Xander looked at the man across the table from him.  "Okay, I have a building this big," he said, pushing over that drawing, "and that's scale size.  I need an exercise course that's meant for kids from toddler age to my age so they can flip, play, tumble, climb, fall, swing, and play like kids, and it's got to hold me and a few who're just heavier than me.  Here's one I've seen in the past," he said, handing over that drawing.  "It's not my best artistic rendering but it's about to scale.  As you can see, it's a lot like a setup some of your people would use, that's why I came to you."

The thief looked at the drawings, then looked at him.  "Are you making baby thieves?"

"No, I'm making future Freedom Fighters and warriors," he said honestly, then he grinned.  "I've got a godson, six or seven nieces and nephews, and a new goddaughter on the way but I only want the best for them.  I need it to be safe and I want it to be custom, but not over a million the way that one place wanted.  It's part PE and part playground.  Plus I'm going to use it to keep in shape too."

The thief nodded, considering that picture.  "Why are the ropes sideways?"

"It's more or less like a rope maze.  I know, it's not my best artistic work."

"That's okay, it gets the point across and it's better than I can do.  What's in this building right now?"

"Two walls I'm still tearing down."

"Ah.  So completely empty?"

"But that one bathroom, yup."

"Huh.  How many stories?"

"Um, technically four but I don't need more than two.  Like I said, some are kinda little."

"Sure. I get that.  I wish I'd had one of these growing up.  I'd never have been caught because I could have gotten around things."  He considered it again.  "Can I come look?"  Xander nodded.  "When's a good time?"

"Whenever you can.  I'm home.  I'm between crew assignments.  I do construction.  I can get you gymnastic supplies too."

"Good!  That'll save some building."  He nodded, shoving them back.  "What's your baseline budget?"

"Under a million," Xander said dryly, "for the whole thing.  Like I said, I'm in construction, it's not a problem."

"Sure.  I'll come over this afternoon and we'll look through it.  Anything special you *have* to have?"

"Yeah, we need a balance and climbing course," Xander told him.  "Like I said, I want them to flip and tumble and climb and play."

"Sure thing.  I can do that.  As a matter of fact, let's go now."  He looked outside.  "I hate cops."

"In your line of work I'm not surprised," Xander said dryly, looking out there.  "I know him though."  He grinned.  "Come on.  Address is on the back of the drawing."  He winked and got up, heading out there.  "Hey, Ray."

"Why are you having coffee with a thief?"

"Who better to build something for the kids to climb and learn on?"  Ray did not look amused at that.  "He builds mock courses.  I need a mock course built for Vic and the other nieces and nephews who come down occasionally.  He's cheaper and it'll be more practical than McDonald's last playground."  He grinned.  "It's for Vic."

"I figured as much.  Still, a thief?"

"It's not illegal."

"True, and he's on probation.  This is a good paying, legal, job for him.  Still, it doesn't look good."

Xander gave him a hug then grinned at him.  "Just wait.  I get to start on Vic's lessons later today."  He headed back to his bike, heading for home.  He still had to demolish those walls.  They weren't that sturdy.  He found the thief walking around.  "Hey."  He picked up the sledge hammer and took a swing, knocking a hole right through it.

"Wow.  I'm impressed."

"I do this for a living," Xander said dryly, continuing to work.  "Got any ideas?"

"A few," he admitted.  "I always wanted to design the Danger Room that you see in the cartoons."

Xander grinned at him.  "I'd love one but I can't put in the robotics and those are going to push me over budget."

"Sure, something nearly as good but not quite that good," he promised with a grin.  "Let me hit the hardware store.  Some of it might be readily available."  Xander handed over a credit card.  "You're giving me this?"

"It's got ten grand on it, I figure that should start you off.  If you need more, you tell me.  If not, the rest is yours," he said with a shrug.  "Is two grand good for your fees?"

"More than, sir.  Thank you."  He shook his hand and walked back to his car, going to go look around.  He knew *just* what he wanted and what he'd need.  He'd make this one a proud spot for those kids.  After all, he had wanted to do something like this, that's why he went into maze and thief course design in the first place.  He drove off, heading to a gym he knew to get the names of some good stores.

"Honey, who was that?" Vinnie called from the doorway.

"The guy who's going to build the indoor course so we don't have to put up a swingset," he called, hitting another spot with his sledge hammer and knocking it down.

Vinnie walked in, looking bemused.  "Vic's a bit young for an agility course, Xander."

"So it'll be a playground for him as he grows," he said with a shrug.  "And one for us."   He shot him a grin then hit another spot, finally knocking down the majority of the wall.  "Ah, good.  Now just the little stuff."  He kicked the bottom part until it fell in.  "Even if I need to put up a new one, it'll go easier now.  I'm off to Home Depot later for bathroom stuff.  Wanna come?"

"No.  Why are we putting in a new bathroom?"

"So we don't have to hike back home in the snow."

"Oh.  Good idea," he agreed, nodding quickly.  "So I take it this is the classroom?"  Xander nodded. "Cool. I can get with that.  He's still too young."

"And it's not going to be totally finished for at least a year," Xander said dryly.  "Besides, it'll give us somewhere to send the kids when they're ripping up the garage and the house.  Especially Primer's twins the next time they come down.  We'll only have to switch out someone watching them."

"I like that idea," Vinnie agreed happily. The kids did get bored around them now and then.  This would give them a good play area. He headed back to the house.  "Rimfire, when Xander finally gets the gym setup done, I want you to test it for the bigger mice," he called.

"Sure.  Why am I taking English again?"

"Because it's mandatory, so just do it!" Dawn snapped.  "No more whining!"

"Yes, dear.  There's only another month of it," he sighed, going back to his reading poetry, which was making him sleepy and bored.  If they had a course soon, he'd get to at least play when he got bored the next time.


Xander looked in at his new gym, smiling at the guy.  "How much over did you go?" he asked, looking around.  "Not very many up high spots for the adults."

"I put that in the other area," he admitted, leading him that way.  "That way the kids would have something to crawl through and around and you could move them up slowly."   He opened the door in the wall he'd had the guy put to make two rooms, letting him into the other one.  Xander just squealed and hugged him.  "Thanks.  Go ahead and try it out."  Xander hopped up and swung for a bit to gain momentum, then flipped through the air to catch the rope ladder and go up it, launching himself to the next bar, then swinging and flipping down to catch a lower one, then over and swinging around the pole to catch another rope strung across with his knees, then swinging to the bar above him by circling it.  He dismounted and raised his arms, beaming.  "You like?"

"I love!  Oh, this is so great!  It's small but I like it!"

"You can always expand on it," he promised.  "Call me whenever you're ready to expand.  I bought a few more bars and things to add if you wanted."  Xander nodded, beaming at him.  "Okay, give me another day to swing and set up your monkey set.  You like so far though, right?"
"I adore this, man, you're the best!" he said, giving him another hug and going to look at the kids' area.  Then he went to steal Spike, coming out of the transporter and waving.  "I'm liberating my tester for the new play area," he told Stoker.  "We'll send him back after lunch."  He jogged out and down to the play area, smiling at the keepers in the yard with the kids.  "Spike, come test our new rope course."  Spike's head popped up and stared at him, looking kinda scared.  "I'm serious.  I'm putting in a playset for you guys and it needs a tester.  Come on, I'll even make you lunch."  Spike looked at his teacher, who nodded, so he packed up his things and handed them to his sister, coming over to follow Xander home.  Xander picked him up to hiss in his ear, earning another awed look. "Okay?"

Spike chuckled, patting him on the face. "You're insane."

"I know, but I'm enjoying every minute of it," Xander assured him happily, beaming at him.   He waved at Stoker as they walked past his seat, and they went home.  He took Spike over there, letting him loose once he wiggled.  Spike crawled in through the tunnel and started off, laughing happily as he climbed and played and wiggled and jumped.

The guy came over to watch.  "He's agile."

"That's why I had you set up one of these," Xander said honestly, grinning at him. "That's my kinda nephew, Spike.  He's about the midrange for the kids in age."

"I can expand this one too," he promised.  "Give me an extra day and another two grand."  Xander pulled out his checkbook and wrote it out, handing it over without question.  "Thanks, man.  You're decent."

"I'd do nearly anything for these kids," he sighed.  "They're as close as I'm ever getting."  The guy nodded, going back to his fixing.  He made a few calls from in there and soon someone was driving a truck up so he could put up more stuff.  Xander watched Spike get tangled in the rope maze and grinned.  "Need help?"

"Hell no," he snorted, wiggling free.  "That's a bit tight."

"Is there another way through?"  Spike nodded.  "Then you'll figure it out.  We'll adjust it when all you guys are bigger."

"Sure.  Works for me."  He flipped off the end and had to take a little step, but shrugged it off and started off again.

Xander looked over his shoulder as Throttle and Stoker came in, grinning at them.  "You wanted to know about the playground, that's the playground," he told his mate, pointing at it.  "It's being expanded by the guy doing it."

"Wow," Stoker said, watching his son.  He was good!  He was really good!  "Son, try that dismount again."  Spike grabbed the overhead bar and swung around a few times before flipping off and hitting the padded wall.  "Too much momentum, son.   Thanks for hitting the padding though."  He went to pick him up and dust him off, going to work with him on that.

"You're insane," Throttle told him, kissing him gently.

"I know, but I'm enjoying it. Aren't you?" he asked with a bright grin.

"Yeah, I do," he admitted, grinning back.

"And what does that say about you?" Charley teased as she walked Vic in.  He got free and ran for the new toys, going to play with his friend inside it.  He climbed up the rope and into the middle, cackling when he got tangled but then got himself free and headed up to play on the higher levels with his buddy.  "How much was this?" she asked, looking amused.

"Twelve grand," Xander told her.  "For both."  He beamed. "It's being expanded soon."  He looked at her, then winked.  "The guy doing it does things for thieves, but it's all good and this is legal and Ray caught me talking to him about the design and said it was... imaginative."

"Very," Charley agreed dryly.  She patted him on the back.  "Where's the big kids playset?" she whispered in his ear.  He nodded at the door and she smiled. "Later, dear.  Make sure he doesn't get hurt."

"Yes, mom."

"Thanks.  Really."  She went back to work, smiling at Rimfire.  "It's almost done."

"Good, I could use some practice," he admitted.  "I'm getting flabby."  He flexed an arm muscle.  "Too much good cooking."  He went to the other buildings to look them over.  One was perfect for doing bike practice.  One had some tables set up and nothing else but some plugs, and then the last one had a gym being set up by some guy.  "Hey," he said, nodding at him and hurrying through.  He looked at Xander and nodded.  "Who's he?"

"The guy building these things for us," Xander said with a smirk.  "It'll be done soon."  He gave him a hug.  "I got to test it and it's really fun," he offered with a bright grin.

"He's still human," Rimfire noted dryly.

"I still think he's part of the X-Men too," the guy called.  "I need someone to come test a spot, see if it's sturdy enough."

"I'm on it," Rimfire called, coming to look.  He jumped up and swung a few times, then jumped back down.  "Not even, it shimmies."

"Sure.  I can secure it with longer bolts and stuff."  He looked at him.  "Even if you guys were aliens from Mars or something, it wouldn't matter much to most of us, kid.  After all, most humans know that there's no life left on Mars and aliens are only for books."  He grinned.  "So, which part of New York is the new school and training camp at now?"

"Sorry, you'd have to ask Xander.  I only work here, citizen."

The guy beamed.  "Sure thing, kiddo."  He went back to bolting things down, smiling at his back.  The whole city knew who they were, didn't they know that?  They had been on the news after all.  Another of them, one of the original three, came in and he looked at him.  "Did you happen to watch the news back in December of '99?" he asked.

"No, why?"

"Because you guys were a feature story."  He beamed and went back to work.  "We all know, and most of us don't care.  As far as we're concerned, you're our version of a comic book superhero.  New York's got their own, we get you guys."   He tightened another bolt.  "Okay, give it a swing, I've tightened down this side."

"We were on the news?"

"Yeah, the noon news.  Some guy at the ballfield told everyone about you guys, even got film of you guys practicing out there.  You can't find a copy of the film anymore, but who cares.  Go ahead."  Throttle hopped up and swung a few times.  "Does this side feel tight enough?"

"Nearly.  We're going to be going a lot faster though and one of us is heavier."

"Yeah, I saw that.  Okay, I'll get the really long bolts and sink 'em into the foundation for you guys.  That should be enough, and I'll put some bonding stuff between too.  That means you won't be able to move this one but you can most of the pieces."  He went out to his truck to get that, then came back to start working again.  "Everything else look okay so far?"

"I like this," Throttle admitted, looking up and around.  He had used most of the space on this side and it was great.  They had even padded the walls in case Vinnie slipped off again.  "Vincent!"  He came running in and stopped to gape.  "Xander decided we're all getting fat and flabby."

"I needed the practice and so do the older kids," Xander called.  "After all, Racer's getting old enough to need the bigger course."

"Fine," Throttle called tolerantly.  "Go ahead and try it out."  Vinnie whooped and took a running leap into the center of the course, getting that first rope ladder.

"There's a few ways to get to the end," the designer told him dryly.  "That way you won't get too bored too soon."

"No, we're going to be playing for years on this," Throttle assured him. "Thank you."  He shook his hand and went to tell Stoker that they had been on the news.  He was trying to get Spike down and out but Spike was hiding from him.  "Yo, food?" he offered.  Spike grabbed Vic and brought him out for that, heading into the kitchen.  Stoker just gave him the dirtiest of looks.  "It worked for me when I was that age."  He grinned.  "Did you know we were on the news a few years back?"

"No. You were?"  Xander nodded.  "How did you know?  You weren't here then."

"Someone told me last year while I was trying to Christmas shop.  She wanted to know if Modo was dating since he was so cute and tragically injured, so therefore needed more cuddles."  He walked off whistling, going to help Spike make lunch.  The kid knew he had free roam in the fridge so they were eating leftover baked mac 'n cheese and garlic bread.  "That looks good.  Any left?"  Spike pointed at a plate so he sat down after grabbing some sodas, winking since it was the caffeinated kind.  "So, you like so far?"

"I love you," Spike said seriously, just looking at him.  "You're still wrong in the head, whelp, but I love you."

"Mine," Vic said firmly, patting Xander on the arm.  "Mine!"

"Yours," Spike agreed, grinning at him.  "He did it for you too, Victor."  He dug back in, eating heartily.  His mother couldn't cook like this and they didn't have this stuff on Mars.


Rimfire and Vinnie both looked at the completed course, then hit it from different ends, working their way toward the center, where Xander was sitting and reading.  Rimfire flipped off a high bar setup and grabbed a trapeze to land next to him.  Vinnie just leapt and grabbed the pole the seat holding Xander was attached to, both of them staring down at him.  Xander just looked up, giving them this innocent look.  "Okay, what's the new plan?" Rimfire demanded.

"Education," Xander said dryly.  "Vic's just starting, we'll be getting Spike, Racer, and those guys now and then, plus I'm guessing the twins now and then, and eventually we'll have baby girl Vinnie and Healer, Enamel's son.  Plus any other kids the group has, like Staff's since she's been sick all morning."  He grinned at Vinnie.  "This is my idea of PE.  We all worked on my flexibility and stuff and the playground was nice, but it didn't fit me very well and it was kinda limited."

"So the kids have theirs that they can grow into," Vinnie said, sitting next to him, "and we've got ours for us and the older kids so we can keep up."  Xander grinned and nodded.  "Cool.  I'll get Dawn started in here this weekend."

"Dawn's not a big tumbler.  She can do some but not a lot," Xander told him.  They all looked down and over as the door opened and Micah walked in.  "I dare you to come join us," he called.

Micah looked up, then at the course.  "I'm not that good.  That's got to be a mouse thing."  He shook his head.  "What's all this for?"

"Education and practice."

"Ah."  He nodded.  "That's fine.  I'll want the stuff you plan on teaching Vic so we can keep it on file, kid."  He looked around again, then at the other room.  "Those kids are going to go nuts in here."  All three mice nodded, beaming down at him.  "Where's Enamel?"

"Last I knew he was changing a diaper and doing a bottle," Xander admitted. "Mom's back on Mars for the day."

"Sure.  You maybe want to come down?"

Xander handed Vinnie his book, then looked around, grabbing a cross-ways rope and swinging around a few times before dismounting and landing on one knee, one foot, and one hand.  Then he stood up and dusted off, turning.  "Book?"  It was tossed down and Vinnie decided to show off, doing something more difficult and landing about the same.

"Showoffs," Rimfire complained, taking the long way down.  "I've got a test this afternoon in Ag 1."  He landed and dusted his hands off.  "Welcome to the adult, non-sexual, playground, Micah."

"Oh, I don't know, Throttle took me back to our room and put my butt into the sling to wear me out after he saw me playing last night," Xander said dryly.  The others just looked at him.  "I didn't have sex in here," he defended. "I just teased the hell out of him by flipping and gyrating and then sliding down the pole," he offered with a bright grin.

"I need to start dating again," Micah said, shaking his head.  He looked at Vinnie.  "I've got a list of what we usually work on with the kids and the standards we like achieved by grade level.  I know you guys get a major mental and physical boost around the second birthday that'll put them on the level of our eight-year-olds, and then another one at nine?"  Vinnie nodded, taking that folder.  "So tailor it however but I still want a copy of any curriculum you set up.  Just in case it becomes necessary to give it to another mouse family."  That got some nods.  "Who's doing the main teaching?"

"Vinnie and I are together," Xander admitted.  "He used to help out the younger kids in his clan."

"You did?" Rimfire asked.

Vinnie looked at him.  "I'm the head of the VanWham clan," he admitted.  "I taught Wrench and his age-group nearly everything they know, Rimfire."

"Wow.  Man, all I had was momma, grandmomma, and some teachers who thought I was a brat."

"And now we're all working on Spike, Anya, Vic, Healer, and any of the other kids in the family," Xander assured him, punching him on the arm.  "Including yours some day.   Hey, big bro, how many little kids are there in the clan? I never seem to see any."

"There's six babies including Vic, but the next oldest is almost seven.  We didn't have kids in there for nearly six years," he admitted.  "Then again, they've got the ancestral home since most of it was underground and saved.  Most of the parents spend at least the vacations up there.  I was going to take Vic this year but you're always working during the summer."

"Hey, if I could I'd leave off working," Xander assured him.  "I just can't. If we hadn't spent so much on Mars, then maybe I could at least take off the year.  Then again, you could take Vic up there," he pointed out.  "It wouldn't be so bad for him to play with all the cousins."

"True," Vinnie agreed.  "You do get vacations as well."

"True," Xander agreed with a grin.

"Speaking of money," Throttle said as he walked in.  "We've got another six hundred dollar electric bill thanks to the transporter."

"Sorry," Xander offered sheepishly.

"We've also got a four hundred dollar water bill thanks to the tubs," Throttle complained.

"Sorry," Vinnie offered with a smirk.

"The insurance guy is coming tomorrow to see how much all this expansion is going to cost us now," Throttle complained.

"It's only this building that we've fixed up," Xander defended.  "I've got storage stuff in one and the other's pretty bare so we can practice inside on the bikes, or anything else we need to do inside so no one else can see."

Micah gave Xander a long, astounded, stare.  "You created a paranoid person's compound in the middle of Chicago?"  Xander looked and nodded.  "Why?"

"Because we need it.  It's not like we can take Vic to the local school and I don't want him at St. Ignatius yet.  Not until he's older.  Besides, we have friends and family who keep popping in and we've got to put them somewhere."

"Good point," Micah admitted.  Then he shook his head.  "You're too paranoid, Xander."

"Yeah, but it's usually useful."  He looked at Rimfire.  "Test?"

"Dirt," he complained, wandering off to study.

"It's time for Rimfire to work out a set daily schedule, like he was on base again," Throttle decided, looking at the two white mice, then at Micah.  Then he heard the squeal and looked behind him as Charley walked in with her sister-in-law.  "Hey."

"This is adorable, Charley!" she cooed.  "This is just so great!"

"It is and it keeps Victor out of trouble too."  She looked at the son pulling on her arm.  "Go ahead, just don't get tangled up in the ropes again this time, Vic."  She let him go.  He spit at her before running off.

Xander caught him before he could get too involved.  "Apologize."  Vic just looked at him.  "No, you can't play until you apologize.  What would Modo or his momma think about those manners you just showed."  Vic frowned, sniffling a bit.  "That's right, they'd be upset, so you'd better apologize and mean it or you can't come play for the rest of today."

"Torry, momma," Vic called, still sniffling.

"Thank you, son.  He can play, Xander."  Xander kissed him and let him go, watching as he crawled in to play.  "You do that very well," she teased.

"Thanks, momma," he offered with a grin.  "Hey.  We're playing on the big kids' playground."  He ran back through the door and hopped up into the course, going up to play.

"Do not show my son those moves, Xander, he'll want to do them!"

"How else are we supposed to train him to do them right," he called back.  He grinned down at Vic.  "Vinnie, do a cartwheel."  Vinnie did one and Vic looked awed.  "Now you do it, Vic.  Help him position himself, daddy."

"Like this," Vinnie said, holding his son properly.  Vic fell that time and giggled, then tried it again until he did one on his own, just not fully upright.  "Good job!  Give me five, little man!"  Vic slapped his hand and went to play on his course again, all bright and happy smiles.  "We'll have you flipping around in no time, son!"

"Yes, we will," Xander said, letting out a whoop before diving for a high bar and flipping around it then flipping off and landing firmly on two feet.  "Just like that."

"Just like that," Vinnie agreed with a grin.  He heard Vic giggle and watched him trying to flip over a bar on his set.  "Let me help, son."  His son swatted him and did it again, then beamed at him.  "Good job!  Now, let's go all the way around."  He helped him.  "No, hold on."  He did it again and Vic giggled, doing it himself. "Excellent job, son!  Great job!"  He hugged him and then let him go, watching as he went to do a few more then went back to climbing and sliding and playing.  Modo walked in, already smiling.  "Come show Uncle Modo what you can do, son."  Vic swung around the bar, then flipped himself over it, then got down and did a cartwheel.

"Good job!" Modo said, picking him up to hug.  "That was very good, Victor.  Very good!"  He kissed and nuzzled him, earing a gentle swat to the cheek and he put the baby back in his course, then went to look at theirs.  He whistled and stared in awe.

Xander beamed at him.  "Go ahead, Modo, it should hold even you.  I've been really energetic on it and it doesn't shake hardly at all."

"I'm not that good on these," Modo admitted shyly.

"Uh-huh.  This from the guy who tethered his bike to the back of a semi and flipped up onto it?" Throttle asked dryly.  "Go, I want to make sure you can still do the work, bro.  Or are you feeling old?" he taunted.

"I'm not old yet," Modo defended.  "My momma's old and she could do this one."  He looked around, hopping up to grab the first bar.  He adjusted his grip.

"Need a push?" Xander teased, leaning on Micah's shoulder.  "I'll go with you if you want."

"No, I can do it," Modo complained, starting off.  He swung up and did a mid-air flip onto the rope ladder, then climbed down to hit a lower element, then across the rope to the other set of bars, where he flipped over and landed in the middle of the bigger rope maze, which he wiggled through, then flipped down.

"Not bad," Throttle admitted, nodding.  "Pretty good. This is for play and training, bro."

"Good.  Rimfire could use it.  He spends too much time sitting with Dawn in his lap."  He looked at his bros, then at Xander.  "You knew?"  He beamed and nodded.  "How did you know she was pregnant?"

"She's been puking now for a week, Modo.  I couldn't really miss that or her sudden aversion to anything but toast and tea."

Modo beamed and blushed.  "We made it.  She's with mouse."  Vinnie and Throttle pounced him to hug and slap him on the back.

"Congratulations, Modo," Micah said with a smile.  "Hopefully you have as great of a kid as Victor is."

"Thanks, but I want one who's a bit less wild now and then."

Charley came over to hug him.  "Don't worry, we'll keep Xander from horribly spoiling yours.  We'll let Vic be the one who gets rotten."

"I doubt it," Xander sang, beaming at her.  "Did you know Wrench did a reading for her?"

"I don't wanna know.  I don't wanna know, I don't wanna know," she complained, walking off.

"What did Wrench see for the future daughter?" Throttle asked, sounding casual.

"Spike," Xander said with a bright grin.  Modo and Throttle both gave him horrified looks so he giggled and nodded. "Yeah, he saw them out on a date."

Modo looked at Vinnie.  "I'm sorry, bro.  We'll work on her self-defense as soon as she can form a fist.  That way she can beat him up when he tries somethin'."

Throttle clapped him on the back.  "It's okay, by the time they're old enough to date, Stoker could be retired."

"Spike's one hell of a brawler and a troublemaker," Micah pointed out. "He'll fit right in with Vinnie's kids."

"Oh, they already do," Vinnie said dryly, shaking his head.  "Well, at least I know she'll be riding and fighting in the finest clan manner," he said dryly, shaking his head.  "Any magic?"

"Nope," Xander said happily.  "Not a bit."

"Even better," Vinnie decided, happy with that.  "Please tell me Vic's not going to date Anya."

"Nope," Xander said, beaming at him.  "Ramjet."  Vinnie let out a whimper.  Ramjet was a nice girl, but she had some funny ideas about being the evil empress of the universe at the moment.  Then again, Vic liked bad guys sometimes.  He definitely liked Spike and he liked to follow around Ramjet already.  "Not for good though."  Vinnie sighed and relaxed at that.  "Wrench said he couldn't see who his second wife was, but that he and Ramjet would have one of those 'ripping down the house to throw at each other' fights that breaks them up.  Apparently he wanted a kid and she didn't.  Too late, but still."  He smirked at his mate.  "There is a second, calmer, Mrs. VanWham however.  About the same time one of you guys takes a Council seat."

"Oh, good, so that's *far* in the future," Modo said happily.  "We'll be nearly dead by then.  See, bro, it's not so bad, you'll only be related to Stoker for a few years before we die."

Vinnie nodded, liking that a lot.  He looked at Throttle, who looked unsure, but was nodding to show his support.  "Sure, far, far in the future is good with me.  When he's forty or so is good, right Xander?"

Xander just hugged him and then went to go play with his nephew.

"Xander, how old was he?" he called.  Xander shut the door but he was chuckling.  "You know, I never thought I'd live to see thirty," he admitted dryly.  "I should go work on that now."  He went back to the house to take something for his headache.  He liked Ramjet, but not that much!

"You know, I can make myself imagine that whole conversation," Modo told Throttle.

"Yeah, it was just a dream to me too, bro.  A really vivid dream.  Let's go wake up now?"  They headed back to the house, leaving a laughing Micah in there alone.


Victor snuck into Enamel's room, looking down at the new baby in there, watching it sleep.  It was odd, his daddy had told him he had been that little not so long ago, but he couldn't imagine himself being that little. He was a big boy!  He wasn't that little.

Enamel shifted and flipped over to watch the kid staring at his son.  "What're you gonna do when your momma has a sister for you?" he asked quietly.  Vic jumped and frowned at him.  "In a few months you'll have a sister that size, Victor."


"A girl baby," he offered.  "Your mommy's having a girl baby.  It's inside her tummy."

Victor frowned at him, then shook his head.  "Me her baby."

"Yes, and she still loves you, little mouse, but soon you'll have a new baby sister," Shell offered, pulling him up onto their bed to cuddle him.  "Then you'll get to be a big brother, just like Spike is."

"Not want Anya to come live us," Victor said, scowling at that.  "She odd and girly."

Enamel chuckled and shook his head.  "She won't be. Your sister will be nothing like Anya, Vic.  Your sister's going to be little, just like Healer is now.  But he'll grow and be big like you some day soon.  Then maybe he'll have a little sister or brother too."

"I'm still sore," Shell reminded him.  She smiled at Victor.  "It's a good thing, little mouse.  You'll love being a big brother.  You'll get to do all sorts of stuff to help the baby, like cuddle it and talk to it, and even help her bathe."

"No baby," he said, shaking his head.

"Go talk to your momma and daddy," Enamel said, smoothing down some of the flyaway fur the kid had around his antennas.  "It's a good thing, she loves you just as much as she did before."

Vic scowled but got down and went to find his mother and father.  He found them over at the garage and worked his way up the stairs, going to check their room.  They were curled up together so he climbed up onto the bed, watching his mother's belly.  He remembered Shell's belly used to move before the baby appeared.  He poked it and then moved back because it made noise.  He growled and got ready to pounce but a strong arm grabbed him and he was pulled against his daddy's chest.  "No sister!"

"Yes, you're getting a sister," he sighed.  "Who told you?"

"I sneak in to look at Healer because he so tiny.  Me not tiny.  Me big!"

"You are big, and that's why we love you," he said quietly, stroking his back.  "But you're still going to have a sister to help protect.  You know how Spike's got a younger sister?  The one who keeps calling you 'poof'?"  Vic nodded, he liked her.  "Well, son, you're getting one of those.  She's still growing inside of mommy's tummy, but soon you'll be a big brother, just like Spike and Piston are.  You know he's got the new baby sister too."

"Momma sick?" he asked, looking at her.

"No, she's not sick any more.  Sometimes the baby makes her tummy upset because it's moving in there but she's okay now."  He laid his hand on her stomach. "The baby's right there, Victor.  It's still pretty little.  She's not very far along.  It's going to be months before you have a baby sister.  Long after Santa comes."

Vic pulled up his first two fingers to suck, just staring at his mother.  Then he leaned over to put his ear on her stomach, listening really hard.  He looked at his father like he was insane.  "No hear baby.  I hear Shell's tummy when it moved."

Vinnie grinned.  "Yeah, well, she had been growing the baby longer at that time, son.  By the time Santa gets here, you'll be able to hear the baby."  He kissed him on the ear.  "We'll talk about it some more later.  Okay?  When it's daylight?"  Victor nodded and snuggled in, letting himself be covered up.  "You're a good boy, son.   You're very smart.  I don't care if you grow up like Xander, just don't grow up hurt like he did.  I'm a better daddy than his ever was, but I still want you to be less hurt."  He nuzzled him and his son wrapped his arms around his neck, hugging him back.  "Good boy. You nap and we'll get you books on it to read to you."  Victor nodded, he liked being read to.  Vinnie went back to stroking his daughter, which made Charley smile.


Vinnie walked in and hit Enamel on the back of the head.  "What did you tell my son?"

"That he was going to have a baby sister that's Healer's size in a few months and that he'd like it.  He came in to see why Healer was so small when he was so big."  He looked at him.  "How did he take it?  He looked really confused."

"I explained it.  He still thinks I'm insane since he can't hear or feel the baby yet.  We were going to wait for a few more months."


"Not an issue," he sighed.  "Do they make books about this?"

"In the library on the second kiddy shelf," Enamel said dryly.  "In Martian and not.  Plus he should probably talk to Spike."

"True.  Spike can tell him how much fun a baby sister is.  He did say he didn't want Anya though, he told me that this morning."  He took his can of rootbeer that way, going to find the books.  They were all nicely put together so he pulled them down to look through.


Vic snuck into his uncle's room, tugging on his arm to wake him up.  Modo looked down at him.  "Do you eat baby to get it in tummy?"

Modo blinked, then shook his head slowly.  "No, it gets in there another way. How did you know Staff's having a baby?"

Vic scowled.  "Too many babies!"  He stomped out.  He went to the office and found Xander in there drawing.  "How babies get in tummy!" he demanded.

Xander looked down at him.  "I will answer questions but if you scowl and demand I'm only going to tickle and make you wet yourself."  He pulled him up into his lap to cuddle.  "Are we talking about your baby sister or Modo's future baby?"

Vic looked up at him, pouting.  "Me baby," he said miserably.

He cuddled him.  "You're still our baby, you just won't be the youngest, Victor.  This way you have someone to love and protect.  It's how you figure out how to date when you're older.  That way you'll know how to treat a girl when you get one of your own."  Vic looked really confused so he grinned.  "Sorry, probably a bit too advanced for you.  Okay, babies, especially baby sisters, are meant to teach big boy mice, like you, how to be big mice and grow up big, strong, and fiercely overprotective.  Like Spike is of his baby sister and Anya.  Understand that?"  He nodded.  "Just because you're getting a baby sister doesn't mean we love you any less or that you're any less special to us.  We love you just as much as before and we will always love you.  Got that?"  Victor nodded, cheering up a bit.  "It just means that you're growing up.  This way you'll learn to protect something and love it just as much as your mommy and daddy love you."

"I 'tect cats," he offered.

"I know you do and you do it very well," Xander assured him, giving him another squeeze.  "Now it's time to move onto bigger things to love.  And someday, she'll want you to teach her stuff and to play with her.  She'll be like a younger friend who annoys you now and then," he offered dryly.

Vic looked up at him.  "She go like puppies?"

"No, Spike won't be able to take her home like the puppies, Vic.  I promise, once she's here, she's here to stay."  He grinned at the baby.  "So.  Do you think you can be a big mouse now and help us love and protect the babies once they come?"

He considered it, then nodded.  "Okay."  He grinned.  "Me call Spike?"

"If he's home."  He dialed, bypassing Carbine's seat since they had finally gotten that fixed.  Anya answered and Xander grinned.  "He wanted to talk to Spike.  Is he there?"

"He's grounded."

"Me have baby sister after Santa come," Vic told her.

"Wow.  We have one of those.  Want another one?" she asked, grinning at him.  "Spike, Victor's getting a baby sister too!"

"Auntie Staff eat baby too, one in her tummy too."

"That's not quite how they get in there," Xander said dryly. Vic looked up at him.  "Let's just say that mommy and daddy wanted one really a whole lot and got together to put it in there, okay?"

Vic nodded, accepting that.  If daddy had put the baby sister into the mommy, he'd like her.  He liked most things his daddy liked, except onions.  "She like onions?"

Xander considered it.  "No, she's not like an onion, Victor."  Stoker just gave him an odd look.  "The only thing he doesn't like that his daddy does is onions," he said with a shrug.  "He asked."

Stoker grinned and held up Spike.  "There, you've got two minutes."

"I have baby sister after Santa comes and then Uncle Modo have baby sister too!"

"If he's the daddy, it's a daughter, not a sister," Stoker told him.  "It's confusing but you'll understand soon enough."

Spike grinned at his friend.  "Little sisters are good.  It's big sisters that are annoying.  Since you're oldest, you don't get one of those. Little sisters are for cuddling and loving."

"Like cat?"

"Yeah, like the cats," Xander agreed.  "Anything else you wanted to tell him?"

"Me do flippy thingy and cartwheel!" Vic said proudly, getting down to show him.

"Good job, mouse cadet!" Stoker said happily.  "Very good job!"  He waved.  "You go love the momma's tummy until the baby comes out.  It'll start to kick you back soon.  Ours did to Spike all the time."  Vic got down and hurried off.  "Modo's becoming a daddy?"

"He just announced it yesterday," he offered with a grin.  "I think he's telling his mother today, in person."

"Oh, yes, he will be," he agreed smugly, signing off.  He looked at his son, who just smirked evilly at him.  "We should make sure of that, huh?"  He nodded, hitting the buttons for Momma's house.  "Hey, Racer, where's your momma?"

"Sleepin'.  She needed a nap.  Detail drove her to her last nerve she said."  He waved at Spike.  "Hi, Spike!"

Cell coughed and walked into view.  "What are you doing?"

"We called you guys," Stoker promised.  "Modo apparently has an announcement coming soon."

"Oh, really?" she asked, smirking at him.  "How did you find that out?"

"Vic called up to brag about getting a baby sister, said Modo had eaten one too."

"I remember having that discussion with Rimfire," she sighed, shaking her head.

"Vic's getting a baby sister?" Racer asked.  Stoker nodded. "Wow.  Would he like a few older ones too?"

"Spike already tried that and we assured him since he was the oldest one he didn't have to have one.  Sorry."

"No, that's okay, I'll make that nibbling one sorry later," Racer said smugly, looking at Cell.  Then back at Stoker.  "She decided to try to paint me today."  Then he turned around.  Stoker winced at the paint in the poor kid's fur.  "It's oil paint.  It hasn't come out yet."

"We'll see what we can do about that," Cell promised.  "I'm sure Xander can find something."  She looked at Stoker.  "You're sure?"  He beamed and nodded.  "Then I think it's only fair that we do for my little brother what he did for me."

"Remember, she's fragile and had to have help getting pregnant," Stoker warned.  "She's a very shy and delicate creature, Cell."

"I know.   It'll be okay.  What's Rimfire's schedule like today?"

"Um, it's what day on Earth?" he asked.

"Tuesday," Anya called.

"Then he's free unless he's studying."

"Good," she said with her most evil smirk, which made Spike give her an awed and affectionate look.   "We'll be seeing you soon, dear, first thing in the morning."

"Sure, make my day.  I've got another day of Carbine before she goes on vacation."

"Let's hope she finds the holy dildo spring of Mars," she said dryly, wiggling her fingers and signing off to Spike and Stoker's cackling.  She looked at Racer.  "Go get Momma up.  We're taking you to earth to get you cleaned off and the we'll be back in a few hours."  He ran up the stairs, and she went to change clothes.  She needed to look like the bigger bitch for this.


Cell casually strolled off the transporter, carrying Racer under one arm, then she reached over to shut it off.  She knew Staff was down here instead of on Mars.  She held the boy up when Throttle gave her an odd look.  "Detail," she said, turning him around.  "We can't get the oil paint out."

He hissed.  "Ow.  That's going to be a mess to clean up.  Let me get you Dawn, she knows the most about cleaning stuff."  He went to her room, waking her up.  "Dawn, Cell's here.  Detail painted Racer's back bright pink with orange spots in oil paint."

Dawn pointed at her phone.  "Call the local vet."  Then she covered her head.

"That's not a bad idea," he admitted, going back to her and nodding her upstairs.  He found Xander's address book and the vet's number, then called.  "Hi, this is Xander Harris' mate, Throttle, and one of our animals was just painted bright pink with orange spots in oil paint.  We came home and found it dried.  No, she's already in trouble," he assured the assistant.  "She's in a lot of trouble, but we need to know how to clean the fur.  Is there anything good?"  He wrote down the name.  "Where can I find that?"  He beamed and wrote that down too.  "Thank you, ma'am.  That's very helpful.  No, bright pink with orange spots.  Gray fur.  Yeah, basically," he agreed with a small chuckle and a grin.  "Thanks."  He hung up and headed to open up the window.  "Charley girl, do you have any spirits of alcohol?" he called.

"A bit, why?"  She opened a window in the garage and looked up.  "Why?"

"Racer's pink with orange polka dots.  Detail," he said, and it explained everything.

"I may not have enough but bring him over, we can use the industrial shower over here."  She closed the window, going to laugh herself senseless.

Cell handed the baby over with a grin.  "Thanks.  Where's my little brother?"

"Back in bed.  Staff kept him up by being sick last night," he admitted.  She smirked and he realized Modo hadn't told her yet.  "He was coming up today to tell you guys and do that stuff, once it was daylight."

"Oh, he'll still be coming up," she assured him.  "Turnabout and all that good stuff."  She went over to the room and looked at the frame.  She tested the knob, locked.  Oh, well, Xander would forgive her.  She took a step back and kicked it in, making Modo sit up and pop up his arm cannon.  "Hmm, there's my little brother and his future bride," she said from the doorway, smirking at him.  "You're in such trouble when Momma hears you haven't married her yet."

"I was coming up to do that today," he defended.  "It's the middle of the night on Mars."


Staff moaned and came out from under the blankets.  "Get out before I puke on you."

Cell burst out laughing.  "I told Momma that once," she offered, walking in and shutting the door.

"You're fixing that," Xander called. "Or else I'm doing a fertility rite on your whole family!  With the Seal's help!"

"Sure, Xander.  Give me a few minutes," she said, shuddering.  That was a horrible thought.  It really was. She looked at Staff.  "So, you're okay?"

"I'm going to puke on you," she stated again, then got up and ran for the bathroom.  Thankfully she had on one of Modo's t-shirts.

"I remember that feeling," Cell said dryly.

"You should, considering I can see my new nephew moving," Modo said dryly, lowering his arm and arm cannon and letting himself get comfortable.  "I really was coming up today."

"So?  You threatened mine!"

Xander opened the door.  "Racer's not coming clean with that, we're hitting the heavy chemicals with Enamel's permission.  Which means we'll need people who aren't pregnant to hold him."  He looked at Modo.  "You're about the strongest."

"Let me get Staff free of the commode again," he promised.  Xander nodded and gave Cell an evil look.  "She'll fix the door."

"She'd better.  The insurance guy is coming today."  He went back to helping.  That's when he noticed someone new had come through and another was walking through.  "Good, Wrench, come help me scrub Racer.  Hey, Repel, we've got a course set up outside for the kids.  Turn off the transporter too, Throttle's on a kick about the bill."  He headed back to the garage, Wrench following him.  "What's up?"

He stopped him between the buildings, looking at him.  "I saw my old bike," he said quietly.

"I heard about that from Vinnie."  He looked at him. "Do you need to talk?"

"No, I saw it a few years ago, it's being ridden by the daddy of the newest niece of Rimfire's."  Xander nodded slowly.  "And she's going to be daddyless soon," he whispered.  "The Seal caught it.  He's got that 'ending' glow."

"Is he ill?"

"No."  He shook his head. "Just dumb."

"Ah.  Yeah, that kills people every year."  He sighed.  "I don't know the ethics of that, but we'll be here for her.  You know that."  He nodded.  "Any other more cheerful news?"

Wrench nodded.  "A bit.  If you have the kid this year, it'll be one whip tail priest of Othra's, kinda like you."  He grinned.

"I'm not having kids."

"So?  They're all yours anyway.  Did you get a chance to look anything over yet?"

"I did, and I saw the things you had marked.  You're right, that one's the evil me when I'm on a kick, and that other one's a possible me if I went bad.  But I still can't be celibate."

"I doubt he'd make you, Xander.  Like I said, not every follower follows the rules for priests."

"Yeah, but I want to slow down some day," he said grimly.

"And you will.  Remember, he's over teaching too."  He grinned at him.  "Besides, someone already thought you were and there was that one interior sect that was both his, and his daughter's.  After all, he and his ex-wife, the Goddess, split, but his daughter was all his except for her magic."

"I looked at her," he admitted.  "She seems kinda nice."

"They swore to both, Xander," he said, clapping him on the arm.  "Oh, we were wrong about the four years part.  Someone moved up their time table.  Don't worry, when it does, you'll start wanting divine help."  He opened the back door of the garage.  "Let's go get the little punk clean."  They walked in together, Modo following a few minutes later.  "You all right?"

"My sister's getting back at me for making her marry her husband," he said dryly.  "Who told them?"

"I let Vic call Spike to brag about his sister.  During the call he said you ate the baby to have one too," Xander said with a small grin.  Charley groaned.  "We got him straightened out.  Spike offered him Anya again too, but he politely refused."

"Gee, thanks," Charley said.  She handed over the comb she was using.  "Not even a dent."

Xander looked at the mess of fur.  "We could just shave it."

"If you do, I get to shave the brat bald," Racer said grimly.  "Enamel!  Help!"  He came in a minute later with the baby, then burst out laughing.  "It's not funny!  Detail did it!" he complained.  "This stuff burns too!"

Enamel turned the water on, making him shriek but the paint didn't even budge.  "We're going to have to shave that mess off.  Fortunately it doesn't look like she got the skin too."  He handed Racer the baby once he was out and went to find the clippers.  He came back and got the kid sitting at the table, with Wrench now holding the baby, and worked on trimming the fur.  By the time Cell came over, he was mostly done.  "Did you spank her?"

"Momma did and then she went to bed with a headache."

"You should shave her just as much as we have to shave him," Enamel offered dryly.  "And her momma too for letting her do this."

"Primer was busy with the baby and Racer was napping outside in the sun," she admitted.  "I thought Detail and Shot were in their rooms."  She shrugged.  "Sorry, kiddo."

"It's not your fault, Momma Cell. It's the twin menace's fault.  I'm going to hurt them one day."  He looked at her.  "I don't like Plutarkians and I hate how they hurt people, but I'm about ready to call the Limburgers and offer the twins to them."

"There's no need for that," Enamel sighed.

"Yes there is!"  He turned around and dropped his pants, showing him the other disaster.  "See!"  They all looked at the new earring in his sheathe.  "That was not my idea!" he said shrilly.

"Calm down," Enamel offered, hugging him.  "We'll get the twins for you, kiddo.  Trust me."

"Your arms work," he said, pulling back to look at him.  "They really do?"

"Yeah, the last time with the zapper made it snap."  He shrugged and helped him pull back up his pants.  Then he opened his mouth.  "There was only...one...right?"  Racer blushed and shook his head.  "Okay, let's go look at that.  Come on, Cell, you need to see so you can beat them black and blue."

"I'm going to go with Stoker's method of fixing the kids, I'm sending them to Carbine."

"Why do you hate her enough to torture her?" Racer said bitterly.  He led them into the bathroom and dropped his pants again, hopping up to sit on the sink so they could see all three spots, including the one he had managed to take out.  "I couldn't do the others, they hurt!"

"I'm sure they do," Enamel agreed, undoing them for him and yanking them quickly.  He handed them to Cell.  He looked at her.  "I'm not one to beat a child, but I think they crossed the line a bit ago."

"Oh, they've been spanked before, it didn't help," Cell said grimly.

Vinnie knocked and then he grinned at Racer.  "Buddy, how would you like to gain a new cousin to come help you for a bit?  I've got one who needs Momma's calm and steadying influence, but who'll make the girls cry."

"That's mean," Cell told him, looking at him.  "I'm not putting up with Tire."

"Not Tire, Tire's got a big brother," he said dryly, nodding a bit.  "Flat."

Cell shuddered.  "Don't do that to my mother!"

"He loves mothers!  He loved his own but his mother just recently died and none of the aunts can handle him and he likes Modo's mother and looks up to Rimfire.  Therefore he'll behave for you guys and will beat those twins of your daughter's at their own game."

"That's still a bit extreme."

"You got a better idea?"

"No," she admitted, bouncing the earrings in her hands.  She looked at Racer.  "He won't hurt him, right?"

"Nah, Flat loves his little brother.  He's a good big brother to most of the horde right now.  He's been working on the beginning lessons actually."

"Fine, we'll try it," she offered.  "But not one word if we have to send him off for problems."

"Sure, then send him to Wrench.  I've often thought the kid needed a hobby and faith can be that way."

"Faith's more of a good time girl than a hobby," Xander said dryly.  "Though you'd only see her once every night since she can't sleep with anyone in the bed with her."

"Not that one," Vinnie sighed.  He backed out and went to call Momma and warn her, then call his aunt.  He grinned at his cousin.  "Flat, I think we can do a bit to help each other."

"Why?" he asked, still pouting.

"Because Racer, you know Racer, right?"  The kid nodded, looking a bit interested.  "Well, he's having a problem with Primer's twins and Modo's momma needs someone to protect her and Racer from the twins.  The twins just painted Racer with bike paint and pierced him a few times in a delicate place."  The boy gaped.  "Yeah, they're worse than your sister ever was.  So this would mean you'd get to go live with Modo's momma and help her around her place while you helped calm down and teach those twins and Racer. It also means you'd get to see Vic really often," he offered with a grin.  "The only problem is that Cell heard about you when you were having your problems, so she's going to be watching you pretty closely."

Flat nodded.  "I can do that, Cousin Vinnie.  How old is Racer?"

"He's nearly nine.  He's a smart kid, he wants to be a doc like Enamel.  He's been doing a lot to work with Enamel.  He went off to help bandage during the refugee crisis without telling anyone and he and Spike also went to go rescue Enamel during the thing the other night. They made it around some patrols.  So he needs a calming influence too, before he becomes worse than Rimfire."

"Do you think that's wise?  Sending this one over?" Chassis' mother demanded.

"Shut up, auntie."  She looked offended.  "Just because Flat had a bit of a problem when he was younger thanks to his sister doesn't mean he's not a good kid.  He's a very good kid and he's been helping the younger kids a lot.  He's got the makings of a very good trainer and Cell's one of the best we've got so she can help him with that too."

"He's still a punk!"

"Auntie, unless you want to go join another clan by marrying someone else, I'd shut up now," he growled.  "I am the head of this clan.  Wrench is in agreement with me on this matter and on that.  I may not be on Mars, which is why he does the little stuff for the clan, but I am still in charge and I'm taking back up the reins now that we've got reliable transport to Mars. So you can consider us two heads in one body if you want, but I am in charge of this clan and this family.  It is my decision to send out Flat for more training and to help those others who need it.  He's a good kid, no matter what you say!  Now, either drop the family name and go marry someone else, or shut up, sit down, and behave!"

"What about that Xander mouse?" Flat asked quietly.

"That's...complicated," Vinnie admitted. "Then again, Xander's training Vic and a lot of other mice in the family," he offered dryly, smirking at him.  "You'd like Xander.  He's a lot like you now.  Then again, he does have that evil streak."  He kicked back.  "That good for you, Flat?"

"What about Tire?"

"He's going to live with Uncle Grease.  I think Uncle Grease could use a bit of a reason to give a damn at the moment."  Flat nodded, accepting that.  "That'll also put him within ten miles of you and give him something to fight again.  Uncle Grease is going to be pissy and moan, and I don't care."

"That was my thought too," Wrench offered from the doorway.  "He needs a reason to get up in the mornings."

"And occasionally out of bed in the middle of the night.  They'll be tough until one of them rubs the other wrong, someone will yell, Tire will have one of his magnificent nightmares and Grease will see that he's an idiot," Vinnie predicted.  "You can warn him about that too," he offered with a small grin.  Flat nodded.  "Are we in agreement?"

"Sure, Cousin Vinnie.  How soon before you move back to Mars for good?  I like Cousin Wrench, but he's odd."

Wrench grinned. "I was just like you before," Wrench told him.  "I was *the* punk of the family.  Just ask Uncle Grease."

Flat shivered.  "No, I heard some about your youth and that mission," he admitted.  "Carbine was trying to make a point to me about something."  He shrugged.  "Apparently she doesn't think I've changed either."

"Tell her she's just like that General," Wrench said bitterly.

"I did, why do you think she's been in such a pissy mood about this clan and most of the assorted bros and family?"  He grinned at him.  "When do I go?"

"Today," Vinnie offered.  "I'm sure it won't be a hardship?"

"No, not in the least.  Thank you," he mouthed.  "How's Cousin Chassis?"

"Doing well.  I haven't seen her today.  She spent the night over with someone last night and then she took a friend of Stan's shopping today.  His family likes her a lot and we like them.  They're pretty neat."  He grinned. "I'll try to get Vic up to the family home this summer, kiddo.  Xander's starting to work on him already and since he works all summer long, it'll just be us and probably the new baby too to give thier momma some time to relax after having her."  He grinned.  "I'm so stoked!  I'm getting a daughter!"

Wrench patted him on the back.  "She'll be just like you too," he assured him, winking at Flat.  "Go ahead over.  The whole group'll be up later for that bonding."

"I'll meet you there then," he promised.  "That way I can go check on Tire.  He never made it home last night."

"I'll be up to bail him out if necessary," Vinnie agreed dryly.

"Thanks."  He hung up and ran up to pack stuff.

Vinnie looked at Wrench. "Did you mind?"

"Hell no.  It gives me more time to study my navel and the histories."  He looked around and closed the door.  "I need an opinion, Vin."  Vinnie nodded, waving him on. "I saw a death.  My old bike and a death," he said grimly, but quietly.  "I asked Xander and he wasn't sure to tell her or not."

Vinnie sighed.  "I'll tell Momma."

"No, I can do that.  I wasn't sure how or who."  He nodded.  "You're sure?"  Vinnie nodded.  "Thanks, man.  I saw the course.  Who designed that?"

"A thief Xander found who designs for other thieves.  He did a very good job.  It cost about thirteen grand all told."

"Wow.  I'm impressed."  He opened the door and walked out.  "What time is it on Mars?" he called.

"Morning prayers," Willow called back. "You've got an hour."  She popped down with a hanger full of clothes.  "Wear real stuff, it's a wedding," she sighed, shaking her head.  "Tire's in the chapel with Grease. He basically beat the snot out of him when he found him drunk last night and told him to, quote, fucking find a life and move on before he got left out and more alone.  So they've been talking most of the night.  The kid's good.  He's a good counselor."

"I'll sic Shell on him then," he offered.  "Thanks, Wills."

"Welcome.  Make Xander wear something dangerous too.  Some of the girls have been wanting new pictures of him from the 'net."  She winked and faded out.

"Sure.  Xander, Willow said the girls wanted a new pinup of you, wear something dangerous!"  He went to change, coming out in the black pants and dark blue button up shirt, adjusting the mandarin collar.  "Not too shabby," he decided, finding himself in a mirror.  "I look hot and wanted."

"Yeah, and I'm still finding you a girl of your own," Vinnie called. He came out, looking at him. "Good, I'll have her come too."  He went down to his brother's room to steal something and grinned at Throttle since he was changing.  "Letting him go in the black leathers?"

"Hell no," he said dryly.  "They said a pinup, not wet fantasy Xander."  He looked at the outfit he was pulling out.  "Not that.  Put on the light gray one.  I want Xander in that."

"Sure."  He handed it over and got the other one, heading to change.

Xander came out of Modo's room, grinning at everyone.  "Just a minor thing with the dress."  He headed down to change, coming out in the dark green outfit Throttle held out to him.  He kissed him and changed, then walked out in his dress shoes.  "Are we ready?"

"Let me get Racer a shirt," Cell called.  She came out of Rimfire's room with a shirt for the poor kid, letting him put it on.  It was too small on her son anyway and had obviously been a holiday present for the kid.  She brushed out his hair for him, then grinned.  "There, now you're cute enough to be part of Vinnie's clan."  Racer blushed and hugged her.  "I still love you, Racer.  I will stop those girls."  She kissed him on the top of the head, watching as everyone else walked past, including Charley, who had put up the sign about going to lunch.  She grabbed Modo and grinned, then gave him a shove through, following behind him.  "Go on!  You got the girl pregnant, you're marrying her," she said smugly.

"I said I was coming up to do it today anyway," he complained, pulling his lady into his arms.  "She's just being a bully, Staff.  She did it when we were kids too."  Staff just smiled and kissed him.  He looked at Exhaust, who was kicked back sipping a rootbeer.  "Got a few?"

"Sure.  Of course, I'm only waiting on your mother."  Momma walked in with a younger mouse, who made him stare.  "I didn't know you were part of the family."

"I'm coming to help Modo's momma and to learn from Cell," Flat told him, looking at Cell, then grinning.  "I've been working with the clan's kids for the past few years and Vinnie thinks I'm pretty good but that you're better.  Can you work with me?"

"Sure."  She smiled and smoothed down his hair.  "There, better.  Racer, this is Flat."  She looked down at him.

Racer looked at him.  "Watch out for the twins," he said as he shook his hand.  "Welcome to the family.  I've got space so you can park in my room."

"He can have the attic, dear.  He's a big boy and should be about ready to start dating soon," Momma pointed out at the hurt look.

Flat looked at her.  "I don't need a girl.  I've got my bike, my clan, and kids to help get up to Cousin Vinnie's former glorious standards."  He winked at Vinnie to show he wasn't insulting him then grinned at Momma again.  "I don't need a girl yet, ma'am.  They only get in the way and get nosy and things.  When I'm ready, I'll find a good one.  I'm sure she'll come swoon at my feet because I'll be fully grown into the studliest mouse of my generation in the clan."

"That's my cousin," Xander said happily, hugging him.  "We'll work together with Cell since I'm working on Vic's training."

"Sure. Whenever you're ready."  He looked at Staff, then whistled.  "Modo, sir, I used to respect you but now I'm in awe since you have such a pretty and modest lady for your own.  I'll let you give me all the love advice I need when I'm older."

Modo grinned and patted him on the head.  "Good boy, Flat.  Momma, I was coming up today to tell you this, but you're getting another grandchild."  A few of the councilors spluttered and choked.  "What?"

"I'm surprised it happened before the wedding, that's all," Carbine offered.

Wrench looked at her.  "I think Flat was right, Carbine.  You and certain Generals share traits."  She went pale and shook.  He turned around and put an arm around Flat's shoulders.  "You're welcome to come bug me anytime, kid."  He poked Modo. "Turn around.  Say it in the witness of your bros and momma."

"Marry us," Modo told Exhaust.

"Certainly.  Modo, do you promise to honor, cherish, and listen to her when she's being reasonable and you're not?  Will you love her as much, if not more, than you love your bike?"

"I will and I already do."

"Good.  Staff, will you love and cherish him, honoring and listening to him when he's being more reasonable than you are?  Will you love him as much, if not more, than he does his bike?"

She giggled and nodded.  "I already do."  She gave Modo a squeeze around the middle.

"Good.  I heard there's issue coming.  Any idea what it is?"

"A girl," Enamel offered.  "According to the scans."

"Excellent," Exhaust said happily.  "I hope she drives you nuts and is like your mother and sister, Modo and Staff.  Congratulations."  Xander squealed and hugged them both.  "You know," he said dryly.  "We never have done one for you, Throttle."

Throttle nodded.  "True.  I never asked.  Yo, boy toy.   You wanna be married now?" he teased.

Xander pulled him closer and kissed him until his mate went limp in his arms.  "Try to run," he taunted, smirking at him.  He looked at Exhaust.  "Yeah he's mine.  No, there's no issue coming.  I'd look really horrible as a pregnant mouse, but we've got that figured out."

"I do like him enough to keep him and not leash him properly," Throttle joked.  "That good with everyone?"  Everyone just nodded.  "Exhaust?"

"Fine with me.  Good enough on the vows.  We'll put you in the books."  He waved.  "Now shoo, we've got work to do."

"Want the twins, Xander?" Momma asked.

"Only if I can beat them," he said sweetly, grinning at her.  "Ask Cell why."

"Oh, dear."  She pulled Cell aside, then growled.  "Primer!"  She came running in a few minutes later with the twins.  "I will be talking with you, granddaughter.  This has gone on long enough!"

"I can protect Racer, ma'am," Flat promised gently, hugging her arm.  "Someone should always protect the smartest and most capable of us."

"Dear, if you're staying with us, you should just go ahead and call me Momma," she ordered, smiling at him.  "It's still their momma's job to stop them.  You tell us if you have to."  He nodded at that.  "Good boy.  Now are you packed?"

"Yes, Momma. I was staying with Chassis' momma and I'm all packed."  Momma nodded, pursing her lips together.  "Should I take Racer back?"

"Please, dear.  Take Cell too."  She smiled and grabbed her granddaughter's ear, walking her off to have a discussion with her.  Before she beat those twins senseless and dead.

Vinnie nudged Flat.  "Behave.  I'll be around and checking."  Flat nodded, clasping arms with him.  Then he walked Racer out, chatting with him to learn what he could do.  Flat came back and looked at Stoker, then whispered in his ear, getting a groan and a nod.  Vinnie grinned at him.  "I told you, he's got training skills.  The same as I told you Wrench could plan.  Listen next time."  He walked Wrench and Xander off, taking them back to talk about Vic and the training stuff.

Modo looked at his lady.  "Want to stay up here today?"

"Please.  The house is really full."

"Your mother's built a small shed out back of her house, it's got a bedroom," Stoker offered.  "I think it's yours for some reason, Modo."  Modo just beamed and whistled to bring his bike, then took off with his lady in his arms.  "Gods, those're gonna be some good kids," he said fondly.  He looked around.  "Rimfire?"  He came back.  "How's school?"

"Sucks.  I hate tests.  But the new course is very good stress relief.  My dismounts are getting better too."  He disappeared again.  "We'll be up in a month, Earth time!"  Then the transporter shut down once everyone was home.

Stoker smirked and nodded.  "I like days that start like this.  We should have another wedding day like the last one."

"We do the monthly town picnics, we can toast them during it," Carbine offered quietly.  She looked at Stoker.  "You agree with them?"  He nodded.  "Is that why I'm being tortured by watching your son for you?"

"No, that's his punishment," he said dryly.  "I'm hoping he doesn't head off like that again."  Then he smirked.  "Okay, what's on the agenda today since apparently there's no more couples coming?"

"Hmm," Exhaust said, reading it.  "School funding.  Curriculums.  Specialized education for those who show a clear path and desire.  Pretty muchly school stuff," he announced.  "And the clothing fund."  He looked at Stoker.  "Whatever Throttle found overloaded the warehouse.  Now we've given away most of the excess surplus, including new riding leathers to the permanent troops.  We still have a surplus, mostly in raw fabrics."

"Can anyone sew?"

"Some," Carbine offered.  "There's the person who makes military uniforms."

"Can they make other clothes?"  She nodded.  "You're sure?"  She nodded again. "You know this for a fact?"

"I do and she said if she could hire two more people, then she could train them how to too."

"The problem with her hiring is...?"

"The budget we pay her."

"Do we have spare money?"

"It'll only be a housing allotment and two more food rations to her household plus ten percent of what we pay her."

Stoker considered it, looking around.  "Anyone got any complaints or other ideas?"  He looked at the councilors from the other cities.  "You guys got people who do this?"  They both shook their heads.  The third shrugged.  "You don't know?"

"We think we had one moving in but we're not sure if she can.  She's missing a hand."

"Huh.  Any dissent?" he asked.  No one said anything.  "Then the people won't be bare.  It's a good trade to learn," he decided.  He banged the gavel that was his this month.  "Okay, school stuff.  As much as I hate it."

The End.

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