5489"The Player on the Other Side" (WIP, CH.7) Scott [PG-13] X1 and X2
- Dec 6, 2003Post 2 of 3
So the Mustang it was. Rogue flipped through Mr. Summers' CD
collection and discovered that he liked jazz, blues, and German
opera. They listened to Billie Holiday and Lena Horne, and Lena
sang, "Someday he'll come along, the man I love, And he'll be big and
strong, the man I love, And when he comes my way, I'll do my best to
make him stay."
Mr. Summers popped out the Lena Horne CD and popped in "Count Basie
Recorded Live at the Southland Theatre Restaurant, February 20,
1940," according to the insert. Mr. Summers didn't seem to listen to
anything recorded after World War II, which actually sort of fit in
with her image of Mr. Summers, unless he kept those CDs stashed in
the suite he shared with Dr. Grey. And right on cue Mr. Summers
started singing along to, "The Chicks I Pick Are Slender, Tender And
Tall," and Rogue thought she just might bust a gut laughing.
So the drive wasn't nearly as long as she might have wished, but she
was excited, nevertheless, to arrive. She'd never seen anything of
the city, except, of course, for Liberty Island (and that trip most
definitely did not count). Rogue gawped through the windshield in
amazement at the buildings, the lights, the crowds, and the traffic.
She gawped, as well, at Mr. Summers' driving. The streets of midtown
Manhattan seemed to summon forth the sedate Mr. Summers' inner Dale
Ernhardt. Rogue privately thought that if she were the Professor, she
wouldn't let Cyclops get behind the wheel of anything more expensive
than a 1978 Pinto.
Rather to her surprise, the Mustang didn't have a scratch on it when
Mr. Summers parked it in a garage on Eighth Avenue and 49th Street.
She wrapped her hooded cloak closely about herself as he led the way
along the crowded sidewalks of a working class, multi-ethnic
neighborhood Looking up at the street signs, she saw that they had
arrived at the corner of Ninth Avenue and 45th Street.
"Hell's Kitchen," Mr. Summers said cheerfully, sounding far more
upbeat than Rogue thought anyone in a place called Hell's Kitchen
ought to be. "Here we are -- " and he ushered her into a lushly
decorated restaurant that Belle Watling would have felt right at home
Ornate crystal chandeliers gleamed through gauzy scarves swathing the
ceiling and draping the windows. Candles of all sizes and shapes
flickered on tables glimpsed between potted palm trees. A porch swing
was drawn up to one side of the table to which the matre d' led them.
At Mr. Summer's gesture, Marie hopped into the swing. He took the
perfectly conventional chair placed on the other side of the table. A
waitress appeared and handed each of them a fancy leather folder and
walked away. Rogue thought the waitress did a good job of pretending
not to notice Mr. Summers' glowing red glasses.
Mr. Summers looked across the table and said, "Why don't you order
for the both of us?"
Rogue opened the fancy leather folder to discover a menu tucked
inside. Fried chicken. Carolina pulled pork. Chicken-fried steak.
Blackened catfish. Yams, collard greens, okra, macaroni and
cheese. . .
"A lady named Alberta Wright is the cook and owner," Mr. Summers
said. "She's from Charleston, South Carolina. Excuse me." He
unclipped the fanciest cell phone she'd ever seen from his
belt. "Yes," he said simply. "In the city. . . . No, no
mission. . . . I'm being spontaneous. . . . Thursday, six to twelve,
be spontaneous. It's all there in my day planner, Jean. . . . Very
well, thanks, and you? . . . . Really? The claim form is in the top
left drawer of my desk. If you wouldn't mind filling in the date and
faxing it to my insurance company? Oh, and Rogue's with me. Out."
Mr. Summers thumbed the side of the cell-phone-looking thingie and
stowed it. He smiled benignly.
"Uh, Mr. Summers?" Rogue said hesitantly.
"Did, uh --" Her inner Erik warned her not to go there. She said
instead, "Did something happen to one of your cars?"
"Motorcycle," Mr. Summers said.
"That's too bad."
Mr. Summers shrugged. "I got my money's worth."
The waitress returned with two glasses of sweet tea.
"I'm real sorry. For, you know, the way I been talking to you."
"Don't worry about it. I can cope with Logan." Mr. Summers looked
amused. "But your Erik Lenscherr impression, now that's scary. "
Deepening his voice dramatically, he said, " 'Just where do you think
you're going in that costume, young man? A fetishist club?' "
Rogue laughed half-heartedly. "I, uh, I didn't know you knew him."
"I guess there are a lot a things you know now that you didn't know
"I won't -- I mean -- I know it's private stuff." She could feel her
face getting hot.
Mr. Summers regarded her steadily. "I know you know. We trust you."
"Yeah, well, that's cuz you're idiots." Rogue sneered. "Maybe I
should call your pals at the National People's Radio. Let's see how
liberal they *really* are. Whaddaya think?"
Mr. Summers sat back in his chair and said, "I think you'd never do
anything to jeopardize Rogue's welfare. And right now, the
Institute's welfare and her welfare are one and the same. Now if
you'd kindly crawl back under your rock?"
"Sorry," Rogue said meekly.
She said abruptly, "Why'd he have to go?"
But Mr. Summers only shook his head.
"Hmm?" He began to unfold the linen napkin by his plate.
She gestured around the restaurant and asked in a low voice, "Was
this Logan's idea?"
Mr. Summers dropped his napkin and stooped over to retrieve it. He
straightened up and smiled at her.
"That's right," he said. "He was worried you'd spend the rest of the
day in your room crying."
"Huh!" Rogue instantly fired up. "Like I'd cry over his sorry ass
when I got Bobby *and* John asking me out! I swear I don't know how
he managed to fit his ego inside that camper of his." She swigged her
tea as though it were a bourbon-and-branch.
"You go, girl," Mr. Summers said gravely, causing Rogue to very
nearly snort her tea out her nose.
So Rogue did not spend the evening crying in her room (as she had
fully planned to do). Instead she spent the evening stuffing herself
with smothered pork chops, collards, macaroni and cheese, and sweet
potato pie. She ordered barbecued ribs for Mr. Summers, because her
inner Logan yearned to see Mr. Summers get messy.
And after Mr. Summers got all the barbecue sauce off his hands and
face (the tie was a lost cause), he escorted her into the subway for
a short trip downtown to Alphabet City and the East Village. Rogue
instantly fell in love with the East Village. Mr. Summers said he was
negotiating to buy the Institute a safe house in the East Village,
and his choice of venue needed no explanation. Nobody gave her a
second look. She suspected nobody would give Sabertooth a second
look. Mr. Summers got second and third looks, but she didn't think
all those guys were staring at his glasses. Her inner Logan was
always so busy pointing out Scooter's flaws that only now did it
occur to Rogue that Mr. Summers was cute. Really, he was, in a Wally
Cleaver kind of way. He looked like the All-American boys in the
Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. Logan wasn't cute. He was
overpoweringly, breathtakingly masculine, but she wasn't sure if
Logan even qualified as handsome, and she doubted anyone would ever
hire him as a model, except, maybe, America's Most Wanted.
She shoved Logan out of her thoughts and had herself a good time
rifling through the racks of the funky boutiques along St. Mark's
Place. Mr. Summers said he hadn't spent near the money that Logan had
left for her, and she decided to blow some of it on a fur boa.
Actually it was a string of fake-fur-covered pom-poms. Mr. Summers'
eyebrows climbed up under his hairline as she wrapped it around her
neck and flung the ends over her shoulder, but he refrained from
comment, merely fished out his wallet and handed her thirty dollars.
The sales clerk chomped her gum and said, "You got him trained, hon."
Rogue stifled a giggle. She turned and peered around the untidy heaps
of ratty clothes and leather accessories in hopes of catching Mr.
Summers' reaction. Mr. Summers, alas, had wandered outside. He was
standing in front of the shop window and studying the display (two
mannequins engaged in a salacious act) with apparent morbid
curiosity. Logan sneered that Scooter was probably trying to pick up
a few pointers. Rogue told Logan to give it a rest. Rogue, with
feminine perspicacity, was learning to discount about ninety-nine
percent of anything Logan said about Scooter -- er, Mr. Summers.
The sales clerk kicked aside piles of vests, scarves, skirts,
blouses, and leather things Rogue didn't really care to learn the
purpose of. Having cleared a path through the shop, the girl led the
way to the cash register and rang up the sale. "Hey," she said,
tortuously counting out change. "Your boyfriend, he's a mutant,
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