Throttle got Xander in front of him.  "Yo, bike, stay here.  I'll come get you later with Vinnie.  Got it?"  It beeped inquisitively.  "His hand's getting worse.  Until I tell you, he's not to fight unless he's got to.  Got it?"  The bike snorted.  "Don't go against me.  He's not to fight until he heals."  He drove off, taking Xander to the hospital.  The regional clinics were good but they couldn't fix it there if it needed fixing.  He parked and got off, picking Xander up over his shoulder to carry inside.  Someone got the door and he nodded. "Thanks.  The ER still in the same place?"  The guard nodded.  "Thanks."  He headed that way, giving the nurse staring at him a dirty look.  "His burn's infected, he's suppressing the pain he's in constantly.  He's got something wrong with his right pec and just under it that's causing chronic pain."  She got him a wheelchair and he put Xander down, putting his hand in his lap.  She looked and hissed.  "He's been suppressing the pain.  He isn't taking anything for it.  The bandage was really nasty so I took it off."

"Is he a relative, sir?"

"He's my husband, nurse.  I'm bonded to him and stuck in his head."

"Is that a separate problem?"

"Not to us."  He casually knocked Xander back out again when he groaned.  "He's Xander Harris. You've got his file around here somewhere from the medical board."

"Okay.  Let me get you into a room and I'll find it."  She led him that way, going to call the senior doctor on the floor.  There was a note about him somewhere, something about a doctor named Enamel.  She tugged on the doctor's coat, making him look at her.  "There's a Xander Harris here, sir.  His...husband?  Said his hand's not looking good.  It's an older looking burn.  He said he removed the bandages because they were dirty.  Something about chronic pain on the right side of his chest in the pectoral area and he was suppressing the pain?  He knocked him back out."

He blinked a few times.  "Go up to the board, get his records for me.  No one else sees him but me and Enamel, that guy who was paralyzed temporarily."  She nodded, hurrying off. He went to find the mouse, finding Throttle first.  He looked at him. "You're his spouse?"

"Bonded mate and he's stuck in my head," Throttle said dryly.  He held up his hand.  "Enamel's been taking care of it but it's been a few days.  The bandage was filthy so I took it off. He's doing something mentally to suppress all the pain he's in.  He's got a chronic pain here," he said, touching the right area.  "He has since he changed into a mouse. Enamel said he'd grow out of it but he never told me and he's been shoving that down for a while now."

"Okay.  Let me do a few things and I'll call him up.  I've sent for his records.  You are aware our hearts are over there?"  Throttle nodded.  "Is it related to that?  Human's hearts are on the other side of their bodies."  Throttle shuddered.  "I'm guessing it might have something to do with that."  He listened to his chest, then smiled and nodded.  "I think it could be something about that.  Perhaps a muscle stopping that from moving properly into place."  He moved onto his hand, wincing a bit.  "He can make himself not feel that?"

"His father once beat him with a piece of barbed wire."  The doctor shuddered. "He had to manage it without drugs and figured out how to stomp on his pain centers.  He ignored that and the stab wound he had at the time for almost twelve hours before it got treated if that gives you a clue."

"It does.  That could also be some of the pain."  He waved the nurse in, taking the file.  "Thank you, dear.  You may go."  She nodded, heading off.  "She's still fairly new."  He sat down to read over the notes, frowning at what he saw.  "Enamel was what sort of doctor?"

"Pediatrician," Xander moaned, sitting up.  Throttle shoved him back down and knocked him back out.

"I have something I can give him.  Even with that marking on his chart."

"As long as it won't hurt him.  He reacts very badly to sedatives."

"It's actually a pain killer."  He went to get some, coming back to inject Xander in the arm. Then he went back to reading.  "Ah, here it is."  He read over that section, nodding a few times.  "He thought it should correct but I don't see where he's ever went back to check it again.  There's a muscle in the way of it shifting over properly."

"Can it be fixed?"

"Easily," he assured him.  "It'll just take some open chest surgery."  Throttle winced at that.  "It won't be pretty," he assured him.  "There may be a way around it but I'm not sure yet.  Let me continue looking this over.  I'm going to call him to talk to him."

"He's with Shell," Throttle told him.  "Wherever she is."

"That's fine.  I know, roughly, where she is.  She's always hungry about this time of day," he offered with a small smile.  "I'll be right back.  Keep him calm and push the blue button if there's any change.  He shouldn't wake up for a bit."  Throttle nodded at that so he walked down to the cafeteria, finding Shell and Enamel.  Everyone else was ignoring her because she was eating pickles on her hotdogs.  He sat down across from Enamel, pushing over the folder open to the right spot.  "Did you ever go back to check that?"

He read it, then shook his head.  "I thought it'd fix itself and he quit complaining after the first two times.  Why?"

"He's in chronic pain from it.  He's also been stomping on his pain receptors mentally."

"Since he was six," Shell agreed, wiping her mouth off.  "That's why he isn't feeling his hand and isn't taking anything for it."  Enamel gaped and she shrugged, smirking at him.  "That's part of what makes him a Xander mouse."

"Damn it," he muttered, getting up and heading up there.  He found the right room and glared at Throttle.  "He quit complaining about it."

"He never told me at all," he admitted.  "By the way, look at his hand."  Enamel looked then flinched.  "It hasn't been changed in a few days.  Mostly on a rescue and things.  From now on, I'm going by the medical clearance rule."

"Sure, I agree totally.  Especially with this one being the way he is.  Can you help me?"  Throttle put the stethoscope in his ears, then on his chest.  "Lower. Turn it around too."  Throttle turned it over and then moved it.  "Lower and to the right."  He listened, his eyes closed, then nodded.  "Now back to the center."  It moved and he listened again.  "That bastard, he never told me!"  He shook the earpieces off then looked at him.  "It's not uncommon, but it's not too usual," he warned. "It can be fixed. We will have to go in and move whatever is blocking it.  Part of that pain is probably low blood flow to some spots."  Throttle shuddered again.  "It could be a lot worse.  Someone will have to crack his chest, then move it."  He licked his buck teeth, looking over as the doctor came back with a cardiologist, the last on Mars.  "He's a changed one."

"I saw."  He moved the stethoscope and listened, then frowned a bit, listening to the wrist above the burn."  He looked at Throttle.  "Can you go in and remove the pain blocks?"  He shrugged.  "You are his spouse, right?"

"Yeah and he's in my head permanently.  I don't know where they are or how he does it, just that he does it.  I only found out today."

"I can if he'll lead me in," Shell said from the doorway.  "I've had to tamper a bit in there in the past, nudging aside some stuff."  She walked in and made the mistake of looking at Xander's hand, then getting sick in the corner. "Sorry.  Baby didn't like that."

"Hell, I don't like it and I'm not a baby," Enamel muttered, giving her a 'sorry' look.  "I'll get you more later, dear."

"Sure.  Okay, we'll need you and Vinnie here, Throttle."  He raised an eyebrow.  "It might take him instead of you.   You saw, but he can hide things from you.  He can't from Vinnie.  Vinnie's got that brother's trust from him, while you're just his spouse."  Throttle scrunched up his face and Vinnie came running in a few minutes later, making her smile.  "That's damn handy.  Vinnie, come help me.  We're taking off that part that's stomping on his pain."  He nodded, coming in to help, but looking away from the burn.  "That's next."

"Can't you bandage it first?"

"You mean clean it off totally and add some healing salve," the first doctor suggested.  "Yes, but if we do that, then the pain can linger for a bit.  This way it'll be a cleaner pain."

"Fine.  You're the docs.  I'll warn you now, he hates being treated."

"We all do," Enamel assured him. "Do it as fast as you can.  There's other problems he didn't tell me about."

Vinnie looked at him.  "Color me shocked."

"Did you know about the chest pains?"  He nodded and Throttle swatted him.

"It was back when he was eight or so," he defended.  "He let everything drop for a few minutes when he was so exhausted.  Remember?"  Throttle nodded.  "He let it drop then and I felt it.  He said it was nothing, part of the change.  I told him I hope I never have to change from myself."  He leaned down, merging with Xander's mind but running into his shield.  "Crap."  He found the emergency switch Xander had put in to lower it if he was caught outside his body- mostly in case he was forced out by a spirit.  They cruised inside, going to where she knew it was.  She found the box and handed him a blaster.  He blew up the box and felt the pain started.  He got out of there.  He didn't need more pain.  He looked at Shell, she was back too and holding onto her stomach while Throttle held her up.  "Okay, he's in real pain and he's got a problem with his shin."

Enamel nudged one of the doctors.  "My disc's in my pocket.  I've been training the kids with it.  They should have picked it up too."

"The discs are programmed to not track old problems unless you make it," the cardiologist noted.  "I remembered that and noticed it on the new ones as well.  By the way, thank you for letting us take one to work on."  Enamel nodded.  "I'd shake your hand but I heard you can't move?"

"Paralyzer beam.  It's temporary."

"Good.  We need more skilled people."

"He's our doc on earth," Vinnie told him.  "He's the only doc on earth."

"That's fine, I understand that," he admitted.  "I heard about you but then again, we're not Gods."  He got out of the way, letting them attach the disc and the scanner, then looked at it.  "We have a bone growth from a formerly broken rib apparently and a muscle in the way.  This does happen a lot when you have to switch sides of the heart in a changeling.  It's not too hard to do.  Challenging but not too difficult."  He paged down.  "His shin is a deep bruise.  It'll be fine.  His hand is listed as a red flagged injury."  He tapped on that and it came up.  "It's not infected."  They all sighed at that.  "So, what should we do?"

Throttle looked down at his mate.  "How long to fix it and how much?"

"We can actually use it to teach others," the cardiologist offered.  "We need more people trained.  I'm careful but I can always be in an accident."  Enamel nodded at that.  "We also have other changlings here that we need to check this on.  There's a bunch of usual problems that a pediatrician wouldn't know about.  This one, there's a neuro problem associated with the growing lobes."

"He got some migraines," Enamel told him.  "He didn't seem to have the digestive problem."

"His body's odd," Vinnie told him, leaning against the wall.  "He doesn't like hotdogs either."

"We have a few more feet of intestine," Enamel told him.  Vinnie looked upset at that. "It's nothing unusual.  It happens.  When did he break his ribs?"

"I didn't know he had," Throttle told him.  All the doctors looked at him.  "We've been together since he started to change, but he's only been locked in my head for the last six months or so and he can still hide things from me."

Shell ran a hand across Xander's forehead.  "Hmm.  Second bout of bungee jumping?" she asked Vinnie, who shrugged. Throttle was muttering about that being dangerous, he knew it was.  She read it again, looking at her lover.  "About eight months ago.  Six weeks after the first time. The cable snapped him funny and it cracked on him."

"Sure.  Remind me to never do that.  Okay?"  She smiled and nodded.  "Thanks.  I don't care how safe they say it is."  The other doctors chuckled.  "Jumping off somewhere really high with just a big rubber band around your ankles."  They all winced and shuddered.  "That's that white mouse and Vincent both."

"The first two times were fun but he didn't take me on the second one."

"That would have been while you were fussing with Charley over the baby," Enamel reminded him.  "I remember him complaining about being really bored and no one to play with."  He looked at the cardiologist.  "So, can we fix that while he's healing from the burn?  The less time we have to keep him knocked out the better."

"You're sure you want to go that way?"

"He'll escape otherwise."

"Damn, he's one of those," he muttered.  "Okay.  We can do it today if we can get someone to deal with his hand."

"Done," the first doctor offered.  "We've seen plenty of burns recently."  He looked at the other mice. "Are you both staying?"

"I know I am.  Vinnie can come and go," Throttle told him.  "We've got a bro, Modo."

"I've met Rimfire," one of them admitted

"Many of us did," Throttle said dryly.  "He made many of us vow to never have kids."  That got some laughs.  "Seriously."  He kissed his mate on the forehead.  "Xander, I'm going to get your bike and bring it home, babe.  We'll be right back.  Shell's here if you panic.  Reach out for her.  I'll be right back.  They're very good doctors."  He looked at Shell.  "Do you mind?"

"Not in the least.  Go.  Shoo."  He nodded, taking Vinnie with him to take Xander's bike back to his mother's.  She moved closer and stroked his forehead.  "I'm right here," she soothed.  A nurse came in with some bandages and cleaning supplies. She focused since he heard that thought.  "He was cleaning the tub so Ray's mother could visit and got his hand with the tub cleaner?" she asked her mate.

"I never heard that one either," he admitted.  "I was living there and never heard about that."

"He said Throttle fixed it when he saw the orange bandage."

"Oh, good."  He turned and hit his head against the wall.  "You're my reward, right, Shell?"

"Yup, sure am," she said happily.  She smiled at the other doctors and shrugged a bit.  "It's been a long month."

"I can tell," the cardiologist admitted.  "Let me go prep a room and gather the students so they're no longer idiots."  He walked out, going to get them all, including Enamel's two.

The other doctor smiled at her and moved around to help that hand.  It wasn't the worst he'd seen but it needed to be cleaned up a bit and some of that new healing salve put on it so it'd heal faster.


Xander woke up and blinked at the industrial ceiling.  "Fuck," he muttered hoarsely.

"So, does it hurt?" Enamel asked from his position on the foot of the bed, reading over the chart.  He was still having to blow the pages to turn them.  "Xander.  I know you can hear me if you can talk."

Xander lifted his head with a wince.  "Does what ache?  I ache all over," he complained, putting his head back down.  "What train hit me and can I sue?"

"Nope and nope."  He flipped it closed with his knee, then leaned forward.  "You know that chest pain you've been hiding from everyone?"  He smirked at him.  "Good job, I'm impressed."  Xander moaned and reached up, noticing his hand was only lightly bandaged.  He looked at him and Enamel burst out laughing.  "It's been two weeks.  With very good care I might add."  He smirked at him again.  "Is the chest pain gone?"

"I can't tell, it all hurts."  He sighed and closed his eyes but felt something hit him.  "Does that mean you work?"

"Nope.  That wasn't me."  He nodded at Vinnie, who wiggled his fingers at him. "Your boy's at home dealing with Victor.  Vic didn't want to leave one of you and refused his daddy or mommy this time because you were sick."

"And then some," Vinnie agreed dryly.  "So, what hurts?"

"Everything.  Can't I deaden it for a little while."  Another bouncy ball hit him on the side of the head.  "I need a headache too?"

"We had Shell remove that reflex for you," Enamel told him.  "Since it was killing you."  Xander flinched at that.  "Your husband would like to talk to you about that when he gets back by the way."  He grinned.  "Now, what hurts?"


"Everything isn't descriptive enough, Xander.  Specifics?"

"My chest, here," he said, holding a hand over the spot.  "It's like it slides over, and then there's my hand.  Can't I just lose it if I have to feel that much pain?"

"Not unless you're going to either magic a new one or build a new one," Vinnie said dryly. "What else?"

"Why is there a pain in my ankle?"

"You were trying to wander in your sleep and turned it."  Vinnie grinned this time.  "Good job too.  You nearly made it outside before you were found and pounced by Spike."

"Remind me to feed him worms next time."  He shifted and grimaced.  "What's wrong with my back?"

"Being on it asleep for two weeks," Enamel told him.  "That'll be fine soon.  Describe the pain in your chest."  He got glared at and suddenly felt it.  "Oh, hey, that was you!"  He patted him on the uninjured foot.  "That's normal.  We had to remove a piece of bone sticking next to your lung and then let your heart move where it's supposed to go.  That's what the chest pains were. For future reference, that's something to nag about, Xander."

"I'll remember that if I don't kill myself from the pain," he complained, closing his eyes again.  "I can leave when?"

"About another week since you've proven you won't take care of your injuries properly," Enamel told him. "By the way, you can only sleep on your back until the incision heals.  You don't want those to pop open."  He looked at Vinnie, then slid off the bed.  "Let him sit up for a bit."  Xander waved a hand.  "Going back to sleep?"  Xander nodded.  "That's fine.  We've got you on a mild sedative and a light pain killer."

"I want more," he demanded. He cracked an eye in time to see the smug look.  "Why did we open my chest again?"

"Your heart had to shift over.  It was being stopped by a piece of bone and a muscle.  We went in and removed it, letting a bunch of students watch so they could see the procedure and the chest cavity."

"I'm not a cadaver, doc.  You know I hate to have people see me sick."

"Yay," he said dryly.  "There was no other way to teach them, Xander.  The way the US does it is forbidden."  Xander thumped his head back down.  "If it helps, they don't know you're you. Heat and Proxima are doing your after care and Shell's been stopping by to mother you for practice."   He saw the heated glare under the half-closed eyes.  "Give us a minute, Vincent."

"Nope.  He's like me.  He doesn't want people to see him as weak."

Enamel looked at him.  "For different reasons.  Out."  He sighed and got up, heading out and closing the door behind him.  He moved closer.  "I've seen you worse than this, Xander.  Including that time you wrecked and didn't want anyone to know.  It was the only way to teach those students how to do this, and how to stitch.  Your head and face were covered the whole time.  All they know is that you're a white, changeling mouse.  There's about eight of those on Mars at the moment.  This is a problem that only changelings have or else you'd have just been a white mouse.  None of them cared that you're momentarily weak from being injured.  None of them realize who you were or are.  The same as almost none of them saw the burn on your hand.  One wanted to do burns as a career and he did help a bandage change on it, but again your face was covered."  He stepped closer.  "You would have died without this," he said more quietly.  "It was starting to impair the blood flow to your left hand."

"I was getting some pins and needles."

"I figured you might have been," he agreed. "Now you won't."  He stared down at him.  "Throttle's not mad at you.  He's not going to see you as weaker."

"He already does."

"That's not why he tried to keep you out of the field, kid.  He tried because of your hand.  He said he did."  Xander stared him down.  "When did he say this, Xander?  You could be reading him wrong."

"I'm not."

"You are."  He moved right next to the head of the bed, leaning against the wall.  "Listen, kid, I've seen commanders like Throttle and Stoker before.  They only want the best and most fully trained people in the field because they know they've got a better chance of living longer to fight again.   That's why Stoker drilled so mercilessly.  It used to be said that joining the Freedom Fighters was worse than being in the military because of all the training.  Throttle learned that from him.  I'm sure he and his bros drill now and then."  Xander shook his head.  "No?  Not at all?"

"I'm figuring they got plenty of practical practice."

"True," Enamel agreed.  "By the way, Dawn and Primer showed their asses twice now.  Junior's been trying the garage and the lair.  Primer was a bit impressed with the girl."  He looked down at him.  "An injury doesn't weaken you more than temporarily.  Even that burn will heal and you'll have full use of your hand again with some work.  Fortunately it didn't get that deep.  The joints may be stiff but that's easily rebuilt."  He looked at his chest.  "That other thing was slowing you down. It was dangerous enough to not need permission to correct."  Xander sighed and shifted.  "Not onto your side, kid."  He looked down at him.  "You and I share some traits, Xander.  Neither of us is the weak person, even when we're ill.  It's been drummed into us we don't get seriously sick, even if we're dying.  You couldn't afford to get sick and I couldn't either when I was working up here, and later when I was hell bent on surviving without anyone.  There were not many forces in the universe that would get me to say anything other than 'I'm fine' when asked.  You had to be that way because you were one of the few warriors.  Willow didn't fight physically.  Buffy's an airhead about half the time from what I've seen and heard from you and Dawn.  I know you went out on your own to fight many things without having to see a single moment of that time."  Xander nodded about that. "Does he know?"  Xander nodded again, looking up at him.

"Good.  Throttle is one of those guys who understands being stronger after injuries.  He and his bros all did.  They had to be.  He won't see you as weaker because of this.  He might baby you while you're sick, but nothing else.  That's the job of a lover.  I nearly drove Shell off the first time she fussed over me because I had a cold.  She'll even tell you that, but then she realized it's a defense mechanism used for survival."  He looked in the eyes again.  "Throttle may not *realize* how much survival means at this moment in time.  You do.  I have in the past.  He survived, but being held by Karbunkle wasn't as bad as being held by some others in the universe."  Xander opened his mouth.  "Don't ask, kid.  It was after I was banished."  Xander nodded, letting it drop.  He leaned down to get into his face.  "So let's ease up on yourself.  You will heal from this.  You'll have almost no scar.  Proxima's really good at stitching as it turns out.  Give it a month and you'll be better than new."

"What about the other pains?"

"Those are because you were stomping on them so much.  That and your skin's a bit more sensitive.  It's a hallmark of having to live by your wits and survive.  I'm guessing you're very tactile because you needed it and never got it.  You're so sensitive because you needed it to survive.  The same as you needed that pain suppression more times than you probably knew.  How many bones did you break in Sunnydale?"

"According to them, one, my arm."

"And in reality?"

"Eight, maybe nine."  He looked at him.  "I needed to be that way."

"Yeah, and you were.  Now you don't need it so much. You can come down off that peak to about halfway down the mountain.  Let's face it, you're not the only one here."

"I wasn't the only one there."

"You were in many ways.  You can't tell me Buffy saw the warrior you were becoming."

"She started out seeing me," he complained, flipping onto his side. "Then Willow got magic and it was the special girls' society."

"Didn't I tell you not to do that?"

"If I didn't, I'd be screaming because my back's cramping."

"Oh.  Well, flip on the other side, I can sit on the bed."

"This side hurts less.  It's numbing the pain."

"It's also cutting off the blood supply to that burn, which isn't good.  Come on, flip over.  I'll sit on the foot of the bed again."  Xander moaned and flipped over.  "Good boy."  He hopped back up onto the end of the bed, smirking at him.  "I need to do more agility work."  Xander snorted at that.  "I do.  It'll take me about a week to get back to where I was with my hands.  I've been warned they'll be more sensitive but I'll live with it.  The same way you were living with that chest pain."  He stared the kid down.  "I know you'll never tell Throttle about that crash and other things, but you can't keep your doctor in the dark, Xander.  How am I supposed to be able to fix you if you don't tell me?"

"I told you."

"And I was a dumbass not to keep pressing about it.  I had forgotten it was a common problem with changelings.  I thought it had been fixed.  Otherwise we would have done this on Earth, when you got stabbed."  Xander snorted, then rubbed his chest.  "Yeah, laughing will hurt.  Just like your bruised ribs did."  He stared him down.  "I want you to promise me in the future that you're not going to keep things like this from me again.  I can't tell Throttle by ethical rules.  Not without your permission."  He looked over as the door opened.  "Out.  Give me five more minutes."

"No."  He closed the door and let Vic down on the bed.  "He's still refusing to let Vinnie do more than kiss him on the head.  See, there's the other uncle, Victor."

Vic sniffed Xander's nose, then licked it with a grin, snuggling in to be held.  Xander wrapped his injured hand around him, patting him gently.  "Hey, Vic.  Did you miss the uncle?"  The baby nodded.  "I missed you too.  You rest, little guy."  Vic snorted and shook his head.  "Well, I'm sure I'll be napping again soon so you can nap with me then, how about that?"


Xander chuckled.  "Fine.  You can watch me nap."  He nuzzled him on the top of the head, looking at him.  "Deal."

"No deal," Throttle said patiently.  "I need to know these things, Xander.  If you're injured, I'm supposed to want to baby you.  That's what a husband does."

Xander looked back at him.  "I don't need it."


Enamel coughed.  "Throttle, have you ever seen a mouse who's had to survive most of their life?  Someone like Modo's uncle?"  He nodded.  "Xander's like that for a very good reason."  Throttle groaned and sat down.  "He and I are both like that.  We will never admit to being weakened by anything."

"He let me baby him in the past when he was sick."

"That wasn't sick, that was miserable," Xander said dryly.  "I had the flu."

Enamel nodded.  "I remember.  You were miserable.  You let him cuddle?"

"And feed me."  He looked over at his mate.  "I can't turn that way."  Throttle got up and pulled the chair to the other side of the bed.  "Thanks."  He looked at him, then sighed.  "Throttle, how many times do you think I've wrecked my bike since I got him?"

"None.  No, hold on, I saw you fixing a scratch but you said that was traffic."

"It was.  A grocery cart actually."  He blinked at him.  "Try more like five."  Throttle winced.  "Yeah, I'm still a bit dizzy now and then and we worked it out between us."

"Need more botox in that ear tube?" Enamel suggested.  Xander nodded.  "Then we'll do that once we're ready to let you out, or when you get back on earth."  He slid off the end of the bed, looking at Xander, who shrugged.  "I only had to treat two of those, and that was mostly road rash he couldn't reach to put stuff on."

"You never mentioned it and I didn't realize?"

"We didn't have sex those weeks," Xander said dryly.  Throttle stared him down.  "I'm never anything but fine, Throttle.  It's not allowed in my life.  If I was that sick, things started to get worse because there weren't enough people to cover."

Willow appeared.  "Uh-huh.  I'd have known," she said firmly, glaring at him.  "I used to be able to tell your blood pressure from across the room."

Xander nodded.  "Until you got magic."  She gaped and he shrugged a bit. "Then you took up with Oz.....  Sounding slightly familiar?"  She nodded, but then shook her head.  "Willow, where was I when you were taking on the kraken?"

"Home, hopefully."

"Stopping the bomb making zombies," he said flatly.  "Where was I the night after graduation?"

"On your road trip.  Buffy was already gone, I was surfing the web for magical sites, you had left earlier that day."

"I left about midnight or one after doing another turn through the four most active cemeteries."   She made another dissenting noise and shook her head.  "Go back and view."  She faded out so he looked at his mate.  "See what I put up with and why?"

"I did before," he admitted.  He leaned forward.  "It's a bad thing, Xander. You don't have to do that now.  You can relax some of that vigilance.  There's the rest of us there too.  We like whipping tail just as much as you do."  Xander shrugged then winced.  "I understand why you had to fight injured and alone in the past. I get that.  But now you're not alone and I need you to let me know these things.  Especially now that you can't block off the pain anymore."

"I'll have that back by tonight, I'll make sure it's specific points and to let it go every day," he promised at the hurt look.  "This is me, Throttle.  You knew this about me.  You know me better than anyone."

"No, apparently I don't," he said bitterly, leaning back again.  "I watched you, Xander.  I saw you doing some incredible stuff in Sunnydale.  Maybe I should have seen it from your point of view.  Vinnie seems to be able to do that."

"Vinnie somehow manages to get past the last few shields without me knowing how," Xander said dryly.

"It's that thing that makes you like twins," Enamel told him.  He looked at Throttle.  "I've been in that same place.  Doctors are trained that way."  Throttle stared at him.  "I got captured after I was banished.  The Riosan I was traveling with decided I was a fun game."  Throttle shuddered and curled up a bit.  "So I do know where he's coming from.  Yes, he needs to calm it down some.  He knows he can trust you, he knows he's got fighters who are as good, if not better in their specialized areas, than he is.  It takes time to do that.  It's only been a year and a half."  He looked at Xander.  "It's time to start relaxing that and no, not until your hand is healed.  I need you to be able to tell me the slightest change in it.  That slight itching is a good thing but if it gets worse, it could signal an infection."  Xander sighed and nodded, letting go of what he was working on, Enamel could see it.

"Use it during the battles when you *have* to go.  I agreed with you about going after Cell.  She's family to you.  You had to go."  Xander nodded at that, staring him down.  "Right now, you're to stand down.  You'll need time to regrow your strength and I'm sure you will regrow it.  They can help you with that because I don't want you doing more than playing with the kids at home when we go back."  Xander sighed and nodded.  "Good.  Now, while you're getting stronger, they can work on your training.  They could probably use the drills again.  It'll only help your riding and your strength to do that.  Until then, you're under my care.  It's unfortunate, but you're injured.  At least you will get better."  Xander nodded at that, sighing again.  "Now let him see, Xander.  He has to see it to understand.  You noticed Vinnie didn't fight with you about going and Modo didn't fight with you about going. Let Throttle see inside those last few shields."


"Babe, it's not going to do more than make me love you more," Throttle promised.  He leaned forward to kiss him. "Even the times you were scared, there were probably good reasons."

"There's no good reason."

Throttle took the baby and went to hand him to his father.  "Hold him, I'm going into his head."  He went back in there and laid down facing him, handing Enamel his field specs.  He couldn't see anything beyond a blur, but he knew Xander and trusted him to protect them, and he kinda trusted Enamel enough to let him watch them.  "Let me in."  Xander dropped his shields and he felt the others.  "Those too," he whispered, going in there.  He was in the same starting spot as before.  But next to him was Xander.  "I want inside, Xander.  I *need* to see the real you. Fears and all. It won't hurt us.  I promise it won't hurt us." Xander nodded.  Throttle felt a nudge and then Vinnie was there.  "I don't need the help."

"You do temporarily," he said, putting his hands on Xander's head. "Now merge with this one.  This is the inner Xander."  Throttle leaned forward to merge their minds, feeling the strength but the alien feel around him.  He was still definitely human in here.  He forced the merge, and felt Vinnie ease the transition. Suddenly he was seeing things as Xander.  He blinked and felt the body respond. He felt another nudge and retreated back some, letting the kid be in control of his own memories. They were earlier now. He watched the things like he had before, but now he had a running soundtrack.  Before it had been like subtitles on an anime, not always an exact translation.  Now he had it in surround sound and pain. They moved forward and he felt the calm mental touch of Enamel a few times, but ignored it in favor of this.  He had to learn his mate this way.  It was a need of his.  Not only to make sure he wasn't hurt too badly in their lives and hid it from him, but also because he was his mate.  He watched the indoctrination going on, how his father had told him that men weren't scared of anything as he grabbed a harmless snake out of the grass. Then got bit by it for trying to touch her nest.  Everything going on explained so much about Xander to him.  He nudged him to go forward and the memories started running at less than double speed, but still faster than normal.  He could process that fast and he was used to the mental babble by now. He slowed it when he started to fight, listening to Giles' words to him and how Xander took them.

All the little 'it's only a minor thing, here have a bandaid' times became worse and slowly morphed into the 'I'm fine' mentality of survival.  He heard Xander berate himself over and over for being scared, and heard Giles tell him that fear was normal, fighting it was what was important.  Xander still had that fear of cowardice running through him though.  He kept going, all the way up until Modo knocked his husband out in front of the daycare.  His boy really did need to do something about his ear.  He flipped them to his mind, showing him the important parts of the training lectures again, the parts about fear being normal. Stoker wanted his people to be slightly afraid, it made them more cautious.  He especially rode Vinnie and him about that because they did stupid stuff that seemed fearless.  He felt Enamel's touch again and came out, just looking at his mate, who still looked like a big white blur.  "Giles had better pray that you and Dawn get him first," he whispered, and Xander relaxed.  "And your dad had better pray that my momma never meets him."  He kissed him gently.  Then more firmly until Xander moaned.  He felt the thread of worry.  "I love you, Xander, but I'm not letting you go out injured.  Never again.  Promise me, never again unless it's necessary."

"It was.  I took myself off patrols."

"I'm impressed and proud of you for it," Throttle said gently.  "I won't argue about the rescue.  In the future, you will not go out while injured.  Not even hunting vampires.  I saw that."  Xander sighed and nodded.  "Promise me.  Make it part of your bonding promise to me.  I'll do the same," he said at the hurt look.  "I vow to my mate that I will not go out while I'm injured and get into a fight of any kind unless there's no other option or unless I'm absolutely needed."

Xander stared at him.   "You....."  Throttle kissed him again, pulling him closer to hold him.  "I promise to my mate I won't go out and do stupid stuff unless it's an emergency or I'm absolutely needed."  Throttle nuzzled him.  "This is still me though."

"I know.  I realize that now.  I'm glad your dad got an infection from that snake too."  Xander swallowed so he smirked at him.  "Now all we have to do is make Vinnie promise Charley girl the same thing."  He kissed him on the forehead.  "By the way, that stunt jump you were trying?  You've got to lean back a little bit more to keep your balance."  Xander blushed at that and he grinned.  "We're good?"  Xander nodded.  "Good boy."  He kissed him again.

"I'm not a dog."

"No, you're definitely not a dog. I like to praise you, it makes you do more good things, like eat."  He shifted a bit, giving him a gentle squeeze.  "I like finding little rewards for you.  I feel like I should reward the good stuff so that you quit bouncing around in a panic now and then."

"That's me too."

"Did you want me to stop?"

"No, just stop talking to me like I'm the puppies."

"Fine.  No more 'good boys' for you."  He grinned.  "Better?"  Xander nodded and he could feel him relaxing.  "Good.  Then one other thing?  Those leather pants of yours?  Waaaayyyy too tight to be out in public without an armed guard. Remember, I'm a jealous and possessive mouse, Xander.  Only I get to stare at your tail in those pants unless I'm out with you and you wanted to tease everyone.  Because even Vinnie's cousin looked and she's married."  Xander snorted and shook his head.  "You're very hot in them."

"They're comfortable."

"They're nearly obscene," Enamel offered from the end of the bed.  "I have to agree there, Xander.  They're nearly as bad as Dawn's black leather and velvet outfit."

Xander stuck his tongue out at him.  "You still want to take my tail and tie it up."

"Hell yeah!  Everyone should have their own Xander toy.  It'd make the world a happier place and Shell wouldn't have to work as hard."  He handed the baby over, letting him crawl in between them to give them that same VanWham shit-eating grin and get his cuddles. "When are you going to start with his ego?"

"Too late," Throttle said dryly.  "My specs?"  Modo handed them over from the chair.  "Thanks, bro.  Where's Vinnie?"

"Pouting because Vic still wants Xander more.  He ran into Wrench outside and they're talking."  He looked at Xander.  "I'm going to enforce that ban, little bro.  You're not fighting while injured again.  Never, ever again. You get scary when you're in pain."  He stood up and patted Xander on the ear.  "Cell said thank you for coming after her and considering her that sort of family."

"She's your sister, of course she's family," Xander said, yawning a bit.

"I'll let you rest.  Momma wanted a progress report since neither one are allowed in here."

"Why not?" Xander asked.

"They caused way too much fuss while others were trying to sleep," Enamel said dryly.  "That's about when you came out of surgery."  He stretched his back.  "So can I leave you here tonight and have you behave?"

"I'm not moving," Throttle assured him.

"The nurse will make you move," he said blandly.  "She's already tried twice."  He looked at Xander. "I'll be back tomorrow. You continue to heal.  Eat the gruel they feed you tonight without a lot of complaint.  I'll be back right before lunch because Shell's got an appointment with the only OB on Mars."  He slid off the bed and headed out, nodding at the nurse.  "Try to let them stay together," he told her.  "He sleeps better when Throttle's there and won't try to sneak out tonight."  She pursed her lips.  "Him and VanWham."  He headed out to his bike, finding Wrench and Vinnie waiting on him.  "They're out, Xander's agreed to eat the gruel tonight and Throttle said he's staying."

"Good," Wrench agreed, putting his arm around the doctor to pull him closer.  He put a small cube on the back of his neck, watching him as he flinched then twitched.  "Sorry, seeing if that could help."

"Damn it, now I know why the cruciatius is so painful," he moaned.  "Oh, damn, pins and needles!"

Vinnie pulled him closer to work on his arms for him.  "Wrench said there's an account of using a nerve zapper to reawaken the feeling for a bit but it's dangerous. You could get some damage if you use it over a half-hour."  Enamel looked at him.  "That's once, not every day."  He smirked at him.  "Every guy should be able to feel his baby kick now and then."  He let him go and nodded at his bike.  "Shell's at her brother's for dinner.  The romantic stuff package Xander set up for Modo is on the back."

"I owe you one, VanWham.  Thanks."  He headed to his bike, going to get his girl.  He worked on his hands there, getting real feeling back into them instead of the pins and needles he had.  He tapped on the door and smiled when she opened the door.  "Come on, we've got a picnic basket and the moons are about to rise, plus I've got an hour."  She looked stunned so he showed off the block.  "Wrench found it in the histories.  We've only got an hour."  She followed him out, taking him to her favorite spot to watch the city and the stars.  He got to feel the baby kick and move, and she got to be touched again for a little while.  He'd take any damage for the two hours with her.

The end.

To Part 66

To Index