Xander looked around the house, then frowned. "I'm calling this house meeting to order," he announced. Everyone stared at him. "Tough, we've got things we need to clear up before they drive me insane." He looked at the others. "Yes, I know we were visited by a cleric or whatever you wanna call Wrench. Yes, I know some things were said that probably creeped someone out besides me." Dawn snickered at that. "You, you're in deep shit for not telling me what you were doing beforehand so I could include it into my plans for Giles. Everyone else, ignore the magic stuff, please. Ignore me doing research unless you're helping me relearn how to speak, spell, and read correctly."
"And then just ignore the moans," Vinnie joked.
Xander pinched him. "You, shut up." He looked around again. "Ignore the stupidity of my magic, Vinnie's magic, Dawnie's magic…." Rimfire gave him a dirty look. "Are you actually doing magic?" He slowly shook his head. "Then don't worry about it, but talk to your uncle before you actually *do* anything." He looked around the group. "Can we do that? Please? I feel like one of our fishies. By the way, Vin, how many are missing?"
"I found Tara having a snack," he said grimly, glaring at the cat. "No more eating my fish, cat."
"At least we know she's not pregnant," Dawn offered, glaring at the cat. "I got him those fish. You're ruining my present." The cat meowed and came over for some attention, then went to sit on Vinnie's shoulders, one of her favorite places to nap.
"Fine," Vinnie relented. He looked at Modo. "So, can we ignore the magic stuff?"
"That depends, bro, am I suddenly going to wake up orange some morning?"
"I think you'd be adorable in purple," Xander said with a wicked grin.
"Try it," Modo said smoothly, smirking back at him. "I doubt you could."
"Oooh, I can," Dawn shouted, waving a hand. "I figured out how to do that spell from _The Craft_ to change hair color." She smirked at Modo. "Wanna see?"
"Dawn, do the words 'grounded' and 'no sex' mean anything to you?" Throttle asked dryly. She looked like she was considering it but then Rimfire covered her mouth with his hand. "Thanks, brat. You, no magic at all." He looked at Vinnie. "Your son and his future?"
"He'd better not," Vinnie said firmly. "I refuse to let my son turn into Willow."
"Then make sure he doesn't start using it for the easy stuff and the easy stuff doesn't start coming without work," Xander said simply. "She used to change her clothes with it. She used it to change her hair, the style not the color. She used it to change channels on the tv a few times when she didn't want to get up to find the remote. She used it in cooking so she could do more than one pot at a time while reading halfway across the room. She also used it to travel a few times and then to come back. She did a lot of stuff that the mundanes do by walking, reaching, and driving. Then again, I doubt he'll be able to do that with you, me, and Dawn watching his tail."
"He'd better not," Vinnie agreed.
"They're saying Vic has magic?" Staff asked, looking confused. "Why?"
"They're making comparisons between him and our former friend Willow," Dawn said, snuggling back into Rimfire's arms. "She went bad with a magic addiction and we're making sure Vic doesn't. Therefore he won't be the one doing the bad stuff like trying to end the world out of grief. Of course, if he does, then we'll gladly be there to help him."
"Don't wish that on my kid," Vinnie complained.
"Sorry, Vinnie, being realistic. Hers was from loss of her soulmate. Wellll…I'll be doing my best to make sure his won't be doing anything so dumb as to get dead too quickly. Okay?"
"Sure," he agreed. "I still don't want him practicing."
"Vinnie, if it's natural to him, you won't be able to stop it," she sighed. "You really won't. He could start spouting it off very quickly and unconsciously, then what would you do?"
"Whine, like I am now." He stared her down. "Got it?" She nodded, looking amused. "Thank you, Dawn, and Xander. Let's try to keep him out of that field though, okay?" They both nodded. "Good. Excellent even. Now, where is the son?"
"With the mommy," Throttle reminded him. "Getting a bath so he can get cuddles."
"Oh, yeah, I forgot." He shrugged and settled back into his seat. "Is the house meeting over?"
"No, there's still the matter of who puts the empty milk containers back into the fridge," Xander said dryly. Everyone pointed at Staff, who blushed and ducked her head. "If the trash if full I can understand it, honey, but please. I have to do the shopping and if I see a container I might not buy more milk - and I need milk. Remember, I'm a growing mouse too." Throttle kissed him on the side of the head. "Thanks, babe. Whose turn was it to do the laundry?" Modo coughed and raised his hand. "That stink coming from the washer means you've got to do it again now. Twice probably since it soured so much." He stared him down. "You can ask for help."
"We could get a housekeeper," Throttle offered.
"Fat chance, love. Unless you're going to pay for her?" He groaned and shook his head. "Then nope. We can take care of the house. None of you are bachelors anymore." He pinched him on the ear with a grin. "You can all learn how to clean like big boys, even if you don't like it. Because at least once a week, there's going to be people coming in to visit. Enamel even gave the place a look and asked me how the party had been." All three bros looked embarrassed at that. "So, I'll do my part, the rest of you will do yours, and we'll all be happy and big mice. Any other topics?"
"Yeah, someone needs to redo the silencing charm on your rooms," Staff complained. "You kept us up last night, guys."
"We were in the hot tub last night," Throttle told her. "We fell asleep in there. I'm doubting it was us." Everyone stared at Dawn and Rimfire, who blushed to the tips of his ears and hid his face behind Dawn's head. "Do it on your room. None of us, especially your uncle, want to hear that, Rimfire," he complained.
"At least you were spared it that time," Dawn quipped, totally unrepentant for that. She liked it when they got loud. It meant it was good. "I'll do that tonight," she promised to ease the weight of the frowns facing her. "Remember, some of us do have to work tomorrow and some of us start school next on Wednesday."
"How did you manage to miss having Monday and Tuesday classes?" Xander demanded.
"I'm special," Dawn quipped with a bright smirk. "I also signed up for the longer afternoon and a few early evening classes and mostly online, just in case we have to do more running, jumping, playing, or fighting."
Xander stared her down. "If your grades fall, you will be in deep shit. You will be living in the dorms, not in an apartment, in the dorms, and you will be forced to eat caf food every day for the next four years. Do you understand?" She nodded quickly. "Rimfire?"
"Yes, sir. Is the food really worse than on base?"
"It won't matter, neither of you will have an allowance for things like pizza and movies without both of you getting jobs," Xander told him. "I expect great grades from both of you unless it's something you're struggling in. If the grades start to dip, you'll be living in the loudest, most horrible dorm I can pick." They both nodded at that, giving him sheepish looks. "Do we understand?"
"We're not the smartest of clans," Modo protested.
"If he's having trouble, he's smart enough to come note that," Xander pointed out. "Otherwise, the kid is one who could have joined the Freedom Fighters at what age with computer and intelligence skills?" Modo blushed at that. "So he can do it and he will do it or the foot of righteous father-figure in *her* life will make sure he does do it and won't be sitting for months on end. Agreed, Rimfire?"
"Agreed," he said firmly. "I should be able to keep up. The lessons should be about what I'd have done in high school, if I had gone to a public one." Modo looked at him. "I was tutored while I worked on some special projects for Stoker," he defended. "Grandmomma said it was fine, Uncle Modo."
"Then I agree, you'd better keep up and let us know if you're not," Throttle assured him. Rimfire nodded at that. "Remember, after Xander gets done with you, your gray furred Grandmomma will get you." Rimfire shivered and clutched Dawn tighter. "That'll be the first thing she takes away. The same with you, Dawn," he noted when she opened her mouth to protest the warning. "I will add to it on top of whatever Momma and Modo and Xander do."
Xander stared her down. "Let's try to make a comeback for the Summers women, okay?" he said quietly. "Your mother would be proud that you got into college and she'd be even prouder if you don't destroy it like your sister did and if you manage to finish and make a career for yourself."
"Yes, Xander. I'm gonna try."
"There is no try, only do," Vinnie misquoted in a horrible Yoda. Dawn threw a pillow at him. "Thanks, I needed that." His son came crawling out, naked and wet, and he grinned, clapping his hands. "C'mere, eggbert. Let's cuddle!" Vic crawled up his father's leg and into his lap, hiding himself against the soft, white, warm fur that he loved to snuggle against.
Charley came out of the bathroom and tossed him a towel. "Try to blot him at least. Remember to back-brush too. He's shedding again." She looked at Xander, who was looking a bit sad. "You can have him have one," she reminded him.
"Why? Modo will give me another nephew or niece soon enough," Xander quipped back, smirking at her. "Or you will, dear."
"I doubt it."
"We don't," Throttle and Modo sang in unison, making Vinnie blush.
"Perverts," Charley declared, looking around. "Are we doing another movie night?"
"Nothing else to do unless you wanna go for a ride in the rain," Throttle offered, pointing at the nearest window where a light drizzle had just started.
"Damn it, that guy's window is still down," she said, hurrying off.
Vic watched his mommy go, then looked up at his daddy and shared a grin with him. Mommy was so funny sometimes.
Xander leaned over to rub noses with the baby. " You're adorable when you're acting like your daddy and me. We should take you to play in the park tomorrow that way you can figure out what mud is like." Vic let out a squeal and patted him on the nose, making him grin.
"He's right, Bro, you need to let Throttle have his own kids so you've got someone to spoil that can't be taken away when the parents are tired," Modo teased.
"Some day," Throttle assured him. "Not right now. Not before we're back on Mars for good either. I'm not going to be an absent father."
Xander beamed at him. "When we get to move up there for good, that's fine. I'll start taking applications for you, dear."
"Gee, thanks," he said, spanking him a bit. "Make it someone I'll like."
"I heard someone suggesting to Carbine that she offer," he suggested with a wicked smirk. "She turned them down though. I figure between me and her, we can figure out someone decent enough to bear your future little studly biker mousse."
"That kid will be too cool for words," Throttle agreed smugly. "Like a sane version of little Spike."
Vinnie snickered at that. "I can see that kid now, Bro. It'll be a miniature Xander. A little wild prankster who makes girls cry in horror and fear with spiders."
"I was a good boy," Xander defended. "Almost always." Throttle gave him an odd look and he smirked. "I said almost," he offered sweetly, smirking at him.
"I know that's a lie and I should punish you for it," Throttle said, trying to look serious. "Weren't you the one who helped Jessie prank that librarian at the public library for three years straight?" Xander beamed and nodded. "Do you even regret the many times they had to walk her home because she was crying so hard?"
"Hell no, she was mean to us. Wouldn't let us look at any of the art books with the naked pictures and she refused to stock comics in the library, claimed they weren't books."
Modo clicked his tongue and shook his head. "Xander, you're a bad boy. You really should have apologized for that."
"She was mean," he defended. "She tried to give us poisoned candy the second time we ever saw her. The first time was a school trip so we all got apples. The second time we got candy that had this nasty tasting rat poison in it. My parents were not amused when I puked orange stuff onto the dinner that night and were even less amused when they were *forced* to take me to the ER for vomiting blood thanks to her. She got every bit she deserved before she died," Xander assured him smugly. "We were only giving her mild hell. We could have done *much* worse."
Modo groaned and shook his head. "You're a bad influence. We shouldn't let you around the impressionable ones, like Rimfire and Vincent."
"Me, impressionable?" Rimfire snorted. "Yeah, right, Uncle Modo. Who was it that helped save you guys when I was only fourteen?"
"I was doing that too," Xander said with a grin. "Some day, you'll become just like me."
Dawn looked over her shoulder at her man. "If you do become like him, I'll depossess you too," she promised with a grin. He pinched her and she yelped, getting up and going to sit next to Throttle. She stuck her tongue out and cuddled in, hearing Charley come up the ramp. "You can have Rimfire's lap if you want, Charley. He's being mean to me."
"Why were you mean to her?" Charley asked tolerantly.
"Xander pointed out that he was doing some of the same stuff I did when I was younger and that someday I'd be just like him, so Dawn promised to depossess me when I needed it," he pouted. "I only pinched her lightly."
"You yanked some of the hair I've got to trim again," she offered.
"There is no way in any version of hellish Plutarkian existence that you're going to be furless, Dawn," Rimfire said firmly. "I like being able to walk and sit."
Vinnie burst out in giggles, curling around his son. "Some day," he panted, "you'll have someone like her who does that for you too, son. Maybe even a mouse." He kissed him on the head, earning happy baby laughs. He caught Charley's wrist with his tail and yanked her over, making her curl against his side. "We'll make sure you've got a girl or a guy who drives you nuts the same way Xander made Throttle lose sanity and the same way Dawn made Rimfire lose IQ points."
"Other way around," Modo joked. "Throttle had to learn new skills to chase after Xander when he got upset and Rimfire lost sanity because there's no way my nephew just said that in front of me or my lady."
"Or me," Stoker said from the ramp, staring Rimfire down. "What? Too old to handle her, punk?"
"No," he said weakly, blushing again. "She gets too frisky when she goes totally furless. It drives me insane and then she's going over the edge and I've got to follow and then I can't sit for a day." He noticed his uncle covering his lady's ears and blushed even brighter. "Sorry, Uncle Modo. I know I'm not supposed to say that stuff in the open."
"That's all right, nephew. It's okay to complain to your bros about your girl driving you nuts, just don't do it in front of Momma or other polite women." He grinned at him. "The cure to that is to take away the stuff that makes her go furless."
"I can always go borrow a razor from someone else," Dawn noted dryly.
"Did you bring my spoiling minions?" Xander asked cheerfully.
"No, Spike's still in bed," he said dryly, coming in and sitting down on Vinnie's other side. "I couldn't reach anyone on the comm. So I popped down. Modo's momma needs someone to take care of the twins for a few days while Rimfire becomes a new uncle again. Momma's gonna be busy helping with the new baby."
"What's wrong with it?" Xander asked, looking worried.
"Nothing much. Cell's said it's been a hard pregnancy on Primer and her husband's about useless for anything other than foot rubs and hovering. Cell's about to go back out for a month, Momma's gonna be busy with those three and she can't take the time to take care of Shot and Detail."
Xander looked around. "I'm not here most of the day. Vinnie?"
"Fine with me, bro. I think little Vic here is about old enough to play with someone. Would you like to play with some girls, Vic?"
"They're pretty rowdy, Vincent," Stoker warned. "They've been tearing up the house. Cell's been complaining non-stop about them tearing up the house."
"Bring 'em down," Modo said gently. "I'm sure a bit of extra attention will cure that."
"If not, I'm sure we can figure out how," Throttle agreed.
"And if not, I'll used what worked on Anya," Xander said smugly. "I'll make 'em piss themselves with laughter and show them that they're not the biggest and baddest white mice pairing on the planet."
Vinnie nudged Stoker with his foot. "Just think, some day soon we'll all be living on Mars, Stoker," he said with a bright and happy grin.
"No," he said firmly. "Not until after I die. Throttle, you can't bring him back full time until after I die. Promise me. And that he won't raise Spike."
"No can do, coach. We'll have to come back some day and you're an old warmouse. You'll probably outlive most of us," he said with a smirk. "I'm not staying down here that long. Unless Xander get turned or something."
"Fine, but if you do bring him home with you, you've got to control him. There's to be no horsing around like the last time. No sudden dream trips, nothing like that."
Xander gave him his best innocent look. "Why would I need to, Stoker? All I needed was my bike and those books."
"At least we know he's not going to become M'dreth," Vinnie offered.
"True," Charley agreed. "Wrench did say he had four years before it became totally relevant."
"I'm learning," Xander sighed. "Martian is really hard! It'll take me three years just to get up to the level of the books."
"Do I wanna know?" Stoker asked. Everyone shook their heads. "Good. I'm good with that." He heard a creeping sound and groaned. "Spike!" Spike grinned as he stuck his head around the corner. "How did you get here?" He waved the paper he was carrying and grinned brighter. "From who?"
"Exhaust for the messy, mean one," he said, coming in to pounce Rimfire, since he was always good enough to scream when he did it. Rimfire let out a shriek when he grabbed him with his cold hands, making Spike chuckle like the bad guy he had been. "Got you."
"So we can tell, son. Let's see the note." Spike handed it over and he read it, then groaned. "Okay, the twins are coming, tonight. We need Enamel and possibly Shell. The baby's turned wrong and there's not a damn OB left on Mars."
"On it," Xander sighed, getting up with a groan. He headed for the nearest phone, dialing the number he knew so well. He got an 'out of service' notice and tried it again with the pre-programmed one. "Um, small problem." He called Micah. "Is Enamel moving? No, his phone's dead and they need him on Mars immediately due to a complicated birth." He listened. "Why is that more relevant?" He hissed and nodded. "Okay. Do you have an OB handy?" He shook his head. "No, Primer, Rimfire's sister." He groaned and hung up. "Enamel got sent to Vegas. The ambassador's kids picked up chicken pox." Stoker looked horrified. "He can't leave them for a week. Micah suggested you get someone from here locally but I don't know who and neither did he."
"No military docs?" Throttle suggested.
"OB's?" Xander countered. "If the baby's coming out wrong, she needs a specialist." He considered it then sighed. "Okay. Two things. If we can get the rig working, can you, through the com system, do the birth with a camera and instructions?" Stoker slowly shrugged. "Go make sure. I'm going to be pulling the power on something in a minute." He went into the workroom Boris had him put in, finding the plans he had found and the machine he had been working on. He checked it over, reconnecting the last two screws. It would be giving someone else a psychic headache he was sure. Then he looked around for a power source, finding an adapter lying beside it. He got the receiver unit and powered it up first, using the six six-volts attached to a belt to plug it into. The other he could plug in there. He went to hand the receiver to Stoker. "You're going to have a headache. The more psychic you are, the worse it'll be."
Stoker just stared at him. "What's this?"
"Something Boris and Meg were working on. It does work, I got one hell of a headache from it at work the other day. Those are all new batteries. There's a few more down on the workbench so you can have them if you need 'em. That should give at least an hour," he promised. "Yes, it will hook into the communications system as long as we can get Enamel somewhere near a hotspot for wireless stuff. So go home, find a doc of some sort." He nodded, heading off with the receiver unit. "Spike, stay," he ordered, going to use the transporter right after Stoker. He used the laptop to find Enamel and Shell, finding them together. Then he turned on the transporter and headed that way, grabbing the adapter when he dropped it on the other side. "Bad news," he announced, tossing it to Enamel. "Primer's newest is facing the wrong way."
Enamel looked at the headset, then at him. "What would this help?"
"Put it on. Is this a wireless hotspot?" he asked the guard. Who nodded slowly. "Good, then he can hook through our communications system. Stoker's got the other side, Enamel. He's got a camera, you've got a lens. You can order him however." Enamel just continued to stare. "Boris and Meg, Enamel. We all know I like designing weapons, I was just working on the circuit boards." He walked over to help him put it on. "You're going to have one hell of a headache," he warned. "Or at least I did." He got Shell out of the way and knelt down, plugging him into the nearest outlet and plugging the adapter in. Enamel flinched but then straightened up. "Got it?" He nodded. "Blue button is for speak," he said, putting the control in his hand. "Blue's on top. Red's for mute and it's on the bottom. Let's hope we can save it. We're getting the twins at the moment. Hand it back in when you come back, just in case they need you more." He stood up and looked at Shell. "The more psychic the worse the headache. I'd say he's gonna need some aspirin."
"He's not very psychic, not like you and I," she offered gently.
"This is great, Xander. How much was this going for?" Enamel demanded.
"Not a clue, ask Boris when you get back." He nodded politely at the ambassador. "Primer's third child is turned funny and can't come out right. Stoker's got the other side."
"How many times have you tested this?"
"Personally? Once. My head felt like it was going to explode. It worked very well. I did construction on a site on the East coast. I could only do an hour though." The man looked impressed. "We had Meg and Oz, two of our friends, test it further and it went okay for them. It's only those with traditional psychic mental skills that got the bad headache."
"What's your skill?" the guard blurted.
"The dead love me," Xander said quietly. "They liked to come try me on now and then." The guard shivered. "Yeah, exactly." He nodded again. "Our transporter's hot so I'm heading home. Need me to pass Throttle a message?"
"No, we're pretty good out here," the ambassador noted dryly, smiling at him. "Thank you, Xander."
"Welcome." He stepped back into the spot and hit the remote for the transporter. He looked at the picture again, watching as Enamel sat up again. He activated the transport module and he straightened up fully. "Okay, one limitation," he decided, making a note of that and watching over the scene. "Honey, tell Stoker I've got to keep the transporter active," he called.
"He heard! My mom's got the twins. They'll be down later," Throttle called back.
Vinnie came down to look at the monitor. "Wow."
"Very wow. It works really well. There doesn't seem to be any time lag associated with it either." He grinned at his big brother. "Meg and Boris do good work together. He still said he couldn't turn her, he'd never put up with that odd of a child." Vinnie snickered at that. "It shouldn't be too long." Vinnie gave him a hug. "What did I do to deserve that?"
"You're one of the good guys, Xander. You've deserved more than one."
"They're much better than medals."
Vinnie smirked at him. "Next time I'll tell Carbine to hug you instead." He bounced away before Xander could swat him and ran off laughing.
"POOOOOOOOOOOFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF!" Vic shouted.
"Son, you've got to call me something else," Vinnie called back as he walked back up the ramp. "We have got to teach you more words, son. I'm not a poof. Throttle is a poof, not me."
Throttle looked over at him. "Some day soon, I'm going to get you for that, when your son and girl aren't around."
"Sure, you say that now, but then who'll keep your energy ball of a husband busy when you're trying to read?" he taunted, smirking at him.
"You'd do it anyway, you'd be bored at the same time," Modo reminded him.
"I heard that," Xander called up. "Keep it up; remember, I've got ADHD and I've kept it under control so far! I can quit doing that."
"What's ADHD?" Rimfire asked Dawn.
"A very bad thing," she said seriously. She suddenly grabbed her forehead and bent over, trying to make the pain stop. "Seal, I so did not need to see that!" she shouted. Then another vision hit her and she squeezed her eyes tightly shut, memorizing it. She glared at Rimfire. Then at Vinnie. "There's a book we don't have, but I think it has a spell to protect the kids more from the Powers."
"Then when it's time, far in the future, we'll do that," Rimfire agreed happily. "We'll find the book when we go home on leave right before the holidays."
"Sure," she said weakly, leaning into Throttle's side. "The other one was Xander being asked how he kept up with his harem. He said he had ADHD so it wasn't that hard."
"He had a harem?" Modo asked.
"He'd better not," Throttle said firmly.
"It could have been all the kids," Rimfire offered. "A harem of little people following him around." Everyone stared at him. "He dotes on them and they do follow him," he defended. "I'm sure Detail, Shot, and this new one will too."
"Possibly," Modo agreed. "Detail and Shot liked him enough to not dirty their diapers on him," he reminded Vinnie.
"Wish my kid would like me like that," he sighed, looking at his son, and his very low hanging diaper. "Son, I know low riding hip huggers are in fashion but not in diapers." He picked him up and took him into the bathroom to clean up.
"At least I got him into one," Charley called. "It took me nearly ten minutes to do just that." She looked over at Dawn. "It was the kids, right?"
She grinned and shrugged. "Not a clue." She got up and went to find something for her head, then went to the library to make sure they didn't have that book yet. She found it on the library table with a rose on top of it and smiled, sitting down to read over the spell. She'd have to do it once they went to Mars, and the child would have to be conceived up there, otherwise all bets were off, but she could do that. Someday.
Throttle walked into the ambassador's house, nodding at the guard. "I was called."
"He's out back," he offered, pointing the way. "How's Vinnie's son?"
"Horrible and rotten, the way his father and my man make him," he said smugly, smirking at him even. "Ride free." He headed out back, tapping as he opened the door. "You yelled to see me? More problems?"
"No, Throttle, come sit with me for a few minutes," he said quietly, staring out across the desert. Throttle sat, looking at the sight for a moment then at him. "Throttle, there's something…difficult I have to talk to you about and I don't want you to get upset." Throttle shrugged. He looked at the younger mouse, seeing the few traces of gray just starting around his ear tips. "Were you planning on bringing Xander back when you came home for good?"
"Yes, he's my mate. I've claimed him," he said patiently. "Why?"
"Because that may not be such a good idea," Tailpipe offered quietly. "He's not one of us, Throttle."
"He's damn close enough," he said hotly.
"Calm down. I like the boy for some reason, but there's been a few things that you haven't heard about. Anyone who was turned into a mouse is forbidden to breed until they're cleared. A few were found to have been brainwashed into hurting their children," he said, taking a sip of his iced tea. He wiggled the pitcher. "Get yourself some if you want."
"I'm fine." He stared him down. "Karbunkle didn't make Xander. That spirit that the M'dreth protect did."
"Which is wonderful," Tailpipe assured him, "but there is still going to be prejudice against him because of it. That and because you're together and you're not breeding."
"We've agreed, I can have as many kids as I want as long as Xander can get along with the mother so we get partial custody." Tailpipe stared at him. "He's a smart mouse, General. That's why that other General tried to put him down so badly."
"Yes, well, I know it's difficult to think about, but he's still not Martian."
"No, you're right, he was down here saving lives while we were fighting." He stood up. "I've heard enough. Most people respect Xander. After all, he opened the bike factory's doors. He's the one who got Rimfire into the college bookstore so he could find out about filtering technology. He's the one who didn't complain too much when someone put a drain onto one of our faucets and turned it on full blast, giving us a three grand water bill." The older mouse flinched at that. "Most mice I know seem to respect and like Xander, even Carbine. Even Exhaust and some others. Even Stoker. So when I come home, he's coming home. That's the end of this discussion I hope?"
"What will you do when things get hard, boy? You're used to living down here where water is as near as the faucet and food as near as the store."
"We've been shipping food back up there," Throttle said coolly. "I'm still used to it and so was Xander for most of his life." He walked off shaking his head. "I'm not letting you do this to me, man. I don't wanna hear about it."
"What're you gonna do, Throttle? Run like you did the last time?"
Throttle slammed the door he had been opening and glared at him. "Excuse me?" He stomped back there. "I was captured! I did not run! I haven't ever run. Even the two times I had to call a tactical retreat I never *ran*. I regrouped and attacked again. How dare you accuse me of that! You have no idea what you've just said or done, old man." He stomped off, heading home. Then he headed to Mars to shout at Stoker for a bit. Stoker looked at him and flinched, then nodded outside. Throttle stomped that way, slamming that door too. Stoker nodded for the rest of the Council's benefit and headed that way. "Do you know what he just accused me of!" he shouted before Stoker could even close the door.
"I'm sensing Tailpipe just did something quite dumb," Carbine said dryly. "Anyone want to take a guess which part upset him?"
"Hmm," Exhaust said, shaking his head. "Probably something to do with Xander and people wanting Throttle to have children soon."
"Xander's said that's fine with him and that he'd be a wonderful stepparent," Carbine pointed out. He looked stunned, then smiled. "He's looking forward to it according to Van Wham. Spoils all the children around him horribly when they're down there." She winced as something hit the bronze doors hard enough to dent them. "Oooh, no I think this was a more personal insult."
Exhaust got up and walked out there, closing the door behind him. "What did my cousin do?" he asked quietly and gently, trying to calm the obviously raging mouse down.
"He accused him of running," Stoker told him.
"Throttle has never run a day in his life!" Exhaust said firmly. "We were all surprised the two times he called a retreat. We didn't know he knew what one was." Throttle only grimaced at him. "Seriously, son. Now, tell me what happened?"
Throttle shook his head. "If I do I'll start hitting things again."
"I could use a good spar. Want to go down to the gym? As long as you take off your Nuke Nucks, Throttle," he warned when he saw them. "I can't stand being put through a wall anymore."
"Sure," he said, handing them to Stoker and walking off with him.
Stoker followed, needing to hear this for himself. There was no way this was as bad as Throttle was making it out to be. It couldn't be. Tailpipe wasn't that dumb.
Xander looked up as someone called his name, so he grinned and got the equipment for them. "Here you go, boss. Only one small glitch when we tested it on Mars. We had to keep the transporter open down here to facilitate communication."
"Why did you test it on Mars?" Boris asked, looking confused under his cowl-hooded robe.
"Bad birthing problems."
"Oh." He nodded. "That's perfectly acceptable to me, Xander." He smiled and patted him on the cheek with a gloved hand. "How are you doing?"
"I'm fine, boss. I've been fine. I'm always fine, but I think my mate just had a supreme temper tantrum somewhere," he said, looking a bit confused. "I wonder what happened."
"I don't know but I'm sure you'll find out soon enough," he promised lightly. He smiled at him. "Is there anything new you wanted to talk about? How's the job going?"
"It's going well. We're ahead by about a week and a half but this is the slow and meticulous portion of the process. We're starting the wallboarding and stuff downstairs at the moment. The upper levels are getting the finishing touches. Needed to go look?"
"Sure. Take me on the tour." He followed Xander inside, smiling at the subtle ways the boy had made sure this place was going to last, no matter who got into a brawl. The decorative metal panels were going in front of concrete walls. The adobe and textured surfaces were going over reinforced walls. He followed Xander down into the club area and whistled. This was finished and it was beautiful. Gleaming wood, marble floors, the dance floor in a contrasting spiral of colors. He walked through to the earth room, running a hand along the walls and the floor. It was so compact nothing came free. The little alcoves for resting and the bower for the more delicate and fragile demons already had the benches and the overhead plants in. It looked like something you could find in a good indoor conservatory. He smiled at Xander. "I wasn't sure about this idea but I like it. I'm glad we stole it from the other bunker bar you did for us. It's definitely for the more delicate and the less dance-oriented ones or for business meetings."
"Or for trysts," Xander agreed smugly. He led him back upstairs, letting him walk through the rooms that were getting walls put in. most of the suites and rooms were nearly done, they needed final touches, like paint and furniture. They headed up the stairs to the overlook portion, which was another nice, greenish space. The room with the changing windows was darkened at the moment and the final fixtures were being added there. The other part was a darkened hallway for other vampires. They headed up to the final floor, which contained a bar area. It was a nice, calm feeling place already. There wouldn't be any of the wild jumping around up here, no here would be for quiet conversations, drinking to forget, and those who were lonely but didn't really want to be around others. The screens overhead had already gone in and they were padlocked shut. Xander looked up then grinned at him. "Someone tried to fry one of the night shift the night they went in. The night shift sup has the key."
"That's fine," Boris agreed, clapping him on the back. "This is excellent work, Xander." He knew it had taken Xander almost a week to figure out that they were building a second bunker bar off his designs. He'd be giving him full credit for everything for this one as well, even if the boy didn't know it yet. They went back down the stairs together, going to look out the outlying buildings. A small set of shops were going in. Another restaurant was being added in the same area. There was also a small recreation area going in, and Trisha was yelling at someone over there. "Problems?" Boris asked quietly.
"Slackers," she snorted. "This whole complex will be opening at the same time. This area will be done at the same time." Xander beamed at her. "I love this place, Xander."
"Thank you." He kissed her on the cheek. "We love you too, Trish. Who's got the music today?"
"My crew lost theirs by goofing off for the first hour. Yours is over in your building." She looked at Boris. "It's been a long climb, sir."
Xander looked around. "People, get your asses in gear or I'm coming to run this crew," he shouted. "Trisha can have it easy and do mine for a few days." They all ducked back to work, they had heard from his crew that he worked with them but he did push them to work. "Thank you. We've got three weeks to finish everything. If it's not done, someone's staying over without pay." Boris chuckled at that. "They are," he defended, walking him back to his car. "Boss, I wanted to ask for a favor."
"What's the favor?" he asked.
"I want to use our discount at Home Depot to ship some building supplies up to Mars."
Boris blinked at him. "That's not really a favor, kid."
"It is to me."
"Okay. Sure. As a matter of fact, we've got that warehouse of leftover stuff too. Go ahead and send that." Xander started to stutter and Boris swatted him gently on the ear. "Shut up, Xander. It's doing me no good sitting there. I'll consider it a charitable donation and leave it there." He smirked and got into his specially darkened limo, letting his driver take him home.
Xander beamed and went to call the house from his desk. "Honey, put someone on," he ordered when he heard Vinnie answer. "Yeah, like home someone." He waited while Vinnie connected him with the computer and then to Mars. "Hey, it's Xander," he reported. "We need someone to come down and do a run through Home Depot. I asked Boris and he said we can use the company's discount for it. That's about thirty percent off." Carbine squealed. "Did Spike bite you again?" He chuckled. "Sure, just send someone down with a ship. That way if we can find anything you guys could use, they can bring it back. Oh, and Boris said we've got a warehouse full of leftover stuff, like leftover sheets of wallboard and things. He said you guys could have that to." He beamed. "Sure. Tell him to have the moms make a list this month. I have no idea what they want and they keep complaining about the veggies. Laters, Carbine, gotta get back to work." He hung up and hurried back, beaming at his crew. "It's a good day!" They all cheered. "Boris was really happy with you guys and he loved what we've done so far. So keep up the good work, we're opening everything on time in three weeks." They cheered and got a drink before heading back to work. After all, they were ahead. "Someone turn on the music," Xander called as he went to help move one of the decorative bronze plates into place and hold it.
Stoker came back with Throttle, looking around at the happy faces. "Good news? Someone found a new well?"
"Something a bit less good than that," Carbine told him. "Xander talked Boris into letting us use the company's discount to get building materials plus we're allowed to take from the excess they've got stored."
"Wonderful!" Stoker agreed as he sat down. "How much is that?"
"Thirty percent," Throttle said, sitting beside him. "Sorry."
"Not a problem," the other female member said with a smile. "I'm quite pleased with how your mate helps us and he said to get a list from both mothers so they quit complaining about the vegetables."
Throttle did grin a bit at that. "My boy's weird that way," he agreed. "Who's coming down? So we know what rooms to prepare?"
"I was going to send Cell," Stoker said dryly, "but I think she should be staying since the mother's needing her so much." Throttle nodded at that. "Anyone want me to send someone other than my assistant?"
"Chassis is good," Exhaust agreed as he walked in. "Where are we sending her?"
"We're sending her and Pit down to Earth to gather supplies from the building contractor Xander works for," Carbine told him. "He's gotten permission to use the company's discount on our behalf."
"Wonderful! How much?"
"Thirty percent," Throttle offered. "He used it to buy the stuff for our addition too." He shifted, looking around. "If we had a list, we could shop at the same time. One ship could probably carry it all."
"I'll get Chassis into one of the old freighters," Stoker promised. "CHASSIS!" She came jogging in. "You're going to Earth within the next two days. You're flying supplies back, mostly building stuff. Find a ship, requisition it, and find Pit. He and Xander should either clash or get along like brothers."
"We've got permission to pick through their spare stuff warehouse," Carbine told her. "Plus use their discount at Ho me Depot."
"How much stuff are we talking? There's only two freighters we've got operational, boss."
Stoker shrugged. "Not a clue. It's all going to be heavy and bulky stuff though."
"Damn," she said in awe. "It'll take me about a week but I can get the Granite flying again." They all nodded at that. "That means more scavenging for parts and me taking two of the mechanics."
"You could call Staff too," Throttle offered. "Modo could use an excuse to come up and get the kids and see the new one." He looked over at Stoker. "Rimfire wants to bring Dawn up to visit during the holidays. Any problem with that?"
"Hell no," Carbine snorted. "They can stay at my place if his grandmother's is too crowded. As long as they don't have sex, they can share the couch."
The others laughed at that and Chassis shook her head. "Rimfire's got a real girl?"
"Rimfire's dating Xander's adopted daughter," Throttle told her, pulling out his wallet. He found their prom picture. "That's from her prom, which is some American thing to say you're an adult and at the end of your schooling." She sighed in pleasure. "Dawn's a great girl, but she's a pranker and she's got a mouth on her," he warned.
"I've seen and heard," Carbine reminded him. "As long as they don't have sex and I don't have to hear too much swearing it'll be fine. I have no doubt he's going to be dragging her all over Mars to show her the sights."
"Has Xander agreed to let them come?" the other female member asked.
"As long as Rimfire guards her," Throttle promised. "She's not to be left alone."
"No one would hurt her," another, older, male complained. "Humans have helped us too much for that."
Throttle looked up at his old friend. "You tell 'em. I'm tired."
"I can see that. Go call your mother so you can get that list." Throttle got up with a groan and headed for Stoker's office to do that, taking Spike and Anya with him since they were outside waiting impatiently. Stoker looked around. "Someone cut the feed?" The live feed to the rest of the local inhabitants was put on hold and he looked at everyone. "This goes no further," he ordered calmly. "You know the M'dreth and their new temple with that spirit?" They all nodded, looking expectant. "Dawn's part of that."
Willow appeared on the front of Carbine's desk, snorting greatly. "Way to put it subtly, I didn't know you knew what an understatement was, Stoker." She smiled at him. "When can Spike come and play?"
"Not anytime soon," he said firmly. "I don't want him remembering his last life."
She leaned over and flicked him on the nose. "If he doesn't, he can't fight when you're gone," she said simply. "He's got to really be Spike, just reborn as a living, breathing thing with a reason to protect. You have no idea but Spike always protected what was his." She looked around. "Dawn's … well, let's just say Dawn and I share a few gifts in common and I was there when Dawn was turned into a human from her primordial and powerful original form." They all stared at her and she beamed. "And it wasn't even my fault," she said happily.
"What was she?" the other female member asked.
"As in that artifact the M'dreth go nuts over?" Exhaust asked. Willow nodded. "How long have you known?"
"Since before she did. When her sister found out. Yes, they all know down there, but she's a real girl now and is staying a real girl. Oh, by the way, if and when they decide to have kids, expect to have at least that family as new, permanent residents. Otherwise the Powers down there can steal her kids for their own use. Hers and Xander's."
"That's why he'll be a stepparent," Stoker agreed, staring at them. "So when Dawn comes up, she and Rimfire go everywhere together and if not, I'm expecting some common sense and his bros to protect and keep her if Carbine and I don't. Got it?" They all nodded.
Exhaust shivered after a moment. "How is she doing?"
"Very well. She's fully adjusted. She's happy with Xander and he treats her like she wants to be treated, like a human. Though she said she wouldn't *mind* being a mouse, she's not asked me if it's possible or done research into it yet. Then again, it didn't stop the Powers going after Xander's life again either." She looked at him. "Oh, expect some minor magical traffic now and then. He's only got four years to do all his research and he's still learning the basics of reading Martian and still moaning whenever anyone speaks it around him." She beamed. "That's a great way to teach him anyway, Throttle's so smart!" she cooed. Then she wiggled her fingers and disappeared.
"So, that's the reason why we're going to be a bit on edge when Rimfire and Dawn come up," Carbine finished, noticing the light was on over the camera again. She looked at Stoker and nodded at it.
"Yeah, very protective," Stoker agreed. "She's a great kid, as most of you realized during that one assault we did down there."
"She was," Exhaust agreed with a smirk. "She's a wonderful girl. I had realized her potential before but I thought she had just absorbed it." He glanced at the camera then shrugged. "Anyway, it'll be fine. I'm sure Rimfire can protect her from whatever unsavory element might exist to torment the young woman."
"How does she feel about him having fully mouse children?" the other female suggested.
"She's fine with it but she'll be jealous," Carbine told her. "Victor's still mostly mouse. Enamel said that our DNA is stronger than the human's so it's overpowering his human side." She looked at Stoker. "What was that thing you came back with?"
"Something Meg and Boris were working on so you could remotely view an area and give orders. Xander had to keep the transporter locked onto Tailpipe's house to make sure it went through correctly but it worked well enough. Almost no lag in the voice and video functions. Apparently Xander had been doing the circuit boards for it. Oh, Carbine, he did manage to sell quite a bit of hardware to his boss for his weapon's factory. He had fully armed the garage after the military dared steal Charley girl and she had made him because she was feeling a bit paranoid and confined. He even had moving, retractable turret guns on top of the garage. It was a good design."
"Wonderful. Someone really should tell Pit he's going to Earth to look at building supplies and we've got to figure out how much we can send them with," she noted. Everyone sighed and pulled out their copy of the bank balance. They had to do this if Mars was going to rebuild but it did suck. They were warriors, not bank people. Then again, most bank people hadn't survived.
Xander looked up as Throttle came back with the lists, giving him a gentle smile and a kiss. "You all right again?" He had just gotten home for the day, but he would gladly go out again to help him.
"No," he said honestly, "but I can't kill him either."
"You could but you'd have to make sure you could store his DNA," Xander pointed out with a slight grin. "I love you, even though you did go running to beat up Stoker for the idiot. Was it about the human thing or was it about me personally?"
"You being a former human and other things. He accused me of running," he sighed.
"Excuse me?" Xander demanded. "You haven't ran from a damn thing a day in your god damned life," he said hotly. "That mother fucking asshole!"
Throttle looked at him. "It's okay. I dealt with my anger and others are going to chew him a new one."
"No, I'm going to chew him a new one," Xander said firmly. "How dare he say that about you!"
"Who said what?" Vinnie asked as he joined them. He looked at the lists. "That's all they want?"
"Yeah, anything else we add will get sent to the general pool," Throttle admitted, putting the lists down. "Xander, it's fine now."
"Bullshit!" He glared at the wall toward Las Vegas. "I am not allowing *anyone* to insult you that way! Especially not some moth-eaten old mouse who didn't do shit during the war!"
"Whoa," Vinnie said, stepping between them. "Who?" he asked calmly. "What happened?"
"I got pulled over to talk to Tailpipe," Throttle told him. "He didn't want me to bring Xander back with us. He said that the former non-Martians were now forbidden from having kids, just in case someone programmed them to hurt them, and that he wouldn't be comfortable there anyway." He took a deep breath. "Then he accused me of running."
"Oh, hell no!" Vinnie said hotly. "There's no way that man gets away with that!" He looked around. "Modo! Bro! There's a snake in the grass among us!"
"What?" He called, jogging in from outside to join them. "What happened?"
"Tailpipe," Xander said bitterly. "Not only am I not supposed to go back to Mars, he accused Throttle of running."
"That rat!" Modo yelled, his eye starting to glow. "I'm going to hit him this time."
"I told Stoker and Exhaust," Throttle said tiredly.
Xander pulled him over to hug him. "You let us handle this, baby. You don't worry about it a bit. You're safe and loved and we all knew the only thing you ran from on Mars was the women who wanted to jump your tail when you were with Carbine." Throttle let out a quiet chuckle at that. "And maybe some really nasty caf food from what Rimfire said." He kissed him gently then nuzzled him like Vinnie did to him sometimes. "You go rest, let us handle this for you, babe. That mouse is going to pay and pay hard. There's no way I'm letting him stay down here. An ambassador has to be better than that." He walked Throttle off, putting him down in their bed, then headed off to get something from the office. He came out and handed Modo the keys to something. "In the cellar, the new one I had dug, there's a trunk and a case. The trunk's needed up here and I can't lift it, big guy."
"Sure, Xander." He headed down through the new door they had all wondered about, whistling at the size of the cellar. It had emergency supplies too. They were well stocked in case of the next tornado. He found the case in the corner and the trunk next to it, heaving the trunk up with a grunt of pain. Xander hadn't been lying, it was really heavy. He carried it up to the garage and let it drop with a wave of his metal hand. "Sorry, bro, but you weren't kidding."
"There's a reason why it's so heavy," Xander admitted, getting down to open it. He pulled out a few things and put them aside, then smiled and pulled out one last thing. The cloth he had pulled out first was spread out, making sure it wasn't wrinkled. Then he opened the heavy metal thing and stood it upright, then the other two things were put on two of the four corners. "Step inside, but not on." Vinnie stared at him. "Anya's," he said with a small grin. "It's got a half-hour time limit." Modo stared then shook his head. "You wanted to take the transporter and warn him?"
"Well, no," he admitted. "I don't like that though."
"Me either. It works well," Xander said with a wink, "But it's not as much fun to use without her. She used it to take me everywhere. We even did dinner in Italy one night thanks to this." He looked at Vinnie, who shrugged and walked over the patterns on the cloth. "Modo?"
"I'll get him back by calling Momma," he offered. "Then see if I can help her pounce him." Xander grinned and waved, then closed the new metal roof around them. It touched the two pillars and they were gone. Modo groaned. "Whoa, my gray furred momma wouldn't believe this one," he said in awe. He shook himself and went to call her, going to get her help to trash Tailpipe. He would not be welcome anywhere near their family by the time he was done. He heard a noise and looked downstairs as the two boys came back giggling and eating ice cream. "That was fast."
"She built a time-stop into it," Vinnie called. "We were there for exactly long enough, but I still wanted to hit him again."
"Yeah, me too, but if we hadn't come back, it would have been a problem," he sighed, shrugging a bit. "She said so. I'm going to trust her on that one." He handed Modo the extra cone Vinnie was carrying then went to hand his extra one to his mate, smiling at him. "He's very sorry. He's going to be calling to say he's very sorry soon." He stole a kiss then went to play on his computer, waving at Momma. "You sure you don't want flour or anything, Momma?"
Modo's mother smiled at him. "No, Xander. I don't need flour or anything. We've got some desert wheat to grow."
"Yeah, but that would save it for the little kids."
"I know, dear, but I wouldn't know what to do with it," she assured him. He smirked and got a book, holding it up. "What's that?"
"A Native people's cookbook. It tells you how they do rice and flour stuff. I'll send it up tonight." He blew a kiss. "Need Modo? I was going to draw for a bit."
"I'll call him later, dear. You behave."
"I'm always good," he said sweetly, beaming at her. "Throttle makes sure of it." She laughed and shook her head. "Okay, well he *tries*," he defended with a wicked smirk. "Sometimes I'm just too naughty for everyone's good." He wiggled his fingers and cut the connection, then opened up his drawing program so he could work on something else.
Modo went to get himself a root beer, thinking about what had happened later. That way he didn't really have to think about it ever, but the back of his mind would point out anything that was going to haunt them for a bit. Like political repercussions. Then he decided to do something different. "Xander, did you do your Martian yet today?" he called.
"Shit. Not yet," he called out, sounding sheepish.
"Maybe you should." He heard the transporter go off and got up, going down to see who it was now. He smiled and hugged his sister. "Bringing me sanity?"
She snorted. "Bringing you the twins. You'll never be sane again, little brother." She tweaked him on the ear. "Where's my son?"
"Probably having …um, napping," he decided, blushing greatly.
"Having sex with his girl then? RIMFIRE!" He came out of the bathroom with only a towel on. "Well, you've grown," she offered, smirking at him.
"Momma!" he complained, coming over to give him a hug. He felt a small hand grab his towel and wrapped his tail around it, glaring at his nieces. "You don't need to see a naked mouse yet, ladies. You can wait until you're my age. Or older." He went back to hugging his mother. "Let me get into my shower, I'm nasty and sweaty, momma. Then we can talk?" She smiled and nodded. "Good. Uncle Modo, let them go watch the fish and warn the cats." He ran back into the bathroom to get his shower, startling Throttle, who was using the toilet. "Sorry, momma's here with the twins."
"Wonderful. Where's Xander?" he called once Rimfire was back in the water.
"Probably upstairs. Probably somewhere near Vinnie."
"Good." He finished up and washed his hands, heading up to see Cell and give her a hug. Anymore, Modo's family was like his family. It gave him more nieces to spoil.
To Part 55