Neon Hearts
Author's Notes
The Ticket
Talking to strangers
Inching up to the brink
Falling in slow motion
At Silver's
Specters of the Past
The Morning After
Public appearances
First impressions
Dangerous dreams
Picking winners
Hank's bad day
Happy landings
Meeting the folks
Beware of the cat
Plans and possibilities
Taking chances
Room service and...
The road less traveled by
Shadows in the starlight
Grand Lake
Life in the breakdown lane
Family matters
Homeward bound
Simple gifts
Girl talk
Comforts of home
Open secrets
Good intentions
Every stop is a place to start
Whispers out of the past
Judgement calls
Crosscurrents & riptides
Past tensions, future trials
High spirits at Muir Island
Growing things
The best defense

This story is in progress.

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Stars and Garters

OK, I wasn't going to do this. I have plenty enough stuff I ought to be doing as it is. But you can't fly in the face of karma, I guess. So here's this story...
Because of its unabashedly fangirl nature, I am doing it as an alternate universe story, and not trying to fit it in to any one Marvel universe. This part is pretty mild and silly, but there will be angst and explicitness to come, so BEWARE!

Part 1--The Ticket

Cassie was just coming out of the huge building, still a little disoriented by the sudden noise of the street, when she first saw him, so it was no surprise she didn't at first believe her eyes. An intensely red sports car, tiny to the point of circus eligibility, had spotted the departure of a gleaming black Buick Pretensia and whipped into the parking spot it was vacating. But that wasn't the odd part. The thing that set this vehicle apart from the common throng was the driver.

She stood caught in delighted amazement as a man in a sports coat with leather elbow patches and a similarly jaunty leather driving cap, who was UNDENIABLY blue, leapt with inhuman grace from his spot behind the steering wheel. Oh, I've SEEN him, she thought happily. In magazines. He's one of those X-people! Oh, WAIT 'til I tell the folks when I get home!

The blue man temporarily lost his carefree demeanor as he appeared to search his pockets and find no change for the parking meter. His indecision was plain, but he opted to bolt towards a nearby building, no doubt hoping to finish his business and get back before the last few minutes on the meter expired, and an official of the law happened by.

Cassie hesitated only a moment, then drew back against the wall of the building she had just left. No one was expecting her anywhere for the rest of the day. She might as well be here as anywhere, waiting inconspicuously to catch another glimpse of a famous person before heading back to her hotel room.

Then doom approached in the form of a meter maid. She was putt-putting ever closer on her little cart, and could not help but spy the 'EXPIRED' flag which had appeared on the meter. With barely a moment of hesitation, Cassie flung herself into action. By the time the meter reader arrived, she had breathlessly fed two quarters into the slot.

"And just what do you think you're doing?" demanded the voice of civil authority.

"Oh, we were...uh...out of change...and I had to go into (WHAT kind of kiosk was that in the lobby?!)...cappuccino place to getsome. For the meter."

"You didn't just see me coming and decide to feed the meter?"

"Come, my dear woman, this is New York! When did you ever hear of someone abetting a stranger in need here?" The bass voice from behind her made Cassie jump. Oh, lord, it was HIM. But he was talking charmingly to the still unconvinced meter maid. "I was out of change, yet I needed to transact business at my bank posthaste. So..."

"Soooo...I got some change for my friend's meter here. While he was doing that." Cassie knew she was a terrible liar, and was halfway expecting the handcuffs to come out. Yet something about this strange man made her want to get a little crazy. "That's all that happened! Really!"

"Wellll..." The woman eyed the blue man nervously. "I guess you're paid now, anyhow."

"And we will be departing shortly," soothed the car's owner. "I am most heartily sorry if we caused you any difficulty."

"Well, next time, Mister, carry a couple quarters!" With this sally, the meter reader was off in search of the next freeloading parker.

Once she was safely gone, the errant driver said, "I can't thank you enough for coming to my rescue, Ms....?" The X-Man had taken Cassie's hands in his, and his blue eyes beamed.

"Ah...Cantrell. Cassie Cantrell."

"Like the raiders?"

Amazing! The man knew some history! "Actually, maybe. Part of my dad's family claims 'em--the other part denies the whole Civil War ever happened." Cassie's new acquaintance grinned, and her knees went wobbly, which was silly, as only the most novice of writers ever used that silly cliche.

"I wonder if you would do me the favor of allowing me to buy you lunch, in gratitude for your assistance?"

"Ahhh...." She had HEARD about the Wicked City of New York, and what could happen to an innocent visitor. She didn't know anything ABOUT this man.... "Sure!" she heard herself answer.

Cassie didn't have the gymnastic skills to hop into his car the same way he did, but it wasn't necessary, as he gallantly opened the passenger door and showed her inside. The restaurant he chose was a small Chinese place where they seemed to know him and feel he was at least family, if not a demi-god gracing their establishment. The food was fabulous, the service discreet, and it didn't seem at all like four hours later when they returned to the street.

By then, it felt as if they had know each other forever, and so it seemed like the funniest joke in the world to see Hank had...a parking ticket.

Continued in Part 2.

As easy as 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841.