NC-17, m/m, m/f

"Why are we going south?" Xander asked before climbing onto the back of Throttle's bike.

"Because going east means we'll end up back in Cleveland and I'd help you butcher a few of those girls.  Going west means more snow, and you should be warm for a few days. You always seem happier in the heat.  Going north means Canada, so immigration at the check points, plus even mor snow.  I thought south would be good."

"Anywhere special?" Xander asked, giving him a gentle squeeze.

"I was thinking maybe we'd run into a theme park.  Half the fun of the road trip is the getting there."

"I remember, but I broke down on my last one.  Thankfully I had Charley go over the bike, just in case.  Then I polished her for us."

"You did a good job and she's very happy with you," Throttle assured him, glancing back at him. "Ready?"  Xander nodded.  "Good.  Vinnie, Modo, we're heading out."

Vinnie came out and gave them each a pat on the back.  "Be safe.  There's a storm coming this way from the west."

"Thanks for the warning, bro.  Modo?"

"Still napping the sleep of the heavily protective.  I don't know how he did that dance last night, but he came home with a massive headache.  Said something about rap."  He shrugged and grinned at Xander. "Bring me back something fun and pictures if you can.  I slipped a camera into your bag."  He winked and strolled off to get Charley up.  He nodded at the person standing outside the door. "Give me ten, sir.  I'll get Charley up.  She was trying to sleep in after chaperoning a friend's dance last night."  He shuddered and nodded.  Vinnie hurried inside and up to Charley's room, kissing her awake.  "Early customer, sweetheart.  You've got about eight minutes left."

She nodded, getting up to go to the bathroom first, then go down to let him in and see what was wrong.  It was necessary anymore.  Maybe she'd call the doctor's office later.  She slid into her boots and was buttoning her shirt as she walked down the stairs, smiling at the man once the door was open.  "Pull her in here."  She winced at the black smoke and the grinding noises.  "Oh, dear."  He stopped the engine and got out.  "How long has it been doing that?"

"Maybe a month," he admitted. "I don't drive her too often."

She nodded. "Then you're lucky it didn't quit on you totally.  It'll take me about an hour to figure out which one of three things it is.  I can guess, but it's going to a difference in price. Want to come back or wait?"

"I'll come back.  I need to call my wife and tell her it stalled out again."  She nodded at the phone, going to get her morning soda and then pop the hood.  He dialed the house.  "Honey, I broke down.  No, I'm at a garage.  Yes, she's doing an estimate right now.  How much is this going to cost?  My wife's paranoid since we're expecting our first child."

"As long as I don't have to do more than look and poke, no taking stuff off, I can do a free estimate.  If it's one of the top two usual problems, it'll be free.  The other one I'll have to pull out a few machines so twenty for the estimate."

He smiled. "Thank you, miss."  She smiled back and popped the top of the soda, taking a long drink before diving in. "Honey, she said it'd be free as long as she didn't have to pull anything off.  She did say it was going to be expensive by the end."

"Complete oil change and flush, and a new regulator," she called.  "Oops, and a complete seal and gasket change.  Probably around four hundred for parts and labor."

He winced.  "Ow.  No chance of just fixing part of it."

She looked at him.  "I can fix either set of problems.  The oil change and flush will start to eliminate the black smoke.  You could still face stalling and a possible engine explosion."  She looked at the car.  "Let me call my supplier to get a price.  Then we'll see what we can do."  He nodded, smiling at that.  "Tell her you'll call in about half an hour."  He nodded, saying that quickly then hanging up.  She went into her office, opening her personal phone book to someone she knew who sold parts.  "Hey, Tiffany, it's Charley.  No, business this time.  Pleasure next weekend."  She smiled.  "No, a Ford Escort, about ninety-eight, blown gasket, seals, and regulator.  How much?"  She doodled while she looked them up, then winced. "That's steep.  For an escort?"  She nodded, crossing those out.  "Sir, what year is that?"


"Ninety-nine," she offered.  She still winced. "Nothing cheaper that'd work?  No.  Thanks. Yeah, love you too.  See you soon."  She hung up and shook her head, calling Nappy auto.  "Hi, this is the Last Chance garage.  I've got a ninety-nine escort that needs a regulator, seals, and gaskets."  She wrote down those prices.  "Thank you.  Yeah.  Will it need to be ordered?"  She smiled. "Thanks."  She hung up and walked out there.  "Good news and bad news."  He groaned.  "If we go with someone who has them on hand, it's about six hundred.  Unfortunately."  He shuddered at that.  "If we go with Nappy, it'll be about three hundred, but it'll take two days to get here and about a day to do the work."

He groaned.  "What can I do for a car until then?"

"Well, I've had one customer who's lost a few cars recently and he's always at Hertz.  Since it's Wednesday, you'd qualify for middle of the week deals.  At the latest I'd get it back to you by Monday and that's only if I get the parts late."  He considered it.  "So still probably about four hundred all told."

"Will it get me home?"

She shook her head.  "I wouldn't chance it personally.  There's a storm heading in."  He groaned, rubbing his face.  "Call your wife.  At the very least, get a rental while you figure it out.  You can park it beside my place if you need to."  He nodded, reaching up to grab the phone and dial his home again.  She walked off to give him some privacy, besides she really had to pee.  She was closing the door when she saw Micah stroll in.  "Give me a second, Micah."

"Sure, Charley."  He nodded cordially at the man on the bench, then looked at his car.  "I've had one of those blow up on me before," he offered.

"Mine nearly did.  Honey.  Are you all right?"  He grimaced.  "No, she did. She found three things.  It needs a complete oil change.  Something called a regulator, gaskets and seals."  She hissed.  "So it's going to be about four hundred if we go with the commercial place because we'd have to rent a car for a few days."  He stood up. "You're in labor?"

Micah pulled out his phone, dialing the local car rental place.  "I need a car sent to the Last Chance. There's a man here broken down whose wife is in labor.  Thanks."  He hung up and looked at him.  "Enterprise, they pick you up.  Probably about twenty minutes.  You can do the paperwork on the way, sir."  He nodded and babbled that at her, hurrying out to wait on the car.  Charley came out.  "His wife's in labor.  I called Enterprise.  That way they could do the paperwork on the way."

"Good idea."

He smiled at her. "Where are the pains in my ass?"

"Just left for a roadtrip.  Xander came back so stressed Merle sent him off for a week thanks to the bomb."

"Bomb?"  He looked at her, tipping his head to the side.  "Are you feeling all right?"  She nodded.  "You're sure?"

"Yeah, I just started a new course of medicine and it's making me a bit ill."

"Charley, maybe you should get that checked out again.  We're not sure that those sorts of medicine work on them."  She looked stunned.  "We know that their ...releases," he decided for delicateness this time, "eat through condoms.  We're not sure that they can't provoke something in you like a heat."

She shook her head.  "The doctor said it happens sometimes."

"Fine.  If you are, and you have *any* problems, I want to know first.  Just in case there's another case sometime."  She nodded, giving him that patient look.  "Now, bomb?"

"You didn't hear about the problems Xander's site's had?"  He shook his head.  "You haven't been keeping track of him?"

"That's Oz's job."

"Hmm.  You might want to talk to Oz then.  We started out with death threats and one of his people being killed, Merle being staked, and then Xander running the site even though there were a lot of incidences.  Merle came back and there was a bomb put in when Xander got back.  They got the guys this time and Merle said they're opening on time or else."  Micah shuddered.  "Anti-furry people sentiments."

"Hmm, then I'm sure they're going to love the government coming down on them," he said fondly. "Did you get to see Xander killing the demons in Cleveland?"  She shook her head. "You should.  He was either hiding a lot of skills or very angry."

"Very angry.  He's not been sleeping.  He's had to start over twice now."  He shuddered.  "We think he was doing a lot of work on his own.  Enamel let slip that he passed out once, which none of us knew."  She wobbled and he caught her, sitting her down.  "I'm fine."

"Bull.  Let me get him in here.  Give me ten minutes."  She sighed but nodded.  "Thanks."  He grinned.  "We worry about you. You know that."  He paged through the phonebook on his cellphone, finding the one for Enamel, then hit send. "Hey, it's me. Does anyone know if any birth control method works against you guys?  No, Charley's sweating and wobbly.  Please."  He hung up.  "Then I'll leave the tape here.  I know Throttle saw him since he went with him, but I thought Vinnie might like to see it too."

"See what?" Vinnie called from upstairs.  He came down, stopping to look at her.  "Again?"  She nodded.  "You're going back."

"Why?  Yours is coming over."  Vinnie grimaced.

"Vinnie, think about what your stuff does to condoms and things," Micah said patiently. He heard a cough and got out of the mouse's way.  "That was quick."

"I was in the neighborhood to replace the cat."  He looked at Vinnie.  "She's in my bag if you want her back."  He went out to get the cat, bringing her back, but she ran over to Enamel and hopped into his pocket, which made him sigh and change which pocket she was sitting in.  "Not in that one, it's got stuff that won't be sterile if you puncture it."  He looked at her, putting a hand on her stomach, then nodded, pulling something out of his inside pocket.  "Here, specially modified.  Do it now.  It's still early in the day."  She sighed but went to do that.  "I can't believe they have contraception at all with their population," he told Vinnie.  "You do know that us and latex is a bad combination?"   He nodded, giving him a smug look. "Good.  I've seen someone with burns. She was not happy with me for many weeks."

"You sleep around?" Micah asked.

"Lots and lots," he said with a smirk.  "It keeps my mind occupied."

"Any chance of half mice?" Vinnie asked.

"We have more DNA.  They'd be three-quarters, Vincent."  He gave him a look.  "I nearly had one, but she miscarried in her fifth month.  Again, not very happy with me for quite a while until she dumped me."

"I'm sorry," he told him.

"It was years ago.  I'm over it mostly."  He looked over as Charley came out, taking the stick to look at in the light.  "It's a mouse."  Vinnie fell over in a faint.  He smirked.  "Cool.  I haven't seen him do that since one of his boosters as a six-year-old."  He looked at Charley.  "Yes, we're hard to bear, but it's fairly easy for the most part.  You saw Switch so you know the major problems."

"I'm not ready for kids," she said quietly.

"There's a sixty percent chance of miscarriage," Enamel told her.  "I doubt he'd let anything else happen either."  She sighed and nodded, hanging her head. "It's not so bad.  At least you've got lots and lots of babysitters."  She snorted, shaking her head.

"Hey, it'll make sure Dawn doesn't have one for years," Micah reminded her. He gave her a hug.  "Get him to get the tape out of the car so you can watch it later.  I'm going to pop in on Oz.  I won't tell anyone until you've considered it."  She nodded, giving him a faint smile.  "For now, just think.  If he gets too happy, point out that things would have to change, like his carefree bachelor lifestyle."  He patted her on the cheek.  "Let me get that tape."  He went to do that, coming back to hand it over.  "Both fights, condensed onto one VHS."  He winked and walked off, heading to talk to Oz.  He had expected reports about this stuff. Even if it was racially related.  Especially if it was racially related. He parked and got out, heading inside.  Meg met him at the door, looking abnormal, even for her.  "Why are you wearing that?" he asked, looking at the outfit of pink sweat pants and a bathing suit crop top, plus a formal jacket and flip flops.

"Laundry day," she admitted.  "What's up?"

"I didn't get any reports on what went on at the site."

"Xander said he had it handled."

"Uh-huh.  I still have to know, kiddo.  Have fun doing laundry.  I'll bother Oz."

"He's in class. You can wait inside if you want.  We were heading over to the garage later tonight."

"Not tonight," he advised.  "They're having one of those long days and the duo took off on a roadtrip."

"Hmm. Tomorrow then," she agreed, smiling at him.  "Go ahead.  I'm going to do laundry."  She headed down to her car, jingling her pocket.

Micah went inside, shaking his head.  He had fonder memories of college than laundry day.  He sat down, then got up to go into the library to snoop.  He found the report and read the summary, then groaned. Yeah, this was something he'd want to know before hand.  Plus, Oz needed to learn how to write a good report.  He heard the door and got up, making Oz jump and grab his chest.  "Morning.  I want and need to know about things like bombs and workers disappearing if he's involved."

"He said he had it handled."

"Yeah, but I could have stepped in to help with the investigation, getting it done faster."  Oz nodded.  "Come on, let's go over the report so I can teach you the format."  Oz dropped his bag, following him.  "Meg's doing laundry.  Sweat pants, a swimming top and a formal jacket."

Oz gave a little chuckle. "She's very unique.  It's been like that for the last few days."  He sat down to open the real file, printing it out to hand over.  "Lorne did a proof read."

"I love that man," he said as he sat down to read it. "The least little thing I want to know."

"Then you know Charley's pregnant, right?" Oz asked casually.

"Yeah, she just found out this morning.  So don't go over tonight.  She'll be kicking his tail up and down the garage all day."

"Sure.  I'm going to enjoy having clean laundry and my girlfriend at the same time."  He tossed something to Micah, noticing he automatically caught it with the papers.  "Giles sent that.  I don't want it or need it."

"Fine, I'll give it to Xander. I have tape from Cleveland."

"Good!  Did you get him yelling at Buffy?  She called crying that he turned on her."

Micah looked at him. "They were having a birthday party.  She refused to take a call from Caridad, who was on crutches. He had every right to yell and scream at her."

"Not saying otherwise.  I'd have done it years ago. He any good?"

"Yeah, he killed the first one with his bare hands," he admitted, going back to reading.  He finally folded it up and put it in his pocket. "Okay.  I'll file this when I get back. From now on weekly updates by email, anything that smacks of retaliation or anything else, I want to know first."  He nodded. "Good boy, Oz.  Have a nice weekend and there's a storm coming."  He got up and headed out to his car, noticing the large flakes falling. He went back to the garage, sure they wouldn't get trapped.


Enamel let out a patient sigh as he walked back into the garage.  "What?" he asked Vinnie, who was pacing back and forth.  "Something new?"

"She didn't register on the human tests and she went to the doctor to make sure; he said she wasn't either."

"Mine registers within days," he told him. "Theirs do it after three or more months."  Vinnie whimpered.  "So, how was it last night?"

"Very good," he admitted.  "She's been sick for weeks."

"Let me go check on her.  You watch the stuff down here."  He walked up the stairs, finding her tucked in and unable to move on the couch.  He untucked her, helping her up to go to the bathroom, then helped her back down when she came out.  "My tests registers within a day.  Theirs are more like months."

"But I'm on the pill."

"Forget any?"  She shook her head.  "Been under a month since you started them?"  She nodded.  "It can happen."  He pulled something out of his pocket.  "I came down with a fully stocked bag.  They allowed me that much and I've traded with people over the years to keep everything working."  He placed the small box on her stomach and turned it on, letting her see the 3-D picture of her insides.  He moved it a bit lower.  "Sorry, we carry higher."  She nodded, watching as it showed her womb.  He magnified something and pointed.  "There it is.  That small depression and change."

"But that's...."

He judged it, checking the diagnostic readout in his hand.  "About six days."  He turned it off and looked at her, noticing the wince.  "Forgot it on schedule?"

"Not really.  Only a few hours late."

"It was probably a combination," he soothed, stroking her stomach.  "Relax, it'll be fine."  He looked over as Vinnie came up the stairs. "She is, it's fine so far.  She did tell you that there's a sixty percent miscarriage rate?"


"That means that something happens and her body starts off in labor too soon and the baby's lost," Enamel said gently, staring up at him.  "She's six days pregnant."  Vinnie's mouth dropped.  "C'mere."  He came around and he pointed at the changed area.  "That's the baby so far.  It's only a few cells."



"I didn't think we had any of those left."

"I have two.  I carried one with me in my bag and I traded for another one," he admitted, turning it off and putting it back into its case.  He stood up.  "So no more hormone pills.  Be kinda careful.  If you're getting sick this early I'd suggest it was the flu instead. You saw Switch so you realize the major issues coming. We'll have to do monthly checks, if not more frequently."  She nodded and Vinnie gave him a long stare.  "I wouldn't trust a human with it, Vincent.  Think about what they'd do if they found out we could crossbreed."  He shuddered.  "As such, Charley, let's try to not be too stressed.  Don't worry about getting stressed, but try to avoid it if possible."

"Can we go on the rollercoasters once Six Flags reopens?" Vinnie asked.

Enamel considered it.  It was mid December.  "I wouldn't suggest any after April," he told him.  Vinnie nodded, leaning down to rest his head on her stomach.  "If you can feel the baby move, there's no more thrill riding.  No more on your bike either, hotshot."  Vinnie nodded again but he was nuzzling her stomach.  He looked at Charley.  "Just try for reasonable stuff."  She nodded.  "If you have any problems, I want to know first.  I've got stuff to head off a miscarriage if it starts.  I also want to know when your female cycles stop."  She nodded again.  "Good.  Vincent, be gentle with her.  She's delicate."

"I am not."

He winked.  "It'll keep some of the wild rides down," he said gently.  "Let me know if you need anything, Charley.  Then call back if you don't hear from me in about an hour.  The cat likes to walk across the answering machine and erase it."  He checked to make sure he had everything then went back to his bike, sitting there for a moment when Modo pulled up beside him.  "Checking on something for Charley.  She's upstairs with Vinnie so someone probably needs to keep an eye on the garage."

"Sure.  Is something wrong?"

Enamel grinned, putting on his helmet.  "I'll let him tell you.  That's not part of my job."  He roared off, heading for his apartment.  Another holiday and people were happy and good again.  He walked in and found a package on his counter.  "Did you let in the delivery guy?" he asked the cat.

"No, I did," Stoker said as he walked out of the bathroom.  "It was sitting in front of your door.  Charley?"

"Is.  Six days."

"Good.  Then we've got to talk.  We have mothers who want to conceive who can't.  Scarring and other problems.  What can we do about that?"

"IVF."  He walked him over to the computer and pulled up a medical site, going into the fertility and conception section to let him read it over.  "There, read. It's technical details."  Stoker stared at him.  "I can answer questions but I never did more than passing obstetrics and never fertility problems.   People like Gun and Smoker did those."

"Unfortunately they died defending one of the Med clinics during the major part of the war."

"I'm sorry for that, Stoker.  I was trying to help and you guys didn't like it.  I'm not apologizing any more."  He went to pull a beer out of the refrigerator.  "I do have a full med kit down here with me.  Some I even have duplicates of."

"I'll let someone know.  We lost a lot of technology."  He sat down to read, going into the general overview first.  "This isn't something we can do," he said after reading a few chapters.

"It is. You'll get dissent but if they want it bad enough, they'll go through hell for it."  He sat down with his beer, picking up the medical text he had bought the other day on human pregnancies.  Since he'd need to know.  "As long as you have one of the cryo chambers still working you can do that."  He nodded, going back to reading the section he was on.  Human development was much the same.  "Hey, they start out with tails too."

"They do?"  He came over to look at the pictures, shaking his head.  "Not much different."

"No, not much.  I left Vincent nuzzling her stomach."

"How did you know?"


"You have one?"  He held up two fingers.  "We need one as a prototype."

Enamel looked up at him.  "I'd have to get it back in perfect order," he said calmly.  "It's not like I can replace mine either."  He nodded.  "Then I'll let you *borrow* one of mine."

"Thanks.  You think we can?"

"Yeah.  Especially if you can do it within the same month.  There were rumors about the healing springs too.  Especially the one by Olympus Mons.  Some say they were unblocked."

"A lot of it's radiation and torture."

"Torture may be harder to cure.  If there's scarring, it's more difficult to carry and you get a higher chance of miscarriage."  He looked at him.  "At which time, they'd probably need surrogates."


"People who carry for others, Stoker.  You implant the baby into them and they carry it for you."  He shuddered.  "It's a wonderful gift," he said gently.  "Any news on possible prison worlds?"

"There's six, we're running scouting missions."  He looked at him.  "There's a new edict saying all Martians have to come home for at least a year.  We've got a two percent birth rate."

"I'm banned from ever stepping foot on Mars and I doubt you're going to get the others," he said gently.  "There's still Plutarkians here.  As a matter of fact, one of them has been sniffing around Chicago.  Limburger had a son."

"Shit," he moaned, rubbing his head.  "Okay, I'll tell them.  Are there others?"

"Three that I know of.  One's in Texas working at an amusement park, I saw him when he got a bad gash on his arm.  There's one in LA somewhere and one in Seattle."

"Thanks."  He went back to his reading, then got up to call the base.  "Carbine?"  She snorted.  "Sorry, Switch.  Get me Carbine.  It's official."

Carbine's voice came across a few minutes later.  "The General is here too," she admitted.  "Any good news?"

"Yeah, there's a new Plutarkian push coming here in Chicago.  They need the bros down here.  Enamel said there's three others down here. I don't know if they're other banished ones or not.  Also, he said we can *borrow* a few medical instruments as long as we make sure they come back in working order."

"He was allowed to leave with a med kit," she admitted.  "What about Xander?"

"He's fully mouse but for that one eye," Enamel called.

"The doctor said he's fully mouse but for that one eye so I'm guessing some DNA's left from his human life."

"He's a human?" a male voice asked.

"Yeah, for some reason he started to change into a mouse.  He's presently slowly developing into an adult mouse.  He's Throttle's.  Oh, there's other news.  Vinnie and Charley are going to be claimed soon."

"She's a human," the general said patiently.

"She's with kit," Stoker said coldly.

"Oh.  That's possible?"

"Yeah, Enamel said it'd be three-quarters mouse."  He got comfortable.  "So I can find the other three but they may be needed down here.  There are still fishheads down here."

"There are?" the general asked.  "How many?"

"Last count six.  Limburger's son is moving in though.  He's decided to take over Chicago now.  There's a group down here keeping track of them and trying to block them but they can't fully do that.  Xander's the reason they finally managed to defeat Limburger.  He's the extra push they needed."

"What sort of name is Xander?" the general asked in derision.

"After one of their most famous and historical generals, Alexander.  That's his full name but he goes by Xander.  You can come down but don't expect these three to cooperate much, not with new menaces coming."  He played his trump card.  "Them being that close to us means they could come back."

"Fine, I will talk to them myself," the general noted.

"Fine.  Throttle and Xander will be back in a few days.  They're taking a short vacation since he got injured at work recently. They're heading south so it's possible they'll run into one of them down here."

"Or the mouse could come looking for them. You don't have any idea who they are?"

"Enamel, do you know names?"

"The one in Texas is Exhaust's little brother.  The one in Seattle is Popoff.  The one in LA is Citreon.  He's another banned."

"We've got one of Exhaust's family, Popoff, and Citreon, Enamel said he was banned too."

"I remember Popoff.  He walked out one day and never came back," Carbine admitted, sounding thoughtful.

"It was probably shock," Stoker told her.  "I'll call for them to meet us somewhere.  If you want Citreon back, you'd better tell me before then."

"I'll be there by then," the general called.

"Wonderful," Stoker said dryly, earning a small chuckle from Carbine.  "You okay?"

"I'm fine.  Want Switch or the baby?"

"Are they okay?"

"Yeah, she's feeding the baby," she admitted.  "Switch?"

Stoker got comfortable, smiling at the happy sounds his daughter was making.  "Hey, babe.  She okay?"

"She's wonderful, just a bit hungry.  How are you?"

"Fine.  Charley girl's about six days pregnant."

"Oooh, that's wonderful!" she said happily.  "We can swap stories."

He nodded.  "Sure you can.  You be careful while I'm gone.  I'll be back in a few weeks.  I'll bring new pictures of Xander."

"Sure.  Love you."

"Love you too, mouse cadet."  He hung up and leaned back, glancing in the other room, shaking his head.  "She's in the happy phase."

"That happens.  Give it a few weeks."  He turned the page.  "Popoff looked at me and shuddered, then pulled a gun while asking if I was a Freedom Fighter.  I told him no and he asked if I was a turncoat, so I told him my name.  He nodded and relaxed.  I arranged with Micah to get him some help.  He's got severe post traumatic stress disorder.  I'd be fairly careful with him.  Pipe crashed after getting caught in a gravity well on patrol.  He thought he was the only one down here and I told him I didn't have a ship so he pouted at me.  He'd probably love to go back."  He turned another page.  "Want a beer?"

"Please."  He got up and got one, coming back to go back to reading on the computer.  "Got any floppies?"

"Desk drawer.  Use the blue ones."

"Thanks."  He saved down the pages for later reading.  There were others who would need to know about these.  He put them into a specially insulated case and got up, taking his beer back to the lair.  "I'm gonna go help Modo peel Vinnie off the ceiling."

"Call Micah.  If there's others he'd know.  After all, the world doesn't really talk to each other very well."

"Point.  Thanks."  He left, going down to his bike, which was chatting with the other one.  "Let's go, girl.  We need to hit the lair."  His bike disengaged and moved closer to him so he could mount it, heading back to the lair.  He walked in and looked around.  No one.  He went upstairs to call Micah.  "Hey, it's Stoker.  He busy?" he asked the person answering.  "No, Micah.  Thanks."  He waited, then smirked at the tired sigh.  "Bad problems?  No, not me.  I came down to check on them and to carry orders saying I was to find any other mice down here so they could come home if possible.  I was wondering if you knew of any in other places."  He finished off his beer and put the bottle down, leaning back in the desk chair.  "Yeah.  No, we've got a general in charge and a two percent birth rate.  We might need that soon, but not yet.  Right now, we need to find all our own people first.  Yeah.  Oh, she is, she's six days pregnant.  Thanks.  No, I'm at the lair for now but I'll be heading to the garage in a few.  Sure.  Thanks, Micah."  He hung up and went to look around, finding the fish.  He stared at it, not sure why others did.  They were pretty but not much else.  That's where Vinnie found him.  "Hey, Punk, there's a general coming down to pick up any mice who want to go back up," he said, looking down at the one who had just plopped down onto his beanbag chair in front of the tank.  "Then again, Limburger's son is headed this way to take Chicago."

"Then we're not leaving," Vinnie said firmly.  "Besides, I doubt I could bring Charley home."

He shrugged.  "I don't know about that.  I didn't ask yet."  He ruffled his fur.  "Why aren't you clinging?"

"She told me off and told me to go away."

"Hmm.  Well, have fun doing it later."

"Thanks," he said with a grin.  "Any other good news?"

"You're not the only ones down here."  He walked off, going to find Charley and congratulate her.  He found her sniffling in her office and gave her a hug.  "Get it out now.  He'll get upset if you are," he assured her.

"I don't know if I'm upset or not," she admitted, looking up at him.  "Why are you still here?"

"There's a general coming down to find all the mice and bring most of them home.  Probably not this group since you've got a new fishhead coming."

"Wonderful.  Who?"

"Limburger's son."

She shuddered.  "Not again."  He nodded.  "Fine, we'll start making plans to spy on him."

"Good girl.  Don't let this guy get to you.  He's an ass of the old school line.  He's a general and he's thinking about the bottom line."  She nodded at that wisdom so he handed her a tissue then went to look at her latest job. He couldn't stand to see a woman cry.  Not anymore.


Throttle pulled up outside a small motel on the side of the highway, glancing back to see Xander grinning.  "This okay?"

"It's good.  It's got a bed and a potty.  It's good."  Throttle chuckled at that and led the way to check in.  "One for us," he told the old man behind the counter.

He looked at them. "I don't wanna hear no loud stuff outta you two, hear?" he said firmly.  "We run a nice, clean, respectable place."

"Sir, we'd never trash stuff," Xander assured him.  "We're on a road trip for a vacation."

"Fine.  As long as you're decent folk and don't keep no one up."  He handed over the book while Xander handed over his card.

"I said I had it."

"Let me do the housing, you do the fun stuff," Xander complained.

"Fine," Throttle said with a small grin, signing them into the book.  "There you are."

The man looked then ran the card, nodding when it went through.  "Just the one night?"  They nodded.  "Fine.  We have free coffee in the mornings.  Can't put on no elaborate spread."

"I usually do a soda and something quick on the way to work," Xander assured him gently.  The man smiled at him and ran the cost though, getting back an approval.  He took the card back and signed the slip, then they were handed a key.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome.  I put you out by the soda machines, there on the end.  That way your bike isn't crowded by cars or nothin'."  They nodded, going to gather the bike and head down to the end of the row motel.  "Polite enough at least, even for bikers."  He went back to his soap on the tv.

Xander walked into the room and took off his helmet, then headed for the bathroom, earning a small chuckle for it.  "What?  We haven't stopped in nearly two hundred miles."  He closed the door, using it as nature intended.  He noticed something, his penis was growing. "Hey," he said appreciatively.  "I like that!  Even better than the fur!"

"New changes?"

Xander finished up and came out, showing off his newest change.  "It's longer," he said at the confused look.  Throttle looked and nodded, it was.  "This is a permanent change, right?"  Throttle nodded, smirking at him.  "Good.  Tell the busybodies that we've made our first point."

Throttle picked back up his helmet, setting it to call home.  "Hey, bros, we're at a hotel.  You good back there?"  He heard Vinnie yelling in the background and things being destroyed.  "What's wrong with him?"  He let Xander lean closer, then handed him his helmet since he couldn't hear and was pushing closer.  That got a kiss, which made Stoker chuckle.  "What's going on?"

Xander beamed at the happy news.  "Good, then we get to spoil another one!"

Throttle chuckled at Stoker's insistence that they stop spoiling his daughter, that she was spoiled enough all ready.  "Fat chance, man.  Any other good news?"  He listened.  "That's not good news."  He nodded, that was kinda good news that there were others down here.  "Anything else we need to know?"  He groaned.  "How soon is it coming?"  He sighed.  "Decent.  That's about a week after we get back.  We'll start by spying first.  No, the last time we ran into Marshal he was trouble but he was a teenager.  Yeah, basically.  A lot more techie than his dad too.  Sure.  Flip him off for me and tell him we've got to stay here for a bit longer.  Not a clue man," he admitted, looking at Xander, who shrugged.  "Would you mind going to Mars, Xander?  Just for a bit?"

"That'd leave Dawnie and Charley down here alone."

"Point."  Throttle listened to the arguments.  "Yeah, I get that part, Stoker, but it doesn't change those two facts.  We can't bring Dawn to Mars.  We probably shouldn't be moving Charley either.  Yeah, well, it happens.  Hey, there's others and those prison worlds.  That's a lot more than four mice.  Five if you don't take Enamel back.  Sure.  Let me know.  No, we're in our first hotel of the night.  We're heading south.  He's where?"  He checked his mental itinerary and nodded.  "We can go there.  Not an issue.  We were heading nearby to one of the water parks instead but it wouldn't phase us."  Xander bounced and grinned.  "Yeah, that's him.  Now you know why he's a white mouse, Stoker.  Later."  He hung up and grabbed his mate, kissing him once his helmet was off. He pulled Xander onto the bed, rolling so he was on the bottom, kissing him harder.  "Remember, we promised to be quiet people."

"I will be if you let me do my favorite thing," he said with a naughty grin.

"That means I won't," he taunted.

"There's ways around that," Xander promised, wiggling out of his clothes and then stripping his man before he could do more than gasp at the feeling of his zipper releasing.  Then he turned around so they could each have their treat of choice.

Throttle chuckled but let out a small groan as Xander attacked him, sucking him down gently but thoroughly until he could only hold on for dear life.  "Cheese you're good."

"I try," Xander said once he had pulled back.  "You could."

"I'd nibble, I want to enjoy it and then I will."  Xander shrugged and went back to getting his fix of his mate.  He tasted so much more now.  Throttle held on, letting himself go so he could please the younger mouse.  He was definitely getting the better end of their relationship and he wasn't ashamed to admit that Xander was a lot more creative than he was in their bed.  Then again, Xander had other qualities that drew him.  He went down on his boy again, enjoying this personal task a lot.


Xander bounced up to the front desk of their chosen hotel for the next three nights.  "Hi.  I made a reservation."

She looked at him, then at Throttle, then back at Xander again.  "It was for two rooms, correct?"

"No, dear, just one."

"Sir, we can't rent rooms out that way, even with twin beds, it's against company policy," she said quietly, keeping her face emotionless.  "I'm sorry, but if you wish to stay here, it'd have to be in two rooms."

"Never mind," Throttle told her.  "We'll find somewhere more tolerant."  He led Xander off before he could make a large fuss. He could feel him getting ready to explode.  "She's a bigot, let it go," he said patiently.  "There's places that are just as nice."  He led them back to the bike, getting on and starting it.  Xander was still fuming so he reached over to tickle him with his tail, earning a swat and a frown. "Come on."  Xander climbed on and sighed, resting against his back.  The doorman coughed and moved closer.  "Yeah?"

"Small place on sixth.  Clean, but fairly lax and ... one of those places," he shared quietly.  "This chain is like that and it's nearly a local law," he shared.  "They won't care there."

"Thank you, citizen.  Ride free."  Throttle sped off, heading for the main street.  They had passed sixth on the way in and the place wasn't that far away from the park.  He pulled in and looked at it.  "This looks like one of those places you go for lunchtime sex."

Xander looked at it.  The Peephole Inn.  That about said it all.  "It is.  But hey, it's clean and those are always fun.  Or don't you remember our first time away?" he said against the back of Throttle's neck.  "I'm good with it if you are."  Throttle nodded, pulling up outside the office.  Xander walked in, grinning at the man.  "Hi, need a room for two for three days."

"Three days?"  He nodded, grabbing a key.  He looked at Throttle, then at Xander's fur.  Then at Xander.  "We don't care if you two are together, son, but if you get too loud, we reserve the right to tape it for the amusement of others," he said with a bright grin.  "Then again, if you're interested, we pay you a full night's stay if you tape it for in-house use and you get the only other copy."

"Probably not interested in that," Xander admitted. "He's a shy boy."

"Sure.  Not an issue.  Might not want to use the special box then," he said with a grin.  "Fifty a night, sir."

"Thanks."  He handed over his card and filled out the forms, taking the key.  He looked at it.  "The end?"

"Middle.  Right near the sodas.  You seem to be the drinking sort."  Xander shook his head.  "No?"

"Not usually.  Neither is he.  We're here for the parks."

"Then you'll have plenty of fun, son.  We run a small spread in the morning.  Coffee, some fruit, some donuts from the restaurant next door.  It's clean and decent. Fairly cheap.  Locals eat there."  Xander smiled at that.  "Say, do you know the other like you?  Down to visit?  I know he works at one of them."

"We heard there was another down here, but we think he's a distant relation.  We were hoping to run into him.  Know which park he works at?"

"He's at the main one.  He lives up in 220," he admitted with a grin.  "Can't miss him.  Got a huge bike with a really loud engine.  Sporty one like they race on."

"Thank you, sir.  We'll be good boys."  He grinned and strolled back out, holding up the key.  Throttle nodded, moving the bike that way.  Xander opened the door, letting Throttle inside with their bags.  "He stays here."

"He does?"

"Yeah, up in 220.  He works in one of the parks too."  He stole a kiss then kicked the door shut.  "If we film stuff, we'd get a night free."

"Tempting, but not my thing," Throttle reminded him, tossing the bags and helmets on a bed.  "Hmm.  Bathroom first, Xander.  Then this."

"Sure.  Then dinner?"

"Yeah, it'll be time by then," he agreed, heading for the bathroom.  He came out so Xander could have it and sat down in a chair to take off his boots.  His feet were sweaty.  It was definitely warmer here in Texas.  He'd hate to see it in the summer.  He shrugged out of his vest and stretched, lifting his hips to get the most reach, yawning a bit.  Xander came out stripped down to his jeans, and they were open.  He smirked at him.  "Desperate?"

"Kinda.  You know, since this is one of those naughty places, I should be naughty."

"Be as naughty as you like," Throttle encouraged.  Xander chuckled and turned on the radio, picking a station at random once he hit rock music.  Then he moved closer, swaying a bit.  Throttle watched him, smiling as he came to dance in front of him, teasing him with his movements and how he touched his chest.  Xander slowly moved closer, straddling his lap to dance much more closely.  He moaned as the firm body brushed against him.  "What's this?"

"A lap dance.  It's not something that most dancers learn, but in my club it was a way to earn extra and the ladies, the other male dancers, taught me so I'd make better tips."  He smirked and moved so he was barely raised above Throttle's body.  "I got very good at teasing."

"You are a tease so it comes naturally," he promised, stealing a kiss.

"Ah-ah. No touching, Mr. Customer Mouse."  He moved back some and went back to it, making Throttle shiver, but he grabbed the chair's bottom so he wouldn't touch him until he was allowed.  "Some of the boys used them to get dates but I was never like that.  I was a good boy back then.  It seems I got naughtier since then for some reason."  He stroked a hand up his stomach, ruffling his fur gently.  "I wonder why."  He hummed along, staring into his eyes as he danced for him.  He heard the chair's wood splinter and felt Throttle snap his no-touching rule so backed off again.  "Naughty, Mouse."  He went back to dancing for him from a few feet away, slowly stripping off like he had been taught.  He gave him a come hither smile once he was done, then turned to show that side off.

That's when Throttle pounced, driving him onto the bed, knocking their things off.  He dove in to taste his tease.  He was sweaty and warm and good.  "Undress me, tease," he ordered.  Xander flipped him onto his back and worked his way down to unzip him with his teeth, which made him groan and push up.  Careful fingers lowered the old jeans, then tossed them on top of the tv.  Xander chuckled when he saw he wasn't wearing underwear, bending down to nuzzle him gently, then licking around the base.  "Tease," he groaned, grabbing his head.  He guided it where he wanted it to go.  "Go down.  Please."

"Only if I get to pick the first four rides, you pay admission into the parks and for lunch tomorrow."  He grinned up at him.  "Then I'll give you whatever you want tonight and tomorrow night."

"Deal," he groaned, sighing in pleasure as Xander slowly swallowed him.  His toes curled as the talented fingers came up to tease him too.  "I had a flash of brilliance when I couldn't leave you alone the first time you showed up," he moaned, shifting some.  Xander went with it and spread his thighs so he could lay between them.  "Oh, babe.  More."  One finger went down to tease his balls, making him shift his thighs wider apart.  He didn't care who got who but someone was going to be taken on this bed.   Soon, it would be soon.  He arched up into the welcoming mouth as that finger teased the spot between there and his hole, his tail swishing wildly.  Xander's tail caught it and they rubbed against each other.  Throttle nearly reached for an antenna to play with, but Xander still had a headache from where they had been hurt.  Instead he rubbed and stroked his ears.  Xander's ears were so sensitive.  The boy was moaning and groaning into him now, humping the bed slightly.  "Xander, now.  Please now."

"Mmmm," he hummed, pulling up slowly.  He looked at him.  "You want?"

"I don't care, just do something!" he said frantically.  There was a slight breeze from an open window and it was teasing his wet cock in a way only Xander could appreciate.  "Please?"

"Sure, baby."  He found the lube he had packed and used it on himself, then climbed on top.  He was more than ready for this and he didn't care if he did have to go slowly.  He winced as the head popped through and slowly slid down, settling himself all the way down after a few ups and downs.  The hands gripping his hips were nearly bruising but he understood.  He shifted and braced against the bed, raising his hips to gently lower them, slowly teasing him.  Throttle couldn't take that, he pulled out and put Xander onto his stomach, taking him again as hard and as fast as he could, making Xander wiggle and howl in pleasure as he slammed into him again and again.  He finally came and Xander went limp under him, groaning in pleasure.  He flipped his mate over, going to gently nuzzle and taste him again.  It only took seconds for him to come, then Xander pulled him down to cuddle.

"This is the third time I'm saying this," a tiny voice called.  "Your radio is on, Throttle and Xander," Vinnie said, sounding smug.

Xander glanced down there, using his tail to move the bags off their helmets. "He got off from it," he groaned, rolling into the warm chest, liking the chuckling going on.   They both heard the bike pull up and someone go upstairs, but they were too tired to care at the moment.  They'd go up and introduce themselves later.


Vinnie put down the handset, shaking his head.  "Probably dropped something on the switch again.  Just like their first weekend away," he complained.  He saw the man walking in and smirked at his escort.  "Hey, Stoker, they did it again."

"Glad I missed it, punk.  Where are they?"

"Probably in Texas.  They were due there today.  Took three tries to get them to release the link."  He nodded politely at the general.  "Hey, how's it goin'?"  He looked at Modo and Charley, smirking at her.  "They finally released it."

"Good.  It's about time," Charley agreed.  She smiled at Stoker.  "No Switch?"

"No, the doctor said she's not to travel this time.  He thinks Anya was made brilliant by space radiation."  He smirked at her.  "Feeling okay?"

"Yeah, I just wanted yogurt."  She took another bite and nodded at the General.  "Welcome to the Last Chance Garage, General."

"Thank you, ma'am.  Do you work with these three?"

"I'm Charley."

"Oh.  All right.  No one ever mentioned you were female."  He looked at Vinnie, then at Modo.  "Who files the reports?"

"Throttle," they said in unison, mocked by Stoker.

"Fine, I'll talk with him about being a bit more descriptive."  He heard another bike and looked behind them as another bike roared in and stopped.  "You are?"

"Dawn.  Xander's adopted daughter," she said, shaking his hand.  "Charley, sorry I'm late."

"Not an issue, I didn't need it today."  She looked at her hair.  "Cute haircut."

"Not intentional.  Chemistry burner."  She lifted the frayed end.  "I need to get it fixed tonight."

"Sure.  We'll hit the mall together.  I have the feeling I'm going to need some bigger clothes soon."  Vinnie beamed at that so she slugged him on the arm. "Stop it before you start to bounce again."

The General coughed.  "Are you two...together?"  Everyone nodded.  "Interesting."  He looked at Dawn.  "Are you dating Modo, sweetheart?"

"First, honey, I'm not your babe.  You call me another pet name and I'm kicking your ass," she told him.  "Secondly, Modo's like my big brother, the same as Vinnie is.  I'm not polite enough to date Modo and I never was."  He just stared at her.  "Yay, people."  She got off the bike, weathering the dirty look.  "Can I just beat the shit out of one of the cunts at school?"

"No, but you can be paddled for language," Vinnie told her dryly.

"What happened this time?" Charley asked calmly.  "The hair thing?"

"Ohh, that's just the start, honey.  Let's not talk about the biology class going missing a few pints of blood and it being poured on me.  Or how someone decided to try me at lunch."

"Suspended again?" Modo asked.

"No, the headmistress stepped in between us.  She saw the whole thing and saw me break the girl's nose for a very good reason when she called me a dyke."  She stomped off.  "I'm going to change into clothes that aren't damp.  I'll be back in a few minutes."

"There's chocolate in the fridge," Charley called after her.  "I don't blame her this time," she told Vinnie.

"Me either, but that sort of language would get Xander on her tail again."

"Yeah, well, I've used it about certain women in the past too," she said blandly.  Dawn came back a few minutes later in her tightest jeans, a cute shirt that showed off her stomach and arm muscles very well, and still raging.  "You're not driving like that," she ordered.  "You'll wreck.  Besides, you need a jacket."

"I forgot it at school."  She grimaced.  "My life sucks."

"It may, but they'll get theirs," she reminded her calmly.  "Why are they after you?"

"Yeah, you're one of the nicest girls in that school," Vinnie complained.  "You even have manners, which is better than half of them."

"That's half the problem.  I'm not the uber-brats they are.  Oooh, one of the rich girls doesn't like me."  She snorted then shrugged.  "Can I borrow Xander's car tomorrow?"

"No.  He said no one drives it but him," Charley reminded her. "Unless you can get him on the radio."  The girl muttered and shook her head. "There's two days until the start of the holiday.  Can you make it that long?"  She nodded.  "Then we'll figure it out."

"Do they not like your family?" Modo asked.

"No, they've decided I'm a charity case who got taken in out of pity and Xander's desire to not seem gay.  They also seem to think I've got a criminal record."  She snorted.  "Not even close.  No one's caught me doing any of my stuff yet."

"Which we're not doing any more, right?" Charley reminded her.

"Not even once?"

"No, not even once and not to them.  You're too good at shoplifting already."  She finished her yogurt and got Dawn some chocolate.  "Call the place at the mall, we could both use trims."  Dawn sighed and went into the office.  "Sorry, traumatic kids at school again."

"Girls like that make me want to strangle them with my tails," Stoker admitted.  "Carbine did when she was younger too."

Dawn came out of the office.  "Am I getting a bike for graduation or should I continue to save money?"  Everyone stared at her.  "I need to know, people, because I can shut her up quickly.  Tomorrow's a dress code free day."  They all smirked at her, getting some idea.  "So?"

"You're getting one," Charley assured her.  "Xander said so."  She smirked and nodded, heading back to her room for a moment, then coming back with a full pocket.  "When's the hair thing?"

"We'll have to go somewhere else.  They're full tonight."  She put her arm through Charley's.  "You done for the day?"

"No, but one of the guys could probably take you.  That way you'd be warm on your way to get your jacket."

She smirked up at her.  "I could just go steal one of my presents from Xander's closet."

"The jacket's from Throttle and you can't tell him you found it," Modo told her.

"He knows I found it.  I squealed and hugged him."  She winked at him.  "Wanna go, big guy?  I'm sure you could handle about ten minutes of shoe shopping.  Please?"

"Fine, Dawn.  Grab my spare jacket for me."  She hugged him and went to get their spare jackets, coming back with his in her hand and a cat in the other.  "Hey, Joyce."  He scratched her on the head.  "We'll be right back."  He led Dawn to his bike, waking her up.  "Come on, Lil' Hoss. Let's take her shopping for a few minutes."  His bike beeped tiredly.  "What's wrong?"

"Sounds like she's got a battery issue.  I'll change it tonight," Charley promised.  He grinned and nodded.  "Bring one back."  He nodded, getting Dawn onto the back so they could go.  She looked at Vinnie.  "Go play with Stoker."  He grinned and pounced Stoker to pummel him.  She looked at the General. "When is Limburger Junior showing up?"

"We think next week sometime."

"Good.  We'll be ready for him."  She nodded at the kitchen.  "Want a rootbeer?  We've got bottles and cans."

"If it wouldn't be too much trouble," Micah said as he came in.  He grinned at her.  "Looking good."

"Thanks.  I'm sooner than you thought.  The Martian tests register in days."  He hugged her.  "I like you too.  Oh, Dawn's got a problem in school with the mean brats."

"I heard.  They stopped me to talk on the way out.  She was nearly swearing again."

"Oh, she came in swearing," she shared, going to get them rootbeers.  She handed a bottle to the general.  "So, how many others are there and are we getting invaded?"

"Probably."  Micah sat down, then looked outside.  "Boys, get in here.  I've got good news."  They hurried in with the general.  "There's a total of twelve other mice here."  He opened his can and took a sip.  "Most of them are in Europe, but one's in Africa and one's in Russia, in Siberia.  She's on her way here.  I have a contact over there in the Russian Mafia who's sending her over personally.  The one in Africa I heard about but I can't get hold of."

"I can send out a general contact.  If she's got a bike, she'll hear," Stoker admitted.  He got his own rootbeer and tossed one at Vinnie, then sat down on Charley's other side, making Vinnie give him a look.  "What?  She didn't tell you I was going to steal her for Switch's amusement?"

"No, and if your girl wants to see her, she can come down too," Vinnie assured him.  "Just to get away from Carbine."  He looked at the general. "There's other Plutarkians down here."

"I know.  Most of them are gone."

"We're down to six.  One's in Russian and that one's been dealing with him.  My tip to my contact included that and they're going to push him out.  He's bad for business." Micah took a sip.  "That leaves five and most of them are here in the US."

"Does that include Junior?"

"Yeah, that does include him.  I doubt we can drive him off.  He's sounding more and more like a revenge sort," he offered, patting her on the hand.  "I'm having someone come up your security and upgrade Xander's computer.  He's got too high of a clearance to let fall into enemy hands."

"He's a mouse."

"No, he's a human who changed into a mouse," Micah corrected.  "He used to be human.  You can ask Enamel when he shows up."  He looked at Charley.  "Sorry to intrude."

"Not an issue. He'd be over soon for another check on me.  Vinnie's getting worried that I'm not having hormone swings."  She took another drink.  "Any word on the prison planets?"

"There's six with about twenty thousand mice in total," the general admitted.  "We're working on them at the moment.  Unfortunately we need some muscle to do that."

"There's Freedom Fighters willing to tow ships with their bikes through dead space if we have to," Stoker assured him.  "You've got two battalions at your beck and call for that duty."

"We have the muscle but we don't have a forward team," the general told him.  "No one who can sneak in there and start freeing them."

"So you have a distraction and an assault force, you need people who can do the entering and breaking out," Micah summed.  The general nodded.  "Thieves of a human variety work?"  He took another sip.  "We've got six or seven in custody who would do *wonderfully* at that."

"Can they be trusted?"

"They'd get their freedom unless you wanted to keep them."  Micah smirked at him.  "We've already got the authority to transport them to a newly secured facility."

"Plutarkian locks are usually electronic or card key," Stoker told him.  Micah nodded.  "You think they could?"

"We gave them all the specs and tapes from the old tower and what we'd done to the others.  They pointed out strategies that worked the next time through.  They're willing to go as long as they go free."

"Done," Stoker agreed.  "I'll escort them back myself if I live and I know Carbine would say the same thing."

"Good.  Then I'll have them taken out of custody right before you leave so they can go with you."  He heard a bike and checked his watch.  "That was fast."  Dawn walked in with a bag from an upscale shop. "Have fun?"

"I walked in and told the salesman why I was there, what my budget was, and he squealed and lead me *right* to what I needed," she said smugly.  "Do I get a clothing allowance once I start with you, Micah?"

"No, but you get paid pretty well.  What did you get?"

"Two presents too," she admitted with a smirk.  She let him see most of them, making him laugh.  "What do you think?"

"I think you're going to smash their heads in with just the shoes," he admitted.  "Good job, Dawn.  You thought strategically."  She grinned and went to take them to her room, storing the presents to wrap.  "I don't think they're going to be bothering her again," he shared smugly.  "Speaking of, we've got to get Xander to the bank.  Oz didn't want his cut from the Watchers and I talked to Giles, who said to split it between Dawn and Xander."

"Wonderful," Vinnie agreed smugly.  "I'm sure she'll have more clothes than any girl needs soon."

"She needs new bras anyway," Charley told him.  She grinned at Micah.  "Did you get the pictures he sent?"

"I did and they're uploaded into her file already.  Sometime during that week off, I'll need to test her personally.  She picked a form of martial arts I'm familiar enough with and her brawling is already known about.  Did you know she cleaned the clock of some girl she found trying to rape her boyfriend at a club last week?"  Everyone shook their heads.  "Yeah, she did," he said proudly, smirking at them.  "She's going to be one hell of an agent.  You guys do good work with her."

Charley nodded.  "We try."  She went to check on Modo, taking the new battery from him to put in.  She reconnected it and kissed him on the cheek.  "Bike?"  It beeped, sounding much stronger.  "Need anything else, sweetie?"  It beeped, shaking her front wheel.  "Okay.  You just let me know.  Go ahead and plug in, Lil' Hoss.  Throttle and Xander should be back in about four days."  She beeped again and plugged in, letting her rider come over to close her hatch and then clean off any fingerprints.  She gave him a nudge and he grinned, heading in after Charley.  She leaned against the wall, getting comfortable for a nap.

"You take very good care of their bikes, Charley," the general told her.

"I try.  Besides, they're like my family."

"She's a might-as-well-be bro," Vinnie agreed, grinning at her.  "If she had proper tail, she would be one."  She pinched him, making him chuckle.  "Fine. You are one."

"Thanks, studly."

"And don't you forget it," he said proudly.  "As I'll be proving later."

"Not tonight you're not."

"Oh, yes, I am," he assured her, using his tail to pull her chair around so he could kiss her.  "I don't care what your body is doing, I'm there," he whispered.  She looked at him. "Doesn't bother me, sweetheart.  Remember that."  He shoved her back into spot, then looked at Stoker.  "So, Switch is how far along?"

"Sixth month," he sighed, shaking his head.  "The scary part."

"Tell him I'm not due for mood swing for months, Stoker."

"She's not, punk. This is the nice part of the pregnancy.  Cherish it.  When she starts having mood swings, you'll know."  Micah nodded. "You have kids?"

"One.  Her mother's got custody.  She didn't like my job."

"Pity.  You see her?"

"Her mother told her what I do and how dangerous it is. She's scared of me.  She sees Lorne a lot though.  He thinks she's cute even though she's got a bad crush on him."  Charley snickered at that.  "She does.  He's trying to talk her into hitting the academy."

"If that's what she wants to do, are you going to let her work for you?"

"I wouldn't trust her with anyone else.  She'll be Max and Lorne's first trainee since Dawn has to do college first."

"How young were you when you had her?" Stoker asked.  "I didn't think you were that old."

"She's just now eighteen.  She's a bit brilliant," he said proudly.  "I was twenty.  Her mother was nineteen.  She's done a good job."

"Good," Charley agreed.  "Call her over the holidays."

"I've planned to do that but she's introducing the boyfriend to her mother and doesn't want to scare him.  The boyfriend is a putz with a criminal record.  Her mother asked me to check."  He shook his head with a sigh.  "The guy's the stereotypical biker badass.  The one who's always in trouble, doing damage, riding around all hours of the night to annoy people with his specially-modified-to-be-louder engine.  The sort I don't want to see her with."  He shrugged.  "She'll see him for who he really is soon.  Her mother's very good at showing her reality and making her see it. That's why she's scared of me.  I had to shoot an intruder once."

Charley shivered.  "I never imagine you to be that dangerous, Micah."

"We all were sometime.  Now I run an agency.  Max gets to be dangerous and deadly so I don't have to so often.  After her comes Sheria and then Dawn.  With Dawn's probable class there's a few males again.  Sheria wouldn't have any males coming in with her."

"Your poor daughter wouldn't like that," Modo offered.

Micah snorted and shook his head.  "No, she wouldn't, but she'd enjoy the looks she'd get.  There's two groups who already want her and are pressing her to join them instead.  One's covert and assholes.  I told her the truth about them and they told her what my agency does after I did.  She's considering."

"At least she's smart enough to make a reasonable decision," Charley offered.  Dawn came back and stole more chocolate.  "Already?"

"No.  Soon though."  She looked at the general.  "So, are Charley, Xander, and I going to be facing the newest Limburger alone?"

"No way in hell, sweetheart," Vinnie told her. "I'm not leaving Charley and Throttle won't leave Xander."

Modo nodded.  "I'd stay with them.  Momma can find me a woman and send her down."

"Actually," Micah offered.  "One of the women I've seen recently would love you, Modo.  She's very sweet, shy, and kicks butt like Dawn can."  His ears perked up at that.  "She's the one coming in from Ireland.  I met her last night.  She's heading this way by bike.  She refused to fly."  He grinned at that.  "So maybe you two will hit it off and you can tell your mother good things."

"Thank you, Micah. That's nice of you."

"Eeh, she saw the picture on my desk and drooled, Modo.  Asked who you were.  She knew Vinnie somehow and thought she knew Throttle."

"What's her name?" Vinnie asked.

"Um, Grip?"  Vinnie's jaw dropped.  "What?"

"Grip?  My ex girlfriend Grip?"

"Which one was she, bro?  There's been so many I lost track back during our training."

"Grip was the one who took me out onto that shelf and abandoned me laughing," he said grimly.

"Maybe she's changed," Dawn offered.  "Especially if she thought she was down here alone."  She sat next to Vinnie, hugging his arm.  "Can you take me to school tomorrow?"

"Sure, Dawnie," he promised, grinning at her.  "Part of your plan?"

"No, the roads are a sheet of ice and I don't want to wreck."

"Sure, babe."  He kissed her on the top of the head. "You're warm."

"I've been sneezing all day."

"Go eat some of those hot pepper candies," Charley ordered.  "I can't afford to be sick."  Enamel walked in.  "Hey, there's cold rootbeer."

"Thanks, Charley.   You guys are my favorite patients."

"You're still practicing?" the general asked flatly.

"There's no one else down here who does and someone's got to handle Xander's changing into a mouse and her pregnancy, plus the other major injuries."  He tipped Dawn's head up to look in her eyes. "Go eat one of those peppers before it sets in."

"I already did.  That's why I'm warm to the touch instead of just to look at."  She grinned at him.  "How's your holidays?"

"No girl, yet again, and the cat's trying to eat tinsel."  He sat down on Micah's other side.  "Since I'm here I'll do your exam later, Charley."

"Sure.  Thanks."  She looked at Vinnie, who shrugged, then at Modo, who grinned at her.  "Enamel, would you like to come over for the holiday dinner?"

He choked on his soda.  "What?"

"Come over and eat, big dumbass.  You invite friends over," Dawn told him.  Vinnie pinched her.  "Sorry."

"No, that's okay.  It's more charming than some things Throttle has called me.  If it wouldn't cause any trouble, I wouldn't mind," he offered graciously.  "Can I bring anything?"

"Yeah, stuffing.  I suck at making stuffing," Charley told him.  He smiled and nodded.  "Enough for everyone."

"Of course."  He took another sip of his soda, then looked at Micah.  "I need to clear everyone before they liftoff.  Otherwise we could transmit diseases back."

"I figured as much."  He clapped him on the back.  "There's a total of twenty down here.  Twelve big mice."

"I only knew about another three."  He looked at the general.  "Popoff's in Seattle the last I knew."


"He walked away after that last battle and couldn't take it anymore," Enamel said simply.  "He's traumatized to the point where I was sedating him nightly.  I got him some help but he's still jumpy."

"I called him," Micah admitted.  "He hung up on me twice until I told him why I was calling first.  Stating out with 'they'd like you come back to Mars to have kids' at least got his attention."  Enamel nodded.  "What about you?"

"They wouldn't accept me back even if I could go," he pointed out dryly.  "Besides, I've grown fond of this planet in the years I've been here."

"We could still use you."

"Then call me and hire me on as a contractor," Enamel offered.  "I never said I wouldn't work for Mars.  Just that I wouldn't come back."  The general nodded.  "You might ask Citreon about that."

"We could use a good computer person," he admitted.  "This new operating system is going oddly."

"We upgraded," Stoker said dryly.

"You'll need to upgrade the memory and hard drives too," Micah told him.  "We did when we had to upgrade.  The newest Windows takes up a lot of space."

"I noticed.  The problem is the central server being so old and out of sorts."

"We'll see what we can do," Micah offered.

"That wasn't really...."

Micah held up a hand.  "It's all old to us and taking up unnecessary space.  Giving it to you or trading for little things for the ones staying down here is a win-win situation."  Stoker nodded at that.  "For that matter, take some of our dead satellites now and then.  They're causing hazards according to NASA."

"We have.  We also took the rovers and handed them to our engineering students to play with as toys.  They've rebuilt them a few times now."

"Wonderful.  Always happy to give you more toys," Micah said fondly, smirking at him.

"We need some pickled Torso eggs," Vinnie told him.  "Charley's never had any and neither has Xander."

"They're foul, punk," Stoker said, looking disgusted.  "Very foul.  Don't do that to them."

"Actually, if you pickle them in vinegar, they're pretty decent," Enamel told him.  "I like champagne or apple cider vinegar. I've got some in my fridge, Vincent."

"Thanks.  Bring 'em for dinner," he said with a grin.  "I've missed those."

"How did you get any?" the general asked.

"There's other aliens around and they do trade," Enamel noted.  "Since I'm a well-trained doctor I usually trade that and physicals."  He sipped his rootbeer, looking at Dawn.  Then at Vinnie.  "She's asleep."  He nodded.  "Fine.  Your arm's going to be painful later."

"She's fine," he said quietly.   He looked at the general. "Moving us back would mean all the Plutarkians were gone.  It would cause problems because Xander is one of this planet's defenders.  Also, what could we do about Charley?"

He considered it.  "You could visit."

"Fat chance," he said, sneering at him.  "Not gonna happen."  He started to move but Dawn was weighting him down.  Stoker thoughtfully peeled her off his arm so he could stand up, strolling casually closer.  Modo dove for cover, as did Stoker, taking Dawn and dragging Charley with him.  "There's no way I'm leaving my mate," he sneered.  "You may not have had a good wife, but I've lost too many to leave her and no child of mine is going a day without seeing me."  The general stepped back a half step.  "You can't remove Xander because he's still partially human and if you do, this world goes to hell, which leaves Mars without an ally nearby.  You may be to get Modo to go for short times, or even us for short necessary trips, but not for good.  We can't leave Dawn, she's Xander's adopted daughter.  I'm not leaving Charley.  You wouldn't if she were yours."

"I lost my wife early in the war, young man."

"I lost plenty to the war.  I lost nearly everyone.  I'm not losing her too.  So you can forget it unless she's coming too."  The general nodded.  "Plus, there's still slimy cheeses down here."

"Ones Xander eats on occasion," Micah admitted casually.  "I see the resemblance more and more, Vinnie.  I didn't think you did stalking menace like Xander did."  He tossed his can in the trash and shrugged, grinning at him.  "I agree, if you go, she goes.  It's only suitable and it'd cause less problems for her and the kid."  He looked at Enamel.  "Any idea what it is yet?"

"Not for another few months."  He looked at Vinnie.  "I wouldn't even try to touch her without you being here.  I'd protect her because I know you'd kick my ass, but I wouldn't go near her otherwise."

"Only my bros and Dawn protect her," Vinnie told him. "Micah if it's an emergency.  No one else, doc."

"Sure, Vinnie.  If you say so."

"I do."

"Vinnie, calm down," Charley said, letting him help her up.  "Thank you."  He kissed her, making her moan and clutch at him. "Not in front of others," she panted, swatting at him.  He grinned and she relaxed, letting him kiss her again. "Fine, Vincent."   He let out a howl and kissed her again.

Modo groaned. "I thought Xander being claimed was bad," he complained.

"Oh, I don't know, I thought it was cute how Dawn pounced the punk there because she thought he might steal him," Stoker offered, helping Dawn up and letting her sit next to Modo.  His ears twitched.  "I hear a bike."

"Well, that's one of a couple of people," Micah admitted.  He got up to check, waving the woman inside.  "Paint," he said fondly.  "Micah Simms."  He shook her hand.  "There's a general here to evacuate most of you back to Mars if possible."

"So I was told.  They can really beat Cheddar?"   He nodded. "You're sure?"

"I'm sure," he promised.  "One of them was trained by us."  He nodded at the wall.  "Go ahead and plug her in if you need to and the rest of us are in the kitchen."  She took off her helmet, shaking her waist-length white hair out.  On her gray body it looked exotic and her eyes were lashed with heavy, dark lashes.  He grinned at her.  "Come meet Chicago's defenders, minus two."

"Where are the other two?"

"On a road trip.  It's their vacation.  Xander got injured."

"Xander?  A mouse?"

"Now."  He led her into the back area.  "Vincent!" he snapped, breaking into the kiss. "This is Paint, she was in Siberia."

"Hey," he said, grinning and going back to kissing his girl.

"Welcome, ma'am," Modo said, standing up to shake her hand.  "Was there one of the slimy stinkfishes there?"

"The junior Cheddar daughter," she admitted, taking a seat at the table.  Modo got her a rootbeer and smiled at her.  "Thank you, sweetheart.  Which one are you?"

"Modo," he said gently.  "That's Vinnie kissing Charley ma'am there.  The human girl napping is Dawn, she's the adopted daughter of Xander and Throttle.  They'll be back in a few days."

"I've heard of you three," she admitted. She looked at Charley, then back at Modo, raising an eyebrow.  "Interesting," she decided, opening her soda.  Dawn jerked awake.  "Good morning."

"Hey."  She yawned and rubbed her eyes.  "Micah, can I drop physics next semester?  I never get any sleep studying for that thing."

"Physics and magic are connected," he said patiently.

"Yeah, but I can take it in college," she pointed out.  "Besides, Geology is more my speed.  Rocks, minerals, earth's forces and magnetism.  Stuff like that is more practical."

"If you can get Xander to agree," he decided.  "I'd rather you finished it."

"I know," she complained, sitting up further.  "Toss me one of the red cans please, sweetheart.  I need caffeine."  Paint did so, watching her catch it with both hands.  "Thanks.  I'm Dawn, future agent of Micah's."  She grinned at her.  "Got a name?"


"Cool beans."  She looked up at the screaming of an engine, then at Modo.  "Who's that?"

"Switch, Carbine, or Rimfire," Stoker said, looking up.  He and Dawn raced for the door.  The ship hadn't quite crashed but it had landed on top of another empty building and had fallen in.  "It's Rimfire," he decided, heading for him.

"Those buildings are pretty weak," Dawn protested, heading after him.  She walked in and there was a young guy walking his bike off a ramp.  He was a gray mouse with an orange lightening bolt streak through his dark hair.  "Hey.  Just you?"

"Yeah, just me."  He handed a letter to Stoker.  "From my gray furred grandmomma. For Uncle Modo."

"Bring it yourself, kid, he's in the kitchen," Dawn said with a grin.  "I'm Dawn."  She shook his hand.  "I'm the adopted daughter of Xander and Throttle."

"Cool.  You bike?"

"I can ride, I'm getting mine as a graduation present."  She nodded.  "Let's go. You can park at the lair."  He grinned and followed her over to park there, then into the kitchen.

"Rimfire!" Modo said happily, getting up to give him a hug, clapping him on the back.  "Vinnie, get out of the way!"

Rimfire smirked at him.  "He's kissing a pretty girl, I doubt he'll give her up anytime soon.  I wouldn't if Charley ma'am were mine."  He looked at Vinnie, then shook his head.  He saw Dawn smirk and got out of the way in case Vinnie pounced.

Dawn casually walked up behind Vinnie, grabbing him to tickle.  He let go of the kiss and shrieked, so she ran off with a cackle.  He chased after her, pouncing her in the garage to pound her until she laughed.  "Rimfire's here," she laughed.

"Good.  I'll get him next," he promised, digging into her sides to make her thrash and scream, dodging her swats and punches.  "You hit like a girl."

"If I do, then I should do this," she said, kneeing him in the groin.  He fell to the side with a groan and she smirked at him.  "After all, that's what girls do, Vinnie."  She went back to tickling him, making him holler and thrash, breaking his headlock attempt to knee him in the side.

"Kids!" Micah yelled.  "Dawn, that was mean," he said, but he was grinning.  "Watch out."  Vinnie got her into a headlock and was noogying her, making him shake his head when she got free and rolled away, getting up and doing a back handspring to get some distance, then going after him for real for messing up her hair.  He watched, he had wanted to see her in action anyway.

"Cheese, that's some girl," Rimfire said in awe, watching those two play.  "Too bad she's not a mouse."

"She swears too, kid," Micah told him.

"I know others who do.  I'm sure it's only when she's stressed.  She's too pretty to do it all the time."  Dawn grinned back at him and Vinnie attacked back then, getting her back onto her back, but she kicked him in the stomach, getting free with some wiggling.  She ended up on his back, straddling his shoulders.  "Wow."

"What're you gonna do now, Vinnie?" she taunted.  "Not strong enough to get me off?"

"Bet me. I can do pushups with you on my back," he groaned, doing one to prove her wrong.  She shrieked and grabbed him by the ears, making him swat at her.  "Get off!"

She slid off his back and landed on her butt, looking at her.  "That was mean."

"Told you I could do those."

"Good, then you can do them more often," Charley called. "Ten a day at the least."

"You could sit on my back anytime, sweetheart," he called back, grinning at her.  "After all, a woman as beautiful as you should have a soft, well-padded seat to sit on."

"You pad yourself?" Dawn taunted.  "I didn't know they made thongs that were padded.  Are those like pushup bras with pads?"  He growled and pounced but she got out of the way, running to hide behind Rimfire.  "Hi again," she said with a grin.

"I don't need that sort, thank you, Dawn.  I have more than enough for three mice."  He stood up and dusted himself off. "You got me dirty."

"Oooh, poor baby.  You'll just have to be brushed later," she taunted.

"If sweetheart there wouldn't mind," he agreed smugly.

"Bro, you're horrible," Modo said, but he was shaking his head and grinning. "You too, Dawn."

"Thank you," they said in unison.

Micah gave her a pat on the back.  "You sound more and more like Xander every day.  Can I talk you into doing a weapons workshop soon?  I think you'll like weapons a lot."

"Okay.  Weapons are cool as long as they're not aimed at me."

Rimfire grinned at her. "If I'm here can I?  I don't know much about human weapons."

"Sure, kid.  More than happy to run that for you guys here."  He clapped him on the back and went to reclaim his seat, grinning at Modo, who was staring.  "Modo, what's the news from your mother?"

"Oh."  He opened the envelope, reading the short note.  "My niece has a boyfriend."

"Yeah, gigolo of the universe," Rimfire said in derision.  He looked at Vinnie.  "He's got a bigger black book than you do because he's not picky.  At least you had taste when you were playing around."

"Thanks, kid.  Gives me the warm fuzzies," Vinnie teased back. "Why is Primer settlin' down, bro?" he asked as he sat down, pulling Charley into his lap.  He was feeling a bit possessive.  He noticed Paint's look so stroked her stomach gently.  She looked away again so Vinnie looked at Modo, who was staring in shock.  "What?"

"She's having twins.  No one's sure who the father is but he's stepped forward since he wants Uncle Modo," Rimfire told him, sitting down next to Dawn.   "Primer told him off and she's stated that he's not the father but he's saying they're marrying."

"Gods, Mars is nearly as good as a soap opera," Dawn said in awe.

Rimfire chuckled and nodded.  "Some days and on some bases.  Carbine yelled at her for weeks about the twins. Sister dear went out on a raid against Sand Raiders after finding out she was pregnant."  The general shuddered so apparently he had heard.  "Primer's been appointed to a training position.  She's very good at sneaking and scouting."

"That's good at least.  Hopefully your grandmother will help her when she goes back on full time duty," Dawn told him.  He nodded, grinning at her.  "Does she like anyone for the father?"

"Yeah, but it was a one-night stand," he admitted.  "He claims it never happened since he was due to be bound the next day. Since *everyone* on the base saw him, we all know who the babies' daddy is."  Vinnie groaned and shook his head.  "So, any other family news, like bondings?" he asked, grinning at them.

"I'm barely pregnant," Charley told him.

"Congratulations, I'll try not to pounce you," Rimfire offered.  "Do we have pictures of the bonding ceremony for grandmomma?"

"She refuses to have one," Vinnie told him.   "She wants a human wedding but doesn't want a large one and nothing too fussy or expensive.  We're debating that at the moment.  I was going to try to work in the bonding during it, but she thought that'd be too much."

"I like doing it the easy way."

"A bonding is something you'll remember forever," Paint told her.  "You'll want something to tell the children about."

"She's right, Charley ma'am," Modo agreed gently.  "It is something for the whole of the family to celebrate as well as the couple."

"I'm not religious."

"So?  We can do it with a Justice of the Peace and still have the better, longer ceremony," Vinnie offered.  "If we were on Mars, I'd have it right beside the pool at Olympus Mons.  It's very special."  He nuzzled her fondly.  "Please?"

"Fine," she sighed.  "It can't be too expensive."

"It's the dress and the reception that's the most expensive," Micah told her.  "You could hold it in the park or something and do it fairly cheaply, depending on how you do the reception."  He got up to get another soda.  "Don't ask me how I know this.  I don't want to have nightmares of two of my agents having a duel over who's wedding would be better."  He sat down again, opening the can to take a sip.  "So, Rimfire, right?"  He nodded.  "How long you down here for?"

"Probably through the holidays.  Carbine about yelled our whole base off planet.  To say she's a bit pissed at certain new laws is an understatement."  He looked at the general, who shrugged.  "By the way, fat chance on me doing it.  I only produce offspring when there's a great deal of feelings involved."  He looked at his uncle.  "There's now a law that says we each have to have at least one kid."

"So those who can't have one are what, arrested?" Enamel asked.  Rimfire stared at him. "I'm a doctor, kid.  Just banished."

"Oh.  I wish you had been down here the last time I got here."

"I was probably in Uzbekistan.  I've been there for the last few years."  He shook his head. "That's a dangerous law."

"We don't have time to debate that.  Our birthrate is falling."

"Wonderful, but if you piss off people, then they won't have any.  Besides, what are you going to do with the parents who shouldn't be parents?  Or those who can't be parents because of what they've gone through?  Or even those who've been tortured so much they can't conceive or carry, no matter how much they'd like to change it?"  The general shuddered.  "Your best bet is a genetics bank and those who want to opting for a child with someone who isn't there anymore."  He took another sip of his drink, looking at Micah.  "Either that or sending up some of the people here who could be surrogates and having them carry fully mouse children."

"That's a touchy subject among us but there'd probably be a lot of people who wouldn't mind.  You just can't tell me that you're hiring them.  I'd get in massive trouble for that one."

Enamel nodded.  "I can understand that.  This country is a bit provincial."  He looked at Vinnie.  "I'll be drawing fluid for a genetics test.  Fair warning now."

"It won't hurt her?"

"No, not in the least.  The humans do something like that too."  He nodded, accepting that.  "There's too much at risk to have one with something like Newberry Syndrome."  Vinnie shuddered at that. "You did take some heavy radiation."

"I know," he agreed gently, stroking her stomach again.  She patted his hand. "Do you think it's possible?"

"No, but I want warning before hand," he told him.  "I don't think that it's likely.  You're one of the healthiest mice I've ever seen, Vincent."

"Yeah, and what about him?" Rimfire asked the general.  "That child will only be partially a mouse.  Are you going to make him break his vows to her to have a child?"

"That's not my decision."

"No, but if I was able to get close enough to hit the others I would."

"Who made this rule?" Modo asked.

"The new Council."  He looked at him.  "If it wasn't for the remaining problems on Mars, I'd come live with you, Uncle.  So would Grandmomma and Primer.  We can't stand the new Council."  He sighed and nodded.  "When I find someone to have kids with, it'll be because I want kids and I can handle kids.  We don't have the food supply to handle those sort of numbers."

Dawn patted him on the arm. "Unless they're dictators, they can be taken out of office," she said gently.  "Start a recall vote."  He looked stunned.  "My former state did that a bit ago.  Call for a new vote, get them out of office."

"There's not many who would serve," Vinnie told her.  "Good thought though, princess."

"Thanks, studly."  She grinned at him.  "Who said they have to *agree*?  Hell, put Carbine on there.  Give her something to do other than nag her sister and her sister's daughter."

"That'd keep her out of our house," Stoker admitted dryly.  "I'll have to suggest that."  He grinned at her.  "You're so mean."

"I know," she said sweetly.  "And if Limburger Junior comes to make me a hostage, I'm going to blow him away."  Everyone beamed at her for that delusion.  "After all, Xander still has grenade launchers.  I'm sure one of those shoved up his ass will more than happily make him blow himself."

"I saw the grenade launcher trial on Mars," Rimfire told her.  "Can I look at them?"

"As long as you don't set one off," Micah told him.  "I'll do that with the weapons lectures, Rimfire.  When are we doing those?"

"The day after Christmas?" Dawn asked with a grin.

"Sure."  He nodded, taking another drink.  "What should I bring for the holidays, Charley?  I can't cook so I'll need time to order."

She smiled and shook her head.  "I don't know, Micah.  Bring a dessert or something.  I'm good on everything but stuffing and Enamel said he'd bring that."

"You're sure?  I can order a mean ham or something."

Charley considered it.  "We could probably use another one.  I only have one thirty pound split into two parts."

"Sure, I'll bring one about the same size, already cooked. Sweet or other glaze?"

"Sweet.  I like it and so does Xander."

"Sure.  I know just the place," he offered with a smile.  "I'll call later tonight."  She nodded, resting back against Vinnie's chest.  "I expected Grip to be here by now," he admitted.

Vinnie got up, letting Charley have his seat as he went to the radio to call.  He turned it off their usual band to the usual Freedom Fighter's band, getting some static.  He tried just off it, getting a clear signal.  "Grip?  You in the city yet?" he called, letting go of the switch.

"Vinnie?" she asked in shock, then a bit of light static.  "You're in town?"

"We're this city's protectors.  Come to the garage.  We're discussing dinner plans.  You can meet my girl."  He let the button go, grinning. "And bring whoever's with you," he added as an afterthought.

"Done.  Give me an hour.  I'm in this incredible park by a lake."

"I know the spot.  Know the directions?"

"Yeah, but I've got to get Thimble and Ajax."

She staticed up so he let it go and walked off.  "She'll be here within an hour.  She's got to gather two others."  He picked up Charley and sat down, then planted her in his lap.

"Doing a mean Throttle impersonation there, Vinnie," Dawn joked.  Rimfire choked then wiped his mouth.  "Throttle likes to get possessive about Xander."

"Hell if he were mine, I'd have a tracker and a leash on the boy so he couldn't get away from me," Enamel noted.  "Just so no one got any ideas."

"You do know that trying to take the Xander from Throttle is suicidal?" Dawn asked.  He nodded.  "Good!  We enjoy picking on you too much to lose you so soon."  He chuckled at that and Rimfire stared at her.  "Yes, I'm occasionally a mean and picking creature.  I'm a girl," she told him.

"My sister's one of those," he told her.  "She does the same thing only she's a tease."

"I'm picky about the worthiness of who I tease," Dawn told him.  She grinned.  "I only go for smart, studly guys who can keep up with me in the club."

"And Phil," Vinnie noted.

"We broke up two weeks ago, honey.  He thought I was a bit too much for him. He needs a quieter girl, like a quiet version of Meg.  Or maybe a female Oz."

"That's a bad mental picture.  Their kid," Micah said with a smirk.  Charley shuddered and Vinnie burst out in a loud laugh, hiding it against her back.  Modo just shuddered.  "Some day there shall be little Oz's and Meg's running around."

"Meg's cute," Stoker reminded him. "Just a bit blunt."

"How bad is this child?" Paint asked.

"The first time we met Meg was when she was dating Xander," Charley explained. "She walked up to Vinnie and asked him if tail size equated to other sizes since she and her cousin had been discussing it."  Paint looked horrified.  "She's a video game designer and she wears the outfit of the character she's working on.  We've seen her in a fur bikini, a chainmail bikini, and a few other choice outfits."

"I saw her last in a pair of pink sweat pants, a bathing suit top, and a suit jacket," Micah told her.   Charley chuckled at that.  "She claimed it was laundry day but Oz said she'd been doing that a lot."

"Are they coming for the holidays?" Dawn asked.  She nodded. "You've already okayed it? Oz was invited back to hell, part two."

"No, they're coming.  I talked with him last night," Charley assured her.

"I don't know why, the slayers sound *perfectly* nice," Vinnie said dryly.

"Dawn and Throttle spent most of Thanksgiving beating on them," Modo told him.  "They kept trying to steal Xander or pick on Xander."

"Was fun for me," Dawn noted dryly, taking a drink.  She looked at Rimfire.  "We're a serve yourself bunch, honey.  Go get a drink if you want one."

"Why? You make me drool enough for three people in the badlands to quench their thirst for days."

Modo choked on his drink, as did Vinnie.  "That was nearly smooth, Rimfire, I'm impressed," Charley told him, leaning over to give him a hug.  "Dawn should take you clubbing tonight."

"It'd get us out of the mope and gloom," Dawn agreed.  She looked at Rimfire.  "Wanna?"

"Sure."  He grinned at her then picked up the back of her hand to kiss it. "I'd love to escort you out to go dancing.  Should I treat for dinner?"

"Nah, we're ordering tonight," she assured him with a grin. "I agree, you are pretty smooth.  But if we're going out, I need to change."  She looked at him, then at Charley.  "Black outfit?"

"No way in hell," Vinnie said firmly.  Modo shook his head, trying to catch his breath.  "Wear something decent."

"I wasn't talking about the one that's too short, Vinnie.  Gods, take a chill!"  She shook her head, walking off.  "Though I will need help with this outfit."

"I'll come help you in a few minutes," he yelled, figuring out which one she meant.  He looked at Modo.  "Leather and velvet?" he mouthed.  Modo shuddered.  "She's a good girl."

"Point."  He looked at his nephew.  "You'd better treat the girl right tonight, nephew.  No funny stuff and no being impolite."

"Uncle Modo, I'm not like that. I'm not some thug.  I have dated before."  He gave him a hug on the way to the fridge.  "Can we have Chef Andy's dogs tonight?"

"Sure," Charley agreed.  "Vinnie, maybe you should get them."

"Nah, it's Modo's turn."

"It's Xander's turn but he'd make us eat something else," Modo joked back. "I still don't get the point of that sushi stuff."

"It was a nice change," Charley told him.  "Even if the cats did get most of it."

"Who eats seaweed and fish?" Vinnie asked.

"Japanese people," Micah told him.  "They're probably like tempura."

"They did.  Xander got a lot of the deep fried stuff."  She rolled her eyes. "It's cute how he makes them eat other food now and then."

"Chef Andy's going to think we don't love him any more," Rimfire told her.

"No, they're still there seven meals out of ten," she assured him.

"We've got to figure out what to do about those creatures too," Stoker reminded Rimfire.

"Creatures?" Vinnie asked.

"Remember those little scurrying things found around the pools?  They moved into a few of the bases."

"Take a few cats home," Vinnie said wisely.  "They hunt the human mice."

"They do," Paint agreed.  "They'd probably adapt fairly well as well."  She sipped her drink, smiling at the sound of another bike, but it sounded like it was alone.  "Visitors."  The other mice perked their ears up.

Vinnie looked out through the crack in the swinging door.  "Hey, we're back here."   A tall white mouse walked in.  "Hey, which one are you?"

"Pipe.  Exhaust's little brother," he said, shaking his hand.  "Mr. Throttle and that Xander mouse said to show up here."  He looked at Stoker.  "It's you," he said in awe.  He nodded, nodding at a free seat.  "Thank you, sir.  It's an honor."

"That's Vinnie, Charley's on his lap, Modo's next to you, Paint's in the corner, Rimfire's on my other side, and that's Enamel and Micah back by Paint," he introduced.  "Dawn'll be back soon."

"Wow."  He stared at Vinnie, then at Modo.  "You're nearly as famous as Stoker is."  They grinned at him.  "I thought Mr. Throttle was a legend, but wow."

"Calm it down, kid.  We're heading back to Mars in a few days," Stoker told him.  "Couldn't signal?"

"I couldn't get my bike to work.  She died, sir.  That Xander mouse fixed her for me, that's the only way I could come up here.  Her brain wasn't functioning at all."

"What did he do?" Charley asked.

He shrugged.  "He reached in there, wiggled a few things I'd wiggled in the past, talked to her, then suddenly she worked."

"Huh," Micah said, looking at Charley.  "Broken connection?"

"Probably.  She okay?  I can look her over for you."

"If it wouldn't bother your mate any, ma'am.  He seems quite possessive at the moment."

"She's with kit, kid," Vinnie said smugly.

"Then I'm doubly impressed, sir, and I wish you and yours many great kits that'll drive you as nuts and my brothers and I did our Ma.  Hopefully not as bad as my sister though," he added with a bright grin.

"Grab a rootbeer, Pipe, and we'll look at your bike," Charley told him.  He nodded and walked around to help her stand, then grabbed them both sodas, handing her hers.  "You're very polite."

"I"ve been in Texas for the last three years, ma'am."

"Why is it that everyone wants to spoil my girl?" Vinnie complained once they were in the garage.

"Because it's fun watching you do one better than the spoiler," Modo told him smugly.  "That's what Xander said when I asked."

He shook his head, looking back outside.  "Why me?  Dawn?  Is that you?"

"Nearly me."  She walked off, then came back inside, slamming the door. "Mom's pregnant."

"Really?  I didn't think the cat had snuck out."

"Me either.  We have *got* to get some of them fixed.  Twelve cats is enough."  Vinnie nodded.  She took off her overcoat, showing off the black velvet and leather outfit.  Then she turned.  "Please, Vinnie?"

"Sure, Dawn. You should be pretty."  He tightened the corset top.  "Flared at the waist or not?"

"Not."  He tightened them all down so they hugged her curves beautifully, then swatted her once they were tied off. "Thank you, Vinnie."  She sat down, rubbing a hand down the velvet skirt.  "Sorry it took me so long.  I'll have to wait to fluff out my hair until it dries."

"No, it wasn't that long of a wait," Rimfire assured her, staring at her.  "Wow."  She beamed and blushed a bit.  He shifted slightly closer but his Uncle caught his eye and frowned.  "I'm being good."

"I'm sure you are.  How many others are coming, bro?"

"Grip said she had to get Thimble and Ajax."  He sipped his soda, standing up as another single bike came up the road toward the garage, going out there to greet his ex.  "Grip," he said, hugging her, grinning at the twin boys.  "Hey, kids."  He helped them off, then looked at her.  She had an artificial leg and one hand was metal too.  "You okay?"

"Bit chilly.  Makes the grease slow down in the winter."  She hugged him, kissing him on the cheek.  "I knew you'd make a good mouse a special husband some day, even if they did have to tie you down."  She pulled back.  "So, where is she?"  He pointed at Charley and she beamed. "Even better with the way he hurts his bike."  She held out her hand.  "I'm Grip."

"Charley," she said, shaking it.  "This is Pipe, he was stuck in Texas.  Kids, please don't play with those.  They can shock you."

"Fine," one of them called, coming over to look at the bike.  He looked in the insides.  "That doesn't look like Mommy's."

Charley nodded.  "It doesn't.  It's got a few very badly hurt wires that'll need replaced.  Fortunately I can do that."  He beamed at her.  "Which one are you, kid?"

"Ajax."  He hugged her then got up and went to pummel his brother.

Vinnie grinned at the kids.  "Who was their daddy?"

She shrugged.  "Some guy I met in the bar."  She headed into the back room, squealing and hugging Stoker.  "Old man!"

"Easy, Grip.  They named you right," he complained, patting her on the back.  "You okay?  I heard kids mentioned."

"Boys!" she bellowed, bringing them running to stare at everyone.  "They're mine.  Thimble is the tan one with white streaks and Ajax is the tan one with black streaks."

"Hey, kids."  They beamed at him.  He looked at them, then at Enamel.  "Foreshadowing of Vinnie's kid?"

"Probably.  There's a few possible outcomes of human/mice pairings since we have more DNA."  He finished off his soda and got up to get one, tossing a few to the mother.  "They could end up looking like him, or have her hair color as a fur color, or they could be unfurry and have either parent's hair color as their hair color."

"DNA?" the general asked.

"Those coding strips inside all of us that I explained the last time we talked, General."

"Oh.  Those things."  He looked at the boys.  "They're very strong, Grip."

"Who're you?  Besides being military."

"He's the guy giving most of you a lift back to Mars."  He looked at Rimfire.  "Go get some seats from the garage, kid."

"Sure, Stoker."  He went to do that, coming back to find his seat taken.  "There were only two."  He looked at Dawn, then glanced at his uncle, deciding not to try it.  He sat on the stairs instead.  His uncle grinned at him.

"There's other kids?" Thimble asked.

"Not born yet, honey.  She's inside Vinnie's girl's stomach," his mother told him.  He pouted.  "I'm sure you'll find lots of new friends on Mars."

"There's not that many kids being born, Grip," Stoker said gently.  "They can come play with mine and Switch's though.  She'll need a civilizing influence sometime soon."

"Switch?  Don't know her," she said casually.

"Carbine's younger sister," he told her.  She stared at him, mouth open.  He gave her a smug look.  "Her choice, not mine."

"Well," she said fondly.  "Good to know you can still keep up, Stoker.  Maybe I'll find someone worthy of my beauty on Mars too.  Many of us left?"

"There's more coming, we're getting ready to free some prison worlds."

"Then I'm your girl, Stoker.  I've got tons of chances to learn how to blow up things, like doors.  Or ships.  Or even smelly, slimy Plutarkians, who all deserve it of course."

"If we can work you in, sweetheart, you're going.  I'll babysit."

"Thanks, Stoker.  Love you too, old guy.  Think your wife's willing to share?"

"Switch?  Not presently. She's pregnant with our second one."

"Oooh, scandalous.  How old is this girl?"

"Legal," he said firmly.  She giggled at that.

Modo nudged her and nodded.  "Barely legal."  She giggled more at that, giving him a hug.  "How've you been?"

"Been better at times, worse at others.  Be happy to get somewhere warm and dry.  My leg and wrist always ache in the cold or damp."

"I had some of that but Xander figured out a nice massage technique and it helps."

"I'd ask, Modo, but that far up my thigh and his girl might get jealous."

"Throttle? Yeah, he'd get very jealous," he told her with a bright grin.

"Throttle and a boy?  Well, now," she said, smirking at her boys.  "Good. Then he can talk to Thimble about his delight of boys some day."  She gave him another hug.  "No girl of your own?"

"None met yet," he offered.  He glanced at Paint.  Maybe. Then again, she was a bit cool to those around her.  He wanted a warm woman.  One like Xander, only less energetic and embarrassing.  He shrugged at her pitied look.  "Maybe someday soon.  We're still needed here.  We're getting a new one.  Limburger's son is coming."

"Really?" she asked casually.  "Need help?"

"Nah, we three, Charley, Xander, and Dawn can do it."

She beamed at that.  "Good for you, boys.  How many others are there?"

"Five until Junior lands," Micah told her.  "I'm Micah."

"I realized that.  You're the only unattached human here."

"I'm not attached yet," Dawn told her.  "I'm Xander's adopted daughter."

"Oh, that's good.  He knew your family?"

"Yeah, my sister's the slayer and he used to work with her.  My sister's also a twat and that's why I came to live with Xander."

"Hmm, good thing.  I've heard of your sister, and I agree."  She grinned at her sons.  "Remember hearing about Buffy?  That's her sister.  She doesn't like her either."  The boys clapped and beamed at her, earning a smile back.

Ajax ran a hand over her skirt.  "You're soft and fuzzy too."  He looked up at her.  "What's a Xander?  I've never heard of one of those."

"You'll get to see him in a few days.  He's too complicated to explain," she said, kissing him on the head, then patting the back of it.  "Don't pet me, I might have to date you."  He shuddered and pulled back, making her grin at him, then his brother. "How about you?"

"I don't like girls.  I like big, sweaty guys.  They smell nice."  He looked at Modo.  "I could date you though."

He moaned and shook his head. "Sorry, little guy, I only like girls.  My gray furred momma wants more grandbabies."

"You can have our mother then," Ajax said with a bright grin.  "She likes you, she hugged you."  He saw the hesitant look.  "She hugs us and she likes us, so therefore she hugs you because she likes you."

"I used to date Vinnie, the white muscled mouse in the other room.  We were buddies, boys, nothing more.  I'm not the sort of girl he likes.  He needs someone sweet like that Willow girl a few years back."  Dawn choked on her soda, getting up to clean up the mess. "You know her?  How's she doing?"

"You must have seen her when she was sorry for nearly destroying the world," Dawn told her.  Grip nodded.  "She's not that nice usually.  Sometimes, but not always."

"How is she now? Think she could pop around?"

"I kinda doubt it.  She gave up her physical body to guard the hellmouth in Sunnydale after we destroyed it."  She sat down, wiping off the table, then tossing away the paper towels.  "Don't mention her around Xander, please.  He was there when she died."

Grip nodded.  "I can understand that.  She talked about her buddy.... oh, that's a Xander?" she asked, grinning at her.  Dawn nodded.  "Well, he was a bit of cute."

"He was, but now he's a white mouse and might as well be Vinnie's little brother," Stoker told her.  "We're not sure why he changed."

"He is?"  Modo nodded, pulling out his wallet to show her the picture.  "Well, he's still cute.  Willow showed me all sorts of pictures of her friends.  Which one were you, dear?"

"Dawn.  Buffy's little sister."

"Ah.  Yeah, I heard you were a troublesome one."

Dawn smirked. "Only when I had to live with my sister.  I'm much better now.  I'm working on things so I can work with Micah."

"Then I'm impressed, ducks."  She grinned at Micah.  "You sure you can do it with only these there?"

"Yeah, we're working on the other ones in a governmental way and I've passed on the others to be watched since they're doing bad things in other countries.  Personally I think that's what's wrong with France sometimes.  The one in Paris."  He took another drink. "Dawn, it looks like you got yourself too."

She looked down and groaned, nodding.  "I did.  Hey, Charley, when you're done I need outfit help again.  I spit and got myself."  She got up to walk out there, finding her fixing a few broken wires.  "Can I help?"

"No, I've got it," she promised, working on a few joints.  She pulled back.  "Okay, bike, let's try that again.  Octave range?"  The bike beeped up and down its octave range.  "Now move."  It moved.  "Now guns."  They popped up."  She looked at the rider.  "Okay, now move to your rider, sweetheart."  She slowly moved to Pipe, making him give her a hug.  "There you go.  There's a few that still need a slight tweak but I don't have more wire to fix her at the moment.  If I can run out tomorrow I'll get some."  He hugged her, sobbing on her.  "It's all right, Pipe.  You didn't know and probably couldn't do it.  It's all right."  He nodded, pulling back to hug his ride some more.  She looked at Dawn.  "Spit on yourself?"

"Grip knew Willow.  She apparently met her after she went bad."  Vinnie winced. "I clued her in," she said quietly.  "She knew who Xander was before and Modo showed off his pictures."

"Cool.  Let's go find some clothes, princess."  He walked her off, going to look in her closet.  She ducked into her wardrobe to pull out three bags, dumping them on the bed.  Then he saw one other, giving her a look.  She grimaced.  "Needed it that bad?"

"No, I didn't shoplift it, Syria did and I took it from her.  I tried to give it back but there were already cops in there.  I don't think they would have believed me."

"Point," he admitted.  "You're giving it to someone who needs it."

"I was going to stuff it into the annual shelter box anyway," she assured him.  "Not that I wouldn't look cute, but I don't want it.  I don't do that anymore."  Charley walked in.  "He found the bag that I took off Syria."

"Yeah, I was there when Syria pulled that," she told him, nodding.  "Dawn tried to give it back but the cops scared her."

"Fine.  Then it goes out of this house."

"Not an issue," she agreed.  "I'm hoping we don't run into her tonight at the clubs.  Syria's well and deep into the pothead population."

Vinnie shuddered.  "None of that either, young lady, especially not around Rimfire."

"Not a thought of it, I'm over that, Vinnie."  She gave him a hug.  "You're a good mommy mouse too."

He pinched her, making her yelp.  But he was smirking at her.  "Fine.  Let's see what you've got.  You need to make him say more embarrassing stuff so Modo can tell his mother on him."  He looked at the outfits on the bed, then at her.  "Did you want to look like one of those girls who does table dances?"

"I do not!"  She held up one of them, making him groan and shake his head.  "I actually look very cute."

"It's December in Chicago, Dawn.  Think warm.  Remember, you'll be riding."

"I'm not wearing pants."

"I didn't suggest it, honey.  Trust me."  She opened the closet wider, then found a bag hanging there.  She peeked inside and handed it over.  "Wear that."  She walked Vinnie out, closing the door behind them.  "Trust me."  Dawn opened the door a few minutes later and his jaw dropped.  He let out a whimper.  "See?"  She walked him back inside.  "New shoes too?"

"Yeah, new shoes.  I figured I'd break them in tonight.  I'm expecting some of the bitch patrol to be at the same clubs.  Unless I can take him to the one we go to as a group?"  Vinnie nodded after a moment.  "Can you fix it for me?"  She turned.

"What is it with you and corsets?"

"Tara taught me to wear them."

"Ah."  He tightened her up, then went for another round once she had let out her held breath.  "Got another?"  She sucked in her gut and he did a third one, bracing against her bed.  The string broke so he went to get a leather thong from his stuff, doing it back up.  She winced but let him tighten her to the point of popping out of the top.  "Too much," he decided, releasing a bit of the tension so she could tuck herself back in.  He tightened it slightly and she nodded, looking down at herself.  She held up a hand and he tied it off there, using a half-knot and then a bow.  "There, it won't slip even if it comes undone."

"Thanks, Vinnie."  She turned and looked in the mirror, then brushed her hand down the straight skirt, looking at it.  "I look trashy."

"It's the skirt," Charley told her.  She gave it a slight tug down, which exposed the bellybutton.  "Probably how it was meant to be."

"Probably," she agreed, looking at herself, doing the same in the back.  The skirt's ties were tightened too and she grabbed some double-sided tape to stick it in place.  It was still riding high on her rear so she shoved it lower and taped it there.  Vinnie used his tail to pull on the bottom of the skirt and then stuck the tape with a hard press.  "There, now it can't come off."

"It'd better not come off," Vinnie said patiently, leading her back to the house.  Rimfire fell off the stairs. "Yeah, I'd say he liked it."

"Go put on clothes," Modo and Stoker yelled.  Micah chimed in a breath behind them.

"Hey, they're my date clothes authority in place of Xander," Dawn defended.

"The skirt's stuck on because it kept riding up."

"I've had bandages bigger than that," Grip noted, grinning at Vinnie.  "Like playing with her clothes now?"  He shook his head, smirking at her.  "You sure?"

"Yeah, we kept her from some of her own worst luck.  Otherwise she's freeze on the back of his bike tonight."

"Can you even sit in that, Dawn?" Micah asked.  She sat down and crossed her legs demurely.  "Is it over your underwear still?"

She nodded.  "Yeah.  By about two inches," she said smugly.  "It had been riding high.  Fortunately, dancing doesn't require much sitting. It's either this skirt or my flirty little black one."

"Go change," Modo ordered, pointing.  "I don't want to make him defend you later."

She sighed and went to do that, taking the skirt from Charley's hand.  "He's such a dad some days."

"Xander said the same thing about Throttle a few times," she shared.  She watched as the girl changed.  "Can I borrow that pink outfit?"

"The only pink outfit was the one Syria stole," she noted dryly.  "Or the pink....oooh!  Sure," she said smugly.  "Wear it to dinner.  My stuff's in the shower down here."  Charley took the outfit with her and Dawn made sure all the stickiness was off her skin, then she walked back over there. "There, better?"  Rimfire let out a small whimper.  "Vinnie, Charley managed to tip over some of my perfume, she's showering and changing in my room.  She'll be back in a minute."  His tail swished and he gave her a smug look. "What?  This okay tonight, dad?"

"Better," he agreed.  Usually he'd say no, but he liked Rimfire enough to give him a real shot at Dawn.  Even if it was technically easy access clothes.  Cheese, that girl was hot.

Grip leaned closer to Enamel.  "If I looked like that, I'd be getting some," she said quietly.  He snickered and nodded.  "Dawn, need chaperones?  I could use a bit of fun.  Stoker can babysit."  She looked at Enamel.  "Wanna go have some fun?"

"I'm one of the banished ones," he told her, staring at her.  "I'm Enamel."

"I heard and I knew that before.  I'm not proposing, sweetness, just some fun."  He nodded, smirking at her. "Good, I'll follow you so you can change after dinn...."  She stared at Charley as she came in, which made Vinnie turn and whistle, then grab her to kiss her stupid.  "Dawn, can I borrow something?"

"Sure.  If you want."  She grinned at her. Then at Vinnie's back.  "No tearing my favorite outfit." Micah spluttered.

"No tearing needed, it stretches," Vinnie panted, picking her up and carrying up her the stairs around Rimfire before he could move.  "We'll be back for dinner."

"Vinnie, there are people here!" she protested.

"Sweetheart, unless you want me to claim you in front of everyone down there, we're staying up here for a few minutes," he told her, kicking the door shut.  Yes, it was a good thing that the dress stretched.  "You're confiscating this one, right?" he demanded as he kissed her and led her to the bed, following her down onto the mattress.  He would bow at her feet if she did that.  Then she did the naughtiest thing, moving his head to lick across an antenna.  He went rigid and moaned, clutching her.  "Sweetheart, I can't pleasure you if I pass out," he moaned when she continued.  He pulled back to kiss her.  "Tonight, Charley.  Tonight.  It'll be one of those treats. You can do that and I'll do my thing and we'll have tons of fun. Right now, I ache for you."  He flipped onto his back, pulling her on top of him, making sure she stayed laying down while he dove into her mouth and he drove himself into her body, making her whimper.

Downstairs, Rimfire got off the stairs and took the empty seat.  "Uncle Modo, can I stay with you guys tonight?  I don't think he'll need his bed."

"Sure.  Watch out for the cats," he told him with a grin.

"Sure."  He grinned at Dawn.  "Do you live over here?"

"No, I live downstairs at the lair.  I live next to loud boy and Throttle."  He grinned at that, blushing a bit.  "You'll like Xander.  He's a sweety, even when he's ready to rip out fur."  She stroked his arm gently.  "Did you want to shower or anything?"

"No, I took one on the way down," he offered, grinning at her. "You sure I can't buy you dinner?"

She considered it.  "I've got dinner if you'll pay cover tonight."  He beamed.  "Modo, is that okay with you?"

"Behave, be good, and be home by one," he said firmly.  "You've still got school tomorrow."

"Oh, I'm not missing the look on their faces for anything," she promised, standing up and leading Rimfire back to his bike. "Want to borrow a jacket?"

"No, I'm good," he promised, watching as she put on a dark velvet jacket then climbed on behind him, putting on her helmet.  "So, you ride a lot?" he asked, backing his bike out the door.  He used his tail to close it, then she leaned down to toss the cat back into the opening door.  It slammed on its own and he shrugged it off. "Which way, Dawn?"

"Um, toward the park.  Like pizza? Or should we go for hotdogs and burgers?"

"I don't mind pizza," he offered.  "Or we could go to Chef Andy's."

"Sure, he's on the way to where we're heading."  She made sure her shoes were on securely, then he took off, making her giggle.  He was very good.  Very smooth around the corners and potholes.  He pulled up in front of the hotdog place and she got off, letting him take her arm so they could walk inside. "Hi, Chef Andy," she called as she walked inside.  He grinned at her. "You remember Rimfire, right?"  He nodded.  "Can I have my usual and get him whatever he wants."

"Two hotdogs with everything," he ordered.  He glanced at her.  "Without the onions," he added with a small, shy grin.  The cook winked.  "And a rootbeer."

"Sure.  Dawn, go ahead and get your usual water, sweetie.  Taking him out to show him the sights?"

"Nope, going clubbing with him.  We're being invaded by other people who're stuck."  She winked at him and pulled out her card, running it for him.  "I left the slip beside the register."

"Thanks, dear.  Any order for the garage?"

"Well, Charley borrowed my pink dress so Vinnie's not in the mood to," she finished with a teasing pause.  "Did you know she's pregnant?"  He stared at her so she nodded, smiling at him.  "Just barely."

"Well," he said happily.  "I'll expect her orders to change now and then.  No Xander?"

"Nope, he and Throttle are still in Texas.  They're starting back in two days."  He put up a tray and she took it.  "Thanks, Andy."

"Welcome, Dawn.  What're you wearing, dear?"  She took off her jacket and his jaw dropped.  "Modo let you out wearing this?"

"Yeah, and Vinnie tightened it for me," she admitted with a grin.  He sighed and shook his head. "It's cute."

"It may be, but you'll freeze."

"I'll keep her warm," Rimfire promised, grinning at him.  "I'll even be respectful while I do it."

"Good boy, Rimfire. I knew you'd turn out like your uncle.  You two eat.  You'll need the energy for dancing and the like."  He went to call the garage to see if they needed anything.  It looked like a pretty good storm coming and he might have to close early.  "Modo, it's Chef Andy.  It's gonna storm soon ad I was thinking about closing early.  You need anything?"  He grabbed a pad and wrote it down, nodding.  "Okay."  He wrote down what someone else called.  "Anything else?  Then it'll be about thirty minutes.  Come pick it up then, Modo.  Sure thing.  Have a good night.  Is that for Vinnie and Charley too?" he asked.  He grinned and wrote down another order too.  "Sure, thirty minutes."  He hung up and started working on it.  "Be careful tonight if it snows, kids," he called.  "Be sure to make it back safely."

"If we have to, the club I'm planning on is just up the street from the Hilton," Dawn offered.  "I'll pay for two rooms."

"Good girl, Dawn."  He dropped some more hotdogs into the cooker, checking the number.  He'd have to split it into two cooking batches.  He got everything else ready, watching as the snow started to fall.

"What's that?" Rimfire asked.

"Snow.  Condensed water."  He got up and went to investigate, coming back shaking off his head.  "You okay?"  He nodded.  "You sure you want to go on?"

"Yeah, it'll be fine.  I'm a good rider," he promised, kissing the back of her hand.  "Grandmomma talked about you a few times but she didn't say you were as pretty as a pinup."  She blushed and he beamed at her.  "You are."

She leaned over to kiss him on the cheek.  "I think you're cute too, Rimfire."  She dug back into her chef's salad, eating the pepperoni he always added for her.  She had toothpaste and a toothbrush in her bag, just in case they ate out.


Modo came in from getting dinner, stamping his feet off. "It's a blizzard," he announced.  "I called Rimfire but he didn't answer.  His bike's outside the club though."  Vinnie smirked at him.  "It's near a hotel."

"She packed her debit card in her purse," Charley offered.  "If it gets too bad she can hole up there with him and I'm going to trust her not to do anything wrong with him."  She looked in the box.  "That's a lot of food, Modo."

He beamed and handed over the bag with their names on it.  "He made it specially for you two."  He went to hand out the other things since everyone else was watching tv.

Charley opened the bag, pulling out the large sandwich.  She smiled and handed half of it to him.  She checked her side and switched with him.  "That's so adorable.  These are usually date food."

"I can see why," he agreed, stroking her back through the dress.  He glanced around then let his tail come up to tease her, making her blush bright red.  "No one's here, sweetheart, and you're clearly mine now."  He stole a kiss and dug into his dinner.  He'd need it for later.  His tail continued to tease her panties, stroking and tickling and gently pressing variably.  He finished up and opened their soda, taking a few gulps before handing it over with a grin.  She finished up hers, still blushing, and he took her into the office for some privacy, closing the door.  He leaned her against the desk, kissing her again.  "Mm, nearly as good as dinner.  I might have to have dessert.  Something sweet and sticky to make me satisfied for a few more hours."  He sat her on the edge of the desk and pulled the chair over so he could bury his head under her skirt.  She tensed up and grabbed the edge but he relaxed her and she was pushing against his mouth now.  Her hips were rocking around his snout and he was loving it.  He moved her panties to give him deeper access, diving in.  This was his sort of dessert!  She moaned and stuck a hand in her mouth so the others wouldn't hear.  He kept going until she was shaking and making pleading noises through her hand, then drove his tongue deeply into her, making her go over.  He licked her clean, even sucking her juices off her hair, then moved her panties back into place while he sat back and licked his lips.  "That's the dessert I needed," he said smugly.

She stared at him.  "If you get yours, I get mine," she said, pulling him closer to play with his antennas.  He tensed up so she gently teased them with her tongue and gently scraped her teeth on them as she went down on the small red pieces, making him shake and shiver.   He wasn't in control of his hips, he was helpless as he thrust against the air, and she switched to the other one.  His tail came up to tease her and she switched to that, sucking on the tip, just gently going at it.  One finger went back to tease his antennas. He moaned but it wasn't as satisfying so she switched it around, going back to sucking on his antennas while her fingers played with his tail.  He was nearly sobbing in need now, needing some friction.  She kicked off a shoe and stroked his cock with her foot, making him shout and arch up, coming right there.  He went limp, withdrawing his antenna from her mouth.  He stared up at her and she grinned back.  "My dessert was very sweet."

"How did you learn that?" he asked in awe.


"No wonder Throttle doesn't walk right."  He pulled her into his lap to kiss her.  "My dessert was just as sweet, both parts.  Thank you, sweetheart."  He kissed her again.  "Need more?"

"I'm good if you are."

"I'm never going to be satisfied," he assured her, kissing her again.  He moved his tail from her fingers, letting it go back under her skirt, but this time he moved her panties to let it inside them, using it to stroke in and out of her.  She was shivering on his lap and he was teasing her.  "Never satisfied," he promised her.  He made his tail go in deeper and she gasped against his shoulder.  She was rubbing against his cock and he was starting to come back up.  He could feel himself swell against the wet spot she had created earlier, and he didn't care.  He shifted her and undid his pants, freeing himself from the damp confines so he could shift her around.  Her panties were tossed onto the desk after he ripped them off her and he settled her on top of him, gently stroking in and out of her.  He stared in her eyes, watching them as his tail came up to play with the other hole.  She tensed up and he grinned.

"Relax.  It won't hurt.  I promise."  She nodded, leaning forward some to give the tail easier access.  He let it slip inside.  It was very slim and she was shaking now.  He let it get a bit deeper while he pulled her closer to get deeper himself.  She let out a moan and he sped up, leaving his tail there but not moving it.  She whimpered and he stood her up, withdrawing his cock from her so she could kneel in the chair.  Then he dove back in, making her yell into the fabric.  In this position his tail was moving again too and she was humping back against him.  He grabbed her hips with a moan.  "Sweetheart.  You nearly there?"  She let out a tired moan and then a gasping, stuttering breath, and he could feel it.  He let go, shoving in as far as he could go.  He panted, leaning against her back.  "Woman," he panted.  "You're driving me insane."

"You were insane when you met me."  She pulled off and turned, sitting in the chair.  Then she pulled him into her lap, cuddling him.  "That was incredible."

"It was," he agreed, kissing her.  "Did you mind my tail?"

"No, it was very gentle."  She pinched his stomach right above his cock.  "That's too massive to go back there but I don't mind your tail."

"You'd be surprised."

"Maybe but I don't think so, not yet, Vinnie."  He nodded and kissed her.  She moaned.  "No more.  I'm tired."

"Me too, but I like this cuddling stuff.  Want me to be on the bottom?  I'm heavy."

"Not that much."  She gave him a squeeze.  "Besides, I can't do that on your lap."

"No, you can't."  He snuggled into her shoulder and neck, calming himself down.  If she weren't tired, he'd try it again, but she said no and he could respect that.  He felt a gentle fingertip run up the underside of his cock, then watched as she licked it off.  "Hmm, I like how you taste," he said, diving back in for another kiss.  "Please, Charley.  Just one last one?"

"I'm too tired to move."

"That's fine, babe.  I've got you covered."  He stood up and pulled her up, sitting her in his lap again but facing the desk this time.  He moved them so she could lean on it and he pushed back into her body, making her shake and grip the far edge of the desk.  "Shh, I've got you."  He ground up into her, doing it like she had him locked in suction.  He found that nice g-spot that the magazines talked about and that was the end for her. She was shaking and shivering and mewling into the desk.  He was going to have to keep doing this.  He came with a longer moan and went limp, pulling her back to hold her.  "I love you."

"Ditto," she assured him. He laughed and hugged her, turning her around on him.  He'd fall out soon but not yet.  She snuggled in, arms around his neck.  "This isn't too bad of a position.  No wonder those two like it."

"Yeah, sometimes you find someone who just fits perfectly in your lap," Vinnie told her, stroking her back.  She didn't quite make it perfectly, her head was a bit too high for his shoulder.  He pulled out of her and let her shift down an inch and then she fit perfectly.  She grinned and closed her eyes.  "You nap, sweetheart.  I need one too."  She nodded, letting herself drift off.  He made it long enough to use his tail to lock the door, but not much beyond that.


Dawn came out of the club, looking up at the absolutely white sky.  "Damn," she said in awe.  She felt an arm go around her middle and smiled back at Rimfire.  "Think we can make it home?"  He shook his head. "Okay, then we're headed for the big 'H' sign up the street."  He got himself settled and she climbed on after him, wrapping her arms securely around him.  "Whenever you're ready," she prompted.

He opened his eyes and nodded, starting the bike.  Maybe this cold air would be good for him.  He really could use calming down.  He slowly pulled out, heading for the bright sign he could barely see.  It took them about a half hour to go the two blocks, and then there was a very nice parking garage.  He let her off at the door and went up to park, heading for the darkest corner he could find.  "I'm sorry, girl.  I wish I could bring you inside.  If I had anything to cover ...."  He searched his bags.  "Ah, here we go, stuff from the desert duty last month."  He spread it out over her frame, doubling it up when it proved to be too large.  "You good?"  She beeped.  "Okay, minor shock protection only tonight, sweetness."  He stroked his bike's back and then hurried to the elevator, going to the one that said lobby.  He found Dawn in there, smiling at her.  "We set?"

"The only one they had was two beds in the same room."

"I can do that," he promised.  He led her to the elevator. "I might need to take a blanket down later. It's freezing down there."  She nodded, leaning against his arm while she yawned.  "We're nearly there, Dawn.  I'll even make sure you make it to school in the morning."

"That would be nice," she agreed, giving his arm a squeeze.  "Six-thirteen," she said, walking him off to the right.  They found the door and she opened it, letting him go inside first since he was so paranoid.  "If you need to, you can take the bedspreads, I don't use mine."  He nodded, grinning at her while he looked at the phone.  "Oh, honey, I've got my phone."  She pulled it out and sat on the foot of one of the beds, listening as the garage's phone rang.  A tired sounding Vinnie answered it.  "Look outside, we're in a blizzard.  No, we're up the street from the club.  Yup, that's us.  No, a room with two beds and a couch. No, he said if it's stopped he'll take me to school tomorrow.  Sure."  She held out the phone.  "Vinnie, the overprotective big brother."

"Hi, Vinnie," he said, grinning at the disgruntled voice.  "It's totally white out there.  I can't see past the end of my tire.  It took us nearly a half-hour to get here.  Vinnie, I am a gentleman.  Yes, I'll stay on my own bed."  He heard the quiet words and blushed.  "If you say so.  Not my idea.  Thanks though.  Sure, first thing tomorrow.  Tell Uncle Modo we're fine.  Love you too."  He hung up and rolled his eyes.  "You weren't kidding.  What are condoms and why do we eat them?"

Dawn snickered and patted him on the arm.  "Condoms are a method of birth control and your seed eats though them and causes a reaction that causes burns."

"Oh."  His ears went rigid and his tail stuck straight out while he blushed bright red.  "Why did I need to know that?"

"Probably in case you decided to bring a girl with us."

"Huh.  I'm not like that."  Dawn nodded.  "Okay, we need to get comfortable."  She squealed, jumping up and backing away from the window as the wind ground against it, bowing it in slightly.  "It's okay, Dawn, it's just the wind," he soothed, holding her gently.  "Like a sandstorm."

"I grew up about an hour from the desert and we never had sand storms.  They get those in Asia and Egypt, not in Sunnydale."  She shivered in his arms.  "I'm sorry I'm such a baby."

"You're not being a baby.  We all have things we're scared of."  He stroked her back gently.  "Now, why don't you go to the bathroom and take off your makeup and then we'll settle in and watch some tv.  How about that?"  She smiled and nodded, going to do that.  He sat down on the bed closer to the door, trying to gather himself together.  He didn't want to know why Vinnie could see them together.  She was the daughter of a friend and a man he looked up to.  He couldn't do that to her.  Even though she was stunning and smart and sexy and danced like she'd make love very well and she obviously didn't mind teasing him and she was apparently attracted to big mice.  Or maybe just him.  Well, she had called Vinnie studly earlier so maybe it was him and Vinnie, which meant he was pretty handsome in her eyes because Vinnie was like a God of the old faiths with how pretty he was.  He'd probably never tell Vinnie that, they'd never get his head unswelled.  She came out wrapping in a towel over her underwear and he had to swallow very hard.  Maybe he should go sleep on his bike.  It'd keep it warm and keep him out of trouble.  Even without the highlighting of her makeup she was still beautiful.  She was really smart and she didn't talk down to him like some smart girls did.  Namely Carbine.  She was somewhere between Carbine's toughness and Charley's sweetness and he had to remind himself he wasn't staying on Earth and she probably couldn't go to Mars with him.

"What'cha thinkin' about?" she asked quietly, curled up under her blankets.  "If you want my bedspread, you can have it."

He turned his head to look at her and smiled.  "I'll go down to check on her in about an hour, I'll take it then."

"So what were you thinking about if not your bike?"

"How you'd look on Mars."

"Vinnie said if we ever got to go up there, then he'd take me to the pools and then to this really old temple up on Olympus Mons to show me the view from up there," she said quietly.  "He said it's beautiful.  Especially at sunset."

He nodded.  "It is.  You can see so much of Mars from up there."  He turned to face her.  "The light up there would highlight you and paint your skin in pretty reds and golds, making you glow like the temple belonged to you.  Especially if you spent all day in the pool at the bottom."  He gave her a small, sheepish grin.  "I can see you up there, standing next to a bike, staring off into the distance, then settling in to see the sights at dawn, and smiling as the sun came up over the city, making you feel like Goddess ordering it to be so.  You'd love it.  Though I'd probably take you to see the craters too.  They're pretty in an odd way, but in the right light it's like a big puzzle piece and you can find a path and a pattern to them."  She nodded, shifting closer.  "It's a beautiful world, Dawn, even though we've got a lot of work to do to restore her to fertility and grace.  We're trying.  Soon there'll be a lot more mice.  I'm not allowed on the prison raids but we'll be bringing a lot more home and then they'll be home for good.  If the stinky bastards come after them, then we'll kick their ass for good this time."

"I'd be there if I could."

"You shouldn't have to be.  It's not your fight," he said gently.

"And?  It's my fight if I make it my fight.  After all I've seen and heard, it's my fight now too.  Even if I can only be support personnel down here, it's my fight too."  He nodded, giving her a warmer smile.  "What are the pools like?  Vinnie was showing Xander and got stuck in his head."

"How?  Vinnie seems too experienced for that."

"Xander's a medium, he sucks people into his head.  They were talking about some priestesses in some mountains and being like them."

"The Priestesses of the Holy Mountains?  Wow.  That means he's really powerful.  No wonder he's changing into a mouse.  It must give him better control."  He moved up to lean against his pillows.  "Want to watch some tv?"

"Sure."  She found the remote and held it out.  "Here you go."

"Thanks.  Music or other stuff?"

"MTV is fine if you want, just please not ESPN."

"Sure.  I'm not in the mood for sports either," he said with a shy grin.  He could see her being a cheerleader for the Martian sports.  Hell, he could see her participating in most of them.  She'd look wonderful in his favorite blasterball team's uniform.  Or maybe half of it, cut to show off her bellybutton because it was rather cute. He switched the channel idly, stomping down on those thoughts.  His grandmomma would be pinning his ears back if she knew what he was thinking about.  He couldn't see his grandmomma allowing him to date a human girl.  Even if she did talk about her a lot.  He'd have to keep himself under control until he talked to his uncle tomorrow.  He realized he had went past the music station and went back, stopping when he saw the man standing on a giant... "Are those some exotic fruits?"

"No, that's a butt.  It's a song about liking natural looking women instead of those who starve themselves to be painfully thin.  Turn it up if you want."  He turned it up a bit but she turned it back down a little bit because it was rather late.  He listened to the words and stared in shock and awe at the dancers.  He could not see a Martian woman doing that.  Or appreciating this song.  Then again, Dawn was mouthing the words and she did have a fantastic butt.  She was *definitely* one of the girls the song was about.  That song ended and another one came on, this one had women slinking around the male singer and rubbing against him.  "Oh, dear."

"That's Prince.  We must have lucked into an 80's show.  Diamonds and Pearls, it's a great song."

Rimfire coughed and grabbed the remote, changing the channel.  "Let's see what else is on," he said, trying hard not to squeak.  She only grinned at him.  "I'm sorry but I'm a bit naive and women dancing like that give me thoughts I shouldn't have."

"Hey, they give me plenty of thoughts too," she offered.  "Oooh, go back."  He went back, and there was a comedian telling funny jokes.  Some of them were okay but a few of them made him blush bright red.  She was blushing a bit too but she was laughing.  They even blushed at the same things, how great was that!   He shivered as the wind picked up again, and he could see her getting uneasy.  "It's all right, Dawn.  I'm here, it won't break in."

She shook her head. "You can't promise that.  Chicago is named the Windy City for a reason."  She looked at him.  "Are you okay?  You can change the channel if you want."  He changed the channel and found the food network, smiling at that.  "Yeah, that's pretty safe.  There's an animal channel if you wanted it too."

He flipped back to it and it was showing an animal pushing out another animal.  "Eww, what's that?" he said, staring in horror.


"We all come out like that?"

"Kinda, yeah.  Anya came out really slimy and neat too."

He shuddered.  "I'm never putting a woman though that!"

"It's worth it to us," she reminded him gently.  "It hurts like hell, but it's worth it to us most of the time."  She reached over and patted him on the arm.  "Keep flipping."  He changed the channel, leaning against her touch.  Then she jumped and shrieked when the window started to snap.  He grabbed her, putting her behind him, watching the window to make sure it wouldn't cave in after all.  It eventually stopped and he turned, getting her calmed down.  Someone knocked on the door so he went over to open it.  "The window's sounding like it's going to crack," he told the security guard.  "She's got a phobia."

"Let me check that for you, kid."  He walked in, noticing that both beds looked like they had been used, so they weren't fooling around.   He was apparently either a relative or gay if he wasn't touching that one.  He checked the window and called downstairs.  "Their window is showing some cracking," he reported.  "Sure."  He looked at him.  "Get her dressed, we're switching your room, kids.  We'll put you on a lower floor."  He nodded, helping Dawn up and into the bathroom, where her clothes were left.  He checked, finding her phone and purse, and turned off the tv.  "You're a very nice young man."

"My grandmomma raised me right," he told him with a small grin. "She's one hell of a woman, sir."

"Good kid."  Dawn came out looking rumpled and clutching her coat around her body.  The boy handed her the shoes and purse, smiling at her.  He even put an arm around her shoulders and walked her after him to the room the desk girls were giving them instead.   He got them the key and walked them up there, opening the door for them.  "This one's got a bed and the couch," he assured her, smiling at her.  "It's lower so the wind shouldn't bother you and it definitely won't crack the windows here."  She nodded, giving him a gentle smile before walking inside.  He nudged Rimfire. "You a relative?"

"Not really.  She's the daughter of one of my uncle's best friends."  The guard nodded.  "Is there somewhere to get sodas?"

"There's a small set of machines at the end of the hall, near the elevator, kid."

"Thank you, sir."  He walked inside and shut the door, finding the bathroom door closed.  So apparently Dawn was in there. He checked the sofa, then got the pillows he could see up on a shelf for himself and a blanket.  He would not be taking advantage of her.  He refused.  She came out in her undies and he blushed, looking away quickly, even though he didn't think he could blink anymore.  That image was now burned in his mind.  She tucked herself in and he looked at her. "TV or bed?"

"I can sleep with the tv on if you wanted to," she offered quietly.  "Thank you, Rimfire."

"You're welcome, Dawn. That was a dangerous situation.  If that window had cracked, you could have been really hurt.  Plus it'd make your fear of wind storms worse and there's nothing worse than a pretty girl being scared."  She blushed at that and he mentally slapped himself senseless.  "Sorry."

"Not a problem.  It's a good thing that you think I'm as cute as I know I am."

"Are you sure you're not related to Vinnie?"

She giggled and shook her head.  "Hey, if I could take the fur and the tails, I'd do it in a heartbeat," she promised him.  "Do you think I'd make a good white mouse?  Or should I hope to be a gray mouse?"

"No, most of my family of gray mice are pretty stalwart types.  Kinda calm and gentle. You're a bit too wild for that.  Maybe a tan mouse because I heard Throttle used to upset a lot of girls in the clubs."  She giggled.  "Did you know that Throttle looks *exactly* like one of our older heros?  He does, down to the specs.  The guy didn't need the field specs for that reason but he wore them anyway.  He was probably a bit shorter, maybe Vinnie's height, but otherwise they look exactly the same."  He could hear the wind picking up.  "We've got a statue to him and someone once painted 'long live Throttle' underneath the guy's name.  People thought he was his son or reincarnation or something.  At least once he changed colors."

"He said he used to be a white mouse."

"He did, he was pretty cute by Grandmomma's photos."  He grinned at her.  Then the window started to rattle and he got up, coming over to lay on top of the covers. "Let me show you that temple?"  She nodded, rolling to face him, getting comfortable.  He gently leaned forward and showed her his favorite places on Mars, all of which made her sigh in longing.  When he was done, she was crying.  "Shh, beautiful.  It'll be okay again.  Some day."  She looked up at him and shook her head. "Yeah, it will.  We have to have hope."

"You can't undo the damage, you can only move on and make new memories.  Once a memory's lost you can't make it exactly the same.  The same stones with the same energy and the same history of hands stroking it and caring for it. You can only build something that mirrors it for the future to build upon."

He stroked some hair off her cheek.  "For some, that's enough."

"It's not right."

"It's not," he agreed.  "Nothing about this war was right except us defending ourselves."  She nodded, hugging him.  That's when he felt the dam inside him pop and crackle, then dissolve like paste in front of water.  He kissed her gently.  "It'll be okay.  Some day it'll be beautiful again.  It'll be a thing of priceless beauty and we'll never lose it again."  He stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers then kissed her again.  "You'll be there to see it."

She looked up at him.  "Show me more?"

He smiled.  "I showed you all my favorite spots."

"I want to see it all, Rimfire, not just the pretty parts. Every pretty thing has a dangerous side."

"Are you dangerous?"

"Not to you."

He grinned and kissed her again before showing her the badlands.  He could see her walking on it and flowers sprouting behind her for some reason.  He showed her that image and she showed him a secret so stunning that he lost himself for a moment. They switched to her point of view and they saw her desert, her former home.  He pulled back and kissed her desperately.  He didn't deserve this but she was granting it anyway.  "If you come to Mars, you're getting a guard," he promised.  "I'll be guarding you so fiercely that you'll never be bothered again."

"I didn't tell you because of that," she whispered.  "I'm a girl now."

"I know, princess, and that just makes you all the more special, even if you couldn't use it.  I think you can and you do."  She nodded.  "Do you help others?"

"I don't know how."

"Then let Uncle Modo and Uncle Throttle teach you.  They're good at that."  He dove in again, and it was so right that he was there, with her, and doing this.  She was one of the Old Ones reborn, like Throttle was.  Now he knew she'd be a tan mouse.  All of them were.

"You're thinking."

"I do that sometimes but people say not enough."

"I get that same thing," she said with a grin, kissing him again.  "Um, before we go further, Rimfire...."

He kissed her.  "I can tell, Dawn.  It's not a problem.  I've only had a few myself."  He kissed her again and she gave up all her secrets to him.


Dawn walked into the school the next morning, seeing the shocked looks for her outfit.  "Sorry, I was out clubbing last night when the storm started.  We spent the night at a hotel," she told the headmistress, taking off her coat.  She adjusted her top.  "I've got a sweater in my locker."  The woman continued to stare.  "What?"

"They let you out in that?  They seemed too overprotective for that."

Dawn nodded.  "As long as I'm going somewhere safe, like where I was last night and who I was with."  She blushed a bit.  "Sorry.  Let me put on that sweater."

"Keep on your coat instead, it'd go better."

"I would, but it's really heavy velvet."  She went to get her black sweater from her locker, noticing the shocked looks from some of the girls staring at her.  "What?"

"Those are three hundred dollar shoes," one of her friend said.  "How did you get them?"

"I walked into the store, told the guy what I was wearing, and walked out about four minutes later.  Modo wouldn't come in with me so I couldn't really go shopping," she said with a grin.  She grabbed her books.  "Do I look okay in this sweater?"

"Okay?  You're wearing three hundred dollar shoes and you're worried about a cheap sweater?"

"Hey, I've got to look decent to go with the rest of my outfit and I can't exactly go without the sweater or my coat."

"Miss Summers," the language teacher yelled.  "Where were you?"

"I was clubbing when the storm started, ma'am, why?"  She turned to look at her, seeing the shocked look.  "Yeah, like I said I was clubbing."

"I was talking about those bruises."

She touched the bruise on her shoulder, then groaned.  "Fingerprints, ma'am, but don't worry, they'll be faded by the time I go home."  She smiled and closed her locker, walking off to find one of the other witches to do a healing spell on them, before she got busted by Vinnie.  He would rag on her for months and Modo would give her this disappointed look.


Rimfire rode into the garage and parked, noticing Vinnie was in the office. "Hey," he said, leaning in there.  "Can I talk to you for a minute?"  He nodded, waving him inside. He walked in and closed the door.  "Did you know that Dawn had a severe phobia to wind storms?  I don't know if I should be telling you this or not, but..."

"It's been drilled into your to share any weaknesses with your commanders to get those others help so the unit stays strong," he finished.  He nodded.  "I get it.   Wind storms?"

"She freaked last night when the wind started to blow against the windows.  Our first room the window nearly cracked.  She was screaming so loud it brought security."  He blushed a bit.  "They moved us to another room."

"More than one bed?"

"A bed and a couch, Vinnie," he promised.

"Really?" he asked, smirking at him.  "So, how was she?"  Rimfire went stiff.  "Kid, I can smell it on you."  He leaned closer.  "I expected you to be nice and gentlemanly, but even I can't fault you for that.  She's a sweetheart."

"Vinnie," he said hoarsely.  "She's one of the Great Old Ones reborn," he said, looking at his hands, then at him.  "I saw into her mind.  When she was freaking in the new room, I showed her some of my favorite stuff on Mars."  He nodded.  "And somehow we got into her mind.  I saw the secret she holds.  I *know* you know what I'm talking about," he said, staring him down.  "And I can see her in a light blue robe, walking along the badlands, with flowers sprouting behind her."

Vinnie covered his mouth.  "Never say that.  Even to her."

"She saw it."

"Damn it," he muttered, leaning back.  "Okay, and?"

"You know how everyone thought he was Piece reborn?  I have that same feeling about her and another tan mouse.  Blonde hair.  Slender mouse.  Tan.  Ran into a school to save it from the thing coming up through the floor."  He shivered.  "And I don't know why I think that."

"I don't know, kid, but don't mention that either and take a really quick shower.  Your uncle's still in bed."  He stared him down. "I don't mind you and her.  Xander and Throttle won't mind you and her.  Don't tell Throttle that theory though.  He's still having nightmares about that stuff."

"Vinnie, is that Rimfire?" Modo yelled.

"Yeah, he was telling me about Dawn's problem with sandstorms."  He looked at the boy.  "Just don't," he said quietly.  "The way things are looking, it's going to be a longshot to get anyone who's not fully Martian up there for a very long time."

"Then maybe I wanna stay," he admitted quietly.  "I can't stand the Council, even if I want to stay with the Freedom Fighters."

"Talk to Throttle when he gets back, Rimfire.  I'm not saying it's a bad idea, but you need more time to make that decision and Carbine's going to have our hides," he reminded him.

"I'm presently suspended anyway.  I was on desert duty and I caught a rat and questioned him all by myself before handing his mangled body over.  He was injured when I caught him though so I thought it was expedient since I was on comm silence and when I tried to report it I got my tail singed."

"Petty politicking," he assured him.  "Happened to us too."  He punched him on the arm.  "Go get cleaned up."

"I took a bath."

"You still smell like her."

"I took her to school," he said with a grin.

"And the blood, kid?"

"Ah...."  He got up.  "What do I do now?"

"Now?  You wait for Throttle and you mention to your uncle that it's not such a hardship.  Besides, you could maybe get some handy training."  He winked.  "Go, shoo."  He nodded, heading out and up to the bathroom.  Vinnie let out a small moan and shook his head.  Charley stuck her head inside so he grinned and used his tail to pull her closer and kiss her senseless.  "We've got a small problem with Dawn."

"Like the fact that he's way too smug to have slept alone?"

"She's got a wind storm phobia."

"Oooh."  She winced.  "No wonder. Did they?"  He grinned and nodded.  "Well, at least it was probably special and he's a nice kid."

"Who's suspended."

"What for?"

"Following orders.  I'll talk to Stoker about that in a few."  He gave her another kiss.  "Don't press Dawn on this."

"I'm not, just going to make sure she's okay with it."  She kissed him again and went back to work.  "Hey, Stoker, Vinnie's trying very hard to behave in my office and not destroy it."

"This I gotta see.  Him sitting still."  He walked into the office and shut the door.  "So I take it Rimfire told you why he was suspended?"  He nodded.  "And that he's AWOL?"  He smirked.  "Told Carbine off and walked off base."

"Sounds good to me."  He kicked back.  "He's thinking he could get some extra training down here."

"He probably could," he agreed.  "That would also give him a chance to start something with Dawn."  He coughed.  "Did they?"  Vinnie shook his head.  "You sure about that?"

"A gentleman never tells," Vinnie said, sounding like he was repeating.

"Yeah, at his age it'd be bragging," Stoker agreed, shaking his head.  "So why does he smell like blood and sex?"

"She's got a small phobia."



"Eww.  And that storm last night was pretty fierce.  Poor kid.  Probably got hugged all night."  He shrugged.  "Okay, I'll leave that in your hands until Throttle and Xander get back.  I take it she went to school wearing *that* outfit?"

"Oh, yeah," Vinnie said smugly.  "Which was pretty cute."

"It was trashy, punk, get it right."

"She looked cute.  A bit easy, but cute."  He grinned.  "I'm so getting Charley to borrow that."  Stoker chuckled and walked out.

Rimfire came out of the shower and found Micah in the bathroom. "Sorry, sir."

"Not an issue, kid.  Just brushing my teeth.  Thought I had more time."  He looked at him. "So, how is she?"

"Dawn?  At school.  I gave her a ride over."

"I realize that.  That's not what I meant.  She told me about her thing about bad storms."

Rimfire sighed. "I wasn't sure if I should tell you or not.  We're trained to."

Micah held up a hand.  "I was a Marine, kid.  Don't worry about it.  We're working on it.  How was she otherwise?"

"Fairly scared.  I kept her calm and she got some sleep."

Micah glanced outside, then at him. "Before or after?"

Rimfire blushed.  "A man doesn't tell such things, sir. It's not how decent folk act."

"Uh-huh.  Remember, Dawn is my upcoming star agent, kid.  Don't ruin her for it."

"Oh, no, sir, I wouldn't do that.  Actually, I was starting to think about asking you if I could stay for a while for some training.  I could use some more computer and comm skills."

"You could use some piloting skills, you keep crashing," he said blandly.  "We'll talk about it with Carbine."

"She hates me."

"She's a general first and a Freedom Fighter second.  It's understandable.  You've got that same mentality that Vinnie and Modo do.  You're a bit wild now and then.  It happens that the military doesn't like that sort of mind, kid.  Trust me," he added with a smirk.  "After the holidays, we'll sit down and talk about it.  That way you know if you have a reason to stay."

"Thank you, sir."

"Welcome.  Get dressed.  There's a breeze somewhere."  He went to put his toothbrush away, going to talk with Stoker.  "Hey.  Got a few?"

"Sure.  Rimfire?"

"Yeah, he wanted to know if he could stay for training.  I said we'd talk about it after the holidays."

"Decent with me," he admitted. "He won't be going on the prison raids, even though he desperately wants to."  He looked at him.  "You think he's got a reason to stay?"

"I think he likes her, that'll give him time to figure out if he can stand her."

"Good point."  He nodded.  "We'll talk then.  Carbine's coming down to help gather up the people who're coming home.  We can chat then."  Micah nodded.  "Either that or we could bring her with us."

"Fat chance.  Buffy would never stand for that and she needs an education to join me."

Stoker smirked.  "Possessive, aren't you?"

"Hell yes. I've got to turn the agency over to someone after Lorne and Max.  Right now, it's Xander."  Stoker snickered.  "Can you imagine Xander handling my job all day every day and Throttle having to live with it?"  He shook his head.  "So I need capable people who can follow after Lorne and Max.  My daughter would be one and so would Dawn.  Besides, that would give Modo's mother more reason to show up down here.  She'll help keep Xander in line."

"Someone can do that?"

"Well, Throttle hasn't collared him yet," he said dryly, going to fix himself some breakfast.  "Am I cooking for anyone but me?" he yelled.

"I could eat," Vinnie called back.

"Me too," Rimfire called.

"Us too!" came from the backyard from the twins and Pipe.

"Cool.  Eggs and toast it is," he decided, settling in to cook.  It was about the extent of his skills.


To Part 19

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