DISCLAIMER: Well, just in case you didn't realize it, I don't own Lupin the Third. All others? Ohhh yeah… Well, except Jordan. I share custody of him (shrugs) I'm a part-time mom to him. Him and a couple others… Listen, it's complicated, okay?
Ah, welcome once again, and thanks always for your support!
New series as promised, yay! Yup, I really think I just needed a change of scenery, more than anything, to get my motivation in gear! And, well, it's working, I'll tell you that much. I hope you guys like this as much as you've liked the other parts, and thanks for tuning in to yet another portion of what's now turned into the Lupin IV saga. Please enjoy and let me know what you think. Thanks!
Fun Fact of Boredom: I was originally going to start this series around the 22nd (Or 24th, or something… I dunno, I'm as bad as a typical boyfriend on an NBC sitcom with anniversaries), which'll be my 3rd year anniversary of writing this series… So that's my, what, silver anniversary, or something? But I just couldn't wait that long! So, maybe I'll just do something special then, considering how important the number three is in this series.
Chapter One: Born to Move
"Another of the same, señora?" the bartender glanced over to the gray-suited figure, who only shook her head and sat up tiredly, brushing away some of her shoulder-length hair.
"Nah… And it's señorita, Paulo," she muttered, setting aside her glass and standing from the couch. "I've got to go see my daughter…"
"Ah, yes, pardon me," said Paulo the bartender with a nod. "Say hello to little Saiyuri for me, Miss Yukiko."
"You got it. Oh, and put my drinks on my boss's tab," Yukiko muttered and slunk out of the bar, her hands in her pockets. She walked into a nearby alleyway, and sighed as she heard footsteps behind her. She removed a cigarette from her pack and gave a small chuckle to the several young men surrounding her. "You really think you're gonna beat me, huh? You really that intent on getting to your graves so fast?"
"Shut up and draw, you old bitch!" shouted one of the Spanish men with a smile.
"Buddy, you can call me a bitch all you want… But 'old' is just asking for trouble," Yukiko flicked the cigarette out of her mouth and smashed it to the ground, holding out her hand and preparing herself to draw.
The group of five drew out their guns, and before they could even attempt to fire, they held their hands with the pain of having the weapons shot out of their hands.
"Get the hell out of here, stop fighting people who could be your mother!" Yukiko shouted as the men looked to her with stunned surprise. She blew off the smoke of her gun and placed it back in her holster, and laughed as they took off running. "Go on, run home! And let me get back to my damn life…"
"Not so fast…. You ready for a wager?"
"What? Who in the hell are you?" Yukiko looked over her shoulder to a stocky figure atop a motorcycle, who had an automatic aimed to her. His face was completely covered by a helmet, and he wore a heavy jacket in addition to leather gloves and tight pants and Harley boots. "Jesus… One of those days… What in the hell do you want?"
"Just a draw…" said the person sitting atop the motorcycle. They dismounted, and approached Yukiko. "You know, you're kind of cute.."
"Save it—I ain't looking for anyone right now," snapped Yukiko. "What's in it for me?"
"You win, I give you three-hundred thousand, American."
"That's a sum that says you ain't playing around… What's in it for me if I lose?"
"You run a job for me," answered the helmeted-figure. "No questions ask."
"If it involves anything—"
"Nothing like that," the figure held up a hand and chuckled. "I don't think you'd like what I have, anyway. So what do you say? One bullet? I get it in your hat, you lose, you hit my helmet, I lose?"
"I hit your helmet you're dead."
"Oh, I don't think you will, Yukiko-san."
"How did you—"
Before she could finish her sentence, a shot was fired, and a gray fedora went flying into the air. The person in the helmet smiled as Yukiko bent down to retrieve her fedora, and grumbled, "Looks like you won… Now who may I ask do I owe thepleasure of this defeat to?"
Yukiko was in the midst of placing another cigarette in her mouth, but the cigarette soon found its place in her windpipe as her new 'boss' removed their helmet, revealing a head of long, wavy blackhair and a smile that could only belong to a Lupin, or, more precisely, Fuji Lupin.
"Yukiko-san?" Fuji bent over as Yukiko continued to choke, finally downing the cigarette and looking up to Fuji with shock. "Surprise!"
"I'm gonna kill you!" Yukiko choked and lunger for Fuji, who ducked out of the way quickly. "Ugh… That tasted awful! What in the hell are you doing here, anyway?"
"I thought I'd get the best gunwoman in the world to give me a hand with a little endeavor," answered Fuji with a shrug, adjusting a backpack that Yukiko only now noticed. "Now what's with the costume change, eh? Finally figure out that white clashes with an olive skin tone?"
"Ain't any of your business," muttered Yukiko, tilting her fedora to a side. "Where've you been, Fuji?"
"Yukiko, it's a long story…" answered Fuji with a smirk. "How about we talk about it on the plane ride to New York, eh? That's where you were going, right? Well, I have a private plane."
"Good, 'cause the last thing I wanna deal with is screaming kids…"
"Now, that I'm not sure I can do anything about…."
"Another long story—Well, needless to say we're going to have a ton to talk about on the flight home."
"Hey… Come on, sleepyhead…" Leo sat up in bed as the alarm went off and shook Max, who only grumbled and waved away Lupin. Leo gave a small chuckle and kissed him atop the head. "Come on…. The kids aren't up, yet…"
"Really, now?" Max raised an eyebrow as he looked over to Leo, and slowly sat up beside him. He reached forward and sighed as he brushed Leo's hair out fromhis husband'seyes. "When are you gonna let me give you a haircut?"
"Later," Leo answered, and leaned against him. "You have another doctor's appointment today. And we've got lunch with Myra and Nina."
"Jeeze, again? You know, I'm starting to think they see me unclothed more than you do," Max moaned and reached to the nightstand, grabbing a metal crutch and after a few attempts standing, looking over his shoulder to Leo.
"I wouldn't doubt it," Leo stood and walked around to Max, placing a hand on his partner's back. "How's it feel?"
"Mm, metal plates in my spine? Fantastic," Max answered sarcastically. "I think everyone should get a surgery like this!"
"You'll be fine in no time," Leo sighed and pulled on his kimono, and not a moment too soon. There was the sound of the door opening, and Avery waddled in and motioned for his father to lift him up.
'Hungry,' he signed, and Leo looked to Max with small smile, and carried the little boy down the hall of the house with a tiredMax following behind on his crutch.
Dako was already in the kitchen, stirring batter for pancakes, and Max smiled and ruffled her hair on his way to the fridge, "Thanks, kid.."
"I'm not a kid," Dako sighed and placed several spoonfuls of the batter onto the griddle in front of her, and tilted her head to a side. "Someone had to learn how to cook around here other than you."
"My apologies for being laid up in the hospital for months," Max smirked and opened the refrigerator. "Besides, a few more years and you'll be even better than me. Where's Jared?"
"Sleeping in, I think," Dako shrugged. "That or on the phone with his girlfriend."
Max made the motion of shooting himself in the head at the mention of Jared's girlfriend, and Leo only gave a chuckle and set Avery on the ground, 'Go sit down for breakfast.'
'Yeah! I'm really hungry!' Avery smiled widely and was soon off for the dining room while Max removed the carton of orange juice from the fridge and was in the process of drinking from it when Dako reached over and nudged him with a glass.
"Learn to drink out of a glass like a human," Dako sighed and set the glass on the counter beside Max. "So going to see your doctor again?"
"Yes," Max muttered and poured himself a glass, shutting the refrigerator door and leaning against the counter. "Against my will, as usual."
"Well, you know it's what's best for you."
"I know, and that's what pisses me off the most," Max sighed and set down the now-empty glass. "Well, I'm gonna go get dressed and head out… Papa's going to be looking after you guys."
"Ugh, I'm not a baby," Dako groaned. "Come on, eat something before you go, Dad."
"I'll be fine, I had juice," Max embraced her and then slowly began the trek back up the stairs to his bedroom, and fell back onto the bed, rubbing his sore back.
"You need some help?" Leo stuck his head in the doorway, and Max shook his head and attempted to sit up from the bed. "Come on, let me give you a hand."
"I'm fine!" Max snapped, and sighed after a moment, placing a hand over his forehead. "…I'm sorry. Listen, I…."
"Here. Which jacket do you want?" Leo stepped over to the closet and pulled open the door, but soon there was the noise of a helicopter, and both turned toward the bedroom window.
"…The hell?" Max muttered and stood up, and walked over to the window, Leo rested a hand upon his shoulder as they watched a helicopter lower itself to their front window.
"Did you miss me? I'm back… Love, Lupin the Fourth—FUJI!" Leo shouted with a laugh as he read the banner hanging down from the helicopter's legs. "FUJI! Max, she's back, Max, she—Max?"
There was the sound of a great tumbling all of a sudden, and Dako gave a groan, "Pop, Dad fell down the stairs again!"
"Jesus… Max!" Leo called and hurried down the stairs to find Dako attempting to pull up her other father back into his crutch.
"She's back… We get to go chase her again," Max said, barely able to hide his excitement
"Max, no," Leo sighed. "You're hurt! AndI don't want you getting even more hurt than you already are!"
"Quit treating me like a cripple," Max adjusted himself in his crutch, and then started back up the stairs. "I've been waiting for this for over a year now. She's gonna hit something, and you know what, we're gonna be there, both of us."
"Oh, boy… Here we go again. I'll go get Jared," Dako sighed and climbed up to her stepbrother's room.
New York City, New York:
"Start spreading the news… I'm leavin' today… I got to be a part of it…."
"New York, New York!"
"Great, Saiyuri!" Toshiro lifted up his small daughter and laughed along with her, tossing her in the air, catching her once again and spinning her about. "Guess who's coming today?"
"Who, Daddy?" Saiyuri laughed and nudged her father.
"Well… What if I told you Mommy was coming, huh?"
"Mommy!" Saiyuri clasped her hands together and gasped happily, and Toshiro simply nodded and brushed her hair back, and looked up toward the front door as he heard it unlocking. He stood to his full length, drawfing his daughter, and stood still in place as Yukiko walked into the house, while Saiyuri squealed and ran into Yukiko's arms.
"Hey, sweetie!" Yukiko smiled and embraced the young girl tightly, kissing her on the forehead and then looking over to Toshiro, who simply looked away from her. "Hey… New haircolor?"
"I stopped dyeing it months ago," Toshiro muttered, noting his now gray hair in the mirror and then taking several steps forward. "Ever since Hicks won American Idol, it's been en vogue."
"Heh… Hey, why don't you show me those fingerpaintings Daddy told me about?" Yukiko smiled down to the little girl, and Saiyuri's eyes immediately lit, and she hopped out of her mother's arms, and tugged Yukiko along to her room.
"She's getting big…"
"Yeah… The doctor's say she's gonna be like five and a half feet tall.—Wait! Fuji!" Toshiro yelped and stared at the busty Lupin a moment, his mouth gaping in shock. "What… What…?"
"I'm getting that a lot," Fuji smirked and shrugged. "Do you have anything to drink? I'm carrying quite a load…"
"S-sure! I… I need to call Heiji!"
"He's already on his way," Fuji waved to him flippantly and seated herself upon the couch, setting her backpack upon her lap and then smiling as she glanced into it. Toshiro raised an eyebrow, and was about to approach her when the doorbell sounded. Fuji gave a nervous smile and shifted her feet as she watched Toshiro head to the door, and Heiji walked through the doorway, stopping his conversation with his brother as he laid eyes upon Fuji. Heiji had lost even more weight in his year-long search for Fuji, and his once round face was beginning to show the sharp features which his older brother and father had both borne. Those same sharp features at that moment looked over Fuji with stunned silence.
"….Oh…. Oh my God…" Heiji gasped, and Fuji stood, the backpack still in her arms. It was then Toshiro noted what was so bizarre about it, mainly the light-green color and the Mankii-chan designs. The backpack then gave a wail, and the rest of the room fell silent.
"Shhh…. Sh, it's okay… I know, you need lunch…" Fuji whispered as she rocked the baby back and forth. She looked upward to Toshiro, and sighed, "Could you lead me to the kitchen? I don't have to worry about the others, as of yet… Just getting her something to eat."
"….It's a skirt…" Jordan blinked as he looked over the kimono, and moaned as he first put on the white kimono that laid upon his bed. "How in the hell did she talk me into this?"
"Because you love her," Jordan quickly drew the robe to a close as Amaya entered, a smile upon her face. "You're putting it on all wrong. Here, let me… My God, if I were only a little younger…"
"Hehe… You're not making this much easier for me," Jordan's face reddened, and he looked toward the ceiling of the traditional Japanese home while Amaya tied the belt to the white kimono and then the gray kimono over this.
"You'll look as wonderful as she does," said Amaya with a wide smile as she handed him the parted skirt for the outfit, and allowed him to put this on. "It's only a shame her brothers couldn't be here…"
"Well, Heiji's fallen off the face of the earth, and Toshiro's busy with Saiyuri… Because Yukiko's being an idiot."
"Spoken like a man scorned," Amaya laughed and helped him into the black jacket that went over the kimono, and then tossed him his socks and sandals. "So, have you two talked about a family?"
"We've got Namiko."
"I know, but… I want a few little short blonde children running about the house, too."
"They probably wouldn't be blonde…"
"You know what I mean," Amaya said with a smile. "Now, your parents are outside, as well, so let's not screw this up, all right?"
"Yeah… Or else Goemon'll have my head," Jordan gave a nervous chuckle and followed his soon-to-be mother-in-law out. He was led out to the small temple across the garden of the traditional home, and Namiko went to run for her stepfather, only to be gently pulled back and chided by Goemon. Jordan took a seat in front of Shinto priest, looking over the small crowd anxiously. Odori then walked down the center of the temple, in a completely white kimono, which included a traditional bonnet and thick makeup.
Namiko looked to her mother with awe, and watched as Odori took her place across from Jordan, a small smile upon her face as she looked across to him.
"You sure you wanna do this?" Jordan whispered.
"Yes," Odori nodded excitedly and smiled as the procession began.
"I hope they consider a Catholic ceremony, as well," said Peter as he sat with his other siblings on Jordan's side.
"Ah, would you give it up already?" Gabe sighed. "They said no about the first thirty times, man!"
"Would you two belt up already?" Alsenia snapped.
"Hey, where's Dad?" Chris whispered to his sister.
"I dunno, but Fujiko's looking a lit-tle perturbed about it, wouldn't you say?"
"Yeah, and she looks pissed," Gabe added.
Suddenly, the doors flew open and Lupin ran in, causing everyone in the room to jerk their heads up and Goemon to shoot a particularly icy glare toward Lupin, "They found Fuji! Fujicakes, haha, they found her!"
"Lupin…" Fujiko muttered uncomfortably as her husband embraced her and kissed her atop the forehead happily. "Lupin!"
"Dad!" Jordan shouted, and glanced to the ancient priest. "…You mind?"
"Well, she's got a baby!" Lupin said as he rose.
"She what!" Fujiko gasped and stood beside him.
"Say what, now?" Gabe blinked.
"Someone mated with her?" Odori said with a curled lip, and stood.
"…The hell? What are you do-ing?" Jordan asked through a feigned smile as he attempted to seat Odori once again.
"You know that Heiji must be grieving," Odori answered. "That's the reason why he didn't bother to show up for the wedding, it has to be! We may not get along, but at the end of the day we're still siblings, and he knows this as well as I do!"
"It was enough to work up the courage for me to come here, much less book everything four months in advance, and have to face months of jokes from my dad by wearing a freakin' skirt. You're not thinking about going to them, are you?"
"I have to," Odori stood, and handed the bonnet upon her head to the priest, who looked at it with curiosity. "I'm still in debt to Fuji, even after everything. And with a child I'll be even more needed. As a samurai I must protect her, and as someone who loves her I must make sure that she is all right."
"WOAH!" Gabe said in a disbelieving laugh, and looked to his siblings, nudging Chris. "Better than a bloody football match any day!"
"She didn't mean it like that, Gabriel!" Jordan shouted, and then dropped his voice as he looked down to Odori. "You didn't mean it like that, right?"
"I love her like I love all of my sisters, and she will be my sister," said Odori sternly. "If you come with me now, I promise you that I will marry you…. Just not today."
"Ngh…" Goemon clutched onto his chest, and Amaya gasped and immediately looked to him with worry.
"What is it, your heart?"
"I paid for it, and they're walking out," Goemon said in a mutter as he clutched even tighter to his chest.
"Ha! Been there! Welcome to my world!" Lupin called, and immediately reprimanded by Fujiko in the form of a light smack. "Ow! What?"
"You really want to do this?" asked Jordan, taking hold of her shoulders. Odori simply gave a nod, and he smirked, and patted her on the shoulder, turning to the small crowd. "Well, um… Thanks for coming out today, everybody, but you'll have to take a rain check… Hey, the good news is that there's a sushi bar in the house!"
"Come on, Namiko, we have a flight to catch," Odori took her daughter from her mother, and Amaya only gave a sigh to this and kissed Odori on the cheek.
"Have a good time…"
"Don't worry, we will," Odori answered, and exited the temple with Jordan while Goemon watched the duo, attempting to hold back a moan.
"Come on," Ally laughed as the infant briefly balanced upon his knees. "Come on… Aw, you did it!" the little boy giggled wildly as he fell back onto his father's lap, Ally still clutching onto his tiny hands. "Good boy…"
" Mr. Jigen, a letter for you," announced a maid, and Ally raised an eyebrow at this, and nodded as he took the envelope in one hand while he carried his son in his other arm down the hall and into the library, where Carmen sat looking over a packet of paperwork tirelessly.
"Hey, Mom," Ally smirked and Carmen took the baby in her arms after setting aside some of the newest set of bills that required her attention. "How goes the running everything bit?"
"Mm, do I really have to answer that?" she sighed and kissed the brown-haired and blue-eyed boy upon the top of the head. "Some of the silliest things… They're expecting me to read through four pages of paperwork stating why their should more art classes in schools. I have no teaching degree, Allen! If anything, I know more about hockey than I do school systems!"
"Now if only every other politician on earth had the guts to admit that," Ally chuckled and opened the letter while remaining in a corner of the library, and his eyes grew wide from beneath his shag haircut. His head shot up, and he approached Carmen quickly with an excited smile upon her face. "It—It's Fuji! She—She's back! Ha ha! That's terrific, isn't it!"
Carmen stopped work upon her paperwork a moment, the corners of her lips fell, and she gave an obligatory nod, "…Yes… I suppose so…."
"Hey, there," Ally seated himself upon the edge of the library couch and took her chin in one of his hands, "if… If you don't want me to go, I won't. I'll stay here with you and Dai…"
"No, I know how important this is to you," Carmen sighed and tilted her head downward. "You should go… She's one of your greatest friends, anyway, so it'd be wrong to keep you from seeing her."
"Positive," Carmen gave a tired smile as Ally kissed her deeply and then took his son in his arms again and tossed him into the air, catching him and laughing as he walked out of the library with Dai in his arms.
"So you're allowing him to go?" Carmen was caught off guard as she heard her mother from the doorway, and the young duchess tossed aside her list of potential bills and nodded.
"Well, it's either that or he's miserable, Mother. Sometimes you have to sacrifice for the happiness of those we love."
"…You know, sometimes I still think I would have made a better thief than to stay and do all of this paperwork," Clarisse approached her daughter and picked up the large block of papers, flipping through it and scanning over the pages. "But what can I say, I'm so very used to the paperwork, now…."
"Why do I have the feeling you're attempting to hint something to me?"
"You adore children, Carmen…. Let's face it, you hate politics," Clarisse sighed and sat beside her daughter. "And you're not exactly cut out for it, Dear..."
"…I still don't understand where you're going with this…"
"Well, there'll be Dai, as well as Saiyuri and Namiko… Last generation, it was Ming who mainly looked after the children while the others were out stealing a livelihood…"
"Are you saying that I could look after the children?"
"Mm… Just a thought, however."
"But… What about you? I mean, would you honestly be content with taking care of all of these things on your own?"
"Honestly I couldn't think of a worse fate than paperwork, and that includes marriage to the Count of Cagliostro—Not your father, the other one--But if it makes you happy… Sometimes we just have to sacrifice for those we love, correct?"
Carmen giggled, and embraced her mother about the neck, "Thank you, Mother! I—I'll let Allen know about this! I'm sure he'll be thrilled, wouldn't you think?"
"Well… He'll be… Speechless, I'm sure…"
Carmen gave a small chuckle and then stood, running up the stairs to hers and her husband's room and embracing him tightly about the neck. Ally immediately found this to be suspicious, and turned her around, puzzled by her happy expression.
"Never seen you so happy to see me leave… You aren't having an affair with the stable boy or somethin', are you?"
"He's older than my grandfather would be!" Carmen laughed. "No, I… I'm going with you this time, Allen."
"Well, I was talking to my mother, and I realized that I do have a purpose in your gang!"
"Yeah… And you have an even more important purpose running a country," Ally answered sternly, taking her by the shoulders.
"Mother already took care of it," Carmen shrugged and pulled out her suitcase from the top of her closet. "Hrm… Perhaps I should cut my hair again…"
"And have everyone think I'm cheating on you with a guy! It's bad enough they think Ari and I were bangin' brothers back in the day!"
"Well, better them to think that then for me to be seen as a thief…"
"Yeah, for you!" Ally yelped, and watched as Carmen strode into the bathroom, a pair of scissors in hand. He looked down at his son and gave a sigh, lifting up the boy into his arms. "Your mother…. Is impossible, as times…"
"All done!" Carmen called and walked out, a smile upon her face. "How do I look?" she brushed her now much shorter hair, which still retained a set of shaggy bangs.
"…Like a rookie on my hockey team…" Ally answered with horror as he set Dai down once more.
"Mm, excellent… Well, I suppose this'll mean I'll have to buy more pants, then," Carmen said to herself. "Don't want them thinking you're dating a crossdresser, as well… Where are you going?"
"I'm getting some aspirin… My teeth are killing me," Ally mumbled, shuffling into the bathroom.
Victor was suddenly caught off guard by a wailing, and both he and his business associate turned their heads, and Ryo apologetically shrugged and nudged the baby's swing with her foot, and then went back to her automotive magazine while the infant's crying lessened, and the continuous rocking finally lulled it back to sleep.
"You run a hard bargain, Lupin, but… What choice do I have?" the businessman sighed and shrugged.
"Glad you could see it my way, Mr. Odeki," Victor nodded and gave a small polite nod. "We both have families to feed, afterall."
"Exactly," Odeki lifted up the infant from the rocker and sighed. "You have your wife, I have my grandson. My apologies for having to have him tag along with me on this. It's just that ever since my daughter passed I've been having to look out for him."
"Mm… That's perfectly all right, my wife adores children," Victor answered, and opened the front door for Odeki. "And starting as of tomorrow night, the boy's father will be no problem to you any further."
"And thank God for it… I've been wanting to put a bullet between that bastard's eyes for years…"
"And who better to do it than one of the best?" Victor smiled and waved him off, and then closed the door behind him. "Could that brat have whined any more?"
"You're just not used to children," Ryo smiled and stood, kissing him and laughing. "What, do you have a headache now?"
"Only a sense of nausea… Have you seen that boy's father? It's like the bearded woman mated with a walrus… And Odeki's not much better looking. I can't help but to pity that child."
"Some of us don't look like our parents, you know…"
"But others of us are clones," Victor muttered, glancing in a mirror as he passed and walked down the hall into their bedroom. "Do we even have a sign anywhere which claims that we double as a babysitting service?"
"No, but I just have one big baby here, year-round," Ryo muttered as Victor collapsed onto the bed, and she followed, sitting down and laying down beside him. "My parents keep asking if we're going to have children, but you're enough trouble… Just when I think I'm over playing mommy to Fuji, too…"
"Speaking of that wench…." Victor sat up on his elbows and looked over to Ryo. "It's been almost a year since we've seen her sorry face, hasn't it?"
"One of these days you'll learn to appreciate her."
"I appreciate her not being here, would that count?"
"….You're just jealous of her."
"Jealous, of her? Yeah friggin' right…"
"Come on, Victor," Ryo laughed and punched him lightly on the shoulder, and stood as the doorbell rang. "Ugh, better get it before someone steals the paper again…"
"Mm," Victor muttered and rolled over. "I wish you would allow me to polish my gun on the front porch, just once."
"You're not going to—Oh, my God! Victor!"
"What, what's wrong!" Victor shouted and stumbled out of the bedroom, blinking and titling his head to aside as he too looked over the large bouquet of balloons which in Japanese characters spelt out, 'Desperately seeking getaway driver. Love, Fuji Lupin'.
"What in the…. Ryo, you aren't really going to—Ryoko?" Victor found she was now gone and had taken to packing her bag, and rubbed his forehead tiredly. "I should give you some time to think this over like a rational person, or… Not… I thought you were the voice of reason within your group."
"Victor, I…" Ryo sighed and stopped as she paused to finish picking out her shoes, and walked over to embrace him. "I've got to do this… Why… Why don't you come with us, hrm?"
"All of them hate me, and you know it. They'd shoot me in my sleep at the first instant."
"I know… Well, I always did like a bad boy," Ryo broke her embrace with him and kissed him lightly. "I'll try not to be too long…"
"I take it I'll see you in a year, thenm" Victor sighed, placing his hands upon her waist, kissing her and then helping her to pack.
"I'm not asking her, you ask her!" Toshiro whispered from the kitchen, pushing his younger brother forward. "It's your girlfriend!"
"She's not, and that's the problem!" Heiji hissed. "And now she's in there playing… Mommy! To some little kid!"
"Because she probably is the mommy, Heiji," Toshiro whispered as he watched her feed the baby while Yukiko played with Saiyuri and Odori with Namiko. The two watched as Namiko gave a giggle and attempted to jump off of the couch, only to have her plans foiled by Odori, who quickly caught the young girl with only one arm. She, Jordan, and Namiko had taken the first flight out to Japan, and now stayed in a nearby hotel, while Yukiko took up the guest bedroom.
"I…. Couldn't find out anything…" Jordan sighed and shrugged as he walked through the doors and into the kitchen. "She's keeping a tight lip on the father, whoever he may be."
"Crap, what good are you?" snapped Heiji, who began to pace back and forth in the kitchen. "Let's see… Couldn't be Jurgis's…."
"Heiji, we might not even know him!" Toshiro said as he took hold of his brother's shoulders. "And Jurgis was beheaded..."
"It could still happen!" Heiji only pulled away and huffed, "When I find him I'm going to—"
"Doorbell! Thank God…" Toshiro muttered and hurried out of the kitchen, bumping into Yukiko, who was in the midst of fetching a snack for Saiyuri. "Urm… Sorry…"
"Yeah," Yukiko nodded, and walked past him into the kitchen while he opened the front door.
"Ally?" he blinked, and had time to do little else before Ally reacted.
"Got the first flight here!" Ally smiled and placed the tall samurai into a headlock. "How in the hell are you…. Hehehe, trying for the Silver Fox look now? I thought you hated that show!"
"I do... Urm, just got a little lazy, is all… Busy with the baby, heh."
"Yeah, yeah, man. Hey, won't have to worry about that much longer…"
"Yukiko's finally come to her senses?"
"Not a chance in hell of that. But I've got something just as good…"
"Hey, who's he?" Toshiro raised an eyebrow as he looked over Ally's shoulder to the thin-framed blonde in the baseball cap, windbreaker and jeans. He then looked down at Dai, who was in the arms of the 'young man'.
"Hehe, my wife."
"It's Carmen, idiot!" Ally sighed and removed her baseball cap, revealing the famliar soft, pale face and blonde hair.
"Woah… Well, the first samurai was a cross-dresser, and I my first lead was Maria in West Side Story, so why not…"
"What was your first male lead?" asked Ally, raising an eyebrow.
"I was a Nazi in The Sound of Music," Toshiro answered with a sigh.
"I'm not as shocked as I thought I'd be, surprisingly," Ally lifted up his suitcases and tossed them into the living room. "Hey, guys!"
"It looks like a scene out of Kindergarten Cop," Toshiro muttered as he watched Namiko and Saiyuri both bouncing about Jordan's legs.
"Awww…. I'm missing the party!" Ryo laughed as she walked into the doorway. "Woah… Toshiro… Very, urm, severe…"
"I'll dye it, I'll dye it! I didn't know my hair color was such a big deal to everyone nowadays!" Toshiro threw up his hands and sighed, then reached forward and embraced Ryo.
"She come around, yet?" Ryo whispered in his ear as she returned the embrace.
"What, are you kidding? She's tighter than Fort Knox!" Toshiro muttered, and broke his hold with her, and both then turned to Fuji. "Well, we've got everyone here and you've managed to go through all of the drinks in the house already, so what's up, Fuji?"
"Well…. I'm sure everyone's got questions, so I'll answer them to the best of my knowledge, but what I wanna know right now is where Ally found the cutey in the baseball cap…"
Carmen began to answer her, but she was soon cut off by Ryo, who took Fuji's baby in her arms, "Oh my God, she's adorable! Where'd you get her?"
"They were having a sale," Fuji answered with a raised eyebrow. "Listen, I…. I'll talk about that later. Right now, we've got a job to do."
"Just say when and where," Yukiko said with a smirk and tilted up her fedora. "So, where is this place, anyway?"
"Africa," Fuji answered with a stunned smile and looked at the room that had fallen into dead silence. "….What?"
"….What's in Africa?" asked Ally after a long silence.
"…I've heard there're giraffes…" Carmen replied.
"There's… Well, I owe a friend a favor," Fuji chuckled and shrugged. "He took care of both me and my daughter…"
Ryo stood and sighed, and looked down to Fuji with her free hand upon her hip. "You run off for you a year, ditch us all, come back with a baby in tow, and expect us to pack up our lives and follow you blindly into what is literally the heart of darkness?"
"….Kinda…. Yeah… I, urm, if you guys don't want to I—"
"What time's our flight leave?" Ryo asked with a tired smirk as she tilted her head to a side and brushed back her much longer wavy hair.
"It's at eight tonight, on his plane…" Fuji said with a small smile.
"Who's 'he'?" Heiji demanded, rising and causing the room to draw thief attention to him. He cleared his throat and slowly sat down, and quietly slunk down into his seat.
"..O-kayyy…. Heiji-chan, you should probably calm down," said Fuji, blinking a few times.
"Well… If it wouldn't be too much trouble, I thought that… I would begin to tag along," Carmen spoke up suddenly. "To act as the caretaker for the children…"
"Whatever you want, buddy," Fuji gave a wink which made Carmen shift in her seat. "I love a anyone who loves kids..."
"…I hope that she hasn't caught on…" Ally muttered to himself.
"Well, that solves my major problem… Now I should probably fill you guys in on what exactly it is we're stealing, shouldn't I?"
"Gee, that'd be nice," Yukiko muttered with a roll of the eyes, and Toshiro looked over to her with a small glare, and she only gave a bored sigh..
"White rhinos," Fuji said with a determined smile.
Silence once again fell upon the living room, which was now broken by the whaling of Fuji's child. Toshiro then cleared his throat and tilting his head to a side, "Okay now…. What?"
"White rhinoceroses…. Rhinoci?" Fuji looked over to Ryo.
"Really? Wow, that sounds awkward…"
"My Master's in English says it's that."
"I finished up my courses while you went and played mommy," Ryo answered plainly. "I had to find something to do other than line dancing."
"I didn't even know you'd gone to school, Ryo-san! Anyway, point is, they're very valuable to my friend," said Fuji, clasping her hands together. "He's got a bunch of them on the grounds of his palace… Well… Did…"
"Palace?" Odori blinked. "He's royalty?"
"Well… He's the king… Anyway—"
"You were with a king!" Heiji shrieked, and Ally, who sat on the couch in front of Ishikawa, gave a shudder from the shrillness.
"Can we stay on the subject? Yeesh, and I thought I had the short attention span, here! Some poachers came in a few nights ago and stole thirty of them, and they're supposed to be shipping out to various zoos and private millionaires who have that much money to kick around…" Fuji explained.
"And here I was thinking that I-Pods were the hot Christmas gift… A rhino… Now there's an idea," Toshiro muttered and shook his head.
"As long as we're not off chasing white elephants, you can count us in," said Ally with a confident smile.
"Dori-chan, Jordan? What do you guys say?"
Jordan began, "Well, we—"
"We would be honored to," said Odori quickly, unsheathing her sword and examining the blade.
"Obvious who carries the bigger sword in that relationship," Ally muttered to Toshiro, who only chuckled in response while Jordan gave a dull glare.
"…Yukiko-san? What do you say?"
"You already know my answer, Fuji..."
"Ah, that's right! You lost to me, didn't you? Hehehe... And I got Toshiro-chan's 'yes', so that leaves you, Heiji-chan…"
Heiji said nothing, only gave a shrug, turned and walked out into the back yard quietly shutting the door behind him.
"Well, I'll take the awkward silence as a 'yes'," Fuji gave a weak chuckle, and rose, the infant in her arms. "And I'll say that Fujiko Hikari gives her nod, too, so we're off tomorrow!"
"Hikari…" Odori muttered to herself. "'Light'?"
"Max… Max, calm down!" Leo sighed as he ran in following after his husband. He nodded to the receptionist in their office, and set aside his violet jacket.
"'Morning, Leo," muttered the temp receptionist as she watched the two storm in one after another.
"Good morning, Charley," Leo gave a polite smile to the brown-haired woman at the desk and watched as Maxpried open one of their already-stuffed filing cabinets. "Max… You can't go running after all of them like you used to."
"Sure I can…. You run, I'll drive," Max muttered.
The idea of Max drivinghorrified Leo even more, and he walked over to Max and leaned against the filing cabinet and watching as Max made two stacks of files on the ground; one he would have to use and one which he could care less about. After finishing this, Max turned and looked to the files and began to bend to the files he needed and nearly toppled over. Leo quickly gripped onto him about the waist and righted him up, and grabbed the files from the ground, and then began to walk back to the filing cabinet.
"What are you doing!" Max yelped, and walked over to Leo, trying to hide the pain running at this speed caused him. "Leo… No, come on… Just this once, and I'll do whatever you want!"
"We've got a meeting this afternoon already, or did you already forget that you already begged me for a baby?" Leo asked plainly, tossing he files onto the desk and walking out, giving a heavy sigh. "I'm gonna go call Myra and Nina… You stay there."
"Where else would I go?" Max rolled his eyes as he watched Leo walk out of the office to retrieve his cell phone. There suddenly came the sound of a piano playing from upstairs and then a clamor of dance steps, and Max took a wooden cane from a corner of the cluttered office and shouted as he beat the ceiling of the office. "WOULD YOU KEEP IT DOWN?" he shouted, and then collapsed back into his seat.
"You okay?" Charley stood and walked over to Max, a cup of coffee in hand. She seated herself upon the edge of the desk and watched as he began to search through the files doggedly. "…Max?"
"Hrm? Yeah…" Max muttered and tossed aside another file.
"I'm gonna go check on Leo," she patted Max on the shoulder and smiled, leaving him to his work while she met Leo halfway down the stairs of the building. "Is he all right?"
"He's just becoming obsessed, again…" Leo said with a roll of the eyes. "…Thanks again for filling in so quick after the last one left."
"I needed something to do in between jobs," Charley shrugged. "Plus, I…"
"That was a while ago, Charley," Leo closed his eyes and sighed. "Listen…. I… I've just got a lot going on right now, with the kids, and Avery, and now Max is going nuts, and we're trying for another baby, and—"
Charley pulled him in and kissed him, and Leo waited several moments before pulling her away and looking downward, "…We've got to get back…. I have a feeling he's going to bug me until I tell him we can go… Maybe if I let him do it this once, he'll learn that he's not as agile as you used to be. Good idea, right?"
"Yeah," Charley nodded, and watched Leo walk up the stairs past her, and wiped her eyes before heading up the stairs behind him.
That night, over New York:
Yukiko looked over the scene of the New York skyline tiredly as Saiyuri sat in front of her, asleep beside her cousin, while up front Fuji played catch up with Ally, Carmen, and Ryo while Hikari sat upon her lap. Heiji sat in the back typing away on his computer while Jordan and Odori played with Namiko.
Toshiro gulped and stood at her seat hesitantly before taking a seat beside her and giving a cordial smile. Yukiko rolled her eyes from beneath her fedora and then looked to Toshiro from above the brim of the gray fedora.
"It's strange not seeing you in white…"
"White's for brides and Casper," she replied quickly. "…You changed your gi colors…"
"Well, gray didn't go so well with navy," Toshiro looked down at his gi, which was now teal with a white stripe across the collar which match the white parted skirt of the traditional Japanese outfit. He only gave a nod to this, and looked upward to Yukiko, who had turned her attention back to the window and the city skyline.
"Saiyuri… She misses you a lot…"
Yukiko closed her eyes and sighed, and turned her head to Toshiro, "Do we really have to go through this again?"
"…She's not the only one who misses you…"
"I'm just glad I get to see her right now," Yukiko tilted up her fedora and looked ahead at the little girl in the seat lying beside her infant cousin. "And, well, you'll get to use those swords of yours again, right?"
"…I see you're going to totally avoid the situation, as usual…" Toshiro said darkly. "Like father, like daughter?"
"I told you to keep my dad out of any of our fights…"
"I'll be up front," Toshiro stood and walked toward the front of the private jet, and took a seat beside Ryo, who was laughing as she and the others relived past glory days.
"Why'd I even agree to come and do this?" Yukiko muttered, while having no idea that Toshiro thought the same thing as he put on a strong front in front of the rest of the gang. "Somehow, I already know that this is a friggin' mistake..."