Title: If Only
Author: Jen Kollic

Disclaimers: All characters are trademarks of Marvel Comics. Good god, I never thought I'd have to type that one out... Anyway, I make no money from using them here.
Feedback: By all means.
Notes: Awwwww, Jubilee is emo! Also, one-shot. That's also a first.

Spoilers: Assorted spoilers for Wolverine: Origins, and is set directly after #10. Also there is a lot of reference to Uncanny X-Men #423, in which Jubilee was actually dead. No, really. Apparently she got over it pretty quickly. Assorted throwaway references to Generation-X also included.

If Only

For the first few moments, she thought she was back in the infirmary at the Xavier Institute. Or hoped she was. Because if she was, then it had all been a dream. At least everything since Wanda going nuts anyway. She wasn't sure which tipped her off first, the dawning pain in her chest… or the fact that nothing happened when she snapped her fingers.

Well, actually she knew fine well that every last bit of it had been real. But she hadn't been able to resist the attempt at self-delusion. Or the faint hope that maybe, just maybe, this would be the moment her powers would miraculously return. No such luck. It never was.

And there was no point trying to convince herself this was the Xavier Institute either. The S.H.I.E.L.D. logo stamped on whatever the hell kind of machine she was hooked up to made her pretty certain it wasn't. That made it pretty much the only thing she was certain of right now.

The last thing she remembered was Wolvie. Looking down at her with something in his eyes she'd only seen maybe once before. Fear. And the time before, he'd been manipulated by Mojo. And the pain. Like nothing else she'd ever felt. Then again, she'd never had a broken shaft of wood forced through her chest by about a ton of metal girder before.

She still didn't know what the hell had been going on. One minute Wolvie shows up at the shelter in Queens, and she'd thought at first he'd come to see her. Like he had back when she'd been in Generation-X… god that felt like a lifetime ago now. But he hadn't even known she was there. And then everything had gone to hell. First the explosion, then Omega Red… and then the kidnapping.

Four days. Mostly blindfolded, and mostly on a ship from the way the floor had been shifting beneath her. Mostly tied to a chair. And mostly thinking of how she could get loose… if she'd had her powers. But she didn't. And never, never had their loss caused her so much shame.

She'd been in worse situations. When she'd been captured by Bastion. By Mojo. By the Mandarin. (christ, who hadn't captured her?) And every time she'd fought and resisted tooth and nail, and won. Only then she'd been a mutant. An X-Man. Not a human. A human who could do nothing but sit there, waiting to be rescued. Not even sure if she wanted to be rescued now. Yeah, sure, Wolvie had saved her before, had found her when she'd been lost in the desert after escaping from Bastion, but at least then she'd escaped by herself. (well, with help from Daria, but he didn't have to know that) This time she couldn't even get out of the ropes, and didn't know if she'd be able to meet his eyes when he took off the blindfold.

At least getting impaled had distracted her from that part, right? She'd heard the helicopters, then the roof had been blown apart. She'd seen the girder falling towards her, and had been just as powerless to stop it as she'd been to escape. The impact had knocked her out, and when she'd been driven back to consciousness by sheer agony, she'd been flat on her back, feeling the broken wood slowly pressing deeper into her body until she was fairly certain it had come out the other side.

And then it had seemed like an eternity until Wolvie turned up, minutes dragging out into hours as her formerly mutant blood had pooled around her. She couldn't remember ever having lost as much as a mutant. Did normal humans bleed more? She hadn't been sure. Sounds of fighting, gunfire, shouting… and here she was bleeding out on the floor thanks to the mother of all splinters instead of being up there helping Wolvie. Like she'd used to. When she'd been a mutant. Not a human. Stupid human. Stupid girl. Just in the way now. Just a liability. Powerless. Helpless.

And from the way the wooden beam that was still shifting inside her body was creaking and groaning as the weight of the girder pressed down on it, soon to be crushed when it gave way. And it would be over. And then, for the first time in… ever, she'd acknowledged that it wouldn't be the first time. Dying wasn't so bad. She'd already done it once. Had denied it to herself afterwards, had focused on her grief for Angelo, had refused to think about it, had buried it deep, deep down, further than the crush she'd once had on Wolvie, further than the thought of what might have happened if she'd managed to go back and stop her parents being killed, further than everything.

She'd been dead. Hung up on a cross on the lawn of the Institute with nails through her hands and feet, kinda like Wolvie had been when she'd found him in the Outback all those years ago only she wasn't Wolvie and neither was Angelo and neither was Magma and they were all going to die here in the night and no-one would save them. If any of them had had enough left in them to scream, they might, might have managed to get help. But they couldn't. She'd tried, forcing herself up by using the nails in her feet for support, but all she'd managed was a cracked, gurgling wail that simply faded into the night. Magma hadn't done any better and Angelo… Angelo… he'd died first, the weight of his extra skin pulling him down, suffocating him.

She'd fought then, trying her damndest to keep breathing, to hang on until morning. Second star. Straight on to morning. They'd be found then. Just had to hang on. Well, they kinda were already. Hung on. Crosses. Like Wolvie had been. He hadn't given up. She wouldn't either.

But she'd died all the same, the pressure in her chest building until every breath became a battle, the pain in her legs and arms growing until she could no longer push or pull herself up to gasp for air. And in the end she'd hung there, knowing she was beaten. But she'd fought. Fought and died. Now? Now she'd just die.

Only then she had to remind herself that "now" wasn't actually bleeding to death by getting staked by a girder of all things; "now" was "in some kind of medical facility run by S.H.I.E.L.D. and not actually dead." Unless Warren was here somewhere.

No. She hadn't been dead this time. She'd have known. Like she'd known before. She'd have remembered the same coldness that had enveloped her while she'd found herself wondering at the fact she'd spent summer days lounging on the same lawn. Remembered how in the end it hadn't even hurt, she'd just… let go.

She hadn't done that this time, even though she was only a human now. Maybe because the pain had given her something to hold on to. Maybe because she hadn't wanted to die alone here in some country where they didn't even speak English. Or maybe because she was just too focused on the 'if onlys'. If only she still had her powers. If only she'd been able to get loose. If only she could do something useful

Though when she thought about it, lying here in some S.H.I.E.L.D. complex, probably still in some country where they didn't even speak English, while Wolvie no doubt continued on with the adventures she could no longer be a part of, her mutant powers had never saved her from death, had they? She was human now, but she'd survived.

That had to mean something, right?