Times Change and We With Time: Part 2
Jubilee opened her eyes slowly. When she found herself in unfamiliar surroundings she jerked herself into a sitting position. The events of the previous night came back to her and she relaxed back against the pillows. Well, the game was up. She knew the X-Men would find her eventually but this was at least 9 months ahead of what she had hoped for. If she could have just stayed away until her 18th birthday then she’d be completely independent of them and they wouldn’t be able to influence her anymore. But what did they say about the best-laid plans? Jubilee sighed and swung her legs from out under the covers. Glancing at her watch she saw that it was 7 a.m. A year ago she would have been disgusted if anyone even suggested waking up at such a time, but nearly a year of irregular working hours had rid her of all laziness. Rummaging through her backpack she pulled out some shampoo, toothpaste and a toothbrush before heading towards the bathroom.
Down the hall Remy listened to the sound of the shower, he pulled on some sweatpants and headed towards the kitchen. He began to root through the presses. Soon the smell of pancakes and fresh coffee filled the room.
"Well, lookee here Remy LeBeau…mutant, master thief and now homemaker?"
He looked around to see Jubilee, wrapped in a towel, leaning against the doorjamb and grinning at his attempt at domesticity. He grinned back and took in her attire.
"You forgot to mention gen’leman and all-round nice guy."
Jubilee snorted, "Yeah, whatever Cajun. What’s for breakfast?"
"Crepes, chere, which will be served once you’re a little more, uh, presentable shall
Jubilee glanced down at her towel and smirked, "Sorry my appearance offends your delicate sensibilities, Gumbo, I’ll be right back." She turned on her heel and went to her room. She returned a few moments later, clad in shorts, a tank top and desert boots. "Never knew you were such a prude," she said mischievously as she bent to tie a bootlace.
"P-prude? Moi?" Remy stuttered with indignation, but grinned once he saw her laughing. "You’re an impertinent pup, girl. Now eat."
"Yes sir, Remy sir," Jubilee saluted him and sat down at the table.
Nothing important was discussed during the breakfast, it was only after they had cleaned up that he guided her towards the living room and gestured for her to sit down. She curled up in a large armchair while he sat directly opposite her. She sighed, "Guess you’ll be wanting a blow-by-blow account of the last 10 months, huh?"
"Dat’s de idea."
"Well," she took a deep breath, "after the Academy closed I figured I’d see some of the world. I haven’t done much on my own for awhile so I guess you could say I was asserting my independence." She paused and shot him a quick glance. Was he buying it? Seemed to be. She continued, "I emptied my savings accounts, packed up my stuff and booked myself on the next flight to Paris."
Gambit leaned forward, resting his chin on his hand with an interested expression on his face. He listened calmly as she told him how she got a job in a small café in Paris, met up with some ‘really friendly’ Australians and travelled around Europe with them for a few months before leaving them when they headed into Asia. She then backtracked through Europe, working jobs here and there, finally ending up in Vienna where she took a flight to London.
"Assertin’ your independence."
"Yep. Just your average teen rebellion type thing." She scanned his face, trying to identify his emotions but, as always, his expression gave away nothing. She cursed herself mentally for not having thought up a better reason but kept her face as serene as possible. Finally he spoke:
"D’ye really expec’ me to believe that, p’tite?"
Shit. "Why wouldn’t you?"
"B’cause y’know you don’t need to ‘assert-your-independence’, all de X-Men, we all know dat you’re a strong, cap’ble young woman."
"Really. So tell me de real reason y’left."
"I already told you, Cajun."
"So it’s got nothin’ do to wit’ not bein’ wit’ de X-Men anymore."
"What about your friend, Ev’rett dyin’. That the reason?"
"You angry ‘bout somethin’? Did someone upset you?"
"No! Course not."
"Den what’s the problem p’tite?"
"I…I just…" she let out a long shuddering sigh.
Remy took her small hands in one of his larger ones, "I’m not goin’ to judge you p’tite. Y’understand?" She nodded her head slightly. "An’ I won’t tell de others where y’are unless yah want me to."
She lifted her head and looked him, "Really?"
"Really. Y’can trust me p’tite, I hope you know dat."
"Yeah, I know."
He moved over to the sofa and pulled her onto the seat next to him. He wrapped his arms around her small frame and she rested her head on his chest. She started to speak, hesitant at first:
"I guess…I guess I was tired of it. Tired of people leaving me, sending me away. I
just felt so goddamned unwanted."
"Every time I settle down somewhere, Remy. Every time I begin to feel like I belong, something happens and I’m back where I started. Me, all alone." She nestled against Remy, holding back the tears that threatened to overwhelm her. "Remember when Wolvie left me, at the mansion? I felt so alone then, I thought that…that he would always be there for me. I put so much of my trust in him and he left me. But I understood, y’know, he’s always been like that…so it was okay. He always came back for me. Then, then I was sent to the Academy and I guess I felt a little betrayed. I mean, I know it was for the best. Learning how to control my powers with other kids, but you never came to visit me Remy. None of you did and…an’ I know you’re always busy, and the X-Men do important stuff but I would have appreciated a phone-call or even a letter. Just…just to show you were still thinking about…about me…" She broke down into tears and Remy tightened his arms around her, murmuring comforting sounds into the silky hair. He cursed himself and the other X-Men for their insensitivity as well as the inadequacy of the comfort he was giving her. So he just held her and rocked her gently until the shuddering sobs that had wracked her body subsided. She accepted a hankie gratefully, drying her tears and blowing her nose a few times before sitting up straight, a shamed expression on her face.
"F’r what p’tite?"
"For breaking down on you there. Didn’t mean to."
He tweaked her nose, "Don’ be silly chere. Y’ve every right to cry, the X-Men and me. We haven’t done right by you, so if y’want to cry p’tite, I’m here for yah. An’ I’m not goin’ anywhere, you can trust dis thief."
She gave a watery chuckle and looked up hopefully into his eyes, "Can I Remy?"
"Then…would it be okay if I stayed here f’r awhile, with you? I mean, uh," she stammered, "I could get a job, help out with the rent and stuff."
Remy nearly melted at the hopeful expression in the big blue eyes, he gave her a little squeeze, "’Course y’can stay p’tite. You stay here as long as y’like."
Jubilee smiled brilliantly up at him, "Thanks Gumbo, yer a wonder."
"I like t’think so."
She pinched his arm playfully, "Ego-maniac."
"’Tis but de truth, chere!" he replied, mock hurt.
She laughed and started to rise, but he held her back, "I t’ink there’s more you need t’tell me." She sighed a little, looked down at his now sober face and nodded. She sat back down and started telling him about Operation: Zero Tolerance. How when she was kidnapped by Bastion and he’d tried to get her to reveal the X-Men’s secrets. How he’d torn through her mind, ransacking her memories and convincing her that the X-Men were dead. The words continued to spill out and the tears returned as she told Remy how for one moment she was in Bastion’s mind and knew fully of his purpose. How she had helped the other X-Men escape without them knowing and how when she returned to the Academy everyone seemed to have forgotten where she had been, or didn’t seem to care. Gambit listened in silence, one arm wrapped tightly around her, and the other hand stroking her hair. Anger took a hold of him. Anger towards himself, the other X-Men and most of all Wolverine. The man who claimed to love her most hadn’t been there when she needed him. If Logan had been standing there that moment, Remy would have very gladly charged up his adamantium-laced skeleton.
"I’m sorry we weren’t there for yah, p’tite."
"‘S okay, Remy. You weren’t to know."
"It’s not okay. ‘m gonna make it up to you, somehow."
"You…you don’t have t’make it up to me. I’m just glad that you care Remy…it’s nice to know…someone cares."
He tightened his arm around her, "’Course I care. An’ the others do too. Mightn’t seem like it now but they do love you, dey’re just not very good at…at showing it sometimes." He pushed a strand of hair back from her face, "The Professor, Jean and de Ice Queen, dey went for 11 days wit’out proper sleep…tryin’ to track you down wit’ Cerebro."
"They did? That’s so…so nice."
"Couldn’t find you t’ough. Somethin’ to do with a ‘stealth power’. Couldn’t make head no’ tail of half of what they were sayin’."
Jubilee grinned impishly up at him and tapped her head, "I have powers which make me kinda invisible to psi-scans. Usually means that it’s near impossible to get into my head unless I want ya to. Neat huh?"
"Oui, ‘neat’," he replied dryly. "Speaking o’ powers, chere, I heard that a while back, when de Academy was open, yah blew up a building. Dat right?"
Jubilee flushed with embarrassment, "Yeah. It was the school dance and of course Emplate, being the total loser that he is, crashed it. To make a long story short, I lost it a bit, things went kaboom and it was bye-bye to Proudstar Hall." She shrugged, "The dance wasn’t going that great anyway, considering Ev spent the whole time drooling over M."
"Ev? That be Everett Thomas? The boy that died ‘bout two years ago? Queenie said he was your best friend."
"It was 19 months ago to be precise. And yeah, he was my best friend."
"You miss him?"
"All the time, " she squirmed a little, "I know this sounds a little self-obsessive but, I feel like he’s another person to leave me. I was angry with him for awhile, going off and playing hero like that. Those kids he saved, he was worth a dozen of ‘em. But…it was his decision. I’ll love him forever and even if it hurts, it’s a good hurt. Y’know? Like, clean with no bitterness or resentment anymore…" her voice trailed off and she sniffled a little before continuing, "He was a good guy, Ev. Clueless, maybe, and completely unsuited to the superhero gig but a good guy."
"We’ve all lost someone we care about to this life, chere. You just have to be thankful tha’ you’re still ‘round, dat ya got the chance to be wit’ your loved ones, to take advantage of all dat life’s got t’offer you."
"I should remember that, I guess."
"There are a lotta people out there dat love ya girl, ya just remember that."
"I will, Remy." She snuggled closer and closed her eyes. She felt safe there, in Remy’s arms; she hadn’t felt that way in a long time. Not since…since she’d been with Wolvie and the X-Men. No one since then had hugged her and made her feel so protected. Gambit’s voice interrupted her reverie.
"Will ya tell me now what made ya leave us?"
"Oh, yeah. That." Jubilee sat up a little straighter, pulling slightly away from Remy.
She curled up, her chin resting on her knees and she gazed across the room.
"When they closed the Academy I was upset, obviously, I was losing another family. But I figured that the X-Men would always take me in, and I had missed you guys a lot. Then…then Professor X said that I wouldn’t be on the team because I was under eighteen. I couldn’t believe it. I was thirteen. Thirteen! When I first joined the X-Men. And then, aged sixteen I suddenly wasn’t old enough. I just couldn’t believe it. Frosty said that she’d arrange for me to go to another boarding school, a normal school and that I could visit the team on weekends and holidays. I thought that Wolvie at least would back me up, tell them what an asset I would be to the team…he didn’t. He said…said maybe it’d be good for me to have a normal life for awhile." She paused, hugging her knees closer to her chest. ‘"Y’know, I think they honestly believed that they were doing the best for me. That I would be better off away from the X. And me…well I thought that I just wasn’t good enough to be an X-Man. That the standards had been raised and I just couldn’t jump the barrier. I blamed myself for awhile…not good enough, not smart enough or powerful enough. Hated myself for that. Thought that maybe…maybe if I hadn’t slacked off in GenX I would have been one of the team again." She broke off again and brought her gaze back to Gambit’s face, "I felt worthless…unwanted."
Remy’s heart ached, he knew what it felt like to be rejected by your family. He reached out to touch her face, but she jerked away slightly. He took one of her hands in his, despite some resistance on her part, "I’m so sorry p’tite. We didn’t know what you were goin’ through."
"After the hurt," she continue in calm emotion-less voice, "and the self-hatred and the despair came the anger. I hated you all for making me feel that way. I didn’t deserve that. I’d always believed that the X-Men could be trusted, with anything. You were my heroes. But I couldn’t be around you anymore, so I packed my bags and left." She looked at him again; "You know the rest."
No words came to him, none that sufficiently conveyed his emotions, anyway. So he just pulled her into his arms and held her there. The tears came again, for longer this time. She just clung onto him, sobbing. He in turn wrapped his arms tightly around her, wanting to give anything to make her pain go away. To turn her back into the little firecracker who had lightened the hearts of so many others. But he couldn’t so he just held her and vowed to stay with her for as long as she needed him.
Hours later they were still sitting on the couch, well Remy was. She was lying down with her head in his lap while he stroked her hair.
"F’r what, p’tite?"
"For being here, for being you, for caring."
"I do care chere. And I’m gonna be here for you, whenever you need me, " he paused and gently turned her face so that she was looking directly at him, "I kno’ you haven’t got much reason to trust me p’tite. But believe me when I say dis, I will be here for you. Un’erstand?"
Tears blurred Jubilee’s eyes, but this time they were of happiness, "I trust you." And for the first time that day she really meant those words. She closed her eyes and was prepared to drift off to sleep when another thought struck her. "Remy?"
"I…you can trust me too."
"I already trust you, p’tite."
Peace fell over them for a few moments, then she spoke again, "Oh and Remy?"
Her voice quivered a little and it could be seen that she was trying to keep a straight face.
Remy looked down at her suspiciously, "What?"
With as innocent a look as she could muster she said, "Do you always snore ‘cuz it was kinda hard to get to sleep last night."
Remy gave a shout of indignation and went straight for the ticklish spot on her side.
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