A Bit After The Beginning

by Dyce

Disclaimer: Of all characters involved or mentioned, only Michael is mine. The others are all property of Marvel Comics, and I do not have permission to use them. I am, however, making no profit by their use, so it would be pointless to sue. This story is set in the Rising Sun/Dammed Time and Damned Time universe, somewhere in between the two.

Note: This story may be considered an embodiment of the saying 'flattery will get you everywhere'íŽ or in this case, everything. Also it is an embodiment of the principle 'Dyce can be coaxed into doing just about anything with a lavish enough application of flattery and kitten eyes', which is not so well known but even more accurate. Therefore, this story is for Falstaff, who coaxed.

Jubilee paced along the tiny hall for the eight millionth time as Michael sobbed fretfully in her arms. It wasn't his fault... he was teething, which was enough to make even her placid, solemn son cry. He'd been teething for what felt like forever, and the small house Emma had lent them didn't feel right after living in big places for so long, and her husband of nearly five months was always irritable now and she wasn't sure why...

Jubilee sat down in the middle of the carpet and started to cry herself.

She sobbed, still rocking her son in her arms as the tears coursed down her face. She was so tired, all the time, and she was really trying hard, but it was all too much for her. Looking after Michael was hard enough, even though that was pretty much all she was doing because she didn't know HOW to look after a house, let alone cook, so Angelo was doing all of that, and he seemed to be spending more and more time out of the house lately. And he wouldn't tell her where he was going.

Michael actually stopped crying in surprise as his mother wailed, gazing at her with a puzzled expression. Tentatively, he patted at her cheek, getting his fingers wet with her tears.

"I'm s-sorry," she gulped, cuddling him gently. "Mommy's just completely miserable and nothing ever goes right and the washing-machine's broken and there's only a few clean diapers left and I don't even know where Daddy is and..." she trailed off into sobs, hugging him tightly. "I-it all s-seeemed like i-it w-was gonna w-work out..."

Michael's face crumpled, and he burst into sobs once again. Jubilee cried right along with him, for what seemed like an eternity, until the front door opened.

"Jubilee? Are you...Dios, Jubilee! Are you all right?" Angelo knelt beside them, wrapping long arms around them both and cradling them against him. "Oh, amante, what's wrong? Did something happen? Are you all right?" He kissed her temple gently, stroking her hair. "Oh, baby, don't cry... it's gonna be okay..."

"N-no it's n-not!" she sobbed, burying her face in his shirt. Michael bawled an agreement, waving his tiny pink fists determinedly. "Nothing's e-ever ok-kay anymore and I'm s-scared y-you don't l-love me a-anymore!"

"Don't love you?" Angelo hugged her tightly, his face stricken. "Jubilee, I love you and Michael more than anything else in this world. You're my life, my heart, my soul..." He buried his face in her hair, taking a gulping breath. "I'm just sorry I let you down, that I keep letting you down..."

Mother and son blinked and sniffed, tears slowing. "L-letting us down?" Jubilee asked, confusion written all over her small face. "I d-don't get it. We'd be l-lost without you."

He sighed, leaning back against the wall, and Jubilee saw with a pang the weary depression that lined his face. "I'm not making you happy, though, am I?" he said sadly. "Jubilee, I know you're miserable, I know you're having trouble coping with the baby, and I hate it here just as much as you do..." he hugged her tightly, his voice tight with misery. "God, I can't even provide for my own wife and baby..."

Jubilee puzzled her way through that one, and bllinked in absolute amazement. She thought it through again. Same conclusion. "Angie... is that what you've been doing? Going out looking for *work*?"

He nodded wearily. "Jubileee... I know it's probably stupid, but I *hate* having to live off Emma. I want to be able to take care of you myself. I want to be able to take care of our baby. It's important to me." He ran one hand over his face, struggling to explain something he'd never even tried to put into words. "That's what a husband and father is supposed to *do*, amante. How can I look you in the eye knowing I can't even do that?"

Jubilee's eyes filled with tears again, and she slid her free arm around his neck, pulling him down for a fierce, tender kiss. "Oh, love..." she whispered against his lips, closing her eyes and holding him tightly as their son wriggled a little between them. "I love you so much, you know that? I love you for being such a good father, I love you for being a great husband, and most of all I love you because you're a wonderful man, who's honest and decent and caring and who *cares* about being able to do what's right for us and for you.... I love you, I love you so much, and it's gonna work out..." She sighed, snuggling against him. "Even if I'm not sure quite how."

He stroked her hair, kissing the top of her head gently. "You're not disappointed in me?" he asked wistfully. "Even though I can't make things okay for you?"

The forlorn note in his voice cut straight to her heart. Somehow she forgot sometimes how much family meant to him. Family was Angelo's life, it was his religion, and to fail in what he saw as his role in their little family must be breaking his heart. "Angelo Espinosa, I could never be disappointed in you," she said firmly. "After everything you've done for me, and for Michael... how you've looked after us all this time... you could spend the rest of your life being a couch-potato and I wouldn't be disappointed."

He smiled at her, cupping her cheek in one hand as he automatically stroked Michael's back gently with the other. "You're all the world to me, Jubilation Espinosa," he whispered. "Do you remember that first night? When you came to my room and told me you were pregnant?"

She nodded. "It was raining," she remembered. "And I was so tired and scared and I just needed to talk to someone or I'd go crazy."

"I'm glad you did, or *I* might have," he said seriously. "I grew up part of a big family, Jubilee. Even after Papa and Dimas died, there was my mother to take care of and there were still cousins and aunts and uncles and all... and then suddenly I was all alone. It was great at first, being independent... and then I got so lonely I could hardly stand it."

"And I never knew," Jubilee mourned, touching his cheek gently. "You always seemed... I dunno... so independent, I guess. Like you didn't need nothin' or nobody."

"I was bluffing. I was miserable and lonely and depressed and I got so close to losing it for a while there..." he shuddered, holding her tightly. "I swear, Jubilee, you were like a gift from God to me. You needed me, and I needed so much to be needed, to have someone to take care of again..."

She snuggled against him, careful of the now-dozing baby nestled between them. "You do take care of me," she whispered. "I kept waiting for you to go away, to leave me... and you never did, not once. You've been there for me ever since. When you kiss me, when you hold me, when you touch my hair... nobody's ever made me as happy as you do. Ever."

"I love you." He sighed, then stood up, gathering them against his chest as he straightened his shoulders. "Jubilee... would you want to move back to the Mansion? I mean... back with the X-Men?"

Jubilee blinked, trying to follow the conversation around an unexpected right-angled turn. "But... you hated it there," she objected.

"Hate is a strong word," he shrugged, bending his head to kiss his son's fuzzy hair. "I wasn't really thrilled with it, but you were happy there. And..." he took a deep breath. "You know how Nightcrawler's been working there? Keeping up the Blackbirds and the DangerRoom and stuff? Well, he wants to leave. Go back to Scotland, I think. Anyway... he called to offer me... an apprenticeship, I guess. He'll train me, then I'll take over."

Jubilee processed that. "Will that make you feel better?" she asked hopefully. "If you're working for our keep and stuff?"

Angelo snorted. "I'm not going to. If I'm going to be Xavier's mechanic, then I'm going to do it properly. I work, he pays me, I provide, you stop worrying and enjoy Michael while he's still a baby."

She blinked. "That's not how it's usually done... well, in the X-Men, anyways."

The stubbled jaw hardened. "I don't care. I'm not an X-Men and that's how *I* do it."

Jubilee blinked again. Then she grinned her old pixie grin and kissed him quickly. "Yes dear," she agreed meekly. "Whatever you say."

He grinned back at her. "That's better," he said firmly, kissing her quickly and lifting Michael from her arms. "Now go dress up pretty. I'm taking you both out for dinner."

The End