Notes: first and only one in this fandom, promise, but the muses attacked while I was worrying about something else and it did take my mind off it.

Oh, Charley

Modo looked up as Charley walked into the kitchen, giving her a small nod in greeting.  "Morning, Charley ma'am," he said politely.  He went back to working on his mechanical arm with the old rag.

"What's wrong with your arm?"

"Last night's tussle got some blood on it."

She looked it over, then nodded.  "You do need to clean that off.  I don't have anything to do this morning, want help?"  He nodded and let her grab some cloths and some polish, giving her a funny look.  "It'll protect it.  Like waxing your bike."

"If you say so.  I never thought of that."  He held still while she pulled his mechanical arm over, letting her look it over.  She hadn't flinched when she touched it and it gave him a moment of happiness.  The last time he had seen a female Martian that he wasn't related to and who didn't know who he was, she had flinched.  He popped out his gun, letting her start there since he had found some there earlier.  Her fingers were smaller and would get anything he might have missed.  She dipped a rag into the polish and went to work on the small parts and cracks, getting all the nastiness out.  He hadn't thought to do this at all recently and there was a lot of crud built up since the last time he had cleaned any part of his arm.  He watched as she worked, slowly and carefully getting in each crack, each scratch, each little piece of the moving sections.  She was very intent on her job.  "Do you do this for Vinnie too?"

"No," she admitted.  "He's never asked."  She looked up with a grin.  "You mean he doesn't?"

"I'm sure he does, but I've never seen him polish his mask."  He shrugged, getting comfortable while she worked.  "They went to get breakfast but I don't know where they are now."

"They're probably hiding, expecting some work."

"Maybe," he agreed dryly.  Vinnie had wanted to go play today since it was of the first nice days that spring.  "After this, I've got to work on my bike again.  Wanna help?  I won't make you do all of the work," he offered.

"That's fine," she agreed, going back to her polishing.  She finally got done with the gun and it retreated so she could work on the outer arm, making him shine in the muted light coming through the windows.  Finally she sat back and looked at it, smiling.  "There, how's that?"

"Beautiful, thanks, Charley ma'am," he agreed, standing up and stretching.  He looked down at her and took the polish.  "I'm gonna go work on Lil' Hoss for a few minutes," he said.  "See you in there?"

"Sure.  Like I said, I don't have anything else to do."  She shrugged and got herself another cup of coffee before following him into the garage.  She looked from his arm to his bike, then back with a grin.  "I think she should be as shiny as you are."

"She should be, I've been neglecting her a bit," he admitted with a touch of embarrassment.  "Sorry, girl."  His bike beeped patiently at him.  "Want cleaned up?"  It moved closer and leaned against his side, letting him get down to work on the chrome on his side while she got another few cloths and another tub of polish.  They got to work, him doing the back chrome, her the handlebars, and enjoyed the quiet.  The music was on quietly and they each hummed their favorite songs when they came on.  The other guys came in and patted her on the back as they walked past her into the kitchen.  "Did you at least bring lunch?" Modo called after them.  Silence met that request.  "Bros?"

"No," Vinnie admitted.  "We were out for a fun ride."  He came out waving a hand.  "Be right back."

"Sure, bring back extra," Modo agreed, frowning at him.  How could Vinnie forget to bring back food?

Throttle came out to watch them.  "I need to do that too," he admitted, taking the tub Charlie held up.  She was nearly done and it showed.  The handlebars gleamed under her delicate touch.  She had even gotten the wheel spokes.  Modo was still working on the exhaust and rear wheels so she moved back to help him, earning a grin.  Throttle looked at them, then smirked as he turned to his own bike.  "You want some of that too?"  It beeped plaintively at him so he sat down to give it some gentle attention.

Modo finally put down his cloth and stood up with a groan, going for rootbeers.  "Charley ma'am, want one?" he called as he walked.

"Please."  She worked on the rear wheel spoke, then a cannon popped up and she laughed.  "Sure, I'll do that too," she agreed, taking the polish from Modo's side of the bike to work on the cannons and launchers.  He came back and smiled.  "She wanted them done."

"I bet.  It's been a while since I spoiled her this way."  His bike's front wheel turned toward him.  "Don't expect this all the time," he warned, handing over the bottle of rootbeer, already opened.  "Here you go."

"Thanks, Modo."  She grinned at him and went back to her polishing.  A door under the headlights opened and she looked at it, swiping a cloth inside it.  Modo stopped her and shook his head.  "No?"

"No.  That's a special spot.  That's where we first get the AI in tune with the rider," he said quietly.  He looked at his bike.  "You like her that much?"  It beeped and he sighed.  "Fine, I'll let her if you want.  No promises though."  He nodded, showing her what to do by sticking her hand inside and onto the warm shelf.  "Leave it there."

She nodded, feeling the beam move across her hand.  It tingled a bit, and she nearly moved her hand but her fingers twitched and the bike let out a purr so she did it again.  "I think I'm tickling her."

"You might be, she's ticklish there," he admitted with a grin.  "She likes you a lot.  Most bikes won't open for anyone but their riders."  He stroked the front fender.  "That's enough, girl, you've proven your point."  His bike liked her, it was more than most mice got as a clue when they wanted someone.  He felt a bit odd since his bike was telling him who to date, but they had been together a long time and he trusted her with his life.  Why not with this too?  He smiled at her.  "Let's finish up and then we'll have lunch."

"Sure.  Thanks, Modo, thanks, Lil Hoss."  She stroked the handlebar near her head and got back to work.

He had to stop for a minute.  She had looked kind of pretty in that light.  He gave a mental shrug and went back to his work, starting on the cannon that popped up on his side.  "Sure, girl.  You deserve it.  They've worked hard this winter."  The engine purred and he chuckled.  "You are gonna be so spoiled."

"She's not," Charley countered.  "She deserves it.  They all do, they've had a lot of hard wear and tear this last year."

"True," Throttle agreed from where he was working on his handlebars.  "They've had a lot of work to do."  He glanced at them, catching Modo's eye over the top of his specs, then glanced at Charley.  Modo frowned at him so he grinned and went back to his work.  "Charley girl, can I have some help when he's done?"

"I was going to offer her a ride in the sunshine for the hard work she's done," Modo offered. "She got the blood off my arm too."  He showed it off.

"That's bright," Throttle agreed.  "After lunch?"

"Sure," Modo agreed.  He watched as she walked, totally engrossed in his task.  He smiled and went back to work.  It was nice to have someone so dedicated help him.  Vinnie came back with a howl of pleasure.  "Yo, shut up!" he called.  "Some of us are trying to work."

Vinnie walked past the radio and turned it up, looking at them.  "We have any more of that?"  Throttle shook his head.  "Then I'll do mine this afternoon, after I change the oil."  He put the bag on the table then got out of the way.  "Lunch!"

"In a minute," Charley called, working on one last spot.  She stood up.  "There, all the chrome's beautiful, now all we need is the leather treater."  Modo looked up at her.  "It'll shine it up too.  You should always do it each month, or else your tail will start to wear a spot on it."  She tweaked his ear and headed in to wash her hands and eat.  "Did you get any for me, Vinnie?" she asked, noticing what was laid out.

"The dog place was out of mustard except for the small packets."  He patted the pile.  "I got plenty though."  He grinned at her.  "Wanna help me later?"

"I said I'm taking her for a spin in thanks," Modo said as he came in, hands still damp.  "You can shine your own bike, or help Throttle and have him help you."

"Not a bad idea," he admitted.  He glanced at Modo, then at Charley when her back was turned to get another rootbeer out of the fridge.  Modo shrugged and Vinnie grinned, giving him a little hand wave.  "She probably needs a day off and Throttle'll make sure I'm a good boy while you're gone."

"Hopefully," she agreed, sitting down.  She pushed Modo's over to his and opened the first mustard packet to work on her hotdog.  "Where did you want to go?"

"The park?"

"That's a good idea.  I could use some sunshine that's not through a glass."  She took a bite.  Throttle came in wiping his hands off.  "Eat, Vinnie said you'd keep him under control this afternoon."

Throttle looked down at Vinnie.  "I can try," he offered with a grin.  She laughed.  "She looks beautiful, Modo.  Good job.  Mine's jealous."

"We'll work on ours later," Vinnie offered.  "I need to change my oil but I'm gonna polish my baby later.  Sweetheart, can you two bring back dinner?"

"Sure," she agreed. "If we're gone that long."  He grinned at her and his tail came up to yank on her ponytail.  "Hey!"  She swatted at the tail tip, frowning at him.  "Keep it up, you can wake up with that thing in bows again."

"He did look cute with the blue bow at the end of his tail," Modo agreed, smirking at Vinnie.

"I'd hit you but I'm too hungry," Vinnie grumbled, taking another bite.  "Expect it later."

"Sure.  Bring it on," Modo said fondly.

Charley shook her head.  "You guys are insane."  She prepared her second hotdog as she ate the last piece of the first, then noticed they were a few short.  She swallowed and looked at Vinnie.  "You didn't get enough?"

"He ran out, he's running to the store after the lunch rush," he admitted.  "Sorry, sweetheart."

"Sure you are," Modo agreed, looking the last one.  "I'm good, Charley ma'am, go ahead and have it."

"No, I'm good.  Go ahead, you need the food more than I do."  They shared a look and she pushed it over, making him smile.  "Hurry up, I want to show the pretty thing off."

"Sure," he agreed, gulping that hotdog as fast as he could politely.   He stood up and held her chair for her. "Come on, I'll take you on that ride now."  She nodded, grabbing her helmet as she walked past the work bench.  The guys knew how to deal with any customers who might come in, they should have a few hours free of the other guys.  He sped out of the garage, heading toward the park.  He had to admit, his bike glowed in the spring sunlight.   They made it to the park, noticing the other bikers they passed had given them long looks.   Apparently they thought she had done a good job too.  He could admit it, she had done more of the work.  He pulled over to their usual part of the park but found a few couples taking advantage of the discreet location to spend some time alone.  He knew he was blushing as he pulled away, heading to their second favorite spot.  "Sorry 'bout that," he said quietly.

"Why?  They have every right to do that in the park, that's why it's a park and not a backyard," she quipped.

He chuckled and pulled them down through the trees, landing them in a small clearing near the lake, then turned off his engine.  "Here we are."

She slid off the back and took off her helmet, shaking out her hair.  "This is a nice spot."  She looked at him and grinned.  "Thanks, Modo."

"Welcome, Charley ma'am," he said gently. He got off his bike and gave it a pat.  "Go admire yourself in the water."  It rolled off, intending to sit in the sun so it could glow more.  He sat down, looking up at her.  "Sit, I'm not going to nibble."

She sat down, grinning at him.  "Think Vinnie's managed to destroy the garage yet looking for the oil?"

"Nah, you put it in a visible spot this time.  He shouldn't have too many problems and he doesn't have that much to shine on his bike so Throttle will make him help pretty soon."  He leaned back, letting the sun hit his face and chest.

"Modo, you've got a big ripple in your fur," she said, looking at his arm.  She finger- combed the spot, making him moan.  "Oops, didn't mean to step across any boundaries."

He looked at her and sighed.  "Grooming is something that we do for each other, but it's considered...intimate."  He grinned.  "So is shining my bike with me," he teased.  She blushed and he laughed, punching her on the arm.  "Don't do that."

"You tease," she said, pinching him on the shoulder.  "I should take her and go back home, leaving you to *walk*."

"A fate worse than death," he agreed.  "Seriously, though, it's a mother's or a girlfriend's job to groom you."

"Then how do you do it down here?  I noticed you don't often have lines in your back."

"We decided we can help each other with that.  Vinnie's got this big, long, brush for his back but Throttle and I agreed that it didn't mean anything between us," he said quietly.  "Vinnie only asks for help when he's got major marks in his fur."  He grinned at her again.  "Of course, you being one of the bros, I could let you do that, Charley ma'am."  She blushed again.  "I haven't had anyone who *liked* me doing it in a while."

"You know?"

"Oh, yeah," he agreed with a sigh.  "Vinnie knows too.  He shooed us out today.  I'm betting there was another monster dog in the sack and he was being greedy to see who'd win that contest."  He patted her on the back.  "Don't worry about, I'm not pushy."

She pinched him again.  "No, you're not."  She looked at him.  "Well, if you want me to groom your back, you're going to have to take off the vest and hand me a comb or something."   He swallowed and patted himself down.  "Never mind, I've got mine," she said, rolling her eyes.  "You couldn't be a bit more direct?"

"Nope, sorry," he admitted sheepishly.  "Then you might say no and hate me.  We'd be strange around each other and I'd hate that."

She flicked him on the ear.  "I'm sure it wouldn't happen.  Off with the armor.  I'll play one of the bros again."  He shimmied out of his armor and sat up so she could get his whole back.  She looked at the mass of fur, then groaned.  "It hasn't been done in months, right?"  He shook his head.  "Figures.  You've got knots.  What would your mother say?"

"My gray momma would chastise me and swat me before she fixed it for me," he admitted quietly, leaning forward so she could get a better angle.  Since she was willing and all. She started at his shoulder and worked her way down, making him let out little moans as he felt the teeth of the comb scrape his skin.  "Ooooh, momma," he sighed, shifting some.  "That feels good."

"All you have to do is ask," she pointed out.  "I figured grooming had to be a big thing for you guys.  Or at least for Vinnie."

"Yeah, it is," he agreed, not tensing up when the comb ran over a scar.  "Gentle," he pleaded.  The comb eased up and moved slower, making him close his eyes.  That felt so good!  He could feel himself drifting on his thoughts, letting his body react however it wanted to the patient and gentle grooming.  A thought came back to him as he felt her working on a knot.  "You're not gonna ask the other bros to do this, right?"

"Nope," she said with a small grin for his back.  "Why would I do that?  Even though Throttle does have really soft fur."  He turned his head to look at her. "He's caught me how many times?"

"Good point," he said with a grin.  "Now who's picking on who?"

"Me," she said happily.  "It's about time I get you guys back for all the times Vinnie's done it to me."  He laughed and turned back around, shaking his head.  She went back to work, making him moan and groan some more.  She could feel herself reacting to it, and told her body to stop, but it wasn't listening.  "I'm guessing this is something like bathing for us humans."

"Maybe.  You guys groom each other in there?"

"More like wash each other."

"Hmm.  Maybe," he agreed with another moan.  She had reached a spot on his back that had a few knots and was working gently but his fur was still pulling.  "Think I could use a trim?"

"No, you're not shaggy.  You're like a good carpet, spongy."

"Thanks."  He looked back at her, noticing she was biting on her lip as she worked on the knot, probably trying not to hurt him.  Then he turned around again before she could look up and ask him what was wrong.  "Charley ma'am, would you mind doing my arm too?"

"Not a problem, Modo.  I know you've got to have some trouble with that," she said gently, giving his shoulder a small pat.  "I'm happy to help you."  He nodded, putting his head down some as she started up at his shoulders again and lightly drug the comb all the way down his back over that patch.  Then she moved to the next area and started working her way down there.  "Am I doing this right?"  He nodded quickly.  "You're sure?"

"Feels good," he agreed.  He heard a dog barking and grabbed his top but she put a hand on his back and went back to work before he could put the armor on.  "There might be an owner."

"There is, I can hear the kid squealing and no one's going to think anything of it.  They're too happy because it's finally sunny.  They won't notice anything."  She moved onto the next row once she was done and worked her way down from his shoulder.  She made sure the fur and the metal merged nicely together, the fur covering the seam, then shifted to his side, working on his other arm.  He moaned again and shifted so she could get a better angle, basically putting his hand in her lap.  She blushed but didn't say anything about it.  This was nice.  It was quiet, there was no panicking, no running, no lasers, no fighting, no bros, and he was like putty under her fingers.  Warm, furry, strong putty.  She worked on the underside of his arm, earning a quick wiggle and a small laugh.  "Sorry, didn't know you were ticklish," she said with a grin.  She worked the comb over that spot again and he grabbed her, putting her in his lap to stop her, his tail taking the comb.  "Am I done?" she asked with a grin.

"Not if you don't want to be," he offered.  "Or we could head back and you can have some time to think."   She gave him a look and he grinned.  "Didn't think so.  Just don't hit the ticklish spots again, please, Charley ma'am."

She smirked at him.  "Where's the fun in that?"

He snorted, shaking his head.  "You do that almost as well as Vinnie does," he admitted.  "Fine, *try* not to do it on purpose."  She grinned and went to work on his lower arm, making him hold still.  Then she and her comb shifted to get to his neck, basically kneeling in front of him.  He had to close his eyes.  No one had done this for him in a long time.  She liked him and understood this was something that girlfriends did.  He looked at her, seeing the small smile of contentment.  "Would you like to go out somewhere soon, Charley ma'am?"

"Sure," she agreed, grinning at him.  "Where?"

"Pick," he offered, keeping in the moan from where her comb had just run over a nipple.  "Oh, please pick."

She pulled back.  "Sorry, did I hit a sore spot?"

"Not exactly," he offered.  He leaned forward and nuzzled her chin gently.  "Male Martians still have nipples," he assured her.  She blushed and looked down at her comb.  "That's okay.  I'm betting you never thought of it."

"No, not really," she admitted quietly.  She looked at him.  "I know the earth mice have multiple sets, do you guys?"

He shook his head. "Only females, thankfully."  He grinned and she carefully stayed away from his pecs, working her way down to his stomach.  "Dinner or a movie?" he asked, holding firm so he wouldn't grab her and roll her onto her back.  "Charley," he said, stopping her.  "I can't think."  She sighed and put her comb up, leaning against his side again.  "Thank you."

"Any time," she assured him with a small smile.  "How about we go for a picnic?  One after dark?"

"Sure."  He stroked her hair, finger combing it.  "You guys don't groom each other?"

"No, humans are pretty much supposed to do their own hair.  Women shave most of their body hair off."


"Because men talked us into it," she said, looking up at him.  "Some women wax."

"Ow," he hissed, wincing.  "That's gotta hurt."  She nodded so he pointed at where the toddler following the dog had just fallen and had the dog pull her.  "That.  Though waxing sounds painful.  What is it?"

"Ever poured candle wax in your fur?"  He shuddered and nodded. "It's a popular way to remove excess body hair down here too."

"Ow!" he said, shuddering harder.  "That's torture."

"Yes, but our men expect it of us.  Thankfully, I've never much cared about that stuff."

"Good."  He went back to stroking her hair, still resisting the urge to pounce her.  He kept telling himself she's smaller and more fragile.  She's human.  She's not a Martian.  No matter how good her comb felt and that she was willing to let him date her, she was still human and pouncing would be a bad thing, right?  He looked down at her and caught her looking up.  "What's so fascinating?"

"I'm watching the sun glint off your antennas."  She reached up to catch a piece of stray hair and toss it onto the ground.  "There."  She smiled and went back to her watching the water.

He cleared his throat and looked down again.  "Could, um, I...ah..."

"Modo, just kiss me."

He grinned and took advantage of the generous offer, giving it all he had.  She smiled at him and stroked his cheek.  "Better?"

"Much."  She pinched him on the pec, making him shiver.  "If we're dating, does that mean I get to go for more rides?"

He blushed.  That had sounded dirty.  She chuckled and hugged him, pulling him in for another kiss.  "Anytime you want," he said once he came up for air.  Kissing her was harder than kissing another mouse, her muzzle didn't come out.  It made it a bit difficult but he could deal with that.  He did so on the third kiss, pulling her into his lap to get comfortable.  "Ask all you want," he offered before diving in again.  His bike beeped as it came back.  "What?" he asked, looking at it.   His helmet was bucked off and he caught it.  "Thanks."  He put it on.  "Yeah, bros?"

"Can you two come back to the garage.  Rimfire's here," Throttle told him.  "He's got something for Charley."

"Sure."  He took it off and looked down at her.  "My nephew's here."

"I like Rimfire."

"Good.  It's good that you like my family," he teased, tickling her a bit.  She squealed and hit him on the chest, making him laugh.

On the other end, Throttle put down the microphone and stepped away from the giggling going on.  "Okay then," he decided, flipping it off.  "They'll be back soon," he told Rimfire.

"That's fine.  I'm sure Uncle Modo is having fun in the park with her," he said with a grin.

"Was that her giggling?" Vinnie demanded.

"Yeah, it was," Throttle agreed.  He shook his head.  "I'm sure they just saw someone take a bad dive into the lake or something.  Maybe a cute couple walking."  He didn't want to think about anything else.

Vinnie and Rimfire shared a grin and Vinne went back to stocking the fridge.  He had went to get some supplies from the scoreboard and had found Rimfire bringing his ship in for a landing. "So, why're you here, kid?"

"Message for Charley ma'am, and one from Grandmomma for Uncle Modo," he said, patting his bag.  "How is he?"

"Doing fine," Throttle assured him.  "Charlie girl was working on getting some blood off his arm earlier.  Some splattered onto his hand cannon."  Rimfire nodded.  "Then they polished his bike."  Rimfire's grin got bigger and brighter.  "What?"

"You'll see," he promised.  "Call 'em, have 'em meet us at the scoreboard?"  Throttle nodded and went to the CB, turning it back on.  Rimfire mounted up.  "Vinnie, come on!  You'll be late!"

"Coming," he said, bringing out his latest rootbeer.  He got onto his bike.  "Leisurely stroll?"

"I'm not sure he's back on his bike yet," Rimfire said with a bright grin.  "Unless you'd rather rock 'n ride?"

"It's a nice day and we don't have to hurry," Throttle said, opening the door to let them out.  "Are we coming back?"

"Oh, yeah," Rimfire agreed.  "We'll have to."  He zipped off with his smirk on his face.  His uncle was going to be so stoked!  Vinnie sped past him, making him laugh since he was kicked back and using his tail to hold his bottle of rootbeer.  He sped up, passing him.  "Show off!" he called, moving on long before Vinnie could protest his superiority.

Vinnie growled and sat up straight, heading after the kid.  "I'll show you who's the best!" he called.

"Kids!" Throttle warned.  They laughed and sped up further, making him chase them.  Modo had beat them back but not by much.  He was just getting off his bike and helping Charley off when they got there.  Throttle looked him over, noticing how smooth his fur was.  Then he smirked at him.  "Have fun in the park?"

"Yeah," he agreed, leading her inside.  "Rimfire!  Don't I get a hug!"

Rimfire came out of his ship and jogged over to give him a hug, then punched him on the arm.  "I've got a letter for you from Grandmomma."

"Thanks."  He took it, sitting down to read it.  "You came all the way for this?"

"I got some cookies too," he admitted with a smirk.  "And a very special letter from the Council for Charley ma'am."  He handed it over with a flourish and went back to his ship for a few minutes.

She sat down beside Modo to open her letter, frowning when a set of keys came out.  She read the official letter, leaving the untyped one for last.  She squealed and hugged him, then read the second one, laughing.  "Guys!"  She waved it.  "In recognition for all your work with the Freedom Fighters currently working on Earth, and all the time and money you've spent helping the cause, we're entrusting you with a way to help them further and a token of our appreciation."

Modo took the letter, eye's going wide.  "Oh, momma, they gave you a bike?"  He looked at her, then took the printed letter.  "Oh, yeah, here we go, Stoker said it'd protect you better and to shove it in the punk's face," he said, grinning at Vinnie.

"Rimfire?  An explanation?" Throttle called.

Rimfire came down with the bike, and it wasn't the best ever seen.  It was dirty, dented in a few spots, and it seemed to droop.  "It's the one my partner used to ride," he said softly.

She walked over and knelt, patting it gently.  "Hi.  I'm Charley."  The thing seemed to whine.  "Hey, it's not a problem.  I take care of the guys' bikes.  I can have you beautiful again really soon."  She stroked over a dent.  "These can be fixed too.  Even though they're a badge of honor."  The bike seemed to relax some and opened that special front panel.  "Should I?"

"That's what its offering," Throttle said quietly.  She stuck her hand in there and the bike purred, then it backed up.  "Oops.  Did you move?"

"My fingers twitched.  Sorry.  I didn't want to tickle you."  She stroked the fender again and the bike came back, letting her do it again.  It leaned against her.  "It's okay, sweetheart, I'm great at making pretty things beautiful and deadly again," she promised, withdrawing her hand.  "We'll take you back to the garage and work on the diagnostics tonight, see what work you need before I get to the body work."  It spun its front wheel.  "Does she have a name?"

"Turbine used to call her Blackie, but I'm not sure if it's a nickname or not," Rimfire noted.  "They knew you'd take care of her.  She's seen a lot of battles."

"What happened?" Modo asked quietly, not moving.

"We were ambushed.  They did something, use some sort of gun that pulled her off her bike.  The fall snapped her legs and we tried to get her back but they ran off dragging her.  We found her a few hours later, already dead," he said sadly.  "I talked to Stoker and he suggested this since he's made a point to tell how much she's helped you guys."  He let out a small smile. "Besides, he said it'd protect her better than Vinnie did and you guys could *finally* have some backup."

"We'll work on training her in all the moves as soon as the bike's back in good health," Throttle promised.  "Let's get her back to the garage.  She needs it badly."

"A good bath first should cure some of it.  Then the diagnostics, and whatever rebuilding parts are needed, then we'll work on the dents that she doesn't want," Charley said gently.  Her bike nodded and shifted close.  "Should I ride you or are you in too bad of shape for that, girl?"  The bike revved its motor so she smiled and got on the back.  "Okay, let's go slowly then.  I don't want to stress you out until you get used to...."  The bike took off with her.

The guys grinned and followed, speeding after her just in case.  Rimfire was the last on his bike, shaking his head with a smile.  "I always knew that bike should go to someone who would cosset it."


That night, after Charley had gone upstairs, Modo had promised to stay and help her with her new bike, and the guys had left, the bikes popped cords out so they could connect.  Lil Hoss showed her what her new routine would be like and all she knew about Charley and her rider.  The new bike shifted some but got into it.  So, her new pet was a nurturer and a planner.  She could do sneaky.  Her last rider had lacked subtlety.  This one had it in spades and was willing to use it when necessary.  The older bike showed her what else had been going on around town: the constant fighting, the struggle, the exhaustion of the three bros.  The new bike nodded that she understood.  Her new pet needed trained.  She could handle it if she was trained, but they would be the backup.  Which suited her fine, she was tired too.  She had spent every moment since her final paint job in the war and she had the scars to prove it.  Modo's bike got a long look at this new one and decided she liked it.  She'd tell her rider in the morning and let him do some more coddling of her.

He came down the stairs and patted her on the way to the kitchen, making a detour to check on them.  Then he came back and plugged the new one in so it could recharge for a while longer.  "Don't stress yourself.  You've got a few long days ahead of you," he said quietly.

Charley came down the stairs and joined him.  "She okay?  Nightmares?"

"I don't think they get nightmares," he said with a grin.  "I was just making sure she could recharge tonight.  It sounded like she's going to need a few gaskets tomorrow."

"And a sparkplug or three too," Charlie agreed.  "But that's okay.  We can do that.  She needs it and I'm there."  She patted the leather seat.  "I've got to get some leather conditioner on her too.  It's dry from her time on Mars."  She reached for the bottle but he grabbed her and put her over his shoulder, heading back up the stairs. "Modo, what are you doing?"

"You can't work on her tonight. You both need to recharge."  He put her down in front of her bed, grinning at her.  "Besides, I think I have a knot.  Would you?"  He handed over the softest brush in the grooming kit, it was his favorite.  She smiled and took it, waving a hand at the bed.  "Thanks, Charley ma'am.  I appreciate this."

"Don't worry, I'll be abusing you horribly tomorrow while you help me with her."

"Anytime," he promised.  "You've done a lot of work on ours."  He moaned and winced as she straddled his hips, getting to work on his back.  "Comfy?"

"Actually, I am.  You're a bit wider than my bike's seat but I can manage it."  His tail came up to tickle her, making her shriek and wiggle to get away from it.  "No fair!"

He grinned back at her.  "So?"  He picked her up and turned over, letting her straddle him again. "There, I think the knot's on my chest."  She grinned, shaking her head.  "No?"

"No, I don't see a knot," she teased.  "I think you're doing this so I'll brush you."  He nodded, then went tense when she leaned down to do just that.  "Relax," she whispered.  "I'm not going to hurt you."

"I know you're not, but can you move up some?" he squeaked.  She looked down at him so he shifted her up onto his stomach.  That had put her very close to him and he wasn't sure he was ready for that yet with her.  She went back to what she had been doing, this time not avoiding his nipples, which made him one happy mouse.  He heard a plaintive beep and sighed.  "What?" he called.  His bike beeped. "No, she's fine.  I was teasing her again."  Both bikes went silent.  He shook his head with a small groan.  "This could get difficult."

"Guys, humans and mice need sleep so they can clean and fix you guys," she called.  They both beeped and she smiled.  "Now, where was I?"  She went back to brushing his chest for him, making him hum and shift under her hips.  "Anxious?"

"No," he assured her.  He rubbed up her arms, making her look at him.  "I'm not anxious."

"Good.  Neither am I."  She yawned and shifted backwards to work on his stomach, making him wiggle more.  His tail came up so she used her free hand to stroke the tip of it, making him blush.  "Another cultural taboo?"

"Um, tail tip playing is for those who ...appreciate their own sex," he decided was the right way to put it.  She blushed and gave his tail a pat so he made it lay on the bed again.  "Sorry."

"That's okay. I'm sure there's never been a human/martian relationship before and we're going to have a few things that's going to seem odd to the others."  She grinned and wiggled.  "But we can work on that."  She yawned again but went back to her pleasure, stroking and playing with his soft fur.  He grabbed the sheets and moaned, arching up into her as her brush hit a particular spot.  "Good?" she teased.  His natural eye looked up at her, open as wide as it could be.  He finally nodded.  She grinned.  "Good."  She did it again and he grabbed her, kissing her hard as he moved her next to him.  His brush went onto the bedside table with his tail's help but his arms were only for her back and waist.  She pulled back to rub noses with him, then grinned.  "What did I hit?"

"A very tender spot on my stomach," he said solemnly.  "You cannot tell Vinnie I have that or he'll try for it again."

"Not a problem.  I wasn't going to share secrets about us with Vinnie anyway.  You?"

"A guy brags with his bros, but a man never tells details," he assured her with a grin, kissing her again.  "I'm waiting until they figure it out and ask."  She used her fingers to tease that spot and he pulled back to gasp.  "Charley!"  She chuckled and leaned up to nip the edge of his ear, making him shiver.  "Okay, you win."  He worked on her shirt, getting it off her so he could look at her.  "Humans really don't have much fur."  She shook her head, letting him put her onto her back so she could play with his ears.  He swatted her at one point, earning a slight pinch.  He grinned at her.  "You're being dangerous, Charley ma'am."

"Am I?"

"Yup.  Teasing my ears is going to make me want to pounce."  He kissed her again then worked his way down her neck to tease and play with her furless body.  "You've got really little hairs."

"Most humans do."

"Wow.  Any longer hair?"  She blushed and he looked alarmed.  "What?  Some sort of taboo?"  She shook her head, blushing brighter.  "Hmm.  I'll have to find out for myself?"  She nodded so he got to work getting her down to her underwear, making him blush too.  "Oh, momma," he whispered, looking over her legs.  They were thinly furred and her stomach had a few longer hairs, but he could see what had made her blush before.  He looked up and moved up to kiss her again but the door downstairs opened.  "What!" he called. She sighed, shaking her head.  "I'm sorry about my bros.  They're mannerless and can't call."  He got up to hold the door shut when someone jogged up the stairs.  "What?"

"Uncle Modo, there's a call," Rimfire panted.  "It's Stoker.  He's on his way down to see the new bike."

"Really?" Charley asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Wait downstairs, Rimfire. I was working on a knot in her shoulders and she'll have to change clothes."

"Yes, Uncle Modo."  He jogged off again.

"I didn't hear his bike, did you?" Charley asked as she grabbed her clothes.

Modo shook his head.  "No, but I wasn't listening for it either.  I was preoccupied," he said grimly.  He made sure his pants were still buckled then excused himself with a blush to deal with the problem he was having.  He didn't want his nephew to see him like that, it might scar him for life.

Charley headed down the stairs, patting Rimfire on the back.  "Where's your bike?  I didn't hear it."

"I drove up," he assured her. "It's in the garage talking with Uncle Modo's bike."  He walked her that way, letting her look at them.  They were in sleep mode and he smiled.  "Awww."  The handlebars were leaning against each other and the front tires were grouped together too.  "So, you like Uncle Modo?"

"Rimfire," he warned as he came down the stairs.

"Um, Unc, everyone knows," Rimfire assured him with a bright grin.

Charley ruffled the orange streak in his hair.  "Behave or I'm going to spank you, Rimfire."

"I agree, your gray grandmother taught you better manners."

"Oh, yeah, when Stoker called, he had just come from there.  He said she wanted to meet Charley ma'am," he said, stepping out of hitting distance with a smirk on his face.

"Have you been taking lessons from Vinnie?" she demanded.  He chuckled and shook his head.  Modo lunged and caught him, getting into the usual rolling, punching, tickling fight on the floor that all the mice did with each other.  She rolled her eyes and went to check on her bike.  It woke up and glanced at her.  "I came down because Rimfire came, just checking on you," she promised.  The bike let out a backfire and she winced. "Is that like indigestion?"  The bike chuckled.  "Modo, is a backfire like indigestion?"

"No, it was a snort," he assured her between blows.  "I'm going to give you to your gray grandmother to make sure you're given manners, nephew."

"Sure, Uncle Modo, but she said she wanted to meet your girlfriend.  She sending Stoker with some new supplies too, including more cookies.  She was sure I'd eaten all yours."

"That sounds like a mother," Charley agreed with a grin, getting the leather conditioner.  "Here we go, we'll work while they fight."  Her bike seemed to purr as she rubbed the lotion into the leather seat.  "Does that feel good?  I know Mars is really dry and it must suck all the moisture out of leather if the rider's not careful."   She continued to work, yawning on occasion, but getting into the taking care of her bike thing.

Modo stopped pummeling his nephew in fun to watch her.  Rimfire looked up too, grinning at his uncle afterwards.  "I knew she'd love her."  He flipped his uncle over and hopped up.  "Uncle Stoker was nearly in orbit when he called.  That means you've got about two hours to get decent."

"Try some sleep, kid.  Charley ma'am?" he called, looking over.  He saw her asleep on the seat, a happy smile on her face.  He groaned as he stood up.  "Rimfire, if you're staying, you can sleep on the couch.  Or go back to the scoreboard and take my bed."  He nodded, heading to wake his bike and take off.  The noise woke Charley so he picked her up.  "Come on.  Maybe a nap will do you good.  Night, kids."  They beeped and went back to sleep.  He carried her upstairs, wiping her cheeks off once he had her in bed.  Then he curled up on top of the blankets to hold her.  "Sleep," he whispered when she moved.  "Stoker will be here soon."  She nodded, snuggling into his chest.  He grinned down at her, liking this human-style dating thing a lot.


Stoker pounded on the bedroom door.  "Aren't you up yet?" he called, grinning at Vinnie.

"Go away, I'm getting dressed," she called back.  "Some of us bathe each day, Stoker."

He chuckled and headed downstairs with Vinnie following.  He found Modo down there.  "How did you get down here?"

"You're slow this morning," he said dryly, handing over a cup of coffee.  "Here.  Vinnie?"

"Not get much sleep last night, bro?" Vinnie teased.  "Did the couch hurt your back?"

"No, I slept in the chair most of the night and Rimfire woke us up."  He yawned for show.   Then he shook his head.  "Morning, Charley ma'am.  Sleep well?"

"Just fine," she said happily.  "Except for the short hours."  She looked at Stoker.  "I've only had her a day, I've barely gotten a chance to put her on the diagnostics for her engine output.  In a hurry?"

He grinned.  "On vacation to teach you with these punks," he admitted.  He slapped Vinnie on the ears with his tail.  "I thought it'd be better since I trained them."

"Okay, but I think I'm going to have to rebuild part of her engine today.  That's not counting the cosmetic stuff, like the dents that she'll want removed."  He nodded solemnly.  "Besides, she spent most of last night curled up with Modo's bike.  There's no telling what she thinks of us at the moment."  Vinnie snickered at that.  "You, quit, or I'm not making hotdogs for lunch or paying for takeout."

"Yes, sweetheart," he said with a big grin.  "So, you slept well last night?"

"Nearly perfect but for the interruption."  She frowned at him.  "Can't you call?"

"Sorry," he said with a snicker.  "Let's go look at the new darling."  He led Stoker out, whispering in his ear as they walked.  "There's no way he slept in the chair and he's a bit too well groomed, don't you think?"

Stoker looked back at Modo and grinned.  "Yes, I do," he agreed in a normal voice.  He knelt beside the bike, looking her over.  "Well, you've had a good bath.  She take a toothbrush to you yet?"  The bike purred and he smiled, patting the seat.  He grimaced as he looked at his hand.

"Conditioning lotion.  I fell asleep doing that while Modo and Rimfire wrestled," she admitted, grabbing a cloth to wipe it off.  "There, no harm done and she needed the moisture anyway."  He nodded, walking around her.  "Like I said, she'll need a few gaskets, a few spark plugs, and I think I found a crack in her carburetor."  Her bike beeped pitifully.  "What's wrong?  You don't think so?"  She heard a metallic whir but nothing happened. "Hmm.  Sounds like something's stuck.  Weapons?"  The bike beeped.  "Okay, let's work on getting that open.  Vinnie, hand me a pick please?"

"Here you go, sweetheart," he said as he handed it over, watching as she delicately scraped the opening for the guns on her side clear.  Then she forced the door open.  "What is that?"

"It's got gunk in there," she said, frowning.  She looked at Stoker when he let out a quiet swear.  "Something I should worry about?"

"That's a failed weapon that they stopped using a few years ago," Stoker admitted.  "It gums up thing.  It's basically a big wad of chewing gum."

"Then how did she get it in her?" Charley asked.

"Rimfire said his partner was pulled from her bike," Modo offered as he joined them, handing Charley some coffee.  "What cleans that off?"

"Coke eats everything," she assured him.   "Even if I have to disassemble it and then put it back together again, I can."  Her bike shifted backwards.  "Trust me, ask Throttle's bike, I've done it a few times," she soothed, patting the handlebars.  "I'm always going to put you back together.  I'm good at that, that's why I'm a mechanic."  The bike moved back.  "Did Modo's bike tell you all sorts of stories last night?" she asked with a grin.  Both bikes beeped and nodded their front wheels.  "Hmm.  Don't trust everything you hear.  I'm not mean to my charges and I'm not going to hurt you, no matter how much she hates it when I check her tire pressure."   Modo spluttered.  "She does."

"I've never figured that one out," Vinnie sighed.  "Mine does the same thing."

"I'm guessing it's like checking a personal thing, like bloodwork or something," she told him.  Both bikes wanting her attention beeped.  "See," she grinned at them and her bike moved closer.  "Okay, so let's start with the weapons.  The engine runs enough for the moment and it's Sunday so I'd have to get parts tomorrow anyway.  That okay with you, dear?"  She stroked a handlebar gently.

"It's not a pet," Stoker said with a cough.

"You, hush," she ordered.  "Every veteran coming back from the war should have someone who gives enough of a damn to coddle and coo at them for being a veteran and for all the bad things that they had to see and do.  She deserves it.  I bet you guys didn't really ask her if she wanted to come all the way down here.  Did you?"  He shook his head, his eyes wide.  "See!  She's grieving and she's in need of comfort.  A bit of coddling is good for her."

Modo hid his grin as he turned away.  "I'll call Throttle and tell him to bring over the small brushes for the weapons when he comes," he offered. "Plus to pick up some coke.  Two liters, Charley ma'am?"

"Sure, Modo, that's fine.  Thank you."  She smiled at him and went back to trying to take some of the gunk off so she could get to the proper screws.  "Just you wait, you'll feel like a whole new bike by the time I get done with you, dear one."

Stoker glanced at her as he sidled up to Modo.  "Bro, are you hers?  If not, mind if I try?"  Modo growled.  "Sure, I understand fully," he agreed, backing away.  Modo could be quite possessive about what was his.  In a way he almost felt sorry for the next slimy fishhead that tried to take her.  Almost.

"Told you so," Vinnie said smartly.

"Vinnie, did you get your oil changed yesterday?" she asked.

"Yup, sure did," he agreed.  "My baby was quite pleased with me afterwards."  His bike let out a snort-like beep.  "You weren't?"

"Did you remember to add the extra quart to take care of the difference in measurements between here and there?" she asked.

Vinnie hit himself on the head.  "I forgot.  Sorry, sweetheart.  Let me do that now."  He went to the case of oil, pulling out a new bottle.  "Eat it all," he encouraged as he opened the top and his bike opened her oil spout.  He slipped the nozzle inside, grinning at her.  "Just like a baby on a bottle."  His bike beeped at him again and threw the bottle at him, mostly empty so he only got a few drips of oil on him.  "Sorry," he said, rolling his eyes.  "I think we're having a womanly moment."

Modo snickered this time.  "You might say that, yeah," he agreed, looking at Stoker.  "So, why did they allow this?" he asked quietly.

"They think you need the help, Modo.  They can't spare anyone to help you most of the time."

"We're the fallback position," Modo said dryly.  Stoker nodded.  "Fine.  We'll do what we can."

"You know, if Rimfire's staying, we'll have to let him know about the differences in weights and measures," Charley said, not hearing the private conversation.

"Rimfire's on special assignment," Stoker said firmly.  "It's a limited leave.  He'll be going back in a few weeks."  He glanced at Modo.  "Your mother wants to come visit.  Should we let her?"

"Sure," Vinnie said happily.  "I'd love to see Modo's momma again.  Plus, I don't think she ever got to meet Charley."

Modo looked at him.  "I'll get you," he hissed.  He looked at Charley.  "That okay with you, Charley ma'am?"


"My momma wants to come down."

She grinned at him.  "Planning on introducing me?"  He blushed but nodded.  "Sure.  We'll make a special dinner for her."  She went back to ungumming the weapons system.  It was going to take a while.  "I hope I'm not needed to fight for a bit, guys.  This chewing gum is nasty.  We might have to freeze it overnight or something to make it break off."  She patted the bike.  "We'd let it get to room temperature before putting it back inside.  Don't need a chill you know," she said happily.

"She'd make one hell of a mother," Stoker pointed out.  He looked at Modo, who looked stunned.  "After the war, there's going to be orphans."  He walked away, leaving it at that while he got a drink.  "Anyone need a rootbeer?"

"I'm fine," Charley called after him.  "We're probably close to out."

"I got a case yesterday," Vinnie promised.  "While you two were at the park."  He looked at Modo.  "Hey, that knot's out.  Good job, bro."

Modo hit him on the arm, making him howl.  "Quit.  Now."

Vinnie smirked but managed to avoid another blow by the timely appearance of Throttle.  "Hey, bro, come look.  Modo finally got that knot taken care of."  Modo growled, Charley blushed, and Stoker shook his head.

"Shut up, punk.  Before Modo crushes you."  He looked at Stoker, then behind him.  "Rimfire?"

"I let him get the coke.  He's right behind me."  He climbed off and looked at Vinnie.  "Duck."  Modo lunged and Vinnie tried to get away but Modo was going to get him this time.  He walked over to where Charlie was working, wincing at the gum.  "I thought it might be that."  He handed over the kit.  "The small cleaners.  It should help some once you get the gunk cleared."

"Thanks, Throttle.  Can you maybe take Vinnie out for a walk?" she asked with a blush.

He smirked and nodded.  "Sure. Need some time alone?"

"He's getting on Modo's nerves."

"I noticed, but he'll quit soon."  He walked over and grabbed Vinnie by the tail, making him jump up and face him.  "Quit picking on Modo, you're embarrassing Charley girl."

"Sorry, sweetheart," Vinnie called, looking sheepish, not that he knew what that was like.

"That's okay," she agreed.   "Why don't you guys go play football or something?  It's a pretty day outside."

"This afternoon," Stoker agreed.  "For right now, let's help her, boys, and punk."  He pushed Vinnie toward the bike.  "You can help too.  A bit of gum won't stick too long in your slick fur."

"Hey!"  Everyone looked at Charley.  "He's not that slick.  Really.  You want slick, go find a used car salesman."  She grinned at Vinnie, then stuck her tongue out.  "He slept wherever he said he slept and it's none of your business how he got that knot out."

"Fine," he said, rolling his natural eye.  "Take all my fun."

"I think that was the point," Throttle agreed happily. "Let's help the poor lady.  Her weapons are all gummed up and she'll need to practice with them before I let her in a real fight."  They nodded, coming over to help.  When Rimfire came in, he had a few bottles of coke behind him and he was grinning.  "Fine a pretty cashier?"

"A nice mother on her way to Church," he said happily.  "She helped me tons."  He grinned at Charlie.  Then at Throttle.  "You didn't tell me there were six different types."

"Diet Coke just tastes like stomach acid, it's not really," she quipped, grinning at him.  "How long did you have to talk your grandmother into coming down?"

"It only took me a few hints that Uncle Modo's not eating a balanced diet and he's living in a place that hasn't been cleaned in years," he admitted happily.

"I try," she sighed, going back to the gun she was dismantling.

"Bachelor studs don't vacuum," Vinnie said firmly.

"Women like men who help with the chores around the house," she said slyly, glancing at him.  His tail and ears perked right up.  "Plus, as Stoker pointed out earlier, there's going to be a lot of orphans and widows after the war, Vinnie.  They'll get to be picky."

"Yeah, but I'm handsome, adorable, and the baddest...."

Stoker wrapped his tail around Vinnie's snout.  "Not when put up against all the other veterans, hot shot.  She's right, any mouse that's going to be finding a mate has got to be willing to bend over backwards for their future spouse.  Plus be prepared to have many, many kids."

Vinnie got free.  "Really?" he asked, looking a little unsure.  "Kids?"

"How else is Mars going to go on?" Modo asked.

"With guys like you," Throttle assured him.  "The ones who'll more than make up for Vinnie's fear of anything smaller and whinier than him."

"Hey!" he complained.  "I'd make a good father."

"Sure, as soon as you're ready to have a few kids begging at every opportunity for a ride," Stoker agreed dryly.  "Or for stories that aren't war related, or for things that they want."

"I never begged," Vinnie said firmly.

"Yeah, but you're spoiled," Modo assured him.  Vinnie frowned at him.  "There'll be older kids so you won't have to change diapers too."

"Yeah, that's what I want," Vinnie agreed.  "No diapers, the majority of the hard stuff already gone past, and ready for me to mold them into upstanding mice, just like me."

"I'm sure you'll find someone," Charley said seriously.  "It will not look good if Modo's mother reports that you're a slob though."

"We'll be cleaning before she comes down," Modo promised.  "I'd never let Momma step into the scoreboard with the way it looked the last time I was there."

"Then you've probably got a month before you have to find a shovel, Uncle Modo," Rimfire promised. "Unless Grandmomma gets sneaky and comes down early."

Modo looked at Throttle, who stood up.  "I'll go back and start the cleanup," Throttle promised.  "Modo?"

"Coming.  Charley ma'am?"

"Go," she said with a smile.  "I can do this with Rimfire's help."  He nodded and took his bike, hopping on as it turned.  She laughed.  "Nice job, Rimfire."

"Who's kidding?  Our gray grandma is one sneaky mouse when she wants ta be," Rimfire assured her.  "I've seen her sneak past Stoker and Carbine in the same sneak into the barracks."

"I was asleep, kid.  I'd just gotten back from a three-day mission.  Give me a break," Stoker complained.  He looked at Vinnie. "Shouldn't you be helping them since it's probably your mess?"

"It's Modo's mess.  He's the one who threw clothes last."

The two other mice and the human shook their heads and got back to work.  He could have his delusions.

"So, Auntie Charley ma'am, when should I come back for the wedding?" Rimfire asked.

Stoker and Vinnie both got away from him as quickly as they could, deciding to hide in the bathroom together.

"When they have one," she said sweetly.  "Kid, we're barely dating."

"Yeah, but Uncle Modo looks at you like he looks at his bike.  It'll happen."

"Then I hope the war's done by then, I can't take him away from that," she said quietly.  Rimfire nodded, understanding that.  "Guys, if you're going to do naughty things in that bathroom, the vaseline is in the medicine cabinet," she called, winking at her 'nephew'.   Rimfire burst out in giggles, shaking his head.  "Not enough?" she asked.  "Also remember to clean up any biological deposits you might leave."  Rimfire fell to the floor laughing, rolling around with his tail whipping in the air.  "I don't want to clean that up," she told him.

"I've gotta tell Uncle Modo about that," Rimfire gasped.

"Tell him the *whole* story, Rimfire.  Let him have a good laugh," Vinnie said from the doorway.  "I only like women, thank you," he said sternly, frowning at her.  "Stoker is neither female, nor pretty enough for my tastes."

"Yeah, punk, because I'd ever do anything like that with you," Stoker said, poking him in the back.  "Move, kid, now.   Charely ma'am, do you have anything to take that image out of my head?"

She grinned and held up a chunk of the gum.  "All I've got is this," she said happily.  "Wanna help?"

"Yeah, let's do that," Stoker agreed.  He looked at her while they worked.  "They treating you okay?"  She nodded, grinning at him.  "I noticed they've warped your sense of humor since the last time I was here."

"No, that was all me," she said proudly.  "Are you sure?  You seem to like to touch Vinnie an awful lot, Stoker."

"It's to poke him for being bad," he said with a smirk.  "Not in pleasure."

"You don't like poking me?" Vinnie teased, getting into this one.   "You never said you didn't like poking me.  If you don't, you shouldn't do it so often."

"If I didn't, you'd be worse," he said dryly, frowning at him.  "Don't give Rimfire any ideas."

"I thought you two were going to go twine tails too," Rimfire said with a smirk.  "Let's face it, Vinnie relaxes you, Stoker.  You come back from each trip down here smiling and grinning."

"It's not because of the punk, it's seeing them whipping tail," he said firmly.  "I don't suck tail."

"No one's suggesting you did," Charley said, smirking at him.  "After all, I take you for a top."  He spluttered and blushed, shaking his head.  "Didn't I interpret that one right?"

"No, you did," Vinnie agreed, blushing.  "We'd have a problem if he was.  I'm one, he's one, that's not a good thing I suppose."

"I find I like my women to climb on top, it makes them take control of their own pleasure," Rimfire said happily.

"I'm telling your uncle you said that," Stoker warned.  "And your grandmother.  Let's see how gray she gets after she beats you."

Rimfire snorted.  "Who do you think pulled me aside and gave me that advice?" he asked with a laugh.  "Grandma said Grandpa used to do some wild stuff, she said I was just like him."

Charley laughed.  "I can see that somehow."  Rimfire grinned at her.  "He'll still tell Modo."

"Hey, at least I have a girlfriend right now," he offered.  "One who likes to play only.  No strings attached."

"You know, I just had a horrible premonition of the future," Stoker admitted, shuddering.  "I just saw Vinnie talking to his son, telling him that the Van Wham family name is not for picking up women by the boatload, it's for picking up the right sort of women.  Then the kid said he did.  Vinnie then had to remind him it wasn't supposed to be three or four at a time."

Charley leaned on the side of her bike, snickering and pounding her fist on the leather.  "I can so see that," she gasped.  "Vinnie telling his son off for gathering a harem and passing them off to any little brothers or sisters because his dad said he had to stay with *one*."

Vinnie shuddered.  "Guys, that's not funny."

Rimfire nodded.  "Yes, it is.  I can see your kid getting the harem lecture.  Uncle Modo did from what Grandma said.  She said she had to give it twice when girls stopped ignoring him.  She also said that she had to give it twice because he was confused about girls."

Stoker nodded.  "Yeah, he was like that when I first got him.  Too bad you're not like your uncle, kid."

Rimfire spit at him.  "I'm good enough.  I may not be Modo, but I'm just as good as Vinnie is."

Stoker looked from one to the other and back, then nodded.  "With more caution, agreed."  Rimfire looked pleased.  "Don't let it go to your head, punk.  Turn out like him for real and find out why he can't get a date."

"I'd never do that," Rimfire promised.

Vinnie looked stunned.  "You want to be like me instead of your uncle?"

"My uncle's like a God, Vinnie.  I can't even hope to match him.  You're more like a hero and I'd rather be one of those," he said with a small shrug and an embarrassed look.  "Can we move on?  Stoker, is it possible that Modo and Auntie Charley ma'am will have kids some day?"

"Not that I'm aware of, but they can always adopt," Stoker promised, grinning at Charley.  "So far as we know we're not compatible genetically.  Biologically but not genetically."  She relaxed a bit and nodded.  "Don't let that keep you from adopting the better part of an orphanage though.  Modo loves kids."

"I've thought about having some for a few years now," she admitted.  "Some day.  I'm not making any plans like that until the war's over with."

He nodded.  "A wise thought.  Just remember, if it all goes sour, we're all coming here.  We'll set up diplomatic relations."  He winked.  "We'll let Throttle do that."

"He'd kill you, Stoker, and you know it," she said firmly.  "Surely you've got one politician left."

He nodded.  "Six or seven actually.  Unfortunately."  He shook his head.  "Too bad too."  He went back to helping, nudging Vinnie when he didn't move.

"You're all coming here?" Vinnie asked.  Stoker nodded.  "Is it looking that bad?"

"No, not at the moment, but that's the current backup plan.  We have to do this, so much is going to hell.  A little kid found one of the Mars robots."  He sighed and shook his head. "Took it home to show his parents.  We had to make sure it wasn't sending."

"Shouldn't we come clear the way in the other cities?" Rimfire asked.  "I know there's got to be more than one slimy fish down here."

"There's two others and we're working on it from a distance," Stoker said firmly.  "We'll offer when we get here if we have to.  The US has military capabilities that they don't."  He heard bikes roaring up the street.  "Don't spread this around.  Modo knows we're evacuating down here. This is top secret, Vinnie."  He got a nod.  "Rimfire?"

"I'd never tell, but I'm leading the way back to make sure everyone makes it," he vowed.

"You'll have a spot in my house," Charley assured him seriously.

He grinned at her, timing it perfectly as Modo and Throttle came back.  "Thanks, Auntie Charley."  Modo spluttered.  "What?  She's not?  Oh, you missed it," he said, getting up to chat with them.  "I asked her when I should ask for time off to come back for the wedding, since it's so obvious and all, nice grooming by the way, Uncle, and she spluttered but Vinnie and Uncle Stoker decided to head into the bathroom so she told them where the vaseline is and to clean up any biological deposits they might make."  Throttle leaned on his handlebars gasping as he roared with laughter.  "Then Uncle Stoker had a vision of the future with Vinnie telling his future son that the family name was to pick up a few good women, just not all at the same time."  Modo groaned, shaking his head.  "She doesn't seem to mind, do you?"

"No, if she doesn't, I don't," he said weakly.  "Charley?"

"I'm still in shock, Modo.  Guess we can't hide it anymore."

He blushed up to the tips of his ears.  "Guess not."  He nudged Rimfire, then grinned.  "I'm going to tell them about the speech our gray momma gave you," he promised.  "Some day soon."

"I admitted she had to give me the anti-harem speech.  Said I was a lot like Grandpa and that he loved exotic things too."  He grinned as he went back to work.  "I need a flat screwdriver, size three."  Charley pointed behind her at the tool chest.  He got up to get it.

"Sorry," Modo said quietly.

"Honestly, he just came out with it," she promised.  "Not that the other two have helped any."  Vinnie and Stoker looked perfectly innocent. "They want you to adopt a whole orphanage."

"Five or six is good enough," Modo assured her.  "Orphans all of them."  He slid off the back of his bike and walked over to help her since the other three were working on the other side.  "You okay?" he asked quietly.

"He's sweet, Modo.  I don't mind," she said with a smile.  She kissed him on the cheek.  "Now I don't have to wait to do that though."

He grinned and nuzzled her chin.  "Or that."  He kissed her gently.  "Or that."  She rubbed noses with him and he laughed.  "I want to know where that custom got started.

"Native Alaskans."

"It's probably all that peeks out of their hoods," Vinnie pointed out dryly.  "No kissing in front of us bachelors, guys."

"The nice woman going to church offered me a chance to go with her," Rimfire told him.  "I could have taken her up on it."

"She probably only wanted you to join her church, not go on a date, kid," Stoker said, shaking his head.  "How do you get any work out of these guys?"

"Easy.  Unless the weapons system is off, I'm not paying for the next meal and I'm not cooking," she announced.  Everyone dug in to help.  That was a good reward.


That night, Modo stayed again so Rimfire could use his bed, weathering the teasing until he had pointed out that they were only dating and it wasn't right for him to live with her yet, but that he could come over now and then.  Then he had pulled Rimfire aside and had a long talk about women and why he was being stupid dating the woman who didn't want more from him than stress relief.  He hoped he had gotten through but he wasn't going to count on it.  If someone had offered him that at his age, he would have jumped at it too.  He found Charley in her room brushing her hair and took it from her.  "Turn about's fair play."

"Yeah, but I don't get tingly when I get brushed like you," she said with a smile for him.  "How long do you think this quiet will last?"

"Maybe three hours tonight.  Stoker said he'd stop Vinnie, Throttle said he'd watch Rimfire, so maybe until the morning."  He went back to brushing her hair for her.  "This is really nice.  I never had a grooming relationship before."

"More like what Rimfire's got?"

"Serious dating but not quite this far," he admitted.  He leaned down to kiss her gently.  "Can I play with you tonight?"  She nodded, standing up and walking him over to the bed.  "You so got Stoker earlier, I'm proud of you," he said happily.  "Even Vinnie behaved."

"He told me there'd be a problem with them if they ever got together, they're both tops," she said dryly.  He started to laugh but got onto the bed beside her.  He gently turned her over so he could work on her back, picking up his brush.  She shivered as the soft bristles rubbed her skin, liking it a lot.  "Modo," she groaned.  He chuckled and leaned down to kiss her neck, then went back to it, learning her body like she was learning his.  Women were complicated beings but he liked this one enough to try and unravel some of the puzzle.  He got her out of her nightgown and went to work on what he hadn't been able to reach before, brushing her skin slowly and gently, making her shiver on the bed.  "Modo, please!" she pleaded.

"Sure."  He put the brush aside and warmed his hands before working on the tired muscles.  They had all put in a long day today, her especially.  "Stoker gave you a really big compliment when he said you'd be a good mother."

"I heard."  She looked back at him.  "I don't mind.  I did think about kids some time, but I'm not going to make that decision until the war ends."

He nodded.  "Perfectly understandable. It's not safe until then," he agreed.  "I'd never make that decision without my mate's permission anyway."  He looked down at her.  "Our earth cousins aren't like us in that respect, are they?"

"The fact that they have a litter and then sometimes eat a few?  No, probably not," she agreed with a small smile.

"Eat them?"

She nodded.  "Eat them.  Lack of space and competition from what I remember in science class."

"Oh, momma, that's nasty."  He shuddered.

"See, I know you're not like that."

"True, we're not," he agreed firmly.

"If you were, I'd never let you in the garage."  She grinned at him and turned her head again.  "Can I have some more? Your fingers are great."

"Sure, Charley ma'am," he promised, moving down her back.  "Is the weapons system back together?"  She shook her head. "Nearly?"

"A few pieces are in the freezer so I can get the gum out of them easier.  The rest are cleaned and soaking overnight in alcohol and water.  I'll put them on in the morning," she said with a yawn.

"If you're too tired, I can quit."

"No, that's good," she promised.  Someone pounded on the door downstairs.  "I'll kill them," she muttered, getting up to grab her nightgown and robe, heading down there. "I'm coming!"  She looked out the window then let the kid inside.  "What's wrong?"

The kid panted, leaning down to catch his breath.  "Scuzzy things up the street were chasing me," he panted.  "Knew you'd be here."  He glanced at her. "Thanks, Miss Charley."

"Welcome, Peter."  She patted him on the back.  "Rest for a few or call your parents to come get you."

"They're out of town."  He looked up when he saw who was coming down the stairs.  "Wow.  You're one of them, aren't you?"  Modo nodded.  "Can one of you walk me home?"

"How about I drive you home, kid?" Peter asked.  He nodded.  "I'll be right back."  He kissed Charley on the cheek, making her blush.  "You behave."  He walked the kid to his bike and gave him the spare helmet Charley used, then got him outside and up the street.  "Why were you out so late?"

"I was at a school dance," he admitted.  "I'm sorry about this.  Are you dating her?"

"Would it bother you?"

"Not me, but some people it would.  Some people don't even like mixed races, much less furry and unfurry people."  Modo snorted.  "I'm sure you've got some like that on your world."

"Yeah, we do," he sighed.  "But I don't care most of the time.  Which house?"  Peter pointed so he pulled up in front of it.  "Go inside, I'll wait until the light's off."  The kid handed back the helmet and hurried inside, turning off the light once the door was locked. Modo headed back to the garage, pulling inside and turning on the alarm system as soon as the door was closed.  "He's a pretty nice kid," he said as he walked back up the stairs.  He found Stoker waiting on him in the living room.  "Did you teleport?"

"No, I drove," he said dryly.  "Got a minute?"  Modo shrugged so they went back down to the kitchen.  "Charley and I are both seeing a problem, and I know that she's seeing it because she's got a good grasp of her own people.  Some mice aren't going to like this."

"They can nibble my tail, Stoker.  I'm not caving in under some sort of speciest pressure.  We've intermixed before with other races."

"I know, and remember how much trouble that got us into then, when things were *good*.  There's going to be people who're going to say that you're not doing your part to carry on your own race, man.  I hate to say it, but Carbine's one of them."

"Is Throttle?"

"Hell no," he snorted.  He shook his head. "You don't have to worry about any of them, but you might want to be careful.  There's those who would work to make you carry on the Martian race since you're so high profile.  Including some of the politicians."

"They can nibble my tail too.  I hate politicians."

"Ditto, bro, but I had to warn you.  I couldn't do it earlier because Rimfire's still idealistic.  Don't let it get to you, but keep it in mind."  Modo nodded. "With those wise words, I've got to handcuff the punk to his bed so you can sleep in past dawn tomorrow."  He stood up.  "Ride free, Modo."

"Ride free, Stoker."  He waited until he was gone to reset the alarm and head back up the stairs.  He found Charley curled up reading.  "Not tired yet?  I am."  He stripped and got in behind her, holding her tightly.  "I just got reminded that some people are going to be mad at me because you're not a mouse."

"I had that thought earlier but I've never cared what those sort thought anyway," she said quietly, turning to face him.  "Does that bother you?"  He shook his head. "Honestly?"

"No," he admitted.  "If I have to and I'm pushed enough, we can deal with the issue of me carrying on a few kids that you'll of course be the mother to," he promised.  He kissed her gently.  "If that's okay?"

"I don't mind, Modo.  Your race is pretty small and getting smaller with each attack.  I want you to carry on.  I want there to be Martian grandbabies so they can talk to your mother too."  He smiled at that.  "Just tell me first."  She pinched him on a nipple and he moaned.  "Got it?"

He nodded. "I'd never do that without you, Charley."  He kissed her again.  "Now, are you tired?"  She shook her head.  "Me either.  Let's go back to what we were doing before this heaviness."  He kissed her again, eyes going wide as she let her hands wander lower.  "Charley!"

"What?"  She looked at where her hand was.  "The wrong thing?"

"No, the right thing, but ...."  His words dried up as she played with the sheathe hiding his penis again, his eye nearly rolling into the back of his head.  "Oh, momma!" he moaned, titling his head back.  "Good, damn good."

"Good," she agreed, shifting closer.  "Stoker was more than nice enough earlier to assure me that our races aren't genetically compatible.  Know what that means?"

"We can make like Terrusian bunnies?"

She nodded. "Yup, sure can," she agreed happily.  He laughed and kissed her, watching as she went down to tease his chest.  "How are you guys on what we females do?"

"Like that stuff Vinnie was watching?  With the heavy Techno soundtrack and the dirty noises that carry into the next room?"

"Yup, that stuff," she agreed dryly.

"Most Martian women wouldn't, but I don't think it's taboo, just something that never occurred to us."  His eye did roll back this time when she went down to lick him, and he let out this visceral moan that she echoed.  "Charley!" he prayed, pushing against her.  "Oh, momma, Charley!"

"Shh.  She might show up if you call too loudly," she said with a grin.  He laughed and pulled her up to kiss again.  "Too much?"

"Much too much for tonight.  Later.  That's for later."  She nodded, wrapping herself around him.  "Can I touch?"

"All you want, but keep the tail out of me."

He laughed and made sure it was out of the way.  He wanted her for himself, not for his tail's pleasure.  "I still can't believe you called Stoker and Vinnie tail suckers."

"They're the ones who went to hide in the bathroom together," she said with a grin.  "They didn't seem to mind."

"No, they didn't.  You're lucky you weren't pounced and wrestled into being tickled by both of them, but you didn't insult them."  He kissed her as his penis found her opening and gently slid inside.  She gasped and straightened her back.  "Easy."

"You're huge!"

"I'm average."  He grinned.  "Remember, we're bigger, Charley."

"Obviously!"  She relaxed and it fit, barely.   "You're bigger than everyone on this planet."

"I'm not," he protested. "I'm pretty average."  He kissed her when she was going to go on. "If you make me blush I might have to stop," he warned.

She nipped him on the edge of his muzzle.  "Stop before we're both done or I tell you you can and I'm going to pounce you and hang you downstairs naked."  He grinned and shifted, making her moan and focus on him.  "Oh, that's nice," she agreed. "More, Modo, more."

"My pleasure, ma'am," he assured her, moving a bit faster.  Someone outside fired off a gun and he growled.  "If they interrupt, I'm going to pulverize them," he warned.  She flipped him onto his back and went to work on him, making him forget all about the bad guys who were roaming their neighborhood.  "Oh, more, Charley," he pleaded when she continued what he had started.  His hands found her hips and he held on for dear life.  She laughed and guided a hand where she wanted it to go, making him arch an eyebrow up but tease that spot.  She whimpered and he got it.  Humans had a spot there for pleasure, like on his stomach.  He played with it until she went limp across his chest, then got her back onto her back and into position so he could play some more.  That had sounded like a happy sound to him.  He worked her harder and faster, making her moan and writhe on the bed.  Then she did something that startled him, she reached back and played with the base of his tail.  "Oh, Charley!" he panted, guiding her hand to the spot on top of it.  She scratched it and he panted and wiggled, then one of her fingers slipped and found the spot underneath.  He let out a growl and went harder and faster than he had been.

"Martian g-spot?" she teased, still stroking it with a fingertip.  "Or the Martian equivalent of a prostate?"

"It's what gay mice use to get ready," he panted.  "I don't care!"  He sat back, pulling her into his lap so she couldn't do it, but he could get deeper.  She shouted and helped him, and together it was fabulous.  He growled into her hair as he came, nipping her possessively on the neck.  She bit back and he moaned in pleasure.  "No one's ever claimed me before," he panted.  He didn't get an answer so he looked at her.  "Charley?"  No answer.  "Charley?"  He heard a soft snore and smiled.  "Guess I wore you out."  He tucked them both in, promising himself he'd help her clean up in the morning since she helped groom him so well.


Modo was in the shower when Rimfire knocked on the door.  "What!" he yelled.

"Uncle Modo, it's time to get up."

"I am."

"Is Auntie Charley ma'am in there with you?"


"If she's not, we've got problems," Vinnie called. "She's not out here."

"I'm looking at a scar on his back, not *in* there with him," she called.  "Perverted mouse!"

"Fine," he said with a laugh.  "Have it your way."

Modo continued to scrub her back.  "We'll be out in a few minutes, go downstairs."

"Yes, Uncle Modo."   Rimfire walked away but they didn't hear Vinnie moving.

"You too," she called.  "Now, Vincent Van Wham, before I take you for a test drive, as the road."  He laughed all the way down the stairs.  "Sorry, I can't do good threats first thing in the morning."  She kissed him and went back to letting him scrub her.  He had asked.  "Want to do my hair too?"  He nodded, working on the rest of her, then on her hair.  "Is it nicer just having to use shampoo?"

He laughed and hugged her.  "Sometimes," he agreed.  He wet her hair by delicately tipping her head back into the water.  "Close your eyes."  She did so and he worked on getting her hair clean for the day.  "Then again, conditioning takes forever.  The days Vinnie does his takes about an hour."  She laughed, shaking her head in his hands.  "Do that some more?" he suggested, working on getting it as clean as possible.  He was finally satisfied and let her rinse it out, watching as she grabbed the bath sponge.  His chest was next and she got into it, making him squeaky clean in no time.  She went down to get his legs and feet, making him hum in pleasure.  Then she licked into the opening of his sheathe and he had to grab onto something.

"Hands on the wall, Modo, and feet apart," she ordered, continuing to pleasure him.  He did as ordered, leaning against the back wall.  She went back to teasing him, darting her tongue in and out of the thin shelter hiding him from her view.  She looked up.  "Don't like it?"

"I'm trying to control myself," he panted.  "I don't want to hurt you."

"Lose the control, Modo, I want this.  I want to do this for you."

He moaned as he relaxed and came out of his sheathe.  She sucked on the head of him, making him look down to see what she was doing.  "Oh, momma!" he moaned, trying to find a handhold on the plastic wall.  She continued driving him insane, making him whimper and plead for more.  She was mean though, she continued to do exactly what she had been.  He finally gave up and let himself go, taking her that way.  If she was sure she wanted him that way, he'd gladly give it to her.  He let himself come out fully and took her, wrapping his hands in her hair to hold her in place.  He didn't force any more into her mouth, he realized how big he was by looking down and noticing she was going to have a sore jaw with how open her mouth was.  He did let her do whatever she wanted.  He trusted her that much, to have free reign over his body.  She got a bit more in and he strained, not wanting to choke the poor girl.  One of her hands came up to play with that spot under his tail again and he shouted, coming hard in her mouth.  "Oh, Charley," he moaned, helping her up to hug her.  "Are you okay?  I wasn't too rough?"

"No, you were wonderful, Modo, very gentle," she promised, holding him tightly.  She could feel his finger going down her body and spread her legs, letting her weight rest against him as he did the same for her.  "Go down," she ordered, pushing him a bit.  "It's time you learned female anatomy."  He grinned and went to work on her, like he would one of the women back on Mars.  He found what he had played with last night and played with it some more, sucking a bit now and then.  The hole was getting a lot of attention too.  He felt himself getting hard and turned her around, taking her that way this time.  She whimpered and pushed back against him, urging him deeper into her body.  "More, please," she pleaded, clutching at the arms around her chest.  He shifted his stance and dug in deeper, giving her what she wanted.  She screamed and went limp against him.  "Oh, man, that was wonderful," she whispered hoarsely.

He grinned down at her.  "My pleasure, ma'am.   Any and every time."  He kissed the back of her neck.  "I think we need to scrub again and the water's starting to get cold."  She nodded, resting against his chest while he worked on her body.   He smiled when he heard the first snore, holding her up so she could get clean enough to pass a casual inspection, then finishing himself off and getting out with her.  He wrapped her in towels and carried her back to the bed, tucking her in.  Rimfire wandered in.  "Out."

"Sorry," he said, turning away quickly. "Did she go back to sleep?"

"Yup, fell asleep in the shower."  He took one of the towels and dried himself quickly.  "Out."

"I can't.  Stoker said I had to drag you downstairs or he was going to shave me bald like a human."

"They have body hair, it's just very fine and almost nonexistent.  Then again, she doesn't shave so I get some hairy parts and some not.  Did you know that they *wax* their hair off?"  Rimfire shuddered.  "Exactly."  He tried to move but found his tail being held.  He looked down at the sleeping body and gently extricated himself before grabbing clothes and heading down to eat something.  For some reason he was very hungry this morning.  He stopped, sniffing the air.  "Momma?" he called, walking into the kitchen.  She grabbed him and hugged him as hard as she could. "Morning, Momma," he said gently, patting her on the back.  "I can't breathe, Momma."  She laughed as she let him go, pinching his cheek.  "When did you get in?"

"She was there when I got back last night," Stoker admitted, sipping his coffee.  "Punk there let her in."

"I knew you didn't want to be disturbed," Vinnie said, looking around.  "No Charley?"

"She went back to sleep," Rimfire said as he came down the stairs.  He hugged his grandmother again.  "Grandmomma, are you gonna stay down here, where it's safer?"  She gave him a look.  "I want you safe, Grandmomma.  I want you where I know you'll be safe, no matter what."

"If she does, we can find her a spot," Throttle promised.  He looked at Modo, then smirked and nodded at his neck.  Modo blushed and fingered the obvious bite mark.  "She okay?"

"Just tired.  She fell asleep in the shower.  It was another night of interruptions."

His mother gave him a long look.  "Modo, when will I meet this young woman?"

"When she gets up.  She just went back to bed," he promised.  "She fell asleep in the shower."

"Hmm.  I wonder why.  Your Granddaddy did that to me too sometimes."  She shook her head and put food on the table, looking at them. "Eat!"  They dug in, eating ravenously, the only thing they could do with her standing there.  "I've put a bit back for her."

"She's not a heavy eater, Momma," Modo told her.  "Go ahead and only save a little bit.  We need the rest."

"I had wondered if you hadn't been eating, what with the weapon parts in the freezer."

"Another gum attack," Modo said bitterly.  "Rimfire's partner's bike came to her and she's been working on it."

"She coddles it," Stoker agreed. "Said it was a veteran so it needed some coddling and cleaning up.  I'm sure she'll be getting it fully done soon."

Momma Modo nodded wisely.  "Sounds like she's worthy then.  I count that in her favor."  She came over to hug her son again, noticing the trails in his fur.  She patted him on the back and went to get him another cup of coffee.  "Didn't you get the brushes I sent?"

"I did, the softest one is upstairs at the moment," he admitted.

"He had a few knots that she very nicely got out for him, Momma," Vinnie said with a smirk.  Rimfire hit him.  "Hey!"

"She did it without asking too," Modo said smugly.

Vinnie pouted.  "You mean she volunteered?"  He nodded.  "Knew I should have made myself more available.  Maybe a bad fur day would have helped some."

"They spent their first day together polishing his arm since it had some blood on it, polishing his bike, then taking a drive," Throttle reported, much to the older mouse's delight.  She clapped and bounced a bit.  "Then she got the bike and we all came back here to baby it."  He held out his cup and she refilled it with a smile and a pat for him.  "Thanks, Momma."

"You're welcome, Throttle.  You know you three are like my own boys some days."  She smiled at Stoker. "He was so nice to tell me that my baby boy was seeing someone important."

"Thanks, Stoker, I'll hug you later," Modo said with a smirk.  "Who brought you, Momma?"

"Carbine.  She's been so nice this trip."  Throttle groaned.  "She's not at all upset with you, dear.  She knew that you were tired."  Throttle sighed and nodded.  "I'm sure it will be fine.  Take the young lady around your city later, Throttle.  She could use a break as well."

"Yes, ma'am," he said respectfully.  He knew an order and took them from her without question.  "As soon as she wakes up again."  Someone rang the bell and everyone groaned.  Modo got up and grabbed his helmet before answering the door, making sure his tail was up his back so the human couldn't see it.  "Morning," he said politely.  "Having problems?"

The human on the motorcycle nodded, looking pitiful.  "My wife sent me here.  She said she only trusts Charley to fix what I screwed up.  Is he up?"

"She's still in bed, we're her helpers," Modo offered.  "If you want, you can leave the bike and come back in an hour."  The man sighed in relief and nodded.  "Okay, let's move it inside."  The man started the motor and he winced.  "Didn't change the oil recently?"

"I did, but it's not performing like it should."

Charley came down the trapdoor, looking at him.  "You're Miriam's boy."  He nodded.  "Used the cheap oil?"  He nodded again, going back to pitiful.  "Okay.  I can change it.  For future reference, grab a bottle and note the label from the box behind you."  He did so, taking out a notepad to write it down.  "That's specially formulated for bikes, for high endurance bikes.  Start her again?"  He did so and she winced.  "You need a tune up.  City riding does that."  He looked confused. "Bikes like yours are touring bikes. They're meant to go on long trips.  Stop-and-go traffic screws with the tuning.  Like having a porshe and driving it in the city does to its engine."

"I have a friend who had one of those.  It was always in the garage," he agreed.  "So I need it retuned.  Anything else?"

"Sounds like you're about to blow a seal.  Come back in about an hour I'll let you know exactly what's needed."  He nodded and hurried out.  She nodded at the door so Modo closed it and she went to eat.  "Morning all."  She smiled at the older woman.  "You must be Modo's mother.  I'm Charley."  She shook the older mouse's hand.  "He talks about you a lot."

"Good!  It's proper for a son to do," she said, shaking away her shock.  So her son was that kinky.  It was further than his grandfather had ever went.  "Sit and eat, dear."  She got her some food, dishing it out on the last plate in the cupboard.  "How did you meet my son?"

"They came to get their bikes fixed," she said with a grin for Vinnie.  "Someone needed more work than the others and wasn't admitting it."

"Mine only needed a few scratches fixed," he defended.  "Momma, tell her to quit picking on me."

"Vinnie, you're made for picking on," she chided, but she was smiling.  She hugged her son as he came back in.  "Did that poor bike out there need a lot of help?"

"A few seals, an oil change and a tuneup," Charley told her.  "Nothing very unroutine.  How does the gum look?"

Stoker looked at her.  "It's frozen and it'll chip."

"Then as soon as I've got him done, I'll pull those out and chip off the gum.  I should be able to get the weapons rebuilt this afternoon.  I'll start pulling the engine today to look at it, then order anything I can, which means it should be in by Wednesday."  She smiled.  "So by Friday all I should have is some body work if I'm interrupted by a lot of paying customers."

"If so by Sunday definitely," Modo agreed.  "We're still here to help and I know Momma won't be against coming into the garage with us as long as we can bring her a chair."  His mother smiled and gave him a pat, adding more coffee to his cup. "Thanks, Momma."  He grinned at Charley, then at Stoker. "How long are you here for this time, old man?"

"Two weeks.  For now, I want to get her up to the level of your backup.  Then you guys can finish her training to whip tail with the group."  He casually sipped his coffee, looking at Charley.  "That good with you?"

"Just fine," she agreed.  "I've wanted to go before, but you know how over-protective these guys are."  Stoker and Rimfire both nodded, smirking at her.  "Now I'll get to do more than play bait and sneak into the tower to get someone out.  Or sneaking out to free myself while they're destroying things."

"Sounds like a plan to me," Throttle agreed.  He noticed Vinnie and Modo both looked uncomfortable with that idea. "She'll be fine.  Her bike is a veteran off Mars.  I'm sure it was trained by Stoker too."  Stoker nodded.  "So we'll mesh fine."

"Relax, Modo, we'd never give her anything but an experienced bike," Stoker told him.  "We all know how often the stinkfish turns his gaping eye toward her."

"There was someone who wanted to give her a new one, but a lot of people didn't like giving a human one at all.  Until it was pointed out that she was working with you guys as support personnel down here.  That alleviated that argument pretty quick and the Council pretty much decided on a bike that needed to be retired to lesser combat for her gift," Rimfire explained.  "Then my partner got taken. It was between hers and another bike, but that one was a monster and it needs to go to a big time warrior, like Uncle Modo."

"Polish died," Stoker said bitterly.  "His bike nearly went with him but it managed to make it somehow.  Totally burnt out its engine trying to get to him again."  Everyone hung their heads, he had been a great warrior.

"Someone will pay for that insult," Vinnie vowed.

"They did, bro, don't worry about it," Stoker said, patting him on the back.  "Relax about that.  We did the raid in his honor and they were destroyed to a man."  Vinnie calmed down again and nodded.  "His bike's still in repair.  This one was deemed better for her since it was used to some sneak attacks and it needed a lot less work from the factory people."

"It needed work up there?" she asked.

"It had a small glitch in its programing that needed to be fixed," Stoker told her.  "Nothing serious, but every bike that switches owners like this has to have a few switches flipped back to the 'ready' position and we only trust them to do it."  She nodded.  "How did you two get along last night?"

"She stayed on the recharging cord most of yesterday and then I made sure she was comfortable before I went upstairs.  The one cannon is back on and fully cleaned down to the interior casing.  The other needs some scraping but we'll be fine to handle that if you wanted to take Momma out and show her around."  Modo grinned at her for that.

Stoker nodded.  "Okay.  You've probably seen enough of their bikes.  Momma, wanna see the rest of Chicago?  There's a few parks."

"I wouldn't mind in the least, but I demand that the boys come with us."

"That's fine," Modo agreed.  "You can ride behind me, Momma."

"Good boy."  She pinched his cheek and smiled at Charley.  "I'll be back in time for lunch."

"Don't worry about it, I'll probably work through it today," she offered.  "Replacing the seals won't take that much time on that human bike and I'll be scraping gum by then."  She nodded.  "Rimfire, are you staying to help?"

"Sure.  I need to learn more of this anyway," he agreed.  She nodded.  "Yes, Charley ma'am," he told her.  "I can run errands for you too."

"Sure, I could use that sort of help."  She took her coffee out to the garage, patting her bike.  "Morning, dear."  It beeped so she disconnected the charging cord.  "You should be full by now and you can have it back tonight," she promised.  "How do you feel this morning?"  Her beep was a bit stronger.  "Good.  Want to watch me work on this human bike?  That way you can figure out how I'm going to treat you, other than what the other bikes have told you."  It rolled after her, coming to help.  "Good.  Give me a bit more room.  I've got to change her oil and replace some seals I think."  She set her cup down and grabbed the usual tools and drip pan.  She drained the oil while she got into the combustion chambers, wincing at the seals.  "Ow.  Poor thing."  She pulled off the first one and winced as it fell apart.  "Rimfire, I will need you to run to the store right now," she called.  He came out with his helmet in hand.  She pried off another one, handing it over carefully. "I need four of those. Tell him I'll need a few spark plugs for a ...."  She looked at her bike.  "May I take one of the bad ones?"  It opened its crankcase for her and she used a tool to pop one out.  "Tell him I'll need four of these.  Two are an immediate need."  He nodded.  "Plus tell him I'm going to be running low on oil by this weekend."  He nodded.  "Thanks.  Do you know where the parts store is?"

"Throttle showed me yesterday."  He hopped on his bike and zipped off, letting in the human.

"Hi," she said, smiling at him.  "I was right, your seals are shot.  One disintegrated."

"How much?  Not that money's an object or anything."

"The cost of parts, plus labor and oil, probably about a round hundred?"  He nodded, that sounded reasonable.  "It'll probably be about another two hours to tune her up if the parts store has seals in stock, which it should this time of year."  He nodded again.  "Want to come back after lunch, just in case?"

"I can do that," he agreed happily.  "I'll tell my wife you said hi."

"Sure, tell her I've got a new paint supplier too if she's still considering repainting the old bike.  They do some custom paints."  He beamed and trotted out to catch a cab.  She looked over as Modo came out to help her.  "His wife is one of the biggest people in the local motoclub.  She's got an ancient Harley that she's been fixing up.  One of the first models."  He whistled.  "Yeah, it's a pretty piece but it needs a new paint job I think.  Rimfire should be back in about an hour.  If the clerks aren't confused."

He laughed.  "I'm sure he'll repeat what you said.  He's good at that."  He gave her a gentle kiss.  "You behave and be safe."

"Have fun with your mother.  She seems very nice."   She smiled at him then got back into the engine, prying off the bad seals so they could be cleaned and new ones put on.  "He'll need a new fuel injector in the next few years too," she said thoughtfully.  "I'll warn him, make a list of things that'll need fixed soon but not immediately.  He's used this bike pretty hard."  She paused to stroke her bike.  "See, I'm not mean to the bikes."  Its beep sounded like laughter.  "Human bikes aren't more than machines, but you guys are special.  I figure you're like teenagers most of the time."  The bike turned to look at her so she glanced at it.  "Not fully capable of doing everything on your own, but with some guidance you're ready for nearly anything.  After all, you still need humans to pump gas and change things."  The bike snickered again and nodded its front wheel.  "Besides, teenagers are adventurous."  She leaned closer.  "Think Vinnie as he is now.  That's about what a human teenage boy is like."  The bike let out a lot of laughing beeps this time, shaking its front wheel.  "See, I knew we'd get along."  She banged a part with her screwdriver and grimaced.  "Sorry, girl," she said, giving it a pat.  "Didn't mean to do that."  She went back to her cleaning, checking on the progress of the oil.  She got up to get a dowel rod, something that was already stained with oil, and poked the opening to clear the gunk in it.  "Figures he hadn't changed it in forever."

Modo came back out with his mother.  "He said he did, he just used the cheap stuff."

"Ah.  No wonder the old oil clogged."  She rolled her eyes.  "Probably only a partial change since the old stuff was sludge."  She grinned at Modo's mother.  "Have a nice trip and you make sure he takes you to the park."

"Oh, I will.  I've missed seeing trees," she promised.  She got on the back of Modo's bike with her helmet and he took off with a wave for her.  The others were going to ride around but she wanted to talk to him and they knew that.  She smiled at the school they were passing and all the children playing outside, grabbing onto him as he sped up.  She'd speak to him about showing off too.  He took her to the park, as promised, and let her get off first before turning to lean on his bike.  She took off her helmet and looked at him.  "A human, son?"

He nodded, giving her a desperate look.  "I love her, momma."

"I can tell, you kissed her in front of me," she said with a smile.  "I don't mind, son, but I want to know what you see in her so I can look for those things."

His mouth worked a few times, then he sighed. "I can't put it into words."

She nodded and hugged him.  "Just like your daddy."   He hugged her back, relaxing in her arms.  "I don't mind, son.  She's adorable and she obviously cares for you if she grooms you that well."  She felt him blush and pulled back to laugh.  "She doesn't?"

"No, she does," he admitted.  "She's really gentle with me too.  Got all sorts of knots out that first time."

"And I bet Vinnie never let you forget it either."

"No, but I got him back," he admitted with a grin.  "You need to have this talk with Rimfire about his lady friend."

She rolled her eyes.  "I know about her. It's stress relief and I doubt he'll ever change, but I have hopes.  After all, look how long it took me to see you settled down."  He blushed again. "You're not?"

"We just started dating, momma!"

She laughed, shaking her head.  "Son, marry the girl.  She obviously cares about you if she's grooming you."

"Momma, she started out on that.  There's a lot of stuff I don't know about her people yet too."


"They don't groom, they bathe.  I think she sees grooming as some sort of enticement or something."

"You told her what about it?"  His blush got brighter.  "Son?"

"That it was intimate, between lovers," he said, looking down at his boots.  He looked up, seeing the wiseness that his mother held.  "Besides, they've got funny wedding rituals.  What's an engagement except a date?"

"I think it's a period before the wedding while you're planning it, son.  The same as it is for us."  He looked confused.  "That's what we call it too.  It's like you've made an appointment to get married and you're settling all the details in that time."

"Oh."  He nodded, that made sense.   "I don't know what they give for betrothing presents."

"I'm sure she'd love whatever you give her, son," she promised.  He shook his head. "No?  Is she that picky?"

"No!" he defended.  "But I want it to be special."

"Then give her your grandmother's earring."  He gaped and she smiled, handing it over.  "I thought you might want it some day so I saved it."  She kissed him on the forehead.  "Is she gentle and sweet with you, Modo?"  He nodded, looking into her eyes.  "Do you want to call her name instead of mine?"  He blushed and nodded.  "Then get that girl and tie her with your tail before Vinnie snatches her."

"He tried and they're friends; she's a bro, Momma."

"I can tell."  She winked.  "Now, do we have to nag you about children?"

"We talked about that last night."


"Stoker brought it up, Momma."

"He would.  There's a good push to put old veterans, and especially the prominent ones, on a different pedestal.  There's been a lot of suggestions about him adopting a few children because he did so well taming you three.  I think he mostly came down here to escape all the women with unmarried daughters.  Not that he'd make a bad husband but it'd have to be another veteran and probably another biker."  She smiled at him. "Fortunately you've found someone who understands you most of the time.  Now, what about my future grandbabies?"

He shifted uncomfortably.  "We agreed I could adopt as many orphans as we wanted and if I got pushed by those people who won't like her because she's human, then I can have one or two and she'll be the momma to them."

"Good," she agreed firmly.  "You'll need to add onto that garage, son.  I don't have any idea where you'd set them otherwise."  He blushed.  "I'm sure you'll figure that out too."  She tweaked a whisker, making him shiver.  "You behave.  No dirty thoughts of your woman around me, hear?"  He nodded frantically, blushing again.  "Good boy.  Now, tell Momma about how you two met."

"We went to her to get some minor work done to the bikes after we crashed," Modo told her, pulling her down beside him to lean against the seat.


Everyone reappeared just after lunch, finding Charley asleep on her bike's seat and her bike's weapons mostly back together again.  One of the nozzles was still off.  Throttle put a finger against his lips as he snuck up on them, bending to finish fixing that while Modo picked her up and took her upstairs to take a nap.  When Modo came back downstairs, Vinnie grinned at him.  "Kept her up last night?"

"No," he scoffed.  "It was a short night.  One of the neighborhood kids got trapped out after a school dance so he came running here when someone tried to get him.  I took him home.  Then gunshots went off most of the night.  Neither of us got much sleep."  He turned and walked over, picking his girlfriend up and taking her back to bed since she was wandering down to start working again.  "Stay this time."

She blinked at him. "Modo?"  She looked at the clock. "I need to work on my bike."

"Let us pamper the poor thing for a bit," he said gently, tucking her in.  "Neither of us got much sleep last night."  He dropped a kiss on her forehead.  "You rest.  Come down after a good nap.  We'll be here."  He grinned and trotted down the stairs, going to help.  He saw the piles of parts she had laid out and winced. "All that?"  Her bike beeped.  "We'll do what we can until she comes down."

"Let her," Stoker told him.

"Stoker, I want her bike in as good of order as mine is," he said firmly, looking up at him. "Just because she needs a nap doesn't mean she won't be doing most of the work. I'm not a mechanic."

"Calm down," his mother soothed.  "Stoker, behave or I'll tell all those unmarried women where you're hiding.  It's no wonder you got down here faster than most ships can reasonably go and didn't stop to take me."

Vinnie looked at him.  "Unmarried women are hunting you?"

"There's a push to get all us old soldiers married and raising kids.  The orphan situation is getting out of hand already."

"The war's not half over."

"Yes, but there's already two generations who know nothing but the war," Stoker reminded him. "That's a quote by the way.  They figured that since I did such a good job with you screwballs that I'd do a good job with some of the kids.  Since they've been pushing it, I've been hunted by women."

"Man! I need to go back to Mars for a few months!" Vinnie said, starting to pout.

"To do what?  Come back with a wife and six kids, plus one on the way the natural way?" Throttle asked.  Vinnie shuddered, wrapping his tail around himself for comfort.

"Look at it this way, teach. A whole new generation to warp into excellent Freedom Fighters," Modo said, getting back to work.  They all looked up when they heard a squeal of tires.  "Momma, go upstairs," he called.  He patted the bike.  "You too, go hide. You're not in any shape to fight and I want you defending the ladies."  The bike headed into the kitchen, placing itself in the way of the stairs.  They all grabbed weapons, aiming at the door until someone pounded on it.  Modo looked around but no one else was moving so he went.  He gun went down to his side as he peeked out, then he grimaced.  "Relax, it's Rimfire."  He let him inside.  "Showing off?"

"No!  Getting away from the school kids," he panted.  He brought his bike inside, walking it.  "I ran out of gas next to the school and my tail decides to come out of hiding while I'm being frustrated.  One of the kids shouted 'tail' and the other little biters came over to try and pet me!  I had to come back on auxiliary power!"

Modo patted him on the back.  "Humans have mice but they're very small.  They use them in all sorts of things, including experiments and psychology mazes."  He closed the door.

"They do?" Stoker asked.  Modo nodded. "Any sign of intelligence?"

"They use them in psychology experiments, but I don't think they have any hard core intelligence.  They don't respond to music.  They still have litters and Charley ma'am said that they sometimes eat their young if there's too much competition for nest space."  Everyone shuddered.  "I didn't run into that in the book I read in the library."

Throttle shook his head.  "I didn't even know they had mice."

"Yeah, they do.  They're either pests, pets, or lab rats."

"She knows we're not like that, right?" Stoker asked.  Modo nodded quickly.  He sighed. "Good.  It's safe," he called.  Momma and the bike both came out.  "She still asleep?  She nodded, patting the new bike gently.  "Don't do that, it's a warrior."

"If someone had patted you that way, you'd probably still be fighting. A good pat or some good grooming makes you feel young again," she told him firmly.  He groaned and nodded, hanging his head. "Good.  Now all you need is one of those nice girls to come take care of your fur.  It's pitiful, Stoker.  You've got knots all over."

"Momma," he moaned.

"Tough.  Modo, sweetheart, where's the brush you have?"

"I've only got the really soft one upstairs.  Charley used a comb on mine."  He went to get it off her dresser, tiptoeing around the bed.  She grabbed him and put him onto the bed next to her, kissing him.  "Mmm.  Morning, sweetheart."  She smiled and kissed him again.  "Go back to sleep, it was only Rimfire escaping the neighborhood kids.  They saw his tail and wanted to pet him."  She laughed and gave him a hug, then let him go.  "Thanks.  Momma's gonna make Stoker shiny so he can find a decent woman among those who're chasing him."  He winked as he headed back down the stairs, handing over the comb and the brush.  "Come on, Rimfire."

"Yes, Uncle Modo."  He leaned closer to his uncle.  "You don't think Grandmomma's sweet on Stoker, do you?"

Modo paused, looked at him funny, then burst out laughing.  "You need your head examined.  You've been on the front lines way too long, kid."  He gave his head a nudge.  "Go ask Throttle that, I dare you."

Rimfire smirked.  "Why not, Auntie Charley ma'am dared me to tell you about the hiding thing yesterday."  He got up and went to where Throttle was examining Rimfire's bike. "It's only out of gas.  I'll get some as soon as I can get a ride."  He leaned closer.  "Uncle Modo wouldn't anser me.  Do you think Grandmomma's sweet on Stoker?"

Throttle did the same funny look/laugh/nudge thing Modo had done.  "No, or at least I hope not.  Hey, Vinnie."  He came jogging over.  "He wanted to know if we thought Momma was sweet on Stoker."

Vinnie snickered.  "You need a real vacation, kid.  You're warped."  He walked away shaking his head, sticking it into the kitchen.  "Hey, Momma, you need to have a talk with Rimfire.  He wanted to know if you were sweet on Stoker."

She snorted.  "He could do worse but he's still a young pup, Vinnie.  I need a nice mouse my own age to twine tails with.  You go pounce him until I have that talk with him."

He laughed and went to pounce and pummel Rimfire.  "Momma said you're in trouble," he cackled, punching him in the stomach.

"Hey!  Grumpy brat.  You need a girlfriend!"  He slugged him back, getting into it.

Modo and Throttle sighed and jumped in, to help of course. "There's more to grooming than dating," Throttle said between blows.

"So Modo's getting married when?" Vinnie asked.  The whole group pounced him to beat him into submission, and he only laughed about it.

In the kitchen, Momma was shaking her head.  "Those boys," she sighed.  "I've said often enough that you might as well be one of mine.  Your own momma wouldn't let you out of the house looking like this so I'd better take over since she's not here."  He swallowed and she pinched him.  "You behave, Stoker, or I'll let Carbine tell them where you are."  He whimpered and nodded. "Good boy.  Now lean forward, let me get the rest of your back.  This comb's pretty good for not being a curry comb."

He held his head in his hands, letting her do whatever she wanted.  He felt like a little boy now and there was no getting away from Momma when she was determined.  He'd probably have to fight off another pack of women soon.  His fur always looked really good when she did it for him.  Much better than he did on his own, not that he normally cared about such things.  He wasn't Vinnie, he didn't take a few hours each day to shine his coat.


Later that night, Momma sat down with Charley in the garage while she worked on getting the engine back together again.  "So, you love my son?"  Charley nodded, glancing at her.  "I don't mind that you're human, dear.  Some will but I'm not that picky.  I'm just happy my Modo's found someone worthy of him."  She smiled when Charley grinned at her.  "Now, granted, there's going to be some strangeness and awkwardness from those things we do differently.  You do a good job on his fur by the way."  Charley blushed at that.  "Oh, don't do that.  It's every mate's right to groom her mate's fur to make him look hot for her."  The blush got brighter but she ignored it.  "Lands above, girl, I used to spend *hours* grooming Modo's daddy until he glowed brighter than Vinnie in the moonlight."  She smiled at her.  "Another thing, that him calling out for me?  It'll go away.  His daddy did that too for the first three years and then my name started to replace hers," she assured her with a grin.  "Caused the most problems because we had to stay with his momma for a bit while we were building our house.  She used to run out whenever he called out to her in the middle of the night.  Needless to say, I won't be doing that," she said, staring down the young woman until she got the point.  The blush was now bright red and warm all the way down her chest.  "Good girl.  If you need any help translating, you just let me know."

"I thought grooming was a dating thing."

She chuckled. "He thought you might.  No, it's the next step up.  Dating is dating, but grooming is for something more serious.  You like my boy that way?"  Charley nodded.  "Good.  How do you do engagements?"

She spluttered. "Isn't that moving really fast?"

"Yeah, but this way he has time to plan. I know my baby boy.  He couldn't tell me why he loved you, but it was clear he did.  You only love someone that way once in your life and you're never sure why it seems."  Charley swallowed and nodded. "Now, how do you do it down here, dear?"

"Um, usually a ring.  I guess others accept some things.  Then there's the meeting of the parents, the planning, things like that.  Do you guys do Church weddings?"  She shrugged.  "I don't mind, I'm not particularly religious most of the time."

She smiled.  "Good girl.  We usually do earrings.  That bother you?"  Charley shook her head quickly.  "Good girl.  You'll fit right in.  Pretty soon no one will realize you're not a mouse, except that you don't have antenna or a tail."  She stood up with a groan.  "Let me get these old bones up to bed.  You sleep sometime soon.  Don't let him sleep alone no more."

"I was going to put this part back together and let her charge for another night."

"Good girl.  Hurry up, you can show me where I'm sleeping."

"Well, we have a spare room but the bed's hard.  We can stay in there if you want."

"No, it'll do my back good," she promised.  "You have little mice around here I hear.  Do they nest?"  Charley nodded as she worked quickly and efficiently.  "You can slow down a bit, dear.  I'm not that impatient."  She chuckled as Charley sped up and patted the bike, plugging it back in.  "She done?"

"For the night.  I'll need to rebuild a few more things before I can get to the bodywork and we'll have to figure out which dents she wants to keep as a badge of honor."  She walked the older woman up the stairs.  "I do love him," she said quietly.

"I figured it'd have to be something that strong to get past that species barrier.  Neither of you are the sort to jump at whatever pretty thing twitches its tail at you."  She opened the door they were standing beside. "You go cuddle my boy into the bed.  He needs to be hugged more often."  She went in and closed the door, locking it.

Charley walked into her bedroom, their bedroom, and paused to smile at Modo.  He was already asleep, one arm curled around her pillow.  She stripped down to her underwear and climbed in, wiggling until she took the pillow's place, laying on his good arm because it made the best pillow.  He moaned and pulled her closer, kissing her.  "I didn't mean to wake you."

"Didn't, Momma did."  He kissed her again, opening his eyes.  "You okay?"

"A bit embarrassed but I'm sure my father would have done the same thing if he were around."  She stroked his face, making him smile.  "You can go back to sleep if you want."

He nodded.  "We should.  We've got another long day tomorrow."

"I'll want to check the piston I just put together before I do anything.  Remind me?"  He nodded, pulling her closer.  "Thanks, Modo."

"Love you too."  He kissed her again and closed his eyes, holding her like his personal teddy bear.  She snuggled in and wrapped her arms around him too, making him smile.  "Comfy?"  She nodded against his chest.  "Good.  Let's nap before Rimfire manages to come back for a fifth time."  She chuckled and kissed the spot she was resting on. "Do you mind an earring?"  She shook her head.  "Good."  He grinned as she fell asleep, glancing at the box on the table next to him.  He'd have to do that tomorrow, before Momma had to leave.


The next morning, no one came to wake them up.  No one did more than smirk at them as they came down already dressed.  No one said anything to them so Momma must have set down the law and stopped Vinnie and Rimfire cold before they could start.  Modo stayed standing once Charley was seated, grinning down at her.  "Charley ma'am, would you do me the honor of mating me?" he asked shyly, holding out the box.  She gaped and a tear dripped but she couldn't do more than squeak.

"That's a yes, son," his mother said wisely.

"Yes," she finally managed, hugging him and pulling him down to kiss as hard as she could.  She moaned into his mouth when he joined in, letting him pull her back up.

"No mating right now," Momma ordered.  "Do that after you eat.  That poor baby will take another few days anyway, one more hour won't hurt her."

"You need to check the piston you did last night," Modo mumbled into her lips, making her smile and dive in for more.

"Modo!" she snapped.  He pulled back and grinned at her.  "Not that I mind, but you need to eat to do that, son, or she'll lose weight.  She's already a bit too thin.  Now sit the girl down and figure out who's doing the piercing."

"You're his mother," Stoker pointed out.  "A relative always comes before bros."

She snorted. "I haven't pierced anyone in years, son, not since my daughter was pregnant with Rimfire.  I'll defer."  She looked at Throttle and Vinnie, both of who were wiggling.

Modo looked down at her. "One of them will have to do it.  Vinnie, who did yours?"

"My first girlfriend's mother.  She knew they weren't for mating."

"I've done a few," Throttle offered.  Carbine spit out her coffee.  "For friends who didn't have family," he assured her.  "Not for a mate."  He smirked at him.  "Want me to?"  He looked at Charley.  "I'll be as delicate as I can, Charley girl."  She nodded.  "Good.  Show her the thing, you didn't even show her."

Modo opened the box and everyone gasped.  "That's Great-Grandmomma's earring," Rimfire said in awe.

"If you had gotten off your tail and found a mate, you could have had it first," Momma told him.  "I know I won't be around when you do so you can have mine, Rimfire."

"Grandmomma, you'll be there," he promised her.

"Not with the way you and your woman are going," she snorted. "Modo will be as old as I am now when you finally get ready to settle down."  She patted him on the head.  "Charley?"

"It's beautiful," she gasped, touching the small silver band with stones put into it.  "It's almost like an eternity band."

"Those rings with the stones all the way around?" Throttle asked.  She nodded, glancing at him then staring at the ring.  "Got a needle?"   Momma handed over a wrapped package.  "Always prepared?"

"I knew I'd need one if I needed the other," she said with a fond smile for her son.

Throttle got a piece of ice and numbed the spot carefully then took the needle and blew on it before picking the right spot for a mating ring on the top curve of her ear.  The needle went through quickly and Charley only had time to gasp before he slid the earring in.  "You'll need to find him something soon, Charley girl.  He'll never live it down if you don't. I'll make sure this needle's clean so I can do his."  He carefully rewrapped it and put it aside.  "Now we need to plan the ceremony."  Modo moaned.

"That's my job," Vinnie said happily. "Momma can help.  That way we get it done before Rimfire has to leave.  That way Carbine doesn't beat him for asking for more time off."

Carbine, who had been hiding beside Stoker, shook her head.  "If I could grant it, I would, hotshot.  We all know that."  She looked at Modo.  "You happy with her?"  He nodded.  "Good.  Then I won't say anything.  Now, shouldn't you be taking care of that bike?"

"Let the girl eat, Carbine.  Even if she put in a pin upside down, it'll be fine.  She can easily fix it."

"I did?" Charley asked, heading out to check it.

"Daughter, get your tail back in here," Momma called.  "That can wait I said."

She gave her a sheepish look.  "Sorry, Momma."  She walked back, letting Modo sit her down.  "I don't want to hurt her."

"You're not, she's going well enough and I didn't see you make a mistake last night, it was a possibility, not a surety.  Son, feed your girl.  Now."

"Yes, momma," he agreed, dishing her up some food.  He grinned at her.  "Silver is appropriate.  I'll like anything."

She got up and headed upstairs, looking through her jewelry box.  She found a set of earrings she had been given by her father and touched the top of the case gently, then headed down.  "These are from my father, my sixteenth birthday present," she said, holding out the box.  He sniffled as he took them, smiling at the diamond studs inside.  "If you want, you can have one."  He hugged her, pulling her into his lap for a long kiss and a hug.

Throttle got up to look at them.  "It might rub on your helmet so I'll put it a bit down," he offered.  Modo waved a hand and Vinnie laughed, getting up to give Charley a shove at the right moment.  Throttle picked up the needle and wiped it off, then positioned it and nodded to Vinnie, who gave her a light nudge back into Modo's body, making them both moan and ignore Throttle completely.  The stud was in and the needle cleaned off again before Modo realized his ear was now heavier by about half a carat of diamond.  He reached up to touch it, then grinned. "That's what bros are for," he reminded him as he sat down. "Do you like, Momma?"

"I adore it, dears.  It suits him and has a lot of meaning for them both."  She nuzzled both of them on the top of the head.  "Now eat so you can celebrate properly once her engine is back together again."  They dug in, and she smiled at Stoker.  "I will do yours since your mother's not around and they won't be up there."  His eyes went wide and he shook his head.  "Oh, yes, I will," she said firmly.

"Give up, man, you won't win this one," Vinnie said happily.  "Hey, Carbine, think I could get a good woman right about now?"

"Not if she's heard of you, hotshot."

He pouted. "I'm a good mouse."

"You are, but you're still fighting and they're wanting *retired* warriors.  That's why Stoker is in such high demand.  He's paving the way for you three to get mates."

"Three?" Modo asked, staring her down.  She swallowed.  "I know you won't hurt my bro that way, Carbine."

"I'd never hurt him but this is a war, Modo, and bad things happen to the fighters in it.  If something happened, I'd want him to go on."  She and Throttle locked stare.  "Got it?"

"Yes, General," he said bitterly.

"Good."  She kicked him under the table.  "If not, they'll be retiring me in another ten years."  She smiled.  He snorted, shaking his head.  "Or possibly sooner if I get really injured."

"If you do, we'll kill more of them for you," Vinnie promised.

"Thanks, hotshot, knew I could count on you.  Now eat before Modo's momma gets upset and has to swat us all."

"Swatting Vinnie's a waste of energy," Modo said dryly.  "He never listens."

"How about an incentive then?" Charley offered. "If I get the engine back and purring properly, then we can all go for a ride later?"  They all nodded, agreeing to help.  That bike had been in bad shape when it had come in, it could probably use it.

"I think we've got the hardest things done with getting the gum out of the guns," Modo said quietly, patting her on the back with his tail.  It slid up the back of her shirt until his mother tweaked his ear, making him wince.  Then it went back to stroking her back on top of her shirt.  Vinnie gave him a grin between bites.  "Like you wouldn't," he snorted.

"Each and every time," he said proudly. "Just not with your mother standing behind me."

"Behave, Vincent, or I won't make that pie you like for dinner," she warned.  He shut up and dug into his breakfast like the good boy he pretended to be.   She sat down beside her new daughter-in-law and patted her on the hand.  "Sometimes you just have to know how to manage him."

She nodded. "I usually withhold the hotdogs."

Momma nodded.  "I've often thought of that."  She swatted Rimfire with her tail.  "You, eat.  You can stare at your aunt later."

"I was looking at the earring," he defended.

"Then get off your tail and find a *real* woman, grandson.  I'd like to see you mated before I die."  He blushed and nodded, ducking back into his breakfast.  "Carbine, you're a nice young woman most of the time, don't you know anyone you can introduce him to?"

"I've tried," she offered.  Momma sighed.  "He seems to like the slightly naughty.  Give him a woman like Vinnie anyday."

"There's an idea, punk, the next time you're captured, ask them to change you into a girl.  You'd find some biker stud nearly instantly that way."  Vinnie glared at him so he grinned meanly.  "What?  Don't think they'd do it?"

"Enough," Charley ordered.  "I won't have you picking on Vinnie at the table.  Mostly because I don't want to replace dishes when he pounces you, but that's not nice, Stoker."

"Sorry, Charley ma'am," he said respectfully.  Now he knew why Modo had gotten her, she was *exactly* like his own mother.

She patted Vinnie's hand. "Don't worry, if they take you again and even think about making you a girl, I'm gonna kill them all."  He grinned and nodded, relaxing again.

"With help of course," Modo offered.  Vinnie smirked at him. "Hey, I'm not letting her have all the fun."

"Too true," Rimfire agreed.  "If they even think about it, I'm gonna be there too, Vinnie.  It'd be pitiful for the most studly mammajammer ever to be turned into a girl."

"Thanks, guys."  He sniffled a bit.  "I'll get Stoker for that later."

"In your dreams."

"Not at the table," Charley snapped.  Vinnie settled down again, he had been about to pounce.  "Thank you.  Making me go shopping irritates me and we all know this."

"Sorry, dear," Vinnie said, grinning at her.  Modo gave him a look and he smirked. "She takes that from me."

"I can still whip your tail," Modo reminded him.  She pinched him and he winced.  "Ow!"

"No picking on Vinnie, he's doing it on purpose to make you pounce him and get you in trouble, which means we can't go for a ride today."  Modo nodded, eating one handed so that one could stay behind her back.  His mother and Throttle both grinned at him for being so see-through.  Not that he minded, she was his and he was going to prove it each and every way he could.

"You know, we'll have to change the ceremony," Vinnie pointed out.  "That whole tying the tails together part won't exactly work for them. I remember the last one we *had* to appear at a big deal was made of it."

"We can do wrists," Momma offered.

"Or hands and wrists," Charley offered.

"I like that," Modo agreed.  "It's symbolic anyway."   He looked at her. "How do you guys do that?"

"Depends on the faith and level of it," she told him.  He blinked a few times.  "Seriously.  Many different faiths.  Many different brands of each faith.  There's a core ceremony I suppose.  Vows, ring exchange, kiss, you're a couple."

"Maybe we can head to the library and find a book on that," Throttle offered.  "We've had to do it before."

"Too true," Vinnie sighed. "Humans can be really confusing now and then, Momma."

"It's a whole different species and I'm sure they feel the same way about us sometimes.  Even with our pared down version of things as they stand."  Charley nodded. "What do you do when that happens?"

"I ask Throttle."

"A good idea," Momma agreed.  "Now, about those grandbabies?"  Modo swallowed hard.  She chuckled. "I know, not yet, son, but you'll have to think about adding on upstairs."

"At least to give Grandmomma a room," Rimfire agreed.  "I want her off Mars, Uncle Modo," he said when Modo and Charley looked at him. "Somewhere I know she's safe."

Charley nodded. "I can see that.  We can work that out later."  She put a hand on Modo's thigh, making him nod.  "Maybe adding a level isn't so bad?"

"No, not a bad idea," he agreed.  "That way Momma can ignore us and have her own space," Modo offered.  His mother smiled and pinched him.  "Momma!"

"Son, I would never dream of living with you for the rest of my life.  You'd never feel comfortable to celebrate with your wife again."

"That's why we'd add on the new floor," Charley promised her.  "With some sound proofing."  Momma burst out in giggles, hugging her.

Modo nodded.  "I can see that."

"We'd get good meals all the time," Vinnie pointed out.

"She's not here to be your personal cook," Modo said firmly.

"No, but she accepts begging," Vinnie said with a grin.  "And I do it so well."

Rimfire nodded.  "So we've seen."  He smirked at him.  "That means I'd have to come down for real food too."

"You eat well enough in the mess," Stoker said dryly.

"Yeah, but nothing beats Grandmomma's cooking," Rimfire defended.

"True," the bros agreed, making Stoker and Carbine roll their eyes.

Charley finished her last bite and scraped her plate. "I'll see you guys in there."  She went to check on her bike, unplugging her and checking that piston first.  Fortunately it was put together correctly so she went back to work on the other parts, making her one happy bike.  "You doing okay this morning?"  She got a polite beep and looked at it.  "Not happy with me?" she asked.  The bike leaned against her.  "I like you too.  We'll do fine.  Just think, we'll be training together soon."  The bike revved happily then went back to the 'off' state so her engine could be fully repaired.  When Charley was done, it was nearly dusk but the engine purred like a newborn kitten.  She stood up and looked around.  "I think she'll do fine now."  They all cheered and hugged her.  "Want to watch the sunset?"

"Nah, we saw dunebuggies earlier roaming this part of town," Vinnie said with a smirk.  "We were gonna go do that.  Wanna come watch?"  Her bike beeped in alarm. "You won't have to join in.  Promise, little one."

Charley patted her.  "We don't have to if you aren't ready."  The bike revved up and Charley grabbed her helmet, gently straddling the leather seat.  The engine puttered a bit but steadied after a second.  "You okay?  We can stay."  The others zoomed off and she turned her around, pointing her at the door.  "It's okay.  There shouldn't be any fighting this time."  Her bike followed, letting her shut the door and turn on the alarm by remote.  They were a good few minutes behind everyone else when the bike sped up and caught up to Rimfire's.  She nodded at him.  "She have a lot of PTSD?" she called.  He nodded.  "I thought it might be."  She veered off to the back line while the main guys fought, idling near Stoker to make sure no one caught them from behind or the sides.  The three dunebuggy units were quickly shrapnel and the goons running.  None of the big ones had been there so it hadn't been more than a routine patrol out to cause trouble.  Her bike fired at one's retreating behind, making him howl and move faster.  She laughed and patted the crankcase.  "Feel better now?  That's most of what we do down here, except for the common rescue and tearing down the building."

"You know, we haven't done that recently," Vinnie said, looking at tower.  "Shoot, he's still rebuilding."  He snapped his fingers.  "Where's the fun in that?"  He noticed Charley's bike moving forward an inch at a time and coughed, nodding at Modo and Throttle.

"No," Throttle ordered.  "Give him a fair shot, it's more fun."  The bike stopped and let out a whine.

Charley gave her a gentle stroke.  "Give it a month, we'll see some action then.  By then you'll be more than ready for it.  Trust me."  The bike relented and they headed back, Rimfire agreeing to pick up some soda since he liked doing errands down here.  He had volunteered to do many of them so he must.  Either that or he was escaping the adults to hang with people his own age.


That night, Modo was gently holding his girlfriend when she rolled him onto his back and kissed him.  "Charley?"

"Now, Modo.  I want to celebrate with you."  He grinned and moved closer, kissing and cuddling her.  "Your mother promised not to interrupt, no matter how often you call for her and I want to try more things."  She grinned and leaned down to nip at his neck, making him grunt and shift up to wrap himself around her fully. "Liked that?"

"Oh, yeah," he agreed roughly, doing the same to her neck.  She moaned and he chuckled, licking over the spot.  "Too bad you don't like to lick fur."  She took a lick then shook her head.  "Didn't think so.  That's okay."  He flipped her onto her back, going down to look at what he had been playing with in the shower the morning before.  It was pretty, and quite welcoming.  He dove in to taste her some more, this was kind of addicting in some ways.  She was squealing and squeaking above him while grabbing onto the bed as hard as she could.  He was pleased, but she'd have to build up some stamina soon.  He had been gentle with her so far and tonight he wanted to really celebrate.


The next morning, Modo came down alone and whispered in his mother's ear, getting the juice she had been pouring for her.  "You heard?"

"It was hard not to," she assured him dryly.  "She okay?"

"Just really tired," he said with a grin.  "Apparently they're a bit less in the stamina department but I'm working on it."  He carried the juice upstairs so she could have the fluids she was pleading for.   He ran her a bath and set her into it, then remade the bed for them.  It had been very sweaty.  When he was done, he walked in there, climbing in with her, waking her up again.  "This good?"

"Very good," she agreed, wrapping his arms around her waist.  "I like this cuddling stuff, Modo."

"Good.  It's nice."  He shifted some, getting more under her.  She winced but let him do it.  "Tell me if I'm going too fast," he whispered in her ear.

"Not yet, but be gentle.  I'm a bit sore.  After all, you're huge, dear."

"I am not."

She leaned back so she could kiss under his chin. "You are.  Trust me, you are."  He chuckled weakly and she shifted around to replant herself.  "Not that I mind," she said with a grin, "but I'm still not used to having myself speared by such a large mouse."

He helped her slide down again.  "It's not a problem.  Tell me if I ever hurt you.  I know I'm bigger.  I looked in one of those art books with men in it while we were at the library.  Human men are really tiny."

She smiled.  "Only in relation to you."  He laughed and hugged her to his chest.  "Thanks."  She rested against his shoulder, letting him cuddle her however he wanted.  He finally moved and she groaned into his fur, giving it a gentle yank.  He moaned and shifted up again, making her clamp around him.  He chuckled and came down to play with her clit, that thing she had shown him, and that was more than enough for her.  She came and went back to sleep again.  He finished himself off and got comfortable, her wrapped around him for now.  Momma would come get them when something happened.


Downstairs, Momma was looking at her family.  "She's awfully tired this morning, boys."

"I looked over Modo's shoulder yesterday," Rimfire said grimly.  "Human guys have nothing on us.  Even their people for explicit things have nothing on us."  Momma frowned at him.  "Seriously!  It was in the library, in an art book."

"It's true," Vinnie agreed.  "I looked up some of their explicit stuff to figure out if we were compatible or not.  Human men only get off once."  Stoker shook his head sadly.  "Plus they're only about seven inches long hard."

"Or less," Rimfire put in.  "You've got to figure they put their biggest people in there."

"So she's adjusting to him intensity?" Momma asked.  Everyone nodded.  "Well at least he had the sense to put the girl into a bath.  Does anyone know how to run that clothes machine?  I can't figure out how to do that."

"I know," Throttle assured her.  "It's not that hard."  He grinned.  "You're staying?"

"Probably.  My baby boy will need me soon enough."

"We're not genetically compatible," Stoker reminded her.

"So?  Plenty of women will want him to be a daddy to their babies as soon as they hear he's settled down.  They'll be getting offers to adopt soon enough I'm sure."  Everyone at the table nodded, that was highly likely.   Everyone jumped when they heard the loud 'splash' from upstairs.  "Son?" Momma called.

"Fine, I'm getting her out and putting her back to bed," he called.  He came down a few minutes later, already dressed and dried off as much as he could.  "She's back asleep."

"I'll fix her a good lunch," she promised, patting him on the back.  "You eat for now."

"Yes, Momma."  He looked at the people staring at him.  "What?"

"She okay?" Vinnie asked.

"Fine, just tired," he said with a small blush.

"You'll have to let the poor girl sleep tonight," Stoker said with a mean grin.

Modo looked at him, then glanced to make sure his mother's back was turned, then popped his gun up.  "I'm sure she'll be just fine," he promised.  Stoker laughed and shook his head, leaving it alone and his gun was back down before his mother had turned around.  "So, what's today?"

"Body work and watching the garage," Throttle reminded him.

"I'll let her do that part.  It'll help her with her bike if she can talk to it more."  Modo dug in as soon as the food hit his plate, noticing that his mother had made him a meal fit for a newlywed.  He gave her a sly look.  "Daddy's favorite breakfast?"  She blushed and nodded.  He hugged her and then ate faster.  "Anything on today's plans?" he asked as he ate.

"Slow down, bro," Throttle said gently.  "She's not gonna disappear and neither is the food."  Modo grinned at him.  "Then again, you probably need it," he agreed.  Modo nodded.

Vinnie smirked.  "Should we start looking for furry bunny ears?"  Modo threw his fork at him and took Carbine's to use instead.  Vinnie laughed.  "Fine, I'll be nice, I'll only look for a big fluffy tail then."

"Try looking for a tail on her and be pounded, bro," Modo noted.

"Bro, you've got to calm down.  We're not gonna steal her from you.  Things are the same as they were before you two decided to groom each other.  We're buddies and bros.  She and us are too.  We're gonna pick on you two.  You can't keep getting jealous, or else you'll lose her," Throttle warned.  Modo sighed.  His mother patted him on the back.  "Some jealousy is good, but we'd never steal her from you, bro."

Modo nodded.  "I know, but I'm ...."

"Possessive because this is so new," his mother said gently.  "We understand, son.  It's normal.  Your daddy nearly took off his own daddy's head because he pinched my ear one day after he gave me my earring."  She stroked over the back of his head.  "Just relax.  You've picked a woman who won't run from you.  She won't cheat on you with your bros.  Besides, she likes to play with Vinnie, it keeps him sated and out of the hair of every other human on this planet."  Modo laughed at that while Vinnie roared and leaned against Rimfire.  "See, now just relax.  They can pick on her a bit.  She's more than able to tell them off.  You've seen her do it before and now she's a deeper part of the family.  If that girl can't tell them off, then she shouldn't be yours."

"No, she can," Modo agreed.  "I'm feeling like I should though."

"Never having felt this before, I can't give much advice, Uncle Modo, but chill.  If you act too possessive, Auntie Charley's going to kick your butt and then go for Throttle or Vinnie."  He looked hurt.  "You know she would.  She'd let them protect her from the anger you'd be feeling at her handing you back Great-Grandmomma's earring."  Throttle and Vinnie both nodded.  "So chill and let it happen.  She's not leaving.  If she even tried, I'd start looking for mind control devices."  Modo nodded at that wiseness.  "So just let it happen.  She's comfy picking on us.  She was a bro before she was a wife.  Let her be both."

"He gets it from me of course," Stoker said.

Momma swatted him.  "You behave.  I know where Delorian is hiding."  He shuddered and let out a small whimper.

"Who named her after a car?" Vinnie asked.

"Her mother's always been a bit odd," Momma told him.  "Her sister Cadillac proves that point very well."

"Another woman I don't want to make the acquaintance of," Stoker said.  "I could always stay here."

"No!" Throttle said, shaking his head.  "If you do, then Limburger's going to get more and more pissed at you.  Why endanger Modo's honeymoon?"

"Stoker, big, bad, biker mouse, can't fight off a woman," Vinnie laughed, shaking his head.  "Poor guy.  Do you need bodyguards too?  Maybe a chastity belt for your tail?"  Stoker growled.

"Vinnie, if he breaks stuff, Charley's going to blame you," Modo said smugly.  "She'll make you buy the dishes."

"Vincent, may I see you out in the garage?" Stoker growled.  Vinnie shook his head but Momma goosed him so he had to jump up and Stoker grabbed an ear to drag him out there and to fight with him.  He thoughtfully closed the door behind them.

Modo snickered.  "Ten dollars on Momma going out there soon," he hissed to Rimfire.

"Not a chance.  Vinnie deserves it this time," Momma said plainly.

"Hey, if Stoker acted like Vinnie more often, he might not get picked on by so many women," Rimfire noted. "I know I don't get looked at twice when I'm bragging."

"If I catch you bragging to another girl, you're gonna wish your mother was still here," Momma assured him.  "Real mice don't need to brag.  Modo didn't get his girl by bragging.  Vinnie probably lost her by bragging."

Charley stumbled down the stairs and out into the garage. "Stop it."  They stopped pummeling each other to look at her.  "The longer this goes on, the more you two act like you're really together.  I know you don't want to set a bad example for Rimfire about how *big* mice act so I suggest you two quit now.  If you destroy my garage, you're not only cleaning it, you're restocking it from your own money and you're going to be shining every piece of equipment in this place.  Got it?"  They nodded, looking miserable.  "Thank you!  Not that I care if you two are really together, but announce it already!"  She walked back into the kitchen.  "Those two need professional help."  She sat down beside Modo with a small hiss.  "Sorry."  She accepted her coffee cup from Rimfire.  "Thanks, kiddo."

"Welcome, Auntie Charley ma'am," he said gently, smiling at her. "I'd never take lessons from those two.  Uncle Modo and Granddaddy are the only two I need lessons from.  After all, I grew up into this studly big mouse."

She gave him a look. "And now you sound like Vinnie."  He blushed.  "Women hate braggers. Remember that, Rimfire."  Momma burst out laughing.  "Sorry, didn't mean to step on any nagging jobs."

"No," she assured her, hugging her. "I just told him the same thing, girl.  I adore you.  My baby boy made a good choice.  You two get your tails in here and apologize!  Now!"

Stoker walked in.  "We're not together," he said firmly.

"Then quit baiting each other like an old married couple," Rimfire said with a smirk.  Vinnie walked in and he was still blushing.  "She's right, you two playfight like a married couple."

"I'll beat your tail," Vinnie warned, blushing brighter.

Charley gave him a hug.  "If you'd quit doing that then we wouldn't get to bait you back, Vinnie," she said quietly.  He nodded, hugging her back.  "Thanks.  Now eat.  I know I'm not the only hungry one around here."

"Good thing we're not compatible genetically or we'd be on the lookout for grandbabies," Stoker joked.

Modo looked at him.  "The thought isn't a bad idea, but no thanks.  Not yet."  Charley patted him on the chest.  "Yeah?"  She whispered in his ear and he grinned.  "She said that if there was it'd have to be a c-section anyway, human women could never carry a mouse and have it the natural way."

Momma looked at her. "How big are human babies?"

"Seven pounds and about twenty inches long from what some of my friends have said," Charley told her.

"Martian babies come out about the same size but about twice that in weight," she agreed.  "It'd never fit."  Charley blushed.  "Good thing we're not compatible that way, huh?"  Charley nodded.  "Then we won't worry about it.  For now, grandbabies can wait a few years."

Carbine coughed.  "Hopefully everything will be done by then."  Everyone nodded. "If so, are you guys coming back to Mars?"

Throttle sighed.  "I guess that depends on the stinkfish still being down here."

"Yeah, if we come back they might want to make us do real jobs," Vinnie pointed out.

"I leave that up to the group," Modo offered. "Wherever the mate and bros want, I'll head.  I can always pack up and move with her."


"If you come back to Mars, you'll be bringing the garage with you, all except the building," Momma said firmly.  "Someone will need a mechanic now that most of the factory's been bombed."  Everyone gasped.  "It went up in the last raid, children.  Didn't you know?"

"Not many do, Momma," Stoker said quietly.  "Fortunately most everyone was on holiday that day.  They only lost about six bikes, and only four that were being reprogrammed."

"That's just wrong!" Vinnie said angrily, standing up.  "We've got to stop that."

"Vinnie, the four of you can't go take over Plutark," Carbine said firmly.  "It'd be a suicide mission and you'd all die before you got into the capitol building."  He looked stunned.  "We've thought about it a few times," she said more quietly.  "It's not feasible."

"What would make it feasible?" Charley asked.

Carbine looked at her.  "A nuclear weapon to bomb them," she said plainly.  "Or a new ally."

"Like the Humans," Charley told her.  She shrugged.  "Isn't that dangerous?"

"It could be, but we're already in meetings.  The head people are a bit paranoid."  Everyone nodded.  "Either that or another new ally, one who's technologically advanced.  We could use more ships and we don't have anywhere to build them.  Humans are barely at that level."

"No, but we're overcrowded and a lot of us are used to doing menial work like building cars," Charley pointed out.  Carbine nodded.  "How are you going to hide this from the general public?"

"I'm hoping it's not necessary but that one robot that landed got handled by a kid and everyone saw the pictures."

"It didn't hit the media," Vinnie assured her.  "We would have heard about it."

"How many in this city know you're here?" Momma asked.

"Less than a quarter," Modo admitted.  "They've mostly figured out something's different because of the bikes and the fighting.  Humans don't have lasers yet."

"Remember, down here Plutarkians give to politicians as well as other charitable organizations," Charley warned.  "We nearly had a mayor backed by ours."  The bros all nodded.  "That might change a few things."

"It could," Carbine agreed.  "I hadn't thought of that.  Our politicians aren't allowed to take donations for campaigns."  She looked at Stoker.  "Wanna help, big guy?"

"Sure," he agreed casually.  "Why do you think they sent me down here?"  She grimaced.  "They didn't think a warrior alone was the best of all negotiators, but for some reason they decided I was better."  He shrugged.  "I have no idea why."

"The mayor here knows," Throttle told him.  "Go see him.  Talk to him and see if he can pass you up to someone he trusts."  They nodded in agreement, it was probably safer. "How far up could they go?"

"Our current president accepted over nine million dollars from corporations for the next election in three years," Charley told him.  "That's all they'd say, they're not allowed to give actual figures, just an approximation."  Everyone gaped.  "That's just in this country.  Remember, the US doesn't rule the world."

"No, but what about that United Nations group?" Carbine asked.

"Purely diplomatic," Throttle told her.  "They make resolutions but others ignore them sometimes."

Vinnie sighed.  "If you could get one of the *major* countries on our side, it'd help.  Japan, the US, England, France, Germany, one of them."

"Japan," Charley pointed out.  "They're used to a very odd lifestyle and they're not going to collapse by new information coming to them.  They're also the top of the technology chain in a lot of areas."

"That might be a better idea than talking to the US people," Carbine agreed.  "Thanks for that, Charley ma'am."  She nodded at her.  "What's up today for your new bike?"

"Body work.  I'm working out a 'one beep yes, two no' for the body dents.  That way she can keep any she wants as a remembrance of her last rider and her prior valor."

"We usually have them wiped before they move on," Stoker offered.

"Then why does she have PTSD?" Modo asked.

"Good point," Stoker agreed.  "It's your bike and if it works for you I'm not arguing."  He smiled at her.  "You've taken very good care of her so far.  We on this Sunday for lessons?"  She shrugged and nodded.  "Good, we'll play some ball with her, get you used to all the features."

Rimfire winked at Vinnie.  "So, now that she's got a bike, Uncle Modo, are you gonna let her give you rides around?"  Modo spluttered and choked on his sip of milk.  "Just asking, Uncle Modo," he said innocently.

"I think we can work it out so that sometimes I give him some rides and sometimes he gives me some, and then most of the time we ride our own," Charley told him.  Modo and everyone looked at her.  "Look up Women's Lib, guys, really."

"It's only fair, Carbine wouldn't expect to ride with me," Throttle pointed out.  "Not that I'm comfortable with that idea at the moment."  He swatted Rimfire.  "Brat."

He grinned.  "Thanks."

Stoker looked at him, pointing with his fork.  "Keep it up, kid, become like the punk there, unable to get a woman."

"Stoker," Vinnie growled.

"Stoker!" Charley snapped.  "I know people who can fix pictures easily to look like whatever they want them to."  He gave her a horrified look.  "Understood?"

"Yes, Charley ma'am," he said meekly.  "I'll quit picking on Vincent about his inability to hold a girlfriend."

Momma swatted him this time.  "You behave, Stoker."

"Yes, Modo's momma," he agreed.

"Thank you.  Just because I don't presently have one doesn't mean I can't get one," Vinnie said impatiently.  "Who is the baddest...."  His tirade was cut off by the phone.

Charley lunged for it before anyone else could get it.  "Last Chance Garage," she said patiently.  "Yeah, we're open, just having a late breakfast.  What's going on?"  She listened.  "Sounds like the muffler needs replaced but bring it in.  I can do that."  She smiled as she hung up.  "A Toyota with a bad muffler."  She headed upstairs to get dressed, coming down in work clothes and everyone else mysteriously disappeared.  She walked into the garage and found that all the bikes had taken off, like it had sounded like, and that Modo had left her a note saying they were going back to the scoreboard so she could get some work done and so Stoker and Vinnie could beat each other up without anyone stopping them for a bit.  She patted her bike. "Morning, dear.  How was your night?"  It beeped happily.  "Want to stay on the cord for a bit?  I've got a muffler job coming in. You might want to move closer to the wall if you're staying on that."  The bike moved closer to the wall, parking between work benches.  "Good job.  You almost blend in there," she said with a smile.  "We'll get to work on the body dents as soon as I get this one done, then we'll figure out if you want repainted or not."  Her bike revved, then quit when someone honked outside.  She opened the garage door and waved the guy inside.  Yup, definitely a bad muffler.


Charley sat down with the color wheel she had made up with crayons.  "Okay.  Now that you're dent free for the most part, let's work on a color.  Can you do a short, intense beam of light on the paper?"  It did so, highlighting the color it already was.  "Do you want to stay that color or would you like to switch?"  It switched to a black/gray block.  "Good job.  You want black?"  It beeped once.  "You could be gray, or even a dark gray."  The motorcycle's beep sounded inquisitive so she picked up the box of crayons, holding them up for her.  "Okay, this is light gray, this is dark gray.  This is black.  Which one do you like better?  Then we'll work on shading."   The bike put a beam on the dark gray.  "This one?"  It beeped once.  "Okay.  Do you want this color, something shinier, or something a bit lighter maybe?"  She got out the paint samples, she had wanted to narrow it down so she didn't have to go through all sixty-eight of them.  She pulled out the gray ones and one was highlighted.  "You like the matte look, then."  She grinned and patted the front fender.  "We can do that.  Not this one?"  She pointed at one, letting it sparkle in the light as she tipped it.  The bike beeped three times.  She put them together, tipping them into the light.  The bike highlighted the one with the matte finish.  "Sure.  Would you like the seat recovered too?"  The bike beeped twice.  "Cool.  We can work on getting some of that tonight."  She hugged the fender.  "You let me know and I'll do whatever you need," she promised.  She put up the paint samples, keeping that one out so she could call her supplier.

Throttle came out of the kitchen.  "She ready for a good ride?"

"I'm going to repaint her.  She wanted this one," she said, waving the paint sample.  He took it then looked at the bike.  "Problems?"

"No.  It's a color for sneaking in places.  I'm impressed.  I didn't know Rimfire's partner was sneaky."  He handed it back and went to check on her, checking the weapon systems.  "How are you today?"  She purred at him and popped up her guns for him, letting him look them over.  "Sounds like you're almost ready for some target practice.  We'll do that this weekend, after the game."  He stopped to listen to Charley, then smirked down at the bike.  "She babying you too much?"  The bike shook its front wheel.  "You sure?"  It nodded.  "Good.  You let any of us know and we'll work out any problems."  The bike looked at his bike, who then popped up an image of another bike.  "Really?"  He smirked.  "You two playing games?"

Charley came out of the office. "What's going on?"

"She misses a few of her friends. This one in particular used to be her bro."  He looked at the black bike.  "We all miss Polish, sweetheart.  It's not a problem."  The picture went away. "I'm figuring his daughter got his bike.  You'll probably see her again."  She beeped happily and rolled over to Charley's side to get close to her.  "For now, why don't you cuddle up to Modo's bike?  I know Lil' Hoss is lonely sometimes."  Her bike beeped frantically and he laughed.  "That's embarrassment, Charley girl.  Basically a hard blush."  He grinned at them.  "How's things going?"

"Good.  Modo and I have worked out that whole 'napping' thing he's been making me do."  Throttle's ears went up.  "Oh, please, you know what I'm talking about."

"Yeah, I was waiting to see if you were going to complain."

"No, we're good on that front too.  He told me I couldn't tell you about any ticklish spots unless he had been very bad though."  He burst out in giggles, leaning against his bike.  "The paint should be here early next week.  Can you wait that long?"  Her bike beeped.  "Want to go for a ride?  You need to learn the city better anyway."

"Not alone you're not," Throttle warned.  "I don't want Limburger to get any ideas."

"It's not like he can kidnap me from my bike," she pointed out.

"Yeah, and Modo will take over the planet if it happens," he said grimly.

"Modo's a sweetie."

"Until you take what's his.  Then he's like Vinnie on caffeine and grows about two more feet, with accompanying muscles.  Then again, it's a pretty sight," he said fondly.  "Someone once tried to snatch his Momma's purse.  Guess where the young Modo, not even ten yet, ended up?"

"On that guy's back?"

"On his head.  Punching and hitting him even though he hadn't managed to take the purse, Modo knocked him out. Then he spat on him and went back to cuddling his mother.  No one takes what's Modo's."

She nodded, looking like she got it.  "We'll be really careful and we can radio the guys."

"Sure.  Which way?"

"Did you want to scout the new tower?"

"No. Then again, they're at the point where they're starting to put up walls.  We could, then head for a ride by the lakefront.  It's a nice day.  Rimfire can come back and watch things."  She raised an eyebrow. "He's good at it."

"Sure," she agreed.  She picked up the CB radio and turned it on. "Guys, we're heading out for a ride.  We need someone to watch the garage."  She let the switch go and it crackled with Rimfire's happy voice saying he'd be right over.  She let it go and turned it off, grinning at Throttle. "Is that why one of you guys is always here when Modo's not?"

"Oh, yeah," he agreed, nodding.  "Did you know that Modo's radio is locked in the 'on' position sometimes?  We've heard you two giggling over it a few times."  She blushed as she put on her helmet.  "We might want to fix that, before any romantic midnight rides happen."

She nodded, putting up the door.  A customer was pulling in and she pulled off her helmet, smiling at him.  "Hi.  What's wrong?"

"I think my engine's about to die.  It's spluttering and spitting."  He turned it off and then back on so she could listen to it.  "It does fine at city street speed, but idling and going over forty it does the same thing."

"It'll probably take me a few days to fix it," she offered.  "I'm hoping it's not the engine getting ready to blow.  It could be a few things and I'd need to put it on the diagnostic machines, which are broken and waiting on a new part.  I blew a fuse on the main one."  He slumped.  "Say by Monday?"  He perked up at that.  "That's fine.  Come back tomorrow around this time and I'll give you a full estimate once I know what's wrong."


"Thirty bucks if I have to do more than open the hood.  The machine should tell me most of it though."  He nodded, that seemed fair.  "Pull her in here and park her.  You have a ride?"  He nodded, letting his car eek into the garage then getting out and turning it off.  He handed over the keys.  "Thanks.  I'll see you tomorrow night."

"Thank you, ma'am.  The other mechanic I went to said that it was probably better and cheaper to buy a new car."

"Well, I'll certainly tell you the truth about it tomorrow," she promised. "But that would depend on how much the car means to you and how much you paid for it."  He laughed and walked over to his friend's car, getting in and hurrying off.  She glanced back at the car, then she and Throttle closed up the garage and took off.  They met the guys on the street coming their way and they fell in to ride with them, Modo beside her and Vinnie behind her.  "I've got a new car to fix," she called over.  He grinned at her.  "Horrible engine noise."

"Poor guy," he called back.  He sped up a bit to get around a large pothole in the street.   He stopped and turned around when he heard the explosion, like the rest of them.  "Oh, tell me that's not," he said in the sudden quiet.

Charley was the first to react, turning around and heading back.  She got there about the same time as the fire department.  One of them stopped her by getting in her way.  "That's my place," she said frantically.

"It's all right, ma'am," he told her.

"No it's not, it's my place!  My dad built that!"

"Shh, calm down," he soothed, walking closer.  Her bike backed up.  "I'm not gonna hurt you. We need you to move back and tell us what sort of chemicals were in there.  Did you have any leftover oil?"

"Just clean.  The old was in a barrel out back for disposal."  She took a few deep breaths.  "Someone, a guy, just brought his car in with horrible engine noise.  It probably had gas.  We had a few containers of gas in there for emergencies and a few cans of paint.  Maybe some cleaning solvents or the polishes?"  He nodded, calling his boss to tell him.  She looked over as Throttle and Vinnie made it to her. "Modo's mother?"

"She's back at our place, sweetheart," Vinnie soothed, putting an arm around her shoulders.  "Guys, try to save something, okay?" he asked.  "Back up, let them work.  Modo's calling her right now.  Rimfire wasn't here yet."  She nodded, turning around and letting him lead her back to the spot they were gathering in.  Rimfire roared up a few minutes later, having heard his Uncle's desperate summons.  "Where were you!"

"Out getting dinner," he said, holding up the bag.  "I just pulled through the drivethru when I heard the explosion and Uncle Modo's frantic calling.  Where is he?"

"Headed to check on his mother," Throttle told him. "She's still back at our place."  Modo came up with Stoker and his mother a few minutes later and they watched as he grabbed Charley to hold while they waited and watched.  Some of the walls were still standing, but not much of anything.  The garage had contained most of the explosion.

"I need to call my insurance guy," she said weakly.

"I'm sure you'll have to have some paperwork for that," Modo said quietly, trying to keep her calm.  "We'll stay at my place tonight."  She looked up at him.  "Cramped or not, we can all stay there."  She nodded, relaxing against his warm side.  "What went on before this?"

"Some guy dropped off his car, which was spitting and sputtering," Throttle told him.  "We don't know if it's related or not yet."

"Did he look familiar?  Like one of Limburger's goons?" Vinnie asked.  Throttle shook his head.

"Could it be not related?" Rimfire asked.  Everyone stared at him. "Hey, sometimes bad things happen."

"All the chemicals were properly stored in the cabinets," she told him.  "All the gas canisters were labeled and in the right storage bin together.  There weren't any oily or paint-soaked rags left out.  Unless something let off a spontaneous spark, I don't know what it could be."  A fireman walked over once the majority of the fire was out.  "What caused it?"

"The car inside looked like it exploded with something that spread the concrete walls to make them burn as well," he said grimly.  "Have you been getting threats?"  She shook her head, looking stunned.  "That's fine.  I've got some paperwork you'll need.  We'll keep a unit here to make sure nothing more goes up.  I'm sorry, Miss Davidson."  He nodded at the others.  "Who's your insurance person?"

"All State," she said, shaking herself free of her thoughts.  "If I had security cameras I'd tell you who it was."

"It's all right.  We had one just like it the other day.  Another garage across town.  That's why I asked."  He nodded again and walked away.

"We'll swing by the insurance office on the way," Modo ordered.  "Guys, back to the scoreboard.  Sweetheart, want to ride with me?"  She shook her head, straightening up.  "You sure?"  She nodded, heading off to talk to her people now.  This was bad, very bad.  "Guys, go home, I'll follow her.  Momma, ride with Vinnie, okay?"

"Of course, dear," she said, patting him on the back. "Vinnie?"  He helped her onto the back of his bike and took off with the others.

Modo followed her, getting closer after a few blocks.  "Hey."  She glanced at him.  "We'll rebuild."  She nodded, looking determined.  "We'll get them, even if it wasn't Limburger's goons."  She nodded again, and her face wasn't much happier.  "Talk to your insurance guy first and then we'll figure it out tonight."

"Sure.  I don't need help."

"I wanna be here," he told her.  "That's what mates are for, honey."  She gave him a weak smile and they pulled into a parking lot.  She got off and he gave her a long hug.  "Go talk to the man.  Want me to come in?"  She nodded so he made sure his disguise was in place, following her inside.

"Hello, Miss Davidson.  Paying early this month?"

"No, the garage just got blown up," she said, her knees giving way now.  Modo caught her and put her into the visitor's chair, putting his hands on her shoulders and rubbing gently.  "The fireman said that it happened to another garage across the city but I didn't get any threats or anything.  Just some guy who showed up with a bad engine and then left with his friend."

He nodded, looking sympathetic.  "That's fine.  That's why you have insurance.  Is this your friend?"

"My future husband," she admitted, shaking herself again.  She put a hand on his, smiling up at him.  "He's being my rock at the moment."  She looked at her insurance guy again. "I'm not behind, right?"

"No, you're not behind.  Everything should be fine.  I'll head over there to look around tonight.  How bad is it?"

"The car was inside the garage when it exploded," Modo said quietly.  "The fire didn't last too long."  He looked grim and Modo sighed.  "That's what we thought.  We'll have to rebuild."

"Of course you will and her policy should allow it.  I'll look tonight.  Do you have a number where I can find you tonight or tomorrow?"

"We don't have one and she'll be with me and my bros," Modo promised.  "When should we get her to stop by?"

She hit herself on the head.  "The paint for the bike and the new fuse and stuff."  She moaned.

"We'll deal with that tomorrow," he promised.  "You'll need them both anyway, you can paint her at my place."  He got her standing and moving into his arms.  "Thanks for this."

"Not a problem," he promised.  "Tell me, is that a tail that just peeked out?"

Modo looked, then shook his head.  "Just a trick of the light.  My bro did something to my duster last night."  He shrugged.  "Thanks."  He walked her outside, getting her back onto her bike.  "Come on, let's go to the scoreboard.  Momma's probably waiting to tuck you into a bed."  She nodded, heading off.  He followed, making sure she got there in one piece.  He had a quiet word with his bike on the way, which got passed onto her bike, making sure that she stayed on and upright all the way there.  Once they were inside, she was put into Modo's bunk and tucked in by him and his mother, then made to rest.  He walked out, looking at everyone.  "The agent saw my tail having fits," he admitted. "He said it should cover a rebuild."  Everyone sighed in relief.  "Let her sleep, she'll need it."

Vinnie nodded.  "We'll watch out for her, bro.  Trust me on this."  He gave him a gentle pat.  "She'll be all right."

"Let's hope so," Modo said firmly. "Her father built that place and it was about all she had of him."  He touched the earring in his ear.  "We'll have to look at the wreckage in a few days, see if anything survived."  He ran his hands over his head.  "I want these people."

"We want them too," Stoker assured him, patting him on the back.  "We'll find 'em so you can pound them into the dirt."  Modo gave him a grateful look.  "For now, take care of her.  She's got to be devastated."  Modo nodded.  "Then go curl up with her.  The best thing for her right now is you."  Modo got up and headed in there to curl up behind her, liking that advice.  "Guys, let's set up a watch.  She'll wake up and have nightmares for sure."  They all nodded, picking when they wanted to stay up.   "Rimfire, she's got deliveries coming, let's let you handle that.  Carbine, let's let you handle anything that comes our way physically.  Punk, I want you and Throttle here.  They'll need you more right now.  Momma, I don't want you to move from this place unless it's an emergency and then we'd better hear about it first."

She pinched him on the ear.  "Behave, Stoker, it's not an invasion."

"The fireman said that another garage had been hit," Vinnie said thoughtfully. "It might not even be stink-face."

"We'll watch for a land grab," Carbine assured him.  "For right now, rest.  It's going to be a long few days with all of us in here."  Vinnie stretched out where he was.  "I meant in bed."

"And interrupt Modo being comforting?"

"Never mind," she agreed dryly.  She looked at Stoker.  "I'm due back on Mars in another week."

"I'm due back a few days after you," he admitted. "I got ordered to get her training started so Throttle could finish it."  Throttle gave him a long look.  "It's fine, Throttle, they wanted her protected more.  It helps you guys."

"It does more than that," he pointed out bitterly.  "Is that why the bike came?"

"More or less.  They wanted you guys to have some backup, her to be safe, and knew one of you was attracted to her.  Plus, they were hoping to have her help if we did have to run down here.  Also, it'll keep her from being taken or knocked out during a fight and it'll give you someone less tired than all of you."

"We get lots of rest breaks down here," Vinnie said dryly, smirking at him.  "Each and every time we have to destroy the tower."  Rimfire snickered.  "We do."

"I'm not surprised, but still.  You're all war heros and you're fighting this part by yourselves.  They don't think you can hold the planet without help," Carbine told him.  "There was talk of asking the other mouse down here to come help now and then."

"Where is he?" Throttle asked.

"New York.  He's dealing with their odd stuff for them as a break from the war."  She pursed her lips.  "It's nothing too bad, but he could come help now and then I suppose."

"He probably would," Stoker agreed.  "Polish's brother, Exhaust.  He crashed in the middle of their bay coming to look for you guys.  He's been healing and getting back into shape for the last year.  I'd offer Rimfire but I can't do that."

"Neither can I," Carbine admitted.   "If it was in my power, I would, guys."  They all nodded and Rimfire looked stunned.  "As of right now, there's not a lot that can go much more wrong in the war."

"Of course there is, the politicians could give them the key to the city again," Vinnie said bitterly.

"Oh, they're not," Carbine assured him with a mean smirk.  "Trust me on this, they're not."  She looked at Stoker, then at Throttle.  "The Sand Raiders took back another base."

"They've done that before."

"And we made contingency plans the last time," Stoker reminded him. "This is another episode of that."

Everyone nodded. They remembered and they could handle being the contingency plans this time.


Charley walked into her insurance agent's office.  "Anything settled yet?" she asked miserably.

"Well, I do have a generous offer for the land if you want to sell," he offered.

She snorted, shaking her head, hands already on her hips.  "No, thanks.  My father built that.  Limburger can take a flying leap and figure out how to mask his unbearable stench."

"How did you know it was from him?"

"Because he's been buying up a lot of land and I started to wonder why," she told him.  "In the last month he's had sixty entries in the paper for land transfers.  I'm not letting the Last Chance be the next one."

"It is a most reasonable offer, more than double what I can pay you," he offered.

"No, thanks.  Really.  You can tell him I said so."

He nodded and sighed. "I understand.  Something like that is precious to the people who remain.  That's fine.  I've gotten the paperwork from the fire department."  He handed it over.  "They noted that there was another incident recently with the same thing going on, another garage."  She sat down, nodding at that as she read the papers.  "Fortunately, the land is capable of being used again.  The way you had things stored apparently impressed them."

"I've always used hazmat containers.  It's the law," she reminded him.

"It is, but you know how many people obey that particular one except during inspections."  He grimaced.  "Anyway, everything was perfectly in order for you to do this."  He looked at her.  "Did you?"

She snorted. "Why would I blow up the garage my father built?"

"Perhaps because you're wanting to move on?  The garage has been doing poorly recently."

"I've had six different customers so far this month, more than enough to make all the payments.  Including yours.  Besides, I'm just starting out and my boyfriend is a biker.  He was working in the garage with me."

"Oh."  He blinked a few times.  "He was helping you?"  She nodded.  "That's fine I suppose.  Were you going into a partnership?"

"Not formally.  Why?"

"Well, a nasty rumor has started that your boyfriend is behind these bombings."

"He was out with his mother when it happened. I was heading out to join him once I got things locked inside and that customer left.  Besides, I don't think he can drive a regular car.  I've never seen him do it and it definitely wasn't him that brought the car in for a checkup with a sputtering engine.  Was this from the other garage owner?"

"No, and the same rumor went around about him as well.  He took the buyout money."

"Then it's probably from the source of the buyout money," she said plainly.  "We all know he's been wanting the city as his own kingdom with the way he's been buying land and then destroying anything on it.  That's why we have such bad potholes in the city."

"Good point," he admitted, then he shook his head.  "Anyway, since you didn't do it, I do have to warn you that the amount isn't that much."

"Did you include the equipment and my other bike?"

"Other bike?  You bought a new one?"

"No, a special one was given to me if I could rehab it.  I'm down to the painting stage."  He smiled at her.  "Took a bit of work, but she's worth it."

"Fine.  Adding in the fixtures and your own things, plus your auto coverage since I hadn't included that.  I didn't know you see."  She nodded.  "Was the wrecker involved?"

"I haven't seen it," she admitted.  "It was parked behind the garage.  I haven't been able to go back there."  She sniffled and he handed over the box of tissue before she could start crying.  "Thanks."

"It's all right.  Your father built that for you and I understand," he said gently. "I had to check earlier."  He gave her a small smile.  "I used the current resale or replacement value on it and it's a bit more than you're hoping for.  I've also talked to your mortgage holder and there's a policy on the mortgage, it's a standard procedure to protect the bank.  By the time you rebuild, you should come out about even, Charley."  She nodded, looking more hopeful.  "Are you building it the same way?"

"With a few modifications.  I need two bays now.  One for the bikes and one for cars.  Plus I was going to build up a level because his mother's coming to live with us.  I also want to raise the roof in the garage this time."

"That's fine.  It should more than cover that," he promised.  She nodded, looking relieved for the first time.  "Have you figured out who you want to do the rebuilding yet?"  She shook her head.  "I have a list of names of contractors that we use," he offered, handing it over.  "They're usually quite good."

"Two of these are owned by Limburger."

"I know, and we've had a few problems with them in the last few months, but they're straightening out rather well.  The last name is excellent.  It's a small, family owned business like yours was.  They have a small crew and they do hire out of those who want a second chance at life.  They also hire among the homeless when they need extra workers. They're very reliable and they do good work. I had them repair my own garage last year and it's still in excellent shape."  She nodded, lifting her chin.  "Now then, everything should be fine.  We're cutting the check right now.  I pushed it through since I know you lived above it.  Did you need to look at your health insurance?  Perhaps a pregnancy clause?" he suggested.

"We've decided we might adopt since he's infertile," she said quietly.

"That's wonderful," he agreed, smiling happily for her.  "Then we'll work on that after the wedding.  Make sure he's on the policy and all that."  She nodded.  "Good girl.  Did you want to put your new bike on your insurance?"

"Please.  I drove it over."

"I heard you pull up.  It's got a very strong engine."  He stood up and walked her outside, wincing at the bike.  "My, she's a bit dented here and there."

"Yeah, but they're badges of honor," she assured him.  "She was going to be a dusky gray color when I was done with her."  She stroked the handlebar.  "She's a great bike, my boyfriend's friends helped me get her."

"Then we'll put her on your insurance.  Is she another Harley?"

"I think so, but she was custom built originally," she agreed.  "There's no Harley tag on her.  She's got a Harley engine and Harley parts though."

He nodded. "I'll put it down as a Harley that was customized by the previous owner.  How much did you pay?"


"Oh."  His eyes went wide.  "What happened to the other owner?"

"She died," she sighed.  "Her partner is my boyfriend's nephew and he suggested it to his buddies so they made sure it came to me.  She was in bad shape and needed some love, but we've got her working well again."  She stroked the crank case.  "She's a wonderful bike."   He smiled and nodded.  "Do I have to do any paperwork?"

"Not a the moment," he promised.  "Come back in a week for the check, Miss Davidson."  She nodded, getting onto the bike and speeding off with her list.  He went inside to call his boss.  "Those Martians gave her a bike," he hissed.  "It's beaten up but it's been fixed up."  He listened to the orders.  "No, she won't take it.  She knows about him.  Then again, she's dating a Martian.  I can't, I couldn't find a regulation."  The door opened and he paused, smiling at the man who came in.  "Hold on please."  He listened to the other voice.  "I've got a customer that just came in. I'll get back with you later."

Modo held up the radio in his hand.  "Let's talk," he suggested when the man became pale because his voice was coming out of it.  The phone was hung up.  "Charley's my girl.  She'll always be my girl.  I don't like people who hurt her.  I especially don't like it if Limburger is behind all this."

"No," he said, starting to panic.  "He's not behind it, he's just nice enough to give us a finder's fee for each new parcel of land we get him.  She didn't sell."

"And she won't ever sell to that alien fish.  You can tell him I said that too."  The man nodded frantically.  "Her check?"

"Next week."

"Try again," he said with a smirk.

"I'll get it right away," he promised, pulling out his book and checking the papers on his desk, filling it out.  "Here."  He pulled it out of the book and handed it over.  "Tell her I'm very sorry."

"She'll never know I had to come have this discussion.  Treat her like the good neighbor she is, dude.  It'll make your life simpler.  Remember, some of us like to live here instead of on Plutark."


"The alien fish's home world.  He's no more from here than I am.  Only trouble is, his people like to rip up other planets.  Mars used to have pretty forests."  The man gulped, then nodded more slowly.  "They did this and your planet's next.  She's helping us."

"That's fine," he agreed.  "I have no desire to run up against her or your enhanced bikes.  What should I put it down as?"

"Harley, customized by first owner.  The same as she said."  He tucked the check into his pocket and walked out, heading out to join her.  He found her staring at the old garage and pulled her into his arms.  "I stopped by the insurance off hoping to find you and he gave me the check, said it had just gotten there with the mailman I came in with," he said quietly.  She smiled up at him.  "Think we can handle this now?"  She nodded, turning to hold him.  "Got anyone in mind?"

"He gave me a good suggestion.  It's a family owned business and they do community service too."  She looked up at him then kissed him under the chin.  "Let's go talk to them.  Where's the check?"

"Inside my armor.  I've got a small pocket for ID."  He walked her back to her bike, looking it over. "It's pretty."

"Thanks."  She got on. "I'm thinking about adding a second bay for the bikes."

"We'd appreciate it, but it's not necessary."

"It is," she assured him.  "It'll give you a place to sleep when you're in the doghouse."  She grinned then took off, putting down her face shield as she took off.

"Doghouse?" he said, sounding confused.  His radio came on and Throttle explained it to him. "Thanks, bro.  Am I stuck 'on' again?"  He heard the laughter.  "Fine.  Don't tell her."  He took off after her, playing tag in the spring sunshine.   She pulled up outside the building that housed the construction company and he grinned.  He knew of them and they were definitely good.  He walked inside with her, smiling at the receptionist.  "Someone blew up her garage.  We need a rebuild."

"Have a seat, the boss is presently yelling at his son for wanting to join a biker gang but he'll be right with you," she said happily.

"We bike, it's not usually that horrible," Charley told her, sitting next to Modo.

"He wanted to join the Vines.  It is."  She buzzed the back office.  "The owner of the Last Chance is here, sir; she wants to talk about a rebuild."  She smirked at Modo.  "With her future spouse."  She let the button go and grinned at them.  "It's obvious with how possessive he is."

"His arm seems to make the best pillow and it instantly cures all headaches," Charley told her.  The receptionist laughed and Modo blushed but she was happy.  The owner came out and she stood up, shaking his hand.  "Charley Davidson.   You were recommended highly."

"Right this way.  Bruce, stay away from their bikes," he warned as his son walked past them.

"We've got the alarms on," Modo assured him.  He handed over the diskette of pictures from the garage he had his bike download.  "We've got some older pictures."

"Is it going to be the same?"

"I want a third floor, for his mother," she told him quietly, sitting across from him.  "Plus another bay for the bike repairs.  I don't usually have to put them up on a lift so it'll be easier not to have to work around it.  Plus, I'll need to raise the ceiling a bit in the main bay to take care of those bigger minivans and SUV's.  Other than that, I want it the same."

"With a bigger dining room if possible," Modo offered.  She looked at him.  "So we can fit all of us in there.  It was a bit cramped the other morning."

"Good point," she agreed. "Maybe some sort of lean-to for the new wrecker too.  We'd have the room out back."  The contractor nodded, taking notes as he looked at the pictures.  "As you can see, I had good containers in there for the chemicals.  Most of them didn't explode and the fire department took them away the next day once everything had cooled down."

"So I can see."  He looked at her.  "I can do it, but it'll take probably a month."

"We can handle living together for a month," Modo offered.  "All that in a month?"

"Most of it.  Getting the main parts done first would be easiest.  The new third floor and the second bay behind?  With a new doorway from the kitchen?"  She nodded.  "Then we can do that.  If we can get the main structure built and ready, then we can move to the third floor and the back bay, plus a nice shelter for the wrecker."  She smiled.  "Same decorating colors?"  She looked clueless.  "We'll be painting it too, Charley."

"Oh."  She shook her head.  "I don't mind.  Modo?"

"I kinda liked the yellow.  It was a bit cheery," he admitted. "Blue in the bedroom?"

She smiled at him.  "I can handle that."  She looked at him.  "We really don't need a walk- in closet, but a good one is good.  Neither of us are clothes horses."

"That's fine, Charley.  How much is your contracting budget?"  Modo pulled out the check and handed it over.  "This will more than cover it.  It's almost double what you'd need."  He handed it back to her.  "I'd put that in the bank today.  It'll help you in case you need a moment alone."  He winked and smiled as his son walked in, hair standing on end.  "Shocked?"

"The bike shocked me," he mumbled, sitting down. "That's some alarm system, sir.  Where did you get it?"

He looked at him and smirked.  "Custom built.  Charley fixes it now and then but it came with the custom bike."

"Oh.  Okay then.  Maybe I don't want to be a biker.  That must have set you back a pretty penny or so."

"A few grand over a new one," Charley agreed.  "Mine was given to me after the former owner's death and it cost me nearly six grand to fix it."  An exaggeration but it'd help the father's cause.  He shuddered and got up, wandering out to the bathroom.  "Maybe you'll win this one."

"I can only hope so.  My son doesn't need to join the Vines and if he wants to bike he can do it in his spare time, the same way I do."  She grinned at him.  "Let's work on the layout for now," he said, pulling out some paper and a pencil.  "How big was the garage do you think?"


Three weeks later, Modo and Charley toured the new building.  It was wonderful.  The bikes had a special room with extra outlets and all new equipment.  The main garage looked the same.  The contractors had run speakers from a main stereo system in the kitchen to both garages.  Everything was just where it was supposed to be, but the ceiling was about four feet higher now.  They headed upstairs, touring the second floor.  Everything was in place.  The furniture had been found at auction.  Their room looked like a scene from dusk on Mars.  The other guest rooms were spartan but useable.  The third floor was new and laid out about the same.  Mostly a few rooms, but one suite at the end.  It had its own bathroom and was tightly packed with soundproofing materials.  Their guys had understood not wanting to wake his mother in the middle of the night.  She had her own sitting room and bedroom, plus a nice bathroom.  They headed down the back stairs, which came out in the second garage.  It was an escape hatch if necessary, like the trapdoor into the main bay from the main bedroom.  This one was nice and it was clean.  No one had gotten the chance to spill oil in it yet.  They headed into the larger kitchen, noticing the used, but good, appliances and Rimfire's addition and begging point, a microwave.  It looked almost the same but the colors were a bit brighter now.

He looked at her and she lunged into his arms, kissing him as hard as she could.  "Upstairs," she whispered. "Before the others get here."

He laughed and took her upstairs, breaking in their new bed.  Downstairs, the bikes got together to plan and plot a nice midnight ride, complete with stalling in a convenient darkened part of the park some night soon.

"Oh, Charley," he called loudly, gasping as she showed him more things that Martian women hadn't thought of yet.  Her laugh followed his moan and the bikes decided to ignore them and tell the other bikes to stay away for a bit longer.  At least she wasn't napping all the time now so they could come over later for a barbeque.

A bike's radio crackled to life.  "Bro?  Rimfire's on his way back down.  He's on injury leave," Vinnie's voice called out.  No one heard him so he went on.  "He's broken his leg a few different places.  Bro?  Charley?"  He sighed.  "We'll just have to surprise them then."  The radio cut off.

The End.