It was late in the Berkshire summer, where the sun was starting to set a little earlier every day and the nights were cool enough for a hoodie over shorts. Angelo had coaxed Jubilee out of her room with the promise of caffeine and a decent meal if she came with him to Target. She was usually the first choice when it came to getting out of the dorms for a while. He just couldn’t ask Paige to come with and hanging out with Everett usually got boring pretty quick. There was no way he was going to invite Jono either; he could hear the mental “no” already. Jubilee was always ready to get out and do something. Maybe it was because that was the sort of thing she did with Logan - or the amount of energy coursing through her body naturally. She only ever said no when she needed to cram for a test or watch a show. Even then, she would sneak him out at one in the morning if she could, wherever he wanted.
Tonight her yellow moped crossed the haggard asphalt roads of the nearby towns, the more populated areas supporting their need for the city. They were a long way from what they were used to, even after two years with the Academy. Luckily, the nearest non-village was a town that had a Target. It wasn’t as good as a Wal-Mart, or open as late, but its red glow and neighboring slices of what they missed of the city were a comforting sight.
They locked up the bike and while Angelo finished his cigarette, Jubilee re-spiked her hair that had gotten mashed down by her helmet.
“So, what are we here for?” She asked.
He shrugged. “Thought I’d finally get that birthday present Hank paid for. I was bored anyway. Summer sucks without a beach or place to crash at.”
She nodded, waving off some stray smoke that floated her way. “We need to try and get out of this place and at least chill in another country or something. School starts in a month and we’ve only done what? Summer school?” There was a flicker of light that caused Angelo’s cigarette butt, as he dropped it to stamp it out, to quickly burn and turn into ashes. “Why did McCoy give you birthday money? Is he still checking up on you?”
He was momentarily amazed by the mental use of her powers before he blinked and brought himself back to the conversation. “Yeah. I guess us physically deformed freaks gotta stick together. I think he’s hoping that I get something tech-y so he can talk to me about it. Maybe so I’ll stay on after graduation. You know, ‘untapped potential’ and all that BS.”
They shared a small, breathy laugh before wandering into the store, the smell of popcorn heavy and the lack of customers welcoming. As if on instinct, they headed straight for the electronics department on the other side of the store. Jubilee bee-lined for the CDs while Angelo searched for the video camera he had been eying online for months since they came back from LA.
He had realized after coming back that he really didn’t have anything that captured what he wanted to remember in his life. The photos they all took together only caught half of it, and he could hear the ghosts of conversations pass through them. But with a camera he could actually capture everything that was going on, hear it, and maybe even use it to tell his own story.
Maybe there was still hope for his mom and him. If only she could just see why he had to “die”.
Paying for the video camera and larger memory card, Angelo immediately turned it on and messed with its settings until he was sure it was where he wanted it. He turned it towards himself, frowning at his gray skin in the display (‘I should have worn my image inducer.’) before eying Jubilee as she scanned the CDs. Her face was serious with concentration, as if she were going through a mental list of all the music she had.
Turning the camera towards her, Angelo discovered his friend was replaced by a glowing figure of light. Particles of it drifted up and slowly followed her every move, sometimes trailing behind like a school of fish. "Hey Jubicita, has anyone ever filmed you before?"
"Hmm?" Jubilee looked up from the CDs and realized Angelo was filming her, but that his face was contorted into a look of fascinated confusion. “Not really, unless you count security cameras…”
He flipped the display towards her so that only she could see the glow that had replaced her in the viewing screen.
Jubilee popped her gum nonchalantly, turning back to the G section. “Sometimes that happens if I’m not concentrating. Hank found that out when they were putting me in the database. I even ruined a whole roll of film when Jean wanted to take pictures of me for her photo album.”
On the display, the light appeared to get sucked back into Jubilee’s body, leaving only a faint glow to her surroundings before that faded too.
“Does it make you tired? I know holding my skin in shape can get pretty tiring.” He shut the display, making a mental note to save that piece of film for a music video or something.
She nodded, finally getting a CD. “I’m used to it though. Gambit taught me a few exercises so I don’t blow up anything and Jean helped me work out a little structure in my head.” A faint smile crossed her face. “It only happens when I’m relaxed now-a-days, and focused on something else.”
Angelo caught her meaning a few feet from the electronic department, grinning at the still closed camera.
They meandered around the store for a while, both eying the clothes department, but too spoiled by online buying. They even messed with the toys, shooting each other with plastic guns until an employee noticed and eyed them menacingly.
Jubilee paid for her CD and a bag of skittles while he waited outside with a cigarette, filming the nearly empty parking lot. When she walked out, stuffing her purchase into her moped’s trunk, he filmed her every move, which produced a few looks he’d have to save and show Jono.
“What’s with the camera, Ange?” She laughed as she fixed her hair self-consciously. “Planning on making a movie about how hella bad I look?”
“Nah.” He stood up from the bench outside the store door and made his way over to the moped. “Thought I’d film what we do at night.”
She instantly grinned, the look particularly mischievous. “I want fifty percent of the money you make after exposing our sexual escapades then.”
Angelo choked on the drag he took – half laughing, half mortified by the idea. If there was ever a time he and Jubilee actually did do anything like that – he would do everything in his power not to let anyone know. The last thing he wanted was the X-men breathing down his neck – or Wolverine castrating him.
He was sure though that if they even knew the girl straddling the moped in front of him had those sort of thoughts, they would pummel her mentor for taking her out to places they didn’t know about. The stories she had told him of sneaking around, finding Logan at strip clubs and bars, were enough to assure him that she was far from innocent and naïve.
“Come on, Ange. You’ve got to wine and dine me, before you sixty-nine me.” She cracked, still grinning wildly.
“Oh man, shut up!” Angelo tried to sound annoyed, but she was the only one who ever flirted with him when he wasn’t wearing his image inducer. He figured she wasn’t serious about it, but even as a friend, it made him feel not as ugly as he knew he was.
Climbing onto the back of the moped, he angled the camera so that he could see the side of her face and the town passing by as she drove.
* * *
On the way back home, Jubilee pulled off into a park by one of the many tourist stops. Something about scenic routes he guessed. Tonight no one was hooked up to the five water pumps or cooking hot dogs over gas stoves – they had the park to themselves.
She parked the moped in a RV spot and silently headed towards the overlook that stretched out to frame the small town below. It looked like a small blanket of Christmas lights blanketing the valley, but he hardly noticed in lou of the dark cloud suddenly over his friend’s head.
Locking up his camera in the moped’s trunk, he hurried over to the swing set Jubilee had sat herself on and looked her over. She eyed him briefly before she shoved herself off the ground. The creak and whine of the swings became hypnotic and he let himself take the one beside her to even out of the motion.
It seemed like hours before the rhythm stopped. The world around them had been so quiet, as if listening for the first attempt at breaking the silence. It wasn’t until Jubilee’s hands slipped from the chains holding her back and she flew feet first towards the fence that blocked off the long fall below that anything could be said.
Angelo’s heart gave a sudden lurch just before her sneakers slammed into the dirt and she landed with trained ease. He skid to a stop in the gravel and sighed before making his way to her side.
He knew she was ready to talk.
“I lied.” Jubilee looked up at the stars over there heads. “You can’t tell anyone about it, but that glow you saw on the camera didn’t start until after Bastion.” She threw him a small glance, before turning back to the sky. “Hank says it’s the energy, or something, that I use for my powers. Since I don’t really use my powers to their full potential, the unused stuff is radiating off me. He says if I don’t start pushing myself to train my powers outside of pafs, the energy reserve is going to get too dangerous for even me to control. It won’t hurt me, but it’ll hurt other people if I get even a little bit out of balance. I’ll be an easy target for some wackjob who wants to use me for something.” She gave the skin under her thumbnail a good chew before continuing. “I’m going to start glowing where people notice instead of cameras and such.”
“Shit.” Angelo looked down at his boots, trying to imagine Jubilee being anything other than a normal looking girl with the occasional firework for show. “What are you going to do?”
She reached down and picked up a few bits of stray gravel, weighing the small rocks in her hand. After a moment of contemplation she threw them over the fence. “Well, when Emma and Hank finally tell everybody about it, they’re going to start training me with Jono.”
He had to laugh, realizing there was of course, already a plan going on behind everyone’s backs. “Emma and Hank are holding out on the Professor? Is that even possible?”
Jubilee shrugged, smiling a little. “Yeah, well, I’m sure he knows… it’s just that everyone’s been waiting for me to be sure I’ll be okay with it. That’s why I was just sticking to light stuff and stuck with everyone else in combat classes. Remy and Cyke’ll be happy to see I’m ready though. I’ll make sure to blast Cyke first; he’s been ridin’ me about all this power stuff for years.”
She hung her head after that, and he knew what it meant. It was the sort of look she got when she was thinking about the X-men, but didn’t really want to say anything about it. “No one’s ever pushed me, you know? Wolvie, Xavier, Emma, Jean, Storm – they knew. They could see all this,” Her hands waved around and he could almost spot the glow that threatened to show itself. “They knew all this power was in me, but they didn’t want to push. I don’t know if they’re scared of it or if they just respected that I have an issue with it… but they never pushed.”
“Who’s pushing you now?” He asked, nudging her hand with his.
“Me.” She looked down at hers and colored lights sprouted from them. “I can’t let this, turn into this.”
Jubilee took several steps back from him before she raised her arms to either side of her and her body became engulfed with the same orbs of light she usually produced, but these grew and melted into each other until she was surrounded by a sphere of light. He could tell it was a new development for her, because her face looked strained with the effort of holding everything together so it wouldn’t explode. He almost leapt back himself when he realized the land around her was beginning to burn. She noticed this and slowly began to absorb it back into her. Once it was a glowing layer over her body, Jubilee pointed her hands upwards and all of that energy flew from her and into the sky in a rocket of colored explosions.
To the little town below, this was merely a firework display for some nearby faire. Sometimes living near small towns had their benefits.
When Angelo looked back to Jubilee, she was sitting on the ground outside the scorched circle, her old Xavier’s hoodie and shorts singed despite the lack of damage to her body.
“You okay? That…” He tried to think of the right word to describe what just happened, but couldn’t quite get past the fact that she had done it in the first place. “Ev doesn’t know, does he?”
She gave him a silent shake of her head, wiping sweat from her forehead. “Nah, he only ever gets through the top layer of power that I use. Emma says what I just did is what’s been blocked off from me for a while. Once I start training, she’s going to ask him not to synch up with me anymore. She says he might blow us all up without the sort of control I already have over it.” Jubilee cracked a tired smile. “Makes me feel kinda cool.”
“Uh, yeah, you should. That was pretty amazing, chica.” Walking over, he helped her up before motioning for her to piggyback on him. “Come on, Emma probably already knows that was you throwing fireworks around.”
Jubilee climbed on and laughed softly so she didn’t hurt his ear. She let her chin rest on his shoulder. “Nah, it’s cool. As long as I’m not blowing up buildings or starting fights, she lets me throw a few big blasts around so I don’t build up too much.”
“I was wondering why you’ve been so mellow lately.” They reached her moped, but she didn’t hop off. Instead, she held on tighter and offered him the keys.
Angelo stared at them for a few seconds before he moved his body around enough to make her lose her grip a little. “Are you serious? I thought no one was supposed to touch the great sacred mini-hog unless they were riding bitch?”
She shrugged awkwardly, still holding on. “You’re the first person besides a professor or Wolvie to see me use my powers like that since I joined the X-men – and you didn’t freak out. I think you earned a place at the helm, sir.”
He briefly wondered if this was permanent or merely a side effect of the loss of energy – but he grabbed the keys before she could change her mind. Jubilee was satisfied with that sort of answer and slid off his back so he could mount the scooter and then climbed on behind him.
There was a small spot of warmth that grew across his back before he realized that she was not only holding on tight, but had her head laid against his thin hoodie. It wasn’t an un-welcomed feeling, but it felt as though something had changed in the universe and he hadn’t quite caught up with it to figure out what.
“Hey Jubes?” He threw out, only slightly preoccupied with getting everything just right on the moped.
“Mmm?” She replied, muffled sleepily.
“Why me?” The question pushed past his lips before his defense mechanism could stop it. That was the sort of question that ended badly.
This time, he couldn’t believe it hadn’t.
“Dunno… Why don’t I wait until the perfect moment to answer that? Kay?” Her hands spread out flat against his stomach before she locked them tight. “Now get going, chico. We’re missing South Park.”