Kitty finally tracked Jubilee down in the TV room and grasped her by the arm, dragging her through several walls until they reached their room. She shoved her friend on her bed.
"What is going on?" Kitty demanded. "I tried to play it cool, but you haven't been talking to me all night and the look on your face whenever you see me... Did I do something wrong?"
"NO!" Jubilee almost-yelled. "No, it's not you. It's me."
"Do you know how incredibly lame that sounds?" Kitty asked. "I mean, really. What's the deal? Just tell me already. I won't be mad, I promise."
Jubilee pulled her feet up on the bed and hugged her legs against her chest. She stared down at her toes, unable to meet Kitty head on. "I..." Her voice dried up and she just opened and closed her mouth a few times, wordless.
Watching her, Kitty realized that Jubilee wasn't going to be able to say anything else. "It's all right, Jubes," Kitty said softly. "Whatever it is... it's all right."
Jubilee forced her head up to stare intently at Kitty's chin, unable to raise her eyes any further. "I like you," she whispered.
"I like you too," Kitty said, "you're my best friend."
"No, Kit-Kat, I like you, like you. I don't know when it started or anything, but..." Tears started trickling down Jubilee's cheeks. "I think I love you, for real love you. I'm sorry."
Kitty felt as though someone had suddenly kicked her hard in the knees while wearing steel-toed boots. She had to fight the urge to sink to the floor in a limp puddle. She was shocked, but on one hand... not so much. Some part of her had always known about Jubilee's feelings, at least to some degree.
"Why didn't you ever tell me before how you felt?" she asked.
Jubilee's voice was almost too low to hear, but Kitty was making the effort, "Because I didn't want to be your ex-anything. Not ever."
"What do you mean?" Kitty's brow furrowed. She had stepped closer to the bed without noticing and was a bit surprised to find herself standing so close.
"Come on, you know how it would be if we got together," Jubilee said, scrubbing her face with both hands. "There's a pretty good chance things would fall apart between us and you'd give me the boot. First I'd be your ex-girlfriend, then awkwardness would get the best of us, and I'd be your ex-friend, and I don't want that. I want you to be in my life and I didn't want to risk what we already have for something that might not even work."
"But what if it did work?" Kitty asked, reaching out to take Jubilee's hand in hers. "What if it worked out just the way it was supposed to and we were together and we were both happy, huh?"
Jubilee stared at Kitty, then her eyes shifted down to their gently clasped hands. Her eyes shimmered, but she refused to cry anymore. "I think that if it worked, I would be happier than anyone else in the world."
Kitty stepped between Jubilee's knees, causing the last bit of intervening space to disappear. She pressed herself against Jubilee, her free arm going around her in a half hug. Their joined hands rested low against their bellies.
"This isn't so bad," Kitty said. "I could get to like this, and you are my best friend in the world, forever and no matter what. We're just taking it to the next level."
This was not anything Kitty had expected when she'd walked into the room, but now that it was here, it seemed more right than anything else that had happened in a awhile--the last time something had seemed so right and good was the first time she met Jubilee.
"We'll take this one step at a time," Kitty said, "and see where it takes us."
"I love you," Jubilee whispered again.
Kitty smiled at her best friend.
* * *
"All right, so how we gonna do this?" Xander asked.
Scott rolled his shoulders in his leather uniform. "From top to bottom, as usual. Storm, you kick up a... storm to kind of steer Juggernaut away from any people, 'cause you know some idiot with a video camera isn't going to get out of the way until he's squashed to moron jelly. Rogue, you fly in, Nightcrawler you pop in, and both of you try to unlatch his helmet. Once the helmet is off, it's your turn Jean; mix him up, confuse him, make him go to sleep, put illusions in his head, whatever you can do. I'll hit him with optic blasts whenever he gets close to hitting one of you. No one really wants to get slammed with one of those fists. Wolverine, you do your usual thing with the claws and the massive property damage. Iceman, if we manage to stall him up long enough, you freeze him. And Xander, you hang back with me and feed us all some luck. Now, what's the rule of the day for the X-Men?"
"Nobody dies," they all chorused, some rolling their eyes at how "old school" Scott was. Every single time they went out on a mission, he felt like he had to play the part of the father that Xavier usually filled, and it made him seem older than his time.
Scott knew how they thought of him sometimes, but he couldn’t really help that. He had a job to do, and he took his duty very seriously. He didn't want any of them to die on his watch. They were his team, his responsibility... people that he had grown up with, trained with, or met when they were lost and lonely children. They were counting on him to take care of them when they got into situations where they couldn’t watch their own backs. He was the leader of the X-Men, and there was no way he was going to let that job slide, not now and not ever.
"All right people," Xander said, clapping his hands, "we all know we've got a job to do, so let's get down to it."
The others looked at him, then nodded. "Yeah, let's take on the Juggernaut," Bobby crowed, pumping a fist in the air. He was such a nerd.
Marie gave Xander a shy smile much at odds with her Ms. Marvel induced superpowers. She'd had a crush on the older X-Man for the longest time, and even knowing that nothing could come of it, her feelings were still as fresh and new as when they first started forming.
There were some men that would have used Marie's feelings against her. They would have heartlessly used her feelings for their own ends. Scott was glad that her crush was on Xander and not someone else. Xander was too nice to ever purposely hurt her, and on some deep level he understood everything that she was going through and was guaranteed to be kind about it.
Scott knew and trusted Xander enough to know that he wouldn't hurt Marie. It was one of the reasons that he felt free to call Xander his friend.
Some people might have said that Scott was friends with all of the members of the X-Men, but that wasn't quite true. They were all his teammates, but he had very few actual friends on the team, and Xander was his best-friend and always would be.
Without quite knowing why he did it, Scott rubbed his forehead. Whenever he thought too closely about his friendship with Xander, he got the beginnings of a headache that came with a sort of half-formed sense that something was coming, all raw, aching pain throbbing behind his eyeballs. It kept him from thinking too hard about what he shared with Xander.
He shook his head clear, not wanting to suffer the pain of thinking too hard about things he obviously wasn't prepared to face.
"Hey, Xan," he called, slinging an arm around Xander's shoulders. "You're gonna be careful out there, huh?"
Xander gave him an exasperated eye-roll. "Duh. You know I'm always careful."
"I know," Scott said. "I just don't want anything to happen to you, you know?"
Xander smiled. "I know."
"All right then." He gave a little cough and straightened his shoulders, drawing himself up tall. "Let's do this thing," Scott said.
"I would say, 'Let's rock and roll!' but that would be pretty lame."
Scott couldn't help laughing as he walked off. Xander was the only person in his life that could make him laugh no matter what the situation. Just being around the man made him feel lighter inside, younger, and much less burdened by the weight of leadership.
Xander was his best friend for a reason, and he never wanted to lose that. No matter how many headaches he got.