Throttle signed onto their connection to Mars, dialing Exhaust's seat. He found Stoker instead. "Where's Exhaust?" he asked tiredly.
"At home in bed, it's the middle of the night, Throttle," Stoker said tiredly. "What's wrong?"
"You know those plans you had in case Enamel ever got hurt? You're going to need to use temporary measures."
Stoker stared at him for a moment. "It was noticed by someone that Rimfire was getting into some ancient accounts of tortures, including one of mine. What hit him?" He let a small smirk appear. "The lust beam hopefully?"
Xander walked in and leaned over Throttle's shoulder. "You leave Enamel the hell alone, Stoker," he said firmly. "He doesn't need your brand of shit today and the rest of us definitely do not need to hear you ragging on the person who saved so many lives, including your own and Vinnie's."
"He's a punk," he snorted.
"If he wasn't such a punk, you'd have lost all three of these guys and every other Freedom Fighter and Army mouse who had injuries that needed fixing with mechanicals," he said coolly. "You guys trashed him for trying to find a way to help those of you, like my man, who needed the help, and for not being God. Well, fucking get over it. If it weren't for him, you wouldn't have your tail. Throttle would be blind and probably dead. Modo would be dead. Vinnie would have been dead as a child. Think about what would have happened to the war if all those people who got the benefits of his work had died." Stoker just gaped at him. "Like I said, leave him the hell alone."
Stoker looked at Throttle. "Was he the second victim of the lust ray?"
"Only right on one count, coach," Throttle said, patting Xander's thigh. "You, calm down."
"He doesn't need this shit, Throttle, and I'm tired of hearing it from both sides. Yeah, he's not God. None of us are. Doctors lose patients, even when they try their best and do the utmost and most unusual things to save them. It's not his fault that Mars ran out of the medicines that kid needed. Blame it on the real assholes who were the reason, the Plutarkians." He left, going back downstairs to help him some more. "Sorry, Enamel, but Stoker's the only one in tonight and Throttle told him," he said quietly. "But I chewed him a new one. He thought it'd be funny if you got hit with the lust ray."
"Hmm, I can't imagine that," Enamel said bitterly. "I can go. I've got some limited feeling back."
"If you move from this room, I'm going to pout and throw a tantrum," Xander said firmly. "Doctors make horrible patients, but this time you are and you've taught me a hell of a lot already. Therefore you're going to submit and like it or else I'm going to have to practice my Vinnie-serenading on you. And I'm tone deaf."
Enamel groaned and shook his head. "Xander, there's no reason...."
"Shut it or else." He sat down to work on his arms again. "You have every reason to whine but don't do it because people actually give a damn about you. Or else I will call Shell too." Enamel shut up at that. He couldn't stand to let her see him like this. He couldn't let her see him as weak. Xander knew this. "Good." He smirked at him. "I even swore at the big, gray, old fart for you."
"You know we're the same age, right?" Enamel said sarcastically.
"Yes, but you weathered better. He looks old. It's probably Spike and Anya's fault, but still." Enamel chuckled at that, a real sound of happiness, the first since he had been found.
Upstairs Throttle shrugged. "He's right. If it weren't for his work, all the mechanical parts wouldn't work on us. He's the guy who figured out how to integrate them into us."
"No," Throttle said, shaking his head. "Enamel's still a mouse. He's helped us behind the scenes and you guys did take his work to help us further. Xander may have went overboard by swearing at you, but the gist was right. Enamel is still a Martian. He's not God. We were running out of medicine. He let that girl live for another three years. Yeah, her mother was grieving and she was the last of her family, but he tried to save her repeatedly. Even figuring out how to mix the two serums we did have to keep her going."
"That kid's life wasn't what you'd call pleasant."
"No, but she was alive. Yours isn't what you'd call pleasant most of the time," he pointed out tiredly. "Neither's ours sometimes. Yeah, he could have let her die painlessly but he did what her mother wanted and saved her as best he could. You guys got mad at him for something that wasn't his fault. We had that medicine until the Army botched it up and wrecked that shipment on purpose." Stoker winced at that. "Or did they?"
"They were using it to keep a general alive," he admitted tiredly. "I've known Enamel since primary school, Throttle. He's always been an arrogant asshole."
"So? So're you." He smirked at the glare. "You are. You should have been a white mouse."
"Bastard," he muttered, but he was back to smirking at him. "Fine, I'll leave off him. What got him so we can make plans?"
"The nerve blocker."
"Shit," Stoker sighed, shaking his head. "He's going to hurt for a long time, even after the effects wear off. Tell him the pain will be enough to make him want to rip off his legs. It did me. Tell him...I'll listen if he needs me to," he decided.
Throttle shook his head. "Not his legs, coach."
"What?" He sat up. "Who in the hell did that! That's crueler than usual!"
"Marshall. He got Vinnie and Xander with the lust ray too. Oh, Chassis has him in custody and is heading back but we've still got the older Limburger down here. He was in hiding. You guys got his Karbunkle'd clone."
"How many of those did he make!" he demanded.
"I don't know. The original's down here. So's Greasepit and Greasebomb. So's the older Limburger. Got any strategies for dealing with two lustful white mice who belong to me?"
"To you do they?" Stoker asked smugly.
"Xander's mine and Vinnie's my bro. Besides, we've been a close set of couples."
"All I can think right now is 'thank god it wasn't Modo'," Stoker sighed, shaking his head quickly. "Staff would gut Xander on you. At least you can sleep with Vinnie if you have to. And Charley girl too I suppose."
"Nope, not happenin'," he assured him. "Not yet anyway. Right now, Vinnie's working on a new poem about Xander's tail."
"Poetry? Already?" Throttle nodded. "Damn those two are close. Persevere," he ordered. "It's all you can do, punk. Need anything else?"
"Helpers for Enamel possibly. He can't really feel anything even with the acupuncture they did earlier."
"Lots of little, tiny pins stimulating the nerves," he said grimly. Then he shuddered. "Made me think of horrible tortures."
"Me too. Just the description sounds painful. I'll talk to Mayflower tonight." Throttle nodded at that. "Just hang in there. Remember, it wears off. It will wear off."
"Thanks, coach. Have a better night."
"You too. I'll call soon." He hung up and left a note for Exhaust on his screen, then went to find the top doc. He rode out to her farm, noticing the lights were off. He hated to do it but he had to get this moving. They might not have time if there was another emergency. He dismounted and walked up to the door, tapping firmly but not pounding. He wouldn't do that unless it was an emergency. A very disgruntled and disheveled doctor opened the door, glaring at him. "I know it's late."
"It had better be the fate of someone's life," she warned.
"Enamel got hit with the nerve blocking ray." She blinked a few times. "They got his arms and hands."
"Get in here, we've got to figure some things out." She headed for her kitchen, coming back with a drink for them and sat down across from him. "How bad?"
"Throttle wouldn't say but they're trying something called acupuncture to ease some of it. Xander's babying him." He sipped his drink. "He's got to be devastated."
"If it were any of us left up here, we'd be begging to be shot," she told him. "For a doctor this is spiritual death." She took a longer drink. "We've got problems anyway and he might be able to help, even with this problem." Stoker sat up a bit straighter. "We don't have all the knowledge we used to. Teaching the new doctors is becoming frustrating because so much was lost."
"So either send them to Earth to do the basics and then train them for Martians or do an internship," Stoker offered.
She shook her head. "It's the specifics of Martians that we've lost, Stoker." She stared at him. "We could do an internship. Train them then send the new docs out with the older ones so they could finish their training with what they remember. I wish we had been able to save the old library in Dahon."
"Me too," he sighed. "So much was lost when that went up, including the birth registry." He finished his drink and put the cup aside. "How would that help him?"
"Easy. It'd give him two pairs of hands to order and do the odd stuff for him," she said simply. "He knows and remembers a lot. Plus there's been some advances down on Earth that have helped us improve what we've got to. I don't want medical science to go back through a Dark Age while we recover what we lost."
Stoker nodded at that. "Was it true what Xander snapped at me? That it was his work that enabled those of us with mechanical parts to go on?" She nodded, looking grim. "Why?"
"Because he was the only one working on it," she admitted. "If we hadn't been so uptight about the attack on the clinics that happened right around then, we would never let you guys banish him. Yeah, he lost the kid, but he managed a hell of a lot. Losing one patient is hard but we gained another three hundred, at least, in return. Her mother was insane to charge him for not being God."
"That's about what Xander yelled at me," he sighed, leaning down to scrub his face with his hands. "So what do we do?"
"We've got a class graduating early next month," she said, finishing her own drink and putting it down. "I'll pick out two of the best to send to him. Surgeons with some basic skills in pediatrics and birth problems."
"Charley may be pregnant," he offered, looking at her. "We're not sure." She nodded. "Xander's his actual age again."
"Good. That leaves Victor and any visiting children, the ambassador's children, and any more refugees they get." She gave him a sideways smirk. "It could be much worse, Stoker. We lost a lot but we're holding on. As long as the Plutarkians don't come back, we'll survive and eventually prosper. Our future kids will look back in horror at what we had to suffer but they'll thank us for it."
Stoker nodded. "True. Should I tell him?"
"Please. What about Shell? I know she's up here working in the hospital with some of the veterans."
"I'm not sure he'd want her to know. He always hated being found to be weak," he said, standing up. "It might destroy him if she found out."
"I'll try, Stoker, but she plans on going back within a few weeks. He might not have that choice."
"Fine. I'll warn him. I'm heading down there. Any idea who so I can give him an idea?"
"No, but warn him they'll be cocky brats. We usually are when we graduate." He nodded, shaking her hand and leaving. She got up to call her fellow doctors. This had taken the decision they had been arguing over out of their hands. She found some of them together and gave them a grim look. "This does not get told to Shell," she announced. They sat up straight, it could only mean something happened to Enamel. "He was hit with the nerve blocker. They got his hands and arms." The other doctors moaned and one swore, throwing his glass of liquor. "I'm sending him two of the students to train."
"Fine," the lead of that group agreed. "It can be a test case."
She nodded. "Agreeable. Stoker said he might not want her to know."
"She'll find out soon enough. She won't be kept up here for the next six months," the male who threw the glass said quietly. "We should tell her so she doesn't hear about it by seeing him."
"No, we'll let him tell her," she ordered. "That way it's up to him." They all sighed and nodded at that. It must be a girl thing since they were male and didn't understand it. "I'll need a list of who since they're graduating next month."
"Send down Proxima and Heat," one of the men said, leaning closer to the camera. "They're as trained as we can get them and they'll get their attitudes knocked down but they're our most competent. He can easily mold them into his image."
She nodded. "That's fine. I'm headed to Earth to talk to him. Can you gather them?"
"Sure. I'll have them down there within the week." She nodded and signed off.
Enamel looked up as someone tapped on the door and it was opened. "What's up?" he asked the doctor standing there. "I suppose you heard?"
"I did," she agreed, walking inside to sit next to him. "We've decided to try a pilot program with you that we've been arguing over for a while now." He raised an eyebrow at that and she stopped his taped book from going. "You know the library on Dahon contained the medical database and most of the accumulated knowledge. When it went up, we lost centuries of knowledge without a way to retrieve it." He nodded at that. "We've decided that the best way to make up this gap is to do internships for now. We're sending you the first two. You'll have them for however long it takes, that's one of those things we've got to figure out. You're to train them in whatever you can remember and specialize them however you can. We need surgeons and I won't kid you, we'll need baby doctors and people to deliver children."
"Should I get them enrolled down here?"
"They should be able to work without it. What we lost was the specifics of the Martian system. The generalities we still mostly could teach."
He looked at her. "We've got a lot of stuff down here that you guys don't. Tests, treatments, drugs." She nodded at that. "The way it works down here is you do a four year biology degree. Then you do a two year intense medical study, then an internship where you sample the various specialities to figure out what sort of doctor you want to be. Then you do a residency, which is more like our internships. They could benefit from those two years worth of training."
"They might, but what we need is for them to be fluent in treating Martians."
"Yeah, but a lot of it crosses over. Hell, I've been treating Charley out of their textbooks." She blinked a few times. He nodded. "It's not what I specialized in. I barely remember anything about birth."
"Good point. Fine. If you feel it's necessary. If possible I'd like for them to be able to rewrite some of the texts when you're done with them. Even if they're not proficient in the field and they panic, we need someone who can rediscover things. I know I've donated my old texts, and I'm sure you did."
"I donated my newer set," he admitted.
"You had a newer set?" He nodded. "How?"
"They came out right before I was banished. I already had them on order and I told the bookstore to give them to Sophet to hold and use for a student who couldn't afford them."
She smiled and leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. "You're a great mouse, Enamel. If we'd had any sense, we'd have stuck up for you. It wasn't your fault. Even if she is still harping on that death. Your work and your research saved hundreds of other mice." She stroked his cheek gently. "What do you want us to tell Shell?"
"Can you keep her up there?" She shook her head. "How long do I have?"
"Damn it," he muttered. He took a calming breath, then looked at her. "I can't have her see me like this."
"I don't care."
"I know." She stroked his cheek again and smiled at the mouse leaning in the doorway. "Hello, Xander."
"I heard the words stop and I thought he might need the tape flipped." He looked at her. "More problems?"
"No, but we're sending him some student doctors to hopefully train as great as he is."
Xander beamed at her. "That's a great idea," he promised happily. "I'm sure he can do great things and make them better doctors than the one who treated me." That got some snickers from Mayflower. "Seriously." He looked at him. "I can go tell Shell. Tell her that she can't come down for a bit, that you're going to be overloaded with the students."
"No, she'll never believe you." Enamel stared at him. "I don't want her to know."
"She'll know anyway, Enamel. She's plugged into you like I am Throttle." He grimaced. "She's probably got phantom pins and needles already."
"Fine, tell her but tell her she can't come down until I'm better."
"Sure. I'll tell her that. If she follows it," he said with a small grin.
"Point. My girl is nothing if not stubborn," he agreed with a weak grin. "Go to bed."
"Yes, dear." He went back to the garage, waiting on Mayflower so he could go back with her. "I'm going to tell Shell now," he said quietly. "That way she can throw a fit in the privacy of her home instead of at work."
"That's a good idea," she agreed, patting him on the cheek. "Come along, Xander." He followed her back through and then got the address off the main system, which he somehow knew how to use. She watched as he jogged out of the building and down the stairs, shaking her head. "Damn that's one fast kid. He's got to slow down sometime or even Vinnie won't be able to keep up with him.
Xander found the address after asking one of the bored night cops, and tapped gently on the door. He heard a mumble and smiled, tapping again. The door opened and he was faced with a big, burly he-mouse. "I'm Xander. I was told Shell was here?"
"She's in our guest room. Is it an emergency?"
"Kinda, but one that she just has to be told about. She probably won't be leaving, he doesn't want her to."
"Fine." He went to get his sister up, shaking her gently. "There's a white mouse here to see you."
"No, it's not Van Wham," he said dryly. "It's the one he went to rescue."
"Xander?" She sat up and rubbed her eyes, padding out to the door. She frowned at him, then pulled him inside and shut the door. "What happened?"
"You remember hearing about those nerve blocking rays?" he asked gently, steering her toward a chair. She nodded, frowning at him. "Enamel got hit with one. We're working on getting him free sooner, but he didn't want you to come fuss."
"Fat chance!" she stated, standing up. She glared at him. "How dare he!"
"He's afraid you'll think less of him," Xander pointed out gently. She should know this if she stopped to think.
She frowned. "I don't care if he is scared I'll dump him for having a momentary injury. It's stupid and he knows better. After all, I'm having his mouse! How dare he do this to me because he can't walk for six months!" She started to move and he caught her arm, shaking his head.
"Limburger junior got his hands, Shell. His arms and his hands." She gasped and sat down, staring at him, starting to cry. "We're working on it," he promised, sitting beside her to hug her. "I promise we're working on it. I had a great acupuncturist come in to look him over earlier, after we got free. She's working with me and him on it. We're going to try to get him free sooner, but he didn't want you to see him like this."
She sniffled, looking up at him. "I know how he feels and why," she said. "Why are you telling me?"
"Because Throttle botched up sending the official notice and report, giving it to Stoker."
"Oh." She nodded, swallowing a bit. "Is he all right?"
"He's staying with us for now. We're working on him every day. I'm doing some deep tissue massages. She's doing acupuncture and acupressure. We think we can make it shorter than six months."
"These things leave you more sensitive afterward," she said quietly. "He'll be a lot more sensitive." She wiped her nose on the back of her hand. Then she stood up. "He's feeling pitiful and I agree, but he could still use a cuddle and I still have to tell him about the future mouse." She went into her room, coming out in a bathrobe and slippers. "Come on."
"I didn't bike in," he said, standing up. "You sure you don't wanna put on real clothes in case this goes long?"
"I'll borrow from Dawn." She walked him out to her bike, letting him drive this time while she thought. Her poor baby! He had to be hurting and he definitely needed a more delicate and supportive touch, one who wouldn't coddle him and coo at him. They got back through the transporter with her pass and one of the guards recognizing Xander. Then she ran up the hall to where she could hear a book tape going, bursting into his room to hug and cuddle him and coo over him. "Oh, Gods, baby," she cried, clinging to his chest. "I'm so sorry!"
"Shh," he soothed, wanting his arms to move.
Xander walked in and put them across her back. "She insisted. I told her you said not to." He left, closing the door behind him.
She looked up at him. "I was coming to tell you about the other news that's going to rock your world."
"I won a Nobel prize?"
"No!" She gave him a weak smile. "I'm with mouse."
He gaped, then slowly passed out. Yeah, that topped his day off nicely.
Shell walked off the transporter and Stoker whistled, looking impressed at her outfit. "Looking good, doc."
"Shut up," she growled. She glared at him and he gave her a small smirk back. "I heard what you said about him. You will leave my man alone, Stoker. He's done everything in his power to move on after you guys decided he's not good enough, just because he's not God!" She stepped back. "For that matter, you have no right to whistle or leer at me. I'm a taken mouse and you should have more couth by now, Stoker."
"Sorry, doc, I was just being appreciative of the work you went to this morning," he complained.
"Well, don't! Women are not here to be ogled by slimy little men like you! We are here to do the shit you can't and won't do because men are too damn selfish to try new things! For that matter, Enamel is *much* better at that because he does try new things and he actually does his own laundry." She stomped off.
"Man, give a girl a compliment and get your head torn off," Stoker complained bitterly. "That's the last time I compliment her."
Carbine coughed, hiding her smile at Shell's outburst. "While I agree with her," she said more gently. "Did you notice she had seemingly gained some weight and was a bit happy and glowing when she came out? That was part of her beauty today."
"You can't be serious," Stoker said, sounding a bit flat. She nodded. "You're sure?"
"Pretty sure. Most women don't light up the room they walk into that way unless they're just past morning sickness."
"Then I hope his future kid is as neat as my younger two are. A kid like Anya would drive him nuts."
"I would not!" Anya yelled from outside the chamber.
"We're talking about Enamel having one, sweetie."
"Oh, never mind. He's too grumpy to have a good girl like me anyway. Can someone open the door, they're heavy!"
One of the guards pushed open the door, smiling at her. "Why aren't you in classes?"
"We had an 'splosion," she said with a scowl. "Ramjet and her brother are gross and disgusting and Spike just howled in laughter until he figured out he was puce."
"He was what?" Carbine asked.
"Puce. It's a purply color Dawn showed me," she said proudly. She smiled at her father. "Daddy, Spike helped blow up the school."
"Why me?" he moaned, shaking his head. "Is this 'punish Stoker' day or something?"
"I'm sure we can make it official," Carbine offered quickly. "Anyone contest that idea?"
Stoker pulled his laser and shot out her chair, making her fall onto the floor. "Yes, I do, Carbine." He put it away and looked at his daughter. "Where is your brother and Ramjet?"
"At the ruins." She walked around to climb up into his lap. "It'll take *weeks* to rebuild it."
The other councilors groaned, but were quiet enough to hear Shell going off on someone up the hall. Something about changing doctors if they didn't like who she was dating.
"Yup, she's pregnant," Stoker sighed. "Switch said the same thing to Throttle and the bros." He shook his head and gave his daughter a squeeze. "Go get the teacher and tell her I want an official report. That the kids are going to be punished if they did it on purpose. Got it?" She nodded, beaming as she went to give that important message. Then he quietly called Throttle and Modo's mother. "Help," he said impatiently. "Spike just helped blow up the school."
"I'm coming, dear," Throttle's mother assured him. "Just be a bit more patient and give me time to ride in." She broke the connection but you could hear her laughing before she hung up.
Modo woke up in the morning and saw Enamel was in the kitchen, staring hard at the coffee maker. "Let me hit the can," he groaned, getting up.
"Shell started it before she left," he admitted, glancing over at him. "Rimfire's out for a run with Dawn. When did she take up jogging?"
"It's their tamer version of chase," he complained, heading into the bathroom. He came out a few minutes later and pulled on his jeans, coming in to look at the breakfast already done for them. "Someone does a great job," he said happily, taking a few of the sandwiches for himself. He made a plate for Enamel and got him a mug of coffee. "Milk, right?"
"Not the first cup. I need it straight." He followed Modo out to the table, groaning when he realized he couldn't eat. "Damn it."
Xander came up the stairs and sat down next to him, going to work on his wrists again. He slowly moved up this time instead of down. It was messing up the gray fur but it might help a bit more. Enamel winced but let him continue. He finally got one hand to clench and relaxed his body. That's when the cramp hit him, making him hiss. "I know," he soothed, picking up a sandwich and taking a bite, then putting it in his mouth with a grin. "We're all sharing around here. Except Modo, he doesn't love me enough to let me sneak off his plate." Enamel ate a bite but you could see the humor in his eyes. That had was released and he was able to barely clench it around the sandwich so he could speak. "Good job. Let me get the other side too." He switched over, going to work on that side. It was the stronger one and he hoped they could get him back to basics soon. "Will you need rehab?"
"No, not for this. It'll hurt for the first few days but I won't be losing anything as long as someone works the muscles for me," he admitted, bending his head down to take another bite. Xander lifted his elbow and he nodded his thanks, taking a large bite this time. That hand suddenly cramped and his fingers flexed so he got the coffee cup. He couldn't feel the heat from the coffee or the texture of the cup, but he could lift it slowly and shakily. He gulped it, knowing he was going to be dropping the mug soon. It went back onto the table a bit harder than it should have but he didn't spill any of the precious liquid God. He finished up that sandwich and found himself very tired.
Xander got up to get something he had thought up last night, coming back with the clamp and the platform, sitting the next sandwich on it once he had it attached. "Ta da!" he said happily.
Enamel looked at it. "I still feel like the dog." He shook his head. "You're an original, Xander. Don't ever let anyone copy you. The world might not live through another one." He bent forward and took a bite, leaving the sandwich on the small platform but forward so he could take the next bite. Or he could pull it forward with a bite/pull maneuver. By the time the second one was done, he was ready to nap right there. "I think I'll go back to bed."
"Crash on the couch," Modo offered tolerantly. "It's plenty comfy. Xander and I have both napped on it recently." He helped him up and to the couch, getting the pillows for him. "There. Need the tv?"
"No thanks. Daytime tv's all smut, talk shows, and court shows. None of which I need in my life."
"I'd say not," Xander teased with a bright grin. "She told me. Should we plan a party?"
"Not yet," he said quietly. "Let me absorb that fact first."
"Huh?" Modo asked.
Enamel looked up at him. "Shell's with mouse. She broke out in hysterical tears last night and promised she'd be coming to take care of me so you guys wouldn't have to put up with me."
"That's great news," Modo congratulated, smiling at him. "Some day soon you'll have a kid who'll call you a poof too."
"My kid won't learn that word," he said dryly. "It's Vincent's own fault for letting the kid hang out with Spike. He's obviously a bad influence."
"Gee, ya think?" Xander joked. "If you knew anything about how Spike used to be, he's still adjusting. He used to be much more annoying." He smirked at Modo. "So, how's Staff?"
Modo blushed. "Still working on the ships. She'll be back in a few days."
"Cool. We should hold the party for the newest future doc then."
"Can't we wait until I can move?" Enamel whined.
"By that time, you're going to be catching him or her," Xander said with a smirk for him. "Unless you're going to let someone else deliver your child?"
"Fat chance," he growled. "My woman and no one's touching her that way."
Vinnie hopped up onto the ramp then walked the last few feet. "Who cooked?" he asked happily, taking Xander's last sandwich.
"Hey! I need that! After all, I've got to fight you off and then go do battle with the evil horde of paperwork for the final site stuff." He took it back and ate it, shaking his head as he walked off. "There were more in the kitchen."
"Sure." Vinnie smirked at Modo. "So what's going on?"
"Shell's pregnant," Modo said with a grin.
"Congrats, doc," Vinnie said with a smile. "Need any help trying to fight the frustration when your daughter picks on you, just yell. I'm nearly an expert at it now." He looked at his bro. "I caught him saying daddy last night to Charley, then he saw me and called me a poof again with this bright, tail nibbling grin."
"Well, you do want Xander, bro," Modo teased. Vinnie pounced him to beat the snot out of him, but Modo just laughed and pinned him down. "Out of practice, Vinnie?"
"Guys, I didn't get any last night, I've got a headache," Dawn said as she came up the ramp. She came over to tuck Enamel in then went to find breakfast. "Hey, there's only six left!" she complained.
"Then run to McDonald's and make up the difference," Vinnie called, kneeing Modo since he was distracted by the tiny running shorts Dawn was wearing. He went 'ha' and nearly made it but Dawn pounced him to help her uncle-in-law and he was soon pinned under both of them and being poked repeatedly by a sharp nail. "Meany!"
"Keep it up and I won't give you my poetry book from my English class," she taunted. "Then you'll have to keep writing your own poetry."
"Can I borrow it?" he asked quickly, grabbing her with his tail to flip her onto her back so he could look at her. "That would make Charley giggle at me again."
"Sure. Just as soon as I'm done with the class, Vincent. Now would you kindly get off me?" Someone knocked on the door. "Someone get that! I'm pinned under an insane white mouse!"
"I'm not insane, just horny," he offered with a bright grin.
"Then get the hell off me, man," she said dryly, kicking at him until he moved, snickering the whole way. "Thank you. I don't need to think about you four together. Though I'm sure all of you would have trouble sitting once the Xander monster came out. I've never known anyone else who could wear out three pros in one night." She got up and grabbed two of the sandwiches. "Someone needs to run out to get more."
"There's more in the oven, keeping warm and melting the cheese slowly," Enamel offered with a yawn, grinning at them. "I would have offered but you look like you were having too much fun."
"She is a fun toy," Vinnie agreed happily. "It makes Rimfire insanely jealous too." The knock came again. "Okay, I'm coming," he called, getting up to go down and answer it. He looked at the man standing there. "You don't *look* like the ordinary military. Collecting for something?" he offered. "Dawn's got stuff she can give away. She's got three bulging closets."
"No, sir. I'm here to speak to Mr. Harris."
"Already headed for work," Dawn called. She peeked out. "Hey, dear. He's at work. So either go to the site or come back around seven. Either's fine."
He nodded. "Thank you kindly, I'll be back tonight. It's not that important really. Just some information he wanted to know if it came up." He tipped his hat. "Have a nice day."
"You too, Constable." She smiled as he disappeared, then looked at Vinnie. "He works with Ray and Stan."
"Oh." Vinnie nodded, shutting the door. "Okay. I guess." He shrugged and went to find Charley and get her up for a cuddle and a kiss. He could wonder about strange, overly polite guys in uniform later. He really could. He saw his baby cuddled in with his momma and grinned, laying down behind him. "Morning, son. It's daddy," he cooed.
"Daddy!" he said sleepily, grinning at him.
"Good boy!" He cuddled him, making his son one happy morning mouse for a little bit. "Just keep calling me that and we'll be the best of buds, son. We'll show Enamel how to be a really good daddy."
"When is he going to start having kids?" Charley asked tiredly, not opening her eyes.
"Shell's with mouse right now," he said happily. "So you've got someone to get sick and moan with."
"Cool. Wonderful. Let me go back to sleep," she said with a yawn.
"Someone made homemade egg mcmuffins."
"Hmm. Go steal me about three or four and some coffee. I'll get up for that."
"Sure thing, sweetheart." He got up, taking Vic with him. The baby beamed and reached for Modo when he saw him so he was temporarily handed over while Vinnie hit the kitchen, then he gathered him back up and took him back to mommy. "Come on, let's go help mommy and the future sister eat."
"We've got to check that later," Enamel called after him. "At this stage, it's easily reabsorbed if there was anything wrong."
"Sure. We'll do it after you nap." He carried his precious cargo back to his girl and handed them over, then sat down with his son to chat with him, grinning. "We're going to learn how to use the check machine today, son. That way we can check on your future sister. Won't that be fun?"
"At least it doesn't hurt," Charley said, sitting up to eat. "Coffee?"
"Empty, sorry. I started a new pot but not yet." He grinned at her. "By the time you're ready to get up and get dressed it should be ready."
"Fine." She finished that first sandwich and started on the second one. "When did Shell come in?"
"Apparently last night but I guess she had to go back today," he sighed. "He could really use the attention and pampering of his girl. This has got to be eating him."
She touched the mask he wore over half his face. "For him, it's like when you got that, only it'll hopefully reverse itself fully some day," she said gently. He nodded, understanding that. "That's why he's grumpy and fighting everything Xander does for him."
Vinnie gave her a smirk. "That's more that all mice are horrible patients, sweetheart. There's not a one of us who are good when we're sick."
"Oh, I remember," she promised, flicking him on the end of the nose. "Go get junior cleaned up and ready for the day."
"Sure. We're going to the park today."
"Not with Limburger active and ranting you're not," she said firmly. "I don't want him in the crossfire."
"He won't be. I'm not going to endanger my son."
She gave him a stare. "Vinnie, with you being who and what you are, if he shows up and has mischief in mind, it won't stop him if Vic's there. He'll hurt him too and laugh about it. Not while he's still here."
"You can't coddle him like that, or else he'll never get out of the house again," Throttle said from the doorway, walking in and handing over a cup of coffee fixed just the way she liked it. "Here you go, Charley girl. I figured you'd need some since I hadn't seen you and Modo said that he was bringing you food."
"I'm not trying to coddle him."
"I know," he agreed. "But you've got to take advantage of the low threat days. Today's probably one. He just got Junior back after having some allies ambush Chassis." Vinnie opened his mouth. "She's fine." He looked at Charley again. "They're probably off licking their wounds. Attacking today would be dumb of them."
"Limburger isn't the brightest cookie in MENSA," she said sarcastically.
"No, but he's not that dumb or that suicidal. We're still hot from the battle. He's never attacked this soon before. Neither one of them like to attack right after the last one."
"Usually they're rebuilding their tower and have to wait," she complained.
"Yeah, well, not really. Junior always had a fallback position," Throttle said, sitting on the foot of the bed. Vic cooed at him. "Hey, little mouse. Are you going to play with Enamel and Shell's baby when it's big enough?" Vic beamed at him and stuck a finger in his mouth. "You're a good boy, Victor." He looked at Charley again, losing the smile. "They could have in the past and didn't. The pattern should hold."
"It was going to be a group outing anyway," Vinnie offered. "The bros going out to do guy stuff with the new guy."
"Not until we know if he's going to break the pattern or not," she said firmly.
"It's one of the last nice days of fall," Vinnie whined.
"Charley girl, we'll be right there with him. All the time. All three of us, and Xander if he gets done early. It's a reward before we go to the building's opening in a few days. We need to get out and play and we'll watch him."
"I know you will, but what happens if there's an attack?"
"Then whoever manages to grab him rushes him back here, or to Xander, whichever one's closer," he assured her. "He's at work until at least lunch. We were going to head out this morning and join him for lunch."
"I still don't like this idea," she said bitterly, glaring at him.
He gave her his usual boyish grin and shrugged a bit. "None of us like the fish faces being back, Charley girl. It's not like we can't make 'em go away again." Someone downstairs slammed a door. "We're up here!"
"I'm going to kill the rest of our relatives," Chassis announced as she stomped up the stairs and leaned into the bedroom. "Vinnie, mind if I start with your aunt?"
"What'd she do this time?" he asked with a small sigh.
"I told her what we'd done down here and all the neat and fun stuff I'd seen while waiting on Pit to get done. She's decided that no Van Wham, you included, should be mating with humans. Even if there were no mice left, even if I was the last person on Mars, I'm not allowed near the humans because it's a perversion and she doesn't want me to foul our bloodline."
"Hmm, sounds like auntie needs her shins kicked again," Vinnie said dryly. "Want me to take Vic up to visit?"
"Nope, she knows he's not totally Martian. She swore to me that she would destroy that abomination one way or another if it entered her house and if I brought one home she'd kill the both of us."
Vinnie just nodded and handed Throttle his son. "I'll be right back," he said dryly, heading off to grab his bike and head up to Mars to talk to his family. He decided to come back and take his son with him, he could use some time among the true family and he could clap while he whipped his aunt's tail. He turned on the transporter and hummed while it warmed up, then rode through it, stopping when he saw the wreckage around him. "I hope I'm in another world."
"Earthquake," a mouse said from the doorway. "Everyone's fine, sir. Why are you back again? We're all on break."
"I'm here to kill someone," he said honestly. He smiled. "How bad's the damage, kid?"
"Not too bad. How soon before Pit comes back up?"
"Chassis just made it back down there. Xander got the call that the order was waiting on them last night. Probably not more than a couple of days. I'll need a list of anything extra that might have to be sent." The guard nodded and let him out the ruined doors. "Come on, son. Let's go talk to some of the family." He rode off, jumping over the ruined steps and down toward the base. He found Cell waiting at the gate, smirking at him, so he smirked back. "Awww, was I too irresistible and on the 'net again?"
She nodded. "Kinda, yeah, but we knew you'd be up anyway, Vincent. Your aunt's in protective custody."
"So? If I could break out of a Plutarkian prison, I can break her out of a Martian one." Cell opened her mouth. "Besides, I just wanted to see all the decent relatives. Why would I want my precious son tainted with her crap?"
"Point," she said dryly. "Tell Modo and Throttle we're all fine and we did find Throttle's younger sister. She's fine too, mostly. She's not going to like Xander either."
"Eh," he said with a small shrug. Vic chuckled and bit him. "Ow, son!" He pulled him out of his carrier and turned him around. "Here, babble at the auntie."
"Hey, Victor," she said, coming out to pat the baby on the head. He pulled her hand down to nibble on it, grinning at her. "Ah, teething," she said fondly. "I remember that. Rimfire teethed on my left ear. Primer did it on my neck." She looked at him. "We can't let you hurt her. We don't have enough mice as is."
"Whine. She said she'd kill my son!"
"Yeah, that was overheard. When we found Map, she was put with the family to help her for now. So some of your other cousins and Chassis's brother were there at that time." She frowned a bit. "She said she met a very nice earther."
"Stan. He's one of the detectives Xander has to help now and then."
"Ah." She nodded. "At least that makes him a good human." She smiled at the baby, handing him back. "There you go. Most of your family is gathering out by the bluffs."
"Good." He grimaced. "Have Rotor call the rest, 'kay? I really wanna talk to them." He looked at his son, then took off the pack to put him back into it before putting it back. "There we go. All safe so your momma don't complain." He sighed and took off for the bluffs, an area nearer to where he and most of the family used to live. By the time he got there, Vic was taking a nap and he was about ready to. It was like Mars was sucking his energy today. He yawned as he parked, looking at the others gathered. Everyone stared back and he glanced around. Nearly everyone was there but his aunt and two others. "So, anyone else wanna kill my son too? If so, we're gonna go a round now." He stood up, walking over there. He looked at his cousin Starlight. "Chassis came back nearly crying. Where is the bitch?"
"Vin, man, I promise, none of the rest of us feel that way," Bullet, one of the more scarred mice in the family offered gently, patting him on the arm. "The rest of us like little Victor and Charley girl. She's a nice lady. You could have done a hell of a lot worse and we like her."
Vinnie looked at him. "Aunt Kismet threatened to kill Vic and Charley, and Chassis if she ever brought home a human or a partial mouse. That's not cool or the family way."
"No, it's not," one of his other aunts offered gently. She came over to look at the baby. "I missed the last one. How is he?" Vinnie pulled his son out and handed him over. "Ooooh, you're an adorable mouse!" she cooed. "Just so precious and cute!" Vic blinked up at her, then pulled a finger up to suck. "I'm your Auntie Terrain, little guy. You are always welcome in my house. Mine and most of the rest of my siblings." She kissed Vinnie on the cheek. "Your uncle doesn't really like the thought of partial mice but he figures they're no worse than those who were changed into mice."
"Actually, we have more DNA than humans so he and Xander are both almost completely mice."
"Xander?" she asked, looking confused. "You had a second one already?"
"No, I adopted him into the family," he said with a shy grin. "He's a lot like me and a white mouse. He's Throttle's boy."
"He's behind you," Bullet said, smirking at Xander. "Oooooh," he said with a shiver. "You've got one hell of a bike, babe." He came over to pat it. "That's one shocking and strong guy."
Xander beamed. "I know." He got off and patted his bike. "Go chat with the family." He walked Bullet back. "Sorry I'm a bit late, I was at work doing make work. Vinnie, we've got that opening tonight."
"Sure, bro," he agreed, pulling him closer with his tail. "This is Xander, everyone. He used to be human and was changed by Willow, the spirit that Wrench and his people protect."
Wrench nodded from his spot on a rock. "Howdy. Back again?"
"Of course. I'm always going to protect my clan. That includes these two." He pinched Vinnie. "You could let me go."
"Why?" he asked with a grin for his bro, and a quick wink. "You're so much fun to grab."
"Did you want to tell us that you adopted him for more than one reason?" Starlight asked bluntly.
"We were hit with a lust ray," Vinnie said, screwing up his face a bit. "We're pretty close anyway but welllllll." He shrugged. "We're dealing at the moment." He looked back when he heard more bikes. "You told the others?"
"No, they told me," he said, grinning back at Throttle. "He's my man," he said happily. He took Vic back, making him squeal. "Hi, baby mouse. Are you being loved?"
"He's quite adorable," a female cousin said to Wrench. "Especially with the baby in his arms. Think he'd like to have some fully Martian ones?"
"Ask his spouse, Pin. Throttle is a jealous mouse. Xander's even worse when you take what's his." He looked at her. "He might as well be mine but he's not."
"Shoot. I need someone more normal than you." She walked over to take the baby, making him squeal at her. "Hi, Victor. I'm Pin. I'm one of your many cousins."
"Ohmygod!" he squealed, kicking a bit, his tail flicking around.
Starlight broke down, leaning on Bullet's shoulder. "Oh, damn. I've heard that before!"
"Rimfire's girl taught him that, that was his first word," Throttle said as he hopped off. He came to repossess Xander, kissing him on the back of the neck. "You okay?"
"Just fine," he offered with a grin. "They didn't get to meet me last time."
"No, I didn't get a chance to bring you to that reunion," Vinnie admitted. "He's been slowly aging into a studly mouse. He's now his proper age."
"Go, pussycat, go," Wrench said dryly, waving at them. "I see he's *still* not shielded."
Xander laid a hand on the baby's head and worked that small spell, then stuck his tongue out at him. "So there." He grinned at the aunt again. "Where is this person of dubious taste so we can paint her another color? From what Vinnie's instructed me about the fine art of being a white mouse, she's broken about every rule by threatening my godson."
Most of the family broke out laughing and he was hugged and clapped on the back by the greater majority, who decided he definitely was a member of the family VanWham.
Oz looked up as Xander and the others walked back inside, raising an eyebrow. "There are times when you guys make a guy feel inadequate because he doesn't have enough muscles," he greeted. "Then again, I have a son so I'm good with my manhood again."
"Congrats!" Xander squealed, coming over to hug him. "Oooh, was he born or just the ultrasound? If so, I wanna see the baby Oz! He's got to be nearly as cute as Victor was, all furless and everything."
"Stop bouncing," Throttle said, pulling him off Oz. "Sorry. They just had a family reunion."
"Hmm." Oz looked at Vinnie. "I'm hoping yours since his father is in Fresno."
"What?" Vinnie asked.
"Huh?" Xander echoed, looking very confused. "He's alive?"
"Eeeeeehhhhh," Oz said with a sigh at the end. "Not fully. He's fully brain damaged. Thinks that you're now a God of a furry pantheon." He got comfortable. "It was the ultrasound. She's not due until next month. Then you guys can coo over mine." He looked at Xander. "Lorne found out and emailed that to me. You haven't checked your mail recently."
"Oh." He sighed and turned, sitting beside his bestest buddy. "Is he being taken care of?"
"Yup, but they did want his relatives found. They want you to sign custody over to the state if you don't want him."
"Sure. How badly damaged?"
"We can help you take care of him," Throttle promised.
Xander looked at him. "My father should have worn a sheet to work, Throttle, and he was definitely against guys getting it on. If we bring him here, he's only going to cause problems and I doubt he'd want me to take care of him anyway."
"He thinks you can heal him," Oz offered. He handed over the ticket he had been sent. "You need to head over there."
"Tomorrow. Best to get it out of the way." Oz gave him a shoulder nudge. "It'll be fine. They've got him in a special place because he likes to throw fits because he prays to you and you don't heal him." Xander nodded at that. "He's not aware of very much at the moment."
"Can we go too?" Vinnie asked. "This isn't something we'd let just one of us go on."
Oz shook his head. "Nope, sorry. Lorne only sent the one ticket. The facility he's in is about jail-like from what he said. He's apparently been assaulting a lot of people, including sexually assaulting one nurse." Throttle winced at that but Xander snorted. "You knew?"
"That he was suspected in a rape at the college? Yeah, he was pretty drunk that night and came in smelling like perfume. My mother just screamed and threw him out onto the lawn." He looked at the ticket. "I've got that opening tonight. You wanna come?"
"No thanks, we're celebrating tonight." He gave him a gentle hug then stood up. "Let me know for the report how it goes."
"Sure. Thanks, Oz."
"Welcome, Xander." He left them alone.
"Your father did what?" Vinnie asked.
"Suspected, and we kinda figured it was him," Xander admitted bitterly. "He was so blindly drunk and the report said that the guy stunk of gin and kept calling her by my mother's name. From the picture in the paper she looked a lot like her when she was younger." Throttle winced and hissed, shaking his head. "So we kinda figured it was him. He was so drunk he almost walked into the wrong house twice in a row. One of them Willow's and she lived a few blocks away."
"Damn," Modo sighed, shaking his head.
"So he's not coming back. Even if he's suddenly reformed and won't scream about me and Throttle being together, I don't want him near Vic. I don't trust him not to hurt him, especially if he's been hurting the nurses." He stood up. "So, nope, sorry." He shrugged. "Want a picture?"
"No, that's okay," Throttle said, giving him a hug. Vinnie piled on behind him and Modo got them both.
"What's going on?" Charley asked as she walked in. "Where's Vic?"
"Napping on my bike, Charley," Xander said, getting free. He grinned at them. "Thanks, bros." He looked at her. "My father was found alive."
"Oh, that's wonderful!" she said, kissing him on the cheek. "When is he visiting?"
"When hell freezes and I did it," he said dryly. He shook his head. "He's not in his right mind, he's dangerous, and he's got violence and tolerance issues. Not a chance in hell."
"Fine. I can accept that. Still, at least he's alive."
Xander nodded. "True." He looked back at Throttle. "So I'm heading out tomorrow to sign his custody over to the state. With what Lorne told Oz, it's probably a better idea." He went to the computer, going to check his email. "When was the last time I logged on," he complained. "I've got over a thousand messages."
"How?" Vinnie asked.
"Mostly spam," he admitted, starting to weed it out. "I'll probably still have about two hundred when I'm done." He continued to check and weed out messages, coming down to nearly a hundred left before he ran into Lorne's email. He wrote him back, telling him that Oz had briefed him and he understood. He wouldn't let someone violent near Vic anyway and he knew about the rape charge, outlining what had happened. Then he sent it and went on, feeling arms go around his neck. "Thanks, bro."
"Welcome," Throttle said quietly. Xander looked up at him. "I beat Vinnie and tied him down. This is a mate's job, not just for bros." He pulled a chair over with his tail and settled in to sit next to him.
"Good thing I think of you as both," Xander offered with a small grin. He went back to his email, finding something from his insurance agent. He wrote him a note saying he'd be calling in a few days. That something had happened and he needed to verify it first. Then he went back to reading the spam for humor.
To Part 60