Old Dogs & New Tricks: Part Two

by Anya

Standard Disclaimers Apply.

Author's Note: I'm a Jubilee fan. Yep. I have this thing for the youngest, or underdogs, which means that Iceman too gets a good solid role in this story.

BUT, the genesis of this fic has little to do with teams, love, tragedy, etc. It has to do with the annoying Marvel consistency of denying growth. Dammit all, Jubilee should at the very least be fifteen by now! *sheesh* (Actually, she should be 23 - 24, but that's nitpicking for accuracy!)

So, in my own usual way of saying "So, THERE!" I'm fixing the problem to my satisfaction. Hey, maybe if I'm happy with the end result, I'll do another segment to an overall series. Depends if people like it, I guess.

Part Two

Supportive. He could do supportive. Sure. It was easy, standing in the observation booth just cringing each time she fell. Supportively cringing. Not. A. Problem.

"She improving?" Remy drawled from the doorway, cigarette in hand. Out of uniform, the jeans and open shirt over his black t-shirt seemed uncouth in this space. The Danger room wasn't meant for civilian activity. It just felt wrong.

"Smoking will kill you." Bobby muttered, flicking his gaze at the Cajun and then back down at the small blur whizzing by on the aerial obstacles that Nightcrawler regularly worked out on. "And, yeah. She is. Assuming she doesn't kill herself, first."

Gambit didn't make a sound of acknowledgement, he moved further into the room to glance down just in time to watch Jubilee miss a hand-hold and fall. An emergency net sprang out and caught her with scant seconds to spare. "Mon Dieu."

"Vraiment." Bobby sighed, sitting back down on the stool he'd abandoned just moments before. "She's so angry."

"Can you blame her?" Remy glanced over the controls, mentally checking off which settings were used and the extent of dexterity Jubilee was demanding of her body. "Gambit t'ink Jubilee wants the comfort of knowing her limits."

"And if those limits can't be found?" Bobby eased the alarm component as Jubilee restarted the program, vaulting herself from the ground to the first ring. Parallel bars had always been her strength, her gymnastic ability nearly equal to that of Nightcrawler. Had she a tail, the things she could have done would have outpaced the Fuzzy Elf.

Gambit didn't answer, he simply dragged on his cigarette in silence and watched the girl execute a complex series of movements.

Beast had assessed that Sinister had aged her nearly five years. Given what recollection Jubilee had, Bobby had interrupted the final stages of their procedure to age her. It was Hank's theory that Sinister was aiming for the stable maturity of a woman in her early twenties.

It had taken copious hours, rigorous exercises, and a great deal of Jean's mental assistance to help Jubilee define her mutant powers. That she'd been steadily increasing in strength was a known factor, something they'd always witnessed when she'd lived with them at age thirteen. Now, however・ well, as Hank defined it she was more potent than U.S. Military's full armament of nuclear weaponry.

Einstein's splitting of the atom had been the greatest sorrow of the esteemed scientist's career. Realizing the weaponry mankind would make out of his creation, and not the gains or passive uses it potentially held had been one of the contributing factors to the great man's reclusive behavior in his older age.

Jubilee could work just below the atomic level, taking the components of a single atom and detonating a single fragment. Not splitting it, but changing it. In controlled circumstances, she had inadvertently created a nuclear reaction・ and upon realizing the potential harm destroyed the very substance that made it nuclear.

To say Hank had her taking a crash course on Advanced Physics was an understatement. How the furry genius expected this slight, beleaguered girl to acquire so much information with so little academic background baffled all the X-Men. It didn't, though, hide Hank's fear for her potential if left unchecked and uneducated.

"You t'ink dis is her way of exhausting 'erself." Gumbo drawled after five minutes of watching Jubilee execute some astonishing movements. She switched beams, crossed hands, threw herself backwards and caught a new beam unerringly. Hands, arms, legs and even once or twice feet all responded to her mental instructions.

"No." Bobby shook his head, eyes squinting as her hand slipped oh-so-slightly. She'd been at it for hours now, and he could recognize the signs before an impending fall. The grip steadied, and he relaxed. "She's frustrated that she doesn't recognize her own body. She only gained two inches in height, but・"

"Two inches, several curves, and a shift in her weight. All factors." Gambit finished, stifling his cigarette on a stained metal panel. "All frustrations."

"Especially when Logan keeps treating her like nothing's changed." Bobby sighed. "Hank said Sinister reconditioned her mind too, a preparation for brainwashing. She's thinking older than she should be."

"She always did dat." Gambit argued. "Jubilee grew up lon' before she should." It was a truism about Jubilee. She was an old soul in a young body, her losses in life and the struggle to survive giving her years beyond her youth.

For all that she joked and lived to the fullest, she could be the most serious player on the team in a pinch. That she was suppressing that nature amongst her peers at Gen X didn't really surprise Bobby. He'd played that game too. Too long and far too well when now he needed to be counted as serious.

"Huh." Bobby grunted, still watching the girl as she swung her body up, feet pointing to the ceiling and then held that pose.

"She good." Remy nodded appraisingly. "Balance is understood."

Bobby rolled his eyes, figuring the thief would take note of the qualities that made for a good cat-burglar. "She's giving herself a quick rest, is what she's doing. I couldn't figure it out, but that was the first skill she forced herself to reacquire. It's to give her muscles a chance to rest."

"Like dat?"

"Like that." Bobby smiled at the Cajun, amused by the incredulous note in his voice. "Did you know what her gymnastic coach thought of her? Storm went and looked the woman up when we were working on getting custody for her transferred to the Prof. Apparently, she felt Jubilee had Olympic potential. If the Lees hadn't pulled her out of gymnastics when they did, the coach was planning to approach them about that."

"She is good."

"Getting better." Bobby sighed. "I think she's pushing it too hard though." It was as if Sinister had broken something inside of Jubilee, making her push herself in an extreme to never be helpless, never need help, never feel like a victim again.

It wasn't just Sinister's hand reshaping her to this extreme, the ghost of Bastion lingered in her mind. Two megalomaniacs had tortured her for their own ends in the course of a single year. It was amazing she hadn't snapped.

"Prob'ly." Was Remy's thoughtful agreement. Red eyes blinked, and he leaned forward. "She gonna miss dat・"

Bobby sprang hitting the emergency net. Falling from a high level, her body passed the net a scant second before it sprang out. "No!" The observation tower was shielded, he couldn・t even send an ice-slide to catch her.

Both men were on their feet running for the door when the oddest impact hit the ground. It was louder than any explosion ever heard before, vibrating the very foundations of the house.

"Mon Dieu!" Remy breathed watching huge pillars of plasma splash upwards, coating the window of the observation deck, and then pool into a cluster on the floor before drawing together in a slow molten process until it formed a large mass.

Bobby was beyond words, brown eyes huge and hand fumbling for emergency contact button. "Hank・" He stuttered. "Hank・ get down here. Fast. Oh man・ Hank!"

"Robert?" Hank McCoy's calm disembodied voice broke through the speakers. "What happened? The house seems to have・"

"It's Jubilee, Hank. Get down here." Bobby reiterated, barely able to believe his eyes. He really hoped the cameras weren't fried. The team would need graphic proof to believe this one.

A general outline of a body formed in the plasma, slowly shifting from radiant hues to the smooth tinted color of Jubilee's flesh and black leotard. The plasma shifted more, taking on new textures, cooling to reform a body, hair distinguished itself, as did fingers, joints and more・ everything easing into reshaping Jubilation Lee. "Oh. My. God." Bobby breathed.

"Oui." Gambit agreed reverently. The two men glanced at one another, and then raced down the stairs to the door that sealed the Danger Room shut.

Bobby shoved past Gambit, hammering out the authorization codes to get them inside, codes that he knew he shouldn't have known but really didn't give a damn what anybody thought when they found out. There was a hiss, the sound and feel of extreme heat venting as the doors opened.

Gambit brushed through, eyes narrowed against the steam that somewhat obscured his view. Walls were blackened, the actual program that had been running shorted out. "Jubilee?" He called. "Cherie?"

A soft moan directed the men to her side, dropping to their knees, Gambit checked her neck and felt for her back before helping to raise her upper body. Resting her back on his knees to hold her still while Bobby let hands slide down her arms checking for broken bones. "Does anything hurt? Can you move your legs?" Iceman asked steadily.

"Yeah・" Jubilee was groggy. "I feel・"

"What? Where?" Both voices, tense and anxious, queried at the same time.

"My head. Weird. Loose."

Bobby pursed his lips. "Like you were spread really thin and all your thoughts seem scattered, hard to pull together?"

"Yeah・" She answered on a slow drawl. "Like I'm not really in one piece, but I can feel all of myself."

"Been there, done that." Bobby muttered, associating her experience with what he'd felt when shifting to a cold fog. "I think it'll pass."

"What?" Gambit ran his hand along her neck, checking it to make sure nothing there was damaged. "What did she do?"

Bobby shrugged. "Near as I can tell, she altered her molecular structure, changing herself into plasma and then let it splatter on the floor. Somehow, she had consciousness in that state and pulled herself back together."

"Are you certain, Robert?" Hank breathed, appearing beside the two men suddenly. "Is it recorded? My stars・" Large blue hands reached out and plucked Jubilee from their grip. "Jubilation?"

"I hear you fuzzy. Don't shout." She muttered, squeezing her eyes closed. "Let me just think, please."

Bobby put a hand on Hank's shoulder as Beast's mouth opened. Shaking his head to say 'No', he just watched as Jubilee went very still, probably completing the process that Remy and he had just witnessed. "Okay, Jubes?"

"Yeah." She relaxed, blue eyes opening wide. "I think I just scared myself silly."

"Us too, p'tite." Remy chided. "Don do that again, y'hear."

"Hmm." Jubilee slid from Hank's grip, resting on her knees. Hand's bracing her body, she hesitantly pushed to her feet, paused and then relaxed again. "Systems A-OK, I think you can relax, guys."

"For now." Bobby frowned. "Enough for today, Jubes. I don't think I'm up to watching another re-enactment of that little drama." Watching her scowl, he brightened immeasurably. If Jubilee could still be annoyed when told she couldn't do something, then she wasn't all that far off from the kid they'd known. "Come on Jubes, four hours of swinging through the air? I'm exhausted watching you. Have mercy."

"Old man." She scowled, batting off Hank's attempt to check her pulse. "I'm fine, thank you."

Hank sighed, too used to his patient's rebuffing his care. Especially patients such as the X-Men who were determined to make their bodies suffer more than necessary. It was as if they all fancied they had Logan's healing factor. "I would hope, should you encounter any further incidents of discomfort or nuances of pain that you will not hesitate in finding me post haste?"

"Sure." Jubilee waved him off, unconsciously smoothing the abdomen of her workout clothes. Everything felt funny on her body in the way things fit. She still wasn't accustomed to her new figure.

Hank closed his eyes, searched for a small miniscule of patience and turned around, grumbling softly about the masochism of youth. Bypassing the passage back to his lab, he climbed the stairs to the observation booth, likely to download the video-tape feed on the events that had just transpired.

Jubilee appeared indifferent. "Okay, so if I can't relearn how to do everything, what should I do." She sighed, not expecting anyone to answer.

"Eating?" Bobby suggested. Remy nodded full agreement.

"Did that, not hungry now." Jubilee slumped her shoulders, exiting the scorched room and wandering towards the lockers. The two men followed closely. One hand on the women's locker-room door, she turned back to glare at them. "You're not following me in here." She reminded them tartly.

Bobby looked at Remy, and then back at Jubilee. "Uh, right." He confirmed, only then realizing where she was going. "We'll wait here."

"I don't need a guardian." Blue eyes narrowed to slits.

Remy grinned. "Non, petite. But, we do need to be certain you don' sneak back into de Danger Room. You are much like Logan, oui? Determined to prove yourself."

Her scowl just confirmed their expectation. "I'll get you for this." She promised.

"I look forward to it." Bobby rose to the challenge with a grin.

Huffing indignantly, she pushed the locker room door open and stomped in. Damn the men, they were driving her nuts. Reefing her top over her head, she tossed it onto a wooden bench outside of the shower area. The mirror caught her eye, and she froze, again struck by how alien her body seemed to her.

At fourteen, she had been adequately, but not heavy in terms of breast-size. Now, well・ Rogue had to explain gently to her that her preferred non-wired bras just weren't enough to assist a C-Cup breast. She wasn't overly endowed like some of the team, just generously. 'I should have grown into this, slowly.' Sighing, she unsnapped the sports bra, tossing it away indifferently.

If Sinister had survived their last encounter, and she really did hope he had, she wanted to make sure the next one was an unendingly painful reminder of the agony he'd put HER through.

Lithe and slim had been her trademarks, not slender and curvaceous. Oh, there was no mistaking that Psylocke had more generous proportions, but Jubilee had been comfortable with her lean almost curve-free body. Hips, toned and trim as they were, gave a major shift in how her weight fell when doing the simplest movements.

God forbid, what would happen when she strapped on rollerblades! It would be humiliating to go from extreme prowess to utter klutz just in the space of three weeks. Sighing, she tore the rest of her clothes off and hit the warm water, letting muscles savor the feeling of heat pounding into her back.

It wasn't just her body confusing her, but her head. The preconditioning Sinister had started was to give her adult perceptions, but he'd forgotten to take into consideration her past. The mind was young, yes, but her awareness of the world around her was painfully old.

Amongst her team-mates, she shelved her more serious observations, reveling in just being a kid. That didn't mean a stupid decision on Paige's part (as pseudo team-leader) wasn't noted, but that she didn't critique it the way her mind observed it.

Pressed into a situation, though, and the more mature perceptions tossed aside the tomfoolery. There wasn't time to be a kid when one or more of her teammates could pay the price with their lives. That's when her ability as a tactician manifested, when she subtly influenced how her team organized themselves. She never took leadership, she just gave a nudge here and there.

It was a system, it worked. Sure, the gang all underestimated her or didn't pay her much attention, but wasn't that the way she wanted it?

Now, though, there was no shelving of the "childish" thoughts. No desire to be fun and carefree. She had lost so much of herself that she was fighting day in and day out to recover her skills, her instincts, and, more importantly, to acquire mastery of powers that seemed beyond her understanding now.

'I wasn't human there.' The thought burst from her mind. 'I just let go, became plasma and splashed. Oh God.' Was that what Emma had meant? The upper reaches of her power would give her sentience in a non-organic form?

Or had Sinister done that to her?

'I'm second guessing everything. God, I'm going to loose my mind too.' Sobs racked her body, the fears and uncertainties she couldn't let the others see overwhelming her in these few moments alone.

Sinking to the floor, she drew her knees close to her chest and wrapped her arms around the knees to anchor the position, letting the tears fall in gasps. Mingling under the disguising attribute of a shower, her grief pooled onto the floor, draining her body more than any acrobatics ever could.

Hours seemed to past, she just rocked her body and let the misery eat her up. Arms tight, head lowered, the outside world faded to be recognized. Eventually, the water cooled, but she didn't notice. Nor did she notice when it stopped altogether and a big warm towel dropped around her shoulders, hand's rubbing her skin dry before arms encircled her with a loving warmth.

"Jubilee." Jean's voice wasn't in her head, but around her. "Let it out." The telepath encouraged, pulling the girl into her arms and offering all the comfort and support she could. "Easy・ easy."

It wasn't judgmental, just pure comfort and companionship that let Jubilee's sobs find new breath. Clenching tightly at Jean's sweater, she let her tears soak into the supportive shoulder, her mind rambling on and on about her fears. "Sssh." Jean coaxed, soothing what she sensed in her mind with the touch of a hand. "It's okay. Everything will be okay."

If the true Phoenix force had been within her hands, Jean would have cheerfully reverted Jubilee back to the girl she had been, never subjecting her to the anguish finding yourself suddenly an adult was causing her.

After fifteen minutes of waiting, Bobby had gotten antsy. Twenty minutes and Hank emerged from the observation lab both astonished and awed, and both men became concerned. After a half hour of Jubilee still in the locker room, Bobby had scurried to find Jean.

The Danger Room might have been shielded from outside telepathic activity, but the lockers hadn't. Jean wasn't an empath, but it didn't take much to feel the wave of intense grief that was swamping Jubilee's consciousness. It was amazing that this was the first time Jean had felt her snap so severely.

There were too many pressures, too many changes being forced onto the girl for her to cope with. This last discovery with her powers was just the icing on an already teetering cake. "It's not Sinister, Jubilee." Jean broached the subject as the girl calmed. "Hank and the Professor already theorized when they first tested you years ago that this is a potential manifestation of your power at it's maturity. It's a self-defense mechanism, a survival instinct."

"It is?" Jubilee hiccuped.

"It is. You know, you should talk to Bobby about it. He has something similar in his mutant ability. He used it twice to save you." Jean put encouragement into her voice, trying to not let Jubilee know just how frightening it had been to sense Bobby just disappear from the mental landscape. One moment there had been an awareness Jean identified as Robert Drake, the next nothing.

It was that nothing she couldn't cope with, not this soon after Scott's・ well, after Scott. If she did nothing else as Scott's widow then it would be to ensure his original team survived to live long healthy lives. Regardless of the cost, she would do what Scott had done and keep them alive.

And given the protective and almost paternal feelings Scott had felt for Jubilee, Jean easily extended that protective umbrella to the girl. So many similarities lay between Scott Summers and Jubilation Lee. For all intents and purposes, both were orphans, although Scott did have family in Alex Summers. In some ways, Jubilee had the same family in Logan.

Both were gifted at playing out battle situations in their head, assessing their enemies and assigning the best suited gifts against them. It was in Scott's head all along, when he'd encouraged the professor to send Jubilee to the new academy, that Jubilee would become the leader there. Young in age, she was a veteran in spirit.

"You know," Jean began, thinking of Scott's vision for the girl. "I can't help but remember something Scott once said to me about you." The girl stilled in her arms, the damp head soaking through her sweater even as the wet floor made all her clothes damp.

"Scott thought you would replace him, one day. Do you know that?" Jean laughed. "It was after we found out about Bastion, and what he did to you." Again, there was that haunting stillness, another reminder in another way of Scott. "He said you blamed yourself for not being able to keep what you knew out of Bastion's hands. That it wasn't the torture, or the victimization, but your perception of failing the team haunting you."

"It is." Jubilee whispered.

"Well, Scott said that he understood it. He said that only a true leader things or feels that way. And, that what you were feeling was the exact damn thing he would have felt. And what you did, was the exact thing he would have done too. Just like this is. " She reassured. "The way you're feeling, you're convinced deep inside that Sinister's already twisted you and that you're going to hurt us."

Jubilee fidgeted.

"I swept your mind, Jubilee. Remember? I went deep, looking for anything. All I saw was the blossoming of your mental capabilities, of adult centers in the brain opened and a little raw from the way they've opened, and I found that little hollow you like to hide in when you're hurt." Jean let herself pause, wanting to let her words sink in. "But, I didn't find anything about Sinister other than you're absolute hatred at him. And not for doing this to you, but for the things he's done that have hurt the X-Men."

The tears stopped, and the body stopped shivering. "Are you sure?" She asked in a tiny little voice, younger than her years on the planet. "Really sure."

"Absolutely certain." Jean put all the conviction of her heart and soul into her voice. "I know you can't believe me entirely on that, but can you believe me in that Scott would trust you implicitly? He'd believe in you, he'd believe you could break anything Sinister might do to you?"

"He would?" The tears were back, tears of remembrance for a man she'd admired, and they were tears Jean gladly shared. "Did he really think that."

"Yes Jubilee. He really truly did." Jean's head bowed, chin resting into the girl's hair as tears streamed from her own eyes.

It took the two women several moments to compose themselves, but Jean felt it in her mind when Jubilee pulled herself back together and straightened. "I bet," she sniffed. "I bet I've scared Bobby big-time."

Jean smiled, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand. "Oh, just a little." She confirmed. "Go get dressed, I'll go let the boys know you'll be out soon."

Jubilee nodded, rubbing furiously at her eyes. There was one thing about herself that hadn't changed, she looked horrid after a good cry. Eyes puffy, face swollen, it just wasn't a good look. Scrambling into the jeans and T-shirt stuffed into her favorite locker, Jubilee hastily splashed cold water onto her face and waited until she looked less stressed.

Stressed. Ha. There was a word that understated her life, right now. As much as she appreciated the support the X-Men were giving, it felt like no one could help her right now but herself.

And if she had to memorize another physics equation to keep Hank happy, the lab was the next thing to blow up.

No, in truth, she understood completely why he wanted her to study physics. It didn't mean she understood what he was drumming into her brain, but she got the reasons why he was doing it. The studying didn't stress her, the workouts didn't phase her, even the rotational shadows didn't upset her (mostly because they only shadowed her when in the Danger Room.).

It was the unknown of tomorrow that was really rattling her cage. Half the time, she expected to wake up and find herself back to the way she was, the rest of the time, she dreaded waking up to find herself the way she was.

Less than a year ago, she could sneak a beer and no one blinked. Now, oh, she would give anything for someone to please just get her plastered. Beyond the point of thought. Thinking wasn't not doing her any favors.

All these little cacophony of thoughts like: what would Gen X think of this, what would Everett think of it, and why didn't she care? Wasn't she obsessed with the guy? What if she had a temper tantrum, would New York be obliterated? What if a guy asked her out, she was biologically eighteen or nineteen, would Wolvie say no?

And after everything that had happened to her, would anyone want to ever date calamity Jubilee?

'I'm obsessing about my non-existent sex-life - something which hasn't changed pre-Sinister -- instead of worrying about the fact I'm fourteen in a nineteen year old body. How's that for twisted?' Jubilee sneered at herself, grabbing the "Xavier Institution" sweatshirt she'd left in the locker and then sweeping her discarded clothes into the laundry chute.

"I need to get a life." She announced to herself, as she opened the door. "Badly."

"We're X-Men." Bobby observed from his seat on the floor. "We all need a life."

Jubilee stared down at him, hand's on her hips. "Where's your shadow?"

Bobby shrugged, scrambling to his feet so that she wasn't looking down at him. "Oh, him. He's an outgoing type. I'm willing to bet he's upstairs coercing Rogue into trying out a life with him."

Jubilee rolled her eyes at the pointlessness of that endeavor. "And we all know how well that will work." Slipping the sweatshirt over her head, she tugged it down to cover her body, converting her slender shape into a frumpy shapeless blob. It gave her a measure of comfort.

"Yup. He's got better luck trying Wolverine." Bobby raised an eyebrow as Jubilee went to lengths to make her body sexless. It was her choice, but she wasn't fooling anyone. Especially him. He'd seen the whole revised package, after all.

Leading her to the elevator, he took great pleasure in pushing the buttons that moved her further away from the Danger Room, aware that she'd just push herself again tomorrow. Hopefully without splattering herself all over the place.

Stepping out onto the main floor, Bobby shoved his hands into his pockets, letting his thoughts stray aimlessly - generally focusing on the potential contents of the fridge, and followed Jubilee beyond the hidden corridor and the carefully concealed entrance that kept the access to the underground aspect of the mansion hidden.

"Kitchen?" Jubilee snapped his attention back to her, and he nodded absently, still debating the virtues of a BLT versus something more substantial. It wasn't until he was standing in front of the fridge that he realized Jubilee had followed him in and was sitting down.

That wasn't like her. Once she was beyond the Danger Room, she generally ran for her room, or outside, somewhere that she could be alone. "Something up?" He asked casually, sticking his head into the fridge and scoping the scene quickly. Mayo, bacon and, hello, the tomatoes. Now, if there was only some lettuce-

"Try eggs, Drake. Bacon and eggs, Doctor's first choice for heart-attacks, but I think you can handle a little fat and cholesterol." Jubilee drawled, arms folded on the table and chin resting on them.

Bobby frowned, looking at the eggs thoughtfully. Toss a little bit of toast into it, and breakfast could be a mid-afternoon snack too, sure. "Want some?"


"Your choice. Just don・t think I'm gonna share." He cautioned, pulling out two eggs and the package of bacon. "Because I'm not."

The head tilted, following him to the stove. "Fine." She agreed. "Jean told me something neat this afternoon."

This was it. This was what she was following him around about. Mentally, Bobby raced through all the possible things Jean might have said, and yet he couldn't find anything to truly incriminate himself. Lustful thoughts? Nope, he'd been remarkable un-lustful for weeks now. Acts of criminal negligence? Nope・ no one had asked him to babysit their kids in years. So, what had he done this time? "Yes・?"

"She said that what I did this afternoon is kinda like something you did when you・ I mean, at Sinister's place." Jubilee stumbled over admitting they'd rescued her, and pushed on to the location. "That you altered yourself into something・"

"Non-organic." Bobby finished, nodding in understanding. "Actually, I've been doing that for months now. After Frost stole my body, that is." He scowled down at the eggs, watching them bubble up. "Back when I first got my powers, when I first joined the X-Men I used to just sheath my body in ice. Now I change it all the way through. Literally, you could hack off my arm when I'm in ice-form, and I can grow another one. When I turn back, I don't lose an arm, I keep the regrown one."

Jubilee's face turned thoughtful. "What if you turn back before regrowing one? Can you develop another one if you transform again and retain it?"

Bobby frowned, flipping his eggs deftly. That wasn't something he'd ever considered, and given the potential for disaster, not one he wanted to experiment with. "I don't know." He admitted. "Maybe. I'd hate to test it, though."

Nodding to his back, Jubilee agreed with a faint grunt. "So, do you feel yourself? I mean, like, are you aware of yourself when you're in ice, or whatever?"

There was a loaded question, Bobby thought, smirking at his soon-to-be lunch. "Am I aware of myself, yes. It's very foggy, tenuous・ hard to hold onto. It'd be easy to let it go and just cease to exist when I'm like that."

"There aren't any ties to your body."

"Not to the body as I knew it." He corrected. "I think I fight more when I turn into a puddle or like a gaseous fog than I do in solid ice. Ice has a shape similar to my regular state, my consciousness is collected into one very limited piece. Easy. Spread myself thin, or create more incarnations of myself, and I get thinner and thinner in terms of awareness・ does that make any sense."

"Lots." Jubilee agreed, toying with the petals of a violet wilting in the vase at the center of the table. "I felt like I was all over the place, but no place, at the same time this afternoon. That I could just stop. If I didn't try to find a center to me, I'd just stop being me."

Bobby turned, lifting the fry-pan off the stove. Brown eyes serious in a grave face, he watched her pensively butcher the flower. "You can't let that happen." He advised. "Ever. No matter how much you want to. I don't know that we would stop existing, or that we'd immediately coalesce back into our original form. The question is, would we have or not have our minds."

It was a chilling thought, alarming even. To loose control of her mind, or to be catatonic was the worst thing Jubilee could ever envision. That would make her utterly dependant on someone else, loosing whatever instinct for survival and pride in taking care of herself from a moment of inattention. "Oh." She breathed, dropping her hand away from the flower.

"Jean didn't say how she reacted when I shifted, did she?" Bobby dumped the contents of the fry-pan onto a plate, and then joined Jubilee at the table. Her blue eyes glanced at the plate and then his face. "I thought not." He muttered, shoving a cutting bacon into the perfect over-easy egg and then shoveling the entire mess into his mouth.

"So?" Jubilee prodded, keeping a judicious distance from his lunch. Two weeks ago, she'd have shoveled all that fatty food down into her body without a second thought. Now, if she looked at a donut, her thigh swelled. This getting older stuff sucked.

Bobby chewed thoughtfully, not sure this was the best way to bring up the subject. "I scared the bejeezus out of her. She actually shook me."

"Jean?" Jean, for all that she would fight to defend her loved ones, or the planet, never ever raised her voice at any of them in an argument.

"Yeah." Bobby nodded, swallowing and heaping another forkful together. "She couldn't feel me, she said. My consciousness. I asked Psylocke, she said that even if she's shielding she can feel the awareness of another consciousness where ever it is. A telepath got used to the feeling of having all these awarenesses around them, never pure mental silence. It's when it was missing that they felt cut off, or stranded. It creeps them out."

"Wow." Jubilee chewed on her lip. "So, if I had done something like that outside of the Danger Room・"

"Jeanie would feel it, and react to it in the same way as if you were killed." Bobby answered bluntly. "So, take it from me. Don't do it."

"Sure." Jubilee blinked. "No problem." It was left unsaid how that if she had the choice of breaking her neck in a fall or splattering herself and then congealing back into a human, she'd take the splat any old day.

Wasn't necessary to say because they both knew it. Standing up, Jubilee wandered to the window, staring out aimlessly as she sorted out her thoughts. Not even aware of it, but needing to do something, she picked up the discarded frying pan and the flipper Bobby had used and put them in the sink, runny sudsy water to wash them with.

Finishing his lunch, Bobby slid the plate and utensils in, amused by the way Jubilee didn't even notice, she just picked them up and scrubbed them. Not wanting to push the limits of her apparent generosity, he grabbed a towel and dried his own dishes, laying them away.

Dishes all done, Jubilee sat there with hands in the water, starring down blindly at the bubbles. She had been doing that a lot, lately, he'd noticed. Unfortunately, phoning up Emma to see if this was a pre-Sinister or post-Sinister development wasn't really an option.

Emma usually just started verbally bashing him, ignoring any comments or genuine questions he might have. Sean was a better source, but Bobby really didn't want to accidentally start a panic.

Gen X didn't know that their fourteen year old classmates had been transformed into a nineteen year old woman. Given that she'd been abducted from the grounds of the Massachusetts Academy, Bobby felt that news had to be broken in a gentler and more sensitive manner than any he could evoke.

For all Emma's cold manner and Sean's bluster, it would devastate them to see what Sinister had done to the girl, and it would likely traumatize Jubilee's novice classmates. Jean assured the team that Jubilee was dealing with the change pragmatically, with only occasional bouts of panic, but the other kids? Hysteria first, Lithium later. "Jubes?" He called, reaching out to lift her hands from the warm water. "Earth to Jubilee, come in Jubilee?"

She glanced at him suddenly, face blank but inquisitive. "What?"

"Just wondering where you were." He replied, draining the water. "You know, you're getting much to serious in your old age. It's just not healthy." He flicked a bubble at her face.

"Says you." She retorted, whipping her nose with a tea-towel.

"Says me indeed, the resident expert in staying young forever." Bobby grinned. "I still get carded at Harry's, y'know." Not his proudest moment, but definitely a moment of levity in Jubilee's steadily darkening mood. If it would make his young friend smile, Bobby was more than happy to humiliate himself.

Grabbing a fistful of the back to her sweatshirt, Bobby pulled her away from the sink, and pushed her towards the hall. "And since this deplorable sense of fashion of yours is not in the spirit of fun and frivolity, I'm going to suggest you find the women and go shopping."

"Trying to get rid of me, Drake?" Jubilee folded her arms, raising an eyebrow to give him a dirty look.

"Moi!" Brown eyes wide, he gazed innocently down at her suspicious blue orbs. "Would I do that?"

"Yes." Jubilee said confidently. "Without any hesitation."

Bobby grinned, "Then you have your answer. I know for a fact Jean could use the don't-mope-about-Scott distraction of updating your wardrobe. And Rogue? Think of how grateful she'd be for a reason to escape Remy."

The girl wavered, indecision in her pose. "I don't know・" she murmured, looking up the stairs. "I don't think it's a good idea・"

"Ask them, let them decide." Bobby encouraged, seeing her warm to the idea of getting off the property. He had half a mind to smuggle her into Harry's and get her royally soused just so she could get a break from all this fuss.

It was a known fact that no one had played a prank on anyone since her rescue, and that just wasn't right. Since it was Jubilee who was rescued, and Jubilee who'd had the most grief, it was Jubilee who had rights to the first prank. However, if she didn't perk up soon, Bobby despaired of ever discovering her committing said act.

"Go." He nudged. "I'll even give you Hank's credit card."

Her grin flashed cheekily mere seconds before she scampered up the stairs. 'Mission accomplished.' Bobby praised himself, spinning on heel. Oh, he would have taken her shopping himself, but only if they were buying a television, or a car・ maybe a boat. Clothes, in particular women's clothes・ that kind of shopping was an obscure sort of torture to any living male. His mother used to subject him to it, and he'd be damned if he'd willingly volunteer to revisit that nightmare.

Still, if it made Jubilee's world and Jean's outlook a little brighter, some horrors would have to be perpetuated. "Oh Hank・" He called, seeking out his buddy and pal. "Here Hanky, Hanky, Hanky・ ole pal Bobby needs to borrow your boundless wallet・"

Particularly horrors perpetuated against someone else's bank account. Bobby was an accountant, after all. He loathed seeing frivolous expenditures of money.

Fini, Part Two
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