When Charley gets sick, the mice get a terrible reminder of how fragile their girl is.

Disclaimer: No own the sexy mice!

Fragile
Vinnie knew why Throttle never wanted Charley to fight. He really did. It was incredibly dangerous, the things they did and battles they fought, especially for someone who couldn't match them in physical strength. But Charely had the moves, the brains, the wheels, and most importantly, (in his opinion), the will to fight. He was fairly certain that as long as someone kept an eye on her, she'd be fine. Their girl was a very tough chickie.

But he still knew why she wasn't allowed to fight beside them.

It wasn't untill she got sick, that he really understood.

It was a long Thursday night, and the mice had gotten no sleep at all. Limburger's thugs had led them on a fine chase all over Chicago after a series of break-ins. They had found most of the goons and tossed them over to the police station, but the remaining few had holed up in some of the worst parts of town. The patrol had lasted all night and into the early hours of Friday morning. So now the three mice wanted nothing more than to catch a quick breakfast at Charley's and then go to sleep for the next few days.

They pulled up around eight a.m., and right off the bat Modo noticed something odd. "Bros, look," he pointed to the shop's main door, the small sign still turned to the 'Closed' side. "Charley's not open yet."

"Probably forgot to turn it over," Vinnie shrugged as he activated the garage doors. They rumbled open and the boys wheeled inside, parking their bikes. Throttle frowned at the darkness inside the shop, "She wouldn't forget to turn the lights on."

"Did she go out somewhere and not tell us?" Modo asked as he slowly pulled his helmet off. The garage looked a little creepy in the dark.

"She'd leave a note or something," Throttle said, the frown getting deeper on his brow. "And her rides are still here." The truck was still parked off to the side of the shop, her bike not far from it. He raised his voice and called out, "Charley! Charley-girl, you up?"

No answer.

All three mice tensed, ready for a possible attack. Throttle kept his voice low as he spoke, "Slag it. Alright, Vinnie, go back out and around the perimeter, see if anyone's around. Modo, you take the main floor, I'll head upstairs."

"You think Charley's okay?" Vinnie asked softly.

"I hope so," the leader murmured. "Move out." Vinnie slipped back out the garage doors, laser pistol at the ready. Modo walked as quietly as he could to the living room, while Throttle silently went up the stairs. The grey mouse scanned the room, nothing seemed out of place. He headed to the kitchen, the bit of light from the window barely enough to see by. A crunch of glass underfoot made him look down.

Modo's sudden cry brought the other two mice flying to see what was wrong. Both paused at the door, shocked at what they saw. Charley was collapsed on the floor unconscious, barely clothed in her sleep-shirt. Fragments of glass mixed with orange juice lay close by her hand. She was panting, short shallow breaths, and sweat covered her body. Shivers wracked her slight frame, and when Modo knelt down to touch her, he knew her temperature was far too high.

"You're sick. You poor girl," Modo said softly as he gathered her up in his arms. She gave a small whimper in fever dreams, the large mouse crooning to soothe her as he carried her over to the couch. He proceeded to clean her up, wiping down her arm that was coated in the sticky juice and clearing it of any shards of glass.

Throttle glanced over at a very worried Vinnie. "You see anything outside?"

"What? No, didn't see any tracks, no sign of a break in. You?"

"Nah, nothing upstairs."

The white mouse couldn't help his jittering. "Is she gonna be alright? You don't think Karbunkle got her with something, do you?"

Throttle blinked in surprise. That had been exactly what he was thinking. "We'll see. I dont' know anything about human diseases, so I don't know if this is a normal sickness or not."

"We need to call Chef Andy," Modo said. "He'll know if something's been done to her or not. But we need to get her upstairs to her room, get her comfortable."

The leader nodded. Modo had more medical experience than he did, so he would trust his friend to know what to do now. "What do you need?"

"Let's see, a large bowl of cold water, some towels, a couple of wash cloths. Get the first aid kit from the bathroom and bring an extra blanket," the grey mouse said as he carried Charley up the stairs. He glanced down at the sick girl in his arms. "And put a rush on it, will ya?"

"On the way," Throttle said. He turned to his bro, "Vinnie, go get Chef Andy and bring him back as fast as you can."

"I'm on it," the mouse said, running for his bike.

The tan mouse flinched as he realized what he'd just said to a mouse notorious for being a speed demon. "In one piece, Vincent, bring him back in one piece!" He sighed, the white mouse already far out the door. "Andy's gonna kill me for this one." Throttle hurried to get the things Modo needed and headed up the stairs for Charley's room.

He almost dropped everything when he saw what was going on. "Modo! For the love of the gods, she's unconscious!"

Modo looked up from the bedside where he had been peeling the shirt off Charley, pausing to stare at his friend in blank confusion. It turned to a fierce blush, "She can't stay in these clothes, they're soaked!"

"She'll be naked!" Throttle protested, a blush coming on his face now.

"She's sick and needs us to take care of her, not oggle her like horny teenagers," the mouse snapped. "Get your mind outta the gutter and help me. Put the bowl over here and wet down some of those washcloths. We're giving her a quick wipe-off to get her fever down. It shouldn't be this high," he murmured worriedly. "Did she look sick the last time you saw her?"

"No, looked fine to me," the tan mouse said, doing as he was told. He hesitated before he asked his friend, "Do you think Karbunkle has something to do with this?"

"Gods, I hope not," Modo said in reply. "If he is, than this is way outta my league. Probably outta any earth doctor's league too."

Throttle grimaced. Karbunkle's biological weapons had wiped out nearly half the Martian population before they could find a cure for them. If Charley was sick with something the mad doctor had cooked up, there was a good chance she wouldn't survive it.

They tried their best to stop blushing as they bathed the sick girl, changing her into dry underwear and a new sleep-shirt. The water seemed to help, and the girl stirred, trying to wake up fully. "Mmm...Modo?"

The big mouse smiled at her, glad she was awake. "Yeah, darlin'?"

Her words were slurred by sleep. "Wh...what are you doing here?"

"Came to see ya, found ya in the kitchen real sick, Charley-ma'am. How long you been feelin' bad?"

"Just yesterday," she said, fighting to sit up. Throttle saw and pulled her up as Modo put pillows behind her back to support her. She smiled at the tan mouse, "Throttle? When'd you get in?"

"Came with Modo and Vinnie," he said softly. "Charley, do you remember anything before you got sick? Anything unusual you ate or drank?"

She made an attempt to shake her head, nixing that idea when the world started spinning. "No, nothing."

"Do you remember smelling anything strange, like a weird fog or gas of any kind?"

"No," she replied, looking at him oddly before understanding came. "You think someone did this to me?"

"Its possible," he said, unable to help his grim tone.

"I don't remember anything like that," she said. "No goons with syringes either."

"Slag it," Throttle muttered.

"Watch your language in front of a lady," Modo growled.

The leader winced. "Sorry, Charley. But if Karbunkle's not behind this, than you're just sick like normal?"

"Oh, this doesn't feel normal," she said, closing her eyes as the room spun on its own.

"How you feelin', girl?"

"Like crap," she muttered. She took stock of her symptoms. "My head's pounding, i'm freezing with cold chills, and my body aches all over." Her eyes suddenly went wide. "Modo, what's my temperature?"

"Haven't taken it yet," he said, getting the thermometer ready. he placed it in her mouth and waited, the electric beep sounding far too loud in the quiet room. The mouse pulled it from her and read the news. "103.6 degrees."

Charley winced. "Oh, crap."

Modo fished around the first aid kit, pulling out a small packet of medicine. "Think this'll help?"

"Yeah, thanks," she said, taking the pills from his hand and popping them in her mouth, swallowing them dry.

Throttle's com-unit suddenly went off, making the mouse startle a bit before he reached to unclip it from his belt. "Vinnie, what's up? What? I can barely hear you--Vincent, are you driving and talking at the same time when you've got a passenger?!"

Modo couldn't help his chuckle at Charley's confused look. "Old argument, he knows he can't win on this one."

"You stubborn--what? Alright. We've done that. Done that, too. Okay, got it." The unit clicked off. "Chef Andy says it just sounds like the flu to him. We're supposed to keep her warm, cool cloth on her forehead to keep her temperature down, and some aspirin to help with the body aches."

Modo smiled in relief, "So we're doing good so far--"

"Get out."

Both mice turned to look at their sick friend, surprised at her words. "What?"

"Get out," she said, louder this time, a look of panic on her face. "Leave, right now!"

"What are you talking about?" Modo said in complete confusion.

"Move, you stupid mice! I've got the flu, you have to stay away from me"--she suddenly started to cough, gasping to try and catch her breath. Modo reached to try and help her sit up, but she smacked his hands away. "No--(gasp)--you can't stay here--(cough, cough)--you need to get away from me."

Throttle was getting a little angry now, "Its just an Earth disease, Charley"--

"An Earth disease that can kill a healthy adult if its the right strain," she said weakly. The girl fell back against the pillows, exhausted by coughing. "Influenza can knock out even the best immune systems. Its notorious for mutating and getting harder to cure. You can't stay here, please guys, you have to go."

Modo jumped in, "Martian immune systems are much stronger than human ones"--

Charley's voice was getting weaker, "How willing are you to test that? What if you do get sick? Really sick? Who'll help you guys if i'm already under?"

"We can't just leave you like this," Throttle protested.

The sick mechanic did not like what she was about to do, but desperate times called for desperate measures. "So who will protect Chicago from the Plutarkians? Who will defend my world, my home, if you guys get sick? You can't stay, Throttle, Modo. You know you can't stay."

Throttle's jaw clenched. That was low, using their responsibilities against them. His breath hissed out between his teeth as he spoke, "So who'll take care of you? Pixies? You're not gonna get better on your own like this."

"If it gets any worse, I'll go to the hospital, I promise," she panted, eyes closed against the dizziness in her head. "Please, I couldn't stand it if you guys got sick because of me, please. Go."

The sound of the garage door opening caught their attention. Vinnie called from downstairs, "Bros, we're in, how's Charley-girl?!"

"Well enough to argue with us," Throttle called with a slight glare at the girl. His look changed to concern when he noticed that she was unconscious again. "Oh no."

Modo shared a look with his friend. "We need to talk to Chef Andy."

"Then it is a good thing that I come to you," the older man said as he walked through the door, Vinnie right behind him.

"Charley said for us to stay away from her, doesn't want us to get sick," Throttle said in warning.

"I've had immunization shots," the chef said. "One of the few perks of being old, you get priority in the booster shot line." He came over to the bedside, placing a hand on the sick girl's brow. He immediately frowned. "She's burning up. What's her temperature?"

"103.6," Modo answered.

The man couldn't hide his worry. "So high? Have you given her any medicine?"

"Some fever reducer," Modo said.

"Lot of good that did," Throttle muttered.

"Did you use any water, try to cool her down?" the chef continued.

"Changed her clothes and wiped her off with washcloths," Modo said.

"It shouldn't still be so high. Charlene, you should never have let it get this far," Andy scolded under his breath. He checked her pulse, the frown getting deeper as all of them could suddenly hear a growing rasp in her breathing. "Pack her a bag and find some proper clothing for her to wear. We're going to the hospital, right now."

&

Andy had driven the sick girl to Chicago City Hospital Emergency room, her bros giving a full escort. The mice had to avoid the day crowds, occupying their time with destroying another of Limburger's towers to distract them. It wasn't working. By the time night finally rolled around, all three were anxiously waiting for news.

Andy called Modo around midnight, letting them know it was safe to come in. They parked their bikes on the hospital roof, the better to not be seen, and slipped in through the roof access doors. Vinnie was about to twitch out of his fur with worry over their girl. Modo wasn't in much better shape, and Throttle was quieter than normal, his way of showing his worry. When they reached her room, the mice couldn't help their shudder.

Charley was asleep, a thin blue hospital gown her only clothing. Her skin was pale, but her cheeks had a red flush of fever. She was attached to three IVs, a monitor keeping track of her heart rate and breathing. Gods above, she looked terrible, like if someone touched her too hard she would shatter. Andy sat to the side of her bed, holding a fragile hand in his own. He barely glanced up at them as they stood by her.

"She has a moderate case of the flu," the man said softly. "The doctor said that she was probably ill for some time now, and was hiding it."

"Slag it," Vinnie muttered. "Would it kill that girl to let us take care of her every now and then?"

The man raised tired eyes to meet theirs. "She also has a secondary infection, a mercifully mild pneumonia. If she hadn't got here when she did, even a day later, it might be much harder for them to treat her than now."

"So what can we do for her?" Throttle asked.

"She'll need to stay in the hospital a few more days until its safe to take her home. Then its rest, lots of it, and no working in the shop for at least two weeks."

"She'll go broke," Vinnie said worriedly.

"We can cover that," Modo said. "We've done her stuff before, shouldn't be too hard to keep it going for a few weeks."

Andy went on, "She'll need to take her prescription medicine, so be sure she doesn't forget. And to be sure no one gets sick, you'll have to wear a breathing mask, and wash your hands after you're around her. The stress would do her harm if she thought you three weren't taking precautions."

"Anything else?" Throttle asked.

"Take better care of her," Andy said, his voice filled with guilt. "That goes for myself as well. I haven't been paying attention, I should have seen this sooner."

Modo couldn't help his self-reproaching tone, "You and me both, brother. I see her more often than you, its my fault she got this bad."

"No, we aren't going to play the blame game," Throttle said. He drew a resolute breath, "We can't change what's happened, but we can change how we act in the future. This does not happen again, agreed?"

Everyone nodded. They had taken it for granted that she would be there, protected by her lack of exposure to combat. They had forgotten to take care of her, and now would be sure that this would never be repeated.

Vinnie now completely understood why Throttle never let Charley fight.

He would again never forget how fragile their girl really was.