Jonothon hadn't exactly been expecting anything resembling a warm welcome when he'd found his way back to the Massachusetts Academy, which was probably why he'd been so shocked that not only were his old classmates expecting him, but they'd actually seemed... more or less pleased to see him.
Jubilee, of course, had informed him that he was going to have to buy her dinner again sometime, and had poked and prodded him in an attempt to get him to spill the beans on how his relationship with that cute goth girl back at Fandom was going. Angelo and Everett had greeted him with nods of their heads and obligatory statements of 'glad that mist didn't eat you or anything that one time,' in their own special ways. He'd made a point to pay Penny a visit, and she'd seemed to appreciate the apple that he'd brought for her. Monet was Monet. Paige was... Paige. And awkward. Sean was still Irish, Emma was still wearing white lingerie, and there was a new student by the name of Mondo. Big bloke. Seemed nice enough, though.
How in the world all of them with the exception of Emma and Penance had managed to fit into Sean's Jeep was a mystery to Jono. How they'd then managed to make the trip into Boston, crammed in there like sardines in a can, without clawing one another's eyes out? That wasn't a mystery so much as it was a miracle.
But they'd arrived, more or less in one piece, and all with their own ideas on how to spend the afternoon. Jubilee, Everett, Paige, and Mondo were all planning on heading out to go shopping, and Sean and Monet had some talking to do, apparently. After Jubilee accused Jono of being too important to hang out with them, and after Sean had given Angelo strict instruction to take good care of his Jeep after dropping Jono off where he needed to be, they were all told by Sean to meet in front of the opera house at seven, sharp.
That was plenty of time to do what he had to do.
"I don't get it, amigo," Angelo mused, smiling sidelong at Jono as he pulled the car out onto the road. "If you ain't looking forward to meeting with this chica..."
//Then why bother...?// Really, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what Angelo was getting at, there. //Because, Ange- Fer th'longest time, she was my one true. Gayle Edgerton was everything I ever wanted in a gel. She meant a lot t'me, back when m'life was normal... She used to make me smile, when I had a smile.//
He turned his gaze out the window toward the sidewalk as the jeep drove on. The longing for Gayle was gone, but that didn't make his feelings any less strong. Only now, guilt had swallowed up the romance, lit it on fire, and left it alone in London, battered and humiliated and broken.
//We 'ad good times.//
Angelo waved a hand dismissively at Jono before speaking.
"Por favor, Jono-- My grandmama always said, 'no one ever gets through a day by walking backwards.' What's past is dead, as far as I'm concerned."
//It ain't that simple, mate,// Jono replied, perhaps with a touch more melancholy than he'd intended to let show as the jeep pulled up in front of the address that Gayle had given him. He opened the door and started to climb out. //A lot went on 'tween Gayle and me. Perhaps more than I wanna remember... But I do know that I owe her. And I owe her big.//
"A-ha! A debt!" There was almost a hint of victory in Ange's voice, there. "That's different. See you later, muchacho! ¡Filos!"
And then the jeep was pulling away, Angelo's hand waving out the window, leaving Jonothon standing on the sidewalk with his guilt, and his dread, and his anxiety, and that fancy doorman, there.
It had taken some small amount of arguing to convince the man that he was, in fact, supposed to be here. There had been some talk about perhaps writing the local paper to tell them about discrimination against burn victims, which had made the man stammer almost satisfyingly before Jono relented and added that he did, in fact, have a reservation.
And now he was inside the restaurant, which was, unexpectedly but not completely surprisingly, entirely deserted. It was just like Gayle to reserve the entire restaurant so that they could have their talk in peace.
He sat down. And he waited.
And waited some more. He was here on time. And was it horrible of him to find himself hoping that Gayle would be a no-show? At least he could say that he'd tried, and-- Hello?
There was a Polaroid sitting face-down on the plate in front of him. Jono reached for it, flipped it over, and winced. It was himself and Gayle. Him with his guitar, arm slung over her shoulder. After some gig in London. He needed to close his eyes. Needed to get his head around that.
Oh, Gayle. What are yer doin' to me?
//Gayle! Yer startled me! I didn't...// Jono was pushing himself out of his seat with a start, turning around to see Gayle. Gayle, at the top of a shallow staircase in a purple dress and a wheelchair. Something lurched in his chest at that sight. //I...//
"As startled as I was when you just disappeared? When you left me alone?"
The 'after doing this to me' went unspoken. That was for the best. Jono wouldn't have been able to handle it if she'd said it.
//... I want to start by apologizing. Fer not writin'. Fer not stayin' in touch.// He turned his gaze to the tabletop. To the photo she'd left for him to find. //I wanted to. I swear t'yer. But I just couldn't find th'words...//
A small smile touched Gayle's lips at that, and she turned her face downward, eyes closed.
"Jon..." Just Jon. Not Jono. She'd never called him by the same nickname that everyone else had taken to using for him. He liked being Jon. It made him feel more grown-up, somehow. "Leave it be. It's water under the bridge now, luv. We all do what we've gotta to do keep on." She looked up at the same time as he did, and she held out her hand toward him. "Be a darling and help me down there, no?"
//Sure'n-// Jonothon's hand paused just inches away from Gayle's hand, and his eyes widened in shock. There was a mouth in her palm, gaping and toothy and smiling. //What?! Gayle, what're you--//
He couldn't manage more words. There was nothing else to be said, except for a heavy psychic protest as Gayle threw her arms forward toward him, burying her hands deep inside his chest, breaching the 'chamber' that Jonothon Starsmore had become, releasing the psionic energies that were a constant struggle for him to contain.
"Oh, Jonny. Did I tell you how good it is to see you again...?"
From the flat of his back on the floor, through his blurring vision and the flicker of his own blue flame, Jonothon could have sworn that he saw Gayle pull herself to his feet.
She was laughing as everything turned to fuzz, and then the fuzz turned to black.
[Cut for small novella, NFI and NFB for distance and tiiiime, and, of course, totally ganked from Generation X issue 12. Jono had to get this out of the way, omg. And OOC is love.]
- Boston, Massachusetts, 1995