I hope you all like this. It seems a bit heavy for some, and you have my apologies. But it would take a good, hard kick in the pants to make Vincent get his head out of his a-- and really try to court Charley, at least, I think so.

And I might have to up the rating for this due to Vinnie's potty mouth. But what do you expect from a soldier of more than ten years? An instant censor?

Chapter 4

Vinnie glanced out the window again, more than a little antsy at the quiet. The sun was beginning to brush the horizon on the 18th hour she'd been sleeping. He began to get up to start pacing again and skidded to a halt as she stirred. Is she.... He peered down into her face. Her lashes fluttered and she stretched a bit. Please, gods, let her be waking up."Charley?" he said hesitantly, feeling his breath catch as he cupped her cheek in his hand. She nuzzled his palm and Vinnie felt his jaw drop in surprise. She blinked the sleep from her eyes and smiled up at him with all the radiance he hadn't seen in two weeks. He smiled back at her shyly. "Are... you feeling better?"

Charley's smile faded. "Better?" She looked around, realizing belatedly that she was lying in bed. We're nowhere near our tree. It's sunset. And my Vincent wasn't worried about me. "Oh," she breathed. She looked back up at the Vinnie standing beside her and absently murmured, "You're not him."

Vinnie felt his mouth dry and his stomach roll. Where he'd been trying to soothe the knot of worry in his stomach, there was now only a curious dark chill coiling around his heart. "I'm not... who?" His stomach dropped further as she flushed and looked away from him. She looks guilty.

"It's not important," she said quietly, looking around. "How did I get here?"

He cleared his throat, wishing desperately she hadn't seen him for that brief moment when his defenses were down. "We carried you up after to you fell asleep at the table."

Charley nodded. "Okay." She blinked and put a hand to her head as that brief movement had made the world spin a bit. "Wow. I'm still woozy from...."

"Don't jerk around like that, okay? You're exhausted, you gotta rest." She nodded in dazed agreement. He began to pace again, trying to think of a way to tell her how worried he'd been. "You were out almost a whole day."

"A day? No wonder I'm dizzy. Wait, did you carry me up?" He wouldn't look at her. Charley groaned at the thought, as his over-sexed attitude didn't exactly lead to a lot of trust in the modesty department. "And you just had to come after me, didn't you?" She groaned again inwardly when his jaw set.

"Yeah. So?"

She stared at him. He's never sounded that bitter before. "That's... not funny."

The sound that tore out of Vinnie's throat might've qualified as a laugh. "I actually managed to behave, believe it or not."

"Okay, okay. You behaved yourself. What's wrong with you?"

Vinnie stopped short, glaring incredulously at the girl. "Me? You worked yourself half to fuckin' death tryin' to catch up in the garage, sleep for an entire day, assume I was groping you as you slept, and you think there's somethin' wrong with me?"

Did he just swear? My god, he is upset! "Sorry. I just...."

"Yeah. Well. When you're passed out cold, I got a different set of priorities."

Oh man, she didn't want to fight. Why were they always at odds, over some of the stupidest things? She put a hand over her eyes, wishing desperately that he'd stop talking and leave so she could sneak back into the dream.

"You were asleep for a whole damn day, Charley. You think I got nothin' better to do than go all pornographic when you won't wake up?"

"Well, excuse me for being tired," she snapped from behind her hand

"Fine. Whatever." He sighed. "Listen, I know you work hard, and yeah, you were up a whole day. That don't mean...." He trailed off, as the fears of two weeks surged up his throat. You sleep all the damn time and you won't wake up, you lie still as death and you never have before....

"That don't mean...." she mimicked sourly. "That don't mean what? That I can sleep?"

"Nothin'. Forget it."

Charley jabbed him in the chest with a nail. "No, what?"

He looked down into her snapping eyes and bit back a curse. You clung to me. Before you woke up. You held onto me and you whispered my name. "I said, it's nothin'."

She huffed and closed her eyes. "Okay. Fine." I want to go back to sleep. I want my Vincent. I want to just be held for a while.

Vinnie bit back another mental curse. Gods damn it, how can I make her understand?

Charley clenched her teeth together. Please, I'm so tired, I just want to sleep and see my Vincent.... "I don't want to deal with this," she whispered.

Being shot through the heart would hurt less. And, he thought with a twinge of grim humor, I would know. "Okay." He stepped back away from her and made to go get his communicator. She stared at him, her eyes dark and huge.

"What?"

"You don't want to deal with it." You don't want to deal with me. He turned away from her, tipping his head down so she couldn't read his eyes.

She stared at him, for once at a loss for words. He turned away from me. He's never turned away from me before. She felt something in her heart tear. I know he's not mine, but....

Vinnie kept his eyes fixed on the ground. I know I'm not the brightest guy around, but I know when I'm not wanted. I don't know why she held onto me like that, or why she said my name. But it ain't me she wants.

Charley felt the tears break free and trickle down her face. Why does this always hurt so much? I'm tired of it hurting. It doesn't hurt in the dream. I can't do this anymore. I just can't. "I'm sorry."

Vinnie flinched inwardly as he smelled her tears. I don't know what you want, Charley. Or who. But I know who you don't want. "Whatever." He walked out the door.

She laid down and closed her eyes.

Charley lifted her head. She stood on a dock that stretched over Lake Michigan. Sunset painted the sky and the water red and gold. But her confusion left the moment she saw Vincent -- her Vincent -- standing at the other end, looking at her with gentle, half-shy, half-eager eyes. A wave of relief swamped her, so huge she nearly sat down. He smiled and held a hand out to her, and she ran towards him, tripping in her haste. The Martian darted forward and caught her. His arms were tight around her, and he caught the look in her aqua colored eyes.

"Are you staying?" he asked hoarsely.

Charlene nodded and tried to burrow further into his embrace. I'm never leaving. Ever.

Vincent tilted her head up. "Then kiss me."

There was no hesitation when she pulled his head down.

*&*&*&*

Throttle responded to the call from Vinnie, and found his bro outside on the road's curb. "She okay, bro?"

"Yeah. Woke up for a bit, so I called."

Throttle frowned at the sight of his bro. His ears were completely flat against his head, and his tail was coiled around his waist. What had got him so upset? "What happened between you and Charley-girl?" he said softly.

Vinnie shrugged. "She woke up. We fought. I left to call you." Damn it.

"Fighting with Charley doesn't usually get this reaction out of you."

"How'm I supposed to react?" Especially when she don't want to deal with me.

Throttle sat down beside his bro. "I've never seen you this quiet."

"Maybe you just ain't around when I am."

"Possibly. At any rate, I wanted to make sure you were all right. Charley's been acting so weird lately--"

Vincent gave a bark of laughter. No shit.

"....Not that I have to tell you, but I guess it's been hard for you."

"You got no idea, bro."

Normally, Throttle wasn't one to get into other people's love lives. Hell, anything personal was usually off limits for him. But this, something about this was seriously wrong and he couldn't put a finger on why. "You could tell me," he said quietly.

Vincent raised his eyes to Throttle's slowly. Throttle blinked; he'd never seen so much emotion in Vinnie's eyes. Or so much pain. "She don't want to 'deal with it' anymore."

"Doesn't want to... deal with it?" Throttle repeated incredulously. "Charley?"

Vinnie shrugged. "It's what she said."

"That doesn't sound like her."

"I dunno." Vinnie sighed. "Maybe she means the war. Maybe she means us bein' here." He swallowed. "Maybe she means me."

"You?" Throttle said incredulously. "You think...."

Vincent growled. "I dunno what to think. She don't talk to me, she don't even fuckin' look at me anymore. She ain't ridden on my bike in fuckin' weeks! The fuck'm I supposed to think?" She sleeps all the gods damned time, lookin' happy.... Looks at me and she's fuckin' disappointed.

"You think she no longer cares about you?" Throttle said in some shock. The concept of Charley not caring about Vinnie was about as likely as Limburger marrying a human.

Vincent shrugged. "She'll probably be glad when we go home to Mars. Anyway, it ain't my problem." Almost convincin'. Good job.

Throttle was shaking his head slowly. "She wouldn't leave us. Or you."

He shrugged again, tilting his head forward. You weren't there. You didn't see her. He closed his eyes. 'You're not him.' His stomach knotted tighter.

the tan mouse sighed. "I should have said something to her sooner."

"Who cares?" Maybe he's some new human guy. Or maybe she'll come back. Throttle's frown deepened, and Vinnie huffed impatiently. "If she don't want us here, then I ain't gonna stay."

"And if she doesn't want us here," Throttle snapped back, "something's wrong."

He nearly laughed. "Right, gettin' shot at, mauled by thugs, maybe gettin' killed or carved up by Karbunkle or some other fuckin' villian in the process, is a great fuckin' time."

"None of that mattered to her before."

"Well, maybe somethin' else matters to her now." Maybe someone else does.

Throttle studied at his bro's averted face for several moments. "Do you think she's in love with someone?"

Vinnie snorted. "Never said that."

"You didn't have to."

"So what if she is?" Vincent swallowed against the huskiness in his voice. Throttle nodded slowly, and Vinnie repressed the urge to smack the understanding look off his face. It ain't my fuckin' business. If it ain't me she wants, I should be relieved. It's probably some human guy. Makes things simpler. Then why the hell does it hurt so fuckin' much?

Throttle stood up slowly. "I think I'm gonna to have a talk with Charley-girl." Vinnie shrugged. The tan mouse sighed to himself and put a hand on his bro's shoulder before he began to walk towards the garage. He'd often wondered what would happen between the pair if Charley finally moved on to someone who would return her feelings. Throttle wasn't surprised that it had hurt Vinnie this bad, but was surprised that he expected her to abandon them all. That's not the Charlene I know. He sighed as he drew within sight of Charley's room. Damn it. I shouldn't have let this go this long.

He knocked on the door, but got no answer. Gah, I hope she isn't asleep again. "Charley-girl? You up?" He went inside, frowning at the quiet. She was curled up on the blankets, her skin painfully white. That can't be healthy. He walked over and shook her shoulder. "Charley? Charley, wake up."

No response.

He shook harder. "Charley, wake up. I know you're tired, but c'mon!"

Not even a twitch of her eyes.

Throttle was now beyond worried. "C'mon Charley, wake up! Wake up!" Still nothing. He went to her bathroom and filled up the little cup by the sink with icy cold water. He came back in and muttered an apology before throwing the water on her face. She barely coughed, the smallest motion of her head from the wet.

But she didn't wake up.

&*&*&*&*&*&

In the demon realm, the dream-holder howled in triumph.