Disclaimer: These characters don't belong to me, and I'm not making any money from using them. Marvel owns them, darnit.
Rating: R for language, violence, and implied sex. BTW, big warning--the sex in question is consensual, but it involves an underage participant.
Continuity: Sometime between Ultimate X-Men #6 and #8.
Archive OK, especially if you notify me so
I can get that glow of pride. Let me know what you think--beyond 'For
God's sake, Miko, write a story without Logan in it!' :)
She stopped short in the street as he passed her. It couldn't be. He was dead.
She turned slowly, catching a glimpse of him as he turned the corner, and it /was/. Even from behind, there was no mistaking that walk, as if he was ready at any moment for someone, something to jump at him.
She broke into a run, calling his name.
Jubilation Lee sat shivering on her bed as the cop paced up and down. She was too old for a teddy bear, but she didn't care. Right now she was terrified, and plush comfort was the best she was going to get.
"You're really trying to tell me you knew nothing about your parents' activities?" the cop asked, his voice heavy with incredulity. She was sure he was putting it on, but that didn't help.
"I told you!" she said, hating the fear in her voice and certain he could hear it. "They never told me anything! It was just, go to school, go to your friend's house, have some money and go shopping. They never told me anything." And now they never would. She hugged her bear tighter. No one had described the scene to her, but she had a vivid imagination. She could picture her parents, trapped in the explosion that had killed them. She could taste their pain, feel their terror as the flames consumed them...
He was watching her carefully and she shook her head, trying to clear it. "Well, Miss Lee," he said at last, "You'll forgive me if I say I find that unlikely. You're a smart girl--you could have figured it out." Suddenly a spark of anger rose up in her chest. Who the hell did he think he was, treating her like a criminal with no proof?
"I guess I'm not as smart as you think," Jubilee said scornfully. Anger was better than fear. Anger was something she could use, and she nurtured it carefully. Even when he stopped in front of her, eyes narrowed, she didn't let the fear grow. Not even when he suddenly reached out a hand and grabbed her chin.
"You're hiding something, and I'm going to find out what it is," he said softly.
"You're going to take your hand off me before I start screaming rape," she corrected coldly, and met his eyes. They gazed at each other for a long, frozen moment until his eyes dropped.
"Gonna play hardball, huh?" he said. He was trying to scare her again, but she stared him down and didn't let it work. Never again. "Fine." He stomped out the door, slamming it behind him. As soon as he was gone, Jubilee leapt to her feet. She had to get out of here. Luckily, her parents had had a few habits she'd picked up, like keeping a stash of cash where she could get at it. She pulled a duffel from the closet and shoved a haphazard collection of clothes into it. From the top drawer of her dresser she got her money, counting it quickly. Not a fortune, but enough.
On her way out the window she paused, one leg over the sill, and looked back at her room. Her bear lay forlornly on the bed, staring at the ceiling with blank glass eyes. She fought with herself, cursed, and hopped back in long enough to snatch the stuffed toy and jam it into her bag.
By the time he came back, this time with a policewoman in tow, she was ten blocks away and still running.
Even in the noise of a busy afternoon, he heard her. He'd always had the best ears, the best vision. He stopped and turned, searching the crowd for the person who knew his name. Jubilee panted to a halt beside him and threw her arms around his neck, scarcely noticing the way he tensed.
"Oh God, Wolvie, I thought you were dead! Why didn't you ever let me know?" she said, grinning against his shoulder. She pulled back and looked into his face, and her smile faded at what she saw there. He didn't know her.
Jubilee turned over restlessly. She was too warm, despite the fan that played over her bed. In theory, the tiny apartment had air conditioning. In practice, the machine produced nothing but smoke, and she couldn't afford the electricity to run it anyway. So she spent her nights bathed in sweat, sleeping naked or clad in panties and a bra.
Three months after her parents' death, she was no closer to her goal. She still had no idea who had killed them, or why. She sighed in the dim light that filtered through her blinds, rubbing her hands together in a futile attempt to dispel the itching in her fingers. It was beginning to worry her, but she didn't dare go to a doctor. No money, and too great a risk of being identified. In any case, a doctor would know she wasn't as old as she claimed to be.
She rolled again, half-crushing the bear that was tangled in her discarded blankets. Despite the heat she wrestled the toy out from under her weight and pressed it to her chest. "What the hell am I doing?" she asked it, staring into the darkness above her bed. There was no reply but the whir of the fan. "I should be in a nice foster home right now, getting ready for my junior prom at the nice school they'd be sending me to. That damn cop would never have made anything stick and anyway I'm a minor."
Jubilee released the bear and let it lie on her chest so she could rub her hands together again. She held them up before her in the darkness. There was enough light drifting through the blinds that she could see her fingers clearly, outlined against the black ceiling...except that wasn't why she could see them. Her fingers were glowing faintly, a scrim of Saint Elmo's fire that shifted as she watched.
"Ohshit," she said, all one word full of terrified fascination. The glow strengthened and she shook her hands frantically, trying to shake it away. There were colors to it now, moiré patterns of yellow and electric blue and magenta. She sat up straight and the bear tumbled to the floor, unnoticed.
With shocking suddenness the aura around her right hand flared and a shower of sparks flew from her fingertips. They flew across the room before exploding with a sound like distant thunder.
"Oh /shit/!" Jubilee said quietly. "I'm a mutant."
He put his hands on her shoulders and pushed her away and she felt incredulity crash over her in a wave. "Wolvie," she said pleadingly. "Logan."
His eyes widened. "How do you know my name?" he demanded, his grip on her shoulders tightening painfully.
"Don't you know me?" she asked, knowing it was pointless and unable to stop. "It's me, it's Jubilee, don't you remember?"
"No," he said, and amazingly his black eyes fell from hers. "I don't remember." He dropped his hands.
She took refuge in humor. "Well, I guess that explains why you didn't call," she said, trying for a light tone and failing miserably. "And here I thought you were just an asshole."
"Where did you know me?" he asked, suddenly urgent. "Was it..." He lowered his voice and glanced around, but no one on the street was paying any attention to them. Not in New York. "...Weapon X?" Jubilee furrowed her brow, trying to remember. "Isn't that the people you work for?" she asked. He studied her face intently for several seconds before he relaxed. "Not anymore," he said. "Not anymore." ---Past---
Jubilee leaned against the concrete wall in the alley, trying to stay in the shadows. She was about 90% certain that the restaurant across the way was a meeting-place for tong members--in essence, gangsters. She'd come on the off chance that she might see someone she recognized. So far, though, all she'd accomplished was boredom. Even the idea that she was staking it out wasn't going to keep her here another night.
She shifted her weight and sighed. It was so pointless. She was never going--
A hand slid out of the darkness and covered her mouth, muffling her squeak of alarm. As her captor dragged her further back into the alley she raised her hands, her fingers beginning to glimmer with her power. "Nona that," a man's voice growled in her ear. His thumb jabbed into the nerve plexus under her ear and the world went gray around her.
A few minutes later she shook herself awake to find him staring at her. She studied him as well as she could in the dim light that filtered back from the street. His hair was black and swept back from his face like wings; his dark eyes glittered like obsidian. He wore dark clothing that wouldn't have looked out of place on the street, but in the shadows it hid him just as effectively as a movie ninja's black suit.
"So what I'm wondering is, what're you doing here three nights running?" he asked. His tone was conversational but there was a thread of menace in it that made her eyes widen despite herself. She got a grip on her rising fear. No one was going to make her afraid. Not even this guy, who looked like he'd tear her throat out as soon as look at her.
"None of your business," she said defiantly. She was proud of that voice. It didn't waver, even when she suddenly realized her hands were cuffed behind her back. "It's my business now, darlin," he said, and a shiver ran up her spine. "You can tell me, or you can get hurt. Now I don't wanna hurt you, but I promise you I will." He reached out and caressed the side of her face with one hand; she tried to jerk away but he'd propped her up against the brick wall and there was nowhere to go. And this time when his fingers hit the nerves, it hurt like fire and she had to stifle a cry.
"Well? And by the way, I'll know if you're lying," he said. Jubilee didn't doubt it for a second. She struggled with herself for a long moment. Did she really need to prove she was stubborn, when she knew perfectly well that she couldn't hold out forever? He'd hurt her till she talked, she was sure of it. She took a deep breath.
"They killed my parents," she said, and despite everything the surprise on his face was comical. He recovered quickly, though. She had the feeling he needed to be able to recover quickly from just about anything.
"Sucks to be you," he said casually. "Keep away if you don't want to end up shishkebab, get it?" He held up one hand and three long blades slid from the back of it, within inches of her suddenly-wider eyes. "I saw the way your fingers were glowing, " he continued. "They check suspected runaways for mutancy, so if you turn me in you're going down too. So stay away and we'll forget we met, got it?"
He was moving even as he spoke and he was halfway to the alley mouth, the claws sliding smoothly back into their sockets, before she recovered her voice.
"You're gonna kill them, aren't you?" she asked, but he didn't even turn. Desperately, she said, "Let me come too!" He stopped. After a moment he turned to look at her.
"Are you nuts?" he said flatly. "Last thing I need is some kid getting in my way." But he hadn't denied he appraisal of his intentions, she noted, and felt a spark of hope. "They killed my folks. They ruined my life. All I wanted was to graduate high school, go to Europe, marry Nicholas Brendan and die, but they ruined it. All I want now is to see them dead." For a long, long moment he didn't reply.
Just as she was sure she'd lost him, he grinned. "What the hell?" he said."Worst that happens is you get killed." Jubilee blinked at him.
"You're pretty cocky for a guy about to take on the tongs with a built-in switchblade," she said as he leaned her forward to unlock the cuffs.
"It's better than what you got," he pointed out. "Sparkly fingers don't really strike fear into people." She resisted the urge to paff him. He'd get struck with fear when he couldn't /see/.
"Stay behind me when we get over there," he said. Jubilee rolled her eyes at him as he turned away.
"Why? Don't want me to get hurt?" she asked.
"No," he said patiently, as if to a slow three-year-old. "Don't want you to do something stupid and scare them." She glared at him as he left the alley, but he didn't notice. Or didn't care.
They crossed the street as if it were a shortcut and turned into the alley next to the restaurant with nothing furtive about them--at least, /he/ didn't look furtive, and Jubilee tried to emulate him.
The smell of egg rolls and lo mein mixed with a more generic alley-stink, and she had to stifle a gag. "This place stinks," she said softly. "Tell me about it," he whispered. "Now shut up." He went a few more feet, just past the Dumpster, and slid his hands carefully over the wall.
"Heh. The assholes in Intel got something right for once," he said with satisfaction. Jubilee glared at him. No talking, huh? Just for that, she didn't ask him what "Intel" was. He prodded at the seemingly blank wall for a second, then something clicked and a panel swung open. "Come on," he said, and vanished.
She stared into the darkness and swallowed. It was pitch black in there. "If you're coming, get in here," the man's voice floated out to her, and she stepped forward. The door, naturally, swung shut behind her and she jumped a little.
"What's your name, anyway?" she asked to break the oppressive silence.
"Wolverine. Now /shut up/," he said. Jubilee didn't laugh out loud, but it was a near thing. At least her nickname wasn't that dumb.
A hand grabbed her upper arm and she gasped. "Come on, kid," Wolverine said calmly. "Gotta go get a look at things, right?" They moved through the dark for a long time. Jubilee kept stumbling, but Wolverine's steps were sure and even. Once they went up a short flight of stairs.
Finally he stopped. "OK, from here on not a sound," he said, his voice startlingly close to her ear. "You'll scare them and besides they might start shooting." As if scaring them were more important, Jubilee thought. There was a scraping sound. She blinked as light suddenly flooded the tiny compartment they stood in.
It only took a moment for her eyes to adjust, and she saw that all he'd done was pull back a small sliding panel in the wall. The light was in fact fairly muted; only the contrast had made it blinding. He was standing enough to the side that she could look out too, so she took a step forward.
The room was large and well decorated in a tasteful mixture of Chinese and Western styles. Their point of view was near the ceiling, so in general all she could see was the tops of people's heads, but there were a few men sitting on the far side of the room who Jubilee could make out clearly.
She drew breath to say something, not thinking, and Wolverine's hand wrapped around her mouth. With his other hand he slid the panel shut.
"What?" he demanded, still whispering. "That man, the one in the gray suit," she whispered back. "He's one of my parents' friends. He used to bring me moon cookies. Oh God." Her knees felt weak and she wanted nothing more than to sit down. "They really were criminals," she said, a false calm settling over her voice. "They were in this up to their necks. That's why I never got to stay when they wanted to talk business with Mr. Yun. Oh God, oh God--"
"Shut the fuck up," Wolverine said briskly. Her train of thought derailed and she shut her mouth with a snap. "OK. That guy's the one I'm here to off." Jubilee had never heard anyone seriously mention committing murder before, and the new experience was hard to assimilate. "Thing is, my boss don't care who kills him, only that he gets dead, so here's what we're gonna do." In the darkness his voice became her only focal point. "I'm gonna go in there and deal with his guards." His voice was so confident that she didn't bother asking how he planned to do it with nothing but a couple of knives. "When that's done, I'll hold him down and you can kill him, OK?"
Jubilee turned the plan over in her mind, examining it from every angle. Assuming he could do what he claimed, she'd never get a better chance--or, most likely, any other chance at all. If he failed, the attempt would make them cautious for a long time to come; if he succeeded the man who'd caused her parents' deaths would be at her mercy.
"This is your only chance, kid," he said, and she started. "Try this on your own and you'll die."
"I don't know if I can just kill a guy," she said after a long pause. "Then what the fuck were you doing, staking this place out?" he asked, a tinge of irritation in his voice. "If they'd caught you, you'd be dead. Anyway I can guarantee you he ain't innocent. Even if he didn't have your folks offed, he's killed enough other people to deserve it. I saw his file."
For a moment she was silent, and a parade of images danced before her eyes. She saw her father, usually undemonstrative, one day catching her up in a hug and telling her he loved her. She saw her mother, standing in the kitchen over a smoking wok, cursing in Chinese as she burned dinner. She saw the three of them driving to Disneyland.
She saw herself, sitting on her bed clutching a stuffed animal while an angry cop tried to frighten her. She saw herself huddled in a tiny apartment, living in fear that someone would discover she wasn't yet eighteen. She saw herself afraid and alone and cut off from everything that had ever given her life stability.
"Let's do it," she said calmly. ---Present---
Jubilee nodded. "I'm happy for you," she said. "I know you didn't like those guys."
He laughed, but the humor didn't reach his eyes. "That's the understatement of the year," he said bitterly.
"Look," she said, searching his face, "You wanna get a drink or something?" "You aren't old enough to drink," he said. "That's not what my ID says." In fact she was a month past her nineteenth birthday. "All right, sure," he said. "You can tell me how we knew each other." The two of them started walking.
"We lived together for three months," she said, and noted with satisfaction that he missed a step.
"When was this?" he asked after a moment. "Three years ago," Jubilee said. "After I..." "After you what?" "After I killed Mr. Yun." *******
Jubilee stood in the corridor outside the meeting room, listening to the sudden silence. The last of the gunfire had stopped with the abruptness of a thrown switch, and she wasn't sure whether that was good or bad. Was Wolverine dead? Were they gathered around his body, prodding it to make sure he was really down?
Her fingers were starting to glow of their own volition. She clenched her fists, trying to stop it.
/If he's dead, so am I,/ she thought distantly, her eyes fixed on the door. /There's no way I can get out of here in time./ She wasn't even sure which way was out.
The door swung abruptly open and she brought her hands up, her fingers flaring brightly. "Hey! It's me," Wolverine said. She let out her breath and lowered her hands. "Way to give me a heart attack," she said through her teeth. "Sorry, kid." "My name's Jubilee," she said. "Can I--I mean, is he--?" He stood aside and made a florid, ironic gesture of invitation. "Right this way, kid." The tasteful room was unrecognizable. Chairs lay on their sides next to overturned tables; the walls had bullet holes in them, and the carpet was stained with something dark and wet. Lumps of fabric were scattered over the floor. A heavy smell hung in the air, a combination of the fireworks scent of gunpowder and wet pennies. /Blood,/ she thought absently. /That must be blood./ As if identifying the smell had enabled her to see its source, she suddenly realized that the lumps were, in fact, bodies.
Jubilee stopped walking. "What's the problem, kid?" Wolverine asked casually. She turned slowly to face him and he grinned at her. She could feel her eyes widening. The world around her went gray and she thought desperately, /If I faint I'll fall in it, I can't faint, I can't faint./ It took an effort of will to drive the mists away from the edges of her vision, but she succeeded, and when she had attention to spare again she looked into his face, searching for regret for the terrible thing he'd done.
She found none. But his grin had faded and his expression held something so alien it puzzled her for a long moment: grudging respect.
"He's over here," Wolverine said, and led the way to the other end of the room. Jubilee followed, carefully skirting the bodies and their attendant bloodstains. She felt as if there were a thick sheet of glass between her and everything she saw, and intellectually she knew it must be shock that was letting her handle it so calmly.
"I'm gonna puke later," she said conversationally.
"Me too," he said, and she stared at his back.
He stopped on the other side of one of the toppled tables and reached down to grab something. She rounded the table herself in time to see him haul her parents' friend by the hair into a sitting position. Mr. Yun seemed unharmed except for a bruise forming on his temple; his eyes were closed but Jubilee had the distinct feeling that he was awake.
Wolverine shook the man roughly. "I know you're fakin' it," he said. "Open your eyes and tell the kid you're sorry before you die." For a long moment there was no response. Then Yun's eyes opened. He was looking straight at her and she met his gaze squarely.
"You killed my parents," she said. The tone of her voice frightened her even as she welcomed its absolute flatness.
"I ordered them killed," Yun corrected, and she shook her head in disgust. He was still responsible.
"They were going to betray me," he said. "They planned to go to the police. What they knew would have ruined me."
Jubilee nodded. She could feel her anger, settling into place like an old and welcomed friend. The anger cast a red veil over the gray world.
"Here," Wolverine said, and offered her a handgun, butt first. She shook her head.
"Lean him over forward," she said. It was almost as if it wasn't her own voice at all. He did as she asked, and she saw that Yun's hands were cuffed. It was probably even the same pair of cuffs.
She took a long step forward and put her hand gently on the back of the man's neck. His skin was warm under her fingertips. The anger leaped up in flames at the feel of his life, when people she loved were dead.
"Burn in hell," she said conversationally, and triggered her power. Mr. Yun stiffened, then went limp in Wolverine's grasp. She took her hand away and stared at the pattern of red burn marks she'd left on the skin. The flames that had warmed her were dying.
Wolverine dropped Mr. Yun's body like a sack of dirty laundry. Her gaze followed it to the floor. She couldn't look away. From a great distance she heard him talking.
"Next time remind me not to make fun of a power until I see it in action," Wolverine said. "OK. Been nice knowin' you, kid, but--" In mid-sentence he broke off and looked in the direction of the door. "Shit!" he exclaimed.
"What?" Jubilee asked. She couldn't take her eyes away from the body on the floor. Outside she heard the sound of voices, faint but getting louder rapidly.
"Reinforcements," Wolverine said. "Coming fast. Get /down/, idiot!" She tore her eyes away from Mr. Yun and started turning to the door. She got her head around just in time to see someone leap into the room.
A shot echoed in the confined space. Something hit her hard in the side. She saw the room tilt.
Sunk in her memories, she was silent for nearly a block. He seemed content to let her walk, though she caught the curious glances he gave her sidelong.
"Up there," she said at last. "It's a decent bar, I used to work there."
"You don't look the type," he said.
"What, to work in a bar?" she asked, deliberately misinterpreting him.
"No," he said.
"There were special circumstances," she said, and pulled open the door for him.
She struggled through mist that seemed strangely solid, in pursuit of something that she couldn't name. She had a stitch in her side and it wouldn't go away no matter how she rubbed at it; she couldn't stop to let it ease because she had to keep running. A voice echoed around her, asking the same question over and over. She wished fervently that it would stop. If it would stop, she could stop, and then the stitch would go away.
"Where do you live, kid? Come on, come on, we gotta go somewhere, where do you live, goddammit, wake up and tell me where you live!"
She wondered if she should tell the voice where she lived. Maybe it was a trick. It wanted to find out where she lived so it could come and get her as she slept. She shook her head and the voice exclaimed in frustration.
"Tell me where you live or I swear I'll leave you here," it threatened. She suppressed a pang of fear. She didn't want to stay in the mists alone.
"Where do you live?"
"Upstairs from Murphy's,"she called into the mist.
"Where the fuck is Murphy's?"
"Sepulveda," she said. The voice didn't ask her any more questions and she fell gratefully into the darkness.
When she opened her eyes again she thought she was dreaming. It was her own ceiling, grimy and painfully familiar. Her bear was nestled against her right side.
"Took you long enough," Wolverine said.
Jubilee gave a startled cry and started to sit up. Pain flared from her side and she fell back again.
"What the hell are you doing here?" she demanded. She tried for angry and only managed petulant; her voice was weak and her vision swam.
"Saving your life," he said succinctly. Carefully, she turned her head to look at him.
"I got shot," she said.
He grinned. "Got it in one."
"Why are you helping me?" she asked, with the last of her strength. He didn't answer for so long that she began to drift off again.
"Wish to hell I knew," he said softly.
She never knew how long she slept. Sometimes she opened her eyes to light, sometimes to darkness. He was always there when she looked for him, and she began to count on it. No matter how terrible her dreams or how great the pain, there would always be a presence next to her bed, watching her.
Until the time she opened her eyes to find him gone.
Panic shot through her heart like ice and she sat up as quickly as she dared. /He's just in the bathroom,/ she thought. But a glance in that direction did nothing to calm her fears. The door to the tiny room was open, but the light was not on. Nor could she hear any sound. There was nowhere to hide in the bedroom, unless he was under the bed. Jubilee swung her legs over the side of the bed and attempted, cautiously, to stand up. She swayed and gasped as the movement pulled something in her side.
Cold air rushed up under the T-shirt she was wearing, but she took a shaky step away from the bed. Another step, and she was just congratulating herself on her success when her knees buckled. She caught herself on the doorframe with the arm on her bad side and tried to scream, but she had no breath for it. She crumpled into a heap and sat there for a long time, tears of pain welling in her eyes. He'd left her. No doubt he was tired of taking care of her. Whatever aberration had led him to care for her welfare in the first place, it had worn off. More tears rose, though she tried to fend them off. Why should she care anyway? Everyone else had abandoned her; why shouldn't he?
Jubilee buried her face in her hands and wept. She was still there, on the floor and shivering, when keys rattled in the lock. Awash in pain, convinced she'd been abandoned, she didn't hear a thing until he knelt at her side.
"Hey, kid. You shouldn't be up," he said gently. He put a hand on her shoulder.
She turned and flung her arms around his neck. "Where did you go?" she asked, her voice muffled against his chest.
"I just went to the store," he said. "Come on, let's get you back in bed." He slid one arm around her shoulders and the other, cautiously, around her waist. Jubilee hissed with the pain of it.
"I thought you left me here to die," she said as she struggled to her feet. They wouldn't hold her.
He stooped to get a better grip and lifted her. Jubilee gasped and he said, "I'm not gonna leave you, kiddo. I've put too much effort in to let you die now." In two steps he was back to the bed, laying her down carefully. He pulled the covers back up and she grabbed his hand.
"What's your name?" she asked.
"Wolverine," he said. "I told you that."
"No, I mean your real name," she insisted. For a long moment he was silent.
"Logan," he said at last. 'Get some sleep, kiddo. You need it."
"Why don't you remember me?" Jubilee asked. Logan gazed down into his beer.
"Come on," she said. He gave her a narrow look.
"How do I know you are who you say you are?" he asked in return, and she snorted.
"You have a scar under your arm from when you were a kid," she said. "It's shaped like Texas."
"All that proves is that you've seen my file," he said.
She sighed. "Would your file tell me about the spot on your neck that'll give you a hard-on in about ten seconds if I suck on it? Anyway, you can smell I'm not lying." She met his eyes squarely. "Besides, if I've seen your file, whatever the hell that means, I know why you don't remember, so what harm can it do to tell me?" She took a sip of her own drink while he thought it over.
"The people I used to work for," he said. "They don't like it when you get ideas." He paused and she nodded encouragingly. "One of the ways they keep you from getting ideas is by making sure you don't remember anything but them."
"You're telling me your bosses gave you amnesia?" Jubilee asked incredulously. "Man, if that were any lamer I'd have to kick your ass."
He set his beer mug down, too hard. The crack rang through the interior of the bar like a shot and earned them a dirty look from the bartender. "Fine," Logan said. "Don't believe me." He started sliding out of the booth and she put her hand out to stop him.
"You didn't let me finish," Jubilee said. He paused for a bare second. "I was gonna say, I can't think of a better explanation, so I guess the lame one must be true." She smiled and he slowly sat back down.
"What happened when we lived together?" he asked. Her smile faded.
He let her out of bed a few days later. Jubilee was so tired of the same stretch of ceiling that the change of scene made her giddy with delight.
"I'm starving," she exclaimed as he settled her in. She still wasn't allowed to walk on her own.
"I'll see if I can work something up," he said. She gave him a skeptical look.
"You cook?" she asked.
He grinned at her from the door of her kitchen--all six square feet of it. "Guy's gotta eat," he said. She teased him while he scrambled eggs and made toast, and he returned her volleys in kind. Once he had her plate balanced on the shaggy arm of her couch, however, his expression changed.
"I've got to go out tonight," he said seriously. Jubilee felt her good mood draining away, but she smiled resolutely anyway.
"Are--I mean, am I out of something"idn't want.
"No," he said quietly. She gave up on the smile as a bad job.
"You're not leaving?" she asked.
"I don't want to, kiddo, but I may not have any choice," he said.
"What do you mean?" Jubilee put her fork down.
"I have to check in," he said. "I don't know if I'm gonna be able to convince them I need to stay on this assignment." She stared at him, confused, and he sighed. "I work for--the government," he said. "They send me out to do things, and I have to check in so they know I'm doing them. Tonight's the night. If they think there's more for me to do here, they'll let me stay, but if not..."
"If not, they'll take you away, is that it? Jesus, Logan. You could just tell me you're tired of taking care of me instead of trying to feed me this cloak-and-dagger crap."
"It's not like that!" he exclaimed. His eyes met hers and both were equally angry. "I'm not tired of you, Jubilee, but these people--you have no idea what they're like. If I don't check in, they'll come lookin' for me, and trust me when I say neither of us wants that."
"Sure," she said, and picked up her fork again. "I shoulda known." She poked at her eggs, horrified to realize that she was going to cry.
"Oh for Chrissakes," he said. "If you don't trust me to tell you the simple truth, why the fuck do you care whether I stay or not?" He put his own plate down on the milk crate she used for a coffee table and stood up. She looked resolutely at her eggs.
"Why did you help me?" she asked at last. She couldn't look at him but she felt his regard as if he were touching her.
"Because you would have gotten killed if I hadn't," he said.
He hesitated. Jubilee lifted her eyes from her plate and stared at him silently. "So you were in that alley and you were scared out of your head, but you were there anyway, and when I asked you why you said you wanted revenge. And lemme tell you, I can relate to that. And you went into that place, still scared shitless and determined not to show it, not even to let yourself know it, and when you went into that room I thought you were gonna faint right there. But you didn't. And when it came time to take care of Yun, you didn't cry and you didn't back out and you didn't even take the easy way and use the gun."
"So I'm tough, is that it?" she snarled.
"If I were as innocent as you, I couldn't have done it," he said. She laughed incredulously. "You've got something. Call it what you want but it comes down to guts. I didn't want to see guts like that die, that's all."
"I'm so flattered," she said, her voice heavy with sarcasm.
"Well you fucking well should be!" he yelled. Jubilee flinched and looked away. "Jubes--come on, I'm sorry," he said. She shook her head, not trusting herself to talk. "I promise, if I can come back I will." He put an arm around her shoulders, but she refused to let him draw her in. Her side ached miserably.
"How're they gonna find you?" she asked at last. "There're like ten million people in LA." He sighed.
"There's a little radio under my skin," he said. "It has to be reset once a week or it starts broadcasting continuously. When that happens they send some very bad men after me." He paused. His voice was flat and perfectly calm, but Jubilee was certain she heard fear in it. "I got back to base once fifteen minutes after the radio went off," he continued. "For a full week afterwards they came and beat me up every three hours."
"Who the hell are these people?" she asked. Impossible to believe him--and impossible not to. She let herself relax enough to take the pressure off her side.
"Weapon X," he said. She almost recoiled from the raw hatred in his tone. All at once he took her by the shoulders and turned her to face him, gazing at her with terrible intensity. "Jubilee. If you ever see someone with a tattoo like the patch on my jacket, or hear about a man named John Wraith, you have to get away, just as quick and as quiet as you can. Don't stop to pack, don't take time to quit your job, just run like hell and don't look back. And whatever you do, don't let them know you're a mutant, you understand me?" She nodded slowly, her eyes wide. "Good. Now I have to go and check in."
She stared at him for a long moment, thinking furiously. "Why?" she asked at last.
"Cause I don't want them following the signal here and finding you," he said. "Anyway I'm not up for a week of spitting out my teeth."
"Can't you, I don't know, jam the thing or break it or something?"
He shook his head. "I don't know where it is or what frequency it uses," he said. "I'd have to dig for it and there's no time. I have to be there in an hour."
Jubilee said, "Look. Go then. Get your thingie reset and convince them you have more work to do--and then when you come back we can figure out how to get rid of it."
"I'll try," he said. She shook her head furiously, ignoring the complaints from her side.
"Don't /try/. Just do it."
By dawn she was starting to loose hope. She'd spent the night sitting on the couch, listening to the sounds of traffic and trying not to think. Her side throbbed continuously and screamed when she moved; she couldn't sleep and couldn't get comfortable and she'd been crying off and on since he left. Late-night broadcast TV did nothing to distract her from any of it.
She was dozing when he slipped in, moving like he hadn't slept in a week. At the sound of the door closing she jerked awake.
"Logan," she said. He came to the couch, all but staggering, and she looked him over anxiously. "Are you OK?" she asked as he sat down.
"I found it," he said, and dug in his pocket. "Little bastard lied to me about where it was, but I found it in the end." He pulled out his hand and opened it. In his palm lay a tiny electronic device, perhaps the size of a dime.
Jubilee regarded it warily. "It's not doing anything now, is it?" she asked.
"I don't think so," he replied, turning the thing over to reveal a blinking light. "That hasn't changed." For a minute they were both silent, watching the light flash balefully, like an unfriendly eye.
At last she asked, "What are you going to do with it?"
"Toss it in the ocean," he said.
He was on his third beer, but it was just like she remembered. He was showing no signs of drunkenness.
"That didn't work this time," he commented. "I had to microwave my arm.
"You nuked yourself?" Jubilee asked incredulously.
"I had to get rid of it somehow. It was fused to the bone."
Jubilee looked him over skeptically. "Why didn't your arm fall off or something, then?"
"I heal fast," he said matter-of-factly. "You should know that."
"There's a difference between healing fast and surviving--well I told you I thought you were dead, right?" She stared into her own glass, which was still mostly full. She didn't dare meet his gaze. She knew he'd see her feelings in her eyes, and that just wasn't fair to either of them. He didn't remember, and from what he said he was never going to.
"Jubes, I'm back," he called from the front door, but she didn't bother replying. It would have been too much trouble to find the right words through the waves of self-loathing. She lay on her good side; she'd gotten into the habit over the long period of healing, and though she was mostly better the caution persisted.
"Jubes?" he said again, from the bedroom door this time. "Hi," she said quietly.
"Hey, kiddo. What's wrong? Your side bothering you again?"
In fact it was a little, but she shook her head. She deserved it.
"Don't give me that crap," he said. "You're taking a pain pill."
"I don't want a pill," she said, and reached up to push away the hand he'd laid on her shoulder. "Just leave me alone."
"Oh," he said, and was silent. She rolled onto her back and wiped her eyes enough to see him, though the tears continued to flow silently down her cheeks.
"'Oh' what?" she asked with mild curiosity.
"I was wonderin' when this was gonna happen," Logan said. "I was getting kinda worried--it's been more than a month."
"Yeah," she said. "More than a month." She squeezed her eyes shut, but that only made the image more vivid. She could pick out every detail of the limp form, from his polished shoes to the top of his head, but the part she saw most easily was the set of red marks, like burns on the back of his neck. She had left those burns there. "I can't stop thinking about it," she said, her tone still dull.
"That's why you'n me are different," he said. "I don't remember how many people I've killed."
"I shouldn't've done it," Jubilee said, and for the first time emotion crept into her voice. "I should've turned him in."
"Maybe, maybe not," he replied. "I guarantee you he wouldn't have stayed in jail. People like him can afford good lawyers. Anyway, that wasn't really an option. I would have killed him if you hadn't."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" she asked, and turned away from him again.
"It's the truth," he said. "Your way was probably less painful, too."
"I'm no better than he was," Jubilee said. Her breath caught in a sob.
"That's not true," he said. "Come on, Jubes, sit up." He helped her mostly upright and leaned against the wall at the head of the bed, his arms around her. "You think he'd be crying for you? That makes you better, OK? Better'n me, that's for sure."
She shook her head wordlessly and the sobs started in earnest. Logan held her for a long time, talking to her softly on a consistent theme: you're not evil, not worthless, not heartless. You're a good person. Afterwards she remembered only one phrase. "I may not be a good guy," he said, "but I know good when I see it."
When she finally calmed, they sat there quietly for a few minutes longer. She wiped her eyes with one hand and produced a watery smile.
"I need a kleenex," she said.
Logan replied, "You shoulda thought of that before. I've only got so many shirts, y'know."
Jubilee sat up straight and fixed him with a glare until she saw the half-smile he was trying to hide. "Jerk," she said affectionately.
"Took you this long to figure that out, huh? You feelin' any better?"
She paused to think it over. "Yeah," she said at last. "I dunno for how long, but I feel better."
"It won't be this bad again," he said.
"I hope not," she replied fervently. "I wanted to kill myself, but it seemed like too much effort." He nodded and carefully began extricating himself from between her and the wall.
"Some people are like that," Logan said. "I've seen it before." He crossed the room quickly and grabbed her box of tissues from the bathroom. She took it and pulled out a tissue to blow her nose, and another to wipe her face. He sat down next to her on the bed again.
Jubilee set the box of tissues on her tiny nightstand and suddenly, impulsively, leaned forward to hug him. She was aiming the kiss for his cheek but he was startled and moved just enough that she hit about half on his lips instead. Through her shock, she decided that perhaps this wasn't an entirely bad thing. He had very nice lips.
Both of them stayed perfectly still for a long, frozen moment. Logan pulled back first and their eyes met, wide, startled blue to thoughtful black. He leaned towards her again, giving her plenty of time to move away--but she didn't, and they kissed, gently at first.
After some indeterminate interval they came up for air. "Jubilee," he said.
"What?" She pulled at his shoulders and he chuckled.
"I'm not gonna say I don't want you, but you better think about this," he said. He sounded mildly surprised, though she wasn't sure at what.
"What's to think?" Jubilee asked indistinctly.
"I don't believe I'm saying this, but it's a big step. If you decide in five minutes you don't wanna do it, I'm not sure how good my control's gonna be." She bit his earlobe and he jerked. "Especially if you keep doing that."
"Good. Shut up and kiss me," she said firmly.
He smiled against her shoulder. "I was hopin' you'd say that," he said.
She grabbed a sugar packet and shook it back and forth for lack of anything better to do, and to avoid his direct gaze. It was so eerie to look into those black eyes and see nothing--no recognition, no acknowledgement, no acceptance.
"Three months, huh?" he said at last, when it became clear she wasn't going to continue without prompting.
Jubilee nodded. "If you count the time I was hurt, then yeah. Three months almost to the day." /How can you not remember me?/ she wailed internally.
"Why did I leave?" he asked.
"You didn't," she said, looking up from her sugar packet. "They came for you."
When the door was kicked in, they were discussing where they could go.
"New York," Logan said. "It's big enough and far enough away that they won't find us." Jubilee was nodding when the crash startled a yelp out of her. Logan was out of bed and on his feet so fast he might have teleported. "Hide!" he snapped. She had cast the covers aside and was scrambling for the bathroom when the bedroom door slammed open and he leapt for it, his claws flashing in the light from the lamp. Someone was standing in the doorway with a short baton held at chest level; Jubilee stifled a cry as he ran into it, unable to stop the momentum of his leap, and fell to the floor amid a sudden crackle and the smell of ozone. The man with the baton followed him down, keeping the weapon in contact with his flesh for what seemed like an eternity. Jubilee just stood in the bathroom door and watched, barely breathing. She raised her hands, ready to release her power--and stopped short.
The man with the baton had a patch on his jacket pocket. It was exactly like the one Logan had ripped from his.
She gritted her teeth and the St. Elmo's fire didn't rise. Her fingers itched, as they always did when she had to restrain her power.
"Wolverine, how many times do we have to tell you?" a man's voice said from the other room. "Screaming and leaping like that is gonna get you killed someday." The man with the baton--Jubilee had decided it must be a tazer--moved aside and another man took his place. He looked down at Logan with an expression of amused contempt and kicked him hard in the side. Then he looked up and said musingly, "Well. What have we here? Friend of yours, Wolverine?" His gaze traveled over her slowly and deliberately, taking in her panties and bra with frightening interest. Jubilee opened her mouth to answer when Logan gasped out, "Hooker."
"That so?" The man stepped over Logan without so much as a glance and grabbed her by her upper arm, pulling her against him. "Pretty good shape for a whore." His other hand ran down her back and over her buttocks. She shuddered. "What's the matter, honey? A real man ain't good enough for you?" he asked.
Her eyes met Logan's for a long moment.
"You didn't pay," she said, and pushed the uniformed man away. He grinned.
"You oughta thank me," he said. "You know this scum's a mutant?" He kicked Logan again, harder. /Oh God,/ she thought despairingly, but her tone was all she could have hoped for when she spoke.
"I shoulda charged him double," she said. "Freak." The uniformed man laughed.
"I don't think your chickie likes you any more," he informed Logan, who was trying to sit up. "Watkins, hit him again." The man with the baton nodded and shoved the implement into Logan's shoulder. He fell again with an inarticulate moan that went through her like a knife. He lay there panting for an eternity before he managed to draw breath enough to speak. "Wraith," he said. "Kill you--"
Wraith grinned at him. "Not fucking likely. Get him up." Two more men crowded through the bedroom door and grabbed Logan's arms, hauling him to his feet. Under cover of the movement he met Jubilee's eyes again. She clenched her fists; the itching was maddening and she could barely contain it. He had never said the word 'love' even once, but she could read it in his gaze and felt her heart breaking.
He looked away at last.
"You know, I think this little honey took a liking to you, Wolverine," Wraith drawled. Jubilee's breath caught in her throat. His voice was thick with lust and sniggering contempt; she knew precisely what he meant to do even before he spoke again.
"Bring her along," he said. Logan twitched. "Something funny about her, and anyway she'll be fun to have around. No one's gonna miss a mutie-loving whore."
"Are you nuts?" Jubilee exclaimed, as the man with the baton stepped around Logan and his two guards to reach her. "Not a fucking chance." She backed away.
So casually that she didn't realize what was happening at first, Wraith pulled a gun from under his jacket and pointed it at her head. "Want to rethink that position?" he asked. She swallowed.
"Can I put some clothes on first?" she asked.
"No time for that, honey. Let's go."
All the way down the stairs she could hear Logan growling. It was barely audible but it never stopped. He didn't struggle against his two guards; he didn't say anything; he didn't even make them carry him. But he growled, all the way. By the time they got to the ground floor Jubilee was shivering violently, a combination of cold and abject fear. Every few steps Wraith jabbed her bare back with his gun, which only made things worse.
She realized later that he was resting, waiting for the last of the tazer to wear off. Four flights of quiet cooperation had also let their captors relax a notch. He waited until she was outside; Wraith was right behind her but Logan and his two guards, as well as the man with the tazer, were still inside.
The first hint she got was a gurgling scream as the door swung shut behind her. Wraith spun to face the closed door and Jubilee tackled him, knocking his gun from his hand. The two of them tottered off-balance and went over, Wraith on the bottom. His head hit the pavement with an audible crack and he went limp, dazed if not unconscious. She struggled to her feet and reached for the door handle just as it burst open. Logan stood in the doorway panting, his claws extended on both hands and a snarl on his face that hardly faded when he saw her. He grabbed her hand, remembering just in time to let his claws retract.
"We gotta run," he said bluntly.
"All my stuff's up there! All your stuff!" she protested.
"We can get new stuff," he said. "Now /run/." With that he started for the other end of the parking lot and she, perforce, followed.
She thought the noise was a backfire and at first didn't understand why Logan suddenly stumbled. Only when the second shot came and he fell did she make the connection. It took her a few steps to slow down and turn back to him.
He was trying to push himself to his feet. Blood was pouring from a wound in his shoulder, and his left leg seemed to be encased in a red, knee-high sock. With a cry she knelt next to him.
"Go," he said. "I'll make sure they don't follow but you have to run right now."
She shook her head frantically. "I'm not leaving you," she said. "You need help."
"I'll be OK, Jubes, but only if I know you got away so run." Over his shoulder she saw Wraith approaching, a machine gun held at the ready. Logan must have heard him. He took her face in his hands and said, "Go, Jubilee. I love you." He spun her and shoved her away, hard, and she came to her feet running. She could barely see for the tears, but there was nothing wrong with her hearing; she heard his desperate yell and the rattle of machine-gun fire as she turned the corner.
Jubilee set her glass down. He seemed to be accepting her slightly-edited version of what had happened, though he had looked skeptical at first.
"So you thought I was dead because they shot me?" Logan said at last. She nodded. "And that's all you know?"
"Except for stupid things like what kind of hot dogs you like, yeah," she said. He considered for a moment.
"OK. Thanks for the info, kid." He pulled a wallet from his pocket and extracted a twenty, which he dropped on the table. She opened her mouth as he slid from the booth. "Don't worry about it," he said. "I got connections these days."
"I don't care about the money," she said indignantly, looking up at him. He returned her stare.
"What, then?" he asked.
"I--I just thought you might...we could--" She sputtered to a stop in the face of his expression, a strange mixture of annoyance and pity.
"Look, kid," he said. "That guy's dead. He didn't die when they shot him but he's still dead and he's not coming back. I'm not that guy anymore and I couldn't be even if I wanted to."
"Wolvie--you don't have to be that guy," she said desperately. "You can be a new guy." He was shaking his head even before she finished speaking.
"Sorry, kid, I got other stuff to do." He turned and headed for the door. She refused to watch him go, but she heard him stop and speak in low tones to the bartender. Once he was gone, she got up stiffly and collected her things. The bartender--not the one she'd known when she worked there--called to her as she passed.
"Hey, miss," he said. "That guy told me to give you this." He held out a business card; after a brief internal struggle Jubilee took it. 'Xavier Institute for the Gifted,' it read on the front, along with an address that had to be upstate. She turned it over. On the back, in familiar spiky handwriting, was a short note.
'You seem like a nice enough kid,' it read. 'If you get in a jam, come to these folks. They'll help you out.' There was no salutation or signature. She snorted and grabbed the upper edge to tear the thing in half.
"He said to tell you he was sorry, too," the bartender said. He was watching her curiously. Jubilee nodded and shoved the card into her purse.
"Thanks," she said. "Money's on the table."
A few weeks later Jubilee lay on her bed, her bear clutched to her chest and nothing but darkness around her. She'd been cooking dinner when the news story about the bombing in Westchester County had come on. With the handle of her wok slowly burning her palm she'd stood silently in the arch between kitchen and living room until the story was over.
"He's not dead," she said out loud into the silent room. Midnight had come and gone. "He survived a whole machine-gun clip, he can survive this too."
She thought about it for a long time. "They caught up with him, but he's /not dead./" she said at last. "And if they caught up with him he needs help."
She sat up and turned the bear to face her. Gazing into its button eyes she said, "He needs my help." The bear said nothing. "I'm probably going to get myself killed," she commented. Still no response. "So what am I waiting for?" She got up and padded to the closet to drag out the packed duffel bag. She checked over its contents, musing that she should get a good night's sleep before she left.
The bag was ready to go and Jubilee slung it onto a chair to wait for morning. She got back into bed and wrapped the bear in her arms. "I'll pack you in the morning," she said, and closed her eyes.