Maturity in B Minor: Chapter 7

by Dyce

Well here it is! Finally! :) Hope you find it worth the wait.

Chapter Seven

Jubilee looked up from her book. There was definitely something odd about the countryside. Too many rocks, and no enough grass. Not to mention the pitiful excuse for a road. Something had obviously gone wrong while she'd been immersed in her copy of 'Interesting Times'. Oh, sure, Jono was still tapping on the steering wheel and looking chirpy, but since that was the only expression he'd been using at all lately, she wasn't terribly reassured. Adding to that the fact that they'd lost their only map yesterday, and・

"We're lost, aren't we." Jubilee looked at the road, then over at Jono. Jono shrugged philosophically and nodded. "How long have we been lost?" Jono shrugged again. He made the rotating gesture that she had learned meant time passing.

Jubilee gritted her teeth. "So why didn't ya ask anyone at the road house we stopped at fer lunch?"

Jono tapped his bandages and gave her a deeply reproachful look. Jubilee closed her eyes, counted slowly to ten, then looked at him again. "Okay・ so why didn't ya get ME ta ask, then?"

He puffed out his bandages, and flexed one arm in as muscular a fashion as he could manage. Jubilee shook her head ruefully. "O'course. Because yer a guy, and guys don't ask fer directions, right?" He nodded complacently. "But why didn't ya TELL me we were lost?" He gave her a concerned look and patted her on the shoulder.

Jubilee counted to ten again. Then she did it again, in Spanish. Then in Mandarin. Then, in a reasonably calm voice, she spoke. "Jono? While I appreciate that ya didn't want to worry me, next time you lose us in the middle of nowhere, I'd like for you to tell me. Okay?" He nodded. "Thank you."

Jono crinkled at her, and returned his attention to the road. Jubilee watched him drive for a moment. "Jono?" He looked at her inquiringly. "Just out of curiosity, now thaat we're both clear on the whole lost thing, ya got any sort of plan as ta how we get UNlost?"

He pointed at the road and shrugged. "Right. It hasta go somewhere. This is a pretty good road, with bitumen and everything. We'll just keep going until we find someone who can tell us where we are・ and maybe sell us a map."

They kept driving, but there was still no sign of civilisation when they finally stopped for the night.

"Camp?" Jubilee demanded. "We have to CAMP OUT?"

Jono nodded. Bringing the car to a stop, he pointed hopefully at a flat patch of ground a little way from the road. Jubilee folded her arms and glared. "No, that does NOT look like a good spot! A good spot would have a motel on it!" He dropped his shoulders in a silent sigh, and raised his eyebrows at her. She pouted. "But I don't LIKE camping out!" Jono waved a hand, silently pointing out the complete lack of motels anywhere about.

Jubilee sighed. "Maybe if we keep going, there'll be one?" She suggested hopefully. Jono tapped his watch, then put his hand over her eyes. "Yeah, yeah・ I guess yer right. It's gonna be dark soon, and setting up in the dark bites, literally. Trust me, if we're gonna do this, we wanna do it while we can still see what we're stepping on." She did her best big pleading puppy eyes. "But can't we just keep going until we find a good place ta stop?"

Jono shook his head firmly. With an unusually serious expression, he let his eyes close, and pantomimed falling asleep at the wheel. Jubilee winced. "Good point. Okay, okay, we camp." She pulled her door open and hopped out of the car, looking around. "This'll do. We do have, like, tents or something, right?"

Jono nodded, already digging around in the back of the Jeep for the camping equipment that they'd never yet used. Naturally, it had sunk right to the bottom. By the time he finally found it, half their gear was strewn around them on the ground.

Jubilee poked a bag of cans with her toe. "Ya came prepared, huh?" He nodded, and held up a tent, neatly packed in its little bag. The other one was lying beside him on the ground, along with two rolled up sleeping bags and a small gas burner, complete with gas bottle.

Jubilee shrugged, and pointed to a flattish bit of ground. "That looks like a good spot ta put a tent. Let's do it." Easier said than done. The tent, an oldfashioned one-man, acquired an extremely hostile life of its own the minute it was removed from the bag.

"Jono! It's trying to EAT me!" Jubilee called from somewhere under the pile of gaily-coloured plastic. Trying valiantly not to laugh, Jono rummaged around in the mass until he pulled out a rather dishevelled Jubilee, who promptly grabbed one of the tent-poles and hit the tent. "Bad tent! Bad-- Sorry!"

Jono, who had gotten the rebounding aluminium pole square in the stomach, merely winced and waved her away. She patted him apologetically, then picked up the bag, to which some helpful person had attached the instructions, presumably on the basis that they'd be harder to lose that way.

* * *

"Okay・ we've got the tent laid out, now what? Poles, right." She looked at the pole in her hand. Then back at the diagram. "Jono? I think this bit belongs to a different tent. I can't find it in the picture anywhere."

* * *

"Tent pegs? Who still uses tent pegs?" Jubilee snarled, sucking a banged thumb. "Where did Frosty GET these tents, the stone ages?"

Jono shrugged, banging another peg in with a rock. Fortunately, there were plenty of rocks available. Unfortunately, so far nearly all of them had been in the same patch of dirt into which they had been trying to insert tent pegs.

* * *

"No, Jono, I do NOT think that incinerating the directions will help us put up the tent, but it will make me FEEL better, so hand them over!!"

* * *

Nearly an hour later, as it began to get dark, they finally had the tent up. Jubilee sat back on her heels and beamed. "Ya know, Jono, this might just be the most dastardly foe we've ever faced. And we won."

Jono nodded, crinkling happily. Then the gleam in his eyes, faded, and he looked back at the car. More specifically, at the still unpitched tent lying beside it. He looked back at her, his face falling.

Jubilee looked at him, then back at the newly pitched tent. She closed her eyes wearily, then opened them again "Jono・ ya wanna share the tent?" He stared at her, surprised. "Look, dude, we've been sharing motel rooms fer two weeks now. I'm, like, pretty sure yer not gonna leap on me in the middle of the night." Jono looked again at the rolled up bundle beside the Jeep, then he nodded, shuddering.

Jubilee grinned at him."Good move. Now・ what's in those cans I can eat?" She waved a stern finger at him. "I'm warnin' ya now, if there's spam in there, I'm gonna pour it down yer trousers."

* * *

Jono finished packing the garbage into a plastic bag, and tossed it into the back of the jeep. Turning, he scanned the small camp for Jubilee, his proximity-to-depression radar twanging like an out of tune banjo.

She was sitting on the bonnet of the Jeep, her knees drawn up under her chin. Her still-short hair shone in the firelight, and she had pulled her new jacket tightly around her shoulders. Sad blue eyes were fixed on the bright stars.

He pulled himself up on the bonnet beside her, and tucked a long arm around her shoulders. She stiffened, and he looked down at her in hurt surprise. Up until now she'd always seemed to appreciate the frequent hugs and attentions that he'd gotten into the habit of giving. He'd long suspected that there hadn't been a lot of casual, no strings affection in her life, and for his part, he'd enjoyed the break in his own long isolation. Still, he wasn't going to push her, so he dropped his arm to his side.

"I'm・ sorry." She leaned against his shoulder. "It's just・ I was thinking about this time on the boat. The time Wolverine and I went to Madripoor, right at the beginning." Jono tensed. This was the first time she'd mentioned Wolverine since she'd first broken down and cried. "There was this night when he sat out on the deck with me, and he put his arm around my shoulders and pointed out the different constellations to me. And I thought・ that he really cared about me, you know? I mean, he was talkin' ta these invisible people and he was bleedin' still but・no-one ever did that before, and I thought, this is what it's like ta have someone." Her voice was flat and quiet. "And now I'm here, with you, and it feels the same." She looked up at him with sad blue eyes. "I don't want it to be the same."

Jono would have given ten years of his life to be able to speak at that moment. Anything to take that dull, bruised look off her face, to put the sparkle back in her eyes. Carefully, he took her hand, lacing his fingers through hers. Throwing up his other hand, he waved at the desert around them, as if to indicate the world in general. Scowling, he pointed at himself, and pounded his fist on the metal beneath them. Then he pointed at her, and made a grinding motion with one heel.

She smiled weakly. "The world's treated us both like crap?" she guessed.

He nodded, squeezing her hand. Pointing again at himself, then her, he waved a hand again at the earth and stars that surrounded them, dismissing all of creation with a single gesture. Crinkling a little, he hugged her gently, his eyes meeting hers.

Jubilee sniffled a little, and smiled at him. "Yeah, who needs the world, anyway." She hugged him tightly. "I got a good friend and a working car. That'll do me." She leaned against him for a minute, her eyes distant. "Jono?"

He looked down at her, his hair falling into his eyes. Grinning, she pushed it back. "You know, you really need a haircut, dude. Yer startin' ta look like a sheepdog." He crinkled at her, and cocked an eyebrow inquiringly. "No, that's not what I was gonna say." She leaned up and kissed him lightly on the cheek. "I just wanted ya ta know that I love ya. In, like, a totally platonic family best friend kinda way, o' course."

Jono beamed, pointed to himself, and 'kissed' her forehead by pressing his fingertips first to the bandages across his face, then to the middle of her forehead. Then he completely ruined the moment by tickling her.

Giggling, Jubilee slid down off the Jeep and dashed towards the tent. "I'm getting the Marvin sleeping bag!" She called over her shoulder. "And I'm gonna get changed, so don't come in until I say!"

He nodded, waving. She vanished into the tent, and he leaned back to look at the stars. **Not bad.** he thought a little smugly. **Think I reassured the gel.** He allowed his mind to wander, spending the next several minutes thinking very unkind thoughts about Wolverine. He rarely allowed it to show, but Jono had a very strongly developed sense of responsibility. If you made a commitment to something or someone, you were supposed to follow through. He winced guiltily. **Gayle・ Okay, so I ain't exactly perfect in that regard. But I learned from that one. I ain't never done it again.** If he'd still had a jaw, he would have clenched it. **An' I won't do it this time. Not to Jubilee.**

* * *

"Hi, Frosty."

Emma's grip tightened on the mobile phone. "Where hab you two beed? You havid called id days!" The words popped out of her mouth before she thought. Then she groaned silently and slapped her forehead. **Augh! Why don't you just bawl her out for not doing her homework?**

There was a moment's silence on the other end of the line, then Jubilee spoke rather cautiously. "Umm・ d'you have a cold or somethin', Miz Frost?"

Emma blinked in surprise, then remembered. "Oh. Do, I do'nd hab a cold. I've god a broked dose."

"A broken NOSE? How the heck did THAT happen?"

"Ub・ id's a log story." Emma REALLY didn't think she should explain that little incident just now. "Where have you two beed?"

"Oh・ Jono got us lost." Jubilee giggled. Emma nearly dropped the phone in relief."It took us two days to find this place, and I'm not sure it was worth the effort."

"A wud horse towd?"

"Only if it's a very small horse that's been dead for a long time." Jubilee snorted. "But there's a phone, and a map, and I think there might EVEN be a shop, although that could be pushing things a bit."

"Where exactly are you, adyway?" Emma leaned back in the comfortable backseat of her limo. In the front, Bumpkin was pretending not to listen.

Jubilee laughed outright. "Oh, there's a story to that. Y'see, Jono got us lost, only he didn't tell me because he's wandered off on some weird macho kick. Anyway, we like, had to CAMP in the DESERT, right? Which was okay, I guess, but Jono nearly pushed me out of the tent in the middle of the night because he's the world's most restless sleeper, and-"

"Waid, waid!" Emma glared at the phone as if it could somehow transmit her gaze to her missing student. "I DOW I packed two tends. Why were you sharing?"

"Keep yer bustier on, Frosty, we're just friends." Jubilee sounded more amused than traumatized, but Emma had heard THAT one before. "It just, like, took us two whole hours to get ONE set up, an' by the time we were done it was gettin' dark, so we just bunked in together. We've been sharin' motel rooms, too." Jubilee's voice softened a little. "Jono keeps insistin' that it's because it's safer, but I think it's just because he worries about me, ya know? He's totally behaving, don't worry・ well, he DOES kinda push me around an' make me eat right and do my aerobics, but he means well."

"He DOES?" Emma pulled the phone away from her ear and shook it, giving it an incredulous look. "Are we talkig aboud the sabe Jodo?"

"Yeah!" Jubilee chuckled. "Who knew, huh? Anyway, he's takin' good care of me, so don't worry. Well, except fer the getting' us lost thing. Like I was sayin', he got us lost, and we had ta camp out, but that wasn't so bad. Anyway, it took us most of today ta find this place, and when we finally pulled up at this general store with, like ONE gas pump out the front, this guy came out and asked us if we were lost. I said, yeah, we're lost, how'd ya guess, and he asked us where we thought we were, right? And I didn't know, so I asked Jono, and he pointed to Colorado on the map. That really cracked the guy up. So Jono gets all huffy and postures a bit, and the guy grins and makes a few comments, and Jono kinda swaggers around a bit a makes a few gestures and they go off on this TOTAL macho me-big-man riff all over the place. Eventually, I managed ta get their attention - fer a minute I thought I was gonna hafta rip my shirt off or somethin', but I turned this hose on them and that worked - and I managed ta ask the guy where we were."

The moment dragged out until Emma finally had to ask. "Where ARE you?"


"TEXAS? How od earth did you ged there?"

"Apparently we got turned around about ninety degrees in Kansas and Jono didn't notice." Jubilee tut-tutted sadly. "You'd think he'da noticed that the sun was comin' up in a different part of the sky, wouldn't ya?"

"Didn'd YOU nodice?" Emma asked, fairly reasonably.

"Me?" Jubilee sounded surprised. "I'M the whacked out depressed one here. He should consider himself lucky I'm even noticin' HIM, let alone the road."

"Fair edough. How are you feelig?" Emma asked as non-threateningly as she could, then held her breath. It was the first time she'd dared to ask, and she had a suspicion that everything was resting on not doing so until the perfect time.

"My wrists are almost all healed." Jubilee's voice was as carefully neutral as Emma's. "Jono took the stitches out. Did a good job, too."

"Thad's good." Emma backed off hastily. "Those cad ged infected easily."

"Yeah." Jubilee sighed. "Look, Emma・ don't worry, okay? We're - Hey, Jono! Leave that dog alone! I don't care if it took a whizz on your leg, ya can't barbecue it fer a first offence!" She huffed impatiently. "Look, just fill up the tank and the gas can, okay? And don't even THINK about 'accidentally' gettin' any of it on the dog. Sorry about that, Frosty, but ya gotta watch him when he gets outta his cellar." She chuckled. "But like I was sayin', don't worry. We're doin' okay. Not great, yet. Not even good. But we're doin' okay. I'll call ya again when we hit New Mexico, 'kay? Bye."

"Bye. Keep ad eye on him, okay?" Emma

"Will do." Jubilee hung up and turned back to the face-off between man and beast. "Jono? Come here."

He trotted over to her, glaring suspiciously at the dog. The dog stared back with an assessing gaze that promised another hosedown the minute it had an escape route planned. Jono ostentatiously turned his back on it and raised one eyebrow at Jubilee. She shook her head. "You are seriously weird, dude. Anyway, Miz Frost has a broken nose and I think she's worried about us, but I told her not ta worry."

Jono raised the other eyebrow and tapped her nose. "No, she didn't say how it happened. She sounded - will you stop scarin' that dog? It thought ya were a tree, it's a perfectly natural mistake." Jono scowled over his shoulder. "It's NOT plotting! Now come inta the shop and help me find something besides beef jerky・" She dragged him into the dilapidated building.

Under the car, the dog crouched and plotted. When the big black thing came back out, it schemed, it would run out and bite it hard. To pass the time, it thought, it would mark its territory all over the black thing's car. How lucky that it had left the door open.