Xander woke up panting and looked around, then up. "Okay, Othra, if you want me to catch a clue, please quit being so obtuse. I'm not that smart," he hissed, glaring at the ceiling. "I'm also not native, I have no idea where that is," he complained.
"Where what is?" Throttle mumbled. Xander showed him. He snorted. "Not there." He pulled Xander back down and cuddled him until he fell back asleep.
Xander grimaced at the ceiling. "Any other clues you'd like to give me to identify the temple?" Throttle blindly kissed him so he went back to mentally mumbling at his God, which earned him a stomach rub, which was nice, but he didn't want to keep Throttle up. So he settled in to discuss this in the morning with a real expert. One who wouldn't mind him barging into his room.
It turned out to be later that afternoon before he got a chance to ask but he did barge into Wrench's room without a knock. "I need help."
"We've known that for years," Wrench noted dryly. "What do I wear on a date? Usually the girls would help but they're hiding in fear of me going to destroy the physical seal since they ruined my favorite shirt with some perfume earlier."
Xander looked at the few outfits and snorted. "You're going to go to the place that has the second biggest wardrobe on Mars and let me help you before you go out looking like a geek, Wrench."
He gave Xander a sideways look. "Don't you mean the biggest wardrobe?" he asked dryly. "I moved it for you. By the way, I stole the green leather pants."
"Fine, like I care, I can always buy a tighter pair." He gave him a small smirk. "Didn't you get to see Dawn's floating wardrobe?" He nodded, shuddering a bit. "That's only the stuff she doesn't plan on wearing for the next few months. That was maybe a fifth of her wardrobe. I have the second biggest closet on Mars, dear. Anyway, I'm getting repetitive dreams about a temple somewhere around here and I have no clue where. I pointed out I'm not native and not smart enough to figure out the clues he's given me, but I'm still getting flashes of it."
"You are more than smart enough," Wrench said patiently. "Quit putting yourself down before I have to steal the black leather pants."
"You'll stretch them out, your tail is more round than my flat ass." He showed him the pictures he kept getting. "I'm figuring I'm supposed to go Indiana Jones something. I just don't know what."
Wrench smacked him across the back of the head. "You also sent over the hot dream you had about Vinnie, which was just so wrong, man!" He shook his head, clearing that off, but hearing Willow and the Seal snickering at it. "You two!"
Xander snorted. "They're somewhere very safe, Wrench. They probably did it on purpose so you'll have to get something nicer to impress the girl they like. Remember, Buffy taught Willow about fashion." Wrench looked horrified at that. "Willow used to wear fuzzy overalls." He grinned. "She also used to love her pigtails with her fuzzy overalls." He steered him toward his room, smiling at the baby sleeping in his cradle. "Sorry, I'm letting him nap so he can keep us up later." He threw open the doors on his 'good clothes' closet - as opposed to his 'working clothes' closet - and looked around. "Think you're wearing the green leathers?"
"Probably not. It doesn't go well against my bike." He looked and pulled out a medium blue shirt. "I look good in blue."
Xander put it back. "A t-shirt is not allowable on a first date unless you're going to a beach, a picnic, or a heavy metal concert. Remember, I lived with many girls, including Anya, and had to watch as Anya was taught about this stuff. What's the destination chosen?"
"My bedroom?" he suggested dryly. Xander pinched him and he yelped. "Hey! Be nicer to me or I won't tell you where that temple is!"
"Sorry. Do you know what I'm supposed to do?"
"Go Indiana Jones it," he admitted. "You got that part right. The temple is up toward where you took that," he coughed, "dream quest to get your bike." Xander gave him a look. "Vinnie told me, Xander. You confused him and he was trying to figure out if it was real or not. You're going to what was commonly known as his bachelor temple, the one he built before he was wed to the Goddess and they had Mylar and a few others. Good luck with that considering it's surrounded by spirits and that's where a bunch of cults popped up."
Xander suddenly groaned and held his head, blinking back tears by the vision. "Be a bit nicer, please!" he yelled. The baby sniffled and he went over to hug him, letting himself calm down. He looked up again. "Again, road map might be nice," he complained. "Noting for the third time, I'm not naturally Martian, I don't know spots by sight yet." He got a better view this time. "You want me to go help at a temple that's near where every mouse purist on the planet lives?" he asked, looking amused. "Okay, you're the God of Protection and Teaching. I can do that as long as you cover my tail with Throttle about my fighting." He got another one and it was gentler, showing him a nice temple. The feeling coming from it was definitely feminine and nurturing. "Thank you, Goddess Mylar. That was much more handy. When am I going? Now, tomorrow? This weekend since we've got Vinnie's birthday party on Saturday?" That got an amused feeling and he nodded. "Sure, I'll leave Sunday. Thank you and praised be." He put down his son and went back to the closet. "There's a few other priests around. I'm going to meet them at Sycresta. Yes, I've heard about the town. It doesn't really matter." He looked and pulled down a black silk shirt that was too tight on him, but Wrench was less muscular than he was, he was built more like Vinnie. "That, and this," he said, pulling out a dark blue pair of silk dress pants. "Wear nice, shiny shoes. Make a good impression and bring her back here if you want. We're not against that at all." He grinned and went to find Throttle, leaning in the office. "Babe, I've got an assignment I've got to start on Sunday, early. Don't let me forget, all right?"
"Sure. What are you doing this time?" he asked without looking up.
"I'm being sent to talk to some of the other priests up at the old temple in Sycresta. Then I may have to go do a puzzle thing at one of the other temples. I'm not sure yet." He blew a kiss. "Wrench has a date tonight. I just gave him something to wear. Love you." He wandered off to help Wrench some more.
"How do you expect to clean silk on Mars?"
"Easy, that in-the-dryer dry cleaning system."
"Oh. I didn't know there was one of those." Xander nodded, sitting on his bed. "You're sure about this?"
"The last time you saw me in all black, outside of my leathers, what did you think?"
"A bit dangerous, nice ass, tight bod. The time before that I think it was 'I can fix him up with my sister'." He shrugged. "I'm not you."
"Put it on," he sighed. "Now." Wrench took it into the bathroom and came back a few minutes later. Xander looked him over. "First, the underwear shows. So either put on the boxer briefs we got you or go commando." Wrench blushed at that. "I do all the damn time in my leathers, honey."
"I'll be cleaning those green leathers soon," he noted dryly.
"Why? Vinnie wore those last," he said with a small smirk and a wink. "We won't discuss Vinnie's problem with underwear." He looked him over. "Second, tuck the shirt in. It's a polite thing and it'll show off your chest and arms better that way." Wrench turned and tucked the shirt in, looking in his mirror. "See?"
"I do, but I still say I look like a geek."
"Only if you go in wearing glasses. Put on your black sunglasses, the one you wear when you're working. You'll need the boost of confidence they'll give you. Wear your blue trench over it." Wrench looked at him. "At one time I lived with seventeen slayers and Dawn," he said patiently. Wrench let out a whimper and nodded, going to find his shoes and shine them. "When is your date?"
"Four hours," he admitted.
"Then change back until just before you get ready to go. That way you don't get kitty fur or wrinkled." Wrench nodded, going to do that and leave it hanging in the bathroom. He came back with his shoes to shine. "Need socks?"
"No, I have some black socks." He gave him a sideways look. "You're not too bad at the prophetic dreams, you know."
"Actually, I suck at them. Usually I get ones that give me road signs and questions to look at. These ones with orders aren't what I'm used to and I still don't know everything I should. I need a map of all the temples."
"I can get you that. We've got one in the archives." Wrench went back to shining his shoes. "Are you sure this is the right way to impress her?"
"Unless she's impressed more by dirty mice with dirty minds, yeah."
Wrench smirked. "I can be one of those, but not tonight. I was being suave when I met her." The comm center beeped and he sighed. "That's probably her canceling." Throttle answered it, you could just hear his velvety smooth, yet slightly rough, voice. Then someone knocked on the door. "My date canceling?"
"She wanted to know if you'd like to go to the jump event tonight at the Remembrance Canyon." He smirked. "Just to watch of course."
"I can make it across there, I have in the past," he noted. "Sure. Should I dress up or not?" he asked Xander. Xander shrugged. "Nice jeans?"
"Yeah, borrow my black jeans and wear that shirt or my medium blue silk shirt. A mix of nice and a bit dirty and down-home." Throttle just looked confused. "I'm helping him get ready for tonight."
"Okay." He went back to tell her. "He's fussing over his outfit but he said that'd be fine," he offered with a small grin. "Jeans are fine?"
"Yeah, that's fine. I'm good with jeans most of the time." She smirked at him. "How bad is he fussing?"
"He and my husband are diving into his closet at the moment." She snickered at that. "Xander used to live with a bunch of girls. Sometimes he takes these moods."
She smiled. "A nice shirt and jeans is more than impressive for me." She winked and signed off.
He made sure it was off on their end. "Jeans and a nice shirt," he called.
"Sure, thanks," Xander called from Wrench's room.
Throttle walked that way, leaning in again. "What's this about Sycresta?"
"I've got to go meet a bunch of the priests up there at one of the older temples," Xander told him. "So I'm leaving early Sunday morning."
"Sure," Throttle agreed. "Need help with your pack?"
Xander just grinned. "Sure. That way you can make sure I make a good impression." He leered. "Should I wear my older black leathers since they're stretched."
"I love you, babe, but I don't want you to fight every mouse on Mars." He went back to look in Xander's closet, then decided it gave him a headache and went to find the pack first. He found a survivalist's pack, which already had a tent and a lot of canteens with it, and decided that was fine. The supplies in it were more than good enough and another blanket would be okay in there. Then he went to get Xander's usual riding clothes. He'd need to be comfortable for the four day trip. Xander came in and kissed him and replaced one of the outfits with something more formal, then added his cloak on top, then stole a deeper kiss and headed back to help Wrench once he found the shirt he was lending him tonight. "Those poor priests," Throttle moaned, blinking after his mate. "They won't know what hit 'em." He shook his head.
Wrench walked in and flopped down on Xander's other side. "She said I looked cute."
"That's good in girl speak," Xander promised.
"Not on Mars," he complained. He knew he was whining. "I'm not a cute mouse. Vic is a cute mouse." Vic beamed at him. "You are, kid."
Xander sighed and hugged him. "I'm sure she was thinking cute in a more manly way, Wrench. So, when do we get to meet her?"
"When she's well and truly mine," he complained, pushing him off. "She liked your shirt more than me."
"So she was taking the opportunity to feel you up," Xander offered with a small grin. "That's a good sign."
Wrench looked at him. "How does playing with my sleeve mean she's feeling me up?"
"Easy, she was touching your arm. She was probably stroking it over your muscles?" Wrench nodded slowly. "She was groping, man! Why didn't you bring her home?"
"Her assistant said there's a problem at the new bike factory. That's where Staff is by the way." He slumped down some, looking at Charley as she came in. "If a lady calls me cute, is that bad?"
She looked at him. "That depends, what was she doing at the time?"
"That was right before she leaned in to kiss me on the cheek and check out the fabric on my shirt by playing with my sleeve."
"Why didn't you bring her home?" she asked patiently.
"Because she had to deal with an emergency," he admitted with a small pout. "I'm going to lunch with her tomorrow."
"Picnic," Xander said slowly and clearly.
"I can't. She's only got an hour," he complained.
"Good. Bring her to the tasting tomorrow for the new club," Xander told him. "Good food and free." Wrench grinned at that. "Plus, it's a nice, safe thing where she'll get to be a bit businessy but not totally because it'll be Momma and a few of the Councilors. Repel and I will be there with Tag and Comet, and Racer if he's feeling bored. It's part family dinner and part business lunch. She can be the 'normal' citizen."
Wrench smiled and got up to make sure that was all right with her. He grinned when she answered her bike's comm. "I got us invited to the tasting tomorrow for Xander's new club, the stuff for the new kitchen. Would that be okay? I didn't want to make that plan without checking. It's free, but his mother-in-law is cooking. So it's part business and part family."
She smiled. "That would be fine, Wrench. When and where?"
"The main building, maybe at.... Xander?"
"Two?" he offered. She smiled and nodded. "His mother-in-law is a very good cook." He winked and cut the connection. Then he grinned stupidly for a moment, enjoying the sensation before he wiped it and headed back to the living room. "Okay, we're on."
"You might tell her," Throttle warned.
"She already knows there's going to be extra people there. She's making enough for twenty people." He grinned at him. "The rest is for dinner, which we're to be at." Throttle nodded at that. "Good!" He beamed at Wrench. "Good work."
"Thanks. What'm I doing when you're gone?"
"You're allowed to raid my wardrobe," Xander assured him, patting him on the arm. "You need to work out some more too."
"That's not who I really am," Wrench complained. "I'm not a jock."
"You've still got to keep up in the studly family contest, cuz," Vinnie offered with a grin. "You and Xander can work out together."
"I need him to work on my hand-to-hand anyway," he admitted. "Rivet is a lot better than I am," he complained. "She's got that natural grace of the chosen and the strength."
"Yeah, Buffy has that too," Xander agreed, smirking at him.
"She's still an airhead."
"Well, yeah, at times," Xander agreed. "Sometimes she can be really focused though."
"Yeah, in the pursuit of chocolate," Vinnie joked.
Xander elbowed him. "She's been serious in the past. She's a living legend, she's allowed."
"If you say so."
"What are we doing tonight?" Throttle asked from behind his book.
"I thought we'd do something special for our first night of tv watching on Mars," Xander offered. "Got anything in particular you want to watch? Either that or someone has to go hook up the satellite dish so we can hit the edges of the Direct TV broadcast overflows."
"Is that legal?" Vinnie asked.
"I pay for it," he defended. "I've got the box and decoder and everything."
"Sure, fine," Vinnie agreed. "We get radio broadcasts, why not Direct TV." He shook his head. "Where is the dish? I haven't seen it yet."
"Back on Earth. It's in Oz's closet." He grimaced. "It'll be one of the things we're bringing back during our final trip this year. So I need a list of what's missing and what'll be needed in the next twelve months for the storage cavern, Vinnie."
"You need some sanity," Vinnie said dryly. "You bought more stuff than we could use in ten years! I can't eat that much Spam!"
Xander stared at him for a moment. "Why not? It's a square hotdog." Vinnie shuddered. "That was more for the kids anyway," he noted patiently. "Or maybe for donation. I don't remember buying any Spam."
"You've got a case out there," Throttle assured him. "There's also a case of pork and beans. A case of pinto beans, dried out of course." Xander looked confused so he went to get the list and handed it over. "That's what's out there."
Xander looked and snorted. "Military supplies. Micah must have donated." He grinned and handed it back. "That must mean that the rest of the stuff is still down there."
"We did end up leaving one of the supply cases," Vinnie admitted. "What was in it?" Xander just grinned. "Will it go bad?"
"Not with how cold it was the last time we were down there," Xander assured him. "Worry more about frozen stuff that shouldn't be." He winked and got up, heading over to the DVD cabinet. "Any choices?"
"Xander, we don't know half of what you bought," Throttle complained. "Put in something you like and we'll complain if we don't."
Xander looked back at him, then looked over the available choices, his hand hovering over one selection. Then he decided to put in a movie. "There's a series after this one," he decided. "Since it's about alien worlds and all that." He slipped the disc into the player and sat down, turning it on when the menu came up. He nudged Wrench. "I think I'm going to be sent to be him," he hissed. Wrench nodded a few times, then got up to make some popcorn. He came back a few minutes later and handed over a bag then went back to get his from the microwave and sat down again.
"Hey, the Svandi," Vinnie said fondly, eating a handful of Xander's popcorn. "They're not too bad."
"Those are bad guys," Xander told him.
"Then they're probably based on the Vertga," Throttle offered. He continued to watch, then nodded. "Yup, the Vertga." He reached around Vinnie to steal some popcorn, then went back to watching. "This isn't too bad. There's a series?"
"Yup." Xander looked around Vinnie at his mate. "They're real?" Throttle nodded without looking. "If I get turned into one suddenly, I'm going to have to whine at you, dear. I'll look horrible in the Egyptian kilt."
"Why whine at me?" Throttle asked, looking amused.
"You didn't tell me they were real and that I could get possessed that way. Especially when I'm going to some of the older temples to do stuff for my chosen one. Am I going to run into a stargate?"
Throttle shook his head. "I've never seen one."
"Good! If I find one, I'm sending you one long rant of a call while I'm gone."
"You wouldn't be upset at having a symbiot?" Vinnie asked, looking confused.
"Hyena. Soldier. A few other notable dead people. What's one more voice?" he complained lightly. "I figure it'll get along with the others in me. Besides, I'd have to be in a more equal relationship with it. I've had to do that too many times in the past."
"So, let me get this straight," Wrench said, hitting the pause button on the remote. "You wouldn't care or complain if you got a symbiot, but you'd complain because of the *clothes*?" he demanded.
"Well, yeah. That's a dorky wardrobe and while I've had the dorkiest of dorky wardrobes, not even *I* could wear that and get away with it. What remains of my innate manly fashion sense would scream in horror and I know Dawn would come up in a heartbeat to make me go shopping at Viccy's with her for the sin of wearing a kilt - especially such a girly looking kilt. She did the last time I tried for Halloween and it was a horrifying price to pay for wearing a traditional Scottish kilt." He shrugged. "Besides, what's one more voice in my head? Maybe this one'll have information I don't and can fill in some gaps, like with physics and stuff. You're supposed to get a bunch of information right up front and I'll be more than able to keep it at bay now and then."
"Point," he admitted, "but not much of one." He just stared at Xander. "You're way too odd and that says something coming from me," he decided finally.
Xander just grinned. "You say the sweetest things. Now, turn it back on so I know when to complain to Throttle about getting another voice in my head."
Wrench turned back on the movie, then looked down at Throttle. "There's not really any Stargates, right?" He shook his head quickly. "You're sure?"
"Quite. They also don't fly in pyramid-shaped ships. We won't have to worry about Xander and symbiots."
"You know, Micah said he's got a Pentagon liaison with a super secret military project," Xander offered.
"I've just reached that point where I don't want to know," Vinnie decided, looking over at Xander, then covering his mouth with his hand. "No more, Xander. Please." He nodded, grinning at him. "Thanks."
"I'm guessing some of the nicer ones of them landed," Throttle offered with a small shrug. "We really should send him our fact file of other alien races." Vinnie nodded at that, then covered his mouth with a hand too, then used his tail to restart the movie.
Charley snickered from her seat, grinning at him. At least until Staff ran through the house behind them and right to a bathroom to get sick.
Xander got free and stopped the movie, going to check on her. He tapped gently on the door, then walked in to help her by moving her hair out of the way. "Hey, Staff, are you all right?" he asked gently. She nodded. "Should I call Enamel?" She glared at him between bouts. "I doubt it's anything but morning sickness, sweetheart." He got her some water once she was done then went to find Enamel, since he was in the kitchen it was easy. "Would you please come check on your newest patients?" he asked quietly. "That's the fourth time Staff's made the mad-run-for-the-bathroom dash." Enamel finished his sandwich and followed him back to the bathroom. "Here he is. He can see if it's a problem or not."
"I'm fine," Staff moaned. "I know I am."
"Good." Enamel took a bite of his sandwich then picked her up, putting her on the counter while he chewed. He finally swallowed by the time he was done examining her. "Congrats." She sighed and nodded.
Xander tweaked her nose. "He'll be so happy!"
"Yeah, but I start work next month," she complained.
"So? You can't work while you're pregnant?"
"Do you think he'll let me?"
"His momma will have him seeing sense," Enamel promised. "After all, she worked while she had him and Cell." He put the small disc on her stomach, looking at the display. Then he tapped a few things, frowning greatly as he reran the tests. "I'll be damned. I knew I was right."
"About...." Xander asked.
"Viagra makes female mice drop an extra egg," he said. He looked at Staff, who looked really pale for a gray mouse. She was quickly approaching the white mouse shades.
"Twins?" she squeaked.
"Triplets," he said, looking very serious. She burst out in a wail of misery, which brought Modo running. He looked at the big man. "Congrats."
"Another one?" he asked, looking happy. "What's wrong, Staff?" he soothed, cuddling her to his chest. "It's all right. I'll stay home if I need to," he offered, stroking her back. "Is something wrong?" he asked when they continued to stare at him.
Enamel nodded, but Xander answered. "The viagra she's taking to stop those little bumps made her release more than one egg, big guy."
"So, twins?" he asked with a grin. "I'm sure they'll be better than Primer's two."
"Triplets," Enamel told him. "A set of identical twins and an extra one." Modo looked stunned, then passed out with a loud crash.
"Well, I guess I'm fixing the sink before we go to Momma's tomorrow," Xander offered dryly, staring at the little pieces now scattered around. The others ran in and he held up a hand. "Just a giant shock, guys. He's fine. I never knew happy news could make someone break and pass out, but that's okay too." He looked at Enamel. "She's okay, right?" He nodded and grabbed his sandwich, walking off with it. He looked at Staff, who was down there trying to wake him up, then at the others. He grinned. "She's pregnant."
"Cool," Vinnie said slowly. "Why did Modo pass out? I've known him nearly forever and he's never passed out before."
"He's having a Modo the second, third, and fourth," Xander told him.
It took a moment for Vinnie to catch the meaning, then he too slid to the floor.
"Triplets, whoa," Throttle said, looking impressed. "How? That's almost unheard of."
"Enamel said Viagra makes girl mice drop an extra egg," Xander said with a shrug. He grinned. "So, all three little gray Mini-Modo's will be wonderful and great. Staff, should we carry him to bed for you?"
She shook her head. "It'll be fine. He should probably be in here in case he needs a damp cloth or something." She looked up at him. "You can't tell his mother."
"Sure," he agreed, grinning at her. "He'd better do it before I leave on Sunday though." Then he picked up Vinnie and walked out with Throttle after him. He grinned at Charley as she came out with Tag. "It's triplets." She nearly dropped the baby, staring at him. "Modo's having a Modo the second, third, and fourth."
She clutched the baby, hugging him tightly. "Any idea why?"
"Viagra." He put Vinnie down in his bed, then took the babies and went to watch his movie some more. He found Wrench staring at the frozen picture. "Thanks, man. Here, have Magnet." He sat down to let the babies cuddle on them, smiling as Throttle took their picture from the doorway. "We should show that to Taver." He nudged him and grinned. "It proves you're good with babies and innocents."
"I'm not sure she cares about kids. We've only had the one date," he noted.
Xander grinned. "I have faith. You came home so happy." He kissed him on the cheek. "Babe, we could use a bottle."
"Us too but we don't usually drink," Throttle complained, going to get the babies bottles. Three baby Modos at once. "Well, at least they'll be polite and calm babies," he decided. "Maybe they'll calm Primer's twins down." He took the bottles back to the lounge and handed them over, then cuddled up beside his son and mate. Comet was staring at her uncle for now. "No more for a while, right?" he prompted his mate.
"No, dear, I think we'll have enough babies until you're ready," he promised, kissing him then grinning. "Watch with me. I'm not sure which Daniel I like better. This one or the one in the series."
"They switched Daniels?" Wrench asked. "Why?"
"Because James Spader doesn't really do network tv most of the time. I guess. Not a clue why," he admitted, shrugging a bit. "Just enjoy him, Wrench. For he is eye candy."
Throttle carefully took the babies and put them aside, then hauled his mate up so he could carry him into the bedroom. He slammed that door and tossed Xander on the bed, proving to him once again that he was the only needed eye candy and any other candy too.
Wrench shook his head. "Man, three baby Modos," he said in awe. "Wow. His momma's gonna flip when she hears."
Modo looked at his mother across the comm. "Momma, would you come out for dinner tonight?" he asked.
"Is there news?" she asked, smiling at Staff since she was clinging to her son's arm. She had been very cuddly the last time she had been pregnant too. She had been even more cuddly than Xander if she remembered right. "I can come out for lunch."
"No, Momma. Stay there for lunch. Come out for dinner," Modo said with a small grin. "Go ahead and invite Cell too if you want."
"Of course, son. What news is there? Good news I hope?" she hinted.
"You'll have to wait to find out," he ordered, grinning at her and signing off. Then he picked up his lady and took her to their room to celebrate with her again.
"Modo, I'm still sore," she complained.
He grinned. "I'll be real gentle," he promised.
Outside in the garden, Xander went back to shining his bike, grinning at those two. He looked up as another bike came his way, smiling at the woman getting off. "Hey, Taver. Wrench is in the garage."
"Thank you. I know we're supposed to have lunch today but I got off early."
"Sure. Have him give you the tour," he offered in his most gentlemanly fashion. "I planned the house using all water-saving appliances and bathroom stuff. I'm very proud of my designs."
"Sure." She headed where he pointed, finding her date doing a tune up in a muscle shirt, flexing his arms as he tightened some bolt. She wiped the drool off before he saw it and walked closer. "Did she spring a leak?"
He jumped and stared up at her, then stuttered a bit. He finally shook his head. "No," he offered gently. "No, she's good, just needed some sand cleaned out around her engine. Am I late?" She smiled and shook her head. "You're sure?"
"I'm quite sure," she promised, walking over to kiss him on the cheek. "You've got a spot of grease," she offered, pointing at it for him. "There." He wiped it off with a shy grin. She felt her stomach clench and looked at his bare arms, stroking one. "That shirt last night didn't show off how impressive you are."
"You should see him doing his hand-to-hand, he stunned me," Vinnie said as he walked his son out. "We're heading for a ride."
"Go Grandmommas?" Vic asked.
Vinnie looked down at his son. "You can speak in full sentences. Quit using the baby talk."
"Momma likes it," he defended.
Vinnie picked him up to nuzzle noses with him. "I don't." Vic grinned at that. "We'll let you head out with Xander tonight, son. They're going to his momma's for dinner." He beamed at that and nodded. "For right now, we're going to pick out a spot for the new bike course. Call your bike the way you're supposed to." His son grinned and whistled, bringing his bike out of the corner. Vinnie got down to help him rewind the cord, then got his son settled on. "Helmet," he said firmly. "It's the second law of the land, son. You don't even want to know what your momma would scream if you didn't wear one." Vic got off his little bike and got his helmet, then came back and climbed back on, revving his engine and taking off to play in the sun for a few minutes. Vinnie sniffled, watching his son. "He's so great!" He hugged Wrench. "Some year your first kid can have his bike." He hopped onto his bike and headed out with his son, watching him ride. "Very good, son," he called when the kid avoided a pothole instead of trying to go through it.
"Fank you. Can we see Spikey today?"
"We'll see, son," he said with an amused and fond grin for him. "Maybe we can talk Stoker into letting him come out." Vic beamed and went a bit faster. "Not out of my sight, son!" he called after him, speeding up. His son was so like him at that age! Always going fast! Loving the ladies and his bros! It was so great!
Wrench looked at his lady and gave her another shy grin. "Sorry. Vinnie wants to make sure his son isn't the next Highest." She burst out in giggles and kissed him on the cheek, so he kissed her for real. "Let me change."
"Can't you go like that?"
He grinned. "Throttle's momma might object. I think I've got something nice enough though." She smiled and let him finish tightening that bolt and put back on the covering and bolt it back in place before he walked her inside. "Go ahead and get a drink. I need to clean up so I don't get you greasy." He walked off, mentally slapping himself for saying that, blushing a lot.
She blushed too but she could see that. He came out ten minutes later dressed in a skin- tight t-shirt and jeans that left nothing to the imagination. She forgot to wipe the drool this time. "Do you get to wear that often?" she asked plaintively.
He grinned and nodded. "Whenever I'm not being official. My official robes are a bit more loose, but I've got hand-to-hand practice with Xander this afternoon and then we're working on Vinnie's birthday party. It's Saturday if you wanted to come," he offered. He took her hand and kissed the back of it. "With you by my side, not only would I glow with the edges of your radiance, but I'd be the most envied mouse in my clan once they saw you for you are beauteous and perfect in every way I know how to count." She blushed at that and he slipped on his sunglasses. "Sorry, sometimes I break out in poetry. I'm not the little punk I used to be, now I'm much more knowledgeable and smarter. Shall we? We can use the extra time for a leisurely ride. I'm sure you could use the stress break. You looked a bit tense earlier." He kissed her gently again, then smiled. "Sorry, had to. You're like a drug."
She pulled him closer, raping his mouth with her kiss. He moaned and clutched her and she pulled back to look at him. "I like you. No more dancing, no more flirting needed."
"That's just me, babe," he offered with another shy grin. "Ask Xander or Vinnie if you don't believe me."
"It is," Xander called. "I'd come in but I've got Magnet and she's filthy."
"It's fine, Xander. I've got nieces." He brought in the baby, making her wince at the mud. "Did a line break?"
"She was in the greenhouses helping Throttle plant some seedlings and wet down the bag of potting soil, then got down to play in it," he sighed, carrying her past them into the bathroom. "Sorry."
"That's okay. That's what kids do," Wrench noted dryly. "Vinnie and I used to be able to find mud anywhere on Mars. We had internal mud sensing radar." Taver laughed at that, swatting him on the arm. He unconsciously flexed at that and grinned at her. "We did. That and we had this horrible habit of wandering off. Vinnie swears he found one of the ancient cave mice." He grinned at that. "He still does. Shall we?"
"Please." He handed her another rootbeer with a wink. "It won't deprive anyone?"
"Xander did some shopping on earth for the year. We've got plenty. Vinnie's in charge of that and he's already complaining." He walked her out, taking her back to her bike, his bike following. He got on once she was seated, then put on his helmet. His bike wiggled and he looked down. "Hey, a creeper," he said, casually shooting it then pocketing his laser again. "Sorry. Bad former habits."
"It's not a problem. Do the cats I saw hunt those?" she asked as she pulled up beside him. He nodded. "Aren't those things poisonous?"
"Not to the cats. No one's ever said if they're poisonous to any partial mice."
"Like Vic?" she asked quietly. He nodded, staring her down, she could feel it. "It doesn't matter to me. He found love and that's special," she said quietly. He relaxed and nodded. "I'm wondering what other things Xander is."
"He used to be human. Willow, my spirit antagonist, got him." She looked surprised at that. "I'll tell you while we ride," he offered. She nodded, following him out of the compound. By the time they got to Momma's, she was fully clued in on the whole family, down to the triplets and Dawn. She smiled when they got there and kissed him on the cheek again. He grinned at her. "What was that for?"
"For being the normal one among the insanity that Xander brought into everyone's life," she said with a wink. He burst out laughing and hugged her as hard as he could. "You're *very* strong," she offered with a smile.
"I've got to keep in shape. Want to help me look at the new building and temple tonight?" She smiled and nodded. "Cool. Momma, can we come in yet?" he called.
"Get your tails in here," she called back. She looked surprised at the young woman. "You brought an independent taster?" she asked, pinching Wrench's cheek.
He blushed and nodded. "This is Taver. We had a date for lunch and Xander suggested your table." Momma laughed and shooed them off to the living room. "You're sure you don't mind?"
"Not in the least. A more normal opinion would carry more weight with the fussy councilors from other cities, Wrench. Where is Xander?"
"Getting Magnet clean. She decided to make mud and roll around in it," Taver said, sitting down delicately.
"Sweetie, my son can bounce around on everything in here and so can my grandchildren. Be yourself. It makes you more attractive. I've got to go stir." She headed back into the kitchen.
Wrench grinned at his date. "Xander loans me clothes all the time. She'd probably have told me to go change too."
"I liked you in that shirt. It was soft and subtle, plus it made your eyes stand out," she promised, kissing him on the cheek again. "I've never been courted before, Wrench. Take it easy on my poor ego."
He pulled her closer to kiss her for real again, giving back as good as she gave earlier. "You never have to fear for yourself, your safety, or your love with me," he whispered against her lips. She shivered and nodded, settling back into her seat. He grinned at her. "How did you get away early?"
"Staff had morning sickness all over the meeting this morning. It made others sick so I got to escape early." She smiled. "It's great she's having another one."
"Punch is a sweetheart. She's very polite and delicate. Though she will beat the snot out of Primer's twins if they need it. Then again, it's pleasing to watch and Racer cheers her on something fierce whenever she does it." Taver chuckled at that and Momma came back out. "You can't tell his momma yet, he's going to announce it tonight, but Staff's pregnant again." She squealed and hugged him. "They're not mine, momma."
She swatted his arm. "I knew that. What is it?"
"A mini Modo the second, third, and fourth," he said dryly. She stared, simply stared. He nodded and grinned. "That Viagra stuff she's taking for that condition made her drop an extra egg and twins do run in the family."
"Well," she said fondly, grinning at him. "At least Xander will have plenty of children around to spoil horribly." She swatted him again. "Did you two need anything?"
"No, but can we help?" Taver asked.
"No, dear, I've got to prove to the Councils that I can do this on my own," she offered with a small wink.
"Ya see, in Xander's upcoming club, he wants to add a kitchen that'll serve food for a ration coupon," Wrench told her. "Momma here's going to be the chef. They're looking her and her cooking over to make sure it's enough food for a full ration coupon and what her menus would be like."
"I like that idea. I can't cook a bit," Taver admitted. "I always end up short of ration coupons by the end of the week buying prepared stuff. My dinner on Friday is usually something like a raw vegetable." She looked up at her. "How many meals a day, ma'am?"
"Just the one for now, dear. Since it's a club it'd be dinner. He might be open to expanding it at a later date, but we're not sure yet. We're still getting permission to do it this way since ration coupons are so fiercely guarded. I know my baby boy can't cook at all. He'd starve if it weren't for Xander." She bustled back into the kitchen as more bikes started up the road to her house. "Let them in, Wrench, and please be nice."
"Of course," he called, "I'm always nice, even to politicians." He opened the door and nodded Stoker inside. "Taver's here as well," he offered when the older mouse came up the walkway. "He said to invite her," he offered at the amused look. "We're the normal people vote." He got out of the way. "Taver, this is Stoker. He used to ride my tail all the time." He sat down next to her, smiling at the odd look he got. "Thank you for allowing me to use my housing coupon for the new building."
"Not an issue, kid. If we hadn't, you'd be out with Xander all the time. Then I'd get bothered by Rivet's kids more. They're coming to Anya for advice on how to decorate the house." He sat down, looking toward the kitchen. "You're getting ten councilors total, momma, plus these two freeloaders and whoever else Xander invites."
"As far as I know it's just him," Taver offered. "He never said the others were coming." She looked outside at the sound of a deep, purring engine. "Damn," she said in awe. "That's his bike?"
Wrench nodded. "Yeah, it sometimes makes us feel less than manly, but his boy's a good bike. A lot like Xander, a lover and a warrior when necessary, but kinda shy and lazy now and then."
"And then there's his odd moments," Stoker said dryly. "You've got to watch out for those."
"I manage them very well, thank you," Wrench said firmly, staring him down from behind his glasses. Xander walked in wearing his leathers and he took off his sunglasses to look at him more clearly. "Why are you wearing those?"
"So I can go for a long ride later," he said cockily. He walked into the kitchen and kissed Momma on the cheek. "Are you ready?" he asked quietly.
She patted him on the cheek. "Of course I am, dear. How's that poor dear, Staff?"
"Puking," he said with a grin. She squealed and hugged him. "Triplets," he whispered in her ear. She just beamed and nodded. "Enamel said that viagra stuff makes you guys drop an extra egg."
"You are one of us, son."
"Yeah, but I'm not a girl," he teased. He let her go. "You're sure?"
"I'm sure! Go! Shoo!"
Xander walked back into the living room. He grinned at all the people waiting around. "Hi, guys. Welcome to my mother-in-law's house. For those who don't know, I'm a Xander mouse."
One of the female councilors looked at him. "You're a partial mouse?" He nodded. "Born?"
"Made actually. You'd have to ask Wrench how Willow did it." He grinned sweetly. "Now then, I'm sure you know why you're all here, besides lunch. Momma?" She came out wiping her hands on a towel. "Maybe you want to tell them about the shopping and stuff?"
"Sure." She patted him on the back. "I don't know why you wore those today, Xander."
"I'm going for a ride later, then I'm beating up on Wrench for practice," he defended. "Since I like Wrench a lot I had to get into the mood to whip his tail." Then he grinned sweetly at her. "All in a good cause of course."
"I'm sure it is," Stoker agreed. "We never could teach him the official methods the rest of us used."
"Oh, get over it, old man," Wrench said, scowling at him. "I could whip your tail then and I can now." He grinned at Momma. "He's sorry he's so rude and grumpy today. I'm guessing Spike interrupted them again." Taver snickered and hid her face in his arm, allowing him to pull her closer and put that around her while she giggled.
Momma rolled her eyes. "I don't know why I got cursed with the clan VanWham," she muttered. Then she smiled at them again. "Sorry, they're in a playful mood." The others nodded at that. "Anyway, I traded Racer, who is Modo's little brother by adoption, for ten of his ration coupons. I traded food out so his family won't go hungry and I got it from Xander's stores before anyone asks. He agreed to it and the kid's looking forward to eating with us more often since the twins are driving him nuts again." She smiled at them. "The only extra thing I took was some herbs and spices which aren't readily available up here but which Xander thoughtfully got me a few months back. Since I have pounds of them, I'm doubting they're going to run out anytime in the near future." That got some smiles and nods. "Now, everything I'm fixing today was done with nine and a half of those ration coupons and I gave the other half one back so they could get something nice for the twin's birthdays today." Xander groaned and held his head. "Did you forget?" He nodded. "Just appear, that'll be enough."
"Not after I gave Vic, Healer, and Crankshaft their bikes," he said, looking over at her. "I'll think of something." He sank down beside Wrench, looking at Taver. "They're here as the normal people opinion."
"That's fine," Stoker agreed. "What sort of food are we talking, Momma?"
"Some stews and the like. I was going to give you enough to taste everything while a full plate was put out. Xander can have that later because he knows how well I cook already." She smiled at them. "Did you want to eat in here or at the table?"
"The table would probably be easier," one of them noted, standing up. "May we help?"
"Don't worry about it, you're a guest. Xander." He got up and went to help her dish up sample bowls of everything while she loaded the full versions for their viewing. He carefully carried the prepared trays out, setting them on the table with forks and spoons while she carried out each individual overfilled plate for the viewing. He was so nervous he was bouncing again so it was safer that way. "Here you are, come eat, dears. The tasting portion should be more than a filling lunch. Whatever's left my boys will eat tonight with the kids."
Stoker sat down in his usual spot and the rest gathered around, Wrench and Xander getting a few extra chairs. "Looks good, Momma."
"You've known her for a while?" the female councilor asked.
He nodded. "This is Throttle's Momma. She used to bring us all dinner now and then. She and Modo's momma used to take over the mess every once in a while to make sure we ate real food."
"I had to, you weren't eating," she said, pinching him on the ear. "How's Anya? Last I heard she was frustrated with a drawing."
"She still is. She broke her favorite blue crayon."
"I've got new packs of crayons and markers, just like she asked for her school," Xander said patiently from his seat in the corner. "There's a whole case of crayons, markers, colored pencils, and paper stuff for them somewhere."
"Thanks, Xander. You're making my little artist feel very appreciated." He dug into the first bowl. "Hmm, Momma, spicy. Were you cooking with Switch again?"
She chuckled. "Well, that one is a bit spicy, as is the red one, Stoker, but now and then that's good for you. I can make it more subtle. I made it for myself and Xander really. I can easily cut the spices in half or less."
The others ate and nodded, sipping the rootbeers Xander went out and brought back. "I think you're right," one of the foreign councilors noted. "We need our own bottling plant soon." Stoker nodded at that. He finished his bowl and covered his mouth while he burped. "Well, that part was excellent and more filling than what I had for lunch yesterday." He looked at the full plate version and just stared in awe. "That's more food than I had yesterday." Most of the other councilors looked at that too, then most of them nodded, finishing up. A few pushed theirs aside after another few bites and finished their sodas. Those were put into one bowl and handed to Xander, who just beamed at her. "You like spicy food?"
"Now and then. I grew up around where three major spicy food traditions merged on Earth," he admitted, eating heartily. "I'm also the one who introduced Switch to hot peppers."
"Which I'd still like to kill you for," Stoker said with a grin. "Do you know what it's like to kiss your girl and suddenly have to rush for the sink because she just ate something that hot?"
"Rinse and spit," Xander advised with a grin. He finished off his and Momma brought out the next one. "I didn't know you were making the pork stuff, momma. You should have told me. I've got those canned tomatoes."
"I know, dear. I stole a can from you last week." She looked at them and smiled. "It's not in this version of the dish since it's not found locally." She put the full plate version down and they all stared, but dug in. Everyone but one person finished that one. She looked at him then went into the bathroom, coming out with a familiar pink bottle. "Take a swig of that. It'll help those stomach problems." He nodded, taking a large gulp, then making a face. "Five minutes before you can eat or drink."
He nodded. "That's fine. It's already working. I will sit out of the other spicy dish however."
"It won't hurt once you've taken Pepto," Xander promised. "You can have that bottle too. I've got the family sized one she can steal at home." He nodded, tucking that into his pocket. "It's for upset tummies and lots of stuff. It's even mostly safe on kids. Vic made Vinnie use a lot of it since he was born." That got some snickering. "He's out riding with him right now, Stoker."
"I saw." He looked at the plate. Five pieces of meat with the sauce around it but not on top. "Any veggies with this one, Momma? Not that it's not filling."
"For the single ration coupon, no. For the full meal, including dessert, for two coupons, yes." She went to get some of that stuff and put it out. "These sides go with nearly everything and they're good to last for a few days. Again, still part of that nine and a half coupons I used. Even the dessert."
They all looked and one person stole one of the cookies, then grinned at her. "These are good. My momma used to make good cookies too."
"It's something that'll make people feel younger and happier," she pointed out. "It'll give them a few minutes to relax and remember." He nodded, finishing that one. "Now, the next one is another spicy one, but it's the last." She handed out those bowls, swatting Xander's hand. "No, dear. Throttle said you couldn't have any of this today because you were so naughty last night."
"I was a saint last night," he defended, taking his bowl. "He can spank me if he wants, but I was a good boy. I shared my bath with him, I gave Charley girl a backrub, and I teased Wrench to no end." He grinned at those two. "So?"
"I like this," Taver admitted, eating quickly. "I like a bit of spice now and then myself. How many of these would you be offering a night?"
"Probably two or three different things," she admitted. "They'll keep for two days so I'll make a batch and use it up. I figure one meat dish, one each of the soups or stews maybe. The sides can be rotated out and some are cold so we could just keep them there since Xander did bring up a fridge."
"How much power does it use?"
"A lightbulb's worth every day," Xander told her. She looked impressed at that. "Everything I brought up from earth for my compound and for the club is energy and water efficient. Even the hottub can recycle the water so it's clean and ready for use the next time without having to refill each and every time you use it." She nodded at that and he grinned. "It's an indulgence, but my back needs it some days. Plus we share among the whole family, including Momma and members of Vinnie's clan. I walked out this morning and found cousins I didn't know I had out there." Wrench snickered at that. "Who were they?"
"Auntie Tireiron's kids," he admitted. "VanWham's by marriage since she just married into the clan."
"Fine. As long as they don't make it a habit." Wrench shook his head. Then the door was opened and they all looked. "Hey, Vinnie, hey, Vic." Vic ran in and gave him a hug and stole his lunch. "Hungry, little guy?"
"We stopped in to get a bandaid before his momma saw his scrapes," Vinnie admitted, giving Momma one of those pathetic, sheepish looks. "I didn't mean to intrude, Momma."
"Sit your tails down and eat," she demanded. She went to get him a set of testing bowls too, handing him Vic when she brought them out. "You could have just shown up." She looked at Vic's arm, then took him off to clean him up. She handed him over and went to clean her hands then bring out the next dish.
"Can I have the big plate?" Vic asked, drooling at the sight of his favorite dish.
"Later, dear," she promised. He nodded and dug into his little bowl. Everyone was staring at him so he scowled back. "I'm a growing mouse, I need food, my momma said so!" he defended, licking his bowl. Vinnie handed over his and his son beamed at him. "Fank you, daddy." He dug in, eating happily.
"If you had gotten up for breakfast, you could have had french toast," Xander said dryly. Vic pouted at him. "Next time, get up in the mornings." Vic nodded and sighed, then stuck his finger in the bigger plate, getting a swat for it from his daddy, who he glared at. "Later, Vic. We're showing them how good Momma cooks."
"Fine, I wait," he whined. Momma added more to his little bowl with a wink and went back to get the next one.
"I'm already full," Taver noted, stealing a cookie to nibble on. "You could offer it like this every now and then, call it the bottom of the pot's scrapings night, and I'd come to eat all the time."
"I do come to her to eat, a lot," Stoker admitted. "Switch isn't always the best of cooks." The others laughed at that. He looked at Xander. "We had to ground Crankshaft from her bike already. She refused to come in last night. I'm sure by now she's snuck off on it." He nodded, smirking at him. "You saw her?"
"In the market, she was heading for where Modo's momma was teaching."
"Oh, good. At least she went somewhere there's reasonable people who will watch her."
"She also had the smaller dog on behind her."
"Ah. I wondered where he was." He shook his head. "He's still following me to work nearly every day."
"It happens. They're very loving dogs," Xander reminded him with a grin. "Need help training the other one?"
"No, we're good on that," he noted. "He's well trained. He likes to fetch Crankshaft." Then he grinned at Momma as more food was put in front of him. "Momma, I think Taver's going to burst."
"Nonsense. She's much too thin and overworked," she said firmly, handing her the bigger bowl. "Eat it all, dear. Especially if you're going to watch Xander and Wrench spar." She went back into the kitchen and drug out a few more things plus that full plate. She handed over more cans of rootbeer too. "This is what's called a casserole on Earth. That's got beef, potatoes, and some veggies in it. Xander's version has cheese but he knows the rest of us won't eat it." They all nodded and dug in, most of them moaning at it. She smiled. "It's so easy too. You stuff the dish, put on a crust, then put it in the oven. It's a wonderful thing." She went to get more stuff, bringing those out. "These are the last few dishes I prepared." She set down each one beside someone. "Then you can help yourselves to the sides and desserts if you want."
"I'm going to burst," one councilor noted, but he kept eating. "You really got all this for nine and a half?"
"The raw ingredients are cheaper and I do haggle nicely," she offered with a smile. "As for any extra ones, we'd save them up for use at the club, and if we got too large a stockpile would probably donate them to a school or one of the orphanages."
"Actually, as far as I'm concerned, the orphans can come in and eat for free," Xander told her. "I leave any other starving mice up to you but I won't see a kid go hungry," he said when she looked at him. "That's the only rule I'm making about your kitchen, momma."
"Of course, dear. I understand. You're very good to all children and animals." She kissed him on the top of the head and sat down to nibble on her own dishes.
Vic beamed. "Tacos!" He dug into his then blatantly stole his father's and Stoker's. Stoker just shook his head so he grinned at him. "I'm cute."
"You're definitely Vinnie's son," he said dryly, smirking at the father. Who only nodded and beamed back.
Xander coughed. "Ask."
"Sorry. Stoker, may I please steal off your plate?" Vic asked as he ate the taco.
"Sure, kid. If you're that hungry, go ahead. I'm full anyway." Vic kissed him on the cheek, giving him a little nuzzle, then went back to stuffing his face.
"What meat was this taco thing made with?" the touchy-stomach councilor asked.
"That new herd beast someone's raising," she admitted. "It's not too expensive and it about mimics beef perfectly. This one would be more rare, it's a bit of a chore to get everything ready but fairly simple to fix. It's meant to feed a lot of people at once." They all nodded and ate that, one of them coughing and putting his down. "Problems?"
"I can't eat that meat stuff," he said, then started to gulp his soda.
Momma got up and got him something, handing it over. "He said someone might be allergic to it," she offered, fretting a bit. He took the pill with the last of his soda and she got him another one. "You might feel a bit sleepy but that's for allergies like this. I'm sorry about that, dear."
"It's not a problem, ma'am. It's happened in the past," he admitted with a small smile. "Can you adopt me too?"
"We'll see, but you'd have to be closer. Throttle needs to be around more of his family more often. Or else Xander will drive him to naughtiness by being a bored mouse."
"Not with the kids in the family," Xander said dryly. "Oh, Momma, and gee, did I just sound like Modo, I'm being sent to talk to some of the other priests for a few days," he told her. She smiled at him. "Starting Sunday. So you can have Vinnie and Throttle oversee the refinishing of the club. Or you can if you're bored and want to go bother the people putting in your kitchen." She kissed him on the cheek and sat down to eat some more. "I'm not sure how long I'm going to be gone, but I should be back by the time the club's ready to open in a month."
"Of course, dear. What are you doing until then?"
"I think puzzles. Putting some things back together again. I'm not really sure yet." Wrench nodded. "Am I headed for the one near Omega City?"
"No. Throttle said he'd find Othra and beat him senseless if you had to get into that many fights," Wrench assured him. He finished off his lunch with a grin for the councilor from that area. "It was thought that since Xander's not a full mouse, some of your residents might not like him working at the temple out there for a bit."
"No, I agree, we've got some militant mice out that way and they all gather in one portion of the city. It's wise to think of such things," he told Xander. "You dedicated yourself to Othra?"
He nodded. "With my past, it made more sense. Plus I found a temple to his son in Sunnydale. I used to spend a lot of time in there when I needed some comfort and reassurance. It was always welcoming to me. That's why I didn't really freak when I met the bros in Chicago. Or when I turned into a mouse." Willow faded in and he glared at her so she faded back out. "Your assistant is back."
"She does that now and then," Wrench noted dryly. "Willow, please go find wherever you put my blue shirt?" he called.
"Nope. Not happenin'. You keep giving us freaky shivery chills whenever you wear it and we don't want to think about you that way, Wrench."
"It's good to know that you can make those on the astral plane hot too," Xander offered with a grin.
"They were staring at you while you did the construction stuff too," he pointed out dryly.
"Are you one of Othra's too?" the female councilor asked.
"No, I'm the Highest of the M'dreth." She looked shocked and he grinned. "This is informal and I'm not that stuffy or monastic. Around the family I'm just Wrench." He looked at Xander. "Unless someone nearly gets the bikes possessed again."
"Hey, I protected the bikes," he defended. "I sent them away from the possessed car when it tried to jump into them." He reached over to steal a cookie. "Finish up, people, I know you're busy folks and I'm sure someone somewhere is screaming to know where you are." He grinned at the group. "I know Stoker's assistant is probably fending off Carbine already."
"Probably Exhaust," he admitted dryly, taking his own cookie and splitting it with the kid next to him since Vinnie was giving him such a pathetic look.
"I haven't eaten this well in months," Taver noted as she leaned back. "Momma, you're one hell of a cook. You whip tail in the kitchen." That got her smiled at. "If I continue to date Wrench, will you feed me more often?"
"I'd hope you dated him for other reasons, dear," she said firmly, staring the young executive down. The girl shivered and nodded. "Then I'll gladly feed you now and then." She smiled and the girl relaxed. "Of course, if you hurt him, I'm siccing Xander and Vinnie on you."
Taver looked at the two white mice, then her white mouse. "I won't ever hurt you on purpose."
He grinned and kissed her. "Thanks. Vinnie, Xander, butt out of our lives."
"Sure, cuz," Xander offered with a lazy grin. "But I still get to dress you now and then. Otherwise the seal will have you wearing my white leathers soon."
Vinnie moaned. "Not those, please?" he pleaded.
"They wouldn't fit him as well anyway, Vinnie. Relax."
"I've never seen you in those," Wrench noted.
"That's because Throttle confiscated them," Vinnie said firmly. "He put them on to go clubbing and Throttle wouldn't let him out of their room in them. Xander made it upstairs to complain but we thought he was naked. They match his fur exactly and they're fur- tight. The only way we knew he wasn't really naked was because we couldn't see his spots."
"If I ask, would you take me where you shop and let me go insane?" Wrench asked.
"I'd never get anything done if you wore leather that tight," Taver said, staring him down. "I don't need impressed more, Wrench."
He grinned. "Thanks. I just want to help him go shopping. It's fun watching Throttle lose his mind slowly as each new leather outfit is pulled out and tried on."
"He still doesn't like the blue leather shorts outfit," Xander said as he finished his meal and grinned at his mother-in-law. "You've seen them. Is there anything wrong with that outfit? The shorts are schoolboy shorts, but otherwise I think it's cute!"
"Xander, the more you tease my son, the more he wants to pounce," she noted patiently. "Him pouncing you that often means he won't sleep and then I'll get him on the couch again. Try to tease him more gently, dear."
"I do try but sometimes he deserves it. Besides, they're comfy."
"Are you going to be the Martian version of that guy in the silk pajamas on Earth?" Taver teased.
"Well, I could be the next Hef, but I think my family might object," he offered with a grin.
"Yes, we would," Vinnie said firmly. "A lot and loudly."
"So you see, I can't. My butt would end up spanked and not in a good way," he finished.
Vinnie gave him his most sweet grin. "You mean like tonight?"
"I'm foreseeing the need to do inventory tonight," Xander joked back.
"Uh-huh. Not a chance," Vinnie told him. "Why would I need to?"
"So you can tell and show Stoker what Micah sent up for him to steal and so we know what Momma took?"
"I got everything from the kitchen, Xander," she said firmly.
"You know we set aside...."
She covered his mouth. "Enough." He nodded so she removed her hand. "The poor thing spoils myself and Modo's momma so much that we gave up our rationing coupons," she told the watching councilors. "We thought it only fair with how much stuff he hands over."
"I wondered why you used someone else's rationing coupons," the touchy-stomach councilor noted. "I heard your son was shipping you groceries from earth. Did you have any problems with that?"
"Just some jealousy by some other mice," she admitted dryly. "Otherwise nothing much. A few things don't transport well. He sent me some cheeseless lasagna and it was warped in transport. Still tasted good, but not the layers it had been." She ate a bite and nodded at the desserts as she chewed.
"That means try those," Stoker interpreted.
Xander kissed his mother-in-law's cheek gently. "I like to spoil you. You deserve to be spoiled. If you complain any more about spoiling, I'm going to start doubling it with each complaint. Within a month you'll have to start keeping a cargo container handy," he said patiently, staring her in the eyes. She shivered and nodded, letting go of that argument. "The same as I told the others who complained to me directly about me spoiling you that they could have a child crash on earth and send them stuff to. It was only fair since Throttle wasn't here to help you around the place or to help you with the gardening stuff."
"A few of Winch's family have sent her lists as well," Stoker admitted. "She's sending back stuff too. She agreed with you, Xander. It's only fair since she's not here to help with the planting and stuff. They've got some huge warehouse clubs out there."
Xander nodded. "That's how we do most of ours too," Xander admitted. "Vin, we've got to figure out the frozen food stuff soon. I'm not living without pizzas now and then and I know I didn't bring up enough freezer space now."
Vinnie rubbed his forehead. "Why am I seeing you turning one of those caverns out in the cliffs into a walk-in freezer?"
"Well, that's an idea, but not a real one," Xander offered with a grin. "I don't need *that* much pizza or hot pockets. Hopefully not in my entire life. Do you think we need another freezer?"
"Maybe," Vinnie admitted. "It'd be nice to store a pint of ice cream in the back now and then too. For birthdays and things." He looked at Stoker. "One of the cargo containers we brought up had stuff from Micah apparently. Spam, pork and beans, plain beans, cans of stew."
"That's fine. We can come out and get it any time soon," he offered, leaning back in his chair. "Separate it out for us or mark it so you and Xander don't have to hover over us while I'm having some punks move it."
"Oh, get Thruster and his friends," Xander said dryly. "They seemed to like to move stuff, Stoker."
He snorted and shook his head. "Thruster said it was cruel and unusual punishment to make him move Dawn's wardrobe."
"It's only a fifth of it," Xander snorted.
"I wondered what that room off to the side of the master suite was," Wrench admitted.
"A closet for Dawn's clothes. She learned bad clothing habits in Sunnydale. Enamel thought it was for a nursery and Rimfire just hugged me because he'd have a closet to himself again." Everyone who knew those two snickered at that. "She already moved her 'summer' and 'formal and business' stuff up here. Plus some of the stuff Buffy and the slayers gave her to wear, like the sweats and stuff. I'm sure she'll be stocking up so she won't have to shop for the next ten years or so. The same as I did." He grinned at Wrench. "Yes, you can help me go leather shopping this winter. It'll be fun." He grinned at him. "I go to a very Boris place to leather shop."
"No wonder you look like that in them," Vinnie noted dryly. "Does your mate know you go there?" Xander grinned and shook his head. "You know I'm gonna tell him, right?"
"What's he gonna do? Tie me down and make me forget leather ever existed?" Xander asked with a cocky grin.
"I'll suggest that to him too," Vinnie promised.
Momma snorted. "You kids have much too much fun out there by yourselves."
"It's hard because Modo and I are the reasonable adults out there," Wrench assured her. Taver poked him in the side, making him grin at her instead. "We are."
"You're just as naughty, Wrench. I'm sure of it." She kissed him gently then looked at her watch. "I should get back to work. Ma'am, when is the club opening so I can start eating real food again?"
She smiled at the young woman. "The club itself opens in another month, dear. We're deciding about the kitchen now."
"When you buy prepared food in the market with your ration coupons, you maybe get a quarter of this amount of food," the female councilor noted. "I'm not seeing a problem. We'll have to bring this back to our own councils, but I really don't see a problem." Everyone else shook their heads. "Stoker?"
"Let me know so I can let them know. We all know how well Momma cooks around here," he noted. "We've all been out here for picnics and the like while Xander was planning stuff."
Xander just grinned. "You make me sound like I'm the pushy sort who manipulates others."
"You're not, you're persuasive when the situation calls for it," Stoker admitted. "You've never tried to influence anything about the council or what we're discussing, though you have offered suggestions in the past. Some of us consider you an odd advisor sort now and then, like me. Hell, Carbine asked Anya the other day about the new housing project and agreed with her, the stiff, formal designs of a century ago were icky and too formal." He shrugged. "We all get help where we can. As far as the local one's concerned, it's pretty much a done deal to us. He's planning on employing about ten mice total?" Xander nodded at that. "Around the club. Plus the restaurant would be for Momma to deal with. Is her staff included in that?"
"Two servers and a helper to chop things if she wants it," Xander told him. "That way she could teach someone else to cook if she wanted to." Momma looked back at him. "If you wanted to, I'm not going to make you."
"Thank you, dear. I was thinking that Dawn could use the help now and then."
"Probably true, but her momma was working on that before she died. Dawn just doesn't like to cook."
"Ah." Stoker nodded. "Switch is that way. She can cook but she doesn't like to, especially not the cleaning portion afterward."
Xander nodded. "I know that feeling. That's why I bought a dishwasher. They use less water than doing it by hand and it saves my hands for more important things, like tickling Vic for stealing food again." Vic's tail quit reaching for the remains on Taver's plate. "Wrench, hand him something." He handed the baby his leftovers and the baby grinned before digging in. "Manners."
"Xander, he says he's still using baby talk because his momma likes it."
"Well, yeah, at his age human kids are about the same as he was around his year and a half mark. He should be at the most like Healer is at the moment."
"That's fine. I'll talk to Charley girl tonight." He patted his son's hair flat. "You need a trim, son."
"No be bald, daddy, want hair like Uncle Throttle's."
"We'll see what your momma says," he agreed patiently, looking at Xander, who only grinned. "One of these days I'm going to have to stop you from spoiling the kids," he said firmly. "I'm nearly under orders to from Modo's momma."
"I'll just go behind your back and do it anyway," Xander taunted, still smirking.
"I could order you as the clan head."
"You could try," Xander snorted. "I'd still do it anyway. The kids deserve it."
"I could kick you out of the clan if you disobey," Vinnie noted, smirking back at him now.
"If you did that, I'd have to declare you incompetent due to possession and have Willow trot through your head for the next three weeks to see what was wrong with you," Wrench said firmly. "I'm sure she could find every single little touchy spot in there and make sure that you were firmly fixed into her version of a mouse." He stared his cousin down, making him shiver. "Believe me, I could, and then I'd let the Seal do it too." Vinnie whimpered and hugged his son tighter. "You're letting him spoil your son so the rest of Mars doesn't get spoiled to death by the mouse. Get over it, you're losing your son to a good cause. You're saving Mars from birthday balloons and Santa Clause."
"Hey, I like Santa!" Vic protested.
"I know you do, little mouse," Wrench offered with a grin. "We'll have to see if he can make it up here. Usually he doesn't leave Earth."
"Then how to Martian kids get Christmas, Chanukah, and Solstice presents?" Vic asked.
"Most Martians don't celebrate those holidays," Vinnie told him. "We have other holidays, son."
"Will I get presents?"
"We'll see. Only good kids get presents," Stoker told him.
Vic glared at him. "I'm a good boy! Just ask my momma!"
"Yes, you are, most of the time," Xander agreed. Vic beamed at him. "We'll talk about the holidays later. Remember, we've got to talk to Spike and Crankshaft too." Vic pouted. "We'll talk later, kid. After I beat up on Wrench for practice."
"Is he gonna need ice packs? I'm good at making ice packs," Vic offered, grinning at Wrench. "I'll baby you a whole lot, cousin Wrench."
"Thanks, kid, I might need it after I get done with Xander." He kissed him on the ear. "Quit showing off," he whispered. "You're already cute and loved enough."
Vic just smiled and finished off his borrowed food.
Momma looked at the councilors. "They're like this all the time."
That got them laughing and moving. Some of them were holding their stomachs but it was in a good way and they all looked happy. The people involved all smiled at each other, then Vic reached for the large plate of his favorite meal, slurping before anyone could stop him. He was a hungry mouse. The adults just sighed and shook their heads but he didn't care. He was a small, hungry mouse and his momma had said he needed to eat.
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