Lance woke up with a groan, hoping the thudding he heard originated from one of his housemates' stunts and not in his skull.
The room spun dizzyingly around him as he sat up, crushing his wishful thinking. "Get up, get moving," Lance told himself. "You know it'll be better after a shower and some coffee."
There was a loud crash from the general vicinity of the stairs. "Not-funny-Toad-just-you-wait-and-see-what-I-do-to-you-that-will-be-funny!" Quicksilver ranted in fast forward.
"Note: Todd slimed the stairs," Lance thought to himself. "It's a good thing we've got a common enemy or we'd kill each other."
Lance smiled seeing the bathroom door standing open, maybe the day was looking up already. He shut the door firmly behind him and kicked a towel in front of it to keep it from swinging open again curtsey of Tabby and Pietro's last bathroom hogging argument, and turned on the faucet only to see a disappointing trickle of brownish water emerge and dry up after only few moments.
"What the hell happened to the water this time!" Lance yelled, collecting up his bathroom supplies in preparation for another round of showering at school.
"Again?" Tabby's sleepy voice yelled back. "I thought we had money this month?"
Grumbling Lance headed downstairs, jumping over the patch of slime covering the top few steps. He glanced at Todd, hanging bound and gagged from the remains of the ceiling fan.
"Fred can get you down easiest," Lance told the younger boy. "When he wakes up."
He ignored the daggers that Todd was glaring at him and continued into the kitchen, picked up the phone and dialed the water company.
"This is the Brotherhood Boarding House, why the fuck is the water off this time! I know I paid you!" Lance yelled as soon as he got through to a living person. "I did so pay you! Check again!"
As he shouted, Lance's gaze was drawn to a white corner peeking out from behind the telephone table. He pulled out a somewhat dingy envelope, checked the address, then in a calmer voice said, "I guess the check got misplaced. I'll drop it off later today. How long will it take to get the water back?"
Lance rubbed his forehead tiredly, stuffed the envelop in his pocket and pulled a milk bottle full of water from the pantry for coffee.
"We're learning huh?" Fred asked coming in from his bedroom.
"Sure thing Freddy," Lance sighed. "Quickie tied Toad to the ceiling fan, could you get him down and tell him to clean the slime off the stairs before school?"
A girlish shriek followed by a crash followed by several decidedly unlady-like curses sounded from the other room.
Fred stuck his head through the door just before an explosion sent a cloud of dust through the house.
"Tabby got him down," Fred reported to Lance. "That's got to hurt," he added with a sympathetic wince.
Lance watched the coffee slowly drip through the filter, waiting for it to reach the one mug mark.
A gust of wind swept through the room and resolved into Pietro holding a cup of coffee.
"Give it to me," Lance said, a warning clear in his voice.
"Gotta-chatch-me," Pietro announced smirking.
Lance just glared. "First, it's my coffee."
"Second, we made a rule about you and caffeine."
"Not me," Todd interjected.
"Third, do you really want to deal with me when I don't get coffee?" Lance asked a slight tremor punctuated his statement. Then Lance's face twisted as his headache shifted from dull and throbbing to sharp and penetrating.
The contested cup of coffee materialized at Lance's elbow as he gingerly rubbed his temples waiting for the pain to subside to normal levels. When he raised his head from his hands Pietro was finishing breakfast and Todd had found a box of granola bars and was unwrapping one, while Fred dug through the refrigerator.
"Pass me one," Tabby said to Todd as she came in the kitchen with her make-up bag.
Todd threw one of the bars across the kitchen. "You want one Lance?" he asked.
"I hope you didn't buy that," Lance said. "You know we can't afford junk food."
"Don't worry, yo," Todd said. "Shoplifted 'em fair and square."
"Good," Lance replied, he glanced at his watch. "Everyone eat fast, we're heading to school in fifteen minutes."
"Why, we'll be there half an hour before classes start," Todd complained.
"Because none of us have showered yet, Froggy," Tabby replied.
"So?" Todd asked innocently.
Lance just shook his head and turned his attention back toward the coffee.
****** ****** ******
Lance rested his forearm against the central shower pole and let the luke-warm water cascade over his shoulders easing the throbbing in his head.
The first bell jerked him out of a semi-hypnotized doze.
"Shit," Lance swore hurrying to get dressed and made it to class.
Lance drifted through his morning classes, paying the minimum amount of attention, trying to decide if it if it would be worth the trouble of skipping to get away from the noise of the classrooms.
Third period rolled around and Lance smiled a little, this class was an easy decision, he'd failed enough science classes that he and Kitty were in the same class. Better than that they were lab partners. Just the thought of spending time with her boosted Lance's energy levels.
"Lance Alvars, Pietro Maximoff, Todd Tolensky and Fred Dukes reported to the principal's office," the secretary's voice sounded over the school's intercom.
"Oh what now!" Lance exclaimed impatiently. Kelly would drag him out of the one class he actually looked forward to.
As he walked toward the office the rest of the Brotherhood fell in beside him.
"So what did we do?" Lance asked. "And why couldn't we wait till after this class?"
"What the big deal?" Tabby asked.
"Kitty time," Todd explained. "Hey what are you doing here? Kelly didn't ask for you."
"I didn't want to be left out," Tabby said with a shrug.
"And here I am wishing I'd been left out," Lance said.
"Sorry-Lance," Pietro said. "Not-really. But we didn't know he'd call you. You weren't there after all."
"Hey we're a team, everyone knows that," Lance sighed.
"Well someone didn't get the memo that I'm on the team now," Tabby complained.
"Don't mind Kelly, he's slow, slow-slow-slow, even-for-someone-who's-not-me," Pietro said.
"You're all crazy," Lance said. "You know that don't you?"
"That's one word," Kelly said as they entered his office. "There's also maniacal, deviant, destructive, delinquent. I'm tempted to say just plain evil."
"Principal Kelly!" Pietro exclaimed sounding outraged. "What an attitude for an educator to possess!"
"Oh I like children," Kelly said. "But you four…"
"Five," Todd pointed out.
"Are demons!" Kelly exclaimed.
"And you're a pathetic, scared, pretense of a person," Lance snarled, his fists clenching as his anger shot uncontrolled tremors through the room, knocking over books and trophies, sending pictures crashing to the ground."
"Not another one!" Kelly exclaimed clutching his desk.
"Lance, headaches," Todd hissed. "Cut it out, you already go through aspirin like Quickie goes through candy."
The room stilled and Kelly straightened. "All of you, detention tonight and Saturday," he spat. "Now get out of my sight!"
As the Brotherhood trooped back through the main office they passed the secretary, calmly straightening her desk. Living in Bayville for a matter of months gave a person nerves a life long Californian would envy.
Tabby waved cheerfully as the group split to go to their individual classes.
A few moments later Lance slid into his seat beside Kitty Pryde. The slight brown-haired girl silently handed him several Tylenols. Lance smiled gratefully and swallowed them dry with the ease of long practice.
Kitty scribbled a quick note onto her note pad then tilted it toward Lance. "You have to quit that!" it said.
Lance shrugged and smiled sheepishly. "He makes me mad," he wrote beneath Kitty's note.
"You're going to hurt yourself," Kitty wrote back. Lance could see the concern in her eyes. It made him feel warm and sorry at the same time.
"I'll be good," he scribbled.
Kitty caught his free hand and squeezed it warmly. Lance zoned out on the rest of the lecture, his attention totally focused on the small, soft hand clasping his beneath the table.
When the bell rang Kitty asked, "So are we still on for tonight?"
Lance sighed reluctantly letting her hand slip away. "Move it back an hour?" he asked. "We got detention."
"We'll have to eat after the movie," Kitty said. "I'll be pushing curfew. Couldn't you just skip detention? It's not like the first time."
"Kelly said he'd take us off the free lunch program if we rack up too many black marks," Lance replied unhappily. "We really can't afford that, and between Pietro's insane pride and keeping the jocks away from Todd… and my temper… we can't really stay out of trouble. Having us actually show up for punishments makes Kelly feel like he's in control, makes him happier."
"It's okay," Kitty said. "They probably won't even notice if I sneak in a little late."
"When you're on a date with me?" Lance asked disbelievingly.
"Well, I don't care," Kitty said firmly and Lance smiled happily as they split for their next classes.
****** ****** ******
As Lance approached the cafeteria the first thing he noticed was Kurt Wagner looking nervous and torn. Lance followed the X-Man's gaze and he wasn't surprised to see Todd and Tabby cornered by four large, angry football players led by Duncan Matthews.
He was a little surprised by the highly unnatural shade of pink hair that topped the foursome's heads.
From across the room Lance could see that Todd was scared and Tabby was seconds from a metaphorical and possibly literal explosion.
Lance stalked across the room toward the confrontation, as he passed Kurt he noticed the look of relief on the younger boy's face. "Couldn't decide if she was worth playing hero for?" Lance asked, his voice quiet and cutting. He didn't slow as he passed the X-Man and placed himself solidly between Matthews and his two housemates.
"You want them, you go through me," Lance said conversationally.
There wasn't a noticeable height difference between Lance and Matthew's group, but every one of the opposing forces out bulked him by a healthy margin. Still they hesitated, made cautious by the cold, hard look in Lance's eyes.
A faint vibration through the floor announced Fred's arrival. Internally Lance sagged with relief, his external face never flickered, an observer wouldn't have been able to say if Lance were even aware of his large friend stepping up to back him.
"Shove off," Lance ordered. Matthew's face darkened with hate but he and his friends backed down in the face of Fred's bulk and Lance's less definable air of menace.
"Good timing, yo," Todd said thankfully.
"So that's what we're getting detention for?" Lance asked, his gaze following football players and their bright, cheerful plumage.
Todd grinned. "We got most of the team, a lovely blend of bleach and hair dye, compliments of Toad and Quicksilver hair styling.
"Uh-huh," Lance replied. "You remember what I said about keeping out of trouble? I don't give a damn what you have to do to keep them from bullying you, but we don't have to go out of our way to antagonize them. Not right now, not on school grounds where Kelly's watching us, remember?"
"Sorry Lance," Todd said. "But you gotta admit that it's their color."
Lance rolled his eyes as a lop-sided smirk reluctantly transformed his face. "Okay, maybe that was worth it," he said. "Where's Pietro?"
Before anyone could reply Evan Daniels stormed into the room muttering angrily under his breath. Lance nodded as if he'd received the answer to his question then turned and headed back toward the lunch line.
****** ****** ******
Lance stood in the hall by his locker, eyes closed, perfectly still, listening as the hoards of students thinned and vanished into their classes, while he fought to will his ever-present headache into submission. He was caught totally off guard as a hand clamped around his arm and spun him into the wall of lockers. The sudden movement and the even sharper stop send Lance's brain spinning dizzily and filled his vision with multi-colored sparkles.
"Can't you keep that lunatic speed demon under control?" Scott Summer's angry, superior voice demanded.
Lance's fist lashed out, and he felt a satisfying impact as it connected with Scott's jaw, rocking the other mutant's head back. Scott grabbed for his glasses, keeping them securely in place as he stepped back out of arms reach and waited.
"Why aren't you reading the riot act to Daniels," Lance demanded, trying to be inconspicuous as he leaned back against the lockers.
"I'm planning on it," Scott said. "But I'm not going to waste my time if Pietro's just going to start things back up again."
"Fine," Lance snapped. "Where are they?"
Scott stalked off and Lance pushed himself away from the wall to follow the other boy.
They turned a corner to see every locker door swinging open and papers drifting slowly toward the floor. It looked like the aftermath of a tornado.
"A tornado and a big porcupine," Lance corrected himself mentally noticing a line of brown bone-spikes embedded in the wall. The last one pinned a scrap of clothe to the wall that Lance thought he recognized as a part of the sweater Pietro had been wearing that morning.
Lance left the school and found Evan standing in the center of the teacher's parking lot, doused in paint and crouched slightly, ready to throw a handful of spikes at the white topped blur that was Pietro.
"Too-slow! Missed-me!" Pietro taunted dashing from one side of the parking lot to the other. For some reason Pietro seemed determined not to touch the ground, preferring to jump from car to car.
Pietro paused; crouching on the hood of Principal Kelly's car and Evan threw. His spikes shattered the windshield as Pietro darted across the next three cars. "Good-aim-bone-brain!" he taunted.
"Spyke!" Scott yelled. "Enough!"
Pietro darted behind Scott and started making faces at Evan. Lance grabbed his hyperactive teammate by the collar and started dragging him back toward the school. "Haven't you had enough fun for one day?" Lance muttered, wondering if his brains were actually leaking out of his ears or if it just felt that way.
"He-started-it!" Pietro protested as Evan yelled defensively, "If Pietro hadn't…"
Lance felt a moment's kinship with Summers and shuddered at the horrific thought. "Class, now," he told Pietro. "Stay out of trouble till detention okay?"
"You're no fun anymore," Pietro complained. "Always trying to impress your Kitty-kat."
"Please," Lance sighed. "My head's killing me, just let the rest of the day stay quiet, just for novelty's sake."
"You shouldn't of shook up Kelly's office. It's your own fault your head hurts," Pietro pointed out.
"Oh no, I think you and Summers and Matthews and Kelly and Daniels and, hell, everybody, shares some of the blame for my headaches," Lance growled ominously.
"Oh-look-at-the-time-gotta-get-to-class-bye," Pietro exclaimed.
Lance watched as the speedster disappeared then trudged toward his final class.
****** ****** ******
Lance buried his head in his arms, wondering when the headache from hell would end.
"If it would end," he amended. The side effects of using his powers never really wore off anymore, just varied in severity. He considered using his powers for long enough to push himself into a true blackout, just to escape the pain for a few hours.
Of course it would be worse than ever when he eventually woke up Lance realized.
The other members of the Brotherhood exchanged uneasy glances over the dark-haired boy's head as they watched Lance curl further into himself.
Pietro vanished for a few moments to return with a new bottle of aspirin and a glass of water.
"We should take him to a doctor," Tabby said quietly, watching Lance swallow a handful of pills. "That can't be good for him."
"What we gonna tell 'em, yo?" Todd asked. "He gets migraines from causing earthquakes?"
"Can't say that," Pietro added. "They'll-do-bad-things-to-him-if-they-find-out…"
"We have to do something," Fred said watching Lance go back to gingerly cradling his head.
The teacher marveled at how quiet detention was for once.
****** ****** ******
Kitty snuggled closer to Lance as the movie began, silently blessing whoever realized that flip-up arms were the perfect accessories for chairs in a movie theater.
Lance rested his cheek against the top of her head enjoying the moment. Since they'd begun dating both had learned to treasure every fleeting moment that didn't include their respective friends interfering with their dates. Right now, with Kitty in his arms, was prefect Lance decided, despite the ever present nagging ache in his head. He'd have been completely happy if the moment, this feeling, could have lasted the rest of his life.
Kitty forced herself not to giggle as Lance's breathing evened out and he slumped bonelessly against her, falling asleep before the preview finished showing.
With the ending credits done the lights in the theater came up and an usher glared irritably at them. Kitty regretfully woke Lance. He blinked sleepily, his expression open and vaguely confused. "Is it morning?" he asked.
"Not exactly," Kitty replied thinking it might be nice to wake up with Lance in the morning sometime in the distant future.
Lance looked around, "The movie?"
"All over," Kitty explained. Lance blushed a little. "So are we still one for dinner? I'm buying," she said.
"I hate that," Lance muttered quietly. Kitty sighed buy didn't remark on it, they both knew all the whys. Instead of rehashing them she slid closer, pulling Lance's arm around her shoulders.
The drive to the restaurant was quiet, but thoroughly enjoyable. For the moment being mutants, not to mention members of opposing teams was forgotten in the pleasure of togetherness.
The peaceful emotion was shattered when they encountered a group of football players, many of them possessing pink hair, in the parking lot outside of the restaurant. When they spotted Lance their expressions turned ugly. Leaving their girlfriends, including Jean Grey, behind they moved to surround the couple. Lance stepped away from Kitty smirking.
"Think you've got enough friends this time Matthews?" he asked his tone challenging.
Kitty looked toward Jean, her expression pleading for the telepath to defuse the situation.
//He and his friends bring this sort of thing on themselves.// Jean thought at Kitty. //This sort of trouble is why you shouldn't be dating him.//
Kitty glared at the redhead, angry at the whole situation. She knew how to deal with super-powered villains, but against her fellow students she had to keep her powers hidden. Jean could have quietly resolved this, but instead she was standing by uselessly in the name of letting Kitty learn some sort of perverse lesson about dating Lance. If Lance's idiot friends had tagged along and wrecked their date like normal she would have let them deal with their own mess, but Lance was alone. If Lance used his powers he could take on an army and win, but even the Brotherhood tried not to get caught using their powers after a taste of the repercussion of being found out.
"Come on Matthews, are you scared of me?" Lance challenged.
Duncan separated himself from the crowd of his friends. "Not in your dreams Alvers," he replied.
A loose circle formed around the two boys. Duncan's expression was arrogant and angry, Lance's was coldly confident.
Kitty felt a measure of unhappy relief; Lance vs. Duncan had a lot less potential for disaster than she and Lance vs. the football team. It wasn't as if Lance ever made it through a week without some sort of brawl, even if she didn't count X-Men/Brotherhood skirmishes.
The fight was over almost before it started as Lance laid into the other boy in a no-nonsense manner. He left Duncan sitting on the pavement with a broken nose then collected Kitty with a glance and they started toward the restaurant when several of Duncan's friends grabbed his arms.
Jean grabbed Kitty and held her back hissing, "Don't get involved."
"I have had it with this!" Lance cried angrily.
"That's right," Duncan said trying to sound menacing seconds before the earth began to shake.
Inside Lance's head something seemed to snap. The dark-haired teen screamed in agony as white-hot pain flooded his mind.Back Next Please send feeback