Part 1 is continuous to Marvel's What If #87. Part 2 is somewhere around Generation X #1. Part 3 is before LegionQuest. Dedicated, with apologies and affection to the Great One, Stan Lee.
Imagine, True Believers, another universe -- one similar to ours, but where events, at one time or another, took a decidedly different turn. You have all heard the stories -- of universes where the Phoenix did not die, where the Fantastic Four never existed, or where a young girl called Jubilation Lee killed the murderer called Sabretooth.
Exciting stories -- all the more chilling because they could so easily have been true. But what of the aftermath of those tales, of those universes after the stories end? What, we ask, happens next to these people whose lives have been so drastically altered by the hand of Fate, to their friends, their teammates, the world they can no longer save?
How do their lives go on, in a world now so different from ours?
I'm not a Watcher, True Believers, but knowing our heroes as well as I do, I can take a guess....
"What the devil happened here?!"
Sean Cassidy's words were being echoed, in one form or another, all over the mansion, as the X-Men who were present roamed their home, finding destruction wherever they went. The main computer room was in a shambles and Bobby Drake and Emma Frost were comatose in the medlab -- not a change for the White Queen, but definitely not the condition they expected to find Iceman in.
There were few enough X-Men present to begin with, and most of them were in no condition to solve puzzles. Gambit and Storm had fought their own battle against the Phalanx in New York that night, leaving them bruised, weary and half-drowned. Only Xavier and Banshee had their full capabilities -- and Xavier's took a sharp dive as he awkwardly lowered himself from his chair to kneel over the body of one of his first students.
Hank McCoy's blue fur was matted with blood, his eyes open and staring at the ceiling. His killer had not been kind, or quick -- the marks of battle covered him and the remnants of the containment suit, which had been ripped and torn beyond recognition.
They knew the handiwork.
Remy LeBeau cursed low and fluently, in languages most of the others were too tired or too deeply in shock to recognize. Only one word made any sense -- "Creed."
"Where is Bishop?" Storm asked, breaking into Gambit's diatribe -- she hadn't even quite heard it.
"And where is Jubilee?" Sean added, his voice breaking slightly as he brushed his hands over Hank's face, closing the warm, intelligent, empty eyes for the last time.
They turned, instinctively, towards Xavier for answers, but he hadn't heard them. He simply stared down at Hank, his hands moving in a broken, constant movement over what blood-soaked fur he could reach through the shattered helmet of the containment suit.
Storm fought off her own exhaustion and, with an effort which was almost beyond her, became again a leader of the X-Men. "Professor." He still didn't seem to hear her, just stared blankly. She knelt beside him, laying a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Charles, please. You cannot help Henry, but others may be in danger. You must help us locate Bishop and Jubilee... and Sabretooth."
Something in her touch or her voice seemed to break through Xavier's grief. He lifted his head just a little, seeming to focus for the first time since he'd found Hank's body. "I..." His voice broke on the first syllable; he tried again. "I... cannot find Bishop. Or Sabretooth. Jubilee... is in the control room, in the Danger Room."
Storm squeezed his shoulder, gently. "Thank you, Professor." Standing, she gestured to the other two to follow her. Sean looked as if he would protest, glancing swiftly down at the Professor and Hank, but Storm shook her head and gestured again. Reluctantly, he followed her into the corridor.
"D'ye think we should leave him alone?" Sean asked as soon as they were out of earshot.
Storm sighed heavily. "We have no choice. The mansion's security was fully activated -- therefore, Sabretooth and Bishop *must* be somewhere in the mansion. In addition, Jubilee may be injured. We have too few hands to leave any to tend the Professor. Hard as it is, he, as well as the White Queen and Bobby, must wait."
Neither of the men was happy about it, but both nodded. "I go look for Creed, Stormy," Remy volunteered instantly.
Storm nodded. "If you find him, call immediately for assistance. You cannot risk facing him alone, not after what he has done tonight. Sean, please try to find Bishop; I will attend to Jubilee, and attempt to call for assistance."
They split up quickly, Remy and Sean heading back into the wrecked computer room, hoping against hope to find the Cerebro scanners still active. Storm raised a wind and flew towards the Danger Room at the fastest speed she could risk indoors.
The Danger Room was locked, the Control Room sealed equally well. Storm punched in the overrides for the Control Room quickly, and stepped inside as the doors slid open. The lighting was dim, flickering as the wounded electric system fought to supply the entire mansion. The red beams of a laser pattern flashed randomly through the glass, striking strange reflections off the objects in the room. She had to struggle to make out the small shadow curled in the main chair.
The tiny form didn't answer, didn't even move. Storm was reminded painfully of the Professor, slumped over Hank's body.
Storm stepped forward, closer to the girl. As she had with Xavier, she laid a gentle hand on Jubilee's shoulder, but the reaction she got was far different.
With a ragged scream, cut off almost instantly, Jubilee jumped out of the chair and ran for the opposite corner of the room, almost running over Storm in the process. She apparently didn't see the wall before she ran into it; she beat her fists helplessly against the metal for a moment, then slowly slumped to the floor.
Storm knelt beside her, careful not to touch her this time. Jubilee was in her yellow jacket, which now bore splashes of brown -- brown that had once been red, Storm suspected. Her dark hair was plastered to her forehead with sweat, her T-shirt soaked with it.
"What happened here?" Storm said quietly, almost to herself. She expected no answer, but got one, as Jubilee's eyes -- her pupils so hugely dialated Storm could barely make out the rim of blue around them -- stared past Storm, out the window of the Control Room.
With a sudden sick lurch, Storm knew what had happened. She forced herself to stand up, to take the five steps that would bring her to the window, and to look down.
Then she was spinning away, falling to her knees and retching helplessly, drowning in a sea of red, and brown, and other colors she refused to think about. The nightmare vision swam in front of her eyes as she struggled for breath and sanity.
"He... finally stopped screaming." Jubilee's voice was broken; Storm could not raise her head enough to look at her. "It took forever... but he finally stopped screaming. I thought he never... would stop... then I wished he hadn't. The silence..." Her voice trailed off again.
Storm pulled herself to her knees, but couldn't make it the rest of the way, her stomach rebelling at the motion. Wiping her mouth on her ruined clothes, she managed to half-crawl over to Jubilee. "Jubilation..." Jubilee flinched back from her voice; Storm didn't blame her. The restrained emotions in her voice scared her, also. "Jubilee... where is Bishop? Is he...." She had to swallow, hard. "Is he... down there?"
Jubilee thought about it, then shook her head, slowly. "No. He didn't scream, he just... died. In the tunnels. Not like Beast. Beast shouted. Shouted for me to run." Her eyes met Storm's, suddenly, painfully, clear and focused. "He killed them. Sabretooth. I saw him. He wanted me, but I fought him. I won. Just like Wolvie taught me. He'd be proud, wouldn't he, Storm? I did just like he taught me."
Storm swallowed hard again, fighting back sobs. She couldn't cry in front of the girl, couldn't add more pain to her burden. "Yes, child," she forced out past the lump in her throat, not knowing if the words were true. Not caring. "Wolverine would be proud."
A phantom smile passed across Jubilee's face, then vanished; she leaned her head back against the wall, her eyes closing again.
Storm touched the girl's cheek, then reached for her comlink. "Gambit, Banshee. I have... located Sabretooth. Bishop.. is in the tunnels."
"We know," Sean's heavy brogue answered, sounding infinitely tired. "We found him. Is Sabretooth...?"
"Yes. Jubilee... killed him."
"La petite?" Remy asked in shock. "*She* killed him?"
"Yes." Storm couldn't face explanations, not now. "Jubilee is in deep traumatic shock -- I will need your help, Sean, and the Professor's. Please bring him to the medlab. Remy, I need you in the Control Room."
"'Roro, we can't..."
"Bring him, Sean. We must tend to the living before we mourn our dead." Even to her own ears, the words were cold, harsh. She didn't know how to change them, but she tried. "Please, Sean. And contact Moira, she may be able to help."
A long pause, then -- "Aye, Storm," Sean acknowledged.
Remy didn't answer at all, but she heard his footsteps only a moment later, pounding down the corridor, then lurching to a halt in the open doorway. He took in the scene before him in a single glance, reaching his conclusions faster than Storm had. But then, his life had been considerably bloodier than her own.
"Mon Dieu," he swore softly, staring out the window at the lasers. Carefully, he walked over to the tiny huddle that was Jubilee. "You okay, Stormy?"
Storm swallowed yet again, the room still slowly spinning around her. "I will be. Please take Jubilee to the medlab."
He nodded, bending over the girl. She stiffened at his touch, as if she would bolt again; he spoke quickly, soothingly. "It's okay, 'tite, it's just Remy, here t' take care o' you. You just let Remy take care o' things from here on. It'll be okay, _pauvre chere, Remy gonna keep you safe now."
Her body relaxed slowly, and he lifted her in his arms. She turned her head into his chest, seeking what comfort she could find; he tightened his embrace, offering what comfort he could give. "Dat's right, 'tite, just lean on Remy, he gonna take care o' you." With Storm following closely behind, he left the Danger Room, still whispering to the girl in a broken mix of French and English.
It didn't matter -- Jubilee was beyond hearing.
Jubilation Lee was having another nightmare.
Paige Guthrie knew the signs by now, though they had been roommates for only a week. The teenager's body was stiff beneath the sheets, her hands clutching them in a death grip, tears squeezing out from beneath her clenched eyelids. She didn't moan, didn't move, but her breathing was harsh in the silent room.
"Jubilee," Paige whispered tentatively. She had tried before to wake Jubilee from the nightmares -- the first time had gotten her knocked across the room by a blast of pyrotechnics. Some of the burns were still bandaged. Sean and Emma had offered her a room of her own after that, but she had turned them down. Something deep inside her refused to let Jubilee face the horrors in her mind alone. Even if she couldn't help, even if Jubilee wasn't aware of it, at least she could be there.
Neither of them had gotten a full night's sleep in a week.
"Jubilee." She was a little louder this time, hoping to break through the dream by voice alone.
It may have worked, or maybe the nightmare had just run its course for the night. Jubilee's eyes suddenly flashed open, a strangled scream breaking from her, her body stiffening even more if possible. She struggled for breath as the door opened, spilling light into the room.
"Jubilee?" This time, it was Emma Frost's voice. She was silhouetted against the door, a slender shadow that had to be Monet hovering uncertainly behind her.
Jubilee sat up in bed without answering, bringing her knees up to her chest and burying her face in the sheet, wrapping her arms protectively around herself.
"Another nightmare?" It was a non-question from Emma, aimed at Paige; she nodded, slipping out from under her sheets and reaching for her robe. She and Emma crossed paths, one entering the room, one leaving; the standard procedure was for Emma to calm Jubilee, while Paige went to stare at the ceiling in Monet's room and try to sleep.
This time, both girls stayed in the doorway, watching quietly as Emma sat down next to Jubilee, smoothing sweaty hair away from the girl's forehead with far more tenderness than she ever showed anyone else. Jubilee shook her off with one jerky move -- Emma looked as if she wanted to try again, but didn't. "Jubilee, please, let me help you."
Jubilee lifted her face from the sheets, staring at Emma with burning, angry eyes. "I don't need your help," she informed Emma, throwing back the sheets. "I don't need anyone's help!"
Her bare feet hit the floor with a slap and she shoved her way past Monet and Paige, running through the hall and down the staircase. They heard the front door open but not close.
Paige started to go after her roommate, but Emma's hand stopped her. "No, Paige. I've already alerted Sean -- he'll take care of her. He's the only one here who can get through to her now."
"That was the worst one yet," Paige whispered, too tired and scared to remember her accent. "What hurts her so bad, Ms. Frost? She's just a kid -- what's hauntin' her?"
Emma sighed, closing her eyes in equal weariness. "A killing, Paige. A killing she had no choice in, no chance in. She stopped a murderer who had already taken two X-Men; a vicious killer who would have gladly taken her next. She saved herself and two others...."
Her voice trailed off; she hadn't really been talking to them anyway, Paige thought. She and Monet traded looks, then Paige asked, hesitantly, "Who did she kill?"
For a long moment, Paige thought Emma wasn't going to answer. Then the woman sighed again. "She was all alone... and she killed a psychotic called Sabretooth, after he killed Beast and Bishop. Before he could kill Bobby Drake." Her voice lowered even more, becoming almost a whisper. "Before he could kill me."
Both girls digested that. "Self-defense," Monet concluded.
Emma almost laughed, a harsh, bitter sound. "Yes, self-defense. But it's the method of defense that haunts her. The nightmares come from the part of her that can't forgive the method... or the results."
Sean wasn't asleep when Emma's telepathic summons came -- he'd gotten very little sleep since coming to the school. The weight of the young lives depending on him, as well as the four lives he had already failed, were more than enough to keep him awake, staring out the window and trying to make sense of it all. Grief for young Clarice and Everett was layered on the older, still brutally sharp, grief for his two teammates, haunting his dreams even as it haunted Jubilee's.
And he wondered again what he might have done differently. How he and Emma might have found the children sooner and gotten to them before the Phalanx killed Everett Thomas, what tactic might have made Clarice's suicidal final gambit unnecessary. Wondered how he might have changed everything, if he had only been in the mansion that night.
He looked up when the voice came, even though he knew there was nothing to see. *Emma. Is it the lass again?*
*Yes.* Even telepathically, he could her the weary frustration in Emma's voice. *She wouldn't let me close to her, went running out of the dormitory. She's near the front gate -- I don't believe she'll go out. I'm sorry, Sean.*
*Dinnae blame yerself, woman,* he told her, reaching for a sweatshirt and pulling it over his head. *What happened was not y'r fault, then or now.*
*Maybe not -- but I should have been able to help her. She shouldn't have had to go through that alone.*
Sean sighed, hoping the sound made it through to her. *Ye were comatose -- not exactly a good match up for Creed. I'll bring the lass back in, ye just need t' take care o' the other two.*
Se said nothing else, and he knew she still wouldn't accept his words -- guilt lay too heavily on her. He sighed one more time, and jogged down the staircase and out the door.
He could see Jubilee even from across the lawn -- her pink nightshirt stood out against the gate, exactly where Emma had said she would be. She was clutching the bars, her face pressed between them, staring down the road looking for.... He knew what she was looking for, but it was one of the things he couldn't give her. One in a very long list.
"Nightmares again, lass?"
She shrugged once, without turning away from the road. "Same as always."
He caught himself starting to sigh yet again, and stopped before he could. "It wasn't y'r fault," he told her for the thousandth time, hoping that this would be the time she'd believe him.
It wasn't. "So whose fault was it, Sean? There wasn't anyone else there."
"Creed didn't leave ye any choice."
"Yeah, he did." Her eyes were wide and clear, with no trace of tears; only a grim certainty that sat poorly on a thirteen-year-old face. "X- Men don't kill."
He opened his mouth automatically, but nothing came out; there was nothing he could say to refute that simple fact, and she knew it.
"Did Wolvie ever tell ya," she asked softly, staring back out at the road, "'bout the time him and me got sent to Australia, to check our old headquarters there?"
Sean nodded, unsure where she was going with this. "Aye, lass, ye both told us about the Sentinals ye fought."
"Right. The Sentinals." Her breath came out with a hard chuffing noise. "That was the easy part. Hard part was Gateway's time groove, showin' me how my parents got killed, back in SoCal. Gettin' t' see the guys who murdered 'em. Wolvie, he took me t' track 'em down, help me catch 'em. We had 'em trapped on the same place on Mulholland Drive where my parents' car went over the cliff.
"That's when Wolvie told me to kill 'em." She stopped, readjusting her grip on the bars and clutching them just a little tighter. Sean waited.
"I wanted to. I really did. I could've done it with my powers, no problem. And I kinda figured, maybe it's not such a big deal. Wolvie did it, all the time."
She turned her face away from him, her voice slightly muffled by the bars digging into her cheeks. "I didn't do it. I didn't want t' be like Wolvie, sittin' up at night with the ghosts talkin' t' me. So we left 'em for the cops, and came back home."
Sean reached out gently, put a hand on her shoulder. She turned, and met his eyes again, still wearing that look. "So now, instead of those two ghosts, I only got one. An' sometimes that one doesn't even wait 'til it's night before he comes in screamin', showin' me what I am."
"What does he think ye are, lass?"
"A killer," she shrugged with one shoulder, her eyes showing the struggle not to care. "A killer, just like Wolvie. Just like... just like *him*. And nothin' you or anyone else can say is gonna change that.
"'Cause he's right."
And there was nothing left to say.
"Jean said I should try writing some stuff down about... well, what's been going on. She tried to joke about it -- said I knew what a diary should look like, 'cause I read hers before the wedding -- but I know it's supposed to be therapy. I'm getting pretty sick of therapy. Anyway, talking to a piece of paper isn't exactly my style, so I guess I'll tell it to you. Not that I'm ever gonna send this. I don't think.
"I'm at the mansion again this weekend. Sean went to Muir Island to consult with Moira -- that's what they said anyway, but I think he just needed to get away. I don't, like, blame him, he's had a lot to deal with the last couple months -- me, the Phalanx, Clarice and Everett, Emplate.... Anyway, when he leaves the school, off I go to Xavier's Institute -- big whoop. Three telepaths to poke around in my head 'stead of two.
"I miss you, Wolvie. I really wish you were here...."
The Harley roared up Greymalkin Lane, taking the deadman's curve with the skill that came from years of practice, going through the gates and up the driveway with equal ease. When the motor stopped, it left an odd, eerie silence in the air.
The driver sat for a long moment, staring at the house. Home again.... Leaving had been bad; somehow, he didn't think homecoming was going to be much better. He swung a leg over the bike, and went up the steps to the porch. The door was open -- he walked in.
Xavier was waiting for him at the foot of the main staircase. "Logan. Welcome home."
"Chuck." There was no edge to the nickname, just habit. "Where is she?"
Xavier looked down at his hands. "I need to speak to you, before you see her."
Logan wanted to argue, but something in Xavier's eyes stopped him. Instead, he followed the other man down the hall to his private wing. The office door swung shut behind them.
Logan took a piece of paper, folded and unfolded so many times it was almost falling apart, out of his pocket, smoothing it in his hands. "What happened, Chuck?" he asked, fear making his voice unintentionally harsh. "I leave Jubilee with ya for a few months, then all of a sudden, I get a letter soundin' like the kid's fallin' apart. Jeannie and Scott didn't say anything when I saw 'em...."
"I doubt they knew how to tell you," Xavier interrupted. His hoverchair glided silently behind his desk; he leaned his elbows against it as if he couldn't hold himself up.
Logan waited. Then: "Tell me what?"
"Sabretooth is dead."
Logan sat for a long moment, trying to figure out what he felt. Relief? Anger? Loss? Joy? He settled for asking, "How?"
Xavier rubbed his eyes, still bracing against his elbows on the flat desktop. "He broke loose one night, when only a few X-Men were at home. Bobby and Emma Frost were injured in the power surge that freed him. Hank and Bishop tried to stop him. They... failed."
Logan heard volumes in that one pause."They're dead." It was a statement, not a question.
Xavier nodded, looking far older than he had when Logan had left. "Jubilee was left alone; Sabretooth tracked her down. He..."
Logan was half out of his chair, almost halfway across the room. "He didn't hurt her?" he growled.
Xavier motioned him down. "No, not the way you mean. She proved most resourceful, luring him into the Danger Room. She ran him through several programs to disorient him, then slipped out -- and ran a laser pattern. Safety interlocks off."
Logan had a sudden mental image of how Sabretooth had died. It staggered even him; what it had done to Jubilee he couldn't bring himself to imagine. "Did the kid...?"
"She did not watch. But she heard." Xavier rubbed his eyes again. "When Storm and Gambit found her, she was almost catatonic, deep in traumatic shock. It was three days before we we were able to get the whole story from her; it's been more than four months, and the nightmares have not stopped. When they come, only Sean, Jean and, for some reason, Remy, can soothe her out of them. She lets no one else near her."
Logan wanted to swear, wanted to rip into something, but the rage went too deep even for that. The rage, and the guilt. He stood abruptly, stalking across the office to the glass doors on the other side. His hands shoved deeply into his pockets, he stared sightlessly out at the lawn.
"You feel guilty, that you weren't here."
Logan didn't look at Xavier. "Stay outta my head, Chuck."
"I don't have to be a telepath to know that, Logan; guilt seems to be in endless supply here. You feel guilty for not being here, as do Storm, Banshee, Gambit, Jean.... Emma and Bobby feel guilty for being here and unable to help. Jubilee is slowly wasting away with guilt over the killing, over not being able to save Beast and Bishop. And I..." Out of the corner of his eye, Logan saw Xavier spread his hands. "I allow myself the luxury of believing my guilt is the greatest... for I brought Creed into the mansion. My arrogant dream killed two of my students and became the nightmare of a child I care for deeply. And I cannot change it, any more than I can bring Hank and Bishop back to life."
Xavier's hand came back down, touching a framed picture on the edge of his desk. Logan knew the frame -- it went with a picture of Hank McCoy. For a moment, he let the grief for his friends wash through him, then he buried it. "Where is she?"
Xavier was still looking at the picture. "Outside, by the pool," he said after a long pause. "She dislikes being inside the mansion for any length of time."
Logan nodded, and started to leave.
"Logan." He paused at Xavier's voice. "She hasn't cried. Not once in four months."
Logan nodded again, in acknowledgement, and left.
Most of the X-Men were out by the pool, the rest were on the basketball court. He tried not to think of the people that were missing -- of Hank's furry blue body and Bishop's commanding bulk -- looking instead for the ones who were there. Jean, Scott, Betsy, Warren, Ororo... Ororo spotted him first, from the top of the diving board, and froze. Jean and Scott followed her gaze; Scott started to get up, but Jean restrained him with a touch and a word.
Some instinct told Logan to look for Remy; he found him, not playing one on one, but instead sitting next to the water, trying visibly to charm the small, dark-haired figure who dangled her feet in the water next to him. She wasn't responding well, judging by the forced smile on her face and the distant gaze aimed somewhere close to the bottom of the pool.
Remy looked up at the sudden silence; his red eyes met Logan's with something that might have been accusation or might have been relief. Then he got up slowly, clearing the line of sight between his young companion and the new arrival.
Jubilee looked up when Remy left; her eyes found Logan almost immediately. For a moment, he though she was going to fall into the pool, then she regained control and rose shakily to her feet. Remy steadied her with a hand at her elbow.
She was a little taller than she had been, and a little thinner, her blue eyes infinitely older, innocent no longer. Her mouth worked, as if to say something, then she bit her lip, her eyes welling with tears.
Logan took a step towards her... and she took a step back against Remy. Pain stabbed through Logan's chest, adding its bundle of agony to the guilt.
Then she was in motion, flying across the concrete to throw herself against him. He caught her close, holding her as if he could somehow protect her from everything that had happened. She clung to him, her muscles as tense as wire, her face buried in his jacket. He let go with one hand just enough to cradle her head closer.
"You came." It was a whisper against the leather.
"Yeah, darlin'. I just wish it had been sooner." He couldn't help the glance towards Scott and Jean; they looked away. He shook his head, angry with himself, and looked back down at the girl in his arms, the girl he loved as if she were his own daughter. "It's gonna be okay now, darlin', the ol' canucklehead's home."
She shook her head against him and he felt the first drops fall against his T-shirt. Her body shook and he tried to hold her even closer as the first sobs racked her body.
They stood together, as the other X-Men watched in sad silence, until the sun began to set slowly over the mansion. Its dying rays caught the headstones in the tiny graveyard, illuminating the names carved deeply, lovingly, into the marble.
And as the light shifted below the trees, it caught for a moment on a single, unmarked stone, already almost covered by grass and dirt. The stone gleamed dully, then sank into darkness as the sun slipped away.
Jubilation Lee -- tossed into the world of violence she had barely touched in her own soul; forced to look at herself in a mirror cracked and twisted by her own actions, darkened by the need to survive.
But even the deepest cracks can be mended, shards put back in some semblance of order, if there is anything there strong enough to hold them together.
And who, True Believers, in any universe, is stronger than an X- man?
Being a fanfic writer, if no one else writes what happens next, I have to do it myself, as with What If... 87. Unfortunately, I first came to this realization at 1:00am. :P I'm gonna kill Jubilee if I ever get into the same room with her. This also turned out to be a) another therapy piece and b) another of those Jubilee/Logan relationship pieces I like so much.