"Storm? Storm, open the door." There was a gentle, persistent tapping on the attic door. "'Ro? C'mon, darlin', open up..."
Had it been anyone else, Storm wouldn't have opened the door. She hadn't, after all, not since yesterday afternoon. But this was Logan, who'd been vacillating between deep depression and violent bad temper since Jubilee left, who'd taken her with him to try to see the child, and somehow she was opening the door for him. "Hello, Logan," she said drearily.
"Heya, darlin'." Logan looked... more at peace, she supposed, than he had for some time. The indisputable evidence of his failure as a parent had hit him very hard. "What's wrong?"
Storm blinked a bit, a little surprised. "You have not been told?"
Logan shook his head, sliding around the door and propping himself against a wall. "Nobody has. Only th' docs seem to know, and they keep talkin' about doctor/patient privilege and won't say anything."
"Oh." That was new. Obviously Cecilia was teaching Hank some things. "I... I received some bad news."
"Figured that much." He took her hand gently, a surprising, rather touching gesture. "Got anything to do with this?" Her hand was shaking in his.
She nodded. Of course Logan would have noticed. "I... I have Parkinson's Disease," she said, voice cracking miserably. "I will have to take medication, and I will n-never be an X-Man again..."
"Oh, darlin'..." He hugged her, and she let him, and it was a little bit awkward because she was nearly a foot taller than he was, but it was still comforting, and she sniffled a little as he rubbed her back gently with one big hand.
"I do not want to give up the X-Men!" she wailed softly. "I want to keep on being one!"
"You will, 'Ro," Logan said gently, and he tugged her over to the bed, sitting her down gently on the edge of it and sitting beside her, one arm comforting around her shoulders. "Maybe not on the fightin' teams, but if Charley can handle logistics and stuff without a leg to stand on..." She smiled a bit damply at the poor joke, and he smiled back. "Then you can do it with a few shakes. You'll still be one of us."
"I will?" Ororo asked uncertainly. She wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. She hadn't really thought about that. Knowing that she wouldn't be a fighting member of the team had, to her, equated not being on the team at all, but Logan had a point...
"Sure." Logan brushed a stray tear away gently. "Look, I came up here 'cause I wanted to say that I'm sorry."
Ororo blinked at him. "For what?"
"For not noticing that something was wrong," he said softly. "Normally I would have, but... well..." He sighed. "I know I've been a shit to live with, and I'm sorry about that too. It's just... I finally had t' face up to the fact that I keep takin' on responsibilities, then ditchin' 'em when they get too hard to cope with. And it's somethin' I can't keep doing, especially when it comes to kids like Jubilee... or Amiko." He gave her a lopsided little smile. "I'm self-centered, I guess. Comes of spendin' too much time on my own."
Ororo managed a little smile, touching his hand in what she hoped was a reassuring manner. "It is not that you do not care, Logan," she said softly. And slowly, too, but she wasn't thinking about that right now. "It is just that... well... you are afraid of getting too close. Of losing someone else, as you lost Silver Fox and Mariko."
He nodded, giving her another little smile. "Yeah, somethin' like that. But... I've had to come to terms with what I've been doin', now, and it ain't very nice. But I'm not gonna do it anymore, so I decided to stop beatin' myself up."
"Good. You have been *most* aggravating." Ororo chuckled a little damply, for the first time since she'd gotten the news. "And... thank you, for coming to see me..."
"Everyone's worried." He snorted a little, looking at the door. "If ya hadn't opened it, I was plannin' to kick it down."
Ororo laughed again, more genuinely this time. "And I would have been most annoyed with you," she said affectionately. "So it is a good thing I opened it."
"It is." He hugged her again, briefly, and smoothed the untidy hair back from her face. "So... plannin' on coming downstairs anytime soon?"
"I... for dinner, perhaps." She smiled a bit ruefully. "I need to think on the matter a little more, and... I think I should bathe, also."
"You are gettin' a bit ripe," Logan agreed. "Wasn't gonna say anything, but..."
She smiled, and impulsively kissed him on the temple. "Thank you, Logan," she said softly. "For being willing to kick my door down to make sure I was all right."
"Yeah, well..." Logan actually blushed a little, then gave her a mischievious look. "If y'need any help washing yer back..."
She laughed and swatted him, shooing him out of the room. "I am not so far gone as THAT, yet," she said, astounded that she could joke about it. "I will be down for dinner. I will tell everyone then."
* * *
Jono eyed his new guitar nervously. He hadn't actually played it yet. Oh, he'd bought it... but even then, he'd just hefted it in his hands, let the salesman play a chord or two to show him how it sounded. And he'd showed it briefly to the guys he'd met yesterday, let them admire its quality...
But he hadn't played it.
And now Jubilee was gone (god, he was going to have to sort out this new awareness of her, possessiveness of her, but not right now), and he was alone, in the apartment, with the guitar.
The damn thing was LOOKING at him.
He paced a bit, wondering where to start. Just pick it up. Just pick it up and play it. Maybe get some music first? He didn't have any. Well, so much for that. Right, a comfy place to sit? The couch. The couch was nice. He'd sit on the couch.
He sat on the couch, and slowly picked up the guitar. It felt nice, it felt right, to have that shape and heft and curve in his hands again. He just held it for a minute, eyes closed, getting into the feel of it. Okay. Right. He opened his eyes, and slowly, tentatively, curled his fingers around and stroked the strings gently.
An hour and a half later he surfaced, and if he could have he'd have been grinning like a loon. It was back, the passion and the joy of his music, and he'd sat there and played and played, bits of old tunes, little fragments of new ones, and his fingers hurt like crazy but it had been worth it. For the first time since his body had been shattered by his powers, he was *whole*.
Absently, he played one of the little fragments again, a wistful little patter of notes that sounded like a lonely sigh. That sounded good. He should write that down.
When Jubilee came back a few hours later, Jono was sitting in the middle of a drift of papers, one hand clutching a pen, the other scrabbling through his wilder-than-usual hair. ^^Buggrit stupid thing gotta work should sound fine maybe take it up a little no too shrill damnit maybe if I slow it down a little--^^
She blinked. "Jono?"
He gave her a preoccupied little wave. ^^There's Jubilee hello Jubilee looking very nice like that colour I wonder if I should change the pitch on the part before it maybe that'd fix the problem if I slow it down too and....^^ The stream of broadcast thought and he looked up, blinking as he realized she was still standing there and staring at him. ~What?~ he signed, putting his pen down for a second.
"Uhm... you're 'pathing," Jubilee said meekly. The appreciative thoughts had startled her a bit. Oh, he always said she looked nice if she ASKED, but she'd always assumed that he didn't notice the rest of the time.
~I... what?~ He frowned, eyes going a bit distant. ^^Can you hear me now?^^
"Yup." Jubilee felt a huge smile spread over her face, and she just had to run over and hug him. "Jono, that's great! Your brain must be all healed up!"
Jono blinked, nearly dropping her into the pile of screwed up paper around his feet, and thanked god she'd told him *before* she hugged him, otherwise she'd know all about the sudden inappropriate thoughts he was having. ^^I guess it must be,^^ he sent, a bit dazedly. ^^Wow. I didn't even notice.^^
Jubilee beamed, kissing his cheek. "What were you writing? Music? Can I hear it?"
^^Not yet.^^ He picked out the few sheets that he considered worth keeping, folded them up, and shoved them in his pocket. ^^Only got little bits so far. But yeah, it's music, and... I had *fun* with it, Jubes, more than I've had since *this*..^^ he touched his bandages, ^^happened to me.^^
She smiled, hugging him and kissing him again. Having your heart explode in a burst of psionic energy SHOULD, Jono thought grumpily, preclude sudden pounding feelings in what was left of the ol' chest cavity. "That's wonderful!" she said happily. She started picking up the scrunched papers, giving him another thousand-watt smile. "We should celebrate."
Jono nodded, giving his guitar a little pat. He liked this one. It was the only thing in the world right now that he liked more than Jubilee. He LOVED his guitar. ^^'fore we do that, though...^^
She looked up at him, hands full of yellow notepaper. "What?"
Jono held up his hands, to show her the blisters forming on several reddened fingertips. ^^Can you put some bandaids on for me?^^
* * *
The phone rang, and Emma picked it up, still going through a pile of her personal accounts, checking for errors before she actually gave them to accounting. "Hello?" she said absently.
"Hi, Emma! It's me!" It was Jewel... no, Jubilee again now. Emma smiled. They'd talked more on the phone, over the last eleven months, than they ever had in person. They'd even gossiped a few times.
"Hello, Jubilee," she said, tucking the phone under her chin and reaching for a pen. "How're things going? Found any more work?"
"Oh, yeah, tons. They go nuts for gorgeous, french-sounding chicks over here." Jubilee sounded positively bubbly. "But you'll never guess what happened this afternoon!"
"Pierce Brosnan asked you for my phone number?" Emma grinned. It was fun to have someone you could kind of do girl talk with, even if she was a long way away.
"No, better! Jono's psi-talking again!"
"Really? That's wonderful!" Emma beamed. "Tell him to e-mail me with every single detail, I want to know how he's feeling now, and if he did anything, and-"
"He's typing right now." There was a very distinctive sound of shoes being kicked off and a couch being flopped onto. "But from what he's told ME, he dealt with all his issues with his family, totally re-bonded with London, spent five hours alternately playing his new guitar and writing music, and it just came back all by itself. Great, huh?"
Emma nodded, even though Jubilee couldn't see her. "It is. And how are you doing?"
"Better. I'm out of self-pity mode now. When Jono's done here... maybe we could come home?" It was tentative, a little hopeful... and something Emma had waited a long time to hear.
"I'd love to have you back, both of you," she said softly. "The others all miss you. Uh... about Paige and Angelo...."
"Jono's writing to them, too, being incredibly noble and forgiving. He figures they'll both be falling over themselves to be nice to us when we get back, and we should milk it for all it's worth." Jubilee giggled. "You could drop a few hints that they should suck up, if you get a chance."
"I will." Emma snickered a little, and then she sobered. "They all miss you, Jubilee, very much. Jono, too. Well, except for Corona." Corona was a new girl, taken on to fill out the team a little when Jubilee and Jono had been gone for a while. "She's looking forward to meeting you, though."
"I'm looking forward to meeting her too. And Jono'n I've both been going to the gym to get back into shape." Jubilee sounded a bit shamefaced. "Haven't used our powers much, lately. 'cause, you know... stuff."
"Well, I'm sure Mr Cassidy will have you whipped into shape in no time. He's developing a new training technique now... and whatever it is, even Monet looks tired." Emma chuckled softly. "I look forward to seeing how you handle it."
"You just don't LIKE me," Jubilee griped affectionately. "It'll be weird, going back to thinking of you as a teacher."
Emma chuckled softly, leaning back in her chair. "I like to think we could stay friends, even so," she said, her voice warmer than it was with anyone else. "It has been... nice... having someone to talk to."
"Ditto." There was a loud noise from the background, and Jubilee groaned theatrically. "I gotta go. Jono's lost his shoes, and he keeps trying to push me off the couch so he can look under it."
"Keep in touch."
"Always have, haven't I?"
* * *
Jubilee helped Jono find his boots, then had to take them away again until he put on a pair of socks that matched.
^^But they're both BLACK, love, it's not like anyone can TELL,^^ he complained.
He'd been calling her that often, lately. Jubilee put it down to the fact that she was a lot nicer to live with now that she wasn't an emotional three-car-pileup. "*I* can tell," she said sternly.
^^Yeh, well, you couldn't if I had pants on.^^ He'd been ironing them... not WELL, exactly, but enough to get the obvious creases out.
"Yes, but you don't," Jubilee pointed out reasonably. "So I can."
^^But I WILL before I go out. So nobody else will.^^ He snatched the boots out of her hand, ruffling her hair with the other. ^^Aha!^^
"No fair!" Jubilee pouted. "I think I liked you better when you were totally submerging yourself in my needs and being a big teddybear in leather." She hugged him unexpectedly, sliding in under his arms with the ease of long practice and wrapping her arms around his waist. "Did I ever thank you for that?"
She fitted nice against him, Jono thought wistfully. ^^Oh, a few times.^^ He wrapped his arms around her, giving her the little eye-crinkle they both thought was a smile. ^^But yer welcome.^^
She snuggled close, resting her cheek on his bandages. "I'm glad you're being yourself again, though," she said softly. "I mean, not depressed-yourself but real-yourself. That you're kinda mostly happy again."
^^'s mostly thanks to you,^^ he said softly, serious now. ^^It was... I dunno... as depressed as I was, I was the only one who could reach you. You needed me, an' I guess I could do for you what I couldn't do for myself.^^
She smiled a little, cheek still resting against the emptiness of his chest. "Really?"
^^Yeah. It's... nice, to have someone who needs you. Someone you can help.^^ He stroked her hair gently, thankful for eleven months of comforting that let him touch her now without disturbing their friendship. ^^All you wanted from me was for me to take care of you long enough for you to get back on your feet, and I could do that.^^
Jubilee nodded. "And you did a great job, too," she said softly. "I never would have made it without you."
^^Oh, you'd've managed.^^ Jono let go, while he still could, and ruffled her hair gently. ^^Yer tough.^^
She grinned up at him. "Coming from the guy who spent most of yesterday in a twenty-man barfight, I'll take that as a compliment."
^^You should.^^ Jono chuckled silently. ^^And it was twenty-three men. And a dog.^^
* * *
Emma propped up the doorframe, smiling unusually softly. "Hi."
Bobby looked up at her, a frustrated expression in his eyes. "Hi." He'd been at the school for nearly three months now, teaching, helping with the training in ways that someone who'd been the same age as these students were when he started could, even if he was still in a wheelchair. "Do me a favour? Grab that pencil?"
She chuckled softly, knowing it was hard for him to ask, and dropped gracefully to her knees to pick up the pencil that had rolled half-way under the desk. "You don't fool me, Drake. You just want to look at my cleavage."
"Yeah, well, when you're permanently sitting down, you have to be creative in pursuit of a good view." He smiled at her. It was a surprisingly sweet smile. "But thanks. I like that pencil. It has Sylvester on the end, see?"
"I see." Emma nodded, perching on the edge of his desk. "I just wanted to let you know that I talked to Jubilee a few minutes ago. She says that when Jono has... finished whatever he's doing in London, they want to come home."
Bobby smiled again, eyes brightening. "Really? That's wonderful!" He swivelled a bit in his chair to reach for his computer, bringing up the mail program. There was no new mail, and he drooped a bit.
"She was helping Jonothon to find his shoes," Emma said, trying not to try to sound comforting. "I am sure she will be writing to you as soon as she gets him fully dressed and out of the house."
"Oh. Good." Bobby left the mail program open, and leaned back in his chair, giving her legs a blatantly appreciative look. "And you came to tell me in person. I'm touched."
"Yes, well, you're one of the only people who's been taking an interest all along," Emma said a bit snippily. She touched her nose, more or less automatically. "And not punching me."
He shook his head and smiled, reaching up to pat her knee. Since it was the only part of her he could reach, she decided to let it slide. "The... the X-Men... they do care, you know. But it has to be *someone's* fault, and if it isn't yours, then it must be theirs." He gave her a sympathetic look. "Gen-X has been doing the same thing. They blame you, you blame them, and neither of you has to deal with the fact that you both missed all the warning signs." Emma opened her mouth to object, and he shook his head again. "You had far too much going on, your powers gone, six teenagers to cope with and half of Sean's attention off in Scotland. It's understandable that you were missing things, Emma, and it's not your fault that this happened. And it isn't theirs, either. Responsibility, yes, but not fault."
Emma nodded slowly. "Don't you know you're not supposed to be bright enough to produce these speeches?" she said without rancour.
"That's so I don't get expected to dispense wisdom on a regular basis like Hank and Scott have to," Bobby said, patting her knee again. "But Moira's getting worse. Storm is sick. I'm still in a wheelchair. Colossus is gone, permanently. Kitty and Wisdom have gone off to rescue X-Force from themselves. Things are going on that have nothing to do with whose fault it was that Jubilee left the way she did, these are the only two teams still functioning and speaking to each other, and we're getting badly short-handed. We need to stop feuding, and start working together."
She chuckled humourlessly. "When did you get so practical, Drake?" she asked softly.
"Practical joker, remember. There are two meanings to that phrase." He leaned back in his chair, shrugging a little. "Look, I know I'm the last person you'd usually take advice from, but give it some thought, okay?"
Impulsively, Emma leaned down and kissed his forehead. "You're the first person I'd take advice from," she said softly. "If you're willing to forgive me for trying to get you shot, you can probably be relied on to give me impartial advice."
"I... thank you." He blinked at her, and for the first time she noticed the faint lines around his eyes. The boyish smile was bracketed, too, although you had to look closely. Would that happen to her, too? Would years of worrying about the students she'd sent out and fretting over the welfare of thousands of people who'd never even know who she was, would that leave its mark on her face? But there were smile-lines too, marks of kindness and good humour stamped on a face that had lived every minute of its short life... and it was smiling quizzically at her. "Emma? Do I have something on my nose?"
She blushed faintly, realizing that she'd been staring. "I'm sorry," she said, a little embarrassed. "I was a thousand miles away."
"Fair enough." He smiled at her, and tilted his head towards the desk beside her. "Since you're obstructing my desk, could you pass me those books? I should start out for class. Takes me a while to get up all those ramps."
Emma smiled at him. "I'll push you."
Bobby grinned. "Oh, you just want to hold me over the edge of the ramp again to make me promise to stop stealing your pens."
* * *
It was just past dawn, on one of those cool, misty mornings that made London fade around the edges until it seemed like a place out of legend, that might disappear with the mist and leave a watcher standing all alone beside the Thames. It was almost beautiful, in a way. And Jono had missed it while he was gone. He leaned his elbows on the windowsill, staring out into the soft, grey-gold light that tinted the mist.
"Jono?" Jubilee spoke again from the doorway, and he looked around slowly, and crinkled at her.
^^Come and see.^^
She did, perching half on the arm of his chair, half on his lap, and they watched until London faded back into reality. "I like that," she said softly. "I'm starting to see why you missed this place.
He crinkled at her again, and nodded. ^^I did. Didn't realize how much.^^ He looked out the window again. ^^Can we come back and visit sometimes? After we go back, I mean.^^ He wanted to go back. Not to the school, because he was definitely clear that he'd left schooling behind, but he did miss Emma. And Sean. And, now that he'd stopped wanting to rip his throat out, he really missed Angelo. Who was welcome to Paige, thank you. Paige would have been extremely inconvenient to still have, right about now.
Jubilee didn't suggest that he could always return to London without her. Just the thought of being that far apart gave her the collywobbles, and she suspected it did the same for him. "Of course. I like it here too." Then she shook her head at him. "And you were up all night again, weren't you?"
Jono looked down at the scattered sheets of paper all around him, a pile of balled up sheets on the floor, more spread over the desk. He belatedly remembered that he'd used up two pens. The guitar was on the floor next to his chair where he could reach it easily, and his fingertips hurt again. ^^Uh... I guess so. I was working.^^
"How many songs have you written?" she asked teasingly, touching the sheets of music-paper, with lines scribbled out and notes crossed out and redrawn. "A dozen? Two?"
^^None. 't isn't a song.^^ Jono looked a bit bashful. ^^It's a... a piece of music. You know. Instrumental stuff. Only it's not working.^^
"Really?" Jubilee looked more interested now, picking up the sheets and looking at them. "And you're playing it on the guitar?"
^^No, Jubes, I'm playing it on the church organ in me back pocket. Yes, I'm playing it on the guitar.^^ Jono sighed internally. ^^Well, I'm trying. Doesn't sound anything like the music in me head.^^
Jubilee shrugged, tidying the sheets into a stack, careful not to disarrange the order. "I don't know much about music, you know that, but I used to have piano-lessons when I was a kid. This looks like piano music."
Jono stared at her for a long moment. Piano. *Piano*. Why hadn't he thought of that? ^^Jubes, I love you. Yer brilliant. Go order us a piano.^^
She laughed, and went to find someone in the phonebook who'd deliver a piano to the door, and it wasn't until ten minutes later, wrestling with an arpeggio that wouldn't submit to being written down, that Jono realized what he'd said.
(end part 16)