Disclaimer: These characters are the property
of Marvel Comics. No profit is made by their use.
My leather bag has seen a lot of miles over the years, but it still holds two days・ worth of clothes just fine. Pair of jeans, flannel shirt, and something nicer for going out to dinner. Shaving kit and two changes of undershirts and boxers. I was tucking a handful of foil packages discretely under my spare socks when Rogue knocked on the door, nice and quiet but a half-hour late.
I stuffed the last of my gear in the bag and yanked the door open. "・Bout time."
"Yeah, sugah, you・re welcome," she said, sweetly sarcastic, and placed a bulging carry-on next to the door with deceptive ease. I could tell just by looking that it had to weigh a ton.
"You gotta be kidding."
"Don・t even go there, Logan." Her gloved hands were on her hips, and she glared at me. "You asked me to pack for Jubilee, but you didn・t even tell me where you・re takin・ her."
I ignored her subtle fishing and grabbed my bag off the bed. "Thanks for everything, Rogue. If・n anybody asks, you don・t know where we are or how to get a hold of us."
I was reaching for the other bag when Cyclops jogged by the open door and snapped "Briefing room -- Now!"
No. This is not happening, dammit.
I went anyway. I listened. Jubilee sat across the table and listened, and trotted off to the Blackbird like a good little superhero while I grabbed Cyke and shoved him against the wall.
"I had plans this weekend, One Eye."
"Yeah? So go. We can handle this without you."
I didn・t even try to stop the growl coming out of my throat. I was not about to advertise my intentions. I settled for bouncing him off the wall.
It had taken a week and every scrap of romance I・ve got, which admittedly isn・t much, to put this weekend together. A little bed and breakfast place on the coast. Roses. Chilled champagne, the works. Now the whole thing was swirling down the drain because whatever emergency came up can・t wait. Some days my job just stinks on ice.
Jubilee chuckled for an hour when I finally got around to telling her about my plans, once I knew they were past salvaging. We were tired, hungry, and more than a little outnumbered, but she just looked at me with dirt on her face, a sparkle in her eye, and laughed like it was the funniest thing she・d ever heard.
"You・re a sweetie, Logan," she said, and kissed me, and then we were off to save the world again.
We never did get to that bottle of champagne, and it was friggin・ ages until things finally settled down again. The past few months had been an unending trudge through the trenches as one crisis after another erupts. Swear to god, I・m gonna make Cyclops put a punch clock out there in the hanger so we can start clocking our overtime. He・s even been making noises about recruiting some more members because we were all spread so thin, especially after Bobby began cracking jokes about starting a union. Guthrie asked him if it would provide dental insurance, and Cyke was the only one who didn・t think it was funny.
When we finally got some down time and let life return to our version of normal, I was more relieved for Jean and Jubilee・s sake. They・d been out on a mission together recently that had gone real bad, ending up with a couple of kids dying on ・em, and they both needed a little extra careful handling. I wasn・t so worried about Jean, ・cause a telepath like her has a lot of practice processing emotion. She also had her own kids and a husband to help her deal.
Jubilee, on the other hand, has a handful of coping mechanisms, including denial, avoidance, and sublimation. I・m one of the few people she・s ever shown even a glimpse of what she really feels. Eventually she dealt with the pain the way she always does -- buried it deep inside and sealed it off.
I was still a little worried about her the Sunday afternoon I grabbed her, a basket of grub and my scoot and hauled her out for some fresh air and a change of scenery. We spread out a blanket and ate cold fried chicken and chocolate cake in a field on the far side of Xavier・s grounds. There・s no road through there, just a dirt track, and the only signs of life you see are hawks and the occasional deer.
After lunch, we stretched out and talked for a while. She didn・t cry, not that she ever does a lot of that, but she did get a few things off her chest and I gave her what little advice I could. Jubilee・s already seen and done more than anyone her age should, even if they do hold down a full time job of superheroing. The fact that she still comes up swinging is just one more thing about her that・s amazing.
She fell asleep with her head on my shoulder, and I admit I pulled my hat down and caught a few minutes of shut-eye. I was probably out for less than an hour, but when I woke, she was sucked up to me like a starfish and I had a significant problem.
She startled slightly as I tried to shift out from under her, and those beautiful indigo eyes opened. When she focused on me she gave me this sleepy smile and God, it was like free falling. Without moving a muscle, I suddenly felt myself plummeting and she was there to catch me. Her mouth was soft and warm as the sunshine around us, and by the time my brain caught up, we were both breathing hard.
"Jube," I managed. "I didn・t plan this when we came out here."
Her nose wrinkled at me. "So?"
I felt like banging my skull on the ground. "I didn・t plan on this, darlin・."
She got it this time. The nearest condom was back in my room at the mansion. That smile slowly grew and she reached up to kiss me on the cheek, just above the sideburns.
"I・m on the pill," she whispered, then bit me gently on the neck.
Well, a man can only take just so much.
It was shortly after that I decided maintaining any dignity I had could take second place to the fact that I was living in the same house as the gal who could make me forget how to think with one impudent look. It・s been a long time since a woman could just walk by and make me react, but Jubilee could narrow one of her almond-shaped eyes at me and I had all the hormonal impulses of a teenage boy on a date with the prettiest girl in school. More than once I heard a voice announce ・they・re at it again・ after walking in on us necking in front of the TV. The statement ・get a room・ got a workout, too. Thing is, we have a room. We have two rooms. Considering Jubilee sleeps in my bed most nights, I think that might be one room too many.
We've been lovers for just about a year, now, and somehow I'd kept from screwing this up. I don't think I've ever spent this amount of time with any woman. Whenever I return to the house my feet just automatically go find her, and it・s completely absurd that I have insomnia on the nights she・s not with me. The worse part, though, is when Jube grabs her shades and waves as she climbs in that jet plane.
It beyond me how Scott can just stand there and watch his wife take off in the Blackbird without him, ・cause I・m an absolute wreck. Even though I know Jubilee is damned good at what we do, even though her pyrotechnic abilities are Alpha class and her intermittent clairvoyance has come through in the pinch more than a few times, just the sight of her coming off the jet at the end of any mission, hairy or not, makes my chest ache in a way I've never experienced.
I asked her once, casually, if watching me leave bothered her any more than it used to. I had my uniform laid out, ready to leave in the next few hours, and we were lying on my bed, just talking. Jubilee rolled over on me and seemed to take a great deal of interest in combing my chest hair at that moment.
"Jube?" I questioned.
Her head lowered until her nose touched my skin between her hands, and I barely heard her say, "Yeah, it does." I ran a reassuring hand over her back, and started to say something asinine about how tough I was, but her mouth was suddenly on mine, her hands frantic against my body, and out of the blue we were all over each other. Before I left that night, I suggested she move her stuff in. But when I got back, she just laughed it off and told me I・d never be able to stand all her junk in my bathroom.
So here it is April again and she still won・t move in with me. To make things worse, the leaves on the oak trees around the estate were nearly full size, and I・m gettin・ ansty. Full green here meant the laurels were blooming up on a certain mountain in Canada, and I wasn・t sure what I was going to do.
It had been no big deal at this time last year. I threw some duds in a bag, said ・see ya,・ and hit the road. This year, things were about as different as they can get. I tried to avoid thinking about it at all, but I was getting crabby and people were starting to give me looks. I guess I finally pushed it too far one morning, because Jubilee climbed out of bed and went to the closet, and the next thing I know my duffel bag hit me in the chest.
"Get packed, grouchy butt." She walked out of my room, leaving me sitting there and feeling like a jackass. I did what she told me, and when I made it down to the kitchen, she handed me a lunch pail.
"Have a wonderful time, and send me a postcard from Japan. One of those really tacky ones."
She planted a quick kiss on me and gave me one of those casual waves, then hollered up at Rogue and asked if she wanted to hit the sale at Sacs Fifth Avenue. I looked at her backside, disappearing up the stairs, then at the bag in my hand.
I made it to that spot in Canada in just under thirty hours.
Usually, I sit by Silver Fox・s grave for endless hours, thinking about the memories I have, wondering which are real and which are planted fakes. I pace, get pissed off at the injustice of it all, then calm down, meditate, and when I feel ready, move on. My version of a Zen roto-rooter.
This time, I sat on the ground and looked at the broken, weathered piece of wood with its barely legible inscription, and felt nothing. No, that's not entirely right. I felt a little stupid. Silver Fox, the one I remember, anyway, would have kicked my butt for being such a jerk as to go off and leave my current girlfriend to visit the grave of a woman who's been dead for over a dozen years. And then I realized that I don・t even remember falling in love with Silver Fox. I clearly remember Sabretooth killing her, and I know that was a lie. The only thing I know for sure is that, at one point, I did love her. We were happy together.
Instead of talking about the past, I found myself telling Silver Fox about Jubilee, about how she・d grown up but was still the same person who・d blind-sided her the one time they・d met. I think she would have liked Jube a lot. I finally remembered the lunch bucket and dug it out, hoping she hadn't packed anything like tuna salad. It was peanut butter, which may not be my favorite but it will keep for over a week if the bread doesn't go furry first. A bag of chips, and another bag of cookies. No note. I spent the night thinking, and then in the morning bid goodbye to the silent grave of a woman I barely remember and headed for JFK.
Japan was pretty much the same as it always is, crowded with people who are too polite to let you know how much they wish you really weren't there. I hiked my way to the Yashida Clan temple, avoided anyone I knew, and lit a couple sticks of incense for Mariko. And again, I felt nothing. I sat there for the entire time it takes those things to burn, cross-legged, trying to meditate. Nothing. Mariko and I had loved each other, but our commitments to duty had interfered with our commitment to each other.
Once I got back in the States, I made the trip from the airport to the mansion in record time and pulled into the circle drive just as late afternoon was turning into evening. Everything looked the same, but somehow I felt different. When Jubilee came out of the back entrance and moved towards me, not exactly running but in that quick, energetic stride of hers, I knew what it was. This was the last time I・d be coming home alone. If I ever made that little pilgrimage again I・d be taking her with me.
Her arms wrapped around my neck as threw herself at me and I lifted her clear off the ground as we kissed.
"You・re home early," she said, like I・d just come back from the market.
"Uh huh," I got out, before capturing her mouth again for some more kisses. I started walking forward, keeping her feet off the ground. "Let・s go upstairs and say hello some more."
The arms around my neck squeezed a little tighter, pulling her chest into mine in a way that said ・oh, yeah,・ but then she made a protesting noise and loosened her hold.
"I can・t," she groaned, giving me a grin and several suggestive eyebrow twitches. "I have a date with a much younger man."
"What?" I could feel the scowl coming on. "Jubilee..."
Two pairs of small arms grabbed me, and Jubilee, around the waist. "Uncle Wolvie! You・re home, you・re home!"
Chris and Maddie were jumping up and down with excitement, which is fine but it makes a man uncomfortable when a couple of seven year olds start snickering while he・s kissing his girl. I let Jubilee slide down and she gave me an archly sympathetic smile.
"My dates. We・re going to the movies, right kids?"
The jumping and hollering started again, this time with more volume as they each grabbed one of her hands and started yanking.
"Okay, okay! Go get in the car -- and watch your fingers! Let me grab my purse and I・ll be right there."
They let her go and scampered off. Following Jubilee into the kitchen, where her purse was waiting on the table along with the car keys and her sunglasses. I pulled her into my arms for another kiss, and we both groaned when I let her loose.
"Gotta go," she said.
"Want some company?"
Jubilee stopped dead and stared at me, then started to giggle uncontrollably. "Wolverine・at a Disney flick・ohmigod..."
I growled at her, which has had zero effect on her for years. Still chortling, she gave me another quick kiss and put on her shades.
"I・ll be back in a couple of hours."
And then she was gone, out the door; the purse slung jauntily over one shoulder and shaking her head.
I watched her pull out, narrowly missing my bike, which she probably did on purpose just to give me heart failure. Then she was gone, and I felt strangely lost. The sound of a footstep behind me let me know Scott was in the doorway.
"Logan. Welcome home." He was wearing a suit with the tie hanging loose, which explained why Jube had the kids tonight. Jean was probably down at the boathouse, still getting ready.
"Thanks," I muttered, heading into the house, but Scott didn・t get out of the way when I walked towards him.
"You know," he said, conversationally, "when you two started dating I figured it was just something you had to get out of your system. I didn・t really expect it to last."
"You got a point?"
"No. Just some free advice. Take it or leave it." He waited, but I didn・t say anything.
"Jubilee・s been good for you."
"That ain・t advice, Cyke. That・s an observation."
Scott regarded me steadily. "If it・s right, don・t mess around. The longer you wait, the better the chances are you・ll screw it up royally." The dying sunlight glittered in the red quartz of his glasses as he moved out of the doorway. "Trust me on this one."
I didn・t bother answering him, and I tried not to think about his words while I went up to my room and dumped my bag on the floor and opened the windows. The bed was made in Jubilee・s haphazard style, which let me know she・d slept here at least once while I was gone, and there were some of her clothes in the hamper when I dumped the stuff from my bag into it.
It was the same bag I・d loaded so carefully last summer. I can・t begin to count the number of times I・ve packed that thing, grabbing it and shoving in a few changes of clothes. I tried to think how long I・d had it, and I suddenly remembered when I・d gotten it. It had been a Christmas gift from Jubilee, years ago when she was still in Massachusetts. She must have hoarded her allowances for months to buy it; it was leather and it hadn・t been cheap.
My claws popped out before I realized it and the desire to shred the leather was overwhelming. Just a kid, saving her money to buy me a present so I could go off and leave her again. I snarled aloud and threw the damned thing in the closet so I wouldn・t have to look at it, and flopped on the bed. Lying there, I watched the shadows move across the ceiling as the sun set, just waiting and thinking until it was fully dark.
Eventually lights swept across the ceiling, followed by car doors slamming, and the faint sound of young voices echoing across the yard. Hank・s deep voice rumbled out; he and Celia have been using the twins for ・practice・ ever since they found out they were expecting. By Christmastime this year, there・d be another kid underfoot.
I turned on the bedside lamp and wondered why I was thinking about kids when I can・t even get my girl to move in with me. Then I heard her footsteps outside my door, the light tapping as she opened it, probably expecting me to be asleep.
"Logan?" she called softly, and she let out a squeak as I crossed the floor and pulled her into my arms. She smelled like red licorice and popcorn, and she tasted incredible as I dragged her back towards the bed. We fell on it together, both of us making small, impatient noises. She sat up a little, her legs wrapped around my thighs, and pulled off her shirt to reveal one of those front snap brassieres I・ve definitely developed a thing for. Then she smiled, lips curving sweetly, and let me show her how much I・d missed her.
Afterwards, when we crawled under the covers and she turned out the lamp, I dragged her into my arms and kissed the back of her neck.
"I missed you," I whispered to her, glad I wasn't looking her in the eye.
"Missed you, too," she replied sleepily, patting my arm absently as she buried her face in the pillow and snuggled her back against my chest. I put my head against hers, and we fell asleep.
Dawn was just a whisper in the cool breeze blowing through the white curtains when I woke. There's absolutely nothing as good as waking up slow on an early summer morning with the birds singing outside the window. It's even better when there's a warm body next to yours, especially when it's a body like Jubilee's.
My eyes see plenty good in low light, but the pale ambient glow from the horizon lay over Jubilee's cheek and shoulder, adding a glimmer to her smooth skin. She lay with one arm curled under her cheek, the pillow shoved up against the headboard and sagging over her head, and that hair of hers sticking out all over the place.
She protested sleepily when I pulled the sheet down, but she wakes me up this way at least once a week, and turn-about is much better than fair play. For once she・d gone to sleep without putting something on, which may have been what gave me the idea in the first place; all those gorgeous curves, and nothing to slow me down. I got one of those quiet feminine moans as I ran my hands all over, as slow this time as we・d been feverish last night.
"Logan," Jubilee protested, very unconvincingly, but I love the way she gasped as my mouth replaced my hands. Her hands were just as busy as I moved over her, settling between her thighs and letting her know without a doubt exactly what was on my mind.
"Open your eyes, Jubilee."
She finally did, the mischievous sparkle darkening, deepening as it always did when we made love. They slowly drifted down again as she began to move with me, breathless, wordless sounds coming from her parted lips. Dusty pink and luscious, I had to kiss them again.
"Marry me," I whispered.
Her eyes flew open again.
I repeated it, still moving, which I admit was distracting to me as well.
"God, Logan... your timing.. sucks."
"You・ve never complained before."
She chuckled and kissed me back, which wasn・t really an answer, but thinking was a serious difficulty at that moment.
It wasn・t what I・d planned. Hell, I hadn・t planned on saying it, let alone at that particular moment. But I・d been thinking about it, and if I was honest with myself, I・d been thinking about it a lot, even before Cyke said something. The first time I kissed her I had realized, in a cool sensible way, that I could fall in love with her. I felt it, like putting a toe in a mountain stream. Only now did I realize that this, what I felt, was more like drowning in a deep, sun-lit sea and not caring, just so long as I could keep her here in my arms.
She was draped across me a while later, her head on my chest, when I said "Well?"
A full body stretch accompanied her purring response. "Oh, yeah. Reunion sex is definitely good." She propped one elbow on my sternum, her legs still rubbing against mine. "If I go on a trip this afternoon, can we have sex like this again tonight?" She smirked at me, and I couldn・t resist grinning back.
"Sure, darlin・, but that・s not what I meant."
The amusement slowly drained from her face. "I thought you were kidding." She started to slide off me, something I put a stop to by grabbing her.
"Would I kid about marriage?"
"No, but・" She bit her lip. "I just didn・t think we were ready to even talk about something like this."
It・s past time, Jubilee."
She peeled my hands off her, and reluctantly I let her go. Her legs curled up into a lotus position, her arms crossed over her breasts, and I could feel her withdrawing from me.
"Why? Why is now the time?" Her voice was rising, the defensive tone setting off warning signals down my spine.
"It・s time, because I said it・s time. And don・t get your back up," I warned her as she bristled, "I・m just saying that I went and brought it up, so maybe we oughta talk about it."
She pulled the crumpled sheet up from the foot of the bed and wrapped it around her. "We haven・t even talked about living together, Logan."
"Well, it ain・t like I haven・t asked ya to."
"I wasn・t ready・"
"That was the first time, darlin・," I bit out, my temper flaring a bit. "Then when you sprained your knee, which, by the way, is the last time you・re talkin・ me into going skiing, I told you it would be a good idea. You couldn・t even go to the can by yourself."
She didn・t answer me, so I supplied it myself. "As I recall, you told me to bugger off, though that might have been the painkillers Hank was giving ya."
The sheet got an extra tug as she scratched her other hand through her ruffled dark hair. "So, why are we even bringing up the subject of getting married?"
I considered it for a moment. "Maybe I・m jumping the gun on this. I don・t know." It・s hard to think and talk about something this important at the same time. "And maybe it・s because I am old fashioned, but I always figured if two people didn・t kill each other or walk away, they eventually got to the same place. Hell, even Jean and Summers got their act straightened out."
"So・we should get married, just because we haven・t killed each other yet?"
"Course not." Exasperated, I climbed out of bed and pulled on the jeans I found among the clothes strewn on the floor.
"Then why? What does being married give us that we don't already have?"
"Okay, so I said it wrong, Jube. I・m just saying I want us to be together."
"We are together, Logan. We love each other・we・re lovers. We don・t need to change anything. What difference is a ring gonna make?"
My irritation rose as I patted my pockets, found my lighter and dug a cigar out of the box on the dresser. I hadn・t figured on needing to convince her. I knew she loved me, hell, she told me that on a regular basis. The words came flying out before I could stop them.
"Because I・m in love with you." The look of utter shock on her face startled me, and somehow I kept going. "You have my heart, Jubilee. More than that, you have my soul. I can't imagine a life without you in it."
If anything, her eyes grew larger. I waited for her to say something, and was unprepared when she reached a trembling hand for the nearest piece of clothing and made a desperate break for the door.
I caught her, made her turn around, but she wouldn・t look at me.
"Jubilee?" Of all the reactions she could have had, I never expected this.
"I need to think about this. Please, Logan..." She was begging, shaking, and it took every ounce of self control I had to nod once, jerkily, and let her slip out the door, holding my shirt closed around her.
For three days, she didn・t speak a word to me. She stayed away the first night. The second night, she slipped into my room without saying a word, stripping off her clothing and sliding into my bed, saying my name only when I brought her to orgasm, and then letting me spoon around her as we fell asleep.
Last night, again, she came to me and let me touch her. When I pulled her back into my arms and kissed her on the shoulder, my chin stubble scratched a shiver down her back.
"Jube," I started, but she shook her head in denial.
"Don・t," she whispered, and after a moment she turned, and I felt something warm and wet fall on my face as she kissed me softly on the mouth and backed away, out of the bed and out of my room.
I lay awake for the rest of the night, and my mind kept going back to a conversation I had with Jubilee when she was in college, before we started all this. She was headed back to school the next morning, and as usual she・d been avoiding the whole issue of packing by lazing away the end of the day with me, the two of us just sitting out by the lake under our favorite tree. I was teasing her a bit about getting back to her boyfriend in Boston, and the kid who・d been flirting with her when I bought her an ice cream earlier that day.
I thought she was going to ignore me for a while, but she corrected me on the boyfriend・s name.
"Past tense," she・d added. I must have given her the right non-committal response, cause she opened up and told me some things I don・t think she・d ever told anyone, about a guy she・d known at the Massachusetts School. I vaguely remembered Synch, only Jubilee called him Ev and talked about all the good times they・d had. She was telling me about how upset his girlfriend had been when he died, and how bad she・d felt for them, for Monet. I had been trying to match that up with the fact that I KNEW Jube couldn・t stand Monet when I heard a tiny sniff and realized I could smell her tears in the breeze. I felt like smacking myself. Jubilee had been in love with the boy, and he・d been too stupid or blind to see it and had died, never knowing it.
I・m usually lousy with words so I didn・t say anything, just played possum and stared at the toes of my boots while she wiped her face with her sleeve. I finally managed to tell her it sounded like he was a good kid, and she said yeah, he was. Then she・d rolled over onto her stomach in the grass and looked straight at me.
"I always did have the best taste in friends."
"Yeah, darlin・. Me too."
"Too bad your taste in girlfriends is so rank."
I swatted at her, and then I told her that maybe she was right; she needed to shop around some more before she settled for a guy who scooped ice cream for a living. She・d laughed, and it was wonderful to hear.
That day was the first time I・d tried to imagine Jubilee falling in love with a man, and I knew that whoever he was, he・d be the luckiest bastard on the face of the planet. The idea of giving Jubilee away on her wedding day had risen up out of nowhere, and what should have been a joyful thought had suddenly as bitter as ash in my throat. I hadn・t wanted to think about her giving that fierce loyalty to anyone else but me.
I・ve known her for years -- more than half her life. Her courage, her spirit -- these are things she・s always had. Her fierce loyalty to me was something I hadn・t expected from such a young kid, and it surprised me. It had surprised me even more when she・d maintained that loyalty as she grew older, even though I acted like an asshole and took off, leaving her to fend for herself at the mansion.
She went off to school, and months would go by without us seeing each other. Each time we got together I・d realize how much I missed her, but I justified myself with the thought that she was too young to deal with the stuff I had going on at the time, that she was safer in Snow Valley than she would have been with me. That lie stood up pretty good, even after the whole Zero Tolerance fiasco when we didn・t even know she was missing. Yet after all that, I still figured she was better off without me.
It had never occurred to me that I wasn・t better off without her.
Back then, the idea of her passing out of my life was bittersweet. Now, it・s not sweet at all. The very hint of not keeping her in my bed, in my life, is making me panic. And my inner beast thoroughly pissed off as well. It knew Jubilee, and it liked her. More than that, it respected her, because she・s busted its chops on one or two occasions when I lost control completely. The Wolverine knew a prospective mate was in the offering and it was furious at the thought of not having her.
We・re talking white hot beserker rage, and it・s getting harder and harder to control.
I finally couldn・t take it any more; I was going to have this out with her once and for all, and if I couldn・t make her see sense I was going to do something drastic like drag her off to my cabin in Canada for the winter. Not the greatest plan I・d ever come up with, considering it was only May, but I was getting desperate.
I tracked her down out by the lake, in our old spot, where she was tossing last year・s acorns into the water. I pulled up a patch of grass next to her and sat down. She ran out of acorns after a while, and drew her knees up under her chin.
"I don・t want to marry you," she finally said.
God, I・ve felt pain before, but I think Magneto・s brand of metal extraction hurt less than her words. The Wolverine was howling in the back of my head and wanting to attack whatever was taking away its mate. It was a minute before I could get the raw spot in my throat to go down enough to speak.
"Can I ask why?"
"No," she said flatly and scooted away another couple of inches.
I waited, but for once the truth didn・t come forcing its way from her, and the pain that she wouldn・t confide in me was nearly as bad as her refusal.
"You owe me an explanation, Jubilee, and I・m not leaving until I get it."
She ducked her head. "It wasn・t supposed to go like this," she whispered finally.
"What, we were supposed to get it out of our system?" I threw Scott・s words at her, and regretted it when she flinched.
"No, not that." Her voice trembled a little bit when she answered. "I・m afraid."
"Afraid of what, darlin・?"
"I saw what losing Mariko did to you. And Silver Fox. I know how much you loved them." Her chin rubbed on the denim over her knee. "I can・t be that much to you. Their deaths almost destroyed you, Logan. I don・t want to even come close to putting you through that again. I would hate to think that I could be the cause of that amount of pain."
"If I lost ya, ya mean."
"Yeah," she whispered.
"Jube・you・re giving me that kind of pain right now." Hope is like a weed. It takes very little to make it grow, and it was growing in me. "I only been married once s・far as I remember, and I don・t really think that green bitch counts. I wouldn・t have asked you if I didn・t mean it."
Reaching out, I brushed her cheek with my fingers until her head turned into my hand. I cupped that stubborn little chin in my palm and gathered all my courage.
"You been my partner and my best friend for years, Jubilee. Even when life barely seemed worth the effort, you made it that way. You make being alive worthwhile." Her face was pale as she listened to me, really listened, and every word that came out of me seemed like fire in my chest.
"You are the love of my life. One and only, darlin・, just you." I swallowed, my mouth suddenly dry. "I got no right to ask, but please, don・t leave me."
A tiny sound came from her, half sigh, half sob, and I pushed her back in the grass and pinned her there. What I couldn・t put into words, I tried to convey with my hands and my body as I kissed her, and at last she was kissing me back and I made love to her with an intensity that left us both shaking in the aftermath.
Her fingers were in my hair, teasing that side into its preferred point while I lipped at her ear, when she breathed one word.
I pulled back so I could see her face, and the tentative smile she gave me was the most beautiful thing I・ve ever seen.
"Yes, Logan. I・ll marry you." She laughed at the huge grin that spread across my mug, and I hugged her hard enough to make her squeak, and then I attacked her neck. She was saying yes again a few minutes later, but then, so was I. It・s a good thing this particular spot is hard to see from the house.
A long time after that, we started talking. We were still joined intimately, and although she made a comment about enjoying the great outdoors more if she were on top, she seemed as reluctant as I was to get up and go back in the house. I asked her when she wanted to do this, and she surprised me again by saying she didn・t want a huge production made of the whole thing.
"I thought all gals had a thing for weddings."
"What, a three ring circus like Jean and Scott・s? Heck, no."
"We could just take off," I offered. "Go to Atlantic City. Vegas, maybe."
She shook her head. "No. I want everybody there, I just don・t want to deal with all the crap like invitations and bridesmaids dresses and all that, you know..." Her hand made an airy, aimless gesture above my shoulder as she ran out of words.
"Crap," I finished for her.
"Exactly. Too bad we can・t just..." She trailed off again, a shrewd look in her eye, and I raised one eyebrow.
The look on her face went absolutely feral with devilish glee. "Logan, have you ever thrown a surprise party for someone?"
"Can・t say as I have, sweetheart."
She threw her head back, a gurgling chuckle coming out of her arched throat. That happens to be one of my favorite places, so I gave it some more attention. "Good grief, if we can pull this off, Bobby will never be able to top it."
We had to drop a misdirecting hint to the Professor to get the ball rolling, but in two weeks we organized a rather large backyard party and invited all our pals, including Kitty and Pete from England and, over my better judgement, Nick Fury. I don・t even want to know how he and Jube got to be chummy, but it was her idea and I just shook my head and told her she could talk to him. We got a license and a single wedding band for each of us. She offered to let me off the hook, ・cause she knows I don・t wear jewelry. I don・t even like to wear a watch, but I felt it was important that we both wear rings.
The only problem we ran up against was finding someone who could do the actual deed, until I remembered that Nightcrawler had gotten ordained as a minister. We gave him a call and I think he was as excited as a kid on Christmas at the thought of performing a wedding. He wasn・t actually a priest, ・cause the Catholics won・t ordain mutants, but that・s not necessary to hatch, match, or dispatch in the state of New York. We did some fast talking with some pencil pusher in the Registrar・s office and got it all squared away.
I・m pretty sure the Professor and Jean and, by extension, Scott had a suspicion that something was up, but those ideas probably ran to engagement announcements. They were watching us pretty close that afternoon, but they were off talking on the other side of the pool when I snuck up on Jubilee and asked her if she was ready. She was wearing a simple white sundress with some pretty flowers stitched on it, and when I held out my hand, she took it and gave it a squeeze. We made our way through the people to stand beside the elf.
I heard a lot of murmuring from the crowd on the back terrace when Kurt asked for everyone・s attention and someone killed the stereo, but I only had eyes for Jubilee. The crowd all gathered around, laughing and talking, and when they were reasonably quiet, Kurt pulled out the rings and his bible and started off.
"Dearly Beloved, ve are gathered here in this company and in the presence of God to join these two people in the bonds of Holy Matrimony...."
Jubilee tried hard to keep a straight face as the gasps and disbelief and at least one "holy shit" ran through the crowd, but her voice was steady and the crowd was totally silent by the time she answered all those ・will you promise・ questions with "I will."
When my turn came, I think every single eye in the place was staring straight at me as Kurt recited the list. Would I promise to love her, honor her, cherish and keep her, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, and keep thee only unto her, for as long as you both shall live?
One hell of a list.
I said, "No."
I cleared my throat, because I wanted this to be right.
"I・ve broken too many promises to you, Jubilation Lee. But on this, I don・t promise. I swear to you. I swear I will."
Kurt just checked with Jube to see if she was okay with it, shrugged and went on. We did the ・I take thee・ routine and the ring exchange, and finally I was kissing her and the garden was full of people cheering and hugging each other and generally acting like idiots. But hey, you don・t get married every day. When the music finally started up again, I pulled my wife into my arms and called out for a country tune.
That got some pretty blue eyes narrowed at me, but she laughed anyway and let me try to teach her to two-step.
(Author・s Note: Yes, in the traditional wedding ceremony, the guy goes first. Too bad. One more story to go, folks!)