Disclaimer: Not mine. If they were, Jubilee would not be a vampire, and Jono would get more panel time.
A/N: Takes place during New Warriors - because I wrote this that long ago. I really like it though, and felt there needed to be more Jono/Jubilee on . The caption in italics at the beginning is from a song by Brandi Carlile.
Try to bury my troubles away
drowns my sorrows the same way
seem that no matter how hard I try
It feel like somethings just missing inside
He used to think a lot when he was younger and he still thought the world owed him. Left alone in his dark hole of a basement bedroom, surrounded by posters of idolized bands who were also angry at the world, he would ponder many of the same mysteries that had baffled greater men before him. That fact alone was of some small consolation when he found the concepts of love, life, and death far beyond his scope of total comprehension. Eventually his bruised teenage ego stepped aside and enabled him to reconcile himself to musing lesser philosophical questions, his favorite of which being: Does the name define the man, or does the man define the name? In the end, he determined the name defined the man. So naturally when given the opportunity to rename himself, he selected one he felt was more becoming to his current status. Thus he was re-christened Chamber.
Beneath all the leather and brooding teenage angst, he was oddly proud of his selection, and was naturally rather disappointed when no one congratulated him on making such a suitable decision. So to illustrate his disappointment, he withdrew to his basement chamber (once more demonstrating the appropriateness of his new name) whereupon be proceeded to brood. But since this was not out of the realm of his ordinary behavior, no one suspected anything to be wrong, except perhaps for the telepaths, but they did nothing to confront him, which was fine with him because he didn't care much for them anyhow.
Alone in his basement, when he wasn't pondering life's pressing philosophical questions; he would replay the events that shattered his life forever over and over.
She'd come over to hear him play the song that he'd written for her, even if the tuning wasn't perfect and the timing was a bit off. When he'd shut the door to his bedroom she pulled out two Styrofoam cups and a bottle of wine she'd nicked from her father's collection. She'd poured two cups for them and he'd refused any as wine had the tendency of turning his stomach. She'd bullied him, playfully of course, and he finally was urged to drink the cupful in three large swallows. So he'd played the song for her, singing the lyrics he'd written, and feeling generally quite proud of himself, when he noticed she wasn't really listening to him anymore. Instead she was watching him and slowly unbuttoning her shirt. He watched as her cleavage line grew and the top of her lacy blue bra became visible. She took the guitar from him and set it on the floor next to his unmade bed and he found he was quite unable to keep his hands off her as he greedily captured her lips with his. She tasted of wine, and his hands unbuttoned her shirt as she pulled his from the waistband of his trousers. He dropped her shirt on top of his guitar and began unfastening her bra – a task which he found far too difficult while she was biting his lip just so, and instead unfastened his trousers as she unfastened her bra. He lifted her skirt as she pulled down his pants, and their kisses became so wet and so raw he could feel the heat begin to swell inside him. Soon she was biting his ear and running her nails down his back, but he couldn't pay attention, because he was too busy trying to figure out exactly how Tab A fit into Slot B, and the heat growing inside him was becoming unbearable. He needed release. Her voice whispered in his ear, "Jono," and the heat exploded and she was screaming his name, and then she was just screaming, and then the world went black.
He'd become a chamber of a man, a flame burning within the catacombs of human flesh. Enshrouded in black, he sought to exist as a mere shadow of the man – boy – he'd been before. He overcompensated because he was unable to handle the haw emotions he felt every time he used his strange powers. The white hot emotion that burned within him, the pure euphoria which frightened him, burned more intensely than anything he'd ever felt before. After unleashing, the lingering foul smell of burnt flesh served to remind him of the raw power for destruction simmering just below his surface.
And then, as suddenly as it came, the flame left.
Looking back, he finds it strange that now, after finally being made whole, she should feel emptier than when he was hollow. How oddly ironic it is that after giving up his name it should become so fitting. Despite the disappearance of the flame and the restoration of the organs, the emptiness he feels is unbearable. Perhaps he did not hate his powers as much as he thought. Mostly he believes he was frightened of them – of the completeness he felt – of the raw emotions he could not name. He realizes that now – when he should be whole – he finally defines the name Chamber. Even now Jono feels there should be a burn inside him constantly threatening to take over. It had become so comforting having the burn, because it constantly reminded him that he could still feel – that pain was real and that he wasn't quite the monster he fancied himself to be. The burn gave him completeness, and without the burn there is no completeness. He wants completeness because isn't completeness what everyone wants? Therefore he wants the burn. He needs the burn.
Thus begins the recreation of the burn.
It takes nearly two weeks and three bottles of aspirin before Jono succeeds. Never having been much of a drinker, despite all claims to the contrary made when he had no mouth to prove otherwise, Jono has little experience. First he begins with beer, but quickly realizes that the associated tingle is not the effect he so desperately seeks. Next comes tequila, which he quickly abandons because it has a nasty habit of reminding him of a fallen friend, and, if he's being honest, he cannot stand the taste. Gin, he determines, tastes too much like his mother's hairspray, which he unfortunately inhaled every time his mother readied herself for a night on the town.
Drinking has given him an excuse to stop and slow down, something that has frightened him since losing his powers because the emptiness will eat him alive if he lets it. But while drinking, he can stop, and he can begin to think and watch people. To the others there is no perceivable difference between the old self-absorbed teenage Jono and this new pensive adult Jono besides the addition of alcohol. He watches his teammates most of the time; people he discovers are just as broken as him. The married couple tries just too hard to be perfect and subsequently cause him to think of an idealized Scott and Jean – without the whole multiple deaths, clones, future children, and his own whorish ex-teacher complicating matters. There's a girl he thinks he remembers –he believes she used to be a harlot of sorts – who now seems to be too young, too happy. He remembers someone else who played that game from before, the last of his former teammates, his friend.
Jono finds he watches her the most, dissecting her every movement and trying to discern the façade from the reality. Before her eyes would always give away her carefully hidden emotions, but now there is a hardness that replaces the vulnerability he used to see. Her eyes are too vivid, shining too brightly, the type of eyes that are working too hard to hold on to sanity. She pushes herself too hard in her quest to be their leader, but how can she not when he knows all she's ever craved is approval – acceptance – which she has always been denied. Sometimes she catches him watching and she'll smile at him, but her smiles are like her, stretched and taught with no heart to them.
One night he's sitting, drinking again – vodka this time, bound and determined to either feel something or resign himself to alcoholism so he will not care so much about the emptiness, when she slides next to him. She smiles at him and he can see the desperation which she so expertly masks. There's a bottle in her hand that she holds, label away from him, as an offering – not of friendship, but rather of shared experiences – of understanding.
"You know," her voice is shaky, unsure, something he does not usually associate with her, "When Logan needed a drink he used to have whiskey." And she turns the bottle just so, and there's the label staring up at him assuring him that she is indeed offering him whiskey. Her other hand holds two tumblers and she's sitting holding the bottle between them, waiting, invitation extended, blue eyes watching and a little too blue, too bright, and her smile a little too forced. Jono understands though, understands that she's offering more than just a drink. She's offering companionship – something he thinks she needs as much as he does.
He accepts the bottle and she holds the glasses as he pours the amber liquid. Brown eyes catch blue as he states, "You've changed."
He nods as he accepts the glass she offers. The whiskey bottle is set on the table as he takes a sip, swallowing gingerly, testing for the burn. It's there, not quite the same as it used to be, but closer than any he's found prior. She's watching him from behind her glass and he gives her a slow smile as he lets his eyes drop from hers, "You've grown."
She smiles at him as she takes a sip from her glass and for a moment the world isn't' broken and she isn't trying too hard and she's just there, with him. He likes that.
They settle into a comfortable silence which surprises him because his silences are usually moody and hers were usually enforced with the threat of bodily harm. He swallows again. The burn is nice but since it only exists when he swallows he has to sip slowly and swallow frequently. He's caught in his nice pattern of sipping and swallowing and savoring the burn and is so focused that it surprises him when she speaks.
"Logan always drinks whiskey when he needs it." When he needs to feel. Her unspoken sentence hangs heavy between them while she refills his tumbler and hers and he finds himself wondering when he managed to drink his entire glass, and when did she learn to drink at all?
She turns on the couch and he sips slowly, feeling the burn as he swallows, and feeling something new. He glances and notices her leg pressing up against his. She's watching him, inviting him with her too-blue eyes that are peering from above her glass. She's inviting him, waiting for him to accept.
And then the glasses are set beside the bottle and it's just the two of them, and she's whispering something about feeling. She asks if he can feel, and all he can think is that he can feel, he can feel her leg against his, and he can feel as she slides into his lap, which unlocks a whole new sensation of feelings. And he can feel her too-blue eyes begging him to help her feel, because that's all anyone wants and the whiskey can help them feel, can't it?
He touches her face and traces her jaw line and soon she's inches from his face. He can still feel the burn of the whiskey down his throat and he can feel her in his lap and there's kissing – but not the gentle type, it's passionate and desperate. He knows she's searching for something she thinks he can give her, and he's trying to understand why they never did this before. Her hands are under his shirt grasping at his chest while he holds her, afraid she'll disappear if he lets go. He won't let her disappear, because she's implemented a need in him, which is perfect because he knows that all she's ever wanted is to be needed.
And then the burn returns.
It's not quite the same though; lower than before, more intense, more white-hot, more powerful, and more euphoric than it ever was. She's biting his lips and her eyes, her blue-blue eyes are closed, and the burn is more intense than it's ever been. And she's biting and he's biting until she whispers, "Jono," just loudly enough for him to regain his senses as the burn grows stronger and stronger, different though, but still more intense than it had ever been with Gayle…
He pushes her aside suddenly because he cannot risk losing her, and standing quickly and turning away from her because he is afraid to look at her eyes – the too-blue eyes that he knows are staring at him surprised and hurt, and mostly worried.
When she doesn't look back, he hears her quietly leave the room, and his heart breaks a little because he knows he's hurt her. The burn leaves when she does, and he wants so badly to chase her, grab her and recapture the burn her touch brings, but he won't because he might explode – even if the burn wasn't exactly the same.
Instead he sits and stares at the forgotten whiskey, picking up his glass even if he won't take a sip because now he remembers why he hated the burn so much. He can still feel the ghost touches of the woman who he knows is in the next room refusing to cry from her too-blue eyes that are shining even brighter now.
He's not surprised to realize that he is emptier than before.