked decent on me that we found."
"If you'd like," he said patiently. His girl was still a girly girl, she was not one of those tough Amazons. He could relax that his daughter wasn't going to turn into one of those horrible women. He walked her into the main room, nodding at Lupin, who was lounging with his newspaper. "She is very good."
"We saw," he said dryly. "They have cameras in there." He noticed Lotus was blushing. "Very well done," he praised. "And yeah, Xander said to help you if you couldn't find anything else. He said he hated it on you."
"It's the only one we found I looked decent in." She pushed up her ponytail. "Let me shower again."
"Of course." The adults waited while she headed back to her room for another quick shower, then Lupin looked at Goemon. "It's white. It's clingy, and it's not that great on her figure. She doesn't have the body to carry it off."
"That does not ease my mind," he noted as he sat down. "She was good."
"She was very good. It was like watching a young you with breasts," Lupin said smugly. "Xander did very well teaching her the traditional methods."
"Xander did," he agreed. "Now it's my turn."
"Agreeable. Is she going back?"
"Yes. I like her at the academy. They are helping her." He handed over the other page of her report card. "She hid it from me."
"You were kinda fierce on her being a little girly girl," Lupin said patiently, glancing at it. He sat up, rereading it carefully. "Wow."
"Indeed," he agreed smugly. He stood up. "I'm for a shower. I'll be right back." He headed into the bathroom.
Lupin got up and went to wake Jigen up, handing over the report card. "Lotus. I taped it for you."
"Thanks." He read it, nodding slowly before handing it back. "I'm impressed."
"So was Goemon. We're helping her with her dress."
"Fine." He got up and got dressed, coming out to the living room. Lotus came in a few minutes later with her dress bag. "Xander said he hated it on you."
"It's a pretty dress, but it's definitely not me," she noted. She looked around. "Showering?" Lupin nodded, getting comfortable before tossing over the report card. She blushed. "Sorry, Uncle Lupin. I know how much you hate us doing that."
"It's understandable," he offered. "I still hate it. No more hiding it, Lotus."
"Yes, sir." She went into Jigen's room to change, coming back in the slinky white dress. "It's too long, I already know that. I don't know why I don't like it but I don't."
"For one thing it's very thin," Jigen offered.
"I know, it's very immodest, that's another thing I hate about it. Unfortunately all the other dresses were either worse, strapless, or looked worse on me." She looked over her shoulder as her father came back in. "Well, here's the fashion disaster."
He paused, looking at her. "It is not modest."
"I know that, father," she said, rolling her eyes. "It was the best there was."
"Again, I can only hope you would wear proper formal clothes," he offered, sitting down to look at her. "It does not fit around the chest area either," he offered, blushing brightly.
"Let me put on the bra too." She went into Jigen's bedroom and put on the bustier under it, then put on her heels. She strolled back out, making her father whimper. "Exactly." She held out her arms. "Uncle Lupin, we really couldn't find anything better."
Lupin got up and walked around her. "Well, it's a good color on your skin. It's got a nice cut. It's too long in the torso, too long overall as well." He sat down again, staring at her stomach. "Okay, I've got a decent place to look. Get changed." She nodded. "If you're wearing that bra, keep it on and bring the shoes." She nodded, going to get changed. He looked at the other adults. "Get on shoes and things." He took Lotus' arm when she came back out with the bag, leading her down to the car with the other fathers behind them. "I'm taking you to one of my favorite shops. They did a lot with your natural mother so I never took Xander there. I think they'll be able to help you."
"Is that where she got that blue dress?" Jigen asked.
Lupin grinned back at him as he held the elevator door open so they could exit in the garage. "Sure was."
"I'd like her in something modest," Goemon complained. He got into the back with his daughter, helping her fold the dress bag carefully.
Lotus walked the new dress into her room and looked at the girls. "We found something," she said happily. "Uncle Lupin took me to where my natural mother used to get her dresses. We found something white, nice, and modest that made me look great. As long as I don't gain any weight or have bloat, I'll be perfect that day."
"Good," Arsene said with a smirk. "We dosed Ray earlier. It worked so he's been released into the wild."
"After being tagged on the ear," Melissa added with a smirk. "That way we know where he is." She sat down on the bed. "Let's see!"
Lotus locked the door and changed into the formal gown, letting them see the fitted top and looser skirt. It looked like a throwback to something Renaissance but she looked wonderful in it. "Daddy Lupin made a joke that I looked like my father's favorite period in time."
"You do," Lupin agreed, grinning at her. "Nicely done, Lotus."
"Thanks. And I've got an alternate in case." She changed out of that one and into the alternate, which was tighter, sexier, and a pale cream color. "Well?"
"I like it," Melissa said, gaping at her. "I need a bra like that."
"You have one but you hate it," Arsene reminded her. She frowned. "I need better tits."
"You've got enough of those," Lupin called through the door. "Change so we can have lunch, girls."
"Yes, sir," Lotus called, shimmying out of the second dress. She put them both carefully back into the bag and hung it in the closet. Then she pulled back on her jeans and t-shirt, heading out after her sisters. "Okay, feed us," she requested with a grin.
"Of course we will. If we can afford to feed Ishi, we can feed you three," Jigen joked. He herded the girls out, taking them down to the special luncheon. They met Xander, Ishi, and Bix down there.
"Fred?" Lupin asked.
"With Misty. He's already tried to feed off her twice," Xander said dryly. "The dress thing?" he asked hopefully.
"Fixed," Lupin said smugly. "They used to dress her mother so I never took you there."
"Good job." He kissed him on the cheek. "Okay, let's eat. I'm starved." They trooped to their table, watching the performance from the fans who had planned the play. Someone yelled and rushed up there with a dagger held high and his first instinct was to grab for his gun but Lupin held him down.
"It's part of that play," he soothed quietly. He noticed Goemon and Ishi had both reacted that same way, reaching for a weapon. As had Jigen and Melissa. Arsene was nibbling on her lip but she didn't have anything on her. He gave her a long look and she shrugged. "Not packing?"
"Sorry, dad. I couldn't find one at the house. They're too heavy for me."
"We're fixing that later," Xander said firmly.
"Yes, mom." She went back to watching the play.
Goemon looked at Lotus, who hadn't jumped. "No reaction?" he asked quietly.
"I watched them practice earlier."
"Ah." He handed over the pitcher of water so she could refill her glass.
To Part 48