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Fic: Curiosity and the X-Cat (Humor, G) 2/2

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  • Mara Greengrass
    TITLE: Curiosity and the X-Cat AUTHOR: Mara Greengrass AUTHOR S E-MAIL: fishfolk@ix.netcom.com Other headers in part one * * * * * After the confrontation in
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 26, 2004
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      TITLE: Curiosity and the X-Cat
      AUTHOR: Mara Greengrass
      AUTHOR'S E-MAIL: fishfolk@...

      Other headers in part one

      * * * * *

      After the confrontation in the Xavier's office, Scott started to notice
      Puck following him around, sleeping on a desk in his classes, sprawling
      in the threshold of his bedroom in the mornings, and in one memorable
      instance, perching on his motorcycle waiting for him.

      It didn't seem to matter whether windows and doors were open or closed,
      somehow Puck made his way to Scott's general vicinity. His original name
      of Sugar was quickly forgotten and students vied to find a better name;
      Summers' Shadow, Merlin, and Shadowcat were all proposed, but Puck (aka
      Robin Goodfellow) stuck, especially after Scott did an impromptu and
      impassioned reading from _A Midsummer Night's Dream_ one evening. Puck
      he was, and Puck he would remain.

      Jean, of course, found the whole thing hilarious, and laughed whenever
      Scott grumbled.

      "You're not the one being stalked," he said one evening at dinner,
      looking down at the cat sitting quietly next to his chair.

      Ororo smiled at him. "Surely 'stalked' is a large word for such a small
      creature."

      "Small? The cat's 15 pounds if it's an ounce," Scott said, stabbing a
      spear of asparagus. "Besides, it follows me everywhere and I find that
      spooky. You'd think I carry tuna in my pocket or something."

      Jean's lips twitched as she looked thoughtfully at the ceiling. "Is that
      a tuna in your pocket--"

      "Thank you, that's enough." Scott shook his head in annoyance and she
      laughed softly. "I'm glad *you* think it's funny."

      "Oh, absolutely."

      "Jean, can't you read Puck's mind?" Scott asked.

      She looked at him in confusion. "The *cat*?"

      "Yes, read Puck's mind and find out what he thinks he's doing."

      "In case you've forgotten, Puck's a cat. Do I look like Dr. Doolittle to
      you? I don't talk to animals, their minds are completely different."

      "Oh." Scott stared at Puck, who seemed perfectly content to sit and
      watch him.

      "I think he just wants to be your friend," she said.

      Scott looked from the cat to his wife. "I don't have time for a pet or a
      friend. I barely have time for everything else."

      "Maybe that's the point."

      "Jean, now you're the one forgetting it's a cat, not a psychic."

      She shrugged. "Cat. Psychic. Same thing."

      He stared at her, aghast. "Who are you and what have you done with my
      wife? My wife the empirical scientist?"

      "I'm a telepath, remember?" She laughed at him. "There are more things
      in heaven and earth and all that." Sobering, she looked at Puck and
      Scott followed her glance. The cat slowly stood and strolled over to
      Jean, twining around her legs, leaving a trail of light hairs on her
      dark pantsuit. She chuckled ruefully and reached down to scratch his head.

      Puck meowed and Scott looked down just as Puck jumped into his lap.
      "Puck! Dinner's not for you." But the cat showed no interest in what was
      on his plate and instead chose to curl up on his lap with a disdainful
      sniff for the rest of the teachers.

      Scott froze in astonishment and everyone waited for a reaction.

      "I do believe," Xavier finally said, a twinkle in his eye, "that you've
      been adopted."

      "But I don't *want* a cat!"

      Without moving, Puck plunged a claw into Scott's leg.

      * * * * *

      The sun was peeking up over the trees the next morning when Scott ducked
      into the kitchen. He could hear the whirring that heralded Hilda making
      breakfast, and decided to take refuge with the one person who would
      understand his position.

      Her back was to the doorway and he grinned, sliding silently past her to
      drop onto a stool, just as he'd been doing for so long. Instead of
      jumping in alarm, she huffed at him.

      "Ha, it's been many years since that particular trick worked on me,
      young man."

      "I know." He grinned. "But it's always worth a try anyway."

      She pointed a floury finger at him. "You have very strong competition.
      Your lady likes to lift cookies off the tray with just her mind, that
      Logan person startles easily and has very sharp knives in his hands, and
      Jubilee set off sparklers over my head the other day while I was
      cleaning up. I lose more glasses that way..."

      Scott chuckled, and Hilda went back to making muffins, dropping sticky
      dough filled with blueberries into a neat row of tins. Propping his head
      in his hands, he watched her.

      "So, nu?" Hilda asked. "What brings you here this morning? You know I
      won't give you a cookie this early."

      "No, I don't want a cookie. I wasn't sleeping very well, so I thought
      I'd get up." A burbling sound behind him signaled the completion of the
      first pot of coffee and he smiled. "It sounds like I'm right on time."
      He hopped off his seat to grab a mug and the sugar.

      Hilda chuckled as she slid a tray of muffins into the oven, releasing a
      fresh blast of warm air, scented with dough and sugar and blueberries.
      "I hope that you're not awake this early because of a problem with Jean."

      "Nosy, aren't you?" He tried to glare at her.

      "Nosy? Perhaps. But that's an old lady's prerogative." She shrugged as
      she lined up flour, sugar, and baking powder on the counter. "If you
      didn't want me to pry, you wouldn't have come here."

      "Huh. I suppose you're right. Are you sure you're not a telepath like
      the Professor?"

      "No idle flattery, young man. And you still haven't told me what's wrong."

      "It's just..." He hesitated. "Everyone else has laughed at me, so I'm
      feeling touchy about this."

      Hilda didn't respond verbally, throwing an eloquent look over her
      shoulder from her position at the refrigerator.

      "It's that damn cat," he said finally.

      "Puck?"

      "Do we have another one?"

      "I should hope not. So, what's the problem?"

      Mug halfway to his mouth, Scott stopped to stare at her. "What's the
      problem? The cat's a menace, a...you called it a demon!"

      She chuckled. "Ah well, I was angry. You, of all people, should know
      that I forgive."

      "Noooo. I seem to recall that you hold on to a grudge until it dies and
      then you bring flowers to its grave."

      "Only in special cases." She waved a hand in dismissal of the minor
      point. "But the cat was acting according to its nature. As you were
      acting according to yours when your gifts first appeared."

      Scott tried the glare again, but it had just as little effect. "Don't
      try to make this about me. The cat is a chaos magnet of the first order."

      Hilda's expression grew serious and she leaned across the counter to pat
      him gently on the cheek. "And you, bubbeleh, could use a little chaos in
      your life."

      Incredulous, Scott found himself momentarily speechless. "Are you
      kidding? If I had any more chaos in my life, I could write the sequel to
      Gleick's book. I live in the *epicenter* of chaos. What I need is a
      little order."

      "That's not true. You may be surrounded by the chaos, but you don't let
      it in. The only person who gets in is Jean, but she simply provides more
      order."

      He shook his head. "I don't understand."

      "While I hate to resort to this modern slang--so tasteless usually--I
      think I will borrow a phrase from Kitty: 'You need to lighten up.'"

      "If I lighten up, people die." Scott's hand crept up to touch the frame
      of his glasses.

      "So serious?"

      "Yes, so serious. Somebody has to be. Hell, even the Professor thinks
      this is hilarious."

      "He's a very smart man. Perhaps he's seeing something you don't."

      "I don't believe it." He put his coffee cup down with a deliberate
      click, although he wanted to throw it. "I thought *you* would see my
      side after what Puck did to your kitchen."

      "There was no permanent harm done." She looked around, pride in her tidy
      kitchen evident. "And the girls apologized so nicely--"

      "After I threatened them with no TV."

      "And Puck licked my hand and I gave him some salmon and all is well."

      "I thought you'd understand."

      "I do, Scott darling, I just don't agree. Do you know what my mother
      used to tell me?"

      "Oh no..."

      "No, you haven't heard this one before. My mother, she would say 'A kats
      ken oykh kalye makhn.' Even a cat can cross your plans. It means--"

      "I know what it means."

      "How long have I known you?"

      He blinked at the apparent non sequitur, but knew better than to argue.
      "Ten years."

      "You were such a sad child when you arrived here. Closed off, hurt,
      angry, afraid."

      "With good reason."

      "Yes, of course, for all the best reasons. But it's time to grow out of
      that. The bad things will come when it is their time and your
      stubbornness will not delay them an instant."

      "Thank you, Confucius."

      A meow from the doorway interrupted the scowling and staring match they
      were about to engage in. Puck strolled in, tail held high.

      Hilda smiled at the cat. "Right on time. You know where your breakfast is."

      Puck twined between her legs, rubbing his chin against her legs, while
      Scott sighed. "Great, the cat's gotten to you, too. Is this a conspiracy
      to drive me insane?"

      Turning back to her baking, Hilda just smiled, while Puck came around
      the counter and looked up at Scott.

      "Don't look at me like that."

      Puck blinked, then sat on his haunches, tail wrapped around his legs,
      the white-spotted tip flicking slowly up and down.

      "What? She said there's breakfast. What do you want from me?"

      Hilda interrupted. "I'm no cat expert, but I think he wants to be petted."

      "So let him go find one of the girls."

      "He wants you."

      "Why?"

      "Because he likes you."

      Scott looked down. Puck just stared back and Scott sighed, certain Hilda
      would be annoyed if he didn't do this. Slowly, he got off the stool and
      knelt down beside Puck, who watched without moving anything but the tip
      of his tail.

      When Scott stretched out a hand, Puck's tongue stole out to lick it,
      damp sandpaper scraping across his knuckles. Puck's fur was as soft as
      he remembered and the cat tilted his head to be certain exactly the
      right parts were getting scratched.

      "There, that wasn't so bad, was it?" Hilda asked.

      Puck ignored her, leaning into Scott's hand with ecstatic abandon. "But
      I don't *want* a cat," he said.

      "Perhaps you need one. I think it's good to have your life turned upside
      down once in a while."

      Scott stood up and Puck yowled at the sudden loss of scratching. "I've
      got to go."

      "Think about what I've said, yes?"

      "Yes."

      * * * * *

      As Scott moved through his appointed rounds, he kept an eye out for
      Puck, waiting for the cat and his usual tricks. But no gray mound lay
      across the entrance to his classroom, no newspapers were shredded on his
      office desk, and no purring furrball jumped in his lap at lunch.

      It started to make him nervous, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but
      gradually he relaxed. Night fell, dinner--mercifully uninterrupted by a
      cat nipping at his toes--ended and the mansion's residents scattered to
      the winds. Scott waded through the hallways of the residence, watching
      the mass of children in transit.

      Bobby and Rogue jogged by, going to claim the upstairs television for
      the weekly viewing of "Friends." In pursuit, Jubilee yelled something
      about calling the couch.

      Scott grinned as Kitty popped her head through the ceiling to ask
      Theresa to bring popcorn with her. Nearly tripping over Peter's legs in
      the middle of the hallway, he peered at the bulky young man's pad. For
      some reason, he was lying on his back, sketching the carved ceiling
      panel in the middle of the hall. Scott shrugged.

      Ororo came through a door, shrugging on a black jacket embroidered with
      vaguely Asian patterns. "Oh, there you are, Scott. Jean and I are going
      to the movies, would you like to join us?"

      "No thanks," he said.

      "Are you sure? It's 'Pirates of the Caribbean.' I know you like pirate
      movies." She absently patted Artie's head as he went by.

      "I'm sure." He smiled. "Just remind Jean she's got an early class."

      Ororo shook her head. "Yes, Father," she said, striding toward the stairs.

      Continuing on his rounds, Scott leaned into the rec room to find Hank
      hovering over tables set up for chess. Six small heads briefly looked
      up, then resumed their solemn contemplation of the boards. Scott made a
      mental note to offer a class in strategy and tactics when these kids got
      a little older.

      A pile of youngsters climbed all over the couch, playing some kind of
      game whose rules only they knew. Scott winced for the reupholstering he
      saw in his future. He wandered down the hall and a light outside the
      window caught his eye--Logan lighting a match for his cigar. Sam and Ev
      leaned against a nearby oak tree, arguing vociferously over something,
      probably baseball. Logan had discovered--of all improbable things--an
      encyclopedic knowledge of the sport that had made him the idol of a
      certain portion of the student population.

      Meandering led Scott to the steps and he walked downstairs to the
      emptying corridors. When he looked at his watch, he realized it was a
      bit after 8. At a loss, he leaned against a wall and tried to decide
      what to do.

      Well, there were the algebra quizzes to grade and utility bills to
      review before they got paid and Ororo wanted him to price out art
      supplies for a new watercolor class.

      A burst of laughter from the library dragged his attention away from
      contemplation of his endless work. The Professor and Betsy were trying
      to teach Paige and Lila to play bridge and it seemed to be causing a
      great deal of amusement.

      Scott scowled at the realization that everyone seemed to have a hobby
      but him. That had been an admirable trait hours before. Now, it felt
      pathetic.

      Automatically he reached out for Jean, smiling as she and Ororo sang
      falsetto along with the Beatles on the radio.

      **Love, love me do,** she sang to him, her amusement skating across his
      mind for a ticklish moment. **What's wrong?**

      **Nothing. Never mind.** He shut down the connection so she couldn't
      feel how peevish her happiness made him and strolled down the corridor
      to stare out the windows into the dark.

      * * * * *

      A week later, Scott was back in his office for an after-dinner work
      session and the darkened hallway was blessedly quiet--the only noise the
      hum of his printer and the whir of the computer's cooling fan.

      Scott was trying to fill out paperwork for the state of New York, one
      hand on the computer mouse and the other resting on a warm lump on his desk.

      He scrolled up and down a page that was supposed to explain things to
      him and pondered editing the text for clarity and sending it back to the
      state. His musings were interrupted by a piercing meow. Without looking
      up, he said, "What's that, Lassie? Timmy's stuck in the well?"

      Scott jumped as Puck nipped at his hand, and he grinned at the cat, who
      stared at him like he was a mouse about to be pounced upon. "What?"

      The cat stood and stretched, then took a few steps toward the edge of
      the desk. When he turned his head back to look at Scott, the message was
      unmistakable. "Well? Are you coming or not?"

      "Can't I at least finish what I'm doing?"

      The imperious yowl left no room for interpretation, and Scott grinned.
      "Okay, your majesty, I'm coming."

      Under the watchful eye of his cat, Scott shut down his computer and
      turned off the lights. In the near-dark of the room, Puck's eyes glowed
      and Scott picked him up, cradling him against his chest.

      The cat nestled happily against him, swiping a rough tongue across his
      hand, and Scott strode out of his office toward the mansion's living
      quarters.

      "You know, Puck..." Scott looked down at the cat. "I still think you're
      a pain in the ass."

      --end--

      * * * * *

      Hilda's Yiddish can be loosely translated as follows:

      Genug = Enough
      Zolst vaksn vi a tsibele mit dayn kop in drerd = You should grow like an
      onion with your head in the ground
      Tut mir vey kop = My head hurts
      Es gornisht helfen = Nothing helps or It's hopeless
      A kats ken oykh kalye makhn = Even a cat can cross your plans
      Bubbeleh = sweetie, dear, young one
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