Title: Home from the Hill, Chapter 1
Rating: PG for language
Disclaimer: These characters are the property of Marvel Comics, and no
profit is made from their use.
Author's Note: I'm not even going to get into the whole 'how do they
understand the native language of a planet they've never even heard of'
dilemma. Hey, they never bothered on Star Trek, and they have a lot bigger
budget than I do.
Oh, and ~~ indicates mental telepathy.
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
ROBERT LOUIS STEPHENSON
The bar was the same as any other bar between Westchester and Timbuktu, but
the only redeeming quality to this one was the fact that it was the closest
to his cabin in the wilds of Canada. The jukebox still played tunes that
had been out of date for years, the bathroom wasn't fit for human
habitation, and the whiskey was strong. No, that was really the best part.
It was almost strong enough to make a man forget.
Wolverine signaled for another, and the aging peroxide blonde behind the
counter filled his glass without comment. Night after night – not every
night, but close enough – he came in, drank enough to kill a man, then
walked out with perfectly steady feet and the dismal cloud that surrounded
him intact. At first she'd tried to raise some conversation with the
sullen man, but after being continually rebuffed, she'd taken the hint and
filled his glass without removing the cigarette from her wrinkled, red-
Wolverine tossed back the amber liquid and considered ignoring the faint
voice in his head. He was far enough away from Charles Xavier that the man
might believe he was out of reach.
~Go away, Chuck.~
~Logan. You must return to the mansion as soon as possible.~
The man known as Wolverine hunched his shoulders and clenched the glass
tightly in his hand. ~Like hell. I don't care if Magneto is tap dancing
on yer front lawn, Chuck. I ain't going back there.~
~We found them.~
"What!!!" he shouted, actually saying it aloud. ~Where? Is she all
right?~ he demanded mentally, ignoring the bartender and the other patrons
staring at him from the other end of the bar.
~Pagnatolia, and she's fine, as is Bishop.~
~Pagna-wha? Izzat in South America?~
A faint sigh echoed through the mental connection. ~It's a colonial
outpost of the Shi'ar Empire.~
Logan thought about it.
~If I ever see that motherless bow-legged bastard Gateway again, I'm gonna
~I find it hard to disagree with you, as it seems he was most likely
responsible for Jubilee and Bishop's disappearance in the first place.
However it happened, Scott and Jean have already taken off in the Raven.
They will rendezvous with a Shi'ar cruiser. Hopefully, they'll be able to
pick up our missing pair and have them home soon.~
~Hopefully, ya said. Is there a problem?~
~I'm not sure, but I received the distinct impression from Deathbird that
Jubilee had been causing some… difficulties.~
A slow smile crossed Wolverine's face for the first time in the eight
months his protégé and closest friend had been missing. ~That's my girl!~
Scott and Jean Summers followed in the wake of the officious Shi'ar
commandant Brial and her satellite flunky, weary of the officer's arrogant
attitude after having been exposed to it for less than an hour now. The
woman's dramatic white and black skin coloration was typical of a Shi'ar,
and many of the officers in this compound were similarly of non-native
origin. The majority of the military here were local, though, and while
their skin and hair color were widely varied, they were physically closer
to the human norm, allowing the X-men to pass with little staring or
hostile reaction. Interestingly, Scott noticed the locals did not salute
their superior officer, while every Shi'ar they passed drew him or herself
up and gave the respectful gesture that was completely ignored.
God, he just wanted to collect Jubilee and Bishop and get the hell out of
here. The Shi'ar expansion had finally put down the local rebellion, which
was a vicious if not very popular uprising. The planet was just leaving an
agrarian stage and moving towards a technology based economy, and the old
ruling class had been adamantly resistant to being absorbed by the Empire.
The thought of his youngest team member caught in the revolution, with only
Bishop to keep her safe, made his gut jump with the fear of what could have
Wolverine had been adamant that she was still alive, saying he'd know if
she were dead. Charles Xavier had admitted that the pair's close
relationship could have established a bond similar to the psychic link that
he and Jean shared, but the fact that Logan and Jubilee were not physically
intimate, and therefore not as closely linked, had allowed doubt to creep
in. As the months had gone by without any sign, even Wolverine had begun
to lose hope and had taken off to his cabin in the north rather than face
the seemingly empty house without the vibrant presence of his old partner.
Commandant Brial and her ensign aide turned down yet another corridor of
this sprawling complex and entered a wide avenue full of milling troops.
The locals were even more numerous here, and the Commandant equally
ignored, but Jean did not miss the double take from one younger soldier who
caught sight of the team's signature X'ed circle on her belt. Puzzled, she
watched him out of the corner of her eye as she passed, and caught the same
symbol on the man's tattered shirt, this time on his upper left chest, near
(she supposed) his heart.
~Scott, did you see that?~
Obviously not, she thought to herself, then spied another on a woman ahead
~That woman. She has an X on her shirt.~
Her husband was quiet for a moment, his gaze flicking over the woman who
looked to be a good fifteen years older than himself, but still capable if
judged by the strong arms revealed by a worn shirt. She was loading a
floating pallet with some boxes, and did not look up as they passed her. A
man wheeled out more supplies, and dumped them with a low comment to his
~He's got one, too.~
~It's a simple symbol, Jean. And the Professor didn't exactly put a
galactic copyright on it.~
The avenue widened again, opening into a circular cul-de-sac, cross-
sectioned with traffic patterns that led away to other corridors. In
between, several broad doors opened into briefing rooms while other doors
were closed, presumably over similar areas. Across the open expanse, three
men and one young woman, possibly still in her teens, crouched or sat
against the far wall. Near them stood a broad shouldered, dark-skinned
giant, the tattooed "M" over one eye leaving no doubt to his identity.
Scott raised one hand to hail him when the identity of the man at Bishop's
shoulder sunk in.
"What in the HELL?" Scott muttered, and felt his wife's disbelief boiling
across their shared link as they took in the sight of Victor Creed, also
known as Sabretooth, standing shoulder to shoulder with their missing
companion. The two of them faced in opposite directions, and the entire
vicinity was covered under their combined vigilance. Nearly seven feet
tall, he was the only person they knew who could tower over the usually
imposing Bishop. Even as they paused, the hairy blond nudged the man next
to him, drawing Bishop's attention to their presence. The dark, unshaven
chin jerked once in recognition, but did not move towards them.
"There are your people, X-Man," declared Brial in her smug tone. "Take
them, and get them off my planet."
"Where's Jubilee?" Jean demanded.
Brial turned to her aide, who consulted an electronic data pad and answered
in a soft voice.
"I believe she had negotiations to settle. She should be out soon."
They moved towards the unlikely paired men just as the doors to one side
opened. A local with a deep olive complexion and wearing an clean, intact
commander's uniform stepped out, still conversing with the smaller woman
beside him. They clasped wrists in agreement, then the older man moved to
one side as over a dozen tall, broad-shouldered soldiers with varying
shades of orange-striped skin exited the room. The shabby bunch faced the
woman with feathery black hair, then at a grunted signal, saluted as one,
their right fist striking the circled X on their left pectoral. They held
the salute until Jubilee returned it, then turned as a unit and followed
the older officer down one of the corridors.
"Jubilee!" Jean shouted with relief, and overwhelming joy.
Jubilee's head twisted instantly and flashed a huge grin as she caught site
of the couple hurrying towards her, then abruptly disappeared as the four
lounging soldiers surged to their feet. Scott and Jean pulled up short at
the ragged, hostile group stepped between themselves and Jubilee.
Reflexively, Cyclops fingered his visor.
"Guys. Chill." The words were typical Jubilee, but the tone of command
was something Jean had seldom heard from the smaller woman. The four
paused, then reluctantly parted, once again revealing the object of nearly
a year's search. Jean braced herself for one of Jubilee's exuberant hugs,
and was surprised as only her arm was grasped by the wrist, just as Scott's
was with Jubilee's other hand.
"I am so glad to see you guys, you can't believe it," she said fervently.
"Oh, honey, we've been looking for you for so long!" Jean's smile faltered
as she reached out to touch the long white scar that creased Jubilee's high
"Wha… Oh, yeah, that." She grinned ruefully, revealing the gap of a
broken incisor tooth in direct line with the scar. "I bobbed when I should
have weaved. Wolvie woulda smacked me, it was really dumb. Did he, uh,
come with you?" Hope and resignation appeared briefly, then were quickly
"I'm sorry, no, he's not." Scott knew how much it must hurt to not have
him here when she needed him. "He was in Canada when we got the call from
Deathbird. We didn't want to wait for him, but he ought to be home in time
to welcome you back."
"No problem. I really, really missed you guys." She crossed her arms,
as though restraining the impulse to hug them. Her gap-toothed smile
reinforcing the urchin features of her face, but Jean was appalled at the
changes she saw in the woman she'd thought of as a baby sister for many
years. A half-healed burn puckered a palm's breadth of her bare bicep, the
corded muscle underneath the healing skin bunching convulsively. Jubilee's
normally trim physique had been pared of all excess, nearly skeletal
beneath sinewy muscles. Her collarbones stood up in sharp contrast under
the open neck of her sleeveless shirt, and a gun belt carrying a well-worn
sidearm was slung diagonally across prominently pointed hipbones.
"Well, there your people are, safe as can be," Brial interrupted. "You may
take them home at any time.'
Jean could feel Scott's irritation, but he concealed it from the Shi'ar
woman. "Thank you, Commandant." He glanced at Sabretooth with some
trepidation, but figured explanations could come later. "Anytime you're
"Buddy, I've been ready for a looong time." Jubilee signaled to the four
soldiers still watching them suspiciously, and they immediately picked up
their gear and slung it over their shoulders. Turning back, she caught
Scott's confused reaction, and saw it mirrored by Jean. She was perfectly
still for the space of three heartbeats, then turned to the tall Shi'ar
"You didn't transmit my message, did you." Her voice was calm and even,
but one did not have to be a psychic to feel the anger in Jubilee's voice.
Brial looked down her nose at the young woman who barely came to her
shoulder. "I am not a messenger service."
"What, you couldn't break the encrypt?" Jean felt the flash of emotion
from the young aide, and knew Jubilee had the truth of it. "I need to talk
to them, privately. Please be so good as to give me a moment?" The polite
tones abruptly disappeared from her voice. "You can wait over there."
Brial stiffened. "You can speak to them later. You must leave. Now."
The young Asian woman did not move, but her expression hardened and
suddenly the air in the room seemed warmer, almost hot. "Lady, after these
last few days, I have taken all the shit from you I'm gonna take. So
either you back the hell off and give me five minutes, or we're gonna go
down on this - right here, right now."
"Jubilee," Scott murmured, warningly. He was completely ignored by both,
though Jean knew Jubilee had heard and then dismissed him. The Shi'ar's
long white hand moved towards her weapon, and Jubilee's palms came up. The
air around Brial began to swirl in hot shimmers.
Brial's eyes narrowed. "You would not dare."
"Yeah, yeah, I know, Deathbird will split me in half if I kill you."
Jubilee replied with menacing sarcasm. "But in the meantime, you're still
a crispy critter, and junior over there wakes up as a lieutenant tomorrow."
The deadly cold tones were shocking, as was the intense heat building
around Brial. The aide's hand slid down to her own sidearm, and the
soldiers behind Jubilee moved subtly as well. High-pitched whines sprang
from several sources, one of them from the plasma rifle held in Creed's
huge hands. The tension quickly built to a nerve jangling level.
It was at that moment Jean realized that Creed and Bishop both wore the
X'ed circle stenciled on the front of their shirts, as did the four behind
~Scott. The soldiers. They're hers.~
Wordless confusion and concern returned through their link. ~They're
~Yes. I think… I think ALL of them were hers.~ In her mind, the memory
replayed of the dozens of warriors seen with the same symbol.
The tense tableau before them suddenly broke as Brial snapped "Very well,"
and stalked off, surreptitiously wiping the sweat from her lip and brow.
The commandant was furious, but apparently unwilling to further the
Scott waited while the Shi'ar woman removed herself from eavesdropping
distance, using the moment to take a good long look at the youngest member
of his team. The normally effervescent woman in front of him was still the
same Jubilee, but the more he looked, the more changes he noticed. Her
clothing was the same leather and rough spun fabric he'd seen on a lot of
the soldiers in the compound. She did not sport the X'ed circle on her
shirt, but instead wore a band, made of familiar blue and yellow fabric, to
keep her wildly unkempt hair out of her face. The X-man symbol was
centered on the top of her head, half hidden in the stray, raven-black
locks. And sprinkled like tiny snowflakes, white hairs were strewn through
her twenty-one year old head.
The scar on her face drew his attention further down, and on closer
inspection he could see the tiny lines forming around her eyes that spoke
of heartbreaking toil and tragedy. The eyes themselves were red-rimmed.
"When's the last time you got any sleep?" he asked roughly, furious with
himself at misreading the situation. Something was definitely out of
kilter, and it went far beyond having an old and deadly enemy backing up
one of his people. When she paused, thinking, it was obvious that it had
been some time. She shook her head.
"It doesn't matter. The long and the short of it is, these are my people.
I've made arrangements for everyone else, either getting them new contracts
or getting them back to their homes. These four," and she indicated the
small group behind her, "they don't have anywhere else to go. And I'm not
going to leave them to Brial's mercy, either. I want to take them back
home with me."
Whoa, that got his attention.
"Jubilee, these are people, not some stray cats…." He broke off when she
stepped up to his face, her own tense but her voice even.
"I know that. The twins are outcasts, and Chibar there is the last of his
tribe. They have nowhere to go, and I will not abandon them. That's why I
tried to send you that message." She paused, searching for words. "If you
don't want them to come with us, then I'm staying here."
Scott's jaw twitched as he kept back a snapped reply. ~Jean?~ he appealed
mentally. ~Is she serious?~
~Yes, she is. Deadly serious. And Scott… ~ she paused, and he knew she
was feeling the emotional and psychic currents around her. ~Scott, if she
isn't off this planet in a couple of hours, Brial will kill her.~
Jubilee snorted. "Well, she can try," she added dryly.
A harsh laugh forced its way out of Cyclops' chest. Apparently her
pyrotechnic powers weren't the only thing that had improved in the last
eight months. He eyed the young woman in front of him again. The absolute
confidence was beyond bravado. It was a surety of a commander whose
followers would back her move against the Shi'ar governor's chief officer,
and he began to get an inkling of a much larger picture. Funny, when they
arrived, he'd expected to have to bail Jubilee out of the local jail. Now,
he wasn't sure if perhaps the lively individual they all loved hadn't been
up to something far more monumental.
"Okay, let's go." The words were out of his mouth before he realized he'd
even made the decision. "Him, too?" He indicated Creed, still standing
shoulder to shoulder with Bishop.
"Yeah, him too. Thank you." The relief and utter sincerity in her tone
caused him to look at her again. The dark indigo eyes were much older than
the eight months could account for.
"You have a tale to tell, missy."
The scarred side of her face curved into a lopsided smile. "That I do, One-
Eye," she shot back.