<<These are thoughts>>
Jubilee's eyes fluttered open. She was in the small Medlab, bandages on her wrists and a drip running blood into her arm. <<No! No no no no, I can't have failed, I can't・>> Her eyes filled with tears. As they slid down her cheeks she wondered what she would do now. They would never leave her unwatched again. She'd never get another chance.
A gentle hand wiped her eyes with a soft handkerchief. Blinking them clear, she saw Jono sitting beside her. His eyes above the bandages were troubled, and he reached out to cradle her hand gently in both of his.
"Why'd you stop me?" she whispered sadly. It hurt・oh, her heart hurt so much inside her, worse than before. Before, she'd had the option of ending it. Now the pain would go on forever.
The psi-wars had cost Jono his ability to speak, but he could still communicate. Gently, he squeezed her hands, then pressed them against the bandages covering the place where his heart had been. _Because I care about you._
"If you cared about me, you would have let me die!" Jubilee sobbed, pulling her hands away. She didn't want him to care, didn't want anyone to care. They'd make her trust them and then they'd go away and leave her.
He shook his head, reaching out to trace a question mark on her temple. His brown eyes were cloudy as he touched his bandages, then her wrist.
"I am too rational, and it's not the same." Jubilee argued. How could he be understanding at a time like this? She didn't want understanding, she wanted to die. She'd lost everything she cared about. The one person she'd thought she could always count on had abandoned her. Her eyes filled with fresh tears and she turned her head away, staring at the wall.
Jono smoothed her hair back from her face and stood, pulling the blankets a little closer around her. Jubilee refused to look at him as he quietly left the room. He might have saved her life, but he couldn't make her live again.
Outside, Jono leaned against the wall, his eyes filling with tears. <<How could she do this? Why? She's always been so joyful・so full of life. Why would she want to die?>> He pulled out the crumpled piece of paper he had found on her desk.
((I'm sorry, guys. I know this will hurt you, but please don't be too sad. This isn't because of you. I love you guys, all of you. Please believe that. I don't want to leave you, but I can't live anymore.))
((Wolvie doesn't need me. Maybe he never has, I don't know anymore. But I need him. I need to know that he's there. And I don't have him anymore. I just can't handle this. I hurt too much. I hate too much. I can't think about anything but the hate. I don't want to be the person who can think those things. I don't want to live with hate like that inside me.))
((Believe me, this is better. I'm still me this way. I'd rather die and be me than live with what I'm turning into.))
((I love you,))
He could always kill Wolverine, Jono thought harshly. That would definitely make him feel better. On the other hand, it probably wouldn't help Jubilee, and right now she was more important. He scrubbed his sleeve across his eyes. He should go back in to her. Even though he was fairly certain he'd removed everything potentially lethal from the smaller Medlab, he wouldn't put it past Jubilee to figure out some way he'd missed.
She was still lying with her face to the wall when he re-entered the room. He stood helplessly just inside the door, wondering what to do. There had to be a way to help. A way to make her want to live again. But he, with his half missing body and habitually gloomy outlook on life, was the very last person to be able to give her that help.
"Why're you the only one here?" She asked drearily, not looking at him. "They tell ya to watchdog me or somethin'?" _They don't care_, came the underlying whisper.
Oops. He hadn't thought of that. Carefully, hoping that she would understand, he tapped her shoulder to get her attention, then touched her wrists, then pointed to the door, then shook his head. Then, to make sure she understood, he pointed at the drip, then at himself.
"They don't know?" Her brow furrowed. "Ya got me down here and patched me up all by yerself?" He nodded. "Why?"
He pointed at the clock on the wall, then at her wrists again. "No time, huh?" He nodded, and took her hands again. She jerked them away. "Stop doing that!" Her voice rose in a despairing wail as her head thrashed on the pillows. "Stop caring about me! _Stop LYING to me_!!"
Jono reached out and carefully held her head between his hands until she quieted. Then he slowly shook his head, lifting one hand to touch the place where his lips would have been, then extending it to touch her ear. The message was clear. _I have no words with which to lie to you._
"Are-are you gonna tell everyone now?" Her voice cracked pitifully. Somehow, she couldn't bear the thought of anyone seeing her this way. Seeing how ultimately pathetic the firecracker was, who couldn't even kill herself right.
He shook his head, tucking the blankets tenderly around her. With a slightly rueful expression, he touched the bandages again and shrugged. "Oh, right. Ya can't talk to tell them. But・ when they see me, they'll know, right? How can they miss it?"
He shrugged and pointed to the closed door. The smaller Medlab was almost never used, being intended for long-term or infectious illnesses, and the door was usually kept locked. No-one would think to open it for weeks, unless Paige went on another of her cleaning fits.
"Yeah・ but they'll notice I'm missing, won't they?" The question came out unintentionally plaintive.
He wavered a hand, and pointed at a small table beside the bed, on which a small tray rested. There was a large glass of milk and a bowl of soup on it. He picked it up, and pantomimed knocking on a door, then sat back down on the bed, absently taking hold of her hand again. This time, she didn't pull away. "Yer gonna make them think that I'm still in my room?"
He nodded, and closed his eyes and curled his hands upwards on his knees. "That I'm meditatin'? Who's gonna believe that?" He patted her hand, and gave her a look of such wounded innocence that she almost laughed. "Okay, I guess they're not gonna argue with ya." The brief moment of levity passed, and the heavy blanket of despair covered her mind again. "Then what? I can't stay here forever."
He shrugged, and pointed at her. "What?"
Jono frowned, and stood up. First, he smoothed his hand over his head, lowered his eyebrows, and folded his hands in front of him. "The Prof?" Jubilee asked uncertainly. He nodded, pointed at her, then gestured commandingly at the door. Then he straightened up and struck a pose so familiar that for the second time in as many minutes Jubilee came close to laughing. "Frosty!" His eyes crinkled at the corners, and he pointed at her again, then wagged the finger crossly. She giggled. Then he drew himself up to his full height, stroked an imaginary goatee, and then leaned menacingly over her, pointing at the small computer at the other side of the room. "Bastion," She whispered, shrinking back. He immediately sat down on the bed again and took her hands in his, gazing at her apologetically. Then he released one hand, holding up three fingers, then pointing at her, then shaking his head. Touching her cheek gently, he pressed one hand to his bandages, made as if to point at her, and then instead held out his hand, palm up. He gazed at her inquiringly.
Jubilee felt tears well up in her eyes yet again. "Y-yer not gonna tell me what to do?" He shook his head, and poked her sternum gently. "I gotta decide?" Nod. "Jono・ why're ya doin' all this? I mean, we ain't exactly close or nuthin'."
Jono looked at the floor for a moment, then back up at her. Letting go of her hand, he touched the bandages again, then rolled up one sleeve. Peering closely at his wrist, Jubilee could make out the faint scars. "You tried too?" He nodded sadly, touching the ruins of his chest. "Oh・"
He brushed her hair away from her face and crinkled his eyes again, spreading his hands as if to say 'Don't worry'. The gesture was so relaxed and unlike the usual Jono that it caught at Jubilee's heart. Her lip trembled. "Jono?" she whispered softly. "I wanna go home. Back to So Cal."
He nodded, and stood up, pointing at the soup and milk. "Yeah, yeah, I'll eat. When can we leave?" He looked thoughtful, then traced a half circle over his head. "Tomorrow?" He nodded and crinkled again, and pressed his fingertips to the bandages over his face, then brushed them against her forehead. "G'night, Jono."
Slipping silently out of the room, Jono eased the door closed behind him, and frowned thoughtfully. Road trip, huh? He could handle a road trip. But they were going to need some stuff - money sprang to mind. And a car. He looked down at his watch, rubbing one hand over tired eyes. Four in the morning, the day after Jubilee's attempt to top herself. Hmm.
Getting up nice and early for once would probably do Emma a world of good.
* * *
The rising sun painted the cloudless sky with a master's hand, sweeping clear, delicate streaks of primrose and pale pink across the horizon. Grass and trees sparkled with tiny diamonds of dew, the colours lush and dark in the soft light. Through the trees a faint, cool breeze wafted, stirring the leaves and gently ruffling the grass. It was a beautiful, perfect morning・but Emma Frost, staring out of her office window, was blind to its loveliness.
<<I failed her・>> Tears pooled in the crystal blue eyes. <<I failed her so badly・after I swore that I would never fail a student again. How could I not have seen it? How could I have missed her suffering so completely?>> She bitterly cursed the loss of her powers, and then herself for becoming so dependent on them. <<Powers or not, I should have known, I should have seen, I shouldn't need powers to know when my students need me!>>
With a silent sigh, she locked the rending pain away with her other failures, blinking the tears away. When she turned back to the young Englishman sitting in a large chair, her face was as cool and calm as ever, only a faint tremble in her hands giving away the pain and anger she had hidden. Glancing down, she folded the note he had given her carefully, and laid it on her desk. Then she looked him squarely in the eye. "Do you seriously expect me to allow an apparently suicidal student to leave the grounds unaccompanied except by another student who is scarcely more emotionally stable than the first?"
Unperturbed by her customary harshness, Jono nodded calmly. He leaned back, without breaking eye-contact, and folded his arms.
"I understand how devastated she is-" Jono raised a quizzical eyebrow. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. I know exactly how she feels right now, and I can help her."
Jono shook his head. Standing up, he pointed at her, and shook his head again. Then at himself. Shake. A picture of the X-Men which hung on the wall. Shake. A photograph of Gen-X on the desk. Shake. Then he leaned over and gently tapped Jubilee's face as it smiled out of the picture. Nod.
Emma opened her mouth to argue, then sighed. "You're right. She has to help herself through this. But I still don't think I want to let her go traipsing around the coutryside in her state of mind."
Jono pointed at the floor, then at Jubilee-in-the-picture. Shake. At Emma. Nod. Turning, he pointed out of the window, and then back at the picture again. Nod. Emma frowned. "I want her to stay here, and she wants to leave?"
He nodded, then held up his hands and shook his head. Yes, but not what I was trying to say. Walking over to her, he held up a finger for attention. Pointing at the floor, he reached out an arm and leaned heavily on her. She staggered, surprised. Pointing out the window again, he straightened up and stood alone.
"But・" Emma's shoulders slumped. "You're right. Again. God, I hate losing arguments with the mute guy." She folded her arms and glared at him, almost pouting. "If you're so determined to go no matter what I say, why are you telling me at all?"
Jono's eyes crinkled, and he held out a hand, rubbing the fingers together. Emma chuckled wryly. "Of course. Money. And plane tickets, I presume?" He shook his head, and gripped an imaginary steering wheel. "You want to drive to California?! Do you have any idea how far away that is?"
He waved a hand airily. She sighed. "You're mad. Completely mad. That explains everything." She threw her hands dramatically into the air. "Fine. I'll get you a car, money・ anything else?" He made the steering motion again. "An American driver's license, right. Camping equipment?" He nodded, and patted her shoulder・then frowned thoughtfully. Gazing at her questioningly, he traced a question mark in the air between them.
"You want to know why I'm giving in so easily?" He nodded. "That's for me to know and you to wonder about. Now go get some sleep." She smiled smugly. "I'll handle everything."
Jono nodded and left the room, looking a little dubious. Emma firmly choked down the lingering grief and self-recrimination, and picked up the phone. "Amina? Yes, I know what time it is, and I'm paying you not to care. Get a pen and write this down."