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Jubilee's Adventures In Normality continue. She meets Madelyn's brother and his family, entertains hyperactive munchkins, gets stuffed full of food and learns the origin of the nickname 'Peanut'. It ends with a bang as Jubilee shows her thanks in true firecracker fashion.




"JOE'S HERE!" came Carlie's yell from the living room, where she and Jubilee had been playing X Box games and trying to ignore the smells of food cooking that had been driving them crazy all morning. Neither girl had eaten much for breakfast, preferring to 'save space' for the
Thanksgiving meal.

Madelyn came out of the kitchen, enveloped in one of her mother's frilled aprons and looking very unlike the Dr Bartlet Jubilee was used to, with flour daubed on one cheek and her hair in a neat French twist that Carlie and Jubilee had cajoled her into. "Not one word, firecracker," she directed at Jubilee, who was snickering at the apron. Gently elbowing her excited sister out of the way, she opened the door, to be enveloped in a massive hug by a tall, broad man who had Jack's brown hair (with much less grey), and their mother's blue eyes.

"Peanut!" he boomed, then held her out at arm's length. "You..."

"...Look terrible. I know. Mom already gave me the looking after myself lecture." Madelyn rolled her eyes. "You're looking good, Joe. Life as a suburbanite suits you."

"Actually I was going to say you look good, but now you mention it..." Joe looked around, spotted Carlie (hard not to with her bouncing impatiently next to Madelyn) and gave her another of those bearhugs. "Uff, look at you! All grown up when my back was turned!"

"Joo-ooe!" wailed Carlie, mortified. "We've got a guest! Don't go embarrassing me!" Joe looked over at Jubilee, who was hanging back, unsure of what to do exactly.

"Well, look what we have here! Is this that student of yours you mentioned, Peanut? You didn't tell me she was so pretty!" He gave Jubilee a broad, friendly smile, and held out his hand. "Joe Bartlet. Very pleased to meet you."

Jubilee placed her hand in Joe's and shook it firmly, giving him a shy smile at the compliment. Other then Manny, people didn't often tell her she was pretty. "Very pleased to meet you too, Joe. My name's Jubilation Lee but most people call me Jubilee." she replied.

Her Great Grandfather had spent months drilling manners into her while she was in China. It was kinda fun to get a chance to practice it. She didn't tend to use it much at the school, not particularly needing to. But meeting new people was definitely a chance to show off that she could be mature and polite. Besides, she wanted to do well for Maddy's sake, considering she'd been good enough to invite Jubilee along.

"Well, Miss Jubilee, it's a pleasure," Joe said, giving her another of those happy smiles. There was a meaningful cough from Madelyn over by the door, and he looked around guiltily. "Kate, love of my life, mother of my children, let me introduce you to Maddie's student, Jubilee!" he declared, closing his hand around Jubilee's in a firm yet gentle grip and leading her over to the door, where a smallish, dark-haired woman was looking at him with amused annoyance.

"You, Joe, have the attention span of a hummingbird," 'Kate' told him, reaching up and tweaking his nose. "It's a good thing you're as pretty as one too, or I would have given up on you long ago." She turned her attention to Jubilee. "Nice to meet you, Jubilee. I hope you don't mind kids - ours are a little over-excited, with the holiday and all." On cue, there was a whoop, and two smallish blurs raced inside, pursued by Carlie who was giggling just as much as they were. The two blurs hid behind Joe's legs, nearly bowling over Jubilee as in the process, and then two small heads, one dark, one fair, peeked out, ducking back again when they caught Carlie's eye.

"Where'd my monsters go?!" the girl declared, dramatically looking around. "I know they're here, because I can... smell them!" She pounced, dragging out the dark-haired blur who resolved into a small boy of about four, shrieking with laughter as Carlie tickled him. His older sister, the fair-haired blur, wanting her share of attention, charged into the fray, taking Carlie out at the knees. Carlie ended up abruptly on her butt on the hallway carpet, with the two children pouncing on her and tickling as best they could. "Jubes, help!" she cried, laughing.

Jubilee laughed and quickly came to Carlie's rescue, diving into the pile and picking the small boy first, tickled him unmercifully, only to be jumped by his sister. "Don't mind kids at all." Jubilee yelled over the happy squealing before she collapsed into giggles. The brawl that commenced had little to do with strategy and seemed to consist of much tickling, giggling and holding of small children upside down while either Jubilee or Carlie tickled them.

Jubilee finally looked back at the woman she'd been told was Kate, puffing at the hair that had fallen out of the pigtails she'd placed her hair in that morning. "Um, hi! I don't mind kids at all. Tend to watch cartoons with the horde we have at the school these days."

Kate's smile was much more genuine, less polite, this time. "Oh, I'm glad. They're normally so well behaved, but they get spoiled rotten when they're here..." She gave Carline an affectionately pointed look. "That would be Sarah you're holding," she went on, pointing at the denim overall-clad bottom that was the little girl, hanging from Jubilee's arms giggling helplessly. "And that's Michael Carlie has slung over her shoulder."

"Now introductions are over, how about you actually come in so we can shut the door?" suggested Madelyn with a grin, enjoying the sight of Jubilee so at ease and obviously happy with the situation.

"Jubes and I'll take the terrors out the back, see if we can't wear them out before dinner," Carlie suggested, moving so Joe could close the door. "You'll want to be all boring and talk about mortgages and babies and stuff, any way."

Jubilee nodded, lowering Sarah to the ground. "Sounds great to me. Never was much for talk of mortgages. Come on, Carls, let’s see how dirty we can get these guys." Jubilee replied, grinning widely at the adults.

Madelyn snickered. "You two can face Mom's wrath if you drag muddy kidlets through her kitchen," she warned.

***

"For what we are about to receive, may God make us truly thankful. Especially on this day of all days. Amen," Jack finished grace - as a rule, he was brief and to the point, even on special occasions - and looked around the table. "I'm not one for speeches, but it's good to see the family together again. It's been too long." He smiled at Jubilee. "And it's always good to add to it."

Jubilee's eyes widened for a second before she squashed down on her emotions. It was hard 'though, to not think of those words and wish. She had her family in China but they were far away and it was a different culture, one she didn't know the rules of.

'He's just bein' polite cause you're a guest, he ain't adoptin' ya or anythin'. Don't be a damned idiot.' she thought.

She nodded, covering her confusion as she always had with a bright smile as she reached for the potatoes. She scooped some onto her plate and then passed them onto Carlie, working her way through several different types of food that way till she had a full plate. She'd been following the conversation between the others as she filled her plate, honing in on Carlie's voice as she talked animatedly about her classes to Joe. She was content to listen right now, taking in information as she concentrated on the food. Madelyn had been right, she really would need a second stomach for all this.

"Do you have enough, dear?" asked Monica, sitting on Jubilee's other side, at the other end of the table. Madelyn was busy talking to Kate, and making sure Sarah didn't choke on her turkey while Kate fed Michael, but keeping a weather eye on Jubilee. "You really need to eat more, you're far too thin. Or do you have one of those fast metabolisms Madelyn was telling me about?"

"I was explaining some mutant metabolisms run faster, to compensate for the powers," Madelyn added, looking up from wiping gravy off Sarah's face. "And Mom, she's fine. If she eats any more she'll explode."

Jubilee grinned, swallowing the turkey she'd been munching on.

"Don't know 'bout my metabolism. Never had it tested but I do tend ta heal faster then most. Not as fast as someone like Sarah or Logan, cause they've got that whole healing mutant power. An I got more then enough, Mrs Bartlet. Thankyou so much for makin' all this, it's like the best turkey I've ever had."

"Flatterer," Madelyn murmured with a grin, as Monica beamed.

"Thank you, dear. It's not really that much, but I do like to feed people, as everyone knows..." There were snickers and amused snorts from the rest of the table. Monica looked over at Madelyn. "Are you sure you have to go back so soon? I'd love to keep you both for... oh, at least a month." She reached over and patted her eldest daughter's cheek. "You need looking after."

Madelyn blushed. "I'm fine, Mom, really. Hellish month at work." She gave Jubilee a pointed look that meant 'no details about _how_ hellish'. "I have co-workers who need time off just as badly, and they need me back to relieve them."

"Don't worry Mrs B, lots of people back at the school lookin' out for Mads. Kurt's been real attentive even, makes sure she goes out to a movie every now and then." Jubilee replied, mischief incarnate.

She reached for some more mashed potatoes, and pulled back slightly before picking them up more slowly. She'd forgone the sling for her visit to Madelyn's folks but the stitches still let her know about it if she overdid things.

"Kurt?" The name was pounced on by both Carlie and Monica, the former switching her attention from Joe to Jubilee in an instant. "Who's Kurt?" the girl asked, giving Madelyn a cheeky grin.

"Just one of the teachers, Little Miss Nosey," Madelyn replied, cursing the fair skin that meant her blush was visible. "We have a sort of buddy system with the staff, since things can be a bit hectic sometimes, and he's appointed himself mine. I've been helping out with his dance class, since his usual co-teacher is off sick at the moment." She raised her eyebrow at Jubilee, not missing the slight adjustment in her movement. "Shoulder okay, firecracker?" she asked, her tone taking on the 'doctor voice' as Jubilee thought of it.

Jubilee grinned and shook her head. "I'm fine, Mads. Just have ta watch it a bit without the sling. S'nothin' serious. Just have ta remember to ask people to pass more, rather then reachin' for it."

Jubilee had noted Madelyn's blush and Carlie's intrigued look. She'd been noticing how close Kurt and Madelyn had been getting of late and she thoroughly approved, she just needed to find a way to get the two adults to recognise how good they'd be together is all. She pondered involving Carlie, if there was anyone who'd know what might work with Madelyn, it'd be her little sister.

Madelyn nodded. "I'll have a look at it later any way, make sure you haven't pulled any stitches." Carlie was obviously itching to ask what had happened, but Madelyn gave her foot a gentle nudge under the table and shook her head slightly.

"Teaching dance, Madelyn?" asked Jack from the other end of the table, not missing the exchange and changing the topic neatly. "Nice to see our old lessons aren't going to waste. It must be a change from the usual science classes..."

"A favour for a friend - the teacher that's sick. She was worried about Kurt taking the classes on his own, and asked if I could help out. I'm more assisting than anything, but it's actually kind of fun. I'm nowhere in Kurt's league, but he does have the natural advantage."

"So you're actually being social now, Peanut?" Joe joked, taking Michael onto his lap so Kate could get something to eat. "And here I was thinking you'd decided to go hermit full-time."

"Kurt's my gymnastics teacher too, really great guy." Jubilee added, thinking putting a nice word in for Kurt with Mads family couldn't hurt. She looked over at Joe, curiosity getting the better of her. "You like, keep callin' Mads, 'Peanut'. Is it like a general nickname or is there a story behind it?" Jubilee asked.

Joe chuckled at the deathglare Madelyn gave him, and carried on regardless. "Old nickname. When Maddie was born, I was nearly two years old, and apparently what I said when I first saw my new baby sister was 'She looks like a boiled peanut!' The name stuck, 'though I'm the only one who really uses it now. Elder brother prerogative, and all that."

"Mom and Dad know how much it annoys me, that's why they stopped," Madelyn retorted, subsiding at a look from her mother. "But nicknames are big with our family, as you might have noticed."

Jubilee laughed. "Well, I'm kinda fond of nicknames myself, although most people give me the death glare when I use 'em."

With that she started tucking into her food in earnest. With Lorna at the school, the kids rarely went without good food but there was something almost magical about Thanksgiving food, especially when it was cooked by the mother of a large family. At least, that's how it seemed to Jubilee, she would never actually tell Lorna that.

She hadn't talked much to Lorna since she got back from China, especially hadn't visited her when she was in Medlab for all that time. It wasn't till now that she realised how cold that must have seemed. She made a note to herself to reopen lines of communication when she got back to the mansion. If she was ever going to prove she wasn't a selfish brat, she needed to stop acting like one.

Dinner settled into the happy routine of talk, food, and joking. The Bartlets were born entertainers, and made sure to include Jubilee in the conversations. Later, once the table was cleared and the dishes were being done by Jubilee and Carlie (Madelyn had pretended to fall over in shock as Carlie made the offer), with Sarah 'helping' by drying the cutlery with a solemn look of concentration, Madelyn's father beckoned the doctor over.

"The little girl you brought here, I like her," he said briefly. "She's having a hard time of it, anyone can see that, but she's a fighter. Like you kids are." He glanced in the direction of the kitchen, where there was the kind of hushed giggling that could only herald Dastardly Plans being hatched. "Let her know she's welcome any time she needs a break, you hear?"

"I will, Dad," Madelyn promised, leaning over and kissing his cheek.

***

Joe had parked himself at the piano in the living room, and was noodling away, playing snatches of jazz and blues, humming quietly to himself. The kids had fallen asleep - Carlie and Jubilee had tucked them into Carlie's bed for the duration, Sarah having attached herself quite firmly to the Asian girl, declaring Jubilee was a 'booful girl'. Kate seemed to be glad of the break, talking softly with Monica in the corner, glancing over at Joe fondly as snatches of a particular lovesong caught her ear. Carlie had sat beside Joe, leaning against his shoulder a little - full of good food and mellow with good company, everyone was winding down.

Jubilee had settled herself onto the back porch steps, listening to the music coming from inside. She glanced up at the night sky, noting the millions of stars above. They weren't that far from the city but there just seemed something about this place, even the stars were brighter here. There was an ache in her heart that had started when she'd first walked in the front door to this house and she felt it loosen slightly now.

She was happy, truly happy, like she hadn't been since her parents died and it hurt, but it hurt in a good way she couldn't quite explain or really understand. She didn't want to push these feelings away, or shut them down. She was safe here.

Noticing Jubilee hadn't joined them, and guessing she was probably needing some thinking space, Madelyn peeked through the kitchen window and saw the small shape sitting there. Thinking was all well and good but it was freezing out there, and she knew Jubilee didn't have a decent winter coat. Scooping up Joe's enormous mass of brown wool and toggle buttons as well as putting on her own coat, Madelyn slipped out the kitchen door and over to Jubilee. "Thought you looked cold," she said, putting Joe's coat around Jubilee's shoulders - it was big enough to practically bury the girl in warm, slightly beer and smoke-smelling scratchy goodness. Joe's music made him a regular of various jazz clubs throughout the east coast, and the coat had absorbed the essence of all those places.

Jubilee pulled the coat around her, breathing in the scent as she tried to surreptitiously wipe the tear tracks from her face. The smells reminded her of Remy in a way, the same smoky scent. She smiled rather wetly at Madelyn, grateful for the coat. "Thanks, was gettin' a bit cold."

"You okay?" Madelyn asked quietly, sitting down beside her on the steps. It was cold, but it was still a beautiful night for all that, clear and crisp.

Jubilee shrugged, taking her eyes off the night sky and studying Madelyn's face in the light coming from the windows behind them. She smiled at the glow that seemed to surround Madelyn's face as her hair seemingly made a dash for freedom from the French twist Carlie had placed it in.

"They're good tears, Mads. Just thinkin' about everythin' I seen since I got here and it hurts ta be this happy. Only, it's a good hurt, ya know? Been thinkin' your family can't possibly be real, and that I gotta pinch myself and wake up. Only, they're so real, Mads, so it can't be a dream. And I ain't even jealous of ya for havin' 'em, cause if there's anyone I know that deserves the best, it's you."

"They're real, all right," Madelyn said wryly, but with a certain amount of sympathy - so many of the kids had come from appalling backgrounds... "Being happy does hurt sometimes, kiddo. Even for me... I look around the table sometimes, and I realise that these wonderful, funny, caring people are my family, and I feel like I could burst." She reached over and took Jubilee's cold hands in hers, covering them with the other in an effort to warm them up. "And the good thing? We're into sharing. Dad told me, while you and Carlie were doing the dishes, that if you ever need a place to come to, they'll welcome you here. He likes you."

Jubilee reached over and hooked Madelyn into a hug, not even a moment's hesitation in her actions. "Thanks, Mads. For bringin' me here. For lettin' me share your family." she mumbled against Madelyn's shoulder before letting her go.

She shivered, looking back at the light coming from the windows and the music drifting out toward them. "Mads, do you think... Well, would your family like a fireworks show?" Jubilee asked, suddenly shy. She wasn't sure Madelyn would want her using her powers around her family but all of a sudden she wanted to give something back for what she'd been given this day.

"I think they'd love it," Madelyn said, her answer completely unforced and natural. "Carlie's been bugging me about it all day, you realise." She glanced at her watch. "Joe and Kate will be going soon, so there's no harm waking up the little ones. You want to set yourself up and I'll go tell them?"

Jubilee did not let out a loud whoop of delight, even though that was exactly what she wanted to do. Instead, she nodded and grinning like a cat that just ate a whole bush full of pigeons, went to look for a good spot to start the show. She'd only be able to do it one handed, since she couldn't lift her other but that didn't mean she couldn't put on a hell of a show. Especially since she'd been working on her control with Moira and was much better at controlling the timing of her powers.

Gathering the clan took a while, but eventually the whole Bartlet family was out on the back porch, watching the young girl with unabashed curiosity. Carlie was almost hopping up and down with excitement, squeaks of "This is going to be so cool!" coming from her periodically.
"Ready, firecracker?" Madelyn asked, taking back Joe's coat so Jubilee didn't inadvertently set it on fire. Besides, Joe was shivering manfully in the chill, a sleepy Michael in his arms watching Jubilee wide-eyed, thumb in his mouth. She draped the coat over his shoulders, and stood next to him, nudging his shoulder. "Now you'll see why I call her firecracker," she murmured.

"Ready!" she called out.

Jubilee went into a relaxed stance, breathing slowly as she found her centre. Reaching forward one hand she formed a ball of green and blue plasma, throwing it upwards into the night sky. Counting down, she felt the sweat start to form on her forehead. Finally, with a sigh of relief she let her grip on the plasma go and smiled as it burst and crackled above her head. The first one was always the hardest, she'd never been sure why.

Gaining confidence, she started releasing more balls of plasma, detonating them at alternating heights, with a variety of firework effects. She'd learnt to control the forms of her power long before she'd learnt to control the timing of the explosions.

"Oh my..." Monica breathed, hands clasped in front of her and an expression of awe on her face. The awe was echoed by Jack and the rest of the family, Sarah's eyes and mouth forming 'Os' in her face.

"Well, isn't that something..." Jack murmured, following the explosions as Jubilee threw them, a hint of a smile on his face.

"Pretty!" crowed Michael, waving his arms. "Pretty Boom!"

Jubilee had been working her way from small to medium sized plasmoid fireworks, setting off the explosions at regular intervals so she didn't have to concentrate too much on keeping them from exploding. She decided to finish off with a bang though, carefully raising her injured arm till she could feel the stitches pull and then, leaving that arm half extended she brought her other hand down to form a glowing ball of plasma that grew and expanded around her hands before she sent a wave of fireworks upward to burst over her head in one loud, tremendous explosion of colour. Nothing near the power of what she'd used to take out the demon but enough to leave her slightly breathless as she walked back toward Madelyn and her family. She wouldn't be doing that again in a hurry.

"OhmygodthatwassocoolIwishIcoulddothatyousorock!" Carlie burst out, pouncing on Jubilee and hugging her breathless before the other girl could react.

"That was quite the show," Joe agreed, Kate nodding. "Thank you - that really was something."


"I wanna do that!" Sarah declared. "When I grow up, I wanna be a pretty fireworks girl, just like Jubie!"

"Dude, if you guys react ta my fireworks this enthusiastically all the time, I'm gonna get totally spoilt." Jubilee replied, somewhat overwhelmed.

She'd spent so much time lately thinking of her powers as dangerous, it was a welcome surprise to be able to see people reacting to them positively.


"Sometimes a little spoiling isn't such a bad thing," Madelyn murmured with a smile. "But only a little, mind."


"Well, that was certainly a way to end on a big note... You ever want a job in show biz, I can think of a dozen things for you to do," said Joe, grinning. "But speaking of endings, it's time we were going. Kate's got early shift at the hospital tomorrow, and these two need bed."


"And the rest of us could use some warming up. I'll go make a start on some chocolate," Monica added, perhaps predictably. Certainly predictably enough to Carlie, who rolled her eyes and whispered to Jubilee:

"Wait for it, she'll ask if anyone wants some pie with it..."

Jubilee grinned. "Dude, never turn down pie, s'my motto. Especially pumpkin pie." she whispered back and then stifled a laugh as Monica did indeed ask if anyone wanted some with their hot chocolate. It hadn't been so many years ago that she'd been watching families shopping for Thanksgiving, knowing that she'd probably be spending the holiday eating beans out of a can. Luckily enough with her powers, she'd never had to worry about not being able to heat her meals. The one year she'd tried one of the soup kitchens, it had depressed her so much she'd simply given up on the holiday all together.

It wasn't that she begrudged anyone else their happiness on Thanksgiving, it was just that for her, she'd rather not feel anything about the holiday at all then get depressed because she couldn't spend it with her family. The previous years at the mansion had started to thaw her disregard for the holiday but these last few days with the Bartlets had made her realise how much she'd missed this.

"I'll have some, Mrs B." she replied.

"Indeed you will - I'd be horribly offended if you didn't," Monica said, not serious at all. "And after that show of yours, well, I'm guessing it takes it out of you, doesn't it? How it doesn't hurt your hands, I don't know..." Still chattering, she put her hand on Jubilee's good shoulder, directing the girl back into the house, the rest of the family following.

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