Jubilee slept in that morning. When she finally looked at the clock through blurry eyes, it read 11:47 am. Jubilee groaned. She had missed her danger room session. She rubbed her eyes and wondered why nobody had woken her up.
At the sound of the professor's voice in her mind, Jubilee sat up.
Please come to my office when you have fully woken up.
'Damn' Jubilee muttered to herself. 'This is what happens when you miss a session.' Jubilee stretched her neck and then groaned and got out of bed.
After showering and getting dressed in jeans, a bright yellow T-shirt, and her black trench coat, Jubilee went downstairs to the Professor's office. Before she raised her fist to knock, she heard the Professor's voice in her mind.
She prepared an apology in her mind, ready to spout it when Professor Xavier questioned about her absence. She abruptly stopped, with her mouth open, when she saw who else was in his office.
"Good day to you, Jubilation."
Jubilee was instantly angry. She threateningly brought up her hands and yelled, "How did you get in here?"
Kent smiled smugly. "I was invited in. I had an appointment with the Professor."
Jubilee looked warily from Kent to the Professor. He was sitting behind his desk, with his hands in a steeple, observing them both. She relaxed her arms and glared at Kent.
"I've been to this mansion before Jubilation. There are a few differences here and there, type of couch, knick-knacks, and the books on the shelves. Sometimes there are large changes, the desk is over there, or maybe this whole office is on the other side of the building, but really, it doesn't matter."
Jubilee leaned against a bookcase and folded her arms, trying to look as hostile as possible.
The professor interrupted Jubilee's game of intimidation. "Mr. Kent here has told me his story."
"And, he has asked for my help." The professor held up a disk. "This disk holds all the information Mr. Alford knows about how he jumps across alternate universes. He has contacted many experts, and even, apparently has conferred with alternate persona of myself."
"Good. I'm glad you can help him, Professor."
There was a knock on the door. It opened and Logan entered, instantly scrunching his nose and narrowing his eyes at Kent.
"Make it fast, Chuck."
"Logan, I'm sure that you have heard Mr. Alford's story."
Wolverine snorted, never taking his eyes off Kent.
"We are going to help him."
"Help'im do what?" Wolverine abruptly asked in a gruff voice.
When nobody replied, Jubilee pushed off from against the wall and walked over next to Xavier. She took the disk from him and popped it into the computer. It automatically booted up and opened a program file.
"Convenient that your disk from an alternate universe is compatible with our systems."
Kent grinned. "The disk belongs to the Professor. I just transferred my files to it."
Jubilee glared at him, and he laughed. "Jubilee, always the observant one. You are quite correct in your speculations. However, due to your contact with alien civilizations, your computer has learned to probe and talk to different systems." Kent held up a palm-sized computer. "My computer has similar abilities. It took some time, but the files have been adequately converted."
"Convenient," she muttered again.
Kent chuckled. "Convenience has nothing to do with it. I have picked up some impressive technology in alternate universes. Same thing with your language: I am not speaking English, as you know it. But I have an implant that projects my vocalizations in a manner recognizable to you. When I first arrive, I listen to conversations, and it learns."
Jubilee scanned over the contents of the disk. "What is this suppose to show? Your heart rate for the past...four years?"
"I carry a monitoring device with me, one that takes my vitals at regular intervals. There is a change every time I change universes."
"So what? What do you hope to prove? Are you trying to get back to your universe?"
Kent ran his hand though his hair, and scratched his the back of his head, just above his neck. "I have asked myself that many times, Jubilation. And I don't know if I want to return to my universe. But I do want to understand why it is I started jumping from universe to universe in the first place."
The hostility in Jubilee's face melted away, and she gave him a sympathetic look. Professor Xavier felt Jubilee's acquiescence and gestured his hand to the door.
"Jubilee, please show Mr. Alford to a guest room. I have offered him a place to stay as long as he is with us."
Jubilee looked at Wolverine. He no longer had a disgusted look on his face, but he still was not happy.
"Yeah, sure. C'mon Mr...."
Kent held up a hand. "Please, call me Kent."
Jubilee glanced again at Wolverine as she walked passed him. Kent followed silently. Wolverine watched the two black trench coats sway in harmony as the two exited.
"Logan" Professor Xavier lifted a hand to halt Wolverine from leaving.
"Whaddya want Chuck?"
"I believe that Mr. Alford does pose a threat to Jubilee. I don't believe that he himself will harm her, but perhaps somebody he is connected with. He knows more than he is telling us, but I don't know what it could be. He has extremely strong mental shields. I've asked him to stay with us so that we can watch both him and Jubilee carefully. Please, stay with her until this situation is resolved."
Wolverine nodded. With a metallic *SNIKT* his claws came out. "I ain't gonna let anything happen."
The Professor sighed and nodded. "I hope that is true. I know that if there is anything to do, you will do it. But a part of me thinks that his story is true, and then, the only one who can save Jubilation, is herself."
Over the next six days, the X-men remained at home in the mansion. Scott insisted on training sessions and equipment repair/upgrading to pass the time. All the X-men involved themselves in their tasks, both in the assignments from Scott, and their personal hobbies. Beast and the Professor spent most of their time with Kent. He allowed himself to be scanned and tested to the satisfaction of Dr. McCoy. Kent also gave them hints on advanced technology that he had picked up in alternate universes. The propulsion theories were applied to the Blackbird, and the Hank used the advanced genetics to further help his study into the legacy virus.
Beneath the lazy Sunday afternoon appearance though, was Kent himself. With each passing day, the smiles became less frequent, and his consumption of alcohol and cigarettes increased. Each day for him was a turn on a spring, winding tighter and tighter, and he was trembling in fear under the anticipation of the release.
On the sixth night of Kent's stay at the Xavier mansion, he sat on the couch in the rec room, watching the TV with glazed eyes and smoking. Jubilee walked in and sat on the opposite side of the couch, facing him.
"Do you ever sleep?"
He took another drag on the cigarette and then put it out in the full ashtray by the couch. He slowly turned his head. The blue eyes were underscored by dark lines, and no longer had the hint of amusement in them as they did in the first day she met him. She didn't need him to answer vocally, his body showed the signs of sleep deprivation.
"Where is your shadow, the dutiful Mr. Logan?"
Jubilee rolled her eyes. "He's in the kitchen, I think."
Kent nodded. "History, if that term could be applied to my situation, does repeat itself. Do you know how many times I've talked to you with your bodyguard of some fashion hiding in the shadows?"
Jubilee crossed her arms over her chest and snorted. "He's not my bodyguard."
Kent slowly began to laugh. It was the first time she had head him laugh in two days. "He has been for the past week. It's alright though, I understand why." Kent reached into his ever-present trench coat, pulled out the lighter, and began to fidget with it absently.
Jubilee reached out and covered his hand with hers. She gently lifted the lighter from his hands and brought it closer to study it. The main body was gold and inlayed in it were iridescent bright colors of metal forming an abstract fire burst.
"She wasn't a mutant?"
Kent shook his head no. Jubilee fingered the lighter much in the same way he had, following the lines of the fire burst.
"Do you know what your name means, Jubilee?"
She looked up when at Kent when he used her nickname. This was the first time he had been so informal.
"It's not hard to know the definition of 'Jubilation.'"
Kent nodded and then began to speak in a monotonous voice, "Jubilation: An act of rejoicing, an expression of great joy. Jubilee: a season of celebration." He paused, and tilted his head shifting it to give his thoughts new directions. "Such a beautiful thought for a child. To name their inherent quality, their inherent state of being...their soul."
He sighed again and ran a hand though his hair and down his face. Although both were perfectly groomed, they looked pitiful compared to his pale and drawn face. Kent took out his cigarette case. He had not offered her another cigarette since the bar, so he did not now. Jubilee slowly reached out and took the cigarette from his hands. She put it in her own mouth, and lit it, using the lighter.
Kent's eyes closed. He leaned his head back against the couch. "You smoke." He said the statement as though it lifted a heavy burden from his chest.
She took one more drag and then handed it to him. "Occasionally."
Kent opened his eyes, and turned his head, but didn't raise it from the couch. She watched his eye follow the cigarette. He reached out with a languid arm, took the cigarette and then brought it to his own mouth, closing his eyes again as he inhaled.
"I told you where I got that lighter, right?"
"Yeah, you said you that I, uhh, that the Jubilation of your world was holding it when you came to her side."
Kent nodded. "I never used to smoke: Thought it was a disgusting habit and I was repulsed by the thought of inhaling something other than oxygen. When I saw that lighter in you hand, even though I didn't smoke, I took it. I meant to give it to a family member, but when the opportunity arose, I couldn't. So I kept it."
Jubilee reached out to Kent. She gently took his shoulders and forced him to lie down. She cradled his head in her lap, and as he continued to smoke, she ran a hand through his soft hair. Kent looked the most relaxed she had ever see him.
"In all my travels, I've never met another Jubilation who smoked. All had slight pyromaniac tendencies," he smirked, "but none who smoked. It's nice to know that you smoke."
"Because that means this is the end."
"The fact that I occasionally smoke means nothing."
Kent opened his eyes and looked directly up at Jubilee. "It's my experience that everything means something." He grunted a little sitting up, and extinguished the cigarette in the ashtray at the other end of the couch. Then he turned back toward Jubilee, supporting himself on his elbow. "Do you mind?" He asked as he took hold of her legs and swung them up onto the couch. He gently pulled her down and inched his way up until his head was level with hers, and he had his arm around her waist, holding her tight.
Now that she was pressed against his warm body, Jubilee couldn't say no. She was physically tired from Scott's exercises, and mentally tired from the strain of having Kent around.
He began to talk again, whispering into her ear. "Where as your parents blessed you by naming your soul 'Jubilation,' that same action by my parents has cursed me." He let a beat pass, but Jubilee didn't say anything.
"My name is Kent Alford. Kent means 'edge'. Alford is a place where rivers meet. That is my name, 'At the edge of the crossing rivers.' I have stood at that edge for so long, knowing what will happen when the rushing flows meet, hearing it's roar in the distance, but I have never been able to reach it."
"Why? Why can't you stop it? Why can't you save me?"
Kent's left hand held her tight, and his right hand began to slowly stroke her silky black hair. It came down to her chin, and tickled his mouth as he lay against her back.
"Karma won't let me. I'm always close, but not close enough to save you. I've tried to get closer to the river crossing, or further away in hopes that it will come to me. But it doesn't work, because the river is alive, it moves everyday, and so it keeps me on the edge."
"Maybe you just need to stand still. If the edge moves back an' forth, then it will pass you eventually."
Kent laughed again, and Jubilee smiled at the feeling. His chest gently shook and his warm breath passed over the side of her face. She snuggled in a little deeper toward him. Kent yawned, pressing his gaping mouth into her back in an attempt to hide it. Jubilee giggled, then reached her arm back and stroked the side of his face.
"Go to sleep, Kent."
Against her neck, she felt him nod his head. Soon he was asleep. Jubilee couldn't go anywhere if she wanted to, without waking him up. She admitted to herself that she didn't want to leave, because it had been a long time since someone had held her so close. She allowed herself to relax against Kent.
Wolverine entered the room holding a bottle of beer. He stood behind the couch, but could see the two bodies sleeping peacefully on it. He sighed, took a sip of beer and went back to his room. His gut instinct told him that nothing was going to happen tonight, but something would tomorrow, and it'd be better if he got a good night's sleep.