NC-17 for angst, violence

Xander looked at the boy nervously dancing in the doorway.  "Get in here, Phil.  We're not cannibals."   He let the boy in and checked the cats, glaring at one.  It slinked back inside and went to hide.  "Good idea."  He checked again because the cats were very sneaky, then took the boy up to the lounge area.  "Guys, this is Phil."

"I've seen you.  You drive a red Kawasaki," Vinnie said, staring him over.  "You take any decent road trips?"

"My mother won't let me," he said quietly, staring at him.  "You're a mouse, right?"  They all nodded.  "I thought so.  Someone thought you guys just wore a lot of velvet."  He sat down, looking at Vinnie.  "I've noticed your bike, it's very sweet, sir."

"Thanks, kid, she'll appreciate the compliment," Vinnie said smugly.

"You been riding long?" Throttle asked.  He wasn't quite sure what to ask this kid.  It was too soon to ask his intentions, his future plans, and to make sure he believed in birth control.  How did one handle meeting the first date?

"I've been riding on the back of my father's bike on and off for six years.  He mostly rides in the summers but I knew I could handle a winter on a bike.  I bought it late last summer and he thought it was a bad choice but so far I'm happy with it.  Even if I do get a bit chilly, it's a great feeling. I like it when I get to go out into the country so I don't have to deal with the helmet laws."

"You don't like helmet laws?" Modo asked.

"No offense or anything, but I don't like mandatory helmet laws, sir.  Yeah, they're great and they keep down head injuries, but that's not why I ride a bike.  My bike doesn't come with safety features and that's another reason why I bought it.   I like going fast, I like the freedom of the wind in my hair.  That's one of my favorite things."

"So you see the point, but you're not a big supporter," Xander condensed.  He nodded.  "I can understand that.  The helmet I use does limit my side vision."

"It's still safer," Throttle said patiently.

"Which is why I let you talk me into it, dear," he said with a grin.  "It doesn't keep down the complaints though."

"I know, we don't always like helmet laws either," Modo agreed.  "We used to ride around all the time without them.  Unless Momma caught us."

Phil grinned at him.  "My mother tried to make me wear a racing suit for protection."

"That's what a good mother does," Throttle agreed.  "Mine tried so hard."

"So did mine," Vinnie said dryly, smirking at him.  "Look how I turned out."  Xander giggled.  "Didn't your mother try to make you be careful?"  Xander shook his head.  "Not at all?"  Xander shook his head again, heading into the kitchen.  Vinnie looked at Throttle, who shook his head.  "Okay, he had the worse mother," Vinnie decided.  "Still living?"

"Eaten in Sunnydale," Dawn said as she came up the stairs in her outfit.  "Hey, Phil.  Is dinner nearly ready?"

"Yup.  Give me ten more minutes," Xander called.  "We're having ham."

"Why can't we just eat hotdogs?"

"Because a single food diet is not good for you, even for you three studly men," Dawn reminded them.  "It's weak in vitamins and minerals, hot dogs have lots of fat and chemicals that can make you fat, plus they're not good for you.  Unless you guys want to end up like those bikers with the guts hanging over their belt-lines, you can appreciate other food groups now and then."  She leaned down to kiss Vinnie on the cheek.  "I don't want to see you in the hospital with a heart attack and I don't want to see you grossly fat and distended from hotdogs, babe.  So don't.  Enjoy other things now and then.  You've had hotdogs for nearly every meal but breakfast this last week."   She smiled at Modo, then at Throttle.  "You'd never get laid again if you got that sick.  Xander would go into super- fuss mode that makes mine look delicate and Cleaver-like."

Throttle shuddered at that mental image.  "Now and again is fine," he decided.  "Just not too often."

"He doesn't stop you eating them for one meal a day," Dawn reminded him.  "Besides, Earth has a great culinary history in many cultures.  If you let yourself, you might find you like some of them.  It's not like we're going to make you eat dog or pigs head or something."  She flopped down beside Phil, smiling at him.  "How did you like the outfit?"

"I like," he admitted, wiping off his mouth.  "You look very pretty.   I hate that sweater rule."

"Me too," she agreed, taking his hand to hold.  The phone rang and she groaned.  "If that's my sister, I'm going to beat her ass," she muttered, getting up to answer it.  "WHAT!"  She listened.  "No, I've got a date tonight, Michele.  I can't fly back to Cleveland to babysit. Not that it's a good commuting distance or anything.  No, Xander's dealing with a ham.  Fine.  Xander, it's the slayer panic network."

"Tell them I'm busy."

"Did that."

"Shit," he muttered, coming out drying off his hands.  "Modo, go slice the ham.  Using the knife," he said when he saw him popping up his arm cannon.  "If you shoot it, we won't have enough to eat."  He put the phone to his ear.  "Better be good."  He listened.  "Then the proper thing is to: a, call Giles, b, call Micah, then c, call me.  Have you tried options a and b?  Or anyone else like Bob, who works for Micah?  Yeah, him!" he sighed, looking up and silently asking for patience.  He felt hands come up to work on his shoulders and grinned back at Throttle.  "Okay, describe it."  He listened.  "That's a pretty straightforward stab and hack, then burn.  Yeah, one of those.  The swords were in the training room the last time I knew.  Where are the senior slayers?  Yes, them.  I know you're pretty new, dear, so where are the older girls?  Then you call the movies and have them drug out of there, or you draw that demon to the movie theater.  Yeah, like that," he agreed happily.  "It's not like you should have to.  So do a run and taunt, drawing it to the theater.  Buffy or one of them should feel it and come out.  Or Faith was lurking the last time I knew.  Sure.  Happy taunting.  Call back if it's an actual emergency or look on the board on the fridge for Bob's number.  Thanks, Michele."  He hung up and shook his head, turning to rest it against Throttle's chest.  "Why me," he muttered.

"Because you're a good guy," he retorted, patting him gently.  "What're we having with the ham?"

"French fries."  Xander looked up at him and grinned. "I'd never take away Vinnie's junk food totally.  Even if I do occasionally make you eat real food.  I don't want to see you guys sick from only eating hotdogs."  He stole a quick kiss.  "Just one meal a day?"

"We'll figure that out," he promised, stealing a deeper kiss.

"No sex in front of my date," Dawn told them.  "It'd give him hopes and I'm not ready for that yet."

"Me either," Phil promised her.  "I believe that should only come after a lot of dating and a very nice and romantic dinner."  She beamed at him for that, blushing a bit.  He grinned back.  He held her chair for her, then moved to sit beside her.  "Do you club a lot?  I go to one of the teen clubs, Impresario."

"I do when I'm not grounded," she said with a grin.  "I had to bargain majorly to get tonight.  Usually I have to take a guardian with me but they let me dance by myself."

"Chaperones are decent.  Impresario has hired a few.  There's no more than gentle touching on the floor, like grabbing hips during the dance.  No naughty dances or anything either."

"Sounds like a place we could trust Dawn," Throttle admitted as he walked Xander back.  "Everything out?" he asked, looking at the table.

"Nearly," Modo offered, carrying out the ham.  "We'll have plenty for midnight sandwiches."

"What can I say, I'm a hungry mouse," Xander reminded him with a grin.  He dished out some and handed them to Throttle, who handed them to Phil, who first held them for Dawn then took his own and handed them to Vinnie. Vinnie smirked at the boy then handed them to Modo, who nodded.

Vinnie watched the boy before digging in.  "You don't have to use company manners, kid, we're not that mannerly ourselves all the time."

"No, sir, I'm always mannerly.  My mother would make my life a living hell if I wasn't.  Um, excuse my language."

"It's nicer than what Dawn's used under stress in the past," Throttle admitted.  "So, you look up to your mother?"

"Quite a lot.  She's a very good woman.  She's a neonatal nurse at one of the private hospitals in the area.  She's very caring and loving.  She loves me even when I'm doing dumb stuff, like jumping off the roof when I was four and decided I could fly."

"Did that," Xander agreed.

"Been there often," Vinnie agreed, nudging Xander and smirking at him.  "And then some."

"Wanna go bungee jumping with me?" he asked.  "I could use a hand holder for the first few minutes."

"What's bungee jumping?" Throttle asked.

"That's where you tie this elastic cord around your ankles and jump off somewhere really high," Dawn said, glaring at Xander.  "If you die, she has to take me back.  Remember that."

"We're married, I had an amendment put onto the custody papers saying that Throttle got you next, then Vinnie and Modo together.  Or one of them and Charley."

"Oh, that's fine then," she said with a grin.  "You going to jump out of an airplane too?"

"I can't find anywhere around here to do that," he said with a small pout.

"No," Throttle said, shaking his head.  "No jumping out of airplanes."

"I'd have a parachute," he defended.

"I bet, but no," Throttle said, staring at him.  "Not until your balance is better," he said quietly.

"Fine, I'll wait until I can ride," he retorted in a whisper, looking at him.  "Will you come bungee jumping with me?"

"They'd make me lose the specs and I can't see without them, Xander," Throttle said patiently.  "It wouldn't do much for me but the wind."

"Hmm, good point."  Xander stole a quick kiss and then dug back in.  "Vinnie, will you go bungee jumping with me?"

"Sure, love to," he agreed happily. "Can we go soon?"

"Yeah, there's an event in a few days," Xander said, starting to wiggle.  "I didn't want to give myself too much time to worry and back out.  I'll send in the registration form tomorrow.  They also have a class so you can learn to fly an ultralight."

"What's that?" Phil asked.

"A seat with a hang-glider over it and a fan for an engine," Xander said happily.

Modo moaned and shook his head.  "You're on your own, bro," Modo told Vinnie.

"But, Modo," Xander said with a small whimper.  "It's a lot like flying."

"This mouse doesn't have wings, he don't fly," Modo said firmly, staring him down.  Then he looked at Throttle, who smirked at him.  "You think about us that way?"

"Yeah. I do," Xander said firmly.  "I have for a while now. Sorry if it upset you, I make attachments pretty easy."  He got up and walked off, heading to pick up his wallet, keys, and head to his car.  He hopped into it and started the engine, peeling away.

Dawn hit Modo on the arm.  "Jackass!"

"He'll be fine," Throttle said calmly.  "Modo."

"I didn't know if he meant it the same way most of us do," he defended.  "Xander can be hard to read."

"No harder than you are," Dawn retorted.  "Now he's hurt and he's left.  Someone really should find him," she said, staring him down.

"I'll go get him later," Throttle promised.  "Give him an hour to calm down."

"And you're going to find him how?" Vinnie asked.  "It's not like his car has a tracking device, like our bikes."  He ate another bite, frowning at Modo.  "You didn't realize that?"  Modo shook his head.  "Maybe it's because you two don't hang out that much.  Yeah, he has for a while now.  Ever since we went back for him, bro."

Modo nodded.  "I'll apologize."  He started to get up but Throttle stopped him.  "I should try to track him down now."

"By now he could be out of the city," Throttle reminded him.  "That car's faster than most things on the road, including most cop cars.  We'll go out together to look for him.  I'm guessing he's clubbing."

Dawn shook her head, leaning on the table.  "Not unless it's somewhere pretty dangerous.  His first instinct would be like it was in Fresno."  Throttle shuddered.  "You guys have been here long enough to find places like that.  I wish you luck dragging him out."

"It'll be fine, Dawn, back down some," Vinnie said calmly.  "Modo didn't mean to hurt him."

"Yeah, that's wonderful," she agreed.  "What's your first instinct in that situation?" she asked.  Vinnie shrugged.  "Xander's is to go out and get into dangerous stuff to prove how good he is."

"So he's at a demon club in a hunting mood?" Phil asked.

"No, he's somewhere like that one out on Tyler road," Dawn told him.  "As a matter of fact, I'd start there," she told Throttle.  She grinned at her boyfriend.  "Good guess though."

"Thanks.  He seems like a nice guy, if a bit excitement happy."

"When you've hunted and survived for years, it's all exciting," Throttle told him.

"I'm glad I don't have to find that out, sir.  I hope I never do.  Not that I won't if necessary but I hope I don't."

"We do too, kid.  That's why we're here," Vinnie told him.  "I'll hit that place, Throttle.  You'd stand out.  You take the one on Jefferson.  Modo, take the one out on the far end of the lake."  Modo nodded.

"If you don't, try the place on Marcum," Dawn sighed.  "It's a drug den but it's got hard, blasting music and it's very dangerous in there."  They stared at her.  "I nearly went in but the bouncer clued me in.  They were working on his scalp tattoo at the doorway."

"I know that place," Throttle admitted.  "Never been in there."

"Me either," Vinnie admitted. "Modo?"

"Once.  I got into a fight within ten minutes," he admitted.  "That doesn't seem like his sort of place."

"No, she's right, he'll head to somewhere dangerous to get into a fight," Throttle admitted, eating another bite.

"Then I should probably start for that club," Modo offered.  Dawn yanked him back down. "You don't think so?"

"That's way too far," she said, shaking her head.  "If he wanted to go that far, he'd go to that place about fifty miles from here and club there."  All three of the mice looked clueless.  "I'll show you next weekend I'm ungrounded," she offered.  "Friday.  That way if Phil wants to go to his club I can head with him."

"Sure, Dawn," Throttle agreed.  "You think he's going closer?"

"I think he'll go for a fast drive then head there.  That's his usual thing.  I also think that he'll be a bit too loaded to drive home," she admitted.  "But I can't tell you on what."

"He does drugs?"

"He experimented when he was younger," Dawn admitted. "He didn't do more than dabble, but he did try a few things when he was on his roadtrip so I wouldn't have to wonder."  She smiled at him.  "Xander really is the coolest guardian most of the time.  If I want to know what something's like, he'll tell me graphically.  I tried pot once and we spent about four hours comparing the buzz."  Phil looked stunned.  "I had some issues back in Sunnydale, namely my sister."

"Ah.  I can understand that.  My father's fairly straight-laced too," he shared.  "My mother kept me from going wild."  He ate another bite.  "He's a pretty good cook too."  He dug back in, smiling shyly at her now and then.  She grinned back and scraped her plate, then went to brush her teeth, do her makeup, and make sure her hair was perfect before putting on a helmet and climbing onto the back of his bike.  They went to the dance, Dawn curtseying at the Headmistress.

"I adore that outfit, Dawn," the headmistress said.  "What's it look like without the jacket?"

"Strapless."  She undid the button to show it off.  "See?"

"I do.  As long as you keep the jacket on, you're fine, young lady," she promised, smiling at Phil.  "You look quite handsome tonight as well, Phil."

"Thank you, headmistress.  I had to live up to her magnificence."  He led her inside after paying for their tickets.  She pulled him onto the dance floor and he could tell she clubbed very well.  He looked at his friends and gave them a 'thumb's up' and a rabid smirk before joining in with her.  He wasn't too bad, not too geeky.  He hoped.  She smiled and he relaxed, moving closer.  One of the monitors coughed and stared at them so he moved back with a grin but moved closer once she was gone.  "You'd really go with me in a few weeks?"

"It'd have to be three from now.  I'm grounded all next week and I traded the Saturday after that for tonight," she called back.

He beamed.  "It's a date.  Nine?"  She nodded, smiling back.  "Wear something naughty.  The club's like that."

"Oooh, I have *just* the outfit," she promised with a smirk.


Vinnie found Xander first and called it in.  This was not the club he'd choose to be at.  "Talk about dank and dark," he said, looking at the outside. "I'm hoping Goth."  He got off his bike and the bouncer gave him a look like 'not a chance'.  Vinnie smirked and tugged his bandoliers and the bouncer took another look at him, then sighed and let him in.  "Thanks.  The other one who's a lot like me?"

"He yours?"

"Little brother," he admitted.  "Where?"

"Beating the shit out of the dealer who was trying to take his partner," he admitted dryly.

"Hmm, community service.  Nice change."  He walked inside, heading down to where he could see the fight going on.  He found Xander and pulled him up, ducking a swing and dodging a kick by someone else.  He kicked that one in the head, making them fall over, and walked Xander off, standing him up and dusting him off.  "Feel better?"

"Much.  You?"  He looked down at himself.  "I wasn't wearing appropriate attire," he said at the look at his leather outfit.  He looked around, then back at him.  "You alone?"

"Yeah, we took a different place each.  Modo's damn sorry," he said, leading him off.

Xander held up a finger and went back to pummeling the dealer, then got up and flipped his hair back.  "There, *now* I feel better."  He walked off, buying Vinnie a drink.

"Hot stuff, you've had enough to not drive," the bartender noted calmly.

He grinned. "I doubt that'll happen.  I'm not likely to be left alone much longer."  She served them and he paid, clinking glasses with Vinnie.  "Do you feel better now?"

"I've never seen you like this, Xander," he pointed out, sipping his drink.  This stuff was stronger than most cleaners he had used in the past, but he drank it.  Xander snickered at his expression.  "A bit stronger than I usually go for when I want a drink."

"Not me.  I've had much worse.  Grain alcohol is worse," he noted, taking him back to his seat.  He found someone sitting there and picked them up, putting them onto their feet.  "Whichever idiot has my new jacket should probably surrender it."

The woman looked at him then scurried off to find that jacket for him.  She drug back her girlfriend and stripped her there, then grinned at him.  He grinned back so she moved closer.  Vinnie growled.  They scurried off to the dance floor, avoiding the remainder of the fighting.  "Why am I suddenly seeing a scary person?" Vinnie asked.  "Something like split personalities I should know about, bro?"

Xander looked at him.  "Which way did you mean that?"

"He doesn't spend that much time with you, Xander.  He didn't know, he wanted to make sure," he said more gently.  "Modo's a sensitive guy.  He wanted to make sure you meant it in the correct sense, like you tease me."

"No, I see you both ways," he admitted, taking a drink.  Someone walked up to their table.  "Problems?"

"Fags having fun dirtying our club?" the man sneered.

Xander reached over and grabbed him, slamming his head on the table.  "Yeah, quite a lot, especially since he's straight.  This is my big brother Vinnie.  Be more polite."  He took another drink and looked at the bouncer coming his way, grinning at him.  "He has no manners."

"True, but that can be said for most of the guys around here.  Can you tone it down, maybe?" he suggested gently.  "Not that we minded you frisking the dealer before you knocked him out, but this one's the owner's brother-in-law, sir."

"Pity his sibling has bad taste," Xander agreed dryly.  "I tossed it."

"I know, sir, we gathered it and tossed it out fully for you," the bouncer said patiently.  "Did you need me to call you a ride home?"

"Nah, I'll make sure he gets home," Vinnie promised.   He held out a hand.  "Keys."

Xander stood up and dug them out, handing them over.  "Thanks, big brother."

"Welcome.  It's what we do."  The bouncer walked off.  "You gonna take him?" he asked, kicking at the man on the ground.  The bouncer came back and gathered the sleeping man, taking him into the back room.  He came out and gave Vinnie a long look.  Vinnie nodded.  "Come on, the owner apparently didn't like you beating his in-law."

Xander grabbed his jacket and patted himself down, then looked around.  Vinnie picked up his wallet from the floor with his tail, waving it.  "Thanks."  He took it back, sliding it into a pocket and buttoning it closed.  "Where to now?"

"Hmm.  Home?"

"Fat chance," Xander told him.  He walked out, stopping to stroke Vinnie's bike.  "Hey, baby.  You having fun watching my car?"  She beeped and moved to block him.  "I'm not driving.  I've only had three and I'm still not driving.  I'm too pissed to drive."  He looked over as Throttle pulled up, smirking at him. "Hi.  Did big brother nark?"

"Yes."  He looked him over, swallowing.  "New look.  I kinda like it, but you look really dangerous."  He saw Vinnie walking out with a few women following.  "Do you *have* to do that now?"

"Not my choice.  They're begging for a foursome.  I told them I'm not Xan's, they won't believe me."

Throttle stood up and grabbed his man, kissing him hard.  Then he looked at the girls, who pouted and walked off.

"Aryan brats," Xander muttered.  He looked at Vinnie.  "Can I have my keys back?"

"You've been drinking."

"I've had three, I can pass a roadside test," Xander promised.  He held out his hand.  Vinnie shook his head and got onto his bike.

"Get on, Xander," Throttle said calmly.  "I'll take you out and you can get your car later."

"I can drive!  I'm not soused.  Get me a breathalyzer and I'll pass it," he promised.

"He got into a few fights," Vinnie offered before taking off.  "I'm heading for the usual spot," he called back.

Xander growled and glared at his back, concentrating really hard.  His keys popped into his hands and he grinned, heading for his car.  A tail took them from him and he found Modo in his way.  "Morning."

"I'm sorry.  I know you understand what it means."

"Thanks.  Good to know.  Give 'em back."

"Xander, climb on," Throttle ordered.  "You can come back.  No one will touch your car."  Xander gave him a 'get real' look.   "Fine, how about this.  I'll drive your car to a parking garage.  You ride with Modo for a few minutes, we'll meet up outside and then head to wherever you want."

Xander considered it.  "You won't grind the gears this time?"

"Nope.  I haven't done that in a while.  Please?"  Xander nodded, tossing them over.  Throttle said something quietly to his bike then got off and headed over to the car, turning off the security system.  His bike followed him out onto the street, staying in the shadows. That was something that would get attention and they didn't need that.  He would be having a talk with Xander about being difficult later.  Right after he got over his hangover. He paid to get into one of the nicer parking garages and left the car there, heading back to his bike, which Xander was already on.  "Where's Modo?"

"We had a talk and he let me off once we worked it out between us.  So I rode her the last block.  I asked, she didn't mind."  He shifted back, letting Throttle get on in front of him.  "Where are we heading?"

"Where did you want to go?"

"I'm still in the mood to destroy and lay waste to stuff," he admitted.   "Either that or do what I did in Fresno."

"Which was pretty muchly destroy and lay waste to stuff," Throttle joked.  "No drugs.  I won't put up with it."

"I wasn't thinking about that, though someone did offer me a hit off a joint.  Tempting, but I didn't know where her lips had been.  You know I don't use."

"I know, just setting a boundary," he said quietly.  He heard Vinnie note he had lost the keys.  "Don't worry, bro, Xander took them back by thinking really hard," he said.  "Modo, you good to head home or should Vinnie help you?"  He heard the quiet chuckle and Modo told him it was all good, they had talked and Xander had meant it.  Then Vinnie warned him to watch out for the fighting.  A strange thing.  "Sure.  We'll be back later.  Make sure Dawn's in on time."  He revved his engine and took off, letting Xander cuddle.  "You okay?  Not going to puke?"

"I've had three drinks, I'm not drunk.  I'm well below the legal limit even if I do get dizzy," he said patiently.  He tapped him and leaned forward.  "Go to the one on Sixth."

"I don't want to be skinned tonight, Xander."

"Neither do I.  I was thinking the other place.  The pub."

"Nope.  We're not allowed in there.  Modo got into an arm wrestling contest and they thought it was unfair that he won.  Sorry," he added at the sigh.  "How about somewhere kinda industrial?  That way you could hit another dealer if you wanted."

"Maybe.  No place thrash metal."

"Nope.  Not the mood I'm in either," he admitted.  He considered it and turned them around, heading for a club on the outskirts of town.  It was near to where Vinnie had taken him that time, but a totally different sort of place.  There were a lot of bikers out there and they were generally accepted, but if someone started something there was always a good fight.  He let Xander get off and nudged him, leading the way inside.  He paid their cover and led his boy to the dance floor, taking him to wear out some of this stress.  Xander was still just as good.  Someone bumped into him and Xander reached back, breaking the hand trying for his wallet, then grinned back at him.  The man's eyes went wide and he dove off.  Xander rebuttoned the flap over his pocket and shrugged so Throttle smirked at him.  "You do 'tough guy' very good."

"I should.  I lived it for long enough," he called back.  He saw a bouncer and shrugged at him.  "I don't like pickpockets."

"Not the problem, sir.  Throttle, is that your bike blocking the emergency exit?"

"I didn't think I was.  I can check."  The bouncer nodded and he looked at Xander.  "Stay here."  He nodded, going back to dancing.  He smirked at the bouncer and shrugged. "Sorry."

"Not an issue."  He walked him outside and Throttle checked his bike.

He wasn't in front of one.  He turned and found a few people standing there.  "Oh, it's one of those nights," he said fondly, smirking at them.  "I'm not that nice, guys.  Fair warning."

"We don't like your kind," one of them sneered.

"I didn't have anything to do with this," the bouncer called, hurrying back inside.  He wasn't going to break up that one.

Throttle changed his stance slightly.  "Come on," he waved.  He was sure Xander was doing better than he would.  He punched the first one who rushed him and the fight was on.  He had to duck because some guy flew out a window over his head, but that was fine too.  Xander was having fun.  He got all but one of his, that one ran off crying and holding his ass when he got it kicked just the once.  He blew on his knuckles as he strolled back inside.  He saw Xander being held by two guys and another one trying to hit him, but Xander suddenly saw him and kicked the first one, using that momentum to flip over and pull the other two together to bang them together.  "Nice move," he called.  "Want a beer?"

"Sure.  Beer me.  Real beer, not root beer.  I'm working up a sweat and deserve it."  The guy he had kicked rushed him and he punched him, then followed him down to get him a few more times.  "Sue me," he sneered. "I like both.  Pity you can't meet up to even the lowest of the low gay man's standards.  You're pitiful, and you know it.  Otherwise you wouldn't feel the need to try to hurt others."  He stood up and grabbed the mug of root beer, giving his mate a dirty look.  Throttle stared back. "Fine.  You'll be getting it later."

"I'm sure you think so," Throttle joked. "But I doubt it."

"We'll see, won't we," he said smugly.  He looked up at the DJ.  "Music?  Please?"  The music restarted and everyone went back to what they had been doing.  Xander sat down at a newly emptied table, sipping his root beer, silently counting the people that were being carried outside.  "Hey, ten.  I'm impressed."

"I only had six but they were insistent.  Otherwise I would have gotten here sooner.  You okay?"

"Yeah, just fine," Xander said with a smirk.  "I'm not helpless."

"I never thought you were, Xander.  I never knew you had this pain and wild streak going for you.  I thought that had ended after Fresno."

"No, not really.  Hunting took care of it before."  He smiled as he heard the song coming on.  "Dance with me."  Throttle nodded, following him back onto the floor.  He could see that same stalking danger that Xander had the last time they had clubbed now.  It was the same way he fought.  He'd have to include him in Dawn's lessons to make sure he could do more than bar brawl.  He saw the door open and a flash of tan come in, glancing over to find their doctor in the doorway.  He nodded and the man nodded, heading for another part of the floor.  Throttle pulled Xander closer.  "No going to him."

"Not an issue.  I have you.  I don't need him.  He couldn't be in my mind like you were."  He yawned.  "Let's head to that place we went last time. This place is sucking my energy."

"Sure," he agreed, walking him off.  He nodded politely at the bouncer.  "I know it wasn't you."

"Sorry about that, man.  Who's your man?"

"Xander," he said, shaking his hand with a grin.  "Xander Harris."

"I know someone who works on your crew.  They speak highly of you, but they always said you were kinda nice and gentle."

"I am, I'm blowing off stress.  Now I'm going to go somewhere I can tease the whole club and make them moan."  He grinned and smirked at his boy.  "Can I drive?"

"Nope.  My bike. I drive."  He waved them to the bike, shaking his head as he walked behind him.  He patted the pocket with the wallet in it.  "That's pretty thin.  Is it all there?"

"Yeah, that's a new one.  It's got a card, my license, and about a hundred bucks."  He stroked the gas tank of the bike.  "Bike, can I drive?" he asked sweetly.  "I think he wants to rub against me since he's going to be panting and begging before I'm done with him."  The bike beeped and leaned against him.

"My bike, only I drive on my bike," Throttle said firmly.  His bike let out a snort and he stared at her.  "You want him to drive you?"

"Just this once?" he begged, leaning against his chest to kiss him gently, just a teasing and little nip.  "Please, Throttle," he pleaded. "Just the once?  I've had good balance all day.  If you have to you can steer around me," he said with a grin for him.

"No more alcohol tonight and you're still not sober.  If you were sober, I'd allow it this once," he admitted.

"Hey, dude, got a breathalyzer?"  The guard nodded, handing over one of those home hits.  Xander blew into it, then presented it proudly to his mate.  "Just barely registering."  Throttle groaned.  "What better way to make sure I end up on one?" he asked with a small grin.

"Let Vinnie do that?" he suggested.

"You could steer around me," he reminded him, moving closer again.  "Your arms around me."  He subtly stroked his lover's chest and stomach with a fingertip. "Please?  Just the once?"

"Once," he ground out, stopping the finger.  "Then we'll teach you to ride on Charley girl's bike until you get your own."  Xander beamed and went to straddle the bike, getting comfortable.  He did look very good on his bike.  Throttle resisted the urge to adjust himself and got on behind him. "You know how to start her?"  Xander nodded and gently started his baby, shifting again.  "Get comfortable."  He put his arms around his stomach and watched as his baby put the other into reverse and backed them out of the parking spot slowly, then took off.  He was going slowly at first, then as he got the hang of it he started to go faster.  They missed the turnoff to the club but he understood.  His first time riding he wanted a real ride before going to show off.  He called Vinnie.  "Vinnie, get Dawn to pick up his car at Phearson's parking garage.  I've got the ticket on me.  So bring her to wherever we end up.  I'll let you know where."

"Sure, Throttle.  Where are you now?"

"Giving Xander a riding lesson."

"Really?" Vinnie asked and you could tell he was smirking.

"Not that sort.  He wanted to drive."  He felt the wobble and tensed up but Xander corrected.  "Later."  He wrapped his arms more firmly around the boy, he hadn't ridden behind anybody in years.  Xander was doing very well.  He gave him a squeeze and they sped up some more. "Oh, no, not tonight," he called.  "When you're fully trained, Xander," he called.  They slowed back down and Xander took them to the club, sitting there for a minute once they had stopped.  Then Xander leaned back in his arms, removing both of their helmets so he could get a kiss. "Good job.  Only the one wobble."  He stole another kiss.  "We'll work on getting you one of your own."  He stole a third one.  "Want to go inside?"

"I want to go for a long ride and then have dirty and messy sex," he said with a small smirk.  "But I heard you telling Vinnie we'd be in a stable spot so he could pick up the car with Dawn."  He sat up and then wiggled around until he was facing him.  "She'd better not crash it."

"She won't.  She's a very careful driver.  The same way you are most of the time."  He stroked the soft cheek.  "Do you feel better now?"  Xander nodded.  "Then take me inside and tease me to death, then we'll go for a long ride."

"Can we have a real road trip?"

"Sure," Throttle agreed.  "This weekend?"

"I don't have anything to do."

"Me either.  We'll make sure and take off tomorrow if there's no upcoming emergencies."  Xander beamed and took a deep, pillaging kiss.  Throttle moaned.  "Come on, studly.  Inside so we can get Dawn the ticket and keys."  Xander nodded, following him inside. The bouncer gave him an odd look.  "He went out feeling bad so he went shopping.  Not my idea."

"He looks hot and dangerous," the bouncer admitted.  "Weapons?"  Xander handed over his gun, his stake, his two knives, and then slapped himself and pulled the other one out and handed it over.

"You had all those and you got into four different fist fights?" Throttle asked.

"They weren't worthy of weapons.  Weapons are for threat situations.  Besides, not even the bigots at the last club were *really* a threat, Throttle."

"I'm sure they weren't," the bouncer said, looking at his face.  "No bruises?"

"I only got hit once and I'll probably have a black eye tomorrow," he admitted with a grin.  "Can we?"  He nodded, handing him a key for a single weapons cabinet.  "Thanks, man."  He led the way down to the dance floor, making Throttle groan because he was so good.   Or at least he hoped he was.  He saw another set of high, fuzzy ears but ignored it.  He didn't care who it was at the moment.  It looked like Enamel but it was a free country.  Throttle moved in front of him, grabbing his hips and Xander smirked, shifting as close as he could while they danced.  Throttle let out a small moan and let him rub against him.  Xander leaned closer.  "Love you."

"Hmm. Ditto," he agreed, stealing a kiss.  A few people who saw them smiled and one clapped but no one said anything bad about it.  Xander had his arms above his head at the moment and was moving in a way that made him think of him tied to the bed.  He ran his hands up under the leather vest his boy was wearing as a top, making him smirk and put his arms down, trapping his hands there.  "If you ever go bad, we'd be in trouble," he told him.  "You could charm even Modo into pouncing."

"Thanks.  Not what I'm concerned about."  He turned and let his mate take his back for a bit.  He felt his tail being teased and let it happen.  But apparently it wasn't Throttle because he was let go of and Enamel was pounced and beaten, then Throttle stood up and tossed back his forelock before going back to the dancing. "I'm his and he's possessive," he called.

"I know," Enamel moaned as he stood up.  "Dawn's here.  She's looking for you.  They thought I was you."

"Fine," Throttle said, staring at him.  "Don't touch what's mine."

"Not an issue.  It's clear he's yours."  He waited until Throttle had gone to look at Xander.  "He claim you yet?"  Xander gave him this smug, happy smirk that told him that was a yes.  "Pity.  How do you feel?"

"Better.  Good enough.  My balance is starting to come back.  Would you tell him I can drink now and then?"

"No.  I don't encourage that habit.  Sorry.  Especially not for those who have problems sleeping and the like from nightmares.  It's too easy to take that final slip.  Now and then, not an issue."

"I'd never become a drunk, I saw it up close and personal."

"Then he should realize that.  Show him, Xander.  You have that capability."  He looked him over.  "I see the transformation's complete.  You look good."  He walked off before Throttle came back.  He didn't need to be hit again.  Fortunately someone took pity on his poor lip and soothed it with gentle kisses.  Looked like he wasn't going home alone.

Throttle came back and grabbed Xander, kissing him hard.  "He try anything?"  Xander shook his head.  "Good.  I'd hate to have ta kill him."  He kissed him again.  "I heard, once in a while is fine, Xander.  I don't have a problem with it, but I'm like Meg.  Unless it's a really good reason I can't stand drunk people."

"Not an issue."

"I know.  Just making it plainer.  You can have another if you want, but you're riding behind me."

"I could use a soda," he admitted, leading Throttle off the floor.

"He bothering you?" the bartender asked, glancing at Enamel.

"No, he's my doctor," Xander called back.  The music was really loud tonight.  The man nodded and got him a soda, and one for Throttle too.  They went back onto the floor, going to have more fun before they had to go home.  By the time they left, Throttle was ready to bend Xander over his bike in the parking lot and have him, he didn't care who was watching, but they found Modo outside waiting on them.  "Problems?" Xander asked, giving him a hug.

Throttle growled and took his man back.  "Bad problems or out for a ride?"

"Out for a ride," he said with a grin.  "Take good care of him, bro," he said, tweaking Xander's ear.  "I'll be home by dawn."  He headed off.

Xander grinned back at Throttle.  "He won't steal me."

"I don't care at the moment."  He got them onto his bike, letting Xander sit in front of him but he was driving.  He couldn't do what he wanted when Xander was behind him.  They got back to the lair and headed to their room, where Throttle got off and hauled Xander off, stripping him.  Xander shivered at his intensity and his stare at his body.  "Very nice," Throttle said quietly, just a hint of growl in his voice.  "How many people pinched you?"

"A few," he admitted.  He turned to show off the bruises on his butt.  "See, just a few."

Throttle bent down to lick each one, making them his marks instead.  Xander was moaning and pushing back against his tongue so he moved on. That's why Xander flipping him onto the bed and stripping him off so he could have him was a bit of a shock.  He had forgotten that he had agreed to bottom tonight.  Xander was making good on his promises though.  Not that he minded, he was still having him.  Dawn walked past the door and shut it, putting back on the muting spell.  Throttle chuckled and pulled Xander off his stomach to kiss him.  "More, Xander."

Xander gave him a wicked smirk.  "Not yet. You're not begging."

They were rudely interrupted by an explosion mid-kiss.  They headed up the stairs at a run, finding Vinnie laying on the floor with scorched fur. "What were you doing!" Throttle demanded.

"Seeing if our bloods still exploded," he said weakly.  "It worked."

"You couldn't wait?" Xander demanded.  "I was about to make him beg!"

"Begging, I can't see that," Vinnie said smugly.

"Bet me," Xander told him, frowning at him, hands on his hips.  "Meany."  He turned and stomped off.

Throttle shook his head.  "We're taking a roadtrip this weekend.  Any problems with that?"

"It's Saturday night?" Modo suggested from his bunk.  Apparently he had come home early.

"He doesn't have a thing to do this week," Throttle pointed out. "Not until they get everything settled for the next site and Merle told him he had the week off.  Vinnie?"

"You'd leave me here all alone with Modo?"

"And Charley girl," Throttle patiently reminded him.  That got a small leer.  "I didn't think you'd mind.  "No upcoming attacks?"  Both mice nodded. "Good."  He stomped back down to his room and found the swing set up. "Who's that for?"

"You, dear," Xander said, using his tail to put Throttle in there and tying him down with a smug look.  "I should leave the door open since they're so worried that I'm going to make you beg.  That way they can hear it."

"Not my kink," Throttle told him, wiggling a bit to get comfortable.  He knew he could release himself with his tail if he needed to and Xander still obviously wanted to play.  Xander started by teasing the back of his thighs, making him shiver as he brushed the soft fur there.  It felt matted with sweat but Xander was very gently taking care of that for him.  Then the gentle fingers moved on to tease his sides without tickling him.  It was like a good brushing with a very gentle brush.  He wiggled again, liking this a lot.   It was like his lover was seducing him, gentling him to his touch.  It was a complete contrast to the Xander he had seen earlier.  He wondered if Xander knew what he was doing to him, but the boy only gave him a gentle kiss when he opened his mouth to ask.  Silence, he could do that.  He felt the gentle fingers work their way onto his stomach, teasing at the same time his sweat- dampened fur was released.  Instead of going down, his husband moved up to his chest, making him let out a soft moan as his chest was stroked and teased.  Xander played with the hair around his neck, then went up to tease his arms, which were tied above his head, then his calves.  "Xander?" he asked when he stopped.

"It's a pity you don't trust me," he said, looking at him.

"I do."

"And you thought I was going to do what with the drugs tonight?"

"I remembered you going for them before, when you were stressed.  I know you're not taking them, but I also know that you haven't been that badly stressed in years.  I know you considered it. I can smell the pot smoke on you."

"Yeah, she was smoking it as she danced with me," he said, stepping back.  "Did you taste it on me?"  Throttle shook his head.  "Yet you still felt the need to make that statement.  That indicates a lack of trust.  Like having to chase me."

"I wanted to soothe you," Throttle reminded him.  "You were really upset when you left."

"Yeah, and I can handle that."

"That's part of what people who are together do for each other."

"Throttle, do you expect me to listen to you about that sort of stuff considering how badly odd your last one was?  It's nearly as bad as me and Anya.  Let's not do what we *should*, but what we want."

"I wanted to come for you," he assured him calmly.  This was the strangest place for this talk.  He pulled his tail up under him to work on the handcuff locks, and couldn't find the opening.  He looked up at them.  "There's no keyhole."

"They're magnetic."

"Oh."  He let his tail droop again.  "It's what I felt was right."

"So, it felt right to make me feel ashamed that I got upset, had a few drinks, and got into a fight?  That I didn't know my own limits and tolerances, and all that stuff?"

"No!  That isn't what I was doing."   He tried to shift but Xander was very good at tying people down.  "Can I get free?"

Xander undid his ankles, then moved up to undo his hands, letting Throttle pull him closer.  "You don't trust me."

"I do trust you.  Wanting to soothe you and being a voice of reason doesn't mean I don't trust you.  By the taste in your mouth you'd had some pretty strong stuff.  I couldn't tell how much and in your memories I couldn't tell when you were drunk by watching you.  I had to make sure you wouldn't get hurt."  Xander shook his head.  "No what."

"Bullshit."  He got free, sitting on the bed.  "Throttle, you have a highly developed sense of taste.  I've seen you use it to scent the air for where someone was hiding when you were trying to stop Vinnie's rampage of irritation a few weeks back."

"Yeah, but the stuff you were drinking was like lighter fluid.  All I could taste was that bitter aftertaste. I've never had that and I don't know how much you drank."

"When I told you, you still kept pressing."

"Three drinks is enough to incapacitate someone by the charts, it hadn't even been an hour yet."

"And I proved I was sober."

"When you did, I let you drive."  He tried to sit up but he wasn't going to make it.  This thing wasn't designed for it.  He'd either have to lay back and get comfortable or get off.  Both could make Xander uneasy.  "Come here?"  Xander shook his head.  "Want me to come there?"

Xander shrugged.  "That's up to you.  I can't be with someone who doesn't trust me."

"I trust you enough to let you tie me down."

"You thought you could get free too," Xander said dryly.

"Yeah, but you didn't see me panic.  If it had been anybody else, I would have."  He held out a hand, deciding to go for comfortable.  Xander gave him a long look. "Please?"  Xander stood up and walked over, taking his hand.  "I realize that I'm not the best role model for relationships but I have seen others have them.  I do trust you.  I trusted you earlier with something that's precious to me.  You rank right up there with her, Xander.  I do trust you, but I have the right to be pushy when you do stuff that could hurt you.  It's what those of us who care do.  Personally, I could care less if you broke out a joint now and then, as long as you don't do it around Dawn or Vinnie.  Modo might frown but he'd probably understand."

"The other two would too."

"Yeah, but if someone found out, you could lose custody of Dawn."

"Point.  I'd never do that though."

"From the way Dawn put it, you and she nearly shared a few."

"Actually, we have shared a few," he admitted dryly.  "It kept her from another sleepover situation."

"Then I have no problem with that," he agreed.  "Just don't do it around Vinnie.  I'm not sure what he'd do."  He pulled him closer, looking into the mismatched eyes.  Xander didn't have his brown contact in the one mouse eye.  "I do trust you," he said calmly.  "Even when I'm being horribly responsible, I'm still full of trust and caring.  It's the sort of guy I am, Xander.  I sometimes break out into 'dad' mode."  Xander nodded, he knew that.  "Then can you accept me as I am?"

"Can you do the same?"

"I thought I had, but I realize you're a lot more complicated than I thought.  When I did the review, I was watching you, not how you reacted, but staring at you.  You probably got a better feel for me from being inside my head and hearing how I reacted to things."  He pulled him down for a kiss.  "If you want, we can do it again.  Or you can trust me too."

"I do trust you."

"Which is what scared the crap out of you earlier," Vinnie said from the doorway.  "Dawn did the spell backwards.  She's not in her room."

"Did you check the library?"

"Yeah, she's not in the lair at all.  So I'm guessing she's either chasing a cat that escaped, or something's going on."

"She's not one to sneak," Xander told him.  "She's pretty open when she wants to leave a place.  Even after hours.  Dawn!" he snapped.  She appeared on the bed, looking startled.  "Didn't I tell you to only do that under Tara's watchful gaze?"

"Yeah, but it wasn't me. I opened my jewelry box."  She got up and went to look at it, carrying something back in a bandana she stole off Vinnie.  "This is new.  I'm not sure what it is."

Xander looked and nodded.  "That's a demon part from a messenger demon.  They can travel by Air Magic."

"Where did you go?" Throttle asked her.

"A huge mall.  I'm thinking it's that Mall of America place, but it was closed."  She bundled it back up.  "How do I keep this safe and useable?"

"Go research it.  I don't know," he defended when she looked at him.

"Do the spell right this time too so we don't have to hear them having one of those girly talks," Vinnie told her.  He looked at Xander, then at Throttle.  "That's not the place I'd expect to have that talk.  He does trust you, Xander.  The same as he trusts me, but sometimes he feels the need to step in and be a 'dad' guy.  That's why he led our team and we listened to him."  He stared him down.  "I know this is new for you.  It'll be okay.  He does trust you.  The same as I and Modo do.  Have makeup sex.  It'll make you feel better."  He pulled Dawn out because she was obviously staring.  They hadn't realized they were naked apparently.  He closed the door and nudged her, eventually slapping her across the back of the head.  "Spell."

"Sure."  She shook her head and checked it, then redid it, heading up to the library.  "Wow," she said finally.  "No wonder neither one can sit."  She heard Modo snort and shivered.  "I don't want that mental image!" she complained.

"Good, we'd hate for you to compare," Vinnie said from the doorway.

"Eww!"  She threw a book at his head, making Vinnie laugh. "Nasty mental images.  Whole galleries of them!  Eww!"  She hopped up and down, trying to get it gone.  "Ewwwww," she cried.  "Modo, make him stop!"

"Quit torturing her," Modo called quietly.  "Are they going at it again?"

"Nah, they were having a talk," Vinnie said as he came back.  "Xander had about three drinks and Throttle went dad and set down rules about not driving."

"Hmm, the trust talk. Interesting.  I remember hearing that one in the past," he said, staring Vinnie down.

"My bike can drive herself if I pass out," Vinnie reminded him. "His car can't."

"He let Xander drive earlier."

"Really?"  Vinnie's ears perked up at that.  "Interesting. Maybe that road trip will get them going better."  He looked over as Dawn came out and grabbed a clean jar, dropping the piece in there with the bandana, then sealing it in.  "Can I have that back?"

"If you try to wash it, it'll eat it and everything else in the wash," she said, kissing him on the cheek.  "Just for those nasty mental museums, I'm going to go make noise of my own and call your name."  She walked off, heading down to her room.

"I guess lots of people do," Vinnie said with a shrug.

"Think about it, bro.  Her doing that?" Modo suggested.

"Ick!" Vinnie said, shaking his head.  "Eww!  Now I know how she feels.  Dawn, don't do that!"  He wiped his ears off, then went to take a shower to clean off the filth he felt like he was covered in.  That was just sick and disgusting.  He heard her moan and went down to stop her, even if he had to use knock-out gas. With his luck, she'd really do it and then he'd have nightmares and have to sleep with Charley, who had told him he couldn't for the next week while she had girl problems.  Not that he minded but she apparently did.  He grabbed some knockout gas and went to stop her before she could utter anything that would traumatize him for the rest of his life.   He heard the quiet kissing from Throttle and Xander's room and decided he was happy that they had worked it out.  They deserved each other.


Throttle appeared for breakfast the next morning looking well rested and fully awake.  Xander trudged in wearing boxers and looking his normal morning grumpy/confused/ pissed-that-the-sun-was-so-bright, and grunted at everyone.  Throttle reached over to pat him on the back but it was slapped away.

"Talk not go well?" Vinnie asked.  "By the way, you two traumatized Dawn last night when she saw you two naked."

"She didn't have to stare," Xander said, glaring at him.  Vinnie pushed over the soda had he pulled out when he heard the shower downstairs start.  Xander gave him another grunt as he opened it and gulped it.  When he was done with that one, he went to retrieve another one, gulping it on the way back, and a third for his breakfast.  That one got taken and Throttle put it out of reach.  "I need that."

"You need to go back to bed," he told him.  "You can do that.  We can wait to start."

Xander shook his head.  "I called Merle, I have to be back to work on Thursday to start the paperwork."

"So we can't go all the way to the North Pole," Throttle snorted.  "We can still go.  Go back to bed.  I don't have a destination in mind.  Do you?"  He shook his head.  "Then go catch a nap."

"Can't.  Not sleepy."

"Yeah you are," Modo assured him.

"Had another rough night?" Vinnie asked.  Xander nodded, putting his head down on the table.  Throttle picked him up and put him in his lap but Xander struggled so he let him sit on his own until he fell asleep and did it again.  Vinnie looked at him.  "Are you two breaking up?" he asked bluntly.

Throttle shook his head.  "No, not a bit, Vinnie. He's just tired.  We spent a while talking last night.  I fell asleep on him and he stayed up apparently."  He stroked the tense back.  "Sleep.  I'm a good pillow."

"Maybe but you can't claim me today."

"I know I can't."  He nuzzled him gently and Xander snuggled in again, closing his eyes.  Xander yawned and Throttle looked down at his boy.  "Sleep, Xander.  We can always take off next weekend."

"I'll have to work next weekend.  I always do the first week of a new job."  The phone rang so he held out a hand and it came flying.  "It had better be an intergalactic emergency," he said patiently.  "What do you mean someone staked Merle?"  He sat up. "He's not a vampire!"  He listened to the report.  "Which hospital?  Has anyone called the company's owner?  No, I'll do that.  Yeah, within an hour."  He got up and headed to find his cellphone, calling his boss.  "Hey, it's me.  Someone tried to stake Merle.  He's in St. Lucia."  He listened to the rest of the information.  "What are they?  Because if they're demonic, it's my job, not the cops.  We all know this, even the cops.  Yay," he said impatiently.  "It's still my job.  Sure, I can step in and do that, that's not an issue.  I still need the details.  I was getting briefed Thursday."  He listened to the details of what they'd be building.  "Okay, so was it those things that you haven't identified yet or was it one of the spouses?"  He nodded.  "Decent.  Thanks.  Of course.  Yeah, we'll need round-the-clock security on this one.  No one should be able to look in or do a sneak-through to get the layout.  Yeah, and I've seen husbands do it in the past to abuse shelters.  Sure, I'll be carrying it permanently.  Yeah, call Janice.  She can run my crew while I run the site.  Decent.  Be there tomorrow."  He hung up and walked out, seeing the upset looks. "Merle will be fine.  We're not sure if it's demonic or not.  While he's gone, I'm running the whole site.  It's an abuse shelter.  The cops are actually paying attention this time."  He looked at his man and shrugged.  "Sorry.  Lots of long nights coming up."

"I'll help where I can," he offered. "Are you going to need crew?"

"Nah, not for this one," he said, shaking his head.  "Not unless we get too much violence."  He went downstairs, going to pick out clothes for tomorrow.  He'd need something to hide his holster.  His phone rang so he answered it. "Yeah, Janice?"  He listened to her.  "What do you mean you've gotten a death threat?  Then you turn it the hell in!" he demanded.  "I don't care!  No, they won't.  Yeah, and they're getting off on your fear.  You go turn that in and call the main boss.  Want me to come drive you?"  He nodded.  "Done.  Give me twenty."  He hung up and pulled on his chosen outfit, including his kevlar vest.  He checked his gun, reloading it with normal bullets, and slapped it into the clip.  He found his keys and walked up the ramp.  "I've got to take Janice to the cops.  She got a death threat."  He headed back to his car, going to take her there.  She scurried out, staying close to the ground before she got in.  "It's that bad?"

"Someone took a shot at my house.  I was on with 911.  We need to meet them in the mall's parking lot."

"Fine."  He shifted up as soon as he took off.  He heard a ping and smirked.  "I had Charley add some bulletproofing around the normal hit spots."  He shifted up again, zipping across an intersection.  He checked his mirrors.  "Huh.  Stupid to follow."  He pulled into the mall parking lot but no one was there yet.  "Get into the back seat, cover up."  She climbed into the small space behind the seats and he turned up the radio a bit.  Another car pulled up, also carrying someone with guns since one was hanging out.  "Hey, it's Roberts," he said dryly.  He flipped on his hands free system, dialing the cops.  "Hi, this is Xander Harris.  I'm escorting my coworker to a mall parking lot to meet with some cops about the shot just taken at her house.  We have two cars carrying people with guns behind us.  No, I'm at the mall.  Yeah, I have a handgun.  I'm licensed.  No, I'm the small black car."  He saw one move up.  "We've got movement.  Fair warning, I'm not going to be shot."  He hung up, hearing the sirens.  The guys weren't listening.  They were trying to hit the gas tank.  Xander pulled his gun and shifted, taking aim on the nearest car's tires, shooting the first two quickly.  The other one tried to move but he got one of their's as well.   A cop pulled up and he put his gun back up.  "Janice, they're here, babe."  He felt her nod.  "Give me ten minutes."  He got out, listening to them complain.  "Officer, they've been shooting at my car.  I'm the one escorting Janice Hall to talk about her death threat.  It's a good thing I have bulletproof plates."  The men groaned.  "I'm also the one who shot out three tires and that's it.  If you want to come count impacts on my car, that would be nice."  The cop stared at him.  "Yay, dude.  I don't care.  By the way, those of you from my site, Roberts and Cremens, oh, and Jose," he said, waving at Brad's big brother, "you're fired.  I'm in full charge of the site this time."  They pulled guns and the cop pulled his, on them at least, and Xander pulled his.  "Try it, man.  I'm faster.  A lot faster."  Two more cop cars came rushing up with lights and sirens.  The cops got out and ordered everyone to put down their guns.  Xander put his down on the ground and leaned against the side of his car, hands in plain sight.  "I'm the victim," he told them.  "Look at my car."

"You have Miss Hall?" one of them asked.  Xander nodded and moved, opening the door and moving the seat.  "Miss Hall?"  She peeked out.  "Is this a coworker?"

"He's my boss," she admitted, climbing out.  She handed over the box and the note, then had to search for something, coming out with a lit cigarette.  "Sorry, Xander."

"Not an issue," he offered, patting her on the back.  "Times like these make me want to smoke too."  He pulled his wallet, then groaned.  "I need into my trunk.  My FOID card is back there.  I switched wallets last night before clubbing."

"That's fine, sir," one of the cops agreed.

He grabbed his keys and walked around the back, finding his wallet and his card to present.  He looked at the people being taken away. "Some of those are our crew people," he said quietly.  "I need a list so I can fire them. I know three of them.  I need to let the boss know if any others were on our payroll."

"Sure.  Names only?"  He nodded. "We can provide that."  He handed back the gun and the card.  "Very nice shooting, sir."

"Survival, it's a wonderful thing," he said dryly, leaning against the side of his car again.  He looked at Janice, then at her box.  He picked it up and sniffed it, then walked off and left it in the middle of a blank area.  "It's smelling like gunpowder."

"Shit!" one of the cops shouted, reaching for his radio.

"Duck!" Xander yelled when he started to babble, backing away from the box.  The cops moved back and the bomb went off a few seconds later.  "Fuck, me," he said in aw.  "A radio trigger set to any frequency."

Janice patted him on the shoulder. "He's got a demolitions license," she explained.

"Sir, what were you doing earlier today?" one of the cops asked.

Xander looked at him.  "Having a fight with my husband."

"Oh."  He made a note of that.

"He's my direct boss, guys, second in command at the site.  He's a nice guy and he likes me," Janice told them.  "He's not the one who sent that."

"No, I'm not," Xander sighed.  "I like plastic explosives and that smelled like gunpowder.  Not my sort at all."

"You used plastic explosives on the outside of the lair?" she asked.  He nodded.  "Wow.  You have a very gentle touch."

"Thanks.  It's from practice."  He grinned and nudged her.  "Down and in."  She dove back ion the car, wiggling back into her spot.  He pulled his gun to point it at the guy walking toward him.  "Are you a cop?"

"Are you?" he asked.

"I'm her protector and boss.  I'm also short on caffeine and patience.  The thugs decided to try to blow up my car when we stopped."

"Why did you stop, sir?" one cop asked. "Please put it away.  He is an officer."  Xander put the gun up.  "Why did you stop?"

"Because I knew I had armor plating and there's a chance of involving others if I had kept going.  It's bad enough they chased us through traffic trying to blow up the car."

"How did you not blow up?" the new cop asked.

"I'm a bit paranoid.  I had my favorite mechanic shift my gas tank out of the normal place."  He looked stunned.  "Xander Harris," he said, holding out a hand.  "Former resident of Sunnydale, California."  The man shook his hand.  "Need her?"

"Please.  I'm working your boss's case."

"Merle or did the boss on high get hit too?"

"No, Mr. Harris, Merle's."  He helped the young woman out, nodding at the burning spot on the carpet.  She stepped on it and leaned against his shoulder.  "Was that the box?"  She nodded.  "What happened?"

"The cop started to radio for assistance since I noticed it smelled like gunpowder.  It whined, I heard it, I shouted 'down' and everyone did," Xander said flatly.

"Are you military, sir?"

Xander smirked at him.  "Let me get back with you on that one, officer.  Not formally.  Not paramilitary either."  He scratched an itchy spot and the cop stared at him like he had just realized he had fur.  "Sometimes survival is necessary," he reminded him gently.  "That was my life before I moved here."

"Fine, thank you for your honesty, Mr. Harris.  We can take this from here.  Can we come get a statement from you later?"

"Sure, as long as you bring me a list of the people who were shooting at my car so I can fire them."  He looked stunned.  "A few were my direct employees, only on the exterior crew.  I think at least one other was working for the same company.  What I'm wondering is why they're coming after us at the moment?  Is this personal or because we're going to be starting work on an abuse shelter?"

"I don't know, sir.  Can we have their personnel records?"

"I'll have to check with my boss, but probably."  He looked at the remains of the box.  "There's another whining.  Let's move back."  He got in and backed his car away, and the others followed suit.  The small bit of explosives left exploded, leaving a pretty parking space sized crater.  "Wow," he said, shaking his head.  "That's so inefficient."

Janice hit him on the arm.  "Be less clinical, Xander!  They're trying to kill me!"

"They get you over my damn dead body," he reminded her. "If they don't believe me, I'm sure I can convince them of that."  She nodded, leaning against him now.  He looked at the detective, who was staring at the box, then turned to stare at him. "I have very good hearing."

"With those ears, I'd expect that," he admitted finally.  "All right, I'm taking her down to the station, Mr. Harris.  Where do you live?"

"At the Last Chance Garage, or next door if we're at home.  Charley's a friend of ours."

"Fine.  I'll come there. Thank you for your assistance."

"Not an issue. I'm possessive over my people, but I will be kicking some asses if I find any others on the crews."  He got into the car, heading back to the garage.  Charley was going to kill him.  He beeped from the outside and the garage door opened, but Charley was in her bathrobe.  He pulled up over the lift and got out, looking at her, seeing the shock.  "Janice got a death threat from some of the guys on my crew.  Thank you for moving that gas tank and putting on those bulletproof sheets.  I love you.  If you dump Vinnie, Throttle will have to agree that you're coming to us."

She blinked at him.  "What happened!" she shrieked, bringing the others from the kitchen.  "You were shot at!"

"Yeah, and I got to shoot a few tires out too, unfortunately not while they were moving."  He leaned against the hood of his car.  "Janice got a death threat.  She called me scared out of her wits.  I went to escort her to the station and some of the exterior crew and a few others showed up with guns out of their truck windows.  So, I love you for moving that gas tank for me because I know it was a bitch to do."

"No, it's not a problem."  She looked at the holes.  "I don't have anything to do tomorrow.  I'll get to work pulling any bullets if forensics doesn't want it."

Xander shrugged.  "They never mentioned it.  The cops were shocked because she got sent a multi-stage bomb."  She gaped at him, as did the others.  "Secondary timer after the first went off.  Just a bit more explosive and not that hard to do, but still nasty.  Meant to kill anyone responding as well."  He stood up.  "So, how much to pull the bullets and fix the paint?"

"I'll let you know when I'm done," she said, giving him a hug.  "Don't get dead, Xander."  She walked off shaking her head. "I'm getting dressed."

"Sure.  I'll be down here."   He looked over to see the other three staring at him in awe.  "What?  It's not that bad."

"Are you Superman?" Vinnie asked.

Xander took off his sweater and then his vest, tossing them aside. "No, but I do mean impersonation as long as no one asks me to fly."  He tossed his vest back into the car and closed the door, then the garage door.  He headed into the kitchen. "I could use some food."  His phone rang and Vinnie brought it to him since he was working on frying eggs.  "Yeah?" he answered after checking the number.  "This is he.  Why?"  He listened and handed Vinnie the spatula, ignoring his 'what do I do with this creature' look.  "What do you mean she disappeared?  No, I left her with that other cop.  The cops who responded said he was a cop.  No, there were three units there.  They were there when we found out the box she was sent was a bomb.  Give me ten minutes.  Yeah, I'm at the Last Chance.  Give me ten minutes to get back there.  Dude, I drive a sports car. I can hit two hundred in the city.  Give me ten minutes."  He hung up and headed out to his car.  "Laters."  He put on his vest before climbing in, then backing out once the door opened enough.  He shifted into third and lowered the gas pedal.  There was no traffic at this time on a Sunday morning in this side of town.  He pulled into the parking lot and stopped with a screech of brakes.

"Twelve minutes.  I'm impressed.  No tickets?"

"No," he said as he got out, heading to the dent in the ground.  "Okay.  Janice was given a letter and a box.  The box had a multi-stage bomb," he said, brushing some of his hair back.  He coughed when he noticed the cops staring at his car.  "They told me to go, guys.  That's from the guys in the trucks.  I know a few of them.  They worked for us."  That got a stare in his direction.  "Okay, let me walk through this linearly."  He got some paper and sketched out his route and then what happened in the parking lot, handing it over.  "Please, pull the bullets.  Let me get to the main headquarters and get personnel files."

"What did the cops look like sir?"

Xander looked at the one nearest him and nodded.  "He was wearing a lighter blue, like the traffic cops," he admitted.  They nodded at that. "The guy who came up afterward was wearing casual clothes.  They said he was an officer."  He turned and slammed a fist into the side of his car, adding another dent Charley would be pulling out for him.  "I'm going to hurt someone."  He looked at the cops again after a few deep breaths.  "I'm not sure if this is personal or not.  Our head chief of our crew is Merle Karvanski.  He was stabbed this morning.  He's in St.  Lucia's.  Janice Hall was my second in command on the interior crew.  I'm the crew chief for the interior crew.  At least three of the people in the trucks worked for our company.  I'm not sure if this is personal against us, or if this is because we're going to be building an abuse shelter."

"It sounds personal, sir," one of the cops said calmly.  "Are you all right?"

"No, I'm fucking furious at myself for letting her go.  I should have listened better.  They never said anything about forensics."  The cops nodded at that.  "I know better.  It was a dumb, rookie mistake."

"Were you a cop, sir?"

"No, honey, I had to survive for too damn long to do it officially," he said bitterly.  He pulled his phone out and called the boss.  "I need the files for Roberts, Cremens, and Brad's brother Jose," he said in greeting.  "Because the cops who responded when I took Janice away from her house weren't cops we think.  She's now missing.  No, they were the idiots shooting at us.  I also think there was a guy from crew 3 but I don't know him by name.  No, dark hair, scarred, squat looking guy.  Looks like a bitter man.  If you've got pictures from the badges maybe, but mine's horribly wrong.  Sure."  He hung up.  "My boss is pulling them. I can get you their files in about twenty minutes."

"Those people were the ones shooting at you?" one cop asked, making sure.

Xander nodded.  "They were in the trucks that followed us from her house.  I put the bomb over there when I smelled gunpowder."

"You know what it smells like how?"

"I have a demolitions license," he admitted.  "I also have a FOID card, which is why I'm the one who escorted her.  That and I've handled a few emergencies."  He ducked away from the person trying to pet him.  "I'm not that calm.  I will react," he warned. "I'd hate it like hell, but don't."  The cop nodded.  He looked at the others.  "When one of the trucks flanked my car, I shot out two front tires on one and got one off the other one when it tried to move.  That's when the possible cops showed up."

"Fine, sir.  We'll be checking to see if any of our people were around."  He took down his information then handed it back.  "Is this license correct?"

"Um, no.  You can get hold of me either at the site or at the Last Chance garage.  The owner's a friend of mine and I'm going to be there for a while fixing my poor car."  He sighed as he looked at it.  "At least I had her move the gas tank and put on those sheets."

"What sheets?"

"I've got some bulletproof sheets on it," he explained, looking at them.  "I also moved my gas tank a few inches.  It's such a movie thing to shoot at the gas tank."  They all nodded at that.  "Besides, I've barely got this car. I've had a horrible record with cars since I moved here from Sunnydale."

"Sunnydale?" one asked, his head raising.  "They were having something that the FBI was worried about."

"Yeah, and it was handled shortly after I got out there," he admitted. "We've already filled out federal reports.  If anyone asks you, tell them to look for the reports."

"Who filed them?"

"Agent Simms."

"Thank you."  He made note of that as well and took the diagrams.  "We will need to pull the bullets."

"That's fine, I need to call some people to see if we can find Janice.  Damn I wish I had paid attention to his car!"

"Hindsight is wonderful, sir," one advised him.  "Don't regret it too much."

"She's a friend.  If I don't regret I've lost all of my humanity."  The cop nodded at that.  "It was light colored, four door sedan.  Kinda boxy instead of tapered like the modern ones.  Maybe it was slightly older?" he suggested.  "It was in good condition; it didn't backfire or splutter, it ran smoothly," he offered, considering it.  "For some reason I think the trunk was slightly lighter."  He looked at the mall.  "Don't they have surveillance cameras?"

"Yes, but not after hours," one of the cops told him grimly.  Xander gave him a look.  He shrugged. "So they say."

"Then let's see what they say to me," he said, heading that way.  "Anything in there open?"

"No.  Where are you going?"

"To ask stupid questions," he called back, hurrying on.  He found the security office right where he had noticed it the last time, and walked in after quick knock.  "Hey.  Did you tape the parking lot this morning?"  The guard looked at him in shock.  "The person who was being protected is missing.  We have a possibility of fake cops.  We don't want a copy, yet, but we need to take a look."

"I can't do that, sir."

"Can't or won't?"

"Not allowed, sir."

"That's fine.  Then let me," he said, striking quickly.  All those years of Star Trek had come in handy when he had learned how to do the Vulcan neck pinch.  He sat down at the controls, running it backwards.  "My car will be there," he muttered, stopping the rewind once he saw his car enter the lot.  He turned when the door opened.  "Here, I don't know how to zoom in."

"This can't be considered legal evidence, sir."

"Two cases where that isn't true.  One is justifying to find out if the earlier people were cops.  The other is if you charge me with neck pinching him."  He got out of the way, letting him come in to zoom the picture.  "That's really fuzzy."

"Yes, but this is security equipment property, sir, not exactly what they use at NASA."  He found the button he needed and zoomed in again, this time clearing up the resolution.  "I've seen him."  He used his radio. "Hey, boss, they did tape it. I know one of the guys.  Come look."  He looked at Xander.  "Sir, there's soda machines up the hallway," he suggested.

"Yeah, but I've only got twenties and I've already had two cans of soda this morning. The problem is lack of food to go with it."  He stepped over the body, opening the door at the knock.  He saw the shocked looks.  "I deal in emergencies and expediencies, I only neck pinched him. No pain, bruising, or lasting effects."

"Is this too much caffeine or not enough?" the top cop asked.

"Not enough food to go with it," he said grimly.  "I was just gulping my second can of coke when Janice called me."

"I'm sorry, sir. We'll do everything we can."  He looked at the screen. "Know anyone who drives a really dark Beamer?  That's Penderson in Traffic in the still.  He's from up by the shore."

"Yeah, that's our boss."  He hurried out, going to take the folders.  "The cop they turned Janice over to took her away and now she's missing," he said.

"What happened to your car!" he asked, pointing.

Xander took the folders.  "These idiots.  Do we have any clue?"

"Not a bit.  Not unless they're going after people around you?"

"No, then they would have went for the guys."

"They're pretty strong, anyone watching them would figure out they didn't want to mess with them, Xander.  They'd go after the helpless."

"But if they were doing outward in, they'd have done Janice first.  If not, they'd have done Dawnie first because no one knows what she can do."

"Calm down, Xander."

"I am!"

"You're not, you're bouncing," he said firmly.   "Merle is fine and we'll find Janice."

"I hope so.  I'm the one who turned her over!"  He took the files to the returning cops.  "Personnel files. That's the main boss."

"Thank you, Mr. Harris.  Go ahead and wait by your car."

He nodded, heading that way.

One of the cops pulling up got out and walked over.  "What's going on?  We responded to a 'shots fired' from here and then suddenly more teams show up?"

"The woman in question appears to be missing," one of the cops told him. "Who did you hand her to?"

"Ortiz out of homicide.  Why?  She's missing? How?"

"Ortiz, what does he drive?" another of the cops asked.

"Cream colored Ford with a slightly sparkly trunk that came from another make."  He shook his head and looked at Xander.  "Didn't we release you?"

"And then I got called back."  He started to pace.  "I knew something was going to happen today.  Last night was too bad for it not to."

"Sir, I noticed the bruises, what happened?" the cop following him around asked.

"Bar brawl.  Someone took offense to me being dressed in leather and dancing with a guy."

"Was it reported?"  Xander shrugged, still pacing.

His boss picked up the phone and called the garage.  "Charley, dear, this is Xander's boss. Yes, him," he said fondly.  "No, he's here pacing and muttering.  The cops are giving him worried looks.  Can you send one of the boys down to calm him down please?  Thank you, dear.  By any chance, Carbine's not in, is she?"  He smiled.  "Well, it was only a hope.  Let me know the next time so I can ask her out to dinner, love.  Thank you."  He hung up and opened the other window.  "Stop, now, Xander.  I've called Charley and she's sending one of the boys down."

"I'm fine," he complained.

"No you're not.  You're agitated. Now calm down."

"I'm supposed to be agitated!  I was supposed to protect her!  That's what I do!"

"I was wondering about the body armor, not your usual look, sir?" the cop following him around asked.  "Were you military?"

"No, I lived in a town where survival was fairly difficult.  My graduating class had a ten percent mortality rate."  The cops hissed.  "The one before mine had a thirty percent from ninth grade to graduation."  He scrubbed at the back of his head.  "What's taking so long?" he muttered.

"Xander, come here," his boss said calmly.  Xander walked over.  "It is not your fault, Xander," he said gently.  "You did the right thing.  You did the kind and gentle thing by protecting her.  If someone has harmed her, they'll be facing many wraths, including mine.  I'll let you help me if they're not the average sort, but you must calm down.  It looks bad.  So calm down.  One of the boys is coming to stand and wait with you.  Just calm down."

"That's really hard to do in this situation."

"I know, do so anyway, Xander. I will see you tomorrow morning at dawn at the trailer for a meeting.  Then you can come in at eight the rest of the week. I'll expect you to do what you've been doing with your crew for the whole crew.  Do not fail my trust in you."  Xander nodded.  "Good boy.  Now, go lean against your car again and calm yourself.  It was not you who stopped the officer and took her. Hopefully your man will be in shortly to wait with you."  He looked at the nearest officer.  "Is there any other help I can give you?"

"No, sir.  The personnel folders were very nice of you.  Thank you for your cooperation."  He nodded, leaving through the newly erected tape.  He passed the van marked CSU and shuddered.  That poor boy's car.

Someone hopped out of the van.  "What do we have?"

"Two very detailed drawings," one cop said, handing them over.  "His car has ballistics and we've got an explosion crater."

"Good.  Wonderful.  Shell casings?"

"I'm guessing mall security was a bit too good," Xander said bitterly.  "He is a real cop, right?  The guy who had her?"  The cop nodded.  "Then why can't we find him?"

"The city's a big place, sir."  Xander gave him a 'get real' look.  "Really, it is."

"Fine."  Xander went back to leaning against his car, pulling out his cellphone to call one of his other guys. "It's me," he said in greeting, sounding grim.  "There's a big change coming Monday.  When you come in, if we haven't found Janice alive and well and able to come back to work, you're filling my spot.  No, Merle got stabbed with a stake.  Janice got a death threat, I took her to the cops and now the cop that has her and she are both missing.  So you're interior chief until Merle gets back and I take back my spot. Yeah, get in there early, Mark.  That's fine.  Yeah."  He nodded, listening to him. "I can't promise a permanent one, but you'd probably be put on the short list or you could easily switch to night.  No, we're putting up an abuse shelter, man.  Yeah.  No, first thing Monday.  Sure.  Be safe.  Please."  He hung up and looked a the guys coming toward him.  "Can we try not to scratch the paint?  My mechanic's already ready to shoot me for this."

"Of course.  What happened?"

"One my coworkers was staked this morning.  Another one got a death threat.  I came to take her to the cops, she had someone shoot at her house.  She was on the phone with dispatchers and they told her to come here.  We came here but we were chased.  The guy in light blue and his buddies came because of the gunshots I guess.  They arrested the first crew of people, some of which worked with," he sighed, shaking his head and pinching the bridge of his nose.  "Then another cop showed up.  He took custody of her and I was told to head home."

"Without anyone pulling the bullets?" the man asked, sounding confused.

"They caught them mid-shooting.  I guess they thought it wouldn't be necessary."  He looked over as a familiar noise came up the street.  "That's one of my buddies."  He looked at the man again.  "I got a call because I had called dispatch to report what was going on and that I had her.  I rushed back here.  We found tapes in the security office, but I nerve pinched him to get a look at them so we could see if the first group were actually cops since Janice has now disappeared with that cop.  By the way, the explosive had dual timers or a delayed device.  The first one didn't do that much damage, but the second one created the crater.  It smelled like gunpowder, that's why I put it over there," he said, pointing at the hole in the ground.  "Hey, Vinnie, give me ten?"  He nodded, leaning on his bike.  He looked at the guy again, giving him a tired smile.  "I'm going to kill someone if she's hurt.  She's a very nice woman.  I'm going to rip out someone's lungs and use the pieces I slice off as Christmas tree decorations at their house."  The man winced.  "I don't care," he said dryly.  "She was in the front seat and under the blanket in the hidey hole," he offered, pushing open the door.  "You're going to find fur like mine in white, tan, and gray, and two different sources of brunette hair.  Those are the other people who have been in the car."

"Oz and Meg," Vinnie called.

"I vacuumed since the last time I drove Oz," he called back, giving him a small shrug. "Possibly a redhead and one with heavily dyed short hair."  He handed over the keys.  "I want it back in as good of condition as you can, please. It's my baby.  I've only had it a few weeks."

"Of course.  We'll be very careful," he promised.  He looked at the back. "You're very lucky the gas tank didn't explode."

"I'm paranoid, I had my favorite mechanic move it a few inches further away.  There's also some bulletproof shields in that area."  The man looked really confused.  "I'm from Sunnydale, which is about two hours from LA.  I'm a bit paranoid.  Do you need me for anything else?"

"Where can we drop it off, sir?"

"The Last Chance Garage.  We live next door and Charley's a buddy."  He walked off, getting onto the back of Vinnie's bike, holding on.  "I have a headache," he said quietly.

"I bet.  Let's go.  What about the car?"

"They'll drop it off so I can help Charley pull the dents."  He nodded, turning them around and taking off.

The criminalist looked at the cops.  "Who was that?"

"Xander Harris," one of them muttered.  "Whirlwind, gay man, and all around badass."  He looked up from writing something.  "He's newly furry, but he was just as bad before."

"So he was furry.  I wasn't sure."  He shrugged and got to work pulling bullets while his people gathered things at the site of the explosion and went to talk to the maintenance and security people to see what they had gathered. "Is he a demolitions person?"

"Yeah, he's got a license," one of them reported, hanging up his radio.  "He was reported as being the reason we got handed a bunch of drugs from a club this morning.  Apparently the dealer had an underaged girl who kept hitting on him so he took out the dealer."  They all winced. "No charges are being pressed."

"No wonder he had bruises."  He looked over as one of his people came back with garbage bags.  "When you've stored that, process the inside of his car for the kidnaping victim's hair and things.  Start in the back with the area under the blanket.  Expect short fur of an animal nature as well in multiple colors."

"Sure.  Is he like those guys on the bikes?"

"Yes he is," the cop who had been checking on him called, walking over there.  "He is one of them actually but he's the one you see behind the tan guy all the time."

"He's gay?"

"Not a clue," the cop told her.  "The tan one?  I don't think so.  This young man is still pretty young so I'm guessing relative or the tan guy's his mentor.  I know that Mr. Harris is gay.  He got into another fight last night because someone objected to him dancing with another guy.  The tan guy was also there and jumped but Mr. Harris apparently took out a few people."

"Wonderful.  Was he drunk?"  The cop shook his head.  "Not at all?"

"He had a few at the first club and the tan one put his car in a parking garage just in case, but someone reported seeing him driving with the tan one behind him last night.  I doubt he'd do that if he wasn't totally sober and straight."

"Maybe he's with the one who picked him up," the criminalist offered.

"Nah, that one's a lady's man.  He hits on *everyone*," he said dryly.  "I'm thinking he's doing the guy who gave us the criminal's folders."

"Hmm, he called him boss," another guy noted.  "He owns a construction company. I saw him after one of their jobs caved in."  He straightened up.  "Any word on the detective?"  The first guy shook his head.  "You're thinking they're gone?"

"Probably.  This was too big of an effort.  I'm still wondering why."

"He said they're putting up an abuse shelter," a third cop offered.

"That could get some people up in arms," the criminalist agreed.  "Either that or it's personal against that kid."  He looked up suddenly.  "He said staked."

"Yeah, his direct boss was stabbed with a wooden stake this morning," the first cop noted. "He's in St. Lucia's."

"So maybe it is against this company," he said thoughtfully, going back to gently pulling out bullets. "We'll need a wrecker to get this back to the garage."

"Can I turn over the engine?" one of the cops asked. "I heard it's powerful.  He made it from the Last Chance to here in twelve minutes."

The criminalist got up and opened the hood, then gaped.  "I'm guessing he was going slow."  The cops stared in awe at the shiny, pretty, powerful engine.  He closed it and went back to pulling bullets.  "I'll let you fire it up in the shop."

"Thanks."  They went back to what they were supposed to be doing.


Xander climbed off the back of Vinnie's bike, heading for the kitchen.  "Things are about to get worse," he called as he walked.  "I'm now crew lead until Merle is released."  Throttle stared at him.  "He was staked this morning.  Janice is still missing, as is the cop I handed her over to."  They all winced.  "We're putting up an abuse shelter and we don't know if it's related to that or our night shift."  He turned and hit the wall, denting it.  "This sucks.  I want to find this person and use them as decoration, like snowflakes all over the city."

"Calm down, Xander.  There's nothing you can do until they find people.  You'll be warning your crew on Monday and be upping the security."  Throttle stared him down.  "Calm down.  Make plans."

"I've already got a plan.  I find this guy and use him to make someone a pretty present so they know not to do it again.  Maybe I'll give Merle his balls so he can laugh at the miniscule things."  He stomped off, going to hit the heavy bag.

"I don't think he's been that mad around me before," Charley said quietly.

"I haven't seen him that mad, even in his memories," Throttle admitted.  He listened to something crash.  "There went a window."

"At least he can and will fix it," Vinnie said as he sat down.  He went back to his breakfast.  "The cops were looking helpless."

"They often do when they can't deal with something immediately," Throttle reminded him.  He kicked him under the table.  "Go make him have some fun."

"Nah, he wants to be alone," Vinnie told him.  "When he's ready to calm down, he'll come back.  Either that or Modo will kick him out soon and he'll come back to dent another wall."  He ate another bite. "His car had many holes."

"I noticed, but at least the police are going to be pulling the bullets," Charley said. "I'm glad the guy who customized it decided to use one of the old steel bodies instead of a fiberglass one."

"I'm glad you moved the gas tank," Vinnie told her. "Otherwise we'd be staring at a fire."

She nodded.  "So he said."

"No, sweetheart, if he didn't have that shielding on, he'd be identified by dental records.  There were a lot of bullets around the gas tank area.  Most of them were around the gas cap."  She shuddered and Throttle dropped his fork.  "He's going to stay pissed for a while."

Throttle nodded and got up, going over to see if he could help.  He found Xander taking vicious blows at the heavy bag and walked over to hold it for him, not saying anything while Xander wore it out.  He hadn't seen many people that angry, but he knew better than to interrupt.  Xander finally stopped, wincing at the soreness of his knuckles.  That's when Throttle pulled him closer to hold him, giving him a gentle nuzzle on the side of the head.  "It's all right.  She's got to be fine or we'll cheer you on," he said quietly.  Xander nodded, relaxing against his chest.  "You good now?"

"No, this bites."

"Yeah, it does," he agreed, giving him a squeeze. "I want her to be okay too."  He gave him a gentle kiss on the forehead.  "Go take a shower.  Then come help m polish my bike.  Okay?"  Xander nodded, going to do that.  Throttle turned and hit the bag, slamming it into a wall.  He hated people like that.  Anyone who would hurt someone else for no reason was a reasonable target in his book.   He decided to help Xander take his shower, going to climb in with him.  Xander liked water, it would only make him feel better.


Xander came up from his room almost a month later, his body tight and tense.  He was dressed in clubbing clothes, and had his boots on.  "I'm going out to do something stupid," he announced.  "Do not follow me, you probably won't like it.  I'll be back tomorrow after work."  He walked out before anyone could say anything.

"You gonna let him get away with that since you won't let me?" Vinnie asked Throttle, eating another bite of dinner.

"Yeah, this time," he admitted.  "For now.  This last week was enough to break him.  They found out who planted the bomb at the site and blew up the original one."  Modo shuddered at that.  "One of the security guards was in on it.  Not to mention the death threats to the site and to the crew.  He's had half the crew ask to be reassigned in the last few days."  He put down his fork and took a drink. "I'll give him an hour before I head out after him."

Dawn looked at him.  "He'll be back like he said he would. Getting between him and someone means that you'll probably end up fighting instead.  Probably over something stupid that'll make you wince for years.  I speak from experience.  The one time he blew up at Buffy, the single time he had it with her and let her know about it, he made her cry, made Willow cry, made Giles cry," she said flatly.  "Then he went out to destroy things.  So I'm guessing he's going to come home being very bruised after work, or he's going to head to work after bailing himself out of jail."  They all shuddered at that.  "If you get in the way, he'll explode on you too," she said finally, staying quiet.  "I'm not going anywhere near him until he's calm if that gives you any idea.  He'd never hurt me, but that doesn't mean the other people in his head won't."

Throttle nodded.  "I get it, Dawn.  He still probably shouldn't drive."

"I didn't hear his motor," Modo offered. "I thought I heard a horn up the street."

"Then he took a cab.  Smart man," Dawn said.

"What did he do the last time?" Vinnie asked.

"He went to the old high school, the one he blew up, picked up a piece of pipe from the wreckage, and set about tearing down a few internal walls with it.  When he found a vampire, it was supposedly a nasty fight.  The vampire nearly got him but he ripped his head off.  Spike saw him and ran."  She ate another bite and settled Xander's black sweater closer around her shoulders.  It had shrunk after getting the blood from the bug demon out of it.  "Xander's stronger now," she reminded them.  "At Thanksgiving, he ripped the bug demon's head off with his bare hands."

"How?" Vinnie asked.  "He's not that strong."

"If you twist something long enough after breaking the spine, it comes off," she said blandly. "That's why he came home so sprayed.  Micah told me when I asked."

Throttle nodded.  "He told me when I asked him what had happened."  He finished his dinner. "I still think someone should go with him.  Just in case."

Dawn shook her head. "I'm not that brave.  He wants privacy or he wouldn't have made an announcement.  If he had snuck out, you could justify going looking for him."  She finished her last bite and got up to get some more.  "Anyone want thirds?"  Modo held out his plate so she went to dish him up some food too, bringing it back and handing his over before sitting down again.  "I'm actually hoping for a major demon.  It'd be kinder if he didn't kill someone."  She ate another bite.

"I'm still going after him," Throttle told her. "It's what I'd do for you too."

She shook her head. "If I ever get that angry, I want to be locked in a room while I scream and throw things.  I won't be in my right mind."  She ate another bite.  "Don't let me out around people."

"Sure, kiddo," Vinnie agreed.  "You and me both."  He looked at Throttle. "I'm gonna side with her on this one, bro.  He's in pain but it's not something you can soothe.  He needs to bleed it out.  I'm hoping he finds something to destroy instead of a someone too."

Throttle nodded.  "Me too, but he'll still need a ride to work and he couldn't have been carrying much in that outfit."  He leaned back, looking at his bike.  "Did you put the tracker on him, Modo?"

"Yeah, I slid it under his scalp."  He shook his head.  "I'm not going after him."

"Not an issue," he said, looking at him.  "He's mine, he'll want me.  I can help him wear it out.  Even if he doesn't make it work walking right tomorrow."  They all nodded, deciding he was very brave.


Xander looked at the bouncer of their favorite club later that night.  "Hi."

The bouncer looked at him and shook his head.  "Not when you're that angry," he said, blocking the way.  "I can't risk some kid dousing you and you killing them, kid."

Xander snorted. "I'm looking to bleed it out into the music and dancing."

"Nah.  Go get into a few fights first."

Xander ran his fingers through his hair. "I already did."  The bouncer winced. "I promise, unless they swing first, I'm not going there."  He heard an engine and looked back.  "Following me?"

Throttle shook his head.  "Not really.  I was looking for some relief myself."  He looked at the bouncer. "He's calmer."

"He's still too dangerous tonight," the bouncer told him.  "Take him to calm down and then come back, guys.  Both of you," he said, staring down Throttle.

Xander heard a ring and groaned.  "You brought my phone?"

"No, it was in the bag," he admitted, pulling it out to look at it.  "It rang a few minutes ago too.  It's Cleveland."  He looked at him.  "Should I hit ignore?"

Xander shook his head and took it, answering with a growl.  The babbling voice on the other end was grating on his nerves.  "Where are the others?"  He let out another growl. "Caridad, the proper procedure is to call the other girls.  Call Micah, and then call me if the world is going to hell.  Is it?"  He listened to her crying.  "Where are they?"  He slapped himself on the forehead.  "Then call them!"  He turned and put his fist through the wall of the club before leaning against it.  "Fine.  I'll be there in a bit.  Meet me at the airport with a sword and a stake," he said more calmly.  "Yes, those are my orders, Caridad.  I don't give a god fucking damn.  Do it."  He hung up and looked at the club, then at the bouncer.  "Send me the bill to fix it."

"Not the first, kid.  You calmer now?"

"No, but I'm going to go rip a few people a new asshole," he muttered, looking at Throttle.  "I can go there and be back in the morning.  You should get some sleep."

"I can take you to the airport," he offered. Xander shook his head. "It's not a problem."

"No, I'd make you angrier when I started to mumble."  He looked around but there weren't any cabs.  "Shit," he muttered, walking over to look up and down the street again.

"Get on, Xander.  I'm taking you to the airport and we'll go together," Throttle said calmly.  Xander looked at him, then slowly shook his head.  "Yeah.  We're going together.  We don't let each other go into battle without backup.  Never again.  I'm your backup.  So get on the bike.  I'll call Vinnie to tell him."

"You can't leave her at the airport, Throttle, someone will hurt her."

"Then Vinnie can bring one of the girls up to ride her back."  He stroked his bike.  "Which one do you want, babe?  Dawnie or Charley girl?"  The bike beeped immediately, sounding happy. "Dawnie?"  It beeped again.  "Done."  He looked at Xander, shifting some.  "Come on.  We'll head.  Call your boss on the way." Xander groaned but did as he ordered, pushing his phone into his pocket and putting in his earbud.  He took off, calling Vinnie.  "Vincent, get on your bike, meet us at the airport.  Cleveland just called and there's an emergency.  We're flying out together.  Bring Dawn to bring back my bike."  He hung up on the spluttering.

Xander called his boss's house.  "Jackie?  It's Xander.  Look at Megan and tell that I'm going to be really late tomorrow.  Probably by noon. Cleveland just exploded and shit's about to hit the fan when I kick their asses. No, that's it.  I'll be in if I can.  Laters."  He hung up and dialed the other number he had for his boss, his cellphone.  He got him.  "I'm going to be really late tomorrow, probably about noon.  Cleveland's just exploded in hell."  He snorted. "Then fire me, boss.  I've got a higher duty at times and one of the girls called crying because the others aren't doing anything or going after the demon.  It's taking on the house at the moment.  Thanks."  He hung up and rested against Throttle's back.  "Can I kill all the slayers?"

"No.  Where are the others?"

"She called them. They're at dinner celebrating someone's birthday.  She said Buffy didn't even call back.  She tried the restaurant a second time and they're still there, still partying, while this thing takes down houses."  Throttle shuddered.  "Caridad's not bad, but she's injured and on crutches.  She said she was scared to call Micah over this."

"So you get it?"

"Yeah, apparently."  He nuzzled the back of his neck.  "You don't have to come."

"Shut up, Xander.  I'm going with you.  Vinnie and Modo can handle the city overnight.  There's nothing going on anyway."  He took the onramp at high speed, getting onto the interstate.  "How long do you think it'll take?"

"I'm hoping I'll be done by sunrise, which means I can catch a flight back and head to the site."

"We, Xander."

"Fine, we."  He relaxed slightly. "I'm sorry I'm such a pain to you."

"You're not," he promised.  "The selfish brats are.  The people who are threatening your crew is.  The anger they're causing you is one.  Then again, maybe if you slept it'd help."

"I can't sleep.  I keep seeing Janice as they pulled her out of the lake."  Throttle shuddered, Xander had set up the funeral before anyone could even think about it.  It was clear he had some experience.  It was also clear that someone was going to pay for killing her and the cop who had tried to protect her when Xander found them. "I'll be fine."

"I'm sure you will, but you need someone to break.  Either the idiots making threats or the slayers.  Then your crew could get down to work and get that job finished.  Did the cops say anything?"  Xander shook his head. "Nothing?"

"They won't give me any information."

"You need it to protect your people."

"There for a few days they thought I was the one doing it.  Then I got to drive off that armed invasion of the site one afternoon."  He let out a sigh but he felt Throttle tense up.  "Sorry, it was on the news, I thought you knew."

"No, I try not to listen to it, but Charley's going to be explaining why she didn't tell me."  Xander let out a quiet chuckle. "How many of those sort of things have there been?"

"Two letter bombs, a few real ones.  We're about due for another one.  The cops are watching the site heavily."  He shifted as they came off the down ramp and headed into the airport. "You don't have to come."

"Yeah I do.  I want to be there for you."  He leaned back, giving him a gentle pressure hug as he parked in short term parking.  "Okay, girl, you behave for Dawnie. Remember, she's a good rider and to train her better if she does stupid stuff.  Take her right home."  His bike beeped.

"Want us to wait?" Xander asked.  The bike shook her front wheel.  "You're sure, baby?"  A gun popped up.  "Good point.  Don't do that, there's cameras."  She put it back.  "Okay, if you need us, send someone running into the airport."  He gave her a gentle stroke as he got off, letting Throttle lead the way inside.  He stopped him before they went inside, while they were in a shadow.  "I don't want you in the middle of the fight, Throttle.  From what she said, it's not a hard demon to kill.  You can guard, harass, or drive into an area for me, but I don't want you taking it on."

"You sure?"

He nodded.  "Yeah.  This is one of those where you've got to take the head off," he said quietly, glancing around.  "Cheer me on this time.  Help if you want to.  Just don't jump in."  He stole a kiss then walked off, heading for the desk.  He smiled at her.  "I'm going to Cleveland with my mentor.  It's an emergency," he sighed, pulling out his thinner wallet and handing it over.

"Do you need to make arrangements to be picked up as well?" the woman asked gently.

He shook his head.  "It's not a medical one, unfortunately.  It's more a personal one.  Like my sister's husband just beat the shit out of her."  She winced and nodded, getting him two good seats.  "That's my mentor, put him close so I can nap on him."  She smiled and nodded, adjusting their seats.  She ran his card then handed it and the tickets back, letting him go through security.

Throttle fortunately had his Micah-given license on him and that got him through security.  They didn't have long to wait, their flight was in about twenty minutes once they got through.  This time of night there wasn't that much traffic.  They boarded with the few people, and he liked this smaller jet.  It was cozier.  He got the window seat and Xander flopped down next to him, doing up his belt and then helping Throttle with his.  Then he leaned against his arm and closed his eyes. "You rest if you want," he said quietly, patting him on the shoulder.  Xander nodded, relaxing and going into a light doze.  The stewardess gave them a kind smile and got him a blanket, then headed on to check the others.


Vinnie tossed down the radio handset.  "Dawn, get your stuff and let's go!" he yelled.  "We're going to pick up Throttle's bike at the airport."  He headed off, going for his bike.  She met him a moment later, pushing her hair up under her helmet.  "You've got a license, right?"  She nodded.  "Since when?"

"Since one of the guards at school told me I had to have one when he asked to see it.  I took Charley and her bike to get it one day after school.  Besides, we'll be fine together.  I'll take the back ways."  He nodded, kicking his bike to life and taking off while she held on.  "What's going on?"

"Throttle said there's an emergency in Cleveland and they called Xander back.  They're both heading."

"Is Buffy dead?"

"Not that he said," he admitted.  "We can check before we head back."  She nodded against his back, hunching down a bit as he sped up.  They couldn't leave his bike there.  There was no telling who would try to touch her, or even worse, steal her.  He made a jump up onto the interstate from the ramp and got a shriek from Dawn, but it didn't sound like she was scared, so he went his normal way.  Around, up, and on top of the traffic at high speed.

"I don't mind you going fast, Vinnie, but if I die, Xander will turn you into mulch after he whips your tail," she called over their helmet radios.  She heard Modo chuckle. "He will!"

"He will," Vinnie agreed, slowing down a bit.  Maybe by five miles an hour.  He was only doing ninety now.  He pulled off into the airport, heading for the parking area.  His bike turned suddenly and he let her, she knew where Throttle's bike was.  He pulled up beside it and Dawn got off, going over to rudely shove the people admiring her out of the way.  "Ready?" he called.

"Yeah, I'm good," she called back, starting the bike and backing out of the parking spot.  "Sorry, guys, but her daddy is very possessive and won't leave her here for anything."  She smiled at them and pulled away, going to pay for the parking time.  The guard looked at her.  "Her daddy called us to pick her up.  He didn't want someone grubby to touch her.  Then he might have to kick asses."  The man gave her a long stare.  "Ask the guy behind me.  He's his bro."  Vinnie released his face shield and smiled, waving at him.

"Fine," he complained.  "Two-fifty."

She paid and they left.  "You're much more powerful than Charley's," she said, giving her a gentle stroke across the gas tank.  The bike shivered.  "Come on, let's head home.  I'm still grounded and I bet Vinnie won't let me stop off for some fun."

"You got that right," Vinnie called over the radio.  "He'd have my tail in that sling of theirs."

"Eww.  I did *not* need the mental image of you joining them for sex, Vinnie."

"That's what that's for?" he asked.  "Why?"

"It's a restraint and cradling device," she said patiently.  "It keeps someone in a certain position comfortably, or allows them to do things at an easier height than bending down.  Plus, you can have them higher, then lower them for actual sex instead of things like blows, fisting, or other kinky stuff.  Tying down is optional."

"Whoa, how do you know this?" he demanded.

"Porn channel."  She sped up, snickering at his yell.  "I'm being good, Vinnie.  Meet you back there."

"Fat chance," he called, speeding up to ride beside her.  "We're both in trouble if you crash."

"The roads are clear," she called back.  She turned into the industrial section, heading for the mostly back streets of Chicago to get them home.  She didn't trust herself in the interstate at night.  Not yet.


Micah Simms, the man who was in charge of hiding what Xander, Dawn, and the Cleveland group did, groaned as a special report interrupted his nightly CSI watching.  "What now?" he complained.

"This is News 9 with a report from Cleveland.  There's a...creature attacking City Hall in Cleveland and the police are at a standstill with it.  We have live footage of the tragedy in the making."  The scene on the tv switched.

Micah watched as the demon decided to bash in the roof of Cleveland's city hall and reached for the phone, pausing when he saw someone jump the creature with a sword.  The cops shouted at him but he was still climbing it.  A few shots were fired but then the cops were stopped and Xander went to work on it.  It couldn't be anybody else.  Vinnie was white but he never wore that much clothes, and Xander only wore black anymore.  He picked up the phone, dialing the office.

"I want the complete footage from Cleveland on my desk by the time I get in and I want Throttle in my office as soon after lunch as you can get him there.  I don't care," he said sharply.  "It's on the news!"  He hung up and called the house.  "Jessica," he said impatiently.  "Where is Buffy?"  He listened to the whole story, wincing as Xander ripped into the thing with his bare hands, the sword still stuck in it.  Bits and pieces went flying and finally one large chunk came out.  He shuddered as it started to smoke.  "Jessica, when you finally get the spoiled brats in, tell Buffy I want a call at home as soon as she steps through the door.  If she tries to blow it off, tell her I'm arresting her tomorrow morning if she doesn't."  He hung up, picking up another handful of popcorn to eat while he watched Xander rip the creature apart.  "I wonder what's gotten into him."  He called the office again.  "Find out why Xander's in a rage while you're at it."  He hung up again.  This was almost better than CSI.  Even though it didn't have much of a plot.


Xander slid down the pile of goo, wiping himself off.  He looked at one of the cops through his helmet.  "Light it on fire.  It'll burn hotly then disappear.  It shouldn't hurt the building."  The cops raised their guns so he sighed and walked over, frisking one before she could stop him, finding a lighter.  He went back and lit a piece of demon on fire, then tossed it at the whole.  It went up in a pretty 'whoosh' and then arced up before sizzling and starting to turn to ash.  He tossed the lighter back.  "Situation handled."  He walked off, heading back to their rental car.  He wouldn't have to clean the seats so he didn't care what he got on them.  One of the cops tried to stop him so he flipped them over his shoulder, staring down at him.  "That was dumb."  He moved around him.  "I came to deal with that thing, not you guys.  That's what I do for a living.  If you want more information, there's a guy named Bob in town who can help you.  Find him, he'll feed you everything you need to know."

"You know about the thing in the park," the cop gasped.  Xander nodded.  "How?"

"I'm from a place that had one."

The cop stood up and moved closer.  "You came with the Summers woman."

"Unfortunately.  Then I moved," he said dryly.  "Why?"

"The park has bodies and we don't know why.  Can you look at it, sir?"

Xander looked at Throttle, who shrugged.  "Fine," he decided.  "It won't take long.  Keep the news crews out of it and see if you can't get the tape.  Say it was a movie stunt gone wrong or something."  He got into the car to drive, heading for the park he knew very well. He was the one who had stumbled over the actual hellmouth when they had first gotten here.  "Sorry about that."

"Not an issue," Throttle said quietly, watching him.  Xander had been a lot more than he had thought.  "Want to spar when we get home?"

"I don't want to hurt you."

"You won't."  Xander snorted.  "I don't think you'd do it on purpose."

"Yeah, but I couldn't live with myself I actually hurt you."

"You're not that skilled."

Xander glanced at him while they were stopped at a red light.  "You have no idea, Throttle.  I'm a bit more skilled than I usually show. I don't like hurting people and things, especially not you guys.  Ask Modo, he saw me going a few days back.  Or at least I think it was him.  It was his bike that called out a greeting."  He turned on the radio, heading out once the light was green.  "I'm sorry about going primal back there."

"It was necessary," he assured him, reaching over to pat him on the thigh.  "I had no idea how you were going to kill it."

"The old fashioned way.  Fortunately I kept myself from ripping it with my teeth."  He parked by the park, taking off his helmet and shaking out his hair, heading for the hellmouth's opening.  He found it open and something on the ground, crawling around trying to eat a dog that was barking.  It looked like it had hundreds of legs off what appeared to be a giant ant's main body.  "Off!" he shouted.  The dog yelped and ran away.  Xander looked at the creature.  "Honey, I need the sword."  He went back to get it, it had fallen out with a chunk of the former demon.  He shook the piece off and brought it back, handing it over hilt first.  Xander looked at the creature, gauging it.  Then he snorted and dove in, dodging a nasty looking clawed tip of a bug-like leg.  He danced with the thing, getting it in little cuts.

Throttle looked back at the sound of another car pulling up, watching as Buffy and Giles got out with a few more slayers.  The girls and Giles stared in awe as Xander fought with the creature.  He was deadly and moving very quickly.  Throttle watched him some more.  He was using his tail naturally too.  It was time to teach him Mouse fighting styles then.  Xander swung and knocked a pointy claw off, but two more came for him and he had to duck, rolling on the ground to get underneath it.  He stopped and stabbed up, then moved before the thing reached for him.  It pulled out the sword and sprayed nasty stuff on the ground.   It tossed the sword and Xander waved it on with a mean and cruel smirk.  The thing walked over to fight him again and Xander took it on with his bare hands this time, his teeth bared, his body flowing as it ducked and wove, and ripped pieces off.

He finally got the head again and grabbed it around the neck, picking it up and throwing it at the watching slayers and Watcher.  "Why is it that *I* had to save *your* city earlier?" he demanded, stomping over there while the younger girls got the creature.  He glared at Buffy then at Giles.  "Caridad called me.  You wouldn't answer the summons to deal with the creature at City Hall.  You didn't deal with this one.  You also didn't deal with the one that broke into the house to kill her.  Fortunately we got there in time too," he said coldly.  Buffy started to open her mouth.  "Don't you dare!" he shouted, taking a swing at her.  "You're fucking up again, Buffy!  This isn't my job anymore. I deal with Chicago's problem's, not Cleveland's.  You've got twelve slayers left plus you.  If you can't figure out how to put one who's not injured on patrol each night, then maybe you should step down."

"I had it, Xander!"

"Sure, of course you did!" he sneered back, moving closer.  "Then why didn't *you*, the *slayer*, take care of the demon at city hall?"  She glared at him.  "Why did I, who isn't a slayer, take the demon, which would have been much easier to kill a few weeks back before it started to grow, and kill it with my bare fucking hands?"

"Xander, that's enough," Giles ordered.

"Oh, shut up!" he shouted back.  "You let her get this lazy!  You let the others get this lazy!  You let them go out clubbing and ignoring their duties.  You didn't let Buffy get away with it when it was just her!  You nearly toasted her hide when she wanted to start dating like a normal person!"  Giles flinched at that.  "You'd better be dam lucky Caridad is still alive, Giles.  Why didn't you answer the summons from the restaurant?"

"I wasn't there," he said stiffly.

"So, you were somewhere else the girls couldn't get hold of you.  Interesting.  And you, Buffy?  Why didn't you answer it?"

"Caridad's a slayer," she defended.

"She's injured!" Xander shouted back, making her flinch.  "She couldn't walk before, now they're trying to pierce back togther her intestines and chest cavity!"  She turned and got sick. "Good!  If you actually *care* she's at the university."  He glared at Giles.  "Figure out the chain of command.  Unless the world is going to hell, I'm supposed to be last on the list.  Now, I'm heading back to my part of hell, where my crew is getting death threats.  Where I've gotten some death threats from normal people.  You stay here and clean up the mess, Buffy.  The hellmouth's still open.  Have fun with that."  He stomped past her, getting into the car.  He started it since Throttle was already in there.  "Sorry you had to witness that," he said tightly, backing out and heading off.  "I should change.  I'm rather noticeable and the cops won't ignore that."

"They might."

"Yeah, but no airline or airport cop would let me in there dripping with crud like this."  He found a store and got out, heading inside to pick up an outfit, coming out in it with his other clothes in a bag.  He climbed into the passenger's seat, tossing the other bag in the back.  "Sorry about that."  Throttle had apparently decided he should drive so he must be scaring him or something.

"Not an issue," he promised, giving him a gentle kiss.  "You were damn good.  I never knew you knew how to use a sword."

"I learned in self defense," he said bitterly.  "Can we go home now?"

He nodded, starting the car and taking them back to the airport.  "Are we bringing those home?"

"Yeah," Xander decided. "I like that outfit.  I'll ship it from the airport to the garage.  That way we'll get it tomorrow and I can soak the blood out."  He glanced behind them.  "There's a car back there."  He flipped it off and it turned.  "Good."  He faced forward.  "So, did you expect such an exciting night and can we go clubbing when we get back?"

"I'd rather you came home and crashed," Throttle said quietly.

"I'm still too wound up," he admitted, getting comfortable.  "Why do I have friends like them?"

"Just lucky since you met us because of them," he joked back.

"Yeah, I can't deny you're one of the best things in my life," he agreed gently, stroking his arm.  "I'd ask if we could overnight, but the cops would probably ask us to leave the city if they saw us."

"Then let's drive back to the next airport and leave from there."

"Sure.  Akron is closest I think."  He closed his eyes.  "Maybe I'll nap on the drive. It's about an hour.  Need help?"

"No, this heap has one of those programable maps," he admitted, programming that in.  "Ac?"


"Oh.  Funny names," he complained, typing that in.  The map popped up.  It wasn't that difficult.  Almost all interstate.  He got on at the next ramp and headed the way the computer said.  Xander was dozing but he wasn't really sleeping.  He would have offered him one of his allergy pills but he didn't want to disturb what little rest he was getting.  He saw a cop car behind him so he checked, he was going the speed limit, just four miles over it.  He wasn't the one he wanted.  Sure enough, the cop's lights went on and he chased after the person who had just passed them.  He saw the cop's look at him and his double-take, but ignored it.  A lot of people stared at them.   They were handsome mice, it made sense.


Xander paid the cab driver, getting out at the site.  "Hey, Paul.  What's up?" he asked the guard.  He showed his pass, getting a nod and a check on the list.  "This is Throttle.  Give him a guest pass.  He's helping me in the office today."

"I'm sure Merle will love that," he said with a grin, handing over the requested pass, making a note of who it was for.  "Go ahead.  He's pacing."

Xander took off running, pouncing Merle as soon as he flew through the door.  "You're better!"

"Xander," he sighed, hugging him.  "You're okay."  He pushed the boy back to look at him.  "You look like hell," he said, frowning at Throttle since he was walking in. "What happened?"

"Various bombs and other problems," Throttle reminded him.  He closed the door.  "It's good to see you, Merle.  Are you back?"

"Yeah, finally."  He looked at Xander.  "The boss was not happy this morning when he called me."

"Yeah, well, I got called back to Cleveland and he didn't appreciate that either," he said grimly.  "Not that I blame him, but he knows I still do that stuff."

"I know, Xander.  Calm down.  Meg showed up this morning with a copy of the tape of you fighting.  The boss said you need a vacation."  The boy's tail started to twitch, but it didn't look happy.  Throttle took a sniff too.  "What?  Bad donuts on the truck?"

"Evacuate," Xander said calmly.  He opened the door.  "Sound the alarm and haul ass, people!" he yelled.  Everyone ran from the site and Throttle made sure Merle got out.  Xander did a check and found the bomb, then called the cops as he backed off.  He made it outside before it went off, but he still got hit with debris.  The only thing he knew was the pain in the top of his head that smashed his antennas.

Merle held Throttle back.  "Let it settle," he ordered.  Throttle glared at him.  "He's breathing.  He'll live, but let the dust clear or you could get hurt worse."  Throttle counted to ten then went in.  Merle waved at the cops as they came roaring up.  "There was a bomb, we evacuated, but our interior chief got hit.  He'll be fine," he said when one called a paramedic.  "Let his boyfriend take him home.  Just knocked out."

"It could be serious," the cop complained.

"Not with this kid.  Xander's fine."  Throttle came out carrying him and another body grasped to his tail.  "What are you doing here!"  The little boy looked up and sniffled, then burst out crying.  He picked up the baby, holding him, but one of the guys took him to calm him down.  "Yours, Preston?"  He shook his head.  "Whose kid?  You knew better, this is a dangerous site."  One guy raised his hand slowly.  "Normally I wouldn't mind, but not on this one.  The boss told you to take extra precautions."

"I had him in the car, boss, I promise," he pleaded.  "Please don't fire me."  He took his son to hold.  "I'm so mad that you got out of the car."

"You told me to," he whimpered.

One of the cops came over to grab the boy and walk him off, the father following until someone stopped him.

Xander moaned and Throttle put him down on the ground.  "Ow," he moaned, reaching for his head.

"Shh, I've got you," he promised.  "I'm calling Enamel as soon as we get you home, Xander."  Xander looked up and nodded, tears running down his face. "Shh, it'll be okay."  He looked up at Merle.  "He's not going to be fit for a few days.  You can tell the boss I said that and to nibble my tail if he doesn't like it."

"I don't care what he thinks.  Bring him back in a week, Throttle.  Starting today.  The kid's been amazing so far.  He's a fricken saint and I want him back in a week, no matter what."  Throttle nodded and got up, going to use his helmet.  They weren't that far from the garage and Modo roared up a few minutes later, with Vinnie right behind him.  Modo took Xander and Throttle got on behind Vinnie, taking off with him.   Merle looked at his silent crew.  "I don't care who did it," he said quietly, "but I won't have that boy hurt.  If it wasn't for him, you'd be dead.  He smelled the bomb first."  They all mumbled.  "I don't care if this is because he's furry or not, or whatever reason it happens.  It stops now, people, or else I'm going to hand you to our upper boss, and he'll kill you with great pleasure."

"They're infecting us!" one of the guys said bitterly.

Merle snorted.  "Really?  Have you seen Charley with ears and a tail?  She's sleeping with Vinnie and she's not changing."  He looked at the crew.  "For those of you who don't know, Xander grew up in Sunnydale.  He was her Knight.  He still is, that's where he was last night and why he was late today."  Those who didn't know and understood winced.  "I'd say that the fur and changing comes from that sort of source.  Since you guys are giving him bald patches, I'm going to draw the line here.  This site gets finished on time or else I'm going to start firing people."  They gasped.  "Tough, people!  Blame the people who are doing the stupid shit!  Xander had you within a day of the deadline.  Well, now you're going to work your asses off to make sure of it."

"Overtime is allowed?" Brad asked.  Merle nodded.  "Then I volunteer to come back tonight."

"You probably can't get on until tomorrow," Merle told him.  "All of you give statements to the cops then go home.  Be back in the morning at seven.  Tell the rest of them who called off that things are now different and to be back here or forfeit their jobs.  I'm sure Throttle and them would *love* to spoil Xander by pitching in. You have orders, go to it."

Brad smiled at him. "Xander rips us a new one better," he said gently.  "We still want him back though."

"I'll tell the boss that so he won't try to move him to a higher level project."  He clapped the boy on the back.  "I'm sorry about your brother, kid, but I want you to stay.  You're a good worker.  You'll make Xander's job some day soon."  Brad beamed and went to check out with the police.  Most of the rest did the same.  Merle got down on his knees and looked up. "Thank you for sending me Xander, Lord.  He's a special one and I want to keep him around.  Help that boy, please.  Thank you for letting him sniff that bomb."  He got up and went to talk to the cops once his crew was gone.  "They told you Xander sounded the alarm?"  They nodded.  "He's good at that."

"The kid said he was told to plant it when he saw the boy," one of the cops told him.   "Something like anti-immigrant views only worse."  Merle nodded.  "Is he okay really?"

"Xander will be fine.  He's got a doctor down here who understands all of it."  He looked at the site, then shook his head.  "This will be open on time or as near as we can make it," he promised, heading back to check out the office.  He called the main boss.  "It's me.  Xander came back and looked like hell.  He sniffed the bomb one of the guys had his kid plant once Xander showed up.  Something hit him on the head so I had Throttle take him home.  I gave him a week off with pay.  The kid looked like hell and he had us nearly on schedule, even with all the troubles and without a full crew.  I need moved up in priority."  He listened. "No, I'm opening this site on time or else I'm going to start docking pay and firing people.  I'm authorizing overtime and I want a full crew here in the morning.  No, it just exploded.  That's how he got hit on the head and his antennas."  He heard the wince.  "Also, I saw the tape Meg showed you. Xander's crew wants to keep him, I want him back.  He's my second.  Thanks, boss.  I'll see you tonight."  He hung up and went back to deal with the issues with the cops.  The bomb squad and the CSU people were already breaking out their gear.  "It was on the first floor, near the center of where the kitchen should be."  They nodded, heading that way.  They knew the layout apparently.

He'd miss Xander for his week off, but the boy had run himself down handling all this and the emergency situations too.  He deserved it.


Enamel knocked on the door and let Modo lead him inside.  "Thank you.  This is a very nice place you have here."

"Xander designed it around the building that used to be here," Modo admitted, leading him to Xander and Throttle's room.  "He got hit with a flying stone on the head, smashing his antennas."  Enamel hissed.  "He was conscious but Throttle knocked him out to save him some pain."  He tapped on the door then opened it.  "Here he is."

"How is my favorite patient?" Enamel asked as he walked in, walking over the laundry on the floor.  "Have a fit?"  Throttle nodded.  "Understandable.  I've been watching the news on the site.  I'm amazed he only collapsed once."  He bent down to look at the boy's antennas.  "They're only swollen.  Does he react to ice therapy?"

"I had a cold pack on there but it made him moan," Throttle offered.  He sat on the foot of the bed, watching him.  "When did he collapse?"

"About two weeks ago.  It was simple exhaustion and I gave him one of his allergy pills by force, then tucked him onto the office's couch. I also bought him lunch and left it where he would see it and eat it, then told his stand-in to make sure he rested as long as possible and ate everything I had left."  He glanced at Throttle.  "He's a stubborn guy, Throttle.  Vinnie was one of the most stubborn, conniving, persuasive patients I ever took care of, but this one beats him in some of those areas.  We had to sneak attack Vinnie to give him his shots, I'm imagining that someone had to strap this kid down for his or sedate him."  Throttle nodded.  "They did?"

"He kicked the doctor a few times too.  Knocked the needle away, stepped on it so it couldn't be used on him. They usually had his mother hold him on her lap with a nurse holding his feet and another one holding the arm they were using, or his hips if it went into a cheek."  Enamel shuddered.  Throttle smirked.  "So, that's where he's been all those nights he came home late?"

"Did you think he was cheating?"

"No. I know he wasn't cheating.  I figured he was doing paperwork, not actually building the place by himself."

"From what his stand-in said, either he was going in at night for a few extra hours or they had fairies who came in to do some of it for them."

"Sounds like my bro," Vinnie said from the doorway.  "He okay?"

"He'll be fine once the swelling goes down," Enamel promised, standing up.  "I'd say give him some tylenol but it'll upset his stomach again. Do you have a bathtub?"  Both mice nodded.  "Good, plant his butt in it.  Put on some music he likes, put in some gentle smelling stuff, put food next to him along with a lot of stuff to drink that's not soda, then work on his muscles once they're softer from the heat and the relaxation."

"No soda?"

"He needs fluids that'll rehydrate.  Caffeine is a diuretic."  Enamel looked at Throttle.  "If you have a chance, spoil him by doing things that make him nap."

"Backrubs do that," Throttle admitted.  "I've done a lot of those recently."

"Good.  Then you kept him from dying from the stress.  Get him calm, keep him calm, make him do fun things that aren't strenuous.  No bar brawls, no fighting of any kind unless it's an emergency, then try to keep him from the point position.  No wild nights of dancing for at least a week."

"I like dancing," Xander complained.

Enamel looked at him.  "Which is good and speaks well of your abilities in bed, Xander, but I want and need you to rest for the next few days.  Lots of juice and milk.  A lot of sleeping and eating.  Nothing too strenuous.  Not that I think your head will let you today, but I want you to be in the bathtub today.  Go lounge like a girl with a bunch of food and some juice.  Let Throttle spoil you with a really good backrub, then take a long nap.  Your antennas should quit hurting by tomorrow morning."

"Sex?" Vinnie asked.

Enamel looked at him. "I didn't know you were a trio."

Vinnie shivered.  "No, not in the least," he said quickly.  "Just asking the stuff Throttle won't."

"If a *gentle* orgasm helps him, then he can have a *gentle* orgasm," he said, looking at Throttle to make sure he understood.  He nodded.  He looked at the mass of leather on the dresser, then at him and shook his head. "Not for a week."  Throttle blushed at that.  "Any other questions?"  Xander raised a hand.  "Yes, dear?"

"Don't call me dear, I'll kick your butt," Xander said tiredly.  "Calcium.  I should be loading up, right?"  Enamel nodded, brushing the back of one ear.  "Can you make Vinnie go buy me cheese then?"

"Go buy him cheese," Enamel told him firmly.  "He needs it.  He's going to end up with weak bones without it."  Vinnie grumbled.  "No one said you had to eat it, Vincent."

"You're not my parent."

"Kid, I saw more of your tail when you were younger than your mother did," he said dryly, smirking at the boy.  "Especially when you refused to let her change you."

"I'll make out a list," Throttle said, giving Vinnie an easy exit.  "Don't pick on him too much, that's Xander's fun," he said dryly.

"I found out long ago that that story, the one where he had chapped tail so bad you could almost see muscles, and the story about him and the pig and cow were suitable to make him stop any misbehavior in the office," he told him dryly.   He smirked.  "Later we added on the one where he tried to fly off the house, the one where he pierced his sheathe when he was eight, and the one where he claims he found an elven mouse."

"A mouse with pointy ears and long hair?" Xander asked.

Throttle sat up straight.  "No way.  They're myths."

Enamel shrugged.  "He claims he saw one coming from the underground river area.  Why he was over six hundred klicks from home, I'm not sure.  No one ever figured that one out.  He claims he saw one though."  He looked at Xander.  "Name whatever you want for lunch.  They're in the mood to spoil you, kid.  Think about what I mentioned last time."  He put everything he had pulled out back into his pockets.  "If you need me, call, Throttle.  He's a good boy most of the time."  He walked out, heading out the back door.  He turned, finding a cat staring at him.  "Not a chance.  I'm furry enough, beast."  It walked over and hopped up onto his bike, making it shiver.  "Off!  Modo!  Vinnie!"

Vinnie stuck his head out of the building.  "Joyce, he's not the nicest guy.  Let one of the others adopt him."  The cat meowed.  "No, dear, he's fine.  Come see."  She trotted back into the house, going to check on her second favorite human.

"That's not normal," Enamel stated.

Vinnie smirked.  "What a shock, Xander's cats?"  He checked then slammed the door, narrowly missing a tail of a new kitten.  "Hey, Hotdog."  He walked his cat back up the stairs so they could look at the fish until he could run out for that food, and if he had to cheese.

Downstairs, Xander was petting Joyce while Throttle cuddled him.  "I'm sorry I had to yell at Buffy, but she was being a stupid and bitchy slayer again and ignoring her duty.  She left one of the girls severely injured and alone and refused to take care of a menace."  She let him scratch her head.  "I'm sorry if you're mad at me."  She walked up his chest to bathe his nose.  "Thanks, mom."  He stroked her back and yawned.  "Maybe I'll go back to sleep."

"You should.  You fought like hell last night, Xander, and you were wonderful.  Almost demonic in your anger."  Throttle stroked his arm.  "Let's not get to this point again, okay?  Tell me and I'll help."  Xander looked at him and nodded.  "Thanks."  He gave him a kiss. "You sure you don't want the bath now?  When Dawn's not here to interrupt?"

"Nah.  I'm fine."  He snuggled in, letting Joyce curl up beside his head while he curled up on Throttle's stomach.  "Thank you."

"For what?"

"Coming with me."

"Not an issue.  That's what I'm supposed to do."  He patted him on the back, glaring at the phone when it rang.  He used his tail to grab it and bring it over.  "What?" he answered. He listened to the voice on the other end.  "No, he's fine.  Send her home if she got into a fight.  We'll deal with her then.  Was it a reasonable one?"  He considered it.  "Well, fighting for the virtue of a boy isn't as bad as fighting over a boy."

"Was she protecting him?" Xander asked.

"Xander wanted to know if she was protecting him.  No, he's got a migraine.  His doctor said to stay in bed or in a hot bath.  Sure."  He looked down at him.  "Someone tried to jump Phil and he was struggling so Dawn pulled the other girl off and kicked her tail."

"Good for her," Xander said firmly.  "That's protecting and I like protecting.  Tell her she can have Saturday back as long as she doesn't make my head hurt between now and then."

Throttle put the phone back against his ear.  "Xander said that was a protective move so it's good with him.  Yeah, well, we'd rather have her protecting those who needed it instead of standing by and letting them be hurt.  It's the sort of girl her mother would have wanted her to be."  Joyce meowed and licked his fingers when he scratched her chin.  "No, you have every right to suspend her for the day and tomorrow. We understand, the rules are the rules and she'll have to live with them.  We'll be talking when she gets home about making sure it's only in the duty to protect others.  She did what?"  He listened to the other problem.  "Huh.  Put her on."  He waited.  "Dawn," he said patiently.  "Why were you defending some girl from her girlfriend?"  He listened to her babble about the fight and how the other girl had been beating her girlfriend, even though it had been one of those cases where the girl had cheated.  "Fine, we'll be talking when you get home. That one was iffy.  Because if we don't, you'll turn into Vinnie.  Now get your tail home, be careful not to wake up Xander because he's got a migraine, and he's going to be in the bathtub all night."
He smirked.  "Good.  He said so.  We'll discuss it later.  We've got to talk anyway, baby girl.  Sure.  No, we had to go to Cleveland last night.  No, she's fine.  She was having a party with most of the girls."  He smirked at her sudden outburst of swearing. "Yeah, that's about what he did when they finally showed up two demons later.  Thanks."  He smirked  when he heard the headmistress take back the phone.  "Unfortunately we had to deal with her sister last night," he said patiently.  "She's enough to make Modo swear and his momma not wash his mouth out with soap.  Yeah, that's her only sister.  No, having a party.  Xander had to go slay for her last night."  He smirked.  "So, yeah, we don't mind Dawn getting into protective fights.  She drove, or I'm assuming she did, so send her home.  We'll make sure she knows the rules."  He nodded, smirking.  "Thanks, ma'am.  You have a nice day."  He hung up and looked at Joyce.  "Your daughter is one strong girl.  She protected her man from a poaching girl who he couldn't get free from and a girl whose girlfriend decided she was sleeping around on her."  Joyce gave him a look.  "She protected."

Joyce meowed and walked over to headbutt him in the chest.  Then she walked off to wait in Dawn's room. They'd be having a discussion of their own soon.  Just as soon as she caught a nap in the sunny spot on her bed.


Charley looked up as Throttle walked into the garage.  "How's Xander?"

"Fine.  He just needs a soak.  Can we borrow your bathroom?  Vinnie's getting sick.  He saw Xander eating cheese and crackers."  Charley grinned at that.  "Charley girl, if you don't mind me asking, are you feeling all right?  You've been not eating a lot yourself."

"It's a new medicine," she promised, patting him on the arm.  "Sometimes starting on birth control pills do that to you."

He nodded.  "Okay, then I'll leave it there. I just wanted to make sure you weren't sick.  If you were, I'd let Vinnie come fuss."

"Please don't," she moaned, shaking her head. "He'd be rotten and then Xander would have to help.  I'd never get anything done."  Throttle smirked at that and nodded.  "Go ahead and use my bathtub.  I'll repossess it later tonight."  He nodded, going to get Xander and bring him over.  She smiled when she saw the boy being carried, but went back to work.  She had to pay the water bill somehow.

Upstairs, Throttle was running the water while the sleeping Xander was in his lap.  Once it was filled enough he undressed his boy and put him into the bath, then went to get his tray of treats and juice.  He found him a few books too and came back in time to turn off the water before it overflowed.  He set the tray down next to the tub and sat down to read until Xander woke up.  "If the tub was a bit bigger, I'd get in there with you, but you're supposed to be resting."  He stroked the soft fur, smiling when he saw some shedding.  If he was having stress shedding, he was definitely going to be spoiling him rotten until he relaxed. "Maybe a new outfit," he decided, stroking the soft fur.  Xander moaned and shifted, then opened his eyes when he felt the water move around him.  "Morning."

"Bath time?"  Throttle nodded.  "In Charley's tub?"

"Yeah, Vinnie got sick when he saw you eating cheese."  He held up the juice with the straw, letting him drink.  "I found you a few books when you get tired of lounging."

"Thanks, Throttle.  I'm not used to lounging."

"Everyone should lounge now and then.  Mars used to have a lot of thermal springs.  We've got a heavy water underground river and it's nice and warm.  In places it comes really close to the surface so we use them to soak and take healing baths in."  He held up the juice but Xander shook his head.  "On any given day you could find nearly every older woman on Mars in them and on any holiday the rest of us."  Xander smiled at that.  "Booksellers used to set up shop near the springs.  They offered pool-side menus and delivery for the most part."

"Were they single sex pools?"

"Some.  Some were family pools.  Some were for lovers."  He stroked Xander again.  "I only got to go to one of those once and that was well before Carbine and I hooked up.   Vinnie dared me and drug me with him.  He used to love those springs.  While we were training, there was a spring not too far away.  Any night he didn't have duties or punishment, he was there.  If you ever wanted to find Vinnie and he had more than a free hour, he'd be there.  The operators used to even let him sleep in there sometimes."  Someone tapped on the door.  "Hey, Vinnie."

"Telling him about the pools?"  He came in and sat down on the floor, handing over the treat he had found.  "Hot pepper before you ask."

"Not today," Throttle sighed.

"No, it's sweet," Xander assured him. "Thank you, Vinnie.  Were they really nice pools?"

"They were," he agreed, smiling at him.  "Make him eat a few too."

"Every time I do, I don't get sex," Xander teased, putting them carefully down onto the tray so he could eat one, smiling at the heat that invaded his mouth.  He sipped his juice and got comfortable again.  "Can you show me? I know we've got some but I don't know where any are around here."

Vinnie hesitated.  "With your antennas hurting it might give you a worse headache."

"It might make 'em feel better," Xander offered. "I can't imagine a worse headache unless someone's doing brain surgery."

"Sure."  He braced himself as he got to his knees, leaning forward.  He felt Xander lower his shields and smiled at how thick they were, even though he was in pain.  They touched antenna gently and Xander flinched a bit, so he tried to pull back.  He found himself stuck, reliving the last time he had been to the pools.  He carefully steered the memory back, hoping Throttle realized what was going on.  No wonder Throttle liked sharing memories with him.  Xander was a like a warm blanket rolling across his brain.  It was as close to mental sex as he had ever really gotten. Not that either of them was trying for it, but it just felt that good and soothing.  He let Xander see how he discovered them by sneaking into the forbidden deeper caves and what he found there, and then moved forward a few times, focusing only on the pools.  Otherwise Xander would be a bit too intimate with him.

Throttle watched them for a moment, then sighed.  "Xander sucked him in."  He moved the tray, then separated them, putting himself between them.  He saw Dawn riding his bike, something he had wondered about, and heard her telling him what they were doing with their swing.  He shivered and backed Vinnie out of his head, then carefully shut Xander out, finally snapping their bond so the boy could rebuild his shields.  "Whoa," he said, rubbing his forehead.  "I think we all need a soak."

Vinnie already had his head in his hand, shaking it a bit.  "No, I don't think even the best pool would do this time," he said plainly.  "What was that?"

"Xander is open to others possessing him," Throttle said gently.  "It was unintentional."

"I didn't figure he did it on purpose," he said, looking up at Throttle, his eyes watering.  "It was like the most comforting, warm, touching mental sex you've ever heard about."  He clamped a hand on his mouth, looking scared.  "I'm not poaching," he said instantly.

"I know, Vinnie.  I feel the same way," Throttle assured him, giving him a light pinch.  "He'd never cheat and you won't poach."  He stroked Xander's forehead, feeling him asleep now.  He looked at Vinnie again.  "Relax it happens.  He did it to me the first time I went into his mind."  He gave him a pat on the arm.  "Go link minds with Charley girl to ease that ache.  She'll make it better."

"Yeah, maybe," Vinnie admitted, standing up with help from the sink.  "He's not sleeping."

"He is."

"He's not.  He's suppressing himself."  He moved the tray further away and went back in to help Throttle find his boy. He wouldn't let Xander hide from this one.  They found him curled up in a ball, holding his head and slowly and carefully drew him back to the surface, getting a nudge out of his mind from an outside source.   Vinnie came to and looked up, seeing two familiar people.  "Hey, doc, Stoker."

"Morning, punk.  Problems?"

"I was showing Xander the old pools and got stuck.  He slingshot back into his head.  Get Throttle.  He's got a strong mind."  He winced as Stoker helped him to his feet and walked him out to the couch, where Dawn was making a bed.  "Thanks, Dawnie. Love you too."  He kicked off his boots and laid down, letting her cover him up and kiss him on the ear.  "You're a good mommy mouse."

"Thanks, I think."  He smiled so she went to help with Throttle.  He was resting against the wall.  "Hey, big man.  Let's get you to a softer sleeping spot."

"Not until Xander's okay."

"He's fine," Stoker promised.  "It was an accident."  Throttle looked at him.  "Did he do it on purpose?"

"No, but his mind got caught in Vinnie's.  I separated them like we were taught," he said, rubbing his forehead, then taking off his specs to rub the bridge of his nose before putting them back on.  "Vinnie noticed he hadn't come back up."

"He's up now," Enamel said patiently.  "By the way, it's now the next day."  Throttle winced.  "So go rest."

"I feel rested and fine."

"Don't disobey the doctor, even though he does dress like a mafia enforcer or some tough guy like that."  She helped him up and out to Charley's bed, tucking him in there.  Stoker had said to separate those two farther apart so Xander would have to build his shields against him.  She came back and plopped down beside Xander, stroking his forehead. "Xander?" she called softly.  "Come out and play with me, Xander.  I'm surrounded by boys who won't play."  He moaned and one arm went around her, making her grin.  "Come on, you can do it, Xander.  We love you.  Come on, you can embarrass Vinnie now."  Xander blinked at her.  "Morning, baby mouse.  They got stuck in your head all night."  She stroked his forehead.  "Are you okay?"  Xander shook his head.  "You should be."

"I'll be fine. Just need some sleep."

"That's fine, but you've got to come out of the water and go back to bed," Dawn told him.  "Can you sit up?"  He nodded, trying to, but not managing it.  The two bigger men hauled him up and she dried him off, putting him in a robe. "There you go. Come on, you can come back and lounge on my bed for a bit," she promised, steadying him as he stumbled out to the door.  It was only a few feet and they had cleaned the snow off the pathway earlier.  Xander still shivered so she hurried him inside and under her warm comforters.   She sat beside him, stroking his forehead until he made her stop.  "Fine."  She laid down beside him, giving him the cuddle he'd need.  "What did you see?"

"They have heavy water pools on Mars," he said quietly.  "Vinnie was showing them to me."  Enamel walked in.  "How do I stop that?"

"If I had an idea what happened, I might be able to tell you that."

"He's a medium.  People like to possess him."

"I'm not sure we're on the same wavelength, Dawn.  Possess, like Throttle does?"  Like he would like to?  Everybody should have a Xander of their own, or steal one if they had the opportunity.  The only thing stopping him was Throttle.  And possibly Vinnie.

"No, like climbing into his body and using it for their own purpose after they've lost theirs."   He looked stunned.  "Xander's always been like that."  Xander slowly nodded.  "He's got shields and stuff."

"Which is good, but he's got to lower them all to let them in," he said thoughtfully.  "Do you have any references so we can compare that and Martian techniques?"  She nodded, leading him up to the library to get him the books on possession.  He sat down with the tomes, flipping through the indexes first.  "Go back to him.  Stoker's not liking this either."

She nodded, going back to sit with Xander.

Stoker was with the others, checking on them.  "What happened, Vincent?"

"Don't call me that," he whined.  Stoker swatted him gently.  "He's got a really strong mind, like the priestess who used to work with us," he told him.  He shrugged. "Basically it was the same as the time she did it to me.  Throttle broke us free and then I felt him not coming back.  We went in to find him."

"That was dangerous!" he said hotly.

"Maybe, but he'd had his antennas smashed earlier that morning," Vinnie complained.  "Quit yelling."

Throttle came out, leaning on the walls.  "He's right, Stoker.  It wasn't intentional and he does feel like Baxter."

"I'm sure she'll be thrilled in whatever version of the afterlife she believed in, but that's still dangerous.  One of these days, one of you is going to get caught in there for good."

"If we do, we'll die happy," Vinnie assured him.  "It's nice, like a comfortable blanket snuggling up in front of the fire on a cool night."

"I could've sworn you were dating Charley."

"I am, her mind feels like that to me too.  Fortunately people don't want to possess her."  He sat up.  "We're fine.  We did what we were supposed to, we just got stuck.  Modo would have gotten us out."

"Who do you think called us?" Stoker said dryly. He looked around.  "Where's the hack?"

Throttle picked up the phone, then hung it up when he heard talking, going over to the stairs.  "Dawn?"  No answer. He sighed and started to slowly walk down them.

"Whoa!" Stoker shouted, going to stop him and put him back in bed.  "You, sleep.  Xander needs to spend a few minutes away from you to build his shields against you."

"Why?  He hasn't had those since Throttle claimed him," Vinnie said dryly, smirking at his friend as he came back out.  He moved his feet so he could sit down  "You didn't realize it but when he was in danger, you're very tense.  You didn't even respond to Modo taunting you.  Your ears were taut and your tail was swishing around like it wanted to become a propeller."

Throttle shrugged. "He's worth it."  He looked at Stoker.  "He'll be fine."

Enamel walked up the stairs with a book, handing it to Stoker.  "This is what Xander is.  As far as I know, that's the Priestesses of the Mountains.  Right?"  He noticed Throttle stiffening.  "If so, there's a way to train him, I think."

"We kept that stuff, it's in the archives," Stoker admitted, reading over the description.  He looked at Vinnie.  "You're not going to try to claim him, right?"  He shook his head quickly.  "You're sure?"

"He's like my little brother."

Enamel smirked at him.  "He would have driven your mother insane.  One of you was nearly enough but two of you?"  Vinnie glared at him so he smirked bigger.  "What?  It's the truth."  Stoker suddenly hit him, knocking him down.  "Sorry."

"I'd pounce you but I'm too damn tired," Vinnie told him.  "Do something useful, go take the chocolates I got him and bring them to him."

"Fine."  He got up and went to do that.  It'd give him a few minutes to compose himself.  He knew he couldn't play like a regular mouse any more.  He didn't know why he tried that. He looked at the chocolates and took one for himself in payment, then suddenly stopped, tossed the box at Modo, and headed for the bathroom.  Maybe Vinnie would play with him some day.  That had been mean!  "What are those?" he gasped, still trying to get the feeling back in his mouth.

Modo smirked. "Xander's treat to Switch.  Chocolate covered hot peppers.  Works great when you've got the sniffles."  He carried them into Dawn's room, leaving them where Xander could find them later.

"Awww, you bought him candy," Dawn said fondly, picking up one to eat it. "Shit!"  She ran for the bathroom to drink too, shoving Enamel against the shower and blocking him to drink from the faucet.  "Stupid ass hot peppers.  Should kill someone for showing him what they are."  She gulped more and rinsed, then spit.  "That's evil, Modo, you're supposed to be a good guy!"

"Vinnie said he bought them for him."  He wiped his eyes.  "I can't believe he eats those and he won't eat hot dogs."

"He knows what goes into hot dogs," Dawn told him.  She drew another mouthful then spit it out.  "Stupid hot peppers."

"Why did you rinse and spit?"

"Because if you swallow it carries the burn down.  This way, it goes away faster."  She got out of his way.  "You're pretty decent sometimes, for an evil thug with ideas of genetic manipulation."  She walked off.

"I've never been a thug," he called.

"If you intimidate people, you're a thug."

He followed her down the hall.  "Listen, kid.  I don't intimidate people and if you judge it on that criteria than your darling mice here count because *no one* wants to get in their way on a bad day."  She turned to glare at him.  "Seriously.  There are cops on Mars who won't go near Vincent or Modo.  Most of them might if Throttle was there, but not without him.  They've seen Throttle tear up a few clubs by brawling too.  I never did any of that.  Yeah, I did some minor experiments that went wrong.  I was trying to work for the betterment of mousekind.  I'm like that.  So, I'm less evil than some."

"So you're a mouse Karbunkle?" she said snidely.  "Not much better."

"No, honey, I never did it for pleasure.  I didn't look at anyone that I ended up altering and then cackle in glee and joy, or go whack off afterward because it made me happy.  We had a lot of injured people and I was working on a way to integrate the mechanical parts better.  It went wrong.  I fully admit that.  My shit went way wrong and I ended up paying for going off track.  I'm not a thug.  I've never been a thug.  I was a doctor, a damn good doctor.  One of the best surgeons on Mars."  He took a deep breath.  "They've used what I found afterward to help others.  That's a slight balm to being kicked off my planet.  Maybe you can't understand the concept of feeling you have a duty at your age...."

She snorted. "I've always been around people with a *duty*, Enamel.  My sister's a slayer.  She used to be the only slayer.  I got to see her go out each and every night, knowing she could lose and not come back, or come back as a vampire."  He shuddered.  "Then she got friends and they jumped in.  Xander's one of those.  He didn't have a duty and he still did the job. He feels more strongly about the job than my sister does sometimes.  He went and ripped her a new asshole over her playing around about her *duty*," she spat, making him back up another step and she followed.  "Yeah, I'm so fucking deep in the paranormal that I'm going to work for Micah.  It's the only thing I can do.  The same as the only thing Xander could do was jump in.  So I'm going to be going against the same things to protect a bunch of people who wouldn't put up a fight, even if they could, because that would mess up their views as a member of a flock of sheep.  So no, don't you *dare* tell me about duty and feeling a calling to help others, smart ass.  I may be young, but you've got *nothing* on someone like Throttle.  He joined the resistance at sixteen.  Where were you?"

"Already off the planet," he admitted quietly.  "I got banished when Vincent was about twelve.  That means Throttle would have been about ...fifteen."  She crossed her arms.  "I was supporting the older people, Dawn.  I was helping as much as I could. It's a smart person who realizes that they're not a fighter and does what they can to support the others."

"Yeah, been there and done that too.  Doesn't mean that I like you more."  He shrugged.  "Now, how long before Xander's better?  He needs to go out for a few days.  Merle gave him a week off."

"Good.  Once he's got his shields rebuilt and fully up, Throttle can take him on a roadtrip.  It'll be good for them both."  He stared into her eyes.  "You have someone to work that anger out with, right?"

"We have a heavy bag."

"Maybe you should yell at your sister yourself.  It'd make you feel better."  He went in to check on Xander, finding him awake. "Sorry, sometimes I still feel the need to defend myself."

"Not an issue."  He sat up.  "I can always feel Throttle."

"You can?"  He nodded.  "Huh.  Well, Stoker's looking over the reference Dawn found for me upstairs."

"Which one?  Bextra?"

"Um, Doubleday."

"Take him the Bextra one in blue leather.  It's a better source of information.  Doubleday has some guesses that don't work in my case.  I don't communicate with them, I become them."

"Fine. I can do that.  The others are fine."   Xander nodded.  "Can you still feel Vinnie?"

"Kinda.  A little bit but he's pulling back most of the way now."

"Fine.  Let me get that one."  He patted him on the head, checking his antenna.  "Doing good, Xander.  The swelling's gone.  Just no stimulation with a tail for a few days."

"That's not my preferred method of doing that anyway."

"Really?  What do you do with them?"

"Oral stuff," he said smugly.

Enamel moaned.  "I'll have to try that some time."  He walked out, going up to find the other book and take it next door.  He coughed, handing it to Stoker.  "Xander said the one I gave you doesn't always work in his case.  He said he doesn't communicate with them, he becomes them."

"Like he did the hyena and the soldier," Throttle agreed.

"Was that the growling?" Vinnie asked him.  Throttle nodded.  "Can't he get rid of that?"

"No, they merged.  So he's probably carrying around a bit of you at the moment too."  Enamel nodded.  "I heard yelling?"

"Dawn accused me of being a thug so I told her exactly what had happened without graphic details."  Vinnie shivered.  "Don't worry, Vincent, I never thought about going near you.  You were always too cute.  We were all hoping you'd do something to ease suffering instead of going out and fighting and getting injured."  He looked at Throttle.  "She needs a mentor.  She's just as full of anger at some people as he is."

"With what I saw the other night in Cleveland, I'm not shocked," Throttle told him.  "I still don't like you."

"I know."  He shrugged. "Not everyone gets along.  Thankfully it was my work that led to your eyes, kid.  The same as it led to Modo's arm.  I was working on a way to integrate them better when they popped me."

"Can you?"

"I can't experiment, Vinnie. It's wrong," Enamel told him.  "I can theorize.  I can't do another living experiment.  The last one I did was to try to cure a DNA damaged child and I couldn't stabilize her."  He shivered.  "So they looked into my private research when she died.  All because we didn't have the capabilities to stop the genetic shifting.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a date with a liquor bottle.  Have a nice day and take him on a vacation, Throttle.  He needs a vacation."  He walked off, going out to jump on his bike and head off.  He had liquor at home.  He pulled into his garage and stopped, leaning for a moment on his bike.  That's when he heard the rustling and looked down at his bag across the gas tank.  "How did you get into a sealed bag?" he asked the cat.  He patted the other side down, then the back case, shaking his head as he walked up the stairs.  He called the garage.  "Charley, it's Enamel.  One of the cats snuck into my bag.  She's brown with white tips on her ears. I'll bring her back when I come back to check on them."  He hung up and went to get her some tunafish.  They could both have that for lunch.


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