Sequel to "Seeing Red." How're the X-Men gonna react when they find out Scott's
gone? This'll be an ongoing series that'll end...whenever I run out of things to
write. ;-) Hope you enjoy, and comments/suggestions are always welcome.
The man in front of him had been driving with his left blinker on for forty-three minutes.
The actual number was probably closer to fifty-three, but Scott had only noticed the blinker forty-three minutes ago. Forty-four, now. And it had only really been getting on his nerves for about thirty minutes.
He'd debated honking his horn, then flashing his own left turn signal a couple of times to tell the man what was wrong. But every time he considered that he found himself gazing at the snow-capped head hunched forward over the wheel and the loving care so obviously lavished on the mid-eighties model Buick, and... he just couldn't. Surely the old man would realize the blinker was on in a minute. Surely he was just so utterly focused on his destination that he wasn't paying attention to the persistent 'click - click - click' that it would be making inside the cab. In a minute he'd notice the sound or the flashing indicator light, and then he'd reach a wrinkled hand to the side of the steering wheel and flick the lever back up into the neutral position. Surely...
Scott could've gone around him, he supposed. This stretch of westbound highway just off the main Interstate was a two-lane, and he hadn't seen another car for half an hour. He could've zipped on by the crawling Buick and pushed the rental from fifty-two miles per hour to a more comfortable cruising speed of sixty-five or seventy. And then he'd've been all alone on the open road... just himself and the car and not even this simulacrum of human contact.
He sighed faintly and let his speed drop back to forty-six as the old man slowed to swerve with painstaking care around a lump of black tire lying in the road.
A stanza of a poem kept playing through his head insistently, tapping at his skull every time he tried to ignore it. Even playing the radio in the nice Toyota he'd rented did nothing to drown out the inner noise.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville-- mighty Casey has struck out.
"I hate that poem," Scott muttered to no one in particular. "I really hate that poem."
But there is no joy in Mudville--
He turned the radio up again and tried to lose himself in whatever happened to be playing.
#... a tear in my beer cuz I'm cryin' for ya, dear#
Snarling slightly, he switched the station.
#... my broken heeeaaart...#
#... told him 'this is the queen of my double-wide trailer, with the polyester curtains and the redwood deck... Sometimes she runs an' I've got to trail her--#
#... whose bed have your boots been under...#
"Damn it." Eyes narrowed behind his shades, Scott turned the radio off.
But there is no joy in Mud--
Desperately, he clicked the radio back on.
And paused as the words of the latest warbling country song registered.
#Well I guess I was wrong. I just don't belong... but then, I've been here before.
#Everything's all right. I'll just say g'night, and I'll show myself to the doo-oor.
#Hey I didn't mean to cause a big scene. Just wait 'til I finish this glass...
#Then I'll be as high as that ivory tower... and you can kiss my ass!#
He blinked behind his shades. Slowly let his hand fall away from its ready position by the radio.
#Cuz I've got friends in low places, where the whisky drowns and the beer chases my blues away... and I'll be okay...
#Well, I'm not big on social graces. Think I'll slip on down to the Oh-Asis! O-oh, I got friends... in lo-o-ow places!#
Scott's mouth twitched against his will. Country music was on the list with 'Casey at the Bat' for things he didn't like, but this was a refreshing change for a moment...
#I've got friends in low places...#
He didn't exactly have friends in low places. Out of the way places, though... those he had. Small in number, maybe, but there, standing outside of his life as an X-Man. Family, too, which was more than some of his teammates--
--had. His father wasn't exactly within easy reach, but his grandparents were, and he could probably find where Alex's latest lurking spot was if he looked. He hadn't talked to his brother since... well, since Alex had called him in Alaska during his convalescence from impromptu open-chest surgery. It'd been an odd conversation even for them, with Alex starting it off with an apology for nearly killing him.
Scott smiled, just a bit, and thought that he'd at least done something right. He'd made peace with his brother before either one of them could go out and do something stupid enough to make that impossible. And now he had the time... he tried not to think of why... and there was no reason he couldn't find a few weeks to go spend with Alex. Male bonding. Sibling stuff.
No. Not that. Not... yet.
The song ended and he turned the radio off before another could start. Casey and Mudville had thankfully retreated to hide somewhere in the depths of his memory for now. Scott's mind hadn't really been on... the future. The next step, yes, but nothing past it. Nothing beyond tomorrow.
But... spend a few weeks with Alex? He could do that. Or his grandparents... a week, a month. Friends. He had friends who weren't in the hero business. He had friends who lived mundane lives, or as near as to make no difference. Even -- and his heart quickened just a bit involuntarily -- friends who flew. Not people who could just jump into the sky and make it their own, but humans who braved the wild blue yonder on silver-winged birds, defying natural law and proving that ingenuity could make even the lowly earth-bound like unto eagles.
Scott shifted on his seat restlessly. The left turn signal still blinked reliably on the Buick. The old man still hunched over his wheel. Greatly daring, he'd pushed the heavy car up to fifty-three.
The last letter he'd gotten from Lee had put her and her crew as working out of Long Beach, California. She'd signed the Arcadia up with a shipping company there, saying it was steady work, if not as exciting as some. That was weeks ago, but she might well still be there.
Was he ready to see Lee? Or anyone, really, who'd ask the wrong questions?
The point was really that he could see her, wasn't it? He could show up on the dock in rugged clothing with nothing but a bag on his shoulder and the glasses on his face. No connections, nothing holding him back, nothing tying him down.
He could work all day in the sun as saltwater made the breeze fresh and sharp in his lungs.
He could lie awake nights on the deck, hands behind his head, watching the ruby-dark night sky twirl slowly past his vision with twinkling red-hued stars forming faithful patterns.
He could take a job going out to sea that could last anywhere from two weeks to two months, little caring when he'd get back to shore again.
Or he could exercise other talents, hit an airfield, take his life in his hands again as the plane rocketed up from the runway and into the sky.
One hour and four minutes. The old man still hadn't noticed. Maybe he just didn't care. Who cared about toeing the line when there were only these two men surrounded by endless miles of empty Texas pasture? Out here there weren't any narrow parameters for what was 'proper.' No 'duty,' except to himself. No constant awareness that others were depending on him.
A smile -- slight, but any smile was a welcome change -- broke through and pulled his lips to the sides. He felt a sudden wave of fondness for that old man and his slow Buick. The man was going wherever he wanted to go, and he'd get there in his own time. And damn anyone who didn't like it.
The smile broadened. Teeth glinted. He sat back in his seat comfortably and reached to flick a lever beside the wheel with his left hand.
Click - click - click...
The indicator light blinked at him in complaint, a split-second out of synch with the one on the car in front. A glance at the speedometer put them at nearly fifty-five. Scott hit the cruise control and settled in for a long drive.
But there is no joy in Mudville--
Well. No one said Casey had to stay in Mudville, did they?
The thought was satisfying, bringing a chuckle, and he decided to keep it foremost in his mind for the rest of the trip. However long that would take at fifty-five--
He braked as the old man slowed to edge around a small depression in the road.
--fifty-one miles per hour.
Other Stories By Kaylee