"Jubilee?" Paige's voice cut into her thoughts, "You okay?"
Jubilee shook herself and said as happily as she could, "Never better. Why?"
She then managed a weak smile. Paige shrugged and flopped onto her bed. Jubilee watched her intently. She began to think of all the mean things that she had said to Paige in the past. She wondered what Paige thought of her.
"She probably thinks I'm an annoying little brat," Jubilee thought to herself, "And she's right."
Jubilee lay down and stared at the ceiling.
"J?" Paige asked.
"Yeah," Jubilee muttered listlessly.
"Where were you while we were in L.A.?"
Jubilee did her best to get out of answering by sayting, "Oh, here and there."
"Specifically, I meant."
"Alright, you want the story? The gospel truth, between girls?"
Paige nodded and leaned forward in anticipation. She knew that something had happened to Jubilee during Operation: Zero Tolerance, she just wasn't sure what. Ever since Gen X had returned from L.A., Jubilee had kept to herself, never explaining how she got away from Black Tom and Mondo, never explaining why the Sentinals never caught up with her, and hardly ever laughed.
"Jubilation Lee. Not laughing, or smiling, or playing around," Paige thought, "A month ago I would have called anyone who even suggested such an idea way off the deep end, but now . . ."
Jubilee cut off her thoughts by suddenly saying, "Well, when Mondo went berserk on us, I ran for the woods. When I got back, the place was a flippin' salad bar and no one was home. So, I hung around here for about a month, and then, wonder of wonders, ya all show up again and tell me about this OZT thing, and, uummmmn, I guess the Sentinals never got around this neck of the woods and all. So there's my story. Not fancy or fine."
She then sprang off the bed and almost ran out the room, saying, "See ya around, Hayseed."
Paige listened as Jubilee opened the hall closet and started rummaging through the upper shelf. She got up and stood in the doorway, watching as Jubilee stood on tip toe to grab a shoe box. Jubilee threw off the cover and took out a pair of roller blades, which she strapped onto her feet as if her life depended on it. Before Paige could ask her where she was going, why she was going, or how long she'd be gone, Jubilee had raced down the banister like a tornado and was out of sight. Paige shook her head and looked up to meet eyes with Everett, who had apparently witnessed the entire scene.
"She's lying about where she was," he stated simply.
"She only skates when she's tryin to run away from something," he said, still in monotones, as if he was talking about the weather.
"Then where was she?" Paige asked, bewildered.
"Somewhere that scared her to death," Ev replied.
Then he turned and walked down the stairs as if nothing had happened. Paige paused for a moment and wondered just how much she understood Jubilee and Ev's relationship. She shook her head again, and went to talk to Mr. Cassidy.
"Sir?" Paige asked after knocking at Sean's door and getting no reply. "Um, there's something we need to talk about."
Banshee looked up from a small mountain of papers. Life without a partner had been tough on him, but he was managing.
"Aye, lass?" he asked, smiling in a paternal way that annoyed all the students, except Paige.
"Well, sir, it's Jubilee. She's acting so strangely. She told me and Ev that she's been here throughout OZT and that she escaped Mondo, but you said that you and Ms. Frost had to leave because the Sentinals had taken control of the grounds, so she can't have been here," Paige rushed in one breath.
Sean, of course, had the answer, "Well, then. Ye should 'ave said somthin' earlier. We should take her on a visit to the X-mansion. That'll rouse her spirits, lass," he said easily, as if that one phrase would solve everthing.
Paige didn't agree. "But, sir, if..."
He interupted her, saying, "I know whut ye're aboot to say. I'll gladly agree to let ye all go too. And, as a matter o' fact, we should leave as soon as possible. Go get the others! It'll be a great opportunity for ye all to learn aboot the X-Men!"
"That's not what Ah was going to say," thought Paige uneasily. But all she said was, "Yes, sir," and then slowly left the room to tell the others.
When everything was organized, they all went in search of Jubilee. She was in the biosphere, skating daring jumps and intricate figures that would have made Kristi Yamaguchi blush in shame. When she finally finished, she came over to them. Her face was red, and Sean imagined that he saw tear stains on her face. But, her eyes were clear and she was smiling weakly.
"Whazzup, guys," she asked in a voice that sounded, well, shy.
"We're all goin' to see the X-Men, yeself included," said Sean, smiling (paternally, again!)
Jubilee stared at him for a minute then asked, "Why?"
She had an idea why, and glanced at Paige, who stared intently at a potted plant. She sighed and turned her glance back to Banshee. He looked at her for a second, as if sifting for a phrase that wouldn't upset her, then proudly said, "For education, lass!"
She looked at all of them, sighed, and then said, "I'll go put my blades away," in a rather defeated manner. She had planned on avoiding the Mansion for a while, planned on keeping a safe distance from Jean, the Professor, . . . and Wolvie.
Everett watched as Jubilee put her blades back in the shoe box. He . . . hated seeing her so quiet. It was like she had just given up on everything. And he wanted her back. But what could he possibly do to help? She would refuse his sympathy saying that there wasn't a thing wrong with her. She'd give him that weak smile of hers, and then turn her back and walk away. He vehemently shook his head and walked over to her as she stood on tip toe, trying to get the shoe box back on the top shelf of the closet.
"Hey, J, let me," he offered.
She tensed at the sound of his voice, and then said, "Thanks, Ev."
Jubilee watched as the very familiar building got closer and closer. "You can never go home again," she muttered.
Skin turned and looked at her oddly, so she smiled. Weakly.
Cassidy called out, "Here we are! Everyone out!"
She slid back the door and stepped out of the van, then stood staring for a minute. Memories of Bastion's cold, teasing voice floated back to her mind. She heard him clear as crystal, mocking her. "I didn't say they were all dead. Yet."
Jubilee silenced the memory and forced herself to become part of the group again. She slid in next to Chamber, who didn't even look at her. She silently thanked him. Paige, Ev, and Cassidy had been all over her with questions. Chamber, Skin, and even Monet had offered her company and silence. She liked it that way. She looked up at Jono, and gave him the only real smile that had crossed her face since she'd come home. <If I had a face, gel, I'd give ya some sunshine back,> Jono "said." She nodded, and followed Mr. Cassidy onto the Mansion.
Mr. Cassidy decided to give all the kids a tour of the grounds as soon as they all discovered that the X-Men would be at Harry's until 7 that night. He announced his plan, and everyone, except Paige, rolled their eyes. He began with, "Back when all ye little lads and lasses were still abidin' time in yeir wee cribs . . . " Jubilee waited in the shadow of the banister until the moans, giggles, and pleas for the quick return of Ms. Frost had faded into silence. Then she tip-toed up the stair case to her room. Her ex-room, to be accurate. She opened the door, and found everything just as she had left it. Plus the addition of a dozen cardboard boxes.
"At least they didn't give my space to Joseph or something," she exhaled in relief.
All the boxes were marked "Jubilee" in black marker. She didn't remember leaving any stuff at the mansion. She thought she'd packed her whole life into the Girl's Dorm. Jubilee squatted next to the box closest to her and opened it. She gasped in surprise and delight as she pulled out a small and worn blue doll.
She remembered when she first saw the doll. It was on Illyana's stomach, and Kitty Pryde was leaning over the little girl, and smiling. She remembered the first time she picked it up. She had folded it into Yana's limp arms just before she . . . died. She felt tears smart in the corners of her eyes, and stuffed the doll's arm into her pocket. Then she noticed a photo had fallen out of the box. She picked it up. It was a picture of her and Wolvie cutting down a tree in the back yard while Ororo and Rogue watched. She remembered that day. Wolvie had asked Rogue to help him cut down a sick tree and Jubilee had thrown a hissy fit.
"Why can't I help you?" she had asked indignantly.
Rogue shrugged and said, "If it means all that to ya, sugah, go ahead."
Her and Ororo sat down and watched as Wolvie and Jubes cut the tree down with startling accuracy. Jubilee was jolted out of her memories by the sound of the kitchen door opening and slamming.
"Darn kids. Why they here? They probably just come to mess the place up again. This time, no baseball games," came the familiar grumble of her favorite Wolvster.
She brightened as if the sun had come up inside her. Jubilee dropped the photo, clutched Bamf, and almost flew down the stairs. She ran to Wolvie, who, after recovering from mild shock (both physical and mental,) enfolded her in a huge bear hug. For the first time in a long time, Jubilee felt safe. Safe and sheltered. She burst into tears. Right on cue, Gen X and the rest of the X-men came in from hand-shaking and hello-ing outside.
All the pain and the fears she'd been keeping at bay came pouring out of her like a river that had finally broken it's dam. Logan held her close and whispered, "Shush, darlin," because it was all he could do. It appeared to be enough. Jubilee related her ordeals in choked sobs that were muffled through the cotton of Logan's shirt. She told about how Bastion had told her he'd killed all the X-Men. She told him about the torture session in which she'd watched him die.
She saw Bishop shifting his weight uneasily from foot to foot in the doorway, and ran to him. She clutched him like there was no tomorrow, saying, "He said you were dead! He said you were dead!" Then she began to fervently assure him that he was a great guy, and all Bishop could think of doing was to say, "Indeed," over and over. He finally gave up, though, and hugged her back.
Then she saw Cyclops, and flung herself at him too. Then Jean, who had received the entire saga mentally the minute she walked inside, nearly picked Jubilee off the floor hugging her so hard. When the Proffesor walked in, he didn't know what hit him. But after some mental sifting of thoughts and images, he understood, and began to cry himself, along with Jean, and Bishop (though the latter would never admit it afterwards.)
Everett took Jubilee into his arms and told she'd never have to be afraid again. Monet began to giggle at this point, and Skin looked as though he was about to be physically sick. They stopped when glared at by Paige. And everyone else in the room. Penny looked confused, and Jono mimicked her expression exactly.
Jubilee's crying paused for a minute and she said to Monet, "Whatcha laughin' at, ya hoighty toighty rich girl?"
Cassidy smiled (paternally, again) and said, "I think we got her back, lads and lasses."
Someone, and I'm not mentioning any names, said, "Ya figured that out on yer own, Irish?"
-by Mystique and Molly Grue