A Proper Father

by Dyce

Rising Sun #11 (see previous for disclaimers)Thanks for your patience, everyone, and I hope you enjoy it. :) Feedback, as always, is very much appreciated, and causes me to write. <*g*>

Marrow poked at the small, flailing pink appendage. Michael gurgled. She smiled, and poked at his foot again. He sputtered happily. Angelo, watching from the doorway, smiled indulgently at the pair who lay sprawled on the soft rug. He freely admitted that he'd loathed Marrow not long ago, what with the whole kidnapping-Emma-and-killing-lots-of-people thing, but her genuine penitence combined with the hours she'd spent fussing over Jubilee and her baby had won him over. "Did you change him?"

"Yup." She tweaked a toe, and Michael squealed excitedly. "Twice."

"Good." Angelo scooped his son up, cuddling him gently. Michael awarded him one of his rare smiles. "Aw, I'm pleased to see you too," Angelo smiled, kissing the top of the fuzzy head. "Time for you to eat."

"Bye," Marrow said, not bothering to get up from the rug. Daytime feeds could be observed, but the evening nursing was Family Time.

Angelo smiled at her, and padded back to the bedroom their small family all shared.

That had been a controversy all on its own. First there had been, of all things, objections to him and Jubilee sharing a bed, which had left him rather baffled. In the first place, they'd been sleeping together platonically for over six months before getting non-platonic, and in the second, she'd just had an episiotomy and was out of the sexual running for quite some time. She'd offered to show the stitches to anyone who had objections about the 'morality' of their situation, and they'd shut up immediately.

Then, even more baffling, they'd tried to put Michael in another room altogether. What for? Angelo had asked. He doesn't take up much room, and this way he's right there when he needs feeding. Jubilee had agreed, pointing out that she, for one, didn't feel like hobbling all the way down the hall with her damaged knee and her episiotomy when a crib in the corner of their room was perfectly feasible. The pro-nursery faction hadn't been able to argue with that, and had gone off sulking.

Between the two factions, more than half the inhabitants of the mansion had been walking around with their noses out of joints for three full weeks now. Angelo, for his part, had blithely ignored them all and carried on with his favourite pastime, which was spoiling his family utterly rotten.

Now, as he deposited the baby gently in her arms, he bent to kiss Jubilee tenderly. "Did you have a nice nap?"

"Yup." She smiled up at him, reaching up to touch his cheek gently before she began to unbutton her shirt. "And from the look of him, Michael had fun too." She kissed the top of her son's head, cuddling him close.

"He did. Marrow spoils him." Angelo made himself comfortable at the other end of the bed, and plopped one of Jubilee's feet in his lap. As she leaned back and settled their son at her breast, he began to massage her foot gently. "He's growing so fast I can almost see him do it."

"He sure drinks enough." Jubilee smiled mock-ruefully. "I feel like one of those things you buy for your pets that feeds them on demand."

"You look a lot tastier, though." He leered at her, and was rewarded with a delighted giggle. That jostled Michael a bit, though, so he went back to massaging her foot. "I love you," he said softly, matter-of-factly.

Jubilee smiled at him. "I know. I love you too." Michael burbled a little, tiny fist flailing, and they both laughed quietly. "And you too, sweetie," Jubilee chuckled, capturing the fist gently in her fingers.

* * *

Hours later, Angelo paced silently down the stairs, stroking Michael's back. "Shh... shh, nino..." After three weeks it was already a nightly ritual. He would walk with his son nestled against his shoulder, sometimes inside, occasionally outside. The motion invariably sent Michael into a deep, relaxed sleep from which he would wake only twice before dawn.

Michael cooed sleepily, turning his face into Angelo's neck. That tiny, trusting movement tugged almost painfully at his heart, and he held his son a little closer. "*I love you,*" he whispered. "*You are my son, my heart, and beyond death itself will I love you.*" His only answer was a sleepy burble... and a slowly rising murmur of voices.

"Do you really think it's going to last?" Jean asked, her voice worried.

"I do not," Ororo sounded a little closer, perhaps sitting at the table instead of leaning against the counter, as Jean usually did. Jean never seemed to sit down, she always preferred to hover.

Angelo cuddled his son gently, stroking the little round head. Michael burbled gently, his eyes drifting closed as he burrowed his face into the loose velvety skin of his father's neck. "Would you like to go in the kitchen?" he murmured softly. "There's some boiled water if you're thirsty." And he could talk to some real grownups, even if they were ten years his senior and on the Big Kid team.

"Angelo is the one I feel for," Ororo said regretfully.

Angelo blinked. Him? What about him? What were they talking about? He cuddled the baby a little closer.

"Jubilee seems very attached to him," Jean said, but with an uncertain note in her voice. "But their shields are so strong that even I can't pick much up without prying. "He adores Michael, of course. Anyone can see that."

"Yes, he does." Ororo paused. Angelo could almost see her taking a sip of herbal tea and sighing delicately. "But Jean, they are both so young. What they believe is love may well be simple infatuation." Her rich voice was sad. "Once I thought that Peter and my Kitten truly loved one another, too, but it was not so. She sought a protecter, a hero who would nurture her and keep her safe, and he... I do not know what it was that he wanted, but it was not truly Kitty. Jubilee professes to love Angelo, and I believe that she believes it, but..."

Breathe. He had to breath.

"But you think she's looking for a protecter," Jean said consideringly. "Someone who'll take care of her and her baby."

"Who would not, in her place? But she is still a child, Jean. How can she know the difference between love and grateful infatuation? And Angelo in his turn, though I do not doubt that he is genuinely fond of her, may very well be seeking a replacement to the family he has lost, and mistaking his friendly concern for a deeper emotion."

No. No. They were wrong.

"It might not be so," Jean said, sounding even more uncertain. "But... gratitude can be misleading. Maybe she feels as if she owes him love, for the care he's taken of her."

"I hope not." Ororo's voice was as rich and firm as ever, but Angelo could hardly hear it over the roaring in his ears. "It would be so tragic if she were to lose someone she counted on yet again."

Angelo fled, not wanting to hear another word.

When he was out of earshot, he leaned against the wall, his hands shaking so hard he was afraid he'd drop the baby. They were wrong. Jubilee loved him. It wasn't just gratitude, she knew he'd never abandon her, she didn't have to say the words to keep him by her side. She *loved* him. She'd said so. She'd said they'd raise their baby together.

Michael whimpered uncertainly, and Angelo's arms tightened around him as the bottom dropped out of his world. "What if they're right?" he whispered aloud. What if it wasn't real? What if Jubilee just thought that she loved him, because he was the first man in a long time to be willing to stick around? Oh god, he couldn't stand that... to see her love fade away into duty, and duty into resentment. He loved her. He loved her so much. He couldn't doubt that, or he'd go mad. She was all that kept him to sanity, sometimes, the only love and touch that he could let himself accept, the only support that he could let himself lean on. Without her and Michael... he shuddered, holding the baby tightly against him. He'd rather die than live that way again, being alone and isolated and pretending to be self-reliant so no-one knew how desperately lonely and frightened he was.

His feet carried him down the hall, past the bedroom where Jubilee lay sleeping. He wanted to look in at her, and see her silky black hair ruffled untidily around her sweet, cherubic face. He wanted to slid into the bed beside her and hold her in his arms and feel her soft warmth against him. But if he did that, he'd lose it. He couldn't face her now, with the uncertainty still raw in him. Instead, he padded into the small sunroom at the end of the hall and sat clumsily in a big rocking-chair that stood half-hidden in a window alcove, looking out over the grounds.

Michael was drifting into sleep in his arms, little pink face relaxing and fists uncurling like flowers. Angelo gazed at him, absorbing every minute detail. His son was so beautiful, so perfect... a vulnerable little life dependent on his father to keep him safe. Angelo closed his eyes, rocking gently in the big chair. Was it the same for Jubilee? Was she, too, a child clinging to him, turning to him for the love and comfort she needed? No, it couldn't be. It couldn't. She loved him as a man, not a father figure... she'd turned to him, asked for his touch, she'd *wanted* him. For a sweet, brief time before the birth had left her torn and sore, they'd been lovers. Even now, she nestled in his arms when she slept, nuzzling her small face against his neck and holding him close...

Oh god, he couldn't stand it if he lost her, he'd rather be dead...

He exhaled slowly. Breath. In. Out. Breath.

Rocking slowly, he grasped at one of the grounding exercises Emma had taught him. Empty the mind... feel the body. The cool floor under his bare feet. The thin padding over slats that pressed into his back. A strand of his hair, escaped from its tie, brushing against his cheek. The warm weight of the baby in his arms.

He opened his eyes, looking into Michael's small face. No, they were wrong about him. He'd felt infatuation before, and it was nothing like this. He loved Jubilee for a thousand reasons, from her sweetness and her strength, to her vulnerability and her courage, to the wonderful bright smile that lit his heart up like a Christmas tree. And he loved Michael. He'd *bonded* with him, father to child, the first time he'd held the tiny bundle in his arms and looked into the scrunched red face.

But he didn't know... couldn't know... if it was the same for Jubilee.

From the moment he'd discovered that she was pregnant, he'd wrapped her up in a tender cocoon of comfort, never leaving her side, doing everything he could to make her happy. And it had been the right thing to do, she'd *needed* that reassurance and care... but it was possible, just possible, that she'd had her head turned by such unaccustomed attention, and been convinced that she loved him because he was... because he was there.

It could be as simple as that. She could have unconsciously chosen him because he was the only available option. And just before Michael had been born, she'd suddenly seemed uncertain. She'd asked him if he thought it had all been too easy for them, she'd been wondering if it would last...

Miserable certainty made a cold lump in his stomach. She didn't love him, not really. Oh, she loved him as a friend, as a nurturer, but not as a man.

Not as a husband.

Incongruously, the thought flitted through his mind that he'd have to find a diplomatic way of returning Gambit's rings to him. He could hardly say 'well, she doesn't love me after all, hold onto these until she finds someone she really wants'...

Angelo rocked, clutching the baby blindly (Jubilee's son, not his, not really his...), and staring out into the darkness beyond the window.

It wasn't until nearly twenty past two that Jubilee woke up. She opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling for a minute, wondering what exactly had woken her up. The same fuzzy feeling that had once propelled her out of bed just too late to make it to training was nagging at her now, telling her that she was late for... something. What was she late for? She turned her head to look at the clock. 2:17, the glowing red numbers proclaimed.

Michael! Of course, Michael was supposed to be fed punctually at two. He always woke them up with a soft, interrogative gurgle within five minutes of 2am, and Angelo went to get him...

Now that she thought about it, where the heck was Angelo? He wasn't in the bed with her. His side of the bed, when she sat up and felt it, seemed rather suspiciously unmussed. And she hadn't actually seen either of them since Angelo took the baby for his little post-dinner walk before sleeping, since she'd passed out as soon as they left the room.

Hm. It was all very strange. She sat up, reaching for her dressing-gown and her crutches both at once. She got everything sorted out after a minute, and stood with her weight mostly on her right knee while she thought about it. Now where could he... oh, of course. Jubilee smiled indulgently. Michael hadn't dozed off right away, so Angelo had taken him to the sunroom and rocked him in the rocking chair as he often did, and then they'd both gone to sleep. She'd been telling Angelo that that would happen some night, and she'd obviously been proven right.

Shaking her head fondly, she hobbled down the hall and into the small sunroom, automatically reaching to switch on the light. "Angelo? Are you here?"

"Jubilee?" There was a strange, flat note in his voice, and he didn't turn around. "You should be sleeping."

"It's past two," she said softly. "I need to feed Michael." Either he was sleepy, or there was something wrong. And he usually sounded groggier when he was sleepy.

"Oh. Didn't realize it was that late." He half-stood, then staggered, swearing.

"Angie?" She limped over to him, reaching out to with one hand. "Are you okay?"

"Just stiff. From sitting." He looked at her for the first time. His face was drawn and pale, almost corpselike, as he held the baby out to her. "Here."

Jubilee half-sat, half-fell into a small armchair, automatically setting her crutches aside and taking her son gently in her arms even as she stared at her lover. "Angie, what's wrong?"

He looked away from her, naked misery blazed on his face. "I... this isn't a good time to talk about it."

"Bullcookies." Jubilee snorted, pointing at the chair beside her own. "You're worrying about it now, we can talk about it now." Her bravado cracked, and she bit her lip. "You're scaring me. And it's bad for my milk flow."

He sat down, but it looked more as though he was too stiff to remain standing, rather than indicating a willingness to talk. Indeed, he watched her unbutton her nightgown and settle Michael at her breast without saying a word. Eventually, she broke the silence herself. "Angelo... please tell me what's wrong," she said softly.

"I..." She could see him trying to find something to tell her, and running up against the absolute honesty they'd done their best to observe in their relationship since it started. Cold terror clutched at her. After a minute, he slumped, his thin hands hanging limply over the arms of his chair. "I'm scared," he admitted honestly. "I'm afraid that... that you don't love me. Not really."

Jubilee's jaw actually dropped. She'd always thought that that was one of those imaginary things that people never really did, but here she was, doing it. "You... what?"

For the first time in hours, Angelo felt slightly less awful. The uncomprehending surprise on her face certainly indicated that she didn't know what he was talking about, and it was hard to fake an expression that complicated at two am. "I just..." he shook his head. "I mean... are you sure? Are you really sure that you... that you feel that way about me?"

He'd expected tears. Of shock, of anger, of hurt, or even of guilt, he didn't know, but he'd definitely expected tears. Instead, he found himself on the receiving end of a calm and rather steely Look. "Have you been drinking?" she demanded.

"I...what? No!"

"Smoking the funky stuff? Sniffing the magic markers too hard?" He shook his head, mouth opening for an indignant denial, and she sighed, pointing at the floor beside her. "Come here, then."

As he moved to sit by her feet, Jubilee was thinking unusually fast. She knew Angelo was worryingly insecure about his own lovability. And his sex appeal, too, the sweet, neurotic goof. She absolutely had to take this seriously (his fears), without taking it seriously at all (the idea itself). "Where did this come from?" she asked mildly, settling Michael in one arm, so as to have the other free.

"I overheard Phoenix and Storm talking about us in the kitchen while I was walking Michael," he admitted. "They were saying... well..."

Aha! She could make a fairly good guess at what that particular pair might say. "That I'm clinging to you out of a misguided need for the security I don't get from Wolvie? That I'm just, like, incredibly grateful to you for being such a sweetheart all these months that I'm imagining that I'm hopelessly in love with you?"

"Uh... si, pretty much." The overeager puppy of hope had to be hastily smacked with the rolled-up newspaper of caution. Down, boy.

Jubilee made a rude noise. "Just because SOMEBODY married the most boring man in the entire universe because she wanted security and a white picket fence..." She stroked his hair gently with her free hand, wrapping the soft strands around her fingers. "I love you for a lot of reasons, you skinny grey dimwit, starting with you being you, and ending with the cute way your butt changes shape with your mood."

"The what way my *what*?"

"It droops when you're upset. Just a little." She grinned. "At other times, say, when you're scampering naked across our bedroom floor, it's very perky indeed."

Angelo flushed purple. "Jubileeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! This is a serious conversation!" he complained.

"I know. I'm sorry." She kissed the tips of her fingers and pressed them against his cheek. "I just... I know gratitude. I know infatuation. And what I feel for you is something much more than both of those. I love you, Angelo. I really do."

He sighed, laying his head gently against her uninjured knee. "Really?" he asked softly.

"Really." She smiled at him.

"Not out of gratitude?"

"Pff. No."

"Not out of some father-figure thing?" He was starting to smile too. How could he have bee so silly? Jubilee would nev-

"Welllll..." she said thoughtfully. "The father-figure thing IS in there..."

"WHAT?!" Angelo squawked.

"You know." She detached Michael carefully, and settled him against her shoulder for burping. "For him."

"Oh." He half-relaxed, half-deflated, and glared at her. "Don't DO that."

"Sorry," she said unrepentently. Michael released a whisper of a burp, and Jubilee settled him on the other side, where he latched on with his accustomed vigor. "Ow."

"Stop that," Angelo said softly, reaching up to touch his son's head (his son!). "Mama isn't a chew toy."

"There's no reasoning with him," Jubilee sighed, wincing a bit. "He's a dyed-in-the-sleepsuit guzzler." Michael made a little gurgling noise as he nursed, and she cooed softly. "But I love you anyway, yes I do..."

"I do too," Angelo agreed. "Love him, I mean. Even when he's got the dirtiest diaper I've ever seen, and it's all scungy and stinky, even then, you little crap-factory." He smoothed the arm of Michael's newborn-sized Tigger jammies, sliding his finger down until the chubby little fist closed around it.

Jubilee sighed softly, and smiled. "And I love you too, Angelo Espinosa, even if you do come up with the craziest ideas at 2 am. Not loving you indeed." She snorted. "What utter foo."

"Love you too." He smiled up at her, reaching up with his other hand to cup her cheek. "Jubilee?"


"Does my butt really change shape?"

She giggled quietly. "Angie, your entire *body* changes shape. Haven't you ever noticed?"

"Uh... no. Changes shape how?" he asked curiously.

"When you droop, your arms actually get a little bit longer," she observed mildly. "The muscles in your face shift around, your eyes get deeper-set, your shoulders get narrower, and you generally get skinnier all over." She turned her face to kiss his palm gently. "When you're happy, the reverse happens. You get more muscly-looking, and I'd swear you actually get a bit taller, too."

Angelo digested that for a second. "That's impossible. Or possibly a skin-induced illusion."

Jubilee shook her head. "I don't think so. But we can talk about that later." Michael was starting to doze, and she cuddled him for a moment, then detached him and laid him in Angelo's arms. "Hold him for a second."

He did so, snuggling the little form against his shoulder. Michael yawned, burrowing his face into his father's neck. "Aww..." Angelo sighed happily, suddenly feeling very sleepy himself.

Jubilee leaned down to kiss him lingeringly, still buttoning her nightgown. "Mm... You tired, lover?"

"A bit," he admitted, returning the kiss tenderly. "You?"

"Mhm." She clambered to her feet, getting her crutches under her. "C'mon, guys. Bed."

It wasn't until Michael was sleeping in his cradle, and the two of them were nestled together in their own bed, that Angelo spoke again. "Jubilee?"

"Mm?" she murmured sleepily.

"You really do love me?"

"Mm." She kissed the side of his neck, eyes already closed.

"You... want me to be Michael's father?"


He propped himself up on one elbow, looking down at her gravely. "Will you marry me?" he asked softly.

Jubilee curled against him, her eyes still closed. "Mm." She sighed drowsily. "Yes."

"Good." He lay down again, nuzzling her temple gently. He loved the way she'd said that, so calmly, as if there'd never been any doubt that she'd agree and asking had been only a formality. "I love you, mi amante."

"Love you too." Jubilee yawned. Then her eyes opened, and she grinned at him sleepily. "Although I was starting to think you were never going to ask."

"Pft. I was waiting for a good moment." He tugged her closer, missing a little the rounded warmth of her pregnancy resting against his side. It had been something he'd loved, the weight resting gently against his side where he could lay a hand on the taut skin and daydream that it was his child she carried. Maybe one day...

"I nearly asked you at breakfast yesterday," she informed him with another yawn. "You remember, when Bobby was dropping those heavy hints about Cece and wedding bells at Hank."

Angelo would have gone a bit panicky if his adrenal glands weren't already asleep. Jubilee propose to *him*? In front of the entire mansionful of people?! "Then thanks for not," he said weakly. Then curiosity got the better of him. "Why didn't you?"

"Didn't want to, you know, tarnish your manhood in front of the guys by taking the marital initiative," she said mildly. "I knew it'd upset you."

"Oh." He kissed the sensitive spot just under her ear. "Gracias. It would've... bothered me, yeah."

She chuckled softly. "You and your macho tendencies."

He looked at her, waking up a little. "Does it bother you?" he asked, with a slightly worried note in his voice. "I mean, I know I'm kind of sexist sometimes and I try not to do the whole me big man you little woman thing..."

"I know." She met his gaze, lambent blue eyes clear and loving. "But, you know, if you'd been on the Titanic, you'd have been slinging women and children into the lifeboats as fast as you could, and kicking the hell out of any guy who tried to get on." She cupped his cheek, trying to explain. "It's not... patronizing, coming from you. You know women can be tough, and you know we can take care of ourselves, but you try to protect us anyway because you *care*. Not 'cause you think we can't do it. Which makes it sweet, instead of rude."

"Oh. Good, then." He snuggled down, kissing her one more time. "So if I say 'Go to sleep now, cupcake, you know you've got to be up again at six to feed the baby', you'll know it's because I know you have trouble waking up at six, not because I don't think you're bright enough to remember."


"Buenas noches, Jubilee."

"Night, love."

* * *

Angelo was awake when Michael made the little mewing sound that signalled his readiness to be fed. He'd been awake for some time, as it happened, smiling at the ceiling. The knowledge that he and Jubilee were officially engaged, that they would soon be married, had woken him up with the same happy anticipation he'd once gotten from Christmas morning, and at the same ungodly hour.

"I'm coming," he said now, sliding out of bed and padding over to the elaborately carved wooden cradle. Michael was cooing softly, holding out his arms and favouring his father with a huge gummy smile. "Oh, pleased to see me again, huh?" Angelo murmured, picking the baby up and cuddling him gently. "Guess what, kiddo? I'm gonna marry your mama, all nice and proper. Which is gonna make me your legal father, so don't you be coppin' no 'tude from now on." He kissed the top of the fuzzy head, and laid Michael down gently on the changing-table. "Lessee how you did last night... foof, that's terrible. All runny and yellow and stinky. Tellin' you, nino, we got to get you potty trained the minute you can toddle." He disposed of the old diaper with a shudder, and set to with the wipies. "Why don't you ever cry to be changed at night, huh? Most babies do. *I* would, if I was lying in a mess like that."

Michael sucked his fist contemplatively, the image of Buddha-like serenity as he was taped into a new diaper. "Guess you're just too damn relaxed to give a shit about shit, huh?" Angelo chuckled. "Good attitude. I like that. Jubilee, you awake?"

"The way you've been babbling?" Jubilee kicked weakly at the blankets, which had somehow gotten tangled around her legs like a particularly amorous octopus. "Nope."

"Pht." He leaned over to kiss her lingeringly, then deposited the baby in her arms. "You feed him. I'll go get you your tea." He'd kindly but firmly denied her any and all coffee. It was bad for the baby, he insisted, and she'd sulkily given in.

"Don't want tea this morning," she yawned, turning on her side so Michael could lie on the bed to nurse. "I want cocoa."

"Your wish is my command," he said, straight-faced. "Would my lovely fiancee like breakfast in bed, too?"

Jubilee grinned. "No. I wanna go down and brag to everyone about how I'm getting married and they can't stop me, nyah."

"That idea I like. But if you're gonna be bragging..." Angelo dug around in his pants-drawer for a minute, having figured that that wasn't one Jubilee would look in, and pulled out the little blue velvet bag Gambit had given him nearly a month before. "You should have something to brag about," he finished. "Give me your hand."

"A ring?" Jubilee said hopefully. "Already?"

"Yeah... hope it fits." He slid the delicate sapphire-and-diamond ring onto her finger. It was perhaps a teeny bit loose, but it would stay on. "Do you like it?"

"Like it? It's gorgeous!" she breathed, gazing entranced at her hand. "Where on earth did you get something so beautiful?"

"It's an heirloom," he murmured, watching the joy play over her expressive little face. "A gift from Gambit. He said it belonged to his birth-mother, and he wanted you to have it. There're wedding rings, too."

"Remy? You mean this is his mom's engagement ring that she left him? Aww..." Jubilee sniffed a bit, still admiring her ring. "Don't get jealous or nothin', but I'm gonna kiss the life out of him for this."

"I'll live. Matter of fact, I kinda like him myself." Angelo kissed them both one more time, then wrapped his robe around himself and headed for the door. "Back in a minute."

He padded down to the kitchen in the early morning hush, enjoying the only peaceful moments the mansion ever seemed to have. In the kitchen, he plugged the kettle in, and changed the coffee in the machine before switching it on too. Humming softly (and rather tunelessly) he started to set up the little tray that made carrying two hot drinks and a cookie or two so much easier.

"You sound cheerful this morning," someone said behind him.

"I am cheerful this morning. The coffee'll be ready in a minute." He turned around, and shook his head sadly. "Don't tell me. You forgot to go to bed again."

"Guilty as charged," Hank said sleepily, his usually upstanding hair even wilder than usual. "I fell asleep at my desk. Are there donuts?"

"No. There are no donuts. Drake ate the last one yesterday." Angelo pulled several half empty packets of pasta out of a cupboard, and fished out a donut box. "Absolutely they are all gone. Completely. And rumours of a secret stash Wolverine and I keep for Jubilee are all lies, too," he added, handing Hank a cream-filled, chocolate-iced confection. "Don't believe a word of it."

"I shall deny any such rumours with the greatest vigour," Hank said solemnly, and devoured the donut in two bites. "Thank you."

"Anytime." The kettle boiled, and Angelo busied himself ladling disgusting amounts of sugar into Jubilee's cup. "By the way... Are you awake enough to remember things I tell you right now?"

"Oh, yes. I slept-"

"Let me rephrase. You're too sleepy to remember anything I tell you, and when the official announcement comes you're going to be completely surprised."

Hank had never been accused of being slow. "Absolutely. I shall probably fall asleep any moment and think the whole thing a passing dream. Forgetful Fred, that's me." He perched on a chair and looked eagerly at Angelo. "What is it that I'm going to forget the moment I hear it?"

Angelo grinned. He just HAD to tell someone, and he knew that Hank, at least, would approve. "Jubilee and I are going to get married," he said proudly. "I asked her last night... no, technically this morning."

"Congratulations!" The fuzzy blue face was split by an enormous grin. "What wonderful news!" He bounded over and nearly shook Angelo's hand right off his arm. "I am without any doubt that yours will be the most felicitous of unions."

Angelo rescued his hand in the nick of time. "Thanks. I appreciate the... well... support."

Hank nodded understandingly. "I shall, of course, reiterate my congratulations when a formal announcement is made," he said kindly. "There will be no doubt in any mind that I, as Jubilee's physician as well as a friend to you both, fully support this course of events."

"Thank you," Angelo said gratefully. "I know that a lot of people aren't going to approve, but... I love her." He shrugged, picking up the tray. "And I want to be with her."

"A praiseworthy sentiment." Hank patted him on the shoulder, and nearly knocked the slight teenager off his feet. "Now go give your charming fiancee her cocoa. I shall see what can be done in the way of a festive breakfast."

What could be done, they found out, coming down a couple of hours later, was several boxes of donuts, a great deal of fruit, mountains of toast, and bacon and sausages enough for all. This Angelo appreciated very much. Hank had also, however, rounded up every single X-person in the house for 'his' special breakfast, and this Angelo did not appreciate quite so much. He'd hoped to break the news when not quite so badly outnumbered.

"Sit! Eat!" Hank carolled from the stove, where he was gleefully creating a series of speckled objects that looked as if they might be chocolate chip pancakes.

"Uh... in a minute." If he sat down, he'd lose his nerve. They'd discussed this, and decided on a course of action, and it wasn't going to be easy. "Uh... Wolverine?"

Wolverine looked up from his bacon. "Yeah?"

"I..." Angelo cleared his throat a bit nervously. "I mean we... wanted to tell you right away. Er... Jubilee and I are engaged. To be married," he added, in case there might be some mistake.

There was absolute silence.

Everyone looked at Wolverine.

Wolverine's pale blue eyes shifted from Angelo to Jubilee, and back to Angelo again. He appeared to think things over for a minute. "Married, huh?"

"Si. Married." Angelo met his gaze steadily.

There was another pause. Then Wolverine shrugged. "Good," he said mildly, and went back to his breakfast.

"Indeed," Hank beamed before anyone else could speak. "I for one think it is an absolutely delightful event, and may I be the first to congratulate the couple and," he dropped a peck on Jubilee's cheek as he handed her a plateful of pancakes, "to kiss the prospective bride." He smiled down at her, folding enormous arms around her for a brief, very gentle hug. "I, for one, wish only to see you happy, Jubilee, and I think you have chosen well. I like him."

"Me too," Jubilee whispered, a little overcome as she hugged back as best she could.

"Me three," Gambit agreed, slipping out of his seat to claim Jubilee for a hug of his own. "T'ink he'll make a fine husband for y', petite, an' you deserve it."

Jubilee nodded, and pulled him down for a chaste but firm kiss on the lips. "And thank you for the most beautiful ring I've ever seen," she whispered. "I'll treasure it."

"Knew y' would." He smiled down at her, his eyes a little sad. "There's no-one else I'd rather see wearin' it." The sad look disappeared and he grinned wickedly. "Mind you, if I'd known y' was such a fine kisser, I might've given it to y' m'self, ne?"

"Hey..." Bobby appeared beside them, tugging Jubilee away before she could more than giggle. "Fellow-prankster here, make room..." He grinned, and picked her up bodily for yet another hug. "Aww, my little buddy's all grown up and getting married! Before me, even!"

Jubilee giggled. "You snooze, you lose, Drake. Maybe if you hustle, you'll manage to get hitched before Michael does. Assuming there's a woman out there who'd actually fall fer YOU..."


While this was going on, Marrow had unobtrusively sidled over to Angelo. "You and the firecracker making it legal, huh?" she said with a faintly pleased note in her voice.

Angelo nodded, an undeniably goofy smile spread all over his face. "Yeah. Soon, I hope."

Marrow nodded, and while no-one was looking she kissed him shyly on the cheek. "I hope it all works out for you two and the monkey," she mumbled, and scampered hastily out of the kitchen before she could ruin her reputation further by getting teary. Angelo stared after her for a moment with a happily bemused look on his face, before being kissed once again by a dignified but happy Kitty, and grabbed and hugged by Bobby, who was taking this golden opportunity to hug absolutely everyone.

Well, almost everyone.

"This is very exciting news," the Professor said mildly. Something in his tone, however, sent people sidling back towards their seats. "I assume you've both given this careful thought?"

"Si. We have." Angelo slid an unconsciously possessive arm around Jubilee's shoulders. "We both think that we're ready for this."

"Good." The man made 'good' sound like 'you poor fools, how little you know'. "Have you set a date yet?"

"Not exactly..." Jubilee said, a bit uncertainly.

"A wise idea," Ororo approved gently. "You are both so young, after all. A long engagement would be best."

Jubilee's eyes narrowed. "Who said anything about a long engagement?"

Xavier cleared his throat reprovingly. "Jubilee, you are only fifteen. I'm not even sure if you *can* be married yet-"

"I can in Massechusetts. You only have to be over fourteen and with parental consent there." Everyone looked at her, and she looked right back. "What? He *told* you we've both thought about this!"

Angelo looked down at her, blinking a bit. "Exactly how soon did you want to get married?"

Jubilee's chin stuck out mutinously. "Today?"

"I don't think that's possible, love. There's all this stuff we have to do..." He hugged her gently. "I thought, say, in just over a month? That's plenty of time to get ready."

"Why then?" Bobby asked curiously.

Angelo lifted one shoulder, smiling down at his fiancee. "I thought it might be nice if we were married on Jubilee's birthday."

"On my... birthday?" Jubilee dropped her crutches to fling her arms around his neck, kissing him rapturously. "Oh, Angelo, that's so... so..."

"Romantic?" Rogue said dreamily, resting her chin on her hand.

"Yes!" Jubilee sniffed again, burrowing her face into Angelo's neck. "It's a wonderful idea. And I love you so, so much..."

"I love you too," he murmured against her hair, before he put her down gently. "But we're distracting people from their breakfast, querida."

"We don't mind," Hank assured him, clasping his spatula to his heart. "We haven't had a proposal for so long... and Scott didn't do it where we could see. You two keep going, don't mind us..."

Blushing a bit, the young couple elected to sit down and help themselves to food instead. Conversation gradually rose to its normal buzz as everyone took turns to admire the ring and dispense advice. Gambit offered to write down some helpful hints for after the wedding, nudge nudge wink wink, and was politely but firmly turned down; Jubilee informing him with a wicked little grin that Angelo was quite capable of managing without help. Angelo went purple again.

It didn't come as any surprise to either of them, though, to be summoned to the Professor's study after breakfast.

"I must admit to being somewhat concerned," Xavier said quietly. He was flanked by Jean and Ororo, with Scott leaning against the mantlepiece. Hank had slipped in uninvited, and was perched on the back of a heavy chair a little to the left of Angelo and Jubilee, who were seated side by side on a small couch, facing Xavier.

"Why?" Jubilee asked bluntly. She had automatically taken the lead in this little conversation, since she knew their antagonists a great deal better than Angelo did. So far, he'd confined himself to nods, murmurs of agreement, and some very comforting hand-holding.

"Because you are both so young, to begin with." Ororo interjected. "While we appreciate that you care for each other, we-"

"We don't 'care' for each other, Storm," Jubilee said flatly. "We *love* each other. Despite what certain late-night kitchen gossips might think." Jean and Ororo had the grace to look at each other and blush guiltily. "And we're not that young. Nobody who's lived with what we have can be called young." She rested her head against Angelo's shoulder, feeling him shift automatically so she could rest comfortably against him.

"I concur," Hank said softly, speaking for the first time. "I have conferred with Cecilia on this subject, since it seemed obvious to both of us that a permanent commitment would not be slow to follow Michael's birth. We are in full agreement that, emotionally and psychologically, both Angelo and Jubilee are fully prepared for a committed relationship of this kind, and indeed will benefit greatly from it. This, by the by, is the opinion of the physicians, not the friends."

Jean gave him an irritated look. "Hank, you can't really think that rushing into marriage like this is a good idea?"

"Rushing?" A shaggy blue eyebrow rose. "My dear Jean, I have expected this for the past three months and more. Do recall that their relationship will shortly attain nine months duration, during which period they haqve spent more than more than enough time together to know if a permanent attachment is feasible."

"Yeah," Jubilee agreed, a truculent note to her voice. "Not all of us want to wait, like, ten years and two or more deaths before we actually commit to a relationship." Jean bit her lip, and Jubilee looked immediately contrite. "I'm sorry. It's just... it can happen. You *know* it can happen." Sudden tears shone in her eyes. "And we... we're not Summerses, even by marriage. When we die, it'll be forever. So we want to make the most of whatever time we have together."

Her fiance's arms immediately slid around her, cradling her tenderly against him. "We appreciate that you're concerned," he said in the gentle, quiet voice that meant he was getting very annoyed, but didn't want to upset her by showing it. "But we've given this careful thought, and we *will* be married, in a month and a half at most."

"Good for you," Scott said quietly, speaking up for the first time. Everyone turned to look at him, and Jean frowned slightly, obviously speaking mentally. Scott listened for a moment, then shrugged. "Why not?" he countered aloud. "If I'd had the nerve to marry you when *I* was eighteen, how much trouble might we all have been spared?" He reached out to pat her hand gently. "I know you disagree, dear, but I think they're quite right. None of us ever know how much time we'll have..." he cupped her chin in one hand, visor failing entirely to conceal the sadness in his face. "And I know how it feels, to lose someone, and realize then how much time you wasted."

Jean sighed, but nodded. "You have a point," she conceded.

Xavier nodded too, but more doubtfully. "I am still dubious," he said reluctantly. "But if they are both determined, then I can hardly prevent them from doing as they wish."

"Professor, 'they' are right here," Hank reminded gently.

"Of course. I apologize," Xavier said smoothly.

"Accepted." Jubilee smiled tightly. "If you'll excuse us, though, my son will be hungry soon, and we should go back to him."

"Of course. Forgive me for keeping you."

The two slipped out quickly, before they could be called back. "That wasn't so bad," Angelo said hopefully. "Remind me to thank Cyclops for backing us up."

"Coulda knocked me down with a marshmallow when he did," Jubilee agreed. Without warning, she stopped, sliding her arm around his neck and pulling him down for a fierce, passionate kiss.

A little surprised, he kissed her back, wrapping his arms tightly around her. "What is it, love?"

"This isn't where it ends," she murmured, resting her head against his shoulder once again. "Storm wasn't convinced, and I don't think Chuck was, either. They're not gonna let up yet, they're just gonna get sneakier."

"So they get sneakier." He tilted her chin up for another kiss. "I love you, Jubilation Lee, and I'm going to marry you whether they like it or not."

"Good. I don't suppose we can elope?" she asked hopefully, as they headed back to their room.

"No. Sorry, love, but we're stuck with a big wedding." He kissed her forehead.

"Why?" Jubilee pouted. Just running off into the night with Michael for a quick ceremony sounded very appealing just now.

Angelo shuffled his feet. "I... uh... I promised Artie and Leech they could be in the wedding, if you said yes," he explained sheepishly. "They've been begging for months."

"Oh." Jubilee pictured two pleading little faces, and resigned herself to the inevitable. "All right. Big wedding it is." An unholy gleam suddenly sparkled in her eyes. "A big, BIG wedding. I want bridesmaids and ushers and ring-bearers and a zillion guests and..." she smiled brightly. "I think I'll invite the Juggernaut."

Angelo choked. "WHAT!?!"

Jubilee smiled seraphically. "We have so much in common... you know, with him and Chuckles and me and Kitty and all that," she explained. "I think it'd be nice if we tried to be friends."

"Hah. You just want to have a huge wedding in Xavier's house, make him front for the whole thing, put up all the guests, then invite someone you KNOW hates his guts."

"Well, you could put it that way." Jubilee giggled. "Quick, kiss me again before I give in to the idea and write Jugs an invitation."

He did that. "Mm... the things you'll do to get kisses," he chuckled softly, nuzzling her neck for good measure.

"Cute as it is," came Rogue's amused voice from behind them, as she leaned out of their bedroom. "Is there any particular reason you two lovebirds are kissin' *outside* your bedroom door, instead of in?"

"Yup." Angelo turned to grin at her, and bent to drop his courtliest kiss on her gloved fingers. "Mood. Out here, I'm a maiden-seducing, black-hearted, lust-driven Lothario. Ask anyone. In there, I'm merely SuperDad, able to find Teddy with the speed of light and change dirty diapers with a single hand."

Rogue giggled, utterly charmed. "Ah see your point," she agreed. "Mood IS everything." Somehow, she just couldn't mind that Angelo and Jubilee could touch each other skin to skin. With all the terrible things that had happened to bring them together, they'd kind of earned it. Besides, they were just so CUTE! "Ah'll just toddle along and leave you to it, then." She blew a kiss back into the room. "And next time ya want someone t' watch li'l Michael for ya, look no further. Ah've never seen a sweeter baby in mah whole life."

They agreed, waved her off, and both headed straight for the cradle.

Michael was gurgling softly, grabbing at the rainbows cast over his hands and torso by his crystal mobile. He never caught them, of course, but he didn't seem to mind. When his mother appeared, though, he abandoned grabbing in favour of holding up his arms and cooing softly. Jubilee melted instantly, scooping him up and cuddling him against her shoulder. "Hi, little man," she whispered. "Did Aunty Rogue play with you? Peek-a-boo, right?"

"Woman sure does love her peek-a-boo," Angelo agreed. He grinned at Jubilee, eyes twinkling. "Jubes?"

"Hm?" she said absently, busily counting Michael's fingers in case something might have happened to them since breakfast.

"You know how you still need the crutches to walk?"

"Yeah?" Oh, such adorable little clutching fingers, with tiny pink fingernails...

"How exactly were you planning to get from the cradle to the bed carrying the baby?"

Jubilee paused. "Uh..."

Angelo chuckled, and solved the problem by scooping them both up in his arms, then staggering dramatically. "Oof! It's a good thing you two're both *small* hippopotamuses," he said cheerfully, depositing them both very gently on the big bed. "Or I'd strain something."

"Ha-ha," Jubilee said in a lofty tone, and stuck her tongue out at him. "And it's hippopotami."

"It is?"

"Hank says so."

"I'll take his word for it, then." Angelo flopped onto the bed and kissed the arch of his fiancee's foot, simply because it was the closest bit. "I love you."

Jubilee giggled as his perpetually stubbly chin tickled her foot. "I love you more," she countered.

"Do not," he said amiably, kissing her trim little ankle. "I love *you* more."

"If you say so, dear," Jubilee capitulated with another giggle.

"That's more like it." He chuckled, inching up to nuzzle her slender calf. "You hear that Michael? I win. You're my witness."

Michael gurgled, and Jubilee sighed happily. "How far were you planning on kissing your way up my leg, love?" she inquired. "Not that I mind, but the baby's watching."

Angelo propped himself up on on elbow and pretended to think it over. "Well, youthful audiences and episiotomy stitches being what they are, I think I'm going to have to content myself with that soft skin behind your knee," he decided sadly. "Ah well."

Jubilee grinned, poking him with her toe. "It's only for another three weeks. Then I'll be aaaaaaaallll better."

"Uh... yeah. I wanted to talk to you about that." Angelo sat up, folding her foot in his hands and massaging it absently.

She blinked. "About what?"

"About... you know..." He blushed, grey skin going an odd pinkish mauve.

"Sex?" Jubilee said helpfully.

"Do you mind? It still weirds me to hear you just say it like that," he said, a pained look on his face. "It makes me *feel* like a lust-driven Lothario seducer. But yeah. That."

"What about it?" Jubilee tickled Michael's stomach gently, her puzzled gaze fixed on her lover. "Another three weeks, I'm all healed up, what's the hitch?"

Angelo sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Jubilee... I don't think you're going to like this... but I don't really want to just leap back into your arms in three weeks time." He patted her foot apologetically. "It's not that I don't *want* to, love, you know you drive me nuts, I just..."

"You just what?" she asked in a small, tight voice. She loved the man, Lord, she loved him so much, but if he didn't have a *damn* good reason for rejecting her...

"I want to wait," he said simply.

"You... what?" Jubilee stared blankly at him. He wanted to wait *now*? After they'd... she blushed ever so slightly, remembering a couple of highlights of their brief physical relationship. "But we already *did*..."

"I know. This is different." He sighed helplessly, extending his fingers to touch her cheek gently. "I... it's hard to explain."

"Try," she said flatly. Okay, she was less annoyed now, it might even be sweet that he wanted to wait, but *still*... "Why exactly is it different now?"

"Because now I'm planning to marry you," he said unhappily. "I know it doesn't sound good, love, but it's hard to explain. Before, we were... I dunno... it wasn't a permanent commitment, you know? I mean, I *wanted* a permanent commitment, And it kind of was, but..." he groped helplessly for the words. If only he could explain in Spanish, he was sure this would go better, but he was out of practice and she didn't speak it at all. "It wasn't a *formal* thing, you know?"

"I'm going to smack you in a minute." Jubilee glared. "Because it *sounds* an awful lot like you think I'm only respectable enough to wait for if I'm agreeing to a formal contract to love you forever and bake your cookies. AND your buns."

"No, that's not it!" The pleading look on his face was almost enough to melt her right there, but she hardened her heart. "Amante, I love you. I've loved you since long before we slept together. Since before there was any kind of commitment at all. But this... I can't explain it, it just *matters* to me, okay? It's the way this is supposed to happen! I just want to do this *right*!"

Jubilee was opening her mouth to tell him exactly what he could do with his supposed-to and his commitment and his ring, when suddenly the light dawned. "Oh, I get it... it's a *ritual*!"

Angelo blinked at her in surprise. "Uh... si, I guess you could put it like that."

Jubilee smiled at him. "You should have *said* so," she chided gently. "It's like you're going to want a Catholic ceremony too, right? I get that, and I don't mind, 'cause I don't have strong feelings either way and you do. I know about rituals. Absolutely pointless to anyone else, and totally important to *you*. You should see Wolvie doing his Samurai thing. The bizarre stuff that man gets up to..." She blew him a gentle kiss. "Anyway, I know you have stuff that means stuff to you, and unless it's something that bugs the hell outta *me*, I'll respect that, okay?"

Angelo leaned up the bed and kissed her tenderly. "You never cease to amaze me, amante," he said softly. "Do you mind? Waiting until the wedding, I mean."

"I'm not thrilled about it," she admitted honestly. "I've been lookin' forward to havin' my wicked way with you. But I can hold out an extra few weeks if you can."

"Good. Thank you." He kissed her again, nuzzling the side of her neck gently. "I promise to devote myself entirely to your satisfaction on the night."

"You'd better." Jubilee poked him in the stomach. "Or I'm going to be extremely annoyed with you."

Michael finally got sick of all the nuzzling and squishing, and voiced a piteous complaint. Angelo sat back immediately, kissing the petal-soft cheek in apology. "I'm sorry, nino," he apologized. "I didn't mean to squash you." He tickled the small stomach gently, and Michael cooed forgivingly. "You'll be guest of honour at the wedding, I promise. We'll get you a teeny tiny tux and everything."

"Yeah..." Jubilee's eyes were suddenly vague. "I'm gonna need bridesmaids. Uh... Four's a good number. I'll have to ask Paige and Monet, or their feelings'll get hurt, and... uhm... maybe Rogue an' Marrow. And a flower-girl, if we can find one. And Wolvie'll give me away, as long as he promises to let go, and we'll need a priest... do you want a church wedding? If you do, it has to be one of the real pretty ones with stained glass windows and everything. And you need a best man, and Leech and Artie can be ringbearers, that's something cute for them to do... Oh, and I'm gonna need a dress. A *great* dress. A dress that'll go down in X-history. And knock Jean's puny effort *completely* off the scale. I can't really wear white, though... ah, hell, I will if I want to. Although maybe cream would look better. Or ivory, I look good in ivory. And I can wear my sappires that Remy gave me, too, and you can wear a blue cummerbund-thing, because the grey does NOT suit you. It makes you look like a black and white photo. And blue's good on you, and it's definitely *my* colour, so we'll go with... Dearest, your eyes are glazing over."

Angelo's eyes were, indeed, glazed by the onslaught of detail. He gave her a pleading look. "Can we elope?"

"No." Jubilee went back to her musing as, on the dot of ten, Michael began to fuss hungrily, and she unbuttoned her shirt with one hand. "Blue... definitely go with blue. Blue and white flowers, four different shades of blue for the bridesmaids... lessee... Royal blue for M, sky-blue for Paige, midnight-blue for Rogue, and maybe ice-blue for Sarah...."

"But I want to elope. I've changed my mind."

"So've I. I could bully Wolvie into a suit, but I don't think I will. I'll get him to wear his Samurai getup instead, that'll look way better. We can both stroll down the aisle in white dresses. It always looks better on him than the suit, anyway."

"Wouldn't being spirited away on a motorbike in the middle of the night be just as much fun?" Angelo asked a bit desperately.

Jubilee gave him a repressive glare. "No. Shush. I... hee, I know, I'll have Emma stand in as my 'mom'. That'll be fun. And she and Wolvie can sit next to each other, that'll be even more fun..."

Angelo looked down at the contentedly nursing Michael. "We're doomed," he said mournfully. "Just you wait. I offered her a big wedding, and now she wants a three ring circus."

Jubilee grinned. "Oh, yeah, about the reception..."

The End