"Mr Alvers, if you do not climb that rope you will never get out of this school nor will you amount to anything! So, if you do not wish to spend your next 12 lunchtimes cleaning the gym with a toothbrush, I suggest you get your punk-ass up there!"

'Who the hell does he think he is,' Lance thought as he glared at the fuming coach, 'tell me I won't amount to anything. What the hell is he doing? I wouldn't call what he does for a living something to be proud of.'

"I'm waiting Mr Alvers," the coach tapped a foot.

'Get a life gramps. You think you can manipulate me into doing something as dumb as climbing a stupid rope you've got to be kidding. Mind you, 12 lunchtimes is a lot.'

"Mr Alvers?"

'Actually it's a hell of a lot. Oh well, you can deal with it Lance. Be a man.' Lance turned to the fuming coach and smiled, "fuck off Grampa."

The coach went an alarming shade of red, then blue, then purple. "What did you just say!"

"I said, fuck off Grandpa, or is that too much slang for you to handle?" Across the gym some of the girls giggled.

"Get on that rope Alvers!" the coach roared. Lance wiped imaginary spit from his face.

"No."

"You don't get on that rope and you will find yourself reporting to the Principals office stat! And this time I will make sure your punishment is bad. And when I mean bad I mean cleaning toilets for the rest of the semester!"

'I think he actually means it,' Lance thought, 'hey, I didn't know anyone could go that colour outside of cartoons. I wonder if I can make him go green?'

"What's the matter Lance?" called Mindy, a particularly nasty piece of cheerleading trash, "afraid of heights?" Lance turned to glare at her.

'Don't do it Lance,' his brain began to tell him, 'being afraid of heights is nothing to be ashamed of.' "No," answered his traitor of a mouth.

"Well what are you waiting for?"

"Yeah," Mindy's boyfriend Marco, some kind of sick joke Lance had decided, joined in the taunting fiesta, "what are you waiting for Alvers?"

'Lance don't do it!' his brain yelled at him, 'you'll only make a fool of yourself! What do you need to prove to them anyway? They're just jock-jerks.' "Shut-up brain," Lance muttered, and he stepped up to the rope. 'Woah, this is really high,' Lance thought as he looked down at the gym floor below, 'I didn't know it was this high! Help! I want down! Now!'

"See Mr Alver's it wasn't that bad after all was it?" the coach called, proud that he had finally won a battle against Lance. Lance's head was swimming.

'Help, this is way too high,' he thought feebly. He could almost hear his brain saying, 'well look who's come crawling back,' like it did in all those deranged cartoons.

"You can come down now Lance," the coach said, fast losing patience, "I think you've proven your point. We can all see you're not afraid of heights."

'Oh how ironic,' Lance thought. The floor was rushing up to meet him, then falling away, then rushing back up again. "I think I'm gonna be sick," Lance murmured.

"What was that Alvers?" the coach called up. Lance put a hand to his head, to try and stop the spinning.

"Look out!" someone called, "I think he's gonna chuck!" Lance wasn't quite sure how the set of events flowed together after that. Certainly he threw-up, and he was aware of falling, a long, loooong way, and then pain. 'Help I can't breathe!' Lance panicked. Someone was yelling, someone else had cushioned his head. He regained consciousness long enough to see

Rouge glancing down at him, worry evident. He heard someone scream, "my hair, he chucked into my hair!" and then he was drifting away again. 'Well at least I'm dying in the arms of a chick,' Lance thought, 'suck on that Pietro!' and then he fainted again.

- - -

Lance woke with the biggest back pain in the entire world. Well, as far as he was concerned it was the most painful.

"Wakey wakey Lance," came a familiar voice. Within seconds Lance's view was blocked by the face of the white-haired Pietro, grinning like an idiot.

"Piss off," Lance groaned, waving his hand feebly at Pietro.

"Still his usual charming self," Pietro said, not moving, "that was quite a fall you took young man."

"Hey Lance," Todd said, blue eyes swapping for pale green, "howz ya leg feel?" At this the younger mutant grinned evilly.

"Huh?" Lance mumbled, still feeling befuddled. 'Todd caring? What was the world coming too? And what did he mean leg?' Lance glanced down at his leg and met with the second biggest shock he'd had that day. "I broke it!?!" Lance gasped.

"Yep," Todd grinned, tapping Lance's cast as if to test it was sound. His tongue swept out to grab a stray bug. Pietro shuddered.

'He just can't get used to that can he?' Lance mused. Out loud he said, "what time is it?"

"Ummmm 7'ish," Todd replied, his tongue shooting out to catch another bug.

"Don't," Pietro snapped, hand shooting out to catch the tongue before it connected with it's prey.

"Awww come ohn Pietweo," Todd whined, trying to talk whilst the speedster still held his tongue.

"I said don't," Pietro snapped, dropping Todd's tongue and wiping his hand on Lance's sheets.

"He has a point Todd," Freddy said, finishing off what must have been either Lance's dinner, or his lunch, "what if a nurse comes in?"

"Why Freddy D. Dukes," Pietro said, "that is the most intelligent thing I've ever heard you say!"

"Thank-you," Fredy said modestly.

'Oh god,' Lance thought, 'I'm stuck here with these morons! I can't even move if I want to! What if Pietro starts doing something irritating? I know, I'll hit him with my cast.'

"Speaking of nurses," Todd said, "what did you think of the blonde one with the glasses that came in to check on Lance?"

"Grrrrrrrrrrrr," Pietro grinned, "she can take my temperature any day!"

"Huh?" Freddy frowned.

'Oh my god, what a dumb-ass! He is so clueless it's sad! Ohhh, what's that smell? Could it be dinner? I hope so. I don't want to starve cause Freddy's eaten my only food for the night.'

"Hey we gotta go now," Pietro said, checking his watch, "Mystique said we have to cook if we wanna eat. Doctor say's we can pick you up tomorra. Enjoy your stay!"

"Yeah okay see ya then," Lance said, not really caring.

"Oh before I go I must commend you on your aim," Pietro added as he walked out the door, "you got Mindy right on the top of her head! It's not every guy who can say he chucked onto a cheerleader's head." Lance stared after the parting Brotherhood.

'Wow, right on the head,' he thought, 'shame on your fucking name Mindy!' Smiling to himself, Lance settled down to get a little sleep.

- - -

The sun flooded into the overly white, septic hospital room. Over to his right a small teenage boy was snoring slightly. 'I wonder what he's in here for?' Lance mused, 'ah well, I guess I can always ask. Wow, I never realised hospitals were so ugly.' Lance hated hospitals. Especially the smell. Like they were trying to mask the smell of disease and death with cheap smelling disinfectant. And they were so white. 'I need to use the bathroom,' Lance realised, 'jeeze I hope they don't expect me to use a bed pan.' He looked around and glimpsed a set of crutches placed just out of reach. Sticking his tongue out in concentration, Lance reached across to grab the metal sticks. 'Just a little closer,' he thought. He made a wild grab at the crutches. His fingers just brushed the cool surface. "Shit," Lance cursed, trying again. Again a tempting flick against his fingers. He frowned, all of his brain power focused on getting those elusive bits of metal.

"Can I help you?"

"Ahhhhgggg!" Lance yelped, the voice of the nurse jolting him out of his concentrated trance. He over balanced, and with a loud thump, Lance Alvers fell to the floor and into an undignified lump. The nurse raised one eyebrow. 'You laugh at me you middle-aged cow and you are so dead,' Lance warned mentally.

The nurse didn't laugh, she just calmly passed Lance the crutches and helped him to his feet. It was at that point that Lance realised he was wearing only his underpants and a t-shirt that said, 'fuck me.' 'Thank you Pietro so much,' Lance mentally cursed the speedster. Trying to hide a smile the nurse passed him the pair of trackpants lying on the chair beside his bed. Feeling his cheeks redden slightly Lance snatched the pants off the nurse and turned around, pulling the pants on as quickly as possible.

"Now, is there anything else I can do to help you?" the nurse asked politely.

"Umm yeah," Lance muttered, "where's the bathroom?"

"Just go to the end of the corridor, it's the last door on the left." Mumbling out a thank you Lance hobbled out of the room. The hospital was just coming alive as he wandered down the hospitals slick surface, what passed as a floor in here. In fact it wasn't unlike the school floor. 'I wonder if they had the same decorator,' Lance thought as he tried his best to dodge a small child that had escaped from the children's ward. 'Jeeze what kind of idiot invented crutches? They make you so slow, at this rate I'll never get to the bathroom. Why don't we have cool, motorised zimmer-frames of something?' Lance sniggered at the idea of an old woman or man on a motorised zimmer-frame. 'Shit, that would be priceless!' At that point he reached the end of the hall. He pushed his way into the bathroom and relieved himself. Feeling better Lance hobbled back out, up the corridor and back into his room, where he sat himself down to wait out the day.

- - -

Lance was just falling asleep in the warm sunlight when he was woken by soft crying. Across from him the boy he had seen that morning was weeping softly against his pillow. He was terribly thin, his complexion a gentle brown, with dark ebony hair.

"Hey," Lance whispered, "hey, are you all right?"

The boy looked up at him with large dark eyes, his cheeks shining with tears. The boy didn't answer, simply looked at him with sad eyes. Lance remembered how he's heard Pietro once say eyes were the windows to the soul. 'If that's true,' Lance thought, 'this guy must be having it rough.' "My names Lance," he said aloud, "what's yours?"

"Amedo," the teen sniffed.

"Huh?" Lance frowned, "that some kind of foreign name?"

"Not really," Amedo sniffed, "my mother just likes old names. I think it goes way back past 14th century."

"Well it sounds really cool. So why were you crying?" At this reminder of his previous grief the teen began to weep again. His dark eyes closing slowly as the tears slipped down. "Woah, I'm sorry!" Lance said, reaching forward to comfort Amedo. 'Jesus, this guy's really upset! I wonder what's wrong. Okay, obviously he doesn't want to talk about it. What can I do to cheer him up? I know, I'll tell him how I got in here. It's pretty funny I suppose.' "Hey you wanna know why I'm here then?" Lance asked. Amedo looked up and wiped the tears from his eyes. He nodded. "Well, my teacher at school wanted me to climb the ropes. You know the ones that reach to the ceiling?" he waited for a nod of recognition, "well, I'm afraid of heights so I told him to fuck off."

"You said that!" Amedo said in wonder.

"Yep, he deserved it. No one should push you around. But then Mindy, she's this real bitch. 100% cheerleading trash, she starts to mock me. Now I have a rep at school. I'm not afraid of anything, and I can't very well let her show me up."

"So you climbed the rope?" Amedo asked, leaning forward as he become more interested in the story.

"Yeah. Do you know how high those things are!?! I got to the top and I was so scared I couldn't force myself to get back down. And coach goes, 'you can come down now Lance. I think you've proven your point. We can all see you're not afraid of heights.' And all the while I'm stuck up there with my head swimming so much I can't tell left from right, and then I think I chucked and I let go."

"You let go!"

"Yep, fell all the way to the gym floor. That's what put me in here. It wasn't all bad though. Apparently I got Mindy right on the head when I lost my breakfast."

Amedo smiled slightly at this. 'Well at least I made him feel better,' Lance thought. Amedo was silent a while studying Lance with his sad eyes. His eyes lighted on Lance's shirt and a ghost of a smile passed over his lips. "You like this huh?" Lance said, looking down at the t-shirt, "it's my friend Pietro's idea of a joke. I think the nurse found it slightly amusing as well." The sun was warm on Lance's face and Amedo obviously enjoyed it too because soon the petite teen was sleeping soundly. 'He's a nice guy,' Lance decided as he watched Amedo's sleeping form, 'I hope whatever's bothering him gets better.'

- - -

Lance must have dropped off again because when he woke it was late afternoon. The sun was just disappearing behind pale clouds and the sky reflected the golden light like a giant mirror. Lance turned to his right to see if Amedo was awake. Amedo was gone. Lance shot up in his bed, 'where he'd go!' The bed was freshly made, the white covers pulled up to the white pillows.

"Hey there Lance!"

Lance whipped around to find himself face to face with Pietro. "Pietro! What happened to Amedo!"

"Who? Almond?"

"No Amedo, the boy beside me when I first came in!"

Pietro shrugged maddeningly, "I don't know why don't we ask a nurse? Jeeze you come to

pick up a friend and you get bombarded with questions!"

"Shut up Pietro, just shut up! Can't you be serious for 5 seconds?" Lance snatched up the crutches as Pietro passed them to him.

"Woah! Cranky! What the hell's the matter with you?" Pietro asked, dodging out of Lance's way, scowling at Lance's back.

'Oh go away. You won't even try to help me will you?' Lance thought, 'all you care about is the fact that I just shoved you and might have put a crease in that Fila jacket of your's!'

"Hey this is a Fila jacket!" Pietro retorted as he followed Lance out the door. Lance ignored him and hobbled as fast as was humanly possible down the corridor to the lift. In frustration he smacked his crutches against the wall. 'Can't I go any faster in these things?'

"Lance what's wrong?" Pietro asked laying a concerned hand on the mahogany-eyed teen's shoulder.

"We have to get to the front desk," was all Lance said. Pietro shrugged and nodded. 'At least he's going to humour me,' Lance thought bitterly.

- - -

Lance skidded to an undignified halt in front of the desk. For the 20th time Lance cursed the crutches under his arms. A startled nurse looked up from her mound of paper work and asked hesitantly, "is there something I can help you with?"

"Yeah my friend here's looking for a kid by the name of Armendo."

"Amedo," Lance corrected.

"Oh him," the nurse said, "he's a nice boy. Sad really."

"What?" Lance asked. 'Oh god,' he thought, 'he's dead! That's why he was crying. He had a fatal disease!' He remembered the way the impossibly thin teen had wept, a soul-shaking grief that was attacking him to the very core of his being. "Tell me!" he said, gripping the desk in front of him with white-knuckled hands. He must have shouted, though he couldn't remember it, because people were looking in his direction and Pietro was telling him to hush.

"He's gone to rehab," the nurse said, startled by the obvious emotion in Lance's voice.

'Rehab!' Lance thought, his mind delighting in the fact that his new found friend wasn't dead. "Rehab?" he asked as the word actually began to have meaning.

"Yes," the nurse answered, "he went early this afternoon."

"Why," Lance asked, "did it have anything to do with why he was in here?"

The nurse nodded and sighed, "he's such a nice boy. You should have seen his parents. They were beside themselves. They couldn't believe their little angel had tried to kill himself." Lance gaped. Amedo bathed in the sunlight, his eyes watching everything absorbing everything as if in a desperate need to absorb emotions. Happy emotions.

"Thank you." Lance whispered and he turned and left. He was aware of the fact that Pietro was trying to talk to him. The nurse was calling after them, but he felt as if he had suddenly been wrapped in a bubble. And all he could hear was, 'Tried to kill himself.'