(a/n: I have so many ideas in my head, it's amazing that it hasn't swelled up to the size of a small elephant. I've got story ideas and plots and words that don't exist and research and schedules and thoughts and so many other things parading about my head, it's pretty much a miracle that I haven't clawed my brain out. I'm trying really hard to devote just as much time to one story as the next, and I'm trying to update them all fairly. Not to mention I have a fourth story that's dying to get out and has been for a few weeks. I'm working on Unexpected Losses, as well, and will update it as quickly as I can, it being the most popular of my stories. Thanks for sticking with me thus far, and not shoving a spike though my forehead!

(This chapter is dedicated to: Veggie-Babu-Chan, because you always give me something to laugh about, or think about in your reviews, and hey! For still reviewing! Thanks so much!)

Better to Die than to Crawl

Chapter 8

Makoto, Rahne, and Colby made their way outside, still talking about their mutant abilities. Rahne's hybrid wolf-form had nearly given Makoto a heart attack, but Colby was relatively quiet, simply explaining that the could make an astral projection of herself and teleport objects to her. They had to be inanimate and small enough to move, of course, the ping-pong paddle being a prime example. Her main focus in learning was to work with larger objects.

Makoto liked both girls immensely. Rahne was generally sweet and had an easy laugh. She was playful and smart, but would rather fight than talk. She'd confided about her small crush on the blonde boy from their ping-pong game, Cannonball, who's real name was Samuel. Rahne had very specifically guaranteed Makoto an early, painful demise should Cannonball ever come across this information from any unnamed source. The Japanese girl had laughed her agreement, and sworn herself to silence.

Colby, on the other hand, seemed quieter, more studious. She and Rahne were best friends, and shared a room. Colby had been an orphan since she was six or seven and ran away from her first foster home. She'd never been found, and made herself a living on the streets of London. After she'd discovered her powers, her life was made much easier. She'd eventually been caught by Ororo Munroe, who was a teacher at the Institute, and a thief herself at one point. Colby received an ultimatum: join the Institute, have school and learn control over her powers, or receive just rewards for her illegal activities.

Colby chose to join up with the X-Men. After only a few years, it was home, and she was happy to be there. She was an outcast at first, but was well accepted with or without her past baggage.

Makoto, being an orphan herself, understood Colby's silence about her family and some parts of her past. She informed the two girls about her life in calm, unrushed words that held true to her earthy nature. She was levelheaded at most times, but should her temper be truly awakened, the result was disastrous. She told them more than she'd initially expected to, talking about Akemi and her thoughts about Suki and their current position.

It was an enormous surprise when both Colby and Rahne had promised to help her get her almost-brother back. "We would never want to be in that position!" Rahne gasped in her response to Makoto's shock. "Imagine if anyone ever tried to keep me from my family!" A deep growling sound resounded from the back of her throat, and Makoto came to the rude realization that her new friends were liable to be very dangerous should the proper occasion occur.

"I'm sure there's something that we could do." Colby spoke practically. "But you should talk to Suki first. She's Akemi's mother, right?" Makoto nodded. "Well, no matter what, it'll be easier if she lets you spend time with him. Just legally, if nothing else. Besides, maybe she'll cool off. It must've been a shock, and the news really doesn't portray us mutants in the best sense. If she knows that we're not dangerous unless we have to be….maybe--"

"Maybe she'll let me see him!" Makoto interrupted, excited and surprised by the practicality of the thought she didn't have. "She should, too! Suki knows that I would never do anything to Akemi. I'm the same person, right?"

"I'm leaning towards yes, but seeing as I didn't know you beforehand…" Rahne drifted off, any further words cut off by her own giggles. Colby smiled in agreement.

"Thanks guys!" Makoto hugged a surprised Rahne, and was surprised when Colby pulled out of the way of physical contact. "Sorry!"

"It's okay. I just…don't hug." Colby answered, almost sheepishly. "It's a thing with a thing." She added in conclusion. Rahne seemed to make sense of what she said, but Makoto felt a little lost, and wondered if there were some bits of the English language that Xavier didn't understand. She almost laughed aloud at the though of him speaking anything but proper English.

"Okay." Makoto answered, pulling herself from her thoughts and receiving an odd look from Rahne. "Got lost in thought…" She explained. Rahne nodded with a fresh grin.

"That happens to Rahn a lot, don't worry about it." Colby agreed, and let free a low laugh at Rahne's affronted expression. "Well, Rahn. It's true isn't it? It's not an insult if it's true."

"That's your motto." Rahne grumbled, but didn't disagree.

"You betcha!"

Ami ran, as quickly as she was able, hugging her backpack to her chest, tears running down her cheeks. She was angry, justifiably, and embarrassed….oh, so embarrassed. And above all, hurt, angry, and embarrassed all at once. And she hated Empath, the bastard asshole. The nerve of him! First, reading her mind, and then kissing her, and then reading her mind…AGAIN! It was unbelievable, to Ami.

"I could've taken care of her without that jerk." Ami muttered to herself, as she slowed her run to a walk, heading towards her pond. She needed to sort this out logically. He was trying to help her after all. But he didn't have to kiss her, there could've been some other way to make Amanda see sense. At the thought of Amanda, Ami was filled with rage again. The brunette had all but jumped her physically when she'd returned to the school to wait for the Hellfire Club students.

She'd been looking forward to talking to Usagi again…and now she wasn't quite sure if she wanted to ever see any of them again. Especially Empath. He knew…and that hurt especially. After what he did, he realized the truth about her. Ami had never been so thoroughly mortified in her life! Her first kiss, and it was with someone who didn't even like her!

Ami found herself at her most usual hideout, and sat near the water on a huge, flat rock. She scrubbed at her face with her palms, trying to rid herself of tears. She sniffed and wished she'd brought a handkerchief. She wanted to wash her face and she wanted to stop crying. She told herself that the bastard wasn't worth the effort and pain of her tears, but she couldn't help herself. After a few moments of trying to quell her tears, she slid from her seat and knelt next to the water.

Using her hands a cup, and splashed herself and ground the water onto her face. The cold water was refreshing, and helped Ami distance herself from her own emotions. She studied her reflection in the clear water, and wished her eyes weren't so red, or that she didn't look quite so miserable with herself. She rubbed her eyes with more cupped water, but she knew that it was really no use.

She settled back on her stone, pulling her knees to her chest. She rested her chin in the "v" space created and she let go of everything she was feeling. She concentrated, instead, on the practicalities of the situation. First off was to say that despite her own feelings, the ploy did work. Amanda had hurried away nearly as quickly as she was able. Empath did seem to feel bad for it, and obviously hadn't known.

Ami calmed quickly as she took the logical approach to her problem. She felt better and the ice that had encircled her heart melted. She wasn't quite as enraged as she was before, and she calmed as she meditated further.

When a hand landed on her shoulder, Ami spun, praying that it wasn't Empath. To see him so soon would completely destroy all the calm she'd managed to attain. Tears filled her eyes at the thought of him, and Ami realized that it would be a long time before she'd be able to handle having him as any kind of teammate.

To her surprise, Bryan stood behind her. A shocked look filled his face at the sight of her tears. He opened his arms, and Ami filled them, crying anew. "What happened? Emira and I were worried when you didn't come back with the others. Are you okay?"

Bryan wrapped his arms around the girl he barely knew, but loved as dearly as the sister he'd once had, or Emira's once-brother, Hayden. "No." She answered honestly, and tried vainly to suppress another sob. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be. Tell me what happened. Please?"

"…if you get within three feet of her, I will kill you." Bryan Williams found himself, little more than an hour later, holding Empath a few feet off the ground by his neck. The brunette nodded quickly at the far more muscular boy. Empath usually wasn't one to back down from a fight, but the anger rolling off of Bryan was astounding. Especially considering that Bryan had only known Ami a little longer than he himself had.

Bryan had returned, sans Ami, an in a temper that even Emira didn't try to break him from. Due to the fact that she was almost as angry after Bryan shared a few choice words with her, that wasn't too much of a consideration. Bryan spun on his heel and left the very full dining room.

Dakota jumped to her feet at Bryan's attack at Empath, but Helen, at her side, stopped her from moving. The taller mahogany-haired girl shook her head. She, instead of attacking Bryan, turned to Empath. She motioned for the boy to come to her. He hesitantly did so. Helen and Dakota each scooted away from one another, giving him ample room to sit down. "Yes?"

"Alright, Em. What did you do to Ami?" She asked, spearing a grape tomato with her fork, sending a splurt of tomato juice and seeds across her plate. She suppressed a grin at that.

"It was an accident!" Was the first answer Empath managed. Helen shared a glance with Jazz, who sat across the table, and then looked back to the Spanish boy. "Alright, alright. I was just trying to help her out of a fight--"

"Wait…did she ask for this help?" Dakota interrupted. Guiltily, Empath shook his head. "You interrupted her fight, a fight she may have wanted to…well…fight. And, I'm guessing, you expect her to be grateful for this, and then what'd you do? Kiss her or something?" Empath blushed darkly, an accomplishment especially because of his dark skin.

"Manuel Alfonso de la Rocha!" Helen hissed.

"How did you know my name?" He asked her, blankly.

"After the way you've been treating her?" She ignored him. "You pretty much shout from the rooftops that you don't like her, and you kiss her? Her first kiss is from a guy who outwardly can't stand her. You, Manuel Alfonso de la Rocha…" She said his entire name again for emphasis, "are an asshole."

Helen jumped to her feet and left the cafeteria. Dakota blinked in shock. Sometimes, Helen was more observant than she was credited for. Honestly, Dakota would've expect an exclamation like that from Sandra, not Helen. Jasmine, Jazz, was quick to follow Helen to calm the other girl down. When Helen lost control of her anger, things tended to blow up.

And she really wasn't tempted by the thought of buying a third computer.

Rei and John returned to the apartment, both supporting Minako. Mystique was waiting there, pacing anxiously in the fashion that Pietro himself had adopted less than hour before. Rei groaned as she, Mina, and John all sank into the couch together. That had felt like more than a lifetime ago.

"You are in so much trouble." Mystique growled when they sat. "I am going to flay each of you alive." She paused for a moment. "Where is Pietro?"

"My mom called Control Agents on me. They were chasing me here. They caught Pietro. We got four of them." Minako replied dully, with a faraway look in her eyes. "We've got to get him back. My dad's trying to cover for me, but I can't leave with Pietro still here…I just can't."

"We're not going anywhere without him. Do you know where we could find the center for these agents?" Mystique questioned, but was answered with negative responses. "Well, then, we have our work cut out for us, don't we? First of all, tell me exactly what happened tonight. Then, we're going to be doing some research. Minako, is your ankle serious?"

"I don't think so." Minako rotated her ankle and winced. "But I won't be running anytime soon. Guess I'm in for research."

"Damn right you are." Mystique answered. "All three of you are. I'm not really worried about you guys fighting. It's obvious enough that you can fight as a team. You're alive. That's proof enough for me. We've got to find out where these human bastards have taken Pietro, and then we're going to get him back and head off to the states. I'm going to get in contact with Magneto. You three…get cleaned up."

Mystique stalked out of the room, her heeled boots snapping on the floor as she went. John, astonishingly, had fallen asleep where he sat. Minako and Rei shared a glance, which plainly said, "If today didn't suck so much, that would be damn funny." Rei stood first, wobbling slightly, and offered Minako a hand up.

"I've got some stuff." Rei said simply, and adjusted herself so that Minako could comfortably lean on the raven-haired girl as they walked. The pair headed to the room Rei had been temporarily "assigned." Rei sat Minako down on her bed, and ventured to her belongings. She'd packed herself a small First Aid kit, knowing that whoever she was going, it could be useful.

She firmly wrapped Minako's ankle, an quickly. The flesh-colored ACE bandage was tight enough to give support, but wasn't so tight that her toes were turning purple. Mina flexed them, and was rewarded by movement. She tried rotating her ankle again, but the bandaged severely lessened the possibility of actually being able to manage that particular repositioning.

"Thank you." The blonde said, and leaned forward, pressing a little pressure onto her foot. It didn't hurt badly, and Minako was pleased at that, her sprain wasn't going to take as long as she thought to heal. Not while she had this makeshift brace. "Seeing as how our lives were pretty much in a bit of danger, we weren't exactly introduced. My name is Aino Minako."

"Hino, Rei." The dark-haired girl answered, and took a seat next to the blonde. "I'd say it was nice to meet you, but I try not to lie. This day has been everything but nice."

"I have to agree." Minako answered, not at all insulted. "Thank you for your help with the agents. I don't suppose that you could forgive me for getting Pietro kidnapped?"

"I don't have to." Rei replied with a shrug. "You didn't do a thing. It was those humans. Those Mutant Control Agents. I'd really like another go at them."

"It's my fault, though." Minako protested. "If it weren't for me, my mother wouldn't have called them, and you'd probably be on your way back to the states. And you'd be safe, and Pietro would be safe and not under whatever torture that those people are putting him through. So much could be different…so much could be worse if only I hadn't agreed to come."

"Because there's absolutely no possibility that we wouldn't all have been caught. That's ridiculous. Because you're the only mutant on the planet that these guys are after…of course!" Rei shot back in a mocking tone. "It would've been so much better if we'd all been caught rather than just Pietro. That way we wouldn't have to go and rescue him! We'd be with him now."

"I stand corrected." Minako answered, blushing at her own lack of thought.

(a/n: that's all folks. Sorry for another short chappie…dunno why it's short…just is. This isn't going to be Ami/Empath, I've gotten earlier requests for another couple, and I'm gonna go with that one. Yayness. Enjoy!)