Chapter 1

Rick lay completely still with a kind of rumbling roar in his ears. He felt… odd. The same sort of feeling he usually got after eating one of Neil's "special occasion lentil curries" which usually contained copious amounts of washing powder and the results of Neil's sneezes. So, to sum up, Rick felt very clean yet sort of queasy. He tried to open his eyes and immediately had to shut them again to shut out the stinging glare of an overhead strip light. Immediately pain shot down his right side and he let out an agonised squeak. He heard footsteps come clomping up beside him and he could sense someone standing over him. Rick braced himself and attempted opening his eyes again. Squinting blearily, he could just make out a rather long, brown shape. A turd?

"Hey, man! Rick's awake. Cool. Hellooo, Rick!" came a droning, monotone voice.

Yup. Definitely a turd. Rick grimaced and did his best to turn over. This time, something orange swam into view. Rick jumped and his injuries punished him by burning angrily. Vyvyan lay on the hospital bed next to him. The punk was apparently unconscious and covered in blood stained dressings. Rick blinked a few times to clear his vision and looked at the motionless form of Vyvyan for a few seconds before his view was obstructed by Neil's gormless mug which had a big grin smeared across it. Neil had a gauze around his head and was supporting himself on a walking stick.

"Hellooo, Rick." Neil repeated. Rick wrinkled his nose and tried propping himself up on one elbow. He had bandages and dressings all down his right side.

"What happened?" He asked, his voice sounding as though it were stuffed with cotton wool.

"Oh wow. It was really heavy, man." Neil began. Rick groaned, but this time it had nothing to do with his injuries "We, like, went over the edge of this cliff, right and then the bus kind of, like, blew up. And, like, the bus was on fire and everything, right, so we were all in, like, really heavy mortal danger and everything but we were, like, saved! It's far out, man."

Rick gave an involuntary shiver and pulled himself up a little straighter on his pillows. He looked across the ward to see Mike being served breakfast on a tray by a middle aged nurse. Despite the age difference, Mike was up to his usual tricks.

"Oh these injuries, baby?" He said, nodding down at his left arm, which lay cradled in a sling (even though the nurse hadn't actually said anything on the subject) "Nah, to me, they're just grazes really but, you know, had to protect my friends didn't I? They might've died. They're like brothers to me, you know. So how about it baby? A little reward for the brave hero?"

Mike reached down and pinched the nurse's backside… only to receive a slap in the face.

"Hey, I like it rough, baby and I don't mean sandpaper. You're getting to know me already." Mike said. The nurse rolled her eyes and walked away down the ward. Mike chuckled, then caught site of Rick.

"Ah, Rick. Awake now I see. Tha's good." He said, smiling. Bed bound as he was, Mike still wore his signature shades which had, somehow, survived the blaze. He glanced around then stuck out a foot from under his blanket, revealing a slipper with a section of pasty white, hairy ankle just visible above it. Mike reached into the slipper and pulled out a cigarette.

"Hey, Mike, man. What are you doing, man?" Neil asked, shocked. "You can't smoke in here. It's, like, a smoke free zone, right?"

"Don't deny a dying man his pleasures, Neil." Mike said, retrieving a lighter from his other slipper and lighting up.

"But you're not dying, Mike." Neil said, confused.

Rick suddenly seemed to perk up.

"Mike, do you weally have to smoke in here, you thoughtless bastard? We've inhaled enough smoke as it is without you polluting our air, yerknow!"

"Yeah, right, man." piped up Neil. "That could be, like, the last nail in the coffin for me because I like, took in a lot of smoke, right? Not that you care anyway because you all hate me so I don't suppose it would matter to you if I, like, died or anything but…"

At that precise moment, Neil was cut off by a yell from Vyvyan.

"Gimme back my vodka, you bastard!" He screamed, flailing his arms, wildly. Rick jumped violently, which caused another flash of pain. Mike and Neil, however, ignored this little explosion as Vyvyan returned to his stationary state on the pillow with a loud snore.

"Oh give it up, Neil. You've wanted to die for years. What makes today so special?" Mike asked, his cigarette waggling as he spoke.

"Well, I thought that, like, seeing as I had a near death experience, right, and I'm still alive that maybe I have, like, some higher purpose." Neil said, pulling an expression that he clearly hoped connoted mystery but instead, made him look like a startled basset hound.

"Neil, you and I both know that your sole purpose in life is to control the population of lentils." Mike said.

"Hello!" came Rick's high pitched voice from across the room. "Did nobody else see that? Am I hallucinating here? Was that a figment of my imagination?" He crossed his arms indignantly and fixed Neil and Mike with an incredulous stare.

"What's the matter, Rick?" Neil asked, looking slightly surprised, as though he'd completely forgotten that Rick was even there.

Clearly frustrated by the lack of a big reaction to what he'd just said, Rick exploded.

"What do you mean "What's the matter?" you stupid bloody hippie!" Rick squealed. "Vyvyan just lashed out! I could have been brutally slashed! The people's poet's beautiful face could have been marred forever." Rick finished his little outburst with a melodramatic shake of his head… and immediately wished he hadn't. The burns on his necked roared.

"Shut up, you girly poof." came Vyvyan's groggy rasp from Rick's left. Rick looked around to see Vyvyan hoist himself up onto his pillows, having been woken up by Rick's complaining.

"Oh, and a good morning to you too, Vyvyan." Rick snapped, sarcastically.

"Rick, shut up or I'm gonna kill you." Vyvyan said, almost matter-of-factly. He turned to pick up a glass of water from the table next to him. Rick let out a snort. The hair on the right side of Vyvyan's head was perfect but for a few singes here and there but on his left, he was completely bald, his hair having been burned away. Rick sat sniggering in bed for a moment.

With a single, fluid movement, Vyvyan drained his glass and threw it with perfect aim at the anarchist's head. It shattered nicely, knocking Rick out and Vyvyan, satisfied by his first instalment of abuse towards Rick, settled back on his pillow.