"H'lo?" It was more of a grunt than a word.
Emma gulped the tiniest bit, and tightened her grip on the cel-phone. "Hello, Wolverine."
There was a long silence.
"Frost," he said neutrally.
Emma sighed. This was already going *so* well... still, given that the last time they'd talked had been when he'd broken her nose, this wasn't so bad. "I thought... we should talk," she said a bit stiffly. "I wished to... apologize... for the assumptions I made." No, she wasn't going to go into details. He knew the ones she meant.
The silence wasn't quite so long or so tense this time. "You have a reason for thinkin'... that?" he asked slowly.
"Personal experience," she said shortly. She wasn't going to go into detail on that, either.
His voice softened a bit, though. "Fair enough." He paused. "I'm sorry I broke yer nose."
"I should hope so." Emma let her own voice warm up a little. "Still. It is long healed."
"Good." Wolverine sighed, sounding oddly vulnerable. "Drake says... well, he told McCoy, who told Storm, who told me... that ya talk to Jubilee a lot. How's she doing?"
"Well." Emma couldn't help softening at the thought of Jubilee. "She has recovered almost completely, and is... very well. Strong, independent..."
"She always was." Now he sounded sad. "Any hint that she'll be coming ho... back?" Not home.
"I'm sorry. I'm not supposed to talk about her to anyone, except to tell them that she's well." Except Bobby, who was in contact with her too, but telling Wolverine that would avail him nothing.
"Oh. Well... thanks anyway." Wolverine sighed. "She know about Storm?"
"Yes. She passed a message through Bobby, I think." Emma looked at her hands. "And, although of course I cannot say when she will return... I would suggest that you do not leave the mansion for a while."
"I see." There was a smile in his voice, and Emma realized with some surprise that he could, occasionally, sound almost nice. "Thanks for the call."
"You're welcome." She hung up, and sighed. Soon, she hoped, for good or for ill... this would all be over.
It had better be for good, or she was going to punch someone.
* * *
"I don't want to leave," Jubilee said wistfully. "I mean, I do, I know it's time, but..."
~But when we go home, the adventure's over,~ Jono agreed softly, looking around the untidy little flat. They'd both had to spend a lot of time deciding what to take away with them, and what to leave, and most of it had ended up on the floor.
"Yeah." She ruffled his hair affectionately. "We actually had some fun in there, along with all the depressed stuff."
~Yup.~ He picked her up by the elbows and let her little legs kick in the air for a bit. ~Like the time you pushed me in the fountain, remember? Never did get yer back for that.~
"Did too, you silly sod!" she yelped happily, kicking him in the shins until he put her down. "You put soda in my hair!"
~Yeh, well...~ He put her down, and looked around again. ~You arranged for someone t' come and get the piano and stuff, right?~
"Yup. They're coming on Friday. We're selling the piano, but the furniture's all going to the Salvation Army." Jubilee patted the arm of the couch fondly. "It's nice to think it'll be useful to someone."
~It is. What about all your clothes?~
"I'm taking ALL of them," Jubilee said firmly. "AND the shoes."
~Why you need twenty-three pairs of shoes is beyond me,~ Jono said, then held up a placating hand as she turned a cute little glare on him. Oh, god help him, he thought she was cute even when she glared. ~But you do, and I accept that. And they all look great on you.~
Jubilee laughed and poked his side. "That's better. What about the crate of messy bits of paper with half a dozen notes written on them?"
Jono rested a hand on her shoulder, and gave her a long, caring look. ~Luv, you're my best friend, and I care about you a lot, but if I have to choose between you and the crate, you're gonna have to find your own way home.~
* * *
"Ah don't know if Ah can face them," Paige fretted, pacing up and down.
"We don't have much of a choice." Angelo propped himself up on one elbow, giving her a rather resigned look. He was very fond of Paige. He might, on good days, even use the L word, quietly, to himself. But she could be as annoying as all hell sometimes, especially when she started working herself up into a fit of histrionics. "Look, you got the same letter from Jono that I did. He's forgiven us."
"Oh, he SAYS that," Paige said, giving him a reproachful look. "But he's just trying to make us FEEL better."
"He's trying to make us FEEL guilty," Angelo said flatly, from the position of knowing the sneaky Brit a lot better than Paige ever had. "So we'll suck up and be really nice and apologetic. Believe me, he's over it."
Paige gave him a hurt look. Ooops, he'd implied that she was easy to get over. "Ah hope so," she said, not sounding entirely convinced.
"He is. It'll be fine." Angelo prayed silently for patience. He DID feel bad about seducing his amigo's sort-of-maybe-ish-girlfriend away from him. He did. But he'd apologized, and Jono had forgiven him. Jono, he suspected from certain Jubilee-shaped holes in the text of the letter, had moved on. Good for him.
"You think so?" Paige gave him an appealing look out of those beautiful blue eyes, and he melted immediately.
"Sure. C'mere." He held out his arms and she smiled, sliding back into bed and snuggling up against him. Ah. That was better. "He's going to make us feel guilty about it for a while, but it'll be okay. He's not really mad anymore."
"I hope not." Paige snuggled close, all warm and soft and sweet-smelling, and Angelo smiled, kissing the top of her head. "I don't want him to hate us, Angie."
"Me neither. Trust me, sucking up'll work." He looked down at her, grinning suggestively. "Until then...."
She hit him with a pillow, grinning, and things went quite well from there.
* * *
~The Wedding Planner? Aww, no...~
~Stop being such a baby,~ Jubilee signed unsympathetically. ~You're the one who wanted to pay for our own tickets back home. It's your fault we're stuck in Economy. You can watch the movie and like it.~
~But it's got Jennifer Lopez in it!~ Jono actually managed to whine in sign language. ~The woman's only got two braincells! And they both live in her bra!~
~No argument here.~ Jubilee sighed. At least the seat next to them was empty. ~Look, we're just going to have to make the best of it. The movie has to be better than sitting here staring at the backs of people's heads for the nest two hours.~
~Don't want to watch the movie,~ Jono sulked, but he picked up his headphones anyway. ~Want to work on my music.~
~No. If you elbow me in the ribs one more time while you're writing, I'm going to break your arm.~ Jubilee picked up her own headphones, and gave him a stern look. ~Now sit still and enjoy the movie.~
Jono sat still and sulked instead. Well, he started out sulking.
~You're a soppy romantic slob.~
~I am not.~
~You are too. I heard that snuffle when they were dancing in the park, about to live happily ever after.~
~Did not. I don't snuffle. No lungs.~
~It was a telepathic snuffle.~ She smiled, patting his hand gently. ~You soppy romantic slob.~
~Yeah, well... I'm in an emotionally vulnerable state.~ Jono tried to look macho, and failed as totally as he usually did. Jono had not been designed to look macho. Angsty and broody, yes. Macho, no. ~I'm stressed.~
~YOU'RE stressed.~ Jubilee rolled her eyes. ~I'm the one who has to go back and face everyone.~
~Yes, but...~ He sighed, putting a gentle arm around her shoulders and pulling her close. ^^I feel like something's... ending. I mean, I know you're not going to ditch me as soon as we get back to the states, but I'm gonna miss the way things've been.^^
^^Me too,^^ she sent back, resting her head on his shoulder. ^^But it'll be okay... right?^^
^^I hope so.^^
* * *
The phone rang.
It rang again.
Eventually Ororo gave in and picked it up. She didn't really like talking on the phone anymore... she always just KNEW that whoever was on the other end was trying to discern the faint slowing and slurring of her voice that was, now that she was on the medication, one of the only signs of her illness. "Hello?"
"Hi, 'Ro." Bobby. He sounded tired. "Listen, just calling to let you guys know the kids were in a major dust-up today. Some guy calling himself Azmodias, I think he's some kinda demigod or something."
"Oh, dear..." Ororo reached for a pen, and wrote down the name and particulars slowly and carefully. "The team are not here, I am afraid. They are fighting the Juggernaut in Arizona..."
"Figures." He sighed. "Bites, doesn't it? Having to sit back and just wait?"
"It does." Ororo leaned back in her chair. "There is nothing to do but worry."
He chuckled ruefully, and she could almost see his gentle smile, not nearly as boyish now as it had been before his accident. "Makes you feel for the Professor, doesn't it?" he said softly. "I never realized how hard it must be."
Ororo nodded, relaxing a little. Bobby would not be patronizing, or overly sympathetic. She didn't think he even knew *how* to be patronizing. "It is very hard," she agreed. "I never thought that I would miss the early-morning training sessions and the constant near-death experiences, but I do."
"Same here," Bobby said. Then his voice brightened. "But hey, you can put techno on the stereo really loudly and dance around naked any time you want. That's always a plus."
She blinked. "I... had not thought of that." She liked techno. And nobody ever let her play it nice and loud. And people STILL got antsy when she wandered around naked, which she also liked to do. "I believe I will go do that now."
"Go ahead." Bobby chuckled softly. "Oh, no, don't thank me. The mental image is thanks enough."
Ororo laughed at him, and hung up. And went to find her loudest, most objectionable CD.
* * *
She turned it off, of course, when the X-Men returned. And helped patch up the scrapes and bruises and taped some fractured ribs. And forced them all to eat some good, nutritious food before they collapsed into bed.
It... wasn't so bad. She could still be of use. Still contribute. That was something.
When all the others had dragged themselves off to their beds, Ororo and Logan sat at the kitchen table, eating home-made icecream flavoured with honey and raspberries. Well, Ororo had had a lot of time on her hands before Bobby's phonecall, and she quite liked making icecream. It tasted better, she thought, without the processed sugar and the pig lard and all the other nasty things you found in commercial stuff. "Do you like it, Logan?"
"Mmm." Logan nodded absently, taking another spoonful and then gazing blankly into space.
"Logan?" Ororo said patiently. Honestly, he was getting as vague as she was. "Are you conscious?"
"Yeah. Sorry." He gave her an embarrassed smile. "The icecream's good, honest. No chemicals. I like that."
Ororo nodded, returning the smile. "As do I." She touched his hand gently. "Is something bothering you?"
"Thought I smelled Jubilee, just for a second," he said quietly. "Got me thinkin'."
He'd thought a lot about it. The agonizing guilt had faded over time. It always did. He had a tendency to get too worked up over stuff, he knew that. He just tended to forget while he was in the middle of it. What hadn't faded was the knowledge that he'd spent too long ducking out on his responsibilities. Heading off into the wild blue yonder might be the easiest way for him to solve HIS problems, but it sure as hell didn't help anybody else. Especially the people who counted on him.
He loved Jubilee, of course he did. Just as much as he loved Kitty and Amiko. They were his babies, each and every one... but Jubilee less so than the others, because she'd never been as... young. Still. He had apologies to make to her, but he wasn't wandering around in a haze anymore. When he saw her again... if he did... he hoped he'd be able to think of something to say.
He didn't bother to say all that aloud, though. Ororo already knew most of it, and she didn't need to hear him whining yet again.
He was trying a new approach on this thing with Ororo. Not all clingy and protective, like Jono's thing with Jubilee... which he'd forced Bobby to fill him in on, just to be sure it was all aboveboard... because Logan didn't do clingy and protective. Anyway, if he'd tried that, 'Ro woulda hit him in the nose with a plank. No, this time he was going with being completely normal, treating her exactly the way he always had, and surreptitiously not leaving the house hardly at all. Always there, but still acting as if nothing had changed much. She seemed to appreciate it.
"Still no reaction to the medication?" he asked, trying to sound interested without sounding nosy.
"None so far," she said in the smooth, rich voice that hadn't suffered for slowing down a tiny bit.
"Good. Can you do my breakfast shift tomorrow?" he asked, giving her a pleading look. "I'll make it up to ya."
Ororo laughd. Logan was renowned for hating breakfast shifts. He'd cook dinner any time. Lunch, no problem. Breakfast, for some reason, he'd avoided ever since his attempt at an omelette had set fire to one of the kitchen cabinets. "If you will cook supper, I will cook breakfast," she bargained.
"Deal. Is there any beer left?" He got up to look.
The doorbell rang.
"Who could it be at this time of night?" Ororo asked, frowning a little. An X-Man would have used his or her key. Ordinary visitors wouldn't have gotten past the gate. "An ally, probably in need of help," she guessed aloud. "Oh, dear."
"I'll go see." Logan abandoned his beer and headed down the hall. If it WAS someone needing help, that help was going to have to be him. Everyone else was unconscious or off the active duty list. "I'm comin', I'm comin', don't have a damn cow..." he muttered, opening the door just as the bell rang again.
"Hi," Jubilee said a bit shyly. "Uhm... I'm sorry it's so late. Badly timed flight."
Logan stared at her. "I... yeah," he said slowly, trying to assimilate her presence. He HAD scented her. She was really here. Standing on the step, wearing a suit and a pert little hat that made her look... different. Beautiful. Grown up. "Uh... you wanna come in?"
She looked up at the imposing facade of the mansion, and then past him into the hall. Then her eyes met his, and she offered him a little smile. "Sure," she said softly. "I mean, if I'm still welcome."
He swallowed a lump in his throat, and pushed the door wide. "Always. Ya know that. Always."
It was a nice day. The gardens were looking particularly green and pleasant. There was a little birdsong, some peaceful buzzing of bees, and a pleasant scent of carefully cultivated flowers. There was also sunshine.
Logan and Jubilee were sitting one at each end of a picturesque stone bench, looking everywhere but at each other.
It was just... awkward.
It was a very ordinary sort of awkward, one that happens frequently, all over the world. One member of a family has had a terrible crisis, and blamed the entire thing on another, completely oblivious family member, and gone off in a state of... something. The completely oblivious family member has suffered a rather unpleasant mix of guilt and anger and wondering what the hell just happened. Unforgivable things have been thought, and sometimes said. There's been plenty of time for resentment to simmer, on both sides.
Then, after the entire thing has been worked out, more or less, and it's pretty much over, they really want to make up again, but don't quite know how to begin.
Logan stared at a rather ugly stone birdbath, wishing desperately for Xavier's ability to say something incredibly trite at a moment's notice. "Uh..." he said lamely. "Are you... okay?"
Jubilee nodded, looking down at her toes, which were poking industriously at the lawn. "I'm pretty good. Balanced, centered... you know. Back more or less in control."
"That's good." He glanced at her quickly, then looked away at a topiary pig. It wasn't very good. Hank had been told he needed a hobby that was out in the fresh air, and was teaching himself topiary out of a book. "You've grown."
"Nearly three inches," she agreed, also looking at the pig. For something without facial features - except the snout - it looked oddly knowing. "I don't fit my yellow coat anymore."
Logan swallowed hard. The idea of a world that did not contain a yellow-coated Jubilee was a rather painful one. "That purple one you were wearing last night looked good," he said, falling back on inanity in his confusion.
"Jono bought it for me," she said, still looking at the pig. "When I stopped wearing the other." She sounded older, too. There was a faint hint of accent that hadn't been there before.
Logan cleared his throat, looking down at his hands. "He take good care of you?" he asked gruffly, wishing he could look her in the eyes.
"Always. And I took good care of him, too." Jubilee's voice softened a bit. She obviously cared deeply for the guy... but just as a friend. He was mostly sure.
"You always did," he said, managing to look at her properly. "Take good care of people, I mean."
"I tried," she said softly, meeting his eyes. "But it... kinda got on top of me after a while."
"I know." He shrugged helplessly, wishing he knew how to fix things. "I'm sorry, darlin'. I shoulda been there for you."
"Yeah. You should've." She shrugged a little, and gave him a lopsided smile. "But it worked out okay."
He looked away. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for ya," he said softly. "I should've been. I promised you I would be."
"Yup. That you did." Jubilee sighed, reaching out to touch his hand gently. "Everyone makes mistakes. I'm not mad at you about it anymore."
She meant it, he could tell, and he turned his hand palm up to squeeze hers gently. "I'm still sorry."
"Apology accepted." Her hands had softened since the last time he'd touched them, lost most of the deep callouses from her gymnastics and her combat training. The nails were perfectly shaped and polished with a deep blue-purple colour.
He sighed, looking over at the topiary pig. "Things ain't the same as they were, are they?" he asked, already knowing the answer, and wishing harder than ever that it wasn't so. "Between us, I mean."
"No," she said regretfully, returning the gentle squeeze. "It's never going to be the same. I've changed."
"I know." She'd grown up, and he hadn't been there for it. That... hurt. He'd been there when Ogun had forced Kitty into adulthood. He should have been there when Bastion did the same to Jubilee. But he hadn't, Jono had, and he couldn't even resent the boy for it, not after he'd saved Jubilee's life. "Where do we go from here?"
"I dunno." She looked at him, and he made himself meet her eyes. They looked different. Older, more experienced... but more peaceful, too. The nervous energy and lurking insecurity were gone, now. Her face was thinner, framed in silky, perfectly cut black hair that just touched her jaw. She was still Jubilee... but different. Adult. Again, he remembered how Kitty had changed, after Ogun. So Jubilee, too, looked different. But then she smiled, and her smile was the same as it had always been, even though she wore lipstick now. "We could try being friends."
"Friends, huh?" He managed a small smile in return. "Okay. I can do friends. Probably not that well, but..."
"Ororo seems to think you're pretty good at friendship," Jubilee pointed out, and he wondered when she'd had time to talk to Ororo. "She says you've turned over a new leaf."
"I have. I learned a lot from losing you." The smile worked better, this time, and then was lost in confusion... and maybe a little tear or two... when she wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him as if none of this had ever happened, and she was still his little girl.
"There she is!!" someone yelled.
Suddenly a small tidal-wave enveloped them, made up of Gen-Xers and X-Men mixed up higgledy-piggledy as they all tried to grab and hug Jubilee at once. She squeaked in surprise, then gave Logan a rueful little smile as she vanished into the crowd of people, who were all talking at once, as loudly as possible.
"Jubilee, we missed you so much!"
"Where did you GO?"
"Did you have fun?"
"You didn't even WRITE!"
"Are you okay?"
"Where'd you get your hair done like that?"
"You have to tell us! What- ow!!"
"Out of my way!" Bobby hadn't let the wheelchair slow him down any, and Emma had thoughtfully bought him a whacking-stick to clear slow moving students out of his way. Dear, understanding Emma. It worked on X-Men, too, he thought gleefully, whacking Gambit on the kneecap. "Man in a wheelchair! Everyone get out of my way, I'm a special person!"
Reluctantly, and with many ouches and swearwords, a path was cleared between the wheelchair and the returned prodigal. Bobby beamed at her, pushing his chair - a conventional wheelchair, since there was only one hoverchair and the Professor didn't share it well - with some difficulty over the grass. Monet reached for the wheelchair handles, and Bobby slapped her away with his whacking stick. "Get off! Have some respect for the mature-but-still-handsome crippled guy!" He held out his arms. "Hey, Jubes, how about a hug?"
Jubilee plopped herself down on his lap and hugged hard. "Hey, Bobster," she whispered, suddenly a little overcome by it all. "I missed you."
"I missed you too." He returned the hug, enveloping her in warm arms and familiar Bobby-smell. "You look good, though."
"Thanks." She laid her head on his shoulder for a minute, then straightened up and smiled at him. "You're not looking too shabby either. The younger, sexier Professor of tomorrow, huh?"
"Damn right. I'm all ready to take over, as soon as he gets kidnapped or something." Bobby savoured the horrified looks he was getting from several people. "Yup. Professor Drake and the D-Men. Sounds pretty good, huh?"
Emma smacked the back of his head. "Shush. My turn." She gave Jubilee an awkward hug, and an even more awkward smile. "Welcome back."
"Thanks, Frosty." Jubilee gave her a damp smile. "Missed you too."
Then, of course, the hugging started again, and nobody said anything particularly coherent for a while.
* * *
It was much later. After an all-day impromptu party that had lasted well into the night, everyone had finally gone to bed.
Well, everyone except one. And another one, who was looking for the first one.
Jubilee followed the music into a drawing-room that was almost never used, except when the Professor had wealthy-but-ordinary guests. There was antique furniture, rich carpeting, and a beautifully-crafted piano.
Jono was sitting at the piano, playing softly. Just bits and pieces at first, little drifts of notes that teased the ear before stopping suddenly. She heard a telepathically muttered swearword or two, saw him reshuffling the messy bits of paper he'd tried to prop up on the music-holding thingie. There were a couple more false starts, and then...
Jubilee didn't know much about music. Especially not the classical-type, instrumental stuff. But this was beautiful, that much she could tell. It flowed along, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, a little sad, but with a few twinkling little moments that made her smile. It went on for some time, before stopping in a sudden squawk as Jono stopped playing and reached for pen and paper. ^^Okay, that works... better get it down...^^
She went and sat down beside him on the long pianostool, resting her head against his shoulder. "Hi."
^^Hey, you,^^ he said affectionately, still scribbling away. ^^Still awake, after all that fun everyone made you have?^^
"Yeah. Can't sleep." She smiled, wriggling her toes contentedly. "Overexcited, I guess. But happy."
^^Good.^^ He looped a long arm around her shoulders as he finished scribbling messy notations, and poked thoughtfully at a couple of keys. ^^What did you think? So far, I mean.^^
"It was wonderful," she said softly. "I didn't know you could write music like that."
^^Neither did I. Never tried, until now.^^ He ruffled her hair absently as he shuffled the bits of paper together with his other hand. ^^Had about six years o' Classical Piano lessons, though, before I rebelled an' started playing rock'n'roll. It's funny how it all comes back.^^
"I liked it," Jubilee said, yawning a little. "And not just because you wrote it. It... sounds good. Like... I could sort of tell what you were feeling when you wrote it, you know? Sad, but happy too."
^^It'll stop being sad by the end, and be all happy,^^ he sent softly, stroking her soft hair as she leaned against his shoulder. ^^It's... us, mostly. What we felt, and everything, over the last year. I didn't want to forget any of it, and I'm better with notes than with words.^^
"Really? Neat." Jubilee yawned again, getting sleepy now that it was just her and Jono. She'd missed him today. "What're you calling it?"
^^Uhm... Maturity in B Minor. A bit pretentious, yeh, but... that's just what it *is*.^^ He gave her an affectionate little eyecrinkle. ^^And you should be in bed, love. Big day again tomorrow.^^
"Okay." She yawned a third time, kissed him on the cheek, and hopped up off the bench. "But you get some sleep too."
^^Will do.^^ He watched her go, then turned back to the piano. She was happy, and that meant he was happy too. He was sort of in love with her, he was fairly sure, but he planned to wait another year or two to go anywhere with it. She needed to settle down a bit, maybe get a little older... and it wasn't as if he was going to be hanging around mooning pathetically. He had music to write. Maturity in B Minor needed at least six solid months of work before it'd be anything decent, and there were some more contemporaty bits of song he wanted to jot down as well, at some point and... well, he'd have plenty to keep his mind occupied. And he wouldn't be Jubilee-less in the meantime. She knew perfectly well that she was never going to find a flatmate as nice and undemanding as him.
He smiled a bit, in the privacy of his own mind, and went back to work. Something about that last bit just wasn't quite right.
Author's Note: Annnnd it's done! Finally! It's been... good lord, at least two years... but it's finally done. Thank you to every single wonderful person who sent feedback, and I hope you enjoyed the last parts. :) And no, there will be no sequel. None. Not EVER.