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

Lyrics to "Wasted Time" by the Eagles, "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails, and "Bent" by Matchbox 20 are used without permission.

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

I really mean it--explicit sex. Proceed at your own risk.

This story takes place in 1995, three weeks after Biker Mice From Mars: Shatter Your Illusions.

Put Me Back Together

Charley Davidson smiled down at the appointment book laying open on the desk. Work had been steady for the past week. The bank balance was positive and would stay that way for a while thanks to her share of the three million. She glanced out the window in the Last Chance garage's office. She could see the bright blue, cloudless sky. "Life is good," she said to herself quietly.

Roaring motorcycle engines rattled the glass plane in the door to the street. She glanced at her wristwatch. They always know when I've started lunch. She closed the books as the new automatic garage door slid up triggered by the remote controls in the bikes. And she frowned as she only heard two bike engines cut off.

Modo and Vinnie climbed off their bikes. Charley leaned against the doorjamb facing into the large garage bays. "Throttle off on his own?"

"Guess so, Sweetheart." The white-furred mouse pulled off his helmet and left it on his red racer. He crossed the larger garage and went through the swinging door on the back wall into the kitchen.

"He took off in the middle of the night." Modo explained as he sat down at the table.

"What? Again? Did you radio him? Is he all right?"

"Nah, we didn't radio. The last time we did, well . . .." The large grey mouse shuffled his feet under the table.

"Let's just say when Throttle don't wanna be bothered, he don't wanna be bothered." Vinnie sat down at the other end of the table and slid a bottle of root beer across to Modo. He took a swig from his bottle. "If he wants us, he knows where to find us. Not like we can do much without our fearless leader."

Charley started to say something about his callousness but Vinnie's expression stopped her. It wasn't callousness; he was worried and that made him angry. Modo was trying to hide his worry, protecting her as usual.

Not that it's working. This isn't like Throttle. But they sure didn't want to discuss it with her. "You guys ready for lunch?"

"Sure, Charley-ma'am."

With Modo's encouragement, Charley headed to the kitchen. The dogs were cooked; they just needed slapping together. She could still hear Vinnie and Modo. "I still say all he needs is a good lay."

She stopped what she was doing. Yes, he said what you thought he said. Not that surprising. It is Vinnie, after all. She resumed slapping together the hot dogs, but listened more closely.

"Vinnie, this ain't Mars or Towess or any other planet we've raced on. You can't go up to a workin girl and tell her to ignore the fur, the ears, and the tail."

"It ain't like lack of funds is a problem. 'Sides you can pay for anything in that field."

"Yeah, you would know."

Charley's eyebrows shot up. So he's giving the advice of personal experience? How much did he need to get him over Harley?

"Look." A bottle slammed down on the table. "It would make him feel better. Improve his self-esteem."

Modo sighed heavily. "He's been having the nightmares again."

"Sex would help with that too," Vinnie insisted.

"Yer problem is that you ain't learned that not everything can be solved by f . . .." Charley walked back into the garage carrying the tray full of hot dogs. Modo broke off with a blush. Vinnie snickered. Modo's blush vanished and his eye started glowing red. The large grey mouse leaped and took Vinnie and his chair back to the floor.

Charley circled the tussling pair of mice and set the tray of hot dogs on the table. She ducked back into the kitchen, pulled a root beer from the refrigerator, and couldn't find the bottle opener. She moved back into the garage. She grabbed hold of Modo's right bionic arm. His metal fingers pried the lid off. "Thanks, Modo."

"No problem, Charley-oof!" He caught Vinnie in a headlock after the white mouse punched him in the stomach.

Charley sighed, walked to the large window in the right wall, and stared out at the neighborhood. I know guys handle break-ups differently. I remember high school. But damnit, Throttle! This isn't a healthy way to deal with your pain. Not when your friends are here.

Throttle leaned against the tree trunk. This section of the park was deserted in the late afternoon. The tan-furred mouse stretched his legs out on the bright green grass. This had to stop. He was no good as a fighter if he couldn't conquer his own feelings and nightmares.

The nightmares. He shook his head hard to escape the images. You can't change the past. And that's what made it worse.

A pair of small black-furred arms wrapped loosely around his neck. "Big bro-cuz is getting moody." Her voice was just the same, teasing him out of his bad mood. But that wasn't right; she had been gone for eight years.

Throttle awoke with a start. He was alone in the park--except for his bike. Tears welled up in his eyes. "What do I have to do to forget?"

His black and chrome bike beeped at him with concern.

He stood up, stretching the tight and sore muscles on his shoulders and back. "No, I can't forget. I'm the only one left to remember. I just want to remember without the pain." He sighed as he admitted what he wanted aloud. It would be easier if there was someone left to share the burdens, but there wasn't. There was no clan left, no family, no chance of continuing the line, no one to love.

He grabbed hold of the bike's handlebars as he screwed his bionic eyes shut and fought the gut-twisting despair. "Radio," he ordered.

The bike quickly switched the radio on. The song playing was a soft guitar and piano ballad.

Oh my God
You can't believe
It's happening again
Your baby's gone
And you're all alone
And it looks like the end

"Find something else!" Throttle snarled.

The bike beeped and shifted to the next station programmed in its memory.

i hurt myself today
to see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
the only thing that's real
the needle tears a hole
the old familiar sting
but I remember everything

Throttle opened his eyes as the whispering voice and the signature musical style of Nine Inch Nails sent a shiver down his spine and through his tail.

what have I become?
my sweetest friend
everyone I know
goes away in the end

A stabbing pain hit his stomach. He doubled over to keep from crying out. I will lose them all. Carbine was just the first. How will I lose them? Will Limburger or some other stinkfish get lucky and kill my bros? Or will they just get tired of Earth and go back to Mars? And Charley? He remembered the feel of her arms around his body when they watched the double moon-rise on Mars. He pictured the way her face lit up when he gave her the jacket. You'll lose her 'cause she's not yours. And she could never be yours. What do you have to offer anyone?

you could have it all
my empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

He jumped onto his bike and savagely kicked it into gear. Mouse and machine tore out of the park. The motorcycle's roaring engine almost a perfect accompaniment to the music and the gnawing in his soul.

i wear this crown of shit
on my liar's chair
full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
beneath the stain of time
the feeling disappears
you are someone else
I am still right here

A fight. He needed a fight. He gripped the handlebars tighter to control the shaking in his hands. He wanted to make someone feel as bad as he did. And Limburger's goons were always available. He headed for the sleazy section of Chi-town.

what have I become?
my sweetest friend
everyone I know
goes away in the end

you could have it all
my empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

if I could start again
a million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

Vinnie pulled his fist back to punch the masonry wall of the garage. Charley saw his move. She dropped the laser canon she was taking apart as she leaped between him and the structural integrity of her building. "Don't even think about it!"

The white mouse dropped his arm with a sigh. "But Charley-girl, I gotta relieve this stress."

"What'd we agree on? You guys were gonna chip in on parts and food with your share of the money. And I wasn't going to spend all of mine fixing the damage to the garage you guys cause! You wanna relieve stress? Go hit Limburger Tower."

"Is that a good idea, to go without Throttle?" Modo asked.

"Of course it isn't. But neither is punching holes in my walls!"

Vinnie looked hard at the determined human woman, judging how serious she was. "This blows!" He declared as he turned away. "I can understand gettin hung up over a girl but Throttle is takin this too far. It's been three weeks already."

"Cut him some slack," Modo said. "You were no picnic to live with after Harley disappeared."

Vinnie went completely still. And the voice that came out of him labored so hard to stay under control, Charley stared at him in shock. "At least Throttle got to say good-bye. And I never bailed on my bros."

"Nah, you never did," Modo said apologetically.

The tension in Vinnie eased considerably. Of course, Charley realized, it would be completely unstudly to actually say "I'm sorry" to another guy. "Someone needs to kick Throttle in the ass," he said matter-of-factly.

"And you're volunteering?" Charley asked as the white mouse straddled his red racer.

"It's a dirty job, Sweetheart . . .." He broke off and stared aghast at the viewscreen in his crankcase. "The bastard!"

"What now?" The large grey mouse got out of the chair he was sitting in.

"Can you get a fix on him?"

Modo leaned over his purple bike. "No, he's deactivated his bike's beacon. Unless you did it for him, Charley-ma'am?"

"I can count on one hand how many times I've seen Throttle in the past three weeks. And I haven't worked on his bike. Now what are you guys talking about?"

"Our bikes are rigged with homing beacons," Vinnie explained. "Throttle's turned his off."

"How serious is this?" She asked slowly. "If Throttle wants to be alone and you guys followed him before?"

"Without the homing beacon on, Throttle's bike can't send a distress call to our bikes." Modo said quietly. "And if Throttle's hurt and can't call for help, his bike ain't gonna leave him to get help."

Charley felt her heart lurch. She remembered the last fight she had watched, one that had happened soon after they had returned from Mars. It had taken both Vinnie and Modo to pull Throttle off Greasepit. And it was Throttle who had started it. But Throttle wouldn't go looking for a fight. Not normally, and he hasn't acted normally since they had gotten back to Chicago. "I'll help you look for him."

Vinnie's head shake stopped her before she reached her bike. "Somebody should stay here. Just in case."

"Don't tell me; let me guess. It's a macho, he-mouse thing and I'll only get in the way, right?" Neither mouse offered a comment. She folded her arms across her chest. "Fine, I'll stay here. But you better call me as soon as you find him."

They promised and left the garage with squealing tires.

Bluto stood and watched the three other goons pounce on the tan mouse again. Bluto wasn't his real name but he had carried the nickname since kindergarten on account of his resemblance to the Popeye character and when he enlisted in Limburger's goon army, he used it to avoid confusion.

The tan mouse shook off the goons and stood in the center of the deserted street, panting heavily. His black bike fretted on the opposite side of the street from Bluto obviously recognizing what its rider couldn't--that he was in no shape for a fight.

The large goon grinned as one of his partners went toe to toe with the mouse. The human and the Martian circled each other and traded blows like professional boxers. The other two goons glanced at Bluto for instructions.

Bluto grinned and pulled out the standard Limburger issue red laser pistol. The mouse's back faced Bluto and he circled to the left. This had to go perfectly. Limburger would definitely kick in some bonus pay if they brought in this mouse alive.

He saw the opening and grinned harder. He fired. The laser bolt hit the mouse's right leg about mid-thigh. It buckled. Before the mouse could recover, the goon in front of him slugged him with an upper cut. The mouse sprawled against the concrete.

The two other goons quickly grabbed the mouse's arms and pulled him upright while Bluto sauntered to the side of the boxing goon. "The Big Cheese is gonna love this present. And it should be no problem takin out the other two mouseys without him around."

The bike's engine roared. It whipped around and got behind the goons holding its owner, accelerating toward them with laser cannons out. The goons let go of the mouse and leaped out of the way. A sidecar extended from the bike's frame. The unconscious mouse fell into it. The bike spun its back wheel to express its contempt for them and took off.

Bluto snarled. "Follow that bike!"

Charley finished laying her clothes in the dresser drawer and shut it carefully. She paused for a moment, then opened the top drawer.

The purple laser pistol was in the center of the drawer amid her odds and ends that had found their way inside. Tala had refused to take it back, but she still felt like she was going to open the drawer and it would be gone. Charley shook her head at her silliness and shut the drawer.

She sat down on the edge of her bed. The darkening twilight triggered the floodlights to turn on around the just-completed Limburger Tower. She sighed as she turned away from the bedroom window. She freed her aching feet from the cowboy boots and socks and rubbed them absently.

Vinnie and Modo still hadn't radioed with any news of Throttle. She was trying not to panic. Vinnie's probably panicking enough for a dozen people. Besides, Throttle wouldn't do anything stupid. No matter how unlike himself he's been acting.

She refused to let herself stare at Limburger Tower. Throttle wasn't there. She turned on her clock radio and lay back on her bed. We're all probably overreacting. She tried to zone out to the music. It wasn't helping. She wanted to be out there looking, helping.

Let's face it, he doesn't want your help. He asked for it before and you turned him down. Her lips tingled with the memory of their kiss. Her skin burned as she thought about how he had held her.

Her and Throttle; it was pointless to deny the physical attraction, the thrill that goes through her at his touch, the way her insides melt when he says something in that charming tone. I haven't felt this strongly about a guy since Jack, not even Vinnie. But there was always that reservation in him that kept her from ever trying anything. Even when he initiated. Even when I should've. Because of Carbine. But now Carbine was out of the picture.

But not out of Throttle's mind. She sat up with a sigh. The garage door automatically rumbled open and a bike's beeps wailed for attention.

She jumped off the bed and flung open the trapdoor in her bedroom floor. The garage door closed behind Throttle's black and chrome bike. The bike continued to beep and flash its headlight while the tan mouse remained motionless in the sidecar.

"Oh god, Throttle!" She quickly climbed down the ladder into the garage. The bike stopped beeping as she knelt beside the sidecar. He was still breathing, just knocked out. Then she saw the blood on the outside of the sidecar's body coming from under his legs. "Throttle!"

Bluto stopped the other goons from entering the Last Chance garage. "Let's make sure those other two mouseys aren't around. And that she ain't gonna call 'em." He pulled them around the building.

Someone's hands softly rubbed his face. A familiar voice worriedly repeated his name. Throttle groaned and opened his eyes as little as he could and still see.

The blurry face in front of him focused into Charley's anxious face. The last thing he remembered was the fight with a group of Limburger's goons. "Did they get you too, Charley-girl?" he croaked.

Relief momentarily flooded her green eyes and she almost smiled. He felt his breath catch in his throat at the transformation from her worried expression. "You're at the garage, Throttle. Your bike brought you here."

"My bike?" The strange position of his body finally broke through the pain-induced fog in his brain. His ass was tucked into the sidecar and his legs were draped over its front. Those goons had him captured, but his bike had managed to get him out of it. He reached over and patted the black crankcase. "Thanks for the rescue, girl."

"How bad are you hurt?" Charley asked, standing up over him.

"Not sure. Can we get me out of this first?" Charley grabbed his hands and pulled. Throttle stood up and grunted, shifting most of his weight to his left leg.

She moved around to look at the back of his leg. "What happened?"

"I think they shot me. Then they got a knockout punch in. Which explains the headache."

She faced him again. "Do you think you can get upstairs?"

"Yeah." He took a couple of steps forward, grunting with the pain.

Charley blew her breath out, exasperated. She took hold of his right arm and wrapped it around her shoulders. Throttle pulled it away and took another painful step. She grabbed it more firmly and replaced it. "Did they knockout your common sense?"

"No." He leaned against her as she led the way through to the stairs in the corner of the kitchen. The stairs led to the living room area on the second floor. She helped him around another table and to the couch facing the television set on the far wall of the room. The upstairs bathroom jutted out into the space making it an odd-shaped L. The other two doors led to Charley's bedroom and the guest bedroom.

Charley didn't say anything as she retrieved the medkit from the bathroom. He winced as he saw her worried and slightly angry face. I should've gone to the scoreboard. As soon as I woke up. It's not right to worry her like this. He didn't want her to worry, not when everyone else who had worried about him ended up dead.

She knelt next to his leg and began to clean the wound. Her intoxicating touch caused his already addled sense to reel. Electricity danced underneath his fur. He looked down at her bowed chestnut head. His hand reached out automatically to stroke her long hair. He stopped himself before he touched her. What the hell are you thinking? She's helping you, she's your friend, she's beautiful. He gulped silently. Of course Charley was beautiful, but he didn't like how it had just popped into his brain like that. She's your friend. You don't go makin passes at friends.

"What happened, Throttle?" She set aside the bloody washcloth and rooted in the small plastic box for something.

He paused before answering. She didn't sound happy. "I told you."

"You told me how they hurt you. You didn't tell me who hurt you or why. Oh, not like I can't guess. You picked a fight with some of Limburger's goons and they cleaned your clock." Her voice had that clipped and abrupt tone she used when she was really upset.

"Can't pull one over you, babe." Charley didn't return his grin. She pulled a small bottle out of the medkit. She opened it out of his sight, but he recognized the stinging when she dabbed it in the laser cut. He hissed with the burning. "Cheese, do you have to use the stinging stuff?"

"Do you have to try to get yourself killed?" She snapped back in a constricted voice. Her trembling hands rested on the top of his injured thigh. "What if they had shot you in the back? In the head?"

I'd be outta of my misery. But that route isn't an option. It would hurt the ones I got left too much. Throttle laid his nuke-knucks gloved hand on top of her left one. Her skin was so smooth and soft. "This is an argument I'm not gonna win, ain't it?"

"Don't try to make a joke out of this. You're worrying all of us--even Vinnie's showing it!"

"I'm not trying to."

"Try harder!" She jerked her hand away and dabbed on more iodine.

He sighed once the stinging passed. "You wouldn't understand, Charley-girl."

"Yeah, I forget. I didn't grow up on a war-torn planet so life has never kicked me in the teeth. I've never had my heart broken so I can't possibly understand what you're feeling!"

"I never said that."

"Isn't that how you feel?" She refused to look up at him.

Tell her. Take a chance that she'll understand. Throttle closed his eyes. No, he told the voice in his head. I won't cause her pain. And that's all sharing mine will accomplish. And how can she understand? She's never lost so much. He opened his eyes. "There's stuff I gotta work through alone." Because alone is what I am. "I can't talk about it. Not to anyone." Because no one else will hold me accountable for what I've done.

Her long chestnut hair obscured her face. It draped over her shoulder and his gaze traced the soft curls in it until he glanced at the center of her shirt. He realized in a disjointed rush that he could stare down her cleavage and he couldn't tear his eyes away. His penis stiffened. By the gods, what's wrong with me? We're in the middle of an argument and I'm getting a hard-on! And it's Charley, not some pin-up!

She took a deep breath and stood up. "Take your pants off."

"Say what!" His red eyes peered up at her over his field specs as his jaw fell open. He felt his cheeks grow hot.

"You don't want to talk 'bout what's bothering you. Fine, I'm not gonna make you. But I can't put a decent bandage on your leg as long as your jeans are still on." She finally looked at him. Her green eyes still sparked with anger, but a smile tugged at her full pink lips. "Do I need to get you a towel or something?"

She was still mad but she was willing to get over it. He cleared his throat. "Nah, just give me a minute, will ya?"

"Okay, I gotta get another roll of bandages from the bathroom." She walked around the couch and into the door set in the square jutting into the living room space.

Throttle sighed as he pulled off his black biking boots and unfastened the metal kneepads. His gun belt and pouch belt joined the pile on the floor. She's so close. Is she watching? He could hear her moving around in the bathroom. Come on, what's wrong with you? You've been undressed in front of a woman before.

But not Charley. He was afraid, afraid she wouldn't like what she saw. Get over it. He gritted his teeth as he stood up and slowly peeled off the blue jeans. He draped them over the couch's armrest. She's in doctor mode. You're the only one here having dirty thoughts. Almost as if he had summoned it, an image of a willing Charley accepting his touch, his kiss, his caress formed. His heart pounded and the cotton fabric of his boxers strained across his groin. He shook his head and looked up guiltily. Charley had left the bathroom door open. He dived face down on the couch before she could get a clear look at him.

Charley caught the tan mouse's abrupt disappearance behind the back of the couch. The last time I saw a guy in underwear hide that fast was Jack when he thought Dad had come home early. She smiled at the memory, then shook her head. I'm mad at Throttle. He's acting like we don't matter. Like we wouldn't care if he got himself killed. Stop it, Charlene. You keep pushing him and he'll clam up worse than he is now.

She pulled one of the extra rolls of bandages from the pile under the bathroom sink. She opened its protective plastic covering as she walked out of the bathroom, across the living room and around the couch.

Throttle laid face down on the couch. He had left on the sleeveless black-leather jacket and his faintly-pink cotton boxers. Her worry and anger vanished and a giggle escaped before she could cover her mouth.

He propped himself up on his elbows and twisted his head to look at her. "What?"

"Are pink boxers the latest fashion trend among biker mice?"

He buried his head in the couch's cushion and groaned. "One of my bandannas got mixed in with the whites. Now, could ya patch me up without laughing?"

"All right, all right, I'm sorry." Her eyes remained riveted on his firm ass and the well-defined muscles extending down his legs. I would love to put him in a pair of black silk shorts. She felt her face grow hot. What's wrong with me? He's hurt and Carbine just broke his heart. This is no time for my libido to kick in!

She knelt next to the couch and took a good look at the wound. It wasn't very deep or wide across the back of his leg. As long as he kept the leg still, the blood didn't gush from it. She picked up the washcloth and wiped away the new blood that had welled up. "I think you'll live. And I guess I don't need to tell you, it could've been a lot worse."

"It's not like I told 'em to shoot me."

She recognized the defensiveness in his tone and laid a comforting hand on his leg. Then she realized how close that hand was to a spot she shouldn't touch and jerked it back. "I'm . . . I'm not trying to pick a fight, Throttle."

He answered her in a very thick voice. "I'm sorry, Charley. Just hit me if I'm actin like an ungrateful jerk."

"I don't hit people when they're down. I'll just put more iodine on this." He groaned into the cushion again. "I'm kidding."

She started winding the gauze around his leg. His fur was so soft. Were there any spots on his body it didn't cover? She was starting to feel very hot. And she tingled in area of her body that hadn't tingled like that in a long time. She finished the bandage with trembling hands and started packing up the first aid supplies. "All patched up."

He sat up, grabbed his jeans off the armrest, and bunched them on his lap. She ignored his embarrassment and returned the first aid supplies to her bathroom.

Throttle sighed with relief. She hadn't noticed his erection. He couldn't deal with Charley being ashamed of him on top of everything else. He stood up and started pulling on his blue jeans. "I should get back to the scoreboard." He straightened his back as he tugged the jeans over his hips and his head started to spin. He fell back heavily onto the couch. It rocked with his weight.

"Throttle!" Charley's upside down face filled his vision as it cleared. "They hit you harder than you thought if you think I'm letting you leave in your condition."

He straightened his neck with a sigh. "I'm fine."

"Damnit, Throttle! Stop playing macho mouse with me. You need to keep your weight off that leg for longer than five minutes." Her hands rubbed across his shoulders. "Your back's got more knots than a forest." She snatched the field specs from his face and tilted his head back so he had to look her in the eye. "And you've got circles under your eyes large enough to use as tires. Stop punishing yourself and just rest."

He straightened his neck and closed his eyes with a sigh. "I can't sleep. I know I need to but I can't."

Her hands rested on his shoulders. He wanted to reach up and take hold of them. He clenched his fists to keep himself from doing so. "Insomnia?" she asked softly.

"And nightmares. They haven't been this bad for years."

"Maybe it would help if you weren't so tense."


Her fingers moved up from his shoulders and started rubbing the back of his neck under the fringe of hair that covered it. His breathing stopped and he pulled away. She sighed. "I'm not gonna hurt you. Just a back rub. Take off your jacket and lie down." When he didn't seem to be in a real big hurry to do as she suggested, she added. "You're not afraid of me, are you?"

"Nah, course not." He scooted forward on the couch and shrugged off the leather jacket, putting on top of the pile of his stuff on the floor. He laid face down on the couch again.

Charley walked around the couch, staring at his back, his well-sculpted, muscular back. Her heart pounded as she knelt next to the couch. Her hands softly touched those muscles, pressing harder when he didn't protest. It was difficult to reach across his shoulders from her spot. "Throttle?"

"Yeah?" He flipped his head over to look at her.

"I can't reach from here."

"Do you wanna sit on my back?"

"Is that okay?"

"Yeah, sure." He cleared his throat. "Why wouldn't it be?"

She shrugged. "I don't know. I just hate pushing my luck."

"You only live once, Charley-girl."

"Right." She straddled him, resting her weight on his pelvic bone, and resumed the massage with vigor. "I'm not too heavy?"

"No." He closed his eyes. The more his muscles unknotted under her fingers, the more acutely he felt his body's cravings for sleep. And for other things he tried hard not to think about. If she keeps this up until I pass out, maybe the nightmares won't come. If I can get one night's sleep without them, they'll stop coming. Her touch spread fire under his fur and his balls were starting to ache. Sleep, just go to sleep, Throttle. Didn't Carbine teach you anything? It's better not to know what you've lost.

She kneaded his lower back now. She lifted her ass off his back and inched further down his body. And she rubbed the crotch of her jeans against the base of his tail.

His eyes flew open as a soft, surprised gasp escaped from her lips. Your imagination is in overdrive, man. That was a grunt. She probably just found a hard knot in your muscles. He turned his face into the couch's cushion. He could feel Charley's trembling hands still pressing against him. Besides, she doesn't feel that way. We're just her bros. But a fire burned him, a fire that had been building for three years, a fire only Charley could quench. I want her. I need her. He took a deep breath as she remained motionless on top of his back. No, it wouldn't be right. You'd just hurt her. She gingerly moved forward and rubbed the crotch of her jeans against his tail again. She stifled the moan but he still heard it. He lifted his head. The scent of her arousal was unmistakable. I don't care.

Charley took a deep, shaky breath. Oh god, did he hear me? I didn't mean for that to happen but it felt so good. His hands would feel better. She caressed his back, feeling it rise and fall with each panting breath he took. What's wrong with you? You can't do this. He's not over Carbine. She ran her fingers through his velvety fur as she caressed his shoulders. I can help him forget Carbine. He wanted me before and I wouldn't do anything-- not while he was drunk. How often do you get a second chance? The end of his tail wrapped around her waist and lifted her up. Throttle rolled over and sat up.

His handsome tan face held a blend of desire and fear. Charley, what's wrong with you! He's not looking for a new girl! He set her down straddling his lap. I don't care! Charley shouted to the doubts in her mind and closed the small distance between them. He wanted her as badly as she wanted him. She could feel his erection straining against his boxers underneath his unfastened jeans. He took hold of her head and pulled her lips to his.

She dived into the kiss with all her strength. She wrapped her arms around his torso and raked her fingernails through his fur. He pulled back with a gasp. She scraped her tongue against his buck teeth and shivered with the inner tremor that went through her.

He stared at her, indecision marked so plainly on his face. She brought her hands up to his neck and untied his red bandanna. That was all the encouragement Throttle needed. His kisses started down her neck as he clumsily unbuttoned her blue work shirt. His lips moved down as the buttons came undone. She rose up on her knees and stroked the back of his head, ears, neck, and shoulders.

His muzzle delved between her breasts. His tongue licked all the skin it could reach. She threw her head back and gasped with pleasure. He ripped off the remaining buttons and pushed and pulled the fabric down the lengths of her arms. She helped as much as she could. He apologized for the roughness by raining kisses across her shoulders and down her arms to her elbows. She gently bit the rim of his ear and he gasped. He returned the bite at the base of her neck, sucking the skin.

"Well, here's one mousey that ain't afraid of pussy."

Throttle and Charley jerked their heads in the direction of the mocking voice. Four of Limburger's goons stood between the couch and both exits downstairs.

The biggest one--who kind of reminded Charley of Bluto from the old Popeye cartoon--grinned nastily. "Though I can understand your being in such a hurry when you got a pair of those to come home to." He pointed his gaze right at her chest.

Charley blushed under their leers. She scrambled off Throttle's lap and backed up to the television set. Throttle limped to stand in front of her, fastening his jeans closed.

Bluto laughed. "We got here just in time, boys. Any later and they wouldn't have been in any condition to greet us."

Throttle growled as the other goons laughed. His laser pistol, still in its holster, sat at the end of the couch with his boots. Charley crossed her arms over her bra. "Your playmates from earlier?"

"Yeah." All I have to do is get my gun, he thought. These guys won't be a problem.

The goon leader gestured with his red laser pistol and the other three goons brought up theirs. "Don't even think about it, mousey. We really don't wanna shoot the pretty lady. And we both know you don't want her to get shot. So raise 'em. Both of ya."

Seething, Throttle complied and raised his arms. Charley did too. "Let her go. She ain't got nothin to do with this."

The big goon laughed. "Right, so she can run and get your pals. Don't think so. Bring her over here."

"Okay, Bluto." A thin blond goon moved around the couch to their side. Staying out of the tan mouse's reach, he grabbed the human woman's arm and jerked her toward him. He gripped both her upper arms tightly and marched her back to the goons while the others kept their laser pistols aimed on Throttle.

Bluto tilted her head and traced his finger down the right side of her neck to the love bite that was already darkening at the base. "Quite the hickey he gave ya. Maybe you should be glad we got here before he got your bra off."

Throttle growled and stepped forward. The goons riveted their guns on him. Charley jerked away from Bluto's touch. "Keep your hands off me!" she yelled.

"Don't wanna make your boyfriend jealous, do ya? We'll keep him from interruptin us, don't worry. Tie her up."

Throttle gritted his teeth. The blond goon twisted Charley's wrists together and wrapped a bit of rope around them. A small cry of pain slipped out of her mouth. The goon grinned and tightened the rope. Throttle dropped his arms and balled his fists as he growled again. Guns or no, he'd stop 'em from hurting her. No bastard is gonna hurt the woman I love. The realization shook him, even though he refused to let it show. It wasn't just lust; it wasn't a need to prove Carbine hadn't destroyed him; what he felt for Charley was more. Protecting her was just the beginning, even from himself. Don't have time to deal with this now. Not if I want to teach these goons a lesson. He started to take a small step forward.

"You don't wanna do anything stupid." Bluto pressed the muzzle of the laser pistol against Charley's forehead. "Answer me!"

"No, I don't." The tan mouse clipped the words.

"Good. Grab him." The two other goons holstered their guns and each grabbed one of Throttle's arms. "Now, we're all going downstairs."

They forced Throttle down the stairs and through the kitchen first. He strained to keep Charley in his sight. They shoved her into the garage after him. Bluto whistled as he gazed around. "So many toys. Thanks for leavin the door open for us."

So that's how they got in. Charley was so worried 'bout me she didn't even think about locking up and turning on the alarms. And I led them here. Throttle's throat tightened. He looked at Charley. Her green eyes darted around the garage, trying to come up with something to get them out of this. She glanced up at the ceiling then looked at him. He couldn't meet her hopeful eyes.

Bluto grabbed hold of the chain coming down from a pulley on the ceiling used for hoisting engines. "Bring the mousey over here." The goons dragged Throttle forward. "You ain't exactly at your fightin best, so this should hold ya while we have some fun." He turned a lewd gaze on Charley.

Throttle struggled vainly as they wrapped the chain around his arms, legs, and tail. "Don't you touch her!"

The big goon buried his meaty fist into Throttle's stomach. The mouse doubled over as much as the chain allowed him to. "And just how are you gonna stop us?"

"Throttle!" Charley strained against the goon's hold as they hoisted him into the air. The chain rubbed painfully into his flesh. He focused his bionic eyes on her. She was worried but willing to fight.

Bluto laughed as he grabbed Charley's chin. "He can't help ya." He licked his fat lips. "You boys make sure he don't go no where while we go back upstairs." He yanked the woman out of the blond goon's grasp and threw her over his bulky shoulder.

"No! Leave her alone!" Throttle managed to cry out through the choke hold rage, fear, and guilt had on his throat. He was ignored.

One of the other goons frowned as he aimed his red laser pistol up at Throttle. "Hey Bluto, we want some of that."

"You'll get yours after I'm done." The swinging door to the kitchen swung shut on them.

Bluto slung Charley onto her bed like a sack of potatoes. He leaned over her grinning lewdly into her face. "Let's see how you like it with a real man."

He stood up and started unfastening his jeans. She looked away. Shit! This is where I wanted to end up tonight but not like this! Not with him! She stared at her dresser on the wall facing the foot of her bed. The plan was crazy enough to work. "Wait," she said quickly.

His massive fist grabbed hold of her long chestnut hair and pulled her mostly upright, yanking on the hair hard enough to make her tilt her head back and tears spring to her eyes. "For what?" He asked in a thick voice.

"I . . . I won't fight," she stammered. She let the tears fall from her eyes. "I'll give you what you want. I'll make it good. Just please, untie me."

He rubbed the palm of his free hand across her wet cheek. Laughter rumbled out of his mouth as he reached around her and untied her wrists. "You be good and loud so the mousey will hear us."

"If that's what you want." She rubbed his chest under his vest but on top of his muscle shirt. "But please . . .." He pulled on her hair and forced her head back again. "A condom! Please . . . I don't wanna baby or worse. Please."

"Don't have one, sugar."

She stroked her hands across his groin. "I do. In the dresser. I'll get it." He didn't let go of her hair. "No tricks. What can I do to you?"

Bluto ran his free hand down her front and thrust it between her legs. He pushed her ass up off the bed and let go of her hair. When her feet hit the floor, he pulled his hand back so she could walk. "Go get it." He slapped her ass hard as she stepped toward the dresser. "But you're gonna blow me before you put it on."

"Whatever you want." Charley ignored the stinging across her cheeks as she walked. She pulled open the top drawer and curled her hand around the laser pistol. She pivoted from the dresser and fired. Bluto crumpled to the floor.

"You should always have a condom," Charley muttered darkly. "Unsafe sex can kill you." She quickly crossed the room to the trapdoor.

She lifted it quietly. The goon that had tied her up was going through the swinging door shouting for an answer from Bluto. The other two goons kept their wary eyes on Throttle. The mouse struggled to free himself from the loops of chain wrapped around his body.

He looked up and saw her head hanging out of the trapdoor. He quickly averted his gaze so not to draw the goons' attention to her. "Bike!"

The black and chrome bike revved its engine. Both goons swiveled and aimed their guns at it. Charley lowered her right arm and head through the trapdoor, supporting herself with her left arm and the rest of her body sprawled against her bedroom floor. She took a deep breath. I can make it. She shot the pulley Throttle hung from.

The chain snapped in two as the pulley exploded. The loops around Throttle's body loosened as he fell toward the floor. He tore himself free before he landed feet-first on one of the goons guarding him. He whipped the chain around the other goon and spun him like a top around the garage.

Someone grabbed her ankles and pulled her into the air. She screamed and craned her neck to see. Bluto dangled her body above the open trapdoor. Blood poured from his left shoulder. "You bitch!" She tried to kick her feet. He released her and she fell through the door.

Luckily, she missed the ladder and landed in a pair of furry, muscular arms before she could hit the concrete floor of the garage. "Charley!" Throttle swiveled away from beneath the trapdoor with her.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips against his for the briefest kiss. "Safe at home," she murmured.

"Not yet." He set her on her feet. "Guard Charley." The bike beeped affirmatively and rolled to the woman's side as Throttle took her gun. He fired a couple of shots up before quickly climbing the ladder.

The two goons groaned and started to rise to their feet. The bike beeped and popped out its laser canons. They gulped and ran for one of the garage doors. It slid open in front of them, but they--on all fours--scrambled under it before it raised completely. The bike beeped and the garage door began to close.

Charley grinned. "Very clever." The sounds of two massive objects falling and running down the back stairs and into the kitchen resonated through the wall. The back door slammed shut. "Throttle?" She called out, taking a tentative step toward the kitchen door.

"Set the alarm, Charley-girl." He walked into the garage and leaned against the open swinging door. "Those two couldn't wait to get outta here and I locked the door after 'em. What happened to the two in here?"

"Your bike encouraged them to leave." She quickly activated the buttons on the small box mounted near the door to the office. Throttle let go of the door, took a few steps, and fell to his knees near the center of the garage. "No," she gasped and ran to him.

"I think the adrenalin rush just ended." He took a deep breath and looked up at her. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine." She knelt beside him and placed her hands on his chest. "What about you? Are you well enough to pick up where we were rudely interrupted?" With a pounding heart, she kissed him again. He started kissing her back hungrily, then broke it off. "What's wrong? Those goons didn't completely destroy the mood, did they?"

His voice was so thick it was almost impossible to understand. "I'll hurt you, Charley."

"You could never hurt me."

"Not on purpose. It's a curse. Don't ask me to live with hurting you, losing you. Not on top of everything else."

"Don't leave me. Please."

He softly stroked her cheek as he stood up. "I can't stay." He limped to his bike and straddled it before realizing that his boots, gun, specs, neck bandanna, and jacket were still upstairs.

Charley stood up on shaky feet. It can't end like this. Not when I love him this much. She took a deep breath. "Throttle." He faced her. She reached behind her back and unfastened her bra, letting it drop to the floor as she stepped toward him. Her nipples hardened from the cold air of the garage and her desire. She unfastened her black jeans and slid them down her hips and thighs slowly. He couldn't tear his eyes away and his arms dropped off the handlebars. She stepped out of the jeans and her panties quickly joined them on the floor. She stood in front of his gaze, just out of his reach, a shiver running through her bare flesh. Don't reject me now, Throttle, please. She took the last steps forward and ran her hands up his arms to his shoulders. "You only live once."

His mouth worked but no sound came out. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against his body. His mouth fell against hers, kissing her harder than she had even been kissed before. Her breasts rubbed against the rippling muscles on his chest, against the soft, silky hairs covering them. She moaned into his mouth.

He ran his hands down her back to her ass. His tongue probed deeper into her mouth as his hands squeezed and his arms lifted. She pulled her mouth away from his just for an unbearable moment as she climbed into his lap. She straddled his legs and his bike.

He pushed her back onto the crankcase moving his hands over her hips and down her thighs before attacking the fly of his jeans. He growled frustratedly when his fingers fumbled. She took hold of his hands and squeezed them. "Let me," she said huskily.

"Charley." He planted his feet on the floor and stood up. She unfastened his jeans and helped him push them and his boxers down his legs. She raked her fingernails through the fur on his hips to his groin. He moaned when she fondled his balls and penis. "I need you, Charley."

"I need you too, Throttle." She wrapped her legs around him. He grabbed hold of her hips and pulled her closer to him. She hugged him as he thrust into her.

He moved slowly, concentrating on her pleasure. She tightened her legs' grip. Their lips pressed together. Her fingers combed through his hair. His tail wrapped around her hips and pressed her closer.

The cry of pleasure couldn't be contained. Charley threw her head back and screamed. She started falling back. Throttle's arms caught her. His muzzle dropped onto her breasts, kissing, sucking, nibbling until his orgasm pulled him upright. She followed him up and combined her voice with his and rode the wave of pleasure.

It ended with a shuddering release. Panting, she held onto him as he nuzzled her neck. "That was wonderful." She pushed back his sweaty forelock to kiss his forehead. His antennae brushed against her head before her lips touched his.

The mental jolt of despair was so intense it was almost physical. Unfamiliar images flooded her mind and with them emotions so strong they felt like her own.

A Martian sunset, the sky darkening to purple, Phobos and Deimos casting reflected light on the mountainous landscape. Two mice were tied spread-eagle to poles raised, already silhouettes in the waning light; the limpness of the bodies betraying that they were dead. Guilt, overwhelming guilt raised tears to her eyes.

Carbine's bitterly angry face appeared next. "I love him! I'm having his baby!" The pregnant general turned her back. Rejection coiled in her stomach.

Another female mouse's face appeared. Black-furred with matching long hair, the young teenager's solid blue eyes filled with angry tears. "It's not fair! You need me! You know you need me, Throttle! I hate you! I'll hate you forever!" Her shrill voice ended with a sob. Regret for things that could never be chilled her soul.

A fallen stone house with smoke and fire rolling out of its ruins flashed quickly to be replaced with an older mouse with age-darkened dun fur. He grasped the younger tan-furred hand with a red bandanna tied around the wrists. "You are the last of the clan, the last of the line, the alenish now. Survive this madness." The grip loosened and the hand fell back onto the bed. Loneliness wailed against her heart.

Mice dying in battle on the red sands of Mars. A scene Throttle had shown her before. But now personal responsibility and blame shifted the emphasis. The tears fell from her eyes for their souls, for Throttle's, for her own.

"No!" His hands roughly shoved her away, abruptly terminating the connection. She flailed her arms but still landed painfully on the cold concrete floor. She looked up at him.

Throttle tried to pull his clothes back on and dismount at the same time with disastrous results. He crashed besides Charley on the floor of the garage remarkably not bringing his bike down with him. Tears streamed from his eyes. He twisted out of the comforting hold she tried to wrap around him. "Don't help me! I don't deserve it! My pain, mine alone! All alone, no one left. My curse, they care for me and they leave me. No one left now. No one left to care." He pulled the boxers and jeans back around his waist, then curled himself into a ball. "No one left to care."

She gathered him into her arms and rocked the sobbing mouse gently. He didn't try to resist. "That's not true, Throttle. Vinnie and Modo are still here. They care about you. I'm still here. And I care so much about you."

"That's what Carbine said. Words, just words. Words never last." He pressed his wet eyes against her neck and shoulder.

Charley felt more tears gathering in her eyes. "I'm not Carbine. I do care and it will last. What can I do to convince you?"

He looked up at her, his tan face twisted by a haunted and lost expression. "Make me forget," he whispered. "For just a little while. Take it away."

"I will." She helped him to his feet and they stumbled to the ladder. She guided him to her bed and sat him on it. "But you have to come back to us, Throttle. I need you. We need you." She pulled his jeans and boxers off, tossing them on the floor. Her hands ran up his legs and rubbed the fur the wrong way as she climbed on top of him, watching out for his wound. "We're all alone, together." She kissed each crying eye before kissing his mouth. The clock radio was still playing.

If I fall along the way
Pick me up and dust me off
If I get too tired to make it
Be my breath so I can walk

If I need some other love
Give me more than I can stand
And when my smile gets old and faded
Wait around I'll smile again

Shouldn't be so complicated
Just hold me and then
Just hold me again

Can you help me I'm bent
I'm so scared that I'll never
Get put back together
You're breaking me in
And this is how we will end
With you and me bent

If I couldn't sleep could you sleep?
Could you paint me better off?
Could you sympathize with my needs?
I know you think I need a lot

I started out clean but I'm jaded
Just phoning it in
Just breaking the skin

Can you help me I'm bent
I'm so scared that I'll never
Get put back together
You're breaking me in
And this is how we will end
With you and me bent

Start bending me
It's never enough
I feel all your pieces
Start bending me
Keep bending me
Until I'm completely broken in

Shouldn't be so complicated
Just touch me and then
Just touch me again

Throttle laid back on the bed, tears finally ended, but he clung to Charley. His muscular arms circled around her torso and pressed her tightly against his body. It wasn't a hold of contentment, more like he was using her to ward off a greater evil.

Charley's bare skin goose pimpled as the cold air from the air conditioner blew over it and dried off the sweat. "I need a blanket." She shivered for emphasis.

His tail pulled the sheets and comforter from the foot of the bed up to her shoulders, draping them over himself as well. "I won't sleep." He squeezed her tighter. "I can't have the nightmares again. I can't."

"No nightmares tonight, Throttle." She laid a hand on his still damp cheek. "I'll keep them away."

"Please, Charley?" The tears still lurked in his voice.

She kissed him softly on the lips. "I promise." She settled where she could see his face by the streetlight's glow streaming in through the window. His eyelids fluttered and finally closed. Just a few seconds later, his breathing slowed and deepened. She rested one hand on his chest and the other on his shoulder, and closed her own eyes.

Can you help me I'm bent
I'm so scared that I'll never
Get put back together
You're breaking me in
And this is how we will end
With you and me ending
Without understanding
Well, I'll go there again

Can you help me I'm bent
I'm so scared that I'll never
Get put back together
Yeah, you're breaking me in
And this is how we will end
With you and me

The clock radio went off with its annoying persistence. Charley groaned in her throat and lifted her head. She was still trying to figure out how to shut it off without waking Throttle when his right fist lifted from the bed and slammed down on top of it. The clock radio broke apart with a small explosion and died mid-BREEP. He dropped his arm back on the bed without waking up.

She chuckled under her breath. "I guess that's what Vinnie meant by you letting everyone know you don't want to be bothered." She kissed his cheek softly and reluctantly crawled out of the bed.

The black and chrome bike beeped reproachfully at the robed human woman when she entered the garage. "Sorry," Charley said, wincing. She grabbed her clothes off the floor and tossed them into the clothes basket next to the washer and dryer in the downstairs bathroom. She got a clean shop towel and started cleaning off the seat and crankcase of the bike. "It just got crazy last night."

The bike agreed with her and beeped quietly.

"You're not jealous, are you?"

The bike paused then twisted its front wheel and handlebars back and forth slowly, like a head shake.

Charley grinned. "Good. Cause I think I love him. And I know you do."

The bike didn't respond and soon Charley could hear the roaring of the other two bikes. The clean-up job was finished on the bike and the pieces of chain and pulley were hidden by the time Vinnie and Modo rolled inside.

To say Vinnie was livid was an understatement. "We searched every nasty hole we could think of. Twice!" he bellowed. "How long has he been here?"

Charley cringed. Calling them on the CB had completely escaped her mind. Gee, I wonder why? "He's been here since last night."

"Last night! Let me at 'im. Worryin us like that!"

"No, Vinnie." She jumped in front of him before he could dismount. "You'll wake him up. He needs to sleep."

"He'll sleep real good when I knock his lights out!"

Modo reached over and slapped his flesh hand over Vinnie's mouth. "Is he alright?"

"Physically, yeah. He got a little banged up and needs a new pair of jeans but he's okay. Mentally, I don't know. We talked last night but I don't know if any of it sunk in." Charley shivered underneath her robe. "How 'bout you guys going and getting breakfast and Throttle a change of clothes and come back later? Let me get dressed and see if Throttle needs any more chewing out." She crossed her arms over her chest and dared them to try to get past her.

The two mice exchanged looks. "Alright, Charley-ma'am. We'll be back in a bit." Modo revved his bike and Vinnie reluctantly followed his lead.

She sighed as they left and headed back upstairs through the kitchen.

Roaring motorcycle engines pulled Throttle completely into consciousness. He sat up, wrapped the sheet around his waist, and got to the window in time to see his bros ride down the street.

He rested his forehead against the glass with a sigh. He was glad to see they were okay after last night. Last night. He jerked his head back up and stared at his ghostly reflection in the glass.

Last night. I used her. I treated her like a prostitute. Screw one head to get the other back on straight. And I love her! That's not how you treat the woman you love. You don't show her everything that's wrong with you and demand sex to make it better.

He turned from the window and found his clothes on the floor. He started pulling them on. And I never told her. I never told her I love her. She'll never believe me now. She'll think it's just because we had sex. Not 'cause she's the best thing I've known, I've had in the past three years. By the gods, what kind of a bastard are you? Only the lowest scum would do what you did.

His foot found the hole in his jeans from the laser and went through it, ripping the fabric even more. He let out a Martian curse as he extracted his foot. Charley stood in the doorway to the living room and giggled. "What's your hurry?"

Throttle turned, looked at her briefly with a guilty expression, then looked away as he finished pulling on his jeans. "Just wanted to save you the trouble of throwing me out."

The euphoria that had been fluttering inside her chest shriveled and died as she watched him sit on the edge of the bed. No, not this, she thought. Please don't say it was all a mistake. She buried her fear. "Why would I throw you out?"

"Because of last night. Look, I wasn't in my right mind . . .."

"So I noticed. Are you in it now?"

"Yeah. Last night was wrong. I was wrong. I'm sorry. I should've never used you. I'm sorry, Charley."

He doesn't want me. He doesn't love me. But the way he kissed you on Mars? She argued with herself.

He's still getting over Carbine. He doesn't want to get hurt again. That's fine, I don't want to be his rebound girl either. But he said he wanted to kiss you like that for the longest time? There's too many differences. We're from two different planets. Please, most of the time they treat you like another mouse. He's being honest, he doesn't love me. But I love him and I'm not letting him take the guilt trip over this.

Charley took a deep breath. "You did not use me, Throttle. You didn't take me against my will. If anyone's in the wrong here it's me for throwing myself at you when your defenses were nonexistent."

He looked down at the floor between his bare feet. "I had no right to."

"It's not like we're cheating on anybody. We're both single. It was a one-night fluke. We both needed it and we didn't have anyone else to turn to. So stop feeling so guilty for the best ride I've had in five years."

"You're a friend. I don't wanna wreck that. I don't want you to hate me."

"I don't hate you." She sat down next to him but careful not to touch him. "I could never hate you. And lots of people remain friends after having sex. If they can do it, so can we."

"I guess."

"Of course, it's a little easier when you don't try to blame yourself for things that aren't your fault."

He looked up at her sharply and quickly looked away. "I need to work on that. So . . . just friends?"

"Still friends." She smiled despite the wrenching pain in her chest.

He returned the smile wanly, until he thought of something else. "You didn't tell Vinnie and Modo, didya?"

"No, it's none of their business. They're pretty upset with you, regardless."

"Don't blame 'em. I've been a real jerk for the past three weeks."

"Everyone's entitled to some time to be a jerk. Just remember that carrying it on for three weeks is a little extreme."

"I'll make it up to you."

"Just apologize," Charley smirked. "Or whatever you guys do. They're coming back with breakfast and some new pants for you."

Throttle ruefully fingered the fresh rip. "I'll go downstairs and get cleaned up. You gotta get dressed."


He stood up and walked to the door to the living room. He paused. "Five years?"

"That's how long it's been since Jack and I broke off the engagement."

"Oh. The other gun?"

"Tala let me borrow it. Then she wouldn't take it back."

"Oh." Throttle gathered his things in the living room and sought refuge under the warm torrent of water in the shower in the bathroom connected to the garage.

"Whatcha expect, Throttle?" He muttered to himself. "Her to declare undying love for you? She was just trying to keep you from going suicidal, that's all. Trying to make you feel better. And now that you're better, she doesn't want anything to change and it won't."

Upstairs, Charley's hot tears mingled with the water cascading on her face. "It's better this way. Forcing people to have feelings that they don't have only hurts worse in the end. And if Throttle's back to normal, it's worth it. And it's not like he said he loved you and then took it back. So we'll just be friends. Just like he wants it."

The End