Michael is depressed when he has to depart for his first day of work on X-Men. He and James have been spending all of their free time together lately, with Zoe and Anne-Marie coming to an agreement of sorts on play dates and visitation. They both lead busy lives so having a neighbor pet sit for each other is a dream come true for them.
He’s confused when Zoe puts him in the backseat, he usually rides shotgun. He’s about to protest when the other door opens and James is deposited next to him. Anne-Marie gets into the front and the two girls begin chattering to each other instantly.
James looks just as puzzled but instantly starts climbing onto his back to get to the open window. His hind legs dig into his spine as James rests his forepaws on the armrest, sticking his head out before Michael’s horrified eyes, he woofs straight at the oncoming traffic. All Michael can think of is a graphic image of a stray side view mirror swiping James’ head off and he immediately leaps up smothering the dog under his larger body.
His snout out in the open air James looks back in, yelling over the rush of the wind “This is my favorite part, you should try it with…” He can’t even finish the sentence before a large spotted fur curtain descends over his vision.
Shocked and pressed into the car seat the last thing he sees is Anne-Marie’s camera phone flashing before Michael does an excellent impression of a boa constrictor, curling tightly around his body.
Michael is still hurt at the panicked bite to his soft underbelly. Not physically of course, since James’ mouth was too small to do much more than pinch his skin, but emotionally.
He tries to save his love’s life and the guy bites him before accusing him of attempting to suffocate the other to death. Couldn’t James keep all of his important bits inside where it was safe and air conditioned when they were hurtling through the roads at excessive speeds? Dogs.
Even though James had completely laughed the situation off to try to ease the tension between the two, Michael still won’t look at him.
It’s a car ride. It’s supposed to be fun and relaxing. The two of them are going on an adventure and James doesn’t want this whole thing to be dragged down by a silly misunderstanding. He’s already regretful of his over reaction and is guiltily trying to get Michael out of his sulk.
James is a comedian by nature, that’s how he breaks the ice with others. He knows he’s about to kiss a good portion of his self respect goodbye, but he doesn’t seem to have any other option as even ear kisses and whisker licks to Michael’s face don’t get his attention.
He finds the roll of paper towels and is relieved to see that it is mostly used with a thin cardboard center that has been squashed and deformed into a wide generous diameter before beginning his painstaking efforts to squeeze into the center tube. As his head slips through he knows he’ll probably only get about halfway in before he’s stuck and hopes that Michael appreciates what he’s willing to do for him.
There’s a strange shuffling sound from James’ side of the seats and Michael wakes up to see a banner of white fluttering down onto the floor and two little hind legs furiously scrabbling against the leather like some lunatic locomotive paper towel dispenser.
In the end Zoe has to unwind the rest of the towels and use scissors on the other end of the inner tube to snip it open. Anne-Marie is too busy laughing hysterically to help with anything other than mopping up her tears of merriment with the wasted tissues. Michael’s periodic anxious looks and mews into the open end of the paper cone don’t help the circumstances any.
Zoe manfully attempts to hold in her mirth while looking at James’ miserable face within the cylinder. He almost looks like he doesn’t wish to be released back into the light of day and she has enough empathy that she can relate to that.
A tall, lean man in a turtleneck strokes Michael in a practiced motion. Apparently Erik is the actor who will be playing Magneto for the duration of the movie. Charles, who will be playing the Professor, is nearby in a tweed jacket with honest-to-god elbow patches playing fetch with James.
As he throws the DNA model he’s using as a substitute for a stick he babbles “Although I’m not a cat person per se, I do love you’re cat’s markings. A lot of groovy mutations go into feline coat patterns. Tortoiseshell or calico cats for example are almost exclusively female did you know that? Their coat colours are determined by a complex factor of co-dominant genes and X-inactivation. As females have two X chromosomes they can exhibit this phenomenon. The only male Felis catus with this colouring are ones who suffer from aneuploidy with a trisomy of the sex chromosomes that result in an XXY karyotype or are chimeras…” In his distraction Charles ends up waving the model around instead of tossing it, and after following his hand impatiently James gives up and starts chewing on the man’s shoelaces instead.
Both Michael and Erik share a look before returning their rapt attention to their respective crushes.
James isn’t even aware he’s being auditioned for a part in the movie. He thinks he’s having a bit of fun with the nerdy guy, who he readily admits, is probably the most talented belly scratcher he’s ever met. It’s almost as if he’s psychic, able to guess every itchy spot before James even realizes it’s there.
The director is taken with the interplay between them immediately, saying the four of them have such chemistry together. Erik grins toothily at this while Charles looks a bit embarrassed and the two animals don’t care.
Michael meows aloud musing about when lunch is going to be served and James begs Erik shamelessly for the bit of jerky he knows is in the pocket of his leather jacket.
Charles goes on quite a bit about the genetic linkage between his fur and his eye colour, saying that blue eyes are always associated with dapple patterning. Which is interesting but mostly confusing since this seems to be Charles’ chat up routine and Erik is in wardrobe with Michael. The only one listening is the dog.
But he figures this is just the human’s way of getting James to like him and just tunes the geek talk out to focus on the spontaneous game of tug-of-war they're having with one of Charles’ argyle socks.
At the sudden heavy stink of vodka in the air Erik groans. Right on cue Michael jumps from his arms, clinging desperately onto Erik's face when Azazel, that damn demon bunny pops out of a nearby hat like some nightmarish magician’s trick. The scar over one beady crimson eye twists wickedly as the Czech Red Rabbit winks at Erik before hopping into another cap and disappearing back into whatever wormhole he climbed out of. Probably on his way back to his actor Jason, that or Lucifer himself Erik thinks tetchily.
His hand reaches out to grab the scruff of Michael's neck when the cat jumps onto a nearby dresser all by himself and pretends to wash his paw before Erik can react. Erik gives him the stink eye but Michael's too busy examining the pads between his toes to notice.
Tenderly feeling the claw marks on his scalp Erik thinks these animals will be the death of him.
Zoe and Anne-Marie decide to go shopping together before Anne’s flight out to her own film production. They take Michael and James along since they want to get them some toys and necessities for their extended stay on set.
The mall’s pet store is two doors down from a Build A Bear and it is possibly the worst combination James has ever seen in his life. The look shared between Zoe and Anne fills him with dread. Michael, the poor bastard, is confused, nudging him and asking why he’s whimpering over a stuffed toy shop.
So far Michael has been a roman soldier, a Victorian gentleman, both a British and an American soldier, and is currently dressed in a horrendous Guy Fawkes costume. The mask sits crookedly on top of his head as Zoe squeals something about “Puss” over the booties and floppy hat included. If he ever figures out who this V guy is, Michael swears to himself he’s going to use his slippers as a litter box.
James comes trotting in dressed as a garden gnome complete with a fake little white beard, Anne Marie following just behind with an armload of formal suits. Michael feels the hair puffing straight up his back at how dauntingly large the pile looks and James looks like he just wants to put his head in a rat trap to end it all.
It isn’t till a week later when Anne-Marie bids him a smoochy tear-filled goodbye that James realizes that he’s actually staying for the whole shooting as an actor in the film. Michael has been bunking in Erik’s trailer while he’s been living with Charles to enhance the rapport with their co-stars before filming.
James doesn’t mind so much. Of the dozens of pet clothes Anne has left Charles for him to wear (it is a bit nippy on the island but was a set of doctor’s scrubs really necessary?) the man mostly favors the plain sweater vests on James, although he does have a weird habit of colour coordinating the two into matching cardigans.
Erik refuses to dress Michael in anything despite Zoe’s pleading, claiming he doesn’t want to get scratched up and that if animals needed clothes they wouldn’t have fur. But judging by the truly tragic look on Erik’s face when he first saw Michael in his Winnie the Pooh outfit, James thinks that his reasons have more to do with sympathetic pains and male solidarity then logic.
Zoe still sneaks Michael into turtlenecks, getting the idea to match outfits from James and Charles. Both Erik and Michael decide that discretion is the better part of valor and ignore it.
Considering what else was on offer in the frighteningly large kitty closet Zoe has amassed, Michael counts himself lucky even if the entire cast and staff find the two clothing coordinated leading men and pets as the most hilarious sight they’ve ever witnessed. Michael even catches one of the costume designers with a wardrobe stylist working together on a suspiciously small X-Suit.
He doesn’t truly get worried though until he sees the tiny magenta helmet.