A New Mars for a Lost Mouse 3
by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/M and M/F sex
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

Vinnie and Cazi were standing by one of the observation windows, taking a break from the dance floor, when a nine foot tall winged blue and silver Dracon came up behind Cazi and clapped a friendly hand on to the much shorter Lion's shoulder.

"Hiya, big brother." The Dracon said in a deep, yet still somewhat juvenile voice.

"Mykal?" Cazi said, his fur turning a midnight blue out of surprise. "What are you doing here?"

"You know I follow racing. I never miss the Flatlander." He chuckled. "When did you start dating models?" He asked curiously.

"A few months ago." Cazi chuckled, trying to calm his heart down. "Mykal, this is Vincent Van Wham. Vinnie, this is Mykal'dar Sel'Dranor. My younger brother."

"Pleasure to meet you, Vinnie." Mykal said with a slightly shy smile as he extended his hand to the significantly shorter Mouse.

"No doubt," Vinnie grinned up at him unabashedly and accepted the handshake. "He ever mentioned he had such delicious looking relatives."

"Oh, did he actually mention he had relatives?" Mykal asked curiously with teasing grin at Cazi. "And Mykal is fine. The long form is for official stuff. You look good enough to eat yourself."

"A bit," Vinnie teased back, showing off his tightly toned body not really concealed by minimal leather gear. "Fur on scales sounds like fun."

"Oh, it is." Mykal grinned back, muscles rippling as he shifted. He was wearing a leather vest and pants, which accented his build quite well.

"Good," Vinnie closed, his tail playing along the broad, blue scailed chest. "So are male siblings off limits around here?"

"As long as one doesn't make a public display of it." Cazi said easily. "Fooling around is fine."

"What he said." Mykal grinned broadly, as the tip of his broader tail, brushed up Vinnie's leg. He rumbled when the mouse's agile tail found it's way between them to tease his groin as Vinnie grinned mischievously up.

"This is going to be *fun*."

"I'm sure it would be." Mykal grinned. "However, I do have a prior engagement this evening."

"There are three more nights on the cruise." Cazi suggested playfully as Vinnie made a rather blatant display of coaxing the Dracon to break his date. "Try not to book yourself solid."

"I'm sure I won't." Mykal grinned back, both at his brother's statement and at Vinnie's display.

"Good," Vinnie grinned up and ran his hands down powerful thighs and ass seductively. "You'd be missing out on the best the ship has to offer, and the one who's going to best the champion."

"My brother always has gone for the best." Mykal smirked as he ran a large hand gently along the Mouse's jawline.

"He got it this time." Vinnie smirked right back and wantonly pressed into the touch.

"So I see." Mykal smiled softly, his touch lingering in the contact. Then his eyes caught something across the room. "If you'll excuse me, I really do have to speak with Baroness Amara." He said politely as he stepped away slowly. "As my brother said, there are three more days." He added leaving a great deal implied as he crossed the room to speak with an expensively dressed female arctic fox.

"Mykal has always had a talent for staying focused." Cazi said softly, running his hand along Vinnie's arm and found himself the focus of the mouse's attention without a pause on Vinnie's part. "But you'll definitely be seeing more of him."

"Good," he smiled and pressed close, pulling Cazi back out onto the dance floor and giving the tawny furred Lion his full, unabashed attention.

It was the second day of the races, and most of the group sharing the common room with Cazi, Mykal and Vinnie were gathered watching. There was a fair amount of casual talk, and casual wagering going on. The group was a mixture of Felsin, Dracon, Canem, Lupo and a few Humans.

As usual Vinnie was attracting attention both male and female, regardless of species, and eating it up with his usual mix of unabashed flirting back and conviction in his own perfection.

"So, think anyone will manage to sustain Mach 3 in this race?" Marko, an male Alsatian Canem dressed in a very tasteful slacks and sweater combination.

"Anton Dressler might, but I'm not sure he's worked out all the bugs in his new design." Mykal offered. Dressler had finished a close second in the first days' race, though he'd been in first before an unfortunate flameout.

"He'd better, if he wants to compete next year." Cazi grinned, with a wink at Vinnie.

"He'll have to do a hell of a lot better than mach 3 if he wants to keep the title." The white mouse smirked, his eyes sparkling with certainty in his and Girl's superiority.

"In a six hour race, sustaining mach 3 is quite unusual." Marko smiled knowingly. "Machines that can do mach 5 or 6 rarely sustain it over endurance races."

"He's not riding a real Martian Cyberbike," the mouse smirked back, equally confident of being right. "Nothing matches Girl, short or long run. *Nothing*."

"I think next years race circuit is going to be much more interesting." Marko smiled. "Especially with Maddy returning to racing."

"Would that be Madrigal Ar'Rakiri?" Mykal asked, intensely interested.

"None other that the top lady of racing herself." The Canem grinned. "She's been working on a new design, and finally feels its ready for the circuit."

"Oh, wow." Mykal grinned. "Vinnie, I think you're in for some serious competition."

"We'll see," he shrugged, unconcerned by it in his usual fashion. "I haven't met my match yet."

"You've never met Maddy." Marko grinned. "Lady designs and drives the hottest bikes on the circuit."

"And this should concern me?" Vinnie raised his remaining eyebrow in challenge. "It's still just the circuit, not the real world where it's do or die."

"The real world?" Mykal looked at him curiously. "Most of life is not do or die. Such encounters are uncommon, unless one is a career soldier, or the like."

"But in all encounters one needs to take the opposition seriously." Marko nodded. "Underestimating the competition is the first step to failure."

"Excuse me, gentlemen." One of the waiters caught their attention to focus on Vinnie before the mouse could retort. "Madam wished you to have this." He explained and handed a folded piece of paper the color of dried Martian blood to him.

Vinnie shot the Arctic Vixen with noble bearing that had sent it a *very* curious look before unfolding it.

The sharp gasp Vinnie gave to the contents distracted Cazi from checking out the Vixen, but not before he'd seen though enough of the illusion she wore to recognize her for Martian Mouse, likely one that was reasonably closely related to Vinnie given her silvery white fur, platinum blond hair and noble breeding and bearing.

"Fascinating." Cazi said quietly, so that Vinnie could hear him. "What does that other Martian Mouse want of you?" He asked softly, using a light touch of cybertelepathy to watch the Vixen with the room's security cameras, while his physical eyes were focused on Vinnie.

The note was snapped shut by the edgy Mouse even as he turned his head to look at the shorter Lion. "How can you tell?"

"I can see through the illusion she's wearing." Cazi said quietly. "One or two of the Dracons present may be able to as well, and they can all tell she's wearing an illusion." He said simply. "I was in the covert ops business for a long time. I pay attention when people mask their identity, there's usually a reason."

"Not to stand out quite so badly," Vinnie sort of shrugged. "She fits in better here looking like that than like she does normally." He looked over at her again and met the crystal blue eyes, almost hypnotized by them for a long moment he barely breathed for. "She wants to talk." He explained slightly. "To find out if I'm the Vincent Van Wham she knew."

Cazi smiled. "The odds are against it, I'm afraid." He said softly. "As for standing out, almost no one in the Alliance really pays that much attention, there are simply too many races. The Dracons do tend to notice Martian Mice, but there's a special reason for that."

"I know, but if she knows a version of me ... maybe she's my kind too." Vinnie shook his head. "She signed it ... someone I knew too."

"I hope so, Vinnie." Cazi said quietly, quite sincere. "Why don't you go talk to her and find out." He suggested and was nodded to as Vinnie smiled slightly at him before walking over to greet the Vixen in a very Mouse like manner with his tail.

While Cazi watched curiously they exchanged a few words, Vinnie's manner became increasingly soft and physically affectionate until she wrapped her tail around his waist and guided him off to her private box.

"So just what was that about, Cazi?" Mykal asked quietly. "And who was she really?"

"Exactly, I don't know yet." The Lion said quietly. "But she's a Martian Mouse who looks like someone significant to Vinnie. I very much doubt she's from his Mars, but he's hoping she's at least his species."

"I see." Mykal said giving his brother a curious look. "You're being awfully easy going for him walking off with what looks to be serious competition for his affections. I thought you'd gotten rather attached to him."

"I suppose I am, Myk." Cazi said quietly. "But I don't really have any claim on him. I mean I know he's already seeing at least two other people, so it's not like there's any exclusivity to start with. Not that I've ever been exclusive myself." He said softly. "It's not like I was looking for anything long-term."

"I know you haven't." Mykal said quietly. "It's been twenty years."

"Doesn't matter, I'm just not ready for that risk again." He said quietly. "Besides, I've only known him a few months. He's a lot of fun, but I'm not expecting more than that." He said as he headed out. "I'll be in the private suite, if anyone's looking for me."

"Sure thing, Caz." The Dracon said quietly, as he watched his tawny furred brother leave the room.

Cazi's mind snapped awake at the sound of someone being reasonably quiet coming in the suites' main door. Quiet, but not commando quiet. After a moment he picked up the familiar sounds and aura of Vinnie as the white Mouse made his way to the bathroom and started a shower.

He decided to let Vinnie finished, and waited quietly in bed. He lay there with his eyes closed, practicing watching the room with his senses other than sight as an extremely through cleaning was taken care of in the other room.

When Vinnie finally walked into the bedroom naked he was still making an attempt at quiet, though it wasn't the sneaking around kind.

"So how'd it go, Vinnie?" Cazi asked curiously as the Mouse approached the bed, startling Vinnie for a moment.

"You and your field rest," he chuckled softly, shaking his head as he slipped into bed to snuggle with the Lion. "Different dimension, but she's Loup Maru." He smiled against the tawny fur in the darkness and nuzzled him. "Not just my kind, but from a world close enough she was engaged to me there too."

"That's good." Cazi said softly, nuzzling the white mouse back. "You needed another of your kind."

"You have no idea." He shivered lightly and stretched up to kiss Cazi's neck. "There's nothing worse we could do to someone. Exile is worse than death in our legal code."

"Interesting reversal on most legal codes." He said softly, more curious than anything else. "So the two of you hit it off, I take it?"

"Oh, yeah." Vinnie rumbled and squeezed him in tightly controled excitement that was ready to burst despite his exhaustion. "Even if it wasn't such a close connection, the racial one would have kicked in pretty hard."

"That's good." Cazi said easily, as he snuggled against Vinnie.

"Thanks for bringing me out here," he kissed to Lion soundly. "It's doing more good than I thought possible. She's a much better leader than me."

"Hey, my pleasure Vinnie." Cazi said when they broke. "You needed some serious distraction. And I knew you liked fast bikes."

"Yeah, I do. I'm still going to challenge the winner." He snickered through a yawn. "It's turning into a very good day."

"I think they'll be disappointed if you don't." Cazi chuckled. "You ought to get some sleep, race starts in like five hours."

"Yeah, it does, doesn't it?" He yawned again and stretched before snuggling in for a solid nap.

As the tired Mouse went to sleep, Cazi slowly followed him but only dropping to field sleep that woke him a few minutes before the alarm went off to wake the soundly sleeping mouse that hated getting up early enough to see the 9:30 starting line.

"Rise and shine, Vinnie." Cazi said in teasingly playful voice that was met with the expected mumbled resistance. Especially given it was early morning when he'd come in.

"Come on, you don't want to miss the start of the race." He said nudging the reluctant Mouse persistently. "And they'll have food too." He added, hoping the Mouse's stomach would add some encouragement.

It did, though the stretch and yawn Vinnie gave made it clear enough he wasn't thrilled with the idea. "Late to bed and early to rise is just not right." He mumbled and nuzzled the Lion.

"Generally not." Cazi agreed. "Though most would not call this early." He chuckled as he claimed a brief kiss from the white mouse.

"Most people think it's perfectly reasonably to get up with dawn," he muttered and rolled out of bed. "I'd rather go to bed about then."

"So I've noticed." Cazi chuckled and got a mischievous grin for it.

"You don't seem to mind in the least." Vinnie chuckled and leaned back on the bed to kiss him playfully. "I seem to remember you don't keep much different hours."

"I keep whatever hours I need to." Cazi grinned and kiss him soundly back. "But you make a bed a significantly more attractive place to stay."

"And shower, and table, and chair, and anywhere else I might be." He chuckled and stood to stretch, showing off his slightly rumbled fur over a perfectly fit and tightly muscled frame. "And you and grooming ... man, I never thought it could feel like that."

"You do have nice fur to work with." Cazi smiled as he rolled out of bed and promptly got tackled, dropping them both on the mattress again for a wanton kiss.

"Is there time for a shower and brushing out before the race?"

"I think we can fit that in." Cazi rumbled as the kiss broke for a moment. "As long as we don't try to fit anything else in." He winked playfully and ran one hand across Vinnie's ass.

"We can fit that in there at the race." Vinnie rumbled and rubbed his ass into the contact. "It is six hours after all and we missed playing last night."

"Yes, we did." Cazi grinned. "But for a good cause."

"Mmm, yes," he grinned back with clearly arousing memories of his evening. "Sanity is a nice thing to keep. Very nice."

"Now and then it's a good thing." Cazi chuckled, as he claimed a playful kiss before he was dragged into the shower.

"Greetings, Mykal'dar Sel'Dranor." Carmel Van Sur walked up to the blue and silver Dracon as she waited for Cazi and Vinnie to settle their hormones out. She took a little extra care to allow him to see threw her Vixen form illusion while maintaining it for the rest of the room. "I am Carmel Van Sur."

"A pleasure." Mykal smiled, and nodded politely. "Mykal is quite sufficient for informal occasions." He said easily and received a friendly smile in return from the silvery-white Mouse.

"Do you follow these races much?" She asked curiously with a chin motion for the holoscreen.

"Motorcycles? Yes, quite closely." Mykal nodded. "Both as a personal hobby, and because our company produces engines used by a number of the competitors."

"Ah, double interest," she smiled at him. "Any of the top five?"

"Ramses Taggert is using one of ours." He nodded. "Of course, three of the top five this year are designers using engines of their own creation. That's another reason for following these races, to get a look at top design talent."

Carmel smiled, the flicker of understanding linking this to what she knew better dancing in her crystal blue eyes. "Always a good thing, but sometimes they are the hardest of all the coax away from their independence."

"Oh, they usually are." He chuckled. "But sometimes we can reach freelance arrangements with them. They keep their independence and we get access to their talents."

That made the aristocratic mouse chuckle softly. "An all-win situation. Do you have much competition for their talent?"

"Oh, there are a number of companies that recruit talented designers." He nodded. "It's definitely a competitive market."

"All the better for the talent, that much more expensive for their recruiters." Carmel nodded with a slight smile. "Not all that different from the tracks I follow more closely."

"Live animal racing?" He asked curiously.

Carmel nodded with a slight smile. "Ridden mostly. Thoroughbreds, Vash'ha and Lamber, but I'm gotten into Kakahound and Greyhound recently. Saluki and Whippet will likely be the next expansion."

"Ah, not a sport that ever really existed on Draconea." He smiled. "Mostly due to a lack of animals large enough to be ridden, and the reptiles that are the major species on our world are not really amenable to racing around the way mammalian species do."

"Understandable. Warm-blooded creatures do tend to be on the hyper side compared to other kinds. There is a remarkable about in common between the two circuits however. Winning a race is as much about tactics as raw performance."

"Definitely, the skill of the rider is at least as important as the skill of the designer." He nodded. "Or the skill of the breeder."

"And for animals, the trainer." She added with a soft smile. "Knowing when to push, when to hold back and save your strength, how close or sharp is too much. Riding well is as much a talent as skill."

"Definitely." He nodded. "One I think Vinnie is quite good at, from the way Cazi talks. Next years racing circuit should be quite interesting."

"No doubt," she smiled a little more and chuckled softly. "He's likely to drive the professionals crazy though. He can't take anything seriously for more than a few minutes and racing is just one long adrenaline rush."

"Well, supersonic racing is largely the domain of professional adrenalin junkies, so he's in good company." Mykal grinned. "And with Maddy returning, he'll have some serious competition."

"I'm quite sure he'll never believe it." Carmel laughed softly. "It's not in him to believe he's not the best with the best."

"Not till he actually races against her." Mykal smiled.

"Quite possibly not even then, though Maddy will have a tough race from the look of Girl. She's something else, even for a Cyberbike."

"So I've heard." He nodded. "Though Maddy is one of the cutting edge designers out there. It'll be interesting to see what two years of work has resulted in."

"No doubt," Carmel nodded. "It's always interesting to watch the newcomers, be it rider or ridden. They can be very full of surprises for everyone."

"Very true." He nodded, watching the race with one eye as a couple of riders vied for the lead. "Though this year's surprise was Cazi showing up at the Flatlander, it's not an event he normally attends."

"That I'm quite sure was Fate arranging things." Carmel smiled softly. "He came so Vinnie could watch and I'm here because a friend insisted I should come and see how it works."

"Yes, it is quite coincidental." Mykal chuckled. "But then so is Vinnie happening to meet Cazi in a clothing store on Mars."

"They would have meet soon enough anyway." She chuckled softly. "They're both dating Lex Maza. A threesome was on the schedule."

"Well, I wouldn't use the word dating to describe Cazi's relationship with Lex." He said quietly. "They're good friends and playmates, but there's nothing long term between them. Honestly, I thought Cazi'd given up on long-term relationships for good."

That made the silvery-white mouse pause. "That doesn't sound good." She murmured. "Vinnie doesn't do them either."

"Well, I'm not sure what's going on there, exactly." He said quietly. "Maybe something neither of them was expecting."

"I hope so, for Cazi's sake." She said softly. "He's been very good to Vinnie. I'd hate to see him hurt like that."

"Cazi isn't likely to get hurt that bad." Mykal said quietly. "He doesn't really expect anything long-term, even if that is what he'd like."

Carmel nodded. "Just as well. They'll enjoy what they have more."

"Something they both need." The blue and silver Dracon nodded. "But then, survivors are like that."

"True, very true." She nodded a bit and lowered haunted eyes. "It takes a lot out of one to pull it off and the fallout never quite leaves you."

"Especially when the loss is so personal." Mykal said quietly.

"That, Mikal, is a conversation I prefer to avoid." She shook her head lightly and made a nearly visible effort behind the illusion to pull herself together. "It quickly becomes insulting to someone."

"As you wish." He said easily.

"Would you like to meet her?" Vinnie asked softly as he and Cazi relaxed in the afterglow of their exertions, half watching the race and half each other in the privacy of Cazi's box.

"If you two are becoming an item, I just better." Cazi grinned playfully.

Vinnie squeezed his tail around the Lion's waist and grinned. "Yeah, we are. Gods it's good to have the past shut up." He grinned up and snuggled against his lover happily.

"It's good to see you so genuinely happy." Cazi smiled and nuzzled the white Mouse, who shifted to kiss him soundly.

"Thanks to you, mostly." He murmured with another kiss.

"You're very welcome." Cazi smiled softly, before claiming a warm and tender kiss.

"Mmm, play more, or meet Carmel?" Vinnie grinned at him. "She'd be game to play too, if you like girls."

Cazi chuckled playfully. "Oh, I like girls. I was married to one after all." He smiled fondly, though there was a hint of sadness. "Why don't you introduce me to your lady friend."

"Didn't mean to being that up," Vinnie kissed him gently and untangled himself, offering the Lion a hand up. "A quick clean up first? I don't think she'd mind, but ...." his voice trailed off, not all that sure how to put it that didn't sound like an insult.

"But we're a bit messy." Cazi chuckled, as he stood. "And it's okay Vinnie, really. It's been twenty years, just miss them is all." He said softly.

"You're right, you're older than I am." The Mouse shook his head and chuckled, tapping the sonic shower control with his tail.

"You're only as old as you feel." Cazi chuckled, as the shower began cleaning the evidence of their play out of his fur. "You'd have gotten on great with the perpetual teenagers who were my teammates and more." He chuckled fondly.

"Given you as an example, I expect I would." He smiled and snuggled up behind Cazi to hug him. "They must have been fun."

"I was one of the more serious members of our group." Cazi chuckled, as he leaned into the embrace. "And they were a lot of fun. They were more my family for a long time, then my blood relatives."

"I know the feeling," he murmured softly. "It's the same with my Bros. I am not, however, one of the more serious members of the Biker Mice." He chuckled softly. "Throttle got that one hands down and no contest."

"With the NightBlades it was a toss up between Nareena and Ebon, depending on the situation." Cazi smiled softly. "They were my LifeMates, and the heart and mind of our team."

"What happened?" Vinnie finally gave into his curiosity at just what could take out that kind of unit, and if they had fallen the way his had.

"The SG dropped an army on us." He shook his head. "Even the best warrior can be overcome with sufficient numbers, and that's what we got hit with. Mephit supplied stealth dropships had them on us before we saw them." He sighed quietly. "Only good thing was that they were so eager to be rid of us, they overplayed their hand and the Alliance found out about the new stealth technology before it was ready in sufficient numbers."

"At least it wasn't completely in vain." He said softly. "Not much consolidation, but sounds like a lot of lives were saved by their loss."

"Yeah, I think so." Cazi said quietly. "Not that I realized that until years later. Sometimes I even think they escaped, but that's just wishful thinking."

"If there isn't a body, nothing's for sure," Vinnie said with belief created by experience. "Sometimes, not even then."

"Vinnie, I was Joined to them. When they died, the link shattered. I felt it, and I almost didn't survive it. At the time, I didn't even want to." He sighed quietly. "I can still feel the empty place in my mind where they used to be."

The white Mouse blinked, utterly bewildered by the description if not by the statement. "Okay, so they're dead." He said slowly, almost warily. "If they had a soul to bond with, how could the death of their body shatter a soul level bond?"

"Mind joining, not soul." He said quietly. "Soul-bond is an ability that was lost a long time ago. No one remembers how it's done."

"Not true anymore." Vinnie said softly, his arms gently around Cazi's body. "It's not a skill we lost."

"Not that it matters anymore." Cazi sighed quietly.

Vinnie murmured softly into the Lion's fur before kissing the back of his neck gently. "Not true, on two counts."

"Hm. I think I missed something." Cazi said quietly. "It happens occasionally."

"One: just because you don't think it's of personal use, doesn't mean your race wouldn't be grateful to regain the knowledge. And two: soul bonds only require souls to work. Bodies are useful but optional."

"The first might be true, but how can you create a bond without the other person being present?" He asked curiously. "I'm pretty sure there aren't any souls hanging with me."

"Souls can be called just like a breathing person." He shrugged slightly. "If they've come back already, it's a bit tougher, but it's not *that* hard to track someone down." Vinnie shook his head and kissed Cazi's cheek gently. "Even if things work differently for Felsin, created or born, it should take less effort than getting my tail home."

"I don't know if spirits can be called back before they reincarnate in proper course." Cazi said quietly. "That's not a magic I know."

"It's something that can be found out." Vinnie insisted gently and tipped the Lion's face up to look at him. "As you've pointed out to me more than once, you don't have to know how to do something, just know someone who can get it done. You have that, or a start at least, even before you start calling in favors you're owed."

Cazi chuckled quietly. "I guess we all have things we don't think so clearly about. Finding an expert in Felsin spirit magic shouldn't be that hard."

"Good," Vinnie smiled and kissed him gently. "Maybe you'll have your mates again too."

"I guess we're just good for each other." Cazi grinned and hugged the Mouse tight. He felt Vinnie return the embrace with tail and arms before he was nuzzled.

"Can't argue that one," Vinnie smiled slightly. "Are you really okay with me and Carmel?" He asked very quietly and quite serious.

"Why wouldn't I be?" Cazi asked curiously. "She's really good for you."

"I don't know," Vinnie murmured and moved so they were face to face. "But I could still smell something ... odd ... in your scent when I got home."

"I'd just been thinking a lot." Cazi said quietly. "I guess part of me wondered if you'd come back, given how quick I saw you take to her."

"Ah, Cazi. I'm not that flaky." He actually smiled. "A partyboy, yeah, but not that bad."

"Well, I haven't known you that long." Cazi grinned softly. "I wasn't sure, and what surprised me was how much the thought bothered me."

"How much?" He asked curiously.

"It's been a long time since I worried about somebody leaving." Cazi said quietly. "I'd forgotten what it felt like. Didn't like it much." He chuckled weakly. "Bothered me a lot."

"Ah, you don't need to." Vinnie smiled softly and traced gentle fingers along Cazi's jaw. "Nice to know you care, but I'm not ditching you, Lex or Marsha because of Carmel. She understands too. Her fiancé was just like me."

"That's good." Cazi smiled, and brought his hand up to brush along Vinnie's cheek. "Been too many years since anybody got to me like you have."

"Maybe after twenty years, you've finally healed enough to let someone close again." He said quietly and turned his face into the contact. "Sometimes it takes a while to recover."

"Could be." Cazi smiled softly. "And maybe it just took the right person. You're truly one of a kind, Vinnie."

The Mouse chuckled softly and ducked his head even as he grinned. "I know. Survivors tend to be, and we're both survivors Cazi."

"Maybe that's it." Cazi chuckled quietly. "My NightBlades were all survivors, especially Ebon. But becoming one of the best known names in the black ops game isn't something anyone who isn't a survivor can manage."

"Making it threw that first mission isn't something many can do." He closed his eyes and let out a soft breath in the stillness of the sonic shower stall. "Not many at all. Can make that break and really fight back."

"Being created to be the best black op ever helps." Cazi said softly, as he nuzzled the Mouse comfortingly. "It was always easier for them, then for me. I'm more of the shadow ops myself."

"I'm just a survivor and adrenaline junky." Vinnie murmured into the tawny fur. "I just couldn't not fight back, and win."

"You also happen to be good at keeping people from staying too serious." Cazi chuckled softly. "And incredibly hot as well."

"I try," he smiled weakly. "Never worked on Throttle or Modo." He sighed softly. "I miss them bad. At least I got some closer with the others."

"I know what you mean, Vinnie." Cazi sighed softly. "We both lost our teams, but we keep on going."

"Never could really figure out why, 'scept I could never give up." He muttered quietly and pressed close against the supportive tawny body. "I guess that's it really. I just can't give up."

"I'm really glad you didn't." Cazi smiled warmly, holding the Mouse close as the tension and stiffness started to drain again, finally vanishing with a last deep breath.

"We are quite the pair, aren't we?" Vinnie sort of chuckled, almost back to normal.

"That we are, Vinnie." Cazi grinned. "There isn't a social event we can't handle in style." He chuckled playfully. "And show everyone up in the process."

"Oh, that is just *such* the given." The Mouse perked up with a daring grin. "And we do have one to show up now." He laughed and dragged Cazi from the shower to get dressed.

"Yeah, we really should get back to it." Cazi chuckled and he went along easily as they dressed, using much more contact than was even remotely necessary.

"I hope you like her," Vinnie said softly before the door opened.

"Given how good she is for you, I'm already favorably disposed toward her." Cazi smiled, grabbing a quick kiss before they walked back into public.

"Good," he grinned back and quickly spotted the Vixen talking to Mikal. "Hope they aren't talking about us." He chuckled.

"They probably are." Cazi chuckled as they closed on the odd pair. "We are the subject they have in common."

"Then I really don't like the way she looks."

"Oh, well maybe they stopped talking about us." Cazi said hopefully.

"Ah, there you two are." Carmel smiled brightly at the pair and stepped over into a double tail embrace and a gentle touch of hands that was almost ritual. *'It's okay.'* she assured Vinnie silently.

"Good." He smiled back and nuzzled her neck unabashedly.

"I was wondering if you were going to see the rest of the race, Cazi." Mykal quipped with a teasing smile.

"We thought we might." Cazi chuckled.

"At least with everyone else," Vinnie grinned playfully. "There is a screen in the room after all."

"Like you were watching it." Carmel laughed softly, quite content to be nestled against his side.

"I did, a little."

"You did?" Cazi asked with a playful tease. "I didn't think we stopped that long."

"I *am* capable of doing several things at once," Vinnie retorted with a smirk. "Just because *I'm* too distracting for you to watch, doesn't mean I couldn't."

"I know you were doing several things at once." Cazi smirked broadly. "I just didn't think any of them involved the viewscreen."

"Okay you two, if you want to take it back into a private room now." Carmel laughed in honest amusement and relief.

"I think we manage a few minutes in public." Cazi chuckled.

"But not much more." Mykal snickered quietly.

"Which should be just long enough to drag them back into private." Carmel laughed and caressed Cazi's waist with her tail.

"Mmmm," I like that idea." Vinnie grinned at her and played his tail over Cazi's neck.

"I think you were going to introduce us, Vinnie." Cazi said softly with a grin.

"Right," he smirked. "Carmel, this is Cazi. Cazi, Carmel Van Sur."

"Pleased to meet you," she extended her hand with a warm smile and allowed him to see threw her illusion. "I've heard a great deal about you."

"A pleasure indeed." Cazi smiled and shook the hand politely. "I've heard very good things about you."

"From anyone but our prettyboy here?" She asked curiously.

"Just Vinnie, so far." Cazi grinned. "I've been a little busy to talk to anyone else."

"Then why don't we meet for dinner in my suite tonight and get to know each other a little better?" She offered.

"Sounds like an excellent idea." Cazi smiled and let their attention return to the race.

"Welcome," Carmel smiled warmly at the pair after opening the door to her suite, allowing the smells of savory food to drift out to greet them.

"Roast gura?" Vinnie looked at her in disbelief after sniffing the air.

"As close as it gets out here," she chuckled softly and accepted the chaste kiss in greeting before showing them in.

"It smells quite good." Cazi said, as his nose sampled the smells coming from the kitchen, a touch surprised to pick up the distinct smells of Levan stew among the mix.

"Thank you," she smiled in pleasure. "Dracon cuisine is most interesting to put together."

"You cooked?" Vinnie looked at her very curiously with more than a trace of disbelief.

"Yes, it can be quite challenging." Cazi smiled. "Speaking of which." He smiled as a bottle wrapped in silvery metallic paper translocated into his hands. "A custom shared by both my homeworlds." He said as he handed the package to Carmel.

"Thank you," she smiled brightly as she guided them though the lavish suite to the dining room as fine as any manor could boast. "Fine Chimra'shen to add to a fine meal." She commented and set the crystal decanter with it's sparkling blue contents on the table set for three as something invisible swept a similar bottle away. "I do cook, by magic." Carmel chuckled and gestured to the kitchen for them to take a look at the bustling activity of invisible helpers. "It's so much more effective."

"I suppose it might be at that." Cazi chuckled. "Kind of how translocating is more efficient than packing, at least over limited distances."

"Very true," the elegant silver-white mouse nodded easily and gestured for them to have a seat around the intimate dinner table set for three. "Do you have a particular field of study?"

"Cybermagic." Cazi nodded. "Translocation was something I learned 'cause it's so useful."

"That it is," Carmel smiled and sat down gracefully, the invisible servants maneuvering the chairs for each of them. "I've focused on more traditional magic, primarily Enchantment and Divination, though I find too many other fields useful to truly specialize."

"Traditional magic and I never got along too well." Cazi chuckled as he sat down. "First time I tried the light-the-candle exercise, I ignited the wood floor. My teacher said I was trying too hard."

"Oh my," Carmel covered her mouth with slender fingers and chuckled softly. "I would say so. That's quite a leap."

"Well, unfortunately my magic doesn't behave entirely like my heritage from either side." He chuckled. "The square peg that didn't fit the round holes."

"You seem to have turned it to your advantage," she smiled softly, though the look she got from Vinnie indicated something more was behind it.

"Sometimes being the outsider has its advantages, especially when you don't look like an outsider." He smiled softly. "Being not exactly either has made more flexible than either."

"I have little doubt of it." She nodded and slipped her tail over to wrap around Vinnie's leg for a reassuring squeeze. "Flexibility can be a very rare trait in reality and a very useful one." She added while three nearly identical soft cream Martian Mice came out with large trays and set them on the table with perfect movements.

The smells of roasting and spiced meats and vegetables filled the room when the lids were removed and thick slices of green meat fowl and red meat haunch were served with helpings of a variety of vegetables and a selection of sauces and powders set out for each of them.

"More magic?" Vinnie asked quietly when the servers had disappeared into the kitchen again.

"Yes," Carmel nodded a little wistfully.

"At least it looks like home." He murmured with a nod. Then the fowl's finely roasted and spiced green meat had his attention and his mood flipped back to energetic under her indulgently pleased gaze.

"Oh, man. It's been *forever* since I had real Martian food." Vinnie nearly moaned in the pleasure of a childhood favorite.

"That can change now," she chuckled softly and squeezed his waist gently with her tail. "I'm pleased it tastes close to the real thing."

"Oh yeah, it's incredible." He grinned widely between bites.

"Very good." Cazi commented trying the unfamiliar dish. One of the benefits of traveling for him had always been the different the foods of different worlds.

"Thank you," Carmel beamed as proudly as any chef. "It took a very long time to develop them again without the native materials to start with." She added and turned her attention to the roasted red meat spiced to Draconian tastes.

"The roast cledon is very well prepared." Cazi commented as he tried the Dracon dish. "Not every chef can manage to use Petra without killing the taste of everything else."

"Thank you," she smiled brightly again. "I seasoned largely to my preferences on heat. I hoped it wasn't too light to taste correct."

"Mild by Dracon standards, but still correct. Many non-Dracon find the medium spice level far too hot." He smiled, remembering that Ebon had actually enjoyed the hot spice level, something even Cazi didn't go for.

"This is mild?" Vinnie woofed and went for the milk-liquor mixed that Carmel had selected as the primary drink.

"Yes, very much so." Cazi smiled broadly. "But very much a part of the proper preparation of the dish. Normally, when Dracons have non-Dracon guests, they prepare a portion like this for them."

"Oh, man, you must have roasted taste buds." He griped in good humor, causing Carmel to laugh.

"You're just too sensitive." She giggled slightly and flicked her fingers. "There, better?" She asked at his startled look.

"Umm, yeah." Vinnie stared at her. "Wha ... magic, right." He nodded before returning to the fowl with relish.

"You've studied magic quite a bit, haven't you?" Cazi asked curiously. Magic fascinated him, especially the concept of actually studying it, since he was mostly self-taught.

"Even before I lost Mars," she nodded and took a much more refined sip of liquored milk than her fiancée had managed. "It was something amusing to pass the time at first, suitable to my status and family. Since then it has become a more practical pursuit, though the manipulation of reality by force of will and knowledge has always fascinated me."

"How long?" Vinnie asked quietly, looking up at her from his first course.

"I will turn a hundred and forty seven true years next month." She gave his stunned look a slight smile. "I'm not sure why."

Vinnie nodded thoughtfully and turned his attention firmly to the food.

"True years?" Cazi asked curiously.

"Martian time, for us." She explained simply. "It's shorthand we've used for a long time for an individual's age or length of time based on their native timeframe."

"That makes a certain amount of sense, though the Alliance has found it more useful to convert things to a Galactic standard. That way you don't have to know how long the years is on an individuals homeworld to know how long a time period their referring to. There are simply too many homeworlds to keep track of."

"That is little use to an individual when trying to sort things out relative to the only times they know or conversing with their homeworld."

"But it is very useful when conversing between worlds, or between individuals of different worlds." Cazi shrugged.

"Yes it is, if you have such things." Carmel chuckled softly. "You must remember that Mars did not."

"Yes, that is why I said it was understandable, but that the Alliance did things differently." He smiled softly and received a polite nod from her in return that stopped Vinnie from pointing out he hadn't said it.

Then the magical servants were back to quickly and efficiently clear the dirty plates and set out new ones for the stews that were to follow.

While they were busy Carmel used a little magic to pour a Chimra'shen into pure crystal wine glasses. When the servants had gone to bring the food in for the next course she raised her glass in a toast.

"To a prosperous future, fine kits and good friends."

"To good friends." Cazi nodded and raised his glass to hers and then Vinnie's. He forced the pain that thinking of kits always caused, to the back of his mind. In some ways it was a loss even harder to deal with than the loss of his LifeMates.

After a sip he saw Carmel startled a bit, then nodded to Vinnie before turning to look directly at Cazi. "My apologies, Cazi. I did not realize your loss still hurt so."

"It's okay." Cazi said quietly. "After twenty years I should be able to deal with it." He sighed softly. "I guess some scars never quite heal."

"No, some don't," Vinnie nodded, his voice soft as his tail moved to wrap around Cazi's thigh for a comforting squeeze. "Drink, and put it behind you for a few hours."

"Thanks, Vinnie." Cazi smiled at the Mouse warmly, focusing on how good he felt with Vinnie as he sipped the Chimra, letting it enhance that feeling. Slowly the pain was replaced by the usual enjoyment he got from being with his lover. "Much better."

"Good," Carmel smiled warmly at him, her mood nearing a pleasure-drunk as the stews were brought out and dished up, one type in each half of the split bowls.

"Very well done." Cazi smiled, as he tasted the stews. "A cook who can do Felsin and Dracon cuisine in the same meal, is a rare find indeed." He grinned happily.

"And Martian." Vinnie added impishly, though there was nothing but pride and adoration in his look.

Carmel laughed lightly, her smile bordering on a grin for them, particularly her fiancée. "With such complements I must invite you over more often. And when I have my own kitchen and stores available."

"If this is what you can accomplish under less than optimal circumstances." Cazi grinned. "I look forward to seeing what optimal circumstances produce."

"How we're in for it." Vinnie grinned and rolled his eyes. "Miss over achiever here is going to do something fit for your Queen."

"Now that would be quite the accomplishment." Cazi chuckled. "Or so I've heard. My rank isn't nearly high enough to rate invitations to the Star Palace."

"It is certainly an interesting challenge," Carmel smiled with a predatory gleam in her crystal blue eyes. "It will be fun to bring out the more exotic flavors I've worked with."

"I've always enjoyed seeing what challenges to chefs produce." Cazi grinned playfully.

"Oh, I believe we are going to have fun." She laughed even as Vinnie groaned in a good-natured resignation.

"I haven't had a good chef challenge in years." Cazi grinned. "This trip just keeps turning out better."

"Indeed," Carmel smiled and sipped her soup. "I never expected Vinnie to come with such entertaining and appreciative company. Though he has always had excellent taste in playmates."

"That he does." Cazi smiled back, taking a sip of the Chimra. "Though finding another from Mars, is truly unexpected."

"Even a different Mars," she inclined her head. "Though we are the same race, unlike the Martians in this universe. I've taken to calling our homeworld Haloeth, after her Soul. It causes less confusion here."

"More accurate too," Vinnie added rather quietly. "The Mars here never had Her touch."

"Yes, the more I've looked into it, the more I believe the soul here went by a different name." He nodded.

"And was a very different personality." Carmel nodded. "Haloeth actively guided our world's history from the beginning in many ways and Her desires are what created us as what we are; the guardians and parents of Her new children."

"Yes, I think this Mars was a much different personality. More like Gaia in many ways, though some evidence suggests that Mars may be a male personality."

"Quite possible," she inclined her head slightly. "This Earth and Venus are quite different from ours as well. It seems that very different forces shaped the entire system."

"Not really surprising considering they are different universes." Cazi smiled. "The similarities that do exist are strange enough."

"Unnerving as hell if you ask me." Vinnie muttered softly, though a glance up at Carmel soothed the reaction.

"It is, though I have encountered much stranger in my travels." She said softly. "The odds of the three of us meeting where and when we did are greater, in my opinion."

"No kidding." Cazi smiled softly. "I hadn't really been planning on attending the races, but Vinnie needed some time away from Mars. And as vacation ideas went, this seemed ideal."

"And I never attend such things," she chuckled. "Technology simply has little interest for me. But when a friend of mine insisted I should go and see the more popular form of racing, I did. I'm very glad I listened to her."

"Fate seemed to be determined that we meet." Cazi chuckled. "She can be quite insistent at times."

"For once, I'm not complaining," Vinnie glanced at Carmel with an adoring look. "It's too good to complain about."

"Yes," she smiled softly. "It's good to have real company. Kits will be even more welcome."

"The company is good." Cazi smiled, trying to stay away from the subject of kits.

"Company of our own kind is critical for us." Carmel said softly. "A Loup Maru alone is one on the fast path to insanity and despair. It is the price we pay for the strength we gain from each other."

"Guess it's good Vinnie found you when he did." Cazi said quietly.

"Yeah, it is." He nodded, his mood subdued. "Being Marupu and just me lets me get away with a bit more, but it was coming."

"Especially with the added pressure of those memories you mentioned." Cazi added quietly. "I'm glad we found Carmel before a real breakdown occurred. I've had one, I really wouldn't want to watch someone I care about have one."

"That actually would have held it off a few years." Vinnie chuckled ruefully. "It gave me a mission to complete. Annoying, but useful."

"Certainly not a mission you were happy about." Cazi added, teasing very slightly.

"I'm happy enough to hand it off to those better qualified." He grinned a bit. "I am *so* not head of the family material."

"I won't argue with that." Cazi smiled. "Of course, neither was I but I didn't have anyone to hand it off to, that I trusted."

"You didn't have to play historian, teacher and diplomat either," Vinnie rolled his eyes as Carmel chuckled softly.

"Well, there's a certain amount of diplomacy that every family head has to deal with." Cazi chuckled wryly. "Especially one who's single."

"Every other eligible noble after your tail?" Carmel smiled playfully.

"I *so* don't want to know how that works." Vinnie shook his head.

"You've never heard of diplomatic marriages, Vinnie?" Cazi asked curiously. "And not every noble, but enough of them." He shook his head.

"You mean arranged ones?" He cocked his head curiously. "Sure, but not for a head of the family. They have a mate first."

"Normally true." Cazi chuckled. "Actually for both Dracon and Felsin they normally have two, but I don't. And the period of mourning passed some years ago."

"And they do not respect that it has not passed for you?" Carmel frowned. "Certainly the succession is not in that much danger."

"Well, until recently I thought I had gotten past it. " He smiled wryly. "Truth is, I won't marry just for political reasons. And I haven't felt anything for any of the matches offered."

"Ah," she nodded with an understanding smile, though it didn't look as if Vinnie did very well.

"Why not?"

"Why not what?" Cazi asked curiously.

"Why not a political marriage?"

"Just not my nature." Cazi said quietly. "Besides, it has to be somebody I think Ebon and Nareena would've liked." He added, admitting something he'd never really said out loud before. "Someone like that I'd feel something for."

"Oh," he nodded, though it wasn't with much comprehension. "I'm sure you will eventually. You've got the time to wait."

Cazi smiled softly. "Oh, I did. Just not in the political marriage category." He chuckled in wry amusement.

Vinnie looked utterly bewildered by the statement, but Carmel smiled in partial understanding. "Which still leaves you open to them, I believe."

"I could take a mate and still be open." Cazi chuckled. "Neither of my people are monogamous by nature."

"I remember." Vinnie nodded slightly, decidedly thoughtful and not looking terribly comfortable at about it.

"And view marriage quite differently than we do, I believe." Carmel said softly, as much to Vinnie as Cazi. "It is not only about lineage and legalities."

"Lineage is more complicated, especially now with everything technology makes possible." He smiled softly. "At least for the Felsin, which is what I was raised, the basic unit is the triad. Three people Joined together, a properly arranged triad who trust and support each other is a force to be reckoned with." He smiled. "The Dracons have always had a gender imbalance, so pairing was never really practical. The normal arrangement for a long time was a female and one or more males, many of whom were mates to each other as well. In modern times, the balance is slowly evening, but the principle remains."

"Very different." Vinnie nodded slowly.

"That's what I thought the first time I ran into monogamy." Cazi chuckled softly. "I rely can't imagine settling with just one mate. I suppose it works for those only attracted to one gender." He shrugged, chalking it up to a concept he still consider a touch 'odd'. "But to each their own."

"Yes," he nodded quietly. "As long as it works for them."

"Something to deal with after things are a little better settled." Carmel suggested calmly.

"Of course, no point to rushing things." Cazi nodded easily. "Here we are at one of the biggest party events of the season and we are getting so serious." He chuckled.

"Never a good thing." Carmel added with a slight smile and lifted her glass of Chimra. "There is far too much time to be serious to do so now."

"Right." Vinnie nodded, trying to push a lot of things from his mind.

"Besides, *you* have a race tomorrow with the champion." She winked at him.

"Should be a *very* interesting race." Cazi grinned. "I'm not sure which surprised people more; someone challenging the champion right after the race, or that she actually accepted."

"She probably heard about us." Vinnie grinned, bouncing up to full bragging levels easily. "Girl's not new to racing you know."

"True enough, but it's still unusual." He smiled. "I think she's up to something." He smirked playfully.

"Let her do her best," he smirked, utterly confident of his ability and Girl's speed. "She's not riding Girl."

"You're incorrigible, you know that." Cazi grinned warmly. "Good thing you look so good being incorrigible." He added with a playful wink.

"I look good being *anything*." Vinnie's prideful grin just widened.

"Even in undignified positions." Carmel chuckled lightly and winked at him, actually getting a light green flush under the soft white fur.

"You hardly seemed to mind being there either." He shot back with a smirk after recovering.

"Of course not, I was in charge." She all but purred and smiled playfully with a predatory edge. "And it was a lot of fun."

"He's always a lot of fun." Cazi chuckled. "And we hadn't hardly touched the possibilities in my shapeshifting."

"I'm sure there have been a *few* interesting experiments, or he's slipping." Carmel chuckled and took a sip of Chimra.

"Oh there have." Cazi grinned. "But we haven't been seeing each other that long, and there's two other people who like to see him once in a while too." The Lion smirked playfully.

"Ah yes, the inconveniences of sharing." She chuckled softly. "But the fun a group can be."

"I think that's the one thing we haven't done." Cazi chuckled. "Though I don't know Marsha well enough to know if she'd go for that."

"On theory," Vinnie smiled softly. "Though I haven't asked specifics yet. Three guys and two gals could be a real blast."

"Sounds like a long weekend to me." Cazi grinned. "A very fun long weekend."

"They usually are." Vinnie chuckled and took a long drink before digging back into the two soups.

"Some are better than others." Cazi smirked playfully before turning his attention back to the well prepared meal.

"Welcome home, Mistress." A young, fawn colored female Mouse without antennae greeted the threesome when they disembarked Carmel's private shuttle. "The master rooms are prepared as per your request."

"Excellent," Carmel smiled and breathed deeply of the fresh green grasslands air. "Does anything need my attention before I show them around?"

"Master Kobron wishes to speak with you for a few moments when you get to the stables. He indicated it could wait until you find your way there."

"Very well," she smiled with a slight nodded. "That is our first stop anyway." She smiled at Vinnie and Cazi. "Mounted is the only real way to see the estate."

"I hope I remember how to ride." Cazi chuckled. "It's been ages."

"The riders, unlike the racers, are very mellow." Carmel assured them with a grin and stepped off, shaking her fur out into the monstrous horned canine-mouse of her Lumari form for a moment before shifting back to mouse. "Getting in the saddle is the hardest part."

"It's not hard at all, though I'm betting she's going to be riding something significantly more spirited than either of us." Vinnie chuckled.

"That's fine with me." Cazi chuckled back. "I prefer less argument out what I'm riding, when I can't speak its language."

"I can fix that, if it would make you more comfortable." Carmel offered sociably while they crossed finely manicured lawns to the nearest building in the stable complex not far from the main house. "I've found Lingual Bridals to be very useful."

Cazi thought about it. "Maybe not, I think I just need to concentrate on remembering what I learned about riding the first time." He chuckled weakly.

"As you wish." She smiled with a nod as a dark brown Mouse youth caught sight of them and darted into the stable. A moment later a graying male Lupo walked out with a stiff body to greet them with a smile and submissive dip of his head for his Alpha.

"Your steeds are being readied now," he spoke to her with a deference bordering on reverence. "Do you have a moment to discuss a development with the yearlings while stablehands assist your guests?"

"Of course, Kobron." She smiled at him and turned to Vinnie and Cazi. "If you'll excuse me, I shouldn't be long. The stable hands are well trained. They should be able to handle anything you need."

"Right." Vinnie nodded and gave her a quick squeeze around the waist as he walked by.

"This should be fun." Cazi chuckled as he followed Vinnie.

"If the riders here are anything like back home, it definitely will be." Vinnie chuckled softly. "Nuri are predators."

"Predatory mounts?" Cazi looked at him curiously. "That's weird."

"Oh?" The white mouse looked at him curiously as they entered the main stable. Glances at stalls revealed two kinds of animals. The majority were horses from Earth, but there were also several vicious looking horse-like animals with a full set of fangs and clawed hoof-paws.

"My experience has been that mounts on most worlds aren't predatory." He shrugged. "In fact I've never encountered a predatory mount before this."

"We're predators, so we have predatory companions." Vinnie could only shrug. "Why would you want to make a pet out of dinner?"

"Beats me, horses never struck me as real edible." He shook his head. "Nor do most mounts for that matter. But truthfully, the predators don't tend to be big enough to be good mounts."

"Well, you are talking about a race that bred Martian Mice up from rodent things smaller than my hand." Vinnie chuckled softly. "A mount big enough to ride is easy in comparison. Many fewer demands for the end result."

"Probably true, most races aren't meddling with their mounts quite that much, when they first decide what makes good mounts." He shrugged. "I prefer predators as companions, rather than mounts."

"You make a distinction?" He looked over curiously as a placid looking chestnut predator-mount was led up for Cazi.

"Personally, yes." Cazi shrugged. "But then I've never had a mount that wasn't rented or borrowed. They just don't strike me as companions, probably the Dracon in me, Dracons have never used mounts."

"Oh," Vinnie nodded, not quite getting it but willing to let it go as Cazi was helped up into the saddle. The Marska rarely got it either.

"Here you are, sir." A second stable hand, this one a light steel gray Greyhound Camen, came up with a slightly more energetic black gelding with a white blaze and socks. Vinnie nodded and petted the beast on the forehead a few times before swinging into the saddle with more ease than he'd expected as old training and experience came to the surface.

"Thank you." Cazi nodded to the stable hand who had helped him up, as he tried to adjust to the differences between a predatory mount and a horse and found them remarkably minimal from the angle he was at. Their builds were similar, as was the tack used to ride and guide them.

"Her name is Shider, sir." The dark mouse stable hand told him when he was fairly settled.

"Good boy, Ry." Vinnie had easy control of his mount and patted its neck. As Shider was walked outside by the stable hand he guided his own mount at her side.

"Hello, Shider." Cazi said pleasantly. "Let's try not to make to big a fool out of me." He grinned and his mount tossed her head and rattt'ed at him.

"She'll be good." Vinnie grinned as they stepped back into the sun of one of the large yards surrounded by pastureland and forests further out.

"Are you just trying to be reassuring, or did you actually understand what she said?" Cazi chuckled, as he reacclimated to being on a live mount. It was weird to be riding something he didn't have a complete understanding of.

"I understand the basics," he chuckled back. "She's happy, so she won't be a problem."

"Well, we'll try to keep it that way." He grinned. "Last time I tried this, my mount introduced me to a stream."

"Oh my." Carmel's light, highly amused voice broke into Vinnie snicker. "They are far better trained than that."

"Oh, the mount was well trained." Cazi chuckled. "Can't say as much for the rider. Of course, no one reacts well to my telepathy except machines, something I forgot on that occasion."

"Your mount didn't like you trying to talk directly to it?" Vinnie snickered a bit and easy fell in on Carmel's right as she guided her prancing flame red stallion out of the yard's gate.

"Found my greeting a trifle shocking, I'm afraid." Cazi chuckled, and fell in on Vinnie's right.

"Was it not used to being talked to like that, or just not used to your say of doing it?" Carmel asked curiously as she guided the way through pastures of bright green grass and the skittish prancing and showing off of the sleek Thoroughbreds, Vash'ha and Lambers, each kept in separate pastures for their own safety.

"What I forgot, was that my telepathy doesn't work with organic life." Cazi shook his head. "With the exception of other telepaths. With anybody else, it's rather like a tazer shot."

"Oh yeah, that would piss one off." Vinnie smirked. "No wonder it didn't like you."

"Well, some helpful soul told me to pretend I was riding a motorcycle." Cazi shook his head. "I believe someone was having a little fun with me."

"Ouch," Vinnie winced. "That's just not nice."

"I don't believe they were aware that the first thing I do with a motorcycle is establish a cybertelepathic contact, to get a feel for the bike's peculiarities." He shook his head as they passed threw a pasture of shaggy coated Lambers mares and their young foals. "A horse is nothing like a motorcycle."

"No kidding." Vinnie laughed gleefully even as he and Carmel checked out the stock with critical eyes. "They've got about zilch in common."

"Well, they both take in fuel and put out exhaust." Cazi snickered playfully.

"And some of them have a mind of their own." Carmel teased Vinnie, though her eyes were roaming the open pastures and their residents. "Occasionally a very spirited mind."

"That's slowly becoming less rare, as people get more comfortable with the idea of AI vehicles." Cazi smiled.

"That is just *so* weird." Vinnie shook his head. "Girl was ready to blow this sector when that no weapons rule first came up."

"If you'd seen the aftermath of the Dreadnaught disaster, you'd understand." Cazi said quietly. "Some events leave a scar that's slow to heal."

"That much I understand." He muttered softly, an involuntary shudder running down his spine that Carmel mirrored.

"We just had different events." She said softly.

"Yeah, cyberbikes saved our tails a lot of times."

"If we'd had that experiences like that, we'd probably have more AI vehicles now." Cazi nodded.

"If the fish had come fifty years later, we might have even won." Vinnie said quietly. "There weren't enough of them ... not the right leaders in charge when it started."

"But we can't change the past." Cazi shook his head. "What happened, happened. All we can change is the future."

"Forgetting the past is a crime against society." Vinnie said with more resolution than expected, earning an approving, almost proud, gaze from Carmel.

"It is what gives the future purpose." She added. "To try to build a future without a past ... it seems nearly ... pointless."

"I was talking about accepting the past, not forgetting it." Cazi said easily. "It can't be changed after all. Learn from it, don't repeat it."

"That much is true." She nodded as they entered a stretch of forest bordering a small river.

"Nice territory you have here, Carmel." Cazi said quietly, thinking how it reminded him of Lake Maxwell.

"Thank you," she inclined her head as they traveled. "It is the work of many decades to build. Kobron but only a pup when I brought him on as a stable hand."

"Reminds of my property on Felsinor." He said quietly. "Well, only sort of, you've done a lot more than I have."

"My primary business lives on this land," she chuckled softly. "A good ninety percent of what I own is dedicated to the animals I breed and race. The larger the estate gets, the larger that percentage gets."

"Whereas the land I own is mostly memorial." He said with a soft smile. "And the land surrounding it to protect it from development."

"A fine reason to buy as any." Carmel smiled softly. "Memories are important."

"Yes, they are." Cazi nodded. "One of these days, I'll finish rebuilding the cabin."

"What's holding it back?" Vinnie asked curiously.

"It was too painful the last time." He said softly. "Too many memories, I wasn't ready for."

"Maybe a little support will help with that." Vinnie offered, with a nod of agreement from Carmel.

"It just might at that." Cazi smiled appreciatively at both of them. "Going alone might have been what I was doing wrong."

"Facing loss alone is always the hardest way to do it." Vinnie said softly. "Believe me."

"True, but it's also not easy to share." He smiled weakly.

Vinnie cocked his head slightly to look at his Lion lover and nodded without completely agreeing.

"I think it's just a matter of finding the right people to share it with." Carmel said gently. "It is easier for some than others. And for some hurts."

"Definitely a matter of the right people." Cazi nodded.

A New Mars for a Lost Mouse 3

NC-17 for M/M and M/F sex
Het Level is LowHet Smut Level is Very Low
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Low
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

69 KB, Story is Closed-Unfinished, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written April 15, 2003 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Todd McCall

Setting: Biker Mice from Mars, Galactic Alliance, Haloeth

Primary Races: Dracon, Feline, Human, Loup Maru, Martian Mice

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). Fantasy, Romance

Pairings: Vinnie/Lex Maza, Vinnie/Marsha, Vinnie/Cazi, Vinnie/Carmel Van Sur

Notes: Universe: New Mars by Draconia

Blurb: Vinnie and Cazi go on a little vacation, which turns up many a surprise.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

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