Maturity in B Minor: Part 14-15

By Dyce

Disclaimer: (Seen in previous parts) (teeny tiny language warning, a couple o' bad words) Note: Yes, I know, I said I was never going to finish it. Ashlan made me. Blame her. And, although I couldn't use the parts we worked on together, thanks to Harlequin too. It was fun. And for those who haven't read the earlier chapters lately, it's all archived at Just hit the 'Dyce' link at the top of the page, then scroll down a bit.

Jewel rested her head on Jono's shoulder, yawning a little. It had been a long, confusing day, and the flight to London wasn't really long enough for her to get a good nap in. Better to stay awake, and pass out at a hotel somewhere when they arrived. "How're you doin'?"

~Okay. You?~ The signs looked funny from this angle, but readable. He clasped one of her hands gently in his, stroking her palm with his thumb.

"I'm okay." Jewel thought about it, sniffing the comforting Jono-smell of secondhand smoke, old leather, and aging parchment. "I mean, I'm mad at them, I guess, for still acting like I'm 'the kid', and trying to come and get me. But I feel kinda bad for going off at Wolverine like that. I'm not really that mad at him anymore, but when he just showed up like that, I had all this stuff that I'd been... you know... saving up to throw at him, and I threw."

Jono nodded, resting his cheek gently against her hair. That made sense. If you spent long enough being furiously angry at someone who'd hurt you, things stockpiled. Then, even if you weren't angry anymore when you saw them, all those things just spilled out anyway.

Jewel nodded too, knowing what he was thinking. She often did, now, even if he didn't bother to sign. "And Storm... Storm really didn't look good. Her face looked a bit... I dunno... masky? I mean, she's always had that totally serene expression and all, but it looks a bit stiffer now. And she was talking a bit slower. Nothing you'd notice if you'd actually been TALKING to her in the last six months, but... it was weird. Kinda shook me."

Jono nodded again, squeezing her hand a bit. She was a lot more grown up now than she had been, less innocent, less trusting... but gentler, now, more sensitive to the feelings of others. It was starting to occur to her that people didn't necessarily mean some of the things they did or said, and that sometimes mistakes could be made unintentionally. Six months ago, she never would have noticed that anything was wrong with Storm, or that she'd vented at Wolverine without really meaning it. He hugged her gently, stroking her hair, then let go so he could sign again. ~I'm sorry.~

She looked up at him in surprise. "For what?"

~Y'know. All that... stuff, in Paris.~ He blushed a bit. ~You were right, it was bad for me. And for you, too.~

She nodded and, to her credit, didn't laugh at him. "You noticed that, huh?"

~Yes. And I am sorry. I just... I don't know...~

"Wanted to feel attractive?" she asked softly. "Wanted to know that even if you couldn't hold a relationship, at least you weren't a total slime monster from the planet Ick?"

~...Yeah, pretty much. How'd you know?~ Jono touched the electric blue streak in her hair, that had disappeared and reappeared at least twice now, but suited her so well that it was always reinstated.

"Why do you think I took up modelling? For the good hours and friendly people?" She snorted, resting her chin on his shoulder. "I've gone through the 'I want to die' stage. That was followed by the 'Nothing matters' stage. Bobby's accident shocked me outta that, just like me trying to top myself shocked you outta yours, and we both went into the '*I* matter, and I want some damn attention' stage, although you detoured briefly through 'I'll just put mine on hold until Jubilee's talking again'."

Jono chuckled silently, ruffling her sleek hair. ~Sounds pretty accurate. Any idea what comes next?~

"Yup." She sighed, resting her head on his shoulder again. "The 'Finally actually thinking about the problem and trying to deal with it' stage. As heralded by the fact that you want to go back to London for the first time since I've known you."

~Oh. Yeah.~ He looked down at her and sighed. ~Thanks for comin' with.~

"Well, you know how it is..." She smiled and clasped his hand gently, snuggling affectionately against him. "I wasn't busy."

* * *

"I hate airports."

Jono nodded, hefting his suitcase in one hand, and one of Jubilee's in the other. He had one, and a bag slung over his shoulder. She had three, and a bag slung over HER shoulder. Going by the piles of luggage scattered around them, though, three small suitcases and a largish purse was positively minimalist luggage for a woman travelling from Paris. Obviously he couldn't talk while he was carrying the bags, but he gave her a sympathetic look.

"Yeah, you too, I know." She patted his cheek gently before picking up her other suitcase, and looking around. "Right. We've jumped through the requisite hoops. We're young, we're sexy, and we're loose in London. What'll we do?"

Jono shrugged, and looked around. He spotted the very necessary hotel guide thingie, with all the little phones, and jerked his head towards it.

"Hotel room. Good idea." Jewel led the way, an exotic figure among the sleepy, late night crowds, in a deep green knee length dress and short jacket ensemble that Jono privately called her 'Audrey Hepburn' outfit. It looked good on her, and he had to scowl ferociously at several of his countrymen.

She dumped the bags and looked at the listing with a sort of weary impatience. "Which one?"

Jono leaned over her shoulder, searching the listing. It had to be here somewhere... ah. He pointed, giving her a hopeful look.

Jewel looked, and grinned. "The Montague Hotel, huh? Looks pretty swanky."

Jono nodded, eyes crinkling. ~Always wanted to stay there. Of course I always figured I'd be a famous rock star then and all, but still. I always wanted to stay there.~

She smiled at him. "Then we'll stay there. Where's the number?"

The Montague WAS swanky, extremely so, and the two couldn't resist the temptation to take neighbouring Luxury King rooms, since there were no suites available. Late though it was by now, their luggage was hurried up to their rooms with the deference required by shiny gold credit cards and pretty Parisian outfits, and in no time at all they were settled in.

"This is NICE," Jewel said happily, sitting crosslegged on Jono's bed and eating his complimentary jellybeans. She'd changed out of the Hepburn outfit into a pair of loose blue silk pyjamas patterned with little golden ferns. "I can see why you wanted to stay here."

Jono nodded, sitting on the edge of the bed and playing with the TV remote. The room had cable. BRITISH cable. There had to be an episode of The Bill on here somewhere.

Jewel poked him with her foot. "Jono?"

He looked up, still channelsurfing determinedly, and raised an inquiring eyebrow.

"I think I should change my name back. Now that I'm out of my desperately-seeking-attention stage, I mean." She went a bit pink. "It seems a bit... uhm... juvenile, now."

He gave her an amused look, and patted her foot gently. She had pretty feet. ~No, really?~

"Oh, you shut up." She grinned at him, lips stained from the jellybeans. "I know I was being juvenile, there's no need to rub it in. Jubilee again, okay? And no wisecracks."

~Right. You Jubilee, me Faithful Friend and Delicious Hunk of Jono-ness,~ Jono signed, eyes crinkling. Jubilee whacked him with a pillow, and he ducked. ~Hey! Okay, okay, you Jubilee, me Modest Jono.~

"Oh, fine." She grinned at him. "So, Modest Jono... what're we gonna do, now that we're here?"

He looked back at the TV, wondering himself what he wanted. He'd come back to London more or less on the spur of the moment, without really thinking about what he was going to do once he got there.

Look up the old band? No. That was so far in his past that he could hardly even remember their faces anymore.

See Gayle? Maybe. Later, when he'd sorted out some other stuff. She wasn't a high priority anymore, but history was still history. He should at least stop by.

See his family. He sighed, fiddling unhappily with the remote. That was the thing, that was. Family. He hadn't seen them in nearly two years now, hadn't heard from them, hadn't written... The 'Finally actually thinking about the problem and trying to deal with it' stage, Jubilee had called what was happening now. It sounded like a good idea.

He looked up, realizing he'd been sitting still and silent for long enough that Jewel... no, Jubilee again now, and he really preferred the old name... had abandoned her jellybeans and come to sit behind him, looping her arms around his waist and resting her chin on his shoulder. "You okay?" she asked softly.

He shrugged. ~Yes and no,~ he signed, lifting his hands so she could see. ~I... need to see my family. Tomorrow, probably. Got some things to sort out.~

Jubilee nodded, giving him one more little squeeze. "Want me to come with you?"

Jono thought about it, and decided that he didn't have any pride when it came to Jubilee. ~Yeah. Please.~

She kissed his cheek gently, and gave him one more squeeze before sliding off the bed. "We should get some sleep, then," she said gently. "See you in the morning?"

He nodded, eye-crinkling at her, and she smiled at him before slipping away.

* * *

He woke up far too early the next morning, and when Jubilee slipped into his room a couple of hours later he was sprawled on the bed, watching cartoons.

"Good morning," she said cheerfully, already dressed in another one of her dramatically stylish outfits, this time in shades of blue and purple. Modelling had, at least, finally trained her to get up at a decent hour.

Jono waved at her, and she smiled at him, sitting on the edge of the bed. "How're you doin'?"

Jono pulled a pillow over his head.

Jubilee laughed at him, taking the pillow away and kissing his forehead gently. "Silly," she said fondly. "Go have a shower, and I'll call for some breakfast."

Jono shook his head, and hid under the other pillow.

"Jono, unless you wanna go see your parents for the first time in years in those cute pyjamas I got you with the pictures of Piglet all over them, you're gonna need to go shower and change." She was rewarded with a blush, and a speedily retreating set of Piglet pyjamas. "That's better."

By the time Jono got back, dressed in the closest thing to respectable clothing that he had - black pants and a silk shirt of so dark a plum that it was nearly black - and towelling his hair off, Jubilee had gotten her hands on a plate of bacon and eggs, and a pot of coffee. "They kept trying to give me tea," she complained. "I think it's 'cause I still have a French accent."

Jono nodded. She did have a slight French accent, still, which, as pretty as it sounded, probably wouldn't endear her to a British hotel staff. ~It'll wear off,~ he signed, crinkling his eyes fondly at her and reaching into her mind just enough to get a taste of the bacon. Mmm... grease....

Jubilee laughed at the look on his face. "I am NOT eatin' black pudding for you, I'm telling you that now," she said firmly. "And no beer, either. It tastes terrible."

~Spoilsport.~ He sat down opposite her at the small table, running his fingers absently through his hair. ~Maybe today isn't a good day for it...~

"Better today than tomorrow," Jubilee said firmly. "And use a comb, you look like a sheepdog."

~That's what me dad always said,~ Jono signed grumpily. ~I like it this way.~

Jubilee tactfully left the subject of his hair alone. "What're they like?" she asked curiously. "Your family, I mean."

~Depends on your point of view.~ Jono poked at the tablecloth, knowing he was being surly but not quite able to stop.

A slim, perfectly manicured hand curled around his and gave it a little squeeze. "You guys don't get along, huh?" she said sympathetically, and the genuineness of the sympathy was in no way lessened by the fact that she was chewing a mouthful of bacon.

~Never have,~ he signed unhappily. ~It's not that they're bad people, it's just... you'll see.~

* * *

It was a very ordinary looking house. Brick, a little to the big side of medium, with rather drab curtains in the windows and a bike propped against the side of the house, inside the fence. Not a bad neighbourhood, not a particularly good one.

Jono looked up at it, an odd look in his eyes. He didn't seem particularly unhappy about being here, just resigned, and he touched her hand gently before ringing the bell. ~Thanks for coming.~

She smiled, patting his hand gently. "Anytime."

Then the door opened.

The woman who stood there was as ordinary as the house... a little drab, a little faded, with a few frown lines and a few smile lines and hair that was just a little bit untidy. She looked at them blankly for a moment, then she looked at Jono again and smiled uncertainly. "Jonny! I... we didn't expect you."

Jono gave Jubilee a helpless look. ~Tell her I'm sorry I didn't call, but... well... I was in the area.~

Jubilee nodded, smiling her cutest smile at the rather startled woman. "Jono says that he's sorry he didn't call, but we got into London last night, and since we have a little time to spare, he thought he'd stop by."

The woman blinked again, obviously startled by the sign-language, but she nodded and stepped back. "Come in," she invited politely. "Uh..."

"I'm Jubilation Lee," Jubilee said belatedly, holding out her hand. "Jono and I were at Xavier's together."

"Joanne Starsmore," Jono's mother nodded, giving Jubilee an uncertain little smile and leading the way to a small, bland sitting room. "Please, make yourselves comfortable. Uhm... could I get you some tea? Coffee?"

"Tea is fine," Jubilee said politely. Jono blinked at her. Jubilee HATED tea - but it looked like she was finally learning a little diplomacy.

His mother nodded, and slipped away, leaving Jono and Jubilee to shed their bulky coats - it was definitely winter now, and threatening snow - and try to look comfortable. She was gone for quite some time, and when she returned, she wasn't alone.

"This is my husband, Evan," she said, indicating a tall, thin man who looked startlingly like Jono himself, but with short, light brown hair instead of wild dark brown curls. The same beaky nose, though, and deep brown eyes. He was wearing a cardigan. "Evan, this is... Jubilation Lee, wasn't it?"

"Pleased to meet you," Jubilee said politely, shaking hands again. Jono signed quickly, and she essayed another cute smile. "Jono says to say hello. He... uhm... doesn't really talk anymore. I came along to translate."

Evan nodded, giving her a rather wary smile. Jono didn't blame him. Jubilee looked, in the small, drab room that hadn't changed at all in two years, like an exotic blue and purple butterfly that had landed on a patch of dead grass by mistake. "Pleased to meet you," he said in a pleasant tenor voice. "This is Andrew-" another tall, lanky one, a bit younger than Jono, with straight dark hair "-And this is Margot." A bit shorter, just as lanky and younger again, with Jono's curly hair and her mother's pale blue eyes.

Jubilee nodded, smiled politely, and all eyes swivelled to Jono. There was an awkward pause. "Hi, Jonny," Margot said a bit shyly. Andrew nodded, giving his brother a tentative smile.

Jono returned the nod, if not the smile. ~Hey, guys. How's it been going?~ Jubilee translated, word for word, and the smiles firmed up a bit.

"Good. I'm first flute in band now." That was Margot, who seemed to be the least uncomfortable with Jono's presence. "And Andrew's playing football for the school, still." Andrew nodded again, looking proud of himself. "But Sophie's not here. She got married... to Phil, remember him?"

Jono nodded. ~Sounds like it's all been going pretty well,~ he signed, trying to look cheerful. ~Been to Paris, myself, after I left that school I went to...~ And he had left. He wasn't quite sure when it had gone from 'extended trip' to 'leaving', but it had.

"Paris? Really?" Joanne smiled a bit. "Did you have fun?"

Not really. ~Yeah, was great. How've you two been?~

They stayed for another forty-seven minutes by the clock on the mantlepiece. Jubilee sipped tea and translated the increasingly awkward conversation, and tried not to let it show in her voice that what she really wanted was to sit down and cry. It was just... painful, watching Jono with his family.

What almost made it worse was that they did, obviously, care about him. His mother kept touching his arm timidly, and his father had a gentle, puzzled look in his eyes when he looked at his son. And Jono cared about them, too, she could tell... but it was obvious, painfully so, that Jono was very much the cuckoo in the nest. He didn't understand them, and they didn't understand him. There'd probably been hideous fights while he was still at home, and now... they just sat there, not knowing what to say.

They made excuses as soon as they could, and in moments they were outside again, he muffled in a long black coat, she in peacock blue. Jono stayed silent until they'd rounded a corner and then he stopped, staring at a scrawny, leafless tree. ~Well, that was bloody awful.~

"Pretty much, yeah." Jubilee tucked her hands in her pockets and gave him a sympathetic look. "They're nice, though."

~Yeah. Always were, even when I was being a real little shit.~ Jono blinked a bit. ~Damn it....~

Then Jubilee did hug him, wrapping her arms around his waist and letting him tuck her under his chin, holding her tightly. "We're family," she whispered against the soft cashmere of his coat. "You and me. All the family we need, right here."

Jono nodded, hugging her a bit tighter. She was so tiny, he always forgot how small she was until he hugged her and realized that his arms were long enough to go around her twice, and that the top of her head only just reached his chin.

She hugged for a minute more, and then disentangled herself gently, giving him a warm smile. "Come on," she said comfortingly, taking his hand. "We can go get some hot chocolate and one of those horrible meat pies you like so much."

Jono wasn't sure if he wanted to laugh or cry at the comforting, matter-of-fact tone. He'd just lost his last ties to his old family, realized he had a new one, had his whole world-view reoriented, and she was going to give him a *pie*?

~With peas?~

"Not on your bloody life, Starsmore."

(part 15)

They were sitting in what Jono called a 'caff', and he was watching Jubilee eat what he called a pie-and-chips, and what she called the weirdest thing she'd ever called a meal, and that included Madripoor food. It was tasty, though, if greasy, and he'd showed her how to cut off one edge of the pie and dip the chips/fries into the meaty stuff.

Jono was being almost as entertained as she was. There was just something about watching the all-new, perfectly groomed Jubilee tucking into a good greasy plateful, getting tomato sauce on her nose and licking her fingers the exact way she always had, even when they were still at Xavier's. It was incredibly cute. Crinkling at her, he reached over and gently wiped the sauce off her nose with a napkin. ~Like it, then?~

"No," Jubilee said with her mouth full. "It's awful. Horrible. My arteries are clanging like church bells. Is there more ketchup?"

~Tomato sauce. And yeah, here.~ He passed her the bottle. She was sharing the taste with him, of course, and... he wasn't quite sure how... she seemed to be automatically aligning how SHE liked her pie and chips to how he'd always liked it - swimming with tomato sauce and as much of it stuffed into his mouth at one go as was humanly possible.

"So what are we going to do now?" Jubilee asked in the brief interval between mouthfuls. She took a sip of cocoa, and made a face. Too much hot water, not enough milk.

~Dunno. Wanna play tourist for a while? Could show you some of the sights.~ Jono was a little surprised to realize that he actively wanted to stay in London. Now that the thing with his family was over, he was realizing how much he'd missed his belovedly mucky old city.

Jubilee tried to say something through a mouthful of pie, and nearly choked. ~Sounds good to me,~ she agreed in sign-language. ~Like what?~

Jono looked at her, and grinned. ~Given yer passion for things that sparkle, I thought we might start with the crown jewels.~

"Oooh!" Jubilee bounced a bit. "Can we? I mean, are people allowed?"

~Oh, yeah, everyone does.~ Jono reached over again to get a bit of pie-filling off her chin. ~God, you're a messy eater.~

"I'm not. It's just messy food." Jubilee grinned at him. "And I'm only eating it for you."

~Oh, sure, blame ME because you can't keep it off your face.~

"It's your fault! You keep making me talk!"

Jono laughed silently at her, reaching over to ruffle her hair gently. ~Eat yer lunch,~ he said fondly. ~Then we can go sightseeing.~

* * *

The information dynamic at the Mansion went something like this-

Rogue told Bobby that Jubilee thought Storm seemed a bit off colour.

Bobby mentioned to Jean, during yet another bout of physiotherapy for his leg, that Storm was looking funny lately.

Jean told Scott that Storm didn't look well.

Scott nodded, noted the information, and scheduled a physical for Storm next week.

Storm complained that she was fine.

Scott told her to go anyway.

Afterwards, Hank found Cecilia sitting quietly in the lab, staring into space. "Cecilia?" he asked gently, touching her shoulder. "Is something wrong?"

Cecilia blinked, and looked up at him. Her eyes were a little red, and she looked very tired. "Wha? Oh... Storm had her physical today."

Hank nodded, sitting down beside her and patting her hand. "And something is indeed amiss?" He hoped it wasn't something too serious. Storm seemed so tense lately.

Cecilia gave him an irritated look. Honestly, he should know better! "Listen, MR McCoy, Doctor/patient privilege-"

"As Storm's usual physician, I believe doctor/patient privilege does not preclude telling me." Hank said firmly. "I have been seeing to her medical needs, on and off, for nearly ten years, and if she is to be treated, I need to know. I am her *doctor*, Cecilia."

Cecilia nodded slowly, biting her lip. He WAS Storm's usual doctor, even if he wasn't actually accredited in medicine, and they were going to have to work together here. "Hank... I haven't even told her yet. I don't know HOW to tell her. This... she's going to have to leave the X-Men. Permanently."

Hank blinked. "As bad as that?" he asked mildly.

"Worse." Cecilia rubbed her forehead tiredly. "If I tell you, will you.. um... come with me to tell her? Because if I do it on my own, she's not going to listen when I tell her to quit. She knows how I feel about this spandex stuff."

Hank nodded, reaching around to rub her neck gently. She looked like she needed it. "Of course I will," he said gently. "Whenever you wish."

* * *

"A bar?" Jubilee said dubiously.

~Not a bar, a...~ There wasn't a sign for pub, so he spelled it out. ~I used to come here all the time.~

Jubilee gave him a dubious look. "Jono, you're only nineteen NOW. How could you possibly... wait, never mind. This is one of those places where they don't ask, right?"

Jono nodded happily. ~As long as you can see over the bar, you can get a drink.~

Jubilee rolled her eyes and sighed. "Oh, okay, if we have to. But if I ruin this dress, I'm gonna murder you. It's one of my favourites."

~Just don't sit on the stools, you'll be fine.~ Jono took her hand, and hauled her into the dark, rather smelly building. He couldn't really breath anymore, but air did waft over his sinuses when he flexed his nostrils, and he caught the lovely old stink of the place, all beer and cheap cigarettes and sweat and angst. Far more than the house, this was home. He'd missed it.

Jubilee looked almost as out of place here as she had in the drab little living room, all rich colour and silky black-and-porcelain, and yet somehow she fitted better. She was just one more jarring note in a room full of ill-fitting people, a slightly purer note in an off-key harmony.

She was beautiful, he noted with some surprise. That had never really registered before.

She was looking around, smiling a wry little smile, absently tucking a strand of hair behind one ear. "You know, I thought that I'd never see the inside of another one of these dives again. I just hang out with the wrong kind of men."

~Bad taste, that's what it is.~ Jono crinkled at her, steering her towards the bar. ~Come on, get us a drink.~

"But I don't *want* a drink," she protested. "I don't like drinking."

~Shush. They won't let us sit down if you don't get a drink.~ Jono eyed her thoughtfully. ~Ask for a black russian, you'll like that. And get me a beer.~

Jubilee looked a bit mutinous, but she did what she was told. The stunning clothes and perfect makeup apparently blinded the barman to the extent that not only did he make no protest at selling a not-quite-sixteen-year-old two drinks, but he even gave her a clean glass.

They sat down in a small booth, and Jono touched the scarred table. Half obscured under the initials and the random scratches was an angular, rather out of proportion guitar. ~See that? That was me, 'bout... four years ago.~

Jubilee looked at it, and nodded slowly. "Meant a lot to you, didn't it?" She didn't have to say what.

He nodded, touching the little scratched guitar. ~It did. Since I was a tyke, music was the one thing I was really good at. Can play piano, too, as well as guitar, and I'm not too bad on the drums.~

She smiled at him, a bit wistful. "I wish I coulda heard you then. Music is always best when someone who really loves it is playing."

Jono nodded. He'd always thought so too. ~Was the only thing I never screwed up,~ he said softly.

"But you left your guitar behind." She had never commented; when they'd left the school she'd been too immersed in her own self-pity to notice what Jono had or hadn't brought, and it wasn't until Paris that she realized that Jono was playing with his musician friends using a guitar she'd never seen before. A cheap, anonymous thing, when Emma would gladly have funded the best. He'd left that one behind, too.

He nodded slowly. ~Hadn't been playing for quite a while before we left. Just... lost it, somewhere.~

"Depression'll do that," Jubilee said quietly. "I can't remember the last time I did a gymnastics routine, either, and that used to be the thing that I was always good at. Used to do it every day, pulling the craziest stuff... jumped off a third floor balcony, once, and used one of those postmodern mobile things to get down to the ground."

Jono's eyes crinkled a little. ~Crazy kid.~

"Yeah, well..." She shrugged, and smiled a little. "Maybe I'll join a gym, if we're gonna be here for a while."

Jono brightened a bit. ~Could we?~ he asked, almost shyly. ~Really missed the old place.~

Jubilee chuckled softly, touching his hand affectionately. "Jono, I've been dragging you around the globe for the last... nearly eleven months now, counting the time we were driving around the States. We'll go wherever you wanna."

~Good.~ He crinkled at her again, eyes twinkling mischieviously. ~Then I want us to go and get another drink, 'cause you're nice when you're tipsy.~

* * *

"Storm? May we speak to you?"

Storm looked up, to see Hank and Cecilia hovering in the doorway of her attic. "Of course. Please, do come in." The words came a little more slowly than she meant them to, more regal than friendly, but that happened sometimes.

They came in, and sat down, and looked awkwardly at each other. "It's... uhm... about your physical," Cecilia said slowly. "You might have noticed that I did some unusual tests, while you were there."

Storm blinked, surprised. "I was not familiar with all the procedures," she agreed, "but I assumed that the difference was due to the fact that you are a traditional medical doctor, and Henry is not. Was something amiss?"

Hank gave her an unhappy look, patting Cecilia's hand gently as he leaned forward, taking the verbal initiative. "Storm, have you noticed certain... changes in your behaviour of late? I have noticed that you are moving a little more slowly... and perhaps becoming aggravated more easily than usual..."

Storm nodded, waving the notion aside. "I have been very tired lately," she explained. "I believe the last year, with all its disasters, is catching up with me."

"No, Ororo." He used her given name this time, shaking his head sadly. "That isn't it. There's... really no easy way to say this, but I must. Ororo, you have Parkinson's Disease."

She stared at him blankly. "I have... what?"

"Parkinson's Disease," Cecilia said quietly. "The symptoms are somewhat similar to Alzheimers. Loss of certain motor functions, muscular stiffness, changes in speech patterns, and so on. Because you naturally have very deliberate patterns of speech and movement, it took us a while to notice your symptoms."

Storm blinked. This was impossible. She was merely tired and a little cranky, she was not *ill*... "I understood that such illnesses generally struck at the elderly," she said cautiously. Some mistake, obviously. She was not *old*.

"Usually, yes. But Parkinson's Disease does sometimes strike those in their prime, occasionally even children." Hank reached out to touch her hand gently. "Ororo, I realize that this comes as a great shock, but we would not have told you this were we not absolutely certain of your condition."

Ororo nodded. "Of course, Henry, I did not mean to imply otherwise." Her hands were shaking, she noticed dimly, and she doubted this... disease... had anything to do with it. "What is the recommended treatment?"

They looked at each other again, and Cecilia sighed softly. "There isn't one," she said quietly. "There are certain drugs that will alleviate your symptoms for a while... you have a diet rich in vitamin E and antioxidents, which is helping you too... but Parkinson's Disease can't be cured. If the drugs work without too many side effects, the worst of the symptoms will be held off for a while, maybe for years. But your motor functions and so forth will still be impaired for the rest of your life."

Ororo swallowed, blinking rapidly as she tried to assimilate this. "And so forth? What, besides my motor functions, is being affected?"

Hank gave her a sympathetic look, that would have seemed patronizing from anyone else. "Parkinson's Disease is caused by a dysfunction in your brain, Ororo," he said very gently. "In a small percentage of Parkinson's cases, there are side effects of that disfunction. Depression, increased difficulty coping with stress and... possibly dementia, later on. You... are in this small percentage, Ororo, I'm sorry."

Ororo stared at her hands, watching them tremble. All she could think was that this explained her sudden, violent antipathy to Pete. Her obsession with returning Jubilee to her 'rightful place'. "And this... will continue all my life," she said quietly.

"If the drugs work, if you stay active and avoid stress or exertion... well, people live with worse," Cecilia said encouragingly. "Xavier, for example. You'll still be mobile, more or less, and the emotional problems can be mostly chemically controlled."

"And if I choose not to be drugged?" Ororo asked, raising one eyebrow. At least, she thought she did. She wasn't sure anymore how much of her expression was still under her control.

"Then you will become increasingly physically disabled," Hank said gently, but firmly. "Your brain, too, will deteriorate into advanced dementia and eventually, if you are not treated, you may well die."

"I see." Ororo nodded, sliding slowly to her feet. "I... would like some time alone to consider this." She gave them a wan smile. "I will, of course, no longer be a functioning member of the X-Men."

"No." Hank took her hand for a moment, fingers gentle against hers. "But you can still have a relatively normal life."

She nodded, and stood there until they went away. Then she slowly, methodically watered every single plant in the attic, while she tried to come to terms with her body's betrayal.

* * *

The apartment was best described as 'cute'. Small, a bit cramped, but that had never bothered either of them. After living in each other's pockets in the Jeep for months, then sharing a tiny parisian apartment, proximity had ceased being annoying and started to feel rather cosy. Neither of them had any qualms about, say, wandering around in their underwear loudly bemoaning the fact that they couldn't find their pants. It was a relaxing way to live. Unless you'd lost your pants, of course.

~Where are my pants!?~ Jono demanded with increasing desperation. ~I bloody had them only a minute ago!~

Jubilee enjoyed a quiet giggle. He looked very funny, wandering around in one of his Sexy Goth black silk shirts, and his 'lucky' boxer shorts, which were brilliant red with neon green four leaf clovers all over them. "Which pants?"

~The leather ones with the belt,~ Jono signed grumpily, standing in the middle of the small sitting room and revolving like a top. ~Had them in my hand a minute ago and then I put them down somewhere...~

"I swear, if your legs weren't attached you'd put them down somewhere and wander off." Jubilee shook her head, trying to look for Jono's pants and put on her shoes at the same time. "What were you doing when you put them down?"

~I was going to fix my- oh, wait, I remember where I put them.~ Jono disappeared into the tiny bathroom and, after a minute, hopped out again, already pushing one leg into the rather nice leather pants.

"You hung them on the shower rail again, didn't you?" Jubilee laughed at him a bit, and grabbed her bag. "Right. How do I look?"

Jono paused, standing on one leg, and looked her up and down. Soft jeans... oversized sweater... short hair soft and unstyled around her face... no makeup... ~Deconstructed.~

She snorted. "I'm hardly gonna wear two pounds of makeup and a miniskirt to the gym," she pointed out.

~I like it. You look nice this way.~ He'd almost forgotten how she looked without the makeup and the style and the rich, subdued colours. It suited her.

She smiled at him, and kissed his cheek briefly on her way to the door. "We still meeting later?"

~Yeah... six, right?~

"Right. Bye!" She slipped out, and Jono returned to the difficult task of not falling over while he struggled into his pants.

They met at six, Jono still dressed in his Making Musical Contacts outfit, Jubilee changed into an outsized, fluffysoft sweater in ice blue, blue pants that did nice things for her legs, and boots. Her hair was still ruffled, though, and she hadn't done much in the way of makeup. "Hi!" She hugged him hello. She hadn't done THAT in a while. "How'd it go?"

~Not bad. Looked up a few of the old crowd, impressed them with my nice gear and my nice new guitar.~ He looped an arm around her shoulders, and towed her into yet another disreputable pub. He loved them, they felt like home, and Jubilee put up with them for the same reason he put up with her forays into snobby restraunts where you spent the whole evening talking to the waiter's nostrils.

Jubilee gave him a resigned smile. "What do you want? A beer?" He nodded, and she headed over to the bar. It took her a little longer to wangle a drink this time, without the perfect makeup to make her look older and more experienced than her years, but Jubilee was persuasive and she was only ordering a Coke for herself. Soon they were happily ensconced in a booth, and Jubilee was making faces at him. "I don't know what you see in that stuff."

~Memories.~ Jono liked having a beer in front of him. Even if he couldn't drink it. It was just like the old days, when he'd only had enough money for one beer and had to nurse it along, a sip at a time to make it last.

"Oh. Well, can't argue with that." Jubilee sipped her Coke. "You know what I found when we moved in and unpacked everything?" She smiled a bit wistfully. "My yellow coat. I didn't even know I still had that."

~Neither did I.~ He touched her hand lightly. That coat had a lot of significance, and he wasn't sure if she was ready to face that yet.

"It doesn't fit anymore." Jubilee chuckled ruefully. "That's probably very profound, you know? Having rejected everything that the coat symbolized, I've grown out of it."

~Very meaningful,~ Jono agreed, frowning a bit. There were... he counted... three guys standing at the bar, and they were looking at Jubilee in a way he didn't like at all.

"I actually don't mind, except that if I grow even a tiny bit more, in any direction, I won't fit into the gorgeous purple one you bought me, either. And I really like that one." Jubilee waved a hand in front of his eyes. "Jono, you're not listening."

~Yes I am,~ he said, not listening. He was responding on autopilot as he watched the trio preparing to make their move. Well, he had news for them. He might not be able to talk, but he hadn't swung a punch in far too long, and suddenly his fists were itching.

* * *

"I can't believe you did that!"

~They were asking for it~ It was hard to sign with Jubilee dabbing antiseptic on his knuckles, but he more or less got the point across.

Jubilee gave him an irritated look. "Jono, they walked up, said hello, you loomed at them, they asked me if I wanted to go someplace more comfortable, and you waded into them like they were Hand ninjas or something! I could have said no on my own!"

Jono scowled, winced, and waited until she finished his knuckles and started disinfecting the split over one cheekbone. ~They wouldn't have taken no for an answer, Jubilee. I know that type.~

"So do I." She dabbed a bit harder than strictly necessary, and he winced again. "I can take care of myself."

~Not debating that. But by coming over and making a move on you, they were insulting *me*. They wanted to get you away from me, and they were trying to do that by acting like I wasn't important enough to warrant a proper fight.~ Jono scowled again, and never mind that it hurt his bruised face.

Jubilee glared at him. "Oh, so now someone hitting on ME is an attack on YOUR ego?"

~Yeah, it is. Not because I think you're my territory, 'cause I know bloody well you'd beat me to a pulp if I tried that shit on you, but because they thought you were, and they just shrugged me off like I didn't matter.~ Jono touched his nose tenderly. It hurt, but it didn't feel broken.

Jubilee's grumpy expression softened a bit. "Yeah, well... I guess that'd bother me, too," she conceded, finishing with the antiseptic and putting the ice-pack back on his eye. "I mean, if I was sitting there with someone and some chick just wandered up and started hitting on him and totally ignoring me... well, I wouldn't get into a huge fist-fight, but I'd say something really snaky."

Jono nodded, holding the ice-pack in place. ~See?~

Jubilee gave him a forgiving pat on the shoulder, and started putting the first-aid stuff back in its box. "You know, I don't think I've ever seen you fight like that. I mean, just over guy stuff, not 'cause it's a supervillain or something."

Jono tilted his head back to balance the ice. ~Used to do it all the time,~ he signed, a bit awkwardly with his bruised and split knuckles. ~It's been a while, though.~

She nodded, ruffling his hair gently. She'd never admit it, but she'd actually been almost relieved to see Early Scrapper Jono, who she'd seen glimpses of in the early GenX days, make a reappearance. He'd tried so hard to be Sweet Teddybear Jono, just for her, for so long, then he'd segued into Slut-Monkey Jono in Paris... it was kinda nice to see him getting back to his old self. It was a good sign. "I'm going to bed," was all she said. "Try to get some sleep, okay?"

Jono nodded, and she left. He sat there, holding his ice-pack and thinking, for a long time.

What he'd told her had been more or less true. It HAD been an insult to him to make a move on a girl sitting with him. And he'd have reacted the same way had the girl sitting with him been one of his sisters, or Emma Frost, or someone equally inaccessible.

What was bothering him was that Jubilee had somehow gotten off the 'inaccessible' list.

Right through the road trip, right through the whole time in Paris, he'd treated her like an adored baby sister, nurturing and protecting her, hugging her when she cried and sharing a motel room or an apartment with her without having a single grotty thought. It would have been... well... wrong. She was too emotionally messed up, and too young, and she needed to be able to trust him.

Now, though... now she was a beautiful, independent young woman, only a month off her sixteenth birthday and, on the inside, more or less an adult. She'd been through too much to still be a child. And she didn't cling to him anymore, and he'd let the Cute Teddybear act go because she didn't need it anymore, and somewhere in the last two days when he'd started living the way he had before his powers had screwed everything up, he'd started feeling a bit... possessive.

Of Jubilee.

In a me guy, she attractive girl way.

Well, shit.

(end part 15)