When Carbine breaks up with Throttle, he needs time to heal. Charley offers the space and acceptance he needs. And maybe more...

Disclaimer: Still don't own the mice.

Chapter 1: Shattered

"You don't do it for me anymore."

That was all she said. That was her entire explanation. No excuses, no tantrums, no justifications.

Just, "You don't do it for me anymore."

Those were the only words Carbine said as she broke up with Throttle.

He tried to ask her why, if it was something he did, something he didn't do? Something he said, something he hadn't said? Was the distance too far? Did they not talk enough?

He even asked if it was someone else; if she had just fallen out of love with him, he swore he could help her love him again.

Her reply was the same as before. "You just don't do it for me anymore." And she stood up from the table and turned off her receiver on Mars.

He knew she'd said, "You don't do it for me anymore." What he heard in his heart was, "You're not enough. You're not good enough. You never were."

The sound of static had filled the room back on Earth. Throttle sat back in the chair, just staring at the mike of the communicator. He shut his eyes hard, blinking back hot tears that wanted to well up and out. He swallowed the cry that wanted to come from his throat. He forced his fists to uncurl, his fingers to loosen. It would take much longer to ease the tight ball of hurt in his chest, or soothe the sick feeling in his stomach.

For the next few weeks, Throttle barely slept. The happy memories he had made with Carbine, some of the only bright spots of happiness, peace, or love he'd known since the war had started, were now tainted. Those memories would circle his thoughts and seep through his mind at night, poisoning any rest he might get. He avoided everyone he knew like they had the plague. He couldn't bear hearing others being happy right then, when he honestly felt like he might never be happy again.

Vinnie and Modo heard the news from Stoker...three weeks later, that was how silent Throttle had become. The two other mice had been worried sick about their bro's behavior, recognizing the signs but not knowing the cause of his depression. When they found out, both had been quite willing to fly back to Mars and skin the general alive. Vinnie had been particularly vindictive, and managed to catch Carbine's personal call signal with their communicator. The two hour long rant he'd left for her had nearly gotten all three Earth-bound Martians banned from communications with Mars for life.

Mode and Vincent tried to talk to their bro about it, trying to get it out of his system before it sucked him down. They tried everything, from one-on-one talks, ambushing him, tag-teaming and cornering him so he couldn't get away. Hell, they even went so far as to deliberately pick fights with him, to at least get him to use anger to get his depression out. But Throttle would just go silent, ignoring their efforts and leaving the room as soon as they backed off. He had started taking long night rides to avoid going back to the scoreboard, aimlessly cruising the streets of Chicago.

Although, the only people he didn't avoid were Limburger's thugs. That crew of troublemakers were currently hiding for their lives, after Modo and Vinnie had to drag their bro away from them during their last brawl. Vinnie wouldn't admit it, but it had almost scared him how coldly vicious Throttle had been with them. Thankfully, Throttle hadn't gone actively hunting the gang, and the gang stayed away from him.

To the complete shock of Vinnie and Modo, (and the silent gratitude of Throttle), Charley had never once tried the 'girl thing' on him. Or as she liked to put it, 'pull a Dr. Phil.' She never pushed or insist that he talk it out. She never once brought it up with him, gracefully avoiding the subject and even leading the other two mice away from it whenever they were all together. When confronted by a stunned Vinnie as to why she'd been quiet about it, she'd pointed out that you couldn't force Throttle to do anything he didn't really want to do. All that did was piss him off and get you both nowhere.

She would try to help him in her own way and see if it was of any use to him, she told them. She had them give their fearless leader all the space he wanted, and to leave this one to her for now. Modo and Vinnie had agreed, not knowing what else to try. They had known him for years, but they didn't know how to handle him in such a deep depression. Throttle was normally so reserved and controlled that you almost never saw him angry. To see him like this left his two best friends at a loss.

The mechanic sometimes wondered about the friendship the three mice shared. They knew each other better than they knew themselves. They'd been through war and hardships that made her shudder to even think about. Yet they could sometimes be completely blind about each other's feelings. Typical guys. Talk about nothing, act like they know everything.

Charley knew that Throttle wasn't aware that she could hear him come in from his night rides. He would park behind the garage and come in through the kitchen door to try to sleep on the couch. He would always be up before her, but she would hear his bike rev in the mornings as he drove back to the scoreboard. On the fourth week of his rides into the city, she stayed down in the kitchen, waiting up for him.

Only the light over the stove was on, a soft glow of yellow in the kitchen. He came in pretty quietly for a Biker Mouse, carefully closing the door as silently as he could. So when he turned around and saw her waiting for him at the kitchen table, he almost jumped out of his fur. His voice was rougher than he meant it to be when he spoke, "Charley? What are you doing up this late?"

She just smiled, pushing forward a full mug of hot chocolate. "Just reassuring a few friends of ours that you sleep somewhere safe when you go out."

He stood still by the door, the argument plain on his face as to stay or go.

She saw his hesitation and stood from her chair at the table. "I'll go back up to my room if you want some privacy."

Throttle closed his eyes and shook his head, giving a soft sigh of resignation. "No, don't. You shouldn't have to leave a room of your own house." He slowly walked over to the old oak table, his tail pulling up a chair across from her. The mouse took hold of the offered mug, glancing up at her as he recognized the contents. "Hot chocolate?"

"I figured coffee wasn't the best idea this late at night," she said, her voice soft as she sat back down. "I bought your favorite kind of chocolate."

He frowned slightly at that. "How did you know I like hot chocolate?" Why do you care? he wondered.

"Christmas. You were downing it like a thirsty man in the desert, and you don't normally like sweets."

She remembered from Christmas? Eight months ago? "Hnn. Thanks."

"You're welcome."

They lapsed into an oddly comfortable quiet. She didn't ask him anything, didn't pry or lecture. He offered her no words; he barely even looked at her. But somehow, he still felt at ease. Later, they said their 'good nights', heading off to sleep, no awkwardness between them at all. It was what he had desperately needed for a while now, this blessed normalcy and acceptance, and the tan mouse was grateful for it. He actually caught a few hours sleep that night.

This soon became their special pattern. He would leave the board around eleven, taking a quick patrol around the city before heading back to the garage. She would always be waiting, a mug of chocolate beside her own. Sometimes they would talk, mostly about the latest adventure, sometimes about Modo and Vinnie, sometimes about her work. Sometimes they would just sit in the kitchen and sip, not needing to say anything at all. Charley made sure to call Vinnie and Modo when she would head up to sleep, to leave them a message to let them know that Throttle was safe at her place. Both Mice slept better knowing that they didn't have to worry quite so much about their tan-furred bro.

Throttle wasn't quite sure what to make of all this. He appreciated that she wasn't asking him about Carbine. He really appreciated that she wanted to respect his privacy and let him deal with this on his own. But he knew that it really wasn't like Charley to just let something like this go without talking about it. Why was she so quiet about it now?

So he finally broke down about two weeks into this new pattern and flat out asked her if she was curious at all about what had happened. Her response surprised him.

"I'm about ready to die of curiosity."


"Are you ready to talk yet?"

"No, dammit, I-" he suddenly caught himself, surprised at his reaction to her question. "I-I'm sorry, Charley, for the language." You know better than to talk like that in front of a lady! Especially Charley-girl!

She found herself smiling at his flustered look as she shook her head at him. "Don't worry about it. Look, I just figure that you'll tell me about it when you're good and ready, not a moment sooner. Hearts are private things. And you're a very private person."

Throttle felt a real smile tug at his lips for the first time in weeks. "Stoker says you're a good listener."

Charley almost blushed at that. "Really? Remind me to thank him for that later. So," she cocked an eyebrow at him, "do you want to talk? Or just leave it for now?"

The mouse shook his head, looking away from her clear green eyes. "Leave it. I don't want to be depressed right now. I just want to go back to how I used to be before all this," he muttered.

The girl nodded. "Alright. You up for a James Bomb movie?"

His ears perked in interest. "Which one?"

"The one with the giant satellite that could destroy the earth."

"That narrows it down to about...six films."

She laughed as they walked into the living room.