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Mommy Complex


Maggie the Cat


Lying wrapped in an inadequate blanket and shivering fit to break, Jubilation Lee decided that it was an extremely cold night.
It wasn't just chilly, oh no; it was the kind of blood-freezing cold that made Jubilee consider--just for a moment--the notion that peeing in her bed would make her warmer.
Well, just for a moment, okay?

Eventually she decided to lug her icicle body downstairs and thaw it out with some hot chocolate. Jubilee dragged on a terrycloth robe of the same head-splitting yellow as her trenchcoat and shoved her numb feet into her bearclaw slippers, not really bothering to be quiet about it.
So it was no wonder that Paige woke up and mumbled something incoherent and Kentucky-esque about the virtues of sleep and the even grander virtues of allowing one's roommate the same privilege before rolling herself into a tighter and more thermo-dynamically sound ball.
Naturally, Jubilee ignored her.

Her dazed solo trek to the kitchen was brought up short when she found Jonothon sitting at the table, thumbing through a brownish hardcover book. A kid's book, too, from the cheesy cherubish paintings on the cover. To his credit, he *did* nonchalantly try to hide it when Jubilee came in.
The half-asleep girl considered for a second. Vaguely humiliating wisecrack, or an ounce of consideration for a childhood memory?

"Studyin' hard fer Lit class, huh, Jono?"

Consideration, beaten, slunk off with its tail between its legs.

::I'll have you know that this is a classic,:: Jono informed her, taking out the book again. Might as well try to salvage whatever dignity he could. ::Kingsley's "Water Babies" is a very well-respected bit've literature indeed.::
"Sheyah, right."
Jubilee shoved an enormous mug of milk into the microwave and slumped into a chair. "It's right up there with 'Cinderella' and 'Snow White'."
::Well, it's not exactly 'Silas Marner', I'll give you, but good reading, anyhow.::

Jonothon Starsmore stretched back in his chair as Jubilee got up to tend to her milk, which naturally had been put in the microwave for too long and was now frothily overflowing the mug.
He'd come up from his basement hidey-hole to give his eyes a rest from the flickering telly light, and since he was in a good mood, wasn't too averse to Jubilee's company.
Granted, her loud, strident voice was a bit much at half of one in the morning, but sometimes...sometimes it was nice to have someone who wanted to spend time with you.

"Mmmmmm...artificially flavoured marshmallows."
Jubilee sat down with a rather frightening-looking mug of what seemed to be a thick layer of marshmallow over an inch or two of hot chocolate beverage. She took an overly ambitious gulp and instantly burnt her tongue.

Jono shook his head, watching in amusement as Jubilee made faces and got an ice cube to slide over the injured membrane.
::Why do birds lose all sense when it comes t'anythin' chocolate?::
"Chocolate's GOOD!" Jubilee said around the ice. "And we don't lose all sense. We just get kinda excited, I guess."
::Every gel I've ivver met has completely gone off her head when you give'er a choco bar.::
Jubilee snorted. "Oh, like guys don't lose all their brain cells when you shove a picture a' Salma Hayek or Pam Anderson in fronta them!"
::Lee,:: Jono pointed out absently.
::No, it's Pamela Anderson-Lee, like. Seein' as she's married an' all.::
"Whatever. Like I really care, right?" Jubilee stirred her marshmallows into the hot chocolate, melting them into a tasty foam.

"Hey, I care. Deeply."

The two in the kitchen looked over to the doorway where Angelo was leaning, scratching at his T-shirted chest.
"Yeah, well, that's no surprise, Ange. Fishy, fishy woo!" Jubilee stuck out her tongue at him by way of greeting as Angelo pulled out a chair, turning it around so he could rest his chin on the back of it.
::So wha' brings you out've bed an' down here wiv th'other loons?::
"Ahhhh...couldn't sleep. Too many erotic dreams."
Jubilee made the expected disgusted noises at the idea and Angelo smiled. He even chuckled a bit at the younger girl's ranting, but there was a tiredness to the smile and a bitterness to the laugh that caught Jonothon's ear.
After all, if anyone knew the signs of biting, deep depression, it was Jono-the-bleedin'-Lad.

::Somethin' up, mate?:: Jonothon narrowed his psionic "voice" to just Angelo, who didn't even blink, just answered in thoughtwaves back. Proof that something was up. Angelo always jumped three feet into the air when Jono projected thoughts directly into his brain.
**Nah...jus' a bit down. Y que--the usual. My powers suck, my life sucks, my romantic future sucks. Nuthin' too harsh.**
::Right--pull th'other one, Ange. I'm yer bleedin' best mate, awrright? I know when yer out've sorts.::
"Anyone ever tell you, amigo," Angelo said wryly, out loud, "your accent comes out real heavy when you're bein' nosy?"

"Are you guys leaving me out of the conversation again?" Jubilee set her mug down hard on the table, glaring at both of them. "That's rilly,rilly rude, ya know. If ya want me to leave, just say so instead'a treatin' me like a three year-old who's too dumb to understand."

Jono and Angelo exchanged chastened looks across the table. Then Angelo leaned forward and patted Jubilee's arm apologetically.
"We're sorry, mijita," he said gently. "We--I--don't want you t'go. Jono was jus' doggin' me about what's wrong."
"What IS wrong with you?" Jubilee took Angelo's long, thin hand in her own, hardly noticing the dry scratchiness of his skin. "Yer all kinda...spacey and stuff."

Angelo took his hand back and folded his arms on the back of the chair he was straddling, dropping his bristly chin onto them. His prominent eyebrow ridges drew together, shadowing the eyes which were already narrowed slits in his bony face.
He was silent for a while, and then sighed almost imperceptably before speaking.
"This is gonna sound kinda dumb,'s m'Mama's birthday t'day."

Neither Jonothon nor Jubilee said anything for a while, thinking that perhaps Angelo might have something to add. When it became evident that there was nothing more forthcoming, Jubilee finally exploded.

"That's not dumb, you dipstick! That's sweet! That's normal! I mean, GOD, she's your mom! Of course you miss her!"

Jubilee suddenly stopped, choking on the lump that formed in her throat. She blinked rapidly, furious with herself. Why was she getting all teary-eyed over this? She'd dealt with her parents' deaths ages ago, gotten totally over it. After all, she had Wolvie and the X-Men and GenX, and they were her family. And that was the end of that.
Wrapping her arms around herself, Jubilee stared at her empty mug and her own upside-down, distorted reflection in the bottom of it.

::Me mum used t'make me brilliant teas when I was a sprog.:: Jono's dark eyes were swallowed in fond, reminiscent memories, his tousled hair making it easy to see him as the child he once was. ::Devonshire Splits an' Bath buns an''she'd make them herself, like, not buy them from from the shop. Took all that time, just fer me to stuff meself silly.::
Jono scrubbed a hand through his hair, shifting in his seat. ::She always smelled like Yardley's Petunia, me mum.::
"Mine had this kinda warm bein' out in the sun all day." Angelo's thin mouth twitched in a smile.
"They aren't dead, y'know."

The two boys, reveries broken, stared at Jubilee, who looked belligerently back at them. She folded her arms and jutted out her chin, eyes bright and wet in the harsh kitchen light.
"Well, they're not. Your moms are both alive. Quit talkin' about them like they died!"

Jonothon's bitter chuckle resounded in their heads. ::Mine might's well be, luv. She divvn't want t'see me gargoyle face again, does she now?::
"And while mi madre is still alive, I am not." Angelo, too, sounded hard and hateful. "I can't ever see her again as her son. Only in disguise as a stranger. Only in short, 'chance' meetings. Only if I don't say nothin' that means anythin' at all."

Silence clogged the air.

"Unless I'm mistaken--which I rarely am--this is a school night, and the three of you have to be up early in the morning for classes."

Emma Frost had taken Angelo's vacant place in the doorway, looking every pale inch the Headmistress of the Academy despite the silky, clinging bedrobe she had on. The expression of annoyance on her perfect, sculpted features was marred by a small, puzzled frown when her erstwhile students simply ignored her.
And was Jubilation...teary-eyed?....

::Don't bother asking wot's wrong, Miss Frost,:: Jono sent, not looking up from where his gaze was fixed on the table leg.
**My dear boy,** she replied, **I never need to ask.**

A perfectly frost-rimed, composed answer...intended to cover the surprise Emma felt when she discerned the reason for the three students' gloom.
Surprise--and, she could admit to herself--apprehension.

Even in her most affectionate moods, Emma Frost could hardly be called maternal. Or nurturing, or compassionate, or any of the motherly qualities these young people were craving.
The White Queen was feeling the sting of inadequacy and not liking it one bit.

"I--" she started, then snapped her mouth shut. What? What could she say? Emma took a quick breath and continued, modulating her voice to be as comforting as possible. "I think you should all get some sleep."

There was awkward silence for a moment. Emma squirmed inwardly as she counted off seconds by the beat of her heart. Did she sound too cold? Too uncaring?
Jubilee finally spoke, hastily wiping her face. "Yeah, I'm all choco'd out anyway. 'Night guys, Frosty."
She jumped noisily out of her chair and practically ran out of the kitchen, thudding up the stairs.

Emma quietly let out the breath she'd been holding. Help from the most unexpected corner....

The two boys simply rose from the table; all soundless, long-limbed grace, they loped away like wolves into the night, presumably to sleep.
Heading off in the direction of her own rooms, Emma had her suspicions that there were at least four people on the campus for whom sleep would be a long time coming that night.


"Mah gosh, somethin' sure smells good!"

Paige Guthrie sniffed hungrily at the air as she descended the stairs, tying her straight blonde hair back from her face. As was her usual routine, she was up a full hour before the six o'clock bell that dragged the other students groaning from Dreamland.
"The early bird catches the worm," Mama Guthrie always said, and it was one of the sayings which had made the biggest impression on her eager, ambitious daughter.

Paige intended not only to catch that worm but to rip its squirming fat body into bite-sized pieces.

Curious as to who else would be up at such an unholy hour--and cooking, no less--Paige gripped her weights and jogged lightly into the kitchen.
She found Emma there, carefully arranging a silver samovar of coffee and a huge china teapot in the middle of what seemed to be a breakfast banquet.

Paige goggled at the heaps of fresh fruit, pastries, and assorted cheeses that covered the table. Then she goggled at Emma, who was wearing an apron and had her pale hair twisted behind her head, held in a chignon. Then she stared longingly at the food again.

"Oh, it's you, Paige. I should have known that no-one else would be up at this time of day," Emma poured a cup of tea for herself, squeezing a wedge of lemon into it with the utmost care. "Would you care for a cup?"
" thanks, Miz Frost, ma'am."

Paige moved cautiously into the kitchen, closer to the table. Yep, it was real food, all right. And there were even two saucepans full of bubbling fruit compote on the stove, next to a tray of fresh biscuits!
She cleared her throat, nervously, and Emma looked up inquisitively from her tea.
"If it isn't too rude to ask, ma'am...did you make all this?"

Emma practically spluttered. "Good heavens, Paige! You, out of everyone, should know that I am somewhat less than a culinary genius."

Paige declined to comment on that, having been brought up well.

The White Queen continued. "I merely felt that it would be advantageous to the general morale of this Academy's students and faculty if we had a civilized breakfast instead of the usual sugar-coated cereals and surreptitious nicotine fixes...."

Caught up in her rant against the various toxins her students dumped in their bodies, Emma hardly noticed that her words were going unheeded, upstaged by the chocolate-laced croissant that was beckoning to Paige.

"...and so I called a wonderful patisserie which Monet recommended once--the girl may be inclined towards snobbery, but she has exquisite taste--and had them deliver the food...."

She stared at it, transfixed, hardly listening to Emma at all. Its browned, satiny surface gleamed enticingly at her...she could almost taste the bittersweet thread of chocolate that ran through its flaky interior, smooth and creamy on her tongue...the bread a dream of melting tenderness....


The girl jumped, snapping to awareness, and realized that she had one hand outstretched towards the pastry plate. Paige offered Emma a shamefaced grin and tried to look attentive, clasping her betraying hands behind her back.
Emma sighed. "Go for your run, child. I'll make sure the others leave you one of the pain-au-chocolat."


Jubilee rolled over in her bed and slapped at her inoffensive alarm clock, which had merely gone off at its programmed time of eight-thirty. Although the school bell rang at six on the dot, Jubilee usually did the exercises and got showered and dressed by seven forty-five, at which time she crawled back into bed until eight-thirty classes.

By the time she'd finally registered that there had been no early bell, there was knocking at the door. Monet's voice, calm and slightly monotone as usual, came from the other side.
"Jubilee? Why don't you get up and come downstairs with me? There seems to be something...amiss this morning."

Hauling herself out of bed, Jubilee dragged a sweatshirt over the leggings and Betty Boop T-shirt she habitually wore to bed and stepped into the hall, yawning widely. M didn't seem agitated, so it couldn't be anything too harsh....

"What happened with the Hell Bell?" Jubilee asked, scrubbing her dark hair with one hand. "I musta slept right through it. Hah--now Ange can't boast that he's the only one who can do that!"
"I'm afraid Angelo's somnolent prowess is still undisputed, Lee. There was no morning bell today." Monet straightened the navy blue cardigan twin-set she was wearing as they walked out of the girls' dormitory.

Jubilee gave her a sidelong look out of bleary eyes. "Yeah? So howcum you din't wake up at six anyway, Miss Perfect Body-Clock?"
Monet blinked. "I a very deep sleep," she finally said.
"Ya were inna catatonic trance again, huh?"
"Actually, non. I was up all night wondering why the government has been so remiss as to overlook you for a position as an arms diplomat."
"Sarcasm don't suitcha, M. Stick ta the condescending, biting retorts."

The two girls were brought up short by the sight of the bounty of breakfast foods, as were Jono, Ev and Ange, who had all tumbled into the kitchen at roughly the same time.
"What happened?" Everett scratched his smooth scalp, perplexed. "It looks like a five-star buffet in here!"
" I smellin' coffee there?" Angelo walked over to the samovar like a zombie, pouring himself a steaming mug of the rich, fragrant brew. He took a gulp and closed his eyes, smiling dreamily. "Now that is a damn fine cup of coffee, man!"
Jono scratched his ear. ::Whoa. Twin Peaks flashback.::
But he kept his thoughts to himself.

Emma watched, nibbling contentedly on a slice of papaya, as her students found places around the table and began making inroads into the heaps of comestibles. Jono sat with them, just taking in the presentation of the food and keeping his friends company as they ate, as usual.

The White Queen noticed that Jubilee, Jonothon and Angelo didn't seem any different than they normally did. No suspiciously reddened eyes, no snappishness or edginess, no moodiness, no glum faces.
This revelation was slightly unnerving to her. If she couldn't find any signs of the turmoil last night though she'd been there to witness it, then how many other mornings were her students hiding their pain?

"So what inspired this magnificent table, Miss Frost?" Monet inquired, plucking a fig from the pile of fruit and snapping Emma from her musings. "Surely this type of breakfast is not going to become de rigeur at the Massachusetts Academy?"

Emma cleared her throat. Trust Mademoiselle St. Croix to ask the difficult questions. "I felt like doing something special for you children," she said, unable to keep a slight tinge of hurt irritation from her voice. "Is it really so hard for you to accept that?"

Well, that tore it. If they weren't suspicious before, surely "Frosty" losing her vaunted cool would alert them.
Emma felt heat well up behind her eyes and in her throat, frustration and hurt struggling to pour out in a gale of tears. She didn't want them to dislike her. She didn't want to be their mother, but surely she could be something important to them....

When Emma had gathered her emotions enough to look defiantly back at the students, she found five pairs of startled eyes regarding her from over cups and forks. Surprisingly enough, it was Jubilee who spoke first, her voice carefully neutral and disarming.
"Hey, calm down, Frosty. M wuz just teasin', in her own stuck-up way. We love the breakfast, really we do!"
The other kids murmured hurried assent, hoping to mollify Emma's unusual sensitivity instead of taking the other route of attacking her while she was vulnerable. Good children, they were, as Cassidy would no doubt proclaim with that unwholesomely paternal Gaelic expansiveness.
He made such a good father-figure, Emma thought, envy and wistfulness battling for the upper hand. How would the students react to a random act of kindness on his part?

However, she didn't have time to spin out the possibilities, because the kids were reacting to her act of kindness. Emma could at least comfort herself with being able to almost predict each motion and emotion--she wasn't as ignorant as all that about her students.

Everett put down his plate and came over to hug her, thoughtful and affectionate as always. Jubilee, her spirits picking up, joked some more about Monet, who ignored her, as always. And, Emma noticed with an inward sigh, Angelo and Jonothon stood at a slight distance from the others, keeping tight rein on their emotions--as always.

But Jubilee elbowed Ev out of the way to briefly hug the headmistress, and Angelo's inscrutable brown eyes were just a bit softer as he offered her a smile from across the table.

::Ta, Miss Frost.::

Jonothon didn't say what he was thanking her for, but they both knew.
Perhaps all four of them did.

. .. ... .. .

I know, I know--she's Pamela Anderson again. Well, as Jubilee says--"Like I really care, right?"

The phrase "Fishy, fishy woo!" belongs to Aerin Land. It was so cute I had to steal it.

And Jono's gratuitous Twin Peaks reference is my fault. Although he probably would have had to rent the series after its television run--he was too young to watch it on broadcast.

And lastly--I read "Water Babies" as a child, and it is an evil, evil book. All about a chimney-sweep child in Industrial Revolution Britain who dies and becomes a water sprite. Try to avoid it.