Below her, Weston directed last minute preparations for the final transfer of his consciousness into the drugged form of Wolverine. She fought the urge to hurry as she saw Wolverine's body begin to move on the gurney as his healing factor fought to cleanse his system of the drugs.
She froze as she heard the far door of the warehouse swing open again. She watched as two large men threaded their way through the winding stacks of crates that filled the building.
"Hey Mick, ya in here?"
"Where have you two been?" The big man who had come in to see Weston earlier asked the two who now stood before him.
"Aww, Mick, you know we wouldn't leave ya hanging. Me and Charlie, we was just over at the Gilded Lily having a little fun. We're here now, just like we said."
Weston turned then from where he was examining Wolverine. "You can berate your employees later. It is time. He is waking up."
Weston pulled Mick closer. "Remember, once the transfer has begun, you cannot interrupt it. After it is completed, you can dump this shell. My new body will be in shock, so make sure that you are careful."
"Yeah, sure Weston. I know the drill."
"Just see that you remember it."
Above, Jubilee crouched on the catwalk over their heads in a state of near panic. Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. What I am gonna do? I'm not ready. I don't have a plan. That creep is going to take over Wolvie and I'm not ready yet. And then there wasn't time for thought anymore as blue light surrounded Weston and started reaching out towards the slowly moving Wolverine.
"Wolvie," she screamed, trying to get through his drug hazed mind, hoping desperately that her scream would wake him up and get him fighting. But the warning was too late and she was to far away to prevent Weston from beginning the transfer. She barely registered Mick when he pointed up at her and told the other two men to get her down from there. Her attention was focused solely on the unfolding drama beneath her as she watched in stunned horror as the blue glow surrounding Weston enveloped more and more of Wolverine's body.
As the glow reached Wolverine's face, she saw his eyes snap open to stare directly up into hers as if the 30 feet that separated them was no more than a few inches. The look on Logan's face sent Jubilee over the edge. She had seen Wolverine in all kinds of situations, at his best and at his worst, but she had never once seen him afraid. The fear and pain on his face snapped her.
Compared to many of her classmates, Jubilee's mutant power was under better control, but she knew that under times of stress, she had a tendency to lose the finer points of mastery. It was one of the reasons she had agreed to go over to Generation X rather than stay with the X-Men like she knew she could have. But this time she welcomed the loss, welcomed the uncontrolled tingling that started somewhere in her chest and flowed like quicksilver to her fingertips. Exploding firecracker-like plasma bursts surrounded her like a halo and quickly spread out to engulf the warehouse in a barrage of fire as she threw all caution to the wind and dove at the two men standing within the glow.
She was to late. She wasn't going to make it. She saw Weston's body drop and saw the blue glow center in Wolvie's eyes; heard Wolvie's anguished scream of pain and rage as his soul was forced from his body turn into a triumphant shout as Weston's soul took over its new host.
Then Jubilee was within the field, caught in the transfer. Logan's soul, torn from his own body with no where else to go, settled on Jubilee. She was stunned as she felt him settling about her shoulders like a warm cape. He wasn't completely gone, wasn't lost yet but he was losing strength, losing coherence. She could feel the love and regret and pride in her and then she felt the good-bye.
He was leaving her but she wasn't ready to let him go. She had just recently realized what he was to her, what he really meant in her life. She refused to lose that here; she and Wolverine had too much left to learn. She hadn't lived this long with telepaths and learned nothing so she dug up everything she had ever heard, the shielding lessons with the Professor, Emma, Jean, and even Jono, and laid aside every one of her shields, opened her heart and with every bit of stubborn will she possessed, she pulled Logan within her. For a split second, time seemed to stand still and then she screamed as agony seared along every nerve. She felt herself falling and couldn't see to stop herself and she just seemed to keep falling and falling while far away she heard voices that she knew should concern her but she couldn't seem to stop the fall long enough to listen.
"Weston . . ."
"Get her . . ."
"Leave her . . . must be going . . she's started . . fire . . . smoke will kill her . . ."
Then the pain rose up to finally stop the fall and Jubilee gave herself up the raging darkness.
A groan woke her up. For a split second she wished Paige would shut up so she could go back to sleep. The realization of cold concrete beneath her, not a soft warm bed made her open her eyes. Her head was pounding and she was lying in a pool of blood . . . her own blood it seemed.
"Ewww gross," she mumbled to herself as she jerked her head back from the sticky red pool.
Jagged edged pain exploded through her head. "Oww oww ow, too fast. Ok, Jubster. Let's try this again S-L-O-W-L-Y this time."
*Easy kid, take it slow. The pain in yer head is coming as much from me as from that bump on that thick skull of yours.*
Pushing herself into a kneeling position, she fought the nausea that threatened her. "Wolvie?" she gasped, coughing around his name as she got a lung full of the smoke that was the slowly filling the building.
*Yeah, I'm here.*
She couldn't quite contain the surge of triumph that went through her as she realized she had successfully absorbed him. She went still as the shock of what she had done hit her. She had absorbed him. "Oh wow, I've been . . . like possessed. This is so totally weird."
*Not exactly the word I'd have used but it'll do. Kid, ya ok? You seem awfully calm about this.*
"It's ok. I mean, it's just you and you wouldn't hurt me. And . . . and, well, I couldn't let you die. I couldn't." The last said with a fierce devotion that nearly undid him.
He was amazed with her all over again. Just when he thought he had her figured out, she'd threw him another curve. That this intensely independent girl would choose to give her loyalty to him never ceased to astound him. He didn't quite know what to say.
"Uhmm, Wolvie, I'm sorry."
That startled him. *What for?*
"I let you . . him . . . get away with you . . .I mean your body."
*Don't sweat it. He can't go far. He's got to rest and store back up on all the energy he expended doing the switch. Plus the ol' healing factor is going to have to deal with the drugs they were pumping into me. He can't go far and you were only out for a few minutes. You've managed to set the place on fire, which means that are being pushed to move now with no rest. We just got to go get them.* The mental voice turned darker as he continued, *Then we get my body back. So, kid, where did you leave the rest of the team?*
"Hmm, there isn't a rest of the team."
*Are you telling me that Cyke let you come after me alone. I'll . . .*
She could hear the outrage building in his mental voice. She interrupted before he got into a full tirade on Scott's parentage, "Uuh, Wolvie, he doesn't really know I'm here."
Silence filled her head, then a growled, *Explain.*
The explanation came out all in a rush, "Well, it was kind of like, well, see . . . Iknewyouwere introuble, nobodyelsedid. Theywouldn'tbelievemebecauseIcouldn'texplain. SoIditched`em, andcametotherescue.
"But they are on their way," she answered, trying to instill a little hope. "I sent a tracer signal about 2 hours ago when I got here to the warehouse and knew you were in serious trouble. If Gumbo got everyone into the Blackbird quickly, they could be here in 4 more hours."
*We can't wait. That bastard Weston could be anywhere in 4 hours. No help for it, we go after him ourselves.*
She cleared her throat, feeling more comfortable taking aloud even though she knew he only heard her in her head. "Wolvie, thanks for the vote of confidence here, but I can't exactly take you down."
*Got no choice, darling, not if we want to get me out of your head and back in my own body where I belong. Besides, Weston's going to be drained and in an unfamiliar body, it's going to take him awhile to get used to it. He'll be weak and disoriented. We won't get a better chance to take him down.*
"Not to burst your bubble or anything but I'm like kind of weak and disoriented myself here."
*Got any better ideas?*
"Guess not, but I want to lodge a formal complaint that I don't think this is a good idea."
*Darlin・, you passed the good idea stage when you came after me alone.* The tone was sharp, growled in a mental voice that was a mixture of pride, worry and fear for her. Silence again filled the back of her head, then she heard a quiet *Thanks, kid.*
She grinned as she began preparing herself for the fight that was to come. "Yer welcome. Besides, what's a good partner for if not to come halfway around the world to pull your nuts out of the fire."
She caught up with them outside of the warehouse; Mick half carrying Weston in Wolverine・s body and the other two lugging boxes of what looked like some kind of scientific equipment. They never noticed her, even when she stepped out of the shadows behind them.
・Hey, didn・t anyone ever tell you that Invasion of the Body Snatchers is just a movie?・ she yelled. As the four men turned in surprise, she let loose with a stream of pyrotechnics aimed directly at the man holding Weston upright.
Surprised and in pain, Mick reacted instinctually and let go of Weston to throw up in hands in front of his eyes in defense. Following up her advantage she gave a short running leap and kicked out with her booted heels, catching Mick in his unprotected chest. She rolled as she landed, coming up once more to stand lightly, poised for the next round.
Mick hauled himself upright, his hand pressed to his side where she was pretty sure she had broken at least two ribs. He was looking at her with amazement in his eyes. She could sympathize with his confusion very well. That wasn・t a move she knew. How the hell had she done that? She hadn・t even thought about it, had just simply gone into the flying leap kick when she saw her opening. She realized with a frisson of fear that she could have killed him. A few inches over and she could have shattered his sternum and stopped his heart with that blow rather than just break a few ribs. In that instant, she had *wanted* to kill him; a red-tinged part of her still did.
Wolverine. She understood now. Understood more than ever, and maybe more than she ever really wanted to know. She ached with the knowledge that he fought and controlled this rage every day of his life with no relief. She had always known that Wolverine could kill, had killed in the past, but she now stood face to face with the darkness within herself and within him and fought to bring it under her control. His knowledge, his skill, even his anger she could and would use, but she refused to yield to the wildness within him, binding it with ties he would not break; ties of love and loyalty and caring, ties of control that he willingly accepted from her. That battle lasted for an eternity and yet when Jubilee opened her eyes, Mick and his partners were only just starting to close in around her.
She grinned then at the men who surrounded her, putting as much brazen conviction into her smile as she could. If she had seen herself in a mirror she would have recognized that expression on her face as belonging to Logan. It was the grin of a long time barroom brawler. A grin that hinted at the feral nature bound within her, a grin that sent a shiver though more than one of men facing her.
From behind the loose circle around her she heard Weston call out, ・Kill her, you idiots.・
Flicking her eyes past the one called Charlie, she gave Weston a brief once over. He looked none to steady on his feet. He was hanging back from the 3 goons facing her and letting them do all the hard work. If she could get through them, then she might have a chance to get to Weston before he bolted. The fact that he was still here watching the fight said that he was seriously overconfident in their ability to take her down. The circle closed in. She muttered under her breath as she watched them tighten around her, "Why did the bad guys always have to be so damn big?"
Wolverine caught the stray thought and chuckled in the back of her mind. *The bigger they are the harder they fall darlin・.*
She just hoped the one falling wasn・t going to be her. She was bloodied, bruised and tired. About the only thing going for her at this point was she was also mad. Her own anger and Logan's almost beserker rage had mixed and fused to become an uncontrollable fury. Between her exhaustion and the psychic trauma of Logan's possession, that fury was pretty much the only thing keeping her on her feet.
"Surrender, little girl!" Mick demanded.
All right, that did it! She was getting really PO'd with the "children" comments. Who did these people think they were. Yeah, she was young . . . so. She'd show them "little girl."
"Who you calling little, toad-man."
A low growl in her head answered her. He was there. She took great comfort in that. Unlike many members of the various X-Teams, Wolverine, even at his beserker worst, had never scared her. The growl was soothing to her now. She was counting on it. She was too tired on her own, knew that if they were going to get out of this, he was going to have to carry her along. For truly there was a wild thing lose in her soul and she only had to hold it tightly leashed for a few seconds longer.
The circle closed. She looked to their leader, Mick, and gave him a small tired smile. "Sorry, dude." She let go of the leash.
He had already laid his memories open to her. She drew on those memories now, using combat skills learned in his lifetime as if they were her own; leaping, twisting, blocking, using martial arts skills honed long before she was ever born. As the rage within her colored her sight blood-red, she had one last coherent thought before the battle was truly begun . . . so this is what it is like to free the beast.
She knelt to check the pulse on the last of the three men. All were still alive. She had kept enough control to keep the Wolverine part of her from killing them, though they were not without injuries. She carried her own fair share from this night・s work. She really wished the X-Men would get here soon. She was tired and wanted desperately to turn this fight over to someone else.
The sound of a boot scuffing concrete alerted her. She turned to stand wearily, facing Weston.
"I'm impressed. Maybe I made a mistake in choosing this body and should have taken yours instead." He gestured, taking in the three unconscious men behind her and the now wildly burning warehouse, "If you can cause this much damage at your age, just think of the power you will have when you are seasoned and mature."
She snorted and wiped the back of her hand across her forehead. The blood, dripping from the cut at her hairline, stung her eyes as it slowly made its way down her face.
"Look, ya body thief, I want Wolvie back. So we can do this easy or we can do this hard."
"Oh, child, I think we will do this hard . . . hard for you."
As she heard the double *snick* that unloosed the bone claws from the back of his hands she knew she was in serious trouble. Weston had been able to rest while she fought and was now ready to finish her off himself. She didn't even have time to swear before he leaped. She dodged, twisting to the side. Looking up from her crouched position on the floor, she saw Weston smiling broadly, the expression wrong on Logan's face.
He leaped again. She attempted to dodge away from the long claws again but didn't quite make it away in time. She screamed as she went skidding across the wharf, the pain from the long gash in her leg nearly taking her breath away. She struggled to her feet in time to see him come at her one more time. Her leg, unable to hold her weight, collapsed beneath her and she went down before his charge, instinctually throwing up her hands in defense and focusing all of her remaining energy into one last desperate explosion. Her last thought as Logan crashed into her was that nothing had happened.
She blinked a few times, hearing Wolverine's voice. He sounded very close but she couldn't see him. Nor she discovered could she move. Panic set in as her disorientation increased. She fought against the large weight across her chest that was pining her to the ground. She tried to move, to push the uncomfortable weight away. Her hands came away covered with blood. Oh my God!
*Jubilee!* The shout finally penetrated the rising fog of panic engulfing her. Her training finally kicked in and she went still, panting hard, waiting for instructions from the one voice she trusted above all others.
"W-Wolvie?" she stammered, the memories of the last couple of hours rushing back to her.
*Damn, girl. Thought I lost ya there for a second.*
She rolled out from under Wolverine's body as she coughed, trying to pull the air back into her lungs. Putting more confidence in her voice than she really had at the moment she said, "I'm ok, just got the wind knocked out of me."
She looked down at the still body next to her. He wasn't moving. A flash of fear shot through her at the thought that she had killed him. Reaching out a shaky hand she touched a hard shoulder and rolled him over. His blood covered shirt was plastering wetly to his chest, which thankfully continued to rise in a slow but steady rhythm. Her stomach rolled as she came across 6 small burn holes drilled neatly and evenly across his stomach, obviously the source of all the blood.
*What in hell did that?*
"I don't know. He was running towards me and I put up my hands and then I don't know."
A soft but heartfelt , "Yeah!" echoed him.
*Ok, we figure that out later right now we got to get your leg wrapped up before you bleed to death and get him tied up tight before my healing factor kicks in and he comes to. We need some rope.*
They found a coil of stout rope outside one of the warehouses along with a small spool of wire. Wolverine, knowing his own strength, had her wrap the wire around the rope and hog tie his body tightly, his claws well away from the ropes themselves, explaining as they worked that he had made plenty of escapes because some fool didn't take into consideration that his claws could reach and cut through a rope.
Sitting on the ground next to the securely bound body of Wolverine she wondered how in the hell she was going to get him back to the hotel without someone asking awkward questions. Even in Madjipoor, you just can't haul an unconscious man bound hand and foot through the streets without raising a few eyebrows.
A sound jerked her from her thoughts and into a defensive crouch, the pain from her leg wound making her vision swim, her hands balled into fists at her side. The light from her claws cast strange shadows across the wharf. Claws?? She looked down in confusion and slowly raised her hands until they were eye level. "Oh. . . "
*Damn, would ya look at that. Looks like we know where those marks came from.*
Sprouting from the back of her slim hands were 6 slender spikes of twisting multicolored plasma. They pulsed faintly with a soft glow, looking for all the world like Wolverine's claws but made up of her pyrotechnics.
"Wolvie? I got a dumb question for ya."
"How do I get them to go away?"
*Dunno. I just retract mine.*
A faint *POP* and the light disappeared accompanied by fervent, "Wow."
Whatever or whoever had made the noise evidently decided that she was not something they wanted to tangle with this evening. But the noise had hit home the need to get away from the waterfront. The local authorities and the curious had stayed away for the time being, so as not to get involved in what looked like some kind of mob skirmish, but soon the local fire fighters were going to have to show up if just to keep the neighboring warehouses from catching fire. But she was so damn tired, all she wanted to do was sit down somewhere.
*Come on darlin・, you've done a great job. Ya can't quit now.*
"I want a nap."
*Nap later, kid. We need to get my body stashed somewhere before he wakes up and starts making a fuss.
She closed her eyes for a second then heard the faint sound of sirens in the distance. Damn, she thought, I was hoping for a few minutes more. She opened her eyes and went to look down at the unconscious Wolverine/Weston. Well, she certainly wasn't going to be able to carry him anywhere; that left dragging.
They were holed up in an warehouse two buildings down from the one she had just torched. She'd have preferred to have gotten farther away but she was just too tired and Wolverine's body entirely to heavy, especially with the wound in her leg. She had bound it as best she could but it was still seeping blood. She had reached the limits of her endurance, even now she was using a long splinter she had pried from the wooden wall to jab herself in the thigh just to stay awake. She really wished the X-Men would get here soon. Weston was beginning to stir in his sleep and she was afraid that he would wake up soon. She didn't think she could face him again.
*Hang in there, kid. Ya got to keep talking to stay awake. Hard ta imagine you to tired to talk.*
She forced a chuckle but her heart wasn't in it.
*Tell me how you knew I was in trouble.*
"Nightmares." She was to tired to even try to suppress the shudder that went though her small frame at the reminder of those dark and terrifying dreams. "I didn't understand they were from you until later. And then, like duh, I figured that out and well, here I am."
*Got a sneaky suspicion that it wasn't that simple.*
"Yeah, well, you could say that." She gave a small half-hearted snort of amusement. "Cyke's gonna go loony-tunes and I don't even want to think about her Queenship." She lowered her head down to rest on her knees. "Wolvie, I'm so tired."
*I know, darling, the X-Men'll be here soon.*
As if in answer to that assertion, Jubilee heard the warm mental voice of Jean Grey fill her mind. *Jubilee?*
*Jean?!?* The relief flooding over the contact.
*We are over Madjipoor. Where are you?*
With the bone weariness tainting even her mental voice she replied, *Waterfront district. Abandoned warehouse two down from the one that's burning.* With just the faintest trace of pride she added, *Ya can't miss it.*
*We are on our way* As Jean pulled away from the contact, Jubilee felt warmth and support flood back down the mental connection, strengthening and sustaining her just a little bit longer.
They came in the back way to avoid the firefighters and onlookers milling around on the wharf. Gambit was the first through the door into the warehouse with the rest of the team streaming in behind him, alert and ready for trouble. Gambit's expression was an almost funny mixture of worry and guilt. He didn't even bother with checking his perimeter as he hurried straight to Jubilee's side.
"Cherie . . ."
She gave the Cajun an exhausted smile from her spot on the floor. "Hey Gumbo, next time you want to come on vacation with me and I tell ya no, smack me upside the head."
Doing a quick count of the various bumps, cuts, bruises and abrasions that seemed to be covering Jubilee, Gambit turned to call out over one shoulder, "Hank, mon ami, I tink we need your help."
Beast took one look at the blood-covered Jubilee and bounded over to her side, exclaiming under his breath at each quickly catalogued injury. Jean came through the door after Cyclops, her face paling as she caught sight of the bound and gagged Wolverine on the floor. "Logan!!"
"No!" Jubilee yelled as Jean knelt down to untie Wolverine. She was somewhere past exhaustion but struggled to her feet to shoot a stream of hot plasma bursts between Jean and Logan. Jean jerked, turning stunned eyes to Jubilee. The rest of the team froze in their tracks, startled from Jubilee's reaction and unable to believe that she had just fired on Jean.
Jubilee stood, swaying slightly. Hank and Remy moving to give her needed support at her side. "Sorry. That ain't Wolvie." She stopped, seeing the expressions on their faces. She tried again. "Well, it is Wolvie and it isn't Wolvie. Or . . . it's Wolvie's body but not Wolvie's mind . . . if ya know what I mean." She rolled her eyes, great, now she was babbling. "Oh, just scan him, you'll see. He ain't home."
Jean turned back to look down at the man bound at her feet. Narrowing her eyes in concentration she performed a light scan and gasped in surprise, "Oh my God. That's not Logan."
"Told ya." Within her mind she heard Logan chuckle at the startled looks turned in her direction. *Better tell them what's what, darling, before they all start yelling questions at ya."
All of the X-Men turned to Jubilee, the questions plain to read on their faces. Both Jean and Scott were already spitting out a rapid stream of questions.
"People, people. A little class here." She yawned and blinked her eyes a few times to clear her blurring vision. When she had their attention once more she gave them all a tired grin. "I'll give ya the short version now and we can do details . . ." She never finished the thought as her eyes rolled up in her head. Remy caught her as she slumped to the ground.
"Hank?" Scott questioned, his concern for Jubilee softening his usually stern voice.
"It would seem that our erstwhile junior member is suffering from a excess of exhaustion and I believe a broken rib among other things. I deem her condition to be fairly stable given the circumstances however, it behooves me to mention that she is suffering from blood loss, shock, and would probably be much more comfortable in the Shi'ar medical scanner on the Blackbird." Motioning to Gambit to follow with Jubilee, he set off with a bound towards the waiting Blackbird.
One more chapter to go.