To the Gallows Foot and After: Part 1

Melissa Nolen

Jubilee was running. The landscape through which she ran was dark and forbidding, and occasionally she caught glimpses of things with scales and teeth and claws hidden in the darkness. She didn't know why she was running, only that she had to run faster, the desperation to get somewhere or to someone increasing with each and every step. The terror that she wasn't going to make it in time pounding in her head. Digging deep into her own unique stubborn core of strength, she began to run a little faster. But even as she ran faster she could feel herself somehow falling further and further behind. She screamed out her anger at being kept away, "NOOOOOOOOO NOOOOOO."

Jubilee bolted upright in bed. She was panting hard and her entire body was trembling with adrenaline and frustration. The moonlight coming in the window over her bed illuminated the room she shared with Paige. Nothing was disturbed, nothing lurked in the corners, and Paige lay sleeping peacefully across the room.

Gone, as elusive as the smoke from one of Wolvie's noxious cigars. Jubilee sighed as she lay back down on the bed. Third one this week, she thought to herself as she drifted back into a fitful sleep.


"Hey Jubes, wake up!" Paige Guthrie called cheerfully from where she sat on her neatly made up bed, finishing the laces of her shoes in preparation for her morning run.

Jubilee, as always, was still in bed asleep. Paige sometimes secretly wondered how Jubilee had made it when she was with the X-Men and most definitely wondered how she had run with the sometimes frightening X-Man, known as Wolverine. Of the times that Paige had met the feral X-Man, he had scared her as much as some of the weirdoes Gen-X had faced. Paige gave a long suffering sigh as she picked up one of Jubilee's socks that had migrated over to her side of the room. She threw it over to the other bed with another admonishment, "Come on Lee, face the day."

A thoroughly disgruntled "Go away" was the only response Paige got from under the mound of clothes and uniforms and towels piled haphazardly on Jubilee's bed.

"Come on Jubilation," she tried again in what she hoped was her best future leader of Generation X voice. "You have a Danger Grotto session with Ms. Frost this morning. You know how she feels about tardiness."

At Jubilee's muffled answer from somewhere deep in the covers, Paige turned a bright shade of pink.

Trying to keep her voice steady, Paige decided to try a different tactic. "Jubilee, I don't think that is even humanly possible and even if it were, I seriously doubt Sabertooth would hold still."

Jubilee's answer as she pulled the blanket tighter over her head sent Paige scurrying for the safety of the door and the hallway beyond.

Safely cocooned within the covers Jubilee grinned to herself. That'll show her. Try using the command voice on me will ya. Rooming with Paige was infinitely better than rooming with her most perfect priss M, but sometimes Paige's morning cheeriness and no-so-subtle desire to be the undisputed leader of Gen X was entirely to much to handle. Besides, Jubilee thought to herself, I never made it easy on Scott "I am in Control" Summers, why should Paige get any breaks.

Shifting around to find a more comfortable position within the twisted sheets, she realized just how tired she really felt. It was as if she had just laid her head down on the pillow, she thought with a yawn. A second stray thought that Frosty was going to annihilate her in this morning's training session floated though her consciousness right before she sank back into the darkness.



The softly whispered plea in her head turned into the icy sharp mental "voice" of a very impatient Ms. Frost. *I said, Jubilee, that I am waiting and you are late.*

*No, what did you say before that?*

*I said nothing before that and I am still waiting.*

Oh great! That was just what she needed this morning, Frosty with her lingerie in a twist. Well, there was no help for it, time to get up and get pounded by Ms. Frost. Rolling over with a growl that would have done Wolverine proud, she drug herself up out of the bed and padded unsteadily down the hallway to the girl's bathroom. She felt sure that a shower would help revive her. She hadn't felt this bad since that first time Wolvie had taken her out camping and made her sleep out on the ground sans tent, fluffy L.L. Bean sleeping bag and bug spray.

Taking a quick shower she scrambled to get herself dry and into a combat training uniform. Brushing out the tangles in her hair, she caught her reflection in the glass over the sink and stopped. "Geez, Lee, you are looking bad," she told her reflection. Deep dark circles accented her pale skin and her usually glossy hair hung limp and lackluster. "I look like Gambit after a drinking binge."

Emma Frost was annoyed, though she was careful not to allow the annoyance to show on her face. She sighed, letting the building tension drain out of her. She didn't know why she was surprised at her youngest student's lateness. But then, Jubilee oftentimes seemed to make it a point to do the exact opposite of what was expected of her. Brash, loud, impetuous, rude, most of the time she acted no older than Artie, Leech, and Franklin rather than her 14 years. Yet hidden beneath the mask of immaturity she showed the world, there was a strength of character that Emma had seen in very few people in this world.

Her recent experiences with Jubilee about the bond she now shared with Sean had impressed upon her the knowledge that there was more to Jubilation Lee than the girl was letting out. The fact that the normally talkative girl still held the secret of that bond was very impressive.

So while Jubilee tried her patience to the limits, Emma continued to work with her rather than sending her to Sean just so she could see those occasional flashes of what she could become. In fact, often she had to hide her surprise when Jubilee laid out a plan that had the Scott Summers' stamp on it, took a stand for honor's sake that would have mirrored Wolverine, or those times when she spoke with Jean's compassion or Storm's calm. Of course at the same time, the X-Men influences were seriously modified with pure Jubilation Lee attitude. And with apologies to both Paige and Everett, Emma Frost thought that with some more training and a few more years, Jubilee would be the leader of Generation X. She had no doubts that when it came time for Jubilee to return to the X-Men, she would do it as a future leader. However, right now, she was ready to wring Jubilee's neck for being late.

She turned at the loud commotion behind her as Jubilee came running down the stairs and across the room to the edge of the Danger Grotto. She skidded to a halt in front of Emma, breathing lightly from her headlong rush. Emma once again thanked the powers that be that Jubilee was not gifted with the power of flight. Nothing in the house would have been safe.

Jubilee stood popping her gum and trying to look nonchalant. Trying to decide how mad Emma was, she decided on the direct approach, "So Frosty, what's the plan?"

Emma fought the urge to roll her eyes heavenward. The nerve of the child was amazing. "First, I wish to know why you were late?"

Jubilee shrugged, "Just overslept, I guess," and then yawned in emphasis, carefully keeping her voice unconcerned and making no mention of the nightmares that had been causing her sleeplessness of late.

Emma stood before her wearing a slight frown, sensing that there was more information being left out than was being given. Deciding to pursue this later with her charge, she half turned towards the Grotto and pointed into the thick growth. "I have hidden Penance within the biosphere. You are to find her, rescue her and bring her back here."

"Sounds easy enough," Jubilee replied, the confidence easy to hear in her voice.

Emma smiled the faintest of smiles. "It won't be."

She stood still a moment, chewing her gum and eyeing Ms. Frost. Weighing her options, she considered what she knew of Ms. Frost's methods and abilities. Glancing sideways at her teacher she did a quick visual in search of any clues, just like Wolverine had taught her. Catching the faintest smudge on one white stiletto heel, Jubilee thought in triumph, Mud! while trying to keep her smile to herself. There was only one place where she could have picked up mud in the Grotto and that was along the stream bed. It was a place to start.

Stifling another yawn she stepped into the biosphere. While not the expert tracker that Wolverine was, he had taught her the more basic aspects of tracking through various terrain. She choose the main trail leading down to the stream and was rewarded with a small hole pushed into the softer dirt that could only have been made from a spike heel. Another yawn hit her as she crouched in the sunlight, feeling the sunshine warm her back. The thought occurred to her that it would be really great to curl up on a blanket here in the sunshine and take a nap or just sit here on the bank and watch the sunlight sparkle on the water. So dazed was she that she never heard Emma sneaking up behind her and only caught the sudden movement out of the corner of her eyes as Emma spun into a roundhouse kick. Barely managing to block the kick, she fell backwards into the stream in an ungraceful heap. She struggled to her feet, scrambling back up the embankment only to fall unconscious at Emma's feet from a second blow she was too slow to block.

Emma stared down at the body slumped at her feet, a scowl of exasperation on her face. She heard Penance creep out of the bushes behind her and kneel down next to the unconscious girl. She looked up at Emma, the puzzlement plain in her blue eyes.

Shaking her head in disgust, Emma spoke aloud, maybe to herself, maybe to Penance, "I don't understand this either. She didn't notice me following her, she didn't check her backtrail, she seemed almost mesmerized by the water and I took her down with a blow that she could have deflected in her sleep. Something is not right here."

Bending down to check the rapidly bruising lump on Jubilee's temple, the thought crossed her mind that she could just slip into the girl's head to check her condition. In another time and place she wouldn't have hesitated to do just that, but she stopped herself. Muttering under her breath about honor and duty and certain former X-Men and their ideals, she picked up Jubilee in a fireman's carry and headed off towards the MedLab, Penance following faithfully behind.


The dinner table at the Massachusetts Academy was as usual a riotous and unorganized affair. Clattering dishes, an impromptu game of toss between Everett and Angelo with one of the dinner rolls, and Artie, Leech and Franklin underfoot all contributed to the circus type atmosphere. Breakfast and dinner were the meals that everyone ate together, lunch being served in two shifts depending on who was doing what, each lunch presided over by either Emma or Sean. Dinner was the meal when everyone came together again to discuss their day. Even Penance showed with surprising regularity. While she generally didn't contribute to the dinnertime weirdness, she at least sat against one dining room wall, quietly munching on one of her apples while surveying the rest of the room. Tonight's exercise in controlled chaos was no exception, only dimmed a little from the lack of participation from the resident firecracker.

"Hey chica," Angelo teased, "heard you took a spill this morning?"

Jubilee scowled from her chair on the other side of the table. "Got nuthin' to say to you Espinosa, wasn't me that got taken out by Artie, Franklin and Leech last week."

The other members of Gen X hooted and snickered. They had all been brought down in one fashion or another so losing in a training session wasn't that bad, but Jubilee always took her defeats harder feeling that since she was as a former X-Man, she should do better than the rest.

She folded her arms across her chest, her body language clearly showing her foul mood. The fact that she had suffered her defeat at the hands of Emma Frost doing nothing to alleviate her mood. She never noticed when she drifted off to sleep, still sitting at the table.

"Miz Frost?"

"Yes, Paige?"

"Jubilee's asleep."


"Yes, Ma'am."

Sean leaned over from his chair to peer up into Jubilee's face. Her eyes were closed, her face slack in sleep.

"Guess the lass had a hard day today. I'll take her upstairs." Sean stood up from his seat and reached out a hand to lift Jubilee up from her chair. Before he completed the movement, Jubilee screamed!

"Wolvie!!!!" Throwing up her hands, she shot a stream of multicolored exploding pafs up into the air.

Emma, reacting first, grabbed Monet and Franklin sitting on either side of her and dragged them down to the floor, before shooting out a foot and knocking Everett's chair over, dumping him into the floor as well. Angelo was seconds behind Emma in grabbing Paige and pulling her under the table. Artie and Leech both scrambled away from the table and dove behind Everett, peeking over his legs where he sprawled on the floor. Sean and Jono, who had been sitting on the other side of Jubilee, both tackled her to confine her hands and knock her to the floor.

She landed with a THUMP and a short scream.

"Hey! Uummpf, get off me ya big oaf."

"Jubilee, be still."


Everyone raised their heads as Sean pulled Jubilee to her feet. Looking around, her eyes widened. "What's everyone doing on the floor?" She turned to Sean and then to Jono, "And what's the big of idea of tackling me anyway?"

Emma, gathering her dignity around her, climbed to her feet, dusting off one white sleeve. "Jubilee, you fell asleep at the table, you screamed out for Logan, and you started firing on us."

"I did?"

"Yeah, chica ya did."

"Oh. Sorry." The embarrassment plain on her face. "I don't remember it."

Emma's eyes narrowed in concentration as she stepped back and took a good long look at her student. Jubilee's inattention over the last couple of days, her lack of appetite and incessant yawning, the dark circles and pale complexion added together with her dismal showing at the training session that morning, spelled out a problem pattern that was considerably larger than she had first suspected.

Very gently she sent out a mental proble, nothing strong enough to invade Jubilee's mind, but just enough to pick up any random thoughts or feelings that Jubilee might not havae under strict control.

Emma almost staggered under the weight of fear, desperation and exhaustion that Jubilee was keeping on such a tight rein. She saw Sean swing troubled eyes in her direction as he felt the backlash of Jubilee's emotions through the link.

*My God, how could I have not noticed this!*

*Em, tis nae your fault. Jubilee is very good at hiding what she nae wishes others to see.*

*No, she is my student. I should have noticed. This worries me Sean. She is hiding it but her mental state is extremely distressed. We need to talk to her about this.*

*Aye, the lass is dead on her feet. Why don't we send her to bed now and talk to her first thing in the morning?*

*Agreed, first thing.*

"To The Gallows Foot and After" is a line from a Kipling poem called "The Thousandth Man." The verse reads -- "One man in a thousand, Solomon says, will stick more close than a brother, but the thousandth man, will stand by your side, to the gallows foot and after."

I know it's weird, but I always saw Jubilee and Logan having that kind of relationship.