The day had finally come, Xander was starting the new project, all the decisions had been made and ordered. He pulled his car up to the new site and rolled down his window, holding up his corporate pass. "Hey, where do I park?"
The man looked at the name on the pass, then on his list. "I don't have you listed to work here, sir."
"I'm crew lead."
"Oh." He flipped the page and nodded, then pointed at a spot beside a huge, souped up, toxic lime green truck. "Beside her. That's your exterior crew chief's truck." He nodded, going over there to park. He came back and accepted his pass. "Thank you, sir. I'm Craig, if you need anything."
"Don't worry, I like you guys. Tell me personally if you've got any problems." He walked onto the site and saw everyone gathered. "Morning all." Everyone stared at him. He nodded at the trailer. "Give me two." He headed in, finding a woman already in there. She was pale, had black hair and you could tell it was natural, and was wearing cutoff shorts, a mesh top with a tank underneath it, and was paler than he was. "Wow, you a relative to Morticia?" She jumped and looked at him. He grinned. "I'm Xander."
"Oh, hey, I heard great things about you. I'm Trisha and yes, I am, related to the grande dame of scary women." She stood up and shook his hand. "Welcome to our site. I hear you used to work with Merle?" He nodded. "Cool. I'm assuming I'm doing exterior, that's my usual job."
"That's fine, I'm good with interior crews. I'm the sort that you do your job, you don't slack off too much, and you tell me if you're going to have problems. An issue for you?" She shook her head. " Good. Merle and I had this system where we'd meet each week on Sunday to go over the week before and the next week, that sound good?"
"My man wouldn't like it either," he assured her. "Work only." He grinned. "Sorry, but you're not my type." She giggled and nodded. "Cool, we'll work that out Friday. Let's go meet the crew. I tend to do daily check-ins, just to make things go smoother."
"I usually just grab the list off the guard."
"Yeah, but this way I get to check in with each of my crew and make sure there's no issues." He shrugged. "I tend to work with my crew." She nodded. "Let's go." She got up and followed him. He walked out with her and everyone stared at them. "Yeah, we're extra pale people. It happens sometimes." He looked up and around, deciding to hike himself up onto the trailer's roof by way of a saw horse. He sat down so he wasn't towering above them. "Everyone see me okay?" he called. Everyone nodded. "Cool. I'm Xander, I'm crew lead. Some of you may or may not know me from working with Merle. This is Trisha, she's the exterior crew chief." He waved a hand at her. "Does anyone have any starting questions?"
"What are we building?" one guy asked.
"A new residential and club facility," he said.
Trisha looked at her crew. "A bunker bar, kids."
They nodded, accepting that.
"Sorry, didn't know how many people would get that." He looked around them. "Any other questions?"
"I've seen the blueprints," one guy said. "There's an earthen room?" He nodded. "Why?"
"Because there are some earth movers in the city and they'll want a comfortable access. Plus, it can be turned into an escape hatch under the right circumstances. I'd have one of them come do that though." Everyone nodded at that, saved them some digging. "Okay. Any questions on the plans?"
"Do we have the first day's stuff?"
"It should be here at ten. That gives us time to assign teams, go over the blueprints, the week's work, and all that. If not, we'll break when we're done until it gets here. Also, we have hired a lunch truck, the whole crew will be breaking about one since it's usually hotter then. I have nothing against the occasional breaks and if you guys are running ahead I'm more than happy to give longer breaks. I'm the sort who'll work with you guys and I'm also the sort who you come to when you've got problems. I'll listen, I'll help any way I can. Even if it's just a personality conflict or you don't like me personally. Okay?" Everyone nodded. "Now, as my last crew could tell you, I'm not a slacker, but I am a joker. I will crack jokes. If I offend anyone, yell at me. I'll stop." That got another nod. "Any other questions before we go over the blueprints?"
"Do we have a special window team coming?"
"Yeah, I checked with the boss and they'll be put in by the window company themselves. It's just easier and less liability for us. By that time we'll be down to landscaping and interior crew." He looked around but no one said anything. "Okay, let's move onto the blue prints." He jumped off and landed, then grinned. "I'm being athletic today, sorry." He went in to get the blue prints, taking them to the lunch tables to spread out so everyone could look them over. "Okay, we've got a basement level and then a first level. Basement should have been dug?" Everyone nodded. "Good. Then we'll start here with the partitioning and putting up walls. Did we get the compactor?" One guy nodded. "Good, if that's you, I want you to start on the earth room's walls first. I have the feeling you'll have to come back to them." He nodded again.
"Good. The rest of us are going to partition today, then work on the stud walls. Tomorrow we'll start on the steel because you never overload your workers the first day." That got some smiles. "We'll do framing for the first week probably, get most of the way through the third floor if possible, then we'll start on external walls from there. You notice most of it is steel, it's just a few rooms that have stud walls so we may be able to get those out of the way today. If possible and everything goes according to plans. By the time we're hitting the top floor for framing, we should be about a level behind on the external walls, that's when the windows will come in, and then we'll be finishing up the external and moving everyone internal, unless we've got some landscaping people at that time. Then they'll be planting bushes and things." He looked at them. "This is a normal priority job but it is a class A hush job. We don't tell people what it is. You can brag," he said with a grin, "if you know someone in the community but not to the general public. If someone thinks they want an apartment here, you refer them to me and Trisha." That got a nod. "Who specializes?" Two of the guys raised a hand. "You are?"
"Looking for wiring. As a timetable. I've got two before you. I do the magic specific wiring."
"Good deal. I've run it before and I'm thinking probably about the same time as the windows go in." He nodded. "That long enough?"
"Yeah, I've got one that's ending this week and then a corporate structure to rewire during a remodel that'll take me about a month at most."
Xander thought about it. "You might be running a bit tight if we're running by my mental schedule instead of the official one. I like to come in under schedule if possible. If we didn't have seven other jobs waiting, I wouldn't care but with that many we're just losing the company money. Make sure I've got your number so I can update you." He nodded. The other guy had the compactor. "You're probably going to be here all week."
"That's fine. I'm also a great cement guy if you need it."
"We shouldn't. It's mostly stone, steel, and special glasses." The guy nodded. "But, if they change their mind, I'll gladly call you back. Do we have your number?"
"I do," Trisha said.
"Cool beans." He grinned at her. "We're going to get along just fine."
"Probably." She looked at the top level. "What's this?"
"It's a club. I planned to do those switching windows, plus there's going to be an installation of steel shutters. That way there's no chance of flaming vamps. Like this room," he said, pointing at the atrium. "It'll have those same switchable windows and we'll have to put signs up saying that this place does get direct sunlight if windows are open."
"Can we wire a flashing light or something if they're opened?"
"I talked to the company and they didn't say they couldn't but they weren't sure how. If so, that'll be something we'll have to install. The owners liked that idea too." Everyone nodded at that. "Then again, that's also why I put in the windowless corridor behind that atrium. So that people who go 'whoosh' in the light don't go 'whoosh' and need a vacuum." That got a lot of nods. "I know we're a dual shift crew, I'll be going over this with the night shift later." He saw a truck heading over and nudged Trisha. "Go ahead." She nodded, going to check the truck in and do the inventory. "Okay. Any other problems any of you can see?"
"Did you design it?" one of the guys asked. Xander nodded. "Wow. You're good."
Xander grinned. "And I'm from Sunnydale too." That got some laughs and one uneasy look. "They're in Cleveland. If any of that group comes here for longer than a few hours, I warn the whole company. Yeah, we were friends, but unless I see you eating someone who's screaming 'help me' you're safe." That guy relaxed. "Got it?" They nodded. "Good. Now, Trisha said she does check-in from the guards and I do it personally so I can make sure there's no problems. Again, if you guys see a problem, have a problem, even with me, or start having problems at home that are going to affect you, my ears are open. I will gladly pull my discman off and talk to anyone. For my interior crew, expect me to spend a great deal of time working with you. My husband won't mind me taking an extra hour here. We work from eight to five, with an hour lunch and two breaks. Got it?" They nodded. "Good. Who's here for interior?" A few people raised their hands. "Let's separate out the groups so we can divide the rest up fairly." The two groups separated and there were a lot of people who were just there. "Okay, sixteen of you. Eight on each team. If you've got good experience with framing, stud walls, or other interior tasks, step forward." Most of them did. "Who'd rather work interior only?"
"I'm allergic to most fertilizers," one guy said, holding up his hand. Xander pointed at the interior crew. "Thanks, Xander."
"Welcome. Anyone else like that? If there are any major medical concerns, I'm making a sheet tonight for quick reference. Severe allergies, anything that could make you collapse or anything else here." That got a nod. "So if you think I don't have it, come tell me after lunch." That got a few smiles. "What? I know how hard it is when you've got issues like that. One of my last crew had a kid in chemo. I hesitated nominating him for my spot because it would mean more hours away from her, and I told him that personally a few nights later when he asked me. I'm not a mean guy. I'm a fun, nice, good guy who will kill anybody who tries to hurt my crew. Just ask the people who tried to hurt the abuse shelter site." That got a lot of shudders. "I took crew lead for the first part of it, until Merle came back. We were still nearly on schedule when Merle came back, until that final bomb, and then Merle made sure they kept on track." That got some nods.
"So, my personal timetable is a bit more ambitious, but open for revision. I won't run you guys into the ground, but I'll expect at least six good hours of work out of the eight, okay?" That got some nods and smirks. "Hey, I'm realistic. I did this in the summer in Sunnydale. It's hot!" That got some nods. "I'm also going to be buying some mega bottles of sunblock. Use them, people. The lunch truck will be here from break to break so you can get cold drinks too. I don't mind coolers as long as the dripping doesn't do any damage. Sealed drinks are fine. No straws or uncapped drinks. Sorry, but we don't want to have to redo a spot and if it's your drink's fault you'll be redoing the spot." That got some laughs. "Okay. Any other issues?" They shook their heads. "Trish, they checked in?"
"Yeah! We're good, we've got the full first shipment."
"Then let's start partitioning today, guys. Go for it." They headed off to do that. Xander went to slide that page of the plan into the glass case on the outside of the trailer. That way it could be referenced faster. He looked down there. "Hey, premeasured, I like that," he said happily, grinning at her. "If we could agree on a musical system, I'd let a full site music experience happen."
"Ah, no, boss. I listen to heavy metal." He shrugged. "You're serious?" He nodded. "Okay, your death. I listen to eighties metal."
Xander walked over to the edge. "We're talking about setting up a site-wide stereo system. You guys mind Trish's choice of eighties metal and we'll switch out by week?" That got some cheering and one frown. "Don't like music?"
"Not too loud."
"Of course not." He grinned. "That would bother the hospital." That got some chuckles. "Okay with you?" He got a nod. "Fine, I'll have someone bring my box from home." He went to make that call. "Hey, Charley, can I have my stereo? Yeah, that one. No, we're doing a site-wide stereo. Thanks. Sure. Sure. I'll have him put onto the list anyway." He hung up and went to talk to the guard. "Hey." Craig stood up suddenly. "If you salute, I'll laugh," he said with a grin. The guard calmed himself and grinned back. "Okay. My husband looks just like me only he's tan. There's another white guy, and 2 gray guys beside me. One of those is actually my doctor so it's a real emergency usually if he pops around." That got a nod. "They're all bikers. If they show up and ask to speak to me, ya let 'em in as long as it's them. You'll get to know them pretty quickly." That got a smile and a nod. "Thanks. We're doing a site-wide stereo so tell me if we get bonked for noise." He went back to the site. "It's on it's way. By lunch, guys." He looked at Trish. "Got CD's?"
"My box holds six. I've got some in my car." She smiled and nodded, getting down there to help him work, followed by him. Vinnie drove by the stereo and Xander nodded that he was one of them so he got to set up the stereo too. "Get my black case out of the car," he called. "Give 'em ta Trisha. Trish, stereo's here."
She hopped up and went to get her CD, going to play it first. She grinned at Vinnie. "Thanks for this."
"Music makes the task lighter," he said with a grin, going to get Xander's CD case. He handed it to her, then shut the car door. "There ya go, sweetheart. Have fun and tell him we're having dinner out tonight so don't come home too nasty. Tell him we're doing Mexican because Charley girl wanted it."
"Sure." She went back into the site, loading her CD, then picking some of his. The case went into the office and she turned it on random, hopping back down to join them. "The other white one said you're having Mexican tonight so don't get too nasty on the way out to join them."
"Sure. Charley having a craving?" She nodded. "She's pregnant. That's his girl."
"Cool. Do you do that pet name thing?"
"Sometime it slips out. It doesn't mean anything."
"That's fine. My husband doesn't and that's usually bothered me."
"Someone should." He grinned and helped the guys working on the partitioning wall. She got the next section, getting in there to do some of the bottom nailing. She definitely wasn't afraid to move the guys out of her way or give them a shove when their beltlines got too close to her head.
Xander walked into the Mexican place, his hands, arms, and face scrubbed. "Sorry. Had to stop to talk to the night guy. He had some questions on the plans." He flopped down, taking his soda to sip. "Thanks, whoever ordered."
"Not a problem, Xander." Charley smiled at him. "Vinnie said you had a goth coworker."
"She's exterior crew chief," he admitted. "Trisha. She's pretty cool. Likes eighties metal. She got first week's pick for the stereo. The night guy liked it too so he's keeping it safe. We're going pretty well for a first day." Throttle nodded, stuffing his mouth. "We're going to end up short in a few weeks, when school vacations start. But we're doing steel construction."
"Nah, Merle said he'd need people now and then," Modo promised. "We'll just come visit you."
"That's fine." He grinned at Charley. "I got everyone but you passes. I didn't think you'd be coming over that often and I'd have you authorized at that point on a permanent guest pass." She smiled at that. "That cool with you guys? Lunches are at one." That got a round of nods and smiles. "Good. Speaking of passes. Six Flags passes are coming out next week. Meg wanted to know if she could buy into our group so we can all get a discount."
"I wouldn't mind," Throttle agreed, sipping his soda. "Eat." Xander dug into his food, clearly hungry. "No lunch?" he teased.
"No, but that was at one. I didn't have a chance for a snack." He ate another bite. "My guys knew what we were building. They're pretty clued in and no one gave me funny looks. How did the first day on the house go?"
"Good," Vinnie agreed. "They're working on the wider back part first. We got it mostly framed and set up. That full crew is *good*."
"It should be. They're used to working pretty well. How's my replacement?"
"Hodgekiss had it, but then he got a call and Richardson took over. His daughter got bad results today," Modo said quietly.
"I'm sorry to hear that, Sheila's a great kid," he sighed, shaking his head. "I'll call or write him later this week." He sighed again, but then perked himself back up. "I might know something...." He considered it. He'd mention it to the father, just in case he didn't realize that there were demonic doctors in town who might be able to help some. "So, how long were they estimating after the first day?"
"Probably not more than a few weeks," Throttle told him. "That extra bathroom would be the most destructive thing. They'll have to dig up space for the lines and run them." He ate a bite of food. "How about yours?"
"I'm thinking three months, though the official one was four. Usually my crews come in under budget and under time instead of over." That got some nods. "Plus, I've got some pretty good workers on both shifts. The night guy and I see eye-to-eye on most things. So does Trisha. Oh, we're going to be doing that Sunday chat thing."
"No dating," Vinnie teased.
"Not dating." He punched him on the arm before eating another bite and chewing. "All four crew chiefs. That way we stay in contact." That got a grin from Throttle. "It'll only be for a few hours and this means less hours at night, except around payday."
"That's fine, Xander. We know you're not abandoning me. What's after this one?"
"We've got seven jobs waiting, six crews about to stop, so whichever's left if the other crews don't get there first." That got a round of nods. "This is the busy season. Oh, I've scheduled myself two weeks of vacation in late July." Throttle did grin at that. "So we're taking one, even if we only stay here."
"We can probably hit the road," Throttle offered quietly.
"We heard from Stoker today," Charley said after a short silence of everyone eating. "Spike is fine and healthy. His baby boy's a lot like him and likes to stare at his mother too." Xander grinned at that. "Anya loves her brother, she keeps hugging him and trying to take him. She's fully walking now and they've had to install a heavier door so she can't push it open and get outside. She apparently tried to go for a walk without her parents. She was found a few feet outside the front gate of the base."
Xander snickered. "Good for her. Any other good news? How's the crasher?"
"She's fine. Enamel's still babying her," Throttle admitted with a small grin for him. "We told Stoker about her and he said she'd have to stay for a bit, but that doesn't seem to bother either of them. She smacked him when he started in on himself and he only stared, then apparently kissed her. So they're good together."
"Excellent. I have his number on my desk for 'in case of emergencies call first, then the spouse'." He ate another bite. "That way we don't have any problems if I get seriously hurt again." That got some nods. "Anything else happen today?"
"Yeah, Dawn skipped," Vinnie said dryly. "Rimfire talked her into a picnic."
"Didn't she have a test?" Xander asked. Vinnie nodded. "Did she at least take it?"
"Yeah, she remembered it during the picnic and he brought her back for that then drug her off again. That's how we found out she had skipped. The headmistress called."
"Hmm. We'll be talking later."
"Already done," Throttle told him with a wink. "She's grounded all weekend and can only go on rides to and from school. She thought that was really unfair so I offered her a month without weekends instead and she decided it was okay. I also made Rimfire move back to his own room."
"'Bout time," Modo agreed.
"They're quieter when he doesn't have to sneak into her room," Xander said dryly. "He needs to learn not to wear his boots when he's sneaking." That got a light blush and some laughter from Charley. "He tripped over a cat the last time, woke everyone up."
"I thought that was you," Modo said, staring him down.
"Nope, he begged and pleaded for me not to tell you and your mother that it was him. Since she just went home, I think it's safer now."
Modo shook his head. "I've got to talk to that boy again. He hasn't claimed her yet."
"She's not legal for fully claiming by earth standards until her birthday, big fella," Throttle reminded him. "Xander, if you don't finish up, I'm putting you back into my lap." Xander started to eat again. "You too, Charley."
"Vinnie does that well enough," she taunted, but she did start eating again. "What's on for tonight?"
"Movies," Xander said before anyone else could suggest stuff. "We haven't had one in a while."
Modo nodded. "Sounds good to me. Throttle?"
"Sure. Plenty of opportunities to cuddle or give backrubs." Xander grinned at him. Vinnie leered at Charley. "Not those sort of movies, Vinnie."
"We could probably find your stash again," he taunted. "Xander, Carbine's back, and she's pouting. Her man refused to try new things so they broke up."
"So she's changed?" Xander asked Throttle, who nodded. "Good for her. It'll make her happier."
"It'd have to," Throttle agreed. "He was one of those that couldn't even stand the lights on." He shuddered. "She's still a bit prim and proper, but she'll find someone else. She's got people panting after her already."
"She seems to like my boss."
"I don't think he can run the company from Mars and she won't give it up, Xan," he said gently.
"Besides, he's soothing the ache of her dumping him anyway," Vinnie said cheerfully. He nodded across the room. "Unintentional."
Xander glanced over then grinned and went back to his dinner, eating again. He was hungry. When he was done he stretched and yawned. "Hurry up, guys. Let's go watch movies. Charley, you want rental privileges?"
"Sure. Action?" They all nodded, they were guys after all. "Fine, but I'm getting one comedy."
"Fine," the guys groaned.
"Get a funny romance or something," Xander suggested. "Something to sit and cuddle Vinnie during."
"Don't do that to me, bro," Vinnie whined.
Xander leaned over to whisper in her ear, getting a nod. "He'll like it. I didn't mind it and it's pretty funny."
"Sure. You can watch it with me if he refuses." She finished her dinner and wiped her mouth, looking at them. "We nearly done?" Modo moved so she could get up and go to the bathroom, which was very nice of him. She came back and everyone was grabbing stuff so they could go. "We paid?"
"Yup, super stud there did," Throttle said, nodding at Xander. He pulled his mate up and out to his car. "I'm following you."
"Wanna go for a ride this weekend?" he asked with a grin. "An overnight somewhere private and kinda naughty?" He kissed him.
"Sure. I can do that." Xander whooped and got into his car, speeding off. Throttle got onto his bike, looking over at Vinnie. "We're going out on Saturday. Don't wait up, kids." He sped off, heading back to the house. Xander would probably want to do a walk- through, but he found him in on the couch, shirt off and stretched out in perfect position for a backrub. "Sore?"
"Kinda. Can I be spoiled?"
"Backrubs aren't spoiling, Xander. Backrubs are necessary." He got down to just his jeans and sat on Xander's rear to work on his back. That's how the others found them, with Xander moaning and arching up into his fingers.
"I thought you said we couldn't get those sort of movies," Vinnie teased.
"You can't, Vinnie, he's just went back to work after a few weeks off. Give Charley girl one, it'll make her feel good too." He looked at Modo. "Let me finish him and I'll get yours too."
"Bull. Sit." He finished off and moved to do Modo's shoulders and upper back for him. The guy was tense and uptight but he could fix that. He got closer to his ear. "I heard from your mother, she's sending down treats with the next ship down." He grinned and nodded. "Don't worry, she said you'll like 'em." He went back to working on the knots. "How long before the tower's finished?"
"His new plan's just now starting," Xander said sleepily. "We've got a spy on our night crew and he's going to try to do something about the ball field."
"We can't let him do that," Vinnie said firmly.
"We've got to wait and see how he's planning on doing it before we rush in and cause chaos, mayhem, and destruction, bro," Throttle reminded him patiently.
"Fine, spoil my fun," he complained, going back to Charley's arms.
"There's no monsters yet," Charley offered.
"That's a nice change," Throttle agreed. "Of course, I'm expecting that to change." He patted Modo's back. "Okay, someone put in a movie."
"Want to get the romantic comedy out of the way first?" she teased.
"Whenever's good for you and the baby," Xander agreed.
"Democratically speaking," Modo interrupted, "the three studly, action oriented mice here don't really do romances, ma'am."
"It's funny, Modo. Trust me, it's really funny," Xander said with a yawn at the end. "You'll be laughing by the end. Or she can watch it later, after you crash."
"Fine," he complained. "It'd better be funny."
Xander leaned down. "I've been forced to sit through all sorts of dress movies, Modo. I've sat through so many movies where the girls were sobbing and I was wondering how people got into those corsets and got them that tight. I had to sit through Howard's End and *every* Helena Bonham Carter movie *ever* made in one sitting. You'll like this one and even I laughed."
"Yeah, but cool superheros like us don't watch chick flicks," Vinnie whined. Xander kicked him, making him wince. "OW! Meany!"
"Put it in first," Xander told her. "If they can't stand it in twenty minutes I'll watch it with you later."
"We're strong enough to stand twenty minutes," Throttle admitted. "It won't weaken our super stud immune system."
"Fine," Vinnie complained, slumping down some. Charley got up and put the disc in and turned it on. She came back and snuggled into his side, turning on the disc once it got to the menu.
"Down With Love?" Throttle read, shaking his head. "Eww." Xander stroked the inside of his thigh and he piped down. They introduced the hero and he raised his eyebrows. "Obi Wan?"
"Yeah, as a super lady's man," Xander said smugly.
Modo tipped his head to the side, watching as the movie went on. Then the female lead was introduced. He tipped his head the other way. "She's perky."
"And she's a brat." Dawn came in. "Sit your grounded ass down, daughter."
"Fine," she complained, sitting between Throttle and Vinnie. "Down With Love?" She looked at Xander. "A chick flick?"
"We offered to sit through it for twenty minutes," Throttle said grimly. Vinnie snickered as the guy tried to call off their date. Then it happened again. And again. And she reacted. "Huh. Took her that long?" Vinnie and Xander both pinched him and he realized he was outnumbered. Charley was leaning against Vinnie's side and was stroking his stomach under his bandoliers. Dawn was curled on his other side and doing the same thing on his other side. Xander was curled into his side and was giggling now and then while teasing a patch on his stomach. Modo was snickering. Throttle sighed and watched the stupid chick movie. He guessed it wasn't *so* bad as chick flicks went, but really. He watched her turn it around on him and did laugh at that. She planned pretty well. The hand shifted and now the patch of stomach was just below his bellybutton, which was exposed by how he was sitting. He looked down and kissed Xander on an antenna, getting a twitch. He went back to watching her going back to destroying the guy's life to make him change. Then he snapped and went after the girl, who was miserable, until he got his way. Then there was a song at the end that was kinda funny. "It wasn't *so* bad," he admitted.
"There's a blooper real," Charley offered, turning on the extra menu and got into it. That did get more laughs.
"If there's more like this I guess it can happen now and again," Vinnie admitted quietly.
Dawn kissed him on the cheek. "Love Actually is kinda cute but it's one of those odd ones that follows a few people, including stand-ins for dirty movies that are doing things so they can set the lights."
"Not tonight. I'll lose my manly man license if I watch another one within the next month," Vinnie said, looking at her. "Studly men get weaker when we have to watch girly movies. Then what would you do when you need things moved?"
"Ask Modo," she said with a sweet smile.
"Ah! He'd be weak too," Vinnie said smugly.
She kissed him on the cheek and gave him a hug. "Fine, I'll wait a few weeks to make you watch that one, but then I'll tie you up and force it on you." He shook his head. She nodded. He shook his head and she nodded, nodding at his hands, which were now handcuffed. "See?" she asked with a grin, getting up. "I'm going to change. I'll be right back."
"You've got five minutes," Xander warned.
"I'm not going to do anything!"
"You should have thought about that before you skipped. No sex for a week. That is part of being grounded."
"Fine," she complained, heading down to change clothes. She found Rimfire putting something in her dresser. "You did the laundry?"
"I had to do some and I noticed some of yours needed done." He kissed her. "What's going on?"
"Movie night and Xander said we can't have any nookie until I'm ungrounded." She pouted at him.
He kissed her gently. "It's only fair. It is a privilege and we did get caught breaking the rules. It'll just make the next time one of those great, explosive, times that make you shake and shiver and beg." He smirked at her. "What're we watching?"
"More guy movies. Charley got her chick flick." She pulled out her pajamas and smiled at him. "I'm changing."
"I've seen it."
"Rimfire, I'd get your tail up here," Modo yelled. "I want to talk to you!"
"Coming, Uncle Modo." He headed up the stairs with a sigh. He saw his uncle, and gave him a small pitiful look. His uncle's frown got turned up. "Sorry. It was just a picnic."
"Next time, skip the test too," Xander said dryly. "We might not have known about it otherwise." He smirked at him. "No sex, no cuddling, no kissing for more than a gentle, no-tongue, no-touching kisses, you sleep in your own room, and we'd better not hear you jacking off until after you're both ungrounded."
"But Xander!" he whined. Xander stared him down. "Yes, sir. Uncle Modo?"
"No, I agree. Cuddlin' is a privilege and you've lost it by breaking the rules. You follow the rules, you know that."
"Yes, Uncle." He sat down, curling up against his side. "I'm sorry."
"You're young, you're supposed to do wild and crazy things that make us cringe if we'd ever find out about them," Throttle told him gently. "I agree, she's got the same rules and those aren't that bad. We could be really mean and make her wear clothes that have *collars*."
"Eww," Rimfire moaned. "I'm sorry."
"So, how much was your fine for having sex in the park?" Vinnie asked with a smirk.
"Fifty bucks, twice," he said grimly. "Already paid."
"Good," Modo said, staring him down. "How did you get caught?"
"Twice?" Vinnie asked.
"The cop found us the first time playing in the water and I was playing with her and the next time we were deep in the forested section and on my bike and he found us again. I swear, he was like a magnet for sex."
"Maybe he's part incubus," Xander said dryly. "Don't feel bad, you're not the only one who gets those."
"At least ours came down," Throttle said dryly. He patted Rimfire on the head. "Relax. It's only a week. You can wait that long."
"You couldn't," Rimfire reminded him.
Throttle smirked at him. "Yeah, but I'm an adult with a Xander. You may have a near- Xander in Dawn, but it's not quite the same thing."
"It can be two weeks," Modo offered.
"Never mind," Rimfire said, slinking down against his uncle's side. "I'll behave."
"Good idea," Vinnie said smugly. Charley pinched him and he winced. "Ow, sweetheart! Don't abuse me. I can't be sweet to you if you abuse me." He kissed her, tangling his fingers in her hair.
"People, no sex in front of us if we can't have any," Dawn complained as she came up in her pajamas. "It'll be hard enough holding off without the living porno channel that's you two and Xander and Throttle's own gropey peep show." She flopped down between Vinnie and Throttle again. "No kissing?"
"Brief pecks, nothing else. No wanking off either," Xander said dryly. "If I have to hear that one more time I'm going to start screaming."
"Bad enough you were loud, you woke us up," Throttle agreed. "It was creepy."
"Definitely things we didn't want to know about you," Modo agreed. "Or what you two do."
Both teens blushed and nodded.
"Thank you," all the mice said.
"Non-chick flick, Charley girl?" Throttle asked.
She got up and changed the disc, putting in Heavy Metal, the animated movie. "There, the only chicks are firing guns or victims." She flopped down, watching Vinnie's reaction. His mouth fell open and he was drooling so she pushed his chin up, making his teeth clink together. "Don't even think about it," she said in his ear. "The baby won't fit into those. Besides, some day *she* will be Dawn's age and wanting to wear those."
He looked at her. "She'd better not. Our daughter can wear real clothes. Nothing worse than Dawn's leather and velvet outfit." He kissed her, making her moan. "If a daughter of ours wants to wear an outfit like that, I'm going to be grounding her tail to the house and possibly nailing it to the bed."
Throttle looked down at her. "If we ever find a kid of yours in a chainmail bikini, we'll drag her home after putting clothes on her." Modo nodded, grinning at them.
"Oh, I don't know, I'd probably teach her why it was wrong first," Xander said dryly. He looked at Dawn. "Didn't it work for you?"
"Yeah, bringing me to that strip club and letting the girls tell me all about my future if I continued to wear stuff like that one outfit of a bikini top and skirt was more than enough to make me wear full pants, a turtleneck, and a jacket in the middle of July."
"You did what?" Vinnie asked, staring at Xander.
Xander pulled out his wallet and handed over the picture. "She wanted to go out in that outfit for a night with her friends at the mall. I took her to the nearest strip club and let the girls there tell her alllll about being one of them or working on her back for a living since she looked like she was." He grinned at him. "It worked."
"It did," Dawn agreed, nodding quickly. "I had no idea those girls had it so badly." She shuddered and Vinnie pulled her closer to cuddle. "I don't care if I'm fucking starving, homeless, and going to die if I don't get a bite of food, I'm never hooking or stripping."
"It'd never come to that," Throttle said gently. "We're here." She gave him a hug. "Don't worry, we'll feed you even if we're mad at you. That's what family does." She nodded, relaxing against his side. He looked at Xander. "Graphic?"
"Yeah, to say the least," he said dryly. "One of the girls had recently had...issues with one of her customers. Her boss said it was her fault. Her former customer had a bit of a problem," he shared with a smirk. "Dawn got told all about the bad side of the trade and learned a lot that night." She nodded. "Which is why she won't be doing things like that."
"Nope, not me. Not this Dawn. I may be hot enough but I don't want to live like that. I don't want to have to drink to do my job, I don't want to drink for a living period. I don't want to turn my body into a commodity. I don't want to make it a cheap thing. I never want it to be like that."
"As long as it isn't your intention, it won't happen," Xander reminded her gently. She nodded. "I sincerely doubt Rimfire would allow that sort of thing to happen." She relaxed and nodded. "Now, do we have to talk about you and the bad things? Thinks like the black lace outfit?" She winced and shook her head quickly. "Good. We'll be doing another clothing thing this Sunday. Just in case." She nodded, curling up into Throttle's side. "Good girl."
"Lace thing?" Throttle asked.
Xander got up and went to get it, bringing back the spider-pattern black lace bodysuit and the simple skirt she had worn over it. He held them up.
"I liked it," Rimfire said weakly.
Vinnie looked at her. "How were you not showing everything through that?"
"The two spiders covered my nipples," she admitted sheepishly.
"Uh-huh. No, Dawn."
"Crotchless too," Charley noted, smirking at Xander. "I've seen those. Are they comfy, Dawn?"
"Not really and there was a bad breeze on the way to the club." She blushed bright red and hid her face in Throttle's vest. "Sorry."
"Oh, we'll be going through those," Vinnie promised. He held out a hand and Xander tossed it over, so he handed it to Charley with a grin. "Just the once?"
"I may love you but I'm not putting on something that trashy, Vinnie. If you have to cover up the outfit to be decent, it's not to be worn."
"You'd look cute in it," Vinnie offered. She gave him a dirty look and shook her head. "Please?"
"No!" She took it and stuffed it under the couch cushion. "Not going to happen." She stole a kiss. "Someone turn on the movie."
Throttle nuzzled the top of Dawn's head, making her look up. "You're supposed to be wild, but not quite that wild. Nothing that would get you on one of those 'Girls Gone Wild' tapes." She nodded, snuggling in again. "Xander?" Xander came back, curling up on his other side, handing Dawn back her skirt. "I've seen hankies bigger than that."
"We'll see," Throttle told her. She sighed and nodded. He kissed her forehead then Xander's. "Movie?"
Vinnie grabbed the remote with his tail and flipped it on. "There, proper manly men movies." He stopped, looking confused. "Men in Tights? What's this?"
"Mel Brooks," Xander said, bouncing. "Comedy!"
Throttle kissed him, making him moan and quit bouncing. "We'll see. Give it the twenty minute test." Vinnie sighed and did so, and started to giggle a few minutes later. Modo was already laughing by the fight scene on the log over the river. Throttle was snickering by then too. Xander beamed up at him. "Fine, I like this." Xander gave him a kiss. "Fine. Any more of them?"
"Spaceballs," Charley offered. "History of the World Part 1."
"No Blazing Saddles?" Dawn asked. "I'm shocked."
"I hate fart jokes," Charley said dryly.
"Shh!" Vinnie demanded.
"OOOOOH! Dance number!" Xander shouted, bouncing again a bit later.
Everyone stared at it, and burst out laughing. They'd have to try more of his stuff. Though, Throttle would have to tie Xander down apparently. He solved that by nudging Dawn to curl up on Vinnie and he laid Xander down, using him as a pillow. He was covering him from thigh to neck and he was still bouncing. But that was okay. He wasn't shaking the whole couch now. Charley bolted for the bathroom and Vinnie stopped the tape. "Sorry, but we can wait, right?"
"Sure, Vinnie," Xander agreed with a grin. "Not gonna help?"
"She swatted me the last time." He curled up against Dawn, looking down at Uncle and Nephew curled up together. "You two awake?" Modo nodded, grinning back at him. Charley came out and curled up against Vinnie's chest, getting comfortable. He restarted the tape and kissed her on the forehead. "You okay?" he whispered. She nodded, looking up at him. "You're sure?" She smiled and nodded, so he kissed her and went back to watching. "Those are some ugly women," he said at the cross-dressing scene. "Why couldn't we have gone there instead of to Camelot? That would'a been more cool."
"We'll see if we can get thrown back in time again, Vinnie, maybe you'll get your wish," Throttle joked.
"If you do, you go without me," Xander said firmly. "I do not tamper with time, think about messing with time, or even look at books that mention bothering time. Otherwise the future would change mucho and I'd be the one to blame."
"Just like in Back to the Future two and three," Dawn agreed. "I can't imagine what you'd do to the past."
"That is a scary thought," Vinnie said dryly. "We just introduced our bikes to King Arthur."
"I don't want to remember that," Charley said quickly.
"Sure, Charley girl," Throttle agreed, grinning at her. He looked at Xander. "We didn't change any history."
"How would you know?" he asked. "It would seem normal to you."
"Point," he admitted. "Fine, if we go back in time, we'll leave you here." He stole a kiss and they managed to watch the last song. "We went from the saving to the song. What happened?"
"The bigger fight scene, the last few comedy bits, and the wedding," Dawn told him, handing him the remote. "I like the 'everlast' scene anyway."
Throttle rewound it by about ten minutes and they went back to watching the movie. He was back to laying on Xander's stomach. He was a great pillow and he was purring. He glanced up. "You purr?"
"I was yawning."
"Uh-huh." He teased a bit of fur and got smacked for it. He looked up. "What?" he asked.
"Don't do that! I'm sore there! You bit me there!"
Throttle grinned. "Sorry," he said, clearly not. He kissed the spot and went back to teasing his fur, making little patterns in it. He hit the sore spot again and a tail tip grabbed his hand, pulling it away. "Xander," he said quietly. "Let me go."
"Quit hitting the sore spot."
"Fine. Can I have my hand back?"
Throttle looked up. "No?" he asked with a casual, cool smirk. "Do you think you can keep me tied up?"
Xander smirked back. "I'd say yes, but I still have to make it to work tomorrow." He tightened his tail, smirking at him. At least until something exploded outside. "I'm guessing that was a call to the bikes?"
"That was a call to Rock..."
"And Ride," Vinnie finished, getting up with a groan. "So much for a night off." They ran for their bikes, heading out to see what was going on. Xander ended up on the back of Throttle's bike because his car wasn't there. They headed for the fire boiling by the interstate. "What's going on?" Vinnie yelled when he found Micah in Xander's car.
"Junior!" he called back. "Stupid bastard is trying to blow up the sewers!"
"What? Are the reptiles bothering him?" Xander called once they caught up to him. "If you scratch my car, I'm kicking your ass, boss." He leaned forward. "Go right!" Throttle shook his head. "You'd better, there's a new sinkhole in the next block!" Throttle sped up and jumped it. "Fine."
"Bros, stop the dune buggies first, take out the machine second," Throttle yelled.
"Crazy eights?" Modo asked.
"Sure," Throttle agreed, watching as Vinnie and Modo taunted some of the goons in the dune buggies. They were taking it. "What's going on?"
"Junior's hired a higher class of idiots," Xander called. "Jump 'em and hit 'em from behind. It'll break their line." Throttle nodded and jumped the line, firing down at them as he passed by. That did break the line but they fell back to guard the machine. "Okay, out of patience," he decided. He started to mutter, concentrating very hard. Something came flying at him and he leapt up to catch it, landing on his feet on the back of Throttle's bike, his tail wrapped around Throttle's chest for balance. He took aim and fired on the machine, making it blow up and the drill shooting fire down into the sewers stab Junior in the head. The mini Limburger knocked it off and went running around slapping himself on the head. Then he ripped off his mask and stomped on it to put the fire out before putting it back on. Xander tossed the remains of the launcher into his car, then grabbed a gun and started to fire at the goons. The others broke into his fun, going after them with their lasers. The goons broke and ran, mostly crashing into each other when they tried to turn a corner wrong. Xander slowly and carefully slid down and settled himself on the back of the bike. "Now you crisscross and crash 'em."
"Sounds good to me," Vinnie laughed. He sped ahead to chase one down, taunting him. The goon couldn't resist and rode after him, and ran into the one Modo was leading. The bros high fived and Vinnie had to jump Xander's car to get the next one.
Micah pulled to a stop and looked around, then at the weapon beside him. "XANDER! WHEN DID YOU START DOING MAGIC!"
Xander looked at him. "It came with the fur?" he asked with a grin. "Why?"
"I want you to be trained," he said. "I want it in your file." He stood up, glaring at him. "That's a valuable gift and you didn't tell me!"
"You've seen me summon the remote before," Xander told him. He looked at Throttle. "Hasn't he?"
"I don't think I have," Throttle admitted, looking back at him. He drew his gun and blasted an oncoming dune buggy without looking at it. "You're doing magic?"
"Yeah, just little things." He slid of the back of the bike. "Why?"
"You're taking the training, Xander," Throttle told him calmly. He turned and punched the goon stumbling toward him, sending him flying into a building and denting it. He flexed his fingers and looked at his mate, but his mate was gone. "Vincent, find your little brother when you're done," he called, looking at Micah. "It's nothing major."
"Nothing major? He summoned a grenade launcher over a mile away!" Micah got out of the car and walked over to him. "This is something that should be in his file. I want Dawn to figure out what he can do, work on his training, and submit the proper reports. This could be something that could make a difference in a battle."
"Sure, it's another weapon," Throttle agreed. "I got that. Did you see where he went?" They heard an engine roar to life and suddenly the car was gone. He shook his head. "Need a ride back? Modo can."
"Yeah, please. Go chase your boy."
Throttle grinned. "Not this time. Vinnie gets to do it." He watched as Vinnie soared over them and headed in the same direction as Xander. "He needs some better excitement." Vinnie fired his afterburner and sped up further, heading for the interstate.
Modo pulled up beside them. "Motocross demolition derby?" he asked.
"Yeah, probably." He winced at the crashing noise. "I'm hoping he's okay." He tapped the radio. "Vinnie, you living?"
"Yeah! Going a hundred and twenty the wrong way and loving it! Yeah! Another one won!"
"Get on the right side of the road," Throttle said patiently. "I'm sure Xander is."
"I can't find him yet. The other side is slower. Hey! No creasing the fur with nasty metal bullets! Aooooowwwww! Yes! Semi leapt and back onto the right side past the accident. Oooh, there he is, and he's speeding up! Yeah! A race!"
Throttle shook his head, groaning a bit. "Don't make him crash going that fast."
Modo patted him on the back. "He'll be fine. We're talking about Vinnie here." He tapped his radio. "Bro, bring back some hotdogs on the way back."
Throttle looked at him. "Don't encourage that. We'll have to hear about the race. I don't want Xander to be like that."
"Xander is heading to see someone to block that stupid talent," Xander's voice came across. "Vinnie's not going to catch my car, I go faster." Then you heard him shift up and hit a button. Then he cut out because he was out of range. His helmet only had a short range radio unless Throttle was linking in with it.
"Bet me!" Vinnie called. They heard him speed up and then heard him say something to his bike, something like, follow, we're headed for the lake, then his voice cut.
"Do I want to know?" Throttle asked. Modo shook his head. "You don't think he's going to flip from his bike's back into the car, right?"
"This is Vinnie we're talking about," Micah said dryly. "He could brag about that."
"Well, we know what we're going to be talking about for the next month or so," Throttle sighed. "Come home when you can, bros." He looked at the mess, shaking his head. "Modo, give him a ride back." He turned and went home, going to groan in peace.
"Yes! Not street pizza! Awwwwww, yeah! Going two-ten, a new record!"
Throttle tapped his radio. Then thought better of it and let it go. He knew better than to date a white mouse. He had learned his lesson when he was dating Vinnie, and now he was relearning it by dating the worse version of Vinnie. His mother had tried to warn him, but he didn't listen. Or to Modo's mother, and she was usually wise. Why hadn't he listened? He pulled into the house and went up the stairs, finding Rimfire and Dawn together necking. "Two weeks." He moaned and pulled her closer, pulling her onto his lap. "A month, kids." Another moan and Dawn was now rubbing herself against him. He nearly pulled his gun but he didn't want to create a hole that Xander would have to fix. He walked over and picked up Dawn, taking her struggling form into the bathroom to put her into the shower and turning it on full blast and as cold as it could go. She shrieked. "Two months, no sex, grounded." He went back to the living room and found Rimfire was gone. "That won't save you!"
"I'm going to kill you!" Dawn shouted, stomping out of the bathroom. "I'm going to kick your skinny tan ass!"
He looked at her, then picked her up. "Don't start," he said, seeing the fear in her eyes. He put her down. "You know I won't hurt you."
"Doesn't mean you don't scare the fuck outta me! I'm not used to being manhandled that way!" She crossed her arms and pouted. "Mean bastard! It was only a kiss!"
He put an arm around her and pulled her over to the couch, sitting them down so she was curled against his side. "Dawn," he said patiently. "I walked in and you were tonsil deep in his mouth and then you crawled onto his lap to hump him. You two were inches away from going at it again even though you had clothes on. Now, you're still grounded."
"That's so unfair."
He caught her chin, making her look at him. "Dawn, not all barriers are meant to be broken," he said patiently. "The more you do crap like this, the more you hurt Xander." She shook her head. "Do you want me to call him?"
"What did you do this time?"
"Not the point of the discussion but he did magic and Micah yelled at him. Vinnie's with him. Now, go to your room. You are grounded for at least a month. Two months is very possible because you about broke every single rule we just set tonight. You're in deep and Xander's going to scream." He gave her a nudge. "We like you even though you're big enough to be a momma yourself." She shuddered. "I don't care, Dawn. Go to your room."
"I didn't start it," she defended. "I kissed him on the cheek and he groaned and that was all it took." She pouted, looking pitiful. "I'm sorry!"
He gave her a hug. "We still like you. You're still family, but you still broke the rules we set down. We don't set down many so let's try to follow the ones that we do set." She sighed and nodded, getting up and heading for the ramp. "Why did you change?"
She blushed. "Don't ask." She headed down to her room, locking herself inside, just in case another surge of lust overtook her and she went through the walls. She was so horny! She wanted Rimfire and she wanted him now! She groaned and tied herself to the bed, just in case.
Vinnie landed on the trunk and grabbed onto the back of the seat before he could fall off. "Xander!" he yelled, pulling himself forward. He finally made it into the seat, moving the remains of the launcher out of his way. "Hey, bro, mind slowing down so my bike can keep up?" he asked causally, slinging an arm around his shoulder. "This is a really comfy car." Xander shifted down and finally stopped a few feet later. "You got issues?"
"I'm going to get the magic stuff stopped."
Xander gave him an incredulous look. "What?"
"Why?" he asked dryly. "Why would you want to stop an innate gift that can help you and could save our lives? It'd be like you turning into Modo. It'd be *cute*, but not real good for your self-esteem because you're not exactly that big and buff." He smiled at him. "Though, for my little brother, you are nearly buff enough to look good next to me."
Xander groaned and opened the door, then shoved Vinnie out, then grabbed the door and shut it. "It's causing problems. I'm going to have it blocked. It's better for everyone if I do that. It's probably safer too!"
Vinnie hopped up and jumped back into the car, pinning Xander to his seat while he looked into his eyes. "Don't put yourself down again," he sighed. "It bites. I hate it when you do that. Throttle hates it when you do that. Even Modo hates it." He sat on his lap, wiggling his way between him and the steering wheel. "Listen, bro. I know your life has sucked. I know that your past about nibbled tails and blew chunks afterward. I realize that no one gave you what you needed to be self-confident and happy. I realize that all this is new to you and the furry stuff is actually better for you." He leaned closer. "We're going to fix that, even if I have to give you some of my ego." He grinned. "You look cute when you're bragging about how studly you are and it makes your man hard." He looked over as his bike pulled up and rested against the car. "We'll go to somewhere more hidden, sweetheart, then you can rest." He looked at Xander again, staring into his eyes. "If I can lose half of my face and still be the way I am, and you haven't and you're worse, then someone needs help." He tapped him on the nose. "So let's go work on that self-esteem, huh?"
"I'm working on it."
"Yeah, well, sometimes you need a push, little brother. Any brother of mine needs to be able to show how studly and great he is, and then back it up. You do the backing up but you're way too quiet! Brag more! You're handsome! You're hot! Hell, you made me hard, and that says something!" That got a small grin. "There's been no quiet Van Wham's in the history of Mars. Ever since we came into being, we've been a loud, rowdy, destructive bunch. You're one of us now, so let's make sure you fit into the clan. Before we have to tease you and make you change colors." Xander blushed and nodded, looking down. "I know it's a great bod, but stare at my face." Xander blushed more. Vinnie snickered, kissing him gently. "Come on. Let's go, slowly, to somewhere more quiet. The side of the interstate isn't the place for this."
"I still have to work tomorrow and I need to block that curse."
"It's a great gift, not a curse. A curse can't help anyone," Vinnie told him. "You being able to summon the remote control helps me a lot." He beamed. "Now, let's go. Or better yet, get on my bike and I'll drive." Xander gave him a look and shook his head. "Now." He got off him and Xander groaned, but did so. "Take her easy. She's tired. You're going way too fast. It's a good thing that no one was out with a radar gun. Throttle would not be pleased if your license got taken." He started the engine and took off more slowly, heading for a spot he had found a few years back. He parked by the small lake and turned off the car, getting out and sitting on the hood. It was warm but it wouldn't really bother him. He heard his bike pull up. "Come lay down, Xander, stare at the stars with me." Xander parked his bike and trudged over, sliding onto his hood too. The metal groaned but didn't collapse. "Go ahead and rest, sweetheart. You did good, girl." The bike leaned against the car and beeped happily. "Thanks." He looked at Xander. "You done with this bout of fear?"
"I'm not scared."
"If you weren't scared, you'd have stayed around." He pulled Xander against him and cuddled him. "Now, what are you afraid of us learning, Xander? That you're skilled? We already knew that. That you've got some skills that make people stare in shock and horror? Eeh, so does Modo." He gave him a gentle squeeze. "When did you start using magic?" he asked gently.
"I don't know," he sighed. "Maybe back in high school? After the First Slayer spell? Not a clue. It's not really helpful and I don't like to freak people out."
"Did it freak Micah out?"
"I saw the look on his face, before he figured out it'd be useful. I'm tired of being useful."
Vinnie looked at him. "You're not a tool to us. Each of us have our skills and our gaps. We fill in the gaps of each other, that's why we work so well together. You fill in the few remaining gaps that we had."
"You guys don't need me for that!"
"Bull," Vinnie said seriously, tipping his face up. "You do make a difference in the group. You're needed and not just as another gunhand. You're more than that, Xander. Especially to Throttle. If that's all you were, you'd be living at your own place and probably not getting rides on our bikes, much less allowed to ride our bikes." He gave him a squeeze. "Now, what's really wrong?" He stared into the brown eyes. "You don't have your contact in."
"It fell out earlier." He shifted back but Vinnie pulled him closer again. "I'm not thinking about that at this moment."
Vinnie smirked. "You're trying to distract me," he taunted. "Won't work this time." He nuzzled him on the cheek. It was a move that was done between siblings and parents and kids. Xander blushed. "We're a tight family but not that tight, bro," he taunted, nuzzling him again. "That's how parents soothe their kids." He stroked his other cheek. "Now, tell your big brother what's wrong." Xander groaned and nodded, leaning forward. He touched their antennas together, showing him. Vinnie dove in, looking at the clutter he could see. "You *would* give me a cleaning task," he said sarcastically. He took a deep breath and blew, exposing them once the dust was gone. He saw the jumbled, sharp shards of memories and looked up, then considered it and brought Xander with him. "Let's try this together. It's your mind."
Xander looked around. "I don't know what this is and someone could come up and hurt us."
"My bike's there and awake; she's tired but not that tired." He picked up the first shard and looked at it. "It's a partial memory." He helped him clean them up and put them together, seeing what they were. Xander flinched and backed away. "Well, okay. You don't break these; it leaves you places to store insecurities. These, you blow up," he said, handing him the missile launcher he had created. "Go ahead."
"It's not that easy."
"It is. See, the mind is a lot like magic. They both run on belief. So blow it up and it'll be fine." He crossed his arms and smirked at him. "Go ahead. Try that one."
Xander lowered the weapon. "I can't. If I do that then I lose part of my past." He looked at Vinnie. "If I lose it then I'm not Xander."
"You're not that Xander anyway. You're furry now."
Xander shrugged. "Just because I have fur doesn't mean I'm not Xander."
"Point but you've got to get past this. So you either need to blow those memories up or you've got to move on." He saw a flicker of what Throttle had told him, then nodded. "Bro, if we come home and find everybody's body on the floor and you're holding the bloody knife, we'd still probably give you a short chance to explain yourself." Xander looked confused so he turned him around and forced the memory to rerun. Xander slowly shook his head. "That's what they're for. We help you and chase after you and we're there for you." He patted him on the back, glancing at the memories. Some of them were dimmer but some seemed to wiggle and change, showing the same things happening.
He gave Xander a tug and sent him back to his main brain while he went back to his, pulling back gasping. "I keep forgetting how strong the pull of your head is." He rubbed his forehead for a moment, then looked at him. So many of those were painful memories, but he didn't know where they all came from. He looked around, then shook his head and leaned forward, giving him a mental nudge from his own past. Xander watched them looked at him. They traded back and forth for a few hours, finding relatively similar situations, with their own twist. After all, Xander's mother had never tried to tie his tail into a bow. Finally, Vinnie stopped them and looked at him. "So that's why. It's those girls." He patted him on the head. "If you could just get past those girls, you'd probably be fine."
"I'm starting to." He carefully sat up. He didn't want to dent his hood. "It's hard to give up everything you've known."
"Point, but you got stuff that was better." He gave his fur a short tug. "You need to brush that mess. I can see knots."
"I'm still having problems doing my back."
"I'll help you with that tonight if you give me a backrub." Xander grinned at him. "Bottom line it, Xander, they were wrong. Very, very wrong. You're not helpless. You're not useless. You're not just a tool. If you were just a tool, you probably wouldn't be furry." He sat up and looked at him. "You're not who they saw of you, Xander. The same as the slayer brats couldn't see how good you were, neither could those two. If they had been your parents doing that, it would have been criminal."
"Not in Sunnydale."
"Yeah, well, Sunnydale is a whole 'nother matter," he said dryly, staring him down. "There's not exactly a bout of normal people there." He gave him a pinch on the arm, getting a wince. "You're sore?"
"A bit. Nothing unusual."
"Sounds like you're in the middle of a growth spurt." He pulled him closer again. "So, tell me. Out loud."
"It's not nothing, Xander. They *destroyed* you, man. You can't let someone do that. Especially not girls. Girls should never bring a man that far down." He saw a flash and looked at him. "Who was that? And build back up your shields."
"You broke 'em this time."
"Point, rebuild 'em anyway." He let them cuddle on the hood, glancing at his bike. "So, who was that?"
"What did she look like?" Vinnie showed him the image and Xander groaned, leaning forward to cover his face. "Anya."
"Your last girl," he said wisely. "How wild was she?"
Xander looked back at him. "She used to be demonic and her job was to punish men, Vinnie. If she didn't do it, she waxed poetic about it. I heard about things that made me ill."
Vinnie shuddered. "Poor man, surrounded by demented women who want you to be some little damaged boy." He patted him on the back. "All they wanted was a driver, a fix-it guy, and an escort."
"If that," Xander said dryly. "I was more the butler/chauffeur guy for Buffy and Willow and sex slave and money source for Anya." He shuddered. "I thought I was happy."
"That's because you didn't know any better," Vinnie pointed out with a grin. "Then you got here and found out people don't *need* you that way and you panicked a bit, but we straightened that out. Now we're straightening this problem out. I still say those girls should be punished. I've seen some guys *destroyed* by girls, but never one who was so totally brainwashed and then rebuilt." Xander gave him an odd look. He nodded. "You were. They changed the guy you were, punished you when you didn't fit their view of the world, and then slowly forced you into their mold for you. It was psychological warfare at a very subtle level." He stroked his shoulder, not wanting to see him in any more pain. "It was brainwashing. If you had your own way, what would you be doing on a night like this?"
"Staring at the stars."
"So lean back and stare up."
"I, um, feel odd cuddling with you."
Vinnie snorted. "I don't care." He pulled him back, cuddling him into his side. "It's not like it's more than comfort." He felt the blush and chuckled, ruffling his hair. He accidentally brushed an antenna and heard the moan. "Sorry." He nuzzled him again. "Relax. I'm not pouncing and Charley would kill me if I followed through." Xander did relax, getting comfortable. "So, how do we fix this, bro? You've got to be better. You're driving Throttle nuts."
"Maybe that's the problem. Don't try. Just be yourself." He gave him a gentle squeeze. "Go a bit wild. Go get a tattoo, get really drunk and crash at a motel for the night, 'cause you'd probably drive us nuts." That got a small grin. He tweaked him on the shoulder. "Just *relax*. Be the guy you were before Buffy." He heard a quiet engine and glanced back, finding their doctor and his gray furred, dark-haired girl behind them. "Out for a stroll too?"
"We were going to go swimming."
"Go ahead. He's just calming me down."
"I've found evidence of brainwashing from his former friends."
"Friends make you who you are," Enamel's companion, Shell, said gently. "They're the people that you mold yourself around."
"His destroyed his self-esteem, make him subservient, made it so he was there to fetch, carry, drive, and fight, but then they made fun of him for fighting." He stared her down, then looked at Enamel. "How do you get over something like that?"
"Quit talking about me like I'm not here," Xander complained. Vinnie stroked the back of his head, making him groan and purr. "That's nice, but quit it anyway."
Vinnie grinned down at him. "Just getting a professional opnion, little brother." He looked at Enamel. "Did we tell you she's started morning sickness?"
"Yeah, you did." He looked at Xander, then at Vinnie. "How bad was it?"
"Dude, it's bad. Can I show him, Xander?" Xander shook his head so Vinnie went back to his massage. Xander groaned and pushed back into his hands. "Just one?" Xander shook his head again but it was weaker. "Just the zombie thing?"
"I looked good in that, go ahead."
Vinnie waved him over and showed him. "All the time."
"That wasn't healthy," Enamel admitted. He saw what Vinnie was doing and it gave him an idea. "Hey, Shell, what's that massage technique you were showing me?"
She got off the back of his bike, coming over to help. "Growth spurt?" she asked sympathetically. Xander nodded. "Poor little mouse." She helped Vinnie flip him onto his stomach. She worked on his neck and the back of his skull. She heard him groan, then a quiet, soft breath. "How bad?" she asked him. He showed her that one incident. "All the time?" He nodded. "Anything worse?"
"His last girl treated him like a sex salve."
"Hell," Enamel groaned.
Shell smiled at him. "This is what I do, Enamel. I can just make them less prominent." She worked on him, going into his head. She came out with a moan and shuddered. "Okay, I've made them a bit less prominent. He built everything he was on top of that redhead's opinion." She looked at him. "He'll be fine, but he needs more positive support."
"He's got them," Enamel told her. She nodded, letting Xander go. "You all right? He's got a pretty strong mind."
"It's fine, Enamel. He's got a few fractures. I can't fix those," she told Vinnie, "and he seems to be bracing against them. Expect some wild behavior. He used to be a lot more fun-loving and a hellion. It wasn't just them." He nodded. "But you're right." She went back to Enamel's side, walking him off. "Have a nice night."
"Thanks, Shell." He worked on Xander's back, making him relax and go back to sleep. "You need a nap before work tomorrow." Once he was done, he grabbed his helmet to call home. "Hey."
"Bro?" Modo asked. "You two okay?"
"Yeah, we've been talking and stuff. We ran into Shell and Enamel. She helped some. Throttle not up?"
"Bro, it's nearly three am. Dawn's struggling in bed."
"Throttle thinks there's a new sex demon in town. Dawn can't keep her hands off Rimfire. She tied herself to the bed and she can't quit trying for him. Him too."
"Wonderful." Vinnie looked at Xander. "Three?"
"It'll take us about an hour to get back. Let me wake him up." He hung up and tapped Xander on the shoulder, earning a moan. "Hey." Xander turned his head to look at him. "Throttle thinks there's some sort of sex demon going after Dawn. She's tied herself to her bed and she's still struggling."
"Hmm, incubus," he moaned, getting to his hands and knees. The hood 'twang'ed and indented. He slid off and so did Vinnie, so he popped it and pushed the dent back. He slammed the hood. "Later, Enamel." He got into his car and got comfortable in his seat. He looked at Vinnie. "Let's go home."
"Sure. I'll follow."
"Fine." He grinned. "Your bike tired?"
"My baby, nah," he said with a grin. "Are ya, sweetheart?" She beeped rapidly. "Let's head home." He mounted up and followed Xander back onto the road. They sped up and Vinnie smirked. "You ready for another race, babe?" His bike reared up and sped up. He heard Xander's cackle and watched as the car sped up. Maybe they'd get home sooner.
To part 26