Summer Vacation, Story 2:
No Where To Go But School
By Mandy Lever
For the first time in his life, he hated the quiet.
Angelo Espinosa stood on the porch of the main building of the Massachusetts Academy, early morning cigarette still lodged between his fingers, smoke making a pale gray trail and dissipating on the morning breeze.
He had been in L.A. again. Where there was no silence. The nights were lit up by search lights, rang with gun shots and the screams of the dying...or those who didn't know enough to die.
It had been the second time in two years that he'd seen Tores--but the first time he'd touched her. Been close to her. And to think, he could have had a fantasy version of her, if he'd only played the Dreamshaper's game of want and desire.
He suddenly felt much older then his seventeen years.
He heard the door open behind him, and foot falls. "Good mornin', Angelo." The Irish accent immediately gave away who it was-- Sean Cassidy, Headmaster of the Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters, stood behind him.
"Buenos dias, Maestro," Angelo said in return, not turning to look at the headmaster. He paused, and then asked. "Is Mon--are the twins coming home today?"
Sean was silent a moment. "Aye. They are."
Angelo paused for a time, taking another drag, and then let the smoke trickle out as he spoke. "When's Jono and Gayle coming home?"
"Jono n' his lass-friend'll be comin' along later in the week."
Angelo nodded, taking another drag on his cigarette. He
could almost feel Sean frown. "Ye know, lad, those aren't good for ye."
Angelo shrugged, and turned, expelling the smoke through his nostrils. "Lots of things aren't good for me, Maestro. Dosen't mean I'm gonna stop doin' 'em." He took one last drag, and then flicked the butt out onto the sidewalk, and the started toward the building. Sean just shook his head. "Damn kids," he said ruefully, and then Angelo stepped inside.
Sean remained on the steps, waiting for another of his wayward mutants to return home, enjoying the brief respite the warm, summer breeze offered him.
* * * * * * *
She could hardly admit it, but she'd missed it. Who'd have thought that the irrepressible Jubilee would miss a school? Well, it wasn't the school, really, though. It was who would be waiting there. Hayseed, Yorkshire, Penny ... and Everett.
He was the one she hoped to see most of all. She half-expected--no, she totally expected--to see him waiting on the steps for her. He'd always been there for her.
She was sorely disappointed.
The only person waiting was Sean, and he looked...old. Tired. Worn out. The campus was quiet as she opened her car door and stepped out of Logan's jeep, her mentor hopping out to grab her bags. "Hey, Mr. Cassidy!" she called, and the noticed the quiet of the Quad...as well as the remnants of Black Tom's plants in it. "Hey, where is everybody?"
Sean walked down the steps from the main hall quietly. "Hello, lass. I'm afraid the only children on campus are Angelo an' Penny," he said. "The rest are at home fer summer vacation, till August."
Jubilee stopped, stunned. Not there? Her friends, gone? Her disappointment must have been easily read on her features, as Logan put a hand on her shoulder. "If ya want, we can go back ta Westchester,and ya can stay till school starts back up," he offered.
She weighed the options. Go, and stay in the half-empty mansion, with her old family. Stay, and be with Angelo and Penny.
"Why ain't Ange at home?" she blurted.
"Because, lass, he dosen't have one ta go home to."
Jubilee felt a pang of sympathy. She remembered living in So-Cal, on her own, what seemed like centuries ago. "I wanna see Ange and Penny, at least, if they're here."
Sean nodded. "Repairs are goin', all over the campus, right now," he smiled, his expression wry. "Strange, we finally got tha bloody Girl's Dorm repaired and rebuilt, and everythin' else is ruined by my cousin." He shook his head. "You've got your old room back, Jubilee. No more sharin' wi' Paige 'r Monet." She smiled a little at that, trying to remain optimistic. "Cool. C'mon, Wolvie. Let's go find Skin and Penny."
"Lead on, darlin', " he said. Not like he had anywhere to be, at the moment. The X-Men were in chaos, true, but he got rare time with the girl he thought of has his daughter. Sean walked just behind them, silent.
* * * * * * *
Angelo didn't expect the knock on his door. He looked up, laid his cigarette in his ashtray, and went over to it, opening it up a crack.
"Skinmeister!" The door was pushed open by an exuberant Jubilee, with a smile on her face. He grinned and hugged her as soon as she had cleared his doorway. He'd been alone for almost a week, here on campus, with Penny and Sean his only companions. And neither of them were what the boy thought were the best of company. Jubilee was a major step up.
That, and he hated to admit it, he'd missed her. "Hola, Jubecita!" he said, ruffling her buzz. "Nice haircut," he offered, but blinked as she frowned severely. "A gift from the 'Operation: Zero Tolerance' geeks and freaks," she replied testily, and Angelo made a mental note not to mention it."So, you here to stay?"
"No. Probably not. I can go back to Westchester and hang till August. After all, they could use their Too-Cool-For-Words Firecracker, ya know."
Angelo grinned lopsidedly and said, "Yeah. You seen Penny yet? She acts like she's missin' everyone..." Angelo's smile faded slightly. "...And she keeps stalkin' around the grotto." He shook his head, sighing.
Jubilee pursed her lips, and sighed as well. "I oughta go see her." She smiled a little sheepishly. "I brought her some apples."
Angelo laughed a moment, and then said, "Well, they haven't made her jump outta bed and sing 'Kumbayah' yet, but maybe they'll make her a little happier?"
Jubilee brightened at the thought, and nodded. "Maybe." She grabbed his arm. "C'mon, let's find out!"
* * * * * * *
If Penance knew that Jubilee was back on campus, she made no sign, no noise, no clue that she did.
She had just entered the ruined grotto for the first time, since Black Tom Cassidy had come through and made it into the forest from hell.
She leaped over the stream, choked with debris, and padded through ashy grass and leaves to the broken tree. Artie and Leech were nowhere to be seen.
She didn't turn when they called her name. She merely made her way up the broken tree-trunk and went inside the ruined tree-house, vanishing from sight.
* * * * * * *
"Hey! Penny!" Jubilee put her hands on her hips and harumphed in frustration. "Geez, sometimes it's like she's in her own little world."
"Well, chica, look around you. Her current one was destroyed," Angelo said flatly, and kept walking. Jubilee glared silently at his back for a moment, before she realized he was right... and a little different from the last time she'd seen him. She wordlessly followed him to the destroyed treehouse.
"I remember building this, with Ev," he said, looking up, his voice almost wistful...but it was gone as soon as he spoke again. "The climb won't be as easy for us...and we'll have to avoid those razor-sharp gouges, where she went up."
"No problemo, Skin," Jubilee said, looking for a place to begin climbing, when Angelo's arm encirlced her waist. "Got a better idea. 'Me Skin, you Jubecita'," he grinned, and then shot a length of skin from his other arm to grab and wrap around one of the branches, pulling them both up, Jubilee swallowing her protest as he kicked his legs and swung over to the slanted platform.
She tried to ignore the fact that she could hear him gritting his teeth, or that his eyes were watering from the pain. Or the angry red marks, sunburn that bordered on third-degree burns, from his experiences at sea. She tried, but didn't quite succeed.
"Careful, chica. The place ain't too stable," he said, as he released her, and placed hestitant, careful steps on the wood.
"Penny?" Jubilee called, looking into the tree house.
The girl in question sat, a shoe balanced precariously on the tips of her razor sharp fingers, within the treehouse. Her eyes were lidded, her expression dark. "Penny?"
She did not respond.
Jubilee made her way slowly across the empty room, and knelt down next to her friend. "Penance?" she said softly, and finally the girl opened her eyes and then started a little, dropping the shoe onto the floor between them.
Jubilee sighed softly, upset at seeing Penance so distraught. "I don't know where they are, Penny." Penance just looked at her a moment, and then her blueeyes flipped up. She brushed the tip of Jubilee's buzzed hair with the flat edge of her fingers, and then pulled her hand back. "Yeah. Got me a haircut. Ya like?" Jubilee asked, smiling a little. Penance, of course, said nothing.
"Uh, Jubes?" She looked over at Angelo, who was leaning in the doorway, watching the two, lighting up a cigarette. "Yeah?"
"Oh! The apples." She pulled two large red apples from her raincoat's very large pockets and extended one to Penance. "Thought you might like one," she said brightly.
The girl's talons came up, delicately slicing just enough
into the fruit to hold it, and then closed, slicing it into pieces naturally. She speared the slices, one by one, and then speared the last one, and offered it to Jubilee, who smiled and plucked it off Penance's claws. "Thanks for sharin',Penny." She popped the slice into her mouth, noticing that even though it was sharply cut, the fruit was still soft enough so that it wasn't going to shred her tongue. She rose, and said, "You wanna come with us?" Jubilee gestured out the door and to the quad. "We're gonna go."
Penance rose, and then looked out the door. Jubilee took that as a yes, as did Ange, who walked over to latch on to another branch.
"Okay. This time, if yer gonna be Tarzan, ya gotta do a jungle yell!" Jubilee said to him, as he put his arm around her. He waited until Penance had headed down the tree before he lashed his skin around a branch. "Not on your life, chica," he said, as he swung away from treehouse. "I'm not Tarzan. More like 'George of the Jungle', si?"
Jubilee was laughing till they got to the quad.
* * * * * * *
The man known as Logan watched from the back steps of the main hall as Angelo, Jubilee, and Penance slowly made their way to the main hall. Smile lines, rarely seen, creased his face, crows' feet at the edges of his blue eyes.
"I'm glad she's doin' so well, here."
Sean, his companion on the porch, sharing a glass of Chivas Regal with his former team-mate, nodded. "Aye. She's had her problems, lettin' go've some of her 'X-Men' habits. But she's doin' alright. Even she an' Monet got over their differences."
"An' that's Angelo, right? Skin?"
Sean nodded. "Aye. Good boyo, at heart, but he's got ta learn some discipline. I fear, though, that we've failed him, in a number o' ways."
Logan looked over at his friend. "Failed him? How?"
"He came to us to learn to master his powers and avoid the violence of the streets. Instead, he's dealin' with the violence o' the 'X' instead."
Logan nodded, grimly. "Guess you didn't really clear the curriculum with him, didja?"
"Nae. And twice, now, he's been forced back to L.A; once with Jonothon, once when Black Tom stranded the children in the bloody ocean." Sean's brows furrowed, his eyes flashing angrily at the thought of what his cousin had done to his charges.
"Watch it, Irish. Ya got that look in your eyes like you're about to snikt out some claws of your own," Logan said idly, downing the last of his drink.
Sean blinked, and sighed, massaging his temples. "Been a very long few weeks, me friend. Alone with Emma--" again, his brows furrowed as his eyes flashed, "--not knowing where the children were. It was a livin' hell."
Logan nodded and rose from his seat. "I can imagine." He looked over at Jubilee. "If we hadn't been dealin' with Bastion, we woulda been-"
Sean shook his head, cutting Logan off. "No, Logan," he said resolutely. "The children aren't yuir charge. Generation X is my responsibilty."
Logan turned his eyes back to trio of children, who were almost upon them. And the sharp scent of buried pain was stronger now, eminating from all three. Logan made up his mind, and looked over at the Irishman with an almost devious smile.
"Yeah, sure, Irish. But I think you wouldn't mind lendin' 'em out for a week, eh?"
* * * * * * *
" And Senor Logan?"
"Yeah!" Jubilee flopped on the end of Angelo's bed. "After we ate, Logan asked me if I thought it would be cool. And I did. So, do ya wanna?"
Angelo chuckled. "You wanna take a City Mouse like me into the woods?"
She nodded. "C'mon, it'll be fun. We'll be with Logan! Cool things -always- happen when I'm with Wolvie."
Angelo nodded, vaguely realizing that he and Jubilee obviously had different definitions of 'cool.' He opened the window so that Sean wouldn't yell at him too badly when he found he was smoking inside the dorms again, and lit up. After a drag and a moment's consideration, he shrugged. "Why does he want me an' Penny to go? I mean, I'll go, but-"
Jubilee didn't wait for the rest of his sentance. She merely hopped off the end of his bed, and said, "Great! I'll go tell him. Pack up; we'll leave tomorrow morning." And then she was out the door.
"Pack up?" he said to himself, as he realized she wasn't coming back. "Pack -what-?..."
* * * * * * *
With the help of Sean, Angelo finally figured out what he'd need for the trip. He'd never spent much time in the woods; hell, he'd never spent ANY time in the woods. But Jubilee had her heart on this, so he smiled, brought extra cigarettes, and prayed he wouldn't get attacked by some animal...or by Logan if he thought that Angelo was looking at Jubilee in a 'less then
gentlemanly way.' And, all the while, he wondered how he managed to get himself saddled with these kinds of strange predicaments.
The car trip into the Appalachians had been uneventful, and they had gone off-road for a good deal of it. Logan wanted to take these two into the wilderness; he never did anything half-way. And soon, with all vestiges of civilization long behind them, they pitched camp at the base of a mountain.
Angelo had never known such a thing as mountain air. He was used to getting all of his minerals in one breath in L.A., ]and though Snow Valley was still clean, it was nothing compared to the Appalachians.
Jubilee grinned at him taking a breath, marveling at the smells. "Almost enough to make you quit smoking, eh, Gray?"
He smirked in return, "Close. But not quite."
"Hey, Angelo," came Logan's voice. "C'mere. You and Jubilee are gonna learn some basics of camping while we're out here. Like how to put up your own damn tents." Jubilee and Angelo looked over simultaneously, and then at each other.
"Just remember, this was -your- idea," Ange said dryly, and then walked over, wondering if this was going to be a summer vacation, or a 'When I Went Camping With Wolvie..." story from Jubilee...
* * * * * * *
Two hours and two tents later, Ange was scrounging for his cigarettes, fiending badly. Smoke. Smoking. Cigarette. Calm. None of this psychotic 'Canadian Mountaineer' bullshit that Jubilee seemed to love so much. Just a nice, relaxing smoke. That's all he wanted. One goddamned smoke.
Finally, he found them. The pack was torn open, hastily tapped and settled, and then cigarette lit up. He'd not smoked the entire car trip, due to Jubilee's complaints, and then two hours of Tent Basics 101, from Wolverine himself.
"Que?" He'd just gotten comfortable, too. Of course Jubilee would pick the worst time to bother him.
He bothered to sit up, this time. "What?" his eyes narrowed in irritation. Couldn't he have just a minute to himself?
Jubilee poked her head through the tent. "Wolvie's gone off by himself...and I can't find Penny."
Angelo sighed harshly, and got up. " 'Join Generation X, Angelo! It'll be the best of experience of your life,'" he said mockingly. "'Learn about your powers and become an X-Man.'"
Jubilee just looked at him, and finally, Angelo said, "Remind me...I'm gonna kick in Beast's teeth when I see him next," and stepped out of his tent."So, where was she last?"
"Sleepin' outside my tent," she said, pursing her lips. "Then, I came out of my tent, and she was gone."
Angelo sighed. "Think you might be jumpin' the gun a little here, chica? After all, Penance goes and comes as she pleases. A lot like Wolverine."
Jubilee glowered at him. "Yeah, yeah, yeah."
"So you're worrying because....?"
"Because, dammit!" Angelo was taken aback by the outburst. Jubilee didn't swear often. He watched her as she stalked away, arms going up around herself in sort of hug, and immediately regretted his words.
"Jubecita?" He got out of his tent, shivering a little. The air got cold quickly, here in the mountains, as the sun began to set. "Jubilee?"
He sighed softly, coming up beside her. "C'mon. Lets see if we can find 'em. After all, Penny's gotta leave some sort of a trail, don't she?"
Jubilee looked up at him, and he hadn't expected to see her eyes flash, and the pafs of her pyrokinetic plasma bursts explode in his face, making him back away, half-blinded. "Don't patronize me, Espinosa!" she cried at him, flickers of her powers still lingering around balled fists.
"Patronize? Shit, Jubilee, what's your problem?" he said, rubbing his eyes as the spots and blotches of color faded from his vision. "I just said we'd-"
"We'd go look for them. To settle down little Jubilee," she sneered at him, and he didn't realize how much venom the young woman was capable of. "After all, you're Angelo Espinosa, barrio survivor, and I'm just a So-Cal mallrat!"
He glowered down at her. Unaware of what drove her, Angelo reacted instead to the barbs that aggravated his own recent trauma. "Yeah, you -are- just a So-Cal mallrat! And a whiny-ass X-Men hanger-on. You and your 'When I was with the X-Men' stories!"
His words got him another plasma burst for his trouble. His skin lashed out, wrapping around her wrists, dragging her foward, off balance, but training together had paid off for the young girl. As she stumbled and fell, she jerked hard on the gray, fleshy 'rope' that bound her and jerked Angelo off his feet. The pair hit the ground with an audible thud, kicking up dirt in thier wake.
Soon, it was a tangle of angry teenagers, gray skin, and yellow raincoat. "Lemme go!" Jubilee cried, her voice touching on desperation. "Stop moving, dammit, or I'll never get you untied!" Angelo snapped, as Jubilee writhed in his grip. But her efforts increased as he tried to undo the knots and crossings of his extended fingers.
"LET ME GO!" she screamed, as energy crackled around her hands. Angelo yelped in pain, and finally, the last knot came undone. His skin unraveled around her, and the two fell apart, and lay panting among the underbrush, for a few moments.
"Thanks for the plasma burns, Jubilee," Angelo grated, rolling over to push himself up. But he stopped, as he realized her panting had dissolved into sobbing. "Jubilee?"
"Go to -hell-," she said between ragged breaths. "You can go to hell, Generation X can go to hell, and all the other mutants can go to hell!" She pushed herself off the ground, between vicious epithets, and glared at Angelo hatefully for a moment, before turning tail and running headlong into the woods.
Angelo was stunned.
He stood there, for a time, as if he was just a poorly-made clay sculpture, skin sagging around his face. "What the fuck?" he finally managed, and then ran after her. Wolverine was gone, Penance was gone. And if Jubilee got hurt over a fight, it would be his fault. She was a teammate. He wouldn't let her down.
Neither of them noticed two pairs of blue eyes -- one older, wizened, and the other strangely innocent -- watching from a distance.
* * * * * * * *
Jubilee crashed through the brush, blasting what she couldn't just push away. She'd tripped twice, and she knew at least one of the ragged tree-limbs had laid her cheek open, because she could feel the cold, mountain air chilling the blood on her face and making the cut sting.
Then, she misjudged the next step, not watching where she was going. She felt the breath rush out of her lungs as the ground rose up to meet her. Lying there, dazed for a moment, she realized she'd hit a funnel in the moutainside, and fallen into a cave below.
Wondering what Wolvie would think of her survival skills if she died on a stupid camping trip, she just lay back and stared at the hole above her, in the rapidly dimming light, and pondered how the hell she was going to get out.
* * * * * * *
Her trail was easily followed. Even to a 'City Mouse' like Angelo, the path she'd cleared in her travel was blatant. Whatever had gotten into her had made her angry, reckless, and destructive.
He wondered, as he quietly moved through the trees, what would make someone -act- like that? Lash out at an 'amigo'? He plodded along, until he noticed a very large hole in the ground.
He knelt beside it, and looked down, within the depths of it, and tilted his head. Finally, he tenatively called out, "Jubilee?"
There was nothing at first, and finally, "Yeah? Angie?"
Angelo blinked. He hadn't actually expected her to be stupid enough to drop down a hole. "Are you okay?"
"Uh, gee, Skin, let's think here! I just dropped over ten feet to a nice, hard, cold -stone- floor. Puh-leeze, Ange! Use yer gray matter. And I don't mean your butt!"
His eyes narrowed slightly. "Well, then, I guess I just -leave- you down there, on that nice, cold, stone floor?" he said, rising. "Or let your precious Wolverine come and get you. Betcha he'll be impressed." He pitched his voice higher, trying to imitate Jubilee's, but only managed a lame falsetto. "'Oh, like, sorry, Wolvie. Guess my precious time with the X-Men taught me diddly and squat!'"
She growled below, in sheer frustration. Angelo merely stood and listened. He let the silence go for a moment, and heard her shuffling around below. Finally, she called out. "Ange?" he didn't answer her. He wanted to make her sweat, -just- a little. "Ange? Skin? Angelo?" her voice steadily increased in volume, as she began to get nervous. "ANGELO?"
"Si, si, I'm here," he finally said, as she paused, inhaling to let out a scream. But she stopped, just in time to spare his ears. "Oh, you JERK! Get me outta here!"
Angelo sighed. He couldn't just leave her. She was his amiga, no matter how she was acting. That, and he knew he didn't want to be on the receiving end of anything from Wolverine.
"One human ladder, coming up," he said, and then lashed his skin to a nearby tree stump. He let his skin coil, and go slack, wrapping his fleshy tendrils around a stump, and then looked down the hole. "Well, coming down, more like," he corrected himself softly, and then took the plunge, stepping off the side of the hole.
He felt his shirt bunch and the air whistle in his ears as he sharply began to decend, and then SNAP! His skin went taught, and jerked him quickly (albeit painfully), to a stop. "Shit! OW!" he cried, as he dangled there. He looked down, and said, "Hey, chica, where are you?"
Another paf lit up the cave, and he could see Jubilee just below him. "Well?"
He dropped an arm to his side, letting the skin stretch from his arm. "All aboard," he said with a slight grin.
Jubilee raised her arms, as the skin lashed around her midsection and began to pull her up. She could see, though the myriad colored lights she generated, the strain Angelo had suddenly put himself under. This was more weight then he usually carried in such a manner and he was stretched almost to his limit. She could see the sweat on his brow begin to form, his eyes flare a deep red.
"Oh, shit, chica--" he gasped, and then looked up. "I'm losing my--" and then, they weren't going up anymore. They were coming down. Hard.
* * * * * * *
Jubilee woke up warm. She found this strange, as she was lying on stone. Then, she realized there was some sort of weight on her. She moved her hand against it -- soft, warm. Skin?
Skin! "Angelo? Oh, geez, are you okay?" she sat up, and immediately regretted it as her head swam. She heard a moan in reply, and the skin-blanket slowly begin to retract as Angelo regained consciousness. "Qué el Infierno?"
"Speak American," she snapped, her head throbbing."You okay?"
"Si." He sat up beside her, rubbing the back of his head as well. "Quite a fall. How long do you think we've been out?" he asked, casting his eyes upward. The hole was no longer visible, the darkness of night and the lack of any stars or moonlight making the cavern lightless, pitch black all that surrounded them.
Jubilee cast some light about the cavern, and their predicament, as she generated another round of pafs. "We are like, so screwed," she said, getting to her feet.
"This is what you get for storming off," Angelo muttered. "Why I had to get dragged into this -- "
"Storming /off/?"Jubilee glowered up at her Hispanic companion, "You're the jerk-"
"--who offered to help you find Penny. And not cause I was patronizing you," Angelo snapped in irritation. He looked up at the hole, dimly lit, and raised his arms above his head, shooting his skin up, to try and reach the hole...and fell just a few feet short. "Damn."
Jubilee sighed, and lets her pafs fade away, letting the darkness cover them again. "We're going to have to wait for Wolvie," she muttered, and then dropped back down, hard, sitting on the cold stone.
Angelo looked up, instead, and sighed. So much for a little relaxation. "Next time, Jubilee, if you're angry, just -tell- me, instead of trying to blow my head off, si?"
"Oh, what would you rather me blow off, Gray?" she sneered at him. "After all, your head's just one of the things you ain't using."
In the darkness, Angelo flushed an ugly red, and snarled at his companion. "Low blow, chica. Bastion teach you that?" He was greeted with a silence, instead of the paf he expected.
There was nothing. Then...a soft sob.
"Jubilation?" he reached out, and touched her shaking shoulder.
"Don't touch me!" she jerked away, and Angelo moved back, as requested.
"I don't -care- if you're sorry! You weren't," she paused for a choked breath, "-trapped- with that guy! They didn't pick you apart for the X-Men's secrets! They didn't tell you Scott and Wolvie and Bishop were all dead! They didn't show you Logan begging for mercy!"
Finally, she stopped her screaming, and sank back into sobs, and Angelo reached out again. "Estoy apesadumbrado," he murmred, and was surprised when she didn't resist the hug and instead grabbed and held onto him, sobbing out her pain.
"He h-hurt me and t-tried to get me ta betray 'em. An' then Daria f-freed me, and L-Logan came for me." She let his arms come up around her, and curled against his shoulder.
"But you -didn't-, Jubilee," Angelo said. "You were stronger, tougher, better then that. You were." He sighed softly, as something formed, cold and hard within him. Always the good friend. Always the supporter. Paige, Jono, Jubilee -- Who hadn't he carried, once or twice, while here? Even trying to play nice with Monet. But why did -he- always get stuck with this duty,
saving his friends from themselves? He suppressed the hurt, and tried to choke back his own pain.
Jubilee sobbed against him for a time, and finally cried herself out. "You alright now, chica?" Angelo asked, after all he could hear for a time was her soft breathing.
"Yeah. Sorry, Angie, I didn't mean to just...lose it."
"S'okay." For a time, they remained there in silence, Jubilee still resting against Angelo's body. He was a dutiful amigo, however, and didn't move away, didn't push her from him, just let her regain her strength there, beside him.
She was about to speak again when they both heard a strange scraping. They looked toward the earthen wall from where it came, and then saw what was causing the sound, coming through the wall.
A pair of luminscent, sky-blue eyes peered at them out of a shadowed face. Both teenagers looked at their new companion mutely, before Angelo finally found his voice. "Ah, hola, Penny."
The girl shook herself once, getting the dirt and dust from her form, and then padded over on the balls of her clawed feet to sit there, on her haunches, just a few feet from the pair.
Jubilee looked up at Angelo, and then over at Penny. "Don't suppose we'll fit through one of those holes, huh, Gray?"
"Well, it's either that, or say, 'Penny, get help. Jubie and Angie fell down a hole.' Mind you, Penny's a mite bit smarter'n Lassie, but their communications skills are on par."
Jubilee gave him a fierce, dirty look, and then went over to Penny's side, staying within that 'almost dangerous' zone next to the girl. She looked at Penny, and then quietly asked the girl, who had canted her head, almost as a dog might, to regard her companion, "Can we fit through that hole, Penny?" Penny looked over at Ange mutely, and Jubilee sighed. She created another brief explosion of pafs, which made Penance scurry toward another corner of the caverns in a start. Jubilee looked somewhat chagrined, and then, while her pafs still lit the cavern, she investigated the hole.
"She dug it at an angle, but I can see the stars! I think we can fit."
Angelo rose from his seat, lanky form coming to stand behind Jubilee as she inspected. "Good thing I'm a skinny hombre and you're short, cause otherwise, we /couldn't/ fit through there," he noted wryly. "Penance gave us the bare minimum we'll need."
Jubilee nodded, and then got down on her hands at knees, beginning to squirm into the hole, sneezing once as dirt got into her nostrils.
From behind her, Angelo spared himself a brief moment to think that over the past two years together, Jubilee had grown up into a mighty fine looking thing. And then he reminded himself with a sigh that she was also off-limits. Paige had Jono, Jubilee had Ev, and Monet...was a pair of eight year-olds. Leaving Angelo...Penance? Ha. Odd man out, once again.
And to think he lost out to a boy with no face!
"How you doin' in there, chica?" he called into the hole, as he saw Jubilee vanish within.
Loose dirt fell like powdery rain and then Jubilee said, "Gawd, this is gross!"
"You're complaining, so you must be okay."
He waited a few moments more, looking at Penance, who simply regarded him with those strange eyes of hers, and then, he heard a distant, "I'm out!"
"Guess it's my turn now, eh?" Angelo asked Penny, but, as he didn't expect a response, he didn't wait for one. The fit was much tighter for him then it was for Jubilee, as he had broader shoulders (just barely, anyway) and was a little heavier (a lot heavier - a lot of extra skin.) He began to shimmy his way up the tunnel, coughing occasionally from the dirt he inhaled. Next time, he wasn't going to try and play the hero. Next time, next time, always next time, he was going to look out for Number One. Himself.
Of course, part of him knew that was total and utter bullshit. So he just kept climbing.
* * * * * * *
Jubilee waited on the grass outside the hole, panting after that obnoxious climb. It was so /good/ to be out of that pit!
And...it was good to cry on Angelo's shoulder, but she wasn't about to say that, either to herself or to Angelo. After all, he didn't need to know what a loser she really was, needing to cry on his shoulder, right? After all, /everyone/ cried on his shoulder at one point or another, didn't they? Hayseed, Yorkshire, and Burrito were all really close, even though almost everyone but Paige and Jono knew that Angelo'd had his eye on Paige ever since meeting her, as a prisoner of the Phalanx.
And then the young man's head finally appeared at the hole, skin lashing out and wrapping around the earth to help haul himself up.
"You /could/ give me a hand, Jubes, instead of just sitting there /looking/ at me," he snapped crankily as he saw Jubilee sitting there, grinning at him like an idiot. "After all, it's not like I ended up in that hole because spelunking sounded /fun/ or anything."
She sighed, and got up, "Bitch and moan, Gray, bitch and moan."
His eyes flared red again, with brief annoyance, and then evened out to that strange, pale blue they'd become when his mutation had become active. He simply hefted himeslf out of the hole, and looked down, hoping to catch sight of Penance. No sign. "Penny?" Still nothing. "Do you think she -" And then there was a brief scrabbling of claws downbelow and Angelo was suddenly greeted with a brick-red, shadowed face poking up out of the hole, waiting patiently for him to move back.
"Madre de dios!" he exclaimed, stumbling backward to give Penance the space she needed to get out of the hole. The clawed girl clambered out, and then shook herself off again, before looking silently between the two other teens curiously. They sat quietly a moment more, before Angelo finally broke the silence.
"I want a cigarette."
Jubilee looked over at him, and then laughed. "C'mon, Ange, let's go get you a smoke, then." She got up, moved over to his side, and then extended her hand to him. His distended, gray fingers wrapped around her smaller, more delicate hands, and then she tugged him up to his feet.
Penance watched the two stumble off, a tiny smile gracing her lips, and then vanished into the darkness after them.
* * * * * * *
"So," Logan rumbled as the two returned, "what were you two up to so damned late?"
Jubilee and Angelo glanced at one another, and brushed some of the remaining dirt from their clothes. "Exploring." Angelo offered, hoping that the infamous Wolverine wouldn't smell through his lame reply.
The Canuck just nodded. "I'm turnin' in. There's some stew by the fire for ya t' eat," And with that, the stocky man rose, and ambled over to his tent, disappearing inside.
The teens looked at each other, shrugged once, and then moved over to the logs about the firepit, taking up their bowls and beginning to dish out dinner.
The silence fell between then once more, a little less comfortable then before. Penance approached, and Angelo glanced over at her, then ladled up another bowl, and sat it over by her. Animalike to the end, she dipped her face within the shallow bowl and went about eating.
Then, the silence was there again. Angelo finished off his stew quickly, and then rose to go after his cigarette, but Jubilee's voice caught him off guard. "Hey, Angie?"
"Uhm...." She paused. "Thanks."
"De nada, Jubecita."
He vanished within his tent, finding his pack of smokes, and extracting one blessed cancer stick to get him his fix, and lit up, coming back out of the tent. Cigarette dangling between his fingers, he returned to his spot by the fire.
"So you heard from anyone?"
She nodded. She expected that. "So how he's doing?"
He paused for a moment. "He's coming back early." Angelo took a drag off his cigarette, exhaling slowly. "He's bringing his old girlfriend back with him."
"/What?/" Jubilee almost dropped her bowl, and then looked over at Angelo, eyes wide. "You don't mean that bimbo in the wheelchair?"
"Yep, that's the one."
She stared at him incredulously. "/Why/?"
He looked down at his hands, and then brought the cigarette back up to his lips, as he pondered how to phrase his answer. Because he never stopped loving her, even when he had feelings for Paige? No, that would not be something to just /tell/ the infamous 'motor-mouth' Lee. So he went with, "Because he wants to help her."
"What do you mean, help her?"
"She's an Emplate, Jubes."
Jubilee's eyes flashed dangerously. "And he's just going to /bring/ her here? Dosen't Mr. Cass-"
"Senor Cassidy already told Jono he could."
She growled in frustration. "But! I mean, Monet- er.. the twins! Everett! An /Emplate/ with Generation X? Yorkshire's lost what marbles he had!"
Angelo could only shrug. "He owes her, Jubilee. They...owe each other, I think." He sighed, tired, and rose slowly. "I'm bedding down for the night," he muttered softly, and flicked his cigarette butt into the trash.
"Don't go-" Angelo blinked lazy eyes briefly, to look at Jubilee, her small face illumiated by the firelight, and saw the desperate pleading her eyes. "Don't go, just yet. Please?"
He sighed. The things he did for his friends....He say back down. "Okay, chica." He looked over the fire that burned between them. "Why?"
"Cause...I don' wanna be alone."
"Penance is right here."
She gave him an 'oh, please' look, and he had to smile. "Yeah. But she don' t talk much, ya know. Conversational skills are lacking. Though you're not much better, Gray."
He snorted dryly, and made to rise again, "Well, if you're going to be insulting," he murmured, waiting for her response.
He heaved an exaggerated sigh, as if staying were an
enormous chore, and then relaxed as he sat there. "So what do you want?"
She was quiet for a time. "I wanted...to thank you. I
mean, you didn't ...havta do what you did. Thanks."
He smiled a little, and nodded. Well, at least someone recognized what he did for his friends. "No problemo, chica."
Her piece said, Jubilee rose. "Ya can sleep now. I think I'll crash out too." Angelo nodded, and rose as well. "Buenos noches, Jubilee," he yawned, and they both stumbled to their respective tents
Penance watched silently as the other two departed. Then, using her feet, she buried the fire they'd carelessly left going. Satisfied that it was snuffed, she moved silently over toward Wolverine's tent, and settled in to sleep.
* * * * * * *
~A week later…~
Jonothon and Gayle certainly didn't expect to see who they did at the airport. Jubilee and Angelo, along with Mr Cassidy, who he had expected. The former was screaming at the later to give back her candy, which he was holding above his head. Due to the height differances, the girl was poorly suited to try and get it back.
Gayle looked at him worriedly, and managed to speak - ever since the accident, she'd had a tough time with her lungs, and speech was an effort for her. "Are you sure this is okay?" she rasped. Her eyes went to the two who had suddenly stopped horseplaying around the chairs and set thier eyes on her. Jubilee's gaze held suspiscion, while Angelo simply nodded and looked on, placidly neutral about the whole thing.
He nodded. Yeh. I'm sure, and as he approached the trio, he reached out to briefly take her hand and give it a gentle squeeze. The summer would be over soon, and hopefully, life would even itself out to where it could be /normal/ again. Well, as normal as it got for this group of young mutants. Then, he released her hand, and said, C'mon. They're waitin' fer us, and then led her forward. But he did send up a silent thanks that of all the people that were waiting for him, Paige was not among them.