Categories > Cartoons > Biker Mice from Mars

An Open Mind

by kela-Ashes 1 review

Just because two cultures don't mesh doesn't mean they have to clash, and Charley is about to get a first hand lesson in how Martian women prefer their men. On a trip back to Earth from Mars Charle...

Category: Biker Mice from Mars - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Romance - Warnings: [!] [X] - Published: 2015-02-23 - 18756 words


Summery: Just because two cultures don't mesh doesn't mean they have to clash, and Charley is about to get a first hand lesson in how Martian women prefer their men. On a trip back to Earth from Mars Charley awkwardly and frustratingly falls in love, Martian style. Takes place during 'Return to Mars'.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, no profit is intended from this piece of fiction.

Authors note: I would first of all like to thank The Third Biker Scholar, whose fic The First single-handedly brought me into the Biker Mice fandom. I had seen it on so many favorites lists over the years from people in other fandoms, that last summer I finally broke down went to see what all the fuss was about. Overnight I became an almost rabid fan. Although, I have to say that having never see more than one or two episodes as a kid, my twenty-nine year old self was hugely disappointed with the availability of episodes, and I've found myself scourging the interwebs every few weeks in a sad and desperate attempt to get any info on whatever is happening with this show in 2016. It has been hell.

Having no reference for what Martian languages sound like, I have settled on something that is phonetically identical to the Black Tongue of Morder spoken with a Mandarin accent.

I realize I spell 'Plutarkian' differently than everyone else (i.e. Plutarchian), but for my purposes I find this to be a much cleaner spelling. 'Plutarkian' reminds me of all those ninety-year-old translations of the Odyssey that used an archaic and awkward method of translating the names and places of everything into Latin letters. It had way to many 'k's and it was ugly to look at.

Story is unbeta'd, but not for lack of trying. Apperenty betas in the Biker Mice fandom are either rare or inactive. If there is anyone willing to take up the mantle for future chapters, send me a PM.

This will be the first part of a four chapter fic. This story is somewhat AU, although in my demented headcannon, all this has been taking place after the episode Return to Mars. It may or may not be my own little attempt at fan-service. Originally I was writing a PWP for my own amusment that I had not intention of posting anywhere. But then actual plot reared its disfigured head and forced me down the rabbit hole. The ending for Return to Mars has been blatantly and drastically altered, however. Story is rated T for sexual content. Not perpendicularly graphic, but it is there. You have been warned.


She had seen how Martians treated their women. And at the end of it Charley wasn't sure if she should feel honored for their inclusion of her in their way of life, or insulted for how they had completely encapsulated her in their idea of 'appropriate' before even giving her a chance to say no.

Not there was anything degrading about the position Martian custom would place her. It was simply that the journey from a comfortably average, business owning, independent, western woman to playing a traditional female role in a Martain style relationship was a road on which there were more bumps than smooth paved road.

The guys explained to her the complexity of Martian ways, as it was a world being home to more than one sentient species. Each of these with their own languages, religions, social orders, assumptions about how people should treat each other. Those assumptions had taken very different paths for all the different natives. In part, this was an affect of their biology. Martian life had taken a singular evolutionary path, common to all the Rats, Sand Raiders, and Cave Mice. Protruding growths from the pineal gland intersected with frontal cortex, giving way to heightened mental skills that were a part of life to all Martians. They were sympathetic to a fault, speaking a phrase and feeling its effects on all those who hear it and formed an opinion about it. The inhabitants of Mars had developed social habits that avoided the most unpleasant aspects of life. However only the Mice were truly telepathic, as in them these growths were much larger, extending out of the skull entirely.

When Charley met her boys on that first night, seeing their antenna glow that bright red-purple color had frighted her. She remembered that spike of fear, felt high her stomach, griping her chest. A moment later she felt a different kind of fear, after seeing what the Plutarchians had done to Mars and would do to Earth if given half a chance. There were many long nights afterwards when the guys would come over after she closed up the shop. Charley would make them dinner and they would talk about Mice and Human life. Everything from music and culture to the basics of biology. She was most surprised to how few differences there were. People were essentially the same no matter where you went, they would tell her. We want the same things. We all just had different ways of going about it.

As their travel experience had far outweighed hers, and their words were just so reasonable, she had nothing to say to that. It had touched her inner utopianist.

She later came to learn that even the Human pineal gland glows when in use, usually when the person is dreaming, as the pineal gland is also the source of melatonin and the regulations of sleep cycles. That led to a series of questions about the links between dreaming and psychic abilities. None of which they guys could answer.

“You'd have to ask someone a lot smarter then this pack of grunts.” Modo smiled good-naturally. The way he said it seemed to imply that the topic wasn't unheard of on Mars. But Charley took him at his word and let it go.

The cliché that women in general were far more emotional than their male counterparts was common to Mars as well as Earth. However, because of their telepathic nature, all that emotion could be felt, in the right circumstances. The guys told her that female energy was a frighteningly powerful thing. That was in part why whenever she lost her temper with them, they generally did their best to make amends as quickly as possible. Typically in form of the cleaning or fixing up whatever it was that they damaged that time. Their rambunctious nature was a thing she had learned to accept a long time ago. She had once taken out a couple packs good old Zombie Dust, her father's favorite beer when he'd been living (the irony of this was not lost on her) and after everyone had been rendered pleasantly tipsy they told her the history of their world. They said to her that if a man was lucky enough to have a woman in life in any context he had a responsibility to her. Women were the origin of life. The first creation of the Goddess, and when they were threatened it was more than just a mere duty to “rescue the girl”, as they put it. It was instinct. It was survival.

Life on Mars was hard. Along with the complete destruction of the ecosystem, the population was targeted in an intentionally strategic manor. Plutarchians always went after women. It had become a preferred strategy amongst the fish since long before the Mice's freedom fighter movement. The Plutarchians were skilled in the arts of conquest, having done so many times before they had gotten to Mars. They knew there would be an up-rise eventually, as there always is during such endeavors. They had taken steps to ensure that there would be less of an enemy to fight when that time came, even the early days of their first trade agreements with Mars. The right person paid here, an important official encouraged to look the other way there. It was so easy to add the “nutritional supplements” to the water supply, and it was nearly a decade before anyone realized the long term effects of infertility in the women. The only difference now was that the population control was more overt and violent rather than secret and chemical.

Even before the wars the cold deserts were a place difficult to survive in. Sand Raiders routinely dealt in slave trade and trafficking of people. A practice that began thousands of years ago and initially was restricted to the enslavement of the lowest caste members of society. It quickly expanded outward as Mars had more and more contact with races from outside their world. There was always someone somewhere willing to buy. They were a nomadic people, these Raiders. Always moving, always looking for someone to take and make a profit of.

But it was more than just their economic habits that led Cave Mice to have such distrust of Sand Raiders. Their psychic presence was deeply upsetting. The Mice were a race that could feel every part of each other so easily. And when they came into interaction with the Sand Raiders, people who take and use others without hesitation, nothing compared the culture clash between the two groups. Physicians among the Mice knew that the Sand Raiders had telepathic abilities. What was not known was how they endured feeling the emotions of those they enslaved. When Charley had inquired if any Mice had ever asked the Sand Raiders, she was met with frustrated faces and clenched fists. Of course they had tried, they said. It made no sense to them, so there had to be a reason. Over the years, during a less violent time, anthropologists and adventurists alike would brave the deep desert seeking answers to these ancient questions. Most of them never returned.

The Rats were equally feared and were placed in a similar category as the Raiders. Throughout the centuries some of their hunters were often contracted by Sand Raiders to assist in capturing new “inventory”. They were cowardly mercenaries with no concept of decency.

Mice were not violent by nature. But they knew how to stay alive, and by necessity they learned fast. As Charley would come to learn, the social structure of the family unit was based on the cultivation of two things: passive civility and survival of the clan. Anyone invited to a Mouse's home would see this in action. She certainly had.

Charley was taken to Mars by Limberger during Brie's unsuccessful attempt playing General Carbine against the Biker Mice. After that horrifying fiasco had been resolved, she stayed with Modo's mother for a few days until they could get a ride back to Earth. She spoke with the aged mouse lady for many hours about everything she had seen. The old woman helped Charley understand much of what had happened to her. Including that wretched bikini thing that the one-legged shaggy Sand Raider demanded she wear. At first Charley had thought that he had simply not cared that thirty-eight degree weather, warm for a Martian day, would have made such attire more than a little uncomfortable on her fur-less skin.

“Oh, he would have known. And given you nothing else to keep warm. If you ran you would died from exposure. And if you stayed...well then...likely he was betting that you would seek him out for warmth.”

If it wasn't enough that her gentle voice was less reassuring that it should have been, her explanation it didn't make sense to the dark haired earth women.

“So...if he already thought he owned me,” Charley started. “then why didn't he just take what he wanted?”

“That doesn't happen very often on our little red world. Sand Raiders, as barbaric as they are, have the same gods we do. He would have feared angering the Great Goddess. It motivates them to be far more gentle with the women they capture.” She took a sip of her gianji root tea, then added as an afterthought. “Except with Rats. They are not much interested in the Goddess. They don't seem to fear much, aside from being eaten by a saber squid.” There was so much pity in her eyes when she said this. Charley couldn't help but wonder if all the bad blood between Mice and Rats wasn't at least based in part on religious reasons. In the back of her mind she wondered what sort of treatment was standard for the men that had been taken prisoner, if what she experienced was their idea of respectful. She asked the older woman what sort of gods Rats had.

“Demons.” She whispered gravely. “Monsters that care nothing for lives of us mortals. Many believe the Plutarchians are here because of the Rats' gods. They watch us suffer and they laugh.”

Charley did her best to accept this woman's foreign superstitions without judgment.

The kind old women was much the same as any other matriarch Charley had known. She was eager to take out the dusty old photo albums from the top shelf and show Charley what her family had once looked liked. And Charley was not surprised to see that this little old lady was once a knockout. She saw Modo and his midnight-furred sister smiling and playing as children, Throttle and Vinnie as teenagers, so many other friends and family she did not have names for. But over and over again she kept seeing Modo's mother with the same two men. She called them her boys, and gave Charley not much other explanation. The first was a black-hued beauty with deep soul searching eyes and a stunning smile. In most of the photographs he was holding her from behind and gazing at her like she was the most important thing in the world to him. Charley's first thought was that he was her husband. Or maybe lover? In truth she didn't exactly know what the customs around here for that sort of thing were.

She rethought her assumption when she took notice of the other, because he was a familiar looking gray and tall burly mouse. She pointed to him and asked, “Is this Modo's father?”

The kind old women patted Charley hand and gave her a patient smile.

“Best not to talk about such things. They were my boys. This was our clan. That's all that matters.”

As she closed the cracked old book, She looked up at the confused earth woman. “My family was always very traditional. Mars was much more civilized back then. These last few decades...they've set us back centuries. But back then it wasn't about survival. I loved them and they loved me.” The look she was giving Charley now was solemn, unyieldingly so. “You'll never have to worry about my son. He was raised with very strong family values. He'll never let you down.”

She knew there were more implications in what the old woman had told her than Charley was willing address. So many expectations. So many things that this woman thought should just be known without being said. Again, Charley tried to be polite, when she truly did not know how to respond.

The day before they went back to Earth Vinnie finally made a move. He waited until they were alone, which wasn't easy, given how many people were happy to see them alive after being gone so long from Mars. She knew Limburger had threatened her, riling up Vinnie until he nearly cracked the cell open. Or died in the attempt. She suspected he couldn't take any more after that. She was his girl and that was that. So the moment they had a little time by themselves he pushed her up against a cave wall and kissed her until both of them were out of breath. His sizable frantic tongue did not quite fit her small Human mouth. If he noticed, he said nothing. Charley, for her part, choose to ignore it, preferring to submissively wrap her arms around his shoulders and consent to whatever he wanted of her. Running his hands over her thighs and bottom, the Mouse looked like he had no self control left.

Vinnie took her to what looked like unused army barracks. She would have ask if that's what they were, only Vinnie never gave her a chance. He made love to her. Long and hard, and Charley, who hadn't quite come down from the unwelcome rush of being abducted and taken to an actual alien planet, had eagerly accepted any comfort he was willing to give. He wasn't like anything she expected. For all his bravado, all his self aggrandizement, it wasn't the wild uncontrollable coupling Charley had assumed it would be. When they were together on that aging uncomfortable mattress he touched her like she was something sacred. His hands trembled when he reached out to her. He mumbled foreign words that sounded more like a prayer than a lover's pillow talk. Afterwards she strongly suspected they were.

It was all so out of character for him. Where was her ego-maniac mouse? Who kidnapped him and replaced him with this respectful little boy?

“You are my Goddess!” he gasped in her ear between thrusts.

Her heart couldn't keep up with how he was acting, whatever this was. She squeezed her eyes shut, tightening her thin fingers around his muscular shoulders and surrendered to the sensations he was causing. Letting her mind go blank, Charley ignored Vinnie's behavior. She tried not to think about the possible sacrilege of Vinnie's words, or if there was any kind of repercussions for that around here. That was all better left to a more calming day, when she could go over what was happening with less distractions.

In the hours before they left for Earth, Carbine pulled her aside to speak with her privately.

“We're not together anymore.” She said. Carbine gestured with her hands sharply, while her voice broke. “I know what it looked like with us, after that ice comet. But this? It's just not sustainable. It's one thing to leave for months on end. And I'm okay with that. Especially given who and what we're fighting. It's just...I'm in kind of a unique situation.” Her eyes were pleading with Charley now, begging her to understand. “Protection isn't an issue. I'm surrounded by solders. Some of which probably see me as an incarnation of the Goddess.” She said it disdainfully, as if her men viewing her as a religious icon was a tired cliché she was sick of dealing with. “I never meant to leave him behind like this. But my people need a leader and there are so few women these days. I can't spend my life waiting for one person when so many others need me to be more to them. And anyway...the other two...we just never connected in the way we needed to. I don't know why. Maybe it's my fault. They are a part of each other. Their bond goes too deep in the most traditional way. The one to one kind of deal, it just wouldn't be very...acceptable. Not these days. It would be too selfish of me.”

Charley had no idea what she was talking about.

“Just...let him know that I really did care about him. And Charley...” Again were those beseeching eyes. “make him happy. I couldn't because I tried to split myself up into too many responsibilities. And I ended up not being enough to anyone. He's a good man. He doesn't deserve that.”

“Carbine,” Charley held a an hand, stopping her. “It's not like that with him and me. I'm with Vinnie.”

For the barest moment Carbine looked confused. The general looked away, having answered her own question it would seem.

“Yeah...Vinnie. Just...let him know, okay?”

Mostly on reflex, Charley nodded. Just where these Martians trying to tell her? Between Carbine, Vinnie and Modo's mother, Charley found she would be leaving Mars with less understanding of Martian culture than when she came.

The three day trip back to Earth was a bizarre experience. Throttle was uncharacteristically moody, Modo wouldn't stop nervously fidgeting, and Vinnie would hardly look at her. Even when he did there was so much guilt written on his face that she couldn't take it. He avoided her as much as possible on the small hyper ship, refusing completely to be alone with her. Poor little Rimfire, sent along to pilot the planet-hopper back home as they could not spare the extra ship, looked about ready to drowned in all of the tension. He made it a point to keep silent most throughout most of flight for fear of lighting a fire they weren't prepared to deal with.

On the second day Charley decided she was sick to death of whatever this was, and she managed to corner Vinnie in one of the bunk rooms in the back. Standing so close to him, she got a good look at the purple stained skin shining through the snowy fur around his left eye.

“What happened to your face?” She reached to touch him and he ducked away from her hand. “Just what is going on here? What is everyone acting so weird? Why won't you talk to me?”

“Uh...Charley-girl, we really shouldn't...” He was bouncing from one leg to the other. His eyes were anywhere but Charley. She thought he looked like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “Look, I'm not the one you need to talk to right now.”

His statement created more questions than answers. Charley clenched her jaw and seethed in frustration.

“What the hell does that mean?” He flinched when she took a step toward him. “Vinnie, we didn't do anything wrong.”

He did look at her then. A boyish smile spread across his face, and her heart melted. He would always have this effect on her, she thought.

“Maybe not. But that's not the way it's supposed to happen.” His words were rushed. “I kind of jumped the gun and made a decision on my own. I mean, they don't mind really. It's you, Charley-girl, and we know you. It wouldn't work with anyone else. We already decided that. But it would have been better if we decided together when it would start. We hadn't gotten that far yet. It all just...this thing with Throttle and Carbine...he really just needed a little more time. He's kind of pissed at me for that.”

For a moment Charley just blankly stared at him.

“I swear,” She spoke low and slow. “When you Mice open your mouths it's like you're speaking another language.”

“Yeah, I know.” He scoffed. “We don't make it easy. It's a wonder you've stayed with us this long.” He reached out and touched her face, stroking her cheek with his thumb. “You and me? It'll work, right? We can make it work. I love you so much Charley-girl.” His arm dropped numbly back to his side. “But right now you need to talk to Modo.”

“Modo? What does he have to do with anything?”

Vinnie put his hands on the back of his head and looked up at the ceiling. She could see he was tying so hard to explain when the words just wouldn't come out. Whatever was happening here she knew at least was some odd combination between a Martian thing and a guy thing. The latter she could deal with. She had long ago come the conclusion that men where men no matter where they came from. It was the former that made her think she should tread very softly in whatever her best friends expected of her. Sometimes, she was finding, Martians had entirely different assumptions about life than her own little blue world.

Vinnie's shoulders slumped and his gaze dropped down to the floor, then back at her.

“He's scared, you know? Because being rejected sucks and he doesn't want that to happen, so he's taking his sweet time and beating around the bush when he just needs to talk to you.” The intensity with which he said this startled her.

“What do you mean 'rejected'? Vinnie, you're not making any...”

“It's not really Earth style, what we do.” he interrupted. “I mean, at least not from what we know about Earth. Please Charley,” He put his hands on her shoulders. “Just try to keep an open mind. We would do anything to make you happy.”

He scurried out of there rather quickly after that. As soon as she was alone, Charley slowly sat down on one the bunks.

'We'? What did he mean by 'we'?

Her time on Mars had left her in an confused and irritated, primarily because of the way people spoke to her. She had no idea what to make of it. The guys never so vague or unresponsive on earth. They were men, sure. Often failing to notice details or consequences, but they did not deliberately ignore her. They never ran way or refused to talk to her. She had not had a single conversation with Throttle or Modo since Limburger escaped back to Earth. And Vinnie...he flinched. Vincent VanWham never flinched. So what changed? Or, all Martians just so incomprehensible to offworlders? No, that wasn't very likely. It was more reasonable to assume that their own ideas of the ways people and society should act were simply too new, too distant from anything she had yet encountered. After all, how many Humans have traveled to other planets before? Vinnie probably made it clear to others that she and him were going to be together now. Was this all the result of her being accepted into Martian society? The issue was that she didn't grow up there. There must be ideas in play here that were all new to her and she didn't know how to recognize the subtleties. Charley tried to calm her mind and organize her thoughts.

She saw so much that showed Martian society was deeply ingrained with an ancient custom of gender segregation. Men had their place, as did women. They did not embrace the same assumed egalitarianism that she had grown up with. It irritated her a little, but she had tried to let go. She knew she was, in part at least, projecting her own cultural belief system on very foreign people from a very foreign place. After all, earth had done similar things throughout its history. As long as the value of both women and men was equal, it wouldn't harm anyone if they were allowed to occupy different spaces in society. And it never seemed to her that the Cave Mice thought anyone was less than anyone else. But there was definitely something distinctive in the way both Carbine and Modo's mother had spoken to her. In both cases, the ease with which talked of her and Throttle, or her and Modo, she honestly believed that they had each made a simple mistake. The most innocent variety of mistakes that are made all the time all over the galaxy. Two people, perhaps two good friends, that others saw and thought what lovely couple they would make. Two people that produced an acceptable aesthetic to society in general, and everyone who looked at them would then just assume.

But that wasn't what she had with Throttle, or Modo. They were like bothers to her, in best possible way. Those two Martian women could not know what they were talking about. They hadn't spent the last three years with her boys.

Although...they had known them for years before. For a lifetime before. They were women that her boys had known almost their whole lives. It stood to reason that there were details they knew that she did not.

Modo feared she would reject him. Reject him from what? She was Vinnie's girl. There was nothing to be rejected from.

“It's not really Earth style, what we do.” That was what he said. But if that was the case...

An explanation was slowly forming in the back of her mind. Yet, as far as she could see there was no possible way Vinnie could have meant what she was thinking he meant.

He couldn', that would be...

And suddenly Charley realized the only thing that could make sense.

Do they expect me to be dating all of them?!

She thought back to the old photographs Modo's mother showed her. Her traditional family. Her boys. The same phrase Charley often used with the guys. Was that just a coincidence? The way Modo's mother spoke to Charley about her son never letting her down. And Carbine. Her confusion when she denied her affection for Throttle.

Oh my God.

Or, maybe in this case Goddess. So much was beginning to make sense her now. The Martians worshiped a goddess. A powerful deity who was the mother of all life. Their general was a woman. Everyone knew the endless respect Modo had for his mother. And Carbine had even said there were so few women left. It had always been a struggle to get the guys to let her fight with them. Over and over again they said she needed to stay somewhere safe. Either back at the garage or the score board. Anywhere that kept her out of battle. She had always thought it was typical male chauvinism, but now she was beginning to understand there was so much more to it.

Mice must be a matriarchal culture. An extremely matriarchal culture by the looks of it. Where female power is revered and respected. They were also a people whose women were systematically being killed off, destroying the very backbone of society. Of course they would revert to an older way, as Modo's mother had implied. Even on Earth people became more religious in times of hardship. She knew she would likely do the same if she saw her world torn apart they way they had. For the Mice, it would seem, that translated in each women having more than one man in her life.

How would Earth handle it, she wondered if suddenly the female population made up less a quarter? Would they argue and fight each other? Would women become an even greater source of contention then the clichés made them out to be now? Could they ever learn to gracefully share, as the Mice seemed to be doing? In any case, those kind of philosophical thoughts were completely useless to her right now.

This is what she knew for certain. Vinnie was in love with her. Modo maybe was, but he at least liked her enough to want to be with her, or else he wouldn't be as scared as Vinnie had said. And she had no idea how Throttle felt.

She took a deep breath. This was so weird. But Vinnie was right. She needed to keep an open mind. The guys had been living on Earth with her for a couple of years now, and they had always done everything thing they could to acclimate to a very alien culture. As uncomfortable as this made her, as strange as it was for her, she owed it to her boys to give them the benefit of the doubt. They had risked their lives to keep Earth safe for so long.

Vinnie said she needed to talk to Modo. She could guess that he was so nervous because he assumed that she would do the Human thing and be scared of something different than what she and her people had always done. Well he wasn't wrong. Every instinct she had said that this was a bad idea. This wasn't what a healthy relationship was supposed to be. This kind of freaky polyamorous setup was reserved for emotionally stunted people that didn't know how to be satisfied with the normal way of doing things.

She realized she was being judgmental. Just because it wasn't her people's way didn't make it wrong. Charley thought back to how happy Modo's mother looked while they flipped though the old album.

Her house must have been so filled with love.

That black mouse and his deep, wise eyes filled her heart. Charley tried to imagine what it must be like to live somewhere where there was always danger, either from slavers, religious factions, or invading aliens. How unsafe, how painful it must to raise a family. But as the old saying went, there was safety in numbers. This was the way they found safety. This was the way they had survived. Now, more than ever, this family structure would keep the Mice going. They were nearly facing extinction. She could understand how having more than one husband or lover kept the gene pool sufficiently diverse. If a man were kill or captured, his family wouldn't be nearly as at risk, because there would always been another to care for them.

She covered her face with her hands. Could she be okay with this? And if she wasn't, what would that do to her friendship with guys? Thinking back, she now understood Carbine's words so much more clearly. There were no one to one deals. That was what she said. To be with one of them and not the other two wasn't the proper way of doing things. It wasn't acceptable these days, Charley remembered. But where did that leave her? She had already slept with Vinnie, so she could only surmise that because she had done that, her relationship with Modo and Throttle would be forever changed too. No wonder Modo was so freaked out. She couldn't possibly see how this would work. Modo was a street-smart guy. He knew how to read people. He knew she would be scared and conflicted. She half considered spending the rest of her life nervously avoiding him.

Keep an open mind.

Could she be with Vinnie and not the other two? From what she understood about Cave Mice, the answer was most likely no. When they spoke in English they called each other 'bros'. She had long thought it was probably a loose translation of whatever the Martian concept was. Something to do with their telepathy? She had no idea.

Maybe she should just see what Modo had to say. The truth of the matter was that whatever came out of that conversation would be what made her decision on whether she should just run the other direction as hard and fast as she could, or at least try to salvage something good from this mess. They were her best friends, nothing less than family. But did that mean she had to participate in their customs?

They've always participated in yours, Charley-girl.

That was a truth she could never deny. They would mostly at least try earth food, no matter horrifying they found it. She could recall the first time they tried applesauce, placing it just below all-things-dairy-based on their list of items that should never be eaten ever. But they were willing to make the attempt, even though no matter what she cooked for them they would always gravitate towards some combination of meat, carbohydrates and sugar. Be it hot dogs and root beer, or turkey with mole sauce and a huge helping of baked yams. She smiled at the memory. They really did love Thanksgiving.

But did they all love her? The way Vinnie spoke...he acted like they did. Like it wasn't exactly a struggle for them to be with her, excepting that Throttle had just broken up with Carbine.

If, and that was a big if, she did do...whatever it was they wanted her to do, did that mean she would be in any kind of rebound situation with Throttle? Did that mean she was in a rebound thing with all them? She didn't like where this was going. Was she actually considering going along with this? And if that answer was yes, was being the rebound girl really a legitimate fear here? Honestly, she knew that she just didn't know enough about Cave Mice to have a good answer to that. Whatever happened, Charley knew Carbine was right about one thing. Throttle was a good man. They all were. They all cared about her. They had risked their lives for her so many times over. Maybe she did owe them some part of her heart, at least enough to do as Vinnie asked and just keep an open mind.

She would either become a part of this...thing that Martians do. Or she wouldn't. And if that was the case then there would in all likelihood always be tension between the four them. What would it do to what Vinnie's friendship with Modo and Throttle? Would there always be some kind of weird guy jealously problems because she had been him and not the other two?

A surge of anger griped her chest and Charley realized Vinnie was to blame for all this. How could he invite her into his life like this without telling her what it would mean?


That was why he looked so guilty. But it still didn't explain why he was avoiding he afterwards. These Cave Mice, she thought, are giving me a headache. And more than a little heartache.

She did her best to gather her courage and go to speak the person she wanted to see the least right now.

Modo was in the kitchen, preparing some kind red meat and grain dish. The foreign spices he used smelled a bit like tamarind, black licorice and something unfamiliar. His ears twitched backwards. Even with his back to her, he knew she was there.

“Hey Charley-ma'am. You hungry?” he asked softly, over his shoulder. His ears then laid flat against his head. She had never seen him look so much like a little boy. It was such an odd display on someone so large. She saw in that moment he was probably more scared than she was.

He always was such a sweetie. How could she break his heart like that? If Modo had approached her first back on Mars the way Vinnie had, would she have said no? She didn't think so. Granted she was just a little bit vulnerable at the time. But the truth was she loved these guys. If it had been Throttle first, she didn't think she would have said no either. Her heart was open to all of them. A small, barely-there voice in the back of her mind had been nagging her for the last few years that she would accept whichever one of the guys that made a first move, and then love the other two as brothers for the rest of her life. She never thought that would be all of them at the same time. They were her boys. Maybe in their minds it had always been leading up to this. Or maybe they were just as freaked out as she was about having a person from such a different culture as their lover. From the looks of it, Modo seemed to be.

She sent him a smile, as gentle as she could manage. Her heart warmed when she saw the hope light up in his eyes.

“Sure.” It was just barely above whisper. More than loud enough for a Mouse to hear. “What are you making?”

“Uh...” He turned back the the meat he was carving. “It's called a jiinash. The animal I mean.” he stuttered. “The whole thing is called nashnis. We usually eat it in the summer, when there are less saber squid around.” Silently, he took another plate down from the shelf and served her a healthy heaping of meat, along with more of the grain then she thought she could eat. Piking up what he had dished for himself, he carried both plates over to the small dinning alcove. He dominated the little built-in table and bench. She could hardly believe Martians built this ship, given how large they tended be.

Charley sat down on the opposing bench and saw there was no utensils. She hadn't seen any during this whole trip. Well then, she could eat with her hands, if that was their way. Besides, given what she was fairly certain she was about to do it wouldn't be that difficult, comparatively.

They ate in silence for about ten minutes, before Modo decided he needed to address the elephant in the room.

“Charley-ma'am,” he wouldn't look into her eyes. “I know this had got to be a little crazy for you, but if you'll just let us try we can make this w...”

“I'll tell you what I know,” she interrupted, wiping her hands on the denim-textured napkin. She stood up and leaned across the table, placing her hand on his cheek. Their eyes met. Modo looked terrified of what would happen next. He really was scared, just as Vinnie had said. She had to word this carefully. “I know that you are my boys.” She felt him clench his jaw. “I accepted you all as family a long time ago, even if I didn't have any idea what form that could take later on.” Modo just about melted at that. He let out a long breath that nether of them had been aware that he was holding. She had never seen so much relief on one person before. “Although... I have to admit to a certain amount of culture shock, but not so much that I'm willing to hurt all of you because I couldn't open-minded enough to accept your ways of doing things. You've all been so open-minded about earth. It's just that...I mean, really, I don't know what I'm doing here.”

“Oh Charley-girl,” he kissed the palm of her hand. “I swear, I'll be anything you want me to be.”

Damn, if he wasn't endearing...

“You don't have to do that, Modo. Just be exactly what you are. That's more than enough for me.”

He covered her hand with his own, nuzzling her palm, smiling shyly at her. He looked at her through hooded eyes, and in that moment Charley wasn't sure she could deny him anything.

They finished their meal together, light flirting filling the spaces between the words. His tail kept swatting playfully at her lower legs. Martian footsie, she assumed. When they were done, he washed and put away the dishes, after storing the rest nishnis for the others. Then he returned to the table she still sat at, kneeling on the floor next to her. He took her hand and brought it to his lips, running his fingers through her hair.

“Charley...” his voice was low and husky. She could tell where he was going with this. Did these Martians always work so quickly? Honestly, Charley still wasn't sure what exactly her comfort level was with all of this and she was hoping to take things slow.

Modo sensed her hesitation and gently pulled her head to his own. She thought he was going to kiss her, but was shocked when she felt a foreign presence in her mind. The one or two times she'd had this experience before did not prepare her for the memories Modo was sending her. Every battle he'd seen her participate, every time she was captured or hurt, including when his own people took her prisoner on Mars, played like a recording for her to see through his eyes. She felt what he felt during all of it. He loved her. And it didn't matter what monsters came out of the shadows to hurt her or Earth, he would always succeed in pushing them back.

I will keep you safe, Charley-girl. Forever.

His voice in her mind melted her heart. He showed other things now, happier moments when it was just the four them, messing around, causing havoc. When they first came to Earth and she had to show them such simple things, like how to use the shower or open the garage door, not all of which was very successful.

She felt him mentally chuckle.

In every memory there were feelings of affection, of desire. Desperation and need. All of it was colored by a vein of grief. He watch her from afar, never daring to come close. Both because of what it would mean for his bros and because he thought she would be unwilling. But still he could not detour his feelings. His heart was hers and seemed to have always been so.

How long have you loved me?

She saw through his perspective that first night when Throttle mind-walked with her, showing her what was done to their world. Whatever link the bros have with each other allowed to experience what Throttle experienced with her. She hadn't known at the time, but Throttle wasn't just showing her Mars. He was looking into her too. He needed to know if she was trustworthy. They all did. She could feel through Modo's memories that Throttle was more than satisfied with what he found. Vinnie, like a good little solder, fell in line. But Modo desired her. Vinnie was affected by his bro's feelings, but he mostly gravitated toward what she had to offer physically. To Modo she had the kind of mind, the psychic presence of what he wanted most in a lover. She was strong-willed, but loving, she was demanding, but fair. She never hesitated to tell her boys exactly what she thought when they were causing trouble, but she opened her home to them, three complete strangers, and did everything she could to give them their best chance on Earth.

It was so easy for him to fall in love with her. He tried not to. He loved his bros, and there needed to be respect between them. Especially with Throttle's heart belonging elsewhere. Modo never wanted to be the source of any kind of discord, but his heart seemed to have a mind of its own. She saw an image of him and Throttle in a low and heated argument, while an irritated Vinnie looked on, reluctant to take a side. Slivers of frustration filtered through their connection.

You fought with them, over me?

She realized he was kissing her now. She couldn't recall when that started.

How could I not? You have no idea what you do to me. And anyways... He nipped at her bottom lip playfully as his tail snaked its way up the back of her shirt. You kissed me.

I did?

How did she not realize? When did she wrap her arms around his neck? When had he picked her up? When had she began to grip his hips so tightly with her thighs?

When she felt the telling hardness pressing into her bottom he pulled away, breaking the mental link. His eyes bore into her, asking the question he dare not speak out loud. Charley, fueled by lust, ragged with the intensity of his emotions, shakily nodded her head. He kissed her again. She felt his metal hand holding her upper thigh while his flesh hand pressed into her upper back. Modo ground into her hips, eliciting a breathy moan from her lips. Suddenly she felt a mattress press against her back.

“Take off you shoes, Charley.” he whispered as he unbuttoned her pants. She kicked them off while he pulled both her pants and underwear off in one quick tug. Instantly his face was between her between her legs, sucking and lightly biting at her. His hands were on her knees, holding her legs apart for him. Running her hands over his ears (that really seemed to encourage him), she looked around the room. They were back in the same bunk-room she spoke to Vinnie in. How did they get here so fast? Could they have teleported?

Did mind-walking make everyone so oblivious to their surroundings, or just uninitiated humans?

Well Vinnie, I hope this is open enough for you. Charley gasped loudly and arched her back as he pressed his tongue inside her. His flesh hand kneaded her bottom. She tossed her head from side to side, tugging on his furry head. She swore she could feel him smiling against her. Something with the texture of fabric entered her, and for a moment she was confused because she still feel both of his hands on her legs and hips.

It's his tail!

How odd the sensation was! Like a wet towel wrapped around a flexible tube. The downy fur of it tickled her outer lips, while inwardly it was just a bit too itchy and distracted her from the pleasure. It's blunt tip plunged as far as it would fit. He pumped it deep inside her. The distraction was easily forgotten. Charley couldn't help but writhe and wriggle, losing all control of her movements. She squeezed his shoulders and lifted her pelvis, unable to take anymore. Modo kept flicking his tongue against that small bundle of nerves while he held her hips still. She could do nothing to escape him. Wave after wave of pleasure hit her, and Modo drank in all of it.

He withdrew from her as she collapsed against the bed. Charley stared up at him dreamily, still a little in shock from the intensity of her unexpected lover.

“You can't know,” Modo leaned forward, holding her face in his hands. “how badly I've wanted to do that.” He kissed her nose. “I could be satisfied, Charley-love, with just watching you like that. I don't need any more tonight.” He stroked her cheek with his fingertips. “Is this okay? It's not too much too fast, is it?”

She closed her eyes, trying to regain control of her breathing. When she opened them she must have had some kind of reluctant expression on her face, because he shifted uncomfortably and the next thing she saw were those fearfully shy eyes again.

“No, it's okay.” She raked her fingers through the fur on his upper chest. “It's all just a little different than what I'm used to. But...I think I can be alright with this. I think this is a good thing.” She kissed him, tasting and smelling herself on his lips. He eagerly responded, encircling her with his warm arms. The muscles were tight and hard. He was barely restraining himself.

“I want to be with you, Charley-love. Will you let me?” Again with the playful nipping of her lip. “I want to feel you so bad.”

She understood the words he didn't speak. As much love and lust as he had for her, Modo was afraid of crossing her boundaries. He would leave things as they are tonight if that's what she wanted. Or they would continue exploring this intimacy if she was willing.

“Yes,” she whispered against his lips. “I'll let you.”

Abruptly he pulled away. He unfastened his chestplate, lifting it over his head and dropping it to the floor. His fingers roughly worked at his belt and and zipper, hesitating when he noticed Charley watching him hungrily.

“What is it?” She asked, reaching out to lay a hand on his arm. After all that, what could his fears be now?

“It's just...” He looked away, closing his eye in frustration. “You're so small. I...I don't want to do something that hurts.”

That actually...may have been a legitimate fear. He was right. The size difference between Humans and Mice was such that coupling among the larger Mice and smaller humans may be an issue. But at her five foot seven height, she wasn't exactly the smallest human specimen. Exhaling through her nose, she sat up. He watched her, shrinking back, just the barest amount.

“Well, we won't know until we try, will we?”

His eye widened, just slightly, at that. He let out a shaky breath.

“It's okay.” She promised. “Please Modo. I want you to.”

He looked down, then back at her. Slowly, he resumed taking off his pants as she watched.

He was big. Not impossibly so, but definitely bigger than any human she'd known. It wasn't the length that was the issue, thought he was more than impressive. It was the width. She could see that they needed to go slow, at least at first.

Modo returned to the bed, sitting on his knees. He gathered her in his arms and gently removed her shirt. He situated them so she was straddling his waist. His hardness was between them. Modo touched his forehead to hers. Not to mind-walk, as she at first thought, but just a simple act of intimacy.

They sat like that, with her arms around his neck, for a moment before Charley realized he wasn't going to do anything.

Oh, I get it.

“So the ball's in my court, huh?”


She smiled. It wasn't exactly the best time to go about explaining Human idioms.

“Never mind.”

She used his shoulders to pull herself up and over his member. Reaching between them, she grasped it, deliberately rubbing the tip against her entrance. He inhaled sharply. She sunk down on him experimentally, getting barely an inch before rising back up. He was gasping, eye squeezing shut. She could feel the rock-hard tension in his shoulders, while his arms began to hold her just a little too tightly.


Desperation colored his features, as his single eye darted over her face.

“Modo, I know this is hard. But I really need you stay in control, okay?”

He gave a jerky nod. She started to sink down again as he moved his hands to her hips, lightly resting them there with no grip in his fingers.

She remembered Vinnie doing something like this. As soon as he was inside her, he almost completely stopped touching her. Nothing more than light kisses to her head and nuzzles to her neck. What was this vulnerability in how they treated her?

Briefly, she wondered if Modo would start avoiding her afterwards the way Vinnie had.

She was torn away from that train of thought as Modo involuntarily bucked up into her. She hissed at the unexpected intrusion.

“I'm s...sorry...” His voice was rough and breathy. She kissed his brow, accepting his apology and pressing herself further down. She was so glad he'd already brought her to completion once already. She really needed the lubrication. Lifting herself up again, she pushed down as hard as she could without pain. He was almost completely inside her now.

“Oh Charley...Charley-love...” he rubbed his forehead on her shoulder. “I love you so much Charley-girl...”

The same phrase Vinnie had used.

Charley held on to his biceps, using them to anchor her as she rode him. Oh, the sounds he made. If she was honest, this all made her feel more than a little powerful. He was so submissive beneath her, though she could tell that he was extremely strained, that if given half a chance he not would be so willing to sit back and let her do all the work.

“Modo,” she moaned. “please touch me.”

His fingertips tips pressed into her hips. She knew he was trying to hold himself back.

“Ch...Charley-ma'am,” he spoke into her neck. “I shouldn't. That's not...”

She put her hands on his face and made him look at her. She kissed him, careful to coordinate her movements so she never stopped riding him. A long, tender soft kiss. She threw her heart into that kiss. She gave Modo the entirety her soul, reassuring him in every way she knew how.

“We're not on Mars.” She kissed his nose. “Human girls like a little more interaction.” She ground her hips to his.

Almost shyly he ran his hands up her sides, stopping just below her arms. His flesh hand covered her breast. She saw how reluctant he was to continue.

“It's okay,” She encouraged. “I just needed a minute. It's okay now. Please Modo, don't hold back.”

She recognized fear in his face, but also a desire to please. Obediently, he pushed up into her. She threw her head back and grunted. He did not thrust a second time.

“You feel so good, Modo. Don't stop.” Wrapping his massive arms around her, he did as she asked.

“Oh Charley...Charley-love, you don't know...” he said in between thrusts. “There are rules...rules for respect. Rules that protect us.” He leaned forward lavishing kisses all over her face. “You make us want to break all those rules...” He lifted her hips and pushed her backwards until he was laying over her. “You are the perfect woman for me Charley.” Modo lifted her left leg and rested it on his shoulder. Charley dug her other heal into his lower back. He hammered into her now, with such ferocity she thought she would split in two. Crying out, Charley griped his furry shoulders, holding on to him with all her strength. His tail slithered around the leg on his shoulder, coiling and tightening. It would loosen and move up and down her skin, stimulating her flesh and bringing tingles all the way to her toes. It would then tighten again, starting the process over.

He must feeling her up, then. She knew their tails were articulate, but just how sensitive were they?

Modo lowered his antenna to her head without warning. Charley screamed out loud as she was assaulted by the sensations of his body. She could feel what he felt. She felt the slight pain of her nails digging into his skin, how soft hair her was as it rubbed against his face, how slick and warm she was to him. His tail was indeed feeling her up, and oh how he love the texture of her skin. Soft and supple like warmed leather. With the hairless pads of his palms and fingers he sunk into her smooth and firm bottom, clutching her to him like a lifeline.

The river of sensation brought her to peak without warning. All the feelings, some new, some familiar, combined to create an orgasm more intense than she had yet known in her young and eventful life.

He desperately sought out release, moving upwards to rest his forearms on the mattress alongside her. Modo continued to rest his forehead on hers, but was also careful to keep the rest of his weight off her. His eye was clenched closed as he lost all rhythm. Charley griped his biceps, fighting to keep her eyes open, desperate watch him as he came to completion. He pulled his head from her, breaking their connection, and kissed her. She felt more than heard him groan deeply, as a rush of heat assaulted her between her legs. When his hips stopped moving, his lips trailed downwards, ending at her neck where he licked and sucked, his uneven teeth leaving behind a bouquet of crimson marks.

They laid together on their sides for sometime afterwards. Modo's arm held her close while his tail lazily wandered up and down her legs. Neither of them slept. Modo couldn't keep his eye off her. His gaze held such warmth and devotion. She felt caressed by his sight of her. At random intervals he would duck his head down and place gentle chaste kisses on the back of her neck and shoulders. She would wriggle closer to him when he did this, feeling him smile against her skin. Eventually, he placed a hand on her hip to still her.

“You shouldn't do that, Charley-ma'am. It might give me ideas.”

She turned her head to look at him, arching an eyebrow.

“'Charley-ma'am'? I know it's you nature to be polite Modo, but don't you think we're a little past that now?”

He shook his head. She could see his eyes were smiling.

“Not at all. If anything I've got more of an obligation to show respect. You're our girl, Charley.” He kissed her temple, letting out a shuttering breath. “I used to think this would never actually happen, either because of the guys...or you. I always thought I would just have to feel what I feel all on my own and try not to let it bother anyone.” His arm tightened around her. “I think you might be stuck with us now, because there's no way I'm letting you go.”

She smiled at that idea. It put a lot of her fears to rest, and it really was a comforting concept. For the women at least, there was so much security in this sort of arrangement. But how exactly did the guys feel about it?

“Is it ever difficult?” she asked. “For men, I mean. To share like this?”

“Well...not ideally.” She rolled onto her back, looking up at him. “Charley, you have to understand. Some rules cannot be broken. We have them for really good reasons. There has to be respect.”

As her hands slid up his neck, a small sliver of fear tightened around her heart.

“Am I being disrespectful?” she asked, genuinely curious. He caught one of her wrists and brought it to his lips, kissing her palm.

“Not really,” he chuckled. “But you certainly like to push the boundaries.”

“I don't know any of these rules. You're going to have to teach me.”

He let go of her wrist to hold her face in one hand.

“Don't worry about that. They're not hard to learn. You just go to remember one thing. Don't play favorites with us. We all care about you. As long as you care about all of us equally, it's not hard for us to share. Us Mice learned how to do that a long time ago. We will always take care of you. We will always respect you. All you got to do is love us the same.”

“I think...I think that all sounds really good on paper. But all this talk of respect sounds a little bit cold me. If you're with someone, shouldn't it be about love?

He shrugged.

“That's just the nature of us guys. Respect comes easy for us, when it's someone we care about. It's you women that remind us to love.”

She thought about that.

“Modo,” She stroked the back of his neck. These Mice had such amazing pelts. “I respect you.”

“Charley-ma'am,” his voice was especially low and baritone. “Oh Goddess, I love you.” He gave her a soft peck on her eyebrow, letting his lips linger there for moment. Untangling himself from her, he rose from the bed and gathered his clothes.

She watched him pull on his pants before rolling on her stomach and asking, “Are you leaving?”

“Yeah. I really should.” He reattached the clasps on his chestplate, while the disappointed Earther watched.

“Do you have to?” Even Charley was surprised at how small her voice sounded. She heard Modo take a deep breath.

“It won't always like this, you know.” he comforted.

“What, with you all loving and leaving me? What's up with that? And for that matter, why do you hesitate to touch me during sex?”

He stopped in middle of pulling on a sock.

“We just need to make space.”


“For each other.” His eye found hers. “In the beginning like this, it's really important to maintain a little distance. You got to remember, we are telepaths. I mean...sometimes just dealing with your own emotions can be overwhelming. Then you throw everyone else into the mix. It's always better to go slow. If you're not careful people can really get hurt.”

“Oh. That make sense, I suppose.”

“ don't like it.”

She made a face

“Who would? And anyways, I think I have to say you have a weird definition of 'slow'.”

He smirked, humorlessly.

“Not always.”

What did that mean? Slowly, she narrowed her eyes at him.

“What exactly have you all been doing?” she hesitatingly asked.

“Just...trying to make good decisions. Only, some of us are better at it than others.”

She knew what that meant.

“You mean Vinnie.”

He nodded, standing up. “He's never been much of the respectful type. We try to keep him in line, but it don't always work. He shoulda never did what he did without talking to you, or us, first.”

“I think he tried to apologize about that, earlier today.”

Modo visibly tensed.

“He wasn't supposed to talk to you like that.” He hung his head. “When he told us what he said to you...Vinnie ain't the best at explainin' things.”

She agreed with that, wholeheartedly.

“Don't put all the blame on him. I didn't give him much choice. I was confused and frustrated. If he didn't tell me just something I probably would have thrown a wrench at him.” An image of his black eye flashed in her mind. “Did you hit Vinnie?”

“He broke the rules, Charley-ma'am.” Modo turned his head to her. “There's no excuse for that. We made an agreement together to put you first. He was being selfish. Charley...thank you, for trying at least. We meant to be slower than we were and we all were terrible at it. We care about you so so much. I know we can make this work.”

And with that he left. She stared at the door after he closed it, unsure how to proceed from here. She slumped back on the bed gazing upward. When did life get so complicated?

When you decided to jump in and just strait up have three boyfriends.

Yeah. That was the right way to put it. She should after all take responsibility for her agreement. And Modo really was so sweet about her acceptance. If nothing else, she was glad she make him happy, and hopefully better his opinion of humans in general. They weren't all so closed minded. There were a lot of good people on Earth. It was just that sometimes new things are scary. She could have said that before all of this started. But she was here having this experience. She needed to face it. If Modo's mother was any indication, it could all turn in something wonderful given enough time.

Well, there was two down. Really, If she was honest she too worked up about what to expect from Throttle. He'd always been a good friend to her, but she could not recall a single time when he had shown any attraction to her. Modo she understood. His quite respect was in keeping with how his type displayed a crush. And Vinnie...he'd been flirting with her from the moment he met her.

Did Throttle even like her? Or was he just going along with what his bros wanted? More than anything she hoped that wasn't the case. Charley didn't think she could do this if it was. There was only so far down the rabbit hole she was willing to go. The budding corner of her heart that already loved them all wanted to be as open to him as possible. She wanted to be pleasing to Throttle, now that her fear of their customs were beginning to abate. What she wanted to do most was chase down Modo and ask him what Throttle thought of a relationship with her, but that would be insensitive of her. They ran away after sex because it was their idea of polite. It was a weird kind of polite, although the reason behind made sense to her. She knew now it was one of many new 'guy things' she would be learning.

Well, best get on with it, she thought. No sense waiting around for problems to solve themselves. She rose from the bed and after fiddling the incomprehensible laser-light waterless shower, she pulled on a pair of borrowed sweat pants and trotted her way on bare feet to the tan Mouse, unsure if she hesitated from apprehension or excitement.


When Throttle locked eyes with her as she walked into the main control room he just about jumped out of his seat.

He had been leaning forward with his crossed arms resting on the console in front of him, the weight of his chin pressing on his forearms. His ears were drooped down low, his expression slack. But the moment he laid eyes on Charley his ears stood up, his spine and tail went ramrod strait. Throttle's knuckles clasped the armrests of his chair. He locked eyes with her, and said nothing. In truth he looked like he wanted to be anywhere in the universe but in a room with her.

“Hey.” she said, crossing her arms reflexively.


Did his hands squeeze that thing harder? Fur covered skin made such things difficult to make out.

“Look, um...” Charley started. The tension-filled air caused her to fidget with her jacket zipper. Her gaze drifted to the floor. She found it so hard to keep eye contact him right now, when he was clearly unwanting of her presence. Charley sat down in the chair next to his and swiveled it to face him. She pressed her legs together, trying like hell to make herself look small. “Can we talk? I have a few questions. And I'm not really sure where to start.”

He studied at her for a long time, before responding with a sigh and rubbing a hand over his face. He turned around in his chair to glance back at Rimfire, who was silently watching the scene from the navigator's seat.

“Hey kid, why don't you go ask your uncle if he can help you check over the main engine's specs. Make sure everything's at a safe level, huh?”

Rimfire, grateful for the excuse to leave, nearly ran out of the control room without a word. Throttle turned his head back her direction, but kept his eyes lowered.

“So,” She tried to sound nonthreatening. Keeping it light was her strategy. “...why'd you break up with Carbine?” She thought it would be a safe topic.

Relaxing somewhat, he slumped down in his chair. Pressing two fingers to the bridge of his nose, he laughed humorlessly.

“ the end of the day I'm just some grunt solder and she is going to be our leader.” He shook his head. “People like that don't have the luxury of waiting. She can't wait anymore. I'm on earth and she's on Mars. That's the way it's gotta be for a while.” He shook his head. “Everything she does will be symbolic. It's what leaders have to be. If she's seen waiting for Earth to be taken care of...that has too many political implications. She can't afford that now.”

It was not the answer she expected, nor was it one she understood.

“But...I thought Carbine was already the general.”

“Well, yeah.” he started slowly. “She's the general. But this war isn't going to last forever. The military can't always run things. Everything that used to be has been ripped up and torn apart. All we got left are the ideas of how things are supposed to be. The old systems, the parts of society that took care of everyone, they're all dead. Sold out to the enemy, and now there's nothing left. But the rest of us little people are still here and we got to have some kind of government.”

“Is Carbine the only choice? Stoker was a general too, right?”

“Stoker?” His face scrunched up in confusion. “He can't do that.”

“Why not? Isn't he a leader too?”

“But that not even...” He exhaled sharply. “Charley, Stoker could never be our leader. For the Freedom Fighters, sure. That's not a problem, because we're really not much more than a paramilitary group. We're guerrillas. Technically speaking we don't even have any kind of official standing.” He closed his eyes. “The people trust us, mostly because we were the first group to actually succeed at doing anything about the Plutarchians. But when you're looking for a leader for everyone?” He leaned forward, eyes wide open above his glasses and resting his elbows on his knees. His voice had a patient edge to it, as if he were speaking to a child. “Only women can be true leaders. Everyone else is, at best, a proxy for her.”

Charley felt an odd pang of fear in her belly, knowing what that kind of world view could mean for her and her boys. She pushed it aside and moved on.

“That sounds limiting.” she noted.

He shrugged.

“Maybe. Chalk it up to one of those 'ancient tradition' sort of things.” He smiled, but it did not reach his eyes. “They say the Goddess set it all up at the beginning of creation. The priests always tell us, those who create life should hold dominion of it. It's just what we've always done.”

Okay, she thought slowly. It seemed staying with this topic was providing the kind of answers she was looking for.

“Carbine told me she didn't connect well with Vinnie and Modo.” Charley cringed as soon as she said it. It did not come out as light as it sounded in her head.

He shifted uncomfortably. Clearly that was not a topic he was ready for just yet. She directed the conversation to another route.

“But what exactly is that connection supposed to be? And your connection to each other. What is that?”

While his tense posture was visibly alleviated, his eyes narrowed and he sat up a little straighter.

“Modo didn't tell you?”

“He told me a little, but it wasn't really enough to go on. Honestly it was all more than a little confusing.”

He watched her for long time without speaking. Leaning forward again, elbows on knees, he put his palms on his forehead.

“We really screwed this up.” he exhaled. “We were going to tell you everything when we got back to earth. Not right away. Maybe in a few weeks. Just bring it all up casually and tell you how we do things on Mars. The three of us...” he gestured at the air. “we always face problems as a team. This...with was all so different than a lot of other things we've dealt with, because normally we're all one the same page about it all. It's our instinct, Charley. We don't even have to think about it. I was the one kinda lagging behind.” He shook his head. “But Vincent just had to jump in at the worst possible time, didn't he? He just doesn't have any self-control, the idiot. Things never should have happened the way they did.” He looked up at her apologetically. “How do put up with us?”

“I throw myself into my work.” She scoffed. Throttle chuckled at that. It was reassuring to see a genuine smile on his face. “I have a few questions I need to ask. Even if it's rough for you, because I do not know a lot about how this works, but I can see that this is all happening a bit fast for you too. I mean, I really don't know what I'm getting in to. Think you could help ease me in?”

He had a hybrid look of relief and wonder written across his face as he nodded to her question. Did Throttle fear that she would less than accepting of them? He must have.

“You all call each other 'bros'.” she began. “I've always had a theory about that.” His ears perked upward, a reflex she long ago realized they did when they where giving her their total attention. She had to admit, he looked cute when he did that. “When you say that, it really doesn't mean what it means in English, right?”

He nodded again.

“What does it mean?”

He started to reply, then stopped. After a moment's hesitation he scooted forward in the chair, reaching out to take her hand.

“The words...don't really exist in your language. There's no context for them.” He ran his thumb over her knuckles. “I'm going to try something else, tell you our story. I'm hoping if I tell you why we did what we did, it will help understand what it was that we did. We made a choice a long time ago. In the old days it used to be that guys only did things like this after they were married, or they'd only choose to attach themselves their brothers and sisters like this. But right now life is a little rough for my people. Families get broken apart so easily.” He squeezed her her hand and she squeezed back. She knew this part. They told her before how the Plutarchians had ripped apart their society completely. “The three of us have known each other since we were thirteen or fourteen. At the time the only one of who still had living family was Modo. His old lady took us in, after Stoke found us. He was always good like that. When he wasn't out saving the world, he was finding homes for strays like us.” He smiled at the memory. “We didn't get along all that great at first, because Vincent and I were used to fighting everyone to stay alive. We didn't know each other before we came to live there, but we both lived in the same kind of world. A real kill or be killed kind of place. So when we finally didn't have to do that anymore, we didn't know how to react.

“After we had been there about a year, both Modo and his old lady were getting real sick of us always starting fights. Not just with each other, but just about anyone that we thought was looking at us the wrong way. Modo kept trying to step in and intimidate everyone one into just backing off. Most of the time it wasn't that hard for him. He never really liked it when things got messy, but man, when he needs to be rough, Modo is not a guy you want playing for the other team.

“About that time the old lady said we need to either clean up our act or find someplace else to live. But Modo knew us well enough that wasn't going to be a overnight thing for us. Even if we wanted to be better, we just didn't know how to be. We only know how to push people out of the way, how con people, how to hurt others when we wanted something. We never learned anything else. It was different for Modo because he still had his clan, and that kind of support system had kept him from totally loosing it like we did. So he thought he could share that with us.

“My race...we can create a type of mental connection between us, where we become deeply influenced by each other. It's a little like mind-walking, but a lighter connection. It is constant. To the point where sometimes its hard to figure out if your thoughts are your own or if they belong to you bros. It makes you family, and keeps everyone on the same page, so that if an enemy comes it's a lot easier to fight them off. Movements are coordinated without thinking about it. What would normally take years of training can be accomplished in a few weeks.

“It doesn't have to be permanent, but it can be. For guys at least, it usually is. It's always been our preference to have a bro at your back when things get real messed up. Not everyone does it. These days most of the time we make links between siblings, like Modo's dads. They were brothers.”

“Or half brothers by the looks of it.” Charley offered, emboldened by her understanding of a Martian family structure. “They didn't look anything alike. If their mom had more than one husband, that could happen, right?”

“Yeah, maybe. But to be honest, that's not really something people say out loud. Everyone has a place. The intended effect is to create a support system where everyone is taken care of. Getting hung up on the details of how who is related to who doesn't help anything, so we ignore it. All we really care about is this: dads, mom, their sons, their daughters. Everyone watches out for each other, in slightly different ways, because we all got different strengths. That's how it's supposed to be. But Vincent and I, we had never learned that.

“Modo didn't have any brothers. And both of his dads were dead. That was why she took us in at first. She wanted more guys around to help take care of things. They didn't expect anything more than that from us. Just to help out with chores and watch out for her and her daughter if anything bad happened. In return, she would treat us like her sons. It was a real good thing we had going, only we couldn't see it. So Modo thought that he could make us become the next best thing to brothers, the thing that he had always thought he would become with his own brothers after they were born.”

“What do call it?” She interrupted, eager to know.

“Liiash.” He replied slowly. “That's the name of the connection. They guys, they are my Liiashlau.

She tested the word out on her tongue while he continued.

“We straight out refused at first. We knew what liiash was, everyone did. But we thought being connected to other people like that would just slow us down. Make life more dangerous. He hounded us about it for months. He even went to far that he said if we didn't become his Liiashlau, we had to leave. I don't know if his old lady would have forced us out just 'cause of that. It's kind of a harsh thing to do. She just wanted us to stop getting into trouble. But Modo can be real nasty when he has a mind to be. And their cave was a lot safer than being out on the streets. We gave in, mostly to make him shut up about it. We really had no idea what we were getting into.

“Vincent had the hardest time. Modo was just so mellow and Vincent was...not. He went from having an over-the-top emotional reaction to everything, to a more quiet and fidgety version of himself. He would say it was like he couldn't feel anymore. Like he was dead inside. Modo, as usual, just tried to stay calm with a couple of wild kids in his head. Some days were easier than others. And me? I was so lost. Seeing life from other people point of view made me realized that I didn't know anything about anything. I was just a stupid kid and I had no idea. We all got real quiet for a few weeks. We hardly said anything, even to each other, while we figured how to live when you've got two bros that you can't hide anything from.”

“How come you never told me about this before?” she fretted. “I would have understood. You all wouldn't have had to hide from me like this.”

“To avoid showing you too much too fast?” he confessed. “We didn't want to overwhelm you with weird alien stuff. We needed you to trust us. Our survival, and often yours, depended on it.”

There was a subtle stream of guilt she had been feeling at her judgments of them. At that moment the stream grew into a river.


“Just listen, Charley. The guys...they really love you. We can make this work.”

“Oh Throttle...” She sighed. “You've all said that to me. You're all so adamant about it. But why me? Why not some pretty little Mouse girl who already knows how all of the rules work?”

“My bros fell in love with you Charley-girl, I can't help that. And to be fair, I'm not that far behind them.”

“Okay, sure, That's fine. But you really don't have feelings for me, do you?” She let go of his hands. “Just be honest with me, please.”

“I...” he looked away. “Look, it doesn't matter. As long as the three of you are all on the same page, we can do it. We can make this work.”

“'It doesn't matter'? Of course it matters. Why on Earth, or Mars, would I want to be in a relationship with you, be intimate with you, if you have no real feelings for me?”

“Because I'm going to, no matter what! Don't you get that?” he bluntly stated, startling her. “That's the whole point of this. We affect each other. We might get in arguments sometimes, but in the end we are always on the same page. It's the entire reason why anyone agrees to become Liiashlau. It's to keep the peace and keep everyone safe. I'm more than happy to accept that, Charley. I'm okay with it. I like feeling what my bros feel. It's better when we all match up.” He leaned forward, pressing his palms in either side of her face. “I care about you. I really really really do. Don't ever think for a second that I don't. I'm not completely in love you yet, like Modo and Vincent, but that doesn't mean I'm not willing to be. And I could, so easily, if you only give me half a chance. Don't humans start dating all the time when they just only like each other? Or if there's just a physical attraction, but 'no real feelings' yet? How is this any different?”

She didn't have an argument to that.

“Okay, just...” She covered his hands with her own and closed her eyes. “You don't have to try so hard to convince me.”

“Are you sure about that?” he challenged. “There isn't some tiny part of you that can't do it? Be a part of what we are and be in our lives like this?”

“Throttle, stop. I'm trying here. Don't make me question myself.”

“Because I have to know.” He continued as if he hadn't heard her. “I can't have my heart broken again. I can't. I'm going to start getting so attached to you and when that happens, Charley, I swear I'll be whatever you want me to be. Just don't leave us.”

She felt so stupid for never noticing before how much they mirrored each others words, or if she had she thought nothing of it. They were three guys who had spent years of their lives together. Why wouldn't they use similar phrases? Knowing now what significance that had, she knew she had missed the mark for so long and there was no excuse. Charley had to make it up to them. She rubbed his hands, still pressed into her cheeks, gently in an effort to calm him down.

“Throttle, I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere.”

“There was this girl.” he offered. “She was so much like you. She took care us and kept everyone going, even on the worst days. She had her pick of any of the guys in the base, but more and more she kept spending her time with us. Vincent fell hard for her.” He moved his hands downward until they rested on her collarbone. “They took her. It was a spy who was working for the fish the whole time and he took her. We still don't know if she's alive or if she died a long time ago. Charley, do you have any idea how many times we have seen that or something like it happen? We need to keep you close because the Plutarchians know who you are. They know you are a threat to them, not just because you've been helping us, but because you are a mechanic and have useful functional skills that they do not want their enemies to have access to. They will want to get rid of you because you are a women and that's what they do. It's exactly what happened to Harley.”

He let go of her and stood up, taking a few steps away from her. Throttle hung his head and rubbed the back of his neck nervously. With his back to her, he continued.

“We need to keep you close, Charley. We are soldiers. We can protect you.” He glanced at her over his shoulder. “Not because we think you're weak. It's because who and what you are is important. And we want you in our clan. We want you in our lives.” Throttle turned to face her. “When Vincent told us what he did, I was so angry. I thought we would loose you forever. Earthers don't do what we do. The idea of it...the reasons for it, we were going to tell you slowly, just a little bit at a time. Only then would we tell you how we felt. By that time I thought I could be over Carbine, and ready for you.” Taking four steps toward her, he knelt down in front of her and rested his hands on her knees. “You deserve the very best from us, Charley. You helped us navigate your world when everything was new. You kept us fed and clothed. You basically did everything that a woman of our clan would have done anyways, except you were a stranger. You didn't have to do any of it. But you did. And we owe you so much.”

“ don't owe me anything.”

“You're wrong. We do. We have to keep you safe.” She stared into his intense eyes, watching them dart all over her face. The opaque viridescence of his field specs always gave his eyes an otherworldly glow. “If we lost you too, after everything else that's been taken from us...I don't even want to think about what we would do. We wouldn't be the Mice you know now. We need you. More than you could ever know. We need you in our lives to keep us grounded.”

That was so much more than she expected to hear from him, so much more than she could have ever imagined. Charley knew her boys loved her, had known it for years. She did not know the extent of their dependence on her. Charley had them all wrong. Modo was the one completely in love with her, and Throttle liked her enough to be willing to try. And Vinnie, well, maybe he was as much of a traditionalist as Modo's mother.

“Do you,” she began. “just not trust me with your heart?”

“It's not you I don't trust.” He looked up at her. “But I do understand your culture. You may not ever run away from us, but can you blame me for being afraid of it? I think a lot humans would run away. They may stay and amuse themselves with us for a while, trying out something new and exotic, and when they were done they would go back to their own people and their own ways, leaving us to feel used, unwanted. It would crush us.”

His eyes sheltered an ocean of barely hidden anticipation. His fingers wrapped around her arms, just above the elbows.

“I could love you so much. We would be the best thing that ever happened to you.”

There was his all-male-bravado. They all had it. But in this moment his confidence was discolored by his uncertainty of her.

“We've already talked about it, all the different ways this could go. All of our fears, all the possibilities, good and bad.”

Her mind flashed back to Modo as her worried for her comfort and their incompatibility just before their coupling. How could she show Throttle she was sincere? His concerns were legitimate. Many Humans would do exactly as his claimed.

“Do you really think I would want to abandon you three? After everything we've been through? Do I really come across as someone so faithless?”

“But you did.” He countered. “Didn't you? You thought of Modo and wanted to run.”

She went absolutely still.

“How do you know that?” Her voice was low and suspicious. “How do you know what I was thinking?”

His fists painfully squeezed on her arms for the shortest moment, before letting go completely. His face was a display of regret.

“Charley, let me explain...”

“You told me you were touch-telepaths.” she accused. “That nothing could happen without a physical connection. You told me that!”

“Yes, I did. And most of the time that's the case, but Charley...”

“You can't just go snooping around in my head like that.” She swiveled the chair to the side and stood, backing away. He stayed kneeling on the floor, shoulders limp, with his palms facing up.

“It's not what you think. This...” His gaze drifted downward as he scowled. “This is exactly what I was afraid of.” Throttle's hands clenched as his shoulders shook with tension. “I know you don't get the details. I know you have hardly idea how people communicate with each other when everyone is a telepath. No one is trying to make you feel violated here.”

Her heart clenched for so many reasons. At her own reaction, and his reaction to her. At her abrupt fear for all her boys if they knew all she been thinking of them.

“Does Modo know?” It came out in a rush, her words dripping with anxiety.

“No. He doesn't.” Throttle grunted.

“Will he? Is that how this works?”

“I can keep it from him, if I try.”

“Please don't tell him. I couldn't stand it if...Throttle, I don't want to break his heart.”

He locked his cybernetic eyes to her flesh ones. His expression was one of compassion, of softness. More than what she thought she deserved.

“I won't tell either of them for as long as you feel a need to hide from us.”

Oh, these telepaths. Realization dawned on her. They wouldn't hide anything from one another. Maybe she hadn't thought this relationship through. Because if she had it would have occurred that most difficult part of dating her Martians wasn't that there were three of them. It was that they, but nature of what they were and how they were biologically built, didn't hide anything from each other. Everything was out in the open. They would expect that of her too eventually.

“This is the part where you become too overwhelmed by what we would ask of you, isn't it?”

She shook her head. Her heart hurt.

“I'm better than what you give me credit for, Throttle. You're right when you say Humans in general would react the way you claim they would. You're also right when you say it would have been so much better if I could learn this all slowly and then be told how you all felt.” She pressed her palms into her eyes. “I don't how we will make this work, but I will try. I think I need a little bit of time right now. Let's just take this slow, okay?”

He didn't respond for the longest time. Instead he kept his gaze focused on her, his face unreadable. Then, he rose to his feet and approached her in measured, even paces. He leaned into her, placing a hand on the back of her neck and the other on her hip. Through the semi-transparent lenses of his specs, his eyes were so wide.

“You'll accept us? Really?” She felt his voice reverberate in her chest, sending tingles down her spine. He did not say it like he believed it to be true. Since she began this conversation with him he had been so agitated, almost neurotic. His odd intense waves of emotion made sense now.

“You didn't believe I would? You thought I would just indulge you all for a while and then abandon you? How could you think that of me? I might be a little slow to accept all this, but I'm not leaving any of you.” She raised a hand to the side of his face and stroked the fur there. He rubbed his head against her caress. “I'm willing to love you all, if you're willing to be patient with me.”

Throttle pulled back a bit, a relieved smile settled on his hansom features. He nodded to her request. Charley felt pressure on her neck as he leaned in and kissed her. He took his time with her, nipping at her lower lip and licking at her teeth. Though she was reluctant to jump in so quickly, she was also eager to show him in every way possible how much she was willing to be in their lives as their lover. She opened her mouth to him, drawing him in. He sunk into her, letting his hands wander around her back. This wasn't bad, she thought. These boys feared her prejudices. And they had good reason to. But it was rather nice, she had to admit, to be so cared for by all of them.

When Throttle ended the kiss, she felt the lost of him more strongly than she would have expected.

“Thank you.” He leaned his forehead against hers. “I truly didn't know if you would be open to us Charley-girl. I'm so happy you are.”

“Hey, open is my middle name. Besides, you lummoxes mean too much to me. I could never let you go so easily. ” Charley leaned in and kissed him again, loving the feel him. Their slightly larger mouths gave way to an entirely different experience than any Human man she had been with. His tongue had more reach, his jaw longer and his mouth deeper. But he kissed her expertly, with the practiced skill of one who used to pleasing a lover so very different than himself.

He let her lips go, but kelp his forehead on hers, breathing heavily.

“I'm sorry I let this go so far, Charley-girl. I guess I fell for with you too, in my own way. It away from me before I realized what happened. I need you in my life. Before all this craziness started, I was already yours.” He pulled away to look her directly. “I...I connected with you too.”

Her eyes widened, unsure of his meaning.

“You what?”

He gently ran his fingers though her hair.

“It's all one-way. Not so deep, really. We mind-walked and I left a part of myself behind. Were you a confident telepath, it wouldn't have happened. But you weren't and I wasn't careful enough and now this is the result.”

She felt her shoulders grow tense and deliberately tried to calm herself.

“I'm not...peaking into you when your not looking, or trying sneak around your thoughts. It doesn't work like that. When you feel something really strong, so strong it's like you're screaming it inside, I know. I can't help but know.”

“Can you...turn it off?” She question cautiously.

“I...yeah, and mostly I have been doing that. But now...I don't want to. I would rather leave it open. You're a part of the clan now, right? I need to know your mind, Charley. Not just so I can protect you, but for me too. I want to be connected to you.”

The fact that he had just called her clan did not go unnoticed by her. But its exact meaning, whether or not it had the same definition as what she understood to be family, was not clear to her.

“ the normal thing to do on Mars. Isn't it?”

“ is. It's probably pretty scary for you, to let other people in like that.”

She placed her hands on his biceps, pushing him back a fraction of an inch. They distance it put between them was mostly symbolic.

“You have no idea. But I can't imagine what Earth's got to be like for you three, with Humans having no telepathy at all.”

He gave a half smile. A bantam smirk betraying a secret he never intended to keep.

“Sure you are. Humans are all kinds of telepathic, Charley-girl. If you weren't I wouldn't have been able to mind-walk with you. It's just your biology makes it a little more work. Most of you never leaned how to pay attention to this part of yourselves. The problems there are mostly cultural. It ain't no fantasy, babe. Humans have very powerful minds.”

“Are you serious?”

“Well, you certainly do.”

“You're lying. That can't be true.”

“I'm not. I could tell that about Humans from the first second I was on Earth. The night we met and I showed you Mars, I did that because it didn't occur to me that Humans would be so unaware of their own abilities. I know I scared you, but I didn't know that until I had already started.” He tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “Your people have myths and urban legends about it, don't they? That comes from instinct, what you all got hidden inside.”

“I all said that Martians were different. Everyone there had more mental abilities.”

“Only be a slight margin. We could teach you, if you want, all the things you could be capable of.”

“I wouldn't even...let's just do one thing at time.” She raked her fingertips threw his fur, savoring it's softness. “Where does this leave you and me?”

His hold on her loosened.

“Where do you us to be want to be left?” His words were careful. “Do you want to...”

His implication produced in her a deep discomfort. His Liiashlau may have been more than ready, but Charley knew a thing or two about new relationships. And about leaving old ones behind.

“Not really. Not right now.” She spoke softly, intending to reassure Throttle after his skiddish behavior. “Do you?” She already knew the answer.

“I'm...” He let go of her and looked away. “It's just...if you really wanted to go that route, I wouldn't say no. But...”

“You're not over her, are you?”

“Not in the least.” he confessed. “I just need some patience, too. It wouldn't be right, to be with you while I'm thinking of her.”

She winced at his bluntness.

“Alright. So, you and me are on the back burner.” Charley deliberately ignored his look of confusion.

“Yes.” he ventured, inferring her meaning. “You really shouldn't worry about Modo. This...with's going a lot better than we thought it would. You can be open with us. We won't judge you. I think we need to get together and talk this all out. We all need to be on the same page...”

“Stop saying that, please.” she chastised good-naturedly. “I need to get you boys an idiom dictionary.”

He leaned in unexpectedly and kissed her shoulder.

“You give us too much. We don't appreciate you enough, Charley-girl.”

“Don't...just be who you are. The three numbskulls who crashed into life one night, and who I could never figure out how to get rid of.”

“Ouch, babe. And here I though you liked us.”

Charley scoffed, giving him a friendly thump him on the arm with a fist.

“Could you do something for me?” She asked.

“Anything, babe.”

Charley bit her lower lip.

“Back off for a while? I think I need a little time, you know? Just want a day or two where none of you are going to come on to me. I got to have a little while to process all of this.”

Throttle pushed a loose strand of hair behind her ear.

“You got it, babe.” He smirked. “I'll keep Vincent in check.”

“What about Modo? He might be worse.”

“Yeah, you got a point there. Don't worry about it, though. We'll keep our distance.” He stepped back, giving her a hard look. “You're really okay? With us?”

She ran a hand nervously through her hair.

“Not completely. But I will be.” She gave him a nudge with her hip bone. It landed on his mid-thigh. “You three really are the best a girl could ask for.”

His face spread into a stunning smile. Charley could practically feel his pride swelling.

She stayed with him for the rest of the night. He was always toughing her. A hand through her hair, a brush of his tail on her leg. He did go long without some form of physical contact. Charley did not lean into his touches, nor did she pull away. She allowed a halfway point for the two of them to meet. A concession she thought not only polite but necessary. The guys were already thoroughly protective of her. From her experience their type would soon become some amount of possessive as well, if they had not already.

Her sympathetic nature kept forcing its way through her thoughts. How many concessions had they given her? How much of what they considered normal did they give up on to be with her? Throttle claimed they owed her, but in her mind she would always be the one who owed them. Four soldiers crashing into her life and giving her a family again, for literally saving her more times than she could count. For being her brothers. And now for being her boyfriends.


That was such an odd word to use. It would take some definite getting used to. But she could do it. In time she could be what they deserved.

When the planet-hopper landed at the scoreboard, the goodbyes with Rimfire were short and cursory. The young soldier left and for a brief moment as Charley stood there with her three guys, each of them straddling their bikes, as an awkward silence passed over them.

Throttle took a step toward forward.


“A couple of days, remember?” She cut him off. “I don't know about any of you, but I'm beat. I'm going to home.”

Throttle looked at both of his bros.


“Yeah, I know.” His implication was made abundantly clear by her lack vehicle. She pointed at Vinnie. “You take me.”

The alabaster mouse perked up, ears facing forward.

“You got it, babe.” He smiled. “Anywhere you want to go, I'm your mouse.”

Charley felt his tail uncomfortably griping her hip bones as she was lifted into the air. When she was settled on the saddle behind him she felt its tip brush the inside of her jeans above her buttocks.

“We can go as fast as you like. Or as slow...”

She swore she could hear Modo growl.

“Vinnie, not now. Where's my helmet?”

He took it out of a compartment and limply handed it to her. She took it and jammed it on her head. At her nod Vinnie silently, and quickly, tore out there, making his way to the Last Chance Garage.

“So...” he ventured. “You and Throttle...”

“No.” came the blunt reply. “Not really. We just need some time. Both him and me.” She gave a heavy sigh. “Could we just not talk. I'm really tired.”

“Yeah. Sure thing, babe.” His tail tightened around her mid section. She noticed with some apprehension that they sped up. Charley squeezed her eyes shut, rather than watch the dizzying blur of Chicago's scenery slid past them. When they arrived, Charley dismounted before Vinnie could assist her. After closing the garage door she pulled the helmet off and raked her nails through her scalp.

“You're a real jerk, you know that?” She set the helmet aside.

Vinnie averted his gave.


“Just what exactly were you trying to accomplish?”

“I don't know. I just...” He fiddled with a knob on his bike. “You were there, and I was there, and you were safe. I wasn't...going to...” He tore his helmet off. “I wasn't sure if I was ever going to see you again. But then we found you. You were sold to Sand Raiders, Charley. Do you have any idea what they could have done to you?” He threw a leg over his bike a took a step towards her. “I lost it so bad when I saw you there, with chains on your arms. You were screaming. And then it was all just one thing after another. We never had a minute to stop. But when I finally had a second when I could talk to you...”

Charley had every intention of staying angry at him. She planed this out so she give her mouse the chewing out they both knew he deserved. But looking at him now, hearing his side, she couldn't help but feel that tension in her shoulders, that burning in her chest dissipated just a bit more than she would have liked.

“I just want to know you're okay. I know you hate it, but I just want to protect you. Charley...” He reached out to hold her face. “You can't know how much it drives me crazy, seeing you in places like that. I don't ever want to let you get hurt.”

“Vinnie...” She covered his hand with hers.

“I know I crossed a boundary. But I'll make up to you, babe. I swear.”

That tiny scientific voice in her mind demanded to be heard. It said to her, how much of his words and actions was nothing more than the result of a biological urge to reproduce? How far would he go? What were all the things he was say to get back on her good side?

Charley decided it was best to let that go. These guys came into her life as friends first, brothers eventually, and then as lovers now. They may have clearly been a bunch of oblivious boys from time to time, but they were family now.

It this what makes up a clan?

She still had so many questions. But for now she would do what she could to offer comfort to the mouse in front of her.

She smiled.

“How much have the guys been chewing you out for that?”

His shoulders slumped as he exhaled.

“A lot. More than a lot. I haven't seen Modo like that in long time.” He coiled his tail around her hips and drew her close. “He would do anything for you, Charley-girl. We all would.” He burrowed his nose into her hair.

His warmth settled around her. She would have been happy to stay there like that with him, or invite him up to her room like she knew he was hoping for. But Charley knew her limits. She needed time. She needed rest. And most off all she needed a shower. With good old fashioned Chicago municipality water. As fascinating as the Martian photonic version was, it did not hold they same immediate sensation of relaxing comfort that the idea of hot steam and soap did for her.

She pulled away from him.

“I'm not mad at you.” she clarified. “At least not any more. I'm ready to make this work with you guys.”

He kissed her then. It was the same rough, thoughtless, desperate kiss he gave her in that cave on Mars. And just like before, Charley felt herself being pulled a long for the ride.

She ended it far too soon for both their liking, and had to stop him when he breathlessly tried to kiss her again.

“I just...I just need a few days. To get used to all this, you know?”

With eyes squeezed shut, he nodded. And slowing, painfully, he let her go and walked back over to his bike. He piked up his helmet and spoke.

“I feel like everyone's trying to make me wait. You, Modo, Throttle.” he chuckled. “I think maybe even the gods are in on this.” Vinnie carefully slid the helmet over his ears. “I'll wait for you as long as takes, Charley-girl.”

He sped off. Charley's next thought was that he must have been using speed to stave off his sexual frustration all these years. Well, it probably best to let him. It was far less destructive then some of the other things he normally did.

She put his antics out of her mind, pulled out the trap door and climbed the later to her room. After an hour long shower, Charley collapsed on her bed with her towel still wrapped around her mid-section. She dreamed long vivid dreams about her furried men, their red sands, and of the adventures they had yet to have.
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