Sweet Child of Mine: Chapters 11-16

by Somogyi

Disclaimer: The X-Men and Generation X are property of Marvel Entertainment. Characters are used without permission, no profit is being made, and no infringement on copyright is intended.

All comments and criticisms are welcomed. I'd love to know what you think.

Chapter 11

Feeling the warmth of sunlight on her face, Jubilee slowly cracked one eye open. It appeared to be morning, but she had no idea what time it was. Wondering how much time she had left to sleep, she rolled over onto her side and peered at the clock on her nightstand. It was going on seven o'clock.

*No, that can't be right,* she thought, sitting up and grabbing the clock to get a closer look. But the time read six fifty-six. How could that be? Jean always got her up promptly at six-thirty. She never let her sleep in. Why had Jean not awakened her this morning?

Concerned, Jubilee threw back the covers and swung her legs over the side of the bed. She gave her crutches a cursory glance, but then ignored them as she got to her feet. She took a first unsteady step, then a second, but by the third felt confident that she would be able to maintain her balance. She made her way across the hallway to the master bedroom.

Finding the door ajar, she slowly pushed it open. "Jean. . . ?" she whispered, peering inside. Slowly, she stepped into the room. Through the thin streams of sunlight that made it in through the blinds, she could see a lone form lying beneath the blanket. Walking closer, she saw that Jean was still fast asleep. Her face looked peaceful in slumber. Unhampered by the worry that had plagued her these past several days. Jean lay on her side of the bed, but one hand reached out, touching the empty pillow beside her. Jubilee wondered if she was missing Scott. Maybe she was dreaming of him, and that was why she did not want to get up.

For a moment, she considered waking Jean. But then she thought better of it. If she was still asleep, the odds were it was because she was tired, and needed the rest. A glance at the clock radio on the bedside table revealed that Jean had forgotten to set the alarm. She had definitely been distracted this past week, so this really came as no surprise to Jubilee. No, better to let her sleep in.

Jubilee quietly crept out of the bedroom, closing the door most of the way behind her. She went about her normal morning routine--washing, dressing, eating breakfast. Jean was apparently still fast asleep when she was ready to head over to the mansion for her physical therapy session with Logan. Grabbing a piece of notepaper and a pen from her nightstand drawer, Jubilee quickly scrawled a note to Jean, explaining that she had gone on ahead without her, and would be back after her morning workout. She left it on her bed, figuring that would be the first place Jean would check when she awoke.

Pulling on a sweat jacket, Jubilee grabbed the new cane Wolverine had given her, and headed out the door. She did not need to use it until the last leg of the journey. It felt good to finally be rid of the crutches. Hopefully after another few weeks she could ditch the cane as well. Breathing heavily from the exertion, she made her way down to the gym. When she entered, she found Logan setting up some mats, his back to the door.

"I was gettin' ready to send out a search party for ya, kid," he said, tugging a last mat into place.

Jubilee glanced at her watch. "Just over ten minutes late. Not too bad, considerin' I walked the whole way myself."

"So I see," Logan replied, nodding toward her cane. "Good for you. Where's Red?"

"Jean, she, uh, decided to sleep in this mornin'."

He scowled. "That don't sound like Jeanie."

"Well, I think she forgot to set her alarm. I don't think she's been sleepin' well lately, so I figured it was best not to wake her," Jubilee explained, shedding her sweat jacket and tossing it into a corner before beginning her usual stretching exercises. She bent down to touch her toes.

"I can't believe how stubborn she's bein' 'bout this whole situation."

"Tell me about it," Jubilee replied, her face upside-down. She was now able to place palms to the floor as she stretched out the muscles of her back and legs.

"Has she spoken to Scott at all?"

"Nope." Jubilee stood up, and bent one arm over her head, stretching to the side. "She refuses to answer the phone. Uses the machine to screen the calls. Or me, when I'm there."

"Has he called?"

Jubilee straightened, and then bent to the other side. "Every night. He always calls to see how I'm doin'."

"Does he ask to speak to Jeanie?"

"Not outright. I tried to get her to come on the phone the first couple nights, but she refused. I think he realized it's a lost cause; that when she's ready, she'll speak to him. But every time, before he hangs up, he always asks how she is." Straightening up, Jubilee managed a small smile.

Logan shook his head. "Man, I never saw this comin'. How long's it been now?"

Jubilee cocked her head to the side in thought as she bent an arm back over the opposite shoulder, grabbing her elbow to stretch it out. "Well, he spent those first couple nights at the mansion. Then I guess he contacted Sean, an' decided to go stay at the school in Massachusetts for a while, giving a series of guest lectures, I forget the exact topic. Something about fightin' strategy an' tactics, leadership an' stuff." She paused, switching arms. "He's been there goin' on a week now."

Once again, Logan shook his head disappointedly. "Somebody's gotta have a talk with Jeanie. This is gettin' ridiculous."

"Believe me, Wolvie, I've tried. Ororo's tried. Hank's even tried. If you want to, please, be my guest. I want Scott to come home as much as anybody. Maybe you'll be able to talk some sense into her."

"I'll give it a shot, kid. Don't know if she'll listen to me. But it's worth a try, right?"

"Wolvie, right now, I'm willing to try anything."

"*Right* now, how about ten minutes on the bike?"

"Startin' out easy on me, huh?" Smiling, she made her way over to the exercise bicycle.


"That's it, darlin' . . . three more," Logan encouraged Jubilee as she extended her knees in the leg press machine. "Two more . . . c'mon, kiddo, last one . . . an' one!"

With a whoosh of breath, Jubilee bent her knees, letting the weights she had been lifting fall back to the stock. Releasing her grip on the handlebars at the side of her seat, she leaned her head back and closed her eyes, breathing heavily.

"Great job," Logan told her, adjusting the pin on the nautilus machine so that it was back to the lowest setting. "That's one more set than you were able to do last week."

She smiled up at him. "I did good, Wolvie?"

"You did great, darlin'. Simply marvelous."

"Thanks," she said, getting up and re-seating herself on the floor in preparation for meditation. Since Ororo had introduced her to the technique, she had been using it as a cool-down exercise after a workout. For the most part, visualizing her thoughts as a river flowing in front of her had been working quite well as a means of relaxation. In fact, the river she was imagining had been practically reduced to almost a stream--until the discord between Jean and Scott came to a head. Since then, the river's current had begun to flow rapidly again with all that she had on her mind. Nonetheless, she still found taking the time to calm her thoughts soothing.

Ten minutes later, she had just finished her meditation when she heard a familiar voice call out into the room.

"I trust you had a good workout?"

They both looked up to the doorway to see Ororo entering the gym.

"Kid's makin' great progress. 'Fore long, she won't need a cane anymore."

"That is wonderful news," Ororo replied, handing Jubilee a bottle of water.

"What's up, 'Roro?" Logan asked as he got to his feet.

"The professor has requested your presence in his study. There is something about which he wishes to ask you."

"Any idea what it's about?"

"No. He did not tell me. Only that it was urgent that he speak with you."

"Why didn't he just message me in the ole noggin'?" Logan asked, tapping his temple.

"He did not want to interrupt your session with Jubilee."

"Well, you're gonna have to walk the kid back."

"That would be my pleasure," Ororo replied. "That is, if it is all right with you, Jubilation," she added, looking down at the girl, who was taking several large gulps of water.

"Sure, if you can stand the stink of me, I wouldn't mind the company," she replied, pressing the cool bottle to her flushed face.

"Then it is settled."

Logan shrugged. "Sure. Fine. Whatever." He looked down at Jubilee. "I'll stop by later to see how you and Jeanie are doin'," he told her.

"Sounds good. See you then."

With a final nod of the head to each of them, Logan left the gym in search of Xavier's study.

"Are you ready to head back, or would you like more time to rest?" Ororo asked Jubilee.

"Nope, I'm ready to go. I wanna go catch a shower anyway."

"All right." Storm held out a hand to her, which Jubilee gladly accepted to help her to her feet.

Polishing off the remaining contents of the small bottle of water, Jubilee tossed it into a recycling bin. She retrieved her sweat jacket, which she used to mop her face off with before tying it around her waist. Then, she grabbed her cane, and together she and Ororo made their way back to the main level and out the mansion, onto the path toward the house. "I take it Jean did not accompany you to your workout session this morning," Ororo said.

"Nope. She decided to catch some extra z's."

Ororo arched an eyebrow in surprise. "Oh? Is she feeling all right?"

"Far as I know, she's just tired. I don't think she's been sleepin' well lately. Lot on her mind, I guess."

"She still refuses to speak to Scott?"

Jubilee nodded, even as she sighed. "I tried talkin' to her 'bout it, but she just doesn't wanna discuss it. I really don't know what else to do. Wolvie's offered to try speakin' to her."

"Yes, perhaps he will be able to reach her where we have not been able to." Nonetheless, Storm's tone did not sound particularly confident.

"I don't ever remember them fightin' this way."

"Neither do I."

Jubilee shook her head sadly. "I didn't think it was possible for anything to come between 'em. I mean, I've always looked at Jean an' Scott as like this super-couple or somethin'. Unbreakable."

"Well, I suppose it demonstrates that they are just as human as the rest of us."

"But I thought they--the love they have--was above that. That it's somethin' extra special. That it could--'scuse the pun--weather any storm."

"I suspect it shall do so ultimately. It is just going to be rough sailing for a while."

"I guess."

"Well, here we are," Ororo said as they approached the house.

"You wanna come inside?" Jubilee asked. "Want somethin' to drink? To see Jean?"

"No, I think I shall return to the mansion. Tell Jean that if she needs to talk, I shall be around, all right?"

"No prob. Thanks, 'Ro, for the walk an' the talk."

"My pleasure. Do not worry, Jubilation, Scott will come home soon."

From the way Storm was looking at her, the sympathy and understanding that filled her gaze, Jubilee could tell that Ororo knew how much she missed him. Managing a small smile, she nodded at Storm before opening the front door.

With a final wave, Ororo turned and headed back toward the mansion.

Sighing, Jubilee stepped inside. She made her way through the living room, and, seeing that it was empty, entered the kitchen. No sign of Jean there either. The coffee pot was not on, and there were no dishes in the sink or the drainer other than those from her own breakfast. Surely Jean was not still sleeping. Concerned, Jubilee headed for the master bedroom. The door was still ajar, and so she opened it enough to poke her head inside. Glancing at the bed, she saw that it was unoccupied, though the covers were thrown back. But where was Jean?

It was then that she heard it--a strange noise coming from the bathroom. Jubilee entered the room and slowly crept toward the bathroom. As she drew closer, the sound became more recognizable: that of coughing and gagging.

"Jean?" she called. "You okay?" She walked over to the bathroom door, found it was open almost completely. Peering inside, her eyes widened in surprise.

Jean sat kneeling on the floor, hands grasping the sides of the toilet bowl, as she retched, each wave shaking through her body with a near-violent intensity.

"Oh God," Jubilee gasped. She quickly hurried to Jean's side, dropped to her knees beside her. She started to reach for her, but for a moment, she hesitated, unsure as to what to do. But then she swallowed back any doubt. She gently pulled back Jean's hair, getting it out of her face.

Startled, Jean turned her head, caught sight of Jubilee's sympathetic look. Her own expression softened a touch, but then she quickly turned back to the commode as she brought up more stomach contents.

Not knowing what to say, Jubilee instead touched Jean's back, and gently rubbed it, hoping the gesture would offer some comfort. Then she just waited until Jean had nothing left to vomit, and the dry heaves had finally subsided.

With a gasp, Jean lifted her head, pulled down on the handle to flush, and scooted back to lean against the side of the tub. Closing her eyes, she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.

Rising, Jubilee quickly retrieved a washcloth and wetted it down with cool water. Then she knelt down beside Jean and placed the cloth against Jean's pale forehead. Jean's eyes opened almost instantly, and she looked at Jubilee with a grateful expression. She mouthed the words "Thank you". Smiling, Jubilee began to dab Jean's cheeks, her chin, her neck, and chest with the cool cloth. When she was done, she gave the cloth to Jean to wipe her mouth and then folded it before placing it on the back of her neck.

"Can I get you anything else?" Jubilee asked. "You want some water?"

Jean slowly shook her head before closing her eyes once again.

Jubilee silently sat down next to Jean, facing her. "Feelin' any better?"

"A little," Jean whispered. "Nausea's starting to subside."

"That's good. Jean, I--" Jubilee stopped herself, unsure of what to say next. She watched as Jean's eyes raised, her gaze directed past Jubilee, toward the doorway. "What is it?" she questioned.

At that moment, the sound of someone calling her and Jean's names reached them.

Jubilee turned her head just as Ororo reached the doorway. "There you are, Jubilation. I realized that I forgot to ask you--" Apparently it took her a moment to see Jean, who remained leaning against the tub with her eyes closed once more. "Goddess! What has happened to Jean? She does not look well." Ororo hurried into the bathroom and knelt down at Jean's side. One hand immediately reached to take her pulse even as she used the back of the other to feel her forehead.

Slowly, Jean looked up at Storm. "I'm fine, Ororo. I just need a few minutes to get my sea legs back."

Ororo looked unconvinced. "Perhaps I should take you to the medi-lab."

"There's no point, Ororo. I'll be okay. It's just about passed," Jean whispered wearily, her eyelids dropping closed once again.

Storm looked toward Jubilee as though to ask her what had transpired.

Jubilee shrugged. "She was huggin' porcelain when I found her. Scared the hell outta me."

Ororo nodded. "Me, as well." She looked back at Jean and shook her head disappointedly. "I was worried something such as this would happen, Jean."

"We all were," Jubilee agreed, nodding.

Jean glanced first at Jubilee, then Ororo, her brow furrowed in confusion.

"Everyone has been warning you not to push yourself so hard," Ororo explained. "To step back, and take it easy."

"Yeah, why do you think I gave you that weekend at the spa for a gift?" Jubilee chimed in.

"And now you have succeeded in making yourself ill," Ororo resumed. "If you do not slow down, you will likely give yourself a serious illness, such as the flu or pneumonia, or you shall collapse from sheer exhaustion."

"Ororo, I'm not sick."

"Oh, gimme a break!" Jubilee exclaimed, exacerbated, before Storm had a chance to reply. "I may be just a kid, but I'm not dense. I just saw you toss your cookies myself. You can't deny--"

"I'm not sick," Jean repeated, her voice thick and heavy, her eyes shining.


"I'm pregnant," Jean said. And with that, she burst into tears.

Jubilee's mouth fell open. She sat that way for several long moments in stunned disbelief. Her mouth suddenly dry, she licked her lips. She searched for something to say, but for once in her life, found herself speechless.

Jean's face had crumpled, and she lifted a hand to her mouth, even as the tears streamed down her cheeks. Jubilee wanted to say or do something, but she had no idea what Jean would find comforting. She looked toward Ororo, hoping that the other woman would be willing and able to take charge of the situation. At that moment, however, Storm looked just as befuddled as she felt.

"Jean, you . . . you are with child?" Ororo asked, her friend's words seemingly taking a moment to register.

Jean nodded.

"Bright Lady! That . . . that is wonderful news. Congratulations, my friend," she declared, beaming at her.

Given Jean's current emotional state, Jubilee had to wonder if Ororo had taken the best approach. But then she watched as Jean looked up at Storm, managing a small smile. Jubilee's anxiety had just started to subside when she heard a choking sound as Jean was overcome by another sob.

Ororo sat down beside Jean and reached to take her friend in her arms. Without hesitation, Jean grabbed onto her and buried her face in Ororo's shoulder.

"Shh," Ororo soothed, pressing her cheek to the top of Jean's head, even as she gently rubbed circles across her back.

Watching the interaction, Jubilee suddenly felt like an intruder. She knew she should probably leave the two women alone to talk. But at the same time, she felt almost an obligation to stay. She cared about Jean, wanted to do whatever she could to help her. Besides, it was not as though either woman had asked her to leave. Hell, Jean had revealed the news of her pregnancy fully aware of Jubilee's presence. Surely if she had not wanted her to be there, she would have asked her to leave.

And so, because of the simple fact that neither woman had asked her to do otherwise, Jubilee decided to remain. She would not leave unless asked to do so directly.

"Do not cry, Jean," Ororo was saying. "You should not be crying. You should be laughing, celebrating. This is wonderful news. I know that you have spoken of your desire to have a child."

*She has?* Jubilee wondered incredulously. Actually, the more she thought about it, the more it made sense. It certainly explained Jean's doting, maternal nature toward her these past couple of months.

Jean nodded against Ororo's shoulder. "I did want a baby, Ororo. I still do. It's just . . . I-I didn't want it t-to be like th-this. . . ."

"Like what? I do not understand."

"I-I've screwed everything up. I-I've r-r-ruined everything. . . ." And with that, she burst into a fresh set of tears.

"You mean with Scott?"

Another nod.

"Why? What did he say when you told him? I cannot imagine him being anything other than excited."

"That's just it. . . . I-I . . . I haven't told him."

"What? Why not?"

"I-I only found out a few days ago. By then, he had already moved out. We were already separated."

"Jean, you are not separated. Scott did not move out. He is only visiting the school in Massachusetts. He will be returning shortly. I am certain that if you tell him about the baby, he shall be on the next plane back."

"That's just it, Ororo. I don't want him coming back just because of the baby--because of the obligation I know he'll feel. I want him to come back because he wants to."

"Are you afraid that he does not want the baby?"

She took a shuddering breath. "Partly."

"Well, do not be. I am sure that he shall be thrilled, Jean."

She shook her head. "He's told me that he doesn't feel ready."

"Is anyone ever truly ready? You have both told all of us stories about the time you spent in the future, raising Nate. It is as clear as day that you both made wonderful parents. One need only look at Cable to see that."

Jean shrugged, seemingly unconvinced.

"'Ro's right, Jean," Jubilee piped in, finally breaking her self-imposed silence before she had even realized what she had done. Both women looked at her, making her feel suddenly self-conscious. Perhaps she should not have spoken. Perhaps she should just leave. No, her inner voice told her. You said you wanted to help Jean. There's nothing wrong with speaking your mind.

Swallowing, Jubilee forced herself to continue. "Yeah, Jean, if that weekend I spent alone with Scott were any indication, I'd say he kinda misses having a kid around to look after. I'm sure he'll be totally psyched about being a dad again."

Slowly, Jean let go of Ororo and looked up at Jubilee. "Do you really think so?"

"I know so. Trust me on this one, Jean. Believe me, after all the foster homes I've been in, I know excellent 'rents when I see 'em. Both you and Scott--you guys are da bomb."

Sighing, Jean wiped her cheeks with her hands. "God, I've never been more confused. I don't know what to do."

"Well, the first thing I think you need to do is call Scott," Ororo suggested.

Jean's eyes widened. Then she slowly shook her head. "No, I can't. Not yet."

"Why not?"

"There's still so much we have to work out. We both said some pretty hurtful things. This pregnancy isn't going to erase that. We need to deal with those issues first."

"Then do that. But you must talk to him, Jean. You cannot hide this from him forever. He has a right to know."

"I know that. It's just. . . ." She lowered her head into her hands. "I-I just need a little more time. I'm not ready to deal with all of this yet." Sniffling, she could not stop the tears from falling again.

"It is okay, Jean," Ororo said, putting a hand on her shoulder. "This is a great deal for anyone to handle. You shall have to take it all one step at a time. Deal with it little by little, as much as you can at any given time. Just know that you do not have to do it alone. Whatever you need--I shall be here for you."

"Thank you, Ororo," Jean said, covering her friend's hand with her own.

"Yeah, me too," Jubilee said, scooting closer so that she could take Jean's other hand. "I'm here, too. Just like you've been there for me--since my injuries, even before, with Yana an' Wolvie's leaving an' all. I just want you to know that you can count on me the same way."

Jean gazed at her, smiling through her tears. "Thank you, Jubilee. You don't know how much that means to me." She reached for her, and embraced the girl.

"I think I've got a pretty good idea," Jubilee whispered into Jean's hair. "A very good idea."

Chapter 12

"You want that last dumpling?" Jubilee asked.

"No, go ahead," Jean replied, sliding the container across the coffee table.

"You sure?"

"It's all yours," Jean insisted, taking a sip of tea.

"Cool. Thanks." Just as Jubilee bit into it, the phone rang. She caught sight of Jean, chopsticks paused in mid-motion. "I'll get it," she told Jean, quickly swallowing what was in her mouth. Leaning back against the couch, she hoisted herself to her feet and reached for the cordless phone on a side table. "Hello?"

"Hi Jubilee."

"Hey Scott!" Jubilee replied cheerfully. "How's it goin'?" Sitting on the arm of the couch, she glanced over at Jean. The other woman stiffened, face trained on her plate as she traced a pattern in the rice with her chopsticks.

"I'm okay. How are you? How's the therapy going?"

"It's goin' great. I'm still just usin' a cane. Wolvie says I'm gettin' stronger every day."

"That's terrific, kiddo. I'm glad to hear it."

"Classes going well?"

"Yeah. All the kids have been asking about you. Paige and Angelo especially. They want to know when you'll be back. Sean and Emma send their regards as well."

"If things keep goin' this well, maybe I can go back for the fall term, huh?"

"I'd say that's a pretty sure bet." There was a pause as he cleared his throat. "How's Jean?"

Jubilee looked over to Jean, who sat watching her, unconsciously chewing on her bottom lip. The inner turmoil was rather obvious on her face. "Jean's okay. Sitting right here with me, in fact. We ordered in Chinese."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt your dinner."

"No, that's okay. We were just finishin' up. Almost fortune cookie time."

"Well, you'll tell her I called?"

"Yeah, sure thing. I--" A sudden movement caught her eye. Jean was holding out her hand palm-up, fingers wiggling slightly toward her. It took a moment for Jubilee to realize that Jean was gesturing for her to hand her the phone. "Hey, Scott, hold on a sec, okay?" Jubilee silently placed the phone in Jean's hand.

Jean closed her eyes and took a deep breath, as though centering herself. After several long moments, she slowly raised the phone to her ear. Even then, it was many long, agonizing seconds before she finally spoke. "Hello Scott."

"Jean?" he asked in surprise. Apparently, he had not been expecting to hear her voice on the other end of the line. "H-Hi."

"How are you?" she asked, her tone painfully formal.

"Miserable," he replied without losing a beat. "Without you, absolutely miserable."

Her mouth quivered as tears pooled in her eyes.

"How about you?" he asked.

Blinking, the tears slowly tracked down her cheeks. "The same," she managed to say in a soft whisper. She felt Jubilee's hand on her shoulder, drew comfort from the gesture as she covered the girl's hand with her own. "I . . . I miss you, Scott."

"Say the word, Jean, and I'll come home."

She took a shaky breath.

She felt Jubilee squeeze her shoulder a moment before rising. "You okay?" Jubilee mouthed, even as she pointed toward the hallway that led to her bedroom.

Managing a small smile, Jean nodded, mouthing "Thanks".

With a final wave, and an encouraging smile, Jubilee took her leave.

"Jean? You still there?"

"Yes. I-I'm sorry, Scott," she whispered, her voice breaking. "I'm so sorry. Sorry for the terrible things I said to you. I-I don't know what came over me." She began to sob.

"Shh," he soothed, his voice like velvet. "Shh, Jeanie. Don't cry. It's okay."

"No, Scott, it's *not* okay," she managed between sobs. "There's no excuse for how I treated you. For the things I said."

"Jean, you've been under a great deal of stress lately. It's perfectly understandable--"

"You were right, you know."

"About what?"

"About why I got so upset with you when Jubilee had the seizure. Why I blamed you. I *was* jealous. I didn't even realize or acknowledge it at the time, but I was jealous. I'm still not sure why exactly. I think I've just come to care for Jubilee so much, to revel in the relationship that I have with her--the way she depends upon me, the way she looks to me for love and understanding--that I didn't want to share that with anyone. Not even you. I know that's incredibly petty of me." She tried to fight the tears, but found it a futile battle. "Oh God, Scott, how can you ever find it in your heart to forgive me?"

"That's easy. Because I love you."

Jean threw a hand over her mouth to stifle a sob. "I love you, too, Scott. I love you so much. Come home to me. Please, Scott, come home. There's so much I still need to say to you, to tell you. But I want to do it in person."

She could practically hear the smile in his voice. "You don't know how long I've waited to hear you tell me that, Jean."

"So you'll come home? Tonight?" When there was no immediate answer, she began to panic. "Scott? Sweetheart, what--?"

"Jean, I want more than anything to hop on a plane right now and come home to you. But I made a commitment to Sean and the students. I have one more lecture to give tomorrow morning. I don't want to leave them hanging. . . ."

Jean could not help but smile despite herself. Same old Scott. Loyal till the bitter end. "Of course, Scott. I understand."

"You're upset."

She sighed. "Disappointed, yes. But not upset. I'm just glad you're coming home."

"I'll be home before you know it, Jean. In time for dinner tomorrow. Maybe we could go out, just the two of us."

"I'd like that."

"So it's a date?"

She smiled. "Yes. It's a date."

"Until tomorrow then?"

"Until tomorrow."

"I love you, Jean."

"I love you too, Scott. Good night."

"Good night. Sleep well."

Jean pressed the phone off and then held it against her chest as she closed her eyes and sighed. She blinked back tears of relief.


She opened her eyes at the sound of Jubilee's hesitant voice from the edge of the room. The girl crept closer to the couch.

"Well? How'd it go? What'd he say?"

Jean's face broke into an enormous grin. "He's coming home!" she beamed.

"Hooray!" Jubilee cried, launching herself into Jean's arms. They hugged happily, laughing together. "I'm so glad."

"Me, too, sweetie. Me, too."

"So, did you tell him about the baby?" She felt Jean stiffen in her arms. Jubilee pulled back in order to look Jean in the eyes. "You didn't tell him?" she asked, confused.

"No, I didn't want to do it over the phone. I want to tell him in person. He said when he gets back, we'll go to dinner, just the two of us. I'll tell him then."

"Sounds like a plan."

Jean bit her bottom lip. "God, I wonder how he'll react."

"Are you kiddin' me? He's gonna flip. Jean, he's gonna be so excited."

"You really think so?"

"No doubt. Don't worry about it, Jean. Tomorrow night, you two are gonna be celebrating."

"I hope so, sweetie. I really hope so."

Chapter 13

"Here ya go," Logan said, tossing a towel to Jubilee.

"Thanks," she replied, using it to mop off her face.

"Ya did good today, kid," he said, sitting down on the floor next to where she sat, having just concluded her morning meditation. "In fact, I think yer doin' good enough to cut down these workout sessions to every other day."

"Really?" Excitement filled her eyes, her smile. "You really think so?"

"Yep. 'Nother week or so, you won't even need that cane anymore to get 'round. You've made real progress, kid. You should be real proud of how much you've achieved. I know I am."

"Y-You are?"

"'Course I am. Most kids yer age wouldn't have the determination or the strength to work half as hard as you have. I doubt most people would have struggled the way you did to get their lives back on track. I'm real proud of ya, kid," he told her, ruffling her hair. "Ya did good. Don't you go letting anybody tell ya otherwise, ya hear?"

"I won't. Thanks, Wolvie," she said, slipping her arm across his back to hug him. "Thank you for believin' in me, for helpin' me."

"My pleasure, darlin'," he replied, kissing her temple, as he hugged her back.

"I can't wait to tell Jean."

Logan paused a moment, sniffing the air. "Don't have to wait any longer," he told her, looking toward the doorway.

Jubilee followed his gaze, and watched as a moment later Jean walked into the gym. "Jean, guess what?" Jubilee shouted, getting to her feet and running over to her. "Wolvie says I'm doin' so well I can cut down my workout sessions to every other day! Isn't that awesome?"

"That's great, sweetie," Jean replied, smiling at her. That small gesture seemed to take tremendous effort. "That means you can start your lessons tomorrow."

"Lessons?" The grin immediately faded from Jubilee's face. "As in school lessons?"

Jean nodded. "Ororo's already offered to be in charge of your tutoring. You've got a couple of months of work to catch up on."

Jubilee turned back to Logan. "Hey, Wolvie, is it too late to change my mind an' go back to daily workouts?"

"No can do, kiddo. Besides, you need to exercise yer mind, just like yer body. You do want ta be all caught up so you can go back to school in the fall, don'tcha?"

"I guess so."

"You ready to head back?" Jean asked her.

"Sure. We gonna wait till after lunch for our psychic session?"

"Yes. I think someone needs a shower," Jean replied, crinkling her nose.

"I'm not that ripe, am I?" Jubilee asked, lifting an arm and sniffing at her pit. "Ah geez, I am. Sorry 'bout that."

"Hey, Jeanie, you feelin' okay?" Logan asked, walking closer. He did not like the pallor of her skin, or the dark circles under her eyes.

"I'm just feeling a little under the weather," Jean replied.

"You want me ta go get Hank, let him give you the once-over?"

"No, that won't be necessary, Logan. But thank you. It's nothing a little rest won't fix."

"Or tonight," Jubilee added. "Scott's comin' home."

Logan's eyebrows rose. "Is he now? That's good ta hear. Joint hasn't been the same without him."

"C'mon, Jubilee, let's get you home," Jean said, ushering her toward the door. "See you later, Logan."

"Yeah, bye, Wolvie."

"Later, ladies," he called after them.

Together, Jean and Jubilee made their way to the main floor of the mansion and out onto the grounds, on the path that led back to the house. Their pace was slow--though it was Jean, rather than Jubilee, who set it this morning.

"Looks like rain," Jean remarked, glancing up at the overcast sky. Dark clouds were quickly approaching.

"You sure you're okay, Jean?" Jubilee asked, concerned by the other woman's appearance and demeanor. "Mornin' sickness still botherin' you?"

Jean nodded. "It's a stupid name, you know, considering it lasts all day. I haven't been able to keep anything down."

"Maybe you *should* let Hank take a look at you. He could probably give you somethin'--"

"I can't take any medication for it. It's just going to have to run its course."

"But you've got to eat."

"I might try a little soup later, after the nausea's passed."

"Just let me know if you want me to make you anything, okay?"

Jean looked down at her and smiled. "Thank you, sweetie. I appreciate your looking after me."

"Well, somebody's gotta. Especially since Scott's not around."

Jean grew suddenly silent.

"Don't stress, Jean. It's gonna go just fine, just like I told you."

Jean nodded, even as she swiped at her eyes.

"I'm sorry, Jean. I didn't mean to make you cry."

"It's not your fault. It doesn't take much these days. I start bawling at the drop of a hat."

"Raging hormones, eh?"

She could not help but smile. "I guess so."

"I can't wait till you start getting weird cravings. Then you can try to gross everyone out with all kinds of strange food combinations."

"I'd settle for having a decent appetite right now."

By then, they had reached the house. It seemed to be just in time, for the wind had really picked up, buffeting their hair and clothes. The first few drops of rain where already beginning to fall. They silently entered, making their way towards the back of the house.

"I'm gonna go hit the shower," Jubilee said, already peeling off her sweatshirt.

"Will you be okay if I go lay down for a bit?"

"Sure, I'll be fine. Go get some sleep. And let *me* know if *you* need anything, okay?"

"All right. Thanks, sweetie. Have a good shower." With a final wave, Jean headed into her bedroom.

Jubilee walked into her own room, grabbed a change of clothes, and made her way into the bathroom. She turned on the shower and then stripped off the rest of her clothes. Adjusting the water, she stepped inside and let the spray massage her tired muscles. She indulged a bit, letting the pulse of the water bear down on her back for a few minutes before finally washing.

When she had finished drying and dressing, she deposited her dirty clothes in the hamper in her room before heading to the kitchen. She prepared a sandwich, grabbed a piece of fruit and a drink, and then took it all into the living room, where she promptly plopped down on the floor in front of the couch and clicked on the television.

After a leisurely lunch, and over an hour of the cartoon network, Jubilee finally shut off the television and carried her dirty dishes into the kitchen. She nearly jumped as a loud clap of thunder boomed in the distance. Shaking it off, she deposited the plate and glass in the sink, and was about to leave them there when she thought better of it. Since Jean was not feeling well, the least she could do was pitch in and clean up after herself. She grabbed the dish sponge and soap, and began to wash the dishes.

At first, she did not hear the voice above the sound of running water, her own low humming, and the sound of rain falling outside. But as she finished rinsing the glass and shut off the water, the call of her name was unmistakable.

"Jubilee. . . ."

"Hey, Jean, didn't realize you were up," Jubilee replied, glancing over and seeing Jean standing in the kitchen doorway as she placed the glass in the drying rack. She reached for the dishtowel to dry her hands. "Did you have a nice nap?"

"Jubilee," Jean repeated. This time, there was no mistaking the urgency in her tone.

As Jubilee turned around, she saw that Jean had since entered the room, and was gripping the back of a chair on the far side of the table. She seemed slightly hunched over. Her face was ashen, and drenched in perspiration.

"Jean, are you okay? What's wrong? Here, let me help you sit down," Jubilee said, hurrying around the side of the table to reach her.

Jean managed to turn her body and took a shaky step toward Jubilee, still grasping the chair. She was nearly doubled over now, her free arm across her middle.

As Jubilee rounded the table and approached Jean, she finally got a good look at her. She froze immediately in her tracks and gasped, hand flying to her mouth. Below Jean's waist and above her knees, on the front of the pale blue fabric of her skirt, was a crimson stain.

"Oh God!" Jubilee gasped. "Oh God oh God!"

"Jubilee," Jean said, her voice low and pain-laced, as she reached for her. "Help me."

Jubilee hurried closer, and Jean grabbed onto her arm for support. "What can I do? Oh God, Jean, tell me what I can do."

"I . . . I--nngh!" Jean bent over, arm still wrapped around her abdomen. Jubilee looked down and watched in horror as a rivulet of blood trickled down the inside of Jean's leg.

"Oh God," Jubilee cried again, panic filling her. "C'mon, Jean, let me help you sit down."

Jean grasped tight to Jubilee's arm, fingers digging into the flesh, as the girl tried to lead her to a chair. But then another pain assailed her, hammering her to her knees.

"Jean!" Jubilee cried, seeing her go down and unable to hold her up. Instantly, she was kneeling beside her. With a shaking hand, she reached for Jean's face, softly touched her cheek.

"J-Jubilee," Jean managed, swallowing. She raised her head, and looked up at Jubilee with shining, scared eyes. "H-Help me," she pleaded, even as the tears spilled onto her cheeks. "Please, help me." She moaned as another spasm shot across her middle.

Jubilee nodded, feeling her own eyes stinging. She wracked her brain trying to think of what to do. This was way beyond her league. "I-I'll call for help," she said aloud, already getting to her feet. She stumbled on the leg of a kitchen chair, nearly falling, as she made her way to the phone on the wall. She picked up the receiver, trying to remember the number for the mansion. But there was no dial tone. She frantically pressed down on the button, but was still answered by silence. "The line's dead," she muttered.

Just then, thunder boomed, and lightning flashed outside the window.

"Dammit! The storm must have affected the phone lines. What am I gonna do now?"

Hearing a whimper, she looked over to see Jean sitting on the floor, bent over at the waist, both arms wrapped around her middle. Jean needed help, and she needed it now. Only one course of action remained.

Jubilee hurried back over to her. She took Jean's head in her hands, brushing the hair out of her eyes. "Jean?"

Jean looked up at her. She was biting her bottom lip, trying to hold back her cries of pain.

"Jean, I'm gonna go to the mansion. I'm gonna go get help. I need you to hold on, okay? I'll be right back with help. You hold on just a few more minutes."

She felt Jean nod in her hands. "Hurry," she murmured. "Please hurry."

"I will. I'll be right back with help. I promise." With that, Jubilee got to her feet and hurried out of the room.

Jean watched her leave through a tear- and pain-filled haze. She could not help but cry out as another agonizing spasm shot across her abdomen. She looked down at her skirt, saw that the pool of blood had grown larger than it had been when she had woken up several minutes earlier. God, this was not good. Not good at all.

She tried to focus her mind enough to send out a thought projection, but to no avail. Her head had been pounding since she had woken up a short while ago. When she attempted to use her telepathic powers then, the resulting sensation felt like someone had taken a sledgehammer to her brain, and made her want to vomit. As weak as she felt now, she dared not attempt it again.

Her mind was growing fuzzy, the room looked darker. She was so tired. Seeing the counter about a yard away, she moved her arms from around her middle to the floor, and began to slide herself in that direction. Hand over agonizing hand, she somehow managed to drag herself to the counter, her back coming into contact with the bottom door. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, even as another throe hit her.

"Oh God," she gasped, panic making it difficult to draw a full breath. "Help me!" she cried desperately, pleadingly. "Scott! Please, help me!"

Chapter 14

"That was a great lecture, Mr. Summers," Paige Guthrie said, hugging her books to her chest, as she approached the podium. "Real inspirin'."

"Thanks, Paige. You all have been a wonderful class. There's never a shortage of good questions," Scott replied, as he gathered his notes and overheads.

"Do you really think that anyone can make a good leader?"

"I think anyone can be a leader, but being a good one takes certain qualities."

"Like what?"

"Well, you've attended my series of lectures," Scott said, walking to the front of the table where the overhead projector sat and leaning on it. "You tell me."

"Oh, Ah, uhm. . . ." Flushing, Paige tugged at the collar of her shirt. "Uhm, well, you've got to have good tactical skills. Know all sorts of battle strategies an' stuff like that."

"That will help make you a successful commander, yes. But not necessarily a good leader. What makes someone a good leader? Think of when you kids have been on a mission, and Sean's in charge. Why do you all follow him?"

She pursed her lips, pondering. "Well, Mr. Cassidy, he always seems so confident. Like he knows what it is we need to do to win. He gives us great pep talks, they're always real inspirin'-like."

"So a good leader needs to inspire confidence in his or her followers."

"Uh huh. And it's clear that he cares about us, and what happens to us. It's not like we're expendable soldiers. He wants each and every one of us to come home, unscathed."

"In other words, a good leader needs camaraderie with the rest of the team. A real, human connection. What else?"

"He never makes us do anything he's not willing to do himself. It's not like he's better than us, or unwilling to fight side-by-side with us."

Scott nodded. "I think you've answered your own question, Paige."

"So you think that a person that emanates those kinds of qualities can become a good leader?"

"I think so, yes. For some, it just seems to come naturally. Others, though, need time and experience to grow into the role. It's different for each person."

"How about you? Which kind were you?"

Scott smiled. "Well, when I was your age, I was a bit on the shy side. Social situations were always a little awkward. But in the heat of battle, it was as though something clicked. I knew what had to be done, and what to say to get people to do it. It was the most natural feeling in the world."

"So you were a natural?"

"Much of it was instinctual for me, yes. But that's not to say that I still didn't have a lot to learn. Things like how to deal with obstinate, not-quite-team-players."

She smirked. "You mean, people like Mr. Logan?"

The corners of Scott's mouth lifted. "Every group's usually got a Wolverine, in one form or another."

"Don't I know it."

"Get to know your people, Paige. Their strengths and their weaknesses, their habits and their faults. If you know them well, then you'll know how best to command them. And if they know you, trust you, and your judgment, they'll be prepared to follow you into hell and back."

Paige nodded as his words sank in. "I understand, Mr. Summers. Thanks!"

"My pleasure, Paige. I'm glad you got something out of my lectures."

"I think everyone enjoyed them, sir. It's always nice when one of the X-Men comes to teach us for a while."

"Well, I think Hank's in the process of preparing some lectures for next month."

"Cool. So, you headin' back to Westchester today?"

"Yes, my flight leaves later this afternoon."

"Can you give this to Jubilee for me?" Paige asked, handing him a book.

"_The Three Musketeers_?" Scott asked, reading the title.

"Yeah, we're reading it for English class. Thought she might enjoy it. I have a letter and some pictures inside the front cover for her."

"I'll make sure she gets it, Paige."

"Thanks, Mr. Summers. I appreciate it. Well, I've gotta get to my next class. Have a safe trip back, and say hey to Jubilee for me."

"I will. Take care, Paige."

"You, too, sir." With a smile and a wave, Paige turned and headed toward the door.

Adding the novel to his small pile of papers and books, Scott walked over to the lectern to make sure he had not forgotten anything. Finding the surface and shelf below clear, he turned to leave, and nearly jumped back when he came face-to-face with Banshee. "Jesus, Sean, you scared the life out of me."

"Sorry 'bout that, Scotty. Didn't mean to give you a start. Just came by to see how it went."

"It went quite well, Sean. The kids seemed to enjoy the lectures. I was just telling Paige how attentive she and her classmates were, and how great their questions were."

"Aye, they're a good bunch, this group. Bright as the sun, an' sharp as a tack, each an' every one of 'em."

Scott nodded in agreement.

"So, ye headin' back now?"

"I was just going to go back to my cottage, throw this stuff in my bag, and head to the airport."

"Things are better at home, then? You had said something the other day about possibly keepin' on another week or so."

"Can't get anything past you, eh, Sean?" Scott asked with a smile. "Jean finally spoke to me when I called last night. I think we're on the way towards working things out. We're going to go out to dinner tonight, just the two of us, and have a nice long talk."

"That's great news, Scotty. I'm glad you two are speakin' again. I was worried there for a while."

"Me, too, Sean. Me too. Jean and I have had arguments before, but never quite like this. I'm not quite sure wh--"

<*Help me! Scott! Please, help me!*>

The force of the words alone shouting in his mind took Scott completely by surprise. But they were also accompanied by a wave of emotion--sheer panic, stark terror, and a complete sense of loss of control. It was like being submerged in ice water, punched in the gut, and being unable to draw a breath all at the same time. The mental contact knocked Scott off of his feet. The papers and books tumbled from his hands as he grabbed on to the table to keep from falling to the floor.

"Scott!" Sean shouted, reaching for him. Grasping Scott by the arm, he helped him to his feet. "Are ye okay, lad?"

Scott brought a trembling hand to his forehead, even as he gasped for breath.

"Scott, can ye hear me?" Sean asked. "Are ye okay? Ye've gone white as a ghost."

"I-I'm fine, Sean. I was just caught a little off guard."

"By what?"

"I'm not sure, exactly. I think it may have been some sort of psychic projection."

"Jeanie perhaps, contacting you telepathically?"

"It felt like Jean, yes. But it wasn't a simple communication. It was more . . . empathic. More like a projection of emotions. I'm not sure."

"Well, can ye try projecting back to her? Ye two have a mindlink, don't ye?"

Scott shook his head. " She hasn't been maintaining our psychic rapport for a while now." Nonetheless, he attempted to contact his wife through their now-defunct mental connection. As expected, there came no reply, and he was as alone in his mind as he had been in recent days. An icy chill gripped his heart. "Something's wrong. I need to get home. I need to make sure Jean's okay."


Jubilee threw open the door, bolted down the front steps, and took off across the lawn at a full run. It was pouring, and in mere moments she was soaked. But she did not even notice. All she knew was that Jean needed help, and that she was the only one who could get it for her. She had to hurry. All that blood, those terrible pains . . . if anything was going to be done for her, it had to be done soon.

Abruptly, her foot slipped, and she crashed to her knees, mud splattering over her clothes, her face, and her hair. Ignoring it, Jubilee pushed herself to her feet, nearly falling again in the process. But then she was upright, and she forged ahead as fast as her legs would take her.

Still, it did not seem fast enough. She had to go faster, push herself harder. She willed herself to run more quickly, legs pumping, lungs burning. Soon, she could see the light of the mansion in the distance. Almost there. Less than a minute.

As she approached the back patio, she could make out the silhouette of two figures standing below the awning. She tried to call to them, but her voice was swallowed by the wind and the rain.

She was so intent on trying to get their attention that she did not notice the fallen tree branch a few feet ahead of her until it was too late. Her foot struck the side of the branch, and she tumbled face-first onto the mud-covered ground, her shin banging into the object hard. She cried out in surprise and pain, but was rewarded with a mouthful of mud. Spitting it out in disgust, she tried to raise herself. Her hands kept on slipping, and she was unable to get sufficient purchase. Even if she could get a decent grip, she no longer felt as though she had the strength to even stand.

"Help me!" she cried, tears of desperation filling her eyes as she waved toward the mansion. She could hardly hear her own hoarse shouts above the roaring winds; whoever was standing on the patio certainly could not.

More than anything, Jubilee just wanted to give up and just lie there. But she knew that she could not. Jean was counting on her. She could not let Jean down.

But what could she do, tired and weak as she was, sprawled on the muddy ground in the middle of a downpour? How could she get the attention of those people?

The solution was so painfully obvious, she chided herself for not thinking of it sooner. She just hoped she had sufficient energy to put her plan into action.

She was barely able to raise her arms in front of her; as it was, her hands did not end up any higher than her head. Taking a deep breath, she focused all of her concentration on a single task.

Miraculously, it worked better than she could have hoped. Huge bursts of fireworks shot forth from her hands, several yards into the sky toward the mansion. She managed several rounds of plasmoids before her arms sank to the ground, exhausted. Her face followed suit as she rested her cheek on her arm. Then all she could do was pray that she had succeeded.

A few moments later, she thought she heard shouts in the near distance. She somehow managed to will herself to lift her head a moment before she could make out a couple sprinting toward her. It was not until they were nearly on top of her that she was able to recognize them: Rogue and Remy. Thank God they had seen her signal.

"Need help!" Jubilee yelled. "Jean's in trouble!"

It looked as though Rogue was trying to shout something to her, but Jubilee could not make it out. She thought she saw Remy shake his head and gesture toward Rogue.

Jubilee was about to try again when she felt Gambit and Rogue each grab an arm and lift her to her feet, directing her toward the mansion. Too weak to argue, Jubilee allowed them to lead her to the shelter of the patio. As soon as they arrived, she sank to the concrete, exhausted and gasping for breath.

"Petite, what's wrong? What de hell you doin' out inna rain?"

Jubilee opened her mouth to speak, but no words came as she struggled to suck air into her lungs.

"Sugah, yer gonna catch yer death," Rogue chastised. "Remy, c'mon, let's get her inside."

"No!" Jubilee sputtered, chest still heaving from her exertion. "Help . . . need help!"

"That's what we're tryin' ta do, Sugah. Now, let's get'cha dried an' warmed--"

"Jean! . . . *She* . . . needs . . . help!"

"Jeanie?" Remy asked. "What's wrong wit her? Where she at?"

"H-house," Jubilee gasped, trying to catch a full breath. "Pain . . . blood . . . collapse . . . help! . . . She . . . Help her! . . . Please!"

In the meager light of the patio lantern, they could see the fear in Jubilee's tear-filled eyes.

Remy looked at Rogue, who nodded.

"We'll go help her," Rogue told Jubilee. "You go on inside, find Hank, an' let him know we're comin'," she told the girl. "C'mon, Remy." Grabbing him under the arms, Rogue took to the air and toward the house.

"Hurry!" Jubilee called to them, even as her voice was swallowed by the roaring wind. "Please hurry!"


Seeing the front door open, Rogue flew them right inside and into the living room. Placing Remy on his feet, Rogue touched down beside him.

"You check the bedroom," she told him. "Ah'll check up here."

Nodding, Remy headed toward the back of the house.

"Jean!" Rogue called, glancing around the living room as she headed into the dining room. "Jean, can ya hear me? Jean!" Finding both rooms empty, Rogue walked into the kitchen. She immediately saw Jean propped against the far counter, chin to her chest.

"Remy!" she shrieked. "She's in here!" She took a flying leap over to Jean's side. Kneeling, she caught sight of the blood staining Jean's skirt. "Sweet Jesus! Jean!" She touched her arm, but there was no response. Rogue took her by both shoulders and gave her a good shake.

Jean stirred, but seemed barely able to lift her head. Her face was white as a sheet. She blinked, trying to focus on Rogue's face.

"Jeanie, it's Rogue. Can ya hear me, Sugah?"

"Help me," Jean murmured, eyelids fluttering. "Please . . . help. . . ." Her eyes rolled back, and she drifted unconscious again.

"Find 'er?" Remy asked, hurrying into the kitchen.

"Over here!" Rogue called.

Remy ran up behind her, and gasped. "*Sacre bleu*!"

"Ah found her like this," Rogue explained. "Jesus, there's so much blood. Don't see a gunshot or stab wound. God, looks like she's hemorrhagin'."

"Ain't no wound," Remy said, pulling off his coat.

Rogue pulled Jean forward, allowing Remy to wrap his coat around her. "If there ain't no wound, then where's alla this blood comin' from?"

"She wit chile," he said softly, picking up Jean's unmoving form and handing her to Rogue. "'Least, she was."

Rogue met his eyes then, saw only sadness there. "But--"

"Ain't nothin' more can be done here, chere. Go on," Remy coaxed. "Get her to the medi-lab, so Henri can help 'er. You'll go faster wit'out Gambit's weight. Meet you dere. Go on, now."

Swallowing back her own tears, Rogue nodded. A moment later, she took to the air, cradling Jean close to her as she sped back toward the mansion.

Chapter 15

The cab had barely come to a standstill when Scott tossed some money at the driver, threw the door open, and jumped out into the rainy night. During the long car ride that had comprised the last leg of his journey, he had been practically crawling the walls in his eagerness to get home. His trip had been one disaster after another. First, there were the endless delays at the airport in Boston. Then, after his flight was finally able to depart, the storms in New York prevented them from landing. They circled the airport for over an hour, waiting to land. And when they finally did, it was another hour waiting in line with the other planes until they could taxi up to a gate since everything was so backed up. Thank God all he had was one carry-on bag; he had little faith that his luggage would have arrived with him otherwise. Of course, the way he luck was going, it was a good half hour until he was able to grab a cab. It would have been quicker to drive back to New York from Massachusetts. Hell, it probably would have been quicker to walk.

He had tried calling home before leaving for the airport in Boston, but something was wrong with the lines. The weather was probably affecting them. He had been meaning to upgrade them, to utilize some of the Shi'ar technology they used in the mansion for the house, but he had never gotten around to it. Something else to add to his 'to do' list. He had then tried calling the mansion, intent on having someone there go check on Jean and Jubilee, to make sure everything was all right. There had been no answer, so he simply left a message. Unusual that no one seemed to be home, but stranger things had happened. He had tried again while waiting for the boarding announcement in Boston, but still the phone went unanswered. By the time he had finally arrived in New York, he was hell-bent on just getting home, so he had not bothered to try to call.

Now, as he approached the house, Scott felt as though his stomach were one enormous knot. He prayed that all his worry had just been for naught. As he reached to put his key in the lock, the door creaked open. A chill went down his spine, and he was immediately on alert. Why was the door not locked, let alone left open? Something must be wrong. He thought back to the psychic projection he had received earlier that afternoon, and the knot in his stomach tightened.

Quietly, he pushed the door open the rest of the way and stepped inside. He scanned the living room, but found nothing amiss. He stopped a moment to listen, but heard nothing, save for the sound of the rain outside and his own breathing. He softly shut the door and walked through the living room, toward the back of the house. It seemed as though no one was home.

"Jean!" he called. "Jubilee! Anybody here?"

Silence answered him.

*They probably got a little spooked by the rain storm, and decided to go wait it out in the mansion,* he thought as he headed through the dark hallway toward the bedroom. *In their haste, they probably didn't pull the door shut all the way.*

As he entered the bedroom, Scott flicked on the light switch. Nothing happened. He shut the switch on and off a few times, but still no light. Power must be down.

*Definitely have to update a few things around here,* he told himself.

Dropping his bag on the bench at the foot of the bed, he pulled off his jacket and hung it on the back of a chair to dry. Then he walked to the nightstand, and started rummaging through the drawer for a flashlight. As he flicked it on, he noticed that the bed covers were rumpled. That struck him as strange. It was unlike Jean to leave the bed unmade. When he turned away from the bed, something caught his eye on the carpeting. There was some sort of stain. Bending down, he focused the flashlight's beam on the small spots. They were dark. Red. Like blood.

The hair stood up on the back of his neck as he moved the flashlight along the floor toward the door. There were more spots, scattered several feet apart, forming a trail. His mouth suddenly dry, Scott swallowed, trying to will his heart to slow down. Rising, he followed the stains out of the bedroom and into the hallway. They were heading toward the kitchen.

Taking a deep breath, he pushed the door open and walked inside. The trail led to the table, where a larger spot, the size of a saucer, stained the linoleum behind one of the chairs. He moved the flashlight around the room, trying to gleam as much information as he could. It did not take him long to find it. A thin smear of blood about a yard away, as though someone had dragged her body through it, leading back toward the counter, where there was a veritable puddle of the crimson liquid. Jesus Christ, that was *a lot* of blood.

The sudden memory of Jubilee's nightmare came to his mind, and a shiver ran down his spine. Fear gripped his heart. He found it difficult to draw a full breath. God, he did not even know if it was Jean or Jubilee who was hurt. Did it really matter? Either case was a realization with which he did not want to have to deal. But he had to. He had to find them, see if he could help them.

Steeling his nerve, Scott turned, bolted out of the kitchen, and sprinted out of the house, toward the mansion, intent on doing whatever he could to ensure the safety of the two most important women in his life.


The sound of shouting awoke Jubilee from a fitful sleep. Opening her eyes, she realized that she was curled next to Rogue on a bench, her cheek resting on the other woman's lap, a blanket covering her. Yawning, she raised herself onto an elbow and looked across the room as Scott entered, out of breath. He was not even wearing a coat, and his hair and clothes were soaked from the rain.

He quickly scanned the room, and when he caught sight of her, she could see the relief fill his face. "Jubilee!" he called, hurrying toward her. He dropped down to his knees in front of the bench.

"Scott," she breathed, reaching to embrace him. Now that he was here, everything was going to be okay. Scott would take charge. He would make everything right again.

"Are you okay?" he asked her, holding her tight. "Are you hurt? What happened?"

"I'm fine," she replied. "It's Jean. . . ."

She felt him tense beneath her. He pulled back, took her by the shoulders. "Where is Jean? What happened? Is she all right?"

Jubilee bit her bottom lip, even as she felt the stinging prickle in her eyes. Blinking, she shook her head. "I . . . she . . . oh, God, Scott, I'm so sorry. . . ." She turned her head away, unable to look him in the face.

"Jubilee," he said sternly, taking her face in his hands and forcing her to look at him. "Where is she? What's happened?"

"She. . . . " Unable to speak, Jubilee began to sob, tears streaming down her cheeks and onto Scott's hands.

"She's in the medi-lab, Scott," Rogue said gently. "Ororo's with her."

Scott looked up at Rogue. "Then she's all right?"

Rogue opened her mouth to reply, but then thought better of it. She felt her own eyes brimming with tears. "Ah think Hank should be the one. . . ."

Without another word, Scott let go of Jubilee and was on his feet, jogging toward the medi-lab, his wife, and the answers he sought.

As he left, Jubilee started to shake, sobs wracking her body.

"Shh," Rogue soothed, taking her into her arms.

Jubilee immediately grabbed onto her waist, burying her face against Rogue' stomach.

"Shh," Rogue whispered, stroking the girl's head with a gloved hand. "It's okay, Sugah. It's gonna be okay." Blinking back her own tears, she glanced down the hallway, wondering how Scott was going to react.


At the sound of running footsteps, Hank looked up from his desk. He was sitting in his office, a small room that served as an antechamber to the medi-lab. At the sound of the familiar shout, he sighed. The moment he had been dreading since Rogue had brought Jean to him hours earlier was about to occur. It was times like these that he hated being a doctor.

He leapt from his perch on a stool and bounded toward the door to intercept Scott. It would be best if he spoke to him first, before he saw Jean.

A moment later, Scott burst into the room, obviously upset. "Hank!" he called, seeing the Beast waiting for him. "Where is Jean? I have to see her--"

"Take it easy, Scott," Hank said, placing a staying hand on his friend's arm. "She's resting right now. Ororo's with her."

"What happened, Hank? I came home and found a trail of blood leading into the kitchen. There was so much blood." Scott paused, trying to catch his breath. "How is she? Is she going to be okay?"

"She's doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances." Henry hated the way those words sounded, so cold and unsympathetic.

Scott's brow furrowed. "What the hell are you talking about, Hank? Why won't someone give me a straight answer? Why won't someone tell me what's wrong with my wife?"

"Scotty, perhaps it would be best if you sat down," Hank suggested, gesturing toward a chair.

"I don't want to sit down," Scott snapped. "Dammit, Hank, just tell me what happened to Jean."

Hank looked at Scott, trying to summon his own courage. He knew what he was about to say was going to do this man, one of his oldest and dearest friends. And he hated like hell to be the one who had to tell him. But he also knew it would be best coming from him. "Scott, I'm afraid that Jeanie, she . . . she lost the baby."

Hank watched as Scott's eyebrows rose above the rim of his glasses and his face went a shade lighter. He opened his mouth to speak, his lips moved, but no words came out. Scott shook his head, as though to clear it. "Wh-what did you say?"

"Jeanie lost the baby. I'm afraid that by the time they got her to me, there was nothing to be done, no way to stop it. She miscarried. I'm so sorry, Scott," Hank said, once more grasping Scott's arm. "I know this will offer little comfort right now, but you should know that this is often nature's way of handling its own mistakes. . . ."

Scott still said nothing, just continued to shake his head. Hank read his reaction as shock. He felt the need to speak, to fill the silence.

"Luckily, there was no permanent damage," he went on. "In a few months, after she's had time to recover, there's no reason you can't try again."

"A . . . miscarriage. . . ?" Scott asked, voice wavering. He was trembling.

"Yes," Hank replied softly, tenderly. "I'm sorry, Scotty. So very sorry."

Scott looked into Hank's face, saw the sympathy in his sad eyes. He swallowed back the taste of bile in the back of his throat. "Are you saying Jean . . . she was pregnant?"

Hank's eyes widened in confusion. Realization hit him a moment later. Scott was not reacting merely to the tragedy of losing an unborn child. He was responding both to the news that his wife had been carrying his child, and that that child no longer existed. No wonder Scott was in such a state of shock.

"You . . . you didn't know she was pregnant?" Hank asked.

Scott shook his head. "I . . . I had no idea."

"Oh my stars. . . ." Hank closed his eyes in a slow blink. He had been wondering why Scott had decided to go spend a week at the school in Massachusetts at a time when he would have expected he and Jean to be celebrating. It had been clear that there was some tension between them, but it had never even occurred to Hank that Scott was unaware that Jean was expecting. "Scott, I-I thought you knew. . . . Jeanie was about two months along."

Scott was still shaking his head, even as the rest of his body began to tremble. "I-I didn't know. . . ." he murmured. "She never told me. . . ." He felt himself waiver. "Scott, let's go sit down," Hank said, placing a hand on his shoulder and guiding him to a nearby chair.

Scott wordlessly collapsed into it, as though his body no longer had the strength to hold him up. He slowly shook his head in disbelief. "I-I didn't know," he whispered, over and over. "I didn't know. . . ." As his words faded away, he bowed his head, as though in defeat.

Hank opened his mouth to speak, but then thought better of it. After all, what was there to say? What meager words could he offer that would bring comfort to his friend at such a difficult time?

And so he said nothing. Instead, he gently clasped Scott's shoulder in a silent gesture of support, as his friend mourned for the unborn child he would never know.

Chapter 16

Scott pulled the car up in front of the house, put it in park, and shut the engine. "Well, here we are." He glanced over to the passenger side at his wife. Jean sat staring out the window, at the distance. Even after a few days of strict bed rest in the medi-lab, she still did not look well. Her face was pale, the dark circles under her eyes more pronounced than ever. Her cheeks looked sunken, her expression drawn. Her beautiful red hair, which she usually wore loose like a fiery crown, was pulled back in a hasty braid down her back. She looked tired--weary to the bone.

Scott had half-expected her to insist on walking back to the house when Hank had finally decided to release her. But when he suggested it might be better to drive her, she had offered no protest. She merely shrugged her shoulders in silent apathy. She had said very little to him these past few days. Every time he attempted to open the lines of communication, to get her to talk about what had happened and how she felt, she would claim fatigue and close her eyes to sleep. Hopefully, now that she was coming home, she would finally open up.

"Jean?" he said, reaching to touch her hand. Her fingers felt like ice.

She quickly pulled her hand back, out of his reach. She did not meet his gaze.

"Honey, we're home."

Nodding, Jean reached to unfasten her seat belt.

With a sigh, Scott undid his own and got out of the car. He walked around to the passenger side and opened the door, holding his hand out to help Jean.

She ignored it, instead grasping the side of the door as she gingerly rose from her seat. She slowly headed for the house, leaving Scott standing there, feeling like an idiot. Frustrated, he shut the car door with a bang and hurried to catch up with his wife.

Jean stood waiting for him to unlock the door. He did so, and pushed the door open, allowing her to enter. She walked inside, into the living room, and headed toward the back of the house. Shutting the door behind him, Scott followed her into the bedroom.

Jean made no comment about the change of sheets and comforter, or the absence of bloodstains on the carpeting. Scott had been quite thankful when Ororo had informed him that someone would have it taken care of. He suspected it was probably Logan, or maybe Rogue and Remy, who offered to do it. Whoever it was, he was glad that there would be no reminders of the tragedy that had befallen here a few days ago.

He watched as Jean sat down on the bed, and bent to remove her shoes. Grimacing, she stopped in mid-motion.

"Here, let me," Scott offered, stooping in front of her. He took first one foot in his hand, sliding off the shoe, and then the other.

"Thanks," Jean replied softly.

"Is there anything I can get you?" Scott asked, rising. "A cup of tea? Something to eat?"

"No, I'm fine, thanks. I think I'm just going to lay down for a while."

"Oh. Okay." She had been sleeping for the past three days. Wasn't she sick to death of it by now? "Ororo said she'd stop by later this afternoon, to see how you're doing."

"Okay." Jean curled up on her side on the bed, her back to him. Nestling her face into the pillow, she closed her eyes.

"Just let me know if you need anything, okay, sweetheart?"

"Mmm," she murmured.

Scott stared down at her for a while. Walking closer, he bent down and kissed her forehead. "I love you."

But she did not reply.

With a soft sigh, he quietly left the room.


Standing in the control room, Storm watched as Cyclops fired an optic blast at the last of his android opponents in a routine Danger Room session. He was battling more than robots, she knew. He also fought the evil demons that lurked inside. And she knew that she must do all that was possible to ensure that he would not fight them alone.

She reached the Danger Room door just as the sequence shut down. As she entered, she saw him toweling his face off.

"That was some fighting," she said.

"Thanks. It feels good to be able to hit something--to do something physical."

"Yes. Sometimes it *is* good to vent. But, Scott, it is not healthy to keep your emotions bottled up inside. It is obvious that you are deeply troubled."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Scott, you and Jean have been through a very traumatic series of events. I do not think you are dealing with your feelings."

"I don't know what you mean," he replied curtly, turning away from her.

"Scott, this has affected you profoundly. But with the exception of this session, I have yet to see you express your emotions." Walking closer, she touched his arm. "Since your loss, all I have been hearing is concern over Jean's welfare. But no one has seemed worried about you."

"I know. That's because Jean--"

"What, Scott? Because it was Jean who was carrying the child inside of her? Yes, she was, but that does not mean that you did not love the baby. Scott, it was your child as well."

"Ororo, I didn't even *know* there was a baby until it was gone." Though his tone was one of anger, she could sense the underlying anguish, the betrayal. Her heart ached for him.

"I do not honestly believe that Jean was deliberately keeping such knowledge from you. She had every intention of sharing the news with you."

"Kind of a moot point now, isn't it?"

Goddess, he had so much pain to work through. And if Jean's withdrawal were any indication, she was not helping him with such matters. At a time when they needed to lean on one another, to rely on one another to get through this tragedy, the couple seemed more distant than ever.

"If anger is what you are feeling now, Scott, for not being told about the existence of your child, then that is what you need to address."

"What's the point? Besides, I'm not what's important right now. Jean's health is all that matters."

Ororo could not help but smile at that. Even when he was angry with her, his concern for his wife's well-being was still foremost in his mind. Why could Jean not see that her husband only wanted to help her? "Scott, I understand that you want--you need--to be strong for her. But how can you help her to deal with her feelings if you cannot even admit to yourself the emotions you are feeling inside? It is perfectly evident that your soul is in turmoil."

"Who the hell do you think you are to talk to me like that?! Stop playing shrink with me, Ororo. I'm not your goddammed patient. God, you're worse than living with a telepath."

"No, you are not my patient, Scott. But you *are* my friend. I am simply trying to help you. The sooner you admit your feelings, the sooner you will help yourself."

Turning around, he began to walk away. He stopped abruptly, took a deep breath, let it out slowly. Perhaps he *was* keeping his feelings inside. *Old habits die hard, eh, Summers?* he thought with a wry grin. Maybe Ororo did have a point. "Help myself, huh? How do I do that?"

She walked closer. "You can start by speaking to me."

"What do you want me to say?"

"Tell me what you were feeling that day--when you returned from Massachusetts."

"I was upset."

Goddess, but it was like pulling teeth with the man! Even Logan was more loquacious--and less stubborn--at times. "All right. What else?"

He hesitated, cleared his throat.

"Go ahead," she coaxed.

"I was scared. There, I said it. Is that what you wanted to hear?"

She could see how difficult this was for him, but she also knew that it was what he needed to do. So she kept on pushing him. "Why were you frightened?"

"Why?" He spun around quickly, and she could see the pain on his face. "Because I came back to my home and I found a trail of blood on the bedroom floor. Because I followed it to the kitchen and saw a pool of blood on the tile floor. At that moment, I didn't know if it was Jubilee or Jean who was hurt. All I could think of was that they were attacked. That they had been hurt in our home, and I wasn't there to protect them. I ran to the mansion, down to the sub-basements. When I saw Jubilee, laying there in Rogue's arms, I felt such relief wash over me. I was so thankful that she was all right, that she had not been hurt again. It actually eased my conscience a bit. Jean and I had vowed to take her in, to watch over her. If something had happened to her because I hadn't been there to protect her. . . . I don't think I could have ever forgiven myself."

"So Jubilee was safe. No harm had come to her."

"No, she was fine. A little shaken up, but physically she was fine."

"There is more to it than this, Scott. Guilt is not all that is bothering you."

Slowly, he shook his head. "It was then that I realized the blood had been Jean's. When I asked Jubilee about what had happened, and she couldn't bring herself to tell me, I feared the worst. I was scared. More frightened than I've ever been in my entire life. That I'd lost Jean. I lost her once, Ororo. I couldn't bear to lose her again."

He fought to hold back the emotions, to keep them in check. For so long, he had kept them to himself, and they had slowly built up. Now, after being brought so close to the surface, they came crashing out, like a dam breaking. He bowed his head as the tears fell.

Before he knew what was happening, she was beside him, her arms wrapped around him as his body shook with sobs. He held onto her, like a drowning man grasping a life raft.

"I lost her once. Never again. Never again!"

"I know," she whispered, stroking the back of his head. "It is all right, Scott. Just let it out . . . let it all out."

"God," he breathed, his voice raw with emotion, "I just want to hold her. . . . To tell her it's gonna be okay. . . . That we can get through this together. . . . But she's severed our mindlink. . . . She won't talk to me. . . . .Hell, she won't even let me touch her. . . . How are we ever gonna get past this? . . . How?"

"It is going to take some time, Scott. Jean will come around eventually. There shall come a point when she is ready to face this, to deal with what happened. And when she is, you shall be there for her."

She felt him trembling in her arms. "I don't know if I can wait that long. . . ."

"You do not have to, Scott. You do not have to keep this inside of you any longer. Whenever you need to talk about what you are feeling, you need merely come to me. I shall be here for you. To talk. To listen. Whatever you need. You do not have to endure this alone."

He tried to speak, to offer her his thanks, his gratitude. But he found that he no longer had the words. Instead, he grabbed onto her more tightly, burying his face in her shoulder, as he let the emotions assail him. The pain, the anguish, the guilt, the loss . . . all came bursting to the surface. And for once, he did not fight it.

"I know," Ororo soothed, her voice like a warm caress. She held him, stroking his back, offering what comfort she could. "I know, Scott. I know it hurts. Let it go. Just let it go."


Jennifer Sorowitz V'02
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If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it. -William Arthur Ward

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