Homecomings:Chapters 29-30

by Alex Cartwright

Chapter Twenty-Nine: King of Pain

Scott Summers adjusted his ruby-quartz, wraparound sunglasses nervously, sitting back in the metal chair across from Jubilee's bed in the med-lab. No longer in his black leather field uniform and visor, he was now dressed in a striped, banker shirt, a pair of gray wool slacks and a pair of black loafers. It had been several hours since he and his team had returned to the mansion from their mission, bordering on late afternoon.

After debriefing the Professor as to how things had went, he and Jean immediately went to the med-lab area. Unfortunately, by the time they arrived, Jubilee had fallen asleep. However, they were able to meet with Hank, who assured both of them that she was fine and was only resting comfortably. The blow she had received from Sabretooth was not severe enough to cause any trauma to her skull or any other injuries other than the bruise on her forehead. After conducting a mental status exam, Hank was relieved to find that her memory and other cognitive abilities were perfectly intact.

Scott decided to relieve an exhausted Gambit from keeping watch over the young girl. He thanked him for saving Jubilee, noticing how quiet and subdued the usually gregarious Cajun thief was. If he weren't so concerned about Jubilee, Scott would have asked what was going on with Gambit. However, he quickly dismissed it as the New Orleans native being preoccupied with Rogue.

Scott rubbed his chin wearily, the stubble rough under his fingers. When Rogue had informed him about what had happened, he had been tempted to take the Blackbird back to Westchester. Her assurances that Jubilee was fine were not sufficient enough for him. He needed to know for himself that she was not badly hurt. As soon as he was able to sit in the room with her, his anxiety for her well being had faded. Now, he could see for himself that she was safe and that she was doing fine.

What was distressing was the fact that Creed had actually gotten on the grounds in the first place. While Gambit reported that Logan was dealing with him, a survey of the grounds and the surrounding areas by Rogue and Storm in the air turned up nothing. Jean attempted to locate the two men by using her telepathy, but was only receiving faint, vague information. However, she was able to reassure Scott that Creed was far from the mansion.

Scott was at first undecided as to who he was more furious with--- Sabretooth or Logan. The former, he knew, was quite capable of terrible things. The man was a psychopath, who fed on the pain and anguish of others. During their many clashes, Scott had the opportunity to observe that side of the man. While it was horrifying what could have happened, it was not surprising that Creed was about to rape Jubilee for entertainment while waiting to attack Logan.

Then there was Logan. Scott was well aware that the man had become quite peeved because he perceived that he was being replaced. Even though he never explicitly said anything, Scott could still sense the other man's resentment towards him. It was obvious in the way Logan looked at him, especially when he and Jubilee were together. Yet, as much as Logan claimed to care for the girl, to be angry over not being the number one man in her life, he was not here by her side. Instead, he chose to take revenge against an old enemy. It was as if he would rather get some of his aggression out than be there for Jubilee.

Looking at her now, Scott was reminded of his own son, Nathan, and the rush of feelings he experienced when he and Jean were caring for him. It was a mixture of love and the feeling that he would lay down his own life in order to ensure the child's safety. When he and Jean had discussed their options the evening before, he could tell his wife shared his sentiments as well. Before this incident, they had been talking about starting a family. He had expressed reservations, uncertain of his readiness to be a father. Sitting with Jubilee now, Scott realized that he was more than ready.

Scott quietly rose from his chair, leaning over the railing of the bed to check on Jubilee. Then he slipped outside the room to grab a bottle of water. His mouth had grown increasingly dry like cotton.

As he strode towards the kitchen in the laboratory, he noticed Jean, in her short-sleeved, fuchsia sweater and navy, A-line skirt, talking quietly to someone in the doorway. Her facial expression reflected concern while she was engaged in this conversation. Venturing closer to where she was standing, Scott's mouth formed a frown. He made it clear he was not pleased when he finally reached her side.

"Oh, Scott," Jean said, turning her face to meet his. She extended a graceful hand to hold his. Immediately, she could sense her husband's irritation.

He took it, grasping it tightly. "Hello, Jean." Then he turned to the other person she had been talking to. "Logan." His voice was steely as he addressed him.

Logan raised a stony brow at him. "Cyclops." He looked like he had been dragged to the gates of hell. His dark hair had been rumpled. The clothes he was wearing---worn leather jacket, red flannel shirt, gray T-shirt underneath, and faded jeans with boots---were torn in different places. While Logan appeared to be unhurt thanks to his healing ability, there were patches of dried blood, mud, and grass stains on various spots of clothing. He appeared haggard, his face drawn with lines. It was almost as if he aged some additional years since the last time Scott had seen him. Apparently, dealing with Sabretooth the night before took some years off of him.

Jean cleared her throat. "Scott, I was just filling Logan in on how Jubilee's doing," she explained, her voice now even. "Thankfully, she's going to be fine."

Scott nodded stiffly. "Thankfully," he echoed.

Logan narrowed his eyes. He could tell the choir boy wanted to say something at that moment. However, he could tell One-Eyed was holding himself back because Jean was around. "I'm goin' in to see her," he finally announced, deciding that he had enough confrontations for the time being. He slipped between the couple and began to make his way to the room where Jubilee was staying.

"I don't think that's a good idea," Scott called over his shoulder. Jean gave him a quizzical look.

Logan turned around, scowling. "Why the hell not?" he demanded.

Scott crossed his arms. "She's asleep."

Logan shrugged. "Don't worry, Cyke. I'll be as quiet as a church mouse. Besides, I want to see her for myself."

Just as the other man was going to enter her room, Scott asked, "Where were you just now?"

"Scott.." Jean looked up at her husband with pleading eyes. Not now. Please.

Logan's face was as cold as the steel walls of the area. "Why do you need to know?" he countered.

The bespectacled man shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. "I was just curious. I mean, after finding out that Jubilee was hurt, I would have thought you would be by her side."

"I had somethin' to take care of." Logan's response even sounded cryptic to him.

"Sabretooth? How did that go? Did you win?" Scott pressed his lips together.

Logan narrowed his eyes as he sauntered where Scott and Jean were standing. "Where are you going with this?" he asked cautiously.

"I'm concerned about Jubilee's safety."

"So am I."

"Really? Hard to tell since you decided to go after Sabretooth instead of taking care of her. Fortunately, Gambit was around to do what you couldn't."

"You weren't even there. You don't know."

"You're right. But I do know while I would have wanted to tear Sabretooth apart, I would have taken care of her first."

"I was taking care of her."

"Getting revenge was taking care of her?"

"It's not about that, and you know it. I care about that kid more than you know. More than anything in the world."

"Oh, come on, Logan. You care more about how the slime ball violated your turf than you do about Jubilee. That was clearly evident when you took off to have it out with him. I think she's been through enough already."

"Go to hell, Cyclops."

"It's true, isn't it?"

"Shut up. I did what I had to do."

"And what exactly was that?"

"Makin' sure that piece of trash never hurts Jubilee again."

"By abandoning her to satisfy your violent urges? Real effective, Logan."

"Look, pal, you can take your accusations and shove them up your.."

Before Logan could finish his sentence, Jean jumped between the two men. She placed her palms on both of their chests in the hopes of preventing any physical confrontations. "Stop it, both of you. All of this is not helping." She glared at Logan first, then at her husband. "No one but Victor Creed is to blame for what happened to Jubilee. And, it doesn't matter how one of you would have handled the situation. The important thing is that she's going to be fine.

"It's clear that the two of you love her," the statuesque redhead continued firmly, "She knows that. So, it shouldn't be some sort of sick contest between the two of you.. But Scott's right. She's been through enough already. How is seeing the two of you fight supposed to make things better? It's not going to change anything."

Scott pursed his lips, wincing slightly at his wife's tirade. Deep down, he knew she was right. The last thing Jubilee needed was to awaken to the sound and sight of him and Logan arguing. She was probably still shaken up about facing off with Creed. However, there was a part of Scott that was very wary of allowing the loner anywhere near her at this moment. Logan was a wild man, a savage. Logan was the one who was more concerned about handling situations with violence.

He was also a man who clearly loved the child. As much as Scott wanted to tell Logan that he could not see her, he could not deny how the other man felt about her. He was also forced to admit that their relationship had been a source of stability for the both of them. Perhaps seeing Logan would be reassuring to Jubilee.

Scott stepped aside from the doorway, sighing. He couldn't stand it when he was wrong. It made things harder for him to let go. Things made less sense to him. There was also his pride to think about as well. Gruffly, he said, "Jubilee's down the hall. Remember, she's sleeping."

Logan eyed him cautiously. While it wasn't an apology, it was probably the closest thing he was going to receive to the proverbial olive branch from Scott Summers. In response, he nodded. Then he turned on his heel to walk to her room.

Jean gave her husband an encouraging smile. "Now was that so hard?" she inquired while kissing the back of his hand gently.

Scott sniffed haughtily. There was a part of him that theorized she had something to do with his softening. Instead of calling her on it, he gritted his teeth. "You have no idea, Jean."

"Come on," Jean said, struggling to hide a smile and leading him to the elevators to the main floor. "Let's go ask Cook to make up some of those strawberry pancakes Jubilee likes. Maybe if you're still a good boy, I'll ask her to make some for you."

Logan quietly opened the steel door. The smell of antiseptic immediately flooded his nostrils as he closed it behind him. He hated this part of the mansion. It always brought back memories of his surgery all those years ago. He stiffened involuntary, trying to shake his head of those vivid thoughts.

"Did you catch the bad guy?"

Logan's eyes widened when he saw Jubilee sitting up in the hospital-style bed. Other than the small bruise on the side of her forehead, she looked no worse for wear. He walked to her beside, taking a seat in one of the metal chairs next to her. Looking at her now, she appeared quite small and fragile, almost like the little girl he had met in Australia all those years ago and not like the older child he had returned to.

He exhaled loudly, trying to muster a carefree grin. Quickly, he stopped himself since he knew it was not his style. "You scared me, kid," he said, taking both of her tiny hands in his. "How are you doing?"

Her sapphire blue eyes peered down at the rough, weathered hands that held hers. "My head hurts and the rest of me feels like someone sat on me for hours. Other than that, peachy." As she struggled to change her position, she winced slightly.

He sighed. "I'm sorry."

"For what? Last time I checked, it was Sabretooth who knocked me out, not you." She studied him quizzically.

He shook his head emphatically. "No, I didn't. But in a way, it's my fault."

"How so?" she asked, still confused.

"Because of me, he attacked you. He was trying to get to me." Logan's shoulders slumped dejectedly. "If I hadn't come back, you wouldn't have gotten hurt. You would be safe and sound."

She leaned against the overstuffed pillows that were propping her up. Her expression was one of disbelief. "What? That's not true."

"Let's face it," he said flatly. "I'm not good for you, kid."

She shook her head, still surprised. "That's crazy. None of this is your fault. You didn't make him attack me."

"But still, kid.. All those times the bastard's got to you, it was all because of me. It's the story of my life, Jubes. Everyone I care about gets hurt or worse."

"I'm OK, though."

"This time, but what about the next time? Seeing you like that, I.. I don't think I was ever so scared in my life."

"You were scared?"

"Yeah, kid. I was scared. You were hurt really bad and I thought I was going to lose you. Now, it goes to show that I'm no good to anyone. You're better off if I left. I'd just attract trouble."

"If anything, you're good for me, Wolvie."

"How do you figure?"

"Well, when Sabretooth first came out at me, I was so scared. I don't think I could remember the last time I felt like that. Honestly, I was hoping it was some kind of bad dream. Then it became really clear that it wasn't. So, I had to think of what you would do. I knew you would want me to fight him, not to be his victim. I wanted to be brave for you. I wanted to show you I could try to take care of myself. So I paffed him with everything I had."

"I saw your handy work. His healing abilities weren't helping him grow his hair and eyebrows back."

"Cool." A small smile of satisfaction crossed her pink lips. She wasn't able to reflect on the harm she had inflicted on him since Creed immediately dealt the blow that knocked her out. From the tone of voice Logan had used, he sounded somewhat proud of her.

The two of them lapsed into silence for a few minutes. Logan pulled the steel railing of the bed down to get closer to her. He tried to absorb what she had said. He wanted so desperately to believe what she said--- that he was good for her, that he had helped her to survive her encounter with Creed. However, there was that ever-present negative voice inside of him, filling him with doubts. To him, he was still that savage monster he had always been.


"Yeah, kid?"

"Where were you? I'm not mad. It's just that I was really worried about you. Sabretooth doesn't really take it easy on adults, either."

"I'm OK, kid. I took care of him."

"You did? Well, how?" One thing that the older Jubilee never outgrew was her love of Wolverine's stories about fighting the bad guys. To her, they were better than any Grimm fairy tale.

He stared into those lovely, sapphire blue eyes. There was a richness and sparkle to their color. While they reflected a mature quality to their owner, there was still a sense of childishness to them as well. They were hypnotic, ensnaring Logan into their depths. Every time he looked at them, he could not help but to be candid. They made it hard to protect her from him sometimes.

"I.. All you need to know is that I took care of it." Logan's gaze went to the corner of the bed.

Jubilee frowned at him. "What does that mean?" She didn't like how he was being evasive just then.

He shrugged. "It means I took care of it."

It was then she completely took him in. Logan's healing ability helped to erase any evidence of scarring, blood, or bruising. His clothes, however, were more indicative that he had been engaged in a struggle. Torn, and caked with mud and grass stains, it was obvious they had seen better days. She also noticed something else.

Blood. Lots of blood. Dried patches almost everywhere.

Logan followed her stare. Then he bowed his head down, unable to even meet her face. He attempted to pull his hands from hers. He was surprised to find the kid had a tenacious grip. Clearly, she was not going to allow him to wriggle away so easily.

"Wolvie? Wolvie, what happened?" Gone was the hint of the child he thought he saw before, replaced by the older Jubilee.

Logan shook his head. "Kid.."

"Please. You don't need to protect me." Her voice was placid and solemn. She took a deep breath and said, "Wolvie, did you.. What happened? What did you do?"

Logan looked up at her face. There was no judgment, no fear, and no revulsion. Instead, there was only concern. As much as he wanted to hold back from her, he found himself slowly breaking down his wall of inhibitions. He cleared his throat, hoping that he would be able to finish what he was about to say.

"I wanted to protect you," he began quietly, "I wanted to make sure that bastard never got his hands on you again. He even told me that if he had another chance, he would try to get to you. Everyday, every hour, every minute, every second, I would have to look over my shoulder, worried if Creed was out there, lurking. I couldn't let him hurt you again, kid. I decided to make sure it would never happen."

He looked away from her face; his own filled with the weariness that constantly tore at him. "After Gambit took you away, Creed and I kept fightin'. Then I got the better of the bastard. I had him right where I wanted him. That look on his face---I had him, kid, and he knew it. My claws were out and ready to shred him into a million pieces. I was so pissed I could see myself doin' it. I could see myself covered with his blood and not carin' 'cause I kept you safe. Jubes, I lost it."

She waited for him to go on. When he did not do so immediately, she asked, "Then what?" Part of her wanted him to stop right there, her own imagination filling the blanks. The images that filled her head were bloody, violent, and contained much of the rage she knew Logan was capable of. However, she needed to know for sure what truly occurred. She wanted to believe that something else happened.

"Then I saw your face. I kept seein' how afraid you would be. I kept seein' how disgusted you would be.. I couldn't have that either. It hurt more than anythin' else. More than any fight I've been through, more than seeing you grown up and not being that little girl anymore.. And, as angry as I was and as much as I wanted to make that mothaf***er pay for what he did to you and for what he was saying he wanted to do to you, I knew I was gonna lose you if I killed him. You would always look at me and think of me as some wild animal to be scared of. That was the last thing I wanted.

"So I stopped myself. It was hard, but I did it. The piece of trash was still out cold. I still had my chance to take care of him."

Jubilee inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. In spite of his past dealings and what others around the mansion thought of him, she always believed that there was a rational side of him that could transcend the violent part of him. It sounded as if the rational side of him won the night before. Still, there was the question as to what exactly happened to Victor Creed. Since Logan chose not to kill him as he wanted to, then what? Her brows were raised expectantly as if to tell him, "Go on".

Logan took his silent cue, sighing. "So I dragged him to the hangar and threw him in one of the jets," he said, picturing himself tie up Creed with ropes and chains he had found nearby. "Then I pulled a Rogue."

"A Rogue?" The young girl gave him a funny look. "What does that mean?"

"I dropped Creed over Antarctica. Figured all that hair's gonna keep him warm." Logan smirked at his own joke. "Anyway, it's gonna take him a while to get outta there." While he sympathized with Gambit for being left isolated and with no means of surviving, his blood ran cold for Creed. With no means of surviving the cold, desolate land or leaving, the bastard was going to be lucky to die quickly. No food or shelter and dropping temperatures all combined to make things quite difficult. If Logan weren't so upset now, he would have smiled.

After a long silence, she said softly, "You did good, Wolvie."

It was his turn to give her a funny look. "Kid, I almost got you killed. Because of me, that jerk attacked you and hurt you. How is that good?"

"I'm not talking about that. That was never your fault. I was talking about how you handled Sabretooth."

"What do you mean?"

"It means that you didn't let the animal out. You said it yourself. You could have easily killed him like that. But you didn't. You proved that you're better than that."

"Better than that?" He shook his head. "You're better off without me. Kid, I'm just damaged goods. Always have been; always will be. You don't need that."

"No, that's not true. You saved me tonight. You took care of that monster." Her smooth, warm palms cupped his face gently. "Why is it so hard for you to believe that you're not the failure you think you are? You always strive for this ideal---a model of courage, honor and valor. But then you discount it because you think you're nowhere near that. You become so consumed with those thoughts that you don't see that you've already achieved this ideal. It's like it's easier for you to hide in your self-doubts than to admit that you're worth something."

As much as he wanted to dismiss what she had just said, her words rang with a certain sense of truth. He did do all those things. After being regarded as some kind of wild savage who was viewed as some kind of science experiment gone terribly wrong, it was hard not to think that way. He simply ingrained that into his daily mode of thinking. He was a freak and an animal not capable of anything other than killing. There were many in his past that could attest to that.

Yet, he could tell from the way the girl was staring into his face that she could see some light. Jubilee was speaking from her heart and from her own experience knowing him after all this time. She never stopped believing in him even during those years he had been away. If she saw hope in him, maybe it was worth considering.

Logan exhaled loudly as his shoulders slumped slightly. He nodded in her direction. "Got any room there?" he asked, referring to the bed she was resting in. "I'm tired."

"You've had a long night," she commented, shifting to one side. Then she patted the vacant spot invitingly. "Just don't drool on me."

He grunted at her, climbing into the bed. Wrapping an arm around Jubilee's slim shoulders, Logan pulled her head to his chest. He then closed his eyes. As he drifted into slumber, he could not recall the last time he had felt so at peace in some time.

Chapter Thirty: All I Want

"So, how does it feel to have your wings clipped?" Bobby asked his newly married cousin wryly as they walked with Warren to the wine bar in the spacious reception hall of the Long Island country club the Drake family belonged to. His gray eyes peered sheepishly at his friend. "No offense, man."

Warren shrugged, quite used to Bobby's sense of humor. "None taken, Bobby."

Joel finished ordering three glasses of Chardonnay from the bartender. He turned to his friends and shook his head. "If you're referring to me officially committing the rest of my life to the woman I love, it's pretty good."

Bobby made a face. "Officially committing the rest of my life to the woman I love?" he mocked, leaning against the wood railing of the bar. "Have you been reading her Harlequin novels again?"

Joel smirked, passing him a glass of wine. "This coming from the man whose idea of romance is a bucket of fried chicken and watching reruns of The A- Team," he teased. He and Warren laughed.

Bobby feigned sarcastic laughter of his own. He then imbibed most of his wine in one sip. "Some chicks like that kind of stuff," he responded defensively, "Besides, I haven't had time to refine my skills at romancing."

Since that night he was confronted by Gambit, Bobby made a conscious effort to focus his attention on Joel's wedding. Not that he had a great amount of responsibility as the best man. Besides keeping the wedding bands and writing up a witty speech for the reception dinner, there was not much for him to do. Well, there was his offer to do stand-up at the reception, but Joel would have nothing to do with that.

The end result was a picture-perfect Protestant ceremony at St. Paul's with all the details set into place. The groom and his groomsmen in their traditional tailored black tuxedos. Bobby had wanted to wear a Hawaiian shirt under his, but was promptly scolded by his mother and the other women involved in the wedding planning. Joel's wife looked radiant walking down the aisle in a strapless, cream-colored gown with a long train and hand- made, French-lace veil. The flowers at the church---cream-colored roses with baby's breath---had been arranged throughout the church, complementing the soft music from the string quartet hired. Vows were tenderly exchanged without any dramatic pauses. After an hour, the bride and groom triumphantly marched down the aisle as Mr. and Mrs. Joel Drake.

His mother and his Aunt Cathy had taken care of much of the preparations with the bride's family. Mrs. Drake had recently taken up baking special cakes as a hobby and provided her services to her nephew. Here at the reception, she baked a four-tiered, white cake with Nutella filling and lemon-butter, white frosting. The decorative piece of the cake was two white doves, spun from sugar.

Unfortunately, the dearth of duties left Bobby with plenty of time to ruminate. Time to ruminate about things left unsaid. Time to ruminate about feelings he still carried despite his efforts to push them aside. Time to ruminate about someone he wanted to be with desperately.

As soon as he was on the road, he regretted not being able to see Jubilee before he left for home. His nightly visits had become a ritual for him, something he looked forward to at the end of the day. It was during those visits that he truly felt at ease. There was no anxiety about needing to perform his role as the clown. Being Bobby Drake was fine enough for Jubilee.

Many times he found himself considering dialing up Scott and Jean's phone number to talk to her in order to explain things. There were times when he had his cell phone in hand, ready and waiting to hear her voice again. Each time, there was always something that forced him to hang up as soon as the second ring came.

His own internal resolve that in the end, Gambit was right.

Bobby narrowed his eyes, finishing off the rest of his Chardonnay. No, he affirmed to himself inwardly, things are better this way. She'll be happy and I can be miserable for the rest of my life---like it should be.

"Hey, slow down, Bobby," Warren said, a worried frown creasing his blond brows. In all the years he had known Drake, he had never seen him down a drink quite that fast. Even during their trip to Las Vegas, Bobby did not guzzle his alcohol.

Joel grabbed the empty wine glass from his cousin by the stem. "Yeah, slow down---until after you give your speech. Then you can get blasted all you want." He met the gaze of his wife who was talking with her parents and his sister, Mary. He waved to her, instantly receiving her mental summons. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm needed for a family gathering."

Warren watched the shorter, balding Drake cousin strut towards the other side of the room. "I don't know if I'll ever get where he's at," he mused, loosening his blue-gray silk tie.

Bobby looked quizzical. "What do you mean?" he asked.

"You know, settle down with one woman for the rest of my life." Warren took an olive martini puff from a passing waiter.

Bobby observed Warren's date, Paige Guthrie, who was dancing with Hank on the dance floor. The two made an odd couple---a lithe blonde in a sleeveless, cotton navy gown with a slit up the side and black heels with a blue, feline-like creature in a black tuxedo and white shirt that barely fit his large, hulking frame. "So, Paige is just someone to occupy your time?"

"I didn't say that," Warren shot back. He shrugged after a moment of silence between them. "It's just that I don't know where things stand with her. I don't know if we would get to the point where we'd be here." He waved a tanned hand at the reception hall.

"I didn't know you were feeling pressured to settle down, Warren," Bobby teased.

The taller man took a sip of his wine. "I'm not. But it's something I think about sometimes. Seeing Scott and Jean, and now Joel, I wonder if I could find that kind of happiness with someone; the person that makes you feel whole and completely right for this world. You've got to admire those people who have that kind of contentment with another person."

Bobby suddenly felt uncomfortable---his palms began to sweat and his bow tie was almost constricting his airway. He had not confided his feelings about Jubilee to Warren or Hank, whom he considered his closest friends. Hearing Warren speak just now, Bobby felt as if the other man knew. He tried to shake his paranoia off, reminding himself that Warren was no psychic.

Quickly, he decided to change the subject. "So, where have you, Hank, and Paige been? We had the rehearsal dinner last night and none of you showed. What gives? I needed moral support for my part as the best man."

Warren took another sip of his drink. "Sorry, but there were some things happening back at the mansion."

"Like what?" Bobby demanded, motioning for his friend to follow him to the other bar where beer and other alcoholic drinks were being served. When they arrived there, he ordered a Newcastle and began to ice the glass to his liking.

Warren finished his wine and placed his glass on the bar. "Like Sabretooth getting on the grounds of the mansion," he replied, contemplating whether or not he should have another drink. After a few seconds, he broke down and requested a martini.

"Oh man," was the only thing Bobby could think of to say. While he never had the pleasure of taking on Creed, Bobby was aware of what kind of violent psychopath the man was. Most of the information he received was primarily from Logan and the Professor. One of the anecdotes Logan shared during a debriefing session involved Sabretooth taking out an entire Inuit village, including women and children, just because he was bored. In short, this was not the type of guy a person wanted to bring home to meet their family.

"Yeah. He took out one of the cameras so security never knew he was around."

"Yikes. So, I take it Logan was around to take care of the sleaze?"

"What do you think? Like he'd let anyone else get a piece of his old buddy?"

"How foolish of me. I should have known. So, all of you had to stay behind to clean up whatever Logan left of Sabretooth?"

"Not quite."

"Well, then what?"

"I stayed back to help Rogue track down one of the X-Jets--turns out Logan took one to drop Sabretooth over Antarctica...."


"And Paige stayed back to debrief Scott about the breach since she was on security detail at the time. She still blames herself, even though it was clearly not her fault."

"What about Hank? Was anyone hurt?"

"Unfortunately, yes, but not too badly."

"Who was it?" Secretly, Bobby was hoping Gambit had been the victim of Creed's indiscriminate wrath. While he had agreed with the Cajun thief that night about his decision, he was still upset nonetheless. The thought of a mild ass kicking for that smug bastard was enough to make him smile.

Warren took a sip of his martini, which was dry---the way he liked it. He finally answered, "Jubilee."

Bobby's smile faded as the guests began to make their way to their assigned tables. "Is she OK?"

"Yes, she's fine," his friend replied reassuringly. He became somewhat alarmed when he observed the younger man's face draw itself into an anxious and grim expression.

"What do you mean by OK?" Bobby demanded, his fingers gripping his glass tightly. He was unaware of the thin layer forming around the Pilsner. "What did that monster do to her?" As he waited for Warren to answer, flashing images of horrific possibilities raced through his mind. He prayed none of them actually happened.

Warren eyed his friend cautiously. The way Bobby was holding the glass; he was likely to break it into shards any minute. Carefully, he pried it from his friend's fingers and placed it on the bar behind them. "She's fine, really. Hank and Cecilia took good care of her and everything."

"You didn't answer my question," Bobby snapped, insulted by Warren's attempts to assuage his concerns like a child. "What happened to Jubilee?"

Warren frowned at him, concerned. "Easy, easy. Just take a deep breath and relax.."

"Easy nothing." Bobby wanted to grab the millionaire playboy by the lapels of his navy, double-breasted jacket and shake him, but realized he did not want to create a scene. Most of the guests were now settled in their seats, waiting for the new couple and the best man to be seated for the toast. Had he not heard about Jubilee, Bobby would have been the first to be at the table, warming the crowd up before his speech.

He leaned towards Warren, his gray eyes steely. "Tell me what happened to her. Now. Please."

In all the years Warren knew Bobby Drake, he had never seen him act this way. The carefree jokester was now replaced with a man who was so desperate, so scared, and so serious. It was as if he were talking about someone he cared about a great deal, more than he would a person he just considered a casual friend. He was sure Bobby would never react this way if it were Hank or Rogue that got hurt. It was not that he would not care, but he would not express this amount of concern. Drake was upset and furious that Creed had harmed Jubilee, much like Logan was. There was the same over protectiveness he saw in Bobby's eyes that he saw in Logan's while visiting Jubilee in the infirmary. The last time Warren had seen Bobby respond similarly to the way he was right now was when he was dating Lorna.


"Sabretooth caught her by surprise and knocked her out," Warren began slowly, trying to process his conclusion mentally. It was still too much for him to think about at the moment. "She was out cold for a while, but woke up and checked out fine. If you don't believe me, you can ask Hank."

Bobby's jaw was firmly set as he began to make his way to his furry friend sitting at a table nearby. "I think I will," he said quietly.

He was stopped in mid-stride by Joel, who gave him a puzzled look. "Where are you going?" he demanded. His cousin motioned to the central table at the front of the reception hall. "We're going to start dinner and you have to give your toast."

"I gotta ask Hank a question and then I'll join you up there," Bobby whispered, patting Joel's shoulder. "I promise."

Joel shook his head, trying to ignore the impatient and haughty stare of his wife who was now sitting alone at the table. "Nothing doing," he hissed back and grabbed Bobby's arm firmly. "You're going up there with me right now."

Bobby suppressed a scowl as he walked alongside the shorter, stouter Drake towards the table. He stole a glance at Warren and Hank who were seated at their table with Paige. The tall, blond man looked rather thoughtful as he spoke to the cat-like Hank. In response to what Warren was probably saying, Hank nodded reassuringly. Under his breath, Bobby wished for Logan's super sensitive hearing at that moment.

Bobby realized there was nothing he could do at that moment. He would just have to wait until after his speech to get the full story about Jubilee's condition. In the meantime, he would need to play the part of the best man and act like nothing was weighing on his mind.

When he reached the table, he picked up his champagne flute and raised it. "A toast to Mr. and Mrs. Drake," he announced, forcing a grin on his boyish face. "My cousin, Joel, a good man, brother and friend, and his wonderful wife, Grace, a new addition to the Drake clan and most importantly, my secret lover.." He beamed when he received a chorus of laughter from the guests.

It had been two days since Sabretooth attacked Jubilee. Other than the fading bruise on her forehead, the young girl was fine. Both Hank and Cecilia agreed to let her go home with Scott and Jean after a night in the infirmary. Since then, the couple, along with Logan, enforced bed rest for two days after the assault. During that time, she was confined to her bedroom with Logan bringing her assignments from school along with the occasional magazine.

After those two days, she was allowed to leave her bedroom, repeatedly assuring the concerned adults around her that she was fine. While it did not take all that convincing much to convince Jean or Hank, the same could not be said for Logan and Scott. Initially, the two men wanted to accompany her to all of her classes and anywhere else that involved her being away from the house. It was only after Jean intervened that both men decided to back down from their irrational plans. It definitely paid o have a telepath as the voice of reason.

Jubilee understood where the hyper vigilance and over protectiveness were coming from. She had been frightened out of her mind when she saw that evil monster. After several earlier confrontations with Logan's nemesis when she was younger, she was all too aware of what he was capable of. Jubilee had witnessed some of the man's violent and uncontrollable rage during many fights between the two of them. There were also her memories of what happened that night before she was rendered unconscious. His sharp incisors and loud snarling was still too vivid in her mind. But, she had reasoned to herself and to the others, she knew she was safe now. Wolvie had seen to that.

Wanting to focus her thoughts on something other than Sabretooth and that night, Jubilee decided to catch up on some photography. She remembered that she had not yet developed that roll of film she used a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, she did not have to go into town to have the work done since Scott and Logan had set up a darkroom in the basement. The room was completely equipped with large sinks, several wire lines to hang photographs from, and built-in shelving units to store her paper, chemicals, trays, and film. Logan had even installed a signaling system for her laboratory, where a red light over the door indicated to people outside that the room was currently being used.

Almost half of the day was spent developing the film in the darkroom. Jubilee had just hung up the last lake scene picture when she noticed that the first photographs she had developed were already dry. She quickly cleaned up the equipment, dumping out the water and chemicals. Then she gathered the first group of photographs from one of the racks and made her way out of the darkroom.

The young girl walked up both sets of stairs, past the main level of the house, and to her bedroom. From how quiet and still things were, she surmised Scott and Jean were still out running errands in town. The two had left late that afternoon to pick up some groceries and movie rentals for that night. Jean had promised to make her famous Quiche Lorraine, much to the delight of her husband.

Jubilee seated herself on her bed, spreading the glossy, black-and-white photographs across from her. She began to sort the various pictures of the lake, amazed at how well they had actually turned out. It was one thing to examine them under the red glow of the darkroom. Viewing them in the gentle light of her bedside lamp only highlighted the uncomplicated splendor of the landscape shots. Immediately, she began to set some photographs aside to give to various people like the Professor, Storm, Jean, Hank, and Gambit. She then came across one picture that caught her attention.

It was of Bobby, standing a few feet of the boathouse.

Her slender fingers traced over his boyish features. A small smile tugged at the corners of her small mouth as she gazed at the picture. While she used a technical eye to evaluate the other photographs, she did not do so with this particular one. Instead, Jubilee fondly studied Bobby's affable grin, which seemed to light up his entire face. It was an expression she had grown to associate with wry humor, warmth, and kindness. Out of all the pictures she had taken using that roll and previous ones, she had to admit that this particular photograph was certainly her favorite one. If pressed to answer why, however, she wasn't sure she could provide an answer.

It was Bobby who was the first to befriend her at the mansion. It was Bobby who had made frequent visits to her bedside after her ordeal with Bastion and later, after she was left on the lawn of the mansion. It was Bobby who was her partner-in-crime when it came to playing pranks around the mansion. It was Bobby who had become her closest confidant in recent days. It was Bobby she had hoped was with her when she regained consciousness that night.

Despite the lighthearted persona Bobby displayed to the world, Jubilee knew there was a serious side. It was this facet of his personality that intrigued her the most. Yes, she liked the funny quips and comments that came from the mouth of Drake. He was always guaranteed for a good laugh. But, it was the less comical side that seemed to add some extra depth to his character. She had seen hints of it during some of his nighttime visits. They would spend long hours, talking about various things from the random ("If a really overweight person got a tattoo and then lost a lot of weight, would there be stretch marks around the tattoo?") to the painfully relevant ("Even after everything we did to save these people, they still wanted to chase us with their pitchforks and rifles."). During those conversations, he was reflective and thoughtful, not at all the jokester he was for other people.

Jubilee fingered the delicate pink beads of the necklace Bobby had given her. While this was a picture she really liked and probably wanted to keep for herself, she realized that Bobby would appreciate it as a gift. When she picked up photography, she had freely given pieces to many around the mansion. However, she held off presenting a photograph to Bobby. She had yet to find something she thought he would really like; something that showcased her best work. As she stared at this photograph, she was convinced this was definitely the picture she was going to give to Bobby.

Ugh, what smells? She sniffed around herself, the faint smell of the chemicals she had used in the darkroom filling her nostrils. Bleech.. It's me. Shrugging, she sauntered to her bathroom and stripped out of her pink tank top and faded jeans. She then stepped under the steaming stream of water from the stainless steel showerhead. Much better.

After her shower, she changed into a long-sleeved, baby blue T-shirt and a pair of cargo shorts with her favorite flip-flops. As she dried her long black hair, she felt her stomach begin to rumble. Her eyes flicked to her Fossil wristwatch. Cook was off that night, so most of the students and instructors were left to their own devices. Usually, the instructors who were at the mansion often took the students into town for dinner at a restaurant or at the food court in the mall. Since Scott and Jean were not home yet, Jubilee decided to try to catch someone and ask for a small treat to bring back.

Grabbing her house keys, she jogged out of the Summers' farm-style, white clapboard house and across the manicured lawn towards the mansion. Jubilee entered the mansion through the garage. She noticed most of the cars were out, but raced into the kitchen in the hopes of finding someone who had not left yet.

"Hello?" she called out, entering the kitchen. "Is anyone home?"

"Hey, Jubes."

She turned around, raven locks whipping around her slim shoulders. Leaning against the doorway was Bobby. Dressed in a tailored, black tuxedo with a crisp, white shirt and a black bow tie that was undone, he appeared to be the antithesis of the Hawaiian shirt-wearing prankster. There was something different about him. He was no longer boyish or immature, but.. dashing. Bobby Drake dashing?

Jubilee gave him a wolf whistle as he sauntered into the kitchen. "Looking good, Lady killer," she teased, sapphire blue eyes sparkling with amusement. "How was the wedding?"

He gave her a wry smile and watched her hop onto the kitchen counter, slim legs swinging. "First of all, ha ha. Second, it was good. I laughed, I cried---a good time was had by all."

"So, what are you doing back so early? Either the reception was really lame or you couldn't wait to get back to the excitement of the Institute." Jubilee grinned at him.

Bobby stood next to her. During the reception dinner, he finally confronted Hank and quizzed him about Jubilee's condition. His friend basically provided the same report Warren gave him earlier that evening. He assured him that other than a bruise on her forehead, she was fine. For some reason, Hank's guarantees were not enough for Bobby. For some reason, Bobby needed to see for himself that she was fine. Quickly, he concocted a story about not feeling well to Joel, his parents, and his friends. He eschewed their offers to let him rest in their hotel rooms or to have him examined by Hank, insisting that he would rather return to the mansion. After several minutes and repeatedly congratulating his cousin and Grace, he managed to convince all parties that his way was best and was on his way home.

Looking at the young girl sitting next to him, he was relieved to see that Hank was in fact telling the truth. She seemed to be fine. Still, he was troubled about the fact that she had been attacked in the first place. He didn't even want to think about the possibility if she was hurt much worse. Screw Logan. Sabretooth would have his hands full dealing with Iceman.

"I had to fight off this horde of lovely ladies," he quipped, "You know how it is, being a sex machine and all." He raised his brows dryly.

She smiled up at him. "Didn't want to be the only guy out there to catch the old garter, huh?"

He feigned a hurt expression. "Thanks, Jubes. That hurts. Um, speaking of which, I heard about what happened the other night. You OK?"

"Nice segue," Jubilee replied, tucking a lock of black hair behind her ear. She nodded. "Yeah, I am. Really. Just this ugly forget-me-not on my head." She gestured to her forehead and lowered her gaze from his face briefly. "I guess another reason why the guys aren't flocking to my window." The young girl laughed quietly.

His gray eyes studied her as he placed a hand over hers. "Can't even notice it anymore," he told her candidly. It was true. What was left of the bruise was a light lavender spot. As for the lack of male attention, she really had no idea..

Then he said, "I'm glad you're all right."

"Thanks. Me, too." She noticed that he was carrying a paper bag. "What's that, Bobby? Leftover wedding cake?"

"Nope. Better than that. A get-well present."

"Really? What is it?"

Smiling at her broadly, he opened the bag and pulled a white plastic container. "A pint of chocolate-cherry ice-cream from Greenberry's in town," he announced, extracting two plastic spoons. He handed one to her.

She took one gratefully. Her exquisite features instantly lit up with the promise of her favorite ice cream. Watching him remove the cover to the container, she drawled, "Some men bring flowers, others bring chocolates. You, Bobby Drake, have done one better. It's almost scary how well you know me."

He laughed. "I was thinking the same thing." He raised his spoon as if it were a glass filled with some spirits. "To good health and to good.. Good friends." The last part of his toast left a bitter taste in his mouth. He grimaced slightly. I don't really mean all of that..

"To good health and good friends." Jubilee clinked her spoon against his. As she was about to dig her spoon into the ice cream, she observed a somewhat pained expression on his face. "Something wrong?" she inquired.

He scooped some ice cream into his spoon. "No, why do you ask?"

"You look.. Upset." She followed his lead and ate a spoonful, eyeing him carefully.

He swallowed, the cool cream gliding down his throat. "I'm not. Really, I'm not." He made an effort to not directly look at her.

"You sure?" she asked, noticing that he was not meeting her eyes.

Bobby squeezed her hand hesitantly. "Yeah, I am. Thanks."

"No problem." Jubilee squeezed his hand back. After a few bites of ice cream, she said, "You never really answered my question."

He tried to look guileless, chewing thoughtfully on a chocolate-covered cherry. "Which one was that?"

"What are you doing back so early?" she asked again.

I came back to make sure you weren't hurt. I came back because if you were, I'd take care of you. I came back because I.. He cleared his throat and pulled his hand back slightly. "Weddings aren't really my scene. You know that."

She watched him continue to eat. He was referring to Alex and Lorna's wedding, otherwise known around the mansion as "the wedding that never was". The whole affair, including the events leading up to the ceremony, had been quite a strain for him. Bobby had tried to put on a brave face, telling people that he was not at all bothered by the prospect of finally losing Lorna for good. Many around the mansion were able to discern otherwise. Jubilee had been rather removed from the situation as she was still recovering from her ordeal. She had only heard about the fallout from Scott and Jean.

"Yeah, I guess, I do," she replied quietly, scooping another spoonful of ice cream. Before she could stop herself, she asked, "Because women are duplicitous?"

"I didn't say that. You're totally reaching on that one."

"Sorry. I don't know why I said that."

"Yeah... Well, you were way off-base."

"I didn't mean to hurt you. I would never hurt you, Bobby."

"I know. You didn't hurt me. It's just that.."

There was a long silence as the two continued to eat. After several minutes, they finished the pint of ice cream. Bobby reached for her spoon and gathered up the container and paper bag. He tossed everything into the trashcan. Then he walked back to the counter where Jubilee sat, but stood a foot away across from her.

Finally, she peered over at him and said softly, "Thank you."

"No problem. My pleasure." He crossed his arms over his chest, not meeting her gaze. After another pause, he suddenly blurted out, "It's just that I don't want to be reminded that I'm alone."

The young girl shook her head empathetically, black hair with midnight blue streaks spilling down her shoulders. "Bobby, you're not.."

"It's OK. I know what you were going to say and you don't have to finish that." He smiled bitterly. "You and I both know what I meant. There's no need to sugarcoat things to save my feelings. I'm a big boy now and I can handle these things."

She folded her small hands solemnly. "I'm alone, too."

He gave her a startled look. "You?"

"Yeah, me."


"You can say that all you want, but it doesn't change the fact that I'm just as alone as you are in the sense we're both talking about. We just differ by our circumstances."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean you're alone because you don't want to get hurt again. You've put all your energy into making things work only to have the other person leave. In the end, I don't really blame you."

"Interesting deduction."

"Am I right?"

"I'm not going to tell you because you're going to be a pain in the ass either way. What about you?"

"I'm alone because everyone refuses to acknowledge the fact that I'm not thirteen anymore."

"That's not true. I don't think you're thirteen."

"Thanks, Bobby."

"No problem."

"But everyone else thinks I am. Isn't that why I'm not with anyone? Who would want to date someone they think is still a kid when they can a have a real woman?"

Bobby frowned at her, taking a few steps forward. "What are you talking about?" he asked.

Jubilee sighed. "I'm just a baby compared to the other females around here. Let's see, there's that new mutant, Stacy X.."

"You have got to be kidding me," he cut her off, incredulous. "You are comparing yourself to that? No offense, Jubes, but I think all that sugar is finally rotting your brain. Why would you want to be like her? You're better than that and you know it."

She gave him a disbelieving look of her own. "Oh come on, Bobby. Don't tell me you wouldn't knock over a stack of chairs to be with someone like her. She's walks and breathes sex all the time. At least, she knows what men like."

Bobby knew that she was right on some level, having had an encounter with the former prostitute at the X-Ranch. Fortunately, it went nowhere beyond the manipulation of his pheromones. At the time, he knew his body had enjoyed the experience. Yet, there was something missing and wrong with the whole thing. He wanted to feel that way again, but only with someone he cared about.

Finally, he said quietly, "That's not what I want."

"It's not?" Her voice was softer in tone now.

He shook his head. "No, it's not. I want someone.."

She watched him struggle to complete his thought. He looked so forlorn and lost, standing there. It was like nothing she had ever seen before. He seemed so vulnerable.

Instinctively, Jubilee reached for him, wrapping her lithe arms around his neck and pulling him to her. As she held him, all she could think about was taking away whatever was troubling him then. She stroked his hair gently, resting her soft cheek against his. Her fingertips grazed the back of his neck and she was surprised to find how warm he was. She had expected his skin to be cold. Not hot like fire. Even more astonishing was the fact was how right holding him at this moment felt for her.

"Bobby," she whispered, long black locks ensnaring him. "It's OK."

It was wrong to feel this comfortable in her arms. It was wrong to be this close to her. It was wrong to continue to smell the bubblegum and cinnamon in her hair and in skin. It was wrong to think about threading his fingers through her tresses. It was wrong to wonder if her lips were as soft as they looked from this close.

He realized it would be more wrong to give in.

"You say you care about de petite? Den let her be, homme. Let her be wit' someone closer to her age. Let her be wit' someone who don' carry baggage when it comes to de femmes. Let her be truly happy."

Bobby cringed, hearing Gambit's husky voice in his ears. Startled, he drew back, his face flushed pink. He raked a nervous hand through his sandy hair.

"What's wrong?" Jubilee asked, blue eyes wide with confusion and surprise.

He shook his head. "No, nothing's wrong, Jubes." Smiling sheepishly, he then said, "Um, thanks."

It was her turn to blush. "Sure," she replied, looking away briefly. Her gaze sharply returned to his face. To alleviate the tension introduced between them, she quickly said, "Yeah, I mean, what are friends for?"

Bobby winced slightly, hearing her say the word 'friends' hurting more than pulling away.