[EIGHT MONTHS & ONE WEEK]
"It's nothing personal, I just don't think it's・appropriate." The tall, fashionably emaciated redhead looked down her nose at the object of her disdain. They faced off across the wide hallway.
"Yeah, kiss mine, Ferris." Jubilee folded her arms awkwardly over her stomach, without her usual pleasure at actually having two cast-less arms again. Most of the human students had either been sympathetic, or had left her alone. There was always one or two, though, who acted like pregnancy was some kind of social disease that they might catch.
"By the look of you, I'd have to get in line." Adelicia Ferris sniffed. "I can't imagine why the headmasters allow you to stay here in your・condition. It lowers the tone of the whole school."
"Lowers the・you little COW!" Jubilee spluttered. "If I wasn't in this wheelchair I'd-"
"Ye'd behave like a lady, Jubilee, and be the only one in the conversation," a deep Irish voice rumbled behind her. "Angelo asked me t' fetch ye for yuir lunch."
"Mr Cassidy, I-" Adelicia said nervously.
"You, my lass, are excused from yuir afternoon classes so ye can pack yuir things." Sean's genial tone had an undercurrent of pure granite. "Ye may now consider yuirself expelled. I'll call yuir parents."
"Go pack, Adelicia. Now." He turned his back on the gaping girl, and wheeled Jubilee out the door. Once they were well out into the quad, he slowed down, and looked down at her anxiously. "Are ye all right, Jubilee? Did she upset ye?"
"If being *furious* counts as being upset, then yeah," she fumed. "Stuck-up self-righteous snob-queen *bitch*. Were ya there for the part when she oh-so-sweetly insinuated that I'd circulated the rape story myself ta get sympathy?"
"Nae, I missed that part." Sean shook his head, and parked the wheelchair beside a fountain. "Lass, I think it's time we had a little chat."
Jubilee looked up at him in surprise. "About what?"
"I'd like t' apologise for not being as supportive of ye as I should have." He took one of her hands gently in his. "I know I havenae handled this well, and I'm sorry."
"It's okay." Jubilee patted his hand gently. "At least ya stuck around, right? I know ya been doing most of Emma's work so she can spend time with me, 's well as covering for me and Ange what with not goin' ta classes and stuff."
"Well, that's not hard・ both o' ye bein' wards o' the school and all." Sean smiled fondly at her. "I was thinkin'・ it might do ye and Angelo good t' get away for a while. Maybe after the baby's born, and that cast's finally off yuir leg."
"To where? And don't say Westchester, or I'll paf you. Ya know every time they see me they start fussing over me." She brightened a little. "Except Marrow. Did you see what she wrote on my arm-cast?"
Sean shook his head ruefully. "Aye, I did. I swear, the lass knows more dirty jokes that Logan himself."
Jubilee giggled. "You should see the one on my leg, then."
"Thank ye, lass, but no. I'm a wee bit too aged f'r that kind of shock. Me poor old heart, ye know." He grinned, and patted her cast. "But getting' back tae the point, I didnae mean Westchester. I was thinkin' ye might stay at Cassidy Keep for a while."
Jubilee gave him an extremely dubious look. "Uh, leavin' aside the fact that that castle has a nasty habit o' disappearing inta the fairy realm, ain't the castle full of, like, elves?"
She looked down at her stomach. "They're not the kind that take babies, are they?"
Sean laughed, squeezing her hand. "Nae, lass, that's just an old wive's tale. The elves are right fond of children, true, but they'd never take a child from its mother unless it was unwanted or mistreated."
"Oh. Good." She smiled. "Any particular reason why ya wanna pack me off to yer castle?"
"Well・" Sean looked at the ground, clearing his throat awkwardly. "'Tis all I can do, ye see. Between Angelo giving yuir wee one a father, and Emma providin' for all three of ye and Logan protectin' ye・" He lifted his eyes to meet hers, a small smile flitting across his face. "I've been so buried in runnin' the school that in one way and another, I found meself without anything left t' provide." He squeezed her hand, reaching out to touch the fingers of his other hand to her stomach. "Except・well・ if ye ever need it, I want ye t' know ye have a home in Cassidy Keep. I'll make sure Terry knows. Fuir the rest of yuir life, and for yuir children's lives・ I want ye t' know ye have a home, nae matter what. 'Tis all I have t' offer ye."
"Oh, Sean・" Jubilee wrapped her arms around his neck and burst into tears. "Th-that's so *sweet*・"
"Aye, well・" Sean patted her back awkwardly. "Tis a little thing, really, but 'tis important too, don't ye think?"
"It is." She sat up, wiping her eyes. "Aw, Banshee, ya went an' made me cry. Got a tissue?" He handed one over, and she blew her nose. "Thanks. Listen・ Me'n Ange were talking the other day and - well, we thought we'd ask ya, anyway."
"Ask me what?" Sean took out another tissue and dabbed gently at a tear she'd missed.
"If you'd・ I mean・" She gave him a hopeful look. "Wouldja be Michael's godfather?"
Sean's jaw dropped ever so slightly. "I・uh・me?"
"Sure." Jubilee smiled a little damply. "One, yer kinda in loco parentis here, and two・ well, yer the only other proper Catholic in the team, and Ange doesn't wanna stand there at the christening all alone."
"Oh, well, in that case・" He chuckled, and hugged her gently. "I'd be honoured, lass."
"Thanks, Bansh." Jubilee whispered. "This means a lot ta me."
"Means a fair bit t' me too, lassie." He patted her back gently, and stood up. "So・ can the godfather be takin' the mother t' lunch, then?"
"Depends・ are we goin' somewhere good?"
"I thought we'd swing by the auld kitchen," Sean said with exaggerated excitement. "If yuir up t' it, o'course."
"Gee, I think I can handle the excitement, Sean." She grinned up at him. "If he's still there," and he would be, "ya can get Ange ta show ya how he makes grilled cheese. I swear, I dunno what he puts in there but it's the best ya ever tasted・"
* * *
Jubilee looked up and smiled. "Hi, Jono." She held the book up and grimaced. "It's kinda depressing, actually・ I had no *idea* babies got so many different kindsa rashes and fevers and stuff."
<*Ah, don't let the book worry you. Babies're tough.*> Jono pulled a chair over to sit beside her, the peaceful library settling a mantle of quiet over them both. <*'Ow's he goin', anyway?*>
"Good." Jubilee patted her stomach proudly. "Cecelia says we're a textbook example of a perfectly normal pregnancy." She winced. "Part of which seems to be a nasty backache." She paused for a moment, then smiled. "Wanna feel him kick?"
<*Sure.*> Jono laid a tentative hand on her very rounded stomach. <*Wot does it・ is that him?*> The tiny flutter brushed lightly against his hand, and if he could he would have smiled.
"That's him." Jubilee confirmed. "He's always a little restless after lunch."
<*Wow.*> Jono rested his other hand on the bulge as well, his eyes crinkling at the corners. <*Feels like you got an up-and-coming football player, eh?*>
"Either that or a ballet dancer." Jubilee giggled. "You shoulda SEEN the looks on Wolvie and Ange's faces when I suggested *that*."
<*Woulda liked to.*> He gave her stomach one last pat and leaned back in his chair. <*I told Angelo I'd put meself at yer disposal while he's out, so・ you want anything?*>
"Company?" She smiled at him.
<*I can do that, luv.*> He crinkled at her. <*Wanna talk about anythin' in particular?*>
"Hmm・ did you get me a present yet?" Jubilee grinned impishly. "The baby-shower's tonight."
<*Went in with Ev on th' shower thing.*> Jono shrugged. <*Paige 'elped us pick it out, so I know you ain't got one yet.*> He shuffled a little. <*That one's mostly fer the baby, though. Got one f'r you too.*> He pulled a small package out of his pocket and held it out shyly. <*Ain't much, but I figured you'd like a present that was actually fer you.*>
"Oh, Jono, that's so sweet・" The package was daintily wrapped in tissue paper, with a neatly tied golden bow, which she untied carefully before pulling the paper off. "Aw・ they're so cute!" She beamed.
<*Seemed like the kind o' thing you'd like,*> he shrugged, looking pleased.
"Oh, they *are*," she agreed, leaning over to hug him. "They're so adorable I dunno if I can even eat them." She looked down at it. A chubby, friendly sun and a slim, elegant moon occupied the center of the box, surrounded by a crowd of winking, chuckling stars, all cast in chocolate. A silly, whimsical present whose only purpose was to make her happy. "Yer the best, Jono."
<*Yeah, I know,*> he agreed, looking at the floor in an elaborate show of modesty. <*Can't 'elp it, really, 's just my natural goodness shinin' through・*>
She giggled. "That must be it."
Jono leaned back in his chair eyeing her speculatively. <*Jubes・ not wanting t' pry or nothing, but Ange takes good care of yer, right? Treats you right an' all?*>
Jubilee sighed, preparing herself for another battle over her virtue. "Yes, he does."
<*Thought so. Just checkin'.*> Jono shrugged. <*So, reckon yer gonna get any o' those bizzarre little booties with bells on 'em? Always wondered about those・ I mean, it ain't like the kid's gonna sneak up on any birds or anything.*>
She blinked. "That's it? Yer just gonna take my word for it and move on?"
He shot her an amused look. <*Yer not the type t' put up with crap from anyone. If you say it's fine, then it's fine. Just thought I'd do the friendly thing and check.*> His eyes crinkled. <*Already asked him.*>
"And what did he say?" Jubilee asked, impelled by rather morbid curiosity.
<*Him?*> Jono shrugged casually. <*Oh, 'e just laughed and said you were treatin' him fine.*>
* * *
"Jubilee?" Angelo slipped into the darkening library. "You still in here?"
"I'm here." Her wheelchair was pulled close to one set of tall picture windows, and she was staring out at the setting sun with an abstracted expression on her small face and one hand pressed against her back.
"Hey there." He padded across to her, sitting down beside her on a soft couch and taking her hand gently. "I'm supposed to keep you busy while they set up the party. Back still hurting?"
"Uh-huh." She was still looking out the window, her hand unmoving.
Angelo frowned. "Is something wrong?"
"I don't know." She looked at him then, a small frown marring her smooth forehead. "Ange, does it ever seem・ I dunno・too easy? Us, I mean. It's like a fairy-tale or something."
Uh-oh・ "Not really. You're a fifteen year old orphan with an absentee mentor, a record of abuse and hardship that'd make a hardened social worker flinch and a baby on the way. Oh yeah, and a broken knee. I'm seventeen, spent most of my life brawling on the streets in the barrio and trying to look after the remains of my family, then accidentally committed murder, faked my own death, and lost contact with my entire family except my cousin Gil. Way I see it, life owes us."
She squeezed his hand gently. "Point. But・ nothing's been easy for us so far, why should this be?" She nibbled on her lower lip, eyes searching his face. "Love's supposed to be the hardest of all, isn't it?"
"Sometimes." Comforter and positive influence was a new role for Angelo, and he frowned a little. He was a lot better at cynical and rarely disappointed. "Jubilee・ I know it seems too easy. But this is・" He shook his head. "This is something special."
"I know." She smiled, touching his cheek gently with her free hand. "I've never been happier than I am with you, cast and all." The smile faded, and she looked down at their joined hands. "But・ well・ what if they're right? About it not lasting? Everyone says that when you're this young it doesn't, and even Scott and Jean who've been together since forever are actin' all doubtful and everyone's just waitin' ta say how much they told us so, and・" her eyes filled with tears. "And I'm scared that we're only together because we're scared of being alone and and yer gonna meet someone else and Michael and I are gonna be all alone anyway and-"
"Hey, hey, shh・" He lifted Jubilee gently out of the chair, settling her gently on the couch and cradling her in his arms. "It's gonna be okay, amante, don't cry・"
"I-Is it?" She sniffled softly.
"Si, it is." He stroked her hair gently. "They don't know what they're talking about, love. They don't understand. After everything we've been through・you gotta grow up fast or not at all, right?"
"Point again." She snuggled against him, a little comforted, and his arms closed around her. "Are you sure that you・you know・about Michael・" she trailed off, wincing a little.
"Sure enough." He kissed the top of her head. "I was going to ask tonight, after the shower, but now seems like a good time." He sat up, not noticing the second wince. "Will you m- what the hell?"
"I think," Jubilee said with calm conviction, "that my waters just broke."
"But it's too soon to・how can you be・you're not due for another・" Angelo gabbled.
"Three weeks." She looked up at him with wide eyes. "You wanna tell him he has to stay in there for another three weeks, or should I?"