The Power of Love.

Lupin looked up as Xander walked into his study, holding up the letter that had been sent for him.  "Por vous."

"Merci."  He sat down to read it, snorting at the contents.  "Another paternity claim," he said, waving it a bit.  "With a woman I supposedly slept with last month.  That I've been living with for the past year."

Lupin shook his head but he was laughing.  "Have fun with her."

"Thanks."  He got up to grab the phone, dialing the number for the attorney on the record.  "Is Mr. Paul Rodriguez in?"  Pause.  "Yeah, and?  He's accusing me of sleeping with someone and fathering her child.  Honey, I'm *gay*.  No, this is Lavelle," he said sweetly.  "Just put the idiot on.  Yeah, now would be a good idea."  He covered the mouth piece.  "She's in there at the moment."  Lupin shook his head but he was still smirking.  "Hola.  You think my gay ass is sleeping with a woman and fathering children?"

"Go easy on him, he obviously doesn't know you or do any homework," Lupin muttered.

"Me?" Xander asked dryly, smirking at him.  "Uh-huh.  I'm dating a gay actor.  I've dated my boss for the last few years. What part of gay didn't you get?  I haven't even slept with a female prostitute in three years!  Get a life, man, and tell her to as well.  Well, if he's an albino he's definitely not mine.  My hair's *silver*," he noted, drawing out the color.  "I have *brown* eyes.  I used to have *black* hair.  There's no ablinos in my family, dude.  Really."  He sat up.  "Really?  And how would she have done that?  With what sample?"  He snickered.  "That's not my sample, that's Lupin's sample.  I'm one of his gunmen, not Lupin.  Want to talk to him?"  He nearly laughed at the obviously sweating person on the other end.  "Listen, there is *a* sample on file with Interpol.  You'd have to get Inspector Kowalski to find it.  You let him have the test run.  If it's mine, I'll gladly step up and take responsibility.  If not, then I suggest she quit living in a fantasy world and move on with reality.  Sure, want his number?  I've got his number somewhere."  Lupin held it up, smirking at him.  Xander read it off.  "Talk to Kowalski, man.  He's chased me for a *very* long time. He can probably even document for you who I've been sleeping with for the last two years or so."  He hung up and rolled his eyes, sitting back down again.  "Gods, money grubbing assholes!" he said finally.

Lupin nodded. "Fortunately I've had only a few of those.  One of them ended up dead when someone tried to take the kid, it stopped that."

"Think I can arrange one of those accidents?  Do I look like an albino in pictures?"  Lupin shook his head, smirking at him.  "He thought I was a fricken' albino!"

"Well, the hair is light, but not quite that light.  Your eyes aren't pink either.  I kinda like them being brown."  The phone on the desk rang so he answered.  "Lupin."  He listened to the tirade and snorted.  "They thought he was an albino too.  He's gay.  He likes boys.  Look at his present one."  He hung up.  "Paris' don thinks that it might be yours too."

"He knows I was sleeping with you and I have better taste than that.  If this sort of thing crops up again, feel free to laugh at them."  He got up and headed up to write to Alan to warn him before some reporter got hold of the story and asked him.

"Ah, love's fickle mistress am I, but missing my drug of choice am I also."

"Did you say something?" Jigen called.  He stuck his head into the study.  "You okay?"

"No.  He is my drug of choice and I am withering away as I await my next fix."

"Lupin, man, get a grip," Jigen said before going outside to help the kids.  He and Goemon shared a glance.  "You heard?"

"I did.  I also heard Xander go off on someone who thought their child might be his."  Jigen snorted.  "They thought he was an albino."

"Stupid fricken' idiot," he muttered, going to help Alex with her aim.  It needed to be better.  Much better.

Goemon looked at his son.  "That is why you should always have personal control of your desires, son, so that you do not face similar circumstances."

Yu smiled up at him.  "Love you instead, daddy."

"Thank you, son.  I find you more satisfying as a relationship as well.  Let's try that last move again.  Then you can help Kenji with his katas."  Yu nodded, trying it again.  Goemon got down to help him, showing him how it should be again.  Yu did it and this time got it right.  "Very good, son.  Now go do a kata, then we'll have a snack."

Yu ran off giggling, going to hug his big brother and help him.  He mirrored his big brother's movements, watching what he did and doing it right after him.

"He's good at that," Lupin said from the doorway.

"Very," Goemon agreed, looking back at him.  "How is Xander?"

"Fuming," he said with a smirk.  "This is the third time this has happened."

"At least they've all been false to date," Goemon offered. He stood up and dusted himself off, going to help with Alex.  With Sarah gone, she was the last little girl in the house.   She would be a bane to the Dark, but she still needed a lot of practice before then.  She could barely hit the target.  "Perhaps she should have glasses."

"The kids are coming back in a few weeks, we'll take 'er then," Jigen agreed.  Ishi would need to go anyway, so would the others.  "Lupin, make her an eye appointment with Ishi's," he called.

"Sure," he called back.  "Tea's done!"  He headed back to his office and found his daughter sitting in there.  He gave her an odd look.  "The last time I knew, you had classes for another two weeks."

"Actually, the Practical Education teacher told us to go away in a permanent manner since we took over her class while she was sick, and Art Appreciation is really kinda boring," she said dryly.  "We didn't have any finals.  We didn't have anything else, and I'm the only one out," she said at his dirty look.  "She really did though.  She said Lotus is a smartass because she makes better tea."  She grinned at him.  "So, I'm back, what can I help with?"

"Have you seen your mother yet?"

"Not yet."

"How did you get here?  I didn't hear a motor."

"I flew in on a broom, daddy, how do you think I got here?"

"Xander!" he yelled, bringing him at a job.  "Is this Arsene?  She's much more mouthy and insolent than usual."

Xander looked at him and shook his head.  "Not a chance that's our kid.  I can slay you," he pointed out dryly.

She said something in a demonic language, which made Xander laugh, so Lupin assumed she was swearing.  "Who are you and why are you here tainting my study?"

"I'm here because it's fun," she said smugly.  Xander pulled off his shirt.  She screamed and covered her eyes.  "I'm sorry!  He's moping though, it's like he was bitten by a Shakespear Demon!"

"Yay.  Out!" Xander shouted.  "Now, before I have to do an exorcism."  She poofed up in a puff of smoke and disappeared.  "Stupid bastards," he muttered, walking away.  "It was another demon," he said at Goemon's odd look.

Lupin sat down to dial his daughter's phone.  "Arsene, it's daddy. You're still there, right?  No odd things going on with classes, like you taking over or you getting kicked out?  Call me when you get this."  He hung up and shook his head, leaning back.  "Lying bleeding from the cruel needle of my addiction, I lay here with weeping sores that only the sweet balm of love can soothe and the thirst for your lips is the only thing that will keep me from starvation of the soul," he whispered.  His phone rang so he put it on speaker phone.  "Yeah?"

"Daddy, the Headmistress *swore* she wasn't going to tell you about that," Arsene whined.

"She didn't.  The demon pretending to be you did."

"Aw, crap."

He chuckled.  "Were you kicked out of the class?"

"No, she passed us.  Said we can do everything but cook."

"Fine.  Art Appreciation?"

"Is wonderful, but we had this as little kids.  Besides, he likes Church art and we don't.  It's *boring*."

"Tough, stay in school."

"Yes, daddy.  We're going to be released early again we think."

"Fine.  I'll make sure your rooms are dusted.  Bix!" he shouted when she walked past the door.  "You behave, Arsene.  Make me proud.  There'll be good presents for graduation.  Oh, and remind Melissa of the formal."  He hung up after blowing a kiss.  "Bix, love," he said with a grin.

"There are other children on the way?"

"No.  Xander decided to set you up a fund so that you could retire and pounce Ray for real.  So whenever you're ready to go with him for good, let us know.  That way you don't have to worry about housing, the wedding, things like that."

"Wow."  She misted up.  "Thank you, Lupin."

"You're welcome. You deserve it after watching our hellions."

She nodded, chuckling a bit.  "They are that. At least Fred has settled down."  She smiled at him. "It'll still be a few years."

"That's what interest is for," he reminded her.  "It'll just grow until you're ready to leave to become a cop's wife."

"Thank you.  It was incredibly sweet of you."  She bowed and went to tell her cousin.  "Thank you for setting up that trust for when I move on," she whispered, hugging him. She kissed him on the cheek.  "It was incredibly sweet of you and Xander to do."  She walked over to where Alex was getting frustrated, giving her a hug.  "It's time to clean up for lunch," she ordered.  They ran into the house, knowing that her word was law. Even over the daddies.   "Thank you, cousin."

"Think nothing of it," he assured her.  Silently he vowed he was going to kill Xander and add his own contribution to it.  That was his job!  He headed up the back stairs, finding Xander folding his laundry.  "Who did you set it up with?"

"Murami.  The last time she was here."  He grinned at him.  "It's a nice fund.  She'll be able to live off it in case something happens and pay for a fairytale wedding.  I thought she deserved it since she did so much for my monsters."

"I'll be adding to it."

"Not an issue, big guy.  I love you."

"You're insane," he snorted.  "Thank you for telling her."

"I didn't."

"Then Lupin must have.  I'll call Murami later to make sure there's enough in there."  He left, leaving to do that and to transfer some of his family's funds into the account.  It was only right, it was his cousin, he should be giving her a dowry, not Xander.


Arsene hung up and shook her head.  "A demon told daddy we'd been kicked out."

"I didn't know Vengeance demons came because you moped," Ishi said dryly.

"Isn't Love a demon too?" Lotus countered.

"Only if you're my father," Lupin said to break up the argument.  "What time is this fence supposed to be here?"

"Never," a male voice called.

The kids knew that voice, it made them groan and run for the boat.  It made them take off really fast.  It made Ishi tense up when he noticed there was a boat chasing them.  It even made him hop over to destroy the other boat when it came close enough.  When the boat capsized, it was also why they went back to look for survivors.  They found their two favorite cops in the water, clinging to a blowup doll.

"I didn't know they made Zenigata blow up dolls, did my dad invent that?" Lupin the Fourth asked.

"Lupin, fences and cops don't always match," Melissa said impatiently.

"We arrested him earlier," Kowalski panted.  "Get us up.  I can't swim!"

"How do you not know how to swim?" Ray Vecchio complained.  "It's easy, hang onto the doll."

"Shut up!"

The four kids looked at each other and sighed.  If the fence wasn't coming, then they really had no reason not to save them.  Ishi hauled them up, handcuffing them in the open space on the boat.

"We'll just have to find another fence," Melissa noted dryly as they headed back to their apartment.  It had almost no furniture, but it did have a few spots and some towels.  They got the cops inside and handed them towels.

"We'd give you guys stuff to wear, but unless you want to wear Melissa's clothes we don't really have anything that'll fit," Arsene said with a small shrug.  "Ishi's not quite the same
size you two are."

"I've got a pair of sweats and a pair of pajamas," Ishi offered.  Vecchio nodded, those would probably stretch.  He went to get it for them, handing them over.  "We've got to start stocking things like clothes."

"We can barely keep our trunks straight," Melissa reminded him. "By the time we let them go, their clothes should be dry."  She sat down to type into the bulletin board that the cops had arrested the last fence, but they had arrested the cops.  "I wonder who they're going to send after them," she muttered.

"We need our own cop, like Gramps," Lupin clarified when Ishi gave her an odd look.   "These two won't be able to.  They watched us grow up.  I want someone like Gramps on our cases when we finally debut."

"With our luck, we'd end up with someone like Brad," Lotus said calmly, sitting down to watch Melissa type. "Is there any good news?"

"Ne, DeMarllion is still whining about his son," she admitted dryly.  "The point that his son didn't have to break into my personal safe didn't seem to slow him down any.  He's decided I'm wrong for protecting my part of the haul."

"What happened to him?" Vecchio asked.

"He's the one the flamethrower got," Lupin said, grinning back at him. "Just a small nozzle of it.  The acid on mine and the small explosives on Ishi's didn't seem to phase anyone. We started out smaller."

"Hey, you tried," Kowalski admitted.  He looked at Vecchio.  "He's right, the Commissioner doesn't want us chasing them once they formally debut."

"Why not?"

"Because one of my first pickpocketing jobs was on Uncle Ray so I could get five bucks and get a soda," Melissa reminded them.

"Not to mention how close we've gotten over the years.  How many times we've already defeated you.  How you watched us grow up."

"How we seem to enjoy holding you two hostage," Lotus added.

"Sorry, I'm not in a really good torturing mood today," Lupin shot back with a smirk.  "Get me next week sometime."

"I'll be hiding this month since there's going to be a concurrence."

"You keep track of that?" Vecchio asked him.

"Hell yes, it keeps me sane!  You would too if you had to put up with all three of them!"  He pointed at the girls. "Auntie Dawn's swings last month has *nothing* on Lotus. Alone.  Lupin becomes more playful.  Melissa becomes homicidal.  I'm saving my sanity and my ass from them by keeping track of these things.  Even Lupin the Third does now."

"We didn't scare daddy *that* bad," Arsene complained.  "Not at all like when daddy had to step into the freezer because he saw Melissa in a bikini."


"Well, it does fit in with the Giver's plans of breeding us to the last generation to get unstoppable sons," Lotus pointed out.

"She did what?" Kowalski demanded.

"Fujiko had a plan to breed Melissa and daddy, me and Uncle G and Uncle Jigen with Lotus," Arsene said dryly, smirking at him. "That way there would be *male* thieves in the family lines again. Since we're *girls* and all and can't possibly be *real* thieves."

"That was mom's first night back too, he found it in her diary," Ishi reminded her.  "She also called the Countessa Domini to take you guys on so you could be *consorts* to a leading family."

"I hope she realizes she's the reason I'll never have a serious relationship where I might have children," Lotus said bitterly.

"Father pointed that out, it made her cry again.  Mother said she's much better now.  She's quit scheming again.  Apparently the point got through to her when she woke up to find a dagger on a spring trigger above her heart.  I'd like to congratulate our fellow student on that one."

"Already done that and told his teacher that he did very good and ingenious work, even though she didn't die.  He passed his practicals."

"Any idea who else is after us?" Melissa asked quietly.

"Yeah.  Nosy bitch and her crew were also given us.  They're still hot on us, even though they got another assignment after we humiliated that teacher and made him have a breakdown."

"Huh?" Kowalski asked.

"We were targets of the assassin candidates this year," Ishi told him.

"That's why we got Brad," Vecchio told him.

"Oh.  That poor schmuck.  They did that to him knowing he was dating Melissa!"

"Yup, sure did," Melissa agreed bitterly.  "Which is why you got Brad.  He has a conscience."

"Is this teacher available for discussion?" Vecchio asked.

"Probably.  If you can take his babbling," Arsene said with a smirk.  "We got...creative on him."  Lotus let out a chuckle.  "All Melissa's brilliant idea of course."

"But for one part, that was Mom's."

"Yeah, that was Mom's.  Did you hear that he's got some miraculous creeping paralysis?  It goes a bit further up each day.  It's like something's eating his body slowly, a bite a day or so, but it's not doing it physically."

"That's a possibility," Lotus offered.  "There are things that can do that."

"More than I wanted to know," Vecchio butted in, walking off shaking his head.

"Don't go too far, captive of ours.  Otherwise we might have to get mean."  Arsene picked up the phone and dialed a number she had gotten off Xander.  "Hello," she said in a fake Chicago accent. "Can I speak to the commissioner?  It's about the younger Lupin gang.  No, but I saw them cut open a boat earlier and save two of the inspectors.  Yeah, please, sweetie.  No, not Zenigata.  I think he was floating in the water."  She smirked at Melissa, who was shaking her head.  "What?" she mouthed.  "Commissioner?" she asked in her usual voice.  "No, this is Lupin the Fourth.  Could we trouble you to give us someone like Zenigata to chase us when we formally come out?  You know it makes us better when we have quality officers at our heels."

"Well, yes, but we *like* both Rays and Gramps.  Besides, he lusts after my daddy being in jail and we grew up tormenting both Rays.  It's not really fair to make them try to catch kids who learned how to pickpocket on them.  Melissa, you still owe him those five dollars," she reminded her.  She listened to him quietly blow a gasket.  "But it'd be so much better for our ego.  After all, it's not every year that you get a stunning group of thieves coming in so young who're able to send Interpol into conniptions.  Yeah, but just someone *worthy* of us would be *wonderful*.  After all, you don't really want us *bored* do you?"  She smirked at his assertion that he hoped she never got bored.  "So start sending quality cops after us once we debut formally.  If they're that far beneath us, we'll tie them up, paint them a pretty color like purple, and hang them from a bridge.  Sure, thanks."  She hung up and broke out in giggles.  "I can't wait to see who they get."

"This could backfire on us," Ishi warned.  "They could send Brad."

"Then I'd definitely get cuddles and more while we were on the run," Melissa said with a smirk for him. "He's got a personal involvement, they won't send him.  When's graduation?"

"Next week.  Right before that formal you've got to go to," Vecchio said grimly.  "Can we come?"

"Hell no," Lupin snorted.  "But that reminds me, we've got to do some shopping, ladies, and Ishi."

"I didn't know they were part of Mom's empire.  I thought they were part of the Lupin Empire," Melissa said, staring her down.  "This is to introduce me to Mom's empire as his heir."

"So unless Uncle G's going, they can't?"  Melissa nodded. "I'll check with mom about that."

"That's fine, it'll make it less boring if you guys do get to come.  By the way, I got a message from the butler in England.  Did you know I need to have a formal coming out party since I'm the heir there too?"

"Noooo," Arsene said slowly.  "Bitchin'."

"Very.  Boring white dress though.  I told him to tell mom, who'll probably be having a fit about it."

"Wonderful.  Can we avoid that one?"

"Hell no," Ishi snorted.  "It'll have very many rich people and royalty.  We'll have to go to case things."

"Make sure you don't quite look like yourself," Arsene suggested.  "Go in Superman disguise.   Lighten your hair or something."

"Sure, Lupin."

"Do we have to go to those?" Ray whined.

"No," Vecchio promised.  "We don't have to go to either of those."

"But you did get the invite to the new con, right?" Lupin pressed.  "Mom said you were supposed to get one."

"Smack your mother upside his pointy damn head," Ray said bitterly.  He pulled out the invitation and handed it to his partner.  "Xander's company sponsors it."

"Raycon," he snorted, shaking his head.  "Wonderful."

"You've already got a room," Melissa offered.  "A bunch of the comic guys will be there too."  She went back to typing.  "Apparently we've kidnaped you for real this time.  Sorry about that.  We'll release you when we're ready to go."

"That's fine," Vecchio sighed, sitting down against a wall.  "This is a nice place, but you need furniture."

"It's only a rental and we haven't had time to shop yet," Lotus reminded him.  She looked back at her brother.  "I still need to shop for my debut."

Someone pounded on the door so Arsene got up and strolled over there, smiling happily at the cop on the other side. "Yes?  May we help you?"

"Ma'am, Lupin the Fourth, I know that you have two Interpol inspectors in there with you. I was sent to negotiate for their release.  Otherwise you'll have to deal with our Rapid Response team and I doubt we need that many dead bodies."

"We've got a negotiator," Arsene called as she let him in.  "See, they're fine."  He looked stunned.  "Dude, we grew up picking on those two.  They're like family in a lot of ways.  We saved them from drowning or being eaten in the canal.  It was our good deed for the year."  He gave her the same shocked look so she nodded.  "Really.  We're not torturing them.  I like those two.  People who hurt those two answer to me or to Mommy.  And they'd better pray it's me.  I'll be nicer and it'll be a more pleasant death.  Now, go tell your little friends that they're fine.  The only danger they're in is of catching a cold.  We'll be gone by the time you get back."  He shook his head.  "Oh, yes, we will."  He frowned but left to report and let them see the tape he had been making.  By the time he got back there, only the Inspectors remaining, and now they were chained and gagged.  "Are you all right?"

"Don't piss her off," Vecchio growled.  "She's not the stable one!"

"Sorry, Inspector.  Was that your chief in the canal?"

"No, it was a floatation device.  Lupin the Third sent it a few months back," Kowalski admitted as he was freed as well.  "Got any dry clothes?  I hate wearing wet underwear."

"How did they escape?"

"Magic portal," Kowalski said, pointing at the wall they had walked through.   The cops found the portal while they were gotten blankets and dry clothes. It went to a tunnel under a canal and ended up on the other side of the city, which was right near a parking lot, a few hotels, and one of the ways out of the city.  The cops gave up at that point, figuring they had left.  No one said anything about them needing to do some extra shopping.

Especially since they hadn't taken the tunnel at all.

Magic was a handy thing sometimes.


Xander strolled up to the two inspectors, handing over a garment bag.  "Here, because you needed stuff from home," he said with a wink for Ray.   He strolled off, the cops none the wiser since he looked like the old Xander Harris, long before he'd gotten the silver hair or the scars.

Vecchio glared after opening the bag.  "This is from home," he complained.

"Why be without the comforts of home," Xander called back, stopping to smirk at him.

"No, this is from the stuff I left back in Chicago.  When were you there, Lavelle?"  The cops around them stared at the other guy, who just chuckled.  "Did you do anything to my family?"

"No, Ray, I like your mother.  She's very nice.  Thought I was too skinny, tried to get me to date one of your nephews, sent a long letter, which is in the bottom of the bag.  I updated your email address for all of them so you *really* need to check your mail.  Your sister's frantic because she's having a menopause baby.  She's in some pain, her ankles are swollen.  She nearly killed her husband for doing this to her."  Vecchio groaned.  "And interestingly enough, I saw a certain Mountie in Chicago, working with them," he said calmly.  "They decided he should help again since he knew the area so well."

"Fuck," Kowalski muttered.  "Thanks for the warning, Lavelle.  Now, wanna give yourself up?"

"Do I look like a silver-haired thief and lover of many people?"  A few of the cops gave him the once over then shook their heads.  "Then why would you think I'm Lavelle?" he said with a small pout.  "I'm a good boy.  A very good boy."  He set off a flash bomb and left, heading to help the kids pick out clothes.  They needed clothes.

The Inspectors unfortunately now had more paperwork.  They'd be there for days.


"No, not red," Xander insisted.  "Dark colors only.  This is not something to show off at."

"Fine," she sighed, putting back the red dress she really liked.  "What about for 'Lis's coming out party?"

"Excuse me?" he asked, looking at his daughter.

"The butler said I had to since I was considered the Lady of the manor since you didn't have a wife.  Therefore I had to have a coming out party, I had to wear white, and I'm not sure what you're supposed to wear, Arsene."

"Fine.  We can call and ask."

"Fine, you do that.  For the one for the meet and greet, wear something darker."  He looked at the saleswoman.  "She's going to be in a room full of adult, stuffy people.  We're introducing my heir to her future coworkers and helpers.  We're in acquisitions."

She nodded, pulling down a burgundy dress for Arsene, a pale blue one for Lotus, and a black one for Melissa, handing them off.  "Thank you."

"How soon is this event?" she asked calmly.

"A week and a half.  We forgot to tell Melissa to shop sooner.  Usually they'd be doing this in Paris but the guy's on vacation while he heals."

"What happened to him?" Arsene called as she changed.

"He apparently got a great new idea in the middle of the night and was rushing off to scribble it down at the shop when he tripped over his car."

"Ow," Melissa agreed as she came out, looking at herself in the mirror.  "I think this is a bit older than I am and a bit more low cut too."

"Let's try for something that has sleeves," she offered, noticing the girl did not shave.

"What about something like the white one Lotus was looking at, only in a more somber color?" Xander suggested.

"Those we do have."  She came back with a navy velvet dress, handing that one off.  "Try that, young lady."  Melissa went to try it on, coming out tugging on the top.  "Hmm."

"You're gonna shave, right?"  She nodded.  "Fine, get something else then.  Strapless if you want."  She took off the dress and hung it back up, going back to find something better.

"Why are you wearing boxer shorts?" Lotus asked her.

"They're comfortable."

"Fine."  Lupin walked past and handed them both dresses.  They looked at them and switched, then went to try them on.  Lotus came out in hers, wiggling a bit as the dark green dress slid down again.  "I like it, but it doesn't fit right."

"You do have an impressive chest," the saleslady noted gently.

"They're real," Lotus said impatiently.  "No matter what anyone thinks, they are real."

"I'm sure they are.  They bounce too much not to be."  She got something else, handing it over.  "It's the same color and the same fabric, but with a different neckline.  That may help more."  Lotus went back in and came out in the strapless dress, which made Xander blush.  "I like you in that."

Lotus looked and squeaked, "No!"  She hurried back and changed, bringing it back out.  "Something more modest, please."  The saleswoman smiled at that and put that dress in Melissa's dressing room.  She came back with one with a scoop neckline, handing it over.  "Thank you."  She tried it on and came out, skimming her hands down her hips.  "Better," she admitted.  "Mom?"

Xander smirked.  "Nice, but still showy."  He turned her to look in the mirror, holding her still while the blood left her face because you could see a good bit of her chest. "It's fine, Lotus.  We can adjust it up some," he said gently.

"Are we going to 'Lis's coming out for the empire?"

He nodded.  "Sure, if you want.  You're her cohorts and she'll be bored otherwise.  Ishi?"  He came in from the front of the store, where he was hiding, and paused, then moaned and shook his head, turning around again.  "See?  You're cute!"

"Is it too much?" she called.


Lotus looked at the other girls, who looked envious.  "Is it okay?"

"I like it if you do," Melissa offered, turning to look at herself in the strapless dress.  "I like this."

"It looks good on you," Xander agreed.  "Ar, put on something less frumpy."  She sighed and went to change into the dress she really liked, coming out in the black dress that clung to her body like a second skin.  He nodded.  "Okay, I like.  Ishi, come back."  He moved Lotus with the other girls.  Ishi came back and moaned, then let out a small whimper.  "Good?"

"Enough.  Please?"

"Okay, these for the party in a week and a half, now for the ones for the other coming out party, Lady Harris."

Melissa swatted at him.  "Behave, mom."  She looked at the saleslady.  "I'm coming out, I'm formally a lady since he doesn't have a wife.  I got told it's got to be white?"  She nodded and the woman was off, finding them more things to wear.  "Thanks."  She took off that dress and sat down in her dressing room, holding her head.  "Has anyone told Dad yet?"

"Not yet," he admitted.  "Since I didn't know anything about it."

"Do we need something like that?" Arsene asked.

"Honey, that's for your dad to plan," he said patiently.  "I'm not doing that one."

The girls laughed.  The saleslady came back with three white dresses and things for the other two.  They went in to change, coming out with the first ones.

Xander went to look at Ishi.  "I'll be right back, I'm taking Ishi up the street," he yelled.

"Fine!" Arsene yelled back.

Xander walked Ishi up the street, all the way to the Armani shop.  He smirked at the salesman.  "He needs a good tuxedo.  He's got two coming out parties he's got to go to for his might-as-well-be sisters.  They're both in the next few months."  The man nodded, taking him into the back.  Xander coughed and held up his card.  "We're just up the street with the ladies, we'll be back within an hour."

"Of course," the man agreed, helping the boy.  "You are very well built."

"I'm a Martial Arts Master.  I need to be able to move," he said calmly.

"Very well, sir."


Xander came back with pictures of all the girls in their new outfits, and flopped down onto a couch, one arm drifting up to cover his eyes.  He felt someone come in and tug the phone in his hand.  "Coming out dresses."

"Good.  I take it they're all going?"

"To both of them."

"Both?" Jigen asked.

"Melissa has to have a formal one.  Now Arsene wants one."  He handed over the phone.  "You'll wanna sit."  He sighed and flipped onto his side, facing the back of the couch, so he could nap.

Jigen looked at the pictures, his mouth open and drool starting to form.  "Shiiittt," he breathed.  He heard Fred giggle.   "Fred, get your father so he can see these."  Lupin came in a minute later so Jigen paged back to get to the first photo.  "Sit.  Down."  Lupin didn't, just smirked until he got to Arsene's first dress, the first picture.  Then he sat down and paged through them.  "Coming out party?"

"She's a Lady, she'd have to have one," Lupin agreed. "I take it ours are all going to Xander's function?"  Jigen nodded, getting comfortable.  Lupin moaned, then coughed and groaned.  "Gods, Goemon's going to have a fit when he sees her in that one.  She looks wonderful, but very grown up."

"My daughter looks like what?" he asked from the doorway.

"Do you want to see the kids in their outfits before the coming out party?"

"I'd rather have a heart attack that night."  Lupin showed off Melissa's second dress.  "That is very pretty on her."

"Is it, but Lotus looks stunning in hers."

Goemon snatched the phone to flip through the pictures, frowning at Arsene's, which made Lupin giggle.  He came to his daughter's second one, which made him pause.  It was a stunning dress.  She looked amazing.  He took a deep breath and paged to the other one, letting out a quiet whimper at the other dress.  "That was the most tasteful?" he asked.  The other two shrugged.  "Xander!"  Xander mumbled something.  "Was that the most tasteful?"

"Yeah, and it fit her chest.  It was either that or the dress Melissa ended up in, that green one."  He closed his eyes and started to snore again.

Goemon sighed and handed off the phone, going to think.  His daughter was beautiful.  She was nearly grown up.  In that dress she looked quite grown up.  He was losing his little girl.  He found Fujiko outside watching the boys play.  He sat down with a sigh, letting his sons come up to hug him.  "Thank you, sons.  That is very nice."

Fujiko patted him on the back.  "What's happened?" she asked gently.

"Our daughter is no longer a baby.  She owns a dress that stirs the loins of men everywhere."

"Lotus?  I thought she hated to dress up."

"There are two coming out parties soon for Melissa.  They had to get formal attire. She looks quite grown up."  He sighed and shook his head.  "It she was some other girl in the picture."

"We have pictures?"

"On Xander's phone. The other two look nearly as good."  He looked up at her.  "My daughter is no longer a baby and she is not the cuddlesome little creature who used to curl up inside my robe to nap."

"It'll be okay.  You'll be a grandfather in a few years," she promised.  She gave him a gentle pat, then went to look at those pictures.  Jigen handed over the phone when she walked in, on one of Melissa in a white dress.  "Wedding?"

"Coming out party in polite society," Lupin said, leaning against the couch smoking.  "You'll want to sit, Fujiko."  She sat on the edge of a chair and flipped through them, her face tightening as she came to Arsene's black dress.  Her daughter's first dress popped up and she gasped, tearing up.  She paged through, getting her son, which made her cry, and then the other one made her toss the phone down and go off to cry.

"Mood swing?" Jigen asked.

Lupin picked it up and canceled the 'are you sure you want to erase this' message.  He turned off the phone and stuck it next to Xander's head on the pillow.  "Our kids are not babies."

"Our kids haven't been babies for years," Jigen reminded him.

"Maybe, but my daughter looks hot in that black dress.  Her birthday is in ten months."  He took another drag, then pulled out another one and lit it off the last one. "Gods, I'd sleep with my daughter if she wasn't my daughter."

"Just don't do it with mine, man,"

"Not an issue, Jigen.  She'll have to buy underwear too, she was wearing boxer shorts."

"My daughter?"

"Your daughter," Lupin agreed smugly.  "She's a lot like you, Jigen."  He got up and went to sulk in his office.  The night they went he'd have to make sure they got a lot of pictures.  Maybe even video to do some photo captures. Then again, it was an important event so they'd need video of both coming outs anyway.  He sat down to call the butler in England, making sure  he realized Xander didn't have a clue about these sort of things.


The Headmistress smiled as the children came back with their bags, shaking her head.  "You couldn't wait?"

"The day we go back, we've got Melissa's formal coming out party for her mom's empire.  Then she's got her formal coming out party as a Lady shortly thereafter," Arsene sighed.  "It's going to be a busy holiday.  Melissa's, then Lotus's, then the holidays, then Melissa's other event, then back here to rest."

The Headmistress gave her a gentle hug.  "I'm sure it'll be fine.  Did you remember shoes and everything?"

"And underwear, and bras, and hair stuff," Melissa sighed.  "I hate dressing up.  Lotus, your kimono is back in France.  Mom had it sent to the house."

"Okay," she agreed quietly, trudging her stuff up to her room.  She paused at the door.  "Miriam?" she called gently.  No answer from the body on the bed and her roommate was a very light sleeper.  The fact that there was blood on the bed wasn't encouraging.  "Student down!" she shouted, bringing the hall monitor running.  She went to her neighbors, who she liked, and knocked gently.  "Can I stuff this in a corner of your closet until we figure out what's wrong with Miriam?  There's blood all over my room."

"Sure," her roommate said, frowning.  "What happened?"

"I don't know, I just got back," she admitted, putting the bag on the back of their door and her bag in a corner.  She opened the bathroom door after tapping and grimaced.  "There's more blood in here.  Looks like someone tried to chop up a body and shove it down the drain."  She walked out into the hall and around.  "The bathroom's *covered*," she told the monitor.  "Do we need an ambulance?"

"Yes, we probably should have one," the monitor offered.

Lotus jogged back to the doorway to her section, finding Melissa coming up the stairs.  "Miriam's down, get an ambulance.  There's blood everywhere!"  Melissa turned and ran off, going to get the poor girl some help.  Lotus went back and moved a few of the girls out of the way.  "Against walls, ladies.  Did anyone hear anything?"  They all shook their heads. "Nothing?"

"No, neither did we, we can't smell the blood either," her neighbor, the one who shared the bathroom with her room, noted.  "Not even from the bathroom."

"Wonderful.  Okay then.  We'll figure that part out soon enough.  Against the walls, ladies, let the adults through."  They got out of the way of the nurse, looking fairly scared.  "It's fine.  It won't happen to you.  I won't let it happen to any of you."  She tapped the monitor on the arm and pointed at the bathroom.  "In there too."  She opened the door and blanched, then closed it.  "The neighbors say they can't smell it," she said quietly.

"How could you not?"

"I don't know.  That's too much for one person though."  She nodded, going out to shoo the children back to their rooms, saying she was doing a head count.  Everyone headed for their rooms at a run, they knew better than to disobey that one.  "Can I help?"

"No, dear.  You did very well keeping them out of the way.  Step back outside please."  She nodded, stepping back outside.  She ran into the teacher who taught forensics, science, and how to get around them, nodding him inside.  "In there, in the bathroom, and for some reason the next door neighbors can't smell it."

"Very well.  Have you stepped inside?" he asked.  She nodded.  "Is this your room?"  She nodded again.  "Fine. Wait out here.  You're not going to be able to sleep in here tonight, Lotus."  He noticed Arsene jogging up the stairs.  "Take her back to your room for the night."

"Sure.  Grab your stuff."  Lotus got her things and brought them down to Arsene's room, letting her put them in her roommate's closet.  She never used it so she wouldn't mind.  "What happened?"

"I don't know.  She was breathing but she wouldn't wake up.  It looks like someone painted our bathroom in blood.  There's blood on her bed too."  Someone tapped on the door so she let the roommate in.  "Sorry, didn't realize I had locked it."

"Not an issue.  We're all doing a head count.  What happened?"

"Mirriam's near death, there's blood everywhere in her room, and it's too much for one person," Arsene summed up.  "By the way, we're using your closet for Lotus' new dresses."

"Fine."  She flopped down onto her bed.  "Gets me out of a science test."  They nodded and sat down on Arsene's bed.  "Shouldn't you tell Ishi?"

"I'm sure they'll be doing a headcount over there next," Lotus said dryly.  "What wonderful things happen when we're gone," she said bitterly, looking at her sister.  "Did you feel anything off?"

"No, but I want to talk to Janus."

"Deal.  As soon as we can get back in there," she agreed. "We'll probably have to rebless it anyway."  She got up to answer the door when someone knocked.  "They told me to come down here since it's my roommate."

"When can we get back in?" Arsene asked.  "I need to check on my altar."

"Probably not for a few hours.  Lotus, you may want to stay down here tonight, dear."

"I can't sleep with Arsene, she kicks and sucks in her sleep.  If I must, I'll go pout at my brother and he'll give me his bed while he sleeps in a corner like daddy."

"Fine," she agreed with a gentle smile.  "Don't make it a habit however.  Go to him now if you want.  They're locked down too."

"That's okay.  We can text message back and forth," Arsene assured her.

"Good girls.  Did you get pretty things for the coming out parties?"

"Very, and my father's probably shaking his head about one of them," she admitted.

"That's good, dears.  Stay up here, we'll escort down by floors for dinner."  She went to the next room to check on those students.

"I definitely want to talk to my statue now," Arsene noted quietly.  She text'd Ishi, getting a grunt in response.  He had made a special emoticon for that.  "He's not happy."

"I wonder why."  She took it and text'd him to ask why he wasn't happy.  He wrote back a longer note and she snorted.  "The boys were in his room playing with his leather pants."  She handed it back with a grin for the roommate who had just groaned.  "Dad told him he couldn't wear them often because it's not the family's style and he'd look horrible in them."

"I can't imagine Uncle Goemon in leather pants," Arsene agreed dryly, shaking her head.  That was a bad thought, even for her.  She sent a silent prayer to her God, then listened as someone upstairs screamed.  "I think he's awake."

"Wonderful. We'll be back," Lotus offered, getting up and heading upstairs to her room.  Arsene came up right behind her.  "Did the statue scare you?" she asked, leaning in.

"What is that thing?"

"Janus," Arsene said.  "May I?"  He nodded, getting out of her way.  She walked in and carefully knelt in front of the altar, saying a quiet prayer and lighting the candles and incense on it.  The heads sneezed.  "What happened!" she demanded.

"Two things.  Very large, with wings.  They got the girl and another person who was sacrificed.  They took the second body since it was dead," the heads said in unison.  "That one will live, she is protected.  Find the ones who are doing sacrifices for power, Arsene."

"On it," she promised.  "Girls or guys?"

"Girls. Lotus may be able to sense them."

"Even better.  Praise be to your name, Janus."  She bowed and got up, lighting the candles on Miriam's altar for her, saying a quick prayer there too for Miriam's health.  Gods always needed more power and it could only help.  She walked out, taking Lotus back down to her room so she could change and they could find the teacher who taught herbology ...and other things.  Lotus headed there while she changed, stunning her roommate.  "If you see *anything* out of the ordinary, you let us know," she told her roommate. She was one of the few virgins in the school.  It was a reasonable precaution.  She hurried after Lotus, tapping before walking in.  "Did you tell him?"

"I did, and I called Mom, who's napping.  I called the Order in Japan, and they told me what it may be.  I called Uncle Marcus and he's pissed, not just because we interrupted his afternoon nookie either."  She looked at the teacher.  "Janus said it was two things with large wings.  Sorry about the rhyme."

"That's all right, Lotus," he said gently.  "There are few who follow the old ways here."

"Are there any who follow the old ways but aren't in the classes?" Arsene asked.  He nodded. "Outside of Lotus?"

"Yes, there are a few. I may not know them all."

"That's fine. Can you tell us who?  So we can weed them out?"  He shook his head.  "Okay, then can you show me how to detect darkness?"

"That I can do," he agreed, walking her into the back room and closing the door.  She came out a few minutes later, her eyes closed.  "Open them.  Look around."  She looked around and shivered at the sight of a jar.  "They should appear like that to you.  This should only last for a day."

"Thank you, Master."  She walked out, heading back up to her room.  She looked around, careful not to step in any more blood. It all glowed to her, but some of it glowed more.  She coughed and pointed.  "Something's in that.  I'm not sure what."  The teacher came over to look, then shivered at the message underneath, written in something like hair gel that hadn't let the blood seep in.  She read it, then nodded once.  "We need to go to the boy's side."

"Deal," Arsene agreed, following her.  She noticed Lotus had grabbed her sword, but assumed she knew what she was doing.  They tapped on the door, getting the monitor.  "We need to talk to Ishi."

"He's in quarantine, as you two should be," she chastised.

"Something ate my roommate and another girl.  The traces say that they're coming for a boy next.  Ishi's not the target, but you'll want someone over here to protect him."  She stepped inside, going right to the boy's common area and to the boy, kneeling in front of him.  "There was a message in my shower, under the blood," she said quietly.  "It's coming for you next.  I want you to stay with Ishi all night.  Even if you sleep on his floor, that's fine."  The boy nodded, pale and shaking.  "I don't care what it is. You don't let it in.  You tell him if you hear or feel anything odd.  You have him call me if you see the thing."  She traced something on his forehead.  "Now, let's go."  He nodded, following her to Ishi's room.  She tapped before walking in.  "He's next.  Guard him," she ordered.  "It's a Mom event and Marcus won't be up for another day."

"Fine," Ishi agreed.  "Any idea what?"

"Big, dark, leathery wings."


"Probably.  Dark, claws.  Looks a lot like those pictures of living gargoyles we saw last year.  Very dark, like a shadow. Keep him safe and call me."  He nodded, motioning the boy inside.  Lotus walked out and went back to the girls' side, noticing the headmistress following.  "Even if we catch the girls, the creatures may not stop.  Uncle Marcus said so. He's on his way up."  She found the door with the marks on it and stepped inside, wincing at the flash of magic that blinded her other senses.  "Fuck," she said dryly, making Arsene shiver.  Lotus didn't swear.  She found something in there and examined it.  "Long blonde hair. Natural."  She held it up.

"That length can probably only be Persimon."

"No, it's not.  It's broken off.  This is an old setup.  I can feel the age.  The anger."  She looked around, then shivered and backed out, bowing at the doorway.  "Seal it.  Only Marcus gets in here unless it's Mom.  Preferably Marcus."  The Headmistress locked the door again and put a padlock on it.  "Find the girls who go in there and we'll find the reason.  We may also find the cure."  She looked up, pointing at the cameras.  "They'll tell you."

"We'll look at the tapes right now," the Headmistress promised.  "Wait here, ladies."

"Of course."  They sat down, on either side of the door.  Arsene looked at Lotus.  "You're scary when you're working that way."

"Shit happens," she said dryly.  "I feel like I'm channeling someone too."

"Sounds like Mom."

"It does," she agreed, lighter feeling now.  "Then again, mom is a medium."

"I thought he was an extra large."

Lotus groaned and glared at her. "Not that way."

"Sorry," she said with a grin.  "Needed to break the tension."

"Good point."  They looked up as Melissa joined them.  "The next was a boy."

"The science teacher found another note, it'll be a girl too.  We've already got her guarded, Arsene."

"Figures, she's one of the last pure ones in this school but me and Lotus."

"That may change," Lotus noted dryly.  "There'll be a rash of fixing that because of this."

"True," Melissa agreed.  She would be if this thing was coming after her. "Now what?"

"We wait."


"Hey, at least Mom trained us in this stuff," Arsene offered.  "Think about having to wait for a slayer to come from the US."

They all shuddered, there would be some very dead virgins if that were the case.


Marcus strode up to the gate, nodding politely.  "I'm here to fix the tragedy in the making."

"You are, sir?"

"Marcus.  Uncle to Lupin the Fourth.  The Headmistress is expecting me."

"Let me call, sir."  He called up to the school.  "Ma'am, we have a Marcus..."  He hung up and found Marcus walking on already.  "She said go to her office, sir, they found the work area," he called after him.  Marcus nodded, waving back at him.  "What now?" he complained.  "First a really injured girl, now this stuff?"  He looked around as he felt a chill, crossing himself and going back inside. It was cold out there.

Marcus walked into the office and bowed.  "I'm here to help.  Where and who's next?"

"They identified two students from the remarks on the wall.  Ishi has one since the students are in lock down.  The girls are watching the other, who is Arsene's roommate.  Lotus identified the room and we've found the people who go in there."  She handed over the pictures they had printed off. "Lotus and Arsene are guarding the door.  I've got it padlocked but I'm sure they can pick it by now."  He nodded, smiling at her.  "Stop this thing, Marcus.  I won't have this in my school."

"I don't blame you.  I know a priest who can come up over the holidays to resanctify that room.  I'll call him on your behalf."  He walked off, heading for where he could feel the tracer he had put on the children.  He smiled at them.  "Open it please."

"It's shocking," Lotus warned as she got up.  Arsene turned and picked the locks, before getting up and waving him inside.  Marcus stopped and gasped.  "That's my feeling too. It's like it glows."

"Cancel that, Lotus."

"After dinner.  Just in case I find more kids who're marked."

"I can do that, cancel the seeing spell."  He opened the bag he had over his shoulder, moving it so it was hanging under his arm and he could grab things quickly.  He pulled out the squeeze bottle of holy water and took a deep breath before moving inside and starting off. "This will take a while."

"Yay.  We can wait," Arsene assured him.  "Better safe than sorry."  Someone behind them screamed so she turned and punched her, knocking her out. "Pity," she noted.  "Morning, princess of evil."  Marcus handed back the pictures.  "Ah.  The ones after us, Lotus."  She handed over the pictures, then got down to bind this one up. It was going to take someone skilled in Celtic knots to get her free. "We can get the others at dinner."

"It won't stop the creatures," Marcus noted.

"That's why one's with Ishi and one's with Melissa," Lotus said calmly, studying the faces.  She knew two of the three.  She felt calm and at peace and knew it was her job to take the other two out.  She went up to the floor those two were on, knocking on their door.  Then she stepped inside and sealed them in to deal with them.  When she came out an hour later, the girls were crying and pleading, but they weren't going to do anything else like that.   She went to hand the pictures to their hall monitor, letting her handle them.  Then she went back to the room.  "They're handled," she said simply.

"Fine," Arsene agreed.  "I don't need to know what you did. It'd probably make me sick."  She looked over as Ishi came out with the boy and Melissa drug the girl, both of them holding their heads.  "They're still not safe."

"Fine.  We can guard them in a different room later," he offered.

"I can guard them better," Marcus noted as he worked.  He pulled out another bottle of holy water and back to drawing over the marks on the floor.  "Get them fed, get them bathed, get them into a closed room."

"If they break the primary reason for their choice, will that help?" Arsene asked.  Marcus gave her a long stare.  "Would it?"  He nodded.  She looked at the duo.  "They got you because you're virgins."

"I can fix that," the girl agreed, pulling both boys with her.

"Not with me!" Ishi said, letting her have the other kid.  He needed it more.  She continued to drag him off.  Ishi looked at the other girls, who just smirked at him.  "You two, shut it."

"Hey, you're the fixer of choice for that problem," Arsene joked.  "I'd be honored."

"While I am, we'd still be in there when the next attack happened and that would still leave one person who needed the help."  He sat against the wall, looking into the room.  "That's gross."

"It is," Lotus agreed.  "The other two will not continue either," she said calmly.  He smirked at her.  "So I went badass on them.  They deserved it."

"They did," Ishi agreed.

"Hey, Ishi, have you ever been to a peep show?  I'm wondering what goes on in those."  He gave Arsene a long stare so she shrugged.  "There's all sorts of smut about what goes on back there."

"I'd take you but you'd end up servicing all the men back there," he said dryly.  "For your information, there's a booth, you slide in coins, you want a movie, most people wank off.  Others like to come watch you wank off.  They also offer to help.  I had to very politely point out that I was straight to the guys in there, a few times, before I could escape."  The girls stared at him in awe.  "I am, I like girls.  I like how girls taste and how they sound.  I'm not going to try guys when I've found what I want."

"Sure, Ishi," Melissa agreed with a smirk.  "First time?"

"Fourth or fifth," he admitted.  "With the pro I hired after that.  I had to relieve it somehow."

"Where were you?"

"LA, chasing after Mom," he said dryly.  "It's also who told me I should get the leather pants."

"Where was your first time?" Lotus asked.

"Vegas.  Mom had stopped there and I had lost him so I went out to go clubbing.  I got propositioned and offered and pleaded with until I finally asked where to get that stigma off myself.  I found the best whorehouse, had to prove I was old enough with my fake ID, almost walked out when the woman made fun of me, paid her for a good few hours, then felt much better and went clubbing again.  Anything else you needed to know?"

"Does Dad know?"

"Yes, and he said he was disappointed.  That I should have found a real geisha if I had wanted something like that."  He stared his sister down.  "You know how Dad is."

"I do," she agreed.  "I've got to find a boyfriend."

"Wait until after the holidays," Arsene offered. "Has anyone realized mine's about six weeks after we get back?"

"Your father was counting on a full ten months."

"Yay.  He said my sixteenth birthday.  That's in June.  Not in August.  No matter how he miscounts it."  She smirked at Melissa.  "I've got to narrow down my choices for that."

"You do, and remember, we're supposed to be having sex at home so they know we're using condoms and birth control."

Arsene smirked.  "I know."  They heard Marcus moan and laughed.  "Maybe I'll call Madam Domini and get her recommendations.  She seems like the sort to know where to go.  Either that or I'd have to ask Mom."

Marcus stepped out of the room. "Can't you wait?"

"Hell no!  I've held off this long, my innate curiosity is going to make me go mad soon.  I'm the one who nearly went into the bathroom at a club at ten to figure it out, Marcus."

"Please, spare the rest of the world and wait," he pleaded.  "Just for another year?"

"No!  Not unless I'm going to jump Melissa!"

"I'd kill you," Melissa reminded her.  "I love you, Arsene, but not like that.  I've known you for *way* too long for that."

"Oh, I don't know, you were cute when you used to suck on her nose," Ishi taunted with a small grin for her. "She was your favorite pacifier other than your dad's fingers."

"Eww," Lotus noted.  "Some of us don't need to hear about the baby lesbian adventures of those two.  It's bad enough we had to watch Sierra try to invade Savannah's diapers now and then."

"Infants are odd, but I think you children were worse than any other I've seen," Marcus complained, turning to go back to work.  He shrieked and Lotus came in, slamming the door shut to deal with the creatures. They'd want her more anyway.

"Hmm, maybe we should find her someone," Ishi said dryly.  "Dad would be furious, but it's probably going to be necessary."

"Maybe we can call someone from that realm where that teacher came from," Melissa suggested with a small smirk.  "They used to diaper dive?"

"Infants like to play with their diapers and what's underneath.  Sierra decided that Savannah's was more fun than hers was."

"No, she's not a Lupin at all," she sighed, rolling her eyes.

"I wonder how she's doing with married life?" Arsene said smugly.  "Hopefully she's thoroughly broken him in by now."

"Don't mention that around Lotus, she's still pissed at her for taking Morgan."

"She didn't want him."

"Morgan was her first crush, that's always more personal," Ishi reminded her.  The door slammed open and Lotus came out covered in black tar looking stuff.  "You okay?"

"They're dead.  Nasty things.  I'm off for a shower."

"Sure, use mine," Melissa offered.  "You can even sleep in my room tonight."  Lotus nodded, going to do that and steal some clothes.   She shuddered.  "Eww."

"Very ewww," Ishi agreed, peering into the room. "Uncle Marcus, are you all right?" he called.  He got a moan.  "Uncle Marcus?"  He stood up and leaned into the room.  "Hey, you okay?"  The man was covered in ick but looked up at him.  "Lotus went to shower.  You okay?  You can use mine if you want."

"Please," he agreed. He struggled to his feet, grabbing his bag.  "They're going to be cleaning this room for years."

"I'm sure Lotus left those two girls alive so maybe they'll be cleaning this room for years."  He resisted the urge to touch or pat him but did lead the way to his room.  The boys' hall monitor gave him an odd look.  "He cleaned up the things that were going to eat the kids.  By the way, they're curing the reason for their inclusion.  He's going to use my shower."  He let him into his room and put out a clean towel and sweats for him.  He'd probably need them anyway. He went to join the girls in the hallway again.  "Lunch?"

"Lunch," Arsene agreed, getting up and following him down to the dining hall.

Melissa slammed the door shut, following along after them, smirking at Ishi's back.  Sometimes he was such a guy.


Goemon looked up as his wife came in with a cup of tea for him, nodding his thanks as he took it.  "Thank you, Fujiko."

"You're welcome. You looked like you could use some cheering up."  She sat down beside him on the bed, stroking over his arm.  "How are you feeling?"

"Upset.  Our children are growing up too fast.  First Lotus is grown and now Kenji has decided he's too old to be tucked in.  Soon he will not want to cuddle and then shortly after that, Yu will not want to cuddle.  Then they'll want to go out for field training."  He took a sip of the tea.  "I hate them aging."

"All children age, Goemon," she reminded him patiently.  He was pouting, it was disturbing.  "Then you'll get grandchildren and there'll be three generations at once, and if you're really lucky you'll live to see your great-grandchildren."

Goemon gave her an odd look.  "Think of what you just said.  Four generations of the group at once?"  She shivered at the look in his eyes.  "I cannot see Arsene or Melissa putting up with children, much less grandchildren."  He took another sip of tea and put the mug aside.  "How are you feeling? You haven't plotted in days."

"No, I'm considering what I've learned about the girls.  They're really that good?"  Goemon nodded.  "How?"

"They've been working together since they were eight.  Lupin was against pushing them but the children did it before we could stop them. Long before we could stop them actually," he admitted quietly.  "They move and grow so fast, they do not appreciate the youth they had until they were teenagers, and then they appreciated it and slowed down after Lupin set his foot down.  She is a true heir to the line however.  Just as he is and as his grandfather was."  He picked up her hand to hold, squeezing it gently.  "Some day, she will have a child and hopefully it will not be like Lupin's father did and she hands the child to him to raise."

"He said he wouldn't."

"He would never let a child of his suffer.  Neither would Xander.  If one did not take the child, the other would instantly.  Possibly before they could see whether or not the mother could handle it."

"Yeah, but we've still got Alex."

"Janus said that Alex was going to have an unplanned child and be brought into slaying that way.  It is unfair but necessary apparently.  That will not be a happy time."

"But she'll be fine."

"She will be.  Xander will make sure of it.  Once she learns how to hit a target."  She snorted.  "She is young yet and we think she needs glasses."  He gave her hand a gentle squeeze.  "We were sorry to lose Sarah so soon.   She is happier up there, but it is still a loss."

"It's been a hard semester," she offered gently.  He nodded.  "Plus, this summer wasn't that easy.  Not to mention Lupin moping over Xander.  What's with him anyway?  He knows Lupin would do anything for him."

"Anything but pay attention to him, sleep with him, or love him," he said quietly.  "That is why Xander took up with Alan.  He left the night of the meet-and-greet and went out to get drunk.  He met Alan then."

"It's still dumb!  Lupin wants him, he's begging, he never begged me!"

"Still, Xander took him back in the past.  The same pattern happened.  Even when he was in the choker.  Lupin would pay attention and then his attention would be taken by something and Xander would be left again.  At one point, Lupin nearly attacked him.  He got upset at him and took him in the hall roughly."  She blanched.  "Lupin and Jigen both love him, it is clear to all of us, including Xander.  Jigen cannot touch him and Lupin didn't touch him.  They made their own beds in the matter.  Alan is very good to him however.  I like Alan.  He's a nice man and he adores the children the same way Xander does.  He sat down with me to help clean up Yu when he got a scrape because Xander was getting some damp paper towels."

"Fine, but I still think he'd be happier with Lupin."

"Perhaps, but then comes the miserableness afterwards."  He almost added more but stopped himself before he could embarrass himself or let out feelings he wasn't sure she was ready for yet.  "What will we do when Yu starts desiring girls?"

"Give him the talk and get drunk?"

"Quite possibly," he agreed, smiling at her.  He got his tea and finished it off, then laid down again, pulling her closer. "What are you thinking about?"

"Using Melissa's coming out party to case a bunch of royals."

"Perhaps but we've sworn to keep that part of our lives away from Xander's manor house.  The butler and maid requested it as did the former owner.  When there, he is merely Xander.  We don't even have weapons or bullets there."  She grimaced.  "It is something that he respects them for.  They did not sign on to be the butler and maid of a world famous thief.  Even the children respect that.  I believe Melissa was going to be disguising herself a bit.  Perhaps dye her hair a bit lighter or something."  He snuggled into her shoulder.  "We should rest.  The children will be up in very few hours."

"Yeah, they will be," she sighed, getting comfortable.  She noticed Goemon let her get comfortable before moving back against her.  " wanted to cuddle?"

"If you would not mind."

"  I, um, don't mind."  He smiled up at her then closed his eyes, getting comfortable on her shoulder.  She laid there, thinking about it.  Thinking about that deep feeling she kept trying to stamp back down, but it kept floating back up. She cared for him a lot.  She might still love him.  He obviously loved her.  Women were supposed to be the emotional ones but Goemon had committed much more deeply to their relationship than she had.  She was his princess and he had always treated her that way.  Even after all she had done recently he was still in love with her.  A samurai in love was a force stronger than nature it seemed and she might have to let those feelings back out.  She touched them, testing their depth, and was surprised at how deeply she did feel about him.  She might actually love him as much as he did her.

"Sleep, Fujiko.  You can think more on the morrow," Goemon said quietly.

"Sure, Goemon."  She wrapped herself around him and closed her eyes, letting him comfort her and keep the nightmares away.  Maybe the kids had been right to torture her for what she had done.  That was a thought for another time.  She shifted a bit and felt her husband's body respond to her, making her blush.  Those memories were very clear to her.  She remembered how good Goemon was in bed.

"Sleep, Fujiko.  Before something happens that prevents it," he whispered in her ear.  "There is time for those thoughts as well."  She nodded, kissing the skin she was resting against. "Thank you.  Rest."  She nodded, closing her eyes again.  He blushed as she pushed closer to his body, controlling his desire before it broke his control.  Before he did something that she was not ready for yet.

"Relax, Goemon.  I'm not going to jump you."

He tipped her face up to kiss her.  "I cannot promise the same, wife.  Sleep, so I may."  She smiled at him before kissing him again.  He moaned and clutched her closer, letting her take control.  If she wanted him this way he would not complain.


Xander heard Goemon and groaned, pulling a pillow over his head.  Finally, he couldn't take it anymore and grabbed some clothes, his wallet, his keys, and snuck out of the house.  He remembered to reset the alarm.  His sportscar was right up front so he took that one, heading toward the city.  He had to find something to do and it had been a long time since he'd done anything on his own.  Maybe some clubbing?  No, maybe some water watching?  It helped him think sometimes.  No, if he had wanted that, he could sit and stare at the pond while he fed the fish.  Karaoke?  That was something he hadn't done in many years and he did feel depressed enough.  Alan hadn't answered him in two days.  He had called him but he hadn't answered his voicemail either.  Since no news program said something had happened to him....  He had to believe that Alan was just really busy or thinking.  Alan was the sort who'd tell him if he had been dumped.  He shifted up when he realized he was going the speed limit and there was no traffic on the roads.  Yeah, some karaoke would be for the best.  If only he knew of somewhere that had good songs.


Lupin heard Xander in the hall and grimaced.  Then he heard the door shut and hopped up to put on clothes and follow him.  He was doing his tie as he made it down to his car.  He could just barely see the taillights of Xander's sports car in the dark.  He hopped into the roadster so he could follow him.  Xander hadn't been happy all day.  Even the kids calling hadn't put him in a good mood.  Even Kenji giving him a hug and a cuddle earlier hadn't helped for more than a moment. He wondered what was wrong, but Xander wasn't going to tell him when they weren't together.  He barely had opened up when they had been together. He sped up when he saw Xander speed up, watching his speed gauge.  He was in a reckless mood too it seemed.  Must be something with Alan then.  Where was he going?  He hadn't turned to go to the local club they usually went to.  He sped up as Xander did again, grimacing at his recklessness.  Hopefully the boy wouldn't be crashing into something small, like a bridge or a building, since he wasn't paying attention.

He flipped on the radio to keep him company, lowering the volume so it wasn't blaring.  Jigen must have had it on while he had washed the car earlier.  He saw Xander take a curve too sharply and swore quietly.  He backed off some, figuring the boy was paranoid about being followed.  That meant he lost Xander but he had a bug on the car. Or hopefully he did if Jigen had done his job correctly.  He opened up the glove box and found the transmitter, smiling at the strong blips heading for the city.  Reims, interesting.  Not his usual place to go sulk.  Art and history buffs loved it there.  He'd been a few times but hadn't found anything he couldn't live without.  He sped up as the blip started to fade, hoping he wouldn't lose Xander.  It was still a drive, nearly as long as to Paris.


Xander pulled up outside a bar that advertised a karaoke night.  At least it was still open even though it was pretty late.  He walked up to the front door and tried it but it was locked.  The lights went out so apparently someone was in there but it was closed.  He got back into his car and went cruising for another one.  There had to be a karaoke bar somewhere!


Lupin had caught up with Xander and read the signs on the bar, raising an eyebrow, mouthing the word 'karaoke' to himself.  He shook his head and called a contact he had locally who owned a bar, having him open back up.  It was in Xander's path and he could come in to watch him.  It was the middle of the week so he wouldn't expect a big crowd but the place had a lot of nice dark corners.   He parked around the back when he noticed Xander's car in the parking lot.  He walked in the back door, handing the bartender and owner a few hundred.  It was the standard bribe.  "What's he doing?" he asked quietly.

"Flipping through the book, muttering about needing sappy stuff.  You're about the only one here tonight, Lupin.  He your boy?"

"That's Lavelle.  And yeah, he is," he said with a small grin.  He got a beer and went to a quiet corner where he could see the stage.  The few other people watched as Xander made his choice and the music started.  A few of them groaned when the love song came on.  Foreigner?  So he was upset about Alan for some reason.  Lupin took a sip of the beer, grimacing at the watered down stuff.  He put it aside and settled in to listen to Xander sing.  He wasn't half-bad.  Not great, a little rough sounding.  The next song wasn't much better, it was another eighties love song.   At least it wasn't the country music Xander listened to when they first got together, his sad music of the time.   The third song was more upbeat, Golden Earring's _Twilight Zone_.  That was almost a song about Jigen and Xander.  It made him smile.  The last one was nearly making Xander cry, _Glory of Love_ by Peter Cetera he thought.  He knew it was from one of the Karate Kid movies.  Xander dropped the microphone and went to the bar.  Lupin nodded at the bartender that he'd get it for him, waiting until Xander had gotten one shot down before walking up there.  "Come sit with me, Xander," he whispered, tugging on his arm.


"Yup, me," he said with a faint grin.  "Come on.  We've got the same idea tonight."  He walked the boy back to the table.  "Non-swill this time please, Jacques?"

"Sure, Lupin."  He brought it over to him, accepting a few bills.  "You sure?"

"Yeah, he's not driving tonight."  He waited until the bartender had gone to reach over to stroke Xander's hand.  "What's wrong?"

"Alan hasn't talked to me in a few days."  He sipped his latest drink.  "I'm being paranoid."

Lupin stroked the hand he had, making Xander pull it away. "I'm not hitting on you, Xander.  You have honor and you'd never cheat on a lover."  He took the hand back.  "You wanna talk?  It might make you feel better.  I know about being abandoned by lovers.  It happened to me for years with Fujiko," he reminded when Xander looked at him.  Xander sighed and shook his head.  "Talk to me, Xander," he said more quietly.  "I want to know about this. If you're not happy, I'm not happy.  It's not just poets that die of broken hearts."  Xander shook his head.  "Really.  It's not."

"I know," he admitted, gulping the rest of that drink and taking Lupin's.  "Since you've decided I'm not driving and all," he said with a small grin.

"It's not the first time I've been the designated driver, buddy.  How long has it been?"

"Two days.  The last one took over a day.  He's not happy that I'm supposedly wasting my hard earned money."  He took a long drink.  "He doesn't understand that this stuff makes me happy.  It's not something that I'm collecting for worth.  I don't care if none of my comics or kimonos have any resale value. I like them...."  He sighed.  "He doesn't understand."

"You collect them because they make you happy and smile.  That should be enough for your lover.  Is he pushing you to spend money on him?"

"He hates it when I spend money on him."  He looked up at his friend and boss.  "I know that you said I shouldn't take up with someone in the life, that these sort of things happen, but I love him, Lupin.  It's like an ache.  He's my drug, man."

"I understand, Xander.  I've been there a few times," he reminded him.  "Do you think he wants you to retire?"  Xander shrugged then nodded, draining that drink.  "Get another one.  You can get drunk if you need to."

"No, I'm good.  Alcohol doesn't solve anything."  He put his head down.  "I feel like shit because I'm doubting him.  I haven't heard back when I wrote him about that stupid woman who decided her mutant kid was mine.  He doesn't do more than give the groupies a tolerant look.  It's fucking with my head."  He looked up again.  "I feel like shit, Lupin."

"I understand, Xander.  They say that women are the more emotional ones, but men always commit more deeply when they do commit to loving.  That's why I've thought my heart was breaking when you left me."  Xander moaned, rubbing his face. "I'm not pushing it, just pointing out that I've been there, recently even."   He leaned forward.  "Would flying out there help?  You've got a few days before Melissa's party."

"No, it wouldn't.  I invited him but I'm not sure if he can come or not."  He groaned and got up to get another drink, this time a regular beer.  He came back and sank down again.  "I feel like a burlap bag of exposed nerve endings. I know something's going on.  I asked him to tell me if he cheated, that I'd understand if he found someone out there while he was filming, just to let me know and we'd talk after the filming was done to see if it was a one- time thing or not.  He grimaced but he promised me."  He pushed his beer away.  "I'm tired of my love life sucking.  Love is a fucking demon."

"Only in this family," he soothed.  "That's how you know you're meant to be with us," he offered, hoping for a laugh.  He got a small grimace. "Do you think he is?"  Xander nodded.  "Why?"

"I don't know but I'm pretty sure he is."  He looked up at him. "It's the same feeling I had when you first started to go out on me."

"I'm sorry as hell about that, Xander," he said quietly.  "I was out of my mind to toss over someone like you.  I don't know why I did it and I'm sorry as hell that I hurt you so badly."  He patted him on the hand again.  "Why are you back with the demons?" he asked, hoping to change subject.

"Because I'm dealing with the more minor ones.  Yeah, I know, Jigen's upset that I'm using Hell's library, but it's handy.  It keeps me from having to bug Ethan.  Ethan was getting pissed at being an information and go-to guy, so I found another source.  I'm a good enough researcher."  He put his head back down. "I'm sorry if it bothers you too."

"No, it doesn't, it was worrying us.  Remember, we saw you healing," he said gently.  Xander shuddered.  "Xander, you can talk to me about *anything*, you know that right?  I mean, how many other people saw how badly you were tortured and tried to be there for you?  How many of them wanted to be yours from the start, to help you heal and move on?"

"You and Jigen.  Faith wanted to but I excluded her.  Dawnie started to but then she got her own life."  He looked up at him.  "You're going to make me cry."

"I don't want to make you cry, Xander.  I want to make you feel better.  Of course, if that's going to make you feel better, go ahead."

"No, it won't. I hate crying.  I've given up on that."  He felt the gentle hand stroke over his hair and looked at his friend.  "Don't."

"Sorry."  He moved his hand.  "I wanted to comfort you and I know you won't let me hug you."

"No, probably not.  If I did, then Alan would definitely be pissed and kill me."  He put his head back down.  "We should leave.  Did you have him stay open?"

"Yeah.  We can do that if you want take a few bottles to a local hotel?"  Xander shrugged.  "Okay, we'll do that."  He got up to get them something, taking Xander out to his car.  "Keys?"  Xander handed over his keys.  "I'll give them back in the morning, I promise."  He backed out of the parking lot and headed for the nearest hotel, checking them in quickly.  He even got them a double room.  That way Xander wouldn't get nervous about sharing one with him.  He helped his friend up the stairs and into the room, watching as Xander flopped down onto one of the beds.  He closed and locked the door, then sat across from him, taking off his shoes so he could cross his legs.  "You wanna talk some more?"

"Maybe," he said quietly, looking at him.  "Jigen and I talked like this all the time.  Though we usually only had a single bed."

"No wonder you had a big crush on him," Lupin said lightly.

"He was probably the first person who *wanted* to understand me, Arsene. It's like he was a confidant and friend and big brother all rolled into one.  I was actually the focus of his attention a third of the time.  It was heady and new and exciting. I'd have done anything for Jigen in those days."


"Now, I probably still would.  I respect Jigen on whole new levels.  He put up with me."

"I put up with you too, Xander.  Even the bounciness.  Does Alan?"  Xander shrugged.  "You don't know?"

"There haven't been any real crises since we got together.  We haven't had a 'kidnap Xander' month.  We haven't had a really bad 'we're going to hunt and kill the Xander' moment in a few years. I can't blame him for not wanting to be part of my life with you guys and the kids, but he's doing really well fitting himself in as someone who's there but not part of it, us.  I'm babbling."

"No, you're not.  This is how you work out things best.  I can listen," Lupin promised.  "Didn't I listen when you needed to talk about the torture stuff?"

"That's another thing he can't understand.  He can't understand how I could go to the demon library when they did that to me.  How I can do anything but slay them.  He doesn't even understand how I can be around the kitsune."  He looked up at him.  "Is it that hard to understand?"

"No," he admitted.  "It's not.  Some of that's a necessity.  You've managed to kill a lot of the higher hosts of hell over what they did to you and none of the ones you deal with now could or would have been part of that.  You're dealing with the general citizens of hell, not the leaders."

"Exactly!  And he doesn't see that there's a difference!"  He sat up and looked at his former boyfriend.  "Why can you understand that and he can't?"

"Because he thinks it'll only hurt you more, Xander," he said gently.  "He doesn't want to see you hurt again.  He thinks you're too special to hurt."  He heard a chirp and looked around before patting himself down for his phone. "Not mine, I don't have mine."

Xander pulled out his phone to look at it.  "It's Alan," he sighed, answering it.  "Hi."  He rolled his eyes.  "Slightly drunk after singing power ballads at a karaoke bar.  No, I'm in a hotel.  What's up?"  He listened to the giddy voice.  "Then you need to be there."  Another pause while he listened. "No, babe.  I don't want you to hurt your career.  If you turn them down this time they might not ask again.  You go ahead and do what you have to do.  I'll tell Melissa you can't be there.  Yeah, the rest of us will be.   No, it's not a problem.  I'm sure she'll pout but I'll make sure she knows it's your career."  He sighed.  "No, I convinced him that it couldn't be mine and that there was a sample he could test it against if he got pushy.  Yeah, so I let him deal with Interpol."  He grimaced.  "No, I didn't know that a reporter asked you about me today.  Are you okay with that?"   He listened to his boyfriend tell him it didn't matter, but he knew it did.

"Alan, stop," he said gently.  "I know it is, babe.  People look at you differently.  It's hurting your career, isn't it?"  He sighed and curled up, holding his head.  "Then the only fair thing I can do is break it off and let others know that I broke it off so you could have a career."  He heard the quiet protest, but something told him his now-ex was a bit relieved.  "Alan, I love you, I can't do that to your career.  You'd be miserable if you couldn't do your comedy or acting.  We both know that.  I'm being realistic, Alan.  It's hurting your career.  I refuse to do that to you.  You'd make a miserable mafia spouse, Alan.  Yes, I have been drinking, but no, I'm not drunk.  I've been thinking about this for the entire two-and- a-half hour drive from the house to Reims."  He flopped backward.  "No, I know what I'm saying, Alan.  I'm not hurting your career by making people give you funny looks?  They're not thinking twice about hiring you because you've got a dangerous boyfriend and they can't be sure you won't be snatched or killed because of me?  No one's decided against using you because they don't know that I won't show up and taint their set and the other stars, thereby putting them under investigation?  I know very well they have.  You're a great actor, Alan," he said roughly.  "You're a wonderful comedian.  You're a terrible lair though."  He smiled a bit.  "Thanks.  Yeah, I'm sure.  I want you to be happy and productive, Alan.  No, I won't do anything stupid.  Lupin's got my keys.  No, he followed me."

A short pause.  "Probably not.  Why?"  He grimaced. "He's not in the room with me, Alan.  Are you suddenly a sentinel?" he taunted.  "Then trust me, he's not in the room with me.  No, Alan, I'm not going to go downstairs to get him from the bar.  Fine.  Whatever.  Yeah, I know," he sighed.  "It's been obvious to me.  Whatever.  Like I said, whatever.  Just be happy, Alan.  You need to be happy.  You can still write me and things, I wouldn't mind. I might even show up at some of the shows.  Remember, if you need me, I'm there for you still.  Even after this."  He hung up and threw his phone at the mirror, breaking them both.  "They've turned him down for parts because of me."  He laid back down.  "I'm a fucking prick."

"You're not," Lupin said calmly.  "You just saved him a lot of trouble from a lot of people.  You can even threaten them to treat him right over there.  There are some mafia dons in LA.  A few who even work in the studio systems."

"Maybe," Xander agreed, curling up on his side again, a small ball of misery.  "What liquor did you get?"

"Scotch mostly.  One of vodka.  I know you prefer it when you're emotional."  He got up and got the bottles, bringing them over, then laid down behind Xander to hold him.  Xander always needed to be comforted.  He liked doing this for him.  The boy slowly relaxed in his arms.  "It doesn't mean more than a cuddle," he promised.  "Not if you don't want it to."  Xander shrugged and flipped over, curling up on his chest.  "You rest, Xander.  We'll call the house tomorrow to tell Jigen where we are."

"He'll figure we're together."

"Maybe.  Either that or you ran away and I'm chasing you.  Or something happened to one of the kids."

"Or we went to torture Gramps.  By the way, Arsene asked for someone like him to chase her.  She said she'd paint, tie up, and dangle off a bridge anyone who wasn't like him."

"It's seductive to have someone so obsessed about you chasing you.  Gramps has gone through the ninth circle of hell for us in the past while trying to capture us.  We've almost been killed a number of times during a near-capture.  We were actually bombed once by the US Navy."


"He had handcuffed us together when the Navy attacked Mamo's island.  I didn't have time to uncuff us so we went together."  He stroked Xander's back, making him let out a small moan.  "Want a backrub?"

"No thanks.  This is good."

"Sure, Xander, whatever you need."  He gave him a squeeze.  "I saw Jigen looking at your copy of the Gay Joy of Sex."

"So he's found another guy he likes?"

"No, Xander, he wants to take you back and he's working on his shit so he can do that," he said dryly, frowning down at him.  "Why did Alan want to talk to me?"

"He thought you'd be jumping me to comfort me, wanted to encourage it.  He said he knew I still loved you two."

"It's clear you do and you've said you do in the past," Lupin agreed.  "It's my own fault, Xander.  I'm a fuckup."

"No," he sighed.  "I could have gotten demanding and I didn't."  He wiggled a bit.  "Can we change the topic to a happier one?"

"Should we visit Epemay on the way home to get some special champagne?"

"Yeah, probably," he said tiredly.  He yawned.  "I suck."

"You don't suck, Xander.  You tried to keep him out of the spotlight of your life.  You didn't want it to impact him, but someone figured out who you were and it did.  If he's smart, he'll tell people you were his bodyguard and pretending to be your boyfriend to protect you from someone."

"I'll suggest that to him tomorrow."

"He's a smart guy, he'll figure it out," Lupin promised, stroking Xander's back again.  "You sleep.  We'll call the house tomorrow.  Jigen can tell the kids and Goemon."  He continued to stroke him until he felt Xander go limp and the quiet snores start.  He wanted to get up and dance in joy but he knew that Xander wasn't going to automatically come back to his bed.  He was pretty, young, and more than ready to have sex.  He could find someone else.  He could go back to visiting people he had to pay for pleasure.  Or he could come back to him.  He'd have to work harder than ever to get Xander back.  The room phone rang so he answered it with a quiet 'hello'.  He listened.  "No, he's not fit to drive so we left it at the bar.  Please don't tow it. I've got his keys if I need to move it."  He listened. "That's fine, I'll come get it."  He hung up and kissed the top of Xander's head.  "I've got to get your car.  I'll be back in about twenty minutes," he said when Xander looked up at him.  "Does this one have a security system?"  Xander nodded. "How do I defeat it?  So I'm not electrocuted?" he asked with a small grin.

"Blue button under the handle.  You can just barely feel it.  It's usually under my third finger," he said quietly.  "Press the keychain remote's door button at the same time."  He moved.  "Only a half hour?"

"It's only three blocks away and there's not much traffic tonight," Lupin said lightly.  "Give me a few.  Want me to curl up with you when I get back?"  Xander nodded so he smiled.  "Sure, Xander."  He jogged out, heading for the elevator.  By the time he got back, Xander was under the blankets wearing only a pair of boxer shorts.  Lupin skimmed down to his and crawled in behind him, only holding him.  He wasn't going to presume and his hands weren't going to wander.  No matter how much he wanted them to. Xander needed to be held, not touched.  Not yet anyway.  Maybe in the morning.


Jigen woke up and frowned. It was too quiet.  He grabbed his gun as he stood up, lighting his first cigarette as he made it into the hallway.  He found Goemon looking in Xander's room.  "What's wrong?" he asked quietly.

"He's not here, but Yu apparently needed cuddled," he said, pointing inside and smiling.

Jigen glanced in then grinned, getting him the camera.  Yu was curled up on the clothes Xander has tossed onto the bed last night.  He had even arranged it so one of the sleeves was over his back. He watched as Goemon took a few pictures. "Is he already up?"

"No.  Lupin's gone as well," he admitted, handing the camera back.  "I haven't checked the answering machine yet."  They headed downstairs to check the machine in the office, finding a quiet Lupin on it.

"Jigen, I followed Xander when he went to do karaoke last night.  He and Alan broke up.  We're in Reims.  We'll stop in Epemay on the way back so we'll be back later in the afternoon.  Xander's pretty torn up.  He was hurting Alan's career so Xander told him that they were breaking up due to that.  See you when we get back. He's got his sports car and I've got my roadster."  The line disconnected.

"Xander sings karaoke?" Goemon asked, looking confused.

"Only when he's *real* upset," Jigen warned.  "I'm betting he depressed some people there last night."  He rubbed his eyes.  "We can handle the kids for the morning, right?"

"Of course."  They headed back up, Goemon climbing in to hold his son for a few moment so he'd wake up slowly.  Otherwise his son would be crankier than a bear all day.  He looked up as Jigen snapped a few more pictures.  "Desist."

"But you're cute, Goemon," he teased.

Yu yawned and blinked up at his father.  "Daddy?  You snuggle unclie too?"

"No, I came in to snuggle you. Your uncle isn't home at the moment."  He pointed at the empty pajamas.  "You could have come to our bed."

"You and mommy noisy, daddy.  Not want to bother you."  He flipped over and snuggled into his father's chest, yawning into it.  "I nap now?"

"If you'd like, or you could get up for breakfast."

"Early, daddy."

"Fine, son.  Would you like to cuddle on my bed?"  His son nodded so Goemon got up and took his son into his and Fujiko's room, letting him cuddle between him and his sleeping mother.  Fortunately she had put something on after they had gotten done last night.

Jigen went to check on the kids, shaking his head at how Kenji was laying.  He used the camera to capture that too, smirking at the unhappy grunt he got for the noise.  "Go back to sleep, Kenji.  We're just doing a bed check."  Kenji flipped onto his side and got comfortable, snuggling back in.  Fred was in his sister's bed with his teddy bear, but that was fine.  Jigen went down to type an email to his daughter about Xander and Alan, then went back to bed on the couch.  That way he'd be unbothered for longer.


Fujiko woke up to the feeling of someone sucking on her breast and looked down, blinking a few times at her sleeping son.  "What are you doing?" she asked quietly.

"He does that in his sleep still," Goemon said quietly.  "It's comforting to him.  Pull away slowly."  She nodded and pulled away, making Yu whine but he found his thumb instead.  "Thank you for not screaming at him."

"It was shocking, Goemon, but not disturbing.  It's not like I woke up and found Lupin in here doing it."

"He followed Xander to Reims last night.  Xander and Alan broke up while they were there."

"Then there's hope for them to get back together."

"There may be," he agreed.  "He'll need to take it slowly.  Xander is fragile."  He noticed her eyes went wide and moved the son himself this time, whispering in his ear.  "You are weaned, son, you do not eat off the mother anymore."  He put his son down behind him, letting him cuddle up to his back.  "There, better?"

"He was okay. wasn't what I was expecting."

"It never is," he reminded her, giving her a gentle kiss. "You thought me very controlled for the longest time."

She swatted him.  "You are."

"Not always."  He stroked some hair off her cheek.  "He went to sleep with Xander since he told me we were being noisy.  Xander had left some pajamas on his bed so our son wrapped them around himself like his uncle was hugging him."

"That had to have been cute.  When did they leave?"

"Before I went to sleep.  Xander always wakes me when he sneaks past in the middle of the night."  He stroked her cheek again, then kissed her.  "What are your plans today?"

"Nothing more than the usual. Watching you with Kenji and Yu.   I'm not allowed near Alex and Bix won't let me help."

"You hurt her greatly, Fujiko.  You're lucky she didn't attack you on sight.  She is my cousin after all," he said with a touch of smugness.  "She is very good in her own right."

"Maybe," she said dryly.  "She seems like one of those delicate and proper Japanese wives."

"She will be someday soon.  We have set up an account for her retirement.  I approve of her relationship with Ray."

"Good.  Even though he's not Japanese?"

"She's happy, that is what's important.  Besides, some diversity in the bloodline is fine.  I may rant if our son does not settle down with someone who is Japanese, or at least half, but I cannot find it in myself to do more than that.  Were this the old days, I would have found myself married to my cousin instead."  She shuddered.  "I wouldn't have minded, I would have been told it was proper and ordered to do so.  She would have her duties and I mine.  That was the way it was."

"It's still not something I want to think about."  She 'eeped' when Yu attached himself again.  "Damn, Yu, you're going to be a wonderful samurai, you're very sneaky, son."  He fussed when she tried to pull away, grabbing her so she wouldn't move.  "Goemon?"

"He missed breastfeeding, Fujiko.  That's all this is.  Give it a moment and he'll stop."  He stroked his son's back, calming him back down until he released her and then he flipped his son over so he was curled up against his chest.  "He's done that to Lupin in the past as well.  When the Ancestors were in.  He also got Jigen a few times."

"Didn't Xander...."

"She was not lactating.  She did feed him so he'd learn that closeness and the desire to cuddle.  I would not allow her to take the medicines that would have started her lactating again to do so for him."  He stroked the back of his son's head, smirking down at him. "Do I taste good, son?" he asked quietly.  His son mumbled and sucked a few more times before making a disgusted face and whimpering.

"Give him here, Gomeon.  It's not upsetting me," she offered gently.  He stared at her so she shrugged. "It's helping him.  I don't mind.  It's different than what I expected. It doesn't feel like when you do it."  He shifted their son onto his back, letting him decide where he wanted to go on his own.  Like any baby, he found the nipple again and latched back on, sighing in pleasure.  "You're a very good son, Yu.  If I had been in my right mind, I would have let you do this when I had the chance."

He stroked her chin with a finger.  "There is another chance, Fujiko.  You are getting it right now," he reminded her.  "Even for that if you wish."  She shook her head, looking down at their son, who had lost the nipple and was sucking his thumb again.  "I offer it as a suggestion only."

"I know, Goemon.  I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet."

"If you should decide you are, you only have to ask."  She smiled at him.  "I know, I am transparent, but I do miss having a daughter that was small enough to cuddle."

"Yeah, I remember cuddling her now too," she admitted, moving closer to him.  She squeaked as her son latched back on, sucking for real.  "Damn, he's got to be hungry."  Goemon chuckled and removed him, putting him behind him again then pulling Fujiko against his chest so his very talented son couldn't sneak back over.  "We should rest while we can."

"We should," he agreed, stroking her back until she fell asleep.  He shifted onto his back, carefully so he wouldn't hit the baby, and watched as Yu curled up on his side, one hand playing with his hair.  "Good night, son."  His son made sucky faces at him then sighed and went back to sleep.  He was nearly asleep when he felt the small, clothed body move across his chest and attack the mother again, making him smile.  Yes, she had changed quite a lot. Maybe he would be able to have that last daughter he was promised someday soon.


Lupin got out of his car and opened the trunk, wincing at the broken bottles.  "Well, most of them made it," he told Xander as he pulled up beside him.  "Those potholes were murder."

"Yeah, I think some of mine broke too," he admitted.  Xander got out to open his trunk, wincing at the strong stench.  "I've got three unbroken ones so apparently I need better shocks."

"That makes a case," Lupin offered, picking up the box to carry inside. He could clean out the trunk later.  He grinned at Jigen.  "The main road's got potholes."

"Wonderful.  How bad?"

"Xander lost all but three bottles in his case," Xander said, holding up the last three bottles.

Jigen shook his head, taking them so Xander could clean out his trunk.  That would be nasty in a few hours if he didn't.   He helped Lupin load them into the wine cellar.  "Anything good happen besides the karaoke?"

"No.  I held him last night.  He needed it.  That's all I did."  He put another bottle into the diamond-shaped hole.  "Why?  Here?"

"Yu crawled in with Xander's pj's and arranged them over himself like it was his uncle holding him.  Then Goemon found him and took him in with him.  Fujiko woke up to a Yu special snack."  Lupin snorted and shook his head.  "She didn't yell."  Lupin dropped the bottle in his hands.  "Watch it!  We're gonna be out soon!"

"She didn't yell?"

"She didn't yell.  She was scratching at the nipple for a few hours, but nothing else."  He shrugged and got the rest of the bottles loaded. "You should clean your trunk."

"I should," he agreed, leaning against a nearby rack.  "What else did I miss?"

"They had loud and noisy sex last night," Xander said as he came down the stairs.  "I guess you heard?"  Jigen nodded and let him have a hug.  "Thanks."

"C'mere."  He pulled him closer, giving him a real cuddle this time.  Xander relaxed against his chest.  "You did the right thing, Xander. Even if he was the reason your heart will go on, it was the right choice."

"Thanks, Jigen.  It means a lot to hear you say that."  He pulled back but was surprised at the kiss he got.  "Jigen?" he panted.

"I'm working on it, Xander.  I've never hidden that from you.  When you're ready, I want you back."  Xander blinked at him a few times.  "I mean it."

"You really do," he said in awe, staring into his eyes.  Jigen nodded.  Xander tipped his hat back.  " are you doing this?"

"I'm thinking and looking and watching. I borrowed some of your porn and stuff."  He looked embarrassed.  "I had no idea it could be like that, Xander.  I thought it was always messy and nasty and it hurt.  I didn't know it could be tender and gentle and stuff."  He patted him on the cheek.  "If you're ready to think about us, I want considered.  No hurry but whenever you're ready."

Lupin grinned at him.  "I'm proud, Jigen."  He pulled Xander over and gave him his own kiss, making him moan.  "Ditto," he said against his lips.  "Whenever you're ready, Xander."  He kissed him on the forehead.  "How should we do the trunks?"

"Vacuum and steam cleaner," he said, looking confused.  "But..."

"No buts.  We told you we want you back.  I'm working on my shit and Lupin understands now.  So whenever you're ready to take applications, we're submitting our resumes."

"Okay," he said weakly, staring at them.

"Not today, Xander.  Not so soon after a breakup," Lupin said gently.  "Whenever you're ready to move on.  To trust someone again."  He stole a gentle kiss.  "If you can clean the glass out of them both, I'll fill up the steam cleaner."  Xander nodded, wandering back up the stairs to do that.  "Was that too soon?"

"Maybe.  I was just reminding him.   Even if you don't take him back, I want him back, Lupin."

"I'm not fighting you over him, Jigen.  He makes that decision.  He has the choice to take either of us or both of us."  He kissed Jigen, making him moan.  "Much better.  How far have you gotten?"

"I'm savin' it for him, Lupin.  Go jump the horny samurai if you're desperate."

"I'm not," he said with a grin.  "Just wondering how close you've gotten."

"I'm not telling you."

"Fine, spoil my happiness."  He kissed him again.  "I'm going to get the steam cleaner if you'll do this.  Then we'll have a case for the meet and greet the day the kids get back."   He strolled up the stairs, hands in his pockets.

Jigen shook his head to clear it.  "Lupin should be a lethal drug."

Outside, Xander was cleaning up the glass with a piece of tape.  "Lupin's a narcotic.  A very strong and powerful drug that's easy to OD on," he reminded himself.


Inspector Zenigata paced back and forth before his unit, who was mostly sitting on their desks, except for the new guy.  "Men, and Dawn, we've just been handed a new member.  I'm sure you've all met Suoh.  He's here because Lupin the Fourth called the Commissioner during his last rant at the press and asked to be assigned her very own inspector."  He sneered at his men, who were chuckling.  "This isn't funny, men, she wanted someone like me to chase her.  They gave us Suoh.  I expect those of you with experience to fill him in.  Especially you, Kowalski, since you saw those damaged creatures last."

"I haven't seen them since they took us both hostage, sir," he pointed out dryly, smirking at the new guy.  "Do you have a sense of humor?"

"A very small one, why?"

"Because take everything you've ever heard about Lupin the Third, and multiply it by Lavelle and double that. That's Lupin the Fourth's gang."  He shrugged.  "I see you don't understand.  Let's break it down by people.  Lupin the Fourth.  Arsene Lupin the Fourth.  First girl to hold that title.  First female thief in the family.  Just as good as her father and great-grandfather ever were.   Demented and odd daughter to Lupin the Third.  Marksman, carries multiple weapons, modern and archaic, studied under Goemon since she was six."  He again shrugged.

Vecchio went next.  "Melissa Jigen, or Jigen the Second depending on who you talk to.  Daughter to Sylvia and Jigen.  Marksman.  Hates the sight of blood so she'll go for wounding blows but will not hesitate to blow you away.  She has in the past and will again.  Lupin is actually a bit worse about that by the way.  Lupin will shoot to kill.  Jigen will shoot to wound and incapacitate.  She's good enough to do it.  Tops in her Academy class for marksmanship, planning, and creating things with electronics.  Lotus Goemon.  Wiccan, only daughter to Goemon.  Recently beat Lavelle in sword combat to pass her mastery test.  Every bit her father's daughter in attitude, with a bit less structure and twisting of the stick up his ass. She fights in his style, she is a female samurai and assassin.  She's also very good at herbal concoctions and is the unofficial healer of the group."

"Let's not leave out the other one," Zenigata said bitterly.

"I was going to do him," Ray said with a smirk for him, then turned a serious look on their new comrade.  "Ishi, aka Goemon Ishikawa the Fourteenth.  Son of Fujiko Mine and Goemon, like his sister.  Might as well be the love child of Goemon and Lavelle.  Fights in a more flamboyant style with his sword, has his own copy of the family heirloom sword that will cut through anything.  Ishi is not only a fancon whore like his might-as-well-be mother, Lavelle, he's also fighting in Lavelle's style of fighting and he's a marksman.  Tied with Melissa at the Assassin's Academy.  Made his first four kills at nine when the kids were kidnaped.  He can and will shoot you if he doesn't believe you're worthy of his sword.  He may like us, but he's gotten us in the past.  From behind.  Without warning.  And wounded severely each and every one of us.  Likes girls, but is not distracted.  He has his father's focus and determination.  He and Lotus have been studying the martial arts since they were toddlers.  Right after they stopped walking into walls from what Lavelle said in the past.  The other two girls started around their sixth birthday.  They cross trained. Melissa can and will kick your ass with martial arts, and then grin down at you and push her hair back behind her ears."

"Been there, done that," Dawn added grimly.  "Melissa is also a planning genius.  When they went into the Academy the teacher over that class refused to let her come in because she was overriding his skills with her own and teaching the class on him.  Brilliant mind. Her father taught her and Ishi electronics to help with some things.  She's got a Fiat that might as well be a Bond car."

Zenigata grimaced.  "It's got a taser on it, watch out for that."

"Also, watch out because if you're chasing the kids, you'll have the daddies and mommy on your ass," Ray said fondly, smirking at him.   "The best way to put it is Lupins, like other creatures of mayhem and mischief, are never seen alone.  They're always either seen paired with another Lupin, or with an odd assortment of other creatures like themselves. They are never found alone, and if found alone, look for a trap."

"Also she likes to tie people up," Vecchio offered.

"How old is this crook?" Suoh asked.

"She'll be sixteen this June.  Ishi's just about to turn seventeen.  Lotus has been sixteen for a few months.  Lupin and Jigen have birthdays within a month of each other.  Their daddies said that they had to wait until sixteen so expect either a good heist or a Lupin running away from the site of his daughter having sex."

"We need to be out of Paris that day," Zenigata told his wife.  "There's no way I want Lupin to find me and cry on me."

"Sure, Zenny."  Dawn looked at the new guy.  "She did give you a warning.  She said that if you're not up to it, she'd be tying you up, painting you a pretty color, and then hanging you off a bridge.  It wouldn't be the first time."

"These crooks are children?" he asked calmly.  Everyone nodded.  "They're this high on the Most Wanted list and they're not sixteen yet?"

"Lupin the Fourth pulled her first job at eight," Ray told him.  "There was a jewel show above a fandom convention.  The kids let their fathers go, tied up the remaining adults, and went to pull the job without warning anyone.  Even their parents.  There's another hitch, her little brother Fred has just started to pull jobs.  I saw him on the bulletin board talking to his sister about his next plan.  He's not quite as quick as his sister was."

"They're realistic," Vecchio said calmly.  "They know that women in crime, unless they're going to be girlfriends or earning their riches on their backs or stealing them like Fujiko used to, have to be better than the guys.  Melissa and Arsene are that good and more.  If you watch them, you see their father's attempts to harness Lavelle in them.  The girls were mostly raised by Lavelle and Goemon.  They are exactly like their mother Lavelle at times."

"I thought Sylvia was their mother."

"They're the same person.  Lavelle had something that could let him change gender. He no longer uses it. *He* had Melissa, Savannah, Fred, Sarah, and Alex.  Savannah's now a good guy married to one of Zenny's kids.  Fred's eight and starting off.  Sarah's not with them because of her heart condition.  Alex is a slayer in training without being a slayer."

"That's another thing," Kowalski said with a smirk.  "You're gonna have to get used to the odd and unusual.  Lavelle plays at the fandom convention and he plays with demons.  Lotus is a practicing nature witch.  She's about to be presented by the way, Zenny.  Vecchio and I got invited over on a truce."

"Fine.  It can only help you to build up her file," he admitted.  "Melissa's first pickpocketing job was to pickpocket Kowalski for money for a soda."

"She paid me back in Venice."

"Good.  Finally.  These kids have stolen enough to be worth *millions* now.  Lupin the Fourth has her own plane and a former cruise ship that she bought when she was nine."

"The group went in together," Ray corrected quietly.  "They worked it out between them."  He shrugged.  "They've gotten past me, and I've known them since they were infants.  They've gotten past Vecchio and he's known them since they were young children.  They've gotten past Zenigata.  They've gotten into Interpol and out of Interpol.  They snuck a person out during shift change with the three of us in a room with the prisoner.  That was just Lupin and Lotus though."  Suoh still didn't look like he was getting it, he seemed like he wasn't scared of them.  "If you want, I know, relatively, where they'll be in a few days. Melissa is Lavelle's daughter and she's being presented to *his* empire as a coming out in a few days.  It's a black tie affair.  It'll have spies, thieves, fences, and other people there, plus the Lupin gang of the older and younger generations.  If you want, we can stake that out. It's listed as 'do not interrupt, too risky' by the Commissioner."

"Why are we afraid of these children?"

The phone rang and everyone stared at it, then Zenigata sighed and got it.  "What, crook?"  He winced and handed it over.  "It's Lupin the Fourth.  Watch out, she's got potty mouth."

Suoh took the phone.  "How did you get this number?"  He listened, his eyes going wide as she told him what his full name was, what it meant - dragon- and his statistics from Japan.  "How did you get that information?" he demanded.  "Show yourself, Lupin the Fourth, you are naught but a crook."

Vecchio moaned and stepped back, giving a last piece of advice.  "Watch out, she is a loaded weapon.  You don't want to know what she's going to say next, it'll be bad.  Very bad.  Just walk away before you get hurt."  Suoh glared at him.

"Your funeral," Kowalski told him.  "Go easy on him, Arsene, it's his first day in Interpol," he called.  He could hear her cackle all the way across the room and it made him shiver.  "Oh, damn.  You poor schmuck."

Suoh listened to her cackle then hung up.  "I will catch her, Inspector.  Do we have files on these pediatric thieves?"

Dawn picked up the stack behind her and handed them over.  "Everything we've ever gathered on the kids since they were eight.  There's some tapes in there of Ishi and Lotus fighting.  There's film from the last time Melissa got emotional and nearly killed Zenny."  He moaned and rubbed his thigh.  "There's also some tape from the pirate treasure heist.  It's not enough to get a warrant on, but it'll show you some of their personality.  It's while they were casing the museum."

"That was a proof job," Vecchio told him.  "They were counting rumors that they were going to be like Fujiko."

"Who is she?"

"One of her father's gang, mother to Ishi and Lotus," Ray Veccho said placidly.  "Wife to Goemon."

"Using, whoring woman who turned on Lupin again and again and he took her back, then she married Goemon," Zenigata told him.  "If you're going after the kids, you'll have to study their fathers as well.  They're the mini thems."  He handed over his personal stack of folders.  "I'll want those back."

"Yes, sir.  My desk?"  One was pointed at in the corner.  "Thank you.  Let me study those and I'll speak with you tomorrow about approaches to capturing them."

"Sure, ask us if it's not clear," Ray offered, sliding off the front of his desk.  "I've known them forever.  I agree, I can't catch them even if I wanted to."

Zenigata glared at him.  "I know, that's why I had you removed from the Lupin case.  Why were you in Venice?"

"We were chasing the fence, didn't know he was going for the kids," he said with a shrug.  "At least I didn't catch a cold or get eaten."

"Could have been worse, the locals liked the blowup you that Lupin sent us," Vecchio offered dryly, smirking at him. "Who've we got?"

"Brad wanted to see you."

"Sure, I'll pop over later, during their free time. Melissa may be at the graduation."

"Fine," he complained.  "You three and he can work on other parts of the list."  He stepped closer so he could hiss at him.  "How much is the pool and what's the top time?"

"Six days," Kowalski said with a smirk.  "Ten grand at the moment."

"Huh.  Most popular?

"Tonight or early tomorrow.  Oh, Xan and Alan broke up," Kowalski told Vecchio.  Who groaned and shook his head.  "He was hurtin' his career so they broke up.  Lupin followed him to Reims to do karaoke.  Got him drunk and cuddled him.  Xander said he's confused because they're being nice and sweet to him."

"Tell him to take the damn crook back," Zenigata said sarcastically.  "Maybe they'll take a longer vacation."

"They're planning for the formal debut," Vecchio reminded him.  "We still don't know if it's a dual job or different targets."

"I saw on the bulletin boards that they're looking in the same city for two targets.  One'll go to the Lupin the Third gang and one to the Lupin the Fourth gang," Dawn told them.  "It'll be this August or September because the kids wanted the summer off.  They're taking the time to work extensively with Yu and Kenji, plus get Alex some glasses and get Fred up to shape to pull his own jobs.  He's a lot like Lupin's father from what I understand."

"Yeah, his dad wasn't bad, but he was more a duffer.  He did it for fun and profit, unlike his son and father who did it for desire and want."  Zenigata smirked at her.  "What're we going to do when it's her kids who're starting?"

"By then, I'm going to be retired because three generations of Lupins working is a sign of the End of Days," Vecchio noted.  "Worse yet, has anyone realized with their present apparent ages that we could see *four* generations at once?"  Zenigata looked sick then shuddered.  "Yeah.  Because Arsene could get pregnant starting this summer and then in twelve to sixteen years her kid can start havin' 'em."

"No more, I'm gonna be ill," Ray complained, letting out a full body shudder.  "Ick!"

"Oh, Ray, heard something interesting from Murami," Dawn said with a teasing grin.  "Bix has her own trust fund for when she's retired and wants to have you."

"Really?" he asked, his face lighting up.  "That was sweet of Goemon and Xan."

"It was.  How much?" Zenigata asked.

"Not a clue.  Oh, and there's other trusts," she said, looking at Ray Vecchio, who nodded.  "How much?"

"Nothing until they're eighteen, then Xander set them up with about a half-mil each good kid.  The others set up from their first seven jobs, taking half of their cuts."

"So, Lupin's probably got a cool million in hers?" Zenigata asked.  Vecchio nodded.  "How are they doing that?"

"By what little we've found out from the little weasel Wyatt who's safely back with Jigen's sister, Ishi and Lotus are taking salary cuts.  Set payment amounts.  Melissa and Arsene are splitting the rest."  He looked impressed.  "That way they didn't have to worry about being forced to pay for the next big thing, like the new satellite that needs to go up.  Lupin's is about out of time."

Ray coughed and shook his head.  "Xander owns an electronics company, Dawnie.  He's got a communications one up there already."

"That man is the real lynchpin.  If you can catch Lavelle, the kids would come for him and so would the older gang," Zenigata complained.  "The problem is that we can't catch him and prove he did anything!"

"Who is this Xander?" Suoh asked.

"Lavelle," everyone said in unison.

"Oh.  All right.  Should I start with his?"

"Yeah, start with his.  He impacts the kids the most," Zenigata encouraged.  "He's hopeless to catch.  The Commissioner was even talked to him but he didn't realize who it was.  He's the one that got them off the list for a year."

The fax machine in the corner spit out a piece of paper so Dawn walked over there.  "Vecchio, how do you feel about Beirut?"  She held up the typed piece of paper.  "Looks like your assassin buddy is off his vacation."

"I hate the Middle East.  I hate sand," he complained as he walked off, going to make travel plans to go to Beirut.

Ray coughed, pulling Zenigata away.  "There's other news he didn't want to tell you, Zenny.  The last time Lavelle was in Chicago, before giving us that stuff, he said he saw Benny and Dief there.  He said that they're using him as helpers."

"Hell," he said bitterly.  "You're sure?"

"That's what he said.  The kids said they wanted us to take Dief away from him, but I'm not sure what's going on yet.  Do you want me ta call?"

"Please.  I want to keep tabs on him.  Or better yet, I will.  Thank you, Ray.  I know he's a sore subject."

"He was Vecchio's friend first.  Ray helped him solve his dad's murder when Benny first came about it."

"Damn it.  No wonder he had such a strong reaction.  Fine, leave it to me to call about that.  I'll let you know what's gong on but you cannot tell Lavelle."

"I have the feeling he's hiding it from Lupin too, and hopefully Ishi."

"Probably.  Thank you."  He walked off, heading to his office so he could close the door and call Chicago in peace.  He found his wife in his chair.  "Out, Dawn.  I've got to make a phone call."

"We can't play naughty secretary?" she teased with a grin.

"No, not this time.  Out."  She nodded, closing the door behind her.  He picked up the new bugs she was testing and carried them out, handing them over.  "Not this time, Dawn," he ordered firmly.  "Diefenbaker was spotted in Chicago."  She shuddered.  "Exactly.  Do not mention to Vecchio.  It's hurting him, and don't tell the crooks."

"Done," she agreed.

"Thank you."  He went back in there and called the number he had on file for Ray from his application.  "This is Inspector Zenigata.  Is Lieutenant Welsh available?  No, sharing information.  Lavelle was just in his city."  He kicked back, tossing another bug he found at the door.  "Lieutenant Welsh, this is Inspector Zenigata.  No, they're fine.  Vecchio's on his way to Beirut on the heels of an assassin who likes to tease him and Kowalski's in the other room to help the new guy chasing after Lupin the Fourth.  No, two reasons.  One, Lavelle was just in town and apparently cozied up to Vecchio's mother?  Yeah, that's one of his personas.  What did he do?"  He snorted.  "Really?"  He rolled his eyes.  "He's a big damn geek.  At least he likes both Rays, it's like he considers them odd brothers or something."

"No, the other reason is worse.  You know why Constable Frasier was dismissed, correct?  Yeah, it's pertinent.  Because Lavelle saw him and he's under a death threat by that whole clan after injuring one of the kids on purpose with an explosive device.  Yeah, that was him.  I understand about breakdowns, but if the kids see him, he's going to be dead.  You'll find so many little pieces you'll have to match genetics.  That's what Ishi said when he heard he hadn't been arrested.  Yeah, the kid can, his sister can, his father can, Lavelle can, Marcus can.  The rest would probably just shoot him.  Lavelle hasn't told them apparently. Yeah, yet.  No, you need to warn him.  Also, the kids said that they wouldn't care if Diefenbaker came back.  Apparently they liked the wolf chasing them.  No, you have *no* idea what Lupin the Fourth is like.  As Kowalski put it earlier, take Lupin, multiply him by Lavelle and double it."  He smiled at the laugh.  "You think I'm kidding?  He did cozy up to Vecchio's family, updated their email addresses for Ray, and then got him some clothes from his storage area."   He smiled.  "Thank you for the consideration.  I'll have Ray call you later?  Or now is fine.  Kowalski!" he shouted.  "Phone!"

He jogged in and took the phone.  "Ray."  He grinned.  "Hey, Welsh!  How's it goin!  No.  I'm good.  Vecchio's back from the travel department.  Vecchio, it's Welsh," he called.  He grinned at his boss.  "Thanks, Zenny."

"Welcome."  He got up, letting them have the office.  "Take as long as you want," he said as Vecchio walked past him.  He looked at the new guy, then decided to put in a bet of his own.  This kid wouldn't last past the first encounter.  They'd drive him insane.  He found the officer running it, putting down ten Euros.  "The first encounter.  She knows he's on her case.  She called.  You could hear the cackle across the room."

"Thank you, Inspector.  Any other new news?"

"Yeah, Melissa's got a coming out party for the crooks soon.  It's hands-off.  So expect to see them in formal gear."  He walked off, going to the coffee shop.  He needed some and so did Dawn probably.

The officer updated the statistics and put who made that bet on the page he had made for it within Interpol's web.  This could seriously change some of the betting.

The End.

To Part 55

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