Throttle looked at the munchkins around his mate and sighed. "That's it. Xander, go find the tent and get a bag."
"Why?" he asked, looking confused as he fed Vic another cookie for a job well done.
"Because we're going. Now."
Throttle kissed him firmly, making Xander moan and the kids giggle again. "Grab the tent and a bag and let's go," he repeated, staring into his eyes.
"But, the club and the shopping, we have to be here....."
Throttle shut him up with another kiss. "I want to spend some time with you without all the kids," he said quietly. "No more giggling people. Now, grab the tent and pack a backpack or I'm dragging you off without them. Just us, some stars, maybe that bottle of wine you've been saving...." Xander beamed and nodded, going to find the things he wanted. "Guys, you're going to have to bug your parents for the rest of the day," he announced. The kids pouted. "Sorry, but it's my turn to have the Xander. He's mine." He walked off, going to call his mother as well. "Momma?" She smiled at him across the comm link. "I'm taking Xander for a camping trip tonight. You can handle the club, right?"
"Well, I'll need someone here to make certain decisions if something happens," she pointed out. "It is his club, son."
"Momma, they're giggling whenever you I try to kiss or nuzzle him. I'm taking him for an overnight camping trip. Sorry." She just smirked knowingly at that. "I'm sure daddy had one of those days too."
"True, and it nearly meant a second child," she admitted with a smug look. He groaned and shook his head. "That's fine, dear. I can always call Wrench or Vinnie."
"Vinnie, then Wrench, then Terror, it'll do him some good to get out of the caves," Throttle told her. "Terror and Xander are bros anyway." He waved and signed off, going to stalk his mate out to the garage. He found the picnic basket already on the back of his bike and smirked. "Isn't that your romantic basket for Modo?"
"Yeah, with a few changes," he admitted with a shy grin. "No chinese food up here after all." He stole a deeper kiss, hearing the giggles from the other room, and sighed. "I see why we're going camping. Momma?"
"Can call Vinnie, Wrench, or Terror, babe. Let's go. What's missing?"
"A pack and the tent." He went to find them, then came back a few minutes later. Everything was put onto his bike and he headed out, teasing Throttle by the way he was riding.
Throttle got onto his bike and followed, smirking a bit. His mate was so bad.
Vinnie looked confused as he walked into the garage. "Where are Throttle and Xander?"
"Vic said something about camping," Charley said from under the bike she was working on. "Okay, no spitting this time. Let's try this again." The bike revved and she watched, then got out from under it. She smiled at Vinnie. "Apparently the kids were giggling again."
"They do that to us too," he said dryly, watching her work. "She okay?"
"She's fine, Vinnie. She just needed an oil change and a small problem with a bent fuel line fixed." She finished up and polished the chrome to remove any fingerprints or excess oil, then let the bike down off the lift. "There you go, pretty and done, baby. Call your rider." She walked over to kiss Vinnie stupid. "Remember, if Xander's not here, the club is your responsibility," she teased.
"We'll head over tonight, after the kids are down," he agreed with a smirk for her. He spanked her then let her go as a female mouse walked in. "Here you go, I'll let you have Charley girl back for a bit," he offered with a grin, going to find his son and get more involved. Xander did way more than he did with the education stuff. It was time he got more involved. He also stopped to call his cousin Terror and tell him he could be drafted into the service of the club until Xander got back, then invited him up for lunch. That way he could show off how well Vic was doing to his family. He always liked showing off his son. Xander had done an amazing job with Vic and the others.
Xander looked around their campsite then back at his husband. "Are you sure we're allowed to just camp out here?"
"I'm sure," he promised patiently. "You ask the same thing each time we end up camping, Xan."
"I know, but I know there's spots that are off limits and I don't want to get the family in trouble."
"We're not," he promised, grabbing him by the hand and pulling him down next to him. He gave him a gentle kiss. "We're fine out here. There's no holy spots out here, no battlegrounds, nothing but us. And possibly some ghosts," he noted, looking across the fire at the spirit floating their way. He waited until it settled across from them. "Brother mouse."
"Welcome," he said with a smile. He looked at Xander. "We heard you can talk to us."
"More often than not." He looked at him. "You know you're a spirit, right?" The spirit nodded. "Then what's wrong?"
"There's a few survivors out our way. We need someone to come talk to them."
"We can do that tomorrow," Throttle promised. "Where?" The ghost drew a map and Xander pulled out a notebook to copy it down. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. They're stubborn mice and it'll take someone powerful to get them to move. Possibly even a priest." He grinned at Xander, then back at Throttle. "I'm surprised he's not out here alone."
"We were married before I took my vows, I have permission," Xander said dryly, staring him down. The spirit just smirked. "You know who I am really?" The spirit nodded. "And who he is?"
"He's Throttle, second-in-command in the Freedom Fighters. It will take all of you."
"Agreeable," Xander assured him. "We'll be there tomorrow sometime."
"That's fine," the spirit agreed with a smirk. "Welcome to Mars, Harris."
"Thanks, probably," he retorted with a smirk back. The spirit just chuckled. "Shoo. We'll be there. Meet us there tomorrow."
"Sure, Mr. Harris. Remember, we'll be waiting anxiously for you."
"Sure. Should I bring weapons?" The spirit just stared at him so he narrowed his eyes back. "Should I?"
"Hopefully not." He smirked again. "We'll be waiting, Harris." He faded out.
Xander looked at Throttle. "Did we remember to finally put weapons in my bags?" he asked dryly.
"Your laser," he admitted. He stole a kiss and got up to look. "Why are you worried?"
Xander held up the map. "That's right near where the Seal said the last vampires on Mars are," he admitted. Throttle gave him a look. He shrugged back. "They're sealed in a cave. I don't know, all I know is that she said so." He put the notebook aside and got up to look at his bike. "We're going on a ride tomorrow, big guy. Do you have enough gas?" His bike beeped negatively. "Crap. Okay, can you head back to the cavern and have Terror or someone take some out of the tank?" Both bikes beeped. "Sure. You guys do that and we'll be right here cuddling." His bike beeped and turned, heading off. "Tell whoever pumps the gas to put a stake in you too," he called. His bike beeped again and headed off, Throttle's waiting until she was petted before heading off. Xander grinned at Throttle, making him stroll back over and sit beside him again. "So, up for a roadtrip?"
"As long as it's not like the one where we found your bike," he offered, stealing a quick kiss. Xander pulled his head back around and kissed him for real, making him moan. Throttle got up to quickly put up the tent, just in case someone rode by or another ghost stopped by, then came out to pick his mate up and carry him inside. He laid Xander down, staring down at him as he took off his vest and tossed it aside. Then his boots and jeans came off, leaving him naked. Xander was just grinning and teasing his t-shirt covered stomach. "Am I stripping you?" he asked. Xander nodded, moving a finger up to suck on the tip of it. Throttle moaned and hauled Xander up, taking his t-shirt off him and tossing it onto the pile of clothes. Then he undid the jeans, thanking every deity that they were some of his looser jeans and they fell without any help. He got down to undo his boots and then helped Xander sit in his lap so he could push everything off him. The clothes pile grew a bit more.
Xander was moaning lightly so he zipped the doorway closed, putting his mate onto his stomach. First, a good backrub. He straddled the narrow hips and got to work, stroking and pleasing his mate. He needed this. He needed this connection to Xander again. His husband was always so active and out doing things. He was almost jealous of their kids and how much time he spent with them. Throttle shifted up and got to work on the well- muscled shoulders, smiling at the moaning going on beneath him. "I think you like that," he teased lightly, using his tail to tease the red antenna below him. Xander shifted and moaned again, letting it happen. He was completely limp and willing beneath him, yet he still wanted to touch and stroke him. "We need more time alone, Xan," he said quietly.
"We'll have it soon. Just as soon as everything starts going smoothly," he promised in a lust-husky voice. "Tag and Comet are nearly ready to be babysat too." Throttle moaned at that, it was a good thing to have babysitters and his bros knew why they'd need them. They had an arrangement for babysitting already. "Lube?"
"Sure." He opened the basket, then stopped when he saw what was remaining in it. "Um, babe? Didn't you pack any in the basket?"
"No, I thought there'd be some in there," he admitted. He turned his head, grinning back at Throttle. "Give me a minute to try to summon some."
"We're pretty far from home." Throttle jumped as something crashed outside and a small wind started. "That sounds like a thunderstorm." He unzipped the tent's flap, finding a small pot in front of the fire, picking it up to sniff it. "Have any idea what this is?"
Xander took it to sniff, then nodded. "Yup, that's the stuff I found in the archives to give oil blessing baths." He grinned and handed it back. "I'm not sure where it came from, but I'm game if you are."
"I think that'd probably insult someone," Throttle said dryly, staring him down. He shook his head. "Try for the normal stuff, Xander."
Xander concentrated but nothing came. He groaned. "We're out."
"We can't be out! How did we use a case of lube in four months?" Xander gave him a long, steady look. "Never mind." He sighed and shook his head. "Fine. Whatever. Did you want to do more than cuddle? This isn't how I planned it."
Xander pulled him down to give him a kiss. "Use some spit, babe. Now. Before I get impatient," he offered with a wicked grin. "We'll just have to remember to pick up more lube when we travel back to Earth for shopping."
"I'll make sure it's on the list," he promised, grinning and getting to work. Fingers were easily coated with spit, after all his mate made him drool.
Xander rode into the village late the next morning, stopping in front of the temple. People started to come out to look at him. "I got told to come here by a wandering spirit to point out we have cities if you guys wanted to join them."
"We have cities?" one older female mouse asked. "Since when!"
"Since about two years ago," he noted patiently. "Four of them now, and a university that's going up so there'll probably be at least a town near it too." He leaned on his handlebars. "The spirit didn't think you guys knew about that, that's why he sent me and my mate up."
"Who're you?" someone asked, coming out of the temple. He stopped and stared. "High Priest!"
"Sometimes," he agreed with a grin for him. "Relax. I'm newly promoted myself." The mouse relaxed some. "My mate's behind me. Did you get that memo?"
"Yes, sir, and I, um, spent some time breaking that rule before it was rescinded."
"Hey, it happens. I was a guardian on Earth." He shrugged a bit and looked at the others. "I have no idea why I got called instead of someone like Stoker or Carbine, or even Wrench, but it's me and Throttle."
"He lived?" the priestly mouse demanded. "Where is he?"
Xander tapped the button for his helmet. "Babe? One of the mice here wants to see you. Where are you?"
"Looking at the markings on that cave we passed by. You're right, it's what Wrench said to look for. Be right there." He hung up.
Xander looked at them. "That cave. Have you had any problems coming out of it?"
"They're fully buried," the priestly mouse assured him. "You know of those things, brother mouse?"
"They're what I was fighting on Earth," he admitted, grinning at him. "I worked with the equivalent of a M'dreth down there." The mouse shivered. "You'd like the Highest, Wrench, he's a nice guy. Very normal mouse most of the time."
"Wrench? The assassin Wrench?" the older female mouse asked, looking stunned. "Since when?"
"Since a few years before we got cities I think." He shrugged. "You can ask him if you want. His current slayer's name is Rivet." They all looked confused at that. "Never mind. Not important right now." Throttle pulled up behind him and parked, so Xander got off his bike too. "Anyway," he sighed. "If you guys want to come back with us, we'll gladly ride escort duty to the city we live in. From there, the Council can help you find any remaining family members or help you get to one of the other cities if you want."
"What's your city's name?" one young male mouse asked.
Xander shrugged. "We're still arguing about that, kid. Some people want to name it Freedom. Some people want to name it after Carbine. Some people want to name it after Stoker." He shrugged again. "It's the current heated debate topic."
"Wow." He looked at Throttle. "Are you a Freedom Fighter?"
"I was. I'm Throttle, kid." The others all nodded and he grinned. "We crashed on Earth on the way back. That's how Xander and I hooked up."
"Whoa," the priest said, staring in awe. "That's amazing. Othra's will be done."
"And then some," Xander agreed with a smirk. "I got sent to pick up something, they weren't anywhere near me before then." His bike beeped and he looked down at the screen. "Hey, Momma. How was last night?"
"Fairly usual, baby." She smiled. "Are you coming back tonight?"
"Momma, we're got told to stop and help some refugees back," Throttle said, grinning down at his mother's face. "A wandering spirit joined us last night while we were camping. Did Vinnie spaz out?"
"No. He was a good boy, up on the dance floor all night. It even rained a bit but everyone stayed up there to play in it." She smiled at them. "Xander, baby, I need into the storehouse to get some more chocolate chips."
"Sure, if there's any out there. Go for it," Xander promised with a grin. "Cookie bars?" She nodded, smiling at him. "That's cool with me then. I'm hoping we'll be back by tomorrow night. It's about a six-hour ride from here back to the city."
"That's fine. I'll tell Stoker you're up there with some refugees and have him mark the spot in case you leave anyone behind." She smiled. "You two behave now. Vinnie said you were being naughty."
"Not really, no stuff to be naughty with," Xander offered dryly, smirking a bit. "We're as good as I know how, Momma."
"Um-huh. Try harder, baby. My baby boy's a good boy and I want him to stay that way."
"I always *try*, Momma," he protested, making her laugh. "Well, I do."
Throttle shook his head. "He does try but he's not always successful. That's why he's a white VanWham mouse, Momma. We'll be back as soon as we can. Love you." She smiled and hung up. He looked at his mate. "You need to try harder some days, Xan."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he offered with a small smirk. "I'm as good as I know how to be."
One little boy tugged on his hand. "Didn't your momma teach you how to be good?"
"No, my momma didn't do much teaching of me," he admitted, grinning down at him. "But Throttle here tries very hard now and then and I'm teaching some little mice about your age how to be good mice. So I've learned a bit." The boy grinned at him. "Were you gonna be a biker when you get older?"
"If there's any bikes left," he agreed happily. "We might have to fight for them."
"No, we're working on restarting the bike plant," Throttle assured him. Everyone stared in open-mouth shock. "We are. We're hiring for it right now actually. Modo and his lady are both working there once they open." A few of the older mice slumped and nodded. "You mice are more than welcome to stay up here. We can't force you to come back with us, but if you want, we'll gladly play escort. We're doing our best to get Mars back to the glory she once was. Including going to raid Plutark now that it's abandoned."
"I'm worried that the remaining ship went back there," Xander said quietly.
"Even if they did, they wouldn't attack us, Xander. It was little kids." He shrugged. "We're just taking back what's ours anyway." Xander nodded at that.
"What about the mice on Plutark?" the old female mouse demanded. "My son was captured and sent there!"
"We freed them last year," Throttle told her. "The last of the mice we've found came home, ma'am. There's a chance your son made it. I can tap into the database project. It's about half done at the moment. I know the refugees were put on first." She nodded and he tapped a few keys on his bike's console, getting that. "Here, what's his name?"
He tapped that in and came up with three matches. "Huh." He pulled up the files. "Are any of these yours, ma'am?" She came closer and pointed, sniffling a bit. He finished pulling it up and let her see. "I'm sorry, ma'am. It does look like you've got other family though." She burst out crying and the priest grabbed her. "He was one of those found on a floating ship," he said quietly. "Long gone." The priest nodded. "She does have a grandchild noted in the system however."
"Thank you," he whispered, leading her inside. Then he came back out, making Xander look at him. "My wife's in there, brother mouse."
"That's fine. As long as she's got some comfort." That got some nods. "So, who wants to come back with us? Even if you only want to send a few delegates at this time, so they can report back and you can make informed decisions, that'd be fine with us. We know a lot's changed since the war ended and you've got to be behind on the news. This would give you some sort of recon and planning abilities. You could even send them with a list of names to look up in the database." He shrugged. "Either way. We can camp just outside of town and leave in the morning."
"You could stay," the young mouse who had yanked on Xander's hand offered. "We don't have much food and stuff."
"We've got some travel rations, little guy," Xander promised with a grin. "We were camping last night to get away from the kids in the house." A few of the parents giggled and a few snorted at that.
"They were giggling when I kissed him," Throttle said with a faint smirk and a small shrug. "We don't want to be a bother or a drain, citizens."
"No, that's fine. There's a room above the temple you can use," the priest assured him. "That way we can pump you for information."
"Sure," Xander agreed, grinning at him. "Should I call Tangent and tell him he's got another priest available?"
"Tangent lived?" he asked, his face lighting up. "Please!"
Xander hit the 'quick list' button and found his name, hitting it to call him. "Hey. Look who I got sent to find." He got out of the way, letting the kid have his bike for a moment since he was nearly crying in happiness. He looked at their supplies. "How much did we bring?"
"Enough but not a great lot," he admitted quietly. "What about your saddle bags? Did you ever unpack from your trip?"
Xander opened his saddlebag and took out things, laying them on his seat. "Why did I let you pack my green shirt?"
"Because you look great in it, babe."
"Point but it wrinkles and now I'll have to iron it." He continued to dig, putting that side back and getting into the other side. His laser was put down carefully, then he smiled. "Dried fruits." He pulled out the three bags and looked at them. "Cranberries, flavored cranberries, and trail mix." He tossed them to the nearest elder person. "Here, for dinner tonight." He put everything back, including his laser, then tied the bag shut. He looked at Tangent, who was staring at him. "Throttle reminded me I hadn't unpacked yet."
"What are you wearing?"
"My normal clothes? Tight jeans, a t-shirt. Sunglasses. Why? What's wrong with what I'm wearing this time?"
"I was almost sure you'd be in those white leathers again." He stared him down. "No more at ceremonies."
"Hey, I didn't pick 'em," he defended.
"Don't worry, I hid 'em again," Throttle called tolerantly, giving his mate a look. "I agree, they're a bit too much for anything but teasing the masses."
"Again, I didn't pick 'em," Xander defended, smirking at his mate. "Besides, you and Vinnie both enjoyed watching others stare at me in 'em."
"Not really. Did I forget to mention I was a possessive mouse, Xander?" he joked.
"Enough," Tangent ordered, but he was smiling about it. "You two can play tomorrow, boys. For now, take the room at the temple, bring someone back so they can see and report. Then Xander can fulfill his duty to go to Earth and get some shopping in for the General Fund."
"Yes, Tangent. Ooooh!" He held up the little pot. "This appeared last night while we were camping," he noted dryly. "We didn't want to insult anyone by using it."
"Hmm. Is that the stuff you found in the archives?" Xander nodded. "That's fine. Let Proton pack it in with the temple's supplies, Xander. Good idea not to use it." He hung up.
Xander handed it to the priest. "It appeared last night while we were camping."
"What were you doing when it appeared?" one mother asked, shifting the baby on her hip to the other side. Xander and Throttle both looked at the kids nearest them, then her. "Oooh!" She nodded. "That's probably a good thing then." She walked the kids off, taking the fruit with her. "How do you cook these?"
"They're already cooked, just dried," Xander told her. "You can rehydrate in something or use them that way. Cranberries are tart if it helps any." She smiled back at him.
"I almost missed Thanksgiving sauce," Throttle admitted. "Dawn makes good sauce."
"True," Xander agreed with a grin. "She uses her mom's recipe too."
"Is Mars finally all ours?" a teenage looking female asked quietly, stepping forward. "We're all alone again?"
"Except for the two humans married to Martians, yeah," Xander admitted. She looked horrified so he smirked a bit. "They live with us, kid. They left Earth to be with their mates. They're nice if you give 'em a chance. Dawn's my adopted daughter. Stan's a pisser and a prankster now and then. They're nice guys."
"But... humans?" she asked, still looking horrified. "Why?"
"Because they found love that way," Throttle said with a small shrug. "There's some half- mice running around too. Some from before the war, some from during it, some from after it. And Xander, three. Charley."
"Sorry, I keep forgetting about her," he sighed. "It's not like she's not counted as one of us."
"Point. Charley girl's done a lot for us when we were crashed and for Mars when she could." He grinned at him. "The same as you did." Xander grinned back. Throttle looked at the girl. "To be totally truthful, their kids are three-quarter mice. We have six more DNA thingies than humans do. So far they've all been furry too. Then again, we had to separate out those unfortunate mothers and their kids who were forced to bear Plutarkian babies." She shuddered and someone pulled her closer for a hug. "They've got their own village, citizen. They were forced, but the Constitution on Mars said 'even one drop' and it's safer for them because of some wrench-heads that came home."
"I'm so sorry for them," the teenager admitted quietly. "How many?"
"About fifteen moms and about eighteen kids. They've also got their own medic and teachers," Xander admitted. "It was thought better for the kids because there's still mice who would attack them." That got some nods. "Stoker and Carbine basically head our council and they made sure they're safe and taken care of." That got some other nods. "As for the half-mice?" He grinned and pulled out his wallet, showing off a picture. "I dare you to figure out which kid it is."
The teenager came closer and looked, then looked at him. "They all look so normal, but there's a human." She looked again. "I know that white mouse from somewhere."
Xander looked. "Which one? The one with the human or the other one?"
"The other one."
"That's Wrench, sweetheart," he offered with a grin. "The Highest of the M'dreth and second-in-command of the VanWham clan."
"Oooh." She looked again and pointed at one mouse. "His eyes aren't red. Him?" Xander nodded. "Is he the only one?"
"One of the babies," Xander admitted, pointing him out. "Him. My son. His momma didn't tell me she was going to steal some fur and have him made by a scientist." She whimpered and he put the wallet back. "It happens. I knew people like that," he sighed.
"Yes, and thankfully they're not up here so we can't kill her," Throttle reminded him.
Xander grinned. "True. She's not up here and we can't kill her for making Tag."
The girl sniffled and hugged him. "Thank you, sir. Can I come?"
"If your parents allow it," he promised. She nodded, going to talk to the elders to see if she could go. Xander looked at the priest, grinning a bit. "Even my parents would have shrieked if I had taken off that way."
"Mine too," he agreed. "Come up and put your stuff down." Xander nodded, parking his bike and heading inside with his saddlebags. Throttle came after him with his and they parked their stuff in their borrowed rooms then went back down to the temple. Proton watched as Xander bowed at the main altar, saying a short prayer, then he moved to the side to pray longer at one of them. "Mylar?" he asked Throttle.
"He's devoted to her," he said quietly. "That means he's devoted to both, kid." He grinned at him. "Xander's a very special mouse."
"So Tangent said," he noted dryly, looking at him. "You know that no VanWham was ever supposed to serve Othra, right?"
Throttle smirked. "Yeah, we heard. Then again, he's adopted into the clan." He punched him on the arm. "If you'll show me where people are meeting I can fill in some of the history you guys got to miss."
"Sure. This way. Xander?" He bowed and stood up, then followed them out. "So, you know these humans very well?"
"Yeah. Charley girl, Vinnie's lady, took care of us when we crashed on Earth," Throttle told him as they walked. "She babied our bikes, treated our scrapes and injuries, and took good care of us. Rimfire and Chassis both found their mates their first day on Earth and it was like lightening stuck them. They were lost to them and they're really happy most of the time."
"It's the usual coupley fights," Xander assured him. "Chassis makes terrible coffee and won't let Stan mine his with candy anymore. Dawn wears short skirts and Rimfire gets really jealous." He grinned at their escort. "The normal stuff."
"I guess." He tapped on a door then opened it. "They said they're willing to answer what questions they could."
"Sure," one of the women agreed, smiling as they came in. "How long have you been home for?"
"Fully home for a few months," Throttle admitted. "We had a transporter at our disposal for the last almost three years," he said as he sat down, Xander beside his feet. He patted him on the head. "He came from Sunnydale to join with us. We were stranded in Chicago on Earth."
"Wow," she said, looking at Xander. "You're not a full mouse, are you?"
"Changed," he admitted, taking off his glasses. "I'm about ninety percent we think. One eye, an ear difference, a few things like that."
"The haunting spirit that came to the M'dreth a few years ago actually," he offered with a grin. "I'm old friends with Willow."
"The Seal?" the teenager asked.
"Her too," Xander admitted. "I came from that town and fought on that Hellmouth for many years."
"Ooooh ." She winced. "Poor you." He nodded and Throttle patted him again. "So, you two....?" They both nodded. "I guess that's cool. There were always same-sex mice before the war. Any plans for kids?"
"We've got two," Throttle admitted. "One was carried by one of Vinnie's cousins. The other was made without the girl telling Xander. They're adorable toddlers."
Xander shivered. "Tag's just learning how to crawl." All the parents winced. "Yeah, and we basically moved everything from the house on Earth." That got some smiles. "It eases the boredom now and then."
"Yes, your DVDs do ease boredom," Throttle agreed dryly. "Can you maybe get some more action movies, Xan? Just for the manly mice in the house?"
Xander grinned up at him. "There's six cases of movies you never opened, Throttle. That's the action section. Get Vinnie into the caves and make him unpack some necessary stuff." Throttle yanked on his hair but grinned. "Geez, buy a mouse all the kung fu movies ever made and he complains because he doesn't unpack 'em," he said dryly, making the others laugh.
"Yes, even Rush Hour," he admitted dryly.
"Cool. I'll whip Vinnie's tail into that later." He went back to stroking his ear. "You need brushed."
"It happens," he agreed, grinning back at him. He grinned at the others. "Sorry, we're on vacation from the kids." That got some more laughs. "What can we help fill in?"
"When did the war end?" the motherly woman asked.
"Officially? I'm guessing after the last real attack attempt, or when they ran from Earth and we defended," Throttle admitted. "That makes it about a year, year and a half ago." Xander nodded at that. "There was a minor attempt on Remembrance Day but Xander and a few others fought off that one."
"Wow. Are you a Freedom Fighter?"
"In name. Honorary," Xander admitted. "If I had been up here, I definitely would have been beside Rimfire the whole way, even underaged."
"Wow," the teenager said. "I've heard of him. Where is he?"
"Doing college on Earth to learn advanced desert farming techniques and more computer skills," Throttle told her. "It's something he can bring back to us." That got some nods.
"The main reason the war was stopped was because most of Pluatrk got eaten," Xander admitted. "See, the Seal was sent to Plutark from Sunnydale." That got some winces and some opening mouths. "Yeah, they opened it and it ate most of them. The remaining ran off, went to Earth for a bit, but we made them leave. They tried Mars on the way past and then one last attempt on Remembrance Day, but nothing too severe. They're down to about a ship's worth of Plutarkians, including eggs."
"Wow," the elder male said in awe. "Now we're raiding Plutark?" Throttle nodded. "For just our stuff?"
"That first, the rest is being decided upon," Throttle admitted. "We are taking their library in total for the university, but a lot of mice feel that's stealing instead of recovering and they're not comfortable with it. That's being decided by the full Martian Council, all the cities together. They meet once a month to discuss Mars-wide things."
"The durability of the rationing system was recently brought up," Xander admitted. Throttle looked down at him. "There were questions about how long they could use it, what happens if people start to grow substantial gardens, what happens in a bad year. Things like that. I pointed out that we're buying stuff from Earth and they're not taking stuff away from others that way. It's a safety cushion and they figured up how many years that could last. Someone wants to work on restarting the monetary systems within two years and slowly fazing the other out."
"We need to do it sometime," Throttle agreed. "We need food production to be increased first. That should be the base of it."
"That's what they were thinking since most places that are actually paying wages are paying in either food or ration coupons." He shrugged. "The ten I give the people at the club is about standard from what I heard."
"A day?" the motherly woman asked.
"A week," he admitted, "but we serve meals at the club for ration coupons and they're allowed a free meal at the end of the night if they want. That way they go toward other things." That got some nods. "Most places aren't even trying to pay right now without any monetary system. Work's plentiful, especially if you can do construction or planning and things, or you want to work at the bike plant, but the secretarial things are lower priority. You still apply for whatever you want though."
"It's going to be a mess to restart money," Throttle said, thinking about it. "How will people with businesses figure out how much they're worth and how much to pay or even where will they get the beginning funds?"
"They're working on that slowly," Xander assured him. "They don't want to cause a panic, just a gentle switch over slowly. Within five years they want ninety-five percent of the people off rations. The rest would be those who couldn't work." Throttle nodded at that. "They've had a lot of talks with Micah and someone he found to advise from a university down there. They're moving very carefully with that plan."
"Good." Throttle went back to stroking Xander to keep himself calm. "What else can we tell you?"
"Tell us about your city," the teenager requested. "Is it big? Like I heard stories about Alpha and Monument?"
"Not quite that big," Throttle assured her with a small grin. "Let's see, Freedom...."
"For lack of a better name," Xander added dryly. Throttle pinched him on the ear. "Sorry."
"That's fine, babe. We've got about ten thousand mice, I think. We've got a hospital and a few outlying clinics near some of the suburban areas. We're about thirty minutes from the Valley of the Temples. We've got four new housing developments going up soon because the apartments that were put up first were done too quickly in some spots. The main downtown centers around the town square, where we have monthly picnics and hand out General Funds baskets. Next to it is the Main Building; that holds the Council, city offices, and the hospital. It also holds the Martian Medical Board and the Educational Board since we were the first city set up. We've got one good high school and about seven smaller schools for daycares and the younger kids. Downtown has a few places to work, plus the building crews, plus there's two bases within riding distance. The bases now work on a reserve status with the 'active' personnel serving a year then moving to reserve."
"That's one week a month," Xander offered. "The base we always seem to end up helping is the one Commander Rotor is running. The other one does the telemetry and stuff as far as I can tell. Rotor does a lot of the training for incoming recruits."
"We're still working out the Freedom Fighters vs Real Army stuff," Throttle told them, making them smile at that. It was an old argument. "Right now, Carbine's winning. Those counted as 'active' are considered Army, even if they started out a Freedom Fighter. You can always opt in for more if you want to stay military instead of going back to the regular life. Most of the Freedom Fighters I know have retired to let the younger set do it now, but we're still lurking around their shoulders and doing our week a month. Speaking of, babe, mine's during that time we're leaving." Xander looked back at him. "Sorry."
"Not an issue. Who am I bringing with me then?"
"Not a clue. Vinnie, Modo, and I are all on that week. You may get to start on your own and then we'll join you after a few days. You're still leaving on Thursday, right?" He nodded. "Then we'll join you after our first night off. That way we can complain in private." Xander grinned and nodded. "Try to show some restraint, okay? Vinnie's actually made lists for you." Xander gave him a wicked smirk. "At least try?"
"I always try but you also underestimate how much stuff we're going to use."
"Babe, you bought sixteen cases of toilet paper. We haven't even used four multi-packs yet. You can leave that off until next year probably."
"Not if I donate some," he offered with a grin.
"Xander," he sighed, shaking his head. "No."
"Fine. I'll *try* to be good."
"Thank you." He continued to pet him. "Since we were down there so long, we let our stomachs stretch. We've got the money so we're using it to stock our house so we don't take from Mars."
"That's very nice of you," the teenager assured him. "Do others mind?"
"Not once they hear we're not on rations," Xander admitted with a grin for her. "There is a dance in three weeks for all the city's teenagers," he told her. "If you come with us, we'll make sure you go and have a proper chaperone so no one can say anything bad."
"Thank you, Xander."
"Welcome. I had to do it often enough for Dawnie." He grinned at the mother since she was staring at the girl. "How else is she going to meet some nice male mice?"
"Point," she admitted. "I'm sure she'll be chaperoned by someone from here as well."
"I was planning on going as one anyway since Modo's adopted little brother is going for his first dance," Xander offered with a grin. "Racer's just turned ten." The mother nodded, understanding that age very well. "They're debating the square of my club right now."
"That's fine, Xander. Thank you." She smiled and got up to check on something, then came back nibbling one of those flavored cranberries. "How did they do that?"
"Something they soaked them with during the drying I guess," Xander said with a small shrug. "I have no idea how they made flavored cranberry snacks. They're really good when you're camping so I keep some in my bag for quick energy. I've got most of a case of them at home."
"That's because you're the only one in the house who eats them, Xander," Throttle said patiently. "No more chocolate either." Xander pouted and he shook his head. "No."
"But I've made a good dent into it."
"Yeah, and you scared the little vampire mouse doing so," he said firmly. "No."
"Fine." Xander sighed and mentally decided to do it anyway. He'd have to change the lock on that cavern again but that would be fine. It wasn't that hard to do. Throttle gave his fur a little yank and he looked at him. "I'm being good."
"I doubt it," Throttle assured him with a small grin. "Behave, babe."
"No." He stuck his tongue out and grinned at the nice people again. "Sorry, I have a chocolate habit to maintain and he hates it."
"He bounces," Throttle told them. "He's sorry in advance if he scares anyone."
"That's what I'd expect from a VanWham mouse," the teenager admitted with a grin. "Terror had been up here for a few months."
"Terror's living in our storage caves," Xander told her. "He's my bro. Him, Pierce, Wrench, and Stud."
"Yes, and the five of you make Stoker shudder in horror whenever he sees you together," Throttle said calmly. He didn't mention the others, like him and Modo. Xander already knew about them and had laughed about it for quite a while.
"Does Terror have a lady yet?" the teenager asked.
Xander grinned and shook his head. "Nope. He doesn't like to come out and be around people, sweetheart. We can barely get him up at the house because the kids scare him."
The others laughed and the mother went back to check on dinner again then came back to ask more questions about the current state of Mars.
Xander walked into the club. "I'm back!" he yelled. "I brought Terror some old buddies to drink with!"
"You did what?" Terror called from the office. He stuck his head out. "Who?"
"A teenager named Torque. A whole village full of people who heard you were with us and went 'awwwww'." He grinned at him. "They're in the Council right now. You could have brought them with you, Terror."
"Oops." He came out, looking Xander over. "Are you okay?"
"We got asked to go visit and invite them back."
"Uh-huh." He looked him over again. "You don't look starved or lonely."
"Throttle took me camping?" he offered, grinning at him. "We're out of lube. I've got to put that on the shopping list." He shook his head as he walked into the office. "Is everything okay?"
"Everything's fine, Xander," Terror assured him, following him into the office. "I've made sure nothing too major happened at the club. The teenagers decided to hold the dance in the town's square but to borrow some music. That way their parents could hide here and have their own dance." He leaned against the wall, watching Xander look everything over. "It went fine."
"Good." Xander grinned at him. "We've got to go to Earth to shop too." Terror whimpered. "Did you know that the bros have their first week of duty starting that Monday? I'm going to be all alone on Earth for nearly four whole days. Maybe even five."
Terror shook his head. "Oh, no you're not! If I have to, I'll send Wrench!"
Xander chuckled. "You could come."
"I don't wanna come."
"Fine. Are you scared of humans?" he cooed, smirking at him.
"I'll get you for that someday."
"Yeah, you and the fairy army you've got hiding under your tail," he teased back.
"I wondered where that noise was coming from," Wrench said, leaning in the doorway. Terror punched him so he beamed. "Xander, did you find more mice? Stoker suggested in open Council that we let you go wandering around Mars to find the rest of us."
"Throttle would get really, really upset if he never got sex again," Xander noted dryly. "Do we realize it's nearly shopping time?"
"Yup, but the Council wanted you to postpone it for two more weeks since they want to do it after the next basket to see how much stuff is really left." Xander pouted. "I know. You can always go play."
"For three weeks? Momma would skin me."
"Yes, she would!" she called from the kitchen. "You need more chocolate chips. Stan had to steal some of your M&M's for me, baby."
"Sure, Momma. I'll put it on the list," he called. He pouted at his bros. "How am I going to last that long? We're out of lube."
"How did you use a case of lube in four months?" Wrench demanded.
"Easy. Sometimes a bottle only goes for a single night," he offered with a faint blush but he was grinning. "Sometimes we need it extra slick." Both mice whimpered. "Sorry, TMI?"
"Definitely," Terror said dryly. "You could always go down to get a few bottles and come back home quickly."
"Or you could go ask Dawn to find some," Wrench offered. "That way you don't abandon us again."
"I didn't abandon you. We went camping. Unfortunately we didn't have lube."
"What does lube have to do with camping?" Wrench asked.
Xander looked at him. "We went camping so we could kiss, cuddle, and have sex without the kids giggling at us for kissing and cuddling. It was driving Throttle insane."
"Well, Vinnie wanted to take a few days and go camping as a group," Terror offered.
"Shit, then I won't need lube," Xander complained.
"No, he was going to bribe us to watch the kids," Wrench assured him.
Xander perked up. "Then maybe I will make a run to Earth." He winked. "I'll be right back." He walked out of the office. "Momma, I've got to hit a drugstore!" he called.
"Pick up another few cases of hotdogs."
"We've got nineteen cases in the cold cavern," he reminded her. He peeked into the kitchen.
"You've only got six, baby. I used the rest," she assured him, patting him on the cheek. "Pick up some more, all right?"
"Sure, but this is just a quick trip. We're out of lube so the camping wasn't as fun as it could have been."
"Thankfully Vinnie wanted to take you older mice out with him," she promised. "Be a good boy, Xander."
"I always *try*," he complained, but he was grinning. He headed out to his bike and to the Council's chambers, grinning at them. "Quick trip. Need anything *right now*?"
"No," Stoker said, watching as he disappeared. He looked at Throttle, who had escorted in their newest refugees. "I take it the camping was good?"
"Would have been better with some lube," he admitted.
"I...don't need to know that," Carbine complained. "Neither does the rest of Mars, Throttle. Behave or else I'm going to assign your week while he's shopping."
Throttle looked at her. "He only stocked the caverns for six months the last time, Carbine. Do you *really* wanna see what he'd bring home this time?" That got some shudders among the Council. "I didn't think so. Vinnie doesn't want to catalog or count it, and we're sure Xander will bring more chocolate, no matter what we do to stop him. If we go with him, he won't be able to do that."
"Fine, you can go with him," Stoker assured him. "We'll make it mandatory even." The rest of the council nodded at that.
"Xander seemed very nice," Torque offered from her seat next to Throttle. "Why are they worried?"
"Xander sometimes get a wild hair up his tail," Throttle assured her, patting her on the back. "It'll be fine. Just watch out for bouncing white mice. I'm sure he'll get Terror into it too if we're not there. Or Wrench. One of them will have to go with him if we don't."
"Terror would probably enjoy going to look at all the pretty girls," she offered with a grin.
Terror walked in and glared at her. "Don't make me go hide more, Torque. That's mean. Sending me with Xander to a mall is cruel and torturous. Don't do that to me. You don't torture friends."
"Unless you're Spike," Throttle joked.
"Not even Spike's that mean," he complained. He looked at Stoker and handed over the paperwork. "We did it while they were ...camping." He walked out shaking his head.
"Maybe we'll let Xander take him to a beach," Throttle mused. "Bikinis are always fun. He'd appreciate that." Torque laughed and Spike looked over at him, then groaned and shook his head. "What?"
"Too evil for even me," he said happily. "Good to see Harris is corrupting you to my side, Throttle. If I get turned, I'll come to make you my second." He took the copies of the papers and went to deliver them. He hated messenger duty but it was a punishment. Even if he did get to torture the adults all day.
Stoker looked at Throttle. "Vinnie wants to take you all camping, maybe you should have Xander get whatever you needed this time," he suggested. "It'll make you a normal mouse again, Throttle. I don't think I can handle an evil you."
"We only ran out of lube," Throttle complained.
"Again, not something we need to know about," Carbine complained. "I will allow you to call Dawn from my office if necessary so I don't have to hear this again."
"No, he's getting it," Throttle assured her, smirking a bit. "He knows what we need." Xander came back and he looked at the back of his bike. "Xan!"
"Momma said we needed more hotdogs," he protested. "I'm filling orders! Behave!" He dropped those off then went back to the other bags, proudly holding one up. "The usual lube store was out so I had to get the nasty, over-the-counter, stickier stuff. But it'll do until we can get real lube." He looked at Spike as he came back, then flipped him a small box. "That's yours if you deliver the hotdogs to Momma." Spike growled in pleasure and went to do that for him. "Thanks, Spike." He winked at his mate. "See you at home." He rode off, cackling madly. Throttle was *so* in for it when they got their next alone time.
Throttle swallowed and looked at Stoker, who was shaking his head. "If I come back like the last time I complained about it, just ignore me." He got up and headed after his mate. Sometimes chasing Xander wasn't so bad after all.