((Disclaimer: All the characters belong to Marvel Comics and whatnot. I don't own them, I can't keep them, so I'm just borrowing them for this exciting little romp. Enjoy your reading!))
Chapter 7: What Town Is This?
Kurt used the hum of the engine to cover the faint noises of him pulling on his coat and lacing up his boots while curled low in the back of Lance's car. So far, the two in the front hadn't seen or heard him, and he remained in a bunched-up huddle as far down and back as he could get, listening to the chatter in the front as he finished tying his boots.
The boots had been an autumn gift from the Professor. As the weather grew colder, it was no longer comfortable--or wise--for him to simply wear his X-Men uniform and cover it with the holographic inducer, which he did fairly often when there was threat of action from the Brotherhood. The material was far too thin for cold New York winters, and neither was it waterproof. Even with the onset of his winter coat's growth, the X-uniform had begun to get a bit...chilly.
And that meant goodbye to the nice shoe-socks that went along with it. That footwear was soft, comfortable, flexible, light, and durable. It suited him well, and didn't hamper his traction or movement. The gloves of his uniform were made of a slightly lighter version of the same stuff, to protect his hands when he went quadrupedal. However, the shoes weren't warm enough either, and only water-resistant. He'd worn them over a few muddy autumn days before complaining of damp feet.
He didn't mind going barefoot on most occasions. The calloused pads of his feet were tough enough to withstand everyday walking, and his fur was warm enough for most weather. He loved running shoeless through the clean snow, as long as he didn't stay out too long and give himself frostbite.
But the slush, mud, grit, and other unpleasantness that also went along with the winter season made for uncomfortable walking. And going into town or walking about public areas could be downright dangerous when barefoot. Broken glass, sharp rocks, metal grating--all things he'd not had to deal with very often back home in Germany, but he saw almost every day here. His X-uniform served well enough in summer, but failed him in the winter.
So Professor Xavier had special-ordered him a custom pair of boots, specifically designed to accomodate his...unique foot size. They had tough rubber soles, strong leather uppers, and were comfortably padded on the inside so as not to chafe his fur. They laced up firmly to about half the height of his uniform shoes, but were much warmer and decidedly waterproof.
Whoever the cobbler had been, he'd done a remarkable job. It was a tall order to make comfortable, serviceable winter boots for a boy with furry feet, digitigrade legs, and hocks instead of ankles.
The boots were a bit clunky, but then so was any winter gear. They served him well, protecting his feet from cold, damp, and injury. The only problem was that they did leave a mighty odd-looking print if he stepped in snow or mud, so he had to be careful not to track around public places.
The sudden absence of engine noise brought Kurt out of his half-dozing reverie. He came instantly alert, realizing that the car had reached its destination. He held his breath, tensely waiting, as the two up front exited and locked the vehicle. He gave them the count of ten before he cautiously poked his head up.
He got his bearings quickly. They were parked at Rock's Burgers 'n' Grill, one of those nice-but-not-too-spendy family-type joints. Nice place for lunch--Kurt had come there many times with the rest of the gang. Today, however, fond memories of culinary delights were far from his mind.
His eyes focused on Kitty and Lance going in the door. He watched them for a second, then teleported behind the dumpster at the side of the building, just within his line of sight. From there, he cautiously approached the front door.
Through the windows, he could see that his targets were choosing a booth, so he ducked inside and hustled for another seat. Hopefully out of their immediate sight, but he could still keep an eye on them. A waitress stopped by his table; he sent her on her way with a polite yarn about how he was waiting for someone and he'd order when they arrived. That done, he settled in to watch the couple.
Lance ordered a typical burger, Kitty a generous salad. They ate and talked pleasantly enough, and looked to be enjoying themselves. As the meal drew on, one might have observed a direct relationship in the moods of the two males in question; the happier Lance got, the more sullen Kurt became.
Kitty was shyly happy, giggling at Lance's jokes and blushing at his compliments. She was well into Ditz Mode, eyes sparkling gaily and her ponytail bobbing with each excited movement. Lance seemed pleased to be with her. It was a perfectly normal date.
The more Kurt realized this, the more upset he became. Kitty never got ditzy when she was around him. They just laughed and teased and hung out like...brother and sister. He could never coax that flush, those cheery eyes, that excited giggle out of her. When she was with him, she was entirely different.
What does he do that I don't? What does he know? How does he do it? What does he have?
The answer came to him quickly. It always did. Lance isn't a freak. Not like me. He's a nice normal mutant boy. Just an ordinary kid with special powers. Just like her.
Not like me. The Fuzzball. The Elf. Furrby. Sideshow Boy. Freak.
While he was stewing, he almost didn't notice the fact that Lance and Kitty had finished their meals and were preparing to leave. He jolted into action, scooching lower into the seat and teleporting out only a few seconds before they passed his booth. He made it back to the car in one try; he knew exactly where it was, so he had no trouble 'porting without visual reference.
Back in the diner, Kitty sniffed the air curiously, her eyes going suddenly distant.
"What's up?" Lance asked, finished paying the tab.
Her brows furrowed. "Like, I thought for sure I smelled..." She shrugged, shaking her head and smiling at him. "Never mind. Like, let's go!"
"After you, Pretty-Kitty." Lance held open the door, and they were off once again.
They were going home, weren't they? The lunch date was over...wasn't it? So they should be headed back to the Institute.
But all the turns and stops seemed...wrong somehow. Too frequent--as if they were still downtown maneuvering through stoplights. And even when that stopped, and they seemed to be on some open road, other cars could still be heard, as well as the occasional honking horn. If Lance and Kitty were finished with lunch...where on Earth could they be going?
All Kurt's previous fears about Lance's cunning and deviant plans for Kitty came racing back at him. Were they heading across town for some seedy dive that Lance knew how to sneak into? Were they aimed at some remote little spot where Lance could enact his designs upon Kitty? Even worse--was the whole Brotherhood going to be there to back him up? Kurt knew he wasn't up to taking on all of Lance's pals at once, and it seemed to have slipped his mind that Kitty was the sort of girl who wouldn't let such things happen to her. Would-be attackers would have to get their hands on her first. And be able to keep them there.
For a while, as his panic increased, he contemplated popping up and demanding to take Kitty home. Or heck with that idea--just grab her and teleport straight out of there. His fear of Lance's plans was almost equally balanced by his fear of Kitty's wrath, which would definitely fall upon him if he interrupted her thus-far splendid date. And if he appeared to offer rescue at the wrong time, she would be utterly furious with him--not to mention the fact that he would look extremely stupid in front of Lance. This mental quandary played a large part in keeping him glued to the floor of Lance's vehicle.
That, and he was developing a cramp from being squashed down there for so long. Hard to spring to your Lady's rescue when your leg doesn't want to unbend. He had to grit his teeth and bear it every time his muscle tightend another screw; there was little room to maneuver and he couldn't do much without making noise. Due to obvious reasons, he was quite unused to such problems as stiffness and muscle spasms, and this rather novel sensation was becoming excruciatingly painful. Then again, he'd never crammed himself into the space between the seat and the floor of someone's vehicle, nor held that position for almost half an hour.
If they didn't stop soon, Lance was going to need a can opener and Fred Dukes' help to get a blue furry stowaway out of his car.
Pinning oneself to the bottom of a moving vehicle with no fresh air and a lot of stops and turns also has another quite interesting result: Motion sickness. Kurt had to stifle the occasional groan every time the car rocked and his stomach coiled itself in weirder knots than even he could manage on his best days. Motion-induced nausea was rather new, too, since with all the moving he did--'porting included--one would think him immune to such a trivial thing as car-sickness. The fact that Lance's car smelled of old cigarrettes and Toad did not help his situation any.
If they didn't stop soon, Lance was going to have Ororo's famous Scrambled Eggs Supreme--recycled--on the bottom of his car.
Mercifully, the heavens answered his silent prayers. Lance's car slowed, made some sharp turns that served to aggravate Kurt's condition--cramp and stomach--and finally came to a stop. He held perfectly still--no help from his spasming leg--as Kitty and her escort got out. He gave them a slightly impatient count of twenty this time before he attempted to pry himself out of his hidey-hole, heartily wishing he had that can opener--and even Fred Dukes' help, at this point.
Feeling nowhere near up to a 'port, not with how nauseous he already was, he dragged himself up to the door and let himself out the old-fashioned way, making sure to lock it behind him. Ahhh, even downtown city air smelled downright sweet after that car! How in the world did Kitty stand it?
He stumbled clumsily along the sidewalk to lean on the nearest parking meter, head fogged with car-sickness and his left leg cramping painfully as he tried to loosen it. To add insult to injury, every single one of his limbs was asleep--with the exception of his tail, but he couldn't very well walk on that. The pins-and-needles sensation that chased up his arms and legs made him feel as if he'd put his finger on a live wire. He knew; he'd actually done it once.
When the needles faded to a tingling numbness, he attempted a few steps. His feet dragged clumsily and his balance went to and fro like a ship in a stormy sea. Keep the tail tucked in, dummkopf, he scolded himself as his fifth appendage threatened to uncoil instinctively from beneath his shirt with each uncoordinated step he took. No matter how dizzy you are, nobody needs to see that.
He probably already looked like some drunken delinquent--and he felt quite a bit like one, too. As he squinted around in the bright afternoon sunlight, trying to get his bearings, his nauseous stomach warned him to quit with the sudden movements and get horizontal soon, or risk further embarassment right there on the sidewalk. He resisted the pressing temptation to drop to his much more stable quadrupedal mode, as such would raise quite a fuss on a public street.
So he gritted his teeth, swallowed hard, and put his weight firmly on his protesting left leg.
Ack...that car ride had been hell.
Needless to say, Kurt's wonderful little plan to ensure Kitty's safety was looking less and less intelligent--even to him--as time passed. In his mind, however, she was worth it. Out in the fresh air, his head began to clear and things began to seem better. Then he took a good look around.
Where the hell was he, anyway?
Standing outside Lance Alvers' car on a strip of sidewalk in some very busy, heavily-populated, Christmas-decorated section of downtown, that's where. But which downtown was it? He didn't recognize this street, or those rather tall buildings...had they left Bayville entirely? They had been driving a while. He gaped around at the lights, the signs, the street names, the structures, and saw nothing familiar.
Great. On top of being car-sick and cramped, he was lost. A fuzzy blue mutant just barely hidden behind a possibly-damaged holographic inducer with a bad case of motion-sickness and a sore leg, lost in a big city whose name he didn't even know. Absolutely wunderbar.
Kurt began to feel very small, and very very stupid.
Wait--Kitty! In his moment of floundering terror, he'd forgotten that Kitty and Lance were here somewhere. He glanced around, trying to spot either of them along the sidewalk. Had they crossed the street?
Damn. No sign of them.
Well, he could stand here and wait like a good little lost boy, then fess up whenever the couple arrived back at the car. At least that way he might get home.
Yeah, right. Not only would Kitty be beyond steamed, Lance would be right there to witness it all and mock him unmercifully. Okay, so Lance wouldn't do it in front of Kitty, but he'd never hear the end of it later on.
Kurt immediately dumped that option.
Next choice--track them down. Somehow. If only he had the same power as that one super-strong anime dude he saw on TV sometimes--interesting guy, and he even had a tail. But unfortunately, Kurt could only teleport to a place, not to the vicinity of a specific person. Wouldn't that be handy in these situations.
So he had to spot them. This sidewalk crowd was thick, though--but all he needed was a high place to solve that problem. He couldn't manage any of the roofs of these buildings, but maybe a ledge would do. A wide ledge--his winter boots seriously compromised his climbing abilities. He found a likely place right above him, at the front of the store Lance had parked near. Its lit-up sign had a good wide landing area behind it. He studied the location briefly, then hurried back along the street to the nearest alley.
He should have known that 'porting upwards was a bad idea when he was still suffering from the after-effects of that damn car ride.
He landed on the ledge retching, fighting for his balance, and trying to hide behind the store's large sign letters. Good thing his metabolism was so fast and there really wasn't any of his breakfast left in storage, or he would have badly disturbed the pedestrians walking below.
"Ugh..." he groaned, leaning against the building's cold wall and praying no one had seen his graceful little performance. The day had gone from good to bad the moment Lance showed up. Now bad had made it to worse, and was heading for abysmal with its foot on the gas.
He forced himself up, forced himself to peek out between the letters of the store's sign. Up and down the street, there was no sign of Lance or Kitty.
Worse had just crashed into the brick wall of abysmal doing about ninety miles an hour. Kurt did an emotional nosedive, leaning pitifully against the sign metal and cursing himself repeatedly for his overwhelming stupidity. He should have moved faster, carsickness or not. He should have thought of another way of following them, like borrowing someone's wheels. He shouldn't have let Kitty out of his sight, not for a moment!
Her face sprang up in his mind; he couldn't just give up. Abysmal day or not, something like this shouldn't keep a member of the X-Men down!
Kurt took a deep breath and set his jaw. Leaning out through the "O" in the sign, he looked carefully up and down the street, not caring a fig if someone saw him. Sometimes the guise of "crazy teenager" helped a lot.
He almost fell through that "O" when he heard Kitty's voice right below him. Blinking in disbelief, he looked down--and there she was! Or rather, there was the top of her head. And Lance's head.
What were the odds he'd end up teleporting to the very same store they'd chosen?
Duh, what were the odds that Lance and Kitty would go right into the store they'd parked in front of?
Brain to Kurt Wagner, hellooo...
"...like, totally lame," Kitty was saying. "This one didn't have anything good. Do you know anywhere that has any like, really tricky stuff?"
"I think so," Lance replied, taking a right and heading off down the sidewalk. "Me and the guys found this one place that has some really freaky..."
Their voices trailed off as they continued walking. Kurt stared after them for a second, still dazed.
Then he bolted into action, pulling out of the "O" and preparing to teleport back to the alley. His stomach was still a bit...queasy, but a downward 'port shouldn't be too hard. Easy as falling off a bridge, right?
Hoo boy...bad analogy. He reappeared feeling like he had fallen off a bridge, his stomach twisting up again but luckily not reacting as violently as it had before. Pausing a bare second to catch his breath, he scrambled out of the alley, heading in the direction Lance and Kitty had gone. Only pure luck or God's blessing had let him find her again, and this time he was not going to lose sight of her.
He caught up with them, but stayed well back to avoid notice. Hands in his pockets, the hood of his coat pulled up, he hoped to appear as anonymous as possible--ignoring the fact that he drew odd looks from passersby because he was wearing his coat all closed up and shadowy on a nice sunny winter afternoon.
Good thing people on dates aren't in the habit of looking over their shoulders.
To be continued...
|"Idiot," or "Stupid."|
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