I will, I promise, reply to each and every e-mail・. But since replies and chapters take about the same amount of time to deal with, I thought I'd give you something to read while I did it. <g>
Disclaimer: None of the characters herein belong to me, and I use them without permission from their rightful possessors, who still have legal rights to Gen X, no matter how badly they treat them. I am making no profit. Warning: Some bad language and adult themes.
Maturity in B Minor By Dyce
<<These are thoughts>>
"Are you comfortable?" Emma tucked the blanket a little closer around Jubilee, and sighed briefly. "I still think you should wait another day or two, just to be sure."
"I just wanna go." Jubilee's voice was dull. Still, it was the first time in nearly twenty-four hours that she'd spoken at all, so Emma was inclined to consider it an improvement.
"I understand." The White Queen mask fell back into place, and Emma tapped her foot impatiently. "I expect you to check in at least once every two days, and-"
Jono patted her on the shoulder and nodded reassuringly. Fumbling a little in the pre-dawn light, he finished packing the last of their supplies into the old Jeep, and slammed the door. Emma stepped back a little as he trotted around the car and hopped into the driver's seat with just a little too much gay abandon for his teacher's peace of mind. Looking at Jubilee, he raised a questioning eyebrow.
"I'm ready. Let's go," she said in that same blank voice. He nodded, and gave her a thumbs up, twisting the key in the ignition. As the engine roared to life, Jubilee turned her head slightly to look at Emma. "Thanks, Frosty."
"Be careful." Emma's voice was level, but her eyes were a little brighter than usual. "I don't want to lose either of you." Jubilee didn't answer, but a black clad arm waved briefly out of the driver's window as the car pulled away.
"Where are they goin', Em?" A rather irritated Irish accent made its presence known. She sighed.
"On a trip," she smiled sweetly, turning to face her co-headperson. "Excuse me. I have a lot of work to do." As she tried to walk past him, a large hand closed firmly around her arm.
"Where are they goin'? And why did ye nae see fit t' tell me about this?" Sean's voice was angry, and he shook her a little as he glared down at her. "Now is nae the time f'r the kids t' be wanderin' around on their own, woman!"
"Get. Your. Hand. Off. Me." Emma snarled, jerking away from him. "You really want to know why I let them go? Assemble the older students and meet me in my office in half an hour. I don't want to go through this twice." She turned on her heel and stalked away with a click of heels, leaving an irate and confused Sean Cassidy staring after her.
* * *
Twenty-nine minutes later, Sean herded most of Generation X into Emma's office, to find her enthroned behind her desk with a large brandy snifter in one hand. This irritated Sean even more. "Well?" he snapped, folding his arms belligerently. "Would ye care t' explain why ye decided t' let Jubilee and Jono drive off into the great wide somewhere wi'out lettin' me or anyone else know about it?"
"When did they go?"
"Why'd they leave?"
"What's going on?" The students raised a surprised clamour, speaking over each other and giving Emma an assortment of accusing/puzzled/inquisitive looks. She sipped her brandy and tightened her grip on her composure. Jono had been firm that no-one else was to know about the suicide attempt itself except possibly for Wolverine (preferably right before she had him killed), which limited her options a little. Still・ she smiled inwardly.
"Please sit down, all of you." She waited until all were seated, and continued. "I freely admit that I am much to blame for this. I am Jubilee's teacher, and it was my responsibility to take care of not only her physical wellbeing, but her emotional health as well."
"What-" Sean started.
Emma held up a hand, cutting him off. "Please let me finish, Sean." She sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose with one hand. "Jubilee is in a very depressed, I would venture to say suicidal state, and I completely failed to become aware of it. As, might I add, did all of you." She looked around at a collection of stunned faces. "Not that I blame you. You have all suffered a great deal recently, and I have been very impressed by how well you're all coping. Jubilee, however, was not coping. She has left to return home to South California, and Jonothan has gone with her." Emma took a deep breath before she continued. "Since he was the one who identified her mental state, he decided to take responsibility for her care - a decision which I reluctantly accepted."
"Emma, are ye tellin' me that ye let a suicidally depressed student go off on a road trip with only a mute lad with a history of depression himself?!" Sean almost screamed. "What were ye thinkin', woman?"
"I was thinking that he was the only one who actually realised that there was something wrong, Sean!" Emma shot to her feet, leaning across the desk. "I was thinking that Jubilee needs to regain control of her life before she tries to take control of her death instead! I was thinking that I can't help her, Sean, none of us can!" She sat down, covering her face with her hands. "If we'd kept her here, she would have been dead within a week. Believe me, I know. I've been in the same state."
"No・" It was a soft, sourceless whisper from among the students.
"It happens. She's been kidnapped, imprisoned, mistreated・ I should have realised that she couldn't simply return to the school unscathed." Emma leaned back in her chair, her face even paler than usual. "Not to mention the callous lack of regard displayed by her so called family, the X-Men. Despite requests by Jubilee herself, not even Wolverine has bothered to come to see her."
"I'm sure he had reason, Em," Sean said, a little uncertainly.
"Something more important than his surrogate daughter's life?" Emma asked wearily. "I'm sorry, Sean. I know you've been friends for a long time, but I can't help thinking that if Wolverine had made time for Jubilee when she needed him, this would never have happened."
"Why didn't she say anything?" Paige asked uncertainly. "We could have helped her." Her normally pink cheeks were pale, and she huddled into her chair, pleading eyes fastened on the headmistress. "Couldn't we?"
Emma came around her desk and sat down on the chair next to Paige. "It's typical of melancholia that she was unable to let anyone know that something was wrong, Paige. She couldn't talk about it. All she could do was hope that someone would see that something was wrong before it was too late, even while she did her best to pretend that everything was fine."
"And we didn't notice." Everett said dully, his voice cracking. "We let her down."
"No, you didn't." Emma's voice was firm as she reached out to touch his shoulder gently. "You've never suffered from depression, Everett, neither have most of your fellow students. You couldn't be expected to recognise the warning signs. Jonothon, however, did, as I should have."
"I still dinnae think that sending her off t' drive all the way across the country is what she needs." Sean said dubiously. He wrapped an arm abssently around Paige's shoulders as she sniffled a little.
"It's not my first choice either." Emma shrugged. "But it was what she wanted. Sean, after being packed off here against her will, after being dragged to alternate dimensions, to secret sentinel bases and god only knows where else without a yea or nay, after being harried from pillar to post by you, me, and everyone and his dog・ what she needs is to regain control over her life. She. Needs. To. Make. Her. Own. Decisions."
"I can understand that." Gaia interjected, sitting crosslegged on the floor. "I know how desperately one can yearn for a freedom denied by what is 'right', or 'necessary'."
"Aye・ ye would, wouldn't ye, lass?" Sean scrubbed one hand across his face. "Well, 'tis done now, anyway. What we must consider now is what tae tell the X-Men."
"Why tell them anything?" Everett said bitterly. Everyone turned to look at him. "If they don't care enough to call and see if she's okay, then why should we chase them up?"
"Angelo is right." Monet agreed. "If they cannot even bestir themselves to respond when she asks them to come, I really don't see what telling them that she is no longer here to visit would achieve."
"Yeah, fuck 'em." Angelo nodded.
"That's not precisely how I would have put it, Mr Espinosa・ but yes. As far as I'm concerned, they have forfeited any rights to Jubilee." Emma said flatly. "If they actually bother to call and ask, then of course we will tell them."
"Aye, that we will." Sean sighed. "But until then, we'll just be keepin' our mouths closed. It wouldnae be fair t' the lass to spread rumours about her mental state t' all and sundry."
* * *
Some distance away, Jubilee was staring out the window. Trees and grass flickered past, but she didn't register them, her attention focused inward. <<Weak・stupid・selfish・>> she chastised herself. You're such a loser. No wonder the X-Men don't want you anymore. >> She watched the road slide by. <<You're pathetic. You're so fucking stupid you couldn't・even・ waitaminute, how come I can see the・>> She looked forwards. "JESUS CHRIST, JONO, GET ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD!!!" Jono, still driving down the exact center of the road, turned to look at her inquiringly. "What are you trying to DO?!" Jubilee screamed at him. He shrugged and continued driving. "Do you even know which side of the road you're supposed to be on?!?" He shook his head, giving her a look of such melting innocence that a heart of stone would have crumbled in a split second. Jubilee was much too busy panicking to notice. "THE ROAD!! WATCH THE FUCKING ROAD!!!"
Jono shook an admonitory finger at her, frowning. Reaching over, he tapped her lips gently. Without, at any point, looking at the road. "Forget my language!! Look at the road!!" With the air of one doing an enormous favour, Jono turned around again and focused on the strip of bitumen. "Now get back on the right side of it!"
Jono obediently swerved over the the left side. "No! No! The RIGHT side!!" He nodded and pointed in front of him. "Oh, _man_・. Jono, here in America we drive ON THE RIGHT-HAND SIDE OF THE ROAD GET ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD THERE'S A TRUCK COMIIIING!!!!"
Jono swung back onto the right side of the road, missing the oncoming truck by less than a foot. The horn blared and the driver shouted out the window. Jono flipped him an amiably obscene gesture in return. Sighing in relief, Jubilee returned to staring out the window, but her heart wasn't really in it. There was still too much adrenaline in her system for despair to really set in.
After a few minutes of blessedly unexciting driving, she turned again to look accusingly at Jono. "You did that on purpose, didn't you?" He shook his head.
"You did it on purpose."
"You almost killed us on purpose."
"You did, didn't you?"
"You did that to me on purpose."
"Hmph. There are less dramatic ways ta make me wanna live, English." Jubilee returned to staring out of the window, a faint pout hovering around her lips. "Jerk."
Jono nodded solemnly and focused his attention on the road again. If he'd had a lower face, however, he would have been smiling. Half an hour on the road and she'd stopped hating herself. True, it was because she was busy being mad at him, but he still thought it was an improvement.
* * *
Jubilee stared morosely at her sandwich. She'd killed a helpless little cow just so she could have lunch. Depression had regained its hold on her, and she had been sitting and staring at the sandwich for nearly ten minutes.
Jono sighed mentally, and reached over to touch her shoulder. Evidently distracting her wasn't going to work ffor long. When she looked up, he pointed at her eyes, then the sandwich, then the road.
"Yeah, yeah・ I ain't gonna eat it, so let's go." Jubilee stood up and walked out of the roadhouse, not bothering to look back. Jono shook his head, and wrapped the sandwich carefully in her napkin for later. Grabbing a couple of bottles of juice, he paid and headed out to the car, where she was leaning apathetically against the door. "Forget it, Starsmore. I'm not hungry."
He shrugged and pocketed the sandwich, handing her the bottles of juice and unlocking her door. She climbed in, and looked across at him as he folded his lanky frame into the driver's seat. "How come ya didn't try ta make me eat?"
He reached over and poked her gently in the sternum. She almost smiled. "Not even gonna push me around ta make me eat, huh?" He shook his head and started the engine. "What if I try to starve myself?" Jono shrugged, and pointed at her. "That's my problem, huh?" Nod.
"Fair enough, I guess. I just ain't hungry right now." She looked at him curiously. <<How far is he gonna take this? Sooner or later, he's gonna start pushin' me around fer 'my own good'. Everyone does. An' he's still got that sandwich stashed・ probably hoping I'll give in and ask him if I can have it. >> She shrugged, and stared out the window.
After a while, Jono tapped her on the shoulder. When she looked around, he pointed hopefully towards the radio. "Ya wanna listen to some music while we drive? Fine with me." She went back to looking out the window.
Jono fiddled with the radio for a while, and eventually picked an 'easy-listening' station that would provide background noise without distracting either of them. Jubilee ignored it for nearly two hours, lost in her own misery. She felt oddly comforted by Jono's failure to try to cheer her up. At least he respected her decision not to talk.
**Lay a whisper,
She leaned her head against the glass. The melancholy music suited her mood as the old Roxette song issued a little tinnily from the small speaker.
**I wake up lonely,
Jubilee fumed. <<Well, I_tried_,>> she thought angrily. <<But somebody wouldn't let me. _Somebody_ went and bandaged me up and pumped more blood into me after I went to all the trouble of letting mine out>> She glared across at Jono.
**It must have been love, but it's over
Jubilee closed her eyes, fighting the urge to cover her ears as well. <<It's just a song. It's just a stupid song. Don't you let it get to ya, Lee.>> Her small hands clenched, squeezing a fold of her raincoat.
"Shut up. Just shut up," she whispered, without moving. It was just a song・she didn't have to listen・
**And it's a hard winter's day,
Jono pulled the car over onto the side of the road and reached over to pull her gently into his arms as she started to sob. Jubilee wailed into his leather jacket as he rocked her gently, stroking her silky hair.
"I-it's just a s-stupid song・" She sobbed, tears soaking into his bandages. At that moment, Jono would have given his right arm for a voice to comfort her with, but all he could to was hold her and rock her tenderly.
It was only the beginning of a long, long journey, he knew that. A sad song and a good cry only solved all the world's problems in stories. But at least it was a beginning, and he cradled her gently as she cried her broken heart out.
End of Chapter Two
Note: the song quoted here is 'It Must Have Been Love' by Roxette, which also does not belong to me.