Maturity in B Minor: Chapter Eight

by Dyce

Yes! It's true! It's finally here! **g** I know it took a long time, and I'm sorry, but this is the first half-sane spare minute I've had since I started University. **sighs** WHY did I want to be a teacher? WHY?

**g** Now that we're done with our trip down memore lane, here's the brand spanking new MiBM 8! (characters not mine, no profit being made, feedback probably unanswerable do to time constraints but adored and pathetic-gratitude-inspiring nonetheless.)

The silence in the Jeep was almost palpable. So was the smell.

Jono tapped on the steering wheel. Warily, he risked glancing over at Jubilee. She sat with her arms folded, staring out the open window. Her bottom lip jutted out in a ferocious pout, which was actually quite cute, but which meant that she was seriously annoyed with life in general and him in particular.

She wasn't being *entirely* reasonable about that, he thought. Admittedly, it HAD been him who left the door open, but it was NOT his fault that that dog had taken such an instant dislike to him. Well, all right, he HAD stepped on it, but that was an accident. It could have happened to anybody.

At least she'd stopped shouting now, he thought with some relief. That had been bad. When they'd come out and found the liberally besprayed jeep reeking to high heaven, he and the bemused attendant at the combined gas station/ general store had been treated to a twenty-minute-no-repeat-three-identifiable-language stream of cursing that had left both guys gaping. The other guy had vowed on the spot that he would never, ever again make cursing like a girl sound like a bad thing, and Jono had agreed. Even at his best, HE'D never been able to swear like that. He hadn't even known what all the English words meant, let alone the others.

The stranger, Ben, had at least been helpful. He had helped them to pull everything out of the Jeep, wrap it all in plastic, and hose out the interior. That had cut the smell a little. Then he had given them a new map, free of charge, and showed them how to get to a much larger town that had a carwash・ and a motel.

That had been nearly five hours ago, and Jubilee was still sulking.

Dropping his shoulders in his own personal version of 'sigh', Jono reached over to turn the radio on. After a few minutes of fiddling, and a silent repetition of a choice phrase or two from Jubilee's repertoire, he found a country music station that was reasonably clear.

Jubilee remained silent through a dully repetitive country music song that was apparently about a snowbird spreading its tiny wings and flying away, for which Jono didn't blame it in the least if the singer was half as clueless as she sounded. Jubilee simply ignored it. Jono wondered if maybe he should put his silly hat on again. She seemed to like that. But he wasn't sure where it was, or what it currently smelled like, so he decided against that idea.

He tapped the steering wheel thoughtfully. Hmm・ shopping again? It was practically a guaranteed means of apology to any red-blooded female. And make no mistake, he WOULD have to apologize. The fact that it hadn't been his fault had nothing to do with it. He was male, and she was female, and he had to apologize.

Jubilee scowled, and wound the window down a little further. Jono winced. Carefully, he tapped her lightly on the shoulder. When she turned to glare at him, he hung his head penitently, and gave her a pleading look.

Her lips twitched a little. "Are you tryin' ta apologize, Jono?"

He nodded, widening his eyes into his very best puppy dog look. His hair flopped over his forehead, and he stared soulfully through it, deliberately being as irresistibly adorable as possible.

Jubilee giggled helplessly. "Okay, okay, I forgive ya," she grinned, reaching over to push his hair out of his eyes. "Yer cute when yer pathetic, ya know that?"

Jono crinkled and nodded, batting his eyes at her with an exaggeratedly innocent expression. She chuckled. "Yeah, well, that cutesy wide eyed stuff don't work on me, Starsmore. I'm, like, totally immune."

He rolled his eyes and crinkled at her. "It doesn't! I'm completely resistant," she protested. "You can flash those big brown eyes at me all day long and it won't do one single thing."

Jono shrugged, reached into his pocket, and pulled out his American Express Gold Card. He waved it invitingly. Jubilee grinned and grabbed for it. "On the other hand, flash THAT at me and you're forgiven."

Jono held up a hand, and rummaged through his pocket again. After several rubber bands, half a pencil, a driver's license, and a rubber mouse, he produced another card. Like his, it was shiny, golden, and had 'I'm rich' written all over it in big invisible letters. Unlike his, it had Jubilee's name on it.

Jubilee grabbed it and stared at it. "Frosty gave ME a credit card?" she asked, as if to make quite sure. Jono nodded. Jubilee gave him a very dubious look. "Me? A credit card? And yer worried about MY mental health?"

He crinkled at her, and patted her shoulder. The day was definitely improving, he thought optimistically.

* * *

"I NEED a new swimsuit, Jono." Jubilee said reasonably. "The one I've got has Xaviers all over it and we agreed that we shouldn't flash that stuff around, right? So I gotta get a new one."

Jono nodded resignedly. They had found the town, dropped the car off to be decontaminated, dropped all their clothes off at a local laundromat, and now had several hours to kill before everything was done. Jubilee had spotted a local pool, and decided that she wanted to go swimming. Which, apparently, meant 'I want to go and hang around in an air-conditioned store all day'. Which Jono didn't object to in the least. The trouble was that if the guy in the next aisle didn't stop drooling every time Jubilee walked out of the changerooms, Jono was going to have to beat his teeth down his ugly throat in defense of her honour.

"What about this one?" Jubilee looked critically over her shoulder. "Does it make my butt look big?" Jono looked critically at her latest choice. A high-necked one-piece in brilliant, rather tawdry red, it was cut high over the hips, with pink binding around the seams. The bright colours overwhelmed her porcelain skin, robbing her eyes of light and leeching the pale illumination from her delicate face. A year ago, it would have suited her. Now, it made her look like a corpse. Jono gave it a firm thumbs down.

"Yer right." Jubilee nodded. "I'll be right back." She trotted back into the change rooms. Jono settled back in his chair, giving the guy in the next aisle a dirty look. He had to be at least thirty-five, and if he didn't put his eyes back in his head Jono was going to hurt him. "What about this one?" Jubilee sidled a bit shyly into view.

If Jono had still had a tongue, he would have swallowed it.

The suit was・ technically・ a one-piece. Sort of. That is to say, all the bits of it were at least semi-attached to one another. And the rich, irridescent blue-green did suit her much better than the red had. But・ Jono tried to settle his eyes on a safe spot, and couldn't find one. The fabric was almost transparent! He could almost see right through it! The neckline was quite decent, but the upside-down-triangle cutout which started two inches below it and ran all the way down to her navel made a mockery of the whole idea. He could see practically the whole underside of her・ of her・ he dragged his eyes away and stared into the mirror. Which obligingly revealed how much back there wasn't. The arm of Jono's chair chose that moment to inexplicably break off in his hand.

Jubilee grinned. "Should I?" Jono shook his head so hard it almost came off, waving the now broken chair-arm for emphasis. Jubilee scowled at him. "Why not? I ain't a kid anymore, Jono, and I-" Jono held up a hand for attention. "What?" He pointed at the guy in the next aisle, who had a glazed look in his eyes. "Oh. Right." She sighed. "Okay, okay, I won't get this one. It looks good, though, doesn't it?" Jono nodded, blushing slightly. Jubilee chuckled.

Half an hour later, they settled on a dramatic-but-not-too-showy black and white one-piece. For once, Jono was thankful that he no longer had a heart to speak of, since if he had it almost certainly would have given out under the strain.

A short while later, he was sitting on a slightly damp patch of grass, watching Jubilee swim laps with a completely uncharacteristic determination. Jono scowled, folding his arms and leaning back against a tree. She wasn't better. Not really. On the surface, she was fast returning to normal, but he wasn't fooled.

Jubilee cut through the water, her fast, even strokes propelling her forward with an angry energy that almost surprised her. She hadn't talked about it with Jono・ but she was angry. *Angry*, dammit・ she had a *right* to be angry. After all that talk about how important she was to them, the X-Men had bailed on her. Just said 'So long, Jubes' and pushed her out of the plane. They'd *left* her.

She pulled herself out of the pool, and stamped over to a small bench half hidden in a cluster of bushes. Probably a prime makeout spot when it wasn't used for fuming on. She sat down, staring blankly at a small caterpillar crawling determinedly across a leaf. ****Three・two・one・**** The space behind her filled up with worry and black leather. "Jono." A tentative hand broushed her shoulder, then pointed at the seat beside her. "Yeah, sure. Knock yerself out."

He sat down beside her, giving her that annoying/comforting puppy-dog look. She sighed. "Yer worried about me again, right?" He nodded. "Don't be. I'm just・ tryin' ta get my head around some stuff is all."

He raised an enquiring eyebrow. "No, I don't wanna talk about it. I wanna HURT somebody." She scowled, folding her arms. "A lot."

Jono nodded slowly, and rested a bony hand on her back. She sighed, and leaned against him for a moment, then she stood up. "C'mon, dude. Let's get goin', okay? It's gettin' late, and we gotta get our stuff, find a hotel, and get something ta eat."

* * *

"Nah, the X-men are like・ are like・" Jubilee looked down at the table for inspiration. "Like a sundae, right?" Having purchased an assortment of food, they'd hunted up a slightly dilapidated picnic table where they could eat, if in slightly less comfort, then a lot more privacy.

Jono raised an eyebrow and gave her a rather odd look. Letting her have some of his bought-for-effect beer probably hadn't been a good idea. She grinned at him. "No, really, I'm serious. Look, a good sundae is exciting, right? Lotsa fudge, nuts, sprinkles, different flavours and textures, and it's all pretty good, right? Like the X-Men." Jono nodded, looking a bit worried. "So ya dig in and you have a great time. 'Sonly when ya get ta the bottom that you realize・" Jubilee held up a finger, "ONLY then that ya realize all ya got is a buncha empty calories, a stomach-ache, and something sharp and annoyin' stuck in yer teeth."

Jono blinked, then nodded quickly, finally grasping the analogy. Looking around, he firmly tipped the remainder of the beer out onto the ground, and shook a reproving finger at Jubilee. She snorted. "It tastes like something you'd squeeze outta a cat, anyway. Did you actually usedta DRINK that stuff? I mean, voluntarily?"

Jono pointed at the demolished remains of two Big Macs and raised an eyebrow. "That's different!" Jubilee said defensively. "That's FOOD!"

Jono shook his head firmly, and tapped his chair. "It is NOT plastic!" Jubilee paused, and frowned thoughtfully. "Okay, maybe the pickles・"

* * *

Jono opened one eye, unwilling to make more of a commitment to wakefulness than that. There was something wrong. Something odd in his immediate surroundings had dragged him out of a sound sleep. He frowned, trying to remember. There had been・ a noise, that was it. A noise that didn't belong. A confusing and mystifying noise that had dragged him out of a particularly pleasant dream into a dark, silent motel room. Opening the other eye, Jono decided to find the noise and squash it.

Sitting up, he listened carefully. A car outside・ no・ a faint buzz from the air-conditioning・ annoying, but no・ and that was all. The room was, he realised as silent as the grave. So what had woken him up? He rubbed his face blearily. There was certainly *something* nagging at him・ something he'd・ just・

Silent as the grave.

He couldn't hear any breathing.

Screaming silently in panic, Jono hurtled out of his bed and over to Jubilee's, yanking back the covers. Nothing. The bed was empty. Moving faster than he ever had in his life before, Jono checked the small bathroom, the closet, and any other hiding place he could think of. Jubilee was nowhere to be found.

He was standing in the bathroom nearly hysterical with fear and concern when the noise that had woken him up came again. ・**tap**・ He strained to hear where it had come from. ・**tap**・**tap**・ The bedroom. He tiptoed in, ears straining.


He looked around. Where could the noise be coming from? Did it have anything to do with Jubilee? Was she okay? **please let her be okay・**


For the first time in years, a heavy chill settled itself in Jono's chest. The door was swinging a little in the night breeze, the latch tapping against the doorframe without quite enough force to close. Jono remembered, very clearly, locking that door before he went to bed. Now it was swinging open・

・and Jubilee was gone.

End Part 8