Xander walked into the garage, rubbing one of his shoulders. "I can't find my painkiller stash, do you have anything?" he complained, a pinched look on his face.
"Only a hot shower and a backrub," she offered. He shook his head quickly. "It'll be fine. I'm not hitting on you."
"Yeah, but you've got a possessive boyfriend," he said grimly. "He'll jump to a conclusion and kick my ass, and in the shape I'm in, it won't really be a fight." He tried to resist as she pulled him to the bench in the garage, but she was stronger at the moment. He sat down with a wince and she clucked, then went to work on his shoulder. "Ow!" he hissed, tensing up.
"What were you doing?"
"Remember, we're deconstructing and then moving thirty feet and reconstructing. I spent most of the day moving bricks and cinder blocks. I'm one big ache." He tensed when he heard a familiar sound. "They're here. You might wanna stop."
"He won't get upset." She went back to trying to work the knot out of the guy's neck but it wasn't working. Vinnie sped in and stopped, staring at her. "He moved bricks all day," she said before he could say anything. "He can't move."
"Oh," he said, sounding kinda flat. "Xander?" Xander gave him a sideways look and didn't look happy. "You okay?"
"Hell no," he muttered. "I ache." He tried to stand up but Charley wouldn't let him. "I was going to try the hot shower treatment at home. That way Vinnie can quit glaring at me."
"He's not glaring at you. It's what friends do for each other. After all, you've worked how many out of his legs?" Vinnie grimaced at that. Throttle and Modo came in and parked. "Tell the hormone over there that I am allowed to help a friend by giving him a neckrub."
Throttle looked at the boy and winced in sympathy. "Moving?"
"Bricks and cinder blocks," he said grimly. "All day. We're short someone if one of you guys is bored and willing to move them instead." He tried to pop his neck, but froze and gently returned his head to its original position. "Never mind. I think I'm going to sleep."
"You'll never get to sleep like that," Vinnie said, pulling him over to try for himself. Even he winced when he felt the knot. "Bricks and blocks?"
"All day, since eight in the morning. We're at the 'moving thirty feet to the right' part of the reconstruction." He winced as the very strong fingers dug in. "Owowowowowow!" He got free by ducking away, glaring at him. "I tried to tell her you'd get jealous," he complained. "Don't hurt me more."
"I'm not jealous, Xander," Vinnie said patiently. Xander gave him a long stare. "Fine, of some things," he admitted bitterly. "You're human and her kind."
"Yay, so are about six billion others. Doesn't mean she wants any of us."
"Enough," Throttle called. "Vinnie, he's not spoiling her, she's not spoiling him with anything she doesn't do for you or us. He only spoils her to make you react and treat her nicely for a few days." He looked at the boy, waving him over. Xander shook his head in a limited range of motion way. "Now."
"No! You're stronger! I can go find a hot shower and then work on it."
"Fat chance, Xander," Charley assured him, getting up and pulling him to the bench again. Then she pulled him back up and into the kitchen, where she sat him backward in one of the chairs so he had something to rest on and she had free access. "Just your neck?"
"Yeah, if I can get that unkinked, the rest should fall into place," he agreed tiredly. She started trying again, making him moan, but it wasn't in pleasure. That still hurt. "That's enough. Let me go find my painkiller stash." He started to stand up, but a warm, soft hand pushed him back down and went to work on his neck, making him moan in something other than pain. "Ow," he said, tensing up as a sore spot was hit.
"I know," Throttle assured him. "Modo gets these, Vinnie gets the ones in his forearms and legs. Even I get them, but I get them from stress. How much got done?"
"About a third. Hopefully our big, strong guy'll be in tomorrow so I'm not like this ever again." He yelped as another sore spot was hit but that muscle group relaxed and so did he. "Wow. You're good."
"It's experience," he admitted.
"Hi," Meg called cheerfully. "I came to celebrate getting another one finished."
"He's back here, Meg," Vinnie called as he walked in. He saw the look on Xander's face and shook his head. "Let him take off his shirt, it'll help and he won't get friction burns from the cotton."
"Sure, if he wants," Throttle agreed. "Xander?" No answer. "Xan?"
Meg looked at him. "He's dropped into inner mind space again."
"What are you wearing?" Vinnie asked. She looked down at her fur bikini, then up at him. "Okay, what are you working on?"
"A caveman game," she said dryly. She tapped the end of Xander's nose, getting a more rapid blink. "Wanna take off your shirt, Xander? It'll help." Xander nodded, moving to take off his shirt. Then he put his chin back on the back of the chair. "Good boy. You deserve a cookie. Did you know there's a recipe online for werewolf treats?"
"Why does that not surprise me?" Vinnie asked dryly. "You in there again, Xander?"
"I didn't bring him out, only brought him closer," she admitted. She looked at his back. "Wow, even I can see the tenseness. What happened?"
"They're in the 'move it thirty feet' phase," Throttle told her, going back to work. Xander gave a little grunt but nothing else. "He said he moved blocks and bricks all day."
"Ow. No wonder he's torn up," she said, kissing him on the cheek. She noticed he didn't react and twisted his ear, getting a confused blink. "Morning. You okay?" He nodded. "You kinda got lost in there. You okay?" He shook his head, then looked back at Throttle, giving him a look of wonder.
"It's not that hard, you do pretty well on everyone else but no one can get their own shoulders. Want more?"
Meg grinned at him. "See, I knew you needed someone who could spoil you, Xander. How does it feel to be the spoiled one?" she teased.
"This isn't how I spoil people," Throttle told her. "Besides, I'm straight, he's straight, small problem with your plan."
"Not really," she said smugly, hopping off to go talk to Charley. "You won't *believe* it, but Oz found me a place where I could go for a ride and figure that part of the trek out," she said loudly enough to be heard.
Xander stood up with a groan. "Thanks, Throttle."
"Not a problem, Xander. You'd do the same." He patted him on the middle of the back and winced. "Ow! You're one big knot."
"Yeah, me and the shower are going to commune. That should loosen the rest of it." He punched him on the arm with a grin. "You're a great buddy. I'm heading home. I'll see you guys on Saturday because I doubt I'm going to be walking tomorrow night." He grimaced. "I want to know what happened to our designated brick mover." He grabbed his shirt and walked off slowly, heading for his SUV. It took him a moment to get into it, and he nearly had to hop because a pain went from his sore back down his hip. "Ow," he muttered, getting settled in. Someone tapped on the window and he shook his head, hitting the horn twice before starting the engine. He wasn't dealing with Grease Pit today. Let Vinnie wear out some of his aggression instead. He noticed a goon standing in front of him and rolled down the window. "I'm in pain, I will run him over, I will laugh after I run him over," he said blandly.
"Mister Limburgers wants to see youse."
"Mister Limburger can wait until Monday, when I'm not moving blocks," he said sarcastically. "Until then, I'm not talking to anyone who's not a great masseuse. I can get the one I just used if you want to make an appointment." Grease Pit grinned and nodded. "Throttle, there's a guy out here who wants to make an appointment for me to kick his butt," he called. Charley peeked out then Modo came out, looking large and dangerous. Most of the goons ran but Grease Pit stared him down.
"Mister Limburgers wants to see him," he said firmly. "Not you mousies."
"You see him, you see us," he said, smirking at him. "We can show you more of us. Hey, Meg!" She came out and Grease Pit added a new body fluid to his collection, drool. "This is Grease Pit."
"Hmm, obviously," she agreed. "I'm sure you're charmed and all, but Xander, honey, you need a shower. Even I can smell you, dear."
"Yeah, heading there," he noted, waving a hand. He started the engine and looked around. "What's under my bumper?"
"The neighbor's dog," Meg called back. "Benji! Move!" The dog yelped and ran off, going back to his owner's side to cower there. "Thanks, dog." Xander tooted again then left. Meg pulled out her new accessory, a wooden staff, and twirled it a few times. "Can I bash him in the head? It'll add reality to my newest game."
"Sure, go ahead," Modo agreed. "Ladies first."
She grinned and let out a battle yell, swinging at his head.
"No, stop," Vinnie ordered. "Straight down, or straight across. Chop or swing, sweetheart. No sideways. That length will pull if you do that."
She shrugged and did it again, doing as he had ordered. Then she beamed at him. "Now I get why Xander likes destroying things so much. It's fun *and* stress relieving." She headed back inside, pleased with herself for the knot on the guy's head.
"I'm impressed, you know how to use a staff?" Modo asked.
"Funny," Vinnie said dryly. "Yes, I do." He looked at Grease Pit. "What did the big cheesy one want with Xander?"
"He wanted to make a deal to get him on his side."
"Xander? On Limburger's side," Modo snorted. "He's more of a good guy than we are."
Grease Pit stood up. "Then we'll just have to make sure he's on our side. Get her!" The goons who had been hiding charged and only a few got through. Meg got most of them but one still managed to grab her. Charley tried to help but he had her stick and was using it to shove her away.
"Aim for the nuts," Charley ordered.
Meg twisted and tried to get them, but she was too high in his arms. The stomach shot she managed only made him go 'oof' and his abs were really firm because now her knee hurt. "Damn it!" She headbutted him, passing out from the pain.
"Guys!" Charley yelled. Throttle came down the stairs, then clubbed that one in the back of the head. "Thanks. Where were you?"
"Talking with Merle to see if he could use some help." He looked at her, then at Charley. "Headbutt?" She nodded. "Ow. He's got a metal plate." He walked out and pulled his gun. "Next one who tries it, dies. I've picked up Xander's cranky mood." They ran off. He shook his head and put it away again. "Hey, Modo, wanna go move bricks with Xander? Merle said half of his shift's called from the ER already."
"Sure," he said with a shrug. "It won't bother me a bit." He looked back at Meg, who Charley was helping sit up. "She okay?"
"Yeah, she headbutted the metal plate guy. Vinnie, toss him into the street. Then call Xander and warn him that they tried to steal Meg. He'll need to watch out for Oz. I don't want to see Limburger as a werewolf."
"No, that would be bad," Vinnie agreed patiently, going to do as ordered. "I can help too."
"There's no more room in the budget," Throttle said dryly. "I volunteered too. We can split it if we have to."
"Sure," Vinnie agreed, dragging that thug out and tossing him into the street. "Man, he must have gotten more plates, he's heavier than ever," he complained, heading inside to check on Meg, then call Xander. "Hey, Xan?" he said into his answering machine. "Grease Pit said that Limburger wants you on his side and he tried to snatch Meg. We saved her but she headbutted metal plate guy and she's a bit dizzy. If Oz is there, tell him she's fine...." He trailed off as the phone was picked up and grunted into. "Oz?" he guessed. He heard a growl. "No, man, it's not that bad. If you go after Limburger or Grease Pit, it'll be worse. So just calm down and unfur, and we'll get her there, okay?" He hung up and hurried out. "He's already wolfed out," he said grimly, picking up the girl and taking her to his bike to take her back to Xander's apartment. The fastest way to stop Oz was to present him with his object of obsession. That's why he broke the speed limit and nearly ran over someone walking their dog and a nun. He tapped on the door and set Meg on her feet, opening it and shoving her in, then slamming the door and hurrying off before Oz could catch him too. He was furry enough and being a weremouse didn't sound like much fun to him. Oz spent way too much time meditating for it to be really fun. He hopped back on his bike and thoughtfully picked up dinner on the way back.
Xander looked at Meg, who was grinning in a very dizzy way. "You okay?"
"I headbutted someone, but now I know why you like to destroy things."
"It's fun," he said with a grin. "Down, Oz," he commanded, pointing at the floor. Oz gave him a hurt look. "Not until you're human!" Oz growled but did so, then he grabbed his girlfriend and took her into the bedroom to cuddle his poor baby. Xander went back to his hot shower, needing this more than ever now. He was obviously going to be fighting again sometime soon. He'd better be ready.
Xander looked up as he trudged into his apartment the next night, glaring at the man standing there. "You wanted what?"
"I wanted to talk to you," Limburger said sarcastically. "What are you, young man? Not that it matters, I can pay you handsomely to be on my side of this battle. After all, we've already destroyed Mars."
Xander snorted. "Two things. You smell, which means I won't be siding with you because I have self respect and respect the rights of those around me to not have a stench forced on them. The other is that I've been saving this world since I was fifteen. What makes you think I'm going to change sides now?"
"Because, my dear boy, I've got your girlfriend and boyfriend."
"Technically, they're together, we're just friends," he said dryly.
"Really? She's dating the mouse now?"
Xander's eyes narrowed and he felt himself snap. "You might want to let them go," he hissed. "What I'm going to do to you for touching them will probably make Throttle shudder in horror."
"Ah, but you see, if my tower is destroyed, they'll die. They're presently attached to the central core shaft. If that support crumbles, the building falls on them."
"Unless I blow the outside like I did with the mice's new home," he said dryly. "I'm not the average stupid person you seem to deal with, Limburger. I'd give up now. This is your last chance."
"What can you, a mere boy, do to me?" he asked smugly.
Xander lunged and pinned him against the wall. "You really wanna see?" he growled. "Then let's play. Shall we?" He slammed him against the other wall and then kicked him out and down the stairs, slamming his door behind him. He heard the bikes coming but he didn't care. He used his pocket knife to make a small slit on his hand, drawing a lot of interested creatures to him. "He's slimy and evil," he announced. "He's touched what's mine. Any takers to save him?" he asked, glancing around.
"He'd taste too bad," Xander's boss said, stopping Modo and Vinnie with a headshake. "You think you can take him, Xander? I know what you did at work today."
Xander chuckled and took off his shirt, waving Limburger on. "Protect us, let nothing interrupt this combat." Limburger stood up and backed off but someone pushed him back toward Xander. "Come on, Limburger. You want me, you fight me. Even if you win and kill me, the others will save Throttle and Meg."
"He's got Throttle?" Vinnie yelled, standing up. "I want him."
"Stand in line, he was in my place and he wants me," Xander snapped. "Go. Now. Central shaft." Vinnie glared at him so he glared back. "If the tower crumbles, they're on the main support line." Vinnie climbed down and kicked his bike to life, taking Modo with him to get Charley and go on the rescue. Xander looked at his nemesis again. "There you go. Vinnie and Modo against some goons. You against me. You want me, you've got me. You'd better make the most of it." One of the vampires pushed Limburger closer and Xander took a brutal backswing at his head, making him scream in pain as he connected. "You stole my friend, you stole my former girlfriend. You still won't win."
"What's going on?" the landlord called.
"This slime just admitted that he had Meg and Throttle kidnaped," Xander said coldly. "He stupidly thinks he wants me." He waved him on but Limburger backed off, shaking his head. "Not so brave, are we?" he taunted. "You kidnap helpless women, you harm helpless children, and when you run into people who aren't helpless you turn and run. I'll let you run, but I'd be leaving the city," he warned. "How do you like what you wanted, Limburger?"
"I'll have you arrested for assault. These people will stick up for me."
Xander looked at him, then at the group, smirking at them. "You guys gonna stick up for him?" They all shook their heads, going to game face. Limburger screamed in fear and backed away further, then ran into someone and backed away from him. "Your choice, Limburger. Run and keep running and pray I don't come after you for touching what's mine, or try to take what you want and die?"
"Fight him, Xander," one of the vampires called.
"Whip his tail," another voice yelled.
"Make him cry, Knight," a female voice called. That got a cheer. "Fight!"
"Fight, fight, fight, fight!" the crowd cheered.
"No," a male voice called over the chant. "Let him be punished for what he did by those he hurt most. Send him to the places he raped and starved the children of." Xander looked at this new voice and Micah frowned at him. "Where are they, kid?"
"Central support tower."
"Thank you. May I?"
"I gave him a chance to run or to try for what he wanted," he said coolly.
"Yes, you did, but now you need to let those he really hurt have him, Xander," Micah said, moving closer. He heard a growl and glared at the vampire closest to him. "He raped planets, woman. Let the people he hurt most rip him to bloody chunks and put their grief to an end."
"Put it on pay-per-view, I'd pay to see that," Charley agreed, moving closer. "Xander, he's not going to escape this time. Some of his goons were arrested after they snatched Meg from the college. He can't escape it this time because they told the cops that he had ordered it." She stepped into his personal space. "Let Throttle decide what happens to him, Xander. He's the hurt one here," she said quietly. He nodded, accepting that and stepping back. She looked at Micah. "He said Throttle can make the decision of where he ends up."
"Sure," he agreed. The crowd groaned. "If we can, we'll tape it," he offered.
"It's not as fun if you can't see it in person and smell the blood," a woman called. "Let's go rip down the tower."
"Sure, let's go help," Charley agreed. "I want a piece of that place myself." She looked at Xander, tipping his chin up. "Thank you," she whispered. He gave a slight one-sided shrug and she grinned. "I'll send Throttle to let you check on him." She hurried off after the crowd.
Micah looked at Xander, then nodded. "At least you can control it," he offered. Xander shook his head. "If I had the authority, I'd send you somewhere you could wear it out." He shrugged. "I can send you to LA, there's an uprising there."
"No thanks. I've seen enough of LA," he said bitterly. "What're you going to do with him?"
Micah slugged him and knocked him out. "Nothing less than he deserves," he said, glaring down at the flaccid, flabby, bloated body. Then he looked at the boy again. "Now, wanna tell me what happened this time?"
"Are you following me?"
"No," he said dryly. "I came back to give you something," he offered, pulling out an envelope to hand it over. "For you."
"From?" he asked, looking at it. "Dawn?" Micah nodded. "Is she in trouble?"
"Eeeh," he admitted, wiggling a hand in the air. "She was dating the local gun dealer without realizing what he was doing. She said she wanted to come up over the holidays to get away from everyone and it looks like they'll need to have her gone for safety reasons."
"Sure," he agreed happily enough. "I'll warn the guys that she'll try to pet them." He looked over as Throttle's bike went racing past. "I'm hoping they got him out before the tower falls."
"Yeah, they did," he said, tapping his earpiece. "They're both safe." Xander nodded at that. "You okay?"
"I'm damn sore," he said dryly. He took a running start and kicked Limburger in the side. "That's for Meg since she won't do it herself. She's too much a lady to dirty herself on you."
Modo came riding back. "We sent a message back to Mars. We should be hearing back within a day," he offered. He looked at the body on the ground. Then he looked at Xander. "You feel better?"
"I only got to backhand him and kick him. Want a kick?"
"No, I'm waiting for a chunk to tear out," Modo said, staring at him. "You okay?" Xander shook his head. "Sore?" He nodded. "You want to see Throttle?"
"Sure, you guys can come hang if you want. Or I'll go to the garage if he wants." He looked at Micah. "He's going to jail?"
"Yeah, until Carbine or Stoker comes down to get him," he promised. "If anyone says anything, he solicited the kidnaping of two people." He tapped his earpiece again and two people came jogging from the shadows, an older male and a younger woman. "He's Limburger. Take him, we're going to hand him over as a show of good faith in the negotiations. Otherwise I'd have him put into Leavenworth and have him raped day and night for years."
"This guy killed a few planets?" the female asked, helping lift him. "Eww, what is that stench?"
"Plutarkians," Micah said grimly. "They all stink, it's the rot of their souls." He nodded at Xander. "Relax. Take a deep breath. Let it out. Do it again a few times. They're fine. You'll see them soon." Xander nodded, heading inside, only slamming the door lightly. Micah noticed someone was sitting nearby and gave Throttle a long look. "You okay?" He nodded. "You sure?" He nodded again. "Good. Xander's calming down from the same sort of rage that makes Oz wolf out." He walked off, going to get into the van and head off.
"He'd probably be a white werewolf and look like Vinnie then," he said dryly.
"Huh?" Vinnie called.
"Something that Micah guy said." He looked up at the building. "Xander's still at home. Am I picking him up?"
"Yeah, go ahead. He'll sulk if you don't," Vinnie said after a pause. "Meg and Oz both said so."
"Sure. He can hold dinner on the way back." He parked his bike, looking up to see the landlord. "I'm grabbing Xander."
"Not an issue," he said calmly, taking another drink. "He's dangerous."
"He's not, really."
"He is," the landlord argued. "He's protective though so I'm guessing he's only dangerous to some?" Throttle nodded at that. "That's one good thing at least. Too bad about them breaking up, a girl can civilize a guy and make him calm down." He finished his current drink. "You get that boy, you take him with you, and take the cat and kittens for the night too. Don't let him come back and be by himself. I saw a few too many friends die of regret or of rage and the usual stupidity that is rage's best friend." He went inside, going to pour himself a new drink.
Throttle headed up the stairs, knocking gently. No answer and he could hear something like music quietly playing so he pulled out their courtesy keys and walked in, closing the door before a kitten could come investigate. "Hey, love." He scratched her ears, earning a leaning purr. "Where's your daddy?" Tara meowed so he smiled at her. "Thanks to you too. Want to head to our place for the night?" She trotted out, going to pick up her kittens and put them in the box, and they didn't come back out when she meowed at them. He found the last one for her and handed her in, then closed the carrying case's door. "Thanks, love." He headed for the bedroom, grabbing an outfit he liked to see Xander in, he always looked comfortable, then he went to tap on the bathroom door. "Hey, Xander. Hurry up so we can pick up dinner and head back to the pad. Tara picked up her kittens and she's decided she's coming too."
Xander let out a small moan. "I'm fine, Throttle."
"So? We're having a nice dinner at our place and you're coming." He walked in and moved the curtain a bit. "You okay?" He nodded, turning to let the water hit another spot. "Still sore?" Xander let out a moan and a sigh before nodding. "I can help you with that," he reminded him.
"You were just kidnaped."
"I was only chained up, not that traumatic," he assured him. "Hurry up, I pulled out something for you to wear. I'm due to pick up dinner." He headed out, going to check on the cats. "Just a minute more, guys. Then we'll take you to the pad." He played with one through the grate. "You're so cute."
Xander came out with a towel around his waist, staring at the bent-over figure in front of him. "Who decided that I'm coming over?"
"Your landlord." He gave him a small smirk. "Besides, I heard you took on the big cheese."
"I only got to backhand him and then field kick him in the side," he admitted. "Micah stepped in."
"I heard." He walked over, giving him a gentle turn around and a light shove. "Get dressed. You can follow me." He nodded, going to do that. He looked down, hearing some meows. He looked in and opened the grate, letting one cat out. She headed for the litter box. Then she came back after thoughtfully covering up her new contribution and went back into the cage. "You guys are so odd," he said fondly. "Let's get you to the SUV. You guys can play with Vinnie tonight." He carried them down the stairs, sliding them into the back seat and putting a seatbelt around the cage. Xander came trudging down. "Wallet, keys, and stuff for tomorrow?" he suggested.
"Yeah, I'm good," he admitted. He hopped up, glancing back at his cats. "Okay, let's go get you guys spoiled by Vinnie and Charley." He heard a quiet meow. "Yeah, and dinner, Tara." He nodded at Throttle. "Meet you back there." He started the truck's engine and checked around before backing out and heading off.
Throttle walked around to get his bike. He still had to get dinner. It took him about twenty minutes, but when he got there, Xander wasn't. He looked around, getting a set of confused looks. "That's it, he should be here."
"I'll search," Modo offered, heading out to do that. There were only two routes from Xander's house to here that he took. He tried the shortest, and found the wreck. He called back. "Bros, he was in a wreck," he called, getting off his bike to check him over. "Hey, Tara, you good, girl?" She meowed frantically. "Vinnie, come get the cats," he ordered. He heard bikes before he even got finished. And sirens. He checked Xander over, finding him unconscious against the steering wheel.
Vinnie came rushing up and got the cats' cage, putting them on his bike on his lap to take them back. Tara was still meowing frantically. "I've got you, sweetheart. We'll let you out in just a minute and check you over." He grabbed the cage before it could shift. "Stop it, I don't want you guys to fall." He went slower, his tail and one hand on the top of the cage. He pulled in and up their ramp, letting the cats out from his bike. He put the cage on the floor once a few had jumped out, counting them. He looked in there, pulling out the last one. "You okay?" He looked at that one, then cuddled it. "Shh, it's all right," he soothed. Tara meowed up at him, leaning up on his leg. "She's all right." He put her down, checking the others. "Litter box is still by Modo's swing, sweethearts." He petted Tara's head gently. "He'll be fine. Modo's got him."
"Throttle went too," Charley said from behind him.
Modo looked at the police officer responding. "He's a buddy."
"I understand, is he responsive?" Modo shook his head. "I'll call an ambulance." He looked at the SUV's smashed front end and winced. "That had to be a big car that got him." He reached into his car and pulled out his microphone. "Dispatch, I need an ambulance to respond to an auto wreck on lower 31st and Marcum." He saw another bike come rushing up and a guy jump off before it had stopped. He was apparently very well liked, or this guy was the boyfriend. He came back. "Is he bleeding?"
"No," Throttle said, checking Xander's back. "He's one big knot. I'm guessing it started to cramp when he got hit." He patted Xander on the cheeks. "Xander? Xan? Come on, it's Throttle. Wake up, Xan." Xander let out a small moan, then shrieked and reached for his back, but had to stop and whimper. "Shh, we'll get you some help, Xander, and you'll be staying with us. It'll be okay." He felt hands moving him and went with them, letting the paramedics get him. "He's been doing a lot of brick moving so he's got some back cramps. He reached for it and let out a scream."
"Is he on any medication, sir?" one of the paramedics said, running a careful hand over his back. "Sir?"
"Xander Harris," Throttle offered. "Xander?"
"Sir, please back up a few more feet. Any medicines?"
"Some over the counter pain killers that we know of."
"All right. Thank you. We're going to the nearest hospital and you can go ahead of us, young man." Throttle nodded, hurrying off. He glanced at him, then at Modo. He shook his head. "I don't care. Mr. Harris?" That got a small moan. "I'm a paramedic, Mr. Harris, and I'm taking you to the hospital." He heard a whisper. "No, I don't see any cats."
"Vinnie's got 'em, Xander," Modo offered.
"Your other friend said that Vinnie has them." Xander relaxed and passed back out. "Let's get him on a board, just in case," he ordered to his partner, who was setting things up. They got Xander out and slammed the door, taking him off. The other one was following him, he could see him through the back door windows. This one had some very strong and good friends. He checked his patient's vitals, noting them down. Not too bad, but his back still worried him.
Modo came up the ramp and got off his bike, noticing the worried looks. "He'll be fine. Throttle's coming behind me with him." He watched as his bike made way, then got out of Throttle's way as he roared up the ramp. He helped him grab Xander and carry him to their old couch, putting him down on it. "There you are. You rest."
"I'm not that tired."
"Hush, Xander, and I'll work on your back in a few minutes. Let me get a drink first and play with the kittens," Throttle told him. He looked at Vinnie. "Can you call his boss?"
"I already did," Charley offered. "I called Merle, Xander. He's expecting a call from you when you're ready to tell him if you're going to be able to come in tomorrow." Xander shook his head. "No?"
"Nope. I tried to walk and I fell down in screaming pain," he said dryly. He patted himself down and Throttle tossed over his phone for him. "Thanks, Throttle. He scared the nurses," he said with a smirk. "He was bouncing like Vinnie."
"You just let out an ungodly scream of pain. You're lucky I got there first," Throttle said dryly, giving him a sideways look. "Modo nearly pounced the nurse too. You're not picking on him."
"You *pounced* the nurse, Throttle," Xander said with a grin for him. "Like the cats on Vinnie's tail pounced." Vinnie snickered at that. "She was nice about it and asked him out."
"She cute, bro?" Vinnie joked.
"Very, but I'm not looking for a new girl." He went back to playing with the cat that was batting at his fingers. "You can have me for a few more minutes while Xander calls Merle, then I've got to work on his back, little one." She rolled onto her back and he gave her belly scratches. "Call Merle, Xander."
Xander dialed his boss. "Hey," he said tiredly. "I'm drugged. I'm in pain. My back's so uptight they couldn't get it to relax with a tinge unit." He heard the wince on the other side. He looked at the number, then groaned. "Sorry, Dawnie. Um, just got your letter, I'll call later tomorrow or you can call me at this number. 'Kay?" he asked with a grin. She babbled at him and he nodded. "Sure. I'll warn everyone that you'll be heading here to hide at the holidays. Talk to you in a few days, once I read your letter." He grinned. "You too. Laters." He hung up before Buffy could take the phone from her little sister. He checked the number and tried it again, getting his boss this time. "I'm so sore and they can't get my back to uncramp. No, they couldn't get it undone with a tinge unit. Yeah, that zappy thing that massages the muscles. Yeah. No, Throttle convinced me to allow him to try, so if I can walk, I'll be in. If I'm not in by my usual time, I'm drugged to the gills so I don't cramp in my sleep like I did after the car crash and my trauma-induced nap." He let a silly little grin grace his lips. "No, I'm okay, Merle. Yeah, I'll be there Monday if at all humanly possible. Tell the guys I'll miss 'em. Thanks, Merle." He hung up and put his phone down. "He's a very nice guy."
"He is," Throttle agreed. He was scratched and grinned at the cat. "Sorry. I was paying attention to the daddy." He patted it and it got up, trotting off to pounce Charley's hair since she was sitting in a breeze and there was a handy in-between step. She shrieked and the cat seemed to grin at him. "I wasn't paying enough attention."
"You and me both," she said, untangling the cat from her hair. She picked him up to nuzzle him. "You're such a naughty kitty," she cooed. "Yes you are." She put the cat down and played with it.
Throttle looked at Xander, who was being kneaded by one of the cats. "You ready?"
"Aren't you going to eat dinner?"
"Vinnie never got more," Charley admitted. Vinnie coughed and got up to do that. "Fortunately it's not too late and Chef Andy's used to getting caught up in stuff."
"He knows a lot of geeks?" Xander asked. She nodded with a smirk, going back to kitty she was teasing.
Throttle came over and patted the cat working on Xander's stomach. "Let me flip him over and you can help me with his back." Modo took the cat and Throttle helped Xander onto his stomach on the couch, then the cat was put on Xander's butt and went back to kneading him. He gave the male cat a small stroke. "Feel better?" The cat seemingly grinned at him and went back to what he was doing, apparently having fun. Throttle pulled Xander's shirt off him and warmed his hands, getting to work on him. "Arms up," he ordered quietly. Xander groaned as he moved, but did so slowly. Throttle went back to the tense back. "Tell me if I hurt you."
"Sure." He yawned. "Mind if I crash here tonight?"
"Sure, Xan," Throttle promised. He winced as he felt the tense shoulders, trying to work on them. He finally had to give up, move the cat, help Xander into a sitting position and leaning against the back of the couch to get to them. Xander let out a soft moan as the first set of muscles released their iron grip. "More moving?" He nodded. "What hit you?"
"A big headlight," he said tiredly. "I didn't see anything else." He winced. "Ow."
"I know, give me a second," he promised. "This is still an awkward position. Charley girl, come here and let him lean against your back." She nodded, coming over to give Xander something else to lean against. "Better," Throttle decided, going back to his massage.
"You're damn good at that," he moaned. "You should do that for a living."
"I only do it for fun," he pointed out. He moved his hands down to under the boy's shoulder blades, fanning them out to use his thumbs to apply pressure. Xander arched back into his hands. He moved onto the other muscle groups but came back to that, concentrating on the task in front of him. He didn't even hear Vinnie come back until a hotdog was put into his lap by a helpful white hand. "Thanks, Vinnie."
"You can eat," Xander offered quietly.
Throttle scarfed that one and went back to what he had been doing. The boy was relaxing finally and he didn't want to stop yet. Not until he was totally fixed. Not that Xander would be going to work tomorrow, the doctors had told him not to, even if his back did relax. He finally got the boy totally relaxed and he was like warm putty in his hands, arching and pressing into his hands. He heard a small moan and worked that area, making Xander go limp. "There," he decided. He pulled him back to let Charley get up, then got Xander lying down and covered with one of their spare blankets. He was already asleep. He looked up, noticing Charley was blushing. "What?" he asked quietly, going to grab another hotdog.
"I haven't heard anyone moan like that in years," Charley admitted. She got him a root beer and looked at Vinnie, who was staring anywhere but at Throttle. She gave him a nudge and he looked at her. "Napping kitten?" she asked, pointing at the one in his lap. He blushed and she flicked him on the arm with a frown, but got a smirk in return. "Want me to put her down?"
"She's fine, sweetheart." The cat jumped down and went to help Xander nap, just like most of them. "Okay then." He looked at Throttle. "You're good."
He got a smirk in return. "In many things. Where are they keeping Limburger?"
"In a jail cell. Some of his goons gave him up for kidnaping. Speaking of. Where did Meg go?"
"Home. Oz grabbed her and walked her off, taking her away from the crowd. I don't think he was impressed." Charley smirked at Vinnie. "He was muttering about Xander too."
"Yeah, I'm wondering why Limburger wanted him too," Throttle admitted, glancing at the boy. Then he shrugged it off. "Hopefully it's nothing too bad now." He grabbed a third hotdog, settling in to eat. "So, who's temping in tomorrow?"
"I will," Vinnie offered. "I could use some pocket cash." He glanced at Xander, seeing all the cats curled up around him and on the back of the couch. "I wonder if they do that at home."
Throttle shook his head. "That night I fell asleep over there last week, they were spread everywhere. The one who was kneading him was lying on his tape collection. The mostly white one with brown spots was on top of his computer, while Tara was in his desk chair. One was helping me nap. The rest were up and playing or eating." He glanced around. "Litterbox?" Modo nodded. "Good. Charley girl, who has the SUV?"
"Impounded," she sighed. "There's every evidence of him being smacked into. They found a second impact site while they were doing the report. The Crime Scenes people wanted it since it was a hit and run. They let me check it and it wouldn't even start."
"So I'm guessing he'll be talking to his insurance guy tomorrow," Vinnie said dryly. "I'm sure they'll be happy for him."
"At least he's okay," Charley reminded him. "Just some cramping and a headache."
"Not even a concussion," Throttle agreed. "He was joking about hitting too many walls in his youth. Even if he can walk, he's not supposed to be going." He ate the last bite and picked up a piece of fallen onion, popping it in too. He chewed slowly, then looked at Charley. "Can it be fixed?" She shrugged. "Best guess?"
"Maybe. He's still under warranty so the dealership would get first crack. Otherwise he'll end up losing his warranty and his parts and labor plan." They nodded. "They're also the ones who'll be replacing a door, the back bumper, and the front end."
"Back bumper?" Modo asked.
"One of the cop cars slid and hit it," she said dryly. "Not too bad but a small ding." She looked over, noticing Xander had shifted. "Go back to sleep, Xander." He mumbled something and clutched the blanket like a blankie, cuddling it to his chest. "Aww."
"You're in a mushy mood today," Vinnie teased.
"I heard from Switch. It's a girl. They were hoping for a boy."
"A girl? I can't imagine Stoker having a daughter," Modo said fondly. "She'll drive him nuts by being too wild."
"With her momma, yeah, just a bit," Vinnie said dryly.
"Guys, behave," Charley chided. "She'll be a perfect little angel for us if we have to babysit."
"Her mother's going to be fully gray by the time she's eighteen," Throttle said dryly. "So will Auntie Carbine."
"Yeah, she said Carbine was the one who drug her off to the person in the Crystal Cave or something. There was some static."
"That's not one hundred percent effective for telling sex," Throttle noted. "They thought I was going to be a female too." He sipped from his can, then glanced at Xander, noticing one of the cats staring at him. "Problems?" The cat let out a silent meow. "No, let him sleep. He needs to sleep." The cat meowed again so he came over to stroke his head. "What's wrong?" The cat walked up Xander's side, settling on the arm above his head. He nibbled on Xander's hair. Then he looked up at Throttle again. "He'll be fine, little guy. The doctors said so. I'm not sure if you can understand that or not, but he'll be fine." He picked him up to stroke him but the cat hopped down and settled in by Xander's head again, going back to nibbling his hair. The boy moaned and shifted again. "It's all right, you're on our couch, Xan," he soothed, sending the boy into happier dreams. He got a grin and a mumbled something about 'nice cookies' and the boy relaxed again. So did the cat. He looked at him. "There's no way you're a normal cat," he said quietly. "Who were you?"
"He seems to like the shelf with Xander's lone yearbook," Charley offered. "Maybe he's a former friend." The cat looked at her and seemed to smirk. "Or maybe not." She got up and came over to pick him up and look at him. Tara let out a tired sounding meow, and the cat batted her, then wiggled down and trotted off to get a drink. She looked at the momma cat. "Knew him before, Tara?" Tara gave her one of those enigmatic looks. "Fine. Give us a hint of the name, okay?" She paused her cleaning to look at her, then went back to it. Finally she got up and went to walk across Xander's head.
"Andrew!" he mumbled, waving a hand. "Not now! Let them spank you if they want. Better you than me," he muttered, snoring again. Tara gave him a little lick across the forehead and he grinned. "Nighty, Anya. No demon kisses."
"Andrew?" Throttle asked, looking at Vinnie.
"Sorta bad guy, big geek, fellow Star Trek fan," he reminded him. "Died in the final battle." He looked at that cat. "Back to watch over him or were you planning on having him send you to Buffy?" The cat glared at him. "Never mind. You'll let us know I'm sure." He looked at Charley. "Any hint that the others aren't normal cats?"
"They're cats, who can really tell?" she asked. "It's not like they're dogs and it'd be easier to tell odd behaviors." She came back after grabbing the cat to hold. She looked into his eyes. "It doesn't matter, you're still being fixed." The cat blinked up at her, looking pitiful. "No, no kitty offspring."
"You can fix them that young?" Modo asked quietly, taking the cat to pet. It liked him a lot. It didn't even mind his metal arm petting him like most of the others did. Tara occasionally rubbed against it and purred to make him feel better but the others avoided it. He looked at Tara, who was settled in on Xander's side. "She must have been one hell of a woman. My grey furred momma woulda liked her." Tara smirked at him and flicked her tail.
"From what Xander said, she was a very nice girl," Charley agreed. "Very sweet and gentle. The sort most mothers like." She looked at Andrew. "You're still being fixed soon." He swished his tail. "I don't care. Even if you do like the other boy cats."
Xander's phone rang and they all scrambled to get it, with Throttle winning. "Xander's phone," he said dryly. "No, he's napping. What's wrong?" He listened to the pissed sounding female. "Okay. Which one are you?" He got a one word answer and mouthed 'Dawn' at Vinnie, who smirked and gave him a thumb's-up so apparently she was a friend of Xander's and not one of the others. "Okay, so what's going on?" He listened. "Uh- huh." He looked at the Andrew cat, who was agitated. "Well, some of Xander's cats are flicking and swishing their tails. Nothing else so far. Are you guys breaking apart for safety? Smaller groups could be easier to fight against the big demon." He smirked. "Small groups, Dawn. Break them into smaller groups. You can hide them easier and you attack and run that way. You'll spare the fighters and the running ones in turn." She snapped that order and then took off running by the sounds coming through the phone. "No, he's asleep. Did you specifically need him?" He nodded. "Sure. We'll be here. Get to Chicago and call again. Good luck." He hung up. "Giles' shop was just stepped on by a, and I quote," he said dryly, "Godzilla sized monster with horns and nasty stink breath. They're doing the breaking and running while distracting thing and Buffy ordered her to run."
"So I'm assuming our group is growing by a young woman?" Charley asked dryly. Throttle nodded. "For good, like Oz and Meg?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "That probably depends on her sister." He glanced at Xander, then sighed and nudged him. "Hey."
"Let him sleep," Vinnie protested.
"I can't. He'll need to know to protect her. Xan?" He got a sleepy mumble and Tara swished her tail in his ear, earning a bat but a more awake Xander. "Xan?" he said quietly. One eye opened, then the other since the first one apparently was the glass one. "Dawn just called. She said she was attacked by Godzilla with bad breath and horns. It stomped Giles' store." He groaned, but Throttle kept him from moving. "They've got it but Buffy wanted her evacuated."
"Sure," he agreed tiredly. "Call Oz. He'll need to know too." He yawned. "I should go home."
"The doctor said to have you stay here. You're staying here," Throttle told him. "You're not in any shape to fight if someone else breaks in." He sat up again. "She's running this way now, I told her to call back when she got here." Xander nodded and yawned. "Go back to sleep, Xander."
"Sure, Throttle. Thanks, dad."
"You're welcome." He patted him and got up, going back to their card table. He found Oz's number and called it. "Oz, it's Throttle. No, he's fine. No, he was hit, but he's fine now. The hospital said no concussion or anything. I finally got all the knots worked out too. No, a bit of news. Dawn's coming." He listened, then nodded slowly. "How do you not know much about her if she's Buffy's little sister and you guys used to hang out?" He heard the simple explanation and winced. "Oh. Dangerous?" He relaxed again. "No, she said a Godzilla with horns and bad breath. Sure. Tomorrow probably. Later." He hung up. "Okay then." Vinnie and Charley both looked at him. "Longer than average story about Dawn and he didn't feel like sharing it. He said she's not dangerous and she's nice, but trendy."
"Wonderful," Charley said dryly. She looked over at Xander, seeing the open eyes. "Anything we should know?"
"Have earplugs handy when she sees them and watch out for petting," Xander said tiredly, sitting up. "I can go home."
"If you move from this building, I'll have to hunt you down and bring you back, then tie you to one of the hammocks," Throttle warned. "The doc said to watch out for you."
"The doctor wanted to know if the prior break in my arm was abuse too," he said dryly. He got up and wobbled over, sitting down in the free chair. "I ache," he said finally, "but not as much." Throttle smirked at him. "If you ever do that for a living, let me know so I can be your most enthusiastic patient." He looked at them. "How bad is Sunn...Cleveland?"
"Just stomped. She said they had it and they were ripping it down to size," Throttle promised.
"Good. I'm too tired to fight tonight." He looked at Charley, then at the cat on her lap. He frowned. "You came back as *my* cat and not some real Trekker's cat?" he taunted. "Misjumped into the wrong mother?" Andrew glared at him and licked Charley's fingers. "Never mind. You wanted to cuddle up to her, I know you like strong women. That's why you went after Buffy." He shook his head. "I'll tell you about Andrew later," he said with a small smirk. He looked around. "I can go home." Throttle slapped him across the back of the head. "Ow!"
"Quit complaining. You should have put in a guest room when you build the place," Vinnie said sarcastically. "It's what buddies do, Xander."
"I know," he said, yawning again, "but I've got to go to work tomorrow if I can walk."
"Fat chance. The doctor said to let you rest," Throttle said patiently.
"I still have to work if I can," Xander argued.
"I'm going in tomorrow, Xander. They won't have another missing person."
"No offense, Vinnie, but you can't fill out the paperwork," he said dryly, frowning at him. "I can go do that much."
Throttle reached over and nerve pinched him, knocking him back out. "Had enough of that," he announced, getting up and putting Xander back on the couch, covering him up under the cats' watchful gaze. "He needed it. Teach him not to fuss so much. We like him enough to watch out for him." Tara stared at him. "That's not my fault, Tara," he said sarcastically. "We're not the ones who didn't watch out for him." She worked on bathing her side so he went back to his seat. "We need to set a rule about how long some of those girls can stay if they come," he decided.
Vinnie shrugged. "Slayers can get tossed out at the first mean thing."
"What about Dawn?" Charley asked.
"She can go to the mall if she's that young and gets that mean," Vinnie decided. "I'm sure the danger will be over within a few days. According to the stories he's told it usually was. How far is it from Cleveland?"
"I looked it up on a map the last time I went to the library," Modo offered. "It's about 350 miles it looked like. Maybe a bit less."
Throttle did the math. "So, if she's driving, about five or six hours," he decided. "Greyhound would be a bit more because of the schedules. Unless she can do what that Willow girl did."
"No, she'd be here by now if she could," Charley reminded him. She checked her watch. "Five hours from now is about 3 am."
"I'm sure she won't be calling that late," Throttle said. He looked at the couch, seeing Tara going back to her cleaning, smirking at her. "You could give us a hint." Tara hopped down and went to nudge the phone, rubbing against it on her way past. She twined around his legs and meowed up at him, staring at him with a smirk. "Is she going to be a problem?" She walked around Charley's ankles then went to nibble some of the dry food in the dish Modo had poured for them.
"She's a teenage girl," Charley sighed. "So I'm guessing...crush?" Tara's tail swished. "No?" The tail swished again. She realized she was talking to the cat like she did the guy's bikes and shook her head. "I'm having a strange moment, the same one I had when I started to talk to your bikes." She got up, waving. "I'm heading home, guys. You behave and coddle the Xander." Andrew trotted after her but she stopped him, handing him off to Vinnie. "I'm his, Andrew, you'd better ask."
Vinnie looked at him. "I don't share. I don't even let Xander spoil her." The cat went limp in his arms, purring. "Thanks." He cuddled it, stroking him gently. Apparently this one liked them both.
"I'm having that same moment of oddness. I never imagined us with pets," Modo admitted with a small chuckle. "I saw us as many things, but not kicking back petting kittens and talking about teenage girls."
"I know that feeling," Throttle offered. "Then again, I never imagined demons were real either. Nothing metaphysical like that ever really caught my attention until we met Xander. Then I nearly got bitten the other night."
"You okay now, bro?" Vinnie asked.
"Yeah, fine. I staked them like Xander would have. Another skill I never thought to have."
They chuckled over that. Xander had made their life a lot more interesting, and slightly more insane.
Charley looked up at the high-pitched squeal. "Oh My God!" Dawn squealed. "You're so cute! And furry! Xander knows furry people!" She ran over and ran a hand over Vinnie's arm. "That's so fricken cool! I had no idea we had furry people! Xander's way cooler than I thought and you are so cute!"
"I'm studly, not cute," Vinnie said dryly. "Let me guess, you're Dawn?" She beamed and nodded, going back to petting his arm and shoulder. He was glancing at Charley, who was shaking her head. He coughed. "Um, can you not pet me?" he asked finally.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to insult or anything but I *love* furry things," she said happily, grinning at him. "Is Xander here?"
"Sleeping. We had to knock him back out when he tried to leave for work after having a car crash last night." She instantly looked upset at that. "He's fine."
"He'd better be fine or I'm kicking his manly, sweaty, construction guy butt!" she said firmly. "Where is he?"
"On our couch," he said.
"Which would be....?" she prompted.
She stomped that way, going to check on Xander herself. She found a door and blatantly walked in, heading for where she could hear voices. She walked in and found Xander on the couch, bending over the back to check his forehead and pulse. "You're so toasty if Buffy hears you had a car crash after how many times you picked on her about hers," she said when he opened his eyes. "You okay?"
"Bullsnot." She checked him over again. "That's it, into a shower to ease whatever muscles are cramping and then you can come back here and nap some more, Xander. Now, right now!" she ordered he didn't move, stomping her foot. "Before I have to get mean. It's obvious you're girlfriendless again since she's not here cooing over you. Well, I'm here now and someone will damn well coo over your injuries now, Mister! Get into the shower! Then I'll tuck you back in and embarrass you totally so you have Anya flashbacks." He snorted but got up with a moan. "How did you hurt yourself this time? The car crash?"
"Moving bricks and blocks for two days."
"Wonderful. Well, it's work related so I can't do more than baby you until you fuss about it, but it's obvious you haven't eaten either. Shower, now, Mister." He trudged that way. She tapped her foot, then looked around, spotting the Tara cat next to her. She squealed and hugged her. "Hi, Tara!" The cat batted at her and licked her cheek. "We love you! You're a wonderful kitty! Can we have a kitten when I go home? Should I baby him or should I just ask him to teach me how to fight some more?" The cat batted her then jumped down and gave the others a pointed look. "Oh My God, more furry people!" she squealed, coming over to pet them. "Hi, Oz."
"Hey, Dawn. Loud much?" he complained. "That's a sign of wanting to marry and be a mother." She quit petting them immediately. "Ask him to teach you how to fight, he could use the practice."
"Sure." She went to check on Xander, giving him a hug since he was staring in the mirror. "You're a wonderful man, Xander Harris, and my favorite big brother sorta person. Therefore it's my right to fuss and if any of those trendoid bitches show up, I have the right to kick their butts and make them cry mascara tracks down to their pierced bellybuttons. So you get into that shower right now, and I'll let you take me to breakfast like a proper big brother." He turned and gave her a hug. She kissed him on the cheek. "I know why you ran away. I'd have done the same," she assured him. "But for right now, you need fussed over for a few days. So I'm going to fuss over you until you're good enough to return to work, and then I'm going to come flirt with any cute guys so you can practice being a good big brother. Or maybe so I can find a reason to stay?" she asked a bit hopefully.
"We'll see. You might hate it here."
"No, I hate it there, Xander," she said honestly. "You thought they were bad to you, but I'm apparently helpless, a baby who's just about to potty train, and unable to pick a good man to flirt with because the ho's are trying to steer me away from anyone cute and *decent*. The gunrunner was actually one of their ideas and they told Buffy it was mine." He gave her a hug. "I know, we'll think back on the good old days together. Now, you shower. It's obvious you're stiff and sore. Into the hot water." She swatted him and got free, going out to fuss some more. She found the kitchen and went to make breakfast for everyone, bringing out plates about ten minutes later and putting them in front of the others. "Eat, or else I'm going to have to get mean and snarky and pet your fur in the wrong direction." She helped Xander back to the couch, handed him a glass of milk and his breakfast, then went back outside to check on her car. She ran into Charley again, grinning at her. "I had to flip many burgers for that hoopdie."
"I bet," she agreed. "It could use some body work."
"It could use a big crane and a smooshing machine," she corrected. "I'm realistic. It's a POS." She grabbed her bag. "I'm going to fuss over Xander until he's better, then I'm hoping he'll introduce me to some nice guys I can crush on. Where's his place so I can drop my bag?"
"About ten blocks away. Where's he?"
"I just made him breakfast and forced it on him. I *am* his unofficial little sister. I'm allowed to fuss," she said proudly. "He said so." She held out a hand. "Dawn."
"Charley," she said, shaking it. "How's it going back there?"
"The snarky, trendoid bitches latched onto me after Xander ran away. I'm apparently helpless, barely ready to potty train, unable to find decent men, and being lied about since one of the whores set me up with her buddy, the gunrunner, and then told Buffy it was my idea, which got me *so* grounded for no reason. It's not like I was participating but she's sure I'll never be able to defend myself. No matter that Xander *taught* me how to shoot a crossbow and basic self-defense. Or that he *taught* me how to fix a faucet when I broke one back in Sunnydale late one night." She calmed herself. "The trendoid slut parade is slowly being whittled away again. They'll win this time but there'll probably be a few less since they decided it wasn't a threat until it stomped the store. *I* thought it was a threat weeks ago, so did Micah, who is really cool. I'm wondering what you'd need to work in his department," she said thoughtfully. Then she shook her head. "Sorry, lack of sleepage for the last few days."
"Not an issue. Want my couch?"
"If you wouldn't mind," she said sheepishly. "I'm sorry to be dumped on you this way."
"We expected it. It's not the first time. The bros kinda dumped themselves on me and stepped in to help with our bad guy." She led her up to the couch. "Shower's in there," she said, pointing at the bathroom.
"Thanks, Charley. You're really nice. That's why Xander said you were so cool and a buddy." She went in there to take a quick shower and dry her hair, then came out to nap on the couch in a tank-top and shorts. She was asleep pretty quickly.
Charley went to check in on everyone, finding them eating a real breakfast with real food, nothing processed or artificial or even a hotdog or sausage. Modo was drinking milk. She was shocked. "Did the hurricane sweep through here and take the bad food away?" she joked.
"It's not fair to waste the food," Vinnie said with a shrug, scraping his plate. "She's a good cook."
"She is," Xander agreed. "That was a sleepy and upset Dawn. Why?"
"No sleep, they weren't listening to her or Micah."
"Ah. The usual," he said, nodding. "Wonderful." He licked his plate and got up, walking his plate into the kitchen. He was even nice enough to gather the other empty ones. "There's more eggs." Vinnie came in to take his plate back and steal them. "I'm glad she learned how to cook." He walked back out, stretching with only a small wince. "Wow, Throttle, you fixed it for good."
"Glad to help, Xan." He grinned at him. "Your belly button's showing."
Xander quit stretching and pushed his shirt back down. "Where is she?"
"On my couch, already crashed," Charley offered, grinning at him. "Where you should be over here."
"I can head home."
"Sit, Xander," Oz ordered.
"Oz, I'm not a pet," he said dryly. "Unless you've bitten me since the last full moon?" Oz gave him a look so he smirked. "What? You like belly scratches."
"Mice aren't the only people who can pounce and beat you," Oz reminded him dryly.
"Yeah, yeah, and then Meg would swat you. Unless you like that?" he taunted.
Oz considered it, then shrugged. "That can be fun." Xander hurried back to the couch. "Now lie down and cover up, take a nap."
"I'm not a kid, Oz."
"Keep it up, I'll tell you a bedtime story," Vinnie taunted with a smirk. Throttle kicked him under the table and shook his head. "No? You wanted that honor too?"
"Throttle, swat him since I'm not close enough," Xander complained.
"I'll get in a few blows for you when I pounce him," Throttle promised, grinning back at him. "I agree, sleep. You still look tired."
"I shouldn't be with as much as I've slept recently," he complained.
Throttle got up and came over to push him down and tuck him in. "It's the medicine they gave you last night," he said patiently. "Stay there. You're worse than Vinnie when he's injured."
"Am not," he pouted.
"You are so. Quit playing and sleep." He went back to the table, picking up his cards from earlier. "Any fours, Vinnie?"
Vinnie picked back up his cards, then shook his head, finishing his breakfast. "Any threes, Modo?"
"Nope, Go Fish."
"You guys are insanely intense in that game," Xander teased.
"Playing betting games with these two is dangerous. They get cute and try to out-think each other so they get headaches," Modo said dryly. "I'm a good boy, my gray furred momma told me to never bet, and especially not on a sure thing because you'd always lose your fur."
"I'm wondering how your mother learned that one," Vinnie teased. Modo glared at him so he smirked. "All I'm sayin' is that she's old enough to have been around during that beauty pageant fiasco a few decades back, bro."
"My momma was one of them, thank you very much," he said firmly.
"Which one?" Throttle asked, he had never heard about that.
"She's the one that got the crown in the crowd," he said proudly. "Three beauty contestants got into a brawl when the former titleholder gave the old crown away to my mother. It was only cheap tinsel and stuff, but they *wanted* that thing and my momma beat 'em all black and blue. The winner that night had to walk down to claim the new crown with two black eyes, a split lip, and a broken foot."
"Your momma was one hell of a woman," Oz said appreciatively.
"I know," Modo agreed smugly. "Anything else we should watch out for with Dawn?"
"Dawn? Nah, she's sweet. Xander was her first crush," he assured them. "Now she's his little sister and she's a champion fusser. She learned that from her mother, who used to have cocoa with vampires. She gave Spike love advice once," he admitted dryly. They all gaped at that so he nodded. "Yeah, she takes after her mom. Joyce woulda stomped in here, taken Xander back, put him in a bed, babied him until he gave in, and then clung when he left."
"Then why isn't Buffy like her?"
"Oh," they agreed. They could understand that. They glanced over but Xander was snoring again so he must be asleep. They went back to their card game. Eventually, Vinnie threw down his cards and they headed down to play some two-on-two basketball. Modo got Oz since he mostly was a team by himself. Oz wasn't scared of blocking Vinnie though, he got into his face and shoved with the best of them.
To Part 8