The characters aren't mine. Neither is the
poem, 'After the Storm' by Waldemar Turowski.
All I remember of those first eighteen months of Joy's life are the tears. I have pictures and videos that bear witness to peaceful nights she spent, huddled in bunny pajamas in her crib, her thumb curled to her rosebud lips; of quiet mornings where I rocked her as the rose-colored ribbons of dawn unraveled themselves at my feet; of afternoons spent in the bright afternoon sunlight with Cecilia and Sam and, in later photos, Storm; but I actually remember are the tears. Days and weeks and months spent so depressed, I'm sure I would've considered suicide, had it not been for my little Pride and Joy. Evenings spent sobbing over the dishes from dinner as Joyous wailed in the background. Cecilia told me it was just post-natal depression, and that thousands of women were afflicted by it, but the information didn't help it go away. I cried when the divorce went through, cried at Sam and Sarah's wedding, even cried at Joy's first birthday party, for I only had sad memories of the past year.
Oh, yes. Life did go on around me. Sarah's boyfriend, "Skull" overdosed on heroine and was found dead the next morning in his hot tub. That was when she'd decided to come home. A life of fame had kind of gotten to her. She'd gotten soft; had to consciously think to make snide comments. And more than once did I find her on the floor with Joy, playing with a rattle for my daughter's amusement. At least, that's what it says in my journal. I wish I could remember those moments...
That November, she and Sam were wed, at home, with just the "family" and a couple of press photographers present. They gave her and Sammy six weeks to divorce.
The August before the wedding, however, Ororo returned from Africa, looking younger than I'd ever seen her. She'd actually met up with Mrs. Frost-Cassidy while there. Turns out Emma'd always wanted to take an African safari, so that's what she decided to do with the last of her life. She remained with Storm until her death, two and a half weeks later. I have no record of 'feeling' her death.
It wasn't until the middle of the following August that I really snapped out of my depressed state. It was odd at first. I knew things--like Storm was home, Sam and Sarah were married--but I couldn't--can't--remember the actual event. A whole month went by before I figured out to read my diary, then Joy's baby book, which had four different handwritings in it, prominently Sam and Cecilia's. I had time to write in my diary, but not Joy's baby book. Turns out her first word was "Joy," which was actually pronounced, "Doy." After that came "Ation," which was a fancy word for "Mommy."
I also found that I was really good at helping Cecilia. Before, I always felt like I was more of a hindrance than an assistance, but I must've worked on it in that "Year of Tears," for I was quite efficient. Everyone called me "Dr. Guthrie," which has a story behind it.
All through my short marriage to Sam, Cecilia had the hardest time with my last name; she always wanted to call me Jubilation Guthrie. I was constantly correcting her, however. Then, after Sam and I announced that we were divorcing, she grew much more more careful with my name. Finally, one day, I exploded at her, "We're still married, dammit! Don't be gettin' all prissy on my name now!" And from that moment on, I was given the last name of Guthrie, even after the divorce was final. The "doctor" was just a tag Sarah gave me once she learned how much time I spent in the MedLab.
By eighteen months, Joy had turned into a fierce warrior of a child. There was once in my Recovery August that I took her for a walk at twilight, to catch some fresh air and spend "Mommy Time" with my baby.
The air was cool and moist as the indigo sky painted a tapestry of stars in the wake of the dying sun. Cicadas buzzed, lavender scented the air, and fireflies twinkled in the dim light. Hand in hand, my Pride and Joy and I walked, and I listened to her chatter away in her own language. Suddenly, she stopped, her pudgy hand slipping from mine. Looking down at her, I saw she was staring, wide-eyed at a point somewhere to her right. "Joyous?" I inquired, but she didn't hear me. With a shrill war cry, she raced as fast as her awkward legs would take her to a patch of fireflies. She didn't catch any, but she did manage to get a large grass stain on the front of her dress. She reminded me so much of her father; the unwavering concentration, the thirst for battle, the determination.
She looked like Logan, too. Even at a year and a half, she had his grim set of the jaw, his astute observedness, and most especially his eyes. If God hadn't plucked those eyes from Wolvie's skull and placed them in his daughter's head, I didn't know what happened. But there was no mistaking that she was his.
* * * * *
I won't bore you with the minute details of the following two years, though each is stored and cherished in the warmest depths of my heart. I'll just give the highlights.
Ororo got up some money and decided to form the Stop the Hate! Foundation, which "heightened mutant awareness in America." According to 'Ro, the timing just wasn't right fifteen years ago, when the X-Men were still together and fighting. But now that mutants have been out of the limelight for a few years, thanks to Legacy B; and now that people have grown somewhat fond of mutants through arcade games such as Mutant Massacre, and horror novels where mutants were portrayed as demonic, much like the vampires of ancient times have become an endearing and romantic icon through much the same means; now, people will be open about the mutant situation, and willing to change it. Or so says Ororo.
Sarah got pregnant twice, but both times miscarried, after trying for endless months to have a baby. I think they grew resentful of the fact that Logan and I made love once and ended up with Joyous. But there's nothing I can do about that except pray for them.
Cecilia grew closer and closer to her cure. The anticipation and excitement mounted each day I entered the MedLab, and as I spent more and more time with Cel, Joy grew more and more fluent in Spanish. Which is actually fairly funny; I'd always imagined my children would grow up, fluent in Mandarin like I was when I was small. Never in my wildest dreams, save the two short weeks I crushed on Angelo when I was fifteen, did I think she'd know Spanish.
Meanwhile, Joy began asking questions about all the pictures I kept; about the people in them. She loved hearing about all the adventures I'd been on, "Back When," and was soon able to recognize every former X-Men member, tell his or her name, code name and powers.
Her favorite stories, however, were the ones of "her daddy." I don't think she quite grasped the concept of what a father was supposed to be, but knew that it was something that belonged to her, like a toy or a holiday treat. For Christmas when she was two, Cecilia even gave her a tiny silver locket with a picture of me on one side, and one of Logan on the other. I wouldn't allow her to wear the gift, for fear she'd lose it, but that simply made it all the more precious. She kept it on the table by her bed and would kiss it goodnight every day at bedtime.
The more eager she became about information about Wolvie, however, the less I found I could supply it. I would start on a story, then trail off in the middle, the words forming in my head and my heart, but getting stuck in my throat and forcing my lips shut. Then Joy would look curiously up at me and encourage me to continue, but I never could. So, with a kiss on the forehead and a promise for "maybe another time," I left her in her young bewilderment.
The Christmas before Joy's third birthday, I received a book of poetry from Cecilia, who often expressed that I was a literary dufus. So, as a favor to her, I actually read it. It was the very first poem in the book, "After the Storm" by Waldemar Turowski that caught my attention, because it described what I felt so well. "I yearn for you," it read, "and the warmth that lingered even after you were gone... On paths that we once walked hand in hand I cannot even stand." And again, "The snows that blind my sight do not allow me the gentle desolation of forgetfulness." It's too painful to remember, but impossible to forget.
* * * * *
I was asleep in the chair in the MedLab, like often happened after I put Joy to bed, with the gentle May breeze drifting in through the open window, softly lifting sheets of paper, toying with them, then setting them back down, as if undisturbed when Cecilia whispered my name, tapping me on the shoulder. The crickets played their early summer melody just beyond the shroud of darkness of a moonless night as someone carefully pushed my sweater from my shoulders, and a tiny prick in the firm muscles on my upper arm ensued. A burning sensation spread slowly to my chest, then out from my heart before it dissipated and died.
Stirring, I languidly opened my eyes, lifting my head just enough to recognize the severe crick that had formed in the back of my neck while I was asleep. Hoping it to be a bad dream, I shut my eyes once again, and laid my head back down against my arm. Little did I know that I was making history.
* * * * *
The next morning began early, with the sun just barely winking above the ridge of hills that blocked Salem Center from the view of the ocean. Birds in the trees outside the open window sang happily; joyfully, as if they were playfully watching me as I stood, wondering why Cel hadn't awakened me and sent me to bed, like she usually did. Pulling my sweater up over my shoulders, I went in search of the resident doctor, whom I usually found asleep herself in one of the MedLab chairs.
It was in the living room that I found her, asleep and snoring softly on the couch, a handful of empty syringes on the coffee table in front of her. Curious, I knelt beside her and softly called her name. She awoke with a start, as if she had merely been dozing, swimming on the edge of consciousness. She smiled when she saw me, sitting up and moistening her lips. "What time is it?" she asked excitedly.
"I dunno. Like, five, I think. Early."
She ran her fingers through her thin braids, untangling them and making the turquoise beads that were threaded upon them clack. "I found it," she confided.
"Don't you remember? Last night? You've got it. I gave it to Sarah and Samuel and Ororo and I even gave it to Joyous. You were the only one who awoke."
I thought a moment. "I remember... Yeah. You, like, injected me with somethin', didn't ya?"
Cel grinned ear to ear. "Legacy B Vaccine," she announced triumphantly. "You were the first to get it, besides myself."
I was suddenly wide awake. "You found it?" She nodded, the beads in her hair clacking. "Are you sure?"
"Oh my... This.. We hafta celebrate!" Jumping up, I tore up the stairs to wake everyone up, and take them out to Harry's for ice cream sundaes at six o'clock in the morning.
* * * * *
Storm, now in the political arena with her Stop the Hate! Foundation, decided that this would be the opportune time to present the complete mutant situation to the general public. Beginning with a young, lovely Asian woman announcing that the Vaccine to a deadly Virus that has wiped out mass amounts of the mutant population has been found.
"Me?" I protested, scooping a whining Joy up into my arms and wiping her face with a damp washcloth. "Why not Cel? She's the one who, like, did all the work an' stuff. Don't ya think her face deserves ta go with her accomplishment?"
"Yes, Jubilation, but there is another side to it," Ororo argued. "Cecilia has consented to this, stating that she gets stage fright. Second of all, if the first mutant to stand before the public eye in more than five years is a middle aged woman who was born outside America... People are more likely to respond to you, for your comeliness, and because they cannot shun you for your nationalism as much as they would be able to for Cecilia."
"So... Ya want me 'cause I'm pretty an' young an' made in America? Why not Sarah? If ye're goin' fer that, why not get a famous face? An' a white one?"
"Because Sarah's mutant genes have changed her physically. We want someone the public can relate to. Besides, you will need to field questions presented about the Vaccine, and the Virus. I was hoping that, with all the time you have spent with Dr. Reyes in the laboratory, you will be able to handle such things."
"I'm jus' a secretary."
"Not according to Cecilia. She says that you have assisted her with experiments, and have full knowledge on how the Virus works. And that the Vaccine should be easy enough to explain."
"What if I say *I* get stage fright?"
Ororo smiled and looked me in the eye. "I would not believe you," she replied, laughter behind her voice. "Someone who once made her living by performing in front of groups of people in a mall in Beverly Hills? I do believe that, if you did not experience stage fright then, you should not experience it now."
And so I was put in charge of the press conference to present the Vaccine to the world. I don't exactly know what I expected, but it wasn't what I got. I think I was hoping for a podium and a room packed wall-to-wall with reporters, all shouting my name and asking questions. What I received was about three local television stations, along with a single reporter from the paper shoving their mikes in front of my face as I stood on the mansion steps. I made a short speech that Ororo provided for me, and answered three questions, all of which were not about the Vaccine, but rather about me being a mutant, then it was over. One station stayed afterward to get a few shots of me playing with Joy, and one of the sign out front announcing the property to be Xavier's School for the Gifted, then they, too, left.
* * * * *
Within the month, mutants began arriving at the door, from across the world. The Vaccine was still being tested by the FDA, but they knew that it could be received before the proper time at the mansion. And eventually, the mansion again swarmed with life. It wasn't long before I moved Joy and myself out to the boathouse to live instead, for fear of some of the newer arrivals, though it probably didn't help much, considering the fact that we spent most of our time in the mansion anyway.
By the end of June, every room, including the attic, was full. I was surprised at just how many mutants there were. I had always thought that the X-Teams consisted of 90% of the world's mutant population, but obviously not. Among the more prominent of the new arrivals was a young French couple, the Rogets, where it was actually the wife, a young woman with sparkling green eyes and platinum curls by the name of Evangeline, who was the mutant. With the power of telekenesis, she was very helpful with cleaning out the junk rooms and converting them to bedrooms. Her husband, Marc-Pierre, was fully human, but very jovial and a delight to have about. Also, there was a young man from Montana, just a few years behind myself, named James Green, who reminded me so much of Jimmy Olsen, I often found myself slipping and calling him Jimmy. He didn't mind, though, since Jim is a derivation of James. He possessed super-speed, and often joked about The Flash suing for exclusive use on his powers. He seemed to take a fancy to Cecilia, too, until I was completely replaced and kicked out of the MedLab. Not that I minded much...
There were many more mutants, but I could spend all day talking about them all.
* * * * *
It was also toward the end of June that I began receiving the phone calls. Three times it happened, when someone picked up the phone and it was for me, then when I got there, they hung up. All anyone could tell me was that it was a male voice. I never thought much about it, since there were more important things which demanded attention, like a loquacious four-and-a-half year old, who was so interested in the world around her, I knew that, if she didn't get into Kindergarten that year, I'd have a nervous breakdown from answering the same question every five seconds: "Why?" I honestly wasn't about to risk another chance at the schools in Salem Center, though. Fortunately, Marc-Pierre had experience as a substitute elementary teacher, and volunteered to educate her himself. As a matter of fact, there were three other young souls running around who could benefit from at-home lessons.
As June melted into an overcast July, time seemed to be more and more abundant, as it did every year at that time. The hurt from Wolvie leaving had long since subsided, as long as I didn't speak of him, except in the first week of July. This year, on the seventh, would be the five-year anniversary of him leaving. I tried not to dwell on it, but the efforts only made it that much more impossible.
It was the fifth of the month when I went out to get groceries, by myself, since Joy was busy playing with the other children, Cel was in the MedLab, flirting with James, and Evangeline was out gardening with Ororo. We only needed a few items; milk, cereal, and a new barbecue spatula, since the old one mysteriously appeared, broken and crusted with mud in the sand box that one of the parents had thought to install out back.
It had begun to rain by the time I returned, the items in hand. The sky split open in a flash of lightning, making me jump and run through the large, cool drops that pelted from the sky to the front door, which was open to let in the breeze.
There was a hushed feeling about the mansion, probably brought on by the storm, as I set my purse on the table beside the door and absently went in to put the groceries in the kitchen.
A small crowd had congregated in the living room by the time I entered, and I smiled at Cecilia, glad to see her out of the MedLab and back with the living for once. Then, a movement caught my eye I turned to see what it was.
I felt the color drain from my face as I let the groceries slip from my grasp and fall to the floor. No, I wasn't seeing... I turned to Cecilia to see if she saw, too, and she gave a small nod of confirmation. All eyes were on me.
I took a step forward and gingerly reached my hand up. My fingertips brushed against rough stubble, and my eyes met dark blue ones, exactly identical to Joy's. I felt tears spill down my face as I whispered a name, long denied to my unfaithful lips, "Logan."
Standing there, looking exactly like he had the day he'd left, save a streak of gray above his left temple, Wolvie held out one large, callused hand to me. I could hear him swallow, then his lips parted, and his gravely voice, which I never thought I'd hear again, reached my ears, and my heart sang with his words, "Happy birthday."
A sob choked me as I threw my arms around his neck, and was welcomed into his embrace. For an eternity, we stood there, and I cried all the tears I'd denied myself for the past five years, with everyone looking on. Happiness, elation, glee bubbled up from the very depths of my heart, and my hiccuping sobs soon turned to uncontrollable laughter. I pulled away and looked into his beautiful face once more.
"I know it was selfish," he said softly, "but I had ta come see ya."
"I didn' wanna break up you an' Sam."
"Me an' Sam?" My marriage to Samuel seemed like a lifetime ago, a bad dream, half forgotten.
"On th' news. They called ya 'Dr. J. Guthrie.'"
I smiled, feeling my eyes brim with tears of joy. "No. We're divorced. I'm not a doctor, an' my name's never, ever been Guthrie. Sam's with Sarah."
"Yeah." Suddenly, I remembered something. "Stay here. I'll be right back." I backed up a step, almost afraid to leave, for fear that, if I turned my back, even for a moment, he'd disappear, and I'd be left with the reality of the illusion. But then excitement overcame me and I hurried from the room.
Joy was in her friend, Heather's bedroom when I found her. "Baby doll," I said softly, "I want ya ta come down an' meet someone, please."
"C'm'on, Joy. I swear you'll like it."
With a conceding look to Heather, she stood and took my hand, and she let me lead her out to the living room, where, I noticed with an internal sigh of relief, Wolvie still waited. His eyes met the little girl's in curiousity, and she smiled shyly.
"Do you know who that is?" I asked her.
She nodded, hiding behind my legs.
"Can you go up and tell him your full name? He doesn't know who you are."
A moment of hesitation passed over my daughter's face before she got up enough courage to step out from behind me and, still clinging to my jeans, she approached Logan. "I'm Joyous Lee-Logan," she said softly, then hid her mouth behind her small hands.
I looked up at Logan to judge his reaction, and he stared in wonder down at the girl. Glancing up, he looked questioningly at me, then at Ororo, who nodded. Crouching down in front of Joy, he nervously cleared his throat and inquired, "How old're ya?" Timidly, she held up four fingers. "When's yer birthday?" She shrugged, and Logan looked to me.
"February seventeenth," I replied. "Two months premature. A fighter, like her daddy. Couldn't wait ta get out an' see the world."
Gazing back upon his daughter, Logan opened his arms, and she ran up to him and threw her arms around his neck. Still in awe, he picked her up and brushed her hair away from her face. "She looks like you," he told me, his voice hushed, as if afraid to shatter her.
"What happened t'ya?" I asked, suddenly wishing I was alone with him. As if on cue, Ororo took a protesting Joy from Logan's arms and motioned everyone out. Reluctantly, they followed, leaving Logan and I alone, the sound of rain beating against the mansion seeming to envelop the room. Through the open door, a cool mist drifted, dampening the carpet in the immediate area as it condensed. And in the listening silence, my question still hung.
"I left. An'... I fell really sick, so I went to Canada to die. But when I got there... An Inuit family took me in an' cared fer me, an' there were lotsa nights I wished I were dead, but I got better. The ol' healing factor kicked in around October, an' I got better. Nothin' left of the Virus on me, physically."
"But... That was five years ago." The statement evolved into an inquiry as it escaped my lips.
He cleared his throat carefully, then looked over at me. He reached over and took my hand, his touch tender as my fingers automatically entwined with his. "I loved ya. I still do. I was afraid..."
"That you'd be dead. I thought, as long as I stayed away an' didn' know fer sure, you'd keep on livin'. But if I went back... I didn' wanna face that. Then I saw yer face on the news. I was in England, in a bar, an' the news comes on. They're about ta turn it, when I hear 'em mention 'Guthrie' an' 'Legacy Virus'. So I convice 'em ta keep the channel where it is. An' as I'm watchin', I see yer face, an' I knew I hadta come here ta see ya. But then I noticed yer last name."
"Guthrie," I whispered. "I'm sorry. It was Storm's idea. Said 'Lee' was too non-white ya present as my last name."
"S'okay. . So I stayed in London a few days, but then I decided I hadta see ya anyway. I get ta New York, an' then I start thinkin', 'What if she doesn't wanna see me? What if she's happily married an' has three kids runnin' around, an' I can't handle that?' So I called, just ta see if ya really were alive. But then ya got on the phone..."
"That was you." All that time, I had been but a spoken word away from knowing he was alive...
"Yeah. I... I heard yer voice, an' it was like hearin' an angel. I couldn't bring myself ta respond. So I waited. It was jus' this mornin' when I finally got up the nerve ta come see ya. I thought, 'Yesterday, she turned twenty-three.' An' I realized how many years had passed."
I nodded, willing the tears away. "The mighty Wolverine... scared?" I joked, but the look on his face, pained and real, kept the laughter at bay. It reminded me too much of that night... I could still hear his words, whispered tearfully in my ear, "I've got it."
"I was scared," he conceded. "I still am."
"That... They you'll say ya don't love me. That you'll tell me you've gotten over me, or that what... what we had t'gether was jus' a fling, that it didn' mean nothin'."
"Oh God..." I looked into his beautiful eyes, a peculiar shade of indigo reminiscent of sultry summer nights, and felt my control on my tears break. "There hasn't been a day that's gone by when, like..." " I searched for the words to put to my emotions. "I feel like these five years we've been apart have been an eternity. I can hardly remember when we were together as partners, ya know? It's like... A different lifetime, when I was trailin' along behind ya, Wolvie an' Jubie. I feel like I've bee Jubilation Guthrie forever, an' every one a those days that we spent apart, I mourned ya. I couldn't even..." I stopped trying, and as I did so, the only words necessary came to me. "I love ya, Logan. I always have. I always will." And outside, the rain stopped.
He smiled, faintly at first, then as it broadened across his face, I felt my own face reflect it as our lips met. The pure, unadulterated happiness that passed between us was indescribable, lifting my heart out of the depths of depression that it had resigned itself to ever since the Virus had begun plaguing us countless years before.
Drawing away, he still grinned, holding my face and searching my eyes. Finally, with a tilt of his head, he asked, "So... a daughter?"
I nodded and turned back to the kitchen door. "You can come back in," I called, and immediately, the door swung open and the rest of the new team came piling bashfully back in, Joy in the lead. Throwing herself at her father, Logan lifted her up and pressed his lips to her satiny cheek. A barrage of questions assaulted us, the three of us, united once and for all. Leaning up to Logan's ear, I whispered, "I think I've found my happy ending."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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