Throttle looked at it, then at Xander. "Really? Did he get you with anything?"
"Not while I was awake. He shocked me a few times. He came at me with a scalpel. Unless he did it while I was knocked out."
Enamel went back down, drawing some blood to analyze. It didn't take long, Karbunkle always noted his experiments when he tampered with their DNA. He brought the results up and looked at Xander's. "I ran the sample of yours I had, it doesn't match Karbunkle's DNA twisting signature." He looked at Throttle. "Hers does."
"Cheese," Carbine muttered, flopping down. "Now what?"
"We explain it to her," Xander told her. "Otherwise she'll have to backtrack when we get there."
Carbine nodded. "Sure. We can do that." It was a good idea. She looked at Enamel. "Any other indications?"
"She was filthy in the dumpster but I couldn't tell if the grease was from there or not," Vinnie admitted. "Charley said she didn't think there should be that much grease in there."
"So that means Greaspit's back too," Xander said calmly. "How? Karbunkle was taken to Mars, right?" Carbine and Stoker both nodded. "Did he escape?" he asked Stoker. Who shook his head. "Then how did he get back?"
"Unless someone's hiding more stuff from me, I'm not sure, kid," he admitted. He looked at Carbine. "Did you hear anything?"
"No. Not in the least." She went to call someone in the administration, someone who owed her majorly. "Time." He saluted. "Thank you. We have proof of Karbunkle and Greasepit being down here." He frowned and shook his head. "We just found a recent experiment. He turned her into a full mouse."
"That's not possible. He was executed last week."
"Figure it out." He nodded, cutting the connection. She went back into the living room. "He said Karbunkle was executed last week." She sat down again, looking at the cat that had moved. "Sorry."
"Clone?" Xander asked.
"Not totally possible and how would he have changed it out?" Stoker asked.
"They found him injured in the lab and you said he only woke up partially," Throttle reminded him. Stoker had admitted that a few days later. "It's possible he had one there and waiting."
"Or that this one was the clone."
"How would you tell?"
"A lot more hair?" Xander suggested dryly. "Him changing the stuff he hated before? If so, he probably looks like a body builder and did a penis implant to give himself one."
"You're one twisted puppy, Xander, that's what I like about you," Vinnie said fondly.
Modo coughed. "Could he be behind the reporters?"
"There was enough footage of the bombs at the abuse shelter site, they could have caught me on tape," Xander noted. He ran a hand over his head. "Why did I cut off all my hair again?"
"You wanted to look more like Vinnie," Throttle said patiently.
"Really?" Vinnie asked, his ears perking up. "Thanks, bro."
"Welcome. I figure we can use it as a distraction technique some day."
Vinnie snickered, shaking his head. "Yeah, in the clubs. You'd have to dress like me."
"Or you dress like me," Xander said smugly. "The leather would look cute on you. You can wear the dark blue set with the shorts. Throttle hates them."
"That's because you look easy in them," he complained. "Focus, kids." He looked at Modo. "It's a possibility, but he could have also seen us riding around. Xander said Merle noticed a few more bikers at the holidays."
"Question, do I call Oz or Micah?"
"Micah," Throttle told him. He nodded, going to do that. "At the very least he can either get her help to accept it or figure out what she'd need to do to move on."
"If she's that fully a Martian, she could come home with us," Carbine told him.
Throttle nodded. "True, and while that's an option, I'd like to make sure she's not been mentally programmed too. That's a bit too convenient."
Carbine nodded. "Granted." Xander came out. "Anything good?"
"I talked with Max, who said Micah's on his way here anyway with a file for us." He sat down and looked at Throttle. "There's been another crash. She said your name and only your name before going into a coma. She's a kitty and she's black with tan lines."
"Aramatha?" he asked, looking at Modo. "Does that sound like her?" He nodded. "What's she doing in this part of space?"
Vinnie snorted. "She wanted you bad, bro, that's why she said your name."
"Either that or she's got information," Xander told him. "After all, if anyone knows anything down here, they'd know him as the one to go to to get stuff done. As opposed to you, who would just be on posters and calendars everywhere."
Vinnie smirked. "Thanks, little brother."
"Welcome, big brother."
"You two are making me ill," Stoker told them. They giggled. "Now I'm sure I'm not naming my kid after you, mini-punk."
"Aww, but coach," Vinnie whined. "It'll be cute!"
"He'd destroy what was left of Mars," Carbine snorted. "What name are you thinking about?"
"Jet. Possibly Asteroid. Something manly."
"Asteroid sounds like he'll either have problems sitting or he's going to have premature ejaculation problems. We'd have to send him medicine all the time so he could woo as many ladies as Anya does."
Stoker reached over to hit him but could only reach Vinnie so hit him. "Pass it on."
Vinnie smirked and pounced at Xander, who got him in the stomach and flipped him over, into the wall, which shook the fish tank. Throttle saved it from moving too much and the boys moved further out into the room to fight.
"Boys, this is a serious discussion," Carbine complained.
"Not at the moment," Xander shot back, kneeing Vinnie this time. Vinnie noogied him and Xander twisted his arm behind his back, sitting on his back. "I'm sneakier," he said fondly, smirking at him. "You don't even know what I got you for your birthday."
"Presents?" Vinnie asked, going limp. "I'll be good."
"Your birthday's not for another week, bro," Throttle said patiently. "We're not celebrating today." Vinnie pouted at him. "Tough. You can wait a week."
"With our luck it'll be in the middle of a battle." He let Vinnie flip over and sat on his stomach. "If you're really good, I'll give you *one* of them."
Vinnie beamed so Xander went down to get it, coming back with it carefully cradled in his hands. "What's that?" He sat up and took it gently. It was hard but he wasn't sure what it was. He unwrapped it, finding a box. Inside the box was a new earring, and a new blaster. "Wow! Where'd you find the earring?"
Xander flopped down beside him, taking out one of his tarnished ones and replacing it with the other one. "At the store. It'd spoil the other surprise if I told you where. Like the gun? I found it online."
"I do," he said, stroking it. He aimed it at a pillow and vaporized it. "Works good."
"Needs a charge," Throttle said.
"No, it's a new low power application," Xander told him. "Meant for up-close work like when you're next to someone and your bro is on the other side of him. That way I don't have to patch up another burn in your vest, dear."
"Fine," he said tolerantly. He smiled at the new gold in Vinnie's ear. "Feel okay?"
"Feels heavy." He stroked it and smiled. "Thanks, Xander."
"I noticed it was tarnished. I was going to let you decide to do a new hole with it or not."
"No, I switch mine out." He stroked it again, then grabbed Xander by the neck, hugging him. "You're the bestest little brother."
"Thanks. Air," he gasped. Vinnie let him go and Xander rubbed his throat. "Don't play 'choke the Xander', that's Faith's game." He coughed a few times and Vinnie gave him a real hug. "Thanks." He calmed himself so he could hug him back. "I love you too."
"Awww, are you a quad now?" Carbine teased.
Throttle looked at her. "Don't wish that on me, those two would never walk again and Charley would be too sore to sit."
Xander grinned up at him. "Promise?"
"I'll do that to you later," he assured him. "Since you're being *good* today." Xander crawled over and kissed him, making him moan. "Later, Xander."
"He's just being playful," Carbine said, waving a hand. "Let him."
"I will, but I can't play like I want to up here anyway," Throttle assured her, smirking at her. He touched antennas with Xander, shooting him a dirty thought. Which made him giggle and blush. "Behave."
"Fine." He rested against Throttle's leg, looking at Vinnie's ear. "That bottom one needs cleaned, Vinnie."
"I'll clean my old one and switch them around tonight," he promised.
"Good, because you've got white crud built up behind that bottom one." He nudged him with his foot. "Alcohol is a good thing."
"When are we doing his first one?" Vinnie asked.
"When he gets his first bike, the same as you did," Throttle said overtop of him. "It's a rite of passage."
Enamel rubbed his ears. "I let mine grow over long ago," he admitted when Xander looked at him. "To be a surgeon, you have to take them out and clear your ears too. It was a hassle and I let it go."
"You should get them reopened since you're not doing that full time anymore," he said gently. "You like to bike."
"I do." He shrugged. "I'm considering it. I used to be a lot more wild in my youth." Stoker groaned. "Oh, shut it."
"I moved wrong."
"You slept wrong since you didn't have a snuggly chest to curl up on," Xander corrected. Stoker nodded. "Then go home. You're supposed to be there with her."
"Duty has to come before family sometimes," Throttle reminded him.
"Yeah, but Stoker can delegate," Xander pointed out. "Or bring her with him. If he wants privacy he'll just have to tell her it's dangerous."
"Heard from my wife, mini-punk?"
"Yeah, and she was crying because you obviously don't love her and she's only a baby factory to you." Stoker looked at him. "A quote. Some of the other women have gotten onto her about you leaving her like that. They're trying to get her to move on."
"Fat chance," he said darkly. "I'll talk with her later. I'm headed home in a few days anyway." He got comfortable in his chair. "Can't you two play nicely or something to break the boredom?"
Xander turned on the tv, handing him the remote. "Here you go."
"Thanks, mindless entertainment." He flipped through the channels, landing on the sports channels longest. "What game is that?"
Throttle looked. "Basketball, coach." He watched as it changed. "Hockey. Football. Golf, boring. Eeeh, an old boxing match. Why do we get ESPN Classics, Xander?"
"It's part of the package."
"Oh." They moved on. "Put it on 23 and leave it there." He did so and the radio station went on.
"That's no fun to watch."
"Then turn it back to hockey, you'll at least get a few fights," Xander offered. "Or to a talk show. Jerry was on."
"That's foul, nasty, cheap stuff," Modo complained. "The worst terrans doing some of the worst things to each other's mates and lovers."
Stoker turned it to that, he needed a decent laugh.
"Why is the guy wearing a diaper trying to make out with the hot chick?" Rimfire asked, sounding quite confused.
"They're just like that," Vinnie said, watching it. "It's mindless entertainment with a few brawls."
"Taped here in the city," Xander said dryly. The commercial came on and the message to call them if you 'were abducted by aliens and wanted to explain it to your loved ones' came over. Xander grinned at Throttle, who shook his head. "No?"
"No. Don't even think about it."
"Fine, spoil my fun." He stole a quick kiss.
"Those types of fun are dangerous. They get us more reporters." He smiled as Charley came up the ramp with a bag of goodies. "What'cha got?"
"Rootbeer's in the car." She handed him a newspaper, one of the trash rags by the checkout lines. "I think they saw someone." She went to put the other stuff up. She was in a fussing mood.
Throttle looked at the front cover of him. "Tell us who this is and get five grand," he read, then moaned, handing it to Stoker, who looked at it then turned to the article. "Do they have other pictures?"
"Yeah. They caught Modo." He looked up at him, showing him the picture, earning a sigh and a head shake. "When was that?"
"Probably the year we landed. I wasn't exactly groomed then."
"Point," he admitted, going back to the article. "It's from a 'source' who said they saw you at the scoreboard in Quigley. Said he used to bring you guys food, and that you were nice enough to pay for it because you were a gentle giant gerbil." He snickered. "Some people need to go back to biology."
"That's what I first thought too," Charley admitted. She looked at her man. "New earring?"
"Early birthday present," he said smugly. "Little brother got me that and a gun." He stroked it and grinned at her. "I'll let you use if it you want. It's low powered."
"No, don't do that," Stoker warned. "The first or second mood swing she'll use it on you. I speak from experience." He got up to call his wife. He'd have to deal with those supposed friends of hers when he got back.
Enamel looked at Charley. "You look healthy. Feeling okay?"
She nodded. "More or less. I hate yogurt and I keep wanting it."
"Drink more milk and eat more cheese."
"And iron," he agreed. "Very normal for both species. I asked Grip, she said she craved honey too." He smirked at her. "I head from her this morning. First day of school and the twins got kicked out." Everyone stared at him so he smirked. "Male teacher, and Ajax went in for a *long* cuddle. When he freaked, the other one offered him his mother so that he could get better female cuddles because breasts were nice and he was going to have a harem some day. He kissed one of the girls, who slapped him, and fell instantly in love."
"Man, I thought my first day was bad," Vinnie complained, but he was grinning. "The teacher said I wasn't cute and that I was to be fed to the sand monsters if I didn't sit still."
"Did you hand her an autographed copy of that calendar?" Carbine asked sarcastically.
"No, but my mother offered her one. So she told my mother my handwriting was worse than kids who have to write with their tails because they have no fingers."
Xander nudged him. "Willow's first day of school, she walked in and told the teacher she could leave because she was there."
Throttle groaned, shaking his head. "It's always the quiet ones."
"Then why is Vincent always in trouble?" Stoker asked, as he came back to finish the article. "This guy was apparently stalking you."
"I wonder if it's the same guy as this morning," Xander said.
"This morning?" Enamel asked.
"Some guy was trying to get into my car. I let my boss have a discussion with him after he asked what I was."
"I'm sure it'll be fine," Carbine said smoothly, standing up. "Any idea when Micah's coming?"
"Nope. He was on a plane as far as Lorne knew." He grinned up at his mate. "I still say we should go on the show. Tell them that we were human."
"I'm an immigrant, honey. That'd be pretty clear the first time I opened my mouth."
"No, Xander." He looked down at him. "Put in a tape or something. You need to calm down."
"Fine." He went to get a tape, finding an unmarked case. He held it up. "What's this one? Did we rent and forget to give it back?" He popped it open, looking at the blank tape. "There's no label." He looked around. "Anyone wanna claim responsibility for this one?"
Throttle considered it. He had gotten the tapes off that guy in Texas for a reasonable fee. But those were locked downstairs. He looked at it, then shrugged. "Um, that place in Texas, I did get a tape from them, but those are all downstairs."
Xander weighed it in his hand, staring at Throttle. "You're sure?"
"Unless Dawn broke into them because she wanted to watch you dance."
"I want to see that one," Carbine said. "I'm still thinking he can't dance."
"Oh yes he can," Vinnie sighed. "Very well. Talk about a club tease. He's a club taunt."
Carbine snatched the tape and stuck it into the machine, then turned it on. "Someone change it to the right channel."
Throttle sighed but did so. He looked at Modo. "You'll be embarrassed."
"Probably," he agreed, staying where he was, smirking at him. "Just a dance?" Throttle shook his head. "Rimfire, go downstairs."
"I wanna see," he complained. "I'm not a baby, I've been to a bachelor party."
Carbine rewound the tape since it was at the end, then flopped down in front of the tv to watch it. It stopped rewinding and she hit play, watching as the duo came in, Throttle went to the bathroom, then Xander went to the bathroom. "Turn it up, I can't hear anything."
"That's because you don't need to," Throttle complained, bright red now. He looked down at Xander and shrugged. "Sorry."
"Not your fault. A certain brunette is going to get my foot up her ass." He rested his head on Throttle's thigh, watching himself dance. "I'm much better than I used to be." He kicked Vinnie. "Quit drooling on your pants, drool on your girl." He pulled Charley into his lap, nuzzling her. She was staring in fascinated horror too. Xander smirked as Throttle pounced him, grinning up at him on the tape.
"Now I know why the radio was stuck on," Vinnie said dryly.
"Glad I missed that." Stoker put the magazine in front of his face. He didn't want to see that. He really didn't want to see that.
Carbine whimpered, pointing and looking back at Throttle. "When did you learn that?"
"You said you wouldn't do that position," he said with a shrug. Modo moaned but couldn't look away. He nudged him, and the one-eyed gentle man looked at him. "Don't watch, it's going to get worse. Xander's got some ...ideas."
"He's very creative," Charley agreed. "He tells me whenever I ask."
"I liked that thing the other night," he whispered in her ear. "I wouldn't mind doing it again if you're not busy."
"It's lunchtime and I told them to come knock over here on the sign." She kissed him gently. "After work."
"Sure," he agreed with a grin. He shivered as the picture shifted and Xander was now teasing Throttle's antennas with his tongue.
Stoker dropped the paper. "You can do that?"
"Feels incredible," Vinnie admitted.
"Mmm," Throttle agreed, lips pressed shut. "Haven't you seen enough, Carbine? He's not dancing." She continued to sit there, staring in open-mouth, drooling, shock and awe. "Carbine!" he snapped. "Turn it off!"
Rimfire walked over and flipped off the tv. "I now have some mental images I didn't need, but it's very informational. He should do a sex talk show on Mars." He headed down to the bathroom, glancing in at Hannah, who was still sleeping. Then he locked the doors in the bathroom and calmed himself down the old fashioned way. He'd have to teach Dawn those tricks.
Carbine was still staring blankly at the tv, drool slightly coming out of the corner of her mouth. "I think she's broken," Xander said gently.
"Sell those, make a few more million," Charley teased, grinning at Xander, who blushed and hid his face. "What? You have others?" He squeaked a 'don't ask, don't tell' and hid his face further.
"Anya submitted to a few online places," Vinnie told her. He kissed her again, shifting her so she was straddling his hips. "There, much nicer." He kissed her again. "Love ya, sweetheart. No tapes, right?"
"I'm not one to perform," she teased back, poking the end of his nose. "You're the one who wants to be stared at."
"Not like that," he assured her.
"Toooo laaaattttteee," Stoker drawled. "Remember Strychnine?" Vinnie shuddered. "There's two somewhere."
"Yeah, well, she got what she wanted," Vinnie said bitterly. "She wanted some tail and she got some tail. Charley girl is much sweeter and better for me. She'd never sell unauthorized photos of me." She kissed him and he moaned, gripping her waist. "Sweetheart, lunch?"
"I am eating." She kissed him again. He picked her up and went into the guest room, using his tail to slam the door. She was on the bed and had one of his antenna in her mouth before he could do more than breathe.
Throttle looked at Xander, stroking his back. "I liked it," he assured him. "Good camera angles."
Xander looked up at him. "Usually that's my sort of line. Are you being naughty?"
"I try sometimes," he offered with a smirk. "Wanna take a nap too?"
"That didn't make me want to nap," Xander told him.
"Or other things. That way Carbine and Stoker can calm themselves down." Xander got up and hauled him up and down the ramp to their room. He laid down and stretched his arms above his head. "Nice choice, babe. I could use a bit of tying up."
Stoker kicked at Carbine, ruffling her hair since he wasn't close enough. "Hey. Carbine." He looked at Modo, who went into the bathroom and locked the door. Then at Enamel who walked out muttering about chains and collars and leashes and he'd stop that. That just made him shake his head though. Xander wasn't one of those sorta guys. He got up and walked around to close her mouth, tipping her face up. "Go for a long ride, Carbine," he said quietly. "Have fun."
"No. Go for a long ride, Carbine. Get it out of your system. Remember, you've got to work with the guy." She nodded, getting up to find her bike and go for a drive. Stoker went back to see if his wife was home yet. She smiled, looking down at their eating daughter. "You missed it. You can't pick on Carbine anymore for wanting to see Xander dance. He did it in Texas and it was caught on tape." She giggled. "Don't pick on her about it, babe. She's fairly shocked." He grinned at her. "You know, once you have the baby, you're coming on all these stupid trips. That way I can get to know little Jet." She shook her head, smirking at him. "Asteroid?"
"Then he'll never be more than a passing fancy," she told him, smirking at him.
"That's a better joke than Xander's." He swished his mechanical tail. "I'm not naming him after Xander."
"We could name him after Vinnie or Charley."
"He's got his own coming in a few months," he reminded her.
"How about after the band that sings that song you sing to me when I can't get to sleep? Or even after someone you like. You could name him after Throttle or Modo."
"That'd insult the other two," he pointed out gently. "We could name him after your dad."
She blushed. "No thanks. My dad's presently throwing fits. He was on one of the newly released ships." He winced. "You might want to tell Carbine she's in for a hell of a welcoming committee."
"She probably talked to him en route," he offered gently. "What did he do?"
"Called you a child molester and things." She smirked at him. "I kicked him in the shin for you and banned him from the house."
"Good. Can you do it to some of those brats who keep trying to break us up?"
"I still say they're just jealous and want you for themselves," she said with a gentle smile. Anya belched. "Manners, young lady. Manners. Your daddy is watching." She sat the baby up, letting her see her father. "See, there he is," she said, pointing at the screen. "Say hi."
Anya babbled and waved at him, making him grin. "You're adorable," he said fondly. He heard the door slam. "I'm the only one up," he called. Micah walked in. "Hey. Baby Anya and mommy."
"Hey, Switch. Hi, Anya," he said with a fond smile. "Hopefully I'll be able to send him back in a few days and Carbine can do the rest."
"Thank you, Micah." In the background you could hear someone pounding on the door. "Hold on." She put the baby down and went to look out the door, you could just see it in the screen. She tied her top back into place, opening it. "Father. What did you want?"
"I want to see you, daughter."
"Now you have. Go."
"Can't we start over?"
"You called the man *I* chose a horrible name, father. I love my man. I loved him enough to run away from Carbine to go to him. I love him enough to be carrying a son for him." He looked stunned. "So, either your attitude changes or you can leave and never come back." She walked back over, picking Anya up to cuddle her. "Say hi, daddy, Anya."
Stoker grinned at her. "I'll be home in a few days. As Xander pointed out, I can delegate until after the birth and I can bring you with me, babe."
"Thanks," she said with a sweet grin. "Are there problems, Micah?" Stoker handed him the newspaper.
"Apparently two of them," he admitted, looking at the file. He handed over the picture. "She look familiar?"
"Yeah, she was an external joiner, she and Throttle worked on a few plans together. She was a great strategist." He handed it back, frowning up at him. "She okay?"
"She's awake and demanding to talk to Throttle. I don't know why."
"Carbine found a tape of Xander dancing for Throttle in Texas that he," he coughed, "confiscated from the hotel. Everyone's off doing their own thing." Micah nodded wisely while Switch giggled. He winked at her. "I'll be home in a few days."
"You'd do that to her while she's pregnant?"
"The doctors said it's perfectly fine," Switch sighed. "Daddy, let's move out of the dark ages. I'm legal. I was when I ran to be with him. I waited to run to be with him until after I was legal. I'm going to enjoy my mate's body at least three times a day, each and every day, until the day one of us dies." He looked stunned. "He enjoys my playful streak and I enjoy teasing his back into the light of day." She looked at Micah. "Can you send him home with a Windows 2000 tech guide? I was told to ask." He nodded. "Cool. Also, we stuffed a list into his bag."
"I got it already. Most of it's not a problem, but a few things are fairly costly and stuff. Those we'd have to work out a trade agreement for." She nodded. "Who's doing that?"
"We don't have a full council anymore. The riots took all but two of them. There was a planet-wide election and we managed to get two more seated but there's a recount for the final seat. One's a seclusionist and the other's a well-decorated veteran. They'd probably have to talk to you in person."
"Either way is fine with me," Micah agreed. "If I have to come up, I'll gladly do that and bring Dawn and Xander with everyone else here. That way certain mothers could meet mates."
She grinned. "Too late. Throttle and Modo's mother were both on a ship that left today." She winked at her mate. "Throttle's mother was fidgeting. She's nervous about meeting him."
"I like the mini-punk, he makes Throttle playful, the same way you do me, but in an emergency there's almost no one I'd rather have at my back. He's creative, talented, and skilled in strategy. That whole 'guard ship' issue on the way back was him." He blew a kiss. "I'll let you get back to it while we talk boring stuff. I'll be here until I leave. If anyone needs to talk to us, like the council, have them call and ask." She grinned, her nose wrinkling a bit. "Good girl. I'll work on that name, I promise." She nodded and cut the connection from her side. He held up a finger, putting a call out for Modo's mother's ship. She came up but it was staticky. "I need to know how long to keep everyone here, Momma. There's some naughtiness today."
"Two white mice together? I'm not surprised," she said fondly. "How's the group?"
"Just fine. Grown by one. How long do you think?"
"Probably another four hours. We're about to the heliosphere." He nodded. "Behave and be safe until we get there." She glanced at the woman beside her. "Throttle is doing what?"
"Having sex. Carbine found a tape of Xander dancing for his mate."
"Ah." She smiled. "That's fine, Stoker. I'll see you in a few hours." She cut the connection.
Stoker looked at Micah. "We found a female in a dumpster earlier, fully Martian, with Karbunkle's ID tags and DNA twister sequence."
"Interesting. He escape?" He shook his head. "The execution took place and it's still going on?"
"Xander was thinking a clone."
"Possibly," he admitted. "We're not sure. We lost way too much in the past." He got up and led the way into the living room, finding Modo on his bed, so he led him into the study. "Xander upgraded."
"I can see that," he said, staring at the nice setup. He noticed the external hard drive sitting beside the desk. "I'm sending them stuff to process." Stoker chuckled. He sat down across from him, handing over that folder. "I need to know what you want done with her."
"You could probably bring her here. She was a trusted ally. Or he could fly out there so Xander doesn't have to kill her for flirting. She's just the sort." Micah nodded. "That might be better."
"Sure. I can authorize that. What about the paper?"
"Some guy who used to work at Quigley tattling."
"Hmm. Fine. I can handle that, it's a gossip rag that's always going on about aliens."
"Xander wanted to go on that tv show with the odd terrans because they were asking about people who were abducted by aliens."
"Springer? Not the best choice to announce yourself on. It's *entertaining* but trash."
"Yeah, I noticed that earlier," he agreed dryly. "The girl downstair's name is Hannah. I don't know anything else. Her tags mark her as being fairly recently done. He sequentially numbers them."
"Handy of him."
Stoker nodded. "Keeps his notes in order too." He leaned back, hearing footsteps. "Come on in here, honey. I'm talking to the man who can help you most." Hannah walked back there to join them. "Hanna, this is Micah. He's the guy who guards our presence down here."
"Hi," he said, holding out a hand. She shook it like an earth girl, with a firm grip. "Go ahead and sit. Stoker, hand me some paper." He nodded, tossing over a notebook. Micah looked for a blank page then delicately handed it back. "I think that's a private journal of Meg's." Stoker looked and blushed, putting it back and getting some loose paper and a pen. "Thanks." He looked at her. "Hannah with two 'n's and an ending 'h'?" She nodded. "Do you remember your last name?"
"Kyle." He wrote that down. "I'm from Pennsylvania, from by Dutch Country." He wrote that down too. She patted herself down. "My wallet's missing and I don't know my social security number, sir."
"It's just Micah, Hanna." He grinned at her. "Do you know your parent's phone number?" She nodded, writing it down with their address. "Thanks. I'll call them later and tell them that we've found you and that we're taking you for mental evaluation because it looks like you may have been hurt, but that you're fine. I'll even let you talk to them." She nodded. "Now, do you remember anything about what happened between your last day at home and ending up here?"
She sniffled. "Bits and pieces." Stoker handed her the box of tissues. "Thank you. You're very nice for being aliens, but I want to be a normal girl again."
"If we could reverse it, we would," Micah said gently. "I'm not sure what we can do yet." She nodded, sniffling some more. "Good girl. Now, I'll need a full report to get the bastards who did this to you." He saw Vinnie come in and give her a hug. "She's fine."
"Coming out of a lab like that made even me cry, Micah." He tipped her face up. "It's up to you where you go after this. Don't let anyone, even your parents, tell you differently." She nodded, swallowing up at him. "We'll have to check to make sure he didn't do stuff to your mind first, but there's a whole planet of people just like us." She nodded, starting to cry. "You're more than welcome up there once you're cleared."
"I've got it, Vincent," Stoker said gently. He nodded. "Keep everyone here tonight."
"I didn't think we were going to go to the clubs with that paper being out." He grimaced. "Pity, I could use some good stress relief. Charley girl's asleep again." He heard a footstep and grinned, walking out to smirk at Dawn. "You're home early." He tipped her face up, noticing the fat lip and the bruises around her throat. "What happened?"
"Bitch patrol." She pulled her face away. "The Headmistress had to suspend me because I nearly killed the girl who was trying to stab me, but by then the bruises should be gone. She gave me a lift home. She said she didn't blame me and she's not putting it into my records." She heard Micah talking and nodded. "Crisis?"
"Little ones together. Rimfire was down in the bathroom last I knew."
"He's snoring in my room." She took off her sweater and walked into the study, making Stoker hiss and stand up. "Bitch patrol struck again." She looked at Micah. "One of them tried to stab me."
He looked up at her, moving her collar to see the bruises around her neck. "I'm not blaming you, Dawn. I know you'd only protect yourself. How long?"
"A week. I nearly killed her." She sat down, noticing the new mouse. "Hey, I'm Dawn. I'm Xander's adopted daughter. He's gonna throw a bloody fit."
"Not on you," Micah said, giving her a gentle hug around the shoulders. "You need medical?"
"Nah, I need a few ice packs. They jumped me in gym." She swallowed with some effort and put her head back up. "We were playing soccer inside and one of them grabbed by hair. Another one took a swing, and the third one pounced before I could stop her. She pulled a knife while the others kept the students from breaking in. Phil managed to get through and kicked the knife away. So she choked me instead. That one I broke and I nearly snapped her neck. I wanted to bad," she sighed, shaking her head.
"It's an instinctive response to kill the threat," Stoker told her. "I have to train guys every day to use it to their advantage." He stroked over the bruise on her cheek. "Where are they?"
"Phil took on one and she's headed to the ER with a broken arm and possibly a crack in her hip bone. I got the one who was strangling me and the other one jumped me so I crushed her, Stoker. I slammed her head on the floor a few times and I hit her in the middle of the chest. She's going to the ER for broken ribs and a broken cheekbone and I'm not sorry."
"You shouldn't be," Micah promised. "I'm going to be taking some pictures."
"The Headmistress did too. I had to point out one wasn't a bruise from then, it was a hickey, and that got the first smile that day. I don't know what's wrong with them. It's like it's that time of the moon cycle and they're werewolves or something. The same thing every month."
"You might ask Oz," Stoker offered gently. She nodded, swallowing again. "Vinnie, get her something for the pain and some ice packs." He carried those in with a can of regular soda. "Where's the camera?"
"The new digital one is in the desk. I opened it and stuck it up on the shelf but Oz moved it."
"Thanks, Vinnie." Micah looked at him. "You might want to interrupt the duo if they're done."
"No, it's okay. They'll find out soon enough." She took the pills and grabbed the ice packs. "I'm going to curl up on Rimfire. If that's okay?"
"I'm not going to say anything unless you two get loud," Vinnie said gently. "I like him, he's a standup guy." She gave him a small grin then winced as he lip split open again. "Come on, I'll walk you down so you don't trip." He walked her down the stairs, listening to Xander and Throttle go at it. "I'll tell 'em when they get up. You rest." She nodded, sliding into her room.
"Who the cheese did that to you?" Rimfire demanded.
"Bitch patrol." She closed her door, curling up next to him. "Here, you can help me ice stuff." He took them from her, putting them where they were needed, including her knuckles. He kissed her gently and held her while she shivered and cried, soothing her.
Vinnie listened to Throttle as he came with a bellow, pretty clear what he was doing unless Xander just bit him deeply, then sighed. He waited until he heard the gentle talking start then counted to ten, just in case they needed to hide anything. He stepped forward and tapped gently on the door.
"What?" Throttle called, sounding cranky.
Vinnie opened the door, sticking his head in. "Dawn got trashed at school. She's got massive bruises. She got suspended as a formality but she's not in trouble." Xander started to get up but the straps around his wrist stopped him. Vinnie grinned at him. "Sorry to interrupt."
"Not an issue. She's okay?"
Vinnie nodded. "Yeah, she'll be fine. Phil stopped the girl from stabbing her and she was choked. Looks like she's got some swelling. I gave some pain killers and ice packs."
"No, she goes to the ER and she goes now," Xander said firmly.
Vinnie nodded. "I'll take her personally. Micah wanted pictures in case this came back to hurt her."
"Oh, those girls' asses are mine," Xander assured him. "Them, their parents, and their parent's wallets are going to be begging for mercy by the time I'm done." Throttle released him and he got up, grabbing a bathrobe to go next door and check on her. He found Rimfire holding her and nodded that it was fine. He moved her hair out of his way. "Dawn, you're going to the ER. That's more than an ice pack injury." She looked up at him. "It is. I want you to go."
"No buts." He stood up. "I'll take you myself I have to."
"I said I've got it," Vinnie admitted.
"No, I've got it. I've got authority to treat so they'd have to call me anyway." He went back to his room, going to put on his fighting leathers, because he needed the mental boost past his anger, then grabbed his keys and his wallet, going to gather her. "Come on, baby." He led her up to the car and to the local hospital. The other girls were still in there, he could hear the whiny brats saying it was all her fault. He looked at the nurse. "Those whiny bitches tried to kill her. She's having problems swallowing and I'm told there was a knife earlier. Is the headmistress still here?" She nodded. "Thank you. Here, take her. She needs it." The nurse led her back to the other side of the ward. Xander looked over as a parent sneered at him. "I'd stop it before I smack that bitch grin off your face," he warned. "If one of your daughters did that to Dawn, you're going to be begging for mercy." He looked over as the headmistress came out. "What happened?"
"I don't know why they keep attacking her each month, Xander," she said quietly. "Is she okay? She said she wanted to go home."
"She can't swallow. That's not okay." He crossed his arms as the two girls were led out. "I've had enough. I want them arrested and I want them arrested now." The headmistress nodded, going to tell the parents that. He glared at one mother, who was nearly whimpering. "You're damn lucky I taught Dawn to defend herself or this would have been homicide months ago." He looked over as a cop walked in, nodding politely at him. "These two and one other one took on my adopted daughter."
"She's a whore," one girl spat.
"Really? Because she was a virgin until recently." The girl looked stunned. "She saw something worth waiting for. You probably didn't." He looked at the cop. "My adopted daughter, Dawn Summers, has been attacked by these two and their friend since the first day of school. This is the second time she's been suspended for having to defend herself, which I don't disagree with. The rules state no fighting and she did. It gave us a chance to patch her up." He looked at the headmistress. "You'll be handing over your files?" She nodded. "Thank you. The third?"
"Already in jail for the dagger," she admitted.
"Same case?" the cop asked. She nodded. "These are the other two attackers that the boy Phil mentioned?" She nodded again. "Good, then we have a warrant for their arrest on conspiracy to commit homicide, attempted homicide in the first degree, and carrying illegal weapons into the school." The parents gasped. "We checked their lockers, they had other weapons. There was another knife and there was a short sword and there was a handgun I believe." He checked his notes. "A Browning nine-mil." He looked at the parents. "Anyone want to claim those items?"
"The Browning may be mine," one father said, glaring at Xander. "You'd do that to my daughter?"
Xander went into the room where Dawn was and picked her up, carrying her back. "Take a good look at what your daughter did." The father flinched and most of the parents did too. He saw that same sneering mother. "She in on this or just sneering?"
"No, her son was brought in for a burn, sir," a nurse said gently. "May we have her back?" He nodded, letting her have Dawn back.
Xander looked at the cop, who was patting himself down. "Camera?"
"Yes, sir." He found it and held it up. "I'll have to take pictures."
"She'll allow it." He nodded, going in there. "I hope like hell your daughters learn from this or get whatever mental help they need. It's obvious something's wrong." More cops came in and took the daughters away. Xander went back to sit beside Dawn, watching as the pictures were taken. "Do you have any that I shouldn't see?" he asked calmly. She nodded. "Where?"
"Stomach." She moved her shirt and lowered her skirt's waistband. The cop put a ruler next to it and took a picture. "There's one in the middle of my back too. They threw the soccer ball at me when I got up to defend myself against the next one."
"That's fine, Miss Summers. You're how old?"
"Seventeen. I was defending myself."
"I know, ma'am. Those sort of bruises don't come from playful swatting." He looked at Xander, raising an eyebrow. "Where do I know you from?"
"I'm one of the crew leads for MIB Concepts. I was doing that abuse shelter." He nodded, going back to the picture taking. "Do you need forensics?"
"No, sir. We're good on that. This should be enough to at least make them plea and get some help. I don't know what this is." He took another picture of her face, then put the camera away. "Okay. I'll need a statement. Do you want him here for this, Miss Summers?"
"Yeah, I trust him. That's why I ran away to him and had him adopt me. Please don't tell my sister, she'll try something again." She looked over as a social worker was led in. "Hey, again."
"Hey," Xander agreed, nodding at her. "School brats."
"I knew it wasn't you." She stroked the girl's face. "Are you all right?" She shook her head, starting to cry.
"Shh, you let it out. It's all right. Each and every time I'm threatened that way I break down too," he crooned, holding her as best he could. "Shh, we'll go home soon and I'll tell Wesley personally so he makes sure she knows it was at school and handled." She nodded, turning to hug him. "Shh, baby. I've got you," he soothed. "It's all okay now. I had the bitches arrested for you. They're going to go to hell before I let them touch you again. They're going to start begging for mercy soon and I'm going to laugh for a long while before I let up." She sniffled and nodded, so he helped her lay back down again. "There you go, baby." He stroked her hair and wiped her cheeks off for her. "Go ahead, officer. Before she can go to sleep."
He nodded, pulling over a stool. "Miss Summers. I have a report already, I need your side of the story."
She nodded, sitting up with some help once she moved. "I was in gym class. We were playing soccer inside." He turned on a tape recorder and took down the first few lines. She sniffled and took a tissue from the nurse.
Modo smiled as his mother came up the ramp, jumping up to hug her. "Momma." He grinned at the woman behind her, nodding to the table. "Momma, you need to baby Dawn. Some girls at school have been picking on her. They nearly killed her today. She still can't swallow very well."
"That poor baby! Where is she?" She went looking for her, finding her in her bed being babied by Rimfire. "Well, she's in good hands," she said with a smile. She gave her a kiss on the cheek and a hug. "You poor thing. Are you okay?"
"Jello sucks but I can't swallow," she said hoarsely. She grinned at Rimfire. "He's making it better though."
"Then you can have him all you want, princess." She tucked her in and fussed for a few more minutes. "Would some pudding help?" She shook her head. "Can't swallow that either?" She shook her head again. "Then I'll make you some special soup, Dawnie. Give Momma a few hours." She kissed her on the forehead, then kissed Rimfire on his. "Come upstairs once she's asleep. We've got another visitor." He nodded and grinned so she bustled off to start that soup.
Upstairs, Throttle was staring at his mother, who looked really old. "Momma?" he asked finally. She nodded patiently. He got up an hugged her. "Hi, Momma. Welcome to our present lair." He looked around, seeing Xander ducked down and eating, chuckling a bit. "Momma, did Modo's momma give you any news?"
"She did and I wanted to see this human." She looked at Micah. "You don't look the same."
"That's because I changed," Xander admitted, wiping his mouth and getting up to grin at her. "Hi."
"You're a mouse?"
"I didn't used to be. Somehow it happened."
She gave him a hug. "That just makes me like you all the more, you changed for my baby boy." She kissed him on the cheek. "Sit, eat. You're both too skinny, you can see every muscle in your bodies." She swatted them gently and went into the kitchen, finding Modo's mother and Charley in there. She looked at the girl. "Are you carrying a kit?" Charley nodded, grinning at her. "Then you'd be Vinnie's girl." She gave her a hug. "I'm very happy for you, dear. It takes a special and strong woman to love that one." She looked at the pot. "Soup?"
"Dawn got trashed at school by a few girls. She can't swallow," Charley told her. "She's in her room with Rimfire dancing attendance on her."
"That poor thing! Why did they attack her?" Charley shrugged. "No real reason?"
"Xander thinks they're part of a cult who is against Dawn because she's a strong young woman. Either that or they hate the fact that she's pretty, she rides my bike to school sometimes, or that she has Rimfire on her arm." Momma grinned at that. "You're Throttle's mom, right?" She nodded, grinning at her. She leaned closer. "Don't worry, Vinnie and Xander aren't *really* related, it's just really close to it." She snickered, swatting her gently. "He's a nice guy. Very fun loving but very serious in a crisis. He and Vinnie got hyped on caffeine and went to take down the tower a few days ago."
"Good on them," Throttle's mom said with a bright grin. "I like this boy more and more. He makes my son have fun again and he helps Vinnie stay sane." She helped by adding some stuff to the soup. "You need that for her bruises to heal faster."
"Fine," Modo's mother agreed gently, smiling at her friend. "Charley girl, go sit. You shouldn't be on your feet."
"The baby's barely visible with a viewing thing." She was walked out and handed to Vinnie, who pulled her full plate over so she could eat from his lap. "I'm fine."
"Yes, you are," Vinnie teased, making her blush. "Nearly as fine as I am." She pinched him but chuckled and started to eat. He glanced at Xander and kicked him under the table. "It's cool, bro. She'd have said so if it wasn't."
"Eat, boys," Throttle's mother called.
"We are, momma," Throttle called back, digging in again. "He's right," he said quietly, eating another bite. He dug out some potatoes for Xander and put them onto his plate. "There, eat. You'll need those carbs later."
Micah chuckled. "I can get a hotel if necessary."
"No, you can take my bed," Vinnie assured him. "Hannah can have Charley's spare room?" She nodded, eating another bite. "That leaves the couch for Stoker and the guest room for the mothers." Throttle nodded, liking that idea.
"We can sleep on the ship."
"Do not argue with us, mom, you're staying here," Xander called. "I've seen some of those ships, they're uncomfy and always too hot. If it's good enough for Switch to give birth in, you can both stay in there." She laughed and came out to hug him. "Besides, you need to spend time with your son and I'm going to be busy in the office now and then." He patted her on the arm, trying to get free. "It's okay, I promise."
She let him go. "Sorry you're not used to being cuddled, baby, and I understand that. It'll be okay. You'll learn."
"Momma, he had some horrible parents," Throttle told her. "Plus he's an orphan now. They died when his town was sucked into a portal to hell."
"They're dead?" Vinnie asked. Xander nodded. "Why?"
"They refused to leave. They said it was nothing important and went back to watching the God channel." He shrugged. "We tried to force them to go and they refused." He dug back into his dinner.
Throttle saw his mother's calculating look and shook his head subtly. She let it go for now.
"I'll give you some of my cousins," Vinnie offered with a bright grin. "They'd fuss you to death."
"Eww, no thanks. I get enough of that, thanks though."
"Some people you simply can't fuss over," Momma agreed as she came out of the kitchen and hugged Xander quickly before moving onto Vinnie. "You're one of them because it only swells your head bigger than your tail."
"My tail isn't swollen," he complained. "It's very slim and very strong." Charley nodded so he stroked her back. "Besides, she likes my tail like this."
"She must to put up with your ego, bro," Modo teased. "How long are you in for, Momma?"
"However long I feel like. I'm tired of those tail pipe suckers running the Council. Can't get 'em to agree on anything. If a fishead were to come back today, they couldn't agree to blow him away." She patted him and gave him another hug. "Carbine's got an easier lot when she comes back, her boyfriend got elected." She went back into the kitchen.
"She's dating?" Throttle asked his mother.
She nodded. "Pistol." He shuddered. "They're a lot alike in many ways, son. Don't begrudge her that happiness." She stroked his hair. "You need to grow it out again." She looked at the table. "No hotdogs?" Everyone pointed at Xander, who shrugged. "Are you being pushy?"
"One meal out of every nine," he said dryly, grinning at her. "I can't eat hotdogs so this saves me from burger overexposure." She chuckled and gave him a gentle pat then went back to help in the kitchen, taking something out of the oven and going to put it on the table. Xander looked and got up, taking that to put it back into the oven. "Sorry, not done yet. It's for Vinnie's birthday in a few days." He turned back on the oven. "When it's done, that timer will go off. I'll come and handle it. You relax. You just got here. Relax, talk with your son, see how horrible I really am." She smiled and patted him on the face. He went back to his dinner. She checked the cake, pressing on it, then picked up a waiting toothpick, testing it. She put it back on top of the stove and turned off the oven. Then she got to work helping with the soup. "Will she be able to eat those?"
"No, but she'll make Rimfire eat. He'll not eat until she's out of that bed, I know him too well. This'll give him what he needs too." They shared a smile and worked together. The beeper went off. "I've got it, Xander. Eat."
"He really used to be a human?" She nodded. "Why did he change?"
"No one's sure," Modo's mother offered. "All I know is that he's slowly changing into an adult mouse. He's got the same skills as a mouse who's a few years old."
Throttle stuck his head into the kitchen. "Mommas, you're embarrassing him. And now he's about four," he said smugly, going back to his baby. He stroked Xander's arm, getting a shy grin. "Micah, when am I flying out to check on her?"
"Tomorrow good for you?"
Throttle considered. "Day after?"
"I could bring her here."
"You could, but she's a horrible flirt," Throttle warned, glancing at Xander, who was letting out a small growl. "It never happened, she just likes to flirt, Xander." He was still growling.
"What's wrong?" Vinnie asked quietly, touching him on the arm.
"Something is singing off key outside and it's driving me nuts!" he shouted, getting up to do something about that.
Micah stopped him. "Let me." She went to open the window in the study, looking down at the person standing there. "Did you need something?"
"I'm looking for the Last Chance Garage and the building next to it. That's this, right?" Micah nodded. "I've got a summons for Miss Dawn Summers."
"I'll come get it."
"Only her, sir, it's official stuff you know." Micah held out his badge. "Sorry, sir, orders and all."
Micah pulled back in and closed the window, going to get Dawn up and take her out there. "Dawn, there's a summons at the door."
"Why?" she groaned, getting up and hobbling to the door. She opened it. "What?" she snarled hoarsely. The man stared at her. "You are?"
"I know who I am. Who're you?"
"I'm with the firm of Wolfram and Hart...." He stopped when she pulled a knife. "I've got a summons, ma'am, that's it," he said calmly, backing away from her. "Please. I don't mean no harm, this is just a job to me."
"Change careers, those people are foul and evil," she sneered. "They hurt some very good friends of mine. Tell them I'm not going down like Angel." She kicked at the summons, sending it after him. "Take it back. I don't want it."
Xander came down and took the envelope, opening it to look inside. "Strong magic." He looked at the messenger. "You a halfie?" He nodded, backing away further. "Then you tell your boss that Xander Harris and Dawn Summers protect this town from their kind. I don't care what they want, I'm not buying it. If they want to interact with us, they can send a lawyer who hasn't sold his soul. By the way, check your contract to make sure that wasn't one of the clauses." He nodded and ran off. Xander helped her back to bed, letting Micah hold the summons. For now. He took it upstairs and got some leather gloves, sitting on the couch to open it and make sure it wasn't going to explode. 'I know what you did in Sunnydale' was scribbled on top of it but it faded after a moment. He read the summons then groaned. "They're taking Buffy's place as her guardian? Why?"
He called Wesley. "Wes, it's Xander. I got a summons here for Dawn from W&H, man. Spelled. Said I know what you did in Sunnydale. Then it says they're suing me for custody of her. No, it was at school. Personally? I'm thinking something that makes them change on the moons. It only happens on moon dark. Maybe a cult, maybe not." He listened to him. "Yeah, they were all dyed blondes." He listened as Fred said something. "Sounds reasonable. What do I do?" He nodded. "Sure. No, tell her I had the girls arrested. They tried it before, that's why she got suspended. Because the headmistress has to, Wes, the school's rules forbid any form of fighting, even self-defense. It's how the code was drawn. Besides, the last time it gave us time to patch her up. No, she's not fine but she'll live. Choked. Nearly stabbed, a few good other bruises. Nah, I've got it and I took her to the ER. They're in jail tonight and the girl with the knife may be staying. Sure. I can fax it or scan it. Which way?"
He nodded, getting up to fax it, smiling as it went through, turning it over to send that side too. "There you go. Yeah, I used that one." He beamed. "Thanks, Buffy. No, she'll be fine. Some bruising. Choked. Three girls, one attacked out of nowhere to distract her and the other one got her onto her back. No, she was holding her own, keeping the dagger from her chest. Then her former boyfriend kicked the knife and the girl used her hands instead so Dawn fought that off. Yeah, but it's hard to do that when you're using one hand to hold the knife and she's pinned your legs. Actually, I saw the tape the cops pulled from the security system and she looked better than you do. Yes, I'm sure she'll be fine. The ER docs said so and her boyfriend, Rimfire, is presently babying her so much he's refusing to eat until she can."
He smirked. "Because he's a sweet guy. He's Modo's nephew. Yeah, him. No, a lot like him. Very sweet and gentle with her. They got together over her wind phobia. There was a blizzard that started while she and he were out clubbing. One room, a bed and a couch, he was taking the couch, but then the wind started to go bad. Cracked the first room's windows. He got her moved, calmed down again, and all that stuff. Yeah, very sweet. No, we liked Phil, but he wanted someone who was a bit less independent. Dawn would ride on a bike beside him but he wanted someone to ride behind him and let him lead more often. Rimfire enjoys her occasional foray into snarky and cold and her dancing nature. Yeah, they go clubbing about every weekend to get away from us adults. No, she's fine. The social worker that got called came in when I had the twats arrested. Yeah, very. Thanks, Wes," he said with a grin. "Should I worry? That's fine." He marked it on his calendar. "Yeah, got it. How are they doing this?" He listened to the reasons given on the form. "They have no interest in her." He nodded. "Sure, thanks."
He hung up and called an old friend's number. "Gunn, it's Xander. I need help. I'm running into a Wolfram and Hart issue with Dawn in Chicago. No, they're trying to take custody of her. I know they don't, but that isn't stopping them from sending charmed summons. Please. I'll pay and then pay for you to pop to Cleveland. Um, Gunn, did no one tell you that the Powers brought back two Watchers to help Buffy since Giles left again?" he asked gently. "Yeah, Wes and Fred, man. Definitely. I'll pay to have you moved if you want," he vowed. "No, I've got money from the Watchers. Sure. Let me get you a..." He smiled. "You're sure? I can have you flown. That's fine then, it's great," Xander promised. "The twenty-fourth. Yeah, that's what Wesley said. Sure. Want me to fax it? Not an issue, Gunn. I'm here twenty-four seven. Come to Chicago, come to the Last Chance Garage. We live next door and the owner is really cool and a friend of ours. Oh, um, don't be surprised if you see some changes in me. No, Fred was looking for you. She couldn't get away yet. Please. Whatever you need, Gunn. Thanks, man." He hung up and found Dawn standing there. "Wolfram and Hart want custody of you." She snorted, glaring at him. "I faxed it to Wes and Fred, who're looking it over, and Gunn's coming."
She gave him a hug. "Thank you," she whispered. "Are they changed?"
"Fred thought so," he said, walking her back into the living room. "She's checking the books, she thinks she remembered something about blonde hair and moon dark." He sat her down in his spot since Rimfire was in the seat next to it. "We're having another guest in a few days. Gunn was a friend of Angel's. He's a nice guy. He won't freak and he's too damned tired to react anymore. He was one of the last ones in LA."
"Connor?" Dawn croaked.
"I'm getting you some ice cream," Throttle's mother said, going to do that.
"He's living," Xander said gently. "He's not coming. He hates Buffy." She nodded, shrugging a bit. "Wesley was thinking about putting one of the better trained girls out there with him. You'll be happy to know his first act in Cleveland was to shoot out a window for attention, then take Sandy to whip her tail very well in a sparring match, then sent her butt to rehab, which violated her probation. She's in deep shit." Dawn smirked at that. "Thought that might cheer you up."
"What did this girl do?" Momma asked.
"Put drugs in her car, set her up to date a gun dealer, who became obsessed, then told Buffy it was Dawn's idea and bad taste to date him. Dawn turned her in one of her first days here." He went back to the couch but Throttle pulled him back with his tail and sat him in his lap, pushing the half-full plate closer. "Thanks, babe."
"Welcome." he said, stroking his back. "Calm down. They take Dawn over my dead body."
"If we can stall until this summer, they can't do it anyway," Dawn croaked, accepting the bowl of ice cream. "Thanks."
"You're welcome, dear. That soup will be ready for you later. You can have a real supper then," she said with a wink.
"Momma, sit," Throttle ordered. "No more fussing. You're wearing yourself too thin for no reason." He stared her down. "It's not necessary."
"Fine." She sat down, digging into her dinner. "I'm just worried about you boys."
"Momma, Xander built us this spot," Throttle said patiently. She looked up, smiling at him. "He's protected us since the first time he met us, way back when." He stroked the back of Xander's head, earning an ear twitch. "I knew even then he was special. The man sent Limburger to hell with his tower."
"I figured they needed the building materials to expand," Xander said dryly. He ate another bite, choking when Throttle pinched him. He got patted on the back, taking the soda Vinnie was holding out to gulp to try and get it under control. "Don't do that if you want me to eat."
"Sorry, even I have bad timing sometimes." He looked at Dawn. "Test?"
"Aced," she croaked before taking another bite. "Practical too." He grinned at her.
"I'm making her teach me too because she keeps calling me names in them," Rimfire offered with a grin for his grandmother. "That way I know when she's upset with me."
"I throw things," Dawn reminded him. "You'll know."
Everyone at the table laughed at that.
To part 23
To Out-take Story