Biker Mice From Mars: Evil Jack: For Worse
Hannah opened the people-sized door out to the street and ran down the sidewalk. This was the way Daddy had drove her from the school. All the other huge buildings seemed empty of people. She crossed the train tracks that intersected with the street and stopped to breathe. Now she looked back. No Daddy, so Mommy's plan was working, but Daddy hurt Mommy before and Uncle Throttle couldn't help. Hannah stomped her foot.
A motorcycle engine echoed through this empty neighborhood. Uncle Modo and Uncle Vinnie, she had to find them first. She darted down the street the sound seemed loudest.
Motorcycles were parked in front of a tiny brick building set back from the road. She didn't see Li'l Hoss or Uncle Vinnie's red bike but maybe they parked somewhere else. She ran into the building with a biker mural on the outside.
It was dark, with a few areas of light at the counter, over booths, and over green tables with balls on them. It was a bunch of men, dressed like Mommy's customers, and they all stopped talking and stared at her. But no Uncle Modo or Uncle Vinnie. A lump filled her throat.
"Hey, Tina, don't ya'll card here?" Somebody called out.
A black-haired lady threw her dishcloth down on the counter before moving to stand in front of Hannah. "Hun, where are your parents?"
"I was lookin' for my uncles. I heard motorbikes. I thought it was them." Tears spilled out of her eyes. "Mommy's in trouble and needs my uncles." The lump in her throat made it hard to breathe.
"Hey now, sweet pea. No need for that." Tina-ma'am set Hannah on the counter. She walked around to the side with all the glasses, and filled a plastic cup with cola from a hose. "Here's a Coke. What's your name?"
"Hannah Davidson." She took the soft drink.
"Davidson owns the Last Chance Garage." One of the men sitting on a stool, "And she's got some guys that hang with her."
"So who's got a CB and can put a call out to these guys?"
"I'll do it, Tina." Another guy headed outside.
"Look," said the voice over the CB speaker, "Georgie Brown's shift is over. I don't have any messages for him or you. And if your violent friend in the background does come to the station to whip my tail, he's gonna meet Chicago's finest. Over and out."
Vinnie kicked the ground. "You know his home address, right?"
"I'm a fan, not a stalker," Modo glared.
"Maybe he's in the phone book?"
The CB channel crackled. "Easy Riders Social Club looking for riders connected with the Last Chance Garage. Got a 10-17."
"That's a bar on this side of town, I think," Vinnie said.
Modo hit the talk button. "10-2. Home is Last Chance Garage."
"We need somebody for a 10-22. Lost lamb wants her family. 10-16 at Easy Riders Social Club."
"10-4. Over and out."
Vinnie revved his bike. "You think Hannah got away from MacCyber?"
"Who else qualifies for 'lamb'?"
They roared into the warehouse and industrial section of the city. The bar had a faded mural from the movie Easy Rider painted on the front and a dozen bikes in the parking lot.
Hannah sat on the bar, drinking from a plastic cup. "Uncle Modo!" She set it down and launched herself. Modo caught her. She hugged his neck. "Uncle Vinnie too!"
The bartender lady laughed along with the patrons. "I guess she does belong to you."
"Thanks for taking care of her. We were lookin' all over the place."
Hannah let go long enough to wave. "Bye, Tina-ma'am."
Modo carried her outside and her demeanor changed. She grabbed the top of his chestplate and tugged it to make him look into her face. "We gotta rescue Mommy and Uncle Throttle! NOW!"
Vinnie stood tiptoe to look over Modo's shoulder. "You know where they are, kiddo?"
"Yeap," she pointed down the street.
"Let's go whip some tail!"
Throttle strained against the chains, but he couldn't loosen his arms. MacCyber tackled Charley and pressed her against the floor. "What exactly are you trying to do, bitch? This neighborhood will eat the lab rat alive."
Charley's knee slammed up between MacCyber's legs. He curled into a ball with a moan. She scrambled to her feet. Her kick hit his butt. "You pathetic asshole! She is my daughter!" She kicked him again. "Not a thing." Kick. "Not a freak." Kick. "Not a lab rat." Kick. "And she knows how to survive, thanks to you!"
MacCyber lashed out with his feet, but Charley jumped out of reach. He reached his knees before she gave him a left hook to the jaw. Throttle put his right foot against the cushioned post and pushed. Nothing budged.
Charley punched MacCyber again, but he caught the fist and twisted her arm, forcing her to turn as he stood up. "P.E. boxing class only takes you so far, Charley."
"Which is why I learned other skills." Her right arm swung back as far as it could and her fist struck MacCyber in the hip area.
He released her. The screwdriver handle stuck out of his side. Charley whirled to face him. He clamped his hand around the screwdriver but didn't try to pull it out. He staggered back, glancing behind him to make sure he headed to the door. He got outside and Charley woke from the daze.
The door slammed in her face. "Damnit!" She slumped against the wall.
"I'm impressed. You and Linda Hamilton been working out together?" Throttle grinned as much as he could with his heart still pounding. MacCyber didn't hurt her. He could have but he didn't.
"Yeah, the workout is Sigorney Weaver approved. I better see if I can disable that contraption bare handed." She pushed off the wall.
The steel door swung open. "Charley!" But she moved before Throttle shouted, grabbing MacCyber's gun arm and pushing it aside. The slugthrower's explosion echoed in the room. MacCyber punched Charley in the stomach and she crumpled to the ground.
Pain erupted in his right thigh and Throttle screamed. He glanced down; his jeans soaked up blood. Why so much blood? He had been shot before but not with so much blood. Everything was hazy and the pain made it hard to concentrate.
MacCyber laughed without mirth. "Watch him bleed to death, bitch." The door slammed shut.
Throttle struggled to open his eyes. When did he shut them? Charley's white face with frightened green eyes was in front of him. "Stay with me, Throttle. Stay awake."
"Don't have anywhere else to be." His voice was slurred. She moved his thigh and fresh pain erupted. He screamed without realizing it was coming out.
"Sorry, Throttle, sorry!" Charley jerked her hands away. "The bullet's still in your leg. No exit wound. I'm going to have to move your leg to put a tourniquet on it to slow the bleeding. It's gonna hurt."
He gritted his teeth. "Go." He managed to only grunt while Charley tightened her belt around his thigh above the wound. He couldn't tell if that changed the blood flow or not. She stared at his wound like it was a leaky fuel line. "Charley, there's something to tell you... I gotta tell you."
"Save it." She tore the right sleeve off her blue work shirt, wadded it up, and pressed it against his wound.
"Save it. You are not giving me the macho mouse version of last words, last requests, or who gets your bike."
"Hannah. She, the bike, knows already."
Charley grabbed his jaw so he had to look in her face. "My point is you ain't tellin' me that crap 'cause you are getting out of here with me! Understood?"
The building shook with an explosion.
"Boom?" Throttle fought with his brain to stay awake.
"Took their asses long enough!" Charley grinned. "Vinnie! Modo! In here! Vinnie!"
He wasn't going to make it. The world was fading, even Charley screaming next to him sounded further and further away. And she was screaming for Vinnie; what did he have to hang on for? "Just be happy, Charley." He closed his eyes.
"I want you happy," he whispered, letting go.
Vinnie jumped his red bike over the crater the laser turret made in the street. "Hannah, why didn't you warn us about this thing?"
"It wasn't on when I left!" She huddled against Modo's torso.
MacCyber must've made improvements to it. Lard-butt's turrets on the tower weren't this good at tracking. "I thought you were taking it out, bro!" He yanked his tail out of a blast.
Modo swerved to avoid another laser beam. "You just gotta have a little patience!" His laser cannons locked on the turret and he fired. The warehouse shook as the turret exploded.
Vinnie pivoted his bike and shot the garage door. He leaped through the hole with Modo and Hannah following. They swerved to avoid Charley's tow truck. The warehouse was empty. "Cheese, he's better at disappearing than Houdini!"
Laser bolts rained down. Modo grabbed Hannah and dove for cover while Vinnie and the bikes returned fire. MacCyber sat on a green bike surrounded by a blue energy field. They hovered near the roof. "Aerial flanking fifteen!" Modo's bike beeped and changed its location. But the laser bolts bounced off the energy field.
Modo stowed Hannah underneath the tow truck and returned fire with his arm cannon to no avail. "We need a new plan!"
Vinnie laughed as he holstered his laser pistol. He popped the bazooka off the side of his bike. "Eat missile, Jack!" The missile shoved against the blue field and pushed the field, the bike, and human through the roof before exploding. "That was extremely satisfying."
Modo frowned at the rain of debris. "I'm noticing a lack of body parts."
"Spoil the mood, why don'tcha?" He put the bazooka away.
He jumped, knowing the consequences of that tone of yell if he didn't. But it sounded wrong, like Charley-girl was behind a wall. He spun around. Tow truck, bikes, huge TV setup, metal door in concrete wall; he jumped off his bike and ran to it.
Throttle slumped against the chains keeping him upright and Charley pressed a wad of cloth against his bloody leg. Her other hand rubbed the tan mouse's face. "Don't you die on me, Throttle! Don't you dare let that bastard win this one. Please Throttle, don't leave me! Not like this." She turned to yell again and saw Vinnie in the doorway. "Get your flares over here! What the hell took you guys so long?"
"Modo, first aid kit!" He yelled over his shoulder before jogging to Charley's side. "What happened?"
"He got shot, the bullet is still in there, I can only slow the bleeding instead of stopping it, and he just passed out." Charley ended with a sob.
Vinnie pulled out a flare and knelt at Throttle's left leg. "Pulse?"
"Still going, but getting weaker."
Modo skidded to a stop in the doorway. "Oh Momma!"
"Get over here to catch him when I undo the chains." Vinnie moved to Throttle's left arm. Modo handed the white box to Charley, and got his hands under Throttle's arms. Between the three of them, they got Throttle onto the ground and Charley and Modo got a better bandage on his leg. "Do you got a merit badge in surgery, Charley-girl?"
Charley wiped the worse of the blood off her hands with an alcohol wipe. "No, but we know a guy with a degree. You guys take Throttle to the garage in my tow truck and prep him as much as you can." Modo nodded comprehendingly and Vinnie decided to let him give the instructions on that. "Let's move him."
Vinnie grabbed Throttle's feet while Modo grabbed his upper half. "What are you gonna do, sweetheart?"
"Fix Throttle's bike or borrow yours to get Dr. James." She opened the passenger door of the tow truck for them. All three of the bikes rolled around the front of the truck with Hannah in front holding a silver box in her hands. "Hannah?"
"I pried it off Uncle Throttle's bike and she woke up. I put his stuff and my booksack in the truck, too. And the bikes watched me the whole time." She held out the silver box to Charley. "Is Uncle Throttle okay?"
Charley placed the device in the back of the tow truck. "He will be." She took Hannah's hand and faced the black bike. Its headlight flashed. "Throttle needs a doctor. Are you functioning?"
The black bike popped a wheelie and pivoted. Its laser cannon popped out of the head tube between the handlebars and fired, blowing up the TVs.
Hannah pushed her helmet onto her head. "I think that means yes."
The bike returned to face Charley. "Will you let me drive you to get the doctor?" It revved then popped out the side car. Charley put Hannah in it, and turned to Modo and Vinnie. "My truck and Throttle at the garage in one piece and we will meet you there."
Vinnie turned to Modo as the girls squealed out of the warehouse. "So it's okay if we don't arrive at the garage in one piece?"
Ryan James rubbed his eyes. That brought the computer screen back into focus, but didn't give him any desire to finish the paperwork. So the rapid knock on his office door was more than welcomed relief. He let in a disheveled Charley Davidson wearing a torn shirt and holding her daughter Hannah. The woman had blood on her clothes. "Ms. Davidson, Hannah, what's wrong?"
"Throttle's been shot." She swung Hannah to the ground. "The bullet's still in his leg. We can't bring him here. I tried to stop the bleeding," she started shaking.
He pushed her into a chair. "Deep breaths, Charley. Just answer my questions. What part of the leg?" He pulled out his briefcase and started packing things that would help him perform kitchen table surgery.
"In the right thigh."
"Did the blood spurt out?"
"It oozed and welled, not spurting like a nicked hose. There was just so much of it." Hannah tucked her head under Charley's arm. Charley looked up. "Is that a good sign?"
"The artery probably wasn't damaged, and yes, that's good. Any allergies to any medications? Or anything that doesn't work?" He pulled the gift set of scalpels and probes his mother had given him when he got accepted to med school. They would come in handy now, even though he had teased her then.
"I've used iodine, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, Neosporin; I've never need anything stronger. Modo usually knows stuff like that." He didn't like how bleak her expression got. "Since Throttle can't answer questions."
"He's unconscious?" She nodded. "Was it a fight with that mad scientist?"
"No, it was my ex." She glanced at her daughter.
Ryan knew when to drop a topic. He closed his briefcase. "Okay, I just need some items from the supply room, and I can make your house call."
Charley roared the bike into the garage. Her clenched stomach eased when she saw Vinnie coming out of the kitchen.
"Throttle's upstairs. Modo told me to boil water."
She set her helmet on a workbench. "Great, when you're done with that, can you look for bugs? You and Hannah, please?"
"Fine time to worry 'bout pest control, sweetheart." Vinnie crossed his arms.
She silently counted from five. "Hidden cameras. Jack bugged the garage. We need to get rid of them." She pulled Hannah out of the sidecar, passing the briefcase to the shaken blond man climbing off.
"Oh! The bikes can scan for that, especially if they're broadcasting."
"Great," she led Dr. James up to her bedroom.
Modo twisted from the sheet-covered workbench with Throttle--wearing only his boxers--laying on it. "We had to take the tourniquet off."
"Tourniquet?" Dr. James headed straight to Throttle's leg. Modo let go of the gauze over the wound.
"He was chained upright when he got shot, and I was trying to keep him from bleeding to death," Charley explained.
"Upright? That's why he's unconscious. The human body passes out if pain crosses a threshold while you're standing up. Doesn't work when you're laying down and get hurt."
Modo frowned, "But we're not human."
"As Margo loves to remind me, you guys aren't so different biologically speaking." Dr. James opened the briefcase on the bed. "Don't ask her what tests she has ran on your blood samples. I wish she wasn't on vacation right now. How does lidocaine work on you guys?"
"Earth drugs have had the same effect on us that they have on you. And Throttle's not very allergic. Vinnie you'd wanna test first."
"Blood donation?" He took out a vial of clear liquid and a syringe. "And how much does he weight?"
"Throttle's 'bout two hundred sixty pounds. And I'm a universal donor for mice." Modo held the gauze on Throttle's leg.
Dr. James looked away from filling the syringe to appraise Modo. "You're the medic?"
"Of last resort 'cause I can sew. I can put a stitch in if somebody needs it. And I was never told how to dig a foreign object out. We shoot with lasers on Mars." His metal hand closed into a fist.
"I can dig. But if we need a blood transfusion, we'll have to go to a pharmacy." The doctor tossed an electronic blood pressure cuff to Charley. "Take his blood pressure. Next step is giving him a local anesthetic and we'll wash up while it takes affect. I don't want to give him a total anesthetic."
Charley wrapped the cuff onto Throttle's upper left arm, and pressed the on button. "It says one hundred twenty-five over seventy-five."
"That's pretty good. I don't think he lost as much blood as you feared." Dr. James inserted the syringe's needle in Throttle's thigh. "Come hold the gauze in place, while Modo and I wash up." Modo led him to the bathroom.
Charley stared at Throttle's battered, shade-less face. He looked so peaceful. Just be happy, he told her. How was that even possible when he kept lashing out? He hadn't lashed out in the warehouse though.
Dr. James nudged her. "Go wash up, we left the gloves in there." She did what she was told. She pulled on the latex gloves as she came back into the bedroom. Dr. James was showing Modo where to hold the sponge. "This is messy for an entry wound."
"The bullet ricocheted," Charley answered. "I was trying to get the gun away from Jack and it went off, but it was facing the wall."
"Focus, Charley," Modo rumbled. "Throttle's had worse fallin' off his bike."
She blinked, looked down at the unconscious mouse, then back up at the medical team. "Instructions?"
"Give me the long probe out of the case in the briefcase. It'll look like a thin pair of needle-nose pliers." Dr. James carefully inserted them into Throttle's wound. "More light. The bullet fragmented."
She stripped off the latex gloves and opened the trapdoor. Climbing down the ladder, she saw Vinnie dangling by his tail and one arm from the engine block chains and trying to grab the light fixture. Hannah sat on the red bike. "She says it's in the light."
"I'm working on it."
Charley grabbed her under-the-hood light. Hannah looked up. "Mommy?"
She looped the power cord around her shoulder. "Just need more light." She climbed up, and plugged in the light after shutting the trapdoor. She held it over Dr. James right shoulder.
"That works great." He pulled a slag out of Throttle and dropped it onto a paper plate. "One more piece. He's lucky. It missed the artery and the bone." He dropped a second piece of metal on the paper plate. "Okay, Charley, I need the stitching kit out of the briefcase."
She handed the light to Modo and found the package in his briefcase. "So now what?"
"Watch for signs of infection, let him wake up on his own, keep him off the leg for the next couple of days. If he needs to get up, don't put weight on it. Take a painkiller if necessary, but avoid loading up on ibuprofen because it thins the blood." He snipped the black thread close to the skin. "I'll make another house call in a few days in my own car."
Modo glanced at Charley while swabbing the blood off Throttle. "And she's one of the safer drivers we got."
Dr. James cleared his throat as he headed to the bathroom. "Maybe I'm just not a motorcycle guy."
Charley packed the briefcase, wiping off anything used with alcohol wipes. "He was unconscious and bleeding, and I stopped short of being Evil Knieval."
"I'll give you a ride back," Modo said, as he threw away the bloody gauze and wipes.
She turned down the covers on her bed. "You grab the head, Modo, and I'll get his feet."
"Maybe we should get Vinnie?"
"Who do you think lifts the engine blocks when you guys aren't around? Now heave!" Charley tucked Throttle into the bed as Modo carried the workbench out. Dr. James touched her shoulder. "Thanks, Doctor, I'll find some way to pay you for this."
"We'll figure that out later. But here's a free prescription for you. Share the load before you break." She nodded as he left, and pulled a chair next to the bed and sat.
Hannah poked her head into the bedroom. "Mommy?"
"You can come in, baby."
She tiptoed across the room. "I got ready for bed all by myself." She tugged at the yellow Disney Belle nightgown she had on.
"That's a big help. Is Uncle Vinnie finished?"
"Don't think so. He told me he didn't need any more help." Hannah looked at Throttle. "Is Uncle Throttle gonna be okay?"
"Yeah, he's gonna be fine. We just have to wait until he wakes up."
"I can wake him up! I'm good at waking up."
Charley scooped her daughter onto her lap. "No, Hannah, he needs to sleep."
The little girl snuggled against Charley. "Mommy, am I a thing?"
"It's a person, place, or thing. You're a person, Hannah. Why?"
"Daddy said I was a made thing."
Charley took a deep breath. Damn Jack. "Babies are made, but as people not things. You know Jack said it that way to hurt you."
Hannah's puzzled green eyes looked at her. "How are babies made?"
"A piece of the mother and a piece of the father grows into a baby. And then the baby grows up into a new person. But that's why we have the same color eyes, and you and Jack have the same color hair."
Hannah leaned against her. "Okay. But if Daddy doesn't want me, do I have to call him Daddy?"
Charley rubbed her chin on Hannah's head. "My daddy always said any man could be a father, but only special men got to be daddies. Jack is your father, I can't change that. But he's not your daddy and you don't have to call him that ever again."
Hannah twisted to look at Charley again. "So why can't Uncle Throttle be my daddy? Isn't he special?"
How the hell do I answer that? Charley thought. Yeah, it's a great idea, honey, but I gave him my heart and it wasn't enough. He didn't kiss me like he hates me.
"Why can't he be my daddy, Mommy?"
"Nobody's asked me for the job."
"Uncle Throttle!" Hannah scrambled onto the bed, laying on her belly next to him. "That's not true, I asked you. I want you to be my daddy."
Charley blinked. He was okay, Jack didn't kill him. Vinnie tapped the doorjamb, and she joined him at the door. "Throttle's awake."
"Great," he said quietly. "I found all the bugs in the garage. Do we have to sweep the scoreboard too?"
"Yes, most definite yes. How many did you find?"
"Six total. You should be happy to know the bathrooms were not bugged. I was."
Hannah burst into tears. She shoved against Charley and Vinnie's legs running out. "Hannah?" Charley called after her.
"What the heck?" Vinnie glanced after the kid and back to Throttle.
Charley chased her daughter into Hannah's bedroom. "What's wrong?"
"Nobody wants to be my daddy!"
Charley picked her up and sat on the bed. Hannah wrapped her arms and legs around her mother and buried her tear-streaked face against Charley's neck.
Vinnie walked to Charley's bed. "Great way to return to the land of the living."
"Go after them."
"Hey, for once, I didn't do it."
Throttle's hands curled into fists. "Damnit Vinnie! You want Charley. You're gonna have to be Hannah's daddy!"
Vinnie tried to make sense of this rant, and it was uncomfortable seeing tears in Throttle's eyes. He and Charley were finito; why was Throttle a chapter behind? "Um, Throttle...."
He closed his eyes. "I just broke Hannah's heart. I'm not a rival any more, bro. Hannah wants a daddy. And you'll score points with Charley. Go."
Rival? Vinnie resisted the urge to scratch his head. Throttle was in love with Charley and Hannah, duh. But why was Throttle trying to hook him and Charley up? Vinnie found Charley in Hannah's bedroom. "You need to talk to Throttle."
"Oh hell no. He does not get a free ride for hurting my baby." Her arms tightened around the little girl on her lap.
"Okay, tell him that."
She stared at Vinnie and he stepped back. "Go get me the bazooka and I will!"
Vinnie gestured "no" with his hands and head. "Don't do anything you'd regret."
"I'm having a hard time seeing the regret, sorry."
"Give Throttle a chance to explain before blowing him to kingdom come."
Hannah turned to look at Vinnie. "Where's that?"
"I don't know, kiddo. Mama Bola always said she was gonna send us there. Come're." He plucked Hannah from Charley's lap and swung her to his hip. "Now, what are you cryin' 'bout?"
"Uncle Throttle won't be my daddy," she sniffled.
Charley crossed her arms and glared.
"Won't or can't? Which did he say?"
"He said can't but there's no difference. MacCyber doesn't wanna be my daddy and now Uncle Throttle, so what's wrong with me?"
Vinnie looked at Charley. "He said can't, Charley, find out what's wrong."
"What part of hell no don't you understand?"
Modo stepped into the bedroom. "What's goin' on?"
Vinnie turned to him. "You're home now?" Modo nodded, looking puzzled. "Help me." He passed Hannah to Modo, and turned to face Charley. "You are talking to Throttle or else."
"I'm not going, Vinnie, and you can't make me."
"I wish you had picked the easy way." He slung her over his shoulder.
"Vincent Van Wham! Put me down right now!" She hammered his back, but he ignored it as he carried her from Hannah's bedroom. Modo stepped out of the way. "Put me down or you won't be able to sit on your crotch rocket for six months! I mean it, Vinnie! Put me down!"
He kicked her partially open bedroom door. Throttle struggled to sit up. "What the hell are you doing?"
Vinnie planted Charley in the chair next to the bed. She pushed him, but he didn't budge and leaned into her face. "You sit or I will tie you to that chair. And don't think I won't do it." Charley crossed her arms. Vinnie stepped back to include both in the instructions. "We are sick and tired of whatever is goin' on. So you two aren't leavin' this room until you work it out." He left them staring at him and shut the door.
Hannah and Modo waited for him in the living room. "What did you do that for?"
"Yeah, what she said."
Vinnie shook his head. "Cause Throttle got it in his head he can't be your daddy 'cause your mommy wants me to be your daddy. So they need to work it out."
Hannah looked at Modo and then back at Vinnie. "But Mommy doesn't want you."
"Could you find a better way to phrase that, kiddo?"
Throttle blinked. He had been clear this time, but the ego who walks in the shape of a mouse had deposited a furious Charley and left. "What's wrong with Vinnie?"
"What's wrong with Vinnie? What the hell is wrong with you?" Charley focused her ire on him. "Do you have a mental affliction now so you can only be nice when held prisoner?"
He leaned against the headboard. "I don't know what you expect of me." Like I'm supposed be cheerful handing you over to Vinnie.
Charley's exasperated sign interrupted his train of thought. "I expect you not to take out how you feel about me on my daughter. All she wants is a daddy. Couldn't you do that despite how you feel about me?"
"You want me to lie to her."
"Yes, Throttle, I expect you to tell the five-year-old a little white lie after the hell her biological father put her through and after I had to explain what the difference between a father and a daddy is! And of all you fuzz heads, you were the last one I thought I had to explain this to."
Maybe it was the drugs they had used to patch his leg, and that's why he didn't feel like he was in the same conversation as Charley. He shook his head as much as he could without the room spinning. "Is that how you make families on Earth? Why do you want to make things harder for Vinnie?"
She uncrossed her arms to cross them again. "What does Vinnie have to do with anything?"
Maybe they gave the drugs to everyone else instead of him. "Charley, all I want is for you and Hannah to be happy. You picked Vinnie, fine. But you can't expect me to lie to Hannah about it."
"Picked Vinnie for what? He just now gotten over being jealous of Hannah."
"You two have enough to work out without me undermining Vinnie."
She leaned back in the chair. "I think I should've asked whether blood loss causes brain damage."
Why are both of them tormenting me? He lost his patience. "You're the one who said he'd always have a place in your heart!"
"As a friend! And that's all he is!"
"A friend?" His jaw fell open.
"I see where Hannah's getting the eavesdropping habit from."
He pulled the covers away to get to her, to hold her, and to make sure this was not a hallucination. Charley moved to the edge of the bed, and put her hands against his chest. He gripped her arms. "If Vinnie was what you wanted, I wasn't getting in the way. Whatever made you happy."
"So you said nothing had happened, and kept leaving so Vinnie and I could be alone."
He let her go. "I couldn't watch."
She swatted his head. "And it never occurred to you to ask! The five-year-old asked! Maybe you should get pointers from her." She crossed her arms again.
Throttle rubbed his head. "Okay, I deserve that."
"You better make sure Vinnie or Modo spend the night to give you pain meds because you deserve a lot more." She poked him in the nose. "Do you realize what you have put me through for the past two weeks? I've only slept with two men and you were having me regretting both of them. All because you can't open your mouth."
He caught her hand. "I stole you from a bro."
"Vinnie never made the cut, Throttle. And he initiated the let's-stay-friends speech."
"Okay, I'm an idiot."
She smiled slightly. "That's a start."
"Will you give me a chance to do it right for you and Hannah? Start over and woo you the way you deserve to be wooed?"
Charley's green eyes filled with tears. "I can't." She took a shaky breath. "I can't."
Throttle felt a void invading his insides. Charley deserved a man who trusted her without reservation. He could never show her enough trust to make up for these two weeks. The void turned into an icy mass in his gut.
"I can't keep putting me and Hannah through this. She needs stability."
No, it wasn't fair to promise something to Hannah and then jerk it away. He swallowed, but the lump in his throat didn't move.
Charley gripped his hand harder as Throttle tried to pull it out of her clasp. "I can't keep starting over with the man I want to marry!"
He felt his heart stop. "But I'm not a man," he said in a low voice.
"Mouse then! You! I love you and I want to marry you, you big lummox!" She mashed her mouth against his, and Throttle wrapped his arms around her, kissing her like he thought he never could again.
He heard the door open. "Okay kiddo, she didn't kill him. It's safe to go in," Vinnie said.
Charley and he stopped kissing when Hannah crawled onto the bed on Throttle's other side. He brushed her red-orange bangs away from her heart-shaped face. "Is the job to be your daddy still open, Princess?"
Hannah looked at Charley. "Do you want him, Mommy?"
"Yeah, I think we need him around."
Hannah grinned and launched herself at Throttle's neck. "I have a daddy!"
"Ease up, Hannah, I can't breathe." She slid down to sit on the bed. Charley leaned her head against his left shoulder and he circled his arm around her waist.
Vinnie and Modo grinned near the door of the bedroom. "You do realize I fixed this." Vinnie's grin grew wider. "Vinnie the emotional screw-up fixed this."
"I think Dr. Phil's job is safe," Modo said.
Throttle winced. "Vinnie, I never meant...."
"Don't go down a dead-end street twice, bro. I'm not daddy material and I'm cool with that, Charley's cool with that, and Hannah's cool with that. But if you two wanna experiment with a ménage à trois?" He wriggled his eyebrows.
Charley and Throttle both shook their heads in unison, and Modo hit Vinnie in the shoulder.
Hannah bounced on the bed. "So when is the wedding? You have to have a wedding now."
"First, we need to decide what type of wedding," Throttle answered. "Do you want a Martian one or an Earth one, Charley?"
"I don't care. Which one keeps you from leaving?"
"I know the Martian one does. Never made a study of Earth marriage laws."
"So we'll have a Martian wedding."
"Okay, take an earring out of your right ear." Charley looked at him curiously, but sat up and took the gold stud out of her ear. Throttle took out his silver miniature morning star. "This will work until we get a new pair for both of us to wear." He smiled, "Maybe something green to match your eyes."
Modo stepped forward. "Charlene Davidson, do you want Throttle to be your husband and join his clan?"
"Put your earring in his ear. Now Throttle, do you want Charlene Davidson to be your wife and join her clan?"
"I do." He reached without prompting and hung his earring in her right ear lobe.
"You are now married," Modo announced. "Kiss the bride."
Though the hazy sweetness of kissing Charley, Throttle heard Hannah protest. "That's it!"
"Well, the ceremony got a lot shorter during the war," Vinnie explained.
Throttle smiled as he pulled back from Charley. Her smile didn't reach her eyes. He brushed his fingers across her cheek. "It's not what you wanted."
Her smile grew rueful. "I want you. But I thought I'd at least get to show off a fancy dress."
"I'll give you an Earth wedding, I promise. As soon as I figure out how."
Charley snuggled against his left shoulder and Hannah snuggled under his right arm. "It doesn't matter," Charley answered. "I'm not losing you now."
Modo shooed Vinnie out of the bedroom and shut the door. Throttle circled his arms around his family and closed his eyes.
Author's Note: Yes, the story is over now. But if you're looking for more related goodies, I have made a soundtrack for the Evil Jack series. It's available for download at my home website: The BookWorm's Library. The link is on my profile page. Until the next story!