"The Player on the Other Side" (WIP, CH.7) Scott [PG-13] X1 and X2
- Post 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,
- Post 3 of 3
Any amusement Rogue felt at the first two words had disappeared by
the last. She looked sharply at the other girl. Her hair was pink
with purple streaks, but the telltale brown roots proclaimed her
coloring to be the product of Crazy Color Cream, not the X gene.
The girl shrugged. "Come on. I mean, yeah, this is New York and all,
but I don't see a whole lot of guys walking around with glow-in-the-
dark glasses, ya know?"
There seemed no point in denying the obvious, and the girl seemed
friendly. Rogue said cautiously, "Yeah, he's a mutant." She could not
quite bring herself to say, "We're both mutants." Her inner Erik
damned her. Her inner Logan assured her that she was just being
"Cool." The clerk dropped Rogue's change into her palm and grinned.
As Rogue stuffed the bills and coins into the pocket of her coat, the
girl leaned closer and said in a conspiratorial sort of whisper, "So
is it true what they say?"
"Say about what?"
"You know. Fuckin' a mutie."
Rogue stared a moment. She unwound the string of pom-poms from around
her neck and dropped it on the shop floor. Without asking for the
rest of Logan's money back, she turned and shoved her way between the
untidy racks and out the door.
"Hey," Mr. Summers said, hastily tearing his gaze away from the shop
window. "You change your mind about the uh, the, uh. . . . "
"Yeah," she said.
"Well," he said, "plenty more stores thataway." He pointed down the
"I think I'm all shopped out," she said. "Maybe we could go home?"
He looked at her sharply, but said nothing other than, "Sure. We
should walk back over to Broadway and get the train to Times Square."
"Okay," she said.
They crossed Second and Third Avenues. With Astor Place in sight, Mr.
Summers said quietly, "Did someone tell you to get out of the store?
Did the clerk refuse to take your money?"
"No," Rogue said. "She asked me what it was like to fuck a mutie."
Mr. Summers halted. He said nothing. His expression did not change.
But he turned and began striding back the way they had come.
Rogue lunged after him. "No," she said imperiously. "I won't have you
subjected to the prurient curiosity of a wretched shop girl."
Mr. Summers stopped dead. Slowly he faced around.
"I can take care of myself, Vati," he said gently. "I'm all grown up
Rogue blinked back sudden tears. Lowering her head, she whipped
around and began walking almost blindly toward Broadway. In a moment
she sensed rather than saw Mr. Summers fall into step beside her.
"I hate him," she muttered. "I hate him."
"You should hate him too."
Mr. Summers said tiredly, "I'm working on it."
They turned north onto Broadway.
"Did you really blow up La Jolla Senior High?"
"Some of it."
"Did they really send you to jail?"
"The Herman Stark Youth Correctional Facility. Yes."
"Because you're a mutant."
"No, Vati. Because I was a mutant who didn't know how to control his
power. There's a difference."
"Oh, here we go." Rogue rolled her eyes. "I betcha turned yourself in
like the good little citizen you are. Betcha begged them to beat your
ass, huh? Good goddamn thing you and Chuck ain't black, or they'd
still be sitting in the back of the bus."
"Do you mind butting out?" Mr. Summers asked. "This is a private
Rogue stopped dead in the middle of the busy sidewalk.
"I hate this!" she screamed. "I hate it! I hate having all this shit
in my head!"
This being New York City, absolutely no one paid any attention to her
outburst. The crowd flowed around them. She and Mr. Summers might as
well have been standing under a glass dome.
"Hey," Mr. Summers said. "Hey, now."
"How could people do that to Logan? How could people do that to
Erik?" She sucked in a deep breath. "How can you be such a wimp? Erik
says they were going to put your eyes out. Erik says -- "
Mr. Summers reached for her gloved hands and held them
firmly. "Listen to me. Okay? You listening?"
She managed to nod.
"Rogue, it's not right that you should have to live with what
happened to Logan and Dr. Lenscherr. Nobody should have to live with
that. Not Logan, not Dr. Lenscherr, and sure as hell not you. Don't
ever shut the Professor out. Don't ever skip any of your sessions
with him. Let him help you. Okay?"
"Okay," she whispered.
"Okay," he said. "And listen. What happened to me was bullshit
compared to what happened to Logan. And what happened to Logan was
bullshit compared to what happened to Dr. Lenscherr. Maybe you want
to tell Logan that when he's feeling sorry for himself."
She wrenched her hands away. "You son of a bitch. Who the fuck are
you to preach to me? What the fuck do you think you know about it?"
"I know you have a healing factor and six million Jews didn't. Now
Logan shut up.
"My life is a movie," Rogue said. "*Psycho.*"
Mr. Summers sighed. "Yeah, well, we better beat it before somebody
from Tisch shows up with a film crew."
So they found the subway station and took a train up to Times Square
and walked to the parking garage on Eighth Avenue. Rogue was so
amazed by the spectacle of Times Square that she made Mr. Summers
walk through it with her twice. He escaped a third go-round by
assuring her that the older students had plentiful opportunities to
visit the city.
So ended the day that had promised to be one of the most miserable of
her life. It had been. . . not horrible, she admitted to herself, as
Mr. Summers parked the Mustang in the mansion's enormous garage. It
had been a good day, even. Proof that Logan loved her. He might have
gone away for a while, but he was still looking out for her, just as
he had promised.
Mr. Summers killed the engine. He glanced at his watch and
said, "Well, dang. I think we made curfew."
"Do you think you should turn your cell phone back on?"
Sighing, he unclipped the cell phone, or whatever it was, from his
belt and ran his thumb along one side of it. Instantly it began
bouncing in his hand like a Mexican jumping bean.
"Okay, maybe you should turn it off."
"What an excellent idea." Mr. Summers thumbed the device again and it
stilled. "Oh, ow." Suddenly he pressed the heel of his hand against
his forehead. "It's no use. I'm being paged."
Rogue's smile faded. "Are you a dog, then, to be summoned with a
"Don't start, Vati."
"The girl as good as performed brain surgery on you. Without my
knowledge or consent, might I add."
"I gave *my* consent, and that's all that matters."
"Oh, indeed," Rogue said dryly. "And have you enjoyed being privy to
her fantasies of that oaf?"
Mr. Summers closed his eyes. Rogue knew he had closed his eyes,
because the red lenses of his glasses stopped glowing. They looked
just like regular sunglasses, now.
Mr. Summers let his head fall back onto the headrest of the driver's
seat and he said, "You've waited nine years. Go on. Say it. 'I told
you so.' "
Rogue hesitated. "I have never approved of her, it is true," she said
quietly, "but I would not have wished for this situation either, mein
"I appreciate that," Mr. Summers said.
"And after all -- she did not leave you."
"Because he sneaked away without telling her?" Mr. Summers laughed
unhappily. "Now she'll say she was planning all along to stay. I'll
Rogue laughed cruelly. "That's right, asshole. You never will."
An awkward silence settled upon the interior of the Mustang.
Rogue popped open the passenger's side door and paused.
"Are you gonna be all right?" she asked hesitantly.
Mr. Summers turned his head. "Who's asking?"
"Me, Mr. Summers."
He said, "I'll be all right if you'll be all right. Do we have a
"Deal," she said, and got out of the car.