Written for the minor illness square of H/C bingo. This is mostly a humor piece, so warnings are about general (earth) mice antics for the most part. Everyone sort of hits on Charley at one point or another, but since that's canon, I'm going to say this is a gen piece.
Working in Chicago sucks. The city's falling to pieces and the people that are still here are all kinds of crazy, but they're usually the kind of crazy that pays well for stupid things. It's why Jillian's still here instead of running with the rest of her family.
Sometimes her job's awesome. And then sometimes the type of crazy Jillian doesn't like walks through the door.
It's about eighty degrees outside, but the woman's wearing a trench coat, a floppy wide brimmed hat, a scarf pulled up to her nose, and a pair of sunglasses. She skulks in, looking behind her like someone's after her, and turns in a slow circle in the middle of the store.
The woman's clearly a crazy. Jillian wrinkles her nose and hopes she doesn't stink. "Can I help you?" she asks as pleasantly as possible.
"Yeah," the woman says. She lowers the scarf from around her mouth and leans in conspiratorially to say, "Do you, uh, know about mice?"
Jillian takes a long moment to stare deliberately at the mice in the window, then the pinkies in the cage by the register. Then she looks at the display wall that has mouse food on it. "I think I know a little," she finally says.
The woman pushes her sunglasses down slightly. "That's great! I have a few questions about them, if you don't mind."
"That's what I'm here for," Jillian says. She's really, really regretting her job right about now. "Go ahead and shoot."
"Well," the woman hedges, "They're going to seem kind of... weird, but hang with me, okay?"
If her questions are anything like her clothes, Jillian's in trouble. "It's probably nothing I haven't heard before," she says. "What's wrong with your mice? Are they sneezing? Do they have mites? Fleas?"
"Oh, great," the woman says, "I never even thought about that. Do you have flea shampoo for mice? I'm going to need about twenty bottles of it."
Jillian has to stare at her. Why do the crazies only show up when she's working by herself? "If your mouse has fleas, miss, you're only going to need one bottle of shampoo, max. Mice are tiny; those bottles are meant for cats."
"No, I'm going to need a bunch of bottles," she says. "I've got three mice and you wouldn't believe how big they are. What else do I need?"
To not be insane? "Chew toys?" Jillian guesses.
"They eat week-old hot dogs, does that count?"
Seriously. The crazy better not be catching. "Mice shouldn't be eating meat," Jillian says slowly and carefully. "They're omnivores, but the bulk of a pet mouse's diet should be pellets with vegetable treats. If you're feeding them hot dogs you need to stop before they die of cholesterol poisoning."
"I think they'd stage a revolt if I took away their hot dogs," the woman says. She adjusts her hat, eyes darting out the window, and leans forward to whisper, "What about root beer? Can they have that?"
"Carbonation kills rodents," Jillian says. At this point, that may be the best thing for them, though. Seriously, root beer and hot dogs? This woman was trying to torture the poor mice to death.
The woman gives her a suspicious look, like telling her soda was bad for mice was totally out of left field. "Hasn't killed them yet," she says.
"The key word being 'yet.'" Jillian sighs. "They shouldn't be drinking anything but water. Ever."
"I really don't think that's going to go over well," the woman says.
Jillian tries out a grin. "They're mice," she says, "What are they going to do, squeak and shake a fist at you?"
The woman shrugs at her. "So, chew toys, huh?" she asks. "Like what? Wood?"
"Sure, that'll work. We've actually got a wide selection of wood chews designed for mice," Jillian says. She ushers the woman to the display of treats; no way is she letting the crazy stand behind her. "They've got to chew since their teeth grow their entire lives; if they don't have something to munch on, their teeth can grow into their skulls."
The woman picks up one of the blocks with two fingers and wrinkles her nose. "Do you have something... bigger?" she asks. "I wasn't kidding about these mice being huge. I think they could swallow one of these without even chewing on it first."
Crazy. It's going to get all over her. "We have chew toys designed for multiple rabbits," Jillian offers. They're about the size of her fist, but the woman gives them a dubious look too. "If these aren't big enough, you can give them untreated, unpainted wood of any size."
The woman looks relieved. "Oh, okay, that'll probably go over better than these things. So what else do I need to know?"
"Look, why'd you get mice without making sure you had all of this stuff beforehand?" Jillian finally asks. This is asinine. Who does things like this? "Do you even have a cage?"
"It was kind of a spur of the moment thing," the woman says.
Jillian turns on her heel and marches over to her display of books. "Look," she says, picking one up, "I think your best bet is just going to be to read this. It'll tell you everything you need, what not to do, and how to manage your colony."
"This looks great, thanks."
Jillian rubs at her eyes and says, "Did you at least check to see what gender they were?" She has images in her mind of this woman accidentally breeding thousands of mice and killing them all by letting them drink soda.
"Oh," the woman says, smirking, "I'm pretty sure they're all male."
Lil' Hoss has a flutter in her engine that's drivin' Modo nuts. That's why he's the only Mouse there when Charley hauls in thirty pounds of something called Forti Diet.
It has a picture of a mouse on it. Modo makes an executive decision and decides that now is not the time to ask about his bike.
He pats Lil' Hoss on her handlebars. "Sorry, darlin'," he says, "There's just some things a mouse doesn't want to know about."
Lil' Hoss beeps cheerily back at him.
"If I bring home bags of shredded paper, will you guys use it?" Charley asks over dinner.
Throttle pauses with a hot dog halfway to his mouth and cuts his eyes over to Modo. His bro looks just as confused as he feels and Vinnie has so much food in his mouth that his cheek pouches are bulging. That leaves him to ask the obvious question. "What would we need shredded paper for, Charley girl?"
Charley shrugs. "Just, you know, for litter," she says. She taps her fork against her plate and looks up at Throttle through her head fur. "You guys want some?"
"Litter?" Vinnie manages through his mouthful.
Litter? Throttle echoes mentally. What in the world would they need litter fo-oh.
Modo's tail is twitching in mortification; Throttle has to trap his against his thigh to make sure it's not doing the same. "That's alright, Charley girl," he manages. "We don't need... litter."
"Really?" Charley gets the same look on her face that she gets whenever she's elbow deep in one of their ladies. Throttle shudders slightly. "What about using it for bedding, then? The book said that you guys like to make, you know, nests."
"You found a book on mice from Mars?" Vinnie asks.
Sometimes, Throttle really does worry about his bro. Self-proclaimed baddest mamma-jamma in the universe or not, he's more than a little slow. Who'd write a book about the Martians? Charley's the only one who's ever lived with one.
And Charley's many things, but she's not an author.
Charley does that weird human thing were her cheeks get red; it looks brown through his glasses. The first time Throttle had seen it, he'd been horrified. Now it's just unsightly, but expected. "Not... exactly," she says.
"We got a bed, Charley-ma'am," Modo says.
They also have shredded blankets, but that's not something he wants to tell Charley right now. Nests are all well and good, but a bro also wants something soft under him while he sleeps. Besides, what kind of heathen Plutarkian scum used paper for bedding?
Charley leans back in her chair and crosses her arms. "I've been to your pad, guys," she says, "And I haven't seen a bed."
This time when they exchange looks, Vinnie gets in on the action as well. "Sure we do, babe," Vinnie says, "It's the thing with all the blankets on it."
"Well, sure, but that's only one bed. Where do the rest of you sleep?"
"In... the bed?" Throttle offers.
"You expect me to believe that you guys all sleep in that bed?" Charley asks. "Just how stupid do you think I am?"
"Sure we do," Vinnie says. "You take turns over who gets to be in the middle. Gotta tell you, sweetheart, your beds are small. How do you people manage to get a decent pile goin' when you have a hard time fitting three grown mice onto a bed?"
The look Charley gets one her face right then is kind of like how Carbine always looked right after Rimfire tried to sneak on to a mission. Kind of amused and kind of horrified at the same time. "That's... odd," she says.
Modo opens and closes his mouth a few times. Throttle pinches the top of his muzzle and has to ask the obvious question: "Earthlings don't sleep in one bed, do they?"
"No," Charley says, "No we don't."
"That's just ridiculous," Vinnie ventures. "How do you all stay warm, huh? You're pullin' our tails, aren't you, babe?"
"Sorry big guy. One hundred percent truth."
"You're practically bald," Vinnie exclaims, "How do you even keep warm at night?"
Throttle takes the opportunity to kick his bro under the table. That's Charley's species he's insulting.
"Well," Charley finally mutters, "The book did say mice preferred to have company."
Modo scratches pointedly at the back of his skull while he looks away.
"Charley-girl," Throttle says carefully, "Where did you get this book, exactly?"
She looks shifty. "I think it's time to clean up," she says, standing up and scooping her plate off the table. "I think it's great that you guys could come over for dinner, but I'm about done in. How about you leave?"
"Just tell me it wasn't a pet store," Modo says plaintively.
Her silence is very, very telling.
"Did you look up books about Earth mice?" Vinnie yells.
Throttle rubs at his forehead and sighs.
"You guys need to stay away this week," Charley says. She punctuates her words with a truly disgusting sneeze that flings green goo all over the place.
Vinnie's a little impressed. It's not as awesome as, say, Stoker when he's under the weather, but for something with such a tiny nose, that's an epic amount of mucus. "Whoa there, babe," he says, backing away with his hands in the air, "No need to descend to germ warfare."
Charley sniffles. "I'm sick," she says miserably.
"We can see that," Throttle says. "Why don't you open the door and we'll take care of you, huh, Charley-girl?"
"Mice can get the flu from humans," she croaks.
Vinnie's pretty sure that a case of the Earth flu isn't going to kill them when Karbuncle, Limburger, and a war hadn't; the Plutarkians hadn't been above biological weapons towards the end. Besides, Charley's an Earth woman. Anything she can survive, Vinnie can survive better.
"Sweet of you to care, baby, but we'll be fine." He flexes and kisses one bicep, grinning. "You can't take smokin' hot like this down with a little germ."
"The book said-" Charley begins.
Modo groans. "Miss Charley-ma'am," he says, "You gotta know that we ain't like your normal Earth mice."
"We're bigger," Throttle says.
"Badder," Modo adds.
Vinnie grins. "And the hottest mamma-jammas you'll ever find."
Charley gives them all a skeptical look through her watery eyes. "You're gonna have to forgive me for not taking your word on that," she says. "Get out of here, guys."
Vinnie would love to leave, honestly, except they're out of hot dogs, and it's not like they can go shopping for them without causing some kind of mass panic. He prods Throttle forward. "We need those dogs," he hisses, too low for Charley's tiny ears to pick up, "Convince her, babe."
"You sure you don't need anything?" Throttle asks.
"Not a thing. Now get out of here before you get the flu and die. It can be fatal in mice, you know."
"Come on, Charley-girl," Vinnie wheedles, "How bad can a little Earth bug be?"
"Bad," she says, opening the door.
Charley's wearing a shirt that looks like it would fit Modo and a pair of pants that can only be described with the word 'tragic.' Her fur is lank and greasy, like what happens when a mouse has just lost his family and hasn't gotten the hang of self-grooming yet, and her face is shiny with red bumps all over it.
Pimples, he's pretty sure she calls them. Either way...
"Whoa," Vinnie says, stepping backwards, "Someone knocked the pretty right out of you, sweetheart."
"Vincent," Throttle sighs right before Modo's metal arm clanks off the back of Vinnie's skull.
Usually Charley doesn't mind heading over to her guys' place every once in a while. It's usually a total sty, but they try hard to clean up when she's due over, so she sucks it up and sprawls on the couch with them to watch television.
This time, though, the smell is making her eyes water. She puts up with it for as long as she can, wiping away tears, before she finally can't any more.
"I know you guys have some sort of chauvinistic idea that you don't have to clean up after yourselves because you're male, but if even I can smell this, you've got to be dying. Why haven't you picked up the cleaning supplies?"
The bros exchange a glance before Throttle ventures to say, "That's Vinnie. He's very, uh, possessive of his space."
Charley squints at him. "What does that even mean?" She tries breathing through her mouth, but that just means that she can taste the smell. It sends her gagging for a second.
Modo pats her gently on the back, the big softie. She leans gratefully against his shoulder as she tries to breathe without throwing up. "All due respect, Charley-ma'am, I don't think that explanation's really fit for a lady," he says.
"Why wouldn't it be?"
"It's just not."
"Either way, you guys have got to do something," Charley says. "It smells like..." It smelled like pee, actually. Really pungent, tomcat marking his territory pee. And Throttle had said Vinnie was being possessive...
"Do you mean Vinnie's peeing on the walls?" Charley asks in horror.
Throttle winces; Modo looks like he wants to crawl into the walls and die. "Sometimes," Throttle says. "Our bro's a mite bit possessive; comes from being the youngest mouse in a territory. He should settle down in a week or two."
"Vinnie is peeing on the walls," Charley says, waving her hands around to illustrate just how not okay this was. "Someone's going to notice if the Quigley scoreboard smells like rodent pee, guys!"
"We'll clean it," Modo says quickly. "We just gotta let him get it out of his system or else it'll get worse."
"You guys are letting him pee on the walls," Charley says blankly. She takes back every good thing she's ever said about the Martians; they're letting Vinnie pee on the walls! He's marking his territory! She can't even begin to sort that into all the other information she's gleaned off of them over the course of their stay on Earth.
Throttle looks extremely uncomfortable, but gamely offers, "It's less that we're letting him, sweetheart, than it is that he's going to do it anyway."
Charley pushes herself to her feet and turns towards the door. She ignores the guys calling her name; she needs to get out of here. Now. Honestly, he's peeing on the walls. And Throttle was going to let him.
"Mars must smell awful," Charley mutters as she slides on to her bike.
Jillian officially hates her job. Sure the pay is good, but the bad kind of crazy is starting to outnumber the good kind. One of her customers had to have slipped her something. That's the only explanation for what she's seeing.
"You," the giant rodent says, "You're the one who sold Charley-girl that book."
Jillian opens and closes her mouth a few times, speechless. There's a giant white rodent standing in her doorway. One with a six pack to die for and a metal plate over half his face. And it's definitely a him, too, with a body like that.
If it weren't a six foot rat, and if she wasn't apparently going crazy, she would be ogling.
"She's been trying to feed us seeds," the rodent fumes. "Seeds! She keeps tellin' us that hot dogs are going to kill us!"
Oh, God. She knew that woman was going to infect her with the crazy. She'd known it. She just didn't assume it was going to involve giant rats. "You're a giant rat!" she says.
The rat stops yelling to glare at her with freaky red eyes. "I am not a rat," he says. "I'm a mouse. The baddest mamma-jamma you've ever seen."
Jillian nods before she turns on her heel and marches into the backroom. There's a computer back there that still kind of works. She needs to type up her letter of resignation.
"Hey," the mouse yells, "I'm not done yet! Get back here, sweetheart."
Jillian sits down at the computer, turns it on, and says, "You're a giant mouse."
"From Mars," the mouse adds helpfully. "So that book you gave her really isn't as helpful as you thought it would be."
"I need a new job," Jillian says blankly.