The Mask You See

by Dyce

Disclaimer: This is one of those short, rather odd stories that don't actually get written as such, but just sneak out of the Writer's hands and into the keyboard while she's thinking about something else. Which is quite bizarre for the Writer when she comes back from staring into space and sees a whole screenful of text that wasn't there a minute ago. Nevertheless, I take full credit for what my hands did while I was daydreaming, and it's mine now. The characters・ well, some are mine, and some aren't, you'll know which. If you don't send me feedback I'll be distressed and cranky.

No, that's not a threat, it's a statement of fact. I GET distressed and cranky when I don't get any feedback. I know threats are more usual at this juncture, but I'm being unique and original. And it's too late and I'm too tired to think up any good threats. <*g*> And if none of THAT put you off, go ahead and read.

(Rated PG for a bit of violence)

There were fires.

Small ones, mostly, that sparkled in a desultory sort of way, and would go out on their own eventually. There was also a fair bit of wreckage. And a collection of trussed bodies on the front lawn. The fact that it was a quite small collection was thanks solely to the fact that it was spring break, and all the 'normal' students at the Massechusetts Academy were gone until Monday. The fact that they were all bruised, bleeding, and in varying degrees of shock was thanks to the fact that an evil warlock (name unknown) was out looking to make a name for himself, and had decided to start on the young ones and work up.

He'd gotten all of them except one, and he had that one cornered in a dead-end hall in the main building. Had her by the shoulders, as a matter of fact. He stared at her out of mad eyes. Mad, but not stupid. He knew her powers wouldn't work on him. And he was bigger and stronger than she was. All she had left was・ well, whatever wits she was hiding behind wide blue eyes and a frightened expression.

Jubilee stared back at him, like a small furry animal watching a snake. Kitten eyes obviously weren't going to work. A pout, almost certainly not. The quivering lip wasn't even worth a mention. Fortunately, she had a last ditch alternative. *That* one.

The one she never used.

Unless she had to.

It was not so much uncanny as downright eerie, and wicked magicians don't use the word eerie unless they mean it. She straightened up, and・ changed. Her hands stopped moving around and went still, and so did her face, as her chin moved to a subtly different angle. She went from slumped in defeat to poised like a cat on a wire, and in some way that he couldn't quite fathom, she did it without actually moving anything. He watched in fascination as someone *else* slid down over her body like an invisible glove.

The frightened teenager's eyes closed.

The woman's eyes opened.

"Let go." She said it quite gently, but with a steely note that hadn't been in the voice before. This voice didn't need multiple exclamation marks to make its point. It didn't even need one. This voice could slice right through your brain with the edge it put on a comma.

He caught his hands loosening their grip, and tightened them again hastily. "No. This is very good, but it won't work." He was a bit smug about that. "I can't be harmed by the possessed."

"Really?" The hand he wasn't holding had vanished, and there was something sharp pressing against his stomach. "Do tell."

"Absolutely. It counts as the supernatural. Along with mutant powers." He smiled. Well, showed his teeth. "I've gotten all your friends. Soon we'll have a lovely bonfire, won't that be fun?" More teeth came into view. "And then I'll be more powerful. Oh, much more powerful than before. And I will go to Westchester. That will be・ enjoyable."

"So・ why, exactly, would me being possessed stop me from, oh, pushing this sharp piece of glass into you?" The blue eyes were as cool and opaque as blue marbles. "I remember the part about edged weapons. You told Angelo all about it after you took his knife away from him. But glass... I don't think glass counts."

"No. Glass doesn't count." He'd have to do something about that. It hadn't come up before, but now that it had been mentioned he could see that it was a weak point. "But possession does. I can't be harmed by the supernatural or supranormal. My protective spells are quite inclusive on that score."

"But if, say, I was just me, then this glass would kill you." The glass was quite sharp, too. And cutting into her hand. But it would also cut HIM, and that was, you might say, the entire point.

"Oh yes. A perfectly ordinary person cutting me with sharp glass would, in theory, kill me." Which was how it had to be. Every spell had to have a counterspell, or at least a loophole, otherwise it would burn itself out. "But," he said smugly, "she wouldn't. Jubilee, I mean. She's not a killer, is she?"

"Well. That's cleared that up, then." She smiled. Well, showed her teeth. And a very long, sharp piece of glass slid into his lower chest, angling upwards.

"But..." Then it clicked. He'd gotten it wrong, of course. The alteration of personality, the sudden difference in tone and stance... dead giveaway for someone being possessed. Everyone knew that. And ninety-nine percent of the time, he would have been right.

He'd been right THIS time.

Unfortunately, he'd gotten the direction wrong. He hadn't been seeing someone putting on another personality. He'd seen someone taking one off.

Jubilee really was a friendly, outgoing, rather naive child who wouldn't kill anyone. Unfortunately for him she'd had Jubilation, as it were, in reserve, somewhere a long way underneath the bubble and the charm and the constant chatter. And Jubilation was the base personality, in every sense of the word.

As he slid to the floor, bubbling a little, he wondered idly if anyone else knew Jubilation was there.

She looked down at him, and poked him with an exploratory toe. Dead. Good. She looked around. No-one was watching. She slumped her shoulders, and Jubilee slid back over her like a second skin.

"Done?" Jubilee asked the air.


"We really should reintegrate one of these days."

*I'm the one who gets to use big words.*

"I mean, we should like, get back together sometime, y'know?"

*That's better.*

"It's more fun this way, though."

*Much. I don't mind. I quite enjoy your life.*

"So do I. And of course you do. You're me." Jubilee headed back towards the front door.

*Yes. But it would be best if nobody else knew about me yet. It..... unsettles them. They don't like for us to be old.*

"Not yet." Jubilee agreed. She felt Jubilation slide down into the bottom of her mind.


Another few years, and Jubilation would have control.

Jubilee was not, in theory, real. Jubilation held her up like a mask so as not to frighten the world outside their head. Then again, Jubilee HAD been real. She'd just..... gone away. When things happened. Bad things. Growing up things. She'd grown up into Jubilation. And then Jubilation had brought her back, because Jubilation frightened people, especially in a fourteen year old body. So Jubilee slid into place, like a smooth, happy mask, while Jubilation retreated to the bottom of their mind to bide her time until the body caught up with her.

She eased past the wreckage of the door, out into the front lawn. "Guys? You still here? Yer tied up, of course yer still here.... anyone conscious?"

Paige groaned as the piercing voice of everyone's favourite firecracker drilled into her aching head. "Yes. Be quiet." All of them nearly killed by a psychotic warlock and....yes... Jubilee was still chewing that damned gum. Jubilee was never going to grow up, Paige thought ruefully. Never.