Disclaimer: I do not own Biker Mice From Mars and I make no money off this work. The characters Hannah Davidson, Johnson, Dr. Ryan James, and Margo Whitney belong to me, so please don't use them in your stories. But feel free to draw them and send me a copy.

This story contains cussing, graphic depictions of violence, and sexual situations. If you're not mature enough to handle it, go read something else.

This story is set after Evil Jack: In Sickness.

Biker Mice From Mars: Evil Jack: For Worse
Part One

Hannah Davidson leaned her back against the wall of her mother's garage. The sun shone down on her knees. Her uncles told her to guard the bag of kitty litter that towered over her head. But they just wanted her to watch while they played.

Uncle Modo revved his purple bike near the end of the block. The tires hit the puddle of oil in front of the Last Chance, but he controlled the skid heading for the bottle. His bike turned and faced the way he had come. The back tire hit the bottle and sent it flying.

"Foul!" Uncle Vinnie laughed as he sat on his red bike.

"I know that." Uncle Modo pushed his bike out of the oil slick. "I need a root beer. This sun is killin' my concentration."

"Excuses, excuses. You just knew you couldn't beat my last skid."

Uncle Throttle grabbed another empty bottle and the can of used oil. "Now, Vincent, don't let your mouth outperform your bike." He poured oil where the tires had pushed it away.

Hannah screwed up her courage. Uncle Vinnie didn't notice as she got closer to his bike. "Uncle Vinnie, can I play too, please?"

"Sure thing, kiddo." He set her in front of him and wrapped his tail around her waist. "Hang on."

She gripped the edge of the seat. The red bike revved and they moved to the starting point before heading toward the oil slick. The wind stung her eyes. All the buildings on the sides of the road blurred. The sound of the tires changed and the bike spun. She saw Uncle Modo in the door of the garage twice. Uncle Throttle stood in the street. The brakes screeched and the bike stopped, sending out a fan of oil into the air. She watched it splatter all over Uncle Throttle.

Sound whooshed back to her ears. Glass broke on the cement. The engine ticked and clicked as it cooled down. Then Uncle Throttle and Modo yelled together, "VINNIE!"

"What? She wanted to play. She even said please."

Hannah giggled. Oil dripped off Uncle Throttle's fur. He opened his mouth and shut it again without answering. She squeezed her hands to make her fingers stop hurting. She craned her neck to look at Uncle Vinnie's helmeted head. "That was fun! What's our score?"

Monster screeching brakes made everyone look down the road. Mommy climbed out of the blue tanker truck. She marched straight for the oil slick. "Hannah Charlene Davidson!"

It was never good when Mommy used all her names. But acting tough always worked for her uncles. "Hi, Mommy, did you see me playing bottles 'n broodies?"

Mommy's face got red and then white. "Did I see you? You get in the garage right this second, young lady!"

"But Mommy!"


Nobody argued with that voice. Uncle Vinnie lifted her past the oil slick with his tail. Why was she getting in trouble for playing a game? She looked back out the door. Uncle Modo hadn't moved and the root beer bottles were broken around his feet. Mommy was yelling at Uncle Vinnie and Throttle. Maybe she wasn't in trouble. But then she used all the names, Hannah sighed.

Throttle's brain had reconnected to his mouth, but he couldn't get any yells at Vinnie past the ones Charley issued.

"What the hell were you thinking!"

"She asked to play. She even said please." Vinnie crossed his arms.

"And that makes it okay to take her skidding across the pavement without a helmet!"

"My tail was wrapped around her the whole time!"

Charley's pale face reddened again. "Does your ego function like an airbag?" She balled her fists. "You're in such a suicidal hurry to break your neck, you want me to speed up the process? Get over here!"

Vinnie gestured for Charley to clam down. "You're overreacting, Charley-girl."

"Overreacting to you trying to kill my daughter!"

Throttle winced. He didn't know Charley could get her voice high enough to hurt eardrums.

"She was completely safe," Vinnie continued in a shakier voice.

"Just how crazy are you?" Before anyone could answer that, Charley turned to Throttle. "Why didn't stop him?" She glared at Modo. "Or you?"

"I was inside." Modo's metal thumb pointed at the garage.

"Does it look like I had a chance to stop him?" Throttle held out his arms with the oil dripping off them.

"Nobody needed to stop me."

Charley planted her hands on her hips. "All that velocity has squashed your brains. Even you're wearing a helmet for a stunt that could break your neck!"

The hands in black, fingerless gloves patted the helmet. "Okay, one little mistake...."

"Little!" Charley exploded. "You're just as demented as Karbunkle!" She stormed into the garage.

Vinnie's shoulders slumped. "Now that was a low blow." He turned to Throttle.

"Don't say anything, Vinnie, or you're gonna be in deeper quicksand." Throttle took a deep breath. Hannah was fine, and his bro was trying to be nice--in his own adrenaline junkie way.

Modo stepped out of the broken glass. "I guess movie night is canceled now. You calm Charley down. I'll take Vinnie back to the scoreboard and explain why you tell kids no."

"I hate being told no and I'm pretty sure Hannah hates it too." Vinnie pushed his bike out of the oil.

Modo mounted his bike. "This is gonna be a long lecture on the motivations of grown-ups."

Throttle waited until they were out of sight. Yelling had stopped emanating from the garage. Which was good because he didn't want to do anything until after this junk was out of his fur.

He emerged from the shower after what felt like hours under the water. He cleaned his shades and looked around. Where was his vest and boots? He reentered the garage dressed in jeans and socks. Good thing they had left their laundry at the garage again.

Hannah had his vest laid out on a bench and scrubbed it with a shop towel. She glanced up with red-rimmed eyes. "I'm cleaning it with the stuff Mommy uses on her boots. I got your boots already."

The vest looked fine, and the boots looked like they had been polished. "So I guess you're sorry for helping Vinnie splatter me?"

She looked down with a trembling bottom lip. "Mommy says I can't play with you guys ever again!" Tears welled out of her green eyes. "It's not fair!"

"Aw, Princess, I'm sure that's not what your mommy meant."

"She said I couldn't break my neck on a mouse-approved stunt until I was a grown-up." Hannah's inhaling sniffle ended in another sob. "She said if I touched a bike I'd be grounded till I'm thirty!"

Metal on metal banging echoed. It sounded like Charley was beating someone up with her pots. Throttle remembered Modo's mother doing the same thing when she was furious. "Come on, let's go talk to your mommy."

Hannah wiped off her tears. "Watch your tail. She was talking to herself about tying knots in them."

"Thanks for the warning." He took her hand and headed back to the kitchen door.

Those... those... those mice! Charley slammed the oven door. After two near death experiences, you'd think they'd be a little more careful with Hannah. But no, break her neck along with theirs. Why let Jack have all the fun of killing her?

The pot of Brussels sprouts boiled over. She jerked it off the burner and avoided splashing the water. Tears pricked her eyes. Why do they always make me be the heavy?

The swinging door between the kitchen and garage opened. "Do we need a white flag?" Throttle led Hannah to the stairs in the corner. They sat down on a riser.

Charley set the pot on the reduced flame. "I suppose she cried to you and you think I need to stop being a horrible ogre."

"No, but Hannah needs to know something and you should listen."

She gave him her best this-better-be-good expression.

Throttle turned to Hannah. "Both you and Vinnie deserve to have your ears pinned for you riding without a helmet. You both know better."

Hannah shuffled her feet. "I forgot 'cause I wanted to play too."

"Right, and you went straight to your Uncle Vinnie 'cause you knew Uncle Modo or me wouldn't let you." Hannah didn't look up. "But that's not why you can't play all the games we do."

"But Mommy said I couldn't play any games." Her bottom lip poked out.

"No, Candyland is safe. Hide 'n seek is safe. But the games on bikes are training exercises so we get better to fight Limburger."

Charley's arms dropped to her sides. "All those suicidal sports trying to break your necks?"

"You know how Vinnie is, Charley. If you called it training, he'd never do it. Give his ego a chance to win and we can't stop him."

Hannah grabbed Throttle's knee. "So when can I train too?"

"We'll discuss that after you get your own bike."

She sighed. "I'm never going to get big enough so my legs hit the ground."

"And you're going to have to learn to protect your brain box." Throttle tapped the top of her orange hair. "So Mom, what's her punishment for breaking the helmet rule?"

Charley stirred the bubbling spaghetti sauce. "Help you clean up the mess in the street, and then bath and bed right after supper. No movie tonight."

"Yes, ma'am."

Throttle led Hannah out while Charley turned her attention back to supper. Throttle understood. Modo got it too, but he helped raise Rimfire. So why didn't Vinnie the idiot get it? She drained the spaghetti noodles. She may never know the answer to that.

She had two plates served when Hannah and Throttle closed the garage bay doors. "Throttle, you staying for supper?"

"Yeah, I will." He headed to the kitchen. "Don't fall in the sink, Hannah," he called back to the bathroom. Charley handed him the plates. He put them on the table and followed her into the kitchen. "Are you okay now?"

"I'm better. Get the silverware. Are you going to pin Vinnie's ears to the wall?"

"Do you want me to? I was gonna throw his helmet at him until he got a clue."

"What's wrong with a stern talking to?"

"And how many times have you got Vinnie to listen to a stern talking?" Throttle held the door open for her. "I seen it happen once when he was twelve and Mama Bola had his ear in a twist."

Hannah sat at the table. Charley put the last plate down. "Let me see those hands."

She held them up, "All clean."

Throttle made a face at his plate. "Did you have to go so heavy on the green stuff?"

Charley smirked. "Remember what Grandma Bola said: it's good for you." And nobody but Vinnie had a problem following her set-a-good-example-or-else edict from Mars.

Throttle speared a Brussels sprout and shoved it in his mouth.

"I like Grandma Bola." Hannah twirled the spaghetti on her fork and most of it slithered back to the pile. "When can we see her?"

"When it's safe enough for us to go to Mars or for her to come here," Throttle answered.

"'Cause we're civilians, right?"

"That's right."

The phone rang. "Always at dinner." Charley answered the handset left in the garage. "Last Chance Garage."

"Charley-girl, you're not still mad, are you? 'Cause I'm really sorry about forgetting the kiddo's helmet." Modo made a noise in the background. "Right, and she's not old enough for bottles 'n broodies and I'll never do that again."

"All right, Vinnie. If you can actually remember that, I won't tie knots in your tail."

"Yeah, 'cause that would ruin our date tomorrow night."

Charley felt her heart stop. "You're asking me out?"

"Yeah, you don't have plans, right? Modo said he'll baby-sit and Throttle's gotta call his General."

"Put Modo on the phone."

Modo's unruffled drawl answered, "Charley-ma'am?"

"Vinnie didn't get attacked by pod people on your way back to the scoreboard, did he?"

"No, he just realized you hadn't had any Charley time and taking you out would be fun." He paused, then continued. "Yeah, we're all shocked when he makes a logical conclusion like that."

"You're ruining my chances!" Vinnie wailed in the background. There was a scuffle over the phone and Vinnie's voice returned to the receiver. "Come on, Charley-girl. Let's go have some fun, please."

"All right, Vinnie, tomorrow night."


She hung up before she lost the rest of her hearing. Throttle with a walled-off expression stabbed a meatball. "So Vinnie finally asked you out." He stared at his plate. "Maybe you should've lit into him years ago."

Charley took a bite rather than answer that. Her heart was still in the strange, excited beat it had gained when Vinnie had asked. But the mood at the table had shifted.

"What's a date?" Hannah had spaghetti sauce on her nose, cheeks, and forehead.

"Mushy stuff," Throttle answered.

She stuck her tongue out as she made her bleaugh face. "Do I have to go?"

Charley answered that one. "No, you're staying here with Uncle Modo."

Hannah turned to Throttle. "How come not you?"

"General Carbine is calling from Mars." He stabbed another Brussels sprout.

"More mushy stuff." Hannah slurped spaghetti noodles with gusto.

Throttle picked up his plate as he stood. "I better hit the road. Thanks for the grub."

Charley joined Hannah in saying good-bye after he took his plate to the kitchen. She couldn't help feeling Throttle was depressed. But why should he be depressed?

In the Freedom Fighters Headquarters on Mars, Stoker walked down the deserted hallway. Quiet night, and winter keeping the rats and Sand Raiders holed up, so there shouldn't be anything to worry about. He shook his head, Old man, you're calling down the sandstorm. He looked into the communications room, and stopped in his tracks. The space radio was off, but the female general sat in the chair in front of it. He hadn't seen the unsure expression reflected on the equipment since she was a private. It had no business on her face now. He leaned against the doorjamb. "You actually went through with that sandblasted plan."

Carbine's black hairfur blocked her brown eyes for a moment when she turned. "It's none of your business, Stoker. And even if it was, you ain't always right."

"Fair enough, but I'm better at reading people than you. And even you don't think it will bring him home."

Carbine's indignant look deflated into uncertainty before she steeled her jaw. "It will work. He just needs a kick to the gears to get his priorities straight."

"You two have been dating how long and you don't realize this gives him license to hunt Plutarkians across the whole galaxy?"

She slouched in the chair. "I repeat, it's none of your business."

Stoker resisted the urge to bop her head with his metal tail. She was hurtin' and he couldn't take the pain away. "You're right, it's none of my business."

That startled her into looking up. "You never agree with me. You got your tail captured by Sand Raiders rather than agree with me."

"Can we agree to stop bringin' up my unfortunate incarceration so much, since we're actually gettin' along?"

"Sorry. But you always...." Her snout wrinkled.

"I don't hero worship, Carbine. Not when I can remember when you was snot-nosed private. Everyone else on this planet wants to treat you like you're lava, and have the right. You pulled what's left off Mars out of the quicksand. But I'm not lettin' you get a swelled head 'bout it."

Carbine blinked. "Thanks, I think."

"Stoker's friendly ego deflation service. Ninety-nine percent effectiveness." He grinned and a smile broke out on her grey-brown face. "Come on, you look like you could use a drink before bed. And the bartender fixed his still."

Carbine nodded. "Okay, that sounds good."

Modo sighed gazing at the silent radio on the work station. It wasn't right to do repair work without heavy metal. But Hannah was asleep and he didn't want to go through all the loops to get her there again. She was a good pup, if prone to fur-raising stunts that will make them all go white prematurely. But she was so smart, and he didn't want to go through another interrogation.

They had stayed in the garage bays after Vinnie and Charley had left. Modo worked on Li'l Hoss and Hannah tightened and loosened nuts and bolts on a metal block. "Uncle Modo, can I ask you somethin'?"

"Sure thing, Li'l Bit. You need help with that?"

"No, Mommy said I can leave it out as long as I put the ratchet back. I wanna ask 'bout Mommy. Why does she want to do mushy stuff with Uncle Vinnie?"

Couldn't start with somethin' simple like how do fish breathe could she? And she had zeroed in on his misgivings. Modo hadn't dared air them, not after Throttle's said-too-casually criticisms of Vinnie's exuberant plans. While true, Charley and Vinnie were no longer eighteen, it wasn't nice to say it when Vinnie had been working up the nerves for years. Hannah waited. "Well, grown-ups like doing mushy stuff, it's part of being a grown-up."

"Mommy already told me all that. What I wanna know is why Uncle Vinnie?"

"I don't know. Are you worried 'bout it?" He was, but there wasn't anything he could do. He couldn't make Vinnie grow up, he couldn't make Carbine come for a visit, he couldn't stop Throttle from wanting to be a daddy to Hannah, and he couldn't stop Charley from getting hurt. Hopefully, he could shield Hannah from the worse of whatever fallout there was.

"Not worry, zactly." She put the ratchet into its drawer in the tool chest. "Mommy's always yellin' at Uncle Vinnie. More than she yells at me. And there's gonna be more yellin' if Uncle Vinnie becomes my stepfather."

Modo dropped his wrench. "Where did you learn stepfather from?"

"Ronnie from school s'plained it. Her mommy and daddy got divorced and her mommy married another guy and he's Ronnie's stepfather now. That's not right?"

"She explained it right, but I don't think your mommy and Uncle Vinnie are ready to walk down the aisle yet. If ever."

Modo looked at the engine parts in his hands. No radio was a small price to pay not to have another conversation on that level again tonight.

The red bike slid to a stop inside the garage bay and Vinnie pulled off his helmet. "She ain't here." His shoulders slumped and his antennae drooped.

"You losing Charley when she's alone with you is becomin' an alarmin' trend."

Vinnie pushed buttons on his bike's computer. "She's at Quigley Field. And I didn't lose her, she got mad and stormed out."

Modo felt his grey fur spike. "What happened?"

"It was like being on a date with Throttle." The white mouse stuck his tongue out. "When Throttle's on one of his responsibility kicks. And why didn't you remind me about having money?"

"The date was your idea. I thought you had some."

"Modo, this is me. Always assume I'm going to screw up."

"Don't hate me when I remind you later you said that. So Charley paid for dinner?"

"We should've went to Andy's, not the Hard Rock Cafe." Vinnie squirmed on the stool. "Just a bunch of tourists and business people and models. And the food was expensive, and that made Charley harp about jobs and money."

"Vinnie, do you ever ask how the garage is doin' financially?"

"Why should I? You and Throttle do."

Modo stared at Vinnie in disbelief. "Even you can't be that dense."


"And I'm called the slow one. Charley just had to spend a chunk of change to get Hannah in school and buying supplies like the gasoline. She's still paying the hospital bill, and repair jobs have slowed down."

"That explains why she harped on a job, but it doesn't explain the water."

"Water?" Modo raised his eyebrow over his eye.

Vinnie squirmed on the stool. "I had made a joke 'bout goin' necking at the lake. Charley said come up with something else and went to the restroom. While she was gone, a sloshed miniskirt model came up to me and said it was a great idea."

Modo covered his eyes with his flesh hand. "Tell me you didn't try to pick her up."

"I stayed in my seat, and she proceeded to drape herself over my back and shoulder. I couldn't pick her up even if I had needed to."

Modo made a silent plea for patience. "Tell me you didn't start flirtin' with another girl while out on a date. With Charley. Who knows how to use a bazooka."

"I never got a chance to flirt with Miss Long-legs-and-firm-melons. She wrapped her arms around my neck, and my brain shut off."

"And what about Charley?"

"She said 'Here's your drink,' and dumped a pitcher of water on the miniskirt model's head. My ear is still ringing from that woman's screech." Vinnie's shoulders slumped further. "Charley stormed out and I dried out while washing dishes to pay for the food."

"You better hope Throttle talks her out of using a bazooka. Remember what she did to Rod Van Ham? Though I can't say I'd blame her."

Vinnie crossed his arms. "All Charley needed was a little fun. She didn't even try to have a good time."

Modo screwed a bolt into place. "So you decided to move onto the gal that does want to have fun?"

"I didn't even get contact info. And you'd want to hook up with her too if that bod had been pressed against your back."

"Let me try to get this in terms you'll understand." Modo placed both hands on his knees. "Charley doesn't want fun. She wants a grown-up who's gonna be her partner and help her raise Hannah. Do you understand that?"

"Yeah, but...." Vinnie moved off the stool. "She's not my kid. I can't get past that. And I'd hate to screw her up like me."

"Then you're probably better off letting Charley go, so she can find somebody else."

"Why am I the one doomed to have the unrequited love affairs? I so didn't sign up for that."

"At least this way, you get to keep Charley in your life."

Vinnie grunted, staring out the garage door.

"Well, I'm the baby-sitter; I get the couch. Be sure to lock up when you're done thinkin'."

Charley sighed. One of these days I'm rebuilding the prototype and giving it rocket jets. Her blue repair bike was parked outside, and she always felt guilty about sneaking into Quigley Field at night. But by the sounds echoing through the stadium, she wasn't the only one down here. Someone was using the batting cage. And this late at night, it probably wasn't a member of the Nubs.

She peeked out of the tunnel, clenching and unclenching her fist. The black bike was parked next to the pitching machine and its headlight illuminated Throttle in the batting cage. Who else would be here? She headed down the stairs to the field.

The tan mouse drank from a glass bottle and set it in the corner behind him. He covered the bottle with a batter helmet before taking the stance with the bat. "Ready, girl."

The bike beeped. Wires connected the bike and the pitching machine through the chain-linked fence. A white baseball shot out of the machine. Throttle's bat connected with a crack, and the net at the end of the batting cage caught the baseball. "Are we doing any good here at all?"

"Yes." Charley curled her fingers around the wires of the fence. "What are you doing?"

Throttle shook his helmeted head as he picked up the bottle. "Nope, that's not how you play, Charley-girl. Drink, swing, and then you ask a question." He opened the gate and passed her the bottle.

The whiskey burned and she coughed. Throttle took the bottle back and passed her the bat as he stepped outside the cage. She plopped the batter's helmet on her head and took the stance, ignoring the way her scalloped-neck, green blouse bunched up on her shoulders. "This feels like a macho version of Truth or Dare."

"But there's no dare part. You get an answer to your question. Now swing batter, batter."

"Ready." Charley told the bike. The bat completely missed the baseball. "Great, I still suck at this." She tossed the baseball into the hopper attached to the pitching machine. "So why are you playing drunken baseball?"

He took a swig before trading places with her. "Trying to take my mind off things. Stop thinkin' so much. Ready." His swing sent the ball to the back of the cage. "Where's Vinnie?"

"I left him at the Hard Rock Cafe." The second swig went down easier. "Where he is right now I don't know." She also missed her second ball. "I think this is the same pitching machine from high school. It didn't like me either." She stepped out of the cage. "What are you thinking too much about?"

Throttle took his swig. "Things Carbine said. Things I can't have." He missed his baseball. "Why did you leave Vinnie at the Hard Rock Cafe?"

She crossed her arms. "Because I didn't need any more proof that he's an inconsiderate jerk that refuses to grow up."

"Damn, what did he do?"

"That's breaking the rules."

"True, take your turn."

Charley swallowed the whiskey. This time the ball touched the bat, and went careening to the side instead of straight back. "What did Carbine say?"

He took a swig. "Cheese, you got to that fast." He took another swig. "She said it's over. It as in us, not somethin' positive like Plutark's sun went nova. She's tired of waiting on me to get my priorities straight."

She froze. "Throttle, I'm sorry. I...."

"Don't." He took the bat, and took another swig before pressing the whiskey bottle into her hands. "I'm not sorry and I doubt Carbine is either." He stepped into the cage. "I don't want you to be sorry." He popped the baseball up over his head and stepped back as it came down. "Now, what did Vinnie do?"

"You don't need to hear about my romance problems. Not right now. I should go."

"Charley, no." He grabbed her arm. "Please... I mean if it's gonna mess with how the team functions, I need to know. And if he hurt you, I'm gonna whip his tail."

"You don't need to do that. My heart's not broken. It's just annoying. He expected me to pay for the date because he didn't have any money. I'm supposed to break into a party slut like I'd want to be one even without a kid at home. And when I got back from the restroom, he had the party slut his eyes had been on all night draped all over him."

Throttle let go. "Which hospital is he in?"

"None, unless he had an allergic reaction to the pitcher of water I dumped over both of them." Charley plopped down on the grass with the whiskey bottle. The swig lingered in her mouth before swallowing. "I'm tired of waiting for him to grow up when there's other grown-ups around."

"He has issues with responsibility." Throttle sat beside her. "His mother never wanted him and made sure he knew it. Being with you isn't simply being with you any more."

"I understand he has issues, but I can't wait for him to get over them." Charley took a swig.

"No, you can't wait for him. Like Carbine can't wait for me."

"Are you really okay, Throttle? You're down here playing drunken baseball."

He took a swig of whiskey before answering. "Mourning what could have been. But I can't deny that things weren't working for us."

"So you don't miss her?" Her heart thudded.

"No, I don't. I think I'm drinking because of the surprise of that." He shook his head. "We got away from the game."

"It's giving me flashbacks of failing softball in high school. I don't want to swing any more." She took a swig. "It's your turn for a question, I think."

"Okay," he scooted closer. "You don't need a Vinnie, so who do you need? Or what do you need?"

She leaned back on her hands. "A guy who loves me and wants to be my partner. Why do you want to know?"

"Make sure my train of thought matched yours." Throttle twisted to face her. He pulled his helmet off, then his shades. Charley felt her cheeks growing hot under that gaze. After a long pause, he said, "I shouldn't ask that."

"You, break the rules? Shame, shame."

"Alright then. What would kissing you be like?"

"There's only one way that question can be answered." Her heart pounded and she tingled all over.

He brushed his fingers against her cheek and into her hair before pulling her to his lips. Charley wrapped her arms around him. His muscular arms kept her in the air. She brought her hand up to the back of his head, tangling her fingers in his headfur, to press their lips tighter together. The tip of his tail trailed up her side. Charley moaned into his mouth.

Throttle shifted and freed one hand to squeeze her breast, just hard enough to make her break off the kiss with a sharp intake of the night air. He turned his lips to her neck, nuzzling her skin. This blouse exposed so much for him to touch. She ran her hands against the fur on his pecs. He shuddered when she grazed his nipples with her thumbs.

Charley moved her hands up his shoulders, pushing the vest out of the way. He laid her on the grass to shuck off the vest. He leaned over her with a smile and took hold of the hem of her blouse.

"Wait." Charley sat up.

He leaned back with an ashamed expression. "Cheese, I'm sorry, Charley. I wouldn't, I mean, it's been a while, got my signals crossed. I wouldn't."

She giggled. He looked so cute beating himself up. "I said wait not stop."

"Are you drunk?" The top of his snout wrinkled with his eyebrows.

"No, but doing it on home plate of Quigley Field has never been a fantasy of mine." She kissed him. Then leaned back and watched the comprehension dawn on his face.

Throttle grinned before whistling. The black bike whipped the wires out of the pitching machine. Once free, it rolled forward. He scooped up his vest and helmet, handed them to Charley, and scooped her off the ground. He settled on his bike and cradled her on his lap. "Scoreboard?"

"Scoreboard." Charley wrapped her free arm around his neck.

The microwave beeped. "Campbell soup again," Jack MacCyber muttered. Keeping a low profile had definite disadvantages, like limited kitchen setup. Delivery was out and you didn't want to become a familiar face to restaurants.

He stirred the soup with a plastic spoon. The warehouse cost too much to rent a separate apartment and he needed the warehouse. Setting up the equipment in an apartment building where some neighbor was bound to get suspicious, not a good plan. He set his prepackaged bowl of soup on the desk in front of the stacks of nine television screens and monitors. The first six showed the interior of the Last Chance Garage.

Why the hell did she reject a life with him for this repetitive existence? And he had the video proof just how boring it was. The white mouse rebalanced his bike's tires with slumped shoulders. The upstairs monitor revealed the grey mouse stretched out on the couch. His knees bent over the arm rest. Charley's bedroom door was open and the room empty. Jack lifted out the plastic spoon. The hot liquid had warped the bowl of the spoon where it wouldn't hold any soup. He dropped it back into the soup and growled.

A movement in another monitor caught his eye. The tan mouse, Throttle returned to the scoreboard hideout on his black bike. With Charley draped over his lap.

Jack's jaw slacked. "What the hell?" Vinnie always acted like a jealous twit. She went out with Vinnie, wearing her nice blouse and boots, a date. But here she was hugging the bare-chested Throttle. Throttle who had talked to somebody on their communication system and then left for a few hours. "Why didn't I get mics? Amplification range sucked, right."

Throttle's hands caressed Charley's sides, took hold of her hips, and pulled her closer. He kissed her.

Jack clenched his teeth together. How dare he. How dare he!

Charley's head fell back with a soundless laugh. Throttle's mouth landed on her neck, and his hands pulled up her green shirt. His fingers brushed over Charley's peachy skin. He said something that made her laugh again.

Jack remembered sliding his hands over that inner hidden skin, and marveling how soft and smooth it was compared to Charley's callused hands.

Throttle set Charley down on the back of the couch. He caressed her leg as he slid the boot off. Charley's long, red-brown hair covered the back of her bra. It swayed as she lifted her other leg.

That hair always felt so soft and silky when he ran his fingers through it. Too bad he never grabbed hold of it and forced her to look up at him with tears in her green eyes. Jack shook his head. "Remember that for later."

Charley hooked her jean-clad legs around Throttle's waist and hugged him closer. She ran her hands over his chest and paused with her hands still on his pecs. Throttle threw back his head. Jack thought he saw the tan tail swishing in the air. The mouse's arms wrapped around Charley and crushed them together.

Jack glanced away from their passionate lip lock to the recorder for this feed. Recording away. The white mouse turned off the garage lights in the other monitor. He headed upstairs to the garage's living room area. Did he know that Charley went home with Throttle? But more importantly, what did this do to Jack's plans?

He wasn't inflexible. That was the point of waiting almost a year before taking away everything she holds dear, before making her beg for mercy, before showing she had wasted it all. He could wait and see how this played out. He looked back at the scoreboard feed.

Throttle's hands cupped Charley's ass. His tail wrapped around her waist and pulled her from the couch, still kissing her. Her legs were locked around his waist. He stumbled a little but didn't drop her. They headed back towards the beds.

Jack opened the fly of his jeans.

Charley entered the garage, and closed her eyes against the sunshine streaming through the windows. Despite a sensitive head, she felt good. It would have been better if Throttle had woke up too, but he had been dead to any noise she made dressing. She touched the mousehead tracking necklace resting on her chest. He knew where to find her. She hummed as she filled a plastic cup with water from the cooler.

Modo peeked out from the kitchen. "You didn't bring the bazooka from the scoreboard with you, didja?"

Charley shook her head.

"Then oh good, you're back. It's not like you not to call."

"The first time I overslept since high school, cut me some slack."

"I should charge you extra." He chuckled as he leaned more into the garage.

"You wanna get cut off from your favorite root beer?" She threw the cup away. "Did you have any problems?"

"Not last night, but this morning," Modo winced. "Both me and Vinnie tried to braid Hannah's hair. She says she's ain't comin' out 'til Mommy's here to make her look pretty."

Charley laughed. "You guys are covered in fur. Hair's not that different."

"Yeah, but fur's short." He brushed his real hand against his abs.

"I'll see to her when I go change." She hit the controls to the garage bay doors. The corrugated metal rolled up, revealing an older man with a bushy white mustache waiting on the sidewalk. "Chef Andy!"

"Late start, Charley?" he asked with a smile.

"More like last night never ended." Modo laughed as he went back into the kitchen.

"I need a more discreet babysitter."

"Time for my clunker's checkup." The old man dangled his keys in front of her face.

Charley smiled. "Do you need a lift back to the diner?" She led the way to the office.

"Nope, Doc says I need a little more exercise. I'm gonna walk back."

Whatever she was going to respond with was lost when she saw Vinnie. The white mouse sat at her desk with his chin in his hands and stared at the garage's ledger. "Vinnie, what are you doing?"

"Oh. Modo pointed out that I don't know how the garage is doing. So I thought I'd learn from this thing."

"Do you even know what you're looking at, son?" Chef Andy asked.

Vinnie glanced back at the account journal. "Numbers. They are definitely numbers."

"Money in," Charley pointed to a column, "money out. And that's what should be in the bank."

"Okay," Vinnie thumbed through the pages while she handled Chef Andy's paperwork. Once the older human left, he stood up. "About last night."

Charley crossed her arms. What is he going to come up with to justify his behavior this time?

"I'm sorry about the whole fiasco. I was a jerk on a whole lotta levels."

"Apology accepted. Now I have to get started on Chef Andy's truck."

Vinnie stepped into her path. "Wait, there's more. Modo and me had a talk. I understand now you need Mr. Dependability."

"Vinnie, you are dependable...."

"But not with family and kids and jobs. Blowing up the bad guys, winning a bike race, that's what I'm dependable for. I can't put another kid through the hell I grew up in." He shook his head.

"A bad childhood doesn't mean you can't ever have a family."

"But it's not what I want now. Maybe after the war," he shrugged. "But it's not right to string you along, promising something I can't give."

Charley softened. "Vinnie."

He looked her in the eye. "I want to still be friends, but just friends, Charley."

"You'll always have a place in my heart." She hugged him hard. Vinnie stiffened, but relented and hugged her back.

Throttle rode to the garage in silent running mode. His head still pounded by the time he went around a truck parked on the street and parked beside Charley, Vinnie, and Modo's bikes. Aspirin, he needed aspirin. Charley kept some in the first aid kit in the bathroom.

He swallowed the white pills dry. Why didn't Charley stay until he woke up? Did she have second thoughts? He didn't; he loved her and he loved Hannah. He wanted to spend the rest of his life with them. He had wanted that for the longest time.

But what if it wasn't what Charley wanted? He gripped the sides of the extra-large sink basin. The way they have meshed before, how it felt just the three of them at supper, and last night. She had to feel something too.

He felt a poke to his gut when he stepped out of the bathroom. How to explain this to Vinnie? Sorry, bro, I fell for the girl too and got drunk off my ass and slept with her. No hard feelings. The poke twisted like a knife.

"You'll always have a place in my heart." Charley's voice came from the office. Throttle glanced inside. Charley and Vinnie embraced like there was nothing else in the universe.

He stumbled back into the bathroom. She wanted Vinnie. He sat on the toilet. Whatever Vinnie said to her must be on a top ten list of apologies. Hell, the top five.

She wanted Vinnie. He took off his shades and rubbed his eyes. He tried to steal his bro's girl and she still picked him. He swallowed hard trying to move the lump in his throat. It was okay, he would survive. Charley's happiness was all that mattered.

Throttle stood up and shoved his shades on his snout. The rumbling of an engine filled the garage.

Charley climbed out of Chef Andy's truck, now parked inside. She grinned. "Morning, sunshine. And it is still morning."

"Hey. Where's Modo and Vinnie?"

"In the kitchen. I think they're working on breakfast. Or maybe lunch."

He had to look away. "I don't know how to say this." Her smile faltered and left her face out of the corner of his eye.

"Just say it. I'm a big girl. I can handle it."

"Last night was a total lack of judgment. We should pretend it never happened."

Her mouth dropped open and snapped shut. "Is this to get back with Carbine?"

He hadn't expected Charley to go there, but it was too good an excuse not to use it. "We have years on the road, Charley. I can't give up on that until I know there's no hope." He faced her directly.

"She won't even come and see you! You deserve better than that."

"Even with that as a given, it's too soon to go chase another piece of tail no matter how willing."

Tears welled in her green eyes and Throttle wished something would shoot him. "That was low, Throttle. Even if you just want to file it under friends with benefits, after six years, I'm not a piece of meat." She crossed her arms. "You don't want Modo, Vinnie, and Carbine to know? You're not giving me a good reason to cooperate."

His gut recoiled, like she had punched him. Hell, listening to Carbine's breakup speech last night was easier. "You're right," he said stiffly. "That was uncalled for. I'm sorry."

"Apology accepted. There's nothing to tell anybody. Last night never happened. And it will never happened again." She stomped past him and climbed up the ladder to her bedroom.

"Not for us," Throttle whispered.