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Birthday fic: The Guy At Table Three, 1/1

Title: The Guy at Table Three
Author: htbthomas
Fandom: Spider-Man movieverse, based on SM2 and SM3
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1,850 words
Summary: On Lily’s first day of work, she realizes something ‘amazing’ about the guy at Table Three.
Author’s Note: A birthday fic for stolenpostit.  This ficlet is in the style of jenna_knight’s Strangers on a Train – required reading in Spider-Man movieverse fiction, though you don’t need to have read it before reading this one. Thanks to the author for letting me credit her, and for beta help from mark_clark and van_el.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


CRASH!

The tray full of dishes cascaded off of Lily’s tray with a spectacular noise.  She cringed and bent down quickly to clear the broken plates and glasses from the floor, to the sound of desultory clapping from a couple of tables over.  Very funny, thanks, she snarked at them inwardly, not acknowledging them at all.  Like that hasn’t been done before.

It had only been one hour into her very first shift at the jazz club, and already she wanted to go home.  She blinked to keep her eyes dry... it wasn’t worth it...

“Here.” One of the other waitresses placed a glass on her tray, and Lily looked up.  The girl gave her a conspiratorial smile and a wink.  “First days suck, don’t they?”

“With the force of a thousand black holes...” Lily gave the other waitress, one of the featured singers – she thought her name was Mary something – a small smile in return.

Mary laughed and helped Lily to her feet.  “That sounds like something my boyfriend would say.  He’s the ultimate science geek...” She led the way toward the kitchen.  “Not that I’m implying anything about you.”

Lily laughed – it was hard not to like the bubbly red-head.  “I’m more of a drama geek than anything.  I’d love to be on Broadway someday... just like every other girl in this place.”

“Yeah,” Mary said, her smile fading a little as she helped set the tray on the counter.  “Listen.  It’s just like the theater out there.  You miss a cue, you just improvise.  Most of the time, the audience’ll never know.” 

The sound of the announcer on stage caused Mary’s head to turn.  “...back to the stage, Ms. Mary Jane Watson!” Oh, Mary Jane, that was it.

“That’s my cue...”  She waved cheerily and went out the swinging doors.

“Break a leg, Mary Jane!” she called, feeling much better. At least she’d gotten over the urge to throw something.  She listened to Mary Jane sing as she finished clearing the broken dishes and reloading her tray.  Then she stepped over to the kitchen doors to glance through the windows into her section of the club.  The hostess was seating someone at one of her tables, a single guy with his back to her. 

“Oh, God...” a breathy voice came over her shoulder. “Not him again.”

She turned to see – she looked briefly at the girl’s name tag – Lindsey peering out of the windows.  “Who?”

“The guy at table three – MJ’s boyfriend.  He gives me the creeps. I have no idea what she sees in him.” She made a face and then looked at Lily with sympathy. “It’s too bad he’s in your section.”

Lily looked back out at the guy, who was now perusing a menu as he turned toward the stage.  It looked like he was more focused on his girlfriend on stage than the menu, anyway.  She couldn’t see his face from this angle.  “What’s wrong with him?”

“Oh.”  Lindsey lowered her voice. “I was working the first time he came in here.  He was a big jerk, flaunting some blonde in front of MJ...” She leaned close to Lily’s ear. “...and then, I swear, he hit her.”

No!” Lily whispered back.  Why hadn’t she shown that creep the door already?  It was always the nice ones, sometimes they were too nice.

Lindsey nodded, completely serious. “No lie. But the next time he came back, she made some stupid excuse for him... Anyway, I’ll take his table if you want.”

“Oh, th–” Just then, Mary Jane finished her song, took a bow, and left the stage. Her boyfriend stood up and turned toward her, blowing a kiss, which she returned with a bright smile.  Lily’s words died in her throat as she finally saw his face.

It was him. Lily’s heart started to pound, and she froze, thoughts swirling.  She felt transported to the first time she had seen his face, over a year ago, lying on the floor of her commuter train. Spider-Man.

In the moments between Mary Jane waving and walking over to the bar, all of the details of that day came back to her. He had looked so normal, a guy just about her age.  His medium brown hair, his flushed face, his innocent-looking eyes... if he hadn’t just been carried from the front of the train, she would have thought he was some kid in a costume.  The bleeding slashes across his torso made it even more surreal. And Lily, just like every other soul in that car, would have faced Doctor Octopus single-handedly before telling anyone what he really looked like.

If not for him, she would have been nothing more than a smear on the pavement.

That day, she had been going back home after chickening out of an audition.  She’d been convinced that there were at least ten thousand girls who were prettier, better dancers and better singers than she was – so what was the point?  But her brush with death convinced her of one thing – she’d never become a Broadway star by giving up. Spider-Man had given her a second chance.

She only faintly noticed that Lindsey was trying to ask her something when the world snapped back into focus.  “...you okay?”

“Yeah, yeah. Fine.  Um, I’ll take his table.  Gotta get used to him, if he’s going to be in here a lot, right?”

“Brave soul,” Lindsey commiserated, patting her on the shoulder.  “Here, I’ll take those drinks out for you.”  She smoothly grabbed and balanced the tray with one hand, breezing back onto the floor.

Lily took a deep breath, pulled out her order pad, and walked out toward Table Three.

As she approached, her mind was racing.  Who was he, really?  The ‘ultimate science geek’ that MJ described?  The brash and bold superhero celebrated all over New York City?  The abusive boyfriend?  Was he somehow all three, with some sort of multiple personality disorder?  And did Mary Jane know? She shivered. 

He looked up when she came beside him.  “M-may I take your order?” she asked, wincing inwardly at her nervousness.

“I’ll have a coke... and...” He glanced at the menu.  “Some chips and salsa.”

The cheapest thing on the menu. She wrote it down, trying not to stare at his face.  Lily had always told herself that if she ever met Spider-Man in real life, without the mask, that she would try to show him her appreciation in some way... but she was so confused now that she found herself unable to do more than go through the motions of her job.
“Anything else, sir?”

“Um, no thanks,” he answered pleasantly. 

She turned and began to walk away quickly, to come up with a better game plan, but his voice stopped her.  “Oh, wait! Excuse me...?”

“Yes?” she asked, trying not to panic.

“You’re new here, right?”

“Yes...”

He gestured for her to come closer, and she inched forward.  “Are you one of the singing waitresses?”

Her brows drew down into a confused frown. “Yes,” she began.  The question worried her... why would he want to know?  His girlfriend was already a singer...?  “That’s what they hired me for, but it’s my first day.  I haven’t had my turn to sing yet for the customers.”

He smiled.  It seemed warm and friendly, much like the one Mary Jane had given her earlier.  She allowed herself to smile back tentatively.  He pointed over to Mary Jane near the bar. “Do you see that girl over there, the one with the red hair?”

“Mary Jane?” she asked, trying to sound like she had nothing better to do.

“She’s my girlfriend,” he said, never taking his eyes from Mary Jane. “And a month ago, tonight, I almost lost her.” He looked back at Lily, an odd sadness in his eyes.  “I want to dedicate a song to her, a surprise...”

Something about his words made things click together in her brain.  Wasn’t it a month ago that Spider-Man had been in a huge battle with that sand creature and that black monster thing?  She seemed to remember a girl trapped in a taxi high in the black webbing... had that been Mary Jane?  Her eyes widened.  “What happened...? I–I mean, what song?”

His gaze traveled back to the red-head, in her pale dress. “‘The Way You Look Tonight’...” 

Watching him watch her, love and regret mingling there on his face, her heart calmed. Was she going to believe idle gossip from another waitress, or give a second chance to the guy who had saved her life? It wasn’t really a difficult decision. “Sure, I know it.”  She placed a hand on his arm, to turn his attention back to her.  “I’ll be happy to.  Let me place your order and I’ll go talk to the band.”

“Thanks...” He looked at her name tag, and she suddenly blushed.  “Thanks, Lily.”

“Oh! Who should I say the dedication comes from?”

“Peter.”  A tingle rippled through her at the knowledge of his actual name.  “Say it’s from Peter.”

Less than ten minutes later, Lily was standing on the small stage, while the band played an introduction.  “Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight we have a request.  Mary Jane...” The girl’s head came up, surprised, and the band launched into the melody of the song.  “This is for you... from Peter.”

Some day, when I’m awfully low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you...
And the way you look tonight.


Mary Jane smiled across the room at Peter, and he back at her. Everyone’s focus narrowed on the two of them, even people from all around the room.  He stood and held out a hand to her.  She didn’t hesitate, her cream-colored skirt sweeping across the floor as she moved.  Their hands twined together, and they began to sway, drawing an appreciative murmur from the crowd.  Even Lindsey, now leaning against the wall outside the kitchen, had a sort of dreamy look in her eyes.

Yes, you’re lovely, with your smile so warm
And your cheeks so soft,
There is nothing for me but to love you,
And the way you look tonight.


Lily continued to sing, trying to embody the feelings of the person in the song.  She wasn’t just the nervous first-time waitress anymore, but somehow part of something bigger.  Maybe she couldn’t really repay Peter, not in kind. But she could be a part of this small, shining moment for him.

The music ended on a jazz chord, and she added a descending vocal obbligato to finish on a dissonant note.  Applause suddenly filled the room, and she clapped for the couple herself... and then she caught the eye of the jazz club’s manager.  He gave her an approving nod before going back to his business.  The spotlight faded out, the diners went back to their conversations, but Lily felt the pleasant warmth of pride deep inside.  Maybe this day didn’t suck that much, after all.

Is your birthday soon? Request a ficlet!

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
lilyoftheval5
Jan. 10th, 2008 12:49 pm (UTC)
Wahhhh
I loved jenna_knight’s Strangers on a Train, since I'm such a sucker from 3rd person's POV.

I liked Lily, even thought this was a short ficlet you managed to make her wholesome. Maybe too mushy, but it's not my birthday. Yet.
htbthomas
Jan. 10th, 2008 05:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Wahhhh
Yes, I definitely pushed the mushy factor a bit on this one... but it just felt right on this piece. Thanks for reviewing! :)
spiletta42
Jan. 10th, 2008 05:49 pm (UTC)
Oh this was just lovely, and you made the waitress very real in a very short piece. Thanks!

Also, there's an extra " in your lj cut tag.
htbthomas
Jan. 10th, 2008 06:42 pm (UTC)
Argh, thanks. :( Fixed now!

And thank you for the review... I was trying not to get too sentimental, although I think that was impossible for the plot bunny. :D I'm glad she seemed real! *hugs*
empressaurelius
Jan. 10th, 2008 08:43 pm (UTC)
Aaaaaaw, this was so great! Neat seeing Peter and MJ from someone else's POV-especially a fangirl's. XD
htbthomas
Jan. 11th, 2008 12:55 am (UTC)
I love third-person POVs, and the train passengers are a personal love of mine. I'm glad she chose this prompt!
stolenpostit
Jan. 11th, 2008 12:30 am (UTC)
Aww, that was beautiful! I just want to hug Peter an MJ right now, and Lily seemed like a sweet character -- great name by the way :)

Thank thank, thank you, thank you a million times!
htbthomas
Jan. 11th, 2008 12:52 am (UTC)
*LOL* Immediately I thought of calling the character Lily, and even though I tested out several names, nothing else seemed to fit. :)

Glad you liked it! Happy, happy birthday!
willow_diamond
Jan. 11th, 2008 01:34 am (UTC)
*claps*
htbthomas
Jan. 11th, 2008 01:38 am (UTC)
*smiles*
fairfax_verde
Jan. 11th, 2008 02:07 pm (UTC)
I loved this! I love seeing Peter and MJ through someone else's eyes. It's also always a thrill to see you writing in the SM movieverse. I mean, your Superman fic is wonderful and has given me a new appreciation for SR, but I was beginning to think I was the only Spider-Man fan who had a birthday!
htbthomas
Jan. 11th, 2008 04:46 pm (UTC)
*LOL* Yes, my f-list is very much a bunch of Superman fans. There just isn't a huge Spidey presence on LJ, very sadly. I've actually written 4 Spidey birthday fics so far, though I don't have any more on the slate that I can think of. Maybe someone will suddenly join that wants one...

I love third person POV with these two - the train passenger situation is a ready-made opportunity!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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