"Up an' at 'em kid," Wolverine growled, entering the rec room where Jubilee had been watching an X-Files marathon.
"What?" she exclaimed. "This is, like, my favorite episode!"
"Too bad," he muttered, and turned off the television set. "We've got company."
"I don't know kid, Cerebro detected them. Let's go."
"All right, I hope that this is worth missing Small Potatoes."
Wolverine shook his head as Jubilee reluctantly turned the television off. Why was everyone so obsessed with that show? he wondered.
The two of them quickly made their way down to the war room, Jubilee running to keep up with Wolverine's quick pace. Suddenly, he froze. Jubilee careened into his shoulder.
"What?" she asked sharply.
Wolverine inhaled deeply, his eyes narrowing.
"Trouble," he replied in a low voice.
Jubilee rolled her eyes. "Jeez, do you think you could be a little more specific?" she asked.
Wolverine growled and pushed her backwards with one hand on her stomach, never taking his eyes away from the hallway that trailed off into darkness.
"You know that old dumbwaiter in the kitchen?"
"Think you could squeeze into it?"
Jubilee's eyes widened and she swallowed, hard. Wolverine wouldn't tell her to hide- wouldn't let her out of his sight- unless it was really, really bad.
"Wolvie?" she asked hesitatingly.
He gave her a look and leaned down the few inches that made him taller. "Marauders."
The lights went out.
"Oh great" Jubilee muttered "What are we gonna do Wolvie?"
"WE are gonna do nothin', but YOU are going to find a safe place an' stay there while I take care of 'em" Wolverine growled.
"Hey, you seem ta forget that I am an X-man too an' now you're treating me like some dumb ki-"Jubilee protested but rapidly shut her mouth when Logan frantically gave her the 'shut up an' don't move sign'.
"Wha-" she started.
"Behind you" he whispered.
Jubilee spun around on silent feet, dropping instinctively into a defensive crouch. Eyes wide, she scanned the shadows at the end of the hall.
"Wolvie--" she whispered, stopping as he placed a hand on her shoulder. He sniffed the air, his eyes narrowing into slits.
"Riptide," he growled.
A low chuckle emerged from the end of the corridor, and Jubilee stiffened. Stepping from behind the wall he had been using as cover, Riptide emerged. His face was still hidden by shadow, but there was no mistaking the gaunt form of his body or the shuriken glinting between his fingers. A malevolent smile crept across his face.
"So sweet, the two of you there...together," he hissed.
Jubilee opened her mouth for a smart-ass retort, but only a gasp emerged as Wolverine suddenly grabbed her around the waist with both arms, and began hauling her down the hall away from the Marauder. Over the sound of his breathing, Jubilee heard the distinctive whistle of cut air, the sound steadily growing into a scream that bit into her ear drums. Wolverine pressed Jubilee tighter to his chest as shuriken embedded themselves in the walls around them.
"Wolvie," she gasped, as several of Riptide's throwing stars embedded themselves firmly into his back.
"I'll live," he told her shortly. "But I've gotta get you outta here."
The grip of his hands was rough, almost lifting her off her feet, as Wolverine swept her in front of him and pushing her forward down the shadowed corridor. "Run," he snarled, voice low in her ear. "I'm right behind you. Gotta get you holed up somewhere, gotta warn th' others."
Instinctively she ran, fear mingling with the strange comfort of Logan's massive shape pounding behind her. "Why isn't the generator kicking in?" she thought, the question flickering through her mind as she careened around a corner and into deeper shadow. She hesitated a moment, peering ahead into the darkness and felt the older man's hand seize her arm. His voice in her ear again, soft as breath, faintly scented of cigars, "There's more of 'em up there." She could hear him scent the still air. "Two or three I don't recognize. C'mon. Gotta be another way."
Jubilee shuddered, despite herself, as they crept ahead. The warm, familiar hallways of the X-mansion had suddenly gone cold, become a maze of dark metal and glass that hid unspeakable horrors. Her fingertips itched with energy to light the way ahead and she steeled herself. "I've faced worse than this," she thought. "Lots worse. 'Course we don't really know how bad things are--"
She only heard the brief rush of air and the thunk of something hitting the wall beside her before Logan shoved her aside, his fingers tight on the back of her shirt, keeping her from falling, keeping her on her feet to run. "Get to the Danger Room an' hide," he hissed behind her. Another whistle of something narrow splitting the air. Wolvering grunted and staggered forward a step, still pushing her, his snarled "Get goin', girl!" punctuated by the wet *shluct* of claws extending.
Jubilee turned to see him as she moved. Blood streamed down his arm from a small spear of metal embedded in his shoulder; his eyes gleamed ferrally in the dimness and his lips curled back to bare white teeth. "But what about you? What about everybody else?!" the teenager protested. "Where are they?"
Before Logan could shove her into running silence again, a low chuckle rose behind them, drifting cooly in their wake. The short hairs on the back of Jubilee's neck rose as the calm, ominous voice followed them, unaffected by the pace she and Logan had set. "Where, little one? Safely under wraps, I can assure you. Somewhere you and your hairy friend will be very very soon..."
Three figures shrouded in shadows appeared at the end of the corridor. Riptide's greysilver hair caught what little light followed them; it played dim and brief on a handful of metal spikes in another's hand; the central figure, however, seemed bathed in darkness. Wolverine rumble of recognition was unmistakable, however, and he gave her one final push away from him.
"Wolvie, I can fight, too!" she began, but he was already turning toward the tall, broad shadow approaching them, crouching to meet Harpoon's advance.
Pressing herself against the wall, Jubilee waited, torn between the doing as he demanded, chasing off to find Jean or Gambit or *anybody* else, and sending fireworks into the faces of the Marauders who confronted Wolverine. She grinned slightly. Not much of a decision, really. And crouched against the wall to gather her power.
Harpoon's laughter was tainted with eagerness, confidence, sinister knowledge, as he paced forward. "Do you feel it yet, X-Man?" he tossed at Logan. "Even your reputed mutant healing factor's going to have trouble with it, I think." His voice sent a shiver down Jubilee's spine.
"C'mon, bub," Logan growled. He lifted his hands, the bone claws, menacingly. "I'll show you trouble."
"I don't think so," said the dark figure beyond Harpoon. "Poison, Logan, my old enemy. I imagine we've finally got something that will take care of not only you, but all the X-Men..." His tone was acrid, slightly taunting. "...including the little waif behind you."
His roar already raging in his throat, Wolverine's charge forward was suddenly arrested as a wave of vertigo swept over him. He staggered, fighting it, lifting furious blue eyes to his enemy's in direct threat. "Sinister..." he rasped as gravity seemed to seize him in taloned fingers, dragging at him heavily.
Jubilee's eyes went wide with shock as Logan stumbled to his knees in the corridor.
"Wolvie!" she gasped, pushing herself away from the wall. Logan, on his knees before the Marauders, weakly lifted his head at the sound of her voice.
Run, his eyes screamed.
Jubilee's breath caught in her throat. Run? Every instinct in her body begged her to follow his order, but she couldn't. Her heart just wouldn't let her. Leave Wolvie? After all they had been through together?
"So the little one doesn't want to leave her master, eh?" Riptide's voice cut through her thoughts. His eyes glittered as he pinned Jubilee with his stare. "What do you say to that, Wolverine? Maybe we should have a little fun with her, since she's so keen on staying."
Wolverine's roar filled the hall, the man summoning enough strength to launch himself towards Riptide. His claws reached hungrily for his exposed throat, but Riptide whirled safely out of danger. Wolverine fell to the ground with a pain filled grunt. Harpoon knelt beside him as he struggled to rise. He wrapped meaty fingers in Wolverine's hair, and with a vicious yank, pulled the man's head back. Wolverine bared his teeth and growled. Harpoon chuckled.
"I think," he said in a low voice, producing a foot long, gleaming blade. "That I'll just end this now." He lifted the dagger, point down, above Wolverine's exposed throat.
Something snapped in Jubilee. She didn't think, she didn't feel--at that moment, her entire world consisted of the vision before her. Wolverine, helpless, about to be killed. She didn't even cry out a warning as she lifted up her hands, though she felt a scream tear from her throat as a plasma burst erupted not only from her hands, but from her entire body. A rainbow of hot light engulfed the Marauders and Sinister, blowing them backwards and away from Wolverine.
And then it was gone--the power shut off as though someone had flipped a switch. Dazed--not quite sure of what had just happened--Jubilee stared at the crumpled bodies at the end of the hall. Only one of them was stirring, and she caught a flash of a white face, and burning red eyes.
Jubilee staggered as the full weight of what she had done finally hit her. "Ohmygosh," she muttered. Her eyes fell on Wolverine, and she stumbled to his side, her heart in her throat. He lay unconcious, but she could see his chest rising and falling with a steady motion. Jubilee threw a glance at Sinister, and to her dismay, found that he had already begun to push himself to his feet. She threw her hands out towards him, but could only summon a few weak plasma bursts that were more light than substance.
Realizing that she had no time, Jubilee grabbed hold of Wolverine's arm, and began to drag him down the hall. She didn't have the strength to do anything else. That last blast--whatever she had managed to do--had wiped her out. If the Marauders were to be believed, the X-Men were down for the count. So until Wolverine woke up, she would have only herself to rely on.
Her powers were next to nothing.
And Sinister was coming.
・gotta keep going・.gotta keep going・
Moving on pure strength of will alone, Jubilee continued to put distance between herself and Sinister, dragging Wolverine along as best she could. At the moment she had no idea as to where she was headed, but at least they were both out of immediate range of anything that Sinister might choose to throw at them・
For now, anyway.
Man, what am I gonna do with you, Wolvie? Jubilee thought frantically, stopping briefly to get a better handhold on the man's wrists before she continued on again. Can't keep on like this forever - the longer I pull you around, the less strength I've got to fight Sinister! And it's not like I'm running on all cylinders here・not after that lightshow I just pulled off a minute ago. Gotta drop you somewhere safe, just like you were gonna do to me - as ironic as that is. But where・?
Looking up at that last thought, Jubilee suddenly realized that she had managed to backtrack her way to the X-Mansion's kitchen. As she stared at the door, she tried to remember what Wolverine had said about it earlier. Something like・
The dumb waiter!
Jubilee pushed the door open with one shoulder and heaved Logan through as fast as she could. Giving herself a few moments of precious time to let her eyes adjust to the dimmer light, she finally located the miniature elevator in a shadowed corner adjacent to the pantry. The youngest X-Man then pulled Wolverine to its doors, opened them, and proceeded to manhandle him into the small space.
"Okay, Wolvster, " Jubilee whispered aloud, jamming Logan's shouders up against the far wall of the dumb waiter, "I hope you're not gonna be mad at me for foldin' you in this thing, but it's not like either of us has much choice. I mean - grrr, come on, fit in there, already! - I mean, I couldn't really ask for your opinion anyway, seein' as you're unconscious right now. So just try - one・more・inch - try to find it in your heart to forgive me when you wake up, okay? There!" Jubilee stood back to glance over her handiwork and shook her head. "Heh - now here's somethin' I never thought I'd see - a Wolverine sandwich! Sure hope you'll be able to get your knees outta your ears whenever you・"
Jubilee froze, listening to the sound with the whole of her trembling body. She didn't even dare to breathe as they came closer, sounding louder, more distinct・
・and eventually fading into the distance.
Silently letting go of her of her inheld breath, Jubilee closed the doors of the dumb waiter as noiselessly as she could and pushed the button next to it on the wall. As she watched its slow descent through the tiny circle of glass mounted in its doors, she thought, 'Bye, Logan. I only hope this isn't our final one.
Turning away, Jubilee set her mouth in a grim line. I just pray that I'm ready for what comes next.
A faint bump.
Bitter snow burns against his exposed skin as he rushes through the shrouded streets, Creed and Mavrick pounding ahead, their breath hanging in the air like tell-tale evidence of their passage. Behind him, the muffled *whupwhupwhup* of a chopper grows closer, searchlights stripping the shadows away. He is only dimly aware of the source of the sound, intent on keeping up with his partners despite the increasing pain in his chest and the salty taste of blood on his tongue. He shakes himself viciously, trying to shake off the overwhelming reddness that lurks just behind his eyelids, threatening to swallow him. Then, from the shadows, he catches the unique scent of plasmoid burning. The searchlights sheer away at a crazy angle, and he slows, hesitates.
Something wrong. This isn't the way it happened.
Even in the freedom of open air, he can still feel the hands creeping over his body, slashing, proding, stabbing sensor arrays and other hardware between his newly adamantiumized bones, the dizzying agony of the experimental surgeries, the cold weight of power relays slapping his naked hip as he moved in tune to their commands. The humiliation. The horror. The fear. The bestial need to flee overtakes and subsumes his fractured human understanding. Run. Kill. He snarls, whirling, slipping in the frozen night, trying to fight the invisible hands, trying to fight the pain, trying to fight the memory. Kill. He startles at a hesitant touch on his shoulder, the madness draining away as he finds his eyes drawn to a pair of concerned, Asian ones. No! Not right! She has nothing to do with-
Rending. An unbelievably sickening sensation, this shifting and tearing inside him as adamantium melts away from bone and pours through open wounds. His ears ring with the sound of his own voice shrieking, an inhuman scream that goes on and on even as his numb mind tries to stop it. As he writhes, helpless against the insatiable pull of magnetism, something hot and wet falls on his face. It trickles down his nose, filling the creases of pain, pooling in the corner of his lips. Salty. Warm. Tears? Now, now, don't cry, darlin'. Ol' Wolvie'll be all right. You'll see・ But she wasn't there, couldn't have been there. What is this? What's happening to me?
Bump. Jarring this time, shuddering into motionlessness. Darkness. Silence.
Wha--? Where am I?
In the musty confines of the dumbwaiter, Wolverine stirred weakly. For a blessed moment, numbness seemed to flow through his cramped muscles but as he inhaled, a raging, hot pain rushed hard on its heels, searing through him, coalescing into the sledgehammer that pounded the back of his head and unrelenting even after he stopped moving. He gasped, willing himself to relax. A low groan sent echoes stabbing through his temples while his mind furiously struggled to separate past and present, the vestiges of his tattered memories from the sure knowledge of the last few-minutes? Hours? Days? Hazily, he remembered.
The low growl that began deep in his chest was cut short quickly by the resurge of pain. Easy, Logan. Start slow, simple. Like, where you bleedin' are・
Scents seemed dulled. Even the pungent tang of own sweat mingling with the dust and disuse of his surroundings seemed somehow faint, like an aftertaste or a lingering memory. He listened in the darkness. Nothing. The soft familiar rush of blood in his veins, like the smells, seemed almost nonexistant.
Slowly, memory returned.
Others "under wraps". . . Running . . . A brief fight . . . The dumbwaiter . . .
Gingerly, he felt about him with slow fingers as the drugged haze began to clear from his mind. Jubes, girl, ya didn't stuff me. . . The slick, heavy metal and dust beneath him told him more than his failing senses. Ya did.
Still fighting the effects of Sinister's concoction, his muscles screaming in protest, his stomach awash with waves of vertigo, Logan pushed himself upright in the cramped space, eyes scanning the darkness for the hatch. The strange dampening of his usually heightened senses was even more disconcerting than the sickness, like suddenly losing limb. . .or three.
Grinding his teeth in frustration, he focused his attention on the problems ahead. He had no idea what or who was beyond the dumbwaiter door, no idea of where Jubilee had vanished or even whether she had been able to escape at all, no idea of what Sinister meant when he claimed the X-Men were "under wraps." Too many mysteries fer a straight-forward guy like me, he thought.
With a sudden shove, Wolverine sprang the dumbwaiter door and glared out into the unknown.
Darkness, the kitchen was empty. He tried to sniff scents to find out where people, most specifically Jubilee, were. He found that he could hardly smell her , and no way could he trace her in his current condition. So he tried to think of what had happened. Lot's of Marauders, Sinister, and Jubilee throwing a light show like nothing he'd ever seen her do before.
"Were are ye kid?" he wondered
Said kid was just finishing up in the med-lab, she had just filled a hypodermic with an anti poison something or other that was stored in the computers, she just hoped that it was the right one. The computers here had an independent power supply, since the information was too valuable to risk on a single generator, so when she'd hit the button 'synthesize fluid' after looking up an all round anti poison, she was glad to know it had worked.
She turned around to the door, and gasped. There, silhouetted in the frame ,was Sinister. He was still partially healing and he looked mighty angry.
"Well," he said in his mocking voice," Iunderestimated your genetic potential, an oversight that will be corrected."
"Not on your life, bub." came the voice of the Canadian as he rammed into Sinister's back, sending him crashing into the med lab. Jubilee quickly joined Wolverine at the door.
"Come on darlin, we're blowin' this stand."
As they ran to the garage Jubilee administered the anti poison and Wolverine was already feeling better as he turned the key on his jeep and put the pedal to the metal.
"Were we going?"
"I don't know, but we need help."
"Like the FF, or the Avengers or something?"
"I don't know why but I think that this is bigger than just us, something's telling me that we're going to need all the help we can get."
Jubilee looked over her shoulder as the jeep roared down the drive, half-expecting to see Sinister's dark form looming behind them on the steps of the mansion. Shivering, she remembered the startled look on his face when she'd blasted him with her power. She looked down at her hands, still wrapped tightly around the syringe, their knuckles white with tension. Her power.
Dropping the needle into the floorboard, the teenager concentrated experimentally, trying to call up the surge of warmth that heralded the plasma energy pafs. Nothing. What had she done? A bolt of fear shot through her. She couldn't have burnt it out, could she? Could she?
Suddenly unnerved, she turned to Wolverine as the jeep bounced over a rut in the long private access road that led from the mansion to the main highway into Salem Center. The hot summer air and hazy sunlight did nothing to relieve the strange, dark cool atmosphere beneath the dense tree line, branches hanging over them like shadowy fingers.
Jubilee slid closer to the older man, tucking one knee to avoid the gearshift. He glanced down at her, his grim expression softening into a small, encouraging smile. Although he didn't speak, she could hear his voice numerous times over in her mind offering again the reassurances she'd heard before. S'okay, darlin'. Everything'll be all right. Stick with the ol' Canucklehead. Just because she could, she touched his broad paw of a hand lightly where it gripped the stick. It *would* be all right. They were the best of partners and it was always all right when Wolveroonie and Jubes were on call, she thought.
The hand under hers was hairy, rough with patches of dried blood which flecked away at her touch. "How's your healing factor?" she asked, jostled against him suddenly as they bounded over another rain-washed gouge in the road. She wasn't sure, but thought he winced slightly at the jarring.
"Ain't all it could be yet," he groused. "Since Mags got ta me, it ain't been quite up ta snuff. Don't worry 'bout it, kiddo."
"What about the anti-toxin, then? You feelin' better yet?"
"Yeah," came the terse reply.
"Where're we goin'?"
He didn't answer but stared ahead, intent, his scowl deepening. Feeling the small hairs at the nape of her neck rise instinctively, Jubilee turned her eyes forward, following his gaze.
In the distance, several figures stretched across the roadway, darker shadows beneath the trees that glinted and sparkled in disturbing ways. The hazy rush of Riptide. The broad, spike-bearing form of Harpoon. Jubilee noticed these two stood a little back from the others. Must have singed their bad guy butts, she thought with a flicker of glee. The feeling didn't last long as she got a better look at those she didn't recognize -- a slim woman with silver-green hair whose stance radiated aggressive confidence, an enormous man whose size dwarfed the others around him, and several others. Marauders. Gotta be. Beyond them, 3 heavy vehicles blocked the road further.
Logan's snarl was audible even over the jeep's engine as he gunned it.
"What're you doin'?" the teenager shouted as they rushed toward blockade, grasping her friend's forearm. "We can't get through *that*!"
"Either get down or put yer seat belt on and fire up those pafs of yours," he growled. "We *are* goin' through." Leaning forward over the steering wheel, Logan bared his teeth viciously, eyes narrowed.
Before Jubilee could try to tell him that she was powerless, the jeep sprang forward the remaining yards and the Marauders leapt toward them, closing the distance. With a scream, Jubilee crashed into the dashboard, ducking a flash of a steel and striking out with her fist as Harpoon's leering face whipped past her in the open jeep. For a moment, the world tilted crazily, gravel spitting as the brakes swung the jeep in a wild, wheel-spinning 180, tipping sideways, slamming down with a crunch as an axle snapped.
Head swimming and stomach none too steady, Jubilee lashed out again against an assailant scrambling up over the jeep's hood, his face contorted in a mask of brutal joy. Frantically trying to summon her power, the teenager fell backward in the seat, kicking hard. Where's Wolvie?! flashed briefly across her consciousness, then was submerged in the fight to stay alive.
The *schlukt* of claws popping mixed with the crash of the windshield as Logan swept through it, impaling Jubilee's attacker. Enraged, adrenaline pumping, he swung himself over the top bar, forcing claws deeper into the man's gut, shoving him off the jeep with a terrible rending sound.
Jubilee lay still for a moment, trying to get her bearings before being overwhelmed again. She pushed herself against the door and dropped to the ground in a heap, rolling almost immediately as Wolverine had taught her in their many Danger Room sessions. She'd always hated being forced to fight without her power, but he'd made her practice. Now she knew why and was grateful.
Suddenly, a rough hand jerked her backward. She spun, aiming a punch through whoever ..."Wolvie!"
He dodged without releasing her, gesturing toward the forest, shouting. "Run, Jubes! We ain't gettin' through without the jeep. Hit the treeline. I'm right behind you!"
Obediently, she bolted, legs pumping as hard as they could, propelling her into the woods. After several yards, the undergrowth grew thicker and snatched at her sneakers, scraping her ankles and bare legs, threatening to send her sprawling on the ground. Behind her, she heard a short, almost inhuman, cry of pain and the thud of someone else running after her. PleasebeWolvie, pleasebeWolvie, she thought, trying to increase her speed, leaping over a fallen log black with wood rot and moss.
As quickly as the fight had begun, the forest around her swallowed it in silence, ending it. The footsteps behind her faded, disappeared into nothingness, and after a long time, she slowed. Gasping for breath, Jubilee stopped to look around her. Nothing but woods, smattered with sunlight and shadow, and eerily silent. Was that because she had invaded? Or because she wasn't alone? A chill crept up her spine.
*snap!* A twig crackled to her right. Breath catching in her throat, she spun defensively only to see Wolverine leaning against a tree, half doubled over.
"Oh, Wolvie!" she practically shouted. "Gosh, I'm glad to see you, ya big lug! Can you believe they let us just run off like that? Weird, huh? Thought we'd finally bought that farm you always talk about, y'know? And y'know, I didn't hear you come up until--" She launched herself toward him with a bright smile that faded slowly. "But I shouldn't have heard you at all, should I? Wolvie?" She touched his shoulder hesitantly. "Wolvie?"
As if the soft pressure of her small hand was more than he could bear, Wolverine slid shakily down the tree to the bracken-choked ground, a low groan escaping him.
Jubilee's eyes widened with horror. "What's the matter? Oh god---"
Harsh and peculiarly slurred, his voice sounded unnatural, pained. "What did you give me?"
The teenager leaned over him, feeling panic clutch at her throat. "Just what was in the computer! It was some kinda general anti-toxin, I swear! Wolvie?" When he didn't answer, she remembered his evasive, abrupt answer to her question about how he was feeling. "Wolvie! C'mon now, don't do this to me again..."
Only the wet, warning sound of claws tearing through the skin of his hands saved her. She threw herself backward as Wolverine struck with lightning speed, one hand sweeping upward toward her chin in a practiced killing stroke. Too shocked to even scream, Jubilee scrambled in the brush and fallen leaves, backing away as fast as she could. Her mind raced as the comfortable reality of Logan's presence shattered into nightmare, struggled with the vision of her best friend and partner lurching to his feet with the mad look of a rabid dog in his eyes, shoved the terror in the pit of her stomach and searched rapidly for answers that refused to surface.
She backed away. "Wolvie?" Her voice quavered. "What're you doin'? This isn't funny, dude, I mean it." Although her words carried some hope, her eyes told her otherwise. The man before her stood preternaturally still, a tiger eyeing its prey with the confidence of a superior predator. All former signs of weakness had been replaced by a wild, glazed look; a thin trickle of saliva dripped from the corner of his slack jaw. The claws that she usually almost overlooked suddenly seemed to gleam, the blood-streaked bone sickening. His lip curled slightly, showing teeth, and he growled low in his throat.
Most teenagers don't often have to consider their mortality. As an X-man, Jubilation Lee had already gone one-on-one with death any number of times, but for the first time, cold certainty clutched her heart. Alone in the woods, stripped of her power, her greatest friend and teacher-- the man who had trained her in hand-to-hand combat-- suddenly stood in the role of assassin. She knew that Death wore the guise of one she loved as much as she loved herself and that he was inexorable, inevitable, and coming for her.
Biting her lip convulsively, she took a deep breath and walked toward him, slow, not as steady as she would have hoped. "I'm not runnin' from you, Wolvie," she told him, voice soft. "Won't do either of us any good, y'know. And I don't want to be hunted down like one of Sinister's nasties, like a coward. You taught me better than that."
Bloodshot blue eyes stared into hers. She met them, even though her legs shook unsteadily.
An eternity passed before Wolverine moved, an abortive gesture that could have been the beginnings of a final strike or an attempt to reach out to her. His voice was choked. "Go." She saw the muscles of his jaw clench and unclench, straining visibly. "Go." A little louder, harsher... touched with fear for her? Jubilee wasn't sure, but she knew better than to stay around to find out. Gathering her wits, she backed away for a few yards, nearly tripping in the undergrowth, before turning and rabbiting into deeper forest, both relieved and sad when he didn't follow.
"Okay, Lee," she muttered to herself, panting after fleeing for what *must* have been miles. "You dunno what you injected him with, not really, but the lab computers wouldn't make something that'd do *that*. What's goin' on? Think, think. And hope you find your way--"
She stopped, looking around her. Nothing but forest, undistinguishable from any other she'd seen that afternoon. "Find your way where?" she asked herself. "Home to the mansion? That's a dumb idea, unless you can find the rest of the team, get some help from them. To the road? Sinister's goons gotta still be there. The highway to Salem Center?" She looked around again. "Don't matter much, now does it? You got no idea where you are or which way anything is. Shoulda paid more attention when the Wolvster took you camping."
She jumped at a sudden rustle in the branches above her. "Not *again*! briefly flashed through her mind as a metal bar slammed down seemingly out of nowhere, close enough for the her to feel the wind on her face. She ducked and launched herself sideways, looking up to see...
The X-man hung upside down by his knees in the tree, his collapsible metal staff gripped expertly in one hand. Bizarre red-on-black eyes glared at her even as his narrow lips curled in an icy smile. He laughed softly, a low chuckle unlike his usual easy-going laugh. "'allo, petite," the cajun said, tossing his staff back and forth between his hands.
Not him, too? Jubilee thought rapidly. Is this what Sinister meant by having the X-men "under wraps" -- some sorta drugged-up mind control? Are they *all* like Wolverine, then? The idea staggered her for a moment. All the X-men. How can I help, how can I fight *all* the X-men?! Unless that anti-toxin in Wolvie kicks in and can combat this, how can I do it all alone?
Gambit dropped gracefully from the tree limb, twisting, catlike, to land on his feet amid the carpet of dead leaves. "Now, now, chere," he crooned, seemingly amiable save for the manner in which he hefted his staff. "Why don' you come wit' Gambit, neh?"
Before Jubilee could answer she heard someone come up behind her.
"Ah don't think so Cajun. Jubilee won't be goin' anywhere with you."
Jubilee spun around and saw Rogue standing behind her, glaring at Gambit. She look like she had been through one hell of a fight. Her cloths were torn in many places and she had a couple of bruises on her face.
"Why don we let la petite decide, non?" Gambit said as he twirled his staff.
Jubilee was unsure of what to do. She looked Gambit in the eyes. He smiled at her but it sent shivers down her spine. She turned and looked at Rogue, she was not smiling, but she had that look in her eyes that Wolvie had that told her everything would be ok. She moved closer to Rogue.
"Looks like she mad her choice Cajun." Rogue said as she grabed Jubilee and went up in the air. "See ya around Cajun."
"Hold on sugah." Rogue flew up in the air and took off fast. To Jubilee it seemed like they had been flying forever before she was finally put down.
"You'll be safe here, Jubilee. These are the only ones left that have not been taken by Sinister."
Jubilee looked around and saw an assortment of X-people. Polaris, Karma, Moonstar, Cannoball, Warpath, Cable, Havok, Shadowcat, Wolfsbane, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Amanda, and the one that surprised her the most, Wolverine.
She ran up and hugged him. "What happened? How did you get here? What's goin' on?"
Shadowcat walked up to them. "We are the only ones that survived Sinister's attack on our various teams."
"Everyone else is dead?"
"No darlin' they aint dead, they belong to Sinister now. Body and Soul."
Body and Soul.
His words reverberated through her head, and Jubilee stared at her friend. Memories flooded her mind--of Logan standing before her, claws extended. Blood-rage suffusing his face even as he fought an internal battle of wills not to kill her. And the Wolverine she knew and loved--trusted above all others--had won that battle. She hoped.
"I thought ya were gonna kill me, Wolvie," Jubilee whispered, eyes searching his face. Something flickered in his gaze--a cold, hard, dance of light that made her heart jump. Cool it, Lee, she told herself fiercely, not wanting to believe・not after he had been given back to her again. Eyes still locked on his face, Jubilee reached down for one of his hands. His fingers gently, lightly encircled her palm.
And then he squeezed.
Jubilee bit back a cry of pain as she felt her bones grind and twist together. Her eyes locked on Wolverine's face, but this time she saw no internal struggle. Just hate. Madness. Body and Soul, his words slammed into her head. Wolvie's body. Wolvie's soul.
Kitty noticed Jubilee's white face, and her gaze dropped down to Wolverine's grip around the girl's hand. She frowned, and took a step forward. "Loga--"
Faster than she could blink--too fast for her body to register the danger and phase--Wolverine's fist shot up, arcing towards her stomach. Jubilee heard the wet shuuck of his claws emerging, and a moment later, Kitty Pryde clutched her abdomen. Blood seeped through her fingers, and Jubilee had no doubts that the hurt and betrayal in her eyes was an exact reflection of her own.
"It's not fatal," Logan grinned, the expression unnatural on his face. "Ya just won't be yerself in a little while."
Kitty's eyes widened, horrified. From the forest surrounding them, the sounds of breaking limbs and brush began to emerge, and Jubilee twisted in Wolverine's grip. The surviving X-Men were just beginning to take notice of Wolverine's swift and silent attack on Shadowcat, but the immediate danger from the woods distracted them from the enemy in their midst. For only a moment did they turn their eyes from him, Colossus already running towards Kitty. But that one moment was enough.
Wolverine flung Jubilee away from him with a growl, the girl hitting the ground so hard she felt herself bounce. Claws extended, face twisted in a rictus of rage, Wolverine crouched and leapt towards the oncoming X-Man.
Shadows rippled in the woods, and Jubilee crawled to her knees, cradling her right hand. Cable was shouting orders to the others, but all she could hear--all she could watch--was Wolverine. Clinging to the back of his friend--No, she shook her head, fighting back the heartbreak and tears. Not a friend anymore.
Someone screamed to her left, and Jubilee witnessed Polaris fall to her knees, clutching her neck. Her fingers came away bloody, but the she still breathed. Amanda fell next, and as familiar shapes and figures emerged from the woods, Jubilee realized with sick certainty that none of them were going to get out of this. Alive maybe, but not themselves. No, if Wolverine could be taken down・none of them had a chance.
So ya gonna just give up, Lee? Let these goons take you and the others down? Is that what Wolvie would want?
No. That wouldn't be what he'd want. Wolvie would make her keep fighting, and if she couldn't fight--he would tell her to run. To save her life so she could fight another day. And maybe, just maybe, her best friend was still inside of the thing slashing at Colossus. Maybe he was still fighting whatever Sinister had done. Maybe, she still had a reason keep herself whole--to hope.
Jubilee staggered to her feet, taking in the dwindling numbers of standing X-Men. She fought down the urge to go and help them, regardless of the fact that she had no powers, and that her right hand felt as though it was broken. She fought the need to take part in the battle--to do or die--
And she ran.
Jubilee wasn't the only person who ran. Rogue, Sam, Rahne, and Polaris had all seen what she had done and realized it was a good plan and followed her.
Realizing they would not get far running Sam picked up Rahne and Rogue got the injured Polaris and Jubilee. They all took to the air and headed as far away as they could get.
They flew across the country and by the time they reached California Rogue and Sam were getting tired. They decided to land in Yosemite in the wildreness to decided what they were going to do next.
Rahne was taking care of Lorna's neck while Rogue and Sam did what they could with Jubilee's hand. Jubilee was getting cold and the others thought it would be all right to have a little fire. Sam collected the wood. While he was looking for something he could use to start a fire. Jubilee stared at the wood and felt something warm pass through her and the next thing she knew the wood was burning.
Everyone looked at her. "I just wanted it to burn and it did."
Rogue stared at Jubilee. "Quite an impressive trick, sugah. Think you can do it again?"
Jubes bit her lower lip, looking uncertain. "I can try. Um, let's see now・" Turning her gaze to a nearby patch of grass, she imagined it being consumed by flames -
- and suddenly it was.
Rogue quickly knelt to cover the grass with handfuls of earth to put out the fire, then smiled up at the teenager. "From sparks to a flame, huh? Seems like there's more to your mutant ability than we first thought. Got any idea as to why this particular power is showing up now?"
Jubilee considered it. "I guess it's 'cause I pushed myself beyond my usual limits - I mean, I never shot plasma bolts out of my entire body until today, so maybe that just opened the door to the other part of my powers・?"
Rogue grinned. "Well, however it happened, it looks like we've got a new weapon to fight Sinister with! You up for it?"
Mouth set in a grim line, Jubilee gently massaged her injured hand. "Ready as I'll ever be, anyway."
Rogue nodded towards Polaris. "Sam, you and Rahne get Polaris to a hospital and stay with her. We'll contact you if we need you." Picking up Jubilee, she took to the air and hovered above the other three momentarily. "Wish us luck."
With that, Rogue and Jubilee headed back to New York・and to Sinister.
As Rogue gently dropped Jubilee beneath the shelter of a low-branched tree and drifted down beside her, the only sound was the faint rustling of their feet in the leaves. No birds or other natural noises. Not even the shouts and screams of battle. The smell of blood, however, threaded its way on nonexistent breezes, winding sinuously through the trees, a constant reminder of the slaughter which these two remaining X-Men had fled only hours before. Jubilee felt bile rise in her throat as she recalled the blood and pain, seeing Kitty Pryde fall with Logan's claws in her gut, seeing others collapse as the Mauraders overwhelmed them. Seeing several of her dearest friends, her family, attacking with blind loyalty to Sinister in their drugged expressions.
And now ... nothing but silence and emptiness. Like a memorial. Like a grave.
The young mutant thought she felt Rogue shudder beside her, as if the other woman shared her grim thoughts. "Now what?" she whispered, instinctively crouching in the leaves, lowering her profile to the level of the high brush and instinctively using the woodland stealth Wolverine had taught her. She pushed the thought of him out of her mind firmly. Can't think about him. Not now.
"Ah don't--," Rogue began, only to break off with a sharp gesture. "Shhh..."
Jubilee heard it, as well. The grate of voices winding through the forest, harsh laughter that nevertheless sounded sickeningly familar. For a long moment, silence returned, the again, the loud voice barked, incoherent, abrasive. Rogue and Jubilee lowered themselves further into the underbrush, eyes locked on the source of the sound hidden beyond the trees.
After what seemed like hours they were rewarded by the heavy tread of footsteps nearby. Cyclops shoved a pine bough out of his way, turning to shout over his shoulder, the racous laughter rising from his lips unnaturally. "Ah, Remy, that's a good one!" he chortled as a second man came into view, moving with disturbing grace across the vine-riddled ground.
Gambit smirked and gave his former leader a brash shove, a comradely action, if somewhat more reserved than Scott's open laughter. "Missed out on a lot of good ones, Cyke," he cuckled, arching one eyebrow meaningfully. "Married t' dat redheaded wench o' yours. Come wit' Gambit an' Wolverine some night inta town and we'll show you da ropes."
Jubilee thought she felt Rogue bridle, but didn't dare move to touch the woman. Don't give us away, Rogue, she wished fervently. He ain't worth it. Not now, at least. Not when it ain't really him talkin'.
Despite her anger, Rogue gritted her teeth and held still until the two men had passed. When it was clear: "Why that dirty, no-good, two-timin', son-of-a--" she muttered, eyes flashing. "C'mon, Jubilee, let's see where these two 'bad boys' are headed. Maybe they'll lead us to a few of the others."
If there *are* any others, the teenager thought to herself. Sinister's plan seems to have been pretty thorough. Even the boy-scout is under control. How are we gonna stop Sinister, the Marauders, *and* several of the X-men, too? Jubilee shook herself and followed Rogue. Sometimes, girl, thinkin' just makes it harder. You'll do what's gotta be done. That's all.
The pair crept from their hiding place, Rogue flying mere inches over the ground while Jubilee chose her steps carefully, watching for dry sticks and hidden holes, resting her weight first on the balls of her feet before rolling down to her heels. As they traveled through the eerie quietude, following Scott's occasional lewd guffaw, Jubilee replayed an earlier discussion in her mind.
The wind had whipped her hair back as Rogue carried her through the skies on their swift return journey, filled with the little hope her strange, new-found power gave them. "Crazy," she told the older woman. "It's just crazy, y'know? Like Wolvie was fine one moment and then, suddenly, he got all nuts and tried to attack me." Her crushed hand still throbbed wearily. "I even gave him an anti-toxin the Medlab computers whipped up, but it didn't seem to help."
Rogue had looked down at her with interest. "What'd ya say, sugah? An anti-toxin?"
Nodding, Jubilee continued. "Yep. Didn't work, though. Whatever Sinister pumped into them is pretty strong, I guess."
"I don't suppose th' computer told ya how long it would take before the anti-toxin took effect, did it?" Rogues asked. "Maybe it still just hasn't started workin'?"
Jubilee considered it. "Yeah. Possibly. I kinda didn't have time to look." She brightened suddenly. "Which means that Wolvie -- an' Gumbo an' the others *might* be back to normal when we get back!"
"Probably too much t' hope for," Rogue replied, a little more darkly. "But, maybe it'll give us a cure *after* the two of us deal with Mr. Sinister."
Those last words rang again in Jubilee's ears. Deal with Sinister. Ha! How on god's green an' blue ball were the two of them gonna deal with Sinister? Scott, Wolvie, and Gambit hadn't done too well. Could she and Rogue -- ?
"Well, well, well," a low voice intoned, the words clutching at Jubilee's heart, cutting off her breath with surprise. "What have we here? I thought that the remaining X-vermin had fled for good."
Dratdratdratdrat, Jubilee cursed herself for carelessness, for letting her thoughts overtake her caution. Rogue, too, looked startled.
Several yards away, Sinister stood in the shadow of a vast, old oak, his pale face ghostlike in that false darkness. Sharp teeth glinted cruelly in his smile as he chuckled, the sound closer to a hiss than a laugh. "It seems I was a bit premature in my assumpitons, sending most of the Marauders away. Except..." He glanced at the men now flanking him, the kind of short gaze a man might give to his animals. "...perhaps my new gang is even better equipped to handle the likes of you."
Standing just behind Sinister, Gambit leered openly at Rogue, nodding his head in agreement. Cyclops's stare was cold behind his ruby glasses, equally unfriendly. Even silent, the two together resembled a pair of dogs, straining and slavering at leash-end, restrained only by the good will of their master.
But it was the third person, standing to Sinister's left, that sent a chill through Jubilee. Her hand twinged painfully, remembering even as she tried to block out the image of Wolverine's dark, numb eyes as they watched her -- feral, predatory, hungry. She seemed to fill his eyes now and the hair on the back of her neck rose fearfully at his undivided, unfamiliar scrutiny.
Sinister's gesture was minuscule, almost imperceptible. Simultaneously, Rogue shouted something incoherent and shoved Jubilee aside, out of the way of Gambit and Cyclops' charge. The cajun reached in his pocket for a card. Scott lifted his visor haphazardly as he leapt. And Rogue met their charge with a battle cry, slamming into them.
The next few minutes spun for Jubilee, a mixture of crashes and shouts, the air crackling with energy above where she fell, slightly stunned by the force of Rogue's protective push. Before she could gather her wits, silence fell once again on the forest, floating over her with the chill, acrid-smelling fingers of smoke.
Realizing that Rogue's charge had probably failed, Jubilee tried to sit up, tried to bring her hands up, searching for the burn of energy along her nerves that heralded the advent of flames. Sinister loomed above her suddenly, shattering her concentration, laughing low in his throat. "Pathetic," he crooned in mock-sympathy. "And so the game is ended, a long-standing war concludes with a final death. Yours, young Jubilation Lee." Frozen with despair and shock, Jubilee could only watch as he lifted his hand...
...and his eyes widened suddenly, jaw gaping open to gasp in pain and surprise at the six bone clawtips that jutted from his abdomen. Logan stood braced behind him, fists pressed against Sinister's back, still pushing the undercut deeper as if trying to shove his entire hands into the wounds. "Now, Jubilee," he snarled. "Snap outta it, girl, and *do* somethin'. He heals quick!"
Trying to contain her surprise and joy, Jubilee concentrated, calling the fire from its inexplicable location inside her, feeling it surge along her fingers. "Move, Wolvie!" she shouted. "I can't do anything with you behind him!"
Even as she called out, she could see Sinister's body closing over the wounds, a living liquid, forcing Wolverine's claws back out the way they came.
"I said *do* it!" Logan bellowed. "Trust me, girl!"
Trust him. In her mind, Jubilee saw Sinister catch fire and burn, burn brightly against the encroaching dusk. In her eyes, however, she only saw Logan as he wrenched himself free from a sudden inferno, throwing himself aside as flames roared up between them.
Sinister's scream was silent, a hiss that mingled with the raging of the flames that churned around him, streaking skyward. He staggered forward, one fiery hand groping along his chest, slipping through the blackened char of his forearm, grasping at something...
And in a flash, he was gone. Teleported. Leaving only the stench of the consuming fire.
Her legs felt weak, which she knew was completely wrong. There was no reason for her to be trembling--she had beaten Sinister, hadn't she? Then why did she feel as though she was going to lose it at any moment--go completely and utterly batty?
Smoke rose from the charred remains of grass--the only mark of Sinister's passing--and her eyes followed the bitter smelling tendrils upwards--up into Wolverine's eyes. She winced, the gesture completely involuntary. After all, she had been betrayed and saved by her best friend more times in the last few days than she could keep track of. Deep down, a part of her was terrified that Wolvie--despite what he had just done--would turn on her again. She wasn't sure she could take that pain for the second--or was it third--time. Wolvie was her home, though she hadn't realized that until he had stopped being her friend and had become an enemy.
He had seen her flinch, she could see it in his eyes. Those same eyes that had stared at her so coldly only a minute before were now filled with pain and regret. How many times had she seen that look on his face? Only now it was directed towards her, something she had never imagined happening. After all, she had never planned for the day when Wolverine might regret the way he treated her. But then, it hadn't really been him doing all those things, right? It was the poison, she told herself. She looked into his eyes--searched deeper. Trust him, her mind whispered.
Always, her heart replied.
She reached out towards him. "Wolvie--"
Wolverine shook his head, and took a step backwards. "No, darlin'. That's all right."
But it wasn't. She had to make him understand that she wasn't afraid of him, that nothing had changed (though a part of her said that it had). Before she could speak though, he managed to place a firm hand over her mouth. She couldn't help but smell the blood on his fingertips.
"Company," he breathed into her ear. Jubilee froze, digging deep inside of herself to latch on to her newest power. She could feel the energy simmering in her stomach, and she carefully tried to grasp hold of it. She felt her body warm. Logan tensed, sniffing the air. A moment later, some of the tension drained from his shoulders. Jubilee followed the direction of his gaze, and found Rogue drifting silently just below the tree line. Her clothing was torn in several places, and she looked more than a little angry. The moment she saw Wolverine, standing with his hand clamped on Jubilee's mouth, her eyes began to burn. And burn they did. Red on black eyes stared out from Rogue's face--Gambit's eyes--and it didn't take much of a genius to figure out how Rogue had defeated at least one of the X-Men.
"Step away from her, Logan," Rogue ordered, her hands balling into fists. "I'm done playin' nice."
Wolverine snorted. "'Bout time you gave up that sweet Southern belle act, Rogue."
Rogue blinked, and Jubilee took that moment to shrug Wolverine off of her. He fell back more quickly that she liked, but now was not the time to worry about it. She couldn't have Rogue start beating the pulp out of Wolvie--not that she could, Jubilee added to herself, but there were more important things to worry about. Like where the rest of the X-Men were, and whether they could find a way to reverse the poison that Sinister had somehow introduced into their systems. Jubilee stared up at Rogue. "He's cool now," she explained bluntly, her tone suggesting that the issue be dropped.
Something did drop--Rogue's jaw. "He could jus' be pretendin', chere--sugah. That's what he did last time, an' den he betrayed us." There was no mistaking the Cajun accent lacing her voice.
"I know, but ya gotta trust me on this one. This is Wolvie."
To her credit, Rogue didn't bother to disagree. She just shut her jaw with a snap, and gave Wolverine a wary look that held an undercurrent of distrust and anger. "So, the anti-toxin did work after all."
Wolverine shrugged, looking warily around. "Suppose, but it could just be that my body found a way to reject the poison."
"If the anti-toxin didn't work, then what are we going to do about the others?" Jubilee asked. All of the X-Men turned permanently evil? She shivered.
"We may not have to worry 'bout that," Logan said, his eyes turning inward. "Sinister was controlling us, using the poison in our bodies as a means for him to control our actions. It was sort o' like taking a ride in the back seat of a car, only there was no way to get to the steering wheel. When him gone--injured--it might be that his control slipped and the rest o' the X-Men are back in the driver's seat."
Rogue alighted on the ground, and folded her arms across her chest. The red in her eyes was beginning to fade. "Even if that's the case, how do you propose that we find out? I reckon it's too dangerous to just waltz right in on them."
"Easy," Jubilee said. "Where'd ya leave Gumbo and Cyke?"
Rogue had to fight the urge to slap Gambit into consciousness. The Cajun lay sprawled on the ground, limbs askew. His neck was bent at an uncomfortable angle--he'd have a dickens of a headache when he woke up. If he did. Not surprisingly, Logan did not share Rogue's hesitation to rough up the other man, and with a resounding thwack, slapped Gambit across the face. It had the desired effect.
"Whaaa・?" he groaned, eyes fluttering open. The first thing he saw were Rogue's bare hands, hovering mere inches above his face. He could feel the holes her eyes were boring into his face--wait, those eyes looked more than a little familiar. What the hell?
"What de hell?"
"Start talkin' fast Remy, or this time Ah'm holding on for the long haul."
Gambit blinked, his eyes widening. Never mix tequila and whiskey, he told himself. Not after eight shots. Because this is what happens when you do. "Chere," he started weakly, trying to exert a little of his infamous charm. "Gambit don' know what he did to make you so angry, but we try to work it out, eh?" He tried to focus on her face, but his vision had begun to slip and blur. He had a terrible headache.
"Lord. It is him."
Fortunately, his head hurt too much to try to understand what was meant by that.
Afterwards, it was fairly easy to find the rest of the X-Men. They were scattered throughout the woods and campus, all of them dazed and confused. Some, like Jean and Betsy, remembered everything they had done while "possessed", while the others drew only blank spots. Privately, a few of them thought that was for the best. They weren't quite prepared to face all of what they had done--to friends, no less.
"Well, that should just about do it," Hank said, injecting a newly formulated serum into Jubilee's arm. She sat on his examining table in the med-lab, legs swinging wildly. Her hand was bandaged, along with the rest of her minor injuries. "You may not have been poisoned along with the rest of us, but just in case Sinister tries this trick again, you've been inoculated, as it were."
There was a gentle rapping at the door, and Logan stuck his head in. "Decent?" he called, eyes facing the wall.
"Why yes, thank you." Beast replied, winking at Jubilee. "Unless you count the fact that I occasionally run around in only my fur coat."
"You're a barrel of laughs, Hank," Logan groused, entering the rest of the way into the room. His eyes locked on Jubilee, and Hank quickly found an excuse to leave the room. After all, he had forced Jubilee to explain how she had received some of his injuries. No doubt, the two of them had much to discuss.
For a long moment, there was only silence. Then Logan began to back away towards the door. "Maybe this was a bad idea," he started to say. Jubilee didn't let him finish. She vaulted off the table and flung herself into Logan's arms. The impact of her tiny body made his teeth rattle, but he didn't mind in the least. He wrapped his arms around her slender body and hugged her tight. He could remember--oh God, he could remember everything that he had done--he'd pay the price soon enough. But if Jubilee had died by his own hand--it was bad enough seeing the injuries he had caused, remembering the betrayal, the hurt and confusion that had been in her eyes・
"I'm sorry, darlin'," he whispered into her hair, stroking her back.
"You remember?" her voice was small, muffled in his chest.
"Yeah. Jean and the others don't know how. The telepaths--they can recall every minute--but no one else can, and I'm no telepath."
Jubilee looked up at Logan; her eyes glistened with unshed tears. "Ya know what I think? I think that ya just didn't quit fighting. Even when Sinister had control of your body, your mind was still there, trying to think of a way out. You remember, because everything Sinister made your body do, you tried to stop."
Logan nodded thoughtfully. "Ya may be right, darlin'. But ya know something else? The only thing keepin' me going was that I knew ya were out there, fighting to survive. I had to get to ya, an' it didn't matter how." His voice had thickened as he spoke, and he hugged Jubilee so that she couldn't see his eyes. He was going to cry, damn it!
It didn't matter. He was sure she already knew, but she didn't say anything. Instead, she knotted her fingers in his flannel shirt and murmured:
"I love you too, Wolvie."
And that, he decided, made it all worthwhile.