The Birthday Wish: Parts 1-12

by Agora

Author・s Note and Disclaimer: ・The Birthday Wish・ is the beginning of an extended story known simply as ・The Venus Factor・. Events within this part of the tale take place in a niche that I have carved out between ・X-Men Unlimited・ #34 and ・Uncanny X-Men・ #402, about 3.5 years after the disbanding of the Generation X team. Cut me a little slack and just run with the time line. As always, these characters are not mine, nor is any profit made off of using their likenesses. If anyone from Marvel ever reads this, this true believer would love to write for you. And stop dismissing Jubilee; she・s a great character. Until that day, MMM!

Part 1: New Day Dawning

Monet awoke, her eyes going to the calendar that hung by her bed. It was Jubilee's birthday. 'Please let this year be different,' she thought to herself desperately as she crawled out from under the covers and made her way towards the bathroom. 'Please...'

Further down the hall, Jubilee was still sleeping. Knowing her friend, she wouldn't be up for several hours still. If there was one thing that Jubilation was definitely not, it was a morning person. Monet stuck her head into her roommate's bedroom briefly. 'Yep, sleeping like a baby.'

Continuing on to the kitchen, Monet pulled out a notebook that had all of the details for Jubilee's surprise party that was going to be held later that evening. Everything had been taken care of... Everything except, she remarked to herself again, the one guest that Jubilee would really want to see... Wolverine.

Monet shook her head in frustration. It had been more than three years since Generation X had disbanded. Three years since Monet had moved out to Los Angeles to join Angelo and Jubilee. Three years since Jubilee had seen her friend, mentor, and father figure. 'Three years of hell,' Monet commented to herself, thinking back on all of the mood swings and periods of depression that her roommate had been through, all relating back to the lack of one short, furry X-Man in her life. 'That's not fair,' she conceded, reminding herself that it had been Jubilee herself that had cut the tie, that it was Jubilee herself that had wanted to move back to southern California... And she had done well, for the most part, carving out a new life for herself with new friends. Most days, she admitted, Jubes was what she always had been: strong, self-reliant, and carefree. Most days, but definitely not her birthday.

Monet sighed. She did not always approve of Wolverine, or her roommate's feelings for him (which she suspected transcended the bond of friendship), but she did have to admit that the man had always come through for her. At least until she had left for Los Angeles. Now it had been three years, and he had not shown up once.

Not even on Jubilee's birthday.

Which brought Monet back to her initial fears that she had confronted when she woke... 'Please let this year be different...'


Across Los Angeles, someone else was waking up. He stretched, opening his eyes slowly and taking in the small, drab hotel room that he had taken. Aside from the morning sunlight streaming in between the closed curtains, nothing was different from when he had gone to sleep the night before. His glance rested on the desk, where three wrapped boxes sat silently, as though accusing him.

"When Jubes wants to see me, she will," he snarled at the boxes in retaliation to their silent accusation. "I'm here, just like I am every year. And will be every year..." The man known as Wolverine trailed off, a look of uncharacteristic pain on his face. "I won't ruin her birthday."


Hours later, Jubilee awoke to the warm California midday sun. Smiling to herself, she pulled on her fluffy bunny slippers. She paused in front of the full-length mirror, admiring herself. "Not bad, old lady... Not bad!" she offered, looking at her reflection. She was wearing a pair of red bikini underwear and a white tee shirt that was stretched taut across her chest. "Not a little girl anymore, am I?" she asked her reflected self. She turned to leave the room and looked back over her shoulder, giving the mirror one last glance to the mirror. "Like what you see now, Wolvie?" she asked quietly, speaking to the air. Taking a deep breath, she left her room, closing the door behind her.

Part 2: Yesterday Remembered

"Mornin', M," Jubilee smiled as she walked into the kitchen, grabbing the Sugar Bombs from the cabinet. Leaning back against the counter, she began eating them straight from the box. Just like any other morning.

Monet shot an appraising glance at her roommate's attire and disheveled hair and then looked at the clock on the wall. "I have a hard time understanding how even you could think that three in the afternoon was the morning," she replied.

"Well, we all have our days," the short Asian girl replied, pausing her meal to twist her long, dark hair up and out of the way. "Today happens to be mine."

"So, it is... Happy Birthday, Jubilee," Monet said, her face splitting into a warm smile.

They hadn't always been the best of friends... Hell, there were many times that they had downright hated each other. After Everett's death, however, Jubilee had been the only person who understood what she was going through. And that meant something. They had been through a lot since she had moved out to L.A. to join Jubilee and Angelo, and it hadn't always been easy ・specially after Angelo left last year- but Monet was proud to call Jubilee a friend.

She stood from the table to give her a hug. "So, how long will it take you to get ready for a birthday shopping trip?" Monet laughed. "I thought I would let you choose your own present this year since you never seem to like anything that I choose."

"Schowpink?" Jubilee grinned through a mouthful of cereal. She slammed the box back onto the counter, dashing for her room. "Give me five minutes!" she called over her shoulder.

Monet laughed to herself. Their friends had wondered how she would get Jubilee to agree to leave the house on a day that she traditionally spent moping in her room, but Monet had known it wouldn't be a difficult task.

Three and a half minutes later, Monet was shutting the door behind them, careful to leave it unlocked.


'Goodmornin', Sleepin' Beauty,' Logan smiled from the top of a neighboring building, looking down at Jubilee as she and Monet walked out of their apartment building. His breath caught in his throat; he hadn't seen her since her last birthday. Long gone were the days of the yellow raincoat and shortalls... Today she wore a black miniskirt with a small, red- striped shirt, and a pair of sporty sneakers. Her hair was up in pigtails. Logan closed his eyes, imagining her standing close too him, looking up at him, pretending to pout. "Wolvie, I'm not a kid..." she would whine.

"Don't I know that now?" he asked himself aloud, his voice pitched low in a primitive growl. He watched her walk down the street. It was all that he could do...

'Do I do this for her, or is it really for me?' he wondered, not for the first time since waking. When he had come here the first time, it was only because he couldn't imagine Jubilee's birthday passing and not seeing her.

They had never had a falling out... They just drifted apart. He could see now that it had begun when she had left Xavier's mansion to join Generation X. As Jubilee had gotten older, there was a part of her that was simply cut off from him. His Jubes, his little firecracker... And there was a part that just wasn't his. As time had passed, the part of her life that he was excluded from grew bigger and bigger, the gaps between his visits to see her at Emma's school longer and longer, and the palpable tension between them thicker and thicker.

Then one day she was just gone, leaving him feeling cold and alone. He wondered what he had done... He assumed he must have done something. Why else, even with the difficulties they had had, would she have left him with out a word?

Despite the fact that she had left him no forwarding address, he refused to believe that she wouldn't want to see him. After a few months, he finally tracked her down through Monet, who had sent a letter to one of the GenXers that happened to be visiting the mansion... He couldn't remember which of the little brats it had been. All he remembered was that return address that he had read from a crumpled envelope held twenty feet across the room. The way he figured, with his enhanced senses, there was no way that he couldn't have seen it. Surely she wouldn't mind him just knowing where she was.

Months later, when her birthday rolled around, he decided it was time to find her.

Logan flew to Los Angeles, and had found himself standing on top of the building across the street from Jubilee's apartment. He wasn't snooping, he told himself, eager to rid his conscious of guilt. He was waiting. Waiting for the moment when he would know that she was waiting for him... Waiting for her to...

Logan shook his head, clearing it of the unwanted memory. He still didn't know what he had wanted Jubilee to wait for him for. He didn't deserve it. So he had waited alone that year. The entire day he waited, and never even saw her. The blinds were drawn, the windows darkened. He wasn't even sure if she had been home. He had debated on whether or not to leave the gift, but in the end decided he would hold onto it and save it. If Jubes didn't want him knowing where she was yet, well, he wouldn't tell her he knew.

He carried himself back to the present. Picking up a bottle of whiskey, he took a long swig. Should he have followed her? While it pained him that he might not see her again today, he dismissed the thought instantly. It was bad enough that he was lurking on rooftops and looking through windows like some sort of sick peeping tom, he thought, shuddering to himself. No matter how much he wanted to see Jubilee, there was no call to resort to stalking. Hell, he'd kill any other asshole on the spot that he caught doing the same thing to her, no questions asked.

Mulling over this disturbing thought, his mind swung back to last year. He had held his vigil on the same rooftop again, eager for a chance to even see his beloved little girl. He recalled how, two bottles of scotch into the day, he finally saw her through her bedroom window. He had watched her watch movies through the window all afternoon and long into the night. He pictured himself in her room with her, content with her companionship, he sitting on the bed with his back against the same window he stared through, she laying in his lap, comfortable in the cute pajama pants and tank top she was wearing. He could see himself there, playing with her surprisingly long hair... He pretended that that's where he was throughout the evening. What a night they would have had... His sensitive eyesight watched every minute of every movie with her. He was too far to hear the words, but he didn't need to. They were all of their favorite movies. The night ended without his Jubes looking out the window longingly, or even picking up the phone. The last movie ended and then her light was gone. Another year gone by. Another year where she hadn't needed or wanted him.

He sat on the rooftop, knees drawn to his chest, silently smoking a cigar and sipping off of the whiskey, settling in to wait for Jubilee's hopeful return. He looked at the sun overhead. On a day like today, a man out in the open would much prefer a cold beer, but he would have felt asinine bringing a cooler with him. Whatever this was, it was no picnic. Steeling himself for the wait, Logan asked himself for the thousandth time why the hell he had bothered to come here.

Part 3: Catharsis

 Another birthday and no Wolvie in sight. Jubilee sighed to herself as she picked up a hat from a shelf, vaguely considering it. Too big? She couldn't decide. Frustrated, she put the hat back and turned to Monet.

"M, maybe this wasn't such a good idea. I know that you meant well, but I really... Don't feel like shopping." She smiled weakly at the dark beauty standing nearby. "I tried, honest injun, but... I think I just want to go home."

"Jubes, you know, you can't go on like this forever," Monet replied, taking her friends hand and leading her out of the store to a nearby bench. Before continuing, she took a deep breath, preparing herself. This was a topic that had never been breached between them. "I don't want to sound cruel, but you're the one who left. You haven't called. You never told him where you were going..."

"Him? What the hell are you talking about?" Jubilee cut in hotly, rising from the bench. "I left because I wanted to come back home. I haven't called because there's no one that really wants to hear from me. I never told him..." She trailed off futilely, crumpling back onto the bench, tears in her eyes.

"Is that what you've been telling yourself all this time?" Monet asked gently, taking her friend's slim hand.

"I..." Jubilee looked down into her lap. After a moment, she raised her eyes to meet Monet's again. "I had to go. I loved him. I still love him. I... I think I always will. If I was near him again... If I saw him or talked to him, I couldn't hide that. Not any more. And I refuse to hurt him."

"Hurt him?" Monet asked, perplexed. "How on Earth would you loving him hurt him?"

"How couldn't it? I was always his little girl... I won't take that memory away from him. I won't have it tarnished with idea of an obsessive, emotionally unstable, weak woman. I won't. I want Wolvie to remember me like I was- innocence in a yellow jacket, running after him to help save the day."

"Well, if that's what you really think and that's what you really want, you're in luck, Jubes. That's what you've got. Birthday wish come true," Monet said, an edge in her voice. She hoped it would shock some sense into her roommate. "If that's not what you really think, though, and if it's not what you really want, maybe it's time to reconsider. It's been almost three years, and I don't know what it is about your damn birthday, but I don't think that I can take another year of this. It's not fair." With that, she got up and left, not waiting for Jubilee's response. She knew that Jubilee was furious with her, but hopefully, deep inside, she was furious with herself as well.

Part 4: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

 As she ran from the mall, tears streaming shamelessly down her cheeks, Jubilee ran right smack into a thick body. "I'm... I'm sorry," she stuttered, looking up briefly before backing away and continuing out the door.

The man watched her retreating back, a faint smile playing on his lips. "It's quite alright. Quite..."

He made his way through the crowd to a deserted pay phone. "I've found her. Or rather, she found me. I'll be continuing as we had planned." He hung up the phone, his eyes flashing yellow, and then followed her out the door.


"Logan, are you there?"

Charles Xavier's voice cut through the silent afternoon. Logan shot a baleful glance at his wrist to the small radio that Hank had put in his watch.

"Chuck, I told you that I needed a few days away. It's really not a good time," he growled.

"Logan, I'm sorry to bother you, but something has come up and..."

"Listen, bub. I don't think you heard me. It's not a good time." With a snarl, Logan ripped the watch from his arm and tossed it over the side of the building.

Immediately he felt guilty. What was the point? Jubilee would never ask for him. Even if she did, why the hell would she look for him on the roof of the building across the street? What did he think he would gain by this other than pain? Why did it have to hurt so much? He couldn・t understand what was making him behave like this, but whatever it was it was time to put it on a shelf.

He stood, not understanding his wound, but accepting it. Maybe it was time to think about healing it.

He worked his way slowly down the fire escape towards the street. He had to find his watch and see what Charles had wanted. He froze halfway down when he saw Jubilee walking down his side of the street.


It had taken her almost two hours to make it home. She didn't consciously take one path or another, but rather had let her feet choose for her. Eventually, they had found her street.

After she had finally stopped crying, she had started thinking, all of her thoughts swirling around her former partner. 'Wolvie,' she thought to herself, 'what I wouldn't give to have yah here with me now. You'd understand. I know yah would, even if you didn't reciprocate my feelings. And you would make it all okay, just like always.'

She knew that she was lying to herself, but figured that if she was wishing, she might as well go all out.

'You'd love me, too.'

By the time she had made it as far as her own turf, she had reconciled with the fact that she owed Monet an apology. A big one. This hadn't been her first outburst... Far from it.

On her first birthday in Los Angeles, almost a year after they had arrived, Jubilee had locked herself in her room for almost a whole week. Finally, Angelo had actually knocked the door down and literally dragged her back into the real world.

Last year, she had just shut herself away for the day. The only comment Monet ever made about it was the next day, when she had asked Jubilee if her telepathic powers were finally gaining strength.

"Why?" Jubilee had asked, curious.

"You were projecting yesterday," was all that she had said in return.

Jubilee sighed. She hated admitting that she was wrong, but it was time to put the fires out on a few of the bridges in her life.

She looked up to cross the street to her building and froze. Not twenty feet away from her, leaning casually against the wall with a knee propped up and a cigar in hand... Smiling at her, his eyes crinkling around the edges...

"Wolvie!" She crossed the distance in a heartbeat and threw her arms around his neck, burying her head in his chest. "You... You're here!" she stammered in disbelief, tears welling in her eyes again.

"Did you think I would miss today for the world, darlin'?" he replied, still smiling down at her. He pulled her close, nuzzling his mouth in her hair close to her ear. "Happy birthday, Jubes."

Part 5: Double Vision

 Logan almost died at the sound of her voice. He thought he was a goner for sure when he realized she was calling his name. He had been caught. He flushed bright red, trying to ready any excuse at all that might seem plausible. It took a moment for him to hear his brain telling him that it wasn't anger in her voice; it was joy.

Everything was moving in slow motion, including his reactions.

He inhaled deeply, smelling her emotion. No hate, no anger, no fear. Just excitement, happiness, and love. He sighed to himself, relaxing, anticipating.

"You... You're here!" he heard her cry.

"Did you think that I would miss today for the world?" He heard himself saying those words, the voice sounding distant in his ears. "Happy birthday, Jubes."

He gathered himself to pounce down to where she stood below the fire escape. His Jubilation, his Jubilee... He looked to the ground, and a sickening wave of nausea hit his gut.

She wasn't talking to him.

Logan recovered quickly, time speeding back up to its normal flow. He leaped from the building, landing with cat-like precision only a few yards in front of where his mirror image was still holding Jubilee. His lips curled back in a howl of rage and his claws popped to readiness.



Jubilee started at the sudden animal cry of fury behind her. She turned, still safely protected in her Wolvster's arms. Nothing could hurt her now.

Her eyes popped open wide, and then she fainted dead away.


The arms that held Jubilee shifted quickly, flipping her around. One arm snaked around her throat, holding up her dead weight in a vicious chokehold. The other flew up in readiness.

"Well, that was much easier than we expected," a voice laughed fervently. This time it was not his own voice, but rather another that he recognized. His skin bristled. Mystique.

Before his eyes, her body morphed. She stood before him, blue skin fading into the shadows of the dying afternoon.

He leapt for her, teeth clenched. "You bitch!" he snarled.

"Ah-ah-ah! Play nice, 'Wolvie'," she chided, smiling thinly and stepping away with Jubilee, her chokehold tightening. "You would kill me, but you also know that I would have more than enough time to snap her pretty little neck. And we wouldn't want that, now would we? Why don't you be a good little cub and take a nice big step back."

He knew that she was right. Shaking with barely contained fury, he complied, taking a large step away from them.

"Now," Mystique continued, a coy smile crossing her features, "since I have your attention, why don't you listen to me?"

Part 6: Crashing the Party

 "Now, since I have your attention, why don't you try listening to me?"

Her voice rang hollowly in his ears. It was all he could do to keep himself in check and not lash out blindly. "Jube..." he groaned, one hand reaching out slowly towards her still face.

Mystique took another step away from him. "If you behave, she will live. If you don't," Mystique paused, shrugging, "she won't. It's really quite simple."

Logan's arms dropped to his side and he hung his head. After a moment, he looked up again, meeting Mystique's cautious glare. His eyes were tinged with pain. "What do you want? I'll... I'll do anything. Just let her go."

He hated it, but he knew he didn't have a choice. The beast in his head told him not to worry, however. As soon as Jubilee was safely away, he could take matters back into his own hands.

As though reading his mind, Mystique replied. "She won't be going anywhere just yet. Someone wants to see you, and they don't want all of your pesky X-Men along for the ride. We'll be keeping Jubilee as an insurance policy. You'll do what you're told." She paused and then sneered openly at him. "You're pathetic, you know. He's got your balls in a vise grip, and there's not a damn thing you will let yourself do about it."

Logan bristled, and Mystique began backing away. "You'll stay right there for five minutes. Don't think she won't be dead in less time than it takes to blink if you don't. I will kill her." Ten feet away. Twenty. "We'll be in touch, Wolverine. Be a good cub, and stick around here where we can find you. Wouldn't want anything to happen to our little girl, would we?" Thirty feet. Forty. And then they were gone around the corner.

Logan surged forward, but then made himself stop. He had no way of knowing whether Mystique wasn't standing right there, waiting to kill his Jubilee if he followed.


"Shh! Shh! Somebody's here!"

Monet looked up from the cake that she was putting candles in. Finally, Jubilee was home. Monet crossed her fingers, hoping her roommate wouldn't freak out about the party.

Someone dimmed the lights, and Monet lit the candles.


Sighing, Monet blew out the candles and hit the light switch closest to her. Whoever it was, it wasn't Jubilee since they were knocking. They definitely had horrible timing... Jubes should have been back at least an hour ago; she was likely to show up any minute.

She crossed the room to the door and peaked through the peephole. Wolverine! She started back, surprised. Maybe this afternoon wouldn't be so bad after all.

Opening the door, Monet looked at the X-Man. He seemed... ragged. A hundred things came to mind, but she didn't vocalize any of them. Instead, she gave him a tight smile. "Ah, the uninvited party guest."

He looked at her curiously, and then she saw his eyes flash behind her, taking in the situation. "Monet, we need to talk," he said, his face blank.

"I'm not sure that I'm the one that you need to be talking to, mister," she replied, motioning for him to come in. "In any case, you need to get out of the doorway. We're trying to have a surprise party here, and Jubilee should be back any minute."

"That's kinda what we need to talk about. I don't think Jubes is coming back today. Why don't you send these folks home?" he said, gesturing to the room full of guests.

"Wolverine, what the hell did you do this time?"


"So let me get this straight... Jubilee was taken by Mystique. You don't know where. You don't know to whom. You don't even know why yet, except that someone was trying to get to you." Monet sat in a chair across from Logan, shaking her head.

"That's pretty much the sum of it," he admitted. His head was still hung. Emotions crowded his head, shame first and foremost. He was never able to protect those that he loved. He always put them in danger. He always failed them. He closed his eyes trying to block out the pain. This was why he avoided people. This is why he was always brusque. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he realized this was selfish; it was more to protect him than to protect anyone else. But Jubilee... Never in a million years would he have intentionally endangered her. She was his... Well, he didn't know what she was anymore, or even what his feelings were for her, but he sure as hell wouldn't have wished this on her.

"So what do we do now?" the girl across him asked. No admonishments, no rebukes. Just a levelheaded response. He grudgingly admitted to himself that she was one hell of a woman.

"Well, I will wait until I hear from them, whoever they are. And call Chuck," he added, remembering that he never had found his watch. "You," he added, "will continue on with whatever it is you do." He withdrew the emotion from his face and looked up to meet her eyes. "This doesn't concern you."

"This doesn't concern me?" she screamed, any sign of 'levelheadedness' fading away as her voice rose. "How the hell can you sit in my house, talking about my roommate -who, when I last checked, you haven't even talked to in almost three years- and have the nerve to tell me that it doesn't concern me? What do you have, balls of steel? You obviously think with them. It seems to me that this whole damn thing is your fault! You obviously couldn't prevent it, so what makes you think you'll be able to fix it by yourself?"

Logan looked at her blankly. He turned to the kitchen, where the keg that had been brought for the party was still on ice. Pouring himself a beer, he gave Monet a grim smile. "Adamantium, babe, not steel. Now, if I can use your phone to call Xavier?"

Part 7: Awakenings

 Jubilee awoke in a dark, cramped space. She was bound and gagged. She panicked, trying to remember how she had gotten here.

Wolvie... He had come for her after all. A brief wave of calm flooded her as she recalled his rugged face smiling at her, his arms holding her. And then... the other Wolverine. Feral. Dangerous. Furious. It was the last thing that she remembered. Surely they weren't the same man... Wolvie had never threatened her before. Even though she had abandoned him, he would never consciously hurt her in any way. Would he?

She sat in the dark, her worst fears flooding her heart. Surely Logan hadn't done this to her? She lay silently in the dark, wondering how they had been brought to this point. Crying, she slipped back into unconsciousness.


Back at Monet and Jubilee's apartment, Logan was laying on Jubilee's bed. He had just gotten off of the phone with Charlie. He considered their conversation.

"Logan, I tried to tell you that something was wrong, but you wouldn't listen."

"Chuck, you know damn well that 'Cerebro picked up something strange' isn't the same thing as 'I told you so'," he had growled.

"You are correct, Logan, but... Maybe we could have avoided the situation," his friend offered.

"Right, I gotcha, bub. It's my fault. I hear you loud and clear."

"Logan, that's not what I'm saying. Please stop being difficult just because you are upset. I am worried about Jubilation as well, you know. You're not the only one that misses her."

"I know that, but it's different and you know it. I l... I don't know what I would do if she was gone."

"Well, in case you haven't noticed, she's been gone for three years, Logan, and has been doing quite well for herself.・

Logan declined to respond, instead asking, "Do you have any idea who I'm up against here?"

"No, unfortunately not, but I will continue to monitor the situation and let you know as soon as I find anything out. I'll send a new watch out with the team..."

Logan cut him off. "No, Chuck, this one's mine. I'm handling it alone. Airmail the watch."

"Logan..." Xavier had paused. "Very well. You have three days before I send out the team. I won't allow Jubilation to be harmed because you won't accept help."

Logan hung up the phone.

The dying light through the window created shadows that played across the wall. They silently echoed the thoughts that filled his head.

'Yeah, I sure am the best at what I do,' he considered ruefully. 'I've never met anyone as good at getting people killed.'

In his mind, he tore apart every interaction that he had ever had with Jubilee. What had brought them to this point? Always she had stood beside him, supporting him, accepting him, loving him... Even when he had run. She was always there waiting for him when he had buried his wounds deeply enough to return. What had changed that had given her such a wound that she would run herself? He had failed her, and now he had to pay the price. He hoped desperately that it wasn't too dear.

He looked around her room. His senses were flooded with her. Her furniture, her clothes, her pictures... He breathed in deeply. Her scent. He stood and walked over to her desk. Books, notebooks, pictures of people that he didn't know. He moved closer to the closet. Well, she still loved shopping, though her taste had obviously changed. A lot of black; not so much fabric. He ran his rough fingers over a silken halter- top and unconsciously moaned as he pictured her in it. He shut his eyes and held it to his nose, rubbing the fabric against his cheek. Jubilee...

His head fell and he slumped onto the floor of the darkened closet. He'd been without her for so long. He hadn・t even known how he felt until she was gone, and even then he hid it from himself because it made him feel dirty. Jubilee was practically his daughter・ wasn・t she? Now that he knew she really did want to see him...

For the third time in his life that he could remember, Logan cried.

Part 8: Charlantry

 "So tell me again why I work for you?" Mystique said glaring at the imposing blue man that stood in front of her.

The room they stood in was stark and sterile. Several doors led from the metallic interior, which was sparsely decorated with desk and a small laboratory area.

"Why, that's elementary, dear," Sinister sneered. "I was the highest bidder. There's something immensely rewarding about knowing that furthering science won out against all of the other petty causes you've championed."

"I didn't sign on with you for any great cause, and I certainly didn't sign on with you to be your errand girl," she frowned.

"No, you didn't. And I didn't hire you to have you question my plan, either. I told you... I'm doing an experiment. I require your aid because of your unique talents. That is all that you need to know until I find it necessary to tell you more," he replied roughly. "For now, I need you to wake the girl, but make sure you give her another injection first. She needs to be fed. Make sure you look like you're wearing a collar as well. And smoke a cigar before you go in there; I want this to be absolutely convincing."


"Jubes... Jubes, hon, wake up," a voice pried her gently from the darkness.

"Wo-Wolvie? S'that you?" Jubilee said groggily, shaking some of the sleep from her head. She felt drugged. Propping herself up on her elbows, she realized that she was no longer bound. Artificial light streamed in from the door, which was now propped open. "I... Where are we?"

"I'm not sure, darlin'. I haven't been able to find out much yet... These collars," he growled, fingering his own, "seem to block our mutant powers, and they can transmit a heavy shock, too. So don't you go misbehavin'. I don't want you getting hurt. I'll take care of you, I promise."

Jubilee looked at Wolverine, confused. He didn't want her to fight? Why was she in this closet but he seemingly could go anywhere he wanted? Why the hell couldn't she think clearly?

Her thoughts were interrupted as Wolverine began pulling a wrapped-up sandwich from his shirt. "Food?" she asked, her mind suddenly dominated by the hollow feeling in her stomach.

"Yeah, smuggled this in for you. You need to eat it slowly so that your body can process it. I'm not sure how many days it's been since you ate anything," he said, offering her the sandwich.

"Days?" she asked, shocked. Surely she hadn't been sleeping that long... Surely it hadn't been more than a few hours. She began chewing on the sandwich as slowly as her ravenous hunger would allow. "How many days?"

"Well, it's been about six days since I saw you on the street by your house."

"Six days?!"

"Yeah... Listen, hon, I hear someone coming this way. I'm gonna scoot. You eat and then get some sleep. I'll come back when I can." He withdrew from the cramped quarters, his fingertips grazing her cheek as he pulled away, the light going with him as the door was tightly shut again. She heard the bolt slide home, locking her in.

'Six days?' she thought, horrified. If no one had found her yet after six days, there was a good chance that rescue was not coming.


"So how did everything go?" Sinister asked as Mystique walked back through the main room, morphing back into her own skin.

"Perfectly. She swallowed everything," the shape-shifter replied.

Part 9: Laying Plans

 The phone rang once, and Logan sat up in bed. He listened to the quiet conversation on the other side of the apartment.

"Yeah, I'm here. No, Jono, they haven't contacted him yet," he could hear Monet whispering.

He smirked. As though whispering did any good with him around.

"Are you really waiting two more days before you come out? Can't you just say you 'happened' to be in L.A.? Or I could say that I had already invited you, and forgot that you were coming... Please? I don't want to see Jubilee hurt just because this prick thinks he can take on the world by himself."

Logan bristled slightly, but stayed in place.

"Alright, well, I'll see you tomorrow, then. I guess that's an acceptable compromise. But if something happens, I'm calling you. Okay. Good to talk to you to, Jono. Bye."

Logan lay back down, staring into the night, running his options through his head. Shortly before dawn he left the apartment.


When Jubilee awoke, Wolverine was lying next to her, his arms wrapped protectively around her, seemingly still asleep himself. Her head felt clearer.

What the hell was Wolverine doing here? And where was 'here' anyway? She snuggled against him, not willing to give this up, even if it was a dream, and drifted back to sleep.


Wolverine looked at the map that was laid out before him. The signal that Cerebro had picked up -which he now knew was Mystique- was from somewhere within a two mile radius... He had to find out where before the others were sent out. He had to save Jubilee himself.

He stared at the circled area on the map, waiting for something to jump out at him. Not surprisingly, it was an industrial sector. Lots of warehouses, and very little of anything else. He wondered for the thousandth time how they had known he was here, and who exactly 'they' were.

Whoever they were, they obviously wanted to die.

He stood and stalked out of his motel room into the morning light, heading for his bike.


Kurt, Bobby, and Warren all sat in a wide-open room at the top of the Worthington Industries building that overlooked the New York City skyline. All three were staring at Jonathan Starsmore.

"So tell me again exactly vat Monet said," the blue, elf-like mutant known as Nightcrawler said, disbelief plain on his face.

~Look, I've already told you,~ he answered, a fist slamming down on the conference table to stress his words. ~The Professor apparently told Logan no teams would join the hunt until the day after tomorrow. He hasn't even said anything to us yet, probably because he knew we wouldn't wait, but there's no other team that he could pick. Jean has her hands full at the Institute, and Storm's team is on the other side of the world. We, on the other hand, have our heads up our asses in New York City."

"Well, I can't say that I like this any more than you do, kid, but maybe we should wait for the Professor's blessing," Warren Worthington replied. "I'm sure if he's giving Logan time there's a damn good reason for it."

~Why should Wolverine come through for her now?~ Chamber replied, what was visible of his face twisted into a scowl. ~He abandoned her in Massachusetts, and from what M says he hasn't even seen her since they got to L.A.~

Bobby Drake looked up at his teammate. "Listen, she didn't exactly leave a calling card for any of us. Wolverine didn't turn his back on her, and neither did the rest of us. It wasn't that way. You don't understand..." he began, but Chamber cut him off.

~No, I don't understand, and neither did she, nor any of the rest of us, for that matter,~ he interjected. ~We never understood why the X-Men looked down on us, their younger counterparts. We never understood why you kept us locked away in Massachusetts instead of in New York where we could have learned directly from you and helped you. Don't say it's because we were too young, because Jubilee herself was with the X-Men long before she was with Generation X. We never understood, Jubilee most of all, because you used to be her family, and then you sent her away. From her point of view, at least her first family, her real family, only left her because someone killed them. You?~ he paused in his rushed, jumbled thoughts. He shook his head. More calmly, he began again. ~That's why she left for Los Angeles with Angelo instead of returning to the Institute. That's why she never said goodbye. And that's why she stayed in Los Angeles with Monet.~

He glared out the window as the others just sat there speechless.

Part 10: Strange Bedfellows

 The sun was already almost at its zenith. Logan glared up at it, knowing the longer it took him to find Jubilee the less time that he would have to rescue her. Without the others. He couldn・t come up with a good reason, other than personal pride, to want to settle this on his own, but he knew all the same he didn・t want any of Charles・s help.

He looked at the row of warehouses before him. The third-to-last block in the area indicated by Cerebro. Door number one? Or maybe door number six? ・Where are you, darlin?・ he silently pleaded in his head. He turned his bike towards the building on the far left and continued on.


・How・s our patient today?・ Sinister asked Mystique as she entered the laboratory, not bothering to look up from where he was writing notes into a slim black notebook.

・She just got her morning injection. I・m on my way in with breakfast now,・ she muttered. ・If you need anything else, guv, please just ring the bell,・ the blue beauty finished sarcastically.

・Oh, I think I・m fine for now, but thank you,・ Sinister replied, a small smirk gracing his own chiseled blue features.

Grumbling, Mystique・s body shimmered slightly as she changed shapes and walked down the hall to where Jubilee was being kept. She paused at a table near the door and picked up an apple, placing it in her pocket. She looked up at the guard who was flanking the prisoner・s door. ・Has she woken up yet?・

・Yes, ma・am. I escorted her to the bathroom a few minutes ago,・ he replied warily.

・Blindfolded, I hope?・

・Yes, ma・am. Just like you instructed. And we took several wrong turns, as well.・

・Good. Now remember, the signal to let me out again will be the sound of these claws being dragged along the door. Let・s get this over with.・

The guard took her by the arm and opened the door to Jubilee・s cell. ・You can rot in here with the other mutie scum,・ he snarled, shoving Mystique into the small chamber, slamming the door behind her.


・You・re back!・ Jubilee quickly crawled across the tight space to where Wolverine sat crouched. ・Are you okay?・

・Yeah, darlin. I・m fine. Just hungry and tired is all. Here,・ he said, fishing in his pocket. ・Brought you something.・ He tossed the apple to her. ・Figured you were probably hungry. I don・t know how much you・ve eaten since they brought us breakfast yesterday. I saved this just in case・・

・Breakfast? Yesterday?・ Jubilee brought a hand up to her face and rubbed at her temple. ・I don・t remember breakfast yesterday,・ she admitted, whimpering slightly. ・I don・t feel right at all. Were you here?・ she asked, taking a bite of the apple.

・Of course I was, darlin. I・ve been here every minute except when they・ve been running the tests.・ A look of pain crossed his face.

・Tests?・ Jubilee raised herself to her knees and looked Wolverine as directly in the eye as she could in the dark. ・What... what are they doing to you?・ she asked tentatively. ・Are you okay?・ She took one of his hands in hers, holding it close to her chest. Poor Wolvie. He comes to rescue her and ends up a lab rat again. Wait. He didn・t come to rescue her. He was caught with her. By... Wolvie? It was getting to be too much for her. Tears began rolling silently from her eyes down her cheeks.

・Ah, it・s nothing I haven・t been through before,・ he admitted, taking the forgotten apple from her hand, helping himself to a bite, and handing it back. ・Don・t cry, babe,・ he added, wiping her cheek with his hand. ・We・ve got each other, and that・s what matters.・

He drew her to him and she huddled in the lee of his arm, seeking whatever comfort was available. After a few minutes, the sedative kicked in and she drifted back to sleep. A single clawed hand reached up and ran down the length of the door.


Logan looked up at the next building. GeneSearch. Well, it sounded just as promising as the countless others he had already been through. Frustrated and tired, he walked through the door.

A stark lobby with no waiting area and a single receptionist・s window greeted him. A comely brunette looked up from a magazine and met his gaze. ・Can I help you, Sir?・

・I certainly hope so,・ he answered, pocketing away his weariness and putting on a smile. ・I・m looking for a friend who works here. His name is Carl Smith.・

・I・m sorry, sir, but we don・t have anyone here by that name,・ the receptionist answered, giving him an odd look.

・Are you sure?・ he asked again, falling easily into the script that he had been using all morning. ・This is GeneSearch, is it not?・

・Yes, sir, it is, but like I said, we don・t have anyone here by that name. This facility is actually practically empty. There are only a couple of researchers and some assistants here. And no one by the name of Carl Smith.・

Wolverine inhaled, and for the first time all day found what he was looking for. Not a lie, but fear.

・Thank you, ma・am. I must have been mistaken. Have a nice day,・ he replied, backing out of the door again.

The receptionist looked down at a picture on her desk and then picked up the phone. ・Sir? You know that man that you told me to look out for? He just left.・

・Interesting,・ came the quiet, calm reply. ・Can you please page Ms. Darkholme and have her meet our guest at one of the back doors?・

・Yes, Sir.・

Part 11: Awakenings, Part Deux

 Logan walked around the building, his skin on edge. He couldn・t place anything out of place, at least not more than the scent of a lie, but it was the best lead he・d had to go on all day.

The only thought in his mind was finding Jubilee. Once again he had endangered someone he loved. His curse. He shook his shaggy head, frustrated. It wasn・t fair. He thought of Jubilee, her smile, her sweet air of never-ending support・ As long as he was being honest with himself, she was the girl ・o, he corrected- the woman that had stood by him through everything. Sabertooth, Deathstrike, Mariko, Silver Fox・ She had never abandoned him, despite his ornery disposition. She had always stood by him, accepting him, never afraid of his inner beast, always waiting for him to come around.

Until she stopped.

And that・s when he realized how much he needed her.

Or was he just realizing this? He didn・t know anymore. He only knew he had to find her, had to make everything all right. He still wasn・t sure what he wanted from her. He didn・t feel safe calling this feeling love. Not like that, anyway. After all, this was Jubilee. He couldn・t love her. Could he?


Jubilee awoke in a cold, dark room. She awoke alone and more clear-headed than she had been in ・ays? She shook her head, shaking away the confusion that ensued when she considered her captivity.

・Drugged・ I・ve been drugged.・

She took measure of the locked door in front of her and fingered her collar, trying to build a paf. Nothing doing. ・No doubt, Jubes, you・ve hopped into the frying pan this time・・

So she・d been drugged. Someone was trying to disorient her. She struggled, trying to see through the lifting fog in her mind. She must be building a tolerance faster than her captors anticipated. Her captors・ Who were they? She remembered her reunion with Wolverine, the other Wolverine, the Wolvie who had visited her, the incongruities・ She shook her head again. Could the real Wolvie please stand up? One of them must have been real. She・d been on the farm roster too long to see this much action solo. But who knew enough about her to know to use Wolvie against her? Who would target her? Or was she being used against him?

This thought hit her like a semi. Was someone using her against her Wolvster? How could she know who the real Wolverine was? Surely one of them must be・ Even though it hurt her to think it had taken this to get his attention, a little voice in her head couldn・t help but rejoice: ・He came!・


The side door of the building opened slowly. Logan snapped out of his reverie, instantly alert. Auburn hair and blue skin wrapped itself around the doorway.

・Funny meeting you here.・


Part 12: A Turn of the Dice

 "Well," Warren sighed, reclining back in his chair, "we've had the chance to sleep on Jono's little speech. What do you want to do?" he inquired, looking at Bobby.

"I'd never abandon Jubilee," he answered, snowflakes dancing between his fingers as he shot a pointed gaze at Jonathan Starsmore, "despite what some people think. I'm not going to start now."

Warren turned his gaze to Chamber.

"I think you know how I feel, mate."

"So then it's decided," the blue-skinned leader announced, standing and stretching his wings behind him. "Suite up. Flight 393 on Blackbird Air is departing in five minutes."


"Now, now, cub. That's no way to greet the welcome wagon," Mystique laughed, falling easily into a fighting stance.

"Some fucking welcome," Wolverine snarled, swinging at the blue-skinned menace.

"I thought I told you to play nice," she countered, easily blocking his blow with a roundhouse kick.

"Maybe I don't know how," he growled, already lunging again.

"I think," she said, jumping back and touching a device on her belt, "that she can still be dead in a second flat."

"You'll be dead in a second," he threatened, moving to attack again.

"So will she. Just keep that in mind."

Wolverine checked himself, pulling in his claws, growling.


Jubilee tugged her thoughts into reality. 'Stay true, Jubes. Stay true. Don't let your emotions carry you away. Just remember, you're an X-Man. You've been in worse situations. You can get through this.'

It was funny. After all this time she still thought of herself as one of the X-Men. Sure, she'd been 'demoted' to GenX, but still - once you reach the top of the food chain, there's no going back.

'So what are you going to do to get out of this, Lee?' she countered herself, trying to keep focus.

She looked around the dark room, seeking anything to move on. 'Wait and see. Wait and see.'


"So why don't you come with me nicely," Mystique asked, inviting Logan inside the building.

He snarled in reply, knowing that at this point at least Mystique had won the coin toss and got to move first. Now he just had to bide his time.