Wesley walked in the open door of the slayer's house, looking around. He coughed politely but no one paid him any attention. So he very calmly pulled out a gun and shot out a window, making them all stare at him. "Now that I have your attention," he said calmly and quietly. "The Powers are pissed and they sent us back to run this show for a bit." He looked at Buffy, who looked scared. "Fred?" She walked in, reading the local paper they had stopped to pick up. "Giles may be gone, but there are still Watchers," he said firmly.
Fred looked up and grinned at Buffy. "Hey."
"Not anymore," she said with a bright grin. "Man, can those Powers swear." She looked at Sandy, then nudged Wesley and nodded at her. Wesley reached over and grabbed the girl by the back of the neck, walking her off. "Okay, so it looks like we've got a Frolanx and a few nasty little vamps running around the city. Who's on patrol tonight?" Fred asked, grinning at them. They all stared in open-mouthed shock. "Children, there must be a rotation, otherwise you get tired and bored. Then you turn into Buffy and Faith. Who has patrol tonight?"
Buffy raised her hand. "I'm taking team A out tonight."
"Good!" She handed over the articles to her. "There you go, research the area." She smiled at the youngest one in the group. "How are you, dear?"
"Tired. I can't sleep. I keep getting these horrible dreams about vampires taking over space. They keep attacking these nasty fish thingies but they leave the furry thingies alone because they don't taste right to them. Do I need drugs?"
"Those are slayer dreams," Buffy said wisely. "I don't know why you're seeing fishy thingies or furry thingies though. Unless it's Xander?"
The girl considered it. "The furry thingies look like Xander and his buddies, but I didn't see Xander. Anytime I see Xander it's like he shines or glows or somehow his fur is like those strobe lights in the clubs."
"Well, the alien menace Xander handles did just buy up Sunnydale and transport it offworld," Fred admitted. "I'm guessing they got the seal too." Buffy groaned, holding her head. "We'll have to talk to Micah about that one, Buffy. There may not be a way to save the fish people." The phone rang and she answered it. "Slayers R Us." She smiled. "Hi, Max." She listened to her information then grinned. "Even better. Thank you. How is Dawn doing? Good! I'm glad you're helping her. Sure, later." She hung up. "The fish thingies are called Plutarkians, they're bad guys, and Xander did try to warn them. The furry thingies are probably like him and the others, but it's possible there are other furry thingies in the universe. As such, the furry thingies are presently protected. She said there's a whole group up there like the Watchers." Buffy sighed in relief. "Of course, if necessary, a few of you may have to go if they open the seal properly. But not all of you of course," she said with a goofy laugh, going to find Wesley and tell him the good news. One less menace for them to deal with.
Buffy looked up. "Okay, got the point. We needed some balance and structure. Can they go home now?" she whispered.
"No, Miss Summers, we cannot," Wesley called. "It's your turn to spar. We must gauge how much you've lost." She groaned but trudged in there to spar with him. She noticed Sandy was crying in the corner, curled up in a ball and he tipped her face to look at him. "Nothing in that shall concern you," he said quietly. "That's what Watchers are for." He stepped back. "Come, let's spar." She nodded and attacked, doing as best she could. He was really good though. She found herself on her back, but her hidden stake was against his chest. He grimaced and moved it to the proper spot. "That's the heart in case you forgot." He got up and helped her up. "Good. We'll keep you training with the younger girls. They could use a good role model. I'm hoping you'll become one again." He bowed and nodded. "Go back to your chores."
"This is my house, Wesley."
He reached over and swatted her across the back of the head. "That may be, but I am your Watcher. As is Fred. There shall be some discipline. Bring me the main chore list later, with your duties included. Perhaps we can rearrange them." He looked at the cats, then at her. "An interesting choice."
"Andrew liked them."
"Ah, no wonder. Have someone do the litterboxes next. They're a disgrace. The cats are not using them they're so bad." She nodded, going to assign that one. Wesley looked at Fred. "She's capable of change," he said quietly.
"That's all the Powers wanted," Fred agreed. "Next in line for official sparring?"
Xander walked onto his site, grinning at both his bosses since his main boss was hiding in the shadows of the office. "Need driven home?" he asked.
"No, not really." He looked at him. "You know you set a bad precedent, right? Not calling in?"
"I thought I had," he defended. "Sorry, I was busy cataloging Martian artifacts that I found down here." His main boss quirked an eyebrow up. "At the book sale."
"I don't know why, I'm thinkin' a cultist among the smelly people."
"Fine," he sighed. "You were tail-deep in something." He looked him over. "No shirts?"
"I had one, it ripped," he said, pulling it out of his pocket. "See?" He held it up so he could see the holes. "Some punk on the way in was swinging something and caught me before I could duck. I had the music on too high."
"Hmm. Fine." He looked Xander over again. "Are you back? Fully back?"
"I was back before, I was just cataloging."
"Yes, but before you were also tail-deep in other stuff."
Xander beamed at him. "The Powers sent two Watchers to her. I'm back at the *bottom* of the list again."
"Good. I'm glad," Merle agreed. "All your playing buddies are gone?" Xander looked confused. "I noticed a few extra bikers in town and it's not really the season for it."
"Oh, yeah, they were stranded and got picked up. We were just a convenient place to pick them up." He shrugged and sat on the edge of his desk. "It happens sometimes. Mars is ready to have their people back and they're hoping for a population explosion."
"Interesting." The boss looked him over. "Okay, bottom line, Xander, you protect this city. You know that right?" He nodded. "Then why is a new version of Limburger tower going up?"
"Because his son's a prick and we're working on it. We couldn't stop him in space, we didn't have the firepower. We did stop him from bringing more guards down but that was it in that step. Next we'll be breaking this one down over and over again while we gather information on his kind. Then we'll be sending that back to help destroy the others on this planet. A small step back to gain information." He checked outside and muttered something, making someone yell. "Eavesdropping is extremely stupid," he yelled. The worker went back to work. He looked at Merle, who was shaking his head. "I told you he was a plant."
"I know, Xander." He shrugged and got comfortable, putting his feet up. "Are we going to have more problems with the after-hours fun you four have with the tower?"
"We only do that now and then, and I'm still good to go all night and then come in."
"No, you've been sleeping too regularly. You're not quite at the same level you were," the main boss said dryly. "Thank Throttle for fixing that for you by the way." He looked the white mouse over, noticing the spots. "They've changed."
"Just shifted a bit," he admitted, looking at his side. Then he shrugged. "I was told it happens." He looked at them. "Am I being fired?"
"No, but we want to cut you back to part time," Merle admitted. "You have money, kid." Xander raised an eyebrow. "You had about eight mil the last time I knew."
"Well, yeah," Xander admitted sheepishly. "I don't like using it. I'd like that to be for emergencies."
"A million goes farther than you think, kid," the main boss told him. "No, we're not firing you. Actually, I'm moving you to a special project. It's a planning project. It's demonic related." Xander shivered. "I take it you've heard of what's going on?"
"The new bunker club?" He nodded. "Eww."
"Sorry, kid, but we need it defensible and that's why we need you." He handed over a card. "You're to go here tonight. You can bring motor-mouth or one of the others if you feel you need the security, but they won't hurt you."
Xander looked at the card, then at him. "Wolfram and Hart? Angel's nemesis," he said flatly. His boss nodded. "No. I don't deal with the soul-sucking lawyers that are hell's mouthpieces." He handed it back. "I'm not dealing with them, boss. They're evil and I'd feel the need to take them down instead."
He sighed. "Xander, they're the ones building it."
"Then I'd expect there to be sacrificial chambers and the like. I got Angel's notes. No."
"Fine. Then work on a competing design," he offered. "We're the only ones who could build it to specs and I'll need yours in about two weeks. Concept drawings and all."
"What are you looking for? I can get Meg to help me."
"It's to be a club and a safehouse. It's got to have a place to party, a place to stay, and a lot of it has to be underground."
"Okay. So you build it up a few stories. Like a hotel with a good club level and with food service?" The boss nodded. "I'll need the specs. I may not be the most professional drawer but I can do blueprints." Merle smiled at that. He looked at his main boss. "How fancy and how discrete?"
"Discrete is necessary," he noted. "Fancy isn't but nice and tasteful are."
"Gotcha, no whips, chains, leather," he said with a grin. His boss chuckled. "Do we like, say, the Raddison for discrete, or like that pricy hotel on the sands?"
"I like that one out on the beach, but I've never been in their rooms," the boss told him. "I'm not about to pay a half-mil a night for a bed when I've got seven or eight. Speaking of, is Carbine back in town?"
"Expected in tonight, but she'll be fresh from home."
"Decent. Have her call if she'd like to go out." He clapped him on the arm. "I need it in two weeks or less. Build it to local demon population, so no greenhouses really needed."
"I was thinking a small atrium with light diffusing windows, those ones that you can switch."
"I like those," the boss agreed. "Sure, kid." He nodded. "So, I'm putting you on at a higher level."
"Wanna go out this weekend, Xander?" Merle teased.
He looked at him and grinned. "Sure, if you get Throttle to agree to it. He's a bit possessive." He smirked at his main boss. "What am I doing after this?"
"Running that site."
"Really?" Xander's tail swished and he beamed. "Sure, boss. I tried my best with this one."
"I saw, Xander, and you're very good. You'll be able to pull whoever you want from here." Xander nodded. "But he wants Brad."
"Brad should be put on as just doing framing, boss. He's great at it."
"He's good at many things and I'm moving him to your successor's second," Merle told him. Xander beamed at that too. "Hodgekiss?"
"Reynolds. I like Hodgekiss, but his kids are really ripping him a new one. I'd like Hodgekiss, but I don't want to get in the way of the kid's treatments."
"I'll talk to him about it," Merle agreed. "Okay, clean the desk and go home. Go buy a new printer and stuff too. Your old one puts out blurry images."
"Sure, Merle. Thanks." He hugged them both and grabbed an envelope for the few things he had. Merle snatched one picture to put on his desk, winking at him. Then Xander giggled and ran out to his car, tossing the envelope inside. He waved at the guard. "Later, Paul." He waved back and Xander sped off, heading back to the garage. He parked inside and went to pounce Charley. "I got a promotion! I'm designing and crew lead on my new site!"
She got free of the really strong hug and patted him on the side of the face. "Congratulations," she said with a smile. "When does it start?"
"I've got to have a design in within two weeks." He went to tell the others, who were mostly still sleeping. He pounced Vinnie first, grinning at him. "I got a promotion," he said proudly.
Vinnie grinned and patted him. "Good job, Xander. Get off?" Xander chuckled and got off him, hauling him to his feet. "Thanks. Too early for pouncing," he said with a yawn, heading for the bathroom. "Give me ten. Pounce Modo."
Modo held up a hand. "Don't even think about it." Xander gave him a hug too. "Go pounce your man."
Xander beamed and went down the ramp, heading to pounce him too. He paused long enough to knock on Dawn's door to make sure she was up since he heard snoring, then there was a shriek when she saw her clock and a rush for the bathroom. "I'll drive you," he called after her.
"Thanks, really late," she babbled.
Xander walked into his room, watching his lover sleep contentedly, tangled in the sheets. His mind got a naughty idea and his tail swished as he moved closer, then suddenly pounced him, leaning down to blow across his antenna. Throttle woke up but found himself pinned. Xander grinned down at him. "I got a promotion and I'm designing the new building too," he said proudly. He eased up and his mate flipped him onto his back, giving him the cuddle he deserved. "Vinnie wouldn't let me pounce him."
"You'll get it doubly later," he promised sleepily, resting on his chest. "Good job. I knew they loved you." He smiled as his mate stroked his head, and was soon asleep again.
"Xander, car," Dawn shouted.
"Coming." He wiggled out and went to take Dawn to school. By the time he came back, Vinnie was bouncing. "I need to go buy a printer and a new program," he told him. "Wanna come?"
"The computer store? Me?" He let out a wicked giggle. "That's just askin' for trouble, sweetheart. Remember, they banned me from two Walmarts in this city."
"That was for creeping out the fish people," Modo told him. "Micah said he was going to upgrade your machine."
"Yeah, but he hasn't yet," he pointed out. "I'll need a printer for plans and stuff. Good for graphics." He went to look at his old system, then smirked, calling his favorite pair of techies. "Meggy, it's Xan. I need to majorly upgrade my system. I'm designing and crew lead on my new site. Yeah, fully new computer. Maybe even a laptop too so we don't have to wait while Dawn's doing her porn thing." He beamed. "Sure. When and where? Cool!" He hung up and headed out, running into Throttle in the hallway. "Meggy and I are going computer shopping. Need anything?" He stole a kiss, earning a smirk for it. "I need it."
"You do need it," he agreed, patting him on the back. "Go ahead and have fun. Stop at the bank on the way to shift stuff around again. You were going to do that."
"Point." He bounced out to his car, going to do that first. It took him a bit longer but he had planned for a short drive first anyway. He parked and saw Meg looking at her watch. He got out and slammed the door, turning on his security system. "Don't I get a hug for being so brilliant?" She squealed and hugged him. "Yeah, I'm happy too." He bounced a bit. "Crew lead and designing!"
"Cool!" She led him into the store and to the right section. "Okay, you've got a decent enough system now but you're going to need a bigger hard drive. What's your budget?" He gave her a sideways look. "Never mind. Think you're going to be processing NASA data?" He shook his head. "You're sure? Not even your guys?"
"Ahhhh." He considered it. "I guess we should just in case." She beamed and called a salesman over. "Hi, she's helping me upgrade."
"Congratulations, sir." He looked at Meg's outfit of a bikini top and chinos. Then at Xander, then back at her. "Game designer?" She beamed and nodded.
"Construction and design," Xander told him with a sheepish grin. "Real things, not games."
"That's good as well, sir," he agreed. "What are we looking at?"
"He'll need a major setup and a laptop for when his baby sister is doing her porn thing. He'll need the biggest dual harddrive set you have, he'll need the 3-D blueprints and plans software, a scanner, a good printer for the plans, and they have to be bigger, right?" she asked. Xander nodded. "Cool. So it has to handle those sizes as well, and he'll need a networking interface plus a good external firewall." She gazed fondly at a box in a case. "Plus he wants that one," she said, pointing at it with a smirk for the salesman, who she knew worked on commission. He nearly drooled, it was a thousand dollar 6 terabyte external hard drive. "We need it to go."
He nodded. "Sure. Any customizing we can do here in the shop. You can go out for lunch and come back to have it ready." He got that out first, putting it into a cart for them. "How about we start with the scanner and printer first?" They nodded, letting him lead them to the good ones. They obviously were willing to pay for it. The man whipped out a light sucking card and he ran it, and it went through within moments. He handed it back and gave him the slip to sign. He took back their copy and the copy of the customization order, then smiled. "It'll be about two hours if you wanted to come back."
"Sure," Xander agreed, leading Meg out. He pulled out his wallet and handed her a few bills. "Commission."
She squealed and hugged him, then stuffed it into her pocket. "Thanks. Let's go have breakfast."
"Sure. I'll even let you treat," he said with a grin. She pinched him, then checked her pocket and picked up the money that had fallen out. She counted it and frowned so he sighed and made up what had blown away. This time it went into her glovebox and they went to breakfast at a nearby cafe.
Xander pulled up behind the lair and got out, taking the first box inside. "Could use some other muscles to help," he offered. "All new computer gear and Oz is coming over to switch it around and install."
Vinnie, being curious even though he was a mouse, went down to snoop. He got handed the printer and groaned, carrying it up the stairs.
"Hey, Xander, what're you doing with the old machine?" Charley called when he came out of the back door.
"Giving it to you if you want it, babe. But I'm copying off all my music files. I can leave a copy on there for you if you want." She beamed and nodded. "Sure. I'll have Oz install the new financial software if you want it too." She chuckled and headed back inside to the office. He carried up the laptop. "Do not drop the brown box. It's a hard drive," he ordered Vinnie.
Throttle watched the boxes go past, then looked at Modo. "I didn't think it took that many things for a computer."
"That depends on what you use it for," Modo said with a small shrug. He chuckled when Throttle got pounced, kissed, and whispered at. Then Xander went down to get his new monitor. "That's bigger than the tv," Modo protested when he saw the box they were carrying together.
"Yeah, and? Think about playing games on it, Modo."
"Fine," he said with a chuckle. "You're playing."
"How much did you spend?" Throttle yelled.
"The brown box is a six terabyte external hard drive."
"Terabyte?" Throttle called, getting up to look at it. "We don't have that space at the command center. The main one."
"I figured you might be asked to do stuff," he admitted. Oz walked in with a few final bags and he grinned at him. "I paid Meggy a commission for helping me find all this stuff. So have her buy takeout tonight." Oz snorted but he was kinda grinning at that. "Okay, Charley gets the old system. I have a new financial manager program that can go on it. I need all my old files copied off though." He nodded. He waved a hand. "That's what she had me buy."
Oz looked at the brown box, then at Xander, shaking his head. "Doing work for NASA too?"
"I was going to let them do stuff if they needed it," he defended. He stroked the box and grinned. "Toy."
"I can tell. Move." Everyone got out of his way and he broke out the cables, handing Xander the bill for them. "Meg said she forgot those."
Xander pulled out his wallet and paid him back for it, then sat down to watch him. "I got a promotion. I'm designing and crew lead for the new bunker club."
"Huh." Oz looked at him. "You know how to do those well enough." Xander grinned at that.
"Bunker club?" Vinnie asked.
"Demon underground bolthole and club together, a defensive fallback position with fun and games attached."
"Hey, that's something we could have used," Throttle offered. Xander nodded, beaming at him. "If I get any computer tasks, I'll bring 'em down," he said with a smirk. He went back to his morning paper reading. Just in case they were publically outed or something similarly bad happened.
Oz looked at Xander. "This'll take a while. I'm going to defrag for her too." He nodded, going to go bounce around and play with the jingly ball in the living room.
"Hey, that's mine!" Vinnie protested, going to take it back. They ended up rolling around on the floor together, struggling for the ball and kicking at each other when they stole it back.
"Kids," Throttle said patiently. "Some of us didn't get our eight hours of beauty sleep."
"I had more than enough," Vinnie said happily, kicking at Xander and stealing it back.
Modo came over and took the ball, going to hide it again. He hated those things. When he came back, the boys were watching the fish to see if they were going to further conquer their fishtank universe, glancing at each other and muttering. He looked at Throttle and shook his head. "Breakfast?"
"I could eat," he agreed. "Vinnie, go cook."
Throttle swatted him with his tail. "It's your turn. Go cook."
Xander got up with a sigh and went to put a few pizzas in the oven, then came back out after setting the timer. When it went off, he went to slice it, then carried them out and grabbed them some sodas. He put everything on the table and sat down again, going back to his watching how the big blue fish was slowly muscling everyone else out.
Throttle looked at the clock on the wall. "Bit early for pizza," he noted.
"Unless we're cooking too, we'd probably better eat it," Modo offered. They shrugged and went to eat it anyway. It'd make Xander happy and they'd be unpounced for longer.
Xander leaned closer to Vinnie, whispering in his ear. "Think we can sneak out now?" He got a grin and a wink, and they stood up, him going to check on Oz and head out the window, Vinnie going down to supposedly work on his bike.
The next thing anyone heard was a bike engine and a whoop of freedom from Xander.
Then Throttle groaned and ate another bite of food. He'd need it when he got around to chasing those two down.
"A bored white mouse is a dangerous white mouse, my gray furred momma used to say," Modo said patiently. "One is bad, two is an army of terror, and three or more is a planetary emergency."
"Thankfully we've only got the two," Throttle said dryly. "Rimfire! Food!" The other mouse came up from his room, which was next to Dawn's, and flopped down to eat. "Long night?"
"Doing reports for both Mars and Micah," he said through a yawn. "Until about three." He ate another slice of pizza. "Why are we having this for breakfast?"
"Xander cooked," Modo told him.
"At least it's not sushi," Throttle offered.
"Xander's on the 'try new things' kick still," Throttle said with a smirk. "Sushi is raw, marinated fish and seaweed."
"So the cats ate well that night?" Rimfire joked. The elder mice nodded. "Warn me."
"He just springs it on us," Modo said, patting him on the back. "You'll learn."
"Yeah, watch out for hot peppers," Oz said as he came to steal a soda and some of the pizza. "Thanks. I like eating like a college kid."
"Welcome. Can we help tote that next door?"
"In a few. It'll take me about an hour to get it ready for her and make the ghost. I checked the specs, if you need lots and lots of stuff analyzed, he can do that now. Two 400 gig internal and the six terabyte external hard drive was a bit excessive, but it's a good toy." He went back to work.
"Why do I think we're going to be getting more work from Mars?" Rimfire asked.
"That depends on us telling Stoker about it before he comes down," Modo told him. He looked at Throttle. "Yes?"
"Nope," he said with a snort. "Not going there. Xander can brag about his new system." He pushed his plate aside then leaned on the table. "We've got to talk. Since the dangerous duo are gone, we've got two sticky points."
"Junior?" Rimfire asked.
"Well, not really. He's okay but not one of the great ones yet," Throttle assured him, patting him on the shoulder. "The first is that Dawn would *love* to go to Mars. If we've got a detail going up there from Micah, he said he's sending her."
"I'll be her honor guard," Rimfire said instantly.
"I didn't think otherwise," he assured him with a smirk. "But, there's still a problem. There will be people who will pounce her for having magic and want her to help rebuild the world." He saw the nervous look. "What?"
"She's studying teraforming magic."
"I noticed," he said blandly. "Your idea or hers?"
"Kinda mine," he admitted sheepishly. "I wanted to know if there was anything practical we could do." He looked at him. "I'm trying to help."
"You are," Modo told him. "It's a good idea."
Throttle nodded. "A very good idea." He took a sip of his rootbeer. "She still can't do magic on Mars unless it's an emergency."
"Um, I wanted to bring up something, and Vinnie said not to," Rimfire offered. Throttle waved him on. "Did you know the M'dreth have stuff on the Key?" Both adults stared at him and he nodded. "They do. If anyone else tells someone that she's that, then she's going to be mobbed as a living saint." Throttle shuddered, he'd had that happen once. "So, if she goes, she's got a full honor guard and I'm being the overprotective boyfriend fully."
"Good plan, Rimfire," Throttle assured him.
"How did you know about that?" Modo asked. "None of us told you."
"She let it slip during the storm. I was showing her some of my favorite spots on Mars to keep her calm and she reacted to one of them and it changed the view. It doesn't matter to *me* but I know a lot of people would start a cult."
"Yeah, they would," Modo agreed, shaking his head. "We can't not take her."
"No, she wants to go and will worm her way onto the ship if she has to," Throttle agreed dryly. "If someone doesn't stuff her in his luggage." Rimfire giggled at that. "So we'll just have to make plans for that eventuality. Does anyone else know?" Rimfire shrugged. "Okay, a back point. When you go, take her to the craters. I know you're one of those who believe they hold a message."
"She drew them out the next day at class from the view I showed her, tracing the patterns and she found one," he offered. "It's the letter 'Ka' in the old script." Throttle thought back to his early training and shook his head. "Life."
"Oh." He shook his head again. "Interesting, but I still say it's a random phenomenon." He took another sip. "The second problem of us going to Mars is Xander. He can ride, as he's proven. He's still got balance problems though."
"He's more than mouse enough to have his own bike," Modo pointed out.
"Yeah, but if he did that, Throttle would never get ridden behind again," Rimfire joked. Throttle swatted him. "Sorry, but it's true."
"Xander's mostly satisfied with riding behind me," he told him. "Every now and then though he wants the release of a cycle. I can't argue with him about that."
"Then have him buy a human bike for a few more years," Rimfire asked. "Where is his change at?"
"About three years," he admitted dryly. "Enamel doesn't know he's riding by himself at the moment. He suggested seven."
"So either you've got to work harder and change him faster, or we can wait a few years for more than a human bike," Modo teased. Throttle blushed at that, making the others laugh.
"What's the matter? Not been good enough?" Rimfire teased.
Throttle swatted him again, connecting this time. "Yeah, it's been plenty good. He left as a two-year-old and came back as a three."
"Did you get to ride any of the rides?" Modo taunted.
"Many times," he agreed. "This summer Meg won't have to worry about people to ride rides with her at Six Flags."
"Have you noticed Xander's ego is turning into Vinnie's?" Rimfire asked. "It's still subtle but I've noticed him getting a bit more braggy and the like."
"It happens to all mice sometime," Throttle told him.
"You used to go around in your underwear and a cape and say you were Super Mouse," Modo reminded him, making his nephew blush. "Momma has a number of pictures of it. Expect her to show them off."
Rimfire sighed. "I've tried to steal them but she's too sneaky."
"Of course she is. She's my momma," Modo taunted back. Rimfire groaned and hit him on the arm, making him chuckle.
"Primer was the boastful one, bro," Throttle reminded him. "She used to crawl into our laps on leave and tell us she was the most beautiful mouse on Mars and that we'd better crown her right there as Miss Mars."
Modo chuckled, nodding. "I remember. Then Vinnie made her that paper crown and put his picture on it and told her some day she'd be as pretty as he was handsome." Rimfire snickered at that. "Does she still have that?" He nodded, giving him a smug look. "I'll have to tell Vinnie that."
"Tell Xander that story so Primer doesn't pounce him and try to steal him," Rimfire told him.
"She'd better not try. I changed her diapers. I can tan that hide of hers," Throttle assured him. "She's a hellion but she's not that good." They all got a laugh out of that. "So, we're waiting on a bike for him?" Modo nodded. "What about a human one?"
"He could probably rent one," Modo offered. "Lil' Hoss won't mind but she'll pout at him for a few weeks."
"Your girl is the most jealous bike I've ever seen," Rimfire teased. "Does she let you ride behind others in an emergency?"
"Not if she can help it," Throttle told him. "How long should we wait and which type are we getting Dawnie for graduation?"
"She seems to like sitting upright," Modo offered. "I don't think a racer would suit her."
"She can ride behind me," Rimfire said casually.
"She's too liberated for that," Throttle told him plainly. "Now and then, like Xander will, not permanently. She likes to ride too much. That's the second reason she and Phil broke up. He wanted someone to ride with him, not share the road with him." He finished off his soda and leaned back to look into the office. "Need anything, Oz?"
"I'm good," he called back. "Tell Charley to clean her desk."
"Sure. I'll head there in a few. How long?"
"Another twenty. His hard drive wasn't that bad."
Throttle nodded at them. "Let's go bike looking later for her," he suggested. They all nodded at that. It'd give them something to do until the next crisis. Throttle headed over to the garage, finding Charley under a truck. "Want me to clean off your desk for you, Charley girl? Oz said it'd be about twenty more minutes."
"Please. Just pile things together." She searched the floor for a wrench, patting around. He kicked it closer. "Thanks, Throttle."
"Welcome." He went to clean off her desk for her, deciding that a corner spot would save more space and she could put the tower onto the floor that way. It's not like the old wooden desk was meant for a computer anyway. Modo carried over the monitor while Oz got the stack and he pointed. "There." They nodded, setting those up while Rimfire carried in the rest of the stuff. Oz set it up and made sure it was all right, then adjusted the cords so they were out of the way. He was kicked back with the keyboard in his lap when she came in. "How's that?"
"Good. It saves space and I still have most of my desk." She looked at the screen, watching as he connected to the internet. "I only have one phone line."
"I put a box on there to tell you when you're getting a phone call," Oz told her quietly, handing over the keyboard. He got out of her way. "Sit." She sat, putting her feet up on the stack and smiled at the ease of the position. "My favorite too. Are you going tech and doing a webpage?" She looked at him. "I ask because I've got a project coming up."
"Sure, Oz, if you want. I have no idea what I'd do with one."
He smirked. "Advertising." He nodded. "I'm headed off to do Xander's new toys. I'll get with you later." He headed back to the lair, gathering up the sneaking cats. "Not a chance," he ordered. He picked up one last one and carried them inside, kicking the door shut. Then he went to get the mommy cat too. "You're all being fixed."
Xander and Vinnie pulled up into the garage area under Enamel's apartment, looking over at his bike, who looked kinda lonely. Vinnie patted his. "Go ahead, girl. He's taking care of Charley, you can talk with her." They got off and the bike rolled over there to plug into the other one so they could talk. He drug Xander up the stairs, knocking on the door. "Hey," he said when it opened, pushing his way inside. "He's still having balance issues and he's good enough on a bike to need that fixed now."
Enamel looked in the hall, then closed the door to look at them. "What?"
"I've been doing some riding," Xander admitted. "I'm still dizzy."
"Oh." He nodded. "How far along are you now?"
"Probably somewhere in my mid three's."
"You're too young to ride on your own."
"Then why was he able to do a riding jump on my bike without a ramp?" Vinnie asked patiently.
Enamel poured himself some more coffee and took Xander back to his room to examine him. He had an idea and he pulled out his old bag, finding something in the bottom of it. He stuck the special headset over the boy's ears, turning it on. His ears still hadn't ascended enough so he was thinking there was a problem with where the tube was laying inside. He plugged his diagnostic pad into it and looked at the readout, flipping a switch. "High, shrieky noises," he warned when they started. After a moment, he switched off that one and flipped another switch. That was it. He took it off and looked at him, then into his eyes. "Take out the contact." Xander did so. He pulled out a light to look in each of them, nodding slowly as he checked. "Well, they're working but not together," he announced. He stepped back. "Also, you've got a cramped tube in one ear. Are you leaning to the left?" He nodded. "If your ears would ascend a bit more it would help. For right now, I'm going to say glasses, Xander." He let out a whine, looking pitiful. "Tough. I have some for reading, it's not that bad."
Vinnie stuck his head in. "Is he okay?"
"Yeah, where his ears haven't ascended yet, it's crimping one of the balance tubes we all have. That and his eyes aren't working the same. His Martian eye is dominant because it gets more input, but occasionally they switch back and forth." He looked at Xander again. "I want you to get your eyes checked. It may just be for a few months or so, but this one may not be. Your ears should be ascending by the time you're four. If not, we may have to go in and uncrimp that area for you somehow. Maybe something like a facelift procedure to lift the outer ear higher." Xander nodded at him, still pouting. "You can wear cool ones. You don't have to have nerdy glasses, kid. You just have to have glasses. I'm good but I don't do much with eyes."
"Fine." He looked at Vinnie. "Not one word."
"Hey, I had some when I was little," he promised. Enamel nodded. "I had really bad eye dominance." He pulled Xander to his feet. "Will that help a lot?"
"Yeah, it should," Enamel told him. "Remember, you can get prescription sunglasses. You don't have to go for nerdly nerd glasses, kid." He looked at Vinnie. "How's Charley?"
"Doing well. Xander's giving her his old computer today, he got a whole new system with a lot of toys."
"Which you shall not break," Xander reminded him. "You promised since it's for work and stuff."
"I did," Vinnie said patiently. "You coming for dinner tonight?"
"Sure. The whole group will be over." He grinned. "After all, you take good care of my girl." He drug Xander out and down to his bike. "You two can chat some more later," he said as they came off the elevators. He found someone trying to unhook them. "Don't touch my bike." The man backed off. "They're doing a systems update." The man ran off so he nodded. "Go get him, I wouldn't presume to touch his bike."
Xander nodded, heading back up the stairs and knocking on the door. "The bikes were plugged together and we found someone trying to separate them."
"Coming." He carried his coffee down with him. "Morning, babe. You sleep all right?" His bike beeped at him. He checked the cords, wincing. "That's severed. I'll have to replace that."
Xander peered at the cord. "We have a replacement at the shop I think. That's the one with the motorolla phone end, right? All the little plugs?" Enamel looked at him and nodded. "You could bring her over. I think Charley has a spare."
"Sure, kid. Thanks. Have fun with the eye doctor. Go to a good guy, not the cheapest." He looked at Vinnie, who had snorted. "Not taking him?"
"Throttle would be really upset if I took his boy to get glasses. That's a style issue and only Throttle can tell him he looks hot enough in them."
"I'll look like a dork."
"No you won't," Enamel sighed. "Go. Tell Throttle or I will, kid." Xander pouted all the way to the bike, getting on in front.
"Hey, my bike" Vinnie complained. But his bike beeped patiently. "Fine, I'll work with him some more." He climbed onto the back, putting both their helmets on. "Thanks, Doc." Xander turned them around and they hurried off.
"He's not bad," Enamel admitted, watching them go. "Lean right," he called after them, seeing the problem now. Xander shifted and tipped his head slightly and that cured it. "Much too young." He helped her retract the cord. "Let me finish getting dressed. Shock anyone who touches you wrong, babe." He went back up there, going to put on more than a pair of pajama pants. Vinnie probably wouldn't appreciate him showing up at the garage in just those. He seemed a bit jealous.
Enamel pulled into the garage. "Charley?"
"Under here. What's wrong?" she called from under the truck.
"I think I need a cord replaced. Mine and Vinnie's bike were talking and someone tried to slice into the linking cord."
"Second drawer, red standing tool box, blue plastic. Says Motorolla on it."
"Thanks." He found it and carefully started to change it. "They been back or called yet?"
"Nope. What're they off doing?"
"Hopefully finding Xander an eye doctor. He's got eye dominance issues." He clipped the new cord in place. "There you go, babe. That good?" She shook her front wheel so he wiggled it. "That?" She beeped happier. "Cool. How much?"
"Ten. Leave it on the desk."
"Sure." He went to put the ten on the desk and left the plastic bag there in case she needed it as a reference. He was walking back when Throttle rolled in with Modo. "Your boy call you yet?"
"They came to see you instead of doing fun stuff?" Modo asked.
"Yeah, about the balance problem." He looked at Throttle. "Want a clue?" He nodded, moving closer so they could talk quietly. "His left ear needs to ascend, it's cramped in there." Throttle nodded, understanding that. "There may be a way using a face lift procedure to pull up the outer ear. That would basically tuck a fold of skin behind it to tighten up that area and lift it." Throttle nodded slower. "It's not that hard. We do it on Mars all the time. His eyes are another matter. His Martian eye is dominant."
"We see more than they do."
"True, but that's why he needs glasses, which he was pouting over."
"Contacts?" he asked hopefully.
"Up to the eyecare guy. He walked out pouting about that." He patted his bike. "She and Vinnie's were talking and someone tried to slice the line. Watch out for that stuff. Oh, they invited me for dinner. Want me to beg off?"
"No, you can come," he assured him. "You might as well." He gave him a small shrug. "Any idea who to take him to?"
"There's a good group over on the North side, by that hospital. Go there." Throttle nodded. "He may be able to get contacts and prescription sunglasses." He got onto his bike. "Sevenish?"
"Six. He's off work and Dawn's heading out tonight."
"Cool. See ya then." He backed out. "Later, Charley, and thanks."
"Bye, Enamel." She came out from under the truck. "Glasses?" Throttle shuddered. "Go find him and see what can be done." He nodded, glancing at Modo, who nodded him off. "Have fun," she reminded him.
"Of course. We always have fun and he needs ideas anyway," he said smugly, heading out to find his boy. The tracking system told him where Vinnie was and he headed that way, blatantly riding up behind them and grabbing Xander with his tail, stealing him away before Vinnie could do more than snicker. He felt Xander shift and settle in behind him. "He told me."
"I don't want glasses."
"Aren't so bad," he sighed. He nuzzled him. "When am I due in?"
"I was taking you somewhere to make the appointment, then I was taking you to lunch."
"Okay." His mood brightened a bit more. "You won't laugh?"
"No, I won't laugh. I'll help you pick out stuff that go with your image, babe. You know that. I'm not letting you get dork specs." He sped up to go through a yellow, earning a beep from a car running it behind them. "Let me lose them." He sped up and took a corner, which made Xander hold on. "Dizzy?"
"Yeah, kinda." He ducked into an alley instead of getting fancier, letting the car pass by. Xander stole a quick kiss to the back of Throttle's neck. "Do I have to?"
"Do you wanna ride?"
"Then you gotta do that. It may not be for long. Remember, you're still growing up." He headed off for the North side, going to the hospital. There were two eye doctors there and Xander coughed, pointing at one. "Good ones, babe, not Sears. Specialists." He looked around, spotting a doctor. So he rolled over to him. "Excuse me, citizen, our doc told us there were some eye specialists up here. He didn't say which one, just that they were near the hospital and that they were good with eye dominance and stuff. Know which one?"
The doctor looked at him, then nodded and pointed at one building. "Best in the city."
"Thank you. Ride free, citizen," Xander said as they took off.
The doctor shook his head. "I've got to lay off those lattes, they couldn't have been mice." He headed back into the office, going to get his cigarettes and coffee, making it much stronger this time. He apparently needed it.
Throttle rode Xander back into the garage, letting him get off, then kissing him. "You good?"
"I'm better," he admitted. He grinned shyly. "Come play with my new toys?"
"Sure." He got off and walked him over to the lair, going to play on his computer with him. It was a huge screen and he could see playing games on it. They found Oz asleep in the desk chair and grinned, clicking to finish the installation. Then their background came up with the usual noise. That woke Oz with a snort. "Hey. You could nap on the couch. We don't mind."
"Thanks. I may. Meg's been in a mood recently," he said, going to nap on the couch with the cats. Most of them liked him. Maybe he'd bring a few home. Those should help him calm Meg down. She was in super-hyper mode. Like Xander on a case of mountain dew. Which the memory of made him shudder. He saw Modo giving him an odd look. "Bad memory. Xander on a case of mountain dew at a school picnic."
"How many times did you have to rebuild that school?" he asked in awe.
"Which school?" Xander called.
"I told him about that picnic," Oz called back.
"Love you too," he said fondly, smirking at Modo. "We had annual outings. This was in the park."
Throttle came out. "When was this? He's refusing to tell me."
"Eleventh grade picnic. He had a case of mountain dew. We sent him to play with the screaming kids on the playground since he was one."
"How much did they have to replant?"
"He did okay until he ran through the thorn bush and tore down two saplings by accident while playing tag with the kids. Then he ran into a tree. It was still dented the last time I was in town."
"Ow," Throttle winced.
"No wonder he's got such a hard head," Modo said, shaking his. "That's nearly as bad as Vinnie on Muirberry juice."
"Oohh, don't remind me of that!" Throttle complained, shuddering. "I still have nightmares about that day."
"So he should have had white fur back in highschool too?" Oz asked dryly.
Throttle looked at him. "Stoker threatened to give him another quart of the stuff and ship him to Plutark. He figured he'd do less damage there and at least it'd be more useful than us rebuilding the remembrance garden that got destroyed by the tree he ran *through* on his bike, and the building he ran *into* because he wasn't paying attention. Fortunately it was built better than the tree. It took us three weeks to make him walk right."
Modo nodded. "And it took us nearly a week to rebuild everything and plant a new tree." He clapped Throttle on the back. "I could ask Momma to send us some." Throttle gave him a hurt look. "We could send them into the tower."
"They'd still be hyper and we'd have to stop them for a few days," he said grimly. "I hate the stinkfish as much as the next mouse, but that's mean, Modo. You're picking up Dawn's mean streak."
"Aww, shucks, sometimes I try," he said with playful grin.
"Give Vinnie and Xander both a two-liter of mountain dew, or jolt, it should be enough," Oz offered.
Xander stuck his head out of the office. "Yoohoo?"
"What's that?" Throttle asked cautiously.
"Chocolately caffeine drink," he said with a grin. They all shuddered at that so he cackled. "Your wish and all that," he said smugly, going to grab his helmet and call Vinnie, telling him to pick up a few. Throttle tried to stop him but he kissed him senseless and hurried on before Modo could come out of his shock. Vinnie pulled up with the bag and they took off again, Xander telling him the idea.
"I like it!" Vinnie cackled, popping open the first one and chugging it, letting Xander have his own. "Hey, it's not bad. I like these!"
"Me too," Xander said with a grin. He finished his second one and felt it kick in. He let out an evil cackle and Vinnie shivered but went with it. "Top or bottom?"
"More fun going down than up."
"Sure." They broke into the front door and started from the bottom up. They left it mostly standing so they had something to ride down and whoop about, and it crumbled behind them because Xander reached around to fire the rockets as they took off. He and Vinnie shared an evil smirk and they were caught at the bottom by Throttle, Modo, and Charley, who took her stud back. "We were being good," Xander protested.
"Sure you were," Charley sighed. "Let's go home, kids. Someone needs a nap."
"Ooh, do we?" Vinnie asked with a leer. "I can provide that." He grabbed her and put her in his lap, taking off for the garage. He couldn't tease her with her behind him. This way was much easier.
Throttle grabbed the jiggling Xander, pulling him closer to look in his eyes. "Behave. That's group fun."
"You can have the next one," he offered with a shy boy grin. The final piece fell and he clapped, waving at the junior Limburger. "Hi. Can we come play again? You're fun and you have the best toys," he called before getting on the back of Throttle's bike. They took off and that same evil cackle drifted out behind him.
Limburger looked around in horror. "How did they do that?" He picked up a piece of his desk then tossed it. "How dare those vermin test me this way!" he shouted, jumping up and down on the remains of his desk. "I'll get them! Their tails will be decorating my walls!"
A laser blast came out of nowhere and split his suit and mask, and it fell off to each side. He had to cover his Snoopy boxers and sneak behind some higher rubble before anyone saw him.
Modo chuckled. "We're like that. Get used to it." He rode off, heading for the garage. Someone would have to help hold his bros down. He decided to stop at the hardware store, getting duct tape and rope, just in case one wasn't enough.
Stoker strolled up the ramp, looking at the two sleeping mice, then at the parental looking mice. "Muir juice?" he asked with a wince.
Throttle handed over the empty bottle they had found in the bag. "They took down the tower. They had three each."
"It took us a while to catch them, they were hanging from the ceiling and doing acrobatics to get away from us," Modo offered. "Then Charley ma'am got a bright idea and looked at Vinnie, blowing a kiss. He came down off the ladder in the garage to kiss her back and we captured him then. It only took four hours of him being tied down to fall asleep."
Throttle winced, moving his shoulder a bit. "It took Xander longer. Oz ended up making a lasso from the rope we had and catching Xander with it. We were worn out by then. We knocked him out so he could sleep it off."
Dawn came up the ramp. "Thanks for picking me up today, Stoker." She looked at the bottle and frowned at Throttle. "Where's mine?"
"Not a chance, Dawn," he said calmly. He pointed at the two sleeping mice. "They had three each."
She shrugged. "And? What did you expect?"
"They tore down the tower, riding down it as it crumbled," Modo offered.
She snickered. "Again, and? What did you expect?" She rolled her eyes. "Any more? I've got a massive test tonight."
"That stuff is banned from the house," Throttle told him. "None of it, even if you hide it. Or else you get to catch them the next time."
"That's easy enough, I'll put on a trashy outfit and they'll demand to fix it." She smiled as Rimfire came in. "I need to make a store run, I've got a language test tomorrow."
"Sure, Dawnie." He grinned back and handed her the helmet he had found. "You left it in the doorway."
"I occasionally do that," she agreed, taking it and heading out with him. She directed him with pressure on his stomach to show when to turn. She walked into the store and grinned at the woman behind the counter. "Hey. I've got a language test." She picked up two bags of chocolate covered espresso beans and one of chocolate covered berries that she knew Vinnie liked, and added a two-liter of her second favorite caffeine fix. "That's it." The cashier held up a cold fraphachino and Dawn nodded so she added that too. She paid and got back on the bike, heading back to the lair to go study.
Rimfire laid on her bed, nosing in the bag. "What're these?"
"Two are chocolate espresso beans, the other's berries that Vinnie likes."
"I'll save him some." He ate one of the espresso beans. He'd heard something about them being good. His ears and his tail went rigid and he ate another one. He got up but Dawn swatted him when he tried to kiss her. Now he knew why they were so good. He took the bag upstairs, going to share them with the others. Vinnie was awake so he let him have one, smirking at him. He gave one to Throttle, but Modo turned them down. Stoker ate one too. Rimfire ate a few more and Vinnie took a few too. He noticed Vinnie's tail went rigid and grinned at him, eating a few more.
Vinnie nudged Xander, who sat up with a yawn. "Try some of those. They're good."
Xander looked at the label. "There's better stuff," he said, but he took one. He got up and wandered downstairs, coming back with a small package. "I found them in Texas." He handed one to Vinnie, one to Rimfire, and had two of them himself. After all, he had to catch up.
"I feel ...happy and perky," Throttle said, taking the bag to look at them. "What are these? Natural prozac?"
"Espresso? That's the beans they make that dark, thick coffee from," Xander told him. He grinned at Stoker. "Can we go clubbing?" he asked sweetly.
"Dawn can't go, she's got a test," Modo reminded them. He took the bag to look over, then looked at the two white mice and his nephew. "Out!" he ordered suddenly. They grinned and went to change and head out. He held it up for Throttle, pointing at the nice warning that said these were 'high caffeine' products.
Throttle looked at the stuff Xander had brought up, groaning at the same warning. "The city will survive, right?"
"It'll mean more work for Xander's company," Stoker soothed, taking the beans to eat another one.
"Those are like muir juice," Throttle warned.
"I'm not one of those that it affects, punk," Stoker said with a smirk. He ate a few more then settled in on the couch to nap. Muir juice always made him mellow and calmer. These were nice. He'd have to bring some home to Switch and the baby.
Dawn came up to repossess her snack, and took Xander's too since Throttle handed it to her. She ate one on the way down and nearly gagged at the caffeine in it. "What are these?" She looked at it. "Chocolate covered ..." She looked up. "Did you know this was the stuff they made tequila from?" she called. "Non alcoholic so far."
"Oh, momma," Modo moaned, holding his head.
"We can rescue the city," Throttle promised. "We won't have to rebuild it." He patted him on the arm. "Hey, old guy, wanna help rescue hapless citizens from those two?" Stoker waved a hand, too mellow to go out again. "Looks like it's just us." He looked at Modo, who wasn't moving. "It's a duty, not a pleasure this time, bro. It's our duty to save innocents from Xander and Vinnie when they're like this."
"I guess, but I want hazard pay," he complained, heading after him. They rode out, tracking the bikes to a bar they didn't usually go to. They walked inside to the head shake of the bouncer and mentally winced. Xander and Vinnie were doing tequila shots with two people dressed as cops. Rimfire was dancing with a guy in a dress. Modo walked over and tapped Rimfire on the shoulder. "Your girlfriend might get a bit upset and since your gray furred grandmomma likes her, she'll swat you like a flea."
"Awwww, I'm not taking him home, Uncle Modo. He's cute though. See?" He released his partner a bit and then they danced off. "I'll get you next."
"No, nephew. Come on." Someone tapped him on the shoulder and he looked down at the young man. "Yes?"
"You're very large and authoritative, do you spank hard?"
Modo blushed and nodded. "Usually, but only when you deserve it." The man giggled and hugged him, then dragged him further into the club. "Um, no, I can't, not tonight. I've got to take my nephew home. He shouldn't drink."
"Ooh, he'll be *fine*, silly," he said with a bright grin. "Just a dance?"
"I don't really dance."
"I'm sure you dance in *some* places very well," he said with a leer. Modo turned and ran out. "Hey, come back! I wanna dance!"
Rimfire grabbed him and dipped him, then spun him off. "My uncle's straight, honey. He just came to tell me off."
He pouted. "You're nearly as nice."
Rimfire winked at him. "Go ask the big tan guy, but watch out for the white mouse if he gets possessive. He will hit."
The man bounced over there, leaning against Throttle's arm. "Would you dance with me, sweetie? You're very studly."
"Um, taken," he said. "Sorry." He looked at Xander, who was glaring at the human.
The human grinned. "You can't blame a guy for trying."
"No, not really. I used to try too," Xander promised, getting up and taking him onto the floor. The man squeaked when he pulled him in *very* closely. "You dance with my man, you dance with me," he said smugly, starting off smoothly, making sure the man could feel how big he was through their clothes. He let out a small moan. "Then again, I'm known to wear people out. I've even had one have a heart attack." The man gasped behind him and ran off. Xander turned and found Throttle there. "What? I told him if he wanted you he had to have both of us."
Throttle pulled him closer, capturing his chin to staring into his eyes. "Get on the back of my bike. We are going home. You're gonna be dancing for me later and you won't enjoy it. No more teasing."
"Not even you?" he asked pitifully.
Throttle spanked him. "Get on the back of my bike, Xander. You're mine. No more teasing other people." Xander beamed and startled to wiggle. "Oh, no, not now."
"Just one dance?" He pulled him onto the floor and started to move with him, making him shiver. "I'm trying to be good. I was defending you."
"Instead you made him want to go blow Rimfire. That's naughty, babe. Too naughty."
"I'll be better."
"Good." He spanked him again and someone nearby gave him an interested look. "He's mine."
"I can see that. Do you spank him publically or is that just tonight's show?"
Throttle looked at him, then at Xander. "I'd never spank you for real."
Xander beamed. "Good. I don't like being spanked, except now and then in the moment. I'm much more a tie me up guy." The people around them groaned and leaned closer. "My stud," he warned. "I am possessive, I will kick butts if you even pinch." They sighed and backed off. "Go tease Vinnie."
Throttle shook his head and pulled him back to where Vinnie was having another one, grabbing him by the ear to haul him out of there.
"Hey, have to pay," Vinnie complained.
"They owe anything?" Throttle called back.
"I've got it. He's a good inspiration tonight," one of the boys called, leering at Rimfire. "How about you, babe? You ready to go home?"
"My girl might not like me to play, so I can only tease."
"Rimfire, get your tail out here!" Modo shouted from the doorway. "I'm gonna call Momma now!" Rimfire scurried out and Modo stuck him on the back of his bike. Rimfire's bike was already going back to the shop with Vinnie's. He looked at Throttle, who was riding triple. "I'd offer."
"No, Vinnie might hit on him." He swatted the white hand trying to stroke his stomach. "No, Xander. Not yet." He took off, heading for home. He made it as quickly as he could, then turned them loose on Stoker since he hadn't helped.
Dawn came out to get Rimfire when she heard Modo's bike return, kissing her man hard. "Rimfire, if you *ever* touch another girl, I'm going to kill you by skinning you and keeping your fur as a remembrance."
"I was dancing with gay guys."
"If you're that bi, tell me. We'll make it a trio." He leered at her. "You've been drinking."
"No I haven't. I had one drink."
She kissed him again. "Yeah, one of tequila. Pass out. I'll jump you when you get up and I need a break later. I promise, I'll even wear the green nightie." She leaned against his chest, teasing the base of his throat with a nail. "Please go sleep it off first, Rimmy?" He groaned and nodded, going to his room to flop down and take a nap. She looked at Modo. "Next time, take the girls. We do it so much more efficiently." She went back to her Hindi text. She really did need to study.
Modo leaned on his handlebars, head down, shaking slowly. He went to the communications system and decided to call his mother for advice. He was slowly being driven insane by Xander and Vinnie. Dawn and Rimfire were getting there. He dialed her number and she popped up with a smile for him. "Momma, come back?" he pleaded. "They went drinking. Vinnie and Xander are *horrible*."
"I'll be down on the next ship, Modo. I have a few pictures of Primer's twins and some of a new mouse that just returned. You'll like her, she's very pretty." She smiled at him. "How is Rimfire doing?"
"I expected that much, son. What's wrong?"
"They fed them caffeine earlier," Throttle said from behind him, waving at her. "They went to destroy the tower and we had to tie Xander and Vinnie down, then they got into more caffeine tonight thanks to Rimfire and went to a gay leather club. Someone asked Modo to spank them." She chuckled at that. "You can come down if you want. Maybe you can calm Xander and Vinnie down."
She shook her head. "Not those two, dear. It'll be fine. Remember, Xander's not that old, he's playing and Vinnie needed to get out and play too."
"Sure, but they're driving us nuts," Modo protested.
"As you did to me, son," she said wisely. "Even you went through that phase. I'll be down soon. Throttle, your mother is planning to sneak down too." He grinned at that. "You sure? The last picture I had of Xander was as a human."
"That's fine, Momma. She can come down if she can get permission. Those two destroyed Limburger Tower today by themselves. Like the muir juice incident, only worse." She chuckled and hung up and Throttle punched Modo in the arm. "It'll be okay. They'll be calm tomorrow. They only do this once or twice a week."
"Dawn charmed Rimfire into bed with a nightie and a promise of fun later."
"She's a girl, they do that," he advised. "Next time we'll send Dawn and Charley in to get them." Modo nodded at that, heading up to his bed. Throttle went to pick up the sleeping Xander and carry him down to theirs, but he wasn't on the couch. He found him brushing his teeth, looking perfectly normal. "Got sick?"
"A bit, but I'm fine."
"Bull. Let's go to bed, Xander. That way I can hold you still."
"I can't wiggle?" He moved closer, wiggling against him. "Not even like that?"
"Nope, not tonight. Maybe in the morning, when you're not drunk."
"Bull." He drug him down to their room by his wrist, then pointed at the bed. "Get in. Let me do my teeth and stuff." He went to the bathroom down there, finding Rimfire engaged in the traditional morning-after-the-party ritual. "Feel better?"
"No! Nasty!" he gasped, going again. "What was I thinking?"
"You can tell your grandmother when she shows up." He found his toothbrush and the toothpaste, getting to work on his teeth. Rimfire came over to rinse out his mouth and do his own, then he went to crawl back into bed. "That's why you don't drink."
"Quit yelling please," Dawn complained.
"Sorry, princess." He finished up and rinsed, then went back to bed, snuggling against the Xander-shaped lump under the blankets. He looked at it, then squeezed it a few times, then sighed and went to find him this time. He found him in the office working on his plans. "Good ideas?"
"Yeah, I think so," he admitted, moving the light pen to make a new line. "I'm fine."
"I'm sure you are, but I wanted to cuddle." He sat down beside him, watching him draw. "That's pretty distinctive."
"It is, but it's also a fairly simple plan. The first floor would be a neutral zone in case someone got in, an entryway. That way you could pick your door and head to the rooms, to the meeting area, or to the club and food center." He continued to work, labeling some things as he went. Once he was done with the outside drawing, he moved onto the inside one, using some standard program-given basics to outfit each floor. He knew a lot about the local population so he put in some family sized rooms and some single rooms, and a meeting area just above the club. Though he did note to put soundproofing and shock panels between the floors so nothing could go through it and no noise would disturb the upper floors. Demon clubs weren't that quiet. He yawned and kept going, smiling as he added a few whimsical touches, like a pure dirt room for earth demons to come through or to party in if they didn't want to be around the others. "A bouncer there could check in new demons and keep the fighting to a minimum, and hey, if they dig in their own tunnels, we'd only have to offer a reinforced tube probably." He looked back but Throttle was asleep. He smiled and went back to work. He was proud of his ideas.
Xander tapped on his main boss's door, handing him the cd and the copies he had made of the plans. "For you. A preliminary."
"Thank you. Let's look." He led him into the study, firing up the cd. He noticed it was the most common program so started that. He stared at the external views, nodding slowly. Then they moved to the internal ones, including blueprints. "An earth room?"
"I know there's a few earth demons around here. There's an altar in the lake." That got a surprised look. "I found it while I was swimming and pissed." He pointed out the safety features. "If we use a hand-held compactor we could make the walls solid and just give them an entrance point into the room through a reinforced tunnel that opened onto bare earth. They can feel those, I know because I asked Wesley last night."
"That's a good idea. A bouncer there could check them in." He moved further down the blueprints. "A small bower-like area for the more delicate ones as well. Slitted windows on the club?"
"With shutters. Just in case, ya know? I built it with bomb shelter parts. It seemed like the best idea. Now, I wasn't sure if a raised floor or an impression floor would be better. Since there's some demons of different heights, they can dance together and not step on the smaller ones. I made it most of the floor with one side still okay enough for the tiniest of the tiny demons to be there." He pointed with a finger. "I know most of you guys don't care about size and stuff, but it's a safety feature that's done quietly and I like mosh pits." That got a small smirk. "Sue me, I've been like this for a while now. Notice between the floors I have sound proofing and anti-shock panels, like I did with the lair. That'll cut down on the noise and I thought a small meeting room might go pretty well there. Especially if there's an emergency you'll want a central location to deal with it. All the windows are polarized, but on the atrium I did put the ones you can switch out. Notice I put a dark corridor behind it for the vampires. Again, for their own safety. I'd say putting notices on those doors that the windows would allow sunlight." That got a nod. "I also know we have a heavy family population so I made some family rooms and some single rooms. On top I put another bar, this one also with those nice switching panels and draw shades as an extra precaution. That way they could look up at the stars and sing like Dru, or they could be closed in during the day." He sat back, looking at him. "So?"
"I like it," he admitted. "Most of the time you only think about the single ones."
"Yeah, but if you wanted to add three levels of singles-only floors you could," Xander told him. "Or rent out the suites to the club if it's not an emergency situation. You said a bunker club."
"True." He flipped through it again, noticing Xander had signed each page. "Good work, Xander. Did you do a cost estimate?" Xander hissed. "No?"
"Yeah, and it's not pretty." He loaded that file and showed it to him. "Broken down by category and then again by floor in case you wanted to know how much adding floors would be."
He looked it over, smiling at the conservative estimates. They would cover any overages, like overtime, but everything was clearly drawn out, even the 'worker comfort' category of hiring a lunch truck and things. "Who did you talk to about the truck?"
"The same guys I had to get for the abuse shelter. I didn't want to make the guys go off property, just in case they were targeted and hurt. I asked them and they said they'd use it. It was a fairly good deal."
"It was," he agreed happily. Some of the workers had suggested that any non-downtown sites had one of those. "All right, let me submit this to the board. I told them your reasons and a few sneered until they learned who you were and why you refused to work with hell's attorneys."
"Tell someone to go over the contracts very carefully. Angel found them contracting for some work on their own building and part of the contract was that the worker's souls were forfeit after one day of work."
"Interesting. I will definitely do that." He smiled at him. "How is Throttle?"
"Doing okay. Pissed because I went out drinking with Vinnie the other night. We kinda went to a leather club and Modo got asked if he'd spank someone. I had to apologize for embarrassing the sweetie." His boss smirked at that. "Oh, Carbine's coming back later tonight. So try calling then." He winked. "She did come home happier." He stood up. "Need other stuff?"
"No, Xander. I like this. Thank you."
"You're welcome," he said proudly. "I'm even open to some changes." He nearly skipped out, heading down to his car. He found someone nosing around and tapped him on the shoulder, smirking at him. "Hi. You are?"
"With the Sun."
"Really? Do you burn a lot?"
"The newspaper, sir. Who are you?"
"Not going to be bothered. I've already got a subscription."
"I see." He looked him over, stopping when he saw the tail. "What are you then, sir?"
Xander smirked and nodded. "Come on, I'll take you to someone who can explain it all to you." The man nodded, gathering up his notes and following him. Xander tapped on his boss's door. "This nice man wanted to know what I was." He gave him a small, happy grin. "I thought you might be able to have a talk with him."
"Sure. Come on in, kid. Which paper are you with?"
"The Sun. What is he?"
"Him? He's my newest crew chief. Come into the back room, I've got a work table laid out so you can take pictures and stuff while we talk." He led him back there and slammed the door, then got him knocked out and onto the table. "Daughters?" he called. His childe and her mate came jogging in, coming to help him feast. Xander had probably meant for him to compel him or something but this was much easier and tastier in his opinion.
Xander drove back to the lair, grinning at Charley as he got out. "We've got a reporter nosing around," he said quietly. "He was trying to get into my car. I handed him to my boss."
"Enamel had a cord cut the other day," she offered quietly. "Go tell the fearless leader."
"Sure." He headed that way, heading up the ramp. "Hey, Carbine, you got in early? My boss wanted to know if you'd like to go to dinner with him. I've got his number if you need it." He went to where Throttle was reading, moving his book to make him look up. "I just handed a reporter to my boss. He was nosing around my car and asked what I was. Charley said Enamel's cord was sliced into the other day."
"That was while we were there," Vinnie reminded him. He looked at Throttle. "Do we lay low?"
"Yeah, we should," Throttle agreed. "No more going out for no reason, kids. Especially you two."
"He was nosing around before we did much of anything," Vinnie complained.
"He asked me what I was," Xander told him. "So he didn't know or he wanted verification." He sat down between them. "Momma's coming, should we take any precautions?"
"Nah, we'll just go to the park at night and things," Throttle assured him. "We've had to do this before. It'll die down in a few days. As long as your boss doesn't do something permanent to him." Xander shrugged. "Is he likely to?"
"He's a vampire, he could snack or turn him. Turning him would probably be the better option because then at least he'd be there. Either that or he's smart enough to arrange for him to show up."
"He probably is. He's fairly old," Carbine offered. Someone pounded on the door downstairs and everyone stared at each other. Since she was up she sighed and went to answer it. "Yes?" she asked the man there.
"Is there a Xander Harris here?"
"He's upstairs resting. What can I help you with?"
"Ma'am, I'm here to deliver a truck full of books and stuff. We need to know where to put them."
"Hold on. Come inside." She let him into the entryway and went to talk to Xander. "Books and things?"
He got up and went into the office, getting her the keys and address of the place he had rented. "There." He grinned. "Thanks, Carbine."
"Welcome." She went to hand them over. "Here."
"Thank you, miss." He looked her over. "We don't see many like you in LA. Mostly they have tentacles and stuff." He headed back out, going to take the truck there.
"At least he didn't say a turtle," she said as she shut the door, coming out to get the cat and put it back inside. "Don't do that." She checked before shutting the door, heading back up there. "Xander, you've got to take them to get them fixed. Even Tara and Joyce."
"They've got appointments tomorrow," he admitted quietly, glancing around. "I don't want to upset them."
"Fine. Please, soon." She flopped down, looking at the trio of mice. "Where's Modo?"
"Out for a casual ride," Throttle admitted. "He took Rimfire to have one of those talks with him about drinking and going to leather bars."
"He picked it," Vinnie and Xander said in unison.
"If it weren't for the spots, you could be twins," Carbine said dryly. "Quit that. Martians don't usually have twins."
"Really? Why not?" Xander asked.
"They're fairly rare, we're not sure why," Throttle told him.
Vinnie nodded. "There was only one set of twins in our graduating class in the main city."
"Wow." He blinked at them. "You know that there've been women down here who've had 8?" They all shuddered. "And a few cases of having 5 naturally? The larger numbers are usually fertility treatments."
"I'll have to mention that to someone," Carbine said dryly. "Just in case." She saw Xander wiggle and shook her head. "Don't even think about bouncing today, Xander."
"I'm being good!"
"He is," Throttle admitted. "He's being very good. I'd reward him but we're laying low now."
Xander leaned against his arm, yawning a bit. "Can I nap on you as a reward?"
"You didn't sleep last night so I'd expect it," he said gently, patting him on the cheek. "You rest, I'm going to read, and Vinnie can call Modo to warn him."
"Sure, Throttle, give me the hard stuff," Vinnie teased, getting up to do that. He grabbed his helmet, sliding it over his ears. "Hey, bro? Xander found someone nosing around his car. Be careful. Enamel had the same problem with his ride." Modo sent back a sigh. "Seriously."
"I understand. Recalled?"
"No, just be careful."
"Sure, bro, thanks. Tell me if Momma gets here soon." He clicked his link off.
Vinnie took off his helmet, looking at Throttle. "Why is he so down?" Throttle stroked Xander's back, giving him a long stare. "Oh." He nodded. "Understandable really." He went to hug Charley, just because. "We need to find Modo a girl," he said in her ear, making her nod and grin at him. "Got any ideas?"
"He liked Paint."
"She was kinda chilly and standoffish," Vinnie complained. "I could see him with Grip, she's calmed down a lot."
"Modo would love those kids to death," she said with a grin. He had played with the kids the whole time they were there. "Maybe among the new ones there'll be a chance."
"Maybe, but we're not getting home for a while, sweetheart." He kissed her. "Not until after graduation."
"It'll be fine," she promised, stroking his cheek. "I promise it will be, Vinnie." She stole another kiss. "Haul this out back for me," she said, kicking the trash can. "Please?"
"Sure." He hauled it back out to the dumpster, looking inside first, just in case one of the cats was in there again. What he found was a mouse. One of their mice. "Carbine!" he yelled. "Now!"
She came running out of the house, joining him to stare down at her. "Who's that?"
"That's what I was wondering."
"Lift her out." She helped steady her, checking her for vital signs. "She's weak." She carried her inside and up to the bathroom. She wouldn't put her onto the couch in her condition and a bath could help revive her. She opened the girl's eyes, finding pink ones inside. "Who are you?" she muttered, testing the water temperature. When the tub was filled deep enough she put her into there, clothes and all. Footsteps came up the stairs and Throttle was there. "We need a doc this time."
"He's on his way, Xander called him. He's out for a ride. Who is she?"
"I don't know." She looked up. "She's got pink eyes."
"So she's fully a Martian. Interesting. Maybe one of the stranded?"
"Maybe, but she's pretty small." She scooped up some water in her hand, moving to wet her head down. The person moaned and shifted. "Shh, you're safe," she said quietly. "You're safe, we're trying to clean you up a bit. There's a doctor coming." The mouse opened her eyes, staring at her. She nodded. "I'm Carbine, it'll be okay."
"You're not human."
"Neither are you, sweetling." She ran a hand over ears, earning a shudder. "You're no more human than I am."
She nodded. "I am. I know I am!" she said hysterically.
"I'm going to check on Enamel," he offered, going to do that. Modo was riding in. "Vinnie found a mouse in the dumpster. She claims she's human." He grabbed the phone but Rimfire took it and nodded behind them. He could hear Enamel's motor and put the phone back. "Thanks. You guys good?"
"Yeah, we had a good talk. Since I'm probably not going to go drinking again, it's mostly a moot point," he admitted with a grin, "but Uncle Modo had some other good points too and I'm listening to them."
"That's all I can ask," Modo promised. "Thank you, Rimfire."
"Welcome, Uncle." They got out of the way of Enamel. "Small twist today."
"Wonderful. What?" he asked as he took off his helmet.
"She thinks she's human."
"She have the eyes?" Throttle nodded. "Then we'll see." He got off and headed upstairs, smiling at the young woman. "Hi. I'm a doctor, my name is Enamel. Can I examine you?"
"You're not human either."
He picked up a hand mirror and handed it over. "That's one of the things I want to check, young one. Carbine?" She moved back but stayed close by to help. He checked her eyes, then her head. No obvious problems there. He moved down to listen to her chest, finding a slight abnormality. "She's got a small crack in her last rib," he told her, moving down to her stomach. He listened again then nodded. "She's pregnant." He looked at her. "What's the last thing you remember, sweetling?"
"Is that a name among your kind?"
"It's a light term of endearment meant to calm you down since we don't know your name," Carbine told her.
"Well, Hannah, that's Enamel, I'm Carbine, the tan guy you saw in the doorway a few minutes ago was Throttle."
"Am I on a space ship?"
"No, you're on Earth, in Chicago." He checked her neck, finding a small indent. "I'm going to have to snip some of your fur, Hannah. Is that okay?"
"I don't want fur!"
"That's fine. It feels like there's a chain or something embedded in your neck." He found the whole thing then checked her wrists. No marks. One of her ankles had another chain embedded. "Hannah, how old are you?"
"Because I think I have an idea, but I needed to make sure you could consent," he offered. "There's two places where things are under your skin." He touched them, letting her feel them. "I can take them out, it might give us more of a clue what was going on." She nodded, holding up her foot. "Okay. Give me ten minutes to prepare a spot. The lair still has an empty bed, right?"
"I'll give up mine," Rimfire said from the doorway. "Hi, I'm Rimfire."
"I'm Hannah. Aren't there any humans around?"
"Sure, Charley's downstairs and Dawn'll be back in a few hours," he offered with a grin. "Let me go clean my room a bit, Enamel." He went to do that, picking up the few stray pieces of clothes from earlier, tossing them into the closet. He came out and found the doctor carrying the young woman into the hallway. "In there." He got out of the way. "Need help?"
"Yeah, I need something to sedate her. I don't have any real sedatives and I'm not prepared to use what I have. It could hurt her if she's not fully Martian."
"Sure." He looked. "She doesn't have a tail."
"We'll figure it out, Rimfire. Get me some alcohol or something." He nodded, going to find something at Charley's since Throttle had found the few small bottles over here and had tossed them. He pulled out what he'd need, running the sterilizer over them. She was watching everything he did so he explained it to her. To many years as a pediatrician. "That sterilizes them."
"Why are you here?"
"I got banished." He nodded at Rimfire to hand her the bottle. "Drink some, I don't have anything that I can risk on you to knock you out. I'll be as delicate as I can, but I can't guarantee it won't hurt." He caught something coming through the door. "Why do you have demorol, Xander?"
"From Sunnydale," he said, tapping his eye. "It was a parting gift from the hospital. It's part of the medkit I carried with me when I went to find slayers." He walked off.
"I want to see that later!" he called after him. He pulled out a needle and pulled a five milligram dose, injecting it into her arm. "There, that should help a lot," he said with a gentle smile.
"You're a kid doctor, aren't you?" she asked tiredly. He nodded. "Did they banish you because you messed up?"
"More because I was trying to help too much," he said gently. "And I failed at one point." She nodded, accepting that. "Okay, I'm going to start on your ankle. I want you to be more relaxed before I do your neck. That'll hurt and bleed more." She nodded, letting him prop it on a pillow. "Rimfire, are you helping?" he asked when he realized he was still there.
"I can. I'm not that squeamish." He grabbed her ankle, holding it still while Enamel took a deep breath and started the small incision. "It's okay," he said, looking at her. "It's barely bleeding." She nodded, biting her lip. "Hurts?"
"If I could, I'd give you more, Hannah, but I don't want to hurt you further." He freed a link and it looked familiar, so he kept going around until he got it free, then used a pair of tin snips to cut the chain. It was dropped onto the dresser and he bandaged that cut, cleaning it thoroughly. "It should only scar a tiny bit," he promised. "It's not that wide or that deep. It may not look like more than a scratch." She smiled at that. "Okay, I'm going to do your neck." He got to work on it, making her flinch but she was holding onto Rimfire's arms while he worked. This one was loose under the skin so he only had to break it and yank it. Only one spot stuck and it came free after a second's work. He checked her over, finding a solid lump and got that too, making an incision to slide it out of. He tossed them onto the dresser and bandaged those spots. "There we go, Hannah. You rest, princess." He went to clean up and took the chains and tag with him. Once he had them cleaned off he went to present them to Throttle, who he was sure would recognize them from the time he wore one. "Karbunkles' back."
To part 22