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AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE: "Saving Cats" 10c (S/J + ensemble, prefilm)

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  • Minisinoo
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 3, 2002
      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´┐Ż attitude. If no one else seemed concerned, why should
      they be?

      "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
      guitar chord."

      "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."

      "Oh. Where?"

      "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
      being trapped.

      "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
      from me!"

      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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