Notes: some angst here.  Refuges coming home sort of angst, but nothing graphic.

Throttle woke up and looked at the man sleeping next to him. He was having some serious second thoughts about the thing last night.  He looked over as the door cracked, waving Charley in.  "Are you all right?" he whispered.

"Just fine," she said with a smile.  She kissed him on the nose.  "Don't doubt yourself, Throttle.  I know you would."  He nodded.  "We can set limits, that's all I care about."

"Yeah, but I'm not the most sharing mouse."

She smiled at him.  "Really?  I didn't realize that about you."  Xander yawned an shifted so she paused.  "It'll be fine," she whispered.  "We can work out boundaries and rules."  She stoked down Xander's back.  "Vinnie didn't have any nightmares last night," she said quietly.

"Me either, but I still feel like a cavemouse about to claim my mate by hitting him over the head," Throttle admitted.

"Just sit him in your lap again, we all know who he belongs to, including him."  She grinned at him.  "It's going to be very rare and we all have to agree to it.  That good with you?"  He nodded.  "Good.  Then get your tail up and have him make breakfast, it's his turn."  She grinned at him.  "I deserve such spoiling."

"You do," Throttle agreed, smirking back, "but he can't walk, Charley girl.  I was a bit...playful with him last night."  She laughed at that.  "We've got this stuff called permarta oil.  I used some on him and it drove him wild.  He's sore.  I'm sore and I only topped.  Make Dawn or Rimfire cook today.  It's about time they learned."

"Sure, Throttle.  Be up within the hour."  She winked and got up, leaving them alone.

Throttle rolled over, cuddling Xander until he fully woke up.  "Morning."

"Morning," he said tiredly, kissing him.  "Damn I'm sore."

"Me too.  My thighs are screaming at me."  Xander grinned shyly at that.  "We need to get up and eat."  He kissed him again.  "First, I want to say that it's going to be very rare and everyone has to agree."

"I heard Charley say that," he agreed.  "I agree, we shouldn't feel that strongly about it for maybe the rest of the six months."  He stole another kiss, then a nuzzle.  "I'm sorry if we upset you."

"No, I'm good, now," Throttle admitted, kissing him and adding in a belly stroke.  Xander's stomach grumbled and he grinned.  "Naughty mouse.  You need to eat."

"I do, but so do you."  He wrapped him in his arms.  "I will do my best to avoid my lust for Vinnie.  I will try not to tease him or be too playful with him in ways that could hurt you or Charley, and I still think that if it does happen, not only will we all have to agree, we'll all have to be together.  Just because you watching the two of us together gets you hotter than the sun," he finished in a whisper.  "Watching you with both of us will get Charley hot. You'll be a true Martian king by having your own set of white mice."  Throttle groaned at that image.  "Now, until we can all agree and want it again, I'm better than good with just you.  You blow my mind each and every time and there's no such thing as mediocre sex with you, babe.  You're mine and only mine.  You're my personal sex god."  Throttle chuckled at that.  "So I doubt I'll be needing Vinnie for more than a surrogate.  Why would I need Tigger when I've got Pooh here to cuddle all to myself."

"I love you too, Xander.  You can quit babbling now."  He stroked his cheek, then grinned. "Your Pooh?"

"You never heard of Winnie the Pooh?"

"I have," he admitted.  "Am I that cuddly?"

"In a very adult way," Xander said with all seriousness.  He gave him a trial squeeze.  "Stuffed just right and with the perfect teddy mouse accessories. Because only teddy mice have muscles like yours, babe."  He stroked down the arm over him and Throttle flexed for him.  "See?  No regular teddy mouse could ever have those.  Only the very special Throttle edition, special limited adult edition, teddy mice have those."

"You're babbling again but you're cute," he assured him.  "They're yours anytime you want them, Xander."

"I know.  That's what makes them so special."  He grinned.  "You can lift and tote and haul crap for me all the time when you want."

Throttle gave him a squeeze.  "I think I've got the better teddy mouse.   You need a bit more stuffing but there's so much love in you to share with those who seem to be a bit short on it."

"You had more than enough, it was the receptacle that was lacking," he said dryly.

"Knock off Carbine," he sighed.

"I wasn't talking about her.  I was talking about your lady.  She was more than worthy of it, but she couldn't cuddle you back.  Now you've got a lady and a naughty brat.  One who enjoys your lady too."

"I'm glad.  And you're right, being with her is satisfying but being with you suits me on whole other levels my bike can't reach."  He gave him another kiss.  "We should get up."  Both their stomachs rumbled this time.  "We really should fill those voids."

"You're making me nauseous," Dawn called before opening the door. She walked in the tray.  "Here.  Eat in here so we don't have to watch you claim him again and we don't have to watch him wince.  By the way, what was so special?" she asked, looking around.

"Ask Rimfire about premarta oil," Throttle said dryly, taking the tray. "Thanks, Dawn.  We'll do his bandage change in a bit."

"Sure.  It's not like I'm going to be doing it for him."  She walked out, closing the door behind her.

Throttle settled himself in a sitting position and Xander cuddled up on his chest, letting him feed them.  It was good for them.  They understood each other very well, even if Xander did have to babble to tell him he loved him.


Xander looked up as Vinnie moaned, seeing an impatient looking white female mouse floating next to him.  "Hey.  You must be my adopted mom.  Hi."  He grinned and waved.  He looked at the groaning mouse.  "It must be important for her to manifest," he told him.  "So listen if it's good advice and ignore it if it's not, for now."  He left, heading to the computer to give Vinnie and his former mother some privacy.

"Son," she started.

"Hi, mom."

She smiled and floated closer.  "You're a very generous mouse, son.  I've always loved that about you, how you spread love around.  But must you with a human?  Not that I don't think she's a wonderful young woman," she assured him.  "I'd just be happier if you were with a mouse."

"Mom, you know I'm going to kill one of the aunts for saying stuff about Charley, right?" he asked dryly.  She shook her head.  "You're not watching me?"

"Not always.  Sometimes I watch a few of your uncles, sometimes some of your cousins. Someone's got to watch over this clan."

He smiled.  "You're right about that," he agreed.  "Mom, Charley and I are in love.  I love her.  I'm sorry if you're disappointed, but she's my lady."

"Fine, son, but what about carrying on the family line?"

He blinked at her.  "Mom, when was the last time you were down here?  Have you not seen the baby?"

"Well, yes, dear, but he's that other mouse's son," she said patiently.

He shook his head and raised a hand.  "Mine, mom."

"Then why is he always holding him?"

"Because he's like that since he can't have his own," Vinnie said.  "Xander, is there a way that she won't fade in and out?"

"Well, we could trap her spirit and force it to manifest but I hear that hurts a lot."  He came out of the study, looking at his big brother.  "Or there are spells to let you see and speak with the dead.  Of course, using them attunes you to the dead and then you become me."

"Okay," he agreed.  "Give me a few minutes, Mom.  Let me do this so you don't wear the last of your energy out."

"At least you're a thoughtful son," she said, looking at Xander.  "Are you naturally a mouse?"

"No, and frankly I usually don't count that against myself."

"Be nice," Vinnie complained.

"Sorry.  I'm tired of that particular record, I think it's time people started to change tunes."  He headed to the library, then down to Dawn's storeroom to get the stuff he needed.  He came back and set it up on the coffee table, then looked at Vinnie.  "Get really relaxed, big brother."

"Sure."  He kicked his feet up and got comfortable, calming his mind and body down to the point where he was nearly meditating.  He heard Xander chanting and felt something touch his face, then his eyelids.  He blinked and looked at him when it was done.  "Okay, this is very cool," he told him, grinning a bit.

"Thanks.  Just remember, next time you've got to put it on something or else you'll start to be like me and see them a lot more often."  He blew out the candle and handed him the book.  "It's in there.  Dawn's, formerly Willow's."  He got up and nodded at her.  "Nice meeting you, Vinnie's mom."

Vinnie was looking around, looking for more spirits, and saw his son.  He tugged on Xander's shirt, pointing at the baby.  "Vic!"

Xander walked into the library again, that's where he was curled up and tickled him until he woke up.  "No more out of body traveling, nephew.  It's not safe.  You can be eaten."  He headed back to the living room.  "Did he disappear?"  Vinnie nodded, taking his son, but Xander stole him back.  "I'm going to stop his astral projection problem.  My shields will wrap around him.  Talk to your mom. It's not everyone who can do that."  He headed into the library, dialing Mars.  "Carbine, can you please be a sweetie and connect me to Wrench?"

"Is this official business?"

"Well, actually I need to talk to Willow and the easiest way is to talk to Wrench since she's usually in his office.  And since this little guy decided to try some projection exercises....."

"Never mind," she interrupted.  "I don't want to know.  We've got to get you hooked into the main system instead of to my desk," she complained as she transferred him.

Wrench jumped and glared at him.  "Warn a mouse next time!"

"Sorry, cousin, but this one was just out of his body and freaked his father out since he's talking to his former mother."  He held up the sleepy baby, then wrapped him in his arms again.  "No, no sleeping, Victor.  Not until we get this fixed."  He looked at him again.  "By the index in that one set of books, that would be in a missing book.  I don't know how humans do it either.  We don't usually project by accident unless we're in comas and stuff."

"For now, keep him in your shields," he ordered.  "I'll call back in ten minutes.  I know where I can find a copy of that."  He looked Xander over.  "What happened to you and Vinnie?"

"I just cast the spell to let him see his mother so she wouldn't be worn out."  He shook his head.  "Then it's probably where Limburger hit us with a lust ray.  He was trying to drive a wedge in the group."

"Ah."  He shook his head quickly.  "I don't want that mental image."

"You know, we get a lot of that," Vinnie admitted.  He grinned at him.  "Can we stop him again?"  Xander pinched him and Victor wailed but he woke up and quit projecting. "Thanks a lot.  Even Mom's freaked out about it."   He looked back at his mother, something was bothering him. "Which uncles have you been chatting with on that side, mom?"

"No, dear, your uncle Turbine.  He's still alive.  Well, mostly.  The ship they're on is starting to fail and I'm not quite sure where it is," she admitted.  "Being on this side does so mess with your sense of direction and I can't figure out a way to set a distress call."

"The anti-obvious answer is to have someone who is gifted and still alive follow you," Wrench offered, kicking back now.  "I told Willow, she's bringing the copy of the spell for you."  He looked at Vinnie's mother again.  "Hey, Auntie."

"Wrench, dear.  I had no idea you were the Highest now."  He nodded.  "Oh, good!  Can you help me find him?"

"I can.  Or you can link with someone there, someone who's closer to you like Vinnie is, have him follow you and send up a psychic banner of 'there's a mouse here' and I can track that," he offered.  "That's usually easier.  I suck at oob."  He looked at Xander.  "Then again, that's a medium's job."

Xander nodded.  "Sure.  Get someone to come hold the kid in his shields.  There's too many nasty things on the astral and partially physical planes."  Wrench nodded.  "Can you come down here to map it?  That way we can make sure he can't do it."

"Um, it'd be easier up here.  I've got everything set up.  I was trying to find them myself actually.  Dad's somewhere in the Horeshead nebula but that's not exact enough according to Carbine.  Plus she didn't believe me."

"Sure," Xander agreed.  "Fine.  Okay.  We can do that."  He handed the baby to his daddy.  "Either keep him awake or keep him inside your shields.  Very tightly inside your shields.  He was trying to get out of mine just now."  He got up.  "Give me ten minutes, Vinnie's mom."

"Dear, if he adopted you, you might as well call me momma too," she offered patiently.

"Thanks."  He grinned at her.  "It'll take me about ten minutes to get that deep and out of my body.  I've only done it once, unintentionally."  She nodded so he went out to the couch, stretching out.  "Trance.  Trance.  Trance," he muttered over and over, lowering himself into his mind.  He felt Throttle's shields brush his and sent a thought at him about what he was doing.  "I need an anchor!" he called.  "Not Throttle, I'm too familiar with him and he'll let me slip away.  He's not paranoid enough."

"I can," Rimfire called back, hurrying up the ramp.  "What's up?"

"I'm going out of my body to help Vinnie's mom find her brother," he said, holding out a hand.  "Sit beside me, hold my hand.  You're perfect, I can't feel your mind most of the time so I'll be more aware of the string back to myself."  He started dropping himself again, doing it the quick method instead of the perfectly, formally correct method.  It was good that Willow had hypnotized him a few times.  It was a good shortcut.  He finally dropped down and let himself out of his body, floating through Rimfire.  It made him shiver, but that was a good thing.  He took the white mouse's hand and nodded.  "Okay, lead me to him.  We can stop at any other family members on the way back."

"Of course."  She floated off with him.  "So, Victor isn't yours?"

"No, he's Vinnie and Charley's.  Martians have more DNA so he's more mouse than not."

"Oh, good.  I was worried about the family line continuing.  I *like* the girl, she's very sweet and nice to my baby boy, but I really wanted some grandbabies to watch over and someone to carry on the family name."  She looked at him, noticing he was more human this way.  "What happened to you?"

"Rosenburg."  He grinned at her.  "It was a favor situation."  Willow popped up, looking really confused.  "There's some mice floating in a ship.  Wrench is mapping where we yell from.  Go help him and get that spell to Vinnie so he can guard Vic before he tries to follow us."  She nodded, going to do that.  He pointed at the spot she had been in.  "Rosenburg.  Now, think really hard about this uncle of mine."  She did and they traveled across some galaxies, ending up on a ship.  "Wow.  This is ancient," he said in awe. He floated up to the bridge, finding it empty.  "Did they all jettison?" he asked her.  She shrugged.  "Okay.  Lead me down there."  He sent up a psychic version of a flare, which made many telepaths and empaths across Mars and Earth, plus a few closer planets, grab their heads.  He floated down to the hold with her, looking at the mice.  "They should be okay for the time it'll take to rescue them," he decided.   A dead mouse looked their way.  "Hey.  I'm working with VanWham to rescue you guys.  We had to map your location.  Were you part of a fleet fleeing Mars or were you stolen?"

"Stolen," she said, frowning at him.  "I don't know you.  Are you Martian?"

"Mostly," he offered with a grin.   "I recently changed over.  I work with Modo, Throttle, and Vinnie."

"I know Throttle.  What's he to you?" another mouse asked, this one mostly alive.

Xander looked at him.  "My mate.  I just sent up a psychic spike to show them where you were.  Did the Plutarkians jettison themselves?"

"They ran away screaming when the ship started to fail," the dead mouse told him.  "Who won the war?"

"Mars, barely.  They're starting the rebuilding."  She sighed and nodded, fading out.  He looked at the other mouse.  "There's help coming.  Wrench and I are working together to get someone here.  Just hold on for a few more days, hopefully not more than a week."  He nodded, bowing his head.  "Can I do anything since I'm only here this way?"

"No," he said, shaking his head.  "Some of us will still be alive then.  Thank you."

"Anything I can do to help," he promised.  He and she floated off, and he felt some more Martians nearby.  He checked his tether to Rimfire, it was still holding strong so he went for the nearest one, finding that ship in not so good of shape.  This time the flare included a message of 'they're running out of air and food.  There's only a few mice left, help them first, they're near the other ones'.  He felt Wrench note that and the position.  He also noted it was starting to drift.  Then he moved on to the next spot she had felt.  It was a moon, but it had an atmosphere.  He sent up one there and moved on, pinging a few more ships.  "Is this on the route to Plutark?"

She shrugged.  "I don't know, young man.  By the way, what's your name?"

"Xander."  He shot a grin at her.  Then he concentrated.  "Willow, I need to know, is this a route to Plutark or should I not go further?"  He got back a very faint 'go further, it was an escape route for a group of ships and Plutarkians'.   So he continued, pinging as many as he could.  He felt Rimfire getting anxious and sent a calming thought down the thread, then kept going.  He could feel two more.  He sent out flares toward them, hoping someone dead there touched it.  He felt one go off.  "Please, just touch it," he pleaded.  He prayed as hard as he could.  The other one went off and he relaxed, feeling some more going off where he hadn't found any.  He bowed his head.  "As you will it, use my strength," he vowed.  He felt himself weaken and relaxed.  "Okay, time to go home," he said, taking her hand and twitching the string.  It wound itself like a winch into his body, pulling him back to his body and his mind.  He floated into the house, noticing it was really light out, like it was sunrise.  "Ooops."  He floated through Rimfire, making him hop up and head to the bathroom, then laid down over his body, floating back into it.  He opened his eyes and yawned.  "Damn, I hate doing that.  I woke up tired the last time too," he complained, yawning again and falling asleep.

Vinnie came up the ramp, staring at him.  "He's back."  He looked around, putting on the glasses he had spelled with the spell.  "Momma?"  She faded into view.  "Are you okay?"
"Of course, son.  Xander was very helpful.  Did Wrench get all that?"

"Oh, yeah, and every other person with gifts on this planet and Mars.   Stoker's already there with Exhaust trying to figure out the best route.  That one ship, will they survive long enough?"

"Maybe, son.  There's so few left.  The Plutarkians left it drifting."  He nodded at that, swallowing.  "It'll get to them in time.  I know it will."  She came over to lay a hand against his cheek.  "So, why can't the new son have his own child and stop spoiling yours?"

"Have you seen any blue skinned Powers recently?" Dawn asked as she joined them, holding Vic.  She nodded.  "Them.  They want to take his kids and use them as pawns.  Mine too.  Xander's just closer to the source."  The mother's face suddenly changed and she glared at her son.  "It's not his fault, ma'am.  We've been trying but they've liked Xander for years."

"When I see them again, I'm going to whip their tails," she promised.  "How dare they!  I don't care if they are higher elemental spirits!  That's quite wrong and I will stop it!" she vowed.

"Hey, please, kick 'em for me too," Dawn offered.  She grinned.  "I'm Rimfire's girl."

"His mother and grandmother aren't throwing a fit?"

"No, not where he can hear it," she admitted.

"Fine, then I can accept my son's girl.  She is very sweet and nice, but I'd still rather you were with a mouse," she said gently.  "I will talk to your aunt and make her see how dangerous her life has just become, son."  She glanced back at Xander, then at him.  "You have a very strong connection to him?"

"He's my bro and my little brother, momma.  Plus, well, one of the stinkfishes hit us with a lust beam."

"Did it make a difference?"

"Well, no," he offered with a grin.  "He's still Throttle's boy though."

"That's fine, son.  May I see my grandson?"  Dawn held him up and she morphed into a scary image, making him cry.  "It's things like this that wait for you on this plane I live on, grandson.  Do you want to have them eat you like a piece of fruit?"  He continued to wail so she changed back, smiling gently and humming to him.  "Now then, be a good boy and stay in your own body until you're old enough to do otherwise."  She laid a kiss on his forehead then faded out.  "I'll be around, son.  I'm going to check on Wrench."

"He's got a really bad headache, momma," he called.  He shook his head and took off the glasses, handing them to Dawn.  "So do I."  He rubbed his eyes, heading to the couch. He covered Xander and tapped on the bathroom door. "Rimfire, did you fall in?"

"Not yet," he called, and the toilet flushed.  He came out wiping off his hands.  "I washed them," he said at Dawn's look.  He took the baby, snuggling him.  "Like she said, little mouse, you can't go out there like that.  You're not big enough yet.  It's bad enough when the big mice go out because they can get eaten too.  We'd hate to see you eaten."  He looked over as Throttle came up the stairs.  "He's back."

"Good.  I felt him come back and then fall asleep."  He picked Xander up, carrying him back to bed.  "Don't think about trying to save him later."

"Sure, bro," Vinnie agreed, smirking at Throttle's waving tail.  Xander was going to be getting a lecture later.  Right after Throttle loved him back into the bed.  He looked at Dawn, grinning at her.  "Maybe you should head to the bathroom next," he suggested.

"Quit doing that!" she shrieked, glaring at him while stamping a foot.  "I hate it when you do that!"  She stomped into the kitchen.  "Where's the damn grocery list?  I might as well go to the grocery store too so I get some good chocolate along with the midol and tampons."

"I don't know," Rimfire said.  "Get some milk, we're out."

Xander came up the ramp and gave her some cash.  She gave him a dirty look.  "Get me some too," he ordered, putting it in her pocket.  "You're totally out?"

"Yes, thank you for reminding me yet again I'm female!"  He flinched and ran back down the ramp.  She stomped out.  "I'll be back soon."  She stomped off, heading for her bike.

Rimfire looked at Vinnie.  "Is that normal?"

He nodded, sitting down with Vic.  "Apparently.  Charley does the same thing."

Charley came up the ramp.  "Your women don't have monthly cycles?"

"No, we have one every few months, about the same time as we go into heat," Rimfire told her.  "Don't you guys do that?"  She shook her head.  "Every month?  It's only been...."  He counted back.  "Well, I guess it has been a lunar month.  Huh."  He looked really confused.  "Why do you women down here do that?"

"Because we're fertile every month," she told him. "That's how the human body works, kid.  Is Xander finally back in his body?"  He nodded.  "Why was Vic crying?"

"My momma scared him to stay in his body."

"Good!  I like that idea much better."  She went into the kitchen, coming out with a microwaved set of hot pockets a few minutes later.  "We'll need to go grocery shopping later for real, Vinnie.  He's nearly out of diapers."

"Sure, sweetheart," he offered with a grin.  "Can't she stop that?"

"Messing with the womanly flows can mess with her magic," Rimfire said grimly.  "I asked her that after the last one.  She said before major rites, like healing the planet ones, she can't even use tampons, she's got to use pads and that means it'll get even worse.  How much do you guys gush?"

"Supposedly a few tablespoons," Charley said dryly, sitting down to nibble breakfast.  "Some women do a lot more."

"Doesn't that make you sick?" he demanded.

"That's the way the body's made," she offered.  "That's also why there's a lot more meat around this time of the month.   I do have to agree with her on something.  It's really gross when you guys remind her to go change her tampon."  She ate another bite.  "Most women like to keep their cycles hidden.  I'm sure we're both like that."

"Fine," Vinnie said, nuzzling his son.  Vic woke up and blinked at him.  "Hi, son."  Vic gave him a grin.  "We're going to have to enforce that ban, aren't we?"

"Yes, you are," his mother yelled.  She appeared.  "Where's the Anya spirit?  That nice Willow girl wants to chat with her."  Vinnie and Rimfire both pointed downstairs.  "What's she doing?"

"Watching Throttle and Xander have sex, like always," Rimfire said dryly.  "Anya?  Visitor!"  She came up through the floor.  "Willow wants you on Mars.  Go with Vinnie's momma."

"Sure."  She beamed at him.  "Xander used to be mine but I died."

"I understand that happens sometimes, dear.  At least he's happy now."  She took the girl's hand and led her off.  Willow could apparently keep her on Mars since she was disturbing Throttle so much.

Vinnie looked at Rimfire.  "Did you ever want a normal life?"

"Yeah, but I'm married to Dawn," he pointed out.  "Charley's the one who should be wanting a normal life.  She's married to you."  He hopped up and hurried off before Vinnie could retaliate.

"I'll get you later, when I'm not holding my son," he called after him.  He looked at his girl.  "Mom said you're very nice and sweet, but she did wish I was with a mouse.  Then I told her Vic was my son and not Xander's, all evidence to the contrary according to her, and she said it was fine.  As long as there were grandbabies."

She snorted, shaking her head.  "Not for quite a while, Vinnie.  I mean it."

"Sure, sweetheart.  Can I try again tonight?" he asked with a bright grin.

"Quite a while is usually more than twelve hours, Vincent," she said patiently.

"Only for those who wait well," he said smugly.  "Which I don't."

"I know," she sighed.  "We'll see."  She got up and stole her son to feed him some of her ham and cheese hot pocket, making him a happy mouse. "There, you eat so you grow up better than Xander did.  That way the strange stuff stops."

"It's never planned," Vinnie reminded her.  "Be thankful we can deal with it when it does happen."

"Point, but still."  She looked at him.  "We've got enough dead people around here, okay?"  He nodded. "Thank you."  She looked down and fed Vic another bite of ham.  "There, that's ham.  It's one of your uncle's favorite meats.  That and pork chops."  She got up to get some out of the freezer, putting them on the stove to thaw.  She and Dawn would both need them tonight.


Chassis landed and was led into the new, temporary, council chamber, not giving her any time at all.  "What's up, bosses?" she asked, nodding at Carbine.

"Someone found out where some ships with some mice are," Carbine told her.  "One's drifting, it's got about six mice left alive.  The others are at these coordinates.  Your squadron is going.  I want you to go after the most critical first.  You can take the stolen Plutarkian warship with you."

"Cool.  Do I get a medic at least?"

"You can hop down to steal either Heat or Proxima from Earth," Stoker told her.  "We can't spare the others.  It's a fair jump but you're a good pilot."

"Done," she assured him, looking at the list, with the one red starred.  "Red one?"  They nodded.  "How did we get this?"


She shook her head.  "Excuse me?  Did you say my cousin Wrench?  Highest of the M'dreth?"  Everyone nodded.  "How?"

"Someone on board floated over to talk to Willow," Stoker told her.  "Fly fast, Chassis."

"On it."  She headed for the transporter, still shaking her head.  She walked out and whistled.  "Yo, one of you medics is coming with me.  We've found new ships full of mice."  Heat came running with Proxima behind him.  "Good.  One of you is flying with me.  The other can go help the local hospitals."  She led them back through and Heat out to the docks.  He was carrying the bag of gear.  She supposed it was him.  "You're not squeamish, right?  These are probably prisoners.  I know the one I'm hitting was set adrift."  He shuddered.  "Change out if you can't handle it."

"I can," he assured her.  She nodded, letting him onto the ship.  She started the takeoff procedure.  "How far out are we going?"

"Halfway to Plutark.  How one of the dead got all the way back here, I'm not sure, but the M'dreth heard from them."

"Okay.  I guess they deal with dead people too."   He strapped in and watched as she lifted them off, heading into space.  "Are we jumping?" he asked, grabbing the cushions under him as she initiated the jump.

"Fastest way. This ship is running out of time. The rest of the squadron is heading out more normally."  She finished the inputting and sat back.  "Computer says an hour.  Make sure you've got everything you need for emergency transporting."

"Yes, ma'am."  He unstrapped and sat down with his kit and then went to find the local medical bay.  It was near the airlock so that was something at least.  "Ma'am...."

"Chassis, sweetheart.  I'm one of Vinnie's cousins."

"All right then, Chassis.  How many are we expecting.  I can clear out the landing bay.  It's empty."

"Go for it.  The sheet says probably six left surviving.  I'm not leaving the bodies though.  If we have to, I can tow it back to Mars."

"Yes, ma'am."  He went to clean out the landing bay of the odds and ends, like tools, and make sure they had some blankets in there.  There were some and that's all he needed.  They could steal off the other ship if he had to.  He felt the ship shudder and grabbed the nearest wall, holding on for dear life.  Jumping through the middle of an asteroid patch was never pleasant.  He felt the ship slow out of time.  "Is it time?" he called.

"Nearly, I'm searching for the ship."  She scanned.  "There's a ship, not ours or Plutarkian."  She considered it, then hailed them.  "Greetings.  I'm a Martian mouse looking for a ship with some of our refugees on it.  It's supposedly adrift around here.  Have you seen it?"

"It's about half a parsec behind us," the other ship responded.  "It is drifting.  It wasn't sending out a distress call."

"That's because they're probably still being held prisoner," she admitted.  "Mars thanks you for your assistance, citizen."

"You'll need more help, mouse.  It's in a gravity well."

"Cheese!" she complained.  "Please.  If you can help us it would be appreciated.  They're victims and prisoners of our war with Plutark.  Apparently the stupid fishes left them in the ship to die."

"That's fine.  Follow us back please."

"Right on your tail, mate."  She followed the ship back, gasping at the size of the carrier.  "Shit!  It's a cruiser.  Heat, prepare for a lot of possible bodies.  I don't want to leave that ship here."  She moved up to scan it while docking.  Her air compressors would help fill the stale air in there.  It also slowed the other ship's tumble, and her engines were enough to break it free with a bit of help from the other ship.  "Thanks, mate.  Mars really thanks you for this."

"Who are these Plutarkians you spoke of?" one of them demanded.

"Blue skinned fishes who like to dig up everything.  They're mostly extinct after a tragedy on their world last year.  Most of the remaining are on Earth in our solar system.  If you contact Mars, they can give you the whole file on the war.  I've got to get in there."

"Of course.  Do you need assistance?"

"I've got a medic on board with me.  Thank you though.  I'll be towing the ship back.  Expect a few more like us coming for the other ships on this vector and in this range."

"I've seen a few of them.  Our people will help where we can."

"Thanks, citizen," Heat said as he came out.  "Can we pass through?"

"Let me check atmosphere," she ordered.  She checked and then opened the airlock.  "Got a weapon?"  He gave her a dry look.  "Never mind.  You wouldn't."  She strapped on her blaster and walked over there, hearing a few mutterings.  "Heat, get the lights on, babe.  We'll need to see to rescue properly.  People, I'm Chassis, I'm a mouse from Mars.  Make some noise if you're alive please.  I've got a medic with me!"  There came the most beautiful sound, a lot of complaints as the lights came on.  "Thanks, Heat.  Get your kit."

"Already on me," he promised, coming over to check the first cage.  "How do we open them?"

"Easy," she said, shooting at the control panel.  All the cells but two opened.  "The old fashioned way, with the all-purpose key."  She went to blast those two cell's doors, finding people there waiting.  "My ship's tethered with this one," she promised.  "Go ahead over and hit the landing bay."

"Who won?" one woman begged.

"We did," Chassis told her.  "We're barely alive but you'll add to that."  She started to cry and hugged her.  "Shhh, ma'am, go ahead and hit the landing bay.  It's a stolen cruiser but it works for now.  We'll tow this wreck with us."  She nodded, heading out, helping another mouse without legs.  She sent up a prayer to the old Gods.  "Thank you," she said, looking up.  She hurried to check the rest of the ship, finding a few more cells.  They were opened and the mice led back to her ship.  She called back to Mars.  "They're mostly priests I think," she reported to Exhaust.  "There were more than you thought, they were tranced and things. Heat's doing what he can and I'm towing the ship."

"Good girl.  Leave the dead on there and we'll put the dead from the other ships we can't tow.  Come home as soon as you can."  He smiled over her shoulder. "Welcome home, Citizen.  It'll be a few more hours or a day at the most."

"Thank you," she said.  "We really won?"  He nodded.  "Is Carbine still alive?"  The scene switched to the wider Council view.  "Carbine," she said, reaching out.  "Oh, Gods, General!"  She burst out crying.  "We really won?"

"We did, soldier.  You'll be home soon.  Just rest and heal for now.  Chassis should have some energy bars."

"They'll do for now but they're not the most tasty," Chassis told her, going to the storage bay to haul out a case of them.  She handed them to the soldier.  "Eat 'em now.  We'll be home as soon as I can.  I'm not leaving a single body here, ma'am."  She nodded, going back to the others.  She looked at the screen.  "How many more ships in this area?  I found a friendly who helped pull this one from a gravity well."

"How far off course was it?" Carbine asked.

"Half a parsec.  It was fully engulfed.  How many more?"

"We've gotten reports from two other ships, they've found them. There's also a small moon landing colony that was on an escape vector.  They're on your list too. Get with the squadron."

"Deal.  I don't know who helped, but I told them to contact you guys about the Plutarkians since they're mostly gone now."

"They have," Exhaust said smugly.  He winked at her.  "Good job on that as well, Chassis.  Come home soon, before the medals go up."

She shuddered.  "No thanks.  I'd rather side with Xander and have hugs."  Arms went around her and she looked back, frowning at the dark brown mouse.  "Uncle Source?"  He nodded, hugging her again.  She turned and hugged him.  "You'll be fine, Uncle.  I promise you will," she soothed.  The connection was cut and she didn't realize it.  She slowly let him go.  "We've got to rendevous with the rest of the squadron and go help the others.  Can you guys hold on for a bit longer?"  He nodded.  "Good."  She went back to pilot it, contacting her commander.  "Sir, I've got my ship on tow.  It was in a gravity well."

"Agreed.  We can move the dead to your ship if we find some we can't tow.  How are you for space?"

"They'll squeeze in if they have to," she vowed.  "We're using our landing bays."  He nodded.  "Good.  Which one's my next one?"

"The moon.  They'll probably have some stuff to bring back, they were escapees."

"Good deal, sir.  On my way."  She hung up and headed for the new location, it wasn't that far away from her. "People, we're going to another world to pick up more people.  Sorry if you get cramped," she called.

"We're doing fine," Heat promised.  "Add more.  I'm good."  He went back to treating the injuries he could, making notes about the others and pinning it to their rags.  That way they could be treated as soon as they got back.   Someone was going to be having a party later when these mice got back.  Him included once he was off duty.


Stoker called down to Earth, getting Throttle.  "I need Enamel up here pronto. We've found more survivors than we can deal with.  He can instruct Heat and Proxima if need be.  Or he can deputize and that stuff.  But we need him now."

"Sure," Throttle agreed.  "Let me get him up.  He's napping."  He hung up and hurried downstairs, tapping on his door. "Enamel, there's new refugees and they're overloaded.  They need you to go deputize and administrate."

"Going," he groaned, forcing himself up.  He headed for the transporter, letting Throttle dial it for him.  Then he stepped through and nodded at the council.  "What can I do to help without having use of my hands?"

"Go administrate.  You've got idiots in charge who've never seen a trauma scene," Carbine told him.

"Fine with me.  I get to yell, right?" he asked with a smirk as he walked.  He walked into the hospital and looked around. "Mayflower!" he shouted.  She poked her head out. "I'm here to order and restore order!  Where am I!"

"Here!  We've got trainees."  He nodded, heading that way.  "This is Enamel.  You give him shit, I whip your tail and then let the Biker Mice on Earth come do it," she said firmly.  "Yes, he's been hit with a paralyzer beam.  If he says you move, you move."  They nodded.  "We're setting up for triage."

"Good. Open a bigger center.  From the way the council looked, it's a lot of refugees."  She looked stunned.  "Now."  She nodded, going to do that.  "All right.  As ships come in, any that have already been treated get separated out if possible. I know at least one of my proteges has went.  Any he can't treat directly on that ship he'll tag.  Read the tags.  It'll be coded.  Surgical head to one area Mayflower will be marking.  Amputees and the burn victims go separately.  Starvation and other injuries are put into another area.  Most of them will be more easily cured.  Understood?"  Everyone nodded. "Good.  Anyone who's unsure if something is surgical or not for an unmarked patient ASK!"  That got another nod.  "Good, kids.  Go now, help Mayflower set up the areas."  They headed out.  He turned and went back into the hospital, seeing the shocked looks. "I was hit with a paralyzer, I'm doing admin.  Mayflower, what's the body count?"

"Close to a thousand refugees so far, you were right," she offered.  "We're opening the center at the landing field."  Everyone stared at her.

"That means only those who absolutely triage as red right this moment head back here, people.  We've got regional centers, use them for the starvation and minor injuries like breaks.  Get the surgical people back here.  I told the kids we're separating out.  I'm sure at least Heat or Proxima marked."

"The others were ordered to before they left," she assured him.  "Okay, teams.  Let's split up.  Surgeons, we'll need you here!  Half the nurses, follow me.  If we have to, we'll coopt some of the Freedom Fighters to bandage.  Pack and let's head, people.  Enamel is in charge of the admin stuff while we're doctors and nurses."

"Why him?" a nurse whined.

"I was hit with a paralyzer beam, I can't move my hands or arms," he told that nurse.  "Besides, kid, I was here when that school was blown up.  I treated that one too.  Go, now. You're at the center."  She nodded, heading after Mayflower.  "Any who aren't surgeons, head over there to help triage.  I'm sure you can identify what's a critical surgery and what's not."  They nodded, heading out with what gear they had.  He went back to the Council chambers.  "Call Micah," he ordered.  "We'll need more supplies than we've been able to send up."

"We just got a shipment," Stoker told him.  "Bandages and everything.  Where's the main triage center?"

"The landing field.  Mayflower's heading over there with everyone but the surgeons and some nurses.  The starvation and lesser injuries, which I'm sure will be most of them, go to the regional health centers.  They can be rehydrated there."  That got some nods and people calling.  "We'll load the dead onto a single ship for now," he promised, heading out to go back to them.  "How soon?"

"An hour for the first ship.  Further out at ten hours present speed," someone yelled back.

"Fuck, we'll be exhausted by then," he complained.  "Someone tell Mayflower how long before the last ship so she can rotate out staff for breaks."  Everyone nodded and they went to work on things.  "Let the regional health centers handle the starvation and minor injuries," he told someone calling.  "Unless they're a surgeon."  He nodded.  "That's fine, then bring any surgeons in.  We'll send out the lesser ones there, they'll be the bulk if we're lucky."  He went to check on other things, finding everyone ready and waiting.  "One hour, people.  Possibly up to ten for the last one at present estimates.  Take breaks when you can."  Everyone prepping the surgical suites nodded at that.  They'd be working the longest hours. He went back to wait, pacing a bit.  Then he decided to head over there.  He walked that way, catching a ride with a nice Freedom Fighter.  "Are your units on standby?"

"We're there as body handlers, sir," he said grimly.

"Good. Unload the living first.  The dead can wait on the ships."  He nodded.  "I'm sorry about them, but we'll need to hit the living first."

"Of course."  He dropped him off.  "Thank you, doctor."

"Son, it's going to be a long day," he said gently.  "It'll make you wanna bawl and cry.  Can you hold it in for a few hours?"  He nodded.  "Then try your best.  It's going to be enough to make a man pray."  He walked inside, seeing the energy going.  "Less than an hour," he called.  "Where are we?"

"Nearly there," Mayflower called back.  She looked at him as he walked over.  "I was at the school as a trainee."

"I was only two years out myself," he admitted quietly.  "It's going to be one of those situations where you'll need to pray later.  You do what you have to do.  I'll expect some of these people to quit after this," he said honestly.  "Let me know when we run out of things so we can get word back to Earth."  She nodded, giving him a hug and hurrying off.  He saw his girl busting around.  "Shell!"  She looked up, looking guilty.  "I know you're a doc, be careful."  She nodded, smiling at him.  He heard the ship's engine above them and said a silent prayer to get through this.  The ship landed. "Head's up, people!"  The fighters went to start offloading bodies, and the students went to tell them where to send everyone.  Within ten minutes there was a 'cheese, I don't know how to treat this' yelp.  He hurried that way, looking at the patient.  "What is it?"

"It's a growth in her chest."  He pressed on the mass.  "It's moving."

He looked at it.  "Press again."  The student looked at him.  "I got hit with a paralyzer, kid."  The student pressed again. "Now outward."  He did that.  "It's treatable, it'll be a later surgery. Tag her and note it's a fluid tumor.  Yellow tag.  She's a later surgery."  He nodded, doing that.   He found his student working on a patient and looked. "Clip that vein, Proxima."

"I'm trying to clip it together so we don't have to amputate."

"There's alternate routes.  If she loses too much blood, she'll die."  He clipped them together then beamed.  "Good, now tape it and red tag her.  It's an easier fix."  He nodded, tagging her and whistling for someone to come get her.  The next patient was brought before he could even sip the soda sitting next to his table.  He walked on, going to look at the other students.  He heard another ship and moaned.  "We've got the second one already!"

"We're nearly done with this lot," Mayflower yelled back.  She ran out to start checking bodies, she was free and others weren't.  "Cheese!" she said, sniffling the bodies.  "Where's the Plutarkian?"

"A mother has a halfling," the pilot reported.  "I couldn't get her to let go.  She's delirious."

"It happened many times."  She nodded.  "Is she stable?"  He nodded.  "Then you send her directly to Carbine.  First thing."  He nodded, going to take her personally while the others offloaded the patients the medic with him had marked.  She wasn't about to deal with that situation.  Let the politicians deal with that stuff.  "Here's one, take him to surgery immediately," she called.  Someone came in and grabbed the body, taking it off. Enamel came in.  "A halfling," she said at his expression.

"She's not the first," he said bitterly.  He moved toward the back.  "We've got them stacked by importance it looks like," he offered, nudging one with a foot.  He recognized him.  "Can you move?"  The doctor nodded, standing up.  "You and any other medics or docs are needed.  We're in triage.  We'll do what we can for you before we put you to work."

"What about you?"  He saw the futile movements in his arms and winced.  "I'm sorry."

"It's getting better.  I'm trying alternatives.  Get them and head out first.  We need more of us."  He nodded, tapping a few others to come with him.  He said a silent prayer of thanks, hoping more were coming.  He noticed this ship was tethered and headed over there to check, not finding any others alive.  He found a few more people he had worked with, but he couldn't help them.  He would mourn later.  He hurried back out to help get people where they needed to go.  "Proxima!" he shouted. "Come help me, damn it!"

"Coming!" he yelled back, rushing that way.  He saw the reason and clamped the bleeding artery with his fingers.  "Surgical, now!" he shouted.  "We'll need to clamp him!"  He got that one clamped once someone brought him one and they were off.  He went to work in here.  "It gets better, right?" he pleaded quietly as he checked. A few more were put back onto the ship.

"Not today it don't, kid," he said bitterly.  "This is one of those situations where you bear down and do it, then you mourn and break down later.  I'll buy you a drink when you're done."  He nodded, going to help someone who had just fallen.  Enamel followed out a body.  "How are we for supplies?" he asked the nurse digging into them.

"So far we're on target," she offered.  "How many more ships is the real question."

Enamel looked at her. "I'll find out."  He headed back to the council chambers, running into Stoker to stop him.  "How many more ships?  We've got enough for ten."

"There's close to twenty or more," he offered.

"Then we need more stuff immediately if not sooner."

"Micah said he can't get it right this moment.  Something about money being transferred."

"Then call Dawn and Xander.  Have them buy it and have it sent to them!  People will die."  He walked off, going to check on the hospital.  It was mostly quiet, only a few people crying.  He stopped beside a child.  "Shh, little one. You're home now. It'll be okay tomorrow."  The child looked up at him. "I'd cuddle you but I can't move my hands. You're home and safe now."  The kid nodded, giving him a trusting look.  He heard running, smaller, feet and turned, finding Racer and Spike there. "Out!  This is nowhere for kids!"

"Good, then we're bandaging," Racer said firmly.  "This is my future and I can damn well tie a bandage!  So can Spike."  He led his friend off, going to help with some of the people coming out of surgery.  "We can bandage," he told a nurse.  "I learned because my big sisters are mean and I had some of my own.  This is Spike. He'll help me."  She looked at him.  "Enamel said so."  She nodded, letting them do it.  She checked that first one and it was proper so she left them at it for the more minor things.  She was needed elsewhere.

Enamel came in a minute later and nuzzled him. "You're too young, kid."

"So?"  He looked at him.  "People got hurt like I did.  I can and Spike has in the past.  We can bandage.  I won't go near the dead."  Enamel sighed and nodded.  "Momma don't know but I don't care."

"Fine.  I'm telling her.  It'll be a bit before she can get here."  He nodded, accepting that.  He knew he was going to have limits.  "Good boy, Racer, you too, Spike.  Good job too."  He headed off to check on the council.  He found the woman sobbing, holding her child.  "Put her somewhere safe for Mars' sake," he demanded.  "Now's not the time to make this decision and the kid's not the first we've seen!"  Carbine flinched and looked at him, glaring.  "I don't care.  It's a child. That's a mother.  We've got worse problems. Exhaust, can you bandage?"  He nodded.  "Good, then go help Racer and Spike, call Momma soon too."  He looked at Carbine.  "She's hysterical.  It won't help.  Put her somewhere safe and quiet so she can calm down."

"Fine," she ground out.  "I don't want them...."

"It's half Martian if it's hers, Carbine.  Right now, we need you and everyone else to either be bandaging, helping, or getting us supplies.  Do it now!"  She nodded, going to do that.  He looked at the guard coming in.  "It's her kid, guys.  I doubt she actually wanted it but it's still her child.  Put her and the child somewhere safe, dry, and warm so she can calm down.  We'll figure it out later."  He nodded, taking her upstairs to the older chamber.  There were cells by it and she and the child would be safe in one of those.  Or an office.  Enamel went back to the landing center, seeing two ships being unloaded now.  He mentally groaned and walked back into the chamber.  "Someone dial earth."  One of the guards did, getting Throttle. "We've got over a thousand refugees.  We need supplies pronto and Micah can't.  I don't care if you steal 'em, and we need you guys up here to help."

"Xander's still knocked out.  I'll be right up.  Could some of the vamps help?  Boris is here."

"Fine.  Whatever.  Bring 'em up with bandages and stuff, or they can go buy bandages and send them.  Either way."

"Sure.  Be right there."  He hung up and went through the house. "There's over a thousand refugees.  We're needed, bros."

"Coming," Rimfire shouted, coming out of their room putting on a shirt.  "Sorry, I was changing.  Let's go.  Bikes?"

"Not needed to lift and tote people."  Everyone, including Xander, came to the transporter.  "Babe, we need bandages bad.  You and the vamp you and Boris help with that for right now. Get with Micah, see what the hold up is."

"Fine."  He went back to call him, bringing the vampires with him.  "Micah, what's the hold up with the medical supplies and how can Boris and I help?"  He looked at Boris, then handed over the phone.  "Here, it's going to be political."  He went to use the house phone to call the vampire bar.  "It's Xander.  There's been a refugee flux on Mars.  They need medical supplies like now.  Can you send out everyone to go buy stuff like right now and bring it here?  No, no attention needed, just get it here."  He smiled.  "If they can pull it off. Yeah.  I don't to rob them of it though.  Decent enough.  Thanks, babe."  He hung up and called Boris' house.  "Megan, me.  We've had a new influx of injured refugees on Mars.  Medical stuff mostly.  Yeah, like right now.  Sure.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "The bar's sending out people to get supplies quietly.  They're bringing them here.  When they get here, shove them through the transporter," he ordered the vampire him.  That got a nod and the kid ran off.  "Damn I was young then," he sighed, shaking his head.  "Not even graduation to temper me."

He called Meg and Oz.  "Hey, me.  There's been an influx of refugees to Mars.  We need shit now.  Yes, that stuff too.  Water and food.  Everyone else is getting bandages.  That's fine, take my new card if you have to.  I'll pay it off somehow.  Take it, get granola bars and stuff.  Most of them were prisoners and on slim rations if they got anything.  Hey, Sam's is good.  Get there and get here.  Now if possible.  Thanks, babe."  He hung up.  "Okay, I've got Meg and Oz getting food and water supplies," he called.

"Micah's getting supplies but it's off the military," Boris called, coming up to the office.  "There's already vampires dropping off bags and the vampire you is sending them through."

"Good.  Let's hope they're going to right spot," he sighed, heading down to check on it and handle the incoming stuff.  He was still exhausted. He found Detail, Shot, the new baby, Anya, and her baby sister coming through.  "Head upstairs, play nicely, and don't touch the computer.  Got it?"  They nodded, heading up there.  "Where's Vic?" he called after them.

"In bed.  Auntie said to tell you," Shot yelled back.  "She's doing supplies on their end."

"Good.  Thanks.  Listen for him and come get me if he starts to fuss."

"I've got the kids," Boris called. "I can't do much else."

"Sure.  Make sure Vic's not astral crawling again.  He accepted some more bags with a nod.  "Drop the slips on the counter, man.  Put your name on it."  He sent them through, making sure it was going to the right spot.  It was, they had left it on.

Oz pulled up a few minutes later, getting out to unload stuff.  "How are they doing?"

"Bad.  They're on ship six out of maybe twenty-six.  They didn't plan to find this many survivors," he said as he helped him offload stuff and toss it through the transporter.  "Thanks for this, man.  Go ahead and put the slip on the counter and make sure it's marked."

"Not an issue.  We took the rent money we owe you."

"Fine.  Again, not an issue," he offered with a small smirk.  "How's Meg?" he asked as he hefted some water.

"Fat and complaining.  Apparently usual."  He shrugged and grabbed more water, sending it through.  "This won't be breaking anything, right?"

"Charley's there to catch," he promised. "You can head over if you want."

"She's got it.  Meg would skin me alive if I went to Mars without her."  He finished the trunk and opened the back seat, handing over bags of medical stuff.  "They had some there too.  I explained it as a road trip with my frat to go camping on a manly man survival thing.  They just nodded and pointed out bandaids."  He handed that bag over too.  Xander grinned and tossed them through.  He checked the car, handing over one last bag.  "Fragile stuff, to celebrate when it's over and everyone's safe.  I figure someone will need the drink."  He got into the car and headed off, letting someone else have the spot.

Boris came down the ramp.  "Micah said they need you to shut off for a minute so they can get their stuff through."

"Sure," Xander agreed.  He tossed the last bag and shut it down, taking the chance to sigh and wipe his forehead off with his shirt.  "Damn I hope this is going to be enough."

"It will be. Have some faith, Xander."  He patted him on the cheek.  "Have a lot of faith and it'll be fine."  Xander nodded, sending a silent prayer that everyone who could be saved would be.  Then he checked the machine.  "They're sending it to the wrong realm," he said grimly.  "It's showing an active connection."   He watched it for another minute.  "No, there it goes, from off realm.  I'm guessing he set it for Throttle like I did once. The connection shut and he turned on his, taking the stuff that had been brought and chucking it through.  He could see the picture of Charley and a guard moving stuff.  It was a good thing.


Enamel came out of the transporter with Heat and Proxima very early the next morning.  They were all about to collapse.  He saw the bag with his name on it.  "Someone grab that," he ordered tiredly.  Heat grabbed it and looked inside, then burst out laughing. "What?"  He looked.  "Gotta love Xander.  He's been there before during the battles.  Bring it and find some cups, guys."

"Fuck it, I can drink out of a bottle," Proxima said, taking the bottle to open and taking his first taste of earth liquor.  He shuddered.  "Ooh, burns," he gasped, handing it off.  "Come on, boss.   Let's get you to bed.  Shell will be coming once she's awake.  Her work starts tomorrow."

"She'll be working before then.  We had a mother come in with a halfling."  He let Heat pour him a drink and gulped it.  Then he nodded as he swallowed.  "Damn, the good stuff too," he gasped, shaking his head.  "One more and then you guys both go to bed."  He got his second one and headed in there to sleep it off.  He'd probably be called back tomorrow.

Heat and Proxima sat outside to watch the sun rise from the patio area, sharing the bottle between them.  All the students were off for the next eight hours.  They had time to sleep.

Throttle came stumbling out and headed for his room, finding Xander had already pulled back the covers and was waiting for him.  "Babe," he groaned.

"Shh, I've seen aftermath before," he soothed, helping him out of his clothes.  He got him into bed and laid beside him on top of the covers to hold him.  "Shh, I'm here.  You can rest, Throttle.  You saved who you could.  You helped a lot.  It's all right."  Throttle nodded and sighed, relaxing so he could fall into an exhaustion nap. Xander smoothed his fur, soothing any nightmares from coming forward.  He heard Modo talking to someone and got up once he was sure Throttle was going to sleep for a bit, heading up to check on him.  "Are you all right?"

Modo nodded.  "Fine, Xander.  Thanks for not making me move furniture on my first day back."  He looked at his nephew.  "He was helping bandage with Spike."

Xander hugged him.  "I'm very proud of you, Racer.  You and Spike both.  When you're ready to cry and talk, you can come to me or Modo.  Got it?"  He nodded, sniffling a bit.  "Shh, it's all right. You helped a lot, little man."  He sat down to cuddle him.  "Go to bed, Modo, I caught a nap earlier."  He nodded, heading that way.  Staff walked past him and Modo grabbed her, tossing her onto the bed so he could have the best medicine for pain, his lady's touch.  Xander looked down at Racer, stroking his back.  "I know it was bad, but we saved that many mice today."

"So many died," he sobbed.

Xander kissed him on the ear.  "You saved who you could, Racer.  That's the important thing.  Being a doctor is very hard because sometimes you can't save someone, no matter how much you want it and need it."  He nuzzled him and Racer hiccuped, making him grin down at him.  "You better now?"  He nodded.  "Good boy.  You go find an empty spot and rest, baby boy.  Proxima and Heat are probably feeling the same way.  So's Enamel.  So you go rest and sleep.  When you get up, we'll talk some more with Enamel and them, okay?"  He nodded, wiping off his fur.  "Hey, never be ashamed to cry, Racer.  It's an emotion and you should be thankful you have them.  It's a good reason to cry.  Mourning the lost always is."  The boy nodded and got down, heading for the rooms the kids usually used.  Xander got up and headed back downstairs.  He checked on Enamel but Shell was curled in his arms.  He shut the door for them and headed back to his room.  "I'm back," he soothed as he walked in.  "Racer was helping and he needed a cuddle too."  He laid down next to his mate. "He'll be fine."

"Where was he?" Throttle asked quietly.

"He and Spike were bandaging people.  He's a bit upset but I told him he did good work and that he helped save some people and that crying was okay in this situation."  He cuddled his mate closer.  "I'm damn impressed."

"Me too," Throttle agreed quietly, snuggling in.  "Vinnie and Charley are with Momma.  Where's Vic?"

"Boris was reading him a bedtime story when I was upstairs. Since he's stuck here for the day."  He kissed him, then nuzzled him.  "Rest. You need rest."  Throttle hummed at that, clutching him.  "I'm here.  No nightmares would be brave enough to come near you when I'm here."  That got a small chuckle but Throttle did fall asleep again.  Xander continued to soothe him, falling asleep himself after a while. There was time enough to pay back everyone tomorrow.

The End.

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