The Seal popped into Wrench's room late that night, looking worried. "We've got problems." He sat up, staring at her. That was always a bad sign. "You know we've been trying to figure out what's wrong with the magic, right?" He nodded slowly. "Well, there's a buildup of chaos magic right around the core and it's affecting the magnetic flows. If we don't do something really quickly it could unbalance the planet totally. The only way I can see of getting rid of the buildup is to use it." She handed over some papers. "Those are all heavy draws. The problem is that I'll have to find a target and I'm not sure I can undo it once it's done."
He looked at the spells, then up at her. "These are a bit extreme, Seal."
"Yeah, well, it'll use that up, which will make the core spin more naturally, which could only help Mars." She shrugged. "I don't know what to do. We literally have days."
"Okay," he said, scooting up to lean against his headboard and think. "Who did you want as a target? Doing this would cause confusion and mass hysteria if it got out."
"I can go to the compound but they're already attracting it," she complained. "It's unfair to keep hitting Xander and them."
"Point," he agreed. "But we may not have a choice here, Seal. What did Willow say?"
"To do something really heavy. She's watching the buildup create a sticky point. The core isn't round, it's got some spines still. One of those is starting to drag against the magic." He nodded at that. "I don't know what to do and I don't know how to do it."
"Fine." He looked at the spells again, then sighed. "Can cursing just one person fix it?"
"Yeah, maybe, but I still can't be sure I'll be able to change them back." She floated down to sit on the end of his bed. She looked miserable. "I don't want to hurt anyone with this."
"I know. I think we can explain it and get consent. What would be the perfect match?"
"Xander draws chaos magic, it'll be attached to him easier. It'll be harder to change him back. Vinnie's got some draw but it won't stick; his natural magic will try to fight it. He could end up really sick if we use him. We could use Modo, but he's a null subject and Staff would hunt me down and kill me. We can't use her or Charley because of the babies." She looked desperate. "I don't know what to do here, Wrench."
"First, calm down." He looked at the spells again. "Okay, take these to Vinnie and Xander and explain it to them. Let them decide which of the three bros it'll be, or even Terror if they can guilt him into it." She nodded, taking them back. "Explain it to them first."
"Yes, sir. Let them pick?" He nodded. "Okay!" She sped off, landing beside Throttle and Xander's bed. "Guys, get up! It's an emergency with Mars!"
"Not another invasion," Xander whined from under the blankets and Throttle.
"No, but it's magic related and it's going to be bad. We need a family meeting like right now!" She growled when they didn't move. "I mean right now right now!"
"Fine," Throttle complained. "Go get up Vinnie and I'll wake up Xander. You can have them."
"We need you and Modo too," she assured him. "Maybe even Starlight and Terror." She sped out, going to wake up Vinnie. He growled and pulled a gun but his wife took it from his hand. "It's an emergency! You've got to get up!"
"Fine," he complained, climbing out of bed and putting on some boxers. He saw the speculative look and smirked. "Like you wouldn't."
"If Charley or Xander were mine, they'd never get to wear clothes and neither would I," she assured him. Charley blushed and groaned, pulling the covers over her head. "Unfortunately it's a whole family meeting. We need you all."
"Modo's at his momma's tonight," Vinnie complained. She muttered and sped off, leaving the papers there with him. He looked. "Whoa. Heavy chaos magic. Xander? Can you call Wrench?"
"Just did," he said as he walked past their doorway. "It's a buildup we've got to release."
"Cheese," he complained, heading that way. They all met in the kitchen, getting sodas and things out and getting ready for it. He put the papers down on the table. "She left these. I'm not sure why."
Xander sipped his coke. "Because Mars is building chaos magic and they've got to release it or else the core will stick and we'll lose magnetism and gravity," he noted patiently. "Wrench said so." He took another sip. "So they'll have to drain it somehow."
"Why are we the target?" Throttle complained.
"Because if we disappear for a few hours, no one will notice," Xander assured him.
Willow appeared. "It gets worse. If and when we release the buildup, it might not allow us to reverse it immediately," she told them. "It's critical. We'll have to do it tonight." She looked around. "No Modo?"
"Not yet," Vinnie said, looking at her. "How critical?"
"Do you want to suddenly start floating?" He shook his head. "You will within three days." He groaned and put his head down. "So we need to do it now. We need a target and we need to pick a spell. These are mostly harmless but they're heavy draw," she noted.
Xander went into the library and came back with a book, flipping it open and letting her see it. "That one's better."
She read it over, then looked at him. "Since when did you know chaos magic?" she whined.
"Since it comes in handy now and then," he whined back. "That's easier to cast and better for Mars."
"Yeah, but I can't change the chaos over that way."
"Dawn can't," she countered. "She's not strong enough, Xander. She may be the Key but she's still in a human body."
"Willow, that can be cast by Vic. It's not that hard!" She frowned and nodded. "Seal!" She appeared. "What about that one?"
She read it over, then looked at him. "Nice idea. Where would we do it?"
"Mons?" He shrugged. "The Valley? It'd be looked on as a miracle." He yawned. "Just a suggestion."
"It raining fish would not help anyone," Vinnie told him.
"It can be used as fertilizer," Charley offered. "The Native Americans used to."
"So can cemeteries but that's icky," Vinnie told her. He slapped himself on the head. "I sounded like Dawn."
"Fine," Xander agreed. "I'll yield the point. So, do we want to change someone's gender, age, or status?"
"Gender or age would be easier," the Seal offered. "It'll be effective and easier to counter later. The problem is that doing it to Vinnie or Xander means it'll stick harder." That got a groan from Throttle. "Exactly, we might not be able to counter it."
"I like my penis where it is," Vinnie said firmly. "I like being a boy mouse."
Throttle snickered. "You have for many years, bro." Vinnie punched him but he just grinned back. "You'd make a cute girl."
"I'm not sleeping with him if he turns into one," Charley said firmly. "I'm many things but not a lesbian."
"Fine," Willow agreed. "It'd be harder on them anyway. So that leaves Throttle and Modo, and possibly Terror. We're not sure about him."
"Nope," Xander said, shaking his head. "Can't happen." They sighed and nodded, leaving it there. He obviously knew something they didn't. "Are there any transgendered mice we could do it to?"
"Not that I know of," Enamel said as he walked in. "I was summoned?"
"Yeah, unfortunately we're going to wear on your nerves," Willow told im. "The chaos magic is building. We're going to have to do something to someone to fix it or else we'll be losing gravity shortly. The easier things would be to change someone's age or gender." Enamel nodded once at that, crossing his arms over his chest. "The easier people would be Modo or Throttle."
"I'm sticky," Xander reminded him.
"They make shampoo for that, cuz," Wrench said as he joined them. "Have we made any sort of decision?"
"It's down to age or gender and Throttle or Modo," Charley offered. "Xander vetoed Terror for some reason."
"Past history, leave it there," Xander told her. She nodded, accepting that. Wrench and Vinnie both looked at him. "Not going to tell, guys. Tough." He looked at the spirits. "Okay, which is going to work best?"
"Gender," the ladies said in unison.
"It creates the after confusion too," Willow pointed out. "Age is cute making and it could build faster."
"Okay, so we make Throttle and/or Modo a girl," Enamel agreed. "Can we change them back?"
"We hope so," Willow agreed. "If not, it'll only be a year before we've built up more."
"We have to do this each year?" Throttle demanded.
"No, by next year, we'll have an idea of how to use it or keep it drained."
"We could age charm Stoker into a teenager," Xander offered. "He said he was feeling old."
"That's an evil thought," Throttle said patiently. "I'll help you get rid of those again later, Xander." He looked at them. "I'm not thrilled with this plan, ladies."
"Us either," they assured him. Then they glared at each other.
"Truth, Throttle, I'd love another way," the Seal assured him. "I'd love to turn this into the favor of Mars. I don't know how."
"Point," he sighed, shaking his head. "I like being a studly biker mouse."
"It'll hopefully only be for two days," Willow said.
"I'll miss myself for those two days. Plus we'll have to hide from everyone and Momma."
"You're due on base in two days, bro," Vinnie reminded him. "Is he the better candidate or Modo?"
"The same really," Willow offered. "Neither one uses and neither one has used magic. It won't stick. Their bodies won't fight. Staff might scream and holler. Xander would probably try to seduce Throttle into bed to try it out. We're running out of time, guys." Modo stomped in, not looking very happy. "I'm sorry."
"Because we weren't checking on it to build," the Seal told him. "Normally a planet would trap and then bleed off the chaos into pools or springtime. Mars is out of balance so it's sticking. We're down to two spells," she told him. "Probably one but we can bend. We can either change a gender or an age. It's down to you and Throttle, big guy."
Modo looked horrified. "I like being a boy mouse!"
"Vinnie said the same thing," Charley said, patting him on the arm. "Throttle?"
"I can take one for Mars, as long as someone turns me back."
"I'll do everything in my power to turn you back," the Seal promised. That got a nod. "Do you want to be a baby mouse or a girl mouse?"
"A girl mouse," he sighed. "Bros, I want you guarding me and my family."
"Of course," Modo agreed. "How long does he have to do this for?"
"Two days," Willow told him. Modo groaned. "We know about the base thingy." He nodded. "We might be able to get it moved back. It's with Rotor, Cell's husband."
"And Carbine, who will laugh her tail off," Vinnie said bitterly.
"Why can't we get the chaos mice to do something about this?" Xander complained. Everyone stared at him. "You know, Enamel's brother, those people? You said there were six or seven who came back."
Willow frowned. "I almost scared the magic out of him, Xander."
"How do you scare the magic out of someone?" Vinnie asked.
"Well, you can't *actually* scare the magic out of someone, deterrent methods don't really work against magic using," she complained.
"Gee, ya think, Oh Great Wicked Wench of the East?" Xander said dryly.
"Hey, I'm wicked, she's nice," the Seal complained.
"Boys. Girls. Mice!" Throttle complained. The Seal giggled. "Sorry, it's the middle of the night and sometimes I get confused in the middle of the night," he complained.
"That's right, you do," Xander assured him, patting him on the back. "That's why you usually roll over and cuddle me until we have sex and you get to go back to sleep," Xander cooed. "It's all right. We can do that."
"How would the chaos mice do that?" the Seal asked.
"Do I care? Make it rain. Make it snow. Grow trees upside down," Xander said with a shrug. "It's all good! We're all required to keep some sort of balance on Mars. They can help."
"Fine. We'll go bother them for a few minutes," Willow said impatiently. "Where is Enamel's brother?"
"Like I know? It's not part of my duty to keep track of 'em," Xander reminded her. "Follow the biggest pain in your ass...."
"I did, it led here," Willow shot back.
"Kids," Modo said, staring them down. "Why don't you ask Enamel?"
Everyone looked at Enamel, who shrugged. "Wrench?" Wrench snorted and woke up. "Where's my brother?"
"Core. He moved cities." He yawned. "It's the middle of the night there too."
Xander shrugged. "So?" He went to the transporter, keying into the mouse he knew. He found him by name recognition, logging into the phone book system Mars had just included as part of the database. Then he yanked him there, walking over to grab the glaring mouse. "It's a chaos problem. You're a chaos mouse. Therefore, you get to figure out how to fix the problem and it's got to be done tonight or we lose gravity."
The mouse walked in and stopped, looking at Willow and the Seal. He bowed. "I'm in your service, ladies."
"Good," the Seal said, grinning at him. "We've got a horrific buildup of chaos energy around the core. We need it released. We were going to curse one of these guys to being either a baby mouse or a girl."
"It won't work," he told her, interrupting her spiel. "You'll need something that uses more energy and ties it back into the main flow of Mars."
"How?" Willow asked.
"Well, you could create water," he admitted, "but it might not be very good water. It'd still help though. You could...," he thought about it. "You could easily ripen some extra crops."
"That or the water sounds really helpful. Can either be done tonight?" Xander asked. He looked at him and nodded once. "Both?"
"Both might stretch it. Crops or water would be easier."
"Crops. We're about a month from that and it'll allow some extra growing time," Wrench noted. "Then can we open an access to some water? I know there's more than those three underground rivers."
"There's one by Core's main school," he offered. "It's smaller though. "There's one in the Valley but it's pretty deep. We might have to give up a few of the ancient temples." He looked at Xander. "Yours could go."
Xander sent up a silent prayer and didn't feel an answer. So he went to call Tangent. "Hey, it's me. If we had to sacrifice the temple in the Valley to open up a new water spot, should we?"
"Um," he said, blinking hard. "Is there another option?"
"Mystra's," Enamel's brother offered, coming over. "There's an energy buildup we've got to cure. It's an option."
"We need Mystra's, we can always rebuild ours. Did you get an answer, Xander?" He shook his head. "Then...." He sighed. "If you must, but please give us an hour to clear the temple of all the holy artifacts?"
"I can do that. Thank you, brother mouse." He hung up. "He's nice."
"He's the Highest of Othra," Xander said as they went back to the table. "We can if we need to but we have to clear the temple first."
"Doable," Willow agreed. The Seal nodded. They both looked at the chaos mouse. "We need to do this tonight."
"Send me home, let me gather my people. Come to me. I will need a reference. I can age things but I'm not sure about growth and maturity rates."
Xander pointed behind him. "The orange bookshelves, man." That got a nod and he headed in there, coming back with six books. "I'd better get 'em all back," he warned. "I'm dedicated to Othra and Mylar."
"Done," he agreed. "Can I use the transporter?"
"Of course," Throttle agreed. He, Willow, the Seal, and the papers disappeared. "We're done, right?" Everyone nodded. "Good. Xander, come make me less confused." His mate grinned and walked him off, going to help him get back to sleep.
Comet crawled out a few minutes later and went to visit Vic, who came out carrying her and handed her to his momma. "They're too noisy for her to sleep, just like you and daddy." He went back to his room, leaving the red mice behind him.
Vinnie went jogging in there when Tag started to fuss, bringing him out too. No one else was brave enough to go in there when Throttle and Xander were having sex. Enamel took Tag, Modo took Comet, and everyone went back to their beds. Fortunately they were the same as they had been when they were forced up.
Stoker walked into the office the next morning, seeing the newspaper sitting on his desk. "Piston?" he called, reading the prominent headline about overnight crop growth. "What happened?"
"I don't know. I called Taver, she called Wrench, who just said something about gravity." She came out of the other room, handing him a rootbeer. "We're not sure and I'm not brave enough to wake up someone at the compound if they're still sleeping."
"They've got little kids. They're up by now," he assured her, sitting behind his desk to call. He got Punch, which made him smile. "Where is everyone?"
"Uncle Xanner said that everyone confused so they went back to bed and had cuddles," she said, grinning at him. "Can I play wif Cranky?"
"No," he reminded her. "She's still grounded, the same as you are." She pouted and he felt his heart constrict but he shook his head. "Sorry. No. Can you wake up Uncle Xander?" She shook her head and hung up on him. "Cheese," he muttered, calling Modo's Momma's house. He got Modo, which was good. "What happened and did you know your daughter was at the compound and everyone's asleep?"
"We got woken up late last night by the Seal and Willow. There was some buildup of energy that had to get used up or else they thought we might lose gravity, so they let the chaos mice over in Core City deal with it when Xander suggested it. Or else we'd all be girl mice today," he said with another yawn at the end. "Sorry, but I'm tired too, Stoker."
"That's fine, Modo. Go back to bed once you've helped your momma harvest. What about Throttle's momma?"
"She's got some nut and fruit trees. The rest is just a small garden for herself," he admitted, yawning again. "Momma's is already done too. I didn't get to get much sleep after getting home. I thought that time of the pregnancy was bad with Punch," he said with a grin and a blush. He hung up too, heading up to bed.
"That's more than I needed to know about his private life," Piston said firmly, cracking him up. "Sorry, boss."
"That's fine, Piston. Who else is already in?"
"Exhaust, he's praying. Carbine's due in within another twenty minutes. Mirror's called off today due to her harvest. The others called off as well."
"Hey, nearly a holiday," he said happily, taking the message she held out. "From?"
"Wonderful." He looked at it, then nodded, dialing his office on Earth. "Morning."
"Time difference, late night here," he said, looking over at him. "What happened?"
"A few of the counselors felt like we're stripping Mars bare to sell it off. They feel like prostitutes."
"Okay, I get that. He wanted to know about the ships from Plutark. Think there's a chance?"
"That definitely. The Full Council agreed that we could happily sell of anything the Plutarkians left for cash. They also accepted the resolution that we become independent food producers within five years and at least majority independent in other areas within ten."
"Good," Micah agreed. "That'll save on fuel and things. Not that we mind working with you guys. We like you guys. You're much better and nicer than the guy who decided to drop in on Dawn needing repairs. Thank Charley for teaching her niece about those repairs too." Stoker nodded, grinning at him. "So how are things going?"
"Fine. The money system was decided on, coins are cheaper for us to mint so we decided on denominations. The pictures and stuff will come later." Micah grinned at that. "We decided on how to do the canning of taxes. Things are going okay. I'll have Carbine call you later when she comes in to talk about the Plutarkian stuff." Micah nodded, still looking happy. "Of course we had something happen that ripened crops last night about three weeks before it was due," he added, frowning a bit. "Modo said something about an energy surplus, losing gravity, and it was that or there'd be a bunch of girl mice that hadn't been before."
"Ah, a Xander event. I'm glad he lives up there."
"You want him back?"
"Hell no," he said firmly. "Even Cleveland has calmed down in the last few weeks. Did Terror and Wrench ever calm down after their shopping with him?"
Stoker shook his head. "I haven't checked but I doubt it."
"Taver said Wrench wanted to become a nudist when he came back but he's thankfully allowing clothes in his part of the building again."
"Well, maybe they'll work something out so she moves in," Stoker offered, making his assistant chuckle. "You sure you don't want Xander back?"
"No, we're good. How's Tag?"
"Growing like all baby mice. Did you get to hear about Punch, Magnet, and Crankshaft?"
"Your daughter Crankshaft?"
Stoker nodded. "The group went camping, leaving Terror with the kids. That's why he got to help shop, it was a punishment. Anyway, they didn't call to give bedtime stories." Micah moaned, shaking his head. "Oh yeah. The girls decided they had been kidnaped or something equally bad and nasty. So those two found their bikes and took off, but at least they remembered they were still very young. They took Crankshaft with them, and she stole Spike's bike because it had just had training weapons put on." Micah moaned again, now holding his head. They evaded two bases, one run by Cell, Wrench, Terror, Racer, and Spike, and later on most of the other cousins to make it to their fathers." Micah whimpered. "They snuck past guards, hid a few times...."
"Found an ancient and mythical cave mouse," Piston added.
"True, Punch said she had. That he pointed the way. She also used Spike's bike to find gas in the desert from a crashed ship. They traveled about three hours away. Very impressive."
"Do gray mice turn white the same way Vinnie always says he's turning gray?" Micah asked.
Stoker chuckled and shook his head. "No, not quite. There are a few more wrinkles though. Carbine and Cell are working to revamp the training guidelines. Some people complained about that until she brought Ty Rod out on Cranky's bike for a day and she wore them out. They couldn't even catch her in the yard. There was no more complaint after that." Micah and Piston both laughed at that. "Needless to say all of the girls in question are grounded and none of the mice that Xander is teaching are allowed to ride by themselves until they're able to reason. Except for Spike and his is punishment for speeding through a marketplace. Oh, you got a copy of that tape, right? The one with the landing ship?" Micah nodded, grinning at that. "Spike's bike was instructed not to let him ride alone unless it was an emergency. During that, it wouldn't let him ride alone because Xander was there and therefore it was not an emergency." Micah burst out in snickers, hanging up on that. Stoker smirked a bit at his assistant. "It was funny after the fact."
"It was," she agreed. "I also saw Spike on his bike and he looked quite good, Stoker."
"Thanks, Piston. Ok, let's go do this easy day." He headed down there, running into Carbine. "Micah called, they are interested in the Plutarkian crap. I told him about the other and the resolutions, he congratulated us and said he'd miss trading so much with us." She smiled at that. "The sudden crops are due to an energy buildup the Seal and Willow apparently had to help fix. Either that or something happened. Modo said we'd lose gravity if it wasn't fixed and we almost ended up with a lot more girl mice overnight."
"I'd pay to see Throttle and Xander in a set of heels," she said, smirking a bit evilly.
Willow appeared. "He's being a mean poppy-head," she complained, handing over a picture. "He decided to go as Frank this last year. The other is Rocky the year before." She faded out. Carbine was staring at them when Xander stomped out and snatched them.
"It's a Halloween thing, I'll show you the movie this year." He stomped off, going back home through the transporter.
Carbine looked at Stoker and whimpered. "Do you know about that halloween thing?"
"Yeah, I heard all about it from Vinnie their first year going. Even Rimfire was traumatized and confused. Dawn went in an identical outfit to that panties and heels one." He went in to take his seat, noticing the people waiting. "Problems, citizens?"
"What happened!" one female demanded. "We had three weeks!"
"There was some sort of funny energy building up around the core of the planet and it got released," Stoker told her. "We don't know if it'll happen again or why it happened in the first place yet. We're going over the information available today." Most everyone relaxed at that. "At least it didn't destroy them. It only ripened them faster. But know that we are working on it and if I have to listen to metaphysical and odd crap to understand it, I can even do that." That got some smiles and some nods, and most everyone left.
Overthruster, Xander's biggest fan, came over and gave him a hug. "We like you, Mr. Stoker, you're very neat. You're very smart and you have very pretty daughters." He patted her on the head. "Momma wanted to know about rotations for the next few months?"
"Ask Carbine, Overthruster. She's outside traumatized by a picture of Xander."
She giggled and headed out to pounce her. That way she got to talk about her favorite subject on all of Mars, Xander! She even remembered to ask about the rotation schedule first since Miss Carbine looked really out of it by the time she was done.
Carbine watched the little girl go, waving at her back as she skipped off. "She's just like a miniature Xander," she said softly, going in to take her seat. "Are you sure Tag is Xander's only Martian child? That girl is a lot like him," she said weakly.
"He's her hero, Carbine, of course she is," he agreed, smirking at her. Carbine's lover walked in and picked up his mate, carrying her off to her office. "Make her take a nap, she looked kinda tired," he called, smirking a bit. Exhaust came in and pointed, mouth open. "Xander and Overthruster. Did you know Xander once dressed up in high heels for something called Halloween?"
Exhaust looked really confused. "Huh?"
Throttle came out of the transporter, handing over the DVD. "This way we don't have to watch it again," he said dryly, heading home.
"Hey, I guess the cameras are working," Stoker said fondly. He got up to take the tape, looking at the pictures on the back. "That one. Xander, mouse Xander, in that one," he said. "Rimfire said Dawn did it too."
"I've got to see this," he said, heading to his office. "Hold the fort. It says it's about two hours long."
Stoker kicked back, grinning at a job well done. It's not like anyone was going to be bringing any problems today, not with the sudden harvest. A few hours later Exhaust came back in, looking even more confused. He handed off the DVD. "How was it?"
"Odd. Less odd than _The Wall_ but odd." He blinked as he sat down, missing his chair entirely. He got up and sat back down, shaking his head a few times. "There was a part in the extras section that described people going to showings of the movie in groups and dressing up. I guess it was where he did it?"
"Hopefully," Stoker admitted, reading the summary. He'd watch it during lunch with Piston and possibly Switch if he could get her out of the house.
Stoker walked into the club, handing Xander the DVD. "Keep the strange stuff away from me," he ordered, walking off.
"I love you too, Stoker. Am I on the rotations yet?"
"No! You'll corrupt innocent mice!"
Xander let out a high-pitched giggle. "Thank you! That's the nicest compliment I got all day!"
"I think you're a wonderful mouse, baby," Momma called from the kitchen. She came out, watching Stoker's tail wave in aggravation. "Stoker, dinner?"
"I'll come back. Tell me when Xander's gone!" He slammed the door.
She went back to the office. "Now, Xander. What did you to do annoy him?"
"Willow stole my pictures from the last two years' Rocky Horror showings," he said, handing over the DVD. "I'm guessing he watched it and got confused." He grinned at her confused look. "Put it on and watch it until someone comes in, Momma. It's a Halloween tradition. Charley, Dawn, and I all go dressed."
"Fine," she agreed, going to do that. The stereo system could play DVD's since there was an attached tv for video games as well. She let it start and went to turn off the oven, then came back to watch while her helpers watched things. Xander came out of the office with the remote and handed it over with a grin.
Thirty minutes later, Throttle came in. He heard the music. "You bought the soundtrack too?" he demanded, heading toward the office. "Xander, that's cruel!"
"Your mother and the others are watching it," he called, sounding smug.
"Momma, no!" he called, hurrying to stop her before she got that 'confused with the Xander' look that so many had gotten that day. "Momma," he moaned.
"Gee, who sounds like Modo now," Xander taunted from the safety of his office. Then you heard the door shut and lock.
"It won't save you!" Throttle called. He paused the tape but his mother took the remote and turned it back on, growling at him. "Momma, please?" he begged.
"Hush, baby. It's just a movie." She went back to watching it. "We need some of that popcorn stuff," she said after a few minutes.
"Momma, by the time I get home, find some, and get back, that'll be over with." She shrugged and continued to watch. He sighed and went to call in reinforcements. "Bros," he said when they answered. "Xander's _Rocky Horror_ DVD is being played down here for the staff. He's sucked my momma in. She wants popcorn." That got a small moan from Modo. "Help?"
"I'm not goin' there, bro," Vinnie said quickly. "I got traumatized last year with my little brother's costume. I did not want to see Xander dressed up like Frank'n'Furter." He shuddered. "I'll send Terror down if you want."
"Please," he begged. "Before Momma decides to do the showings too." He hung up and went to check the kitchen, finding someone in line. "Hey, Citizen, they're watching a movie. Momma, customer!"
"Coming." The tape was paused and she hurried out, smiling at the nice waiting mouse. "Sorry, we were watching one of Xander's movies since no one's come in tonight," she promised. She took the ration coupon. "Which did you want, dear?"
"Can I have the ham and stuff casserole, ma'am?"
"Of course." She dished him up some from the pan in the oven since it was still so warm. "There you go," she said, adding a cookie on top with a wink. He smiled and walked out with his dinner. She checked, cleaning up the little spill she had created, then went back to the movie. "Xander, how did you get to a certain scene without fast forwarding?" she called.
"Menu, scene selection, arrow keys," he called from the still locked office.
"Thank you, baby. Who did you go as?"
He came out of the office. "The first time we took the panicking male mice I went as Rocky. I was newly furred. I used to go as Frank all the time," he offered with a grin. "The last time I went I went as end scene Frank." He winked and went back inside, closing the door before Throttle could pounce him and locking it while he held it shut against his mate.
"Xander! Quit corrupting people!" Throttle called, earning a giggle of glee from behind him. He looked. "Hey, Overthruster. Did you need dinner?" She nodded, grinning at him. "Overthruster's here," he called. Momma hurried back out and hugged her, taking her to dish up her family's dinner as well. Then she hurried back, taking it off pause this time. She had finally figured out how to do that.
Overthruster tugged on Throttle's tail, getting his attention. "What are they watching?"
"A very odd movie," he told her. "You can watch it when you're older if we don't break all of Xander's copies on him." He grinned and patted her on the head. "There's just some movies that are too odd for normal mice."
"Then I might like it?" she asked.
"You might but it's rated for teenagers and up. So you've got to be at least Racer's age." She beamed and nodded, skipping home. "I've got to find all his copies before he can corrupt another generation. Rimfire was bad enough." He noticed Pierce coming in and walked over to help him. "This way," he said gently, leading him to a table. "Were you here for dinner, Pierce?"
"No, I wanted to talk to Xander. He thought he might have an idea on how to help my implants work. Xander?" He came out of the office and hugged him. Xander was the only person who hugged like he wanted you to die in his arms. "Easy," he complained, patting him on the back. "What's your idea?"
"Sweetie, do you have any spare pairs of field specs?" Xander asked, blinking his big eyes at his mate, making him smile.
"These are my spares," he admitted. "Let me call Stoker. Do you think it'll work? Mine came in staticky and unclear."
"Mine are almost completely dark," Pierce admitted. He heard the giggling. "What are they doing?"
"Watching _Rocky Horror_," Xander said happily. "Willow so *thoughtfully* shared my costume pictures with Carbine this morning." Pierce giggled and swatted him with his tail. Enamel walked in with the pair of specs about twenty minutes later. "Bored?" he asked.
"Another case of the only qualified person," he admitted, sitting across from Pierce. "Hey. I'm Enamel."
"I figured as much when I heard your voice." He reached out and Enamel took his hand. "What do you need to do?"
"Shine some light and look and use the scanner."
"Sure. Been done before but sure."
"What did they say?"
"Something about corroded wires and infection and I'm not sure." He shrugged. "All they said was they couldn't fix it."
"Let me try." He took Pierce into the office, closing them in there.
Throttle grabbed Xander with his tail, pulling him in for a kiss. "Please behave?"
"You knew I was naughty when you asked me to go to Pennsylvania with you," he reminded him, grinning a bit. "I could be much naughtier." He winked and went to dish up food for the person coming in, making her a happy mouse and the guy behind him a happy mouse too. Momma came out a few minutes later and gave him a hug before going to wash her hands. "I take it you liked it, Momma?"
"It's very funny," she agreed, smiling at him. "You really wore that one outfit?"
"Yeah, that's half the fun. You dress up, you go play at the showing, you spend time with a lot of people who enjoy the same things as you do." He grinned and turned over the serving utensils to her care. "Should I turn on the music?"
"I was wondering if you were open since there wasn't any noise," one of the mice newly coming in told him.
Xander grinned and went to turn on some noise. More mice came in and he even got his office back. Pierce came out with the field specs so he hugged him. "Does it work?"
"I'll need a wire replaced," he said, "but I can at least see shapes and light and dark with these. He thinks the wire replacement will fix the rest."
"That's fine. Doc, what did you need to do that?"
"I've already got it, Xander. Don't worry about it. I can take him in tonight and fix it for him. Come on, Pierce. I'll call my favorite helper in to help me." He nodded, following him out. His bike would still be doing the driving but it was good enough for now.
Xander bounced around a bit more until Terror came in, hugging him to death too. "Pierce is getting his implants fixed tonight," he said happily.
"We heard," he admitted, rubbing his ribs. "Easy, Xander. What movie?" Xander showed him to where the tv was, letting him close that door to keep out the music, then he went to play up on the roof and watch the stars come out. It was a pretty night.
Terror joined him a few hours later with Wrench and Throttle. "Bro, we like you a lot, but you're just strange," Wrench told him, patting him on the back. "That says something when I say it."
Xander grinned and hugged him. "I don't care what you think, cuz. I love you anyway. Wanna go to a showing with me this year?"
"Hell no," Wrench said, shuddering a bit. "You dressed up like that?"
"In October," Xander said proudly. "I went one year as Rocky and one year as end scene Frank."
Terror looked at him. "How did you do the heels? They always killed my feet." Wrench looked at him. "It wasn't my choice," he said firmly, hitting him hard on the arm.
Wrench rubbed his arm. "I had no idea you were tortured like that, cuz. I can listen if you want to talk about it and not tell a soul. Are you okay now?"
"I'm fine." Xander hugged him gently. "Thanks, Xander."
"I talked the Willow monster out of trying to make you a girl when she wanted to do that instead of the other stuff to wear out the energy," he said quietly.
"Thanks." He gave him a squeeze. "You're the best cuz since Vinnie."
"If you try to steal my mouse, I will have to whip your tail," Throttle assured him.
Wrench chuckled. "Those two would wear each other out," he complained. "Besides, Terror's still afraid of kids."
"After watching their oldest ones? Yes! Hell yes!" he said firmly. "Those kids are rotten and I'm surprised I survived!"
Xander patted him on the back. "Some day soon my great plan will be complete and they'll all be little mes. Just like Dawnie is," he said with a wicked grin.
Throttle picked up Xander, carrying him off. "Excuse us, I'm going to make him sane again." He headed down to the office, weathering the smirking and the knowing looks. "He wants to make Magnet and Punch just like Dawn," he told them, heading in and closing the door. Xander giggled from where Throttle threw him so he undid his pants. "Suck, Xander. Now."
Xander bent forward to get his Throttle infusion of sem-sanity. Because if he did this enough, Throttle would someday end up just like him and Vinnie.
"I heard that thought; no way, no how, not an ability of mine. Suck harder." Xander chuckled but did as requested.
Upstairs, Terror was looking at Wrench. "Do you think he can make Magnet that sane?"
"I'm going to tell Vinnie you said that," Wrench joked, smirking at him. "I wanna see you run this time." Terror tried to pounce him but Wrench ran off, heading for the club's comm system. He got Modo. "Tell Vinnie that Terror thinks Xander turning Magnet into him will make her sane."
"Huh?" he asked.
Terror finally managed to pounce Wrench. "Xander said all the kids will someday be just like him and Dawn. I thought that might make Magnet a normal mouse." Wrench got him in a chokehold but he broke it, tagging him between the shoulderblades to go at him again.
Vinnie leaned in. "My daughters are perfect, boys. Remember, they're *my* daughters."
"We know, that's why he'd make 'em sane," Terror said, beating the snot out of Wrench.
"Can he work on her teasing problem?" Wrench begged, finally getting Terror off him by kicking him and rolling away. He stood up. "You made me dirty and I'm seeing Taver tonight," he complained. He walked off trying to de-dust his fur.
"Have her brush you, she might not mind," Terror called after him. He looked at his elder, who was smirking. "Pierce is getting his implants fixed."
"I heard that. Cuz, can't you get past one little girl?"
"Yours is a tease!" he complained. "She's going to be devastating when she's older, Vinnie. She's getting her practice with me and Wrench."
"She got me earlier," Modo admitted. "That snuggling, nuzzling, chest fur teasing?" Terror nodded and whimpered. "She'll learn better from her momma some day soon."
"Who do you think taught it to her?" Vinnie said, snickering at his hurt look. "Charley girl uses it on me all the time, Modo. But yes, Terror, I'll tell her to leave my less manly cousins out of her teasing circle. That way she doesn't torment you. Will that be good enough?"
Terror nodded, giving him the pitiful look. "Thank you, Elder."
"You suck tail," he joked, shaking his head. "Behave, Terror. Keep Xander from being too naughty tonight."
"Throttle took him to make him sane when he said he was going to turn all the kids into little hims. Just like Dawn."
Modo shook his head. "Not my daughter. She will never be that strange or that teasing. She'll be a good girl, like her momma." He walked off, going to talk to his beloved Staff and make sure she knew that Magnet was a big flirty tease so they could make sure Punch wasn't copying her.
Xander came out of the office singing the Toys'r'us theme song and still bouncing. Terror nearly whimpered. "Poor Throttle," he moaned. "That poor mouse." Vinnie came in a few minutes later and he pointed at the office. "Throttle took him in there and Xander came out even more bouncy and happy."
"We can fix that," Vinnie agreed smugly. Terror pointed at where Xander was now, going to take him to tease him to death. Charley had said so. Apparently she hadn't taught Magnet the ear nuzzle so she decided Xander should pay for teaching her that. Vinnie picked up Xander, making the mice around them laugh. "He's been a bad mouse. My daughter's been teasing and flirting when she wants something. She learned it off him." He carried him back down to the office, closing them in there again. He could make Xander quit bouncing and make Throttle wake up.
"Throttle didn't believe me when I said the more I had him the more he turned like me," he said as he let himself slide down Vinnie's body. "Don't you think I'm sucking the stuffiness out?"
"Not yet, but I'll let you try on me," he agreed, grinning at him. He sat down, letting Xander handle his pants and boots, after all it's not like he wore much else. He would make sure the future of Mars wasn't a cult of Xanders and that Xander would be good to his family and not warp them too much. After all, Mars couldn't really handle a dozen Xanders. Wrench, Terror, and Xander were bad enough. Spike, Racer, and Vic would be worse, and his girls plus Punch and Comet would warp Mars for good toward the better. Xander could help, but he'd let the kids finish the job.
The two women touching the young Xander's forehead stepped back, leaving him alone for a moment. They looked at their helper, then disappeared. "Xander," he said gently, making him look up at him. "That can happen but it doesn't have to," he said quietly, moving closer. His medium blue robes and pants rustled in the quiet temple, making Xander shiver. He had only run in here to get away from the pain of things going wrong, but the Lady and the Seal had been watching him, that's why they had brought him down to talk to the boy. The giant white mouse took off his shades, looking at the young man. He couldn't be over eighteen at this point in his life. Xander just gave him a long stare. "You have a choice to make, Xander. As I said, that *can* happen, but it doesn't *have to* happen. You will keep some of the knowledge. You may be able to change something but I can't promise it. If you do, you must realize that it could change that possible future." He stroked the smooth skin gently, staring into his eyes. "We need to know what you want, Xander. Do you want to be a with a big, furry guy?"
Xander took a deep breath. "Was I happy?"
"Most of the time. Now and then you two did fight. The future is not set in stone, but that's how it'll happen if you let it." He stroked his cheek again. He hadn't been told to peek but his Lady had shown him his parts in that life. Xander would be a bro to heal and soothe those in his life, something stable they could count on when the nightmares came or when you needed help. That's what Mars would need to heal and become a great lady again. "There was more after that but people are looking for you now and they can't find you here. It could ruin a great many things if they found the temple here instead of on Mars." Xander nodded, still staring at him. "It is up to you. You are always welcome here. As you saw, you're a son of Mars. Even without the fur, the tail, or the big ears, you're so very ours. It's still up to you. You may have a totally happy life down here."
He shook his head. "No I won't," he said quietly. "They sent me away. They're doing it already and it's the only thing that ever made me feel special." He leaned forward, hugging him, making sure he was solid. One big hand stroked through his hair, a very missed feeling in his life. "What do I have to do?" he whispered against the tense shoulder.
"Just be yourself. You saw yourself and what you knew. Remember even during the bad times that there's a reward coming for you. There is nothing that will stop us from getting you as a true son if you follow that course."
"But most everyone is alive somehow. I'm happy. I'm a daddy," he said with a small smile. "I didn't think it'd ever happen or that I'd be a very good one but I'm a really good daddy?"
"Those kids will be the terror of Mars for decades. They'll take your place and you'll be training their grandkids when you and your mate die, bro," he said softly. "You'll lose Modo to an accident a few years before, but you can move on after you heal."
"Life is loss," Xander agreed, staring into his eyes. "You swear to me, on your honor and on the honor of whatever Goddesses those were, that that'll happen if I just go with it and train myself?" he asked quietly.
"It's yours, babe." He stroked through his hair again, pushing down his rage at the *need* in those dark brown eyes to feel contact. He kissed him on the forehead. "You're very special, Xander, to a great many individuals. No one else ever quite thinks like you do." That got a sad smile. "If I had known about Jessie, I would have tried to stop them, Xan," he whispered, pulling him in for another cuddle. It was hard not to cuddle this man. He radiated the pain of rejection. He was starved for anyone's touch. He was more than ready to move on from this town. "I know it sucks the big one," he whispered. "But remember, there is a reward coming." Xander nodded. "We'll be waiting for you when you come back, Xan. Never worry about our love. Even Terror loved you greatly." Xander shifted and nodded again. "Now, little cuz, you've got to go back out there." Xander looked up at him. "There will be pain and sacrifice, Xander, but not forever. Remember that. It will get better and you have a very bright reward coming your way. When it's all done, you'll be home and that's all that'll matter to you. You'll be content, loved, admired, envied, and pitied by some, but you'll be happy and wanted and needed. All because we wanted you."
Xander swallowed. "How long?" he asked quietly, pulling back and pulling himself together. He looked around. "I wish I had known about this place when Jessie died."
"If we had known you needed us, the doors would have opened to you sooner, Xander," he promised, smiling gently at him. "The sacrifices are already starting. The girls are on their own path. Remember that you're more than they think and that you'll be happy before the time you're thirty. You will rock Mars to its core and make many other happy and content mice. All you have to do is survive and keep going."
"Until Cleveland," he agreed, swallowing a bit. "You were there?"
"Yeah, little cuz, I was there. We're bros. I got called to talk to you since my Lady couldn't and neither could the Seal. I'll be there. You have my word, on my honor and on the honor of Mars. Just hold on for a bit longer. You're the reason it goes right."
"Normal, boring, can't-fit-in-me?" he said bitterly.
"No one here understands you, Xander. Remind yourself of that. There are others in the world who will understand and welcome you and your jokes. Even your fear of hotdogs." Xander nodded, grinning a bit at that. "Can you hang for a bit longer? Make it all go right?"
"If I have to," he agreed. "Can I come back?"
"Whenever you need the temple, it's here for you, Xander. That's why it opened for you. It was built by His followers years and ages ago and the town got built on top of it. Only a true son or daughter can come here and we welcome you back to the family."
"What about that girl? Dawn?"
"When she comes, if she needs us, you can bring her. She's an in-law," he offered with a small grin. "I won't be here. I was pulled down from my trial of faith to come help you."
"I just blew away most of a base's personnel of bad guys. A bad general sent me and some people to die. I intend on living. Like you, I just have to hold on and have a bit of faith. My Lady, The Lady, is helping me even now while I'm down here. Remember, she loves you too. Call out if you need advice. Then fall asleep here. You do the work, you should get the benefits of protecting innocents." That got another small grin. "Now. You're needed. Are you going to answer the call?"
"I'll have to. His fur seemed really soft," he told him, standing up. "Need help from me?"
Wrench smiled and shook his head. "No, Xander. I've got my sitch wrapped up and heading North again. Remember, you can come back. Just hold on." Xander nodded and turned, walking out of the temple. Wrench looked up. "Lady, are you sure it was right to give him warnings?"
The Seal appeared, kissing him on the cheek. "It was the right thing to do. If he leaves the fight, I'll win and be used. The planet will die. Everyone would die." He shuddered and nodded. "He's the cure. His faith is strong. It's been in his line for eons. He'll be the first black mouse to return to Mars, his daughter the second. Mars needs their most volatile u yet steady defenders. He'll save us all just by being himself." Wrench hung his head and nodded. "Now then, young man, you've got to get back there. Your Lady is waiting on you. Remember, all you have to do is hold on. Help is coming soon and you'll be free of the idiots for good. Remember me on your upcoming dreamquest, but we'll be fine together later on." He nodded and stood up, putting back on his sunglasses. "Good shooting, Wrench, and be safe until we meet again."
"Help that boy, Seal. He needs physical contact."
She smirked a bit. "He's got some coming in Anya. Don't worry about it." She winked and sent him home, then settled down to listen to her children plot and plan. She shoved someone into a direction that would allow them to intercept Xander, not the best choice, but Faith would do for now.
End of Series.