Well, here is FINALLY is. The next installment of "Reunions." I know it's taken a long time, and I appreciate the support that I received from people, especially from Morning and FairDrea. Over the past year (my final year of college), I'm afraid that I found real life a little overwhelming. I hope to have a lot more time to write now, and intend to update at least every month.

Chapter Twelve

Throttle carefully eased himself up onto one elbow and gazed silently down at the human woman who slept beside him. He ran a gentle hand down over her auburn hair, and was rewarded by a mumble and a roll which snuggled Charlie even more firmly against his chest. His skin twitched from the sweat and sand that had accumulated underneath his fur, but he was reluctant to move, reluctant to leave.

He still wasn't entirely sure what had happened, to bring Charlie to him like this. He knew that she had been . . . damaged . . . by her horrendous experiences in the hands of the Plutarkians, that the mere casual touch of a man could make make her flinch, and bring a disturbing pallor to her face.

But she had come to him, had offered herself to him. It was a gift that left him feeling weak, invincible, terrified . . . and simply grateful and so in love that he didn't know what to do with himself.

But he had to wonder; where would they go from here? There was no way he could stand a return to-

Charlie's strangled gasp broke the silence of the night, tearing Throttle's attention back to her. Even as he watched, she trembled in her sleep, raising one hand as if to ward off some unseen assailant. Her eyes clenched, her teeth bared, she gasped out two desperate words. "Please . . . no!"

"Charlie!" Throttle grasped her shoulder and shook her gently, trying to wake her. "Charlene, it's okay! Wake up!"

His words were of no help, however. Caught up in her nightmare, Charlie flailed out against enemies only she could see. She tightened one hand into a fist and struck out at him when he wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly to him.

"Charlie-girl, please wake up!" He almost didn't recognize his own voice, as panicked and shaky as it was.

"Nnn -agh!" With an enormous gasp, Charlie finally opened her eyes and wrenched herself away from him. Clutching her arms around herself, she struggled for air as she continued to tremble uncontrollably.

"Charlene?" Throttle restrained the desperate need to touch her, and fought to keep his own voice low and gentle. "Are you alright now?"

She finally looked over at him, and managed a shaky smile. It looked fake against her sweaty pallor. "Yeah. Thanks."

He understood without saying what the nightmare had been about.

Torture. Rape.

"Do ya have those often?"

Charlie glanced away and closed her eyes. "Used to. Not so often now."

Throttle didn't want to ask, but he had to. "Was it because . . . Do you think our sleeping together caused this one?"

She sighed. "I don't know, Throttle. The weirdest little things can set them off. But . . . yeah. Probably."

He couldn't think of anything more to say, and so waited for her to continue.

The niggling fear arose in the back of his head, that Charlie would decide that this had all been a horrible mistake. That they should return to the status quo. That she wouldn't let him hold her in his arms again as he had only minutes ago.

Some corner of his mind whispered that he should accept that decision if Charlie asked for it. Her mental and emotional health had to come first, right? After all, this wasn't simply some woman that he had fallen in love with. She was, to a greater extent, one of the primary commanders of the earth forces against the Plutarkians. Charlie's well-being could very well play a deciding role in Earth's victory . . . and who was he to stand in the way of something that important?

But . . . Throttle's heart rejected the thought as soon as it came to him. He had loved Charlie for years, even before he'd realized the fact. And he knew Charlie felt the same way. Wasn't love just as important as some military victory? He could keep Charlie strong, be there for her. He would be there for her. And he wouldn't let her push him away.

Charlie rubbed her hands over her bare arms. Balmy the night might be, but she felt chilled to the bone. Needing to cover her nudity for more reasons then the mere physical, she glanced around for the sleep shirt she had discarded earlier. Seeing it lying in a heap about ten feet away, she pushed herself to her feet and trotted over, grabbing it up and pulling it back over her head.

She forced herself to look back at Throttle, unsure of what she would see in his face. The golden-furred Mouse plucked at the towel they had been lying on, staring down at his hand in a painfully obvious attempt not to look at her.

She sighed, and ran a hand through her tangled hair, wincing as she tugged on several knots. Everything had seemed so perfect a single hour ago, then her stupid nightmare had left her so shaken that she'd automatically pushed Throttle away. How was she supposed to start fixing the mess she had made?



They spoke simultaneously, and laughed nervously. Still staring down at the blanket, Throttle gestured for Charlie to continue.

Charlie sighed, and walked back to the blanket. She lifted the hand that picked at the blanket, holding it in her lap and studying the short blunt nails, the callouses and scars. It was strong hand, a warrior's hand. But it was just as capable of comforting a hurt comrade, of protecting a child, of taking her to unimaginable heights of passion. She looked up at his head, and sighed when she saw that it was still turned downward, also watching the way she held his hand in both of her own.

Her hands looked so delicate, so pale and tiny next to his own. The fingers were long and slender, the nails short. There was a little reddened pucker of flesh where the thumb and index finger joined on her left hand; he remembered the day that he had surprised her at work, resulting in the burn from a hot engine. She had sworn, sucked briefly on the burn, and gone right back to work. No, he knew from experience that the fragile appearance hid a strength that matched his own.

"I wish you'd look at me." Charlie was tempted to place her hands beneath Throttle's chin and lift his head until his eyes met hers, but she restrained. People joked that the eyes were the window to the soul. With Throttle, that old adage was truth itself. She had realized early on in their friendship that he wore the shades not only to protect his cruelly enhanced eyes, but also to keep that much more of his thoughts secret.

Silence reigned, and finally the Mouse raised his head. Charlie gasped at the pain present in his garnet eyes. She instinctively moved to comfort the man -the Mouse- she loved more then any other, dropping his hand to wrap her arms around his neck, to press her cheek against his furry one.

Throttle brought his own arms up and clung to Charlie's slim torso like a life-line. "I . . . I can't go back, Charlie-girl," he choked out in a broken whisper. "I'm sorry. I can't go back to the way we were, me afraid to touch ya . . . Now that we've . . . been together . . . I can't give you up."

"Oh, Throttle." Charlie pulled away just enough to place her hands on either side of his face, so that she could look again into his eyes. "I don't want that either. I think it would drive me mad!"

"But . . . " he struggled for the words to express his worry, his confusion, his frustration.

"It's gonna be really hard, Throttle. I won't lie to you." she filled her voice with sincerity, and brought their faces together until their noses touched. "But I love you! I want to be with you!"

"I don't want to hurt you, Charlene." Cool, blessed relief welled up within him at her words, soothing away some of the panicked ache. "Knowin' that you're havin' these nightmares, just because I'm touchin' you . . . that'd just tear me apart."

"I'm not saying that the nightmares won't come." Charlie took a deep breath. "They will. There will be times when I wake up screaming, and I won't want anybody , even you -especially you- to touch me. But it's something we'll have to deal with if we're going to be together. And I'm willing to work for it. If it helps, I can tell you that the nightmares haven't been as bad since you and the boys came back to Chicago."

Throttle gently traced a finger down the side of her face. There was strength in that green-eyed visage. He'd always known it, but he didn't think he'd known, until this very moment, just how incredible that strength was. "I'd fight every enemy we've ever faced to keep you, Charlie-girl. I guess this isn't really the sort'a fight I'm used to, but I'll face every step with you. I'm never lettin' you go."

Charlie smiled and placed a soft kiss on his lips. "Then I'd say we've got a better chance then most."

Several hours later, Charlie curled up against her new lover and smiled into the darkness. After their talk, they had washed off in the lake. They had frolicked like children in the warm water, cleansing themselves both of the sand and sweat and of the frightened emotions both had carried. After that, they had moved back to the camp, where they had made love again, this time on clean blankets, before falling asleep wrapped around each other.

Charlie hugged herself, treasuring the healthy, wholesome feeling of being sated by good sex. It felt . . . good. The mild twinge of soreness between her legs did not send her mind huddling into some corner, racing away from the memories of rape and hurt. Instead, she felt, for the first time in years, like a normal woman. The relief of that feeling brought tears of pleasure to the corners of her closed eyes.

At the mouth of the tent, something moved. Before she could tense up, a tiny "mew" came quietly through the night.

Sitting up, careful not to disturb Throttle, Charlie gathered the kitten into her arms. Burying her face into the soft black fur, she whispered, "I'm sorry I forgot about you. Things got a little . . . complicated after I left the tent."

The kitten silently curled into her arms, and extended a tiny pink tongue to lick her thumb, nibbling gently upon her nail.

With a soft laugh, Charlie lied back down, keeping the kitten enfolded loosely in her arms. "We'll just have to see what Throttle has to say when he sees your in the morning. I don't think he'll complain to much when I tell him I'm keeping you, Angel. Is that an okay name?"

There was no response from the kitten, who seemed to have fallen quickly asleep. Charlie laughed.

From behind her, a muscled arm wrapped carefully around her. "Angel?" Throttle's voice rumbled out. "More like a little devil."

"How can you say that about our child, Throttle? Look at how innocent she is, sleeping there." Charlie grinned at the return to their playful teasing.

"Tell that to my tail. It still stings where she bit me."

"We'll teach her that tails are not acceptable toys."

"We'll talk about it in the morning. Now go to sleep."

And smiling, Charlie slept.

And there you have it! Remember to review! Next chapter is rolling along, and should be up in a month, with Throttle and Charlie's return to Chicago and the beginning of Earth's final push against the Plutarkians. If you're interested in receiving emails about updates, just mention in in your review or send an email to me. 's being rather odd and won't accept the email address that I'm typing in, but you can find it on my bio page.)