Lupin the Third looked at the notice in his mail and knew that something had to be done, but he wasn't quite sure what he *could* do about that oddness. He wasn't sure if he wanted to tell Xander what was going on or not, and he really wasn't sure he wanted to think about the implications at all anyway. He looked outside and saw Jigen chasing after Kenji, grinning at the picture of the frantic gunman trying to get his hat back from the junior samurai in training. It was just so cute. He got up and opened a window, leaning out of it. "When you've got it back, come into the office," he called. Goemon made an inquisitive noise beside him. "You might wanna come too," he admitted, letting the cat sitting beside him choose which direction to go before he closed the window. He sat behind his desk again, printing off the email from one of Xander's contacts. They hadn't wanted to tell him either. It was probably a wise decision not to come to him directly with this.
Jigen came in a few minutes later, wiping the sweat off his face. "Goemon, we've got to put weights on that kid, he's too fast for me," he complained as he flopped down. "What's up, boss?" Lupin handed over the email, looking emotionless. Jigen read it, then frowned and reread it another two times. "Oh, fucking hell!" he complained, handing it off to Goemon. "Does he know yet?"
"They didn't want to tell him," Lupin admitted dryly, leaning back so he could put his feet up. As soon as he was comfortable, a cat jumped into his lap and kneaded, then turned around a few times and flopped down. "Comfy?" he asked dryly. He looked at Jigen, who was shaking his head. "Yeah, I know, I said no pets. She likes me though." He shrugged and scratched her ears. "Does anyone have any idea on how to tell him about that?"
"Nope," Jigen said, shaking his head again. "Not a clue. In bed?"
"I doubt that would be wise," Goemon said dryly. "Let me do so. I can keep him calm and see what he wishes to do about this new cult in his honor." He stood up and walked off, finding Xander working out in the gym with Melissa. He cleared his throat. "May we be alone?"
"Sure," Xander said, stopping to pick up his towel.
"I meant her," Goemon said calmly. He walked in, letting Melissa close the door behind her. "Xander, have you had someone checking on your parents recently?"
"No, I try to ignore they still exist. Why?" he asked patiently.
"Because they've started a cult."
"Not the first one, but okay," he admitted. "And? The bad of my parents being zealots is?"
"It's to you."
"Huh?" he asked flatly.
"The cult they started was to you. That you're a holy being who has suffered and moved on, now you show them the true ways of life."
"Apparently my parents don't know what I due for a living," he said dryly, leaning on the stick he had been using while sparring with Melissa. "And the bad of this is?" Goemon handed over the paper. Xander read it and burst out in giggles. "Oh, Gods! That's so cool!" He let go of the stick and walked out, going to brag on this one. "Guys!" he called, bringing the kids running. "My parents made a cult out of me!" he said proudly, showing off the email.
Melissa giggled madly, leaning against Arsene's shoulder. "Oh, damn, Mom," she gasped. "That's so bad!"
Ishi shook his head while he laughed. "I had wondered when one would start." He hugged Xander. "You might want to tell someone that you had nothing to do with that before they suspect the empire is involved somehow."
Xander snickered. "I've got to tell Bastian and Homer that." He jogged up the stairs to his room, smirking at Janus. "You had my parents set up a cult of Me?" Both faces sighed and rolled their eyes. Xander pulled up his special laptop and opened the video chat, getting a relaxed and smiling, umbrella-drink in clear sight Bastian and a sweaty and calm looking Homer. "Guys, you won't believe it!" he said, starting to giggle again. "My parents made a cult in my image!" Bastian dropped his drink and Homer burst out laughing. "Yeah! Seriously! One of you guys found it and told Lupin!" He held up the email in front of the camera so they could see it. "They're in Utah holding a cult about fighting demons and living after suffering. They obviously don't know me very well," he added with a smirk for his men as he moved the paper.
"Only you, Xander," Homer said, shaking his head again. "Should we point out that we're not part of that movement to certain people in the government?"
"Hell yes," Bastian complained. "I'm not part of any funky cult!" Xander giggled again. "Fine, I'll call someone, tell them that the Lupin/Lavelle empire is not part of that and if they actually knew what you were, the cult wouldn't really appreciate you as much. Did you want to go see them?"
"No!" he said, grinning at him. "I'd have to hurt one of them if I saw the cult. They're basing it on the eighteen-year-old me before I got hurt and then added in the torture part from later. They have not a clue," he snorted.
"Perhaps you should enlighten one or two of the members, create a split," Homer suggested.
Melissa walked in to lean on her mother's shoulder. "Hi, guys. We were thinking about that ourselves. After all, the grandparents don't have a clue about us either."
"You're not going near my family," Xander told her, patting her on the arm around his neck. "They'll try to hurt you, you can't go."
"Besides, that would add in some transgender issues to the cult as well," Homer told her with a gentle smile. "You look like you were working out."
"I was. Mom wanted some staff practice and Ishi's got a sprained wrist." She grinned back, then kissed Xander on the cheek. "Are you sure we can't go? We'll go with you if you want."
"No, dear," he said patiently. "You can't go near my parents, they'll try to hurt you or suck you in." He patted her on the arm again. "Go play."
"Yes, mom." She kissed him on the cheek, then blew one at the monitors. "Night, guys." She headed back down to tell the adults what he had said.
"I wonder if they've got silver hair," Homer said after a moment of quiet.
Bastian choked. "Bad thoughts, Homer. Behave. Please?" he begged. "I don't want to go to the US."
"Philip's there right now," Xander offered. "You could ask him. I'm going to thank him for the giggle fit. It was really nice, I haven't had one of those in a few days." He beamed at them. "Everything else okay?"
"Just fine, Xander," Bastian offered. "Everything's running smoothly. I even popped in on Henri on the way through a few days ago. That new Sin dish of his that he got from watching the girls, especially Melissa, is very good. I nearly ate myself sick on it."
"I'll have to try that on my way through next time," Homer offered. He smiled at Xander. "Are you at home?" He nodded. "Then call Ray. He should also have giggle fits."
"I think I'll pop around on them," he said with a wink. "Have fun, guys. Let me know if you need me. Leave the cult guys alone to die off in peace."
"Sure," Bastian agreed. "Right after I tell some Feebs that the rest of the empire is in no way involved in that. Before I start getting funny looks." He signed off, and Homer chuckled before leaving the conference as well.
Xander stood up and looked around, then decided to change into working clothes. Just in case he wanted to do something tonight. He showered, changed, then put on shoes and hopped down the stairs with his wallet and keys. "I'm going to visit someone to make sure they know Bastian isn't part of that. He said so," he called, heading out to get into his sports car and drive off. No one heard him, they were all out in the back yard, but that was fine. They'd figure it out.
Vecchio got the message on his phone, groaning at the simple phrase. "Kowalski, did you give him my new number?" he demanded.
"No," he called back from his desk. "I don't even have it yet. I still need to get it." His own phone rang so he picked it up. "Yeah?" He leaned back in his chair. "What's going on? No. No way," he said with a smirk. "Really? Sure, I'll let'em know you said that. Thanks." He hung up and burst out in giggles, falling onto the floor to roll around. "Oh, god, that's so bad!" he choked.
"What's going on?" Vecchio said patiently.
Zenigata looked over from his desk. "Which crook was it this time?" he asked patiently.
"Had to be Xander, he just paged me to meet him for dinner," Vecchio said dryly. "I don't know why."
"Go. Maybe you can catch him," he said with a shrug. "What's wrong with him."
"Cult," Kowalski panted. "Xander." He started to laugh again.
"He said cult and Xander," Vecchio reported.
Zenigata looked stunned, then moaned and hit his head on the desk a few times. "No! Not a Cult of Xander! That's nearly as bad as a cult of Lupin!" He looked up. "Aren't the kids enough!" he yelled to his God.
Vecchio shook his head. "I'll go find out the details." He walked over the giggling man, heading out to his car. He probably should change if Xander was buying him dinner. He tended to go to nice places. He looked at his phone again, seeing the name of the
restaurant. "Never mind," he sighed. "Sports bar. I can have a steak and watch the Bulls." He backed out of the driveway, heading for the downtown district. It was a nice bar, he liked it a lot, but he never really got to go these days. He plugged his phone into his hands-free set so he could call Bix so she wouldn't worry and rant if he didn't come home for dinner tonight. She was pregnant and had done so in the past. He wanted to avoid another mood swing from the pregnant, martial arts wielding woman.
Xander grinned as Ray was led to his corner table, pointing at the tv behind him. "The Bulls."
"Thanks." He sat down, staring at him. He had his illusion on and had dark hair at the moment. "Cult?"
Xander slid over the email, letting him read it. "My parents don't have a clue," he said fondly. "Some of my guys are having to point out that they're not part of it and that I didn't sanction it. Poor Lupin was afraid to tell me. He had Goemon do it."
Ray read it, shaking his head with a moan. "Those poor nuts."
"Yeah, basically," Xander agreed with a grin. "So, how's Bix?"
"Good. Pregnant. Mood swings. She cried when she found out I was going to dinner with you. She said she was fine, she hadn't started dinner yet." He looked up at the waitress. "I'll have the steak special, no sauce, Chicago fries. Beer."
"Yes, Inspector. And for you, sir?" she asked with a grin for Xander. "The usual?"
"Sure. Smaller steak this time."
"Of course. Not that *you* have to worry about your weight. You naughty man you," she said with a pinch to his cheek before walking off.
Xander beamed at Ray. "I like her. She'll be getting a very good tip."
"Hopefully," he agreed, meaning hoping he wasn't going to be paying for it. Tomorrow was payday after all. "Why else are we here?"
"Because my vinter said that he's stumped." He sipped his soda, glancing back at the game. "It's not been a great year," he sighed.
"Vinter's stumped how?" he asked.
Xander looked at him, then pulled something out of his pocket. "I want you to think about taking a side job," he said honestly. "You're not a cop, even though I know you still consider yourself a cop, and this isn't on the illegit side in the least. The guy I've got running Mont Blanc needs help. He's got six new trials coming and a few more in a few months, but he can no longer drink. His stomach's going to explode in an ulcer soon, the doctor basically told him milk, toast, and rice." Vecchio shuddered at that. "Yeah, exactly. So he needs someone to taste some of the new vintages, give a real-person opinion. Not a wine board opinion, but a real person opinion. Someone who's not highly trained but know what he likes. You do good at that," he pointed out gently, smiling as their food was brought, they knew him very well here. "Thanks, babe." He held out a hundred Euro note for her. "Keep it." She grinned and walked off, paying his tab out of it and pocketing the rest as her tip. He cut into the juicy steak, made just how he liked, and moaned with pleasure. "Ooh, I needed this," he said with a groan of delight. "Nearly as good as sex sometimes."
"Only you don't eat your lovers that way," Vecchio said dryly. "Or at least I hope you don't."
"Nope, not a cannibal. Besides, my men are kinda skinny. They'd probably end up eating me if we were in that sort of situation." He took another bite, chewing slowly to savor it. "That's so good." He sipped his soda. "Anyway, he also wanted to think about investing in this new little vineyard that's not really in the grape region of Italy, but it's got some fine product. He thinks it'd be an asset to the vineyard and that he could combine it with the red to make something spectacular." He shrugged. "I know what I like, but I wanted an outside opinion. We all know I'm not the most wine oriented guy. He's got Jigen to taste some of it too, but he's kinda a house wine guy most of the time, with special stuff for special occasions."
"So you want a semi-educated palette that's not professional, but knows a good thing when he tastes it and can probably figure out what to eat with it?" Ray suggested. Xander nodded with a grin. "Don't you have a chef?"
"See, I don't want someone that professional. I want a kinda average guy with a clue. It's great if chefs like it, but I'd like my stuff to appeal to the average people just as much as I do to chefs. Besides, if you like it, Henri probably will to, and then he'll pass it on and other chefs will probably like it as well."
"Going for the least educated palette means that you know you've got a top product," Vecchio supplied.
"Yeah. If the average guy likes it, then everyone else probably will too."
"I'll consider it."
"I never expected more than that. I do have to tell you I will be paying you out of the legitimate side's funds. I have no problem with the vineyard paying you for your services. You'd get free wine. Probably three or four bottles of each type to try. You'd get some time in Mont Blanc now and then too probably. My vinter is a wild guy who might call now and then to chat and ask you what you like," he offered with a shrug. "He did that to me for the first few months. He even got me during sex a few times. That's why there's that chocolate aftertaste wine," he admitted with a grin.
"I did like that with the dessert the other night," Ray admitted. "It went very well with Ma's souffle. Have I said yet that I want to kick your ass for bringing my whole family over without any notice?"
Xander beamed. "You needed a visit from her. Besides, someone wanted to prove they were better than you ever were and it was going to endanger her. It got her out of harm's way, Ray. I like your mother. She's a neat woman who's very sweet. I wish like hell my own mother was like her. Instead I have one that started a cult out of an unrealistic and old version of me." He shifted some and ate another bite of his dinner but he wasn't that hungry anymore. Talking about his parents depressed him. "Besides, your mother wanted to visit her former home once more time before she died," he said gently. "She got to do that and it made her life."
"It did," he agreed. "Especially since she bought a house." Xander smiled, a warm, affectionate smile, at that. "You like that?"
"She's a great woman who deserved to have great things in life, Ray. You don't find many women like her now. I hope like hell I imparted some of that into Savannah and the others so they grow up and finally end up like her."
"Savannah is. Ma took to her right away," he admitted. "She knew she was yours." Xander nodded. "How many times have you visited my mother?"
"About each time I go to Chicago. The first time I popped in as a delivery guy, handing over an envelope of the recent pictures I'd taken of you and a short note typed out about what you had been doing. She invited me in to see what was going on and to ask questions. Maria was the one who figured out I wasn't quite the delivery guy I was pretending to be. She's one damn smart lady, Ray."
"She is," he agreed proudly. "She threaten you?"
"Nearly instantly. That's when I told her I liked you, that you were one of those cops that I protect because you're good and honest. That I'd never try to corrupt you, but that I knew I was keeping you so busy you had forgotten to write or call for at least a few weeks." He grinned again, another warm, friendly look. "Your mother agreed with me." Ray snorted, groaning a bit. "So I told her about the places you had been recently and a few of your cases. She wanted to know what I did and I was honest. I told her I was a thief and an assassin. That I was one of the top people on your caseload and that I was doing you an unasked for favor because you always seemed to be very happy having a great family like that. Ma invited me for supper, I told more stories about the places you had been and some of your cases. She invited me back the next time I was in town. So I go each time I pass through and sometimes I arrange to pass through on my way somewhere, just to drop off pictures." He shrugged. "It'll keep one of your nephews from turning into me. Ma had me talk to him." He sipped his soda again. "He's damn good, but I did talk him out of it. Now he wants to be you to catch me."
Ray snickered at that. "Maria told me about that while they were over here. He's the one going to the college in town." He leaned back, looking at Xander. "Can you promise this won't compromise me?"
"Ray, why would I *want* to compromise you? You're not on my ass. You're a great cop, one of the sort I like to protect. You're not working for an illegitimate business, you're going to be working for a vineyard that's owned by a person who's only technically me sometimes. You know very well I keep both sides very separate. I'm not letting my life
with Lupin taint anything else I do. I'd never do that."
"I know," he agreed. "I should still try to arrest you."
"You can try, but I'm still not going to be caught today. Remember, I can teleport. I also know this place like the back of my hand. I came through as an inspector once to find all the little hiding spots. Did you know there's one behind the fish tank? That's where that crook was that time." Ray tipped his head in thanks for that information. "This is one of those iffy places, but it's pretty neutral or the bookies wouldn't hang out here. Neither would the cops. Now, ask Zenny to make sure you can do that without being toasted for it. I'm going to deal with the Commissioner, who's been eavesdropping this whole time, and you get to finish dinner," he said with a wink.
"I can't let you harm him."
"Ah, but you're a consultant now, Ray, not a cop." He leaned over to grin at him. "Just relax and eat. I'm not going to be mean to him, just make sure some things change. We don't like this new guy and neither does Zenny," he said quietly. "Another unasked for, no reciprocation needed, favor." He got up and walked away, heading down to where the new Commissioner was waiting, grinning at him. "Hi," he said fondly. "How are you tonight, sweetie? Are we on for a little bit of...dancing later?" he asked with a small smirk. The man went pale and Xander winked again. "You know where I'll be. Come find me for some fun." One of the people at the table stared at the new commissioner in shock, Zenigata hadn't known he was like that! "Bye-bye now. You have a nice night, officer. Don't forget your hat and handcuffs. I'll be waiting." He put his hands in his pockets, which showed how well-built he was, then walked off, going out to go clubbing. He needed some stress relief before he had a rant about his parents. It was funny but he still wanted to kill them now that it had sunk in.
Zenigata looked at his current boss. "I didn't know you were dating Lavelle, sir," he said dryly, startling the others at the table. "Yeah, that was him. Now you know why we can't catch him." He shrugged and dug back into his dinner. "He'll be clubbing later. Vecchio, what was that about? We couldn't hear very well."
Vecchio brought his dinner, his beer, and the email down, grabbing an extra chair so he could sit down to eat with them. He handed over the email. "He was giggling earlier but I think the reality is hitting him now and he's a bit pissed at them," he offered. "He also offered me a job working for his vineyards tasting the wines. He wanted the lowest common denominator pleased so everyone else would definitely like it." He ate a bite of his steak. He grinned at the waitress. "Box his up for me, would you?" he asked. "I'll take it home with me." She smiled and nodded, going to do that for him. "Thanks." He looked at his boss again, seeing him drop the paper in shock, staring open-mouthed in his direction. "So he's heading toward pissed that his parents are using him again, sir." He sipped his beer. "It pays pretty well though. He does separate the businesses out very well. Can I do that?"
"About two grand a month."
"For tasting wine?"
"I figure I'm going to be doing a lot of lot tasting," he admitted dryly. "He's got some of the old line lots, some of the new mixes his vinter is working on, and his vinter wants to buy an Italian place too." He took another bite. "It's very good wine though. That's what I served when Ma was in town."
"That was good," he agreed. "It went very well with your mother's souffle."
"It did. He said the vinter called him during sex a few times to get his opinion on things."
"Yeah, it did make you feel sexy," he agreed, thinking about it. "Dawn jumped me that night. Twice." He shrugged and dug back into his dinner. "I'll ask the ethics people. Maybe you can. We are on a short salary at the moment."
"Especially with the baby coming," Ray reminded him. "Speaking of, did our raise go through?" Zenigata pointed at the commissioner beside him. So Ray looked at him. "Did our raise go through, sir? You funded for less people than we have."
"That was Lavelle?" he asked. Ray nodded. "Why didn't you arrest him?"
"Because he's coded to only touch during jobs. We'd have a hard time proving it was him with a bloody knife in one hand, a guy's heart in his other, and the body at his feet." He shrugged and ate another bite of steak, accepting the box. "Thanks."
"You're welcome, Inspector." She kissed him on the cheek. "You're a very nice man." She walked off, going to check on her other customers. Either of those two made her day they were so nice.
"Even if we did catch him, he'd probably go under Mental Impairment," Zenigata said dryly. "He probably could after what he went through."
"Huh?" the commissioner asked. He hadn't been briefed on this yet, he'd only had his job for three weeks.
"I'll pull the files so you can be briefed on them tomorrow, sir," Zenigata offered. "That was Lavelle, Lupin the Third's second gunman, parent to most of their spoiled horde." He picked up the email again, rereading it. "It's really real?"
"It's real, sir," Ray agreed dryly, smirking at him. "One of his people found out and emailed Lupin."
"Really?" he asked, looking at the header. "Hey, it's not blacked out this time." He smirked at him. "Remind me to deal with that thief later, Ray?"
"Sure. Ma's found herself a spot in Italy. I have the feeling that Xander's money organization is funding her purchase." He ate another bite. "Another legitimate thing we can't prove he runs."
"He runs it?"
"Not that we can prove. He's got people in front of him that he orders," Zenigata told him. "We've been trying for years. He's not listed on any of the boards of any of his companies. We even checked to make sure that they're not covers. They're all real people, none of them were Lavelle in a disguise. Dawn said none of them were an illusion. He's got some people that he gives orders to on each side of the business line and they do things for him. He's got specialists to advise him in some things, and he wants Ray here to join their
"Kowalski probably has one waiting if he'd ever quit being such a good guy," Vecchio offered. "Xander would love to have him deal with his anime and comic collections. Maybe even his kimonos since he can rely on Bix for that."
"So you're saying if you ever get fired, you've got higher paying jobs waiting in legitimate businesses that are run by some spiderweb of crime?" another of their tablemates asked.
Vecchio considered it, then nodded. "Basically. He uses legit people for the legit side though. Bank people, things like that." He dug into his fries, grinning at his boss. "I can't wait to see Stan when he realizes he only saw the front of the warehouse for the comics collection. Have you seen the house the collection bought?"
"I did," Zenigata said dryly. "Again, something we could only trace back to legitimate businesses and legitimate funds."
"How many businesses does he own?"
"We have no clue," Zenigata admitted. "We know he's got six main ones, but the people he's chosen are on different businesses as well. We can't figure out if he's on all of them or just some of them, if they're all working for him or only some of them. We can't unravel that. He doesn't let anyone know these things either. His daughter, the crook one who's taking over his empire, won't be taking over the legitimate stuff directly. The guy who's working with him is a former spy but he's so legit it's not funny. He works with the intelligence communities since he does a lot of that too. He's got another samurai who deals with some of the criminals with him. We don't know how they interact, whether or not they interact on the legitimate sides or not, whether or not the spy does since he's legit himself. We have not a clue."
"He does everything by laptop but when we can get one it's erased," Vecchio explained. "We're talking wiped clean and destroyed the hard drive wiped clean." The others grimaced. "Xander is a planning guy, he makes plans and then he finds people who can help him with them. Like his electronics stuff, he found people with the plans for what he needed and wanted. Some he paid, some he stole, some he built himself. Well, probably most he built himself and taught the kids. He's got some genius from MIT working with him to just make plans for fantasy inventions then make them work."
"Like the Fiats," Zenigata sighed. "The guy's a Bond fan, you can tell."
"He is. Those cars are dangerous!" Ray complained. "Melissa hit the wrong switch once and took out part of a mountain with the missile system."
"Missile system?" that cop asked dryly. "Like real ones?"
"Like miniature ones that come from under the license plate," Zenigata told him. "Their designer is a James Bond fan. A very big one it seems. Those cars have stun guns, they've got missiles, they've got guidance systems, they've got security systems that can kill a man."
"They've got a camera and screen set up so you can have a map or stuff cover the passenger's side of the windshield," Ray offered. "Kowalski wrote a glowing report of the Fiat he got the ride in. One's got an oil slick button, they've got tacks, they've got special cameras for when you back up that go onto the windshield." He shrugged. "That guy was in geek heaven for days."
"I remember. A two hundred page report on a two day car trip, when I can't get the guy to write regular reports with enough words to fill six pages on a twenty-person arrest so the
prosecutors won't harass me for details."
"And he does all this without letting his lovers know," Vecchio told the others with a smirk. "Lupin doesn't know what he does, until someone else tells him. Xander was living in his house, sleeping in his bed, training at his house, and still was building and running his own empire, doing his own jobs, and destroying the nerves of a lot of cops all without letting on that he was more than Lupin's second gunman."
"Does he never sleep?"
"Only about four to six hours a day," Vecchio admitted. "He's hyper and his formative years weren't the sort you slept deeply in."
"How did he do this? Can he be in two places at once?"
"Not as far as we know," Zenigata said dryly.
"Then of course, we wouldn't until Xander slips or until someone else tells us," Vecchio admitted. "The same as we didn't know he had an empire until Kowalski heard him talking to Bastian one day about it. By then, it was already formed, staffed, hidden, and carefully constructed so it would last forever. As long as there's kids of Lavelle's, there'll be his empire growing and growing. And nothing we can do about it since it's apparently legit."
"But he's a crook."
"Yeah, but we can't prove his money came from that source," Vecchio reminded everyone. "We can't find a money trail for the beginning stuff. We can't find anything other than he did have a small fund when he joined the life from insurance payoffs. He could have turned that over. We can't know for certain. Even if we could tape him doing a living sacrifice at a Mayan temple, catch him with the still beating heart in his hand, and capture him afterward, we probably couldn't charge him and keep him. He's escaped from prisons. He's escaped before we could capture him. He can plead mental instability in a heartbeat since he was horribly tortured right before he joined the life. The man's an enigma. One Kowalski's studying since they're best friends. He's the one who wrote the book on Lavelle, started the files on the kids, and fills in the gaps we don't know. They're best friends and he's not on that case. He's still a cop though."
"So you're both riding the line to learn more about these crooks?"
"We can't stop them so maybe it'll help someone in the future," Ray said with a shrug. "I seriously doubt we're ever going to catch Lavelle, and if we ever do and someone uses his torture against him some day, they're going to be sorry." Zenigata gave him a look. "It's a petty thing that a lot of cops do," he reminded him. "We like to gloat just like everyone else. Someone will use that against him and they'll probably end up dying as he squeezes their windpipes closed," he noted.
"I can see that," Zenigata admitted. "That's why it'd be better if we did it."
"It may be, sir, but I know Kowalski won't." He ate another bite. "I'm about to burst." He put his fork down and looked at the other cops. "Now you know why Interpol called us over in the first place and why they don't like us anymore. We do good, very good, with everyone but Lupin. We've cleared the list out a number of times, but Lupin." He sipped his beer slowly. "Any luck with the new guys?"
"Cocky kids who don't have a clue," Zenigata said dryly. "One of them actually said he's bringing a real car with him wherever he goes."
"Only if he pays for it himself," the commissioner said blandly. "Your team was moved to consulting status because you cost us so much in travel costs. Then again, it was also paying off," he admitted. "I don't know why the last guy did that, Zenigata."
"Neither do we. Then again, he also never read the reports we sent," Zenigata said bitterly. "Nothing we sent made it to him. His next-to-last day he showed up in my office, demanding information on Kowalski, Lupin the Fourth, and what we were doing. Hadn't read a single report we'd filed since I got my own team." He sipped his own beer. "We explained it to him and then Dawn got hold of him." Everyone at the table shuddered, they'd all had run-ins with Dawn while she was pregnant apparently.
"Speaking of, we've still got to get new chairs," Vecchio reminded him.
"Good point. We can swing by one of those office places on the way home to price them."
"Were yours damaged?" the cop with them asked.
"No, Dawn used black magic to refurbish our new office, including recovering our chairs," Zenigata told him blandly.
"For some. She had a demon redecorate," Ray said grimly. "I'm not sitting in it. I don't care if the Pope blesses it personally, I'm not sitting in it."
"We'll see about fixing your budgeting problems, Zenigata, and we'll instruct the rookies that they are to come to you for information and for help. It's not right that they're not," the commissioner decided. "After that little attempt to discredit me, I'm fairly tired, gentlemen. Should we retire for the night?"
"I have the feeling that it's going to get worse, sir," Ray warned. "He said that Lupin doesn't like you having your job. I'm not sure *why*, but that's what he said." He saluted him with his beer. "So somehow you managed to irritate him."
"I'll be very careful tonight," he assured him with a small smirk. "Is Lavelle gay?"
"Very bi," Ray groaned. "Man'll sleep with nearly anything as long as it's good looking. Or he did before he was married."
"Then I'll consider that a compliment," the commissioner promised, standing up. "Shall I get the check?"
"He got mine," Ray told him.
"I've got mine," Zenigata promised. "Get the others, sir. You've got an expense account."
"We'll go over your team's finances tomorrow, Inspector. This problem will be fixed as well," he promised with a fatherly smile. He paid the bill and walked out to his car. He checked it over carefully but there weren't any explosives. So he got into it and headed for his favorite playhouse. There were some wonderful young men there and he could probably find one with long dark hair and a tightly built body.
Xander was in the middle of the crowd when he felt someone come up behind him, smiling at the man who joined him. "Hey," he called.
"Hi." Alan gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek. "I was in town and I heard you were in town from Bastian."
"My buddies look out for me," he agreed happily, dancing with him until the song changed. Then he drug him over to his table, which no one had gone near in the very packed club. He sat down and waved at the nearest waitress, getting a smile and a nod. He looked at his former lover. "So, how went the shoot?"
"It was fabulous. Just wonderful." He grinned at him. "How are the kids?"
"Okay enough. Arsene and I got into it because she was having a moment of stupidity and ego." He shrugged. "It happens sometimes." He handed over a few bills for their drinks, again smiling at the waitress before she walked off. He looked at Alan again. "You look good. New man?"
"No, not really," he admitted. "Too busy at the moment."
"That's a good thing though."
"Yes, I suppose," he agreed with a small smile. "You? I know your men didn't waste much time."
"They were actually kinda patient," Xander admitted. "They gave me the time to heal and move on, then they slowly kinda moved back to touching me and hugging me when I needed it. Then at Melissa's party we renewed our vows to merge the empires together," he finished with a small smile, holding out his ring. "Lupin had been carrying it around and wore me down about it."
"It's very pretty, Xander." Alan smiled at him. "Been to any wonderful vacation-style spots recently?"
"Well, we were on the ship for a bit. I had to go to China to rescue Ishi and Melissa. Then we ended up on the kids' ship and went to the house in Mexico. Then we went to Hong Kong, then sailed the ships back here." He grinned at him. "We've been pretty busy training mostly. You?"
"I'm on vacation." He smiled at the slow song that came on. "Would you like to go again? I know how much you like to dance."
"Sure." Xander led him back to the floor, letting Alan hold him. He winced as his hand brushed his side. "Not there. It's a bit sore."
"Were you hurt?"
"No, but the cop who shot me is a sorry person if I see him again," he said bitterly.
"Surely you expect those things," Alan said gently.
"Yeah, but that's also why I get to shoot him back," he snorted. "Just don't touch there or my left shoulder, okay?" Alan nodded, holding him loosely. "This is why we broke up, Alan," he said in his ear. "So that you wouldn't have to face these things and I wouldn't make people quit giving you jobs."
"I know, Xander. I wish things were different."
"You and me both," he sighed, relaxing. "My parents started a cult based on me. The old me, plus the torture. Not the present me."
Alan groaned. "Your parents should be shot, Xander. You're not a religious icon, you're a sexual one." Xander giggled, hugging him. "Thanks." He grinned at him. "So, where's a good place to go for breakfast?"
"Since I'm in town for the night, we can meet up for breakfast," Xander promised, dancing with him. He had missed this. Lupin didn't do much of this and Jigen hadn't yet. "I was only blowing off steam."
"I saw. That's why I stopped you, before the steam blew off your head." Xander relaxed against him, making him smile. "We are still friends, yes?"
"Good." A faster song started so they moved a bit apart and went back to dancing. They both knew nothing would happen.
Bastian popped up on Lupin's computer, interrupting his game of solitaire. "Before you say anything, I'm the one who told Alan where Xander was. Xander needed some final closure on the matter."
"I needed to know this why?" he asked. "How are you doing that?"
"Xander installed our chat program on your computer last week. Didn't he tell you?" he asked with a grin.
"No, and I'm going to spank him for that. Are they okay?"
"They're fine. Xander's blowing off some steam in a club. I sent Alan there so they're talking and dancing. I know at least one reporter saw him though so I'm figuring on a story tomorrow sometime and you pouncing him. I'm trying to keep Xander unpounced for non-sex reasons." A female giggled behind him. "In a minute, dear."
Bastian grinned at Lupin's snickering. "Yeah, I got my own Sylvia. Literally. She's a sweet girl. Very British too." He gave him another smug smirk. "They're not doing anything but I know Xander'll probably spend some time with him tomorrow. Also, Xander used a minor ploy to annoy the new commissioner of the ICPO. What's his issue?"
"He likes young boys, especially runaways."
"Ah. Okay. Well he's going to find him a Xander of his own tonight. By the way, they took Zenigata's badge when they made him a consultant but the new guy is thinking about giving it back. He's already sent in orders to fix it so Zenigata gets what he needs to act as effectively as before. Including two new state-of-the-art desk chairs since Dawn decorated by demons. Also, tell Xander that Ray's Ma has moved in. It's a lovely house, she adores it still. Maria and her kids are all living it high on the hog there. They brought the remains of the cheese with them since her church said they couldn't really use it in enough time. We got them moved and their stuff set up within a day of getting there so she didn't have to do more than order the boys around. Six of the guys are going to work for the moving company instead of going into crime like they had been planning. Petrie kinda scared them while we moved her from Chicago. The mad vinter is looking for helpers besides Ray, and the offer was extended to Ray as well. Have Jigen expect a call from Mont Blanc. That's my report for the day. Tell Homer I said hi and I'll talk to him later tonight. By the way, Xander's gone beyond giggles to pissed and Melissa just took off from the airport nearest you headed for Salt Lake City." He wiggled his fingers and disappeared with a small pop.
Lupin sat back, popping his neck before getting comfortable. Then he did the hard thing and called Jigen. "Jigen!"
Jigen opened the door and stuck his head in. "Did you yell?"
"Expect a call from Mont Blanc, the guy down there needs tasters, and you're it with Ray Vecchio. Ma's doing well in her new house. Xander installed the conferencing software onto my computer so I just talked with Bastian, who's dating a very British Sylvia of his own, and Melissa just took off from the airport to go to Salt Lake City."
"Cult. Earlier discussion, ringing a bell?"
"Oh. Oh, no," he said, groaning. "Can we stop her?"
"Probably not without getting her into trouble."
Jigen walked off, slamming the door behind himself. "Goemon, do a head count. Melissa just left the house."
Arsene came down the stairs. "Only she went, Uncle Jigen," she said quietly. "She wanted to go discourage her grandparents from being stupid again."
"With her luck they'll either try to keep her and reprogram her or they'll try to sacrifice her," he said bitterly. "If she's in your plane, have her turned around and come back."
"She's commercial until New York."
"Fine. We'll be heading out after we call someone to stop her." He looked at her. "You okay?" She shrugged, but she didn't answer. "We've got to talk, kid. You're creepy when you're quiet." He walked her back to the office. "Lupin, call New York, she's flying commercial and she'll layover there." He closed the door again and walked her outside to talk with her. "What's up?"
"Xander said some things that upset me but I'm thinking about them. Am I just a duffer like my grandfather was?"
"I don't think so," he admitted. "I think you're still living a fantasy though. Like you're the Barbie special collection thief edition." She did smile at that, a small one. "Sit, Ar." He sat down, getting comfortable on the patio set. "Xander was right about some things. You're still not seeing the full reality. I know my daughter's seen shit that'll make her sick for years. She's faced the fact that she could die from one of the cops or from another crook. I know she did because it scared her and she had nightmares for weeks about it." She looked down at her hands. "Have you?"
"No," she admitted, looking up at him. "I don't want to die."
"Then you don't want to be in the life," he told her. "If we're caught, we will probably be put to death in most countries. It's been damn close before. Your dad was actually executed twice, but he managed to save himself once and the other time it was a clone done by someone else." He pulled out a cigarette and lit it, inhaling deeply. "This isn't a field of fun and games. It's not for duffers. It's not for those who won't kill to protect themselves and their family and friends. That's what drove Dawn and David out. That's why Marcus doesn't do much, because the demon who possessed him liked the blood too much and it scares him. You're from a great line of thieves, but everyone dies some day. Whether you die in a bed, or you die from being hung or from a firing squad is up to you. We don't want you to die this week however, that's one of the things he was trying to get through to you, kiddo. Not to cow you and make you this silent, depressed little girl, but to make you think and realize that you're not all that yet. You've still got shit to learn."
"But daddy said even he does."
"True. There's lots of stuff we can still learn, even your mother. New technologies come out every week. None of us are hackers. We employ a few when we need 'em, but we're not. Xander still can't pick locks very well. Neither do I." He took a deep drag off his cigarette. "It's a matter of decisions. Do you want to continue to be a thief, even though bad things can happen?" She shrugged. "Then you'd better decide before going back into the field. Otherwise it'll distract you and you'll be in danger."
Ishi stuck his head out. "We can't stop her in New York. We can't get there in time."
"Can't someone over there stop her?"
"Uncle Lupin said he didn't trust anyone out there not to stop her permanently. She booked a flight from here to Chicago, then she changes planes there. New York is just a Custom's and refueling stop."
"Damn. Chicago's still not safe for her."
"I doubt she's going to be doing much in her thirty minute layover," Ishi offered. "Then she's heading out of Salt Lake City with a car rental. So we can either stop her there, or shortly after she gets the car."
"We can stop her in Salt Lake City," Lupin offered from behind him. "Everything okay?"
"Yeah, daddy, just some heavy thoughts," she admitted. "Uncle Jigen was re-explaining some things to me without the need to put me into a submissive position and yank on my hair."
"Good. Let's go. We can leave Xander in Paris. I've already called his phone. It's on voicemail since he's still in the club with Alan." Jigen gave him a cold look. "Not my doing. Bastian told him where Xander was blowing off steam. He said he needed closure."
"Maybe but I don't trust Alan that much."
"I trust Xander though," Lupin pointed out.
"Point." He got up. "You coming or stayin', kiddo?"
"Is it going to be dangerous?"
"Cult members who want to be like Xander," he said dryly.
"Never mind. I'm coming. Let me change and pack a bag." She headed up to her room to do that. She came trotting down the stairs, smiling up at her father. "Do I look okay for the Mormons?"
"You look fine to me and I doubt they'd want to conscript you," he offered, walking out behind her. Before they got to the car he pulled her aside. "Are you sure you want to do this? It will be dangerous, Arsene."
"Daddy, he'd expect us to go after her and Melissa's doing this because she's got a wild hair up her ass. I doubt she's planned it," she offered. "I'll be fine. I can focus on the job and not the mental problems." He gave her a gentle hug. "I'll miss you if you go, daddy."
"Honey, we've been assured we're all going together and it'll be long after we have grandchildren," he promised. "Hell doesn't really want Xander too soon." She relaxed and he grinned. "You were more worried about me?"
"Daddy, if you can die and you're better than me, than I can definitely die." She looked up at him.
"Yeah, but I'm mortal, empress. We're all mortal. Unless your mom's hiding another secret from us," he offered with a small grin. "Even if I die, I'll be watching out for you and you know I'll be ranting somewhere about the stupidity that'll happen when Fred comes out as a mini-Lavelle." He stroked her hair behind her ears. "I don't want you in the field if you've got these doubts, daughter."
"I'll be fine, daddy. I'm not dying this week. I have to go after you. That means Xander was right and I have to train harder."
"You could call him mom."
"Not until we settle some things between us." She let him go. "He didn't have to do it to me that way."
"Yeah, he did," Lupin admitted dryly. "You wouldn't have listened any other way. You weren't listening to me and I was saying the same things," he reminded her. "He had to shock you out of the ego of the first job. That's what good parents and trainers do, dear. Even if he was mean, it was necessary because you were being a bitch."
"I'm sorry, daddy." She put an arm through his, walking him to the car. She'd still be talking to Xander before she uttered the word 'mother' again.
"What are you doing here?" a loud voice asked.
Melissa looked up at the speaker, smiling gently at Vecchio's sister. "I'm on my way through to visit my other grandparents. They're trying to reach out to their son and I want to talk with them before he destroys them for their idiocy. They started a cult of him."
Frannie Vecchio looked the young girl over. "Then you are related to Xander?" She nodded. "Which one are you?"
"I'm Melissa. I'm Savannah's twin. I'm the one who settled the blood debt." Frannie nodded at that. "I'm really just passing through. Your brother had dinner with mom earlier and your mother's getting settled in. Didn't you go with her?"
"My life's here. I couldn't stand to live in the countryside. There's no movie theater, no clubs, no bars, nothing fun to do."
Melissa smiled at that. "I said the same thing about living in outer England at Mom's house that he got with the title."
"Yeah, some woman offered the person who got her off her estate. Mom got her off very well, she actually died during sex of an aneurism on her aorta. So he's a Lord. I'm technically a Lady since he's not married." She shrugged. "It's a beautiful house, but there's *nothing* close by but a small village and a pub."
Frannie nodded. "Then you probably do know what it's like. Do you know Ma's new number?"
"Mom hasn't given it to me yet," she admitted. "I can check."
"Nah, that's fine, I'll get it later," she promised. "So, a cult?"
"Yeah, a cult," she sighed. "They started a cult about his defense stuff and how he was tortured. So I'm going to see how big of whackos they are and to see if I can convince them to quit using mom's name before he gets really mad and tries to blow them up or something." She shifted so she was facing the other woman. "Where are you headed?"
"I was brought in here to see why you were here. Someone decided that since Xander liked us so much you wouldn't hurt me."
"I try very hard not to hurt innocent bystanders. That's rude." Melissa smiled at her. "Really, I'm just passing through. I like Chicago. It's a nice city. I like it a lot better than LA with it's vampires and demons and nastiness that keeps trying to come for the family. Or the memories that Mom holds of that area."
"Why do you call him mom?"
"You remember hearing about Sylvia?" Frannie nodded, she had heard about that. "That was mom too. It was an artifact of really odd powers."
"Oh." She let that thought stir. "So he really had you?"
"He really had two sets of twins and then a single. The single right on the heels of a set of twins."
"Wow. I'm impressed. I didn't know that was possible."
"There's more odd stuff on this planet than anyone realizes. Mom's usually plugged into that."
"Sorta like that fuzzy baby fox that showed up to cuddle Bix?"
"Yup, that was a kitsune, a Japanese fox spirit. They're pretty nice. They're helping my sister since she's so ill whenever she's here. With them she's perfectly healthy and happy to dress up all the time. She's our ambassador more or less." She shifted again. "It's kinda neat sometimes, but sometimes it's very scary. Mom usually takes care of the scary stuff for us though."
"Good." She stood up as the flight was called. "Go ahead and board. Stay on the plane."
"I'll call in advance next time," she promised, holding out a hand. Frannie shook it with a smile. "It was nice meeting you. Mom's always saying great things about Ray's family and Ray brags about you guys a lot too. I wish he had family like you instead of the fruitcakes."
"I think that's why he likes us," Frannie agreed.
"Yeah, but then again sometimes Uncle Goemon acts like mom's dad too, which just really messes things up to think of him as my grandfather." Frannie laughed at that, so she gathered everything, taking her laptop back from the cop who had been browsing on it. "Sorry, it's not the special one for Mom's empire. Just my standard one with my own empire on it." She closed it and put it into her case, zipping it and grabbing her jacket so she could get on. She handed over her tickets with a smile. "Hi again."
"Hello, young lady. Traveling alone?"
"That's fine." She got her onto the plane, smiling at the people who were next in line. "Hello. Just the one flight today?" she asked after checking their boarding passes."
"Yes, we're going back to our fellows." They walked up the tunnel and found Melissa waiting around the bend. "Shouldn't you be in your seat?"
"I probably should, but I do believe you're my escorts."
"You do not sound like you like us fruitcakes," he said bitterly.
"What can I say, I'm Xander's daughter." That stopped them and they stared at her. "I'm Melissa, one of his older set of twins. I'm also a lot like Xander and Xander's not quite like you guys think. So yeah, I'm here to straighten some things out so he doesn't have to. His parents have him *way* out of character. He's said they're whackos too by the way."
"I do not doubt. Very well. We will talk once we are in the air."
"That's fine." She waved. "Go ahead." They walked ahead of her. She flicked little bugs on them, shaking her head at the stewardess' worried look. "It's fine. I'm going to see my grandparents and they're part of a religious group I'm not part of," she sighed. She found her seat and plopped down, putting her laptop in front of her so she could watch over it. She hoped the cops hadn't gotten into anything of her mother's. Some minor things had been on there.
Ray Kowalski opened his email and smiled at the information in it. "Well," he said happily. "That's a good thing." He grinned at his boss, which made him raise an eyebrow and walk over to look at what was making him have such a wicked smile. "Melissa was doing some financial work on her way to Utah."
"Can it help us catch him?
"Not a chance. But it does list some people she was sending payments to." They shared a smile and went over it again. Nothing there was overtly useful but it was another link in the chain of Lavelle's empire.
"Who got this?"
"Frannie, Ray's sister, distracted her while Huey played with her laptop. He got a complete image off the hard drive he thinks. He'll have their tech person decode it and send it to us."
"Good. Print that just in case we get a sudden virus or something. It'll be useful."
"Yes, sir," Ray agreed.
"Printer's not hooked up yet," Dawn called from her desk. "It's not working with the server. Mark's on his way over to fix it."
"Then you copy it down," Zenigata instructed. "Burn it to a CD as well." Ray nodded, moving to do that, copying it first. That would take longer and as long as he didn't touch anything it should be fine. Nothing could happen while he wasn't touching a single key.
In a small office deep within Interpol's headquarters, someone was watching Ray's email and smirking broadly. "Yes, that is something we need," he said fondly. "And then we'll show them who the *real* cops are, won't we?" She chuckled and pressed the print button. Her printer was working just fine.
Inside a very nice house in central London, Bastian looked over as his monitor beeped. "What now?" he muttered. He looked at the notice that one of the laptops had been imaged and groaned. "Who in the fuck!" he said hotly, sitting down to fix it. First he disabled that laptop. Then he sent a message to Xander's phone. Then he sent a nastier one to Melissa's phone. When she didn't answer, he tried to call her but got her voicemail. So instead he called on Lupin while he worked to negate the damage done. "Where's the infant making rookie mistakes?" he demanded. He growled. "Why is she on a plane?" He flopped backward in his chair, covering his eyes. "Do me a favor, when you see her, spank the living shit out of her. A cop just imaged her hard drive. Now we're doing damage control. Yeah, I'd say, it's one of Vecchio and Kowalski's former teammates. Thank you, Jigen." He hung up and moved everything. Murami was not going to be happy with him so he sent out the 'we're doing it on purpose, it's necessary' disaster code to her. She'd be dealing with Melissa's stuff anyway. Hers was probably on that one as well.
Xander looked down at his phone, frowning at the message on it. "Disaster code?" he muttered, going into a corner of the club to text Bastian back. What he got in return was basically swearing at his daughter. Now he understood. He called him. "Move it using the alpha plan. The other three aren't fully set up yet." He listened. "Okay, I wasn't aware you had done that already. Thank you. Sure, however you want. Where is she so I can have a good long scream at her?" He frowned. "Why is she heading for my parents?" He listened. "Fine. Thanks. No, I'll get her when I see her. Love ya, Bastian." He hung up, heading back to find Alan. He got close to his ear so he wouldn't have to scream quite so loud over the music. "Melissa fucked up. Her laptop was breached. I'll see you at breakfast if I don't have to fly off to beat her." Alan nodded, grinning at him. So Xander headed for their still untouched table and paid the waitress for anything Alan might still want before leaving. He walked outside, looking up at the stars. "Why did I have kids?"
"So your empire would continue on for generations," Vecchio said dryly, smirking at him. "Having fun?"
"Yeah. Alan's in there. Your sister's sneaky but I didn't think the department was using her."
"What did Frannie do?"
"Melissa's on her way to chat with my parents. Your sister distracted her while one of your former coworkers had a go at her laptop." Vecchio looked impressed at that so Xander smirked. "It was mostly her stuff, anything they might have gotten is already dust in the wind, Ray. We do have protections after all." He strolled off, heading for his car. He plugged in his hands-free set before starting it and heading off into the night. He tried to call Lupin, but it was busy and he got his voice mail. He tried to call Ishi, but his was apparently off. He called Arsene's because she *always* had her phone. "Put your father on. Your second in command is a stupid bitch today. No, Ar, she got her laptop looked at," he sighed. It was handed over with a screech of her father's name and a toss at the other car.
"Lupin," he said patiently. "Can we beat Melissa for this? No, I'm having to do a quick move through Bastian to fix some things. No, it's not as secure but I don't know what she was accessing and I have no idea how much info she had in her notes on what I do. Yeah, she was making a crib sheet for herself of the empire. Sure, you can hold her while Jigen and I beat the girl so hard she won't be sitting for months. Thanks. Sure, tell Jigen." He smirked as he ran a yellow light, speeding off to a hidden area that not even Melissa knew he had. "Sure. We're working on it. Stop her before she gets to my parents. Something bad will happen. They'll probably attack her, she'll fight back, there are Feds watching them no doubt and so she'll end up in prison for a bit. Which means the kids would have to break her out and then they'd be in a standoff position. Sure! No, not a vision, a certainty. You know how she can be." He hung up and headed for the underground parking garage he had hired, getting out and heading into his hidden spot. He sat down behind the computers, checking on what Bastian was doing and moving everything that Bastian didn't have access to, including the kids' funds.
Murami answered her phone, putting it on speaker as she typed. "What's going on, Xander?"
"Melissa had her laptop snatched at the airport by a cop. They imaged the drive according to Bastian. We're moving everything into the concrete vault at the bank."
Murami paused, staring at the phone. "Then you can't use anything."
"I can use it, I just need the special funds authorized, which only you can do. By the way, I'm locking Melissa out of the family funds."
"I'm locking her out of everything but her personal accounts," she said bitterly. "How dumb was she?"
"She wasn't paying attention. She was chatting with Vecchio's sister and one of his coworkers started to page through her laptop. They've already sent stuff to Ray. I'm going to have to deal with that next."
"Why was she in Chicago?"
"She's headed to kick my parents in the ass for starting a cult of Me."
"A cult of you," she said flatly. "Why?"
"Because they're like that," he said bitterly. "It's not their first cult after all. Can you please authorize the special cards as well?"
"Of course. I've got yours in the safe. Where are you?"
"In town blowing off steam due to my parents."
"Me too, hopefully they can stop her before she ends up tangling with the Feds who're probably watching them. He hit a few buttons. "Bastian, I'm doing the concrete vault maneuver. You ready on your end?"
"Just give me ten more, Xander. Two accounts aren't wanting to move."
"I can help with that," Murami offered. She got to work accessing as many of those accounts as she could. "Are we moving Lupin's and everyone's as well?"
"We probably should but I haven't done more than tell him to stop her and to save some beating for me," Xander told her.
"Let me call him. I'm putting you on hold," she offered, hitting the switch to do that. She called Lupin's cellphone, getting Goemon. "Goemon, put Lupin on. We're having to do an emergency money move." She listened to the quiet conversation then Lupin grunted into the phone. "Do you want to move yours with Xander? It'll be perfectly safe there." She listened to him. "That's fine. Don't use your cards again until you get the new ones. Have you used them tonight?" She nodded, writing down the charges and how much. "Okay. Swing by my office on the way to the airport. No, he's in town. Thanks." She hung up and went back to Xander. "We're moving Lupin's as well."
"On it," Xander agreed, then hit a few keys, paused, then hit a few more. Two clicks and then he chuckled. "Bastian?"
"Nearly. I'm moving the kids' as well." She accessed those and then smiled. "There, all but two shopping accounts. Yours and Lupin the Fourth's."
"Okay, and here we go with the concrete vault maneuver." Another click, a few keystrokes, and an 'ah-ha' later, and then Xander chuckled. "Safe. I'll stop by to get the new cards tonight. Bastian, do you need me to pull damage control?"
"No, Xander. We're good. I'll send out an all-points to everyone. Homer has your backup card."
"Good point. I'll call him personally, that way he can scowl at Melissa for this." He called the other guy. "Homer? Man, don't use the card. We just pulled a concrete vault. Really? That's fine, did it go through?" He smirked. "Use the black one I gave you just in case. Thanks, man. Nope, Melissa's fault. Totally her fault. Love you, big guy. Let me know if something happens. Yuppers." He hung up. "Okay, we're copacetic on most fronts. Any issues, Murami or Bastian?"
"I'm not seeing any but Marcus. I'll call him," Bastian offered.
"No, I'm not seeing any either, Xander. What are you going to do about that information?"
"Oh, we'll just play a bit," he said, obviously smirking by the tone of his voice. "Don't you worry, dear, and do a bug check of your office. You haven't had one in a while."
"True. Thank you, Xander." She hung up and sat back, looking at the funds as they all funneled into the locked accounts. The only people who could get into those were the ones with the names on it. Everything else was solid and needed special cards to get into. She grabbed the scanner to find listening devices and started over her office. Xander wasn't often wrong about these things.
Deep within Interpol, that same woman frowned. "Concrete vault. What's that?" She looked it up in her copy of Dawn's handbook of slang, the one she had stolen a few months back. "An impenetrable account that is hidden from the world in the inner workings of a very safe bank. Usually used to protect monetary accounts of major corporations. Where would Lavelle have gotten access to one of those?" she muttered, looking at the references she had on him. "It must have went through one of his minions in one of the Swiss banks. We'll just have to check the money transfer records tomorrow, won't we?" she asked, petting her computer. "You're so good. Yes you are. We deserve a treat for being so good. I'll do that and be back in the morning, precious one. You rest tonight." She turned off the machine and snuck out of the old office. No one knew it was there, but they knew she probably wasn't supposed to be down there either.
Bastian looked at the computer in front of him, considering what to do. He *could* erase Kowalski's computer and all of theirs. He *could* take down all of Interpol's computers if he really wanted to. Or at least anything that was hooked into their network. He *could* let them suffer when they found those links were no longer any good, but they might want to use them again. Or he *could* let Xander make that decision for him, but that would drive him insane because he liked a few of them. He considered it, staring over at his present girlfriend. "Should I be really mean or just a bit mean?"
"Because someone broke into Melissa's laptop while she was being distracted."
"Oh." She pouted. "Then why be mean? Didn't you fix all that already?"
"Yeah, but we might want to use those things again some day," he said, staring at the computer again. His hand hovered over the keys, his fingers wiggling as he considered it. "Fuck it." He hit a sequence of keys, something that let loose something their computer hacker called Hellhound. He did feel better now. He got up and walked over to where his lady was seated, bending down to kiss her. "Thank you, love, for being so patient. What were we going to do tonight?"
"You were going to take me to dinner," she said with a small grin for him. "Otherwise I might starve."
"Sure," he agreed with a smile, helping her to her feet and doing up his shirt the rest of the way so he could walk out with her. He closed and locked the door, ignoring the message on his computer about levels of destruction and the countdown to total destruction if no option was chosen.
The computer beeped twice, then from the speakers came an evil, wicked chuckle. Anyone hearing it would be scared if they had any idea what was coming their way.
Kowalski finished checking his email, clicking on the button to delete it. His mouse was stolen and his screen went dark as howling started through his speakers. "What the fuck!"
Al, their computer artificial intelligence, let out a howl of fear and disappeared from the main screens again. He didn't like lightening but he had never acted like this before. The cord connecting his cube to the computers was withdrawn and the cube rocked as it retreated into the housing.
Zenigata looked at his wife. "Demonic?" he asked quietly.
"Sounds like it," she said, frowning at him. "But it's inside his computer." She looked at her computer and saw a tongue come up to slobber on the inside of the screen. "Fuck!" she shouted, backing away. "Everyone out!" They all ran. "How in the hell did we get a a demonic computer virus!" She pulled out some of her things she worked with when she was practicing her magic, but by then the face had shown up and was staring at her. "What are you?" she asked, backing away. "What do you want?" The doggish face howled again, making her shiver. She had never faced down something like that. She didn't have a clue what that was. "Marcus! Help!" she screamed, hoping he had his spell active.
He appeared beside her, looking where she pointed. "What are you?" he asked. The face turned to look at him and he shivered in cold dread. "That's a hellhound. Out, Dawn. Now!" he ordered calmly. He backed away, forcing her to go with him. "I don't know how it got into the computers, but pray it stays in there. They dine on souls. I can only imagine what a cyber-hound would do." They made it outside and locked the door, Marcus leaning against it to look at the others. "It's a hellhound." Zenigata's mouth came open. "I don't know. I have no idea. I'm going to talk to someone now. Do not go in there. Do not turn on any home systems. Do not log back into that system or Interpol." He disappeared, going to find Xander. He landed behind him. "Why does Dawn have a hellhound in her system?"
"Dawn has a hellhound?" he asked, looking confused. "Who authorized that?"
"Xander?" Marcus asked patiently. "How?"
"Um, computerized. Virus. Shit. Bastian," he groaned, calling him. "Did you authorize Hellhound to go? No, it scared Marcus."
"It looks *exactly* like a real one! Of course it did!"
"That's because I talked one into becoming a computer virus," Xander assured him. "It's a real one, but now it eats bits and bytes." He listened to Bastian's reasoning. "Okay. That's fine with me," he promised. "What level did you set it at?" He winced. "That means total destruction of the system you aimed it at, dear. Did you aim it just at Dawnie?" He winced again. "Okay. I trust you, I like you, I love you like my brother. Good work, we'll work around it in Interpol." He blew a kiss. "Happy dinner out with your woman. Did you know she's a cop?" He grinned. "I was hoping you did, man. Sure. Thanks, Bastian, for looking out for us." He hung up and looked up at Marcus. "It'll be fine. It's limited to Interpol and their systems. Dawnie's system is going to be eaten. So is Interpol's."
"Xander, that's heinous," Marcus complained.
"Marcus, Melissa had her notebook gone through," he said dryly. "By the way, we did a concrete vault maneuver earlier." He shuddered. "So be careful, all right? Just don't plug yourself into one."
"Fine, Xander. Thank you for the warning. Any other demonic things I should know about?"
"Yeah, I've got a cyber-imp who goes out to do research for me," he said with a smirk. "Our techno-wizard is *very* good and handy. Remind me to give him a raise soon, okay?"
"Fine," he agreed. "I'll warn Lupin not to plug into Interpol." He grabbed his phone, dialing as he teleported back to Dawn's side. "A Hellhound is loose in Interpol's system," he said quietly. "It's eating information. No, I cannot," he offered. "It got Dawn's system too. Thanks." He hung up and looked at the waiting cops. "There's nothing we can do. Usually we could fight off a real one but this one has digitized itself and is happily munching any and all information."
"Pictures," Ray moaned.
"No, it won't eat graphic files," he admitted. "It's not programmed to like them as far as I know. Did you back them up?"
"All but the last few months worth," he admitted tiredly.
Marcus patted him on the arm. "They may still be there. We'll have to see, Ray." He nodded, looking not much happier. "Now, do not log into Interpol until someone has cleared it out. No matter what you're using, not even your phones if you can do that. Someone call Vecchio to tell him." He disappeared, heading back to his room to groan in peace. Xander had done the unthinkable, putting demons on the internet. He called Ethan to warn him so that a real-world backlash of this act wouldn't take them by surprise. "Ethan, Xander has a cyber-hellhound. Were you aware of this?" he asked calmly. He listened to Ethan tell him what it was and how it had been done. "What about people like Murami, who have his files?" He shivered. "Fine, I'll call her next, just in case. Thank you." He hung up and called Murami. "Dear, it's Marcus. If your computer starts to howl from the speakers or goes dark, turn it off immediately and unplug it from the internet. No, Xander's protective hellhound is out and about inside Interpol and I'm not sure it won't go after others who have files with him in it." He frowned. "What do you mean yours is doggy proof? Did he call the thing by going 'here, doggy doggy' until it showed up and told him he'd be a bad dog if he came near you?" She laughed and told him how it was done. "Thank you, love. No, I'm fine, just a bit disquieted at the moment. You have a pleasant evening." He hung up and went to lie down. His head now hurt, a lot.
Lupin walked into Murami's office, accepting the envelope with a smile. "Everything okay?"
"Sure. I'm not being beleaguered by the hellhound that Interpol now has. Xander made sure it wasn't supposed to come for me."
"He did what?" Goemon asked from the doorway.
"There's a hellhound inside Interpol's computers, a digitized one. Xander had it as a doomsday device but we're not sure if he let it go or not. Hackers could have gotten into his system."
"Have you checked for bugs recently?" Lupin asked.
"Yes, and I tossed all seven of them out," she said dryly. "They all went out the window, Lupin, don't worry so much."
"Thanks." He gave her a hug. "We're heading to Utah at top speed."
"The plane's waiting on you. Hers was grounded in Minneapolis due to weather. There was a tornado on the plains."
He grinned. "Even better. Send her a 'stay put' message if you can get through to her. Love you, dear." He rushed out, Goemon nodding then following. He waited until his friend was back inside before taking off again. "The plane's waiting on us. She's grounded due to weather for a bit in Minnesota. There's a hellhound inside Interpol's systems," he reported.
"Why?" Jigen asked quietly, drawing it out a bit.
"Xander's doomsday device."
"So that's what Marcus was talking about," Ishi noted, looking at them. "It'll be fine. It won't piss on our stuff or on Auntie Murami. It's housetrained."
Jigen looked back at him. "Like a real one? Those things that eat souls?" Ishi nodded. "How long has he had one of those?"
"A few years, a bit after he got the cyber-imp to go out and research for him. They agreed," he said with a small shrug. "I asked because I didn't think it was fully ethical."
At the next red light, Lupin turned to look at him. "Anything else like that we should know about?"
"He said he found a succubus already on there. That's what gave him the idea. Apparently she likes to come over and play with the puppy every once in a while." He shrugged again. "Green light going to yellow."
Lupin turned back around and sped through the yellow light. This was something else he didn't know about Xander. "Did he do the work on his own?"
"No, his empire has this techno-wizard hacker in its employ," he offered. "Mom said he called to warn the guy about the succubus to see if they should ward the system somehow. The guy got really excited, asked Xander if he could ask an imp if it would consent to doing the same thing. One of his did consent so the guy did something to turn it into a program that was still an imp. Mom uses him for research. Mom's got good taste in employees."
"Son, did you use these demons?"
"I asked first," he admitted, looking at his father. "I used the imp to help with a research paper. I was having trouble finding where a source was so it found an online version of the book I needed. Mom assured me there was no taint from using it. I even had Marcus pass on a theoretical question to a priest who works with the Watchers to make sure of it. I'm guessing he thought it was a hypothetical or just a mundane evil in some ways. He still said it wouldn't be considered consorting and that I wasn't going to be tainted. The vampires last year were probably worse for me, dad." He opened his book again.
"Vampires?" Jigen asked.
"Didn't Melissa tell you about that?" he asked, looking at his head-shaking uncle. "Huh. She was supposed to. One came up to us in the club we liked in Venice and tried to compel us to go with him. Arsene nearly went but Melissa and I got him off her and out of harm's way while Lotus took care of him in a debate of wills. He's very sorry he went against sister." He went back to his reading.
His father snatched the book from his hand and put it onto the seat with a slap. "What did she do?"
"What a good guardian witch was supposed to, father, she drove him off after making him cry. Not many things on this plane are as stubborn as my sister when she wants to be."
"She did not kill it?" Goemon demanded. He shook his head. "Why not, son?"
"Because he was really old and it would have made his minions, who were all around us, attack. We didn't have any stakes with us and Melissa didn't have a wooden bullet either." He looked his father in the eyes. "Would you rather we had taken on an overwhelming force with only two swords among us and many innocents in the way?"
"No, son, I wish you did not have to know about such things," he said grimly.
"It's a good thing we did, or else we'd have to do this stuff at night all the time," he said dryly. "Our first instinct would have been to turn or take out the family, starting with Mom, who we can't beat."
"He wouldn't fight you," Jigen reminded him.
"Yeah, so we'd have turned him since he knows so much and he would have made sure we had a comfortable hiding spot and things, and then we would have turned the rest of you because he would have been miserable." He grinned. "The kids we'd have kept until they were older and then turned." Goemon shuddered so Ishi patted him on the arm. "That's why mom taught us, daddy. So we wouldn't have to turn you into a nasty vampire samurai. We have a very realistic view of that part of the world, father. It saves lives and we've even gotten to help a slayer who was in training on the assassin's track at the academy." Jigen moaned. "Her mother decided it was more practical for her. Lotus worked with her a few times on the different types of demons and things. We guarded her when she went for a few practice hunts as well."
"Did no one stop you to ask why?" Jigen demanded.
"The range teacher told us he didn't want to know why we were unloading silver and wooden bullets one morning," he admitted. "Nothing further. We left him some in case something happens and he needed them," he offered at the renewed groaning from the adults.
Lupin clicked on the radio, pulling up the microphone to his mouth. "Daughter, do not play with slayers or vampires ever again," he said calmly. He let the button go.
"But, dad, we did okay," Arsene complained back.
"Daughter, do not play with slayers or vampires ever again," he repeated more firmly.
Jigen took the microphone from him, cutting off her whine. "We don't care. You only deal with them to save your asses. You do not play with demons just to be playing with demons. That includes the ones on the internet." He put the microphone back.
"Can we bring back the arranged marriage punishment for that?" Lupin asked. Jigen shook his head. "Why not?" he asked tiredly.
"Because Lotus has to now," Ishi reminded him.
"You don't," Jigen and Goemon said in unison.
"Fine. Next time we'll let your daughter be taken and eaten. Arsene would make one kick ass vampire."
"That is the only acceptable reason to fight them, son," Goemon said patiently. "To save yourself and the others. You are not a slayer, a watcher, Marcus, or Xander. Therefore you may not fight the dark that way, son."
"Thank you, son. Now, tonight I will expect you to meditate on why the rest of us will be having nightmares. You may start on the plane." They pulled into the airport and he got out first, heading for the plane to talk to his daughter, who was on there already. "Daughter," he said firmly. "You are not a slayer, a watcher, Marcus, or Xander. I will not allow you to fight demons that way. I do not care what the other witches have told you, you are not Xander."
"Yes, daddy," she said, grinning up at him. "We don't have to do it often."
"You do not have to do it at all except to save yourselves," he ordered. "You will also be meditating on why we will be having nightmares tonight about your nocturnal activities."
"We haven't gone out at night in months," Arsene told him.
"Hush." He glared at her. "Do not be taken by a vampire. Your father would whine for years."
"I'd turn him," she defended.
"Hush!" he said more sharply. "Do not force us to hunt you once you become an ungodly creature of the night! It would destroy both your parents and is not allowed! Or else we will have to do something horrible and marry you off to someone, like a priest."
"Yes, Uncle Goemon," she said patiently, staring up at him, blinking a few times. "Do you feel better now that you've ranted a bit?"
"Arsene," Lupin warned before those two could start a real fight. "I agree, no more dealing with the undead or anything else that could be considered demonic. Unless you are killing them to get yourselves free, you are not to go near them. Not even your mother's demonic helpers online." He sat down and buckled himself into his seat. "Let's get this show on the road, people. Before we have to rescue Melissa from some Feds."
Jigen got everything loaded and shut the door behind him, locking it and checking it a few times. "We're secure," he called. No answer from the cockpit so he walked up there to start the engines for them. "Could use a copilot."
"I'm coming," Ishi agreed, going up there to help him. "Does this mean we can't use them if Mom figures out the flying broom trick from Harry Potter?"
"No, you can't," he said firmly. "No magic, nothing like magic, not even a stage magic show, kid. I don't care what it is, there's no magic at the house. Even your sister's."
"Fine," he said, pouting a bit. "I just wanted to fly. I like flying."
"Good, start the starboard engines and let's get going then. This is as close as you're getting."
"Yes, Uncle Jigen." He sat down to do his part, calling the tower as well. Their pilot came jogging out, being let in by Lupin the Fourth. She dislodged Jigen and got them started, heading down the runway to the US. "He's mean," he shared as they took off. "He won't let us have flying brooms if someone figures it out." She gave him a sideways look. "I'd probably play quidditch very well," he defended. "I'm usually good at sports."
"If you say so, kid. Which one are you again?"
"Oh, so you're Xander's son?"
"Goemon's. He's just my favorite teacher," he admitted with a grin. She patted him on the shoulder. "What's that for?"
"For the warping you've probably went through, kid. Xander's a bit odd to the rest of us."
"Yeah, but we love him anyway."
"Good. He could probably use some gentle persuasion now and then. It'll make him more normal." She made the first course correction and they climbed a bit higher on orders from the tower.
Melissa looked up as her escorts came off the plane, giving them a small smile. "I see you made it well enough. I heard you getting sick while we were landing. Am I driving you back?"
"If you wouldn't mind," the man agreed. Melissa shrugged and repacked her jacket into her bag, heading for the rental counter. "You are quite wealthy?"
Melissa smirked at him. "I'm a thief, sir. I've been a thief for a very long time." She got into line, smiling at the woman once she got up there, taking out her license and card. "Jigen."
"Yes, ma'am," she said, typing into the computer. "Can you spell that please?"
"J I G E N. Melissa."
"Ah, there you are. There's a second one in here and a note attached to your file." She read it and looked at her. "Ma'am, according to this note, your accounts were frozen due to your father?" She printed it and handed it over.
Melissa read it and snorted. "Whatever. I've got cash and another card they don't know about," she offered, digging that one out and handing it over. "There, try that one." The woman ran it and smiled. "It went?" She nodded, printing out the forms for her to sign. "Insurance, always a yes," she noted, checking that box. "Just in case."
"It is always a good idea, yes," she agreed, smiling at the people with her. "Family?"
"Kinda. I'm going to see my grandparents and they live with them so I'm giving them a ride." She handed back the forms, taking the keys. "Thanks, dear." She winked and strolled off, leaving a blushing woman behind her. "It's a good thing I wanted a sedan."
"Yeah, I have been since I was ten," she admitted, smiling at the male of the pair. "Don't worry, I'm very good and very careful. I was taught in good and bad traffic, plus on rural roads. I drive with my group at least half the time since it's my car."
"What do you drive at home?" the woman asked.
"An older edition Fiat me and mom put together. We put on neat stuff, like a missile system." The guard at the baggage check had heard her, he was giving her an odd look. "It's a hobby of mine and my mom's."
"It's not here, right?" he asked.
"No, it's back in France."
"Oh, good," he said happily. "Want help out to your rental, ma'am?"
"No thanks. I've got it. I don't pack much." She grabbed her two bags and headed out with them, going to the rental's parking lot. She held up her keys for the attendant. "Sedan?"
"This way, ma'am," he said respectfully, leading her to the car. "Here you go." He took the keys, popping the trunk for her. "Have a nice stay in Utah, Misses Jigen."
"Thank you, dear." She smiled and patted him on the face. "I'm visiting some relatives I've never seen before. I should be back in a few days." She winked at him, and he swallowed. "Maybe then." She got in to drive, closing the door and buckling up to prove she was careful to those in the car with her. "Right or left from the airport?"
"Left," the man said. "I can drive us."
"Fat chance. I've had a bit too many kidnaping issues recently. Like mom says, there's some months that are marked 'kidnap Xander' months and some that are 'kidnap Melissa' ones. I just recently got rescued from China from a group who wanted to make a hellmouth machine. Mom was not happy."
"You call him mother?"
"He gave birth to me, so yeah," she admitted. "See, there's a few things you don't know since he left Sunnydale. Like the fact that his torture was at the hands of demons and he was sent there by some friends. Including Willow." They hissed, shaking their heads. They had heard of her in their teachings. "There's also the fact that mom came into contact with a very powerful artifact of Janus that allows him to change genders. So yeah, he had a few of us."
"We need to call the elder, tell them you are coming," the female said quietly. She tossed back her cellphone. "What is this?"
"A satellite phone. Useable anywhere. I find them very nice when I'm traveling and alone."
"You use such technologies?"
"Yeah, mom got it for me," she said dryly. "It helps when you're keeping in contact with your team."
"Do you hunt demons too?" the woman asked.
Melissa snickered. "No, honey, and neither does mom most of the time. Mom's a thief now."
"A thief?" the man asked. Melissa nodded, taking the corner gently. "Why?"
"Because after he got back from Hell and the tortures he endured, he went to Daddy Jigen, who took him in and taught him. Lavelle is very good at what he does."
"Lavelle?" the woman gasped.
"That's mom." She pointed at the camp on their right. "There?" The man nodded. "Cool. Shorter trip than I thought." She pulled them into the gates and looked at the guard stopping them. "I thought I'd bring them back when I came to see my grandparents. My name is Melissa Jigen-Harris, daughter of Xander Harris." The guard backed away. "Daddy was most upset with this and he sent me to talk to them."
"Can you prove you are who you say you are?" the guard asked.
Melissa pulled out her real birth certificate and held it up. Then she opened her wallet and held up the last family photo. "Good enough?"
"Yes, ma'am. I will lead you to your grandparents. Please park in the blue spot."
"That's fine." She pulled through the second gate and got out, opening the back door for the couple. She took back her phone. "There you go, safe and sound," she said with a smile. She checked the seat before putting up the sun shades and heading after the guard. She walked into the tent, standing at parade rest while he whispered in the old man's ear. He stared at her so she smirked at him. "Yeah, it's me. I'm one of his eldest set of twins."
"My son has children?"
"Your son is a lot different than you perceive," Melissa told him. "He's nearly laughing his ass off right now." She walked in and put down the photo of the family in 'working attire'. The woman gasped. "That's right, your son goes by the name of Lavelle now." She pulled out a chair and sat in it the wrong way, resting her arms and chin on the back. "So, we should talk. You're upsetting mom."
"You call him mother?" the woman asked. Melissa pulled out another picture, this time of Sylvia, and put it beside the other one. She looked at the woman, noticing some of the same features. "We had no daughter."
"That choker is consecrated to Janus. It changes gender."
"Bull," the older man said.
Melissa looked at him, staring him down. He shivered. "I'm told often that I look just like my mother," she said calmly. "You can easily tell him in me. We can even do a genetics test if you want." They shook their heads. "Then you should know many things. This is upsetting mother to no end. He started out giggling then got very upset with you two. He ordered me not to come but as you can see I'm very stubborn. I'm one of the older set of twins. The other is a cop, against mother's wishes. Mother is a thief and an assassin. He only takes on demons when forced to. He works with slayers when he has to, and he works with my little sister Alex, who is going to be doing the same thing he used to be some day, after her first child is born." They moaned. "The next set is a thief and the thieve's ambassador to the kitsune. Mom still has friends among some of the nature demons and the like. He also uses the demonic library for research. He's running a plastic wizardry office in LA." She shifted some.
"I'm here to clear up some misconceptions and to ask you politely to quit. You're upsetting mother and he doesn't need this. He's just recently remarried his husbands. He's also recently put aside the chokers for the next generation. This fighting and stuff you've got here is nice and all, but I doubt you could stand against a vampire. I have. I will again some day. I've faced down demons that were much bigger and stronger than I am. I'm also much smarter than quite a few people who hunt demons. One of our nannies was almost a watcher." They shivered. "Now, we need to talk about this group of happy people. Mother does not want it to keep going. You're not only embarrassing him, but you're endangering all our lives and the lives of the people he works with in other, more legal, communities. Even the cops are laughing at him for this." They both frowned. "I personally don't want it to ruin my reputation either, but I'm more known to be my father's daughter. I got my daddy's gun arm and mom's brains." They nodded, smirking at her. "Which is a lot more than either of you gave him credit for," she said dryly. "By the way, he did tell me what growing up was like. Feel lucky I'm not proving who I am at the end of a muzzle."
"What we did made him stronger."
"Really?" she asked dryly. "Stronger how? Stronger than most normal people because he didn't believe anyone could love him? Stronger than most people because he nearly ran from love when it was offered because he didn't understand the concept. Stronger than most people because he didn't understand the difference between criticism and people telling him he was doing good? Uncle Goemon had to work for months for Xander to believe that he was doing well in his martial arts studies. Mom still hates to do anything in front of others because he hates having people watch him while he's learning anything. Something about that smacks of lack of praise."
"How would you know anything about raising a child?"
"Easy, I helped raise the younger set," she said blandly. "Mom's the best parent in the world. He's bent over backwards for us, even the ones who wanted to be cops. It doesn't negate the fact that you nearly ruined him to ever feeling loved and wanted or appreciated. Mom tried to run quite a few times because he couldn't understand what a normal relationship was like and how sometimes couples have to fight to settle things better." Her grandmother gasped. "So yeah, you may have strengthened him, but what you really did was weaken him into someone who never complained about his injuries. He got about two hands-width of his back dished out by a hunter while protecting another person he had saved from Hell when he brought me and Ishi down there to protect us in China. He never complained about it because he didn't think that's what was supposed to happen. Even after so long he still doesn't believe that his men will stick up for him and help him through those things. I've got to lay that at your doorstep, people. You nearly ruined him. He could have given up, easily. Unfortunately the demon kept bringing him back."
They shuddered and clutched hands. "Now, as I said earlier, you've got not a clue who your son is. Not who he was when he was younger, not who he is now," she said with a light sneer. "You have no idea what you did to him and how much you harmed him while trying to make him stronger. You have no idea how much harm you're doing to him now by doing this shit to him this way. The fact that some cops are laughing at him says something to me. Especially since the ones laughing are actually friends of his. There's a reason Lavelle will never be caught, that's because of who he had to become in defense due to your treatment and trying to make him stronger. Even though I probably screwed things up so badly earlier by letting something of mine fall into the wrong hands, he'll still love me. He won't do more than yell for a few minutes. Unlike what you used to do to him." She stood up. "I've seen the scars that predated his time in hell. I can probably tell you what caused each one. He won't confirm it though, he wanted to keep that stuff from us. We're damn lucky mom's gotten over what you did to him to become a super parent." She stared at them. "With that said, your son wants you to stop using his name. Use someone else's or dissolve. He doesn't much care, but if you don't he'll have no choice but to file a cease and desist order in court. Since he's got lawyers out the ass who'll do it for him, I'm not worried about you being eaten alive."
"You can't stop us."
"You're using your son's name in vain, people. He wants you to stop. He's sick and tired of it and as far as I'm concerned, you're about the same as demons. I have no qualms dealing with you for him. He might, but I'll only be grounded." The old man pulled a knife and she pulled her weapon, stunning them both silent and open-mouthed. "Yeah, I'm like mom there too. Mom is a marksman."
"Put it down," a guard ordered.
"Bite me," she said, shooting him in the thigh. She looked at her grandparents. "As far as I'm concerned, you're annoyances on the flea of the world. Your son said stop it. He meant it. I mean it. Your choice. You can turn into a suicide cult if you want. I'm sure you'll be in hell long after he is. But hey, after his torture, he earned his own section." She cocked the gun again when the man twitched. "Do it," she offered with the smirk. "There's no Jigen you're going to get past with that thing. As someone in a movie said, that's not a knife." She pulled the one off her back and held it up. "That's a knife, blessed even." They got up and backed away from her. "What's it going to be people?"
"You're not our granddaughter. You're a demon."
"No, I'm not. You see, I made my choices. I know what the life is like and how I've got to be. You're annoying pricks who're hiding from reality by doing this and allowing others to do the same. You want to do something useful for the world, help those who have suffered and are still suffering, don't make them suffer more by telling them it's nothing compared to a night in hell. That's cruel and hell is different for everybody."
Jigen walked in. "Put it down, Melissa," he ordered quietly.
"They don't deserve to live, dad."
"Yay. Your mother's going to kick your ass good this time, especially over you making him put an emergency plan into action." She groaned. "Now, put it away." She sighed and put it up. "Thank you."
"Who are you?"
"One of your son-in-law's. The other's out by the car." He looked at them. "Xander must get his good looks from another family member." He glared at his daughter. "Outside, now, young lady."
"Now!" he snapped.
"Yes, dad." She glared at them. "Remember me, I'll be back if you don't stop besmirching mom's name. If you don't believe me, ask someone in Zenigata's unit in Interpol." She walked out, grimacing at her uncles. "I had it!"
"Shut up, get in the car, and do not say another word until we are out of this country, young lady," Lupin warned. She opened her mouth. "I don't want to hear it."
"Yes, sir," she muttered, getting into the back of the car he was leaning against. "What about mine?"
"We've got your shit. The car can be taken back by someone else," he said bitterly. "Your mother's going to crap bricks!"
"Mom would understand why I had to do this! He did when I went to Chicago."
"Shut up," Ishi warned from beside her. "Change places with me. Dad's mad since he hadn't heard about the vampire in the clubs. Expect to be swatted."
"I'm doing what I should!" she complained.
"Hush!" Goemon ordered as he opened the door. "Son, change with her."
"Yes, father." He changed places with her, giving her a sideways look once he was settled again. "Mom's hellhound was released onto the internet."
"Wonderful. I'm sorry the cop got my laptop. It was a rookie mistake," she agreed. "I'll be apologizing for weeks."
"And then some," Lupin agreed as he got in. He grabbed the keys and tossed them at Goemon. "I'll be right back," he noted, heading in to talk to his adoring in-laws. He had wanted to have a few choice words with them for a few years now. No one should be able to treat Xander the way they had.
Goemon settled himself in his seat, closing and locking his door. "We shall wait."
"Can you at least turn on the air conditioner, father?" Ishi asked.
"No, son. You must learn to withstand heat."
"Father, I refuse to live in the desert," he said dryly. "I hate sand as much as either cop does. Please turn on the air conditioner before I'm forced to do something odd, like take the keys and do it myself."
"Son," Goemon said patiently. "Behave. You can live with it for a few more minutes."
Ishi looked at his father for a moment, locking eyes with him. "Father, do you really believe those two have so very little to say to Mother's parents?" he asked calmly. "Unless they're already dead, it's not going to be under an hour."
"I hadn't thought of that," he admitted. "Don't run it all the time," he ordered, handing over the keys. "Keep her here." He got out and went inside to have a few words of his own. Xander was still like his own child some days, especially when he was being stubborn. It was time those parents learned what real parents were like. Even if he had to enlighten them right before they died. He found Jigen as near to yelling as he ever got and cleared his throat. "Perhaps they should hear about how long it took us to get Xander to accept anyone watching him work out because he was worried about how we would see his trials."
"We've already went over that," Lupin said grimly. "They still think they did a wonderful job."
"Hmm." Goemon looked at them. "Xander, would you like to say something to your parents before they die? Your daughter nearly killed them," he called softly, knowing if Xander had that spell turned on he didn't need to shout.
Xander appeared ten minutes later, dressed in an impeccably tailored suit. His silver hair was loose over his shoulders. His sword was in his hand. He bowed to Goemon. "Where's my daughter?"
"In the car with my son."
"Good. We can strap her to the roof on the way back to the airport." He glared at the couple at the table, making them gasp. "Get over it," he sneered. "There's been many times in the past when I wanted to change my name due to you and your interference."
"But, son," his father offered gently, sounding like he was pleading.
"You lost that right a very long time ago, old man. Husbands, we should go before they accidentally die."
"We should," Lupin agreed, staring him down. "Did you want some closure?"
"No. I don't have parents. I'm not a parent like them and I'm damn sure never going to become one. I'm not a drunk. I'm not a cultist. I'm not an abusive father or mother. I'm not pushing my kids to be harmed so they can supposedly get stronger. I'm not going to do anything like them. I refuse."
Goemon gave him a gentle hug. "I'm proud of the father you are."
"Goemon, if you keep that up, we're going to have to call you our father-in-law," Jigen said dryly. He glared at the couple again. "So, now you've heard it from his mouth. Quit your shit and get over it. You sucked as parents. You sucked so badly in his life that he withstood hell. That's not making him stronger, that's bad parenting. I hope your God sees you for the pieces of crap you are." He turned and left.
Lupin looked at them. "You nearly ruined him," he told them. "Fortunately we got there in time to rescue him from a lonesome life of depression, lack of affection, and dying at the hands of someone like you. We were damn lucky we took the time to get to know him. Too bad you never did." He'd had his say while Jigen was ranting, and had even hit Xander's father once. He was better now. He looked at Goemon, then at Xander, pulling him in for a kiss. "You can take mine or Jigen's name," he promised with a gentle smile for him. "Just don't get officially adopted by Goemon, it'd screw with the group." Xander grinned at him, a happy, content smile. So he kissed him again, making Xander moan and cling to his body. "Are you coming with us or do you have to manage more of Melissa's disaster?"
"No, it's handled," he whispered. "Bastian did the final thing I had forgotten about." He grinned at Goemon. "How many cars do we have?"
"Not enough," Goemon admitted. "Your daughter can ride in the trunk if necessary."
"She's got a rental," Lupin offered.
Xander beamed and walked him out. Someone bowed to them and he sneered. "I'm not like they said, little man. I'm Lavelle now. I'm a world class thief and assassin. My parents have not a clue who I really am. This is all so much shit. Get with reality. If you really want to fight demons, go to where I was working in LA. They'll need the help someday." He walked Lupin on, taking the rental's keys from Jigen's hand. "You okay?"
"I'm fine. You?" He pulled him closer to give him a gentle kiss, earning him a goofy grin in return. "You okay?"
"I'm fine. Let's get the rental too."
"Sure, Xander," Jigen agreed. "Who do you want with you? We need an adult with each car."
"I can drive this one," Ishi offered, rolling down the windows. "Dad can ride with us. Fujiko is in the other car nagging Arsene to not drive like she's in a race. She just called for some sanity and someone else to drive since she said she can't fit behind the steering wheel."
"Tell me about it," Xander said dryly. "I spent a lot of time on the bike since I couldn't fit behind the steering wheel with the girls," he said with a smirk. He heard a cleared throat and turned, frowning at the young man standing there. "Yeah?"
"Great One, how did you have children?" he asked, looking at the ground. "Your parents have said that being gay is wrong, but if you are a Messenger of Hope, then it can't be. Correct?"
Xander tipped the boy's face up. "I had the kids because I was stuck with an artifact that made me female. I had five kids. They hurt," he said dryly. "Being gay is not wrong. I've got two husbands and sometimes they're so worn out they don't know what to do with me. Be whatever you want to be, just don't follow the stupidity that my parents have put down. They're wrong about who I am. I survived. That's who I was. Now I'm Lavelle and a loving and caring father and husband."
The man smiled at him. "Thank you, Messenger. Your message is very strong and shall be passed on to the others. For those who wish to fight the dark as you did, where should they go once your parents are gone?"
"LA. There's a place called Angel Investigations. Go see Fred."
The man nodded. "Thank you, Great One. I wish you many years of happiness now that your trials are over with. May you prosper and grow gentler in your old age because you no longer have to fight." He bowed and walked off to tell the others. Starting with those who were kneeling just out of reach of the group.
"They are?" Xander asked.
"Yeah, Xander, they are," Lupin promised, giving him another kiss. "No more trials for the Xander."
"Yeah, kid. No more bad things. Except how you get to tell Ray that he lost all his pictures of Bix on his computer."
"Nah, the hellhound wouldn't eat graphics files. It nearly died after eating a holy picture." He looked at the others. "Let's load up and head out!" he called. He looked over as Goemon came out, looking calm. "Did you leave them living?"
"No," he said with a shrug. "They were not worthy of my blade, but deserving of it." He got into the passenger's seat. "Let us go, son."
"Yes, father." He backed out.
Xander looked at his mates. "Shotgun!" He jogged for the rental car.
Lupin laughed as he followed. "That fine with you, Jigen?"
"Hey, he can sit in my lap," he said smugly, following them. "Bench seats anyway," he offered, getting in and shoving Xander into the middle. "There, much better now."
"Fine, but I get to pick the radio station," Xander said in a mock pout, bending down to fiddle with the dial until he found an oldies station he liked. Lupin started the car and pulled out, heading for the airport. On the way they passed another car with some familiar people. "Hey, it's Pops," he said, looking back at them. "I wonder which Fed called them in."
Jigen forced him to turn around. "Now that you're freer, can we see the other warehouses and see what else the empire holds? I want to hold court for a few days."
"Sure," Xander agreed, snuggling in-between his two men. He was comfortable.
The End. End of Series?