AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE: "Saving Cats" 10c (S/J + ensemble, prefilm)
- Continued directly from 10b....
If Jean's summer sped by with her rotations, Scott's progressed
quietly. As in the previous summer, he concentrated on schoolwork,
added air-time to his flying, and worked out. He also kept up Mrs.
Gale's yard. There was more to do in the summer, and only himself to
do it. She fed him strawberry pie, iced tea, and kept an eye on him.
With time, she'd grown rather fond of her two young tenants, and
EJ's sister as well; and whatever private reservations her age and
upbringing might have engendered in her regarding bi-racial
relationships, she was a romantic at heart, and now pitied Scott. So
she doted on him, hoping that enough grandmothering would ease his
ache. He minded neither the pie nor the attention.
Thus, a flowered May tumbled into a sunlit June, followed by a
heat-heavy July, and finally the slow crawl of August towards the
beginning of the fall semester and Scott Summers' third year at
Berkeley. If he continued to carry a heavy course load, he'd
graduate at the end of next August. But what he'd do after that, he
wasn't entirely sure. Aside from his math courses, he spent that
summer hanging around the anthropology department. The previous
spring, he'd made friends with the young professor who'd taught his
introduction to cultural anthropology course, and that summer, he
took The World of the Ancient Maya from the same man. By the end,
he'd reached a difficult cross-roads.
Should he return to Westchester and become a math teacher for Xavier,
because it might be needed in a future that hadn't arrived yet? Or
should he change his major to pursue his real love: ancient
engineering? Duty pulled him one way, while his interests lured him
in another. So, torn, he rented a plane and made his first extended
solo flight back to New York during the two-week break between summer
and fall. How easy it was to heed the siren call of a subject taught
by an enthusiastic professor, but like a salmon swimming upstream, it
was time to return home and remind himself who he was.
His timing was unfortunate, however, and his mutant family scattered.
Warren had gone to Tokyo, apprenticing under his father before
taking over as CEO in some of the smaller Worthington investment
holdings. Valeria and Francesco had returned to Geneva for August
Holiday with Valeria's sister, and Ororo had gone with them. Jean,
of course, more or less lived at Columbia's teaching hospital, and
even Bobby was back in Allentown for a quiet visit, now that all the
hoopla surrounding his manifestation had died down.
That left Scott, Hank and the professor. Hank taught Scott how to
use the new power training center in the sub-basement, which everyone
had taken to calling just "the Danger Room," and Scott discovered
that karate lessons weren't much use against some of Reed Richards'
more vicious surprises. Apart, he and Hank were vulnerable -- Hank,
because his exceptional strength and agility could be used
offensively only at close range, and Scott because he found targeting
with his optic blasts far easier at a distance. But when they
combined their talents, they could sometimes defeat the room, rather
than be spanked by it.
"There are days," Hank said one afternoon as they were showering in
the locker room after a particularly grueling session, "that I
question the point of all this. Despite what Frank has said, I have
not, myself, observed the hostility towards mutants that he insists
is just on the horizon. There hasn't been a peep in the media about
mutants since Christmas. If the populace were indeed inclined
towards paranoia, one would think some outcry would already be
After his own experiences at Berkeley, Scott was inclined to agree.
In the past year, he'd grown less cagey about the real reason he wore
shades. Later, he'd realize that much of the nonchalance he
experienced there owed to a combination of the newness of mutations,
the generally tolerant atmosphere at Berkeley, and the reactions of
the first people he'd told. Quite simply, EJ and his other friends
had regarded his power as an interesting novelty, not a potential
threat, and so when others were first informed of it, they copied
that blas� attitude. If no one else seemed concerned, why should
"I don't know what to think," he said now to Henry. "I trust Frank.
But yeah -- if there's going to be trouble, I'm starting to think it
won't happen for a while."
Thus, Scott's original incentive for a quick return to Westchester
after college, and the urgency instilled in them all by Frank's
Cerebro vision, had begun to fade. But he didn't speak to Xavier
about his vocational doubts yet. The professor knew of them, of
course, but chose to let the matter lie. Scott would speak when he
was ready, and it was a decision that the boy had to make for
himself. Xavier wouldn't hold him in Westchester, if his path led
elsewhere. And so Scott returned for his third and final year as an
undergrad with no more clarity of purpose than he'd had when he'd
left. If storm clouds were already brewing in boardrooms and private
offices around the nation, they lay beyond his immediate horizon.
His greatest worry, as 1999 rolled into its final months, was
personal: his pending meeting with the girl who'd broken his heart.
If that wound had scabbed over, it was ugly still, and tender. But
he decided to make the best of it.
Clarice felt the same, and their initial encounter, while awkward,
was also blessedly unremarkable. Clarice came to dinner with Diane,
and Lee and Rick as well. EJ cooked. It made a large enough crowd
that the former couple wasn't forced to rub constant elbows, but
everyone present knew the details of the previous spring and no
pretending was necessary. After that, contact between them grew
easier, though it would be some months before they were able to
converse with ease.
With the new school year, band practices started up again, and
Soapbox's local reputation had grown sufficiently that they had gigs
scheduled nearly every weekend. They adopted signature Hawaiian
shirts, and decided to cut a demo CD for marketing purposes. They
also had their own exclusive -- and occasionally importunate --
"Christ, if Tambourine Girl shows up again, I say we trip her on a
"LeeLee could try hiding the damn *tambourine*."
"I need it!"
"Well, lock it up *until* you need it!"
The four of them were eating grease from Taco Bell on the dock of
Forrester's Boat Rentals before loading their equipment to make a
Saturday night gig in late October. Ever since Scott and EJ had
vacated the dorms, practice sessions had been held at Lee's, in an
old equipment shed. It was dim, and poorly insulated, making it as
cold as a witch's tit in winter, but there weren't any neighbors to
complain about the noise, and rehearsing there meant that Lee didn't
have to haul, set up, and take down her trap for every practice, as
well as gigs.
"I hate floor stages," Rick said. "When you're on the floor, people
just walk up and get in your face. If the stage is raised a little,
that don't happen."
"As much," Scott qualified. "But at least they don't try to take the
mic out of *your* hands."
"Oh, man! That chick was just plain *bad*." EJ wadded up his second
burrito wrapper and dropped it in the trash bag. "There's off-key
and then there's completely *atonal*. But let's roll, kids. Time to
go play for our supper."
That night's gig was in a basement pub called Wicked Jig's, located
beneath a package store. It catered to a less upscale crowd, or
college students out slumming. The stage was raised, if not by much,
yet the room was strangely configured -- long and narrow, with a row
of dartboards at the back by the john, two pool tables under light
fixtures advertising Budweiser, and a dance floor. They'd played
there twice before. Scott despised the place. "Check, check, check,
check, check . . ." he said into his headphone mic during set up,
wincing in anticipation of the loud squeal of feedback he knew was
coming. EJ dove to adjust the soundboard as Scott ripped off the
headmic, muttering, "I fucking hate this room."
On the stage beside him, Rick had bent to set up his effects box, a
row of six little stomp switches that modulated his sound from grunge
to stereo phaser. "Well, what d'you expect? It's got low ceilings
and the walls are concrete block. You're the engineer-wannabe, man.
You figure it out."
"I know. And that's why I hate the room."
"Bitch, bitch, bitch," Lee said from behind, as she set her sticks in
easy reach on the top of the big bass drums, then tapped the peddle
trigger for her tophat. "They *pay* well." Cymbals clapped once
like a dull exclamation point. "And it'll be better once there are
some bodies in here."
"It still sucks eggs." Scott put on the headmic to try again.
"Check, check, check . . ." No feedback greeted him. "Better, Eeej.
But can you still hear me well enough to make out words?"
"I think the mic'll be fine," EJ called from the board, "but play
something, guys. I ain't sure I got the bass track set high enough,
and LeeLee is set way too high."
"Nobody respects the drummer," Lee said, but the three of them
started up a blues riff while EJ scooted back and forth, adjusting
monitors and mics and soundboard settings. Typically, Clarice ran
the board, but she and Diane had a BBWS meeting that night, and she
attended fewer gigs these days, in any case. It wasn't, entirely, to
avoid Scott, but it did leave the band on their own in bars without
built-in sound systems. Adjustments made, EJ went upstairs to talk
to the manager, and when he came back, fifteen minutes later, they
were still going on the riff.
"Man, you guys are *stuck* in A-minor! The Kings of Inertia." He
hopped up on the stage. "Can we do something *else*?"
So Scott took off on a walking bass-line in C-minor.
*Thump-da-da-dump, da-da-dump, da-da-dump. Thump-da-da-dump,
da-da-dump, da-da-dump.* Grinning, Rick picked up the lead and Lee
followed him in. When EJ rolled his eyes, Scott protested, "Hey!
It's not in A-minor!" Then he sang, "*Ooo, ooo, ooo - ooo. Ooo,
ooo, ooo - ooo.* I . . . think I'm gonna need my hat." It made the
other three laugh.
"Black-and-orange stray cat sittin' on a fence,
Ain't got enough dough to pay the rent.
I'm flat broke -- but I don't care!
I strut right by with my tail in the air.
"Stray cat strut, I'm a ... (ladies cat)
Feline Casanova ... (hey, man, that's that)
Get a shoe thrown at me from a mean ole man
Get my dinner from a garbage can . . .
"Meow . . ."
Finished at last with the song and the sound check, and with a few
hours to kill, they went out for a walk on Telegraph Avenue until
time for the first set. When they returned, their groupies were
already in attendance at a front table, left of the stage. Even
though it wasn't quite ten o'clock, the girls were well on the way to
a boisterous, drunken enthusiasm.
"Great," Scott muttered to Lee as he picked up his Steinberger from
its stand and plopped his fedora (fetched from Lee's van) on his
head. "Hide the tambourine."
They started with "Stray Cat Strut," then moved on to their own
material; these days, they were popular enough to get away with only
a few covers on the playlist. The groupies stayed on the floor, and
there were no tambourine wars. Four girls were regulars, but on this
particular night, there were nine altogether, the other five
apparently friends. From the dance floor, they flirted with Scott
and EJ. Rick had a girl, and Lee was a girl, so neither had ever
encouraged the interest of the groupies, who focused their energy in
the direction it was most likely to pay off.
One of the girls seemed particularly interested in Scott, moving
right up to the edge of the stage and watching him play and sing.
She wore low-slung jeans and a white silk tank under a shirt of some
indeterminate shade -- blue or green or purple, he couldn't guess in
the darkness. When one of the overhead spots hit her just right, he
could see a hint of dark nipples through white silk. Her hair was
dyed blond, which wasn't his preference, but it was nice hair, and
she had a wide smile in a long face that might have been called
horsy, if she'd been less attractive. After the first set, he hung
about the stage, fiddling with nothing, in case she approached --
which she didn't, at least, not until he went to the bar for some
water. Glass in hand, he turned only to find her right there, nose
to nose, and it made him start and spill liquid on his hand. He used
wiping it off as an excuse to step back a bit, but she followed, as
if personal space held no meaning in her vocabulary. She smelled of
perfume, alcohol, and cigarettes. "You're good," she said. "I'm
"Thanks. I'm Scott."
"Yeah, I know."
And she said nothing else, just stared at him expectantly. He had no
idea what she expected. "You a student?" he asked, fishing.
"Yeah. But not at Berkeley."
"Samuel Merritt in Oakland." A local nursing college.
"Ah. I'm a math major. You know -- across the street." He thumbed
in the campus' direction.
She didn't reply, just kept staring at him. Bemused and growing
increasingly uncomfortable, he scratched the bridge of his nose and
gestured to the stage with his elbow. "I, ah, better get back. I
was having some trouble with my equalizer. I need to check it." He
was lying through his teeth.
"Okay. See you."
He slipped away, and she didn't follow, but all through the second
set, she stood in front of his position on the stage, dancing in an
obviously provocative fashion. He was half aroused and half put off,
and in the second break, EJ said to him, "That chick has her sights
set on you, Slimboy. Be nice, and you might get some action. I saw
you talking to her after the first set."
"Oh, yeah, she's just a *scintillating* conversationalist."
EJ grinned. "That sarcasm, I hear?"
"She either gives new meaning to 'dumb blonde' or all the lights are
*not* on upstairs. Or both. She creeps me out." He unslung the
strap and set the bass in its stand. "I'm going outside for some
air. The smoke's getting to my throat."
"You hoping she will or won't follow?"
"Fuck you," Scott said, slapping at EJ in fun and exiting the stage
on the opposite side of the girls' table. Eeling his way through the
packed, sweaty crowd, he headed for the stairs that led up into a
cool October night. The twenty-seventh, four days from his
twenty-first birthday, though he disliked admitting that he'd been
born on Halloween. For a mutant, there was something *too* ironic in
that. Outside, packs of students ambled along Telegraph, some
wearing costumes for weekend parties. The Fruit-of-the-Loom Guys
were the most original that he saw, one big red apple made from a
box, and two sets of grapes swathed in masses of green or purple
He considered going for a walk, but didn't feel up to it, so he
headed for Lee's van and slipped into the back, flinging his hat on a
rear seat and collapsing beside it, knees akimbo, eyes shut, and
breath heavy. He was tired, and maybe he dozed off for a moment
because he didn't hear her approach, though the crunch of gravel
under heels should've alerted him. When she said, "Hi," at the van's
still-open side door, he nearly jumped out of his skin.
"Uh -- hi, Pam."
"Can I come in?"
He shrugged and she took that for acquiescence, climbing inside. Her
hair was loose and brushed her shoulders, and she smiled as she sat
down beside him on the bench seat. He had to move his hat, to make
room, and said, "I've gotta go back soon," not liking this feeling of
"Maybe I'll see you after?"
"Maybe." *Not*, he finished silently.
Still smiling, she leaned closer, as if trying to peer through the
glasses and find his eyes, paralyzing him before striking, like a
cobra. Then she kissed him hard on the mouth. It startled him,
though perhaps it shouldn't have. Her lips were soft and she was a
good kisser, but this was all too forward for his tastes, and to
shock him even further, her hand was busy between his legs. He
couldn't decide if the whole thing were funny, or merely surreal, but
his body had taken an unseemly interest.
"Look," he said, pushing her back. "I've really got to get back in."
She returned to kissing him and her hand hadn't stopped playing with
his pants, until, with a deft twist and a yank, she got the fly open
to worm her fingers inside the waistband of his briefs. Annoyed,
physically excited, and embarrassed all at once, he turned his head
to the side and said, "Come on -- stop it!" The overwhelming smell
of her perfume was giving him a headache. Some cheap, acidic musk.
"Doesn't feel like you want me to stop." She was laughing, her eyes
heavy-lidded from alcohol and lust. Gripping his cock, she pumped it
as best she could, and he was so shocked by this whole turn of events
that his mind stuttered about for a response while she slipped off
the seat to wedge herself awkwardly between his knees, her back
bumping the rear of the van seat in front of him. "Here's a little
taste of what I'll give you later, if you wait around for me."
Pushing him back with one hand and pulling his cock through the front
of his skivvies with the other, she bent her bottle-blonde head over
his lap to take him in her mouth.
*Holy Jesus*, he thought, arching off the seat instinctively. His
body was reacting, but that was just a physiological response. His
mind had frozen into dumbfounded disbelief. This sort of thing
happened only in fantasies and boasts, yet here he was, being sucked
off by a pretty girl in the back of Lee's van. Had it been a
fantasy, though, the van door wouldn't have been wide open to give a
free show to anyone who happened by, and she'd be good with her mouth
-- which she wasn't. She drooled on him, leaving a wet spot on his
briefs, and worse, the edge of her teeth kept dragging along the
sensitive rim of his cock head, almost sending him through the van
"Good God!" he shouted finally, finding his voice and shoving her off
while he backed away along the seat, one hand fumbling at his fly to
tuck himself back in and zip up. "What in hell are you doing?" He
didn't feel excited. He felt incredibly disconcerted. "Get out of
here! Just get the fuck out of here!"
Her long face fell and she seemed ready to cry as she wiped at her
mouth. Later, he'd recall that expression and feel badly for the
harshness of his words, but in the midst of his agitation, he was too
angry and distressed to think about why she might have thrown herself
at him with such frenetic abandon. "You don't want me to -- ?"
"No! I barely know you! Get out of the goddamn van and stay away
She slunk away while he sat there a moment, his back against the
van's side, still trying to zip up his pants but unable to make his
hands accomplish even that simple task. Now that she was gone, he'd
started to shake, and wasn't sure why. He certainly hadn't been
scared of her. But unnerved? Yes. She'd unnerved him. "Jesus H.
Christ on a pogo stick," he muttered to himself because his hands
were still shaking and he had to go in there and finish the final set
for the night. But he finally got his shirt tucked in and his pants
zipped up and did what he had to do. The girl, Pam, was nowhere to
be seen, thankfully. He wasn't sure he could've managed to go on, if
she had been, and while he supposed that someday he might look back
on this experience and laugh at the total absurdity of it, just then,
he wanted only to go home and take a long, hot shower.
EJ picked up that something was wrong. "You okay?" he asked, as he
settled himself behind his keyboards.
"Yeah," Scott said. "Yeah."
But EJ knew better; Scott's final performance was off. While Scott
made no glaring errors, it was clear that he was neither on top of
his timing nor of his stage presentation, and after the set, while
they broke down and packed up to leave, EJ tried to draw out Scott
again -- to no avail.
This, EJ thought, was the downside of having one's best friend date
one's sister. What he valued most about their friendship wasn't that
they had self-revelatory conversations on a regular basis. They had
esoteric debates on a regular basis, but mostly, they just hung out.
What he valued most was the knowledge that they *could* have
self-revelatory conversations on the rare occasions they needed to.
Or at least, they'd had them until Scott had begun seeing Clarie.
Then things had grown complicated. That reticence had lifted
somewhat after the breakup, but it was still there, and it kept EJ
from pushing Scott for details, where once, he might have done so.
And Scott said nothing because he couldn't pinpoint why he was so
agitated. Hours later, and back in the familiar environment of his
own bedroom, he felt guilty for having been so rude to the girl, but
he'd let his distress dictate his reaction. And that very distress
confused him. Shouldn't he have leapt at a chance for unrestricted
sex? It wasn't as if he'd had any other outlet since the spring, and
the memory of what had occurred in the van -- the intimate sensation
of a woman's mouth on his penis -- now made him harder than he'd been
at the time. Before Clarice, he'd experienced fellatio only twice,
and Clarice herself hadn't liked it for a variety of reasons, the
concept being wrapped about with a different set of connotations for
a black woman than a white man. And while she'd granted it a time or
two, he'd always been mindful of the concessive nature -- she'd done
it for love, not interest -- and that had made it difficult for him
to enjoy. Or at least, it had made him feel guilty for enjoying it.
Yet tonight, a complete stranger had been willing and eager. And
he'd sent her away. It was only in retrospect -- the perversity of a
mnemonic curiosity -- that it excited him. At the time, he'd been
repelled, in part because he'd felt so out of control. And *he
didn't like that*.
After tossing and turning in bed almost until sunrise, he gave up and
rose, padding out of his bedroom into the kitchen to make himself a
sandwich. He ate it, then crashed on the old velour couch to flip TV
channels on the remote, a blanket thrown over his bare legs. He'd
been trying to be quiet, but his movements must have woken EJ anyway.
Opening the door to his own room, EJ stumbled out, still half asleep
and rubbing his face. He walked by the TV and hit the off switch
manually, then dropped into the beanbag chair. "Okay -- spill, Slim.
What went down tonight?"
Scott stared at his blanket-covered knees for a while, gathering his
thoughts. Like EJ, he, too, had been missing the closeness they'd
had their first year, but hadn't been sure how to resuscitate it.
Still looking at the blanket, he said finally, "Would you believe me
if I told you that blonde chick you saw me talking to at Wicked Jig's
tried to blow me in Lee's van after the second set?"
Dead silence for two beats, then he heard the dry rustle of EJ's body
sitting up straight on the beanbag. "Whoa. Just . . . whoa. Are
you shitting me?"
"Nope." And Scott told him what had happened.
"Seriously weird," EJ said when he was done. "*Seriously* weird."
Embarrassed, Scott laughed a little. "Yeah, it's like something out
of "Spinal Tap." I mean, that stuff doesn't really happen -- I don't
EJ laughed. "Not to most of us! You got lucky, man!"
Scott rolled one shoulder in dubious agreement, then raised his eyes
behind the shades. "That's just it. I mean, I could have gotten
lucky. But I told her to get lost." He paused a beat. "You think I
was nuts to do that?"
"No." The answer came unhesitatingly. "I'd probably have done the
same thing. It's damn freaky."
Scott nodded, accepting the gift of that personal disclosure. "I was
pretty rude to her, but like you said, it was freaky. I have to
wonder, though, about the way she put it -- that it was a taste of
what she'd give me later if I waited for her. That is *so* a crappy
line, but it bugs me that she thought she had to give me sex to get
me to go out with her. I probably wouldn't have anyway -- she was a
little too weird -- but it still bugs me. I *know* girls do that,
give out sex to get affection. It's, like, classic." With an
internal wince, his mind brushed past the memory of Phoebe. "But it
was just so . . . blunt. I shouldn't have been mean to her like
"Hey," EJ said, and Scott looked up. "It wasn't the best situation
to keep a cool head."
"Quit kicking yourself, man."
"Slim -- I mean it."
Scott laughed. "Okay, *okay*, already!"
"Go to bed. So I can go to bed. I'm fucking tired."
Scott went to bed. But he still wondered if he'd been sensible that
evening, or simply a nerd.
Chapter 11 "Big Green" will be in process soon.
Feedback is always welcome. :-)
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