Jubilee slowly woke up and stretched her back. She reached down and pulled up her comforter, snuggling close to it as a last ditch effort to stay asleep. Her actions where so based in habit and comfort, that a minute passed before she remembered that she had not fallen asleep in her bed the night before.
With a puzzled look on her face, Jubilee sat up and looked around her room. She looked at her body and recognized the clothes that she was wearing last night. She brought a hand up to her head and muttered, "Oh right, Kent and the couch. At least he saved me from the embarrassment of the other X-men finding me there."
She yawned, stretched again, and then finally got out of bed.
"8:03, this must be a record for me." She grinned, and counted the hours of sleep on her fingers. "I woke up on my own with just six hours of sleep!" Shaking her head, she grabbed some clean clothes and headed toward the shower.
Jubilee bounded down the stairs and arrived in the kitchen, much to the shock of Gambit, Rogue and Storm. Kent was in the kitchen too. He sat off from the others smoking a cigarette, watching the group. Jubilee glanced at him and slightly nodded with a smile. He closed his eyes and briefly nodded back in acknowledgment. She went over to the refrigerator to grab the milk.
"Why are yah up so early, Sugah?" Rogue asked when Jubilee sat down.
She finished chewing her spoonful of cereal, then shrugged. "Dunno. I just woke up."
Jubilee looked back over at Kent. He looked much more relaxed then he had yesterday; apparently he had a good night's sleep as well. Gambit looked at Jubilee and then at Kent. He raised an eyebrow at Jubilee, who just rolled her eyes in response. He was about to say something, but closed his mouth when Wolverine entered the kitchen.
Jubilee felt her body tense up as it always did when Kent and Logan were in the same room. Her hand tightened around the spoon she was holding, and she mentally kicked herself for thinking that nobody knew that she fell asleep next to Kent. 'Of course Wolvie knows!' she thought, 'He was in the other room! Oh man, he's going to kill Kent!'
Wolverine poured himself a cup of coffee and walked over to the table. Nobody had yet said word. In the silence he scrutinized Jubilee and Kent with his blue eyes, while sniffing the air. Jubilee looked like she was ready to jump up and yell her head off at anybody and anything that moved. Wolverine snorted and then calmly put a hand on her shoulder, as a sign that he was not going to explode with rage, and to keep her calm too. Then he looked directly at Kent and spoke in a calm, but gruff voice.
"Are ya' ready fer the day, Bub?"
The spoon in Jubilee's hand dropped and it clattered against the side of the bowl, and then onto the table. Nobody at the table noticed. They all sat quiet and looked from Kent to Logan, waiting for a response. Wolverine was looking directly into Kent's eyes, searching for minute changes in muscle flexes that could signal dishonesty.
Kent inhaled once more from his cigarette, and then smiled at Wolverine. "A good night's sleep goes a long way."
Wolverine nodded. "Good." He didn't say anything else, and walked away with his mug of coffee. Slowly, the conversation at the table picked up, as the X-men began to discuss the day's plans.
The Professor and Hank sat in the medical lab analyzing the data on three different monitors.
"Are you synthesizing this bio data into the same hypothesis that I am, Professor?" A blue furry hand pointed to the screen on their right.
"Yes, I believe I am, Henry. Kent's vitals are almost to the pinnacle of the cycle. Whatever is going to happen, will happen soon."
"He is not a mutant. I have checked every red, white and T cell that I could. Are you unable to venture into his mind because of his extra-dimensional origins?"
"No, that's not the reason. He must have an artificial mind defensive mechanism. Perhaps it's another piece of technology that he carries."
Beast scratched his chin and nodded. "That trench coat does appear to have a necessity beyond body temperature control."
"Whatever is in that coat, I believe that he also carries the device which slides him between universes, whether he knows it or not."
"I shall alert the others to be ready today for whatever comes about today."
The professor nodded. "Please ask Logan to come to my office." The professor looked once more at the data on the computer screen and then lowered a hand to steer his chair out of the medical lab.
Wolverine walked straight into Professor Xavier's office. "Ya wanted ta see me, Chuck?"
"Yes, Logan. I wanted to know your feelings about what is going to happen today."
Wolverine was not surprised by the Professor's question. He sat down and answered, "Just that, a feelin' that whatever it is we've been waiting for is gonna happen."
The professor nodded. "Have you sensed anyone else on the grounds?"
Wolverine shook his head. "Nope, and I've been searching hard too."
"What have you observed between Jubilee and Mr. Alford?"
Wolverine narrowed his eyes at the question, trying to understand what the Professor was searching for. "They've become closer..." When Wolverine didn't expand on his comment, the Professor decided to tell him what Beast and he had concluded that morning.
"I have spent the morning talking with Beast about Jubilee and Mr. Alford's vital signs. We've noticed that the two of them have begun to come into a harmony of sorts. They are in synch with each other. I have noticed other phenomena that supports this theory: they walk with the same stride, eat at the same pace..."
Wolverine nodded and filled in more details, "They breathe at the same rate and now that I think about it, their heart rates do match each other. So what's it mean? Is he somehow drawing energy from Jubes?"
"No, I don't think so. I think that it is more of a grounding. His physiology has latched onto hers, and is using her pulse to regulate his own. I think it might be a means of him being accepted in this alternate universe."
Wolverine growled. "This morning I noticed that he smelled different...bit more like Jubes. I just thought that they'd been next to each other for too long."
"I think that our universe is pulling Mr. Alford into it, and is using Jubilee as a beacon. His personal records have shown this pattern over and over. He has a unique signature, but then, after a day or two with the Jubilation of that world, his vitals slowly morph into ones that if not duplicate, then harmonize with hers. When she dies, his vitals fluctuate for a period of 16 to 20 hours, at which time they return to his unique signature."
"I still don't get it. If he needs her to become attached to the universe, then why does he always show up just before she's about to die?"
"That, I'm afraid, I don't know. According to his records, for the past four relative years of his life, he has jumped from one universe to another, spending on average 60 hours there. That amounts to almost 600 universes he has visited."
"He's been here for a week, Chuck."
Professor X nodded and then formed a steeple with his hands. "I know, Logan, it seems the normal time period has already passed. That is why we must be on call."
The red alert light on the professor's desk suddenly lit up. In his mind he heard Jean's voice. Professor! The FOH are about to attack a school!
Wolverine was out of the room and found Jubilee before the Professor could relay the message to the team.
"Jubilee! Are you ok?"
Jubilee looked up from the book that she was studying. Kent was sitting next to her.
"Yeah! What's..." But she didn't finish her sentence because she heard the Professors orders in her mind.
X-men! Assemble in the War Room!
Jubilee stood up and looked at Kent, whose face showed a terrified look. Wolverine also looked at Kent, he saw the fear in his eyes, but smelled acceptance and a feeling of inevitability from him.
"Do you know how to fight?" Wolverine gruffly asked.
Kent just shook his head. "Not like you."
"Well, then you'll just have to stand in the back and look tough. These FOH guys are intimidated by numbers. C'mon."
A moment after Wolverine and Jubilee entered the War Room, Kent slipped in the back. They had changed into their fight uniforms. Kent wore his usual outfit, cotton pants and shirt, and his trench coat. A look of determination had replaced his fear, and Wolverine nodded at him when he saw that his eyes matched his scent.
The Professor faced the back wall. He spoke and pointed simultaneously at the map and building schematics projected on the wall. The building was a small single story facility with three large rooms and four secondary spaces.
"They have surrounded this kindergarten school. This was a spontaneous gathering as far as we can tell. Which is why we fear that it could become confrontational. The school has a very secret policy of accepting mutants' children as pupils. The children have not manifested any mutant abilities and are harmless, but the FOH has suddenly taken an interest. We think that they have been following this mutant's family: Melody Linor." The building schematics were replaced by a mug shot of a woman. She had no obvious mutant look about her, but the rap sheet that appeared next to it listed her known mutant abilities.
Only Wolverine looked back at Kent, to gage his reaction. Kent stood motionless in the back of the room, fingering his lighter. No look of recognition crossed his face.
Scott picked up the professor's briefing. "We must use extra caution to be non-aggressive. We do not want the children or the facility to be hurt. The Blackbird will be positioned above the school to show our presence, then we will watch them, to make sure that this protest is just a demonstration, not an attack."
"An' if dis an attack, homme?" asked Gambit.
"Then it's our job to lead it away from the school. Let's go everybody."
The Blackbird cast a large shadow over the FOH supporters who stood in front of the kindergarten. They held signs with hateful slogans against mutants and the faculty of the daycare. On each side of the building, a member was shouting for segregations between children of mutant and non-mutant parents.
Scott opened a link so that they could hear the protestors.
"Keep them out of our schools!" "Don't waste our resources on them!"
The X-Men sighed as they heard the hateful crowd. Kent reached into his pocket, pulled out his palm computer and tapped the screen a few times. Jubilee looked over at him to see what he wrote, but he replaced the computer before she could say anything.
"Uh oh, dis ain't lookin' good." Gambit pointed to a screen linked to an external camera. The mutant that Professor X had singled out was approaching the kindergarten.
"Wait, there still is a chance that this will be peaceful..." Scott silently wished that his mind was as optimistic as his words.
*SNIKT* Wolverine's claws came out, and he approached the door, ready to jump when it opened.
The leaders of the crowd noticed the mutant mother approaching the school, and they turned to block her path. The protestors from the other sides of the building began to leak around the sides making the group in front of the school that much larger.
Scott started planning the confrontation that he knew was moments ahead. He looked over his group mentally assigning them tasks. He frowned slightly when he realized that Kent was with the group. "Storm, Jubilee I want you two to go inside and start evacuating the children and teachers out the back of the school. It looks like this is going to happen in front, so your path should be clear. Kent, since you're here, you'll go with Storm and Jubilee, but stay out of their way. Rogue, Gambit, Wolverine, you'll come with me. Gambit, you're not to let anybody into that building. Rogue, you and Wolverine will make sure that whoever has weapons down there doesn't get a change to use them. And keep them away from going back around the building if you can! We don't want them to see the children escaping. I'm going to protect Melody Linor. And any other parent that arrives."
On the view screen, the more deadly FOH members pulled out their weapons, and the audio link picked up the raise in the angry volume made by the crowd. Scott hit a button releasing the door.
Wolverine jumped out of the plane onto the roof of the school, and then on to the ground. He announced his arrival with a large growl and started slashing though guns. Rogue dropped Gambit in front of the school entrance, and then flew over the crowd to put Cyclops next to the mutant mother. Then she flew back into the crowd to help Wolverine.
"Winds! I command you to take us from this plane!" Storm raised her hands as a whirlwind appeared taking her, Jubilee and Kent down to the back door of the school.
Jubilee yanked open the doors and ran inside. The children were huddled in the center of the room, being protected by the teachers.
"Come on! They're all out front! Lets get you guys out the back!" Jubilee ran around the group, and began opening the doors to the other rooms to make sure that everybody was accounted for. Kent held the doors open and Storm lead the way out the back away from the mounting battle in front.
As the last teacher ran out of the school, Jubilee opened the final door. She spotted a small boy huddled against the wall.
"Hey there! We've got to leave!" She approached the boy quickly, but not in a threatening manner.
"Who are you?" He asked in a small but brave voice.
Jubilee smiled, "My name is Jubilee."
Kent came up behind Jubilee. "Come on, we've got to go, everybody else is out, and the people out front are not getting any happier."
They could hear Gambit's cards detonating more frequently as the battle continued.
"X-Men! The children are safe. Retreat and pull the battle away from the school!" Scott's orders came out clear over Jubilee's com badge.
Jubilee looked back at the boy. He stood up and crossed the room. Jubilee picked him up in her arms and ran, following Kent. The trio burst out the doors sending them open with a loud bang. They ran across the parking lot heading for the store across the street where Storm waited with the other children.
"Hey! There's one! Get her!"
Both Jubilee and Kent looked back to the building. An FOH member had come around the side of the school. Jubilee set the boy on the ground and yelled at Kent. "Go! I'll hold them off!"
She turned around fully and began to send pafs at the FOH members charging around the building. Kent had to run back the few steps to stand next to Jubilee and the boy, but he did not pick him up.
"Jubilee! You've got to get out of here!"
"Kent? What are you doing! Get that boy out! I'll take care of it!"
"NO!" he yelled. "I'm not going to let you die!" Kent reached into his coat and pulled out a gun. He shot it toward the advancing mutant haters. A red laser hit two men and they fell to the ground. "It's just a stun gun. Don't worry. But run!"
The boy began to run away and Jubilee looked once more at Kent before she ran again. Kent shot three more men, but they were retreating fast from the battle in the front. He heard a growl and saw Wolverine run around the corner, tracking those with arsenal. He quickly accessed Kent's position in the battle and looked directly in his eyes for a beat, before punching two guys and destroying their weapons with a swing of his claws. Wolverine looked past Kent to Jubilee and the boy running away. As he returned his focus to his hand-to-hand battle, he saw another member running off to flank Jubilee. Kent had been watching Wolverine's gaze, knowing that he would see what was important. After Wolverine saw the sniper, he caught Kent's eye again. Kent was twenty yards ahead of the Wolverine, and Jubilee was already another fifteen beyond him, she had the little boy's hand in hers and the awkwardness of it slowed her pace.
Kent left Wolverine to his battle and took off to catch up with Jubilee. She was oblivious to the FOH member closing in on her until she heard the shot that Kent took at the sniper. He missed. Jubilee saw the sniper raise his gun and aimed it not at her, but the boy.
"Nooo!" She yelled. She yanked her arm in, pulling the boy to her and began to run faster.
The sniper adjusted his aim and took his shot. The sound of two bullets drowned out all other noises when they hit Kent in the side. Jubilee looked down at him in horror. Wolverine yelled and slashed the sniper's gun, and part of his leg, moments too late. The Blackbird hovered over the parking lot, and Rogue came down to pick up the fallen Kent. Wolverine ran and jumped on a car and then into belly of the plane. Rogue came back down to pick up Jubilee and the boy. The Blackbird closed its doors and then took off.
Jubilee dropped the boy when she got inside and ran over to Kent. He lay on the medical table with Beast hovering over him with medical equipment.
"One begs to ask why in this multi compartmental covering of yours, you did not install some Kevlar." Beast muttered to himself as he assessed the young man's wounds.
"Karma, Dr. McCoy, Karma." Kent answered with a cough and a smile. He painfully reached into a coat pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. He brought it to his mouth and silently sighed when he saw the red blood.
"I know that I'm going to die. Doctor. Please, do not use any efforts to save me. I understand it all now."
Beast sighed as he looked as the images that were appearing on his screens. Kent's vitals were resorting back to their original signature. He was separating from Jubilee, and that could only mean one thing: this cycle had ended, and this time it would be Kent who died.
One bullet had hit Kent's spinal cord, shattering it, and causing paralysis from the lower back down. The other had entered in the side of his chest breaking a rib and the tip of the sternum before exiting. The broken bones had caused major internal bleeding. Hank needed to get to a hospital before he could even begin to hope that Kent would live. Still, he wasn't about to give up, and he diligently wrapped the wounds the best he could and began an IV.
Jubilee and Wolverine stood next to the bed. Storm was still with the children and Scott was flying the plane. Rogue and Gambit hung back, watching.
"Karma, Jubilation, Karma."
Jubilee took Kent's hand and held it with both of hers. "Yeah, so you saved my life, but you didn't have to die to do it!"
"There's something that I never told you." He coughed again. "I should have died that day. I was not supposed to live. I always die, in every universe. I've never met my double. I'm supposed to die before you." He closed his eyes and rested, collecting his thoughts. "That's why I'll been following you, this is what's suppose to happen. I have always been the exception to my destiny, and now, you will too. I die, and you live. It's suppose to happen."
"No! You listen to me Kent! You are not dying right now!"
Kent dropped the handkerchief onto his chest and reached once more into his coat. He pulled out the cigarette lighter. "This is yours." He tensed his muscles because of the pain caused by that simple action. But he was not done yet. "I understand now. That boy. He is the future of your dream. I couldn't let you give your life for him; you are both too important to the world. Don't let him know, but encourage him as you can. It all works out well actually." She grimly smiled.
"How do you know that?" Jubilee asked as tears started to flow from her eyes.
"Some things are universal." Kent moved his eyes from Jubilee to Logan. "I don't know what will happen now. Mr. Logan. Watch out for her." Wolverine nodded, but stayed silent.
Kent closed his eyes for a last time and drifted off to unconsciousness. Beast got him to the medical lab in the mansion, but Kent did not want to fight to live. He died twenty minutes into the emergency operation.
Wolverine carried Jubilee up to her room. She had fallen asleep on the couch after receiving the news that Kent had died.
"Jubes, wake up and get changed." He gently said as he sat her down on the couch.
"Why'd he have to die Wolvie? Why'd another..." She couldn't finish that thought out loud. Too many people that she cared for had already died.
Wolverine sat down and put a big arm around her, pulling her in. "I know, kid, I know. Life ain't fair." She leaned into his hug and he rested his chin on her head. Poking out from under her pillow he noticed a little black book. Wolverine gently pulled Jubilee away, and reached over for the book.
"He knew it was gonna happen though, Jubes." Wolverine handed her the book and stood up. He walked to the door and then turned to look at her again. Jubilee sat on her bed staring at the palm sized book in her hand. She had a tear streaked face and her jet black hair was coming out of it's braid, sticking to her face with dried tears. He sighed for her pain, and then left the room.
Jubilee slowly opened the book. The title, written in his hand, said, "To Jubilation: the Soul."
Dear, dear Jubilation,
I knew that you were to be the one to help me end my travels. That is why I dedicated my nights to translating my story, your story, for you. I have grown to love your soul, but I am not fool enough to know that you love me back. I've seen your soul mate. And he is more worth to you than my cowardly self. In these pages are interviews with souls you know, and souls you do not. All of them loved you for the bright firecracker you are. Good-bye, and thank you for bringing me into your light for a moment as well.