Blood Remembers

by Grym

DISCLAIMER: Standard fare. Although I'd love to claim ownership of Wolverine and Jubilee, the Marvel Entertainment Group might not appreciate the gesture. They’re used with much fondness and absolutely no permission. No money can/will be made and, honestly, I’m poor enough that suing me would be a wasted effort.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Heartfelt thanks to Ascian, Babbles29, and Kamots for beta-reading and general encouragement.

FEEDBACK: Please!!! Critical commentary is *always* welcomed, especially since this is my first public posting of fanfiction.

SYNOPSIS: After Mariko’s death, a grief-stricken Logan prepares himself to cope in a very traditional way. Can Jubilee stay his self-destructive hand? (Hopefully, an intense, angst-ridden, short tale about friendship in crisis.)

Soft as a whisper, the ornate inlaid door gave beneath her hand. Jubilee peered hesitantly around the edge, searching the room with eyes that felt gritty from too many tears. The vast open space was covered with fine worked mats and a mahogany shrine burned against one wall, laden with stones and rough-drawn pictures of those passed away but not forgotten. Candles flickered fitfully as the warm hall air rushed past her into the chilled room. For all its expense and history, the Yashida clan mansion was prey to drafts – especially now.

Almost immediately she found what she sought. "Wolvie? Hey, can I come in?" His back was to her where he knelt in the center of the room, seiza. His shock of midnight black hair rose over the collar of snowy white traditional robes. The garb’s wide shoulders accented the gentle arch of his back as, head bowed, he seemed to meditate in silence, lost in thought amid the thin trails of candle smoke and incense that wafted from the shrine.

Biting her lip to keep back more tears, Jubilee slipped into the room on quiet bare feet, padding to stand beside him. "D’ya want some company yet?" she said. Something about the pristine whiteness of his clothes made her hesitate to touch him, something both solid and ethereal like white marble shrouded in ancient mists. Before him on a black lacquered stand lay an unsheathed wakizashi, the bare blade glinting dully. ‘There are rituals for grief,’ Jubilee told herself. ‘There are rituals for everything here.’ As the silence stretched on without reply or motion, she knelt beside him, squirmed a little, and sighed. Tired of crying for him, for Mariko, for the loss that everyone in the mansion felt after the sudden death, she sat numb amid the stillness. How much worse must it be for him? she thought grimly.

After resituating herself, her knees pulled up to her chin, she tried again with a simple, "Hi?"

He didn’t look at her, but his voice seemed to reach across the tiny, incalculable distance, brushing against her ears like the dim light on her face. "Hullo, darlin’." It was low, raspy with grief and disuse these last few days while he kept everyone away.

Now with his attention at least partially on her, all the words she had thought to say faded, and she was left with nothing, with triteness and redundancy, with only a soft "I’m so sorry."

He made a low noise in his throat, somewhere between a cough and a rueful laugh. "Not yer fault." The pause was almost imperceptible, but she heard the timbre of his voice turn to steel. "Mine."

Compulsively, she reached out to him, linked her arm through his and leaned against him. Hugging his massive arm, she buried her face in his shoulder to stop the tears from coming again. "Oh, Wolvie… it’s *not* your fault. It’s not! Have you spent all this time in here thinking that? Wolvie, nobody blames you!"

His silence spoke louder than any protests of culpability, and she found herself clenching his arm tighter, protectively. No matter what anyone said, he was determined to bear the blame for Mariko’s death. While it had been his killing strike, certainly – and Jubilee couldn’t help but shiver at the thought – Mariko had asked for death at his loving hand, for an end to lethal pain. A merciful death. A noble death. A very Japanese death, if unexpected. With honor and all that.

The teenager sharply quenched a shock of resentment. Ending Mariko’s torment had broken Logan completely…and it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair for him to suffer as he suffered or, Jubilee reminded herself with a sting of shame, for herself to condemn Logan’s beloved for her choice of deaths. Jubilee silently battled the sudden lump tightening her throat again, wishing away the strange taint of fear and nausea inevitably brought on by thoughts of Mariko’s last moments. Nobody blamed Wolverine, surely, but … She shuddered. Such a horrible, horrible death. Noble, merciful or not. The price of being Logan’s lover and friend.

"Nobody blames you … but you," she whispered sadly, releasing his arm and shifting aside a little. Trying to comfort him was like consoling a statue. She swallowed, mopped at her eyes with the back of her hand, and continued trying, however. She had to. "Y’know, when my folks were killed, I thought it was like the end of the world. And I just knew it had to be my fault, right? I mean, if I had been there maybe, maybe it wouldn’t have happened like it did. Maybe they’d still be alive. Maybe … maybe I’d have gotten to at least say g’bye." She scrubbed at her face again, wiping away the tears that seemed to come from nowhere. Reminiscing was still hard, the old wound still painful even though it often seemed healed. "You know what I mean, Wolvie? It sucked, y’know. I mean, it really sucked. Sometimes it still does."

She looked blearily around for some tissue or a handkerchief, but the mats held only the sword stand and a small photograph of a lovely, self-possessed Asian woman, Mariko, both just within Logan’s reach. Dashing a few more tears aside with her sodden sleeve, she continued a little helplessly. "I know it hurts, Wolvie. I-I know what it’s like to lose someone you love."

"Not th’ same," he rumbled, voice shattering even on those few words. Tears fell in grey spots on his robe. "Yer family … awful. This … unforgivable."

"It *is* the same," she insisted, touching his arm gently. "At least you … at least you got to be there, y’know. At least you know why…"

His fist clenched sharply and, with a terminal *snikt*, three claws snapped from their housings. "Yeah, I know why." Their silver was tarnished, ruddy with stains of old blood, and he lifted his eyes away momentarily as his breath caught in his throat. "Not th’ same, Jubes. Not at all."

Her hand leapt to her mouth and her eyes widened. "Oh, Wolvie! Is that … is that hers?" Her eyes were drawn to the dark-stained claws he cradled on his knees, her stomach knotting convulsively. In the time she had fought at his side, she had dealt easily with his sometimes-brutal method of fighting, and she knew the glittering adamantium blades were never left slicked with an enemy’s blood.

His face contorted, lip curling away from his teeth. "It’s hers. Wish it was mine."

"It oughta be Shaw’s." If she couldn’t rouse him from this entrenched sorrow though sympathy, perhaps she could rekindle and channel the rage that always lurked beneath the surface. Even a rampaging, berserker Wolverine would be preferable to this. " Isn’t he the one responsible, the one who poisoned her?"

"He ordered her death." Logan’s growl gave her a momentary spark of hope. "An’ he deserves a world o’ pain." Bitterness. And self-mocking. "But facts’re facts, an’ her associatin’ with me got his attention in th’ first place." One rough-knuckled hand slid over the hard muscles of his abdomen, tracing across and up idly. Jubilee stared at him in silence for a long moment, mind reaching back to some random facts she had collected in her few awake days in World Cultures class. What was it? It evaded her, hanging just outside of conscious thought, tantalizing and terrifying at the same time.

Little details began coming together – the unusual white robes, the sword presented before him, the ritual path for the blade. Unaware of her eyes and the horror settling in them, Logan’s fingers moved against the pristine white of his stomach, unerring, frighteningly well versed in the appropriate stroke. Suddenly, the chill of the room penetrated into her bones and took her breath. Oh, oh god, she thought frantically, clutching at her jeans. Oh no. He can’t be…

"Wolvie," she began slowly, trying to stop her voice from quavering, "I know this is a stupid question, really. But people always say there aren’t any really stupid questions, right? I mean, if it’s important enough, it can’t be stupid." You’re babbling, Lee. She swallowed hard. "You—you’re not really thinking about … about…" She had forgotten the formal term for ritual suicide, but even beyond this, the impossible horror of the idea choked off coherent thought.

He didn’t answer immediately. Instead he brushed at several tiny flecks of dried blood which had fallen from his claws onto his white pants, and seemed vaguely disturbed and somehow confused when they clung to the fabric. After a minute that seemed an eternity, a soft sigh lifted his shoulders. His eyes never rose. "I loved her, Jubes."

"I know. Of course ya did," Jubilee said, too quickly. "And that’s not a reason—"

"I swore my heart to seein’ her happy. And my life for her ta be safe," he continued quietly, as if she hadn’t spoken. "And then, I killed her." A small gesture with the one hand of protracted claws cut off the teenager’s protests abruptly. "There ain’t much left ta me, now, girl. Ya don’t wanna take this last thing from me, do ya?"

Jubilee’s heart clenched and an edge of fear crept into her voice when he fell silent. "That’s not right, Wolvie. Or fair! I mean, what happened is awful … worse than awful. But you gotta look at the big picture, at the bunch of folks who still need ya around." She gnawed her lip until she tasted the salty, metallic taste of blood. "A whole buncha folks, Wolvie. Like me," she added in a small voice, gulping back more tears and fighting the bizarre numbness that had begun to spread through her. "Remember me, huh?"

"Yeah, darlin’."

"But?" She held her breath.

"But this ol’ canucklehead ain’t no good fer ya. You’d be much better off jus’ goin’ back ta th’ mansion and lettin’ Chuck teach ya about yerself. Ain’t nothin’ but a bunch o’ trouble followin’ me. Never has been."

Paradoxically, Jubilee wanted to hug him close and kick him hard, but her legs refused to lift her to do either. "You’re talkin’ crazy, Wolvie. You know that’s not true!"

He didn’t respond and the cold feeling in the pit of her stomach hardened into terrifying certainty. While her thoughts banged around incoherently, asserting that he couldn’t, he wouldn’t do such a thing, she struggled for a reply – for a reason that he had to be wrong, for a means to stay his hand. "But-but you can’t!" she stammered wildly, fingers gripping his arm so hard they cramped. "You can’t even die! Your healing factor—"

"Can’t cope with everythin’." He finally turned deep, dark eyes to meet hers now. Grey shadows circled them, but despite the haunting pain, they were full of gentleness. "Y’know that, girl."

She groped for words, panic heightening her voice. "You just can’t! Mariko would hate you for it! I know she would! And—and so will I! You—you can’t abandon me just because Shaw took her! Whatever happened to ‘I’ll be there for you, darlin’?"

He bowed his head toward the naked sword before him. "The blade’s already drawn. It demands action, blood. Ya wouldn’t make me dishonor myself more by resheathin’ it."

Confusion and fear overwhelmed her. "What’re ya talkin’ about? Dishonor?" she squeaked. "I’d rather have ya dishonored than—than dead. What a stupid tradition! It’s sick! Who the heck cares what that stupid sword ‘demands’!"

"It’s th’ samurai’s way, girl. My way … There’s no other."

Jubilee struggled for a reply, knowing innately that one existed but unable to drag it into her stunned mind. "Well," she stumbled, "well, if it’s blood you’ve gotta have, then I can give you –" She reached almost blindly for the bare blade.

Logan’s hand closed like a vice over her wrist. "Jubilee, the blood debt is mine," he rasped. "The choice is mine. For praise or blame, like the choice to … murder … her, this is something I must decide. Something I must do…" He nodded slightly toward the door behind them. "… alone."


Regret etched in the rugged lines of his face, Wolverine extended one hand to tenderly brush her cheek. It was the gesture of an intimate friend, light, tracing over her familiar features, lingering and remembering. She turned away a little, averting her eyes, and snatched her wrist from his grasp, only to feel miserably alone when the cool, callused fingers fell away. His gravelly voice seemed to come from a great distance. "Go to Yukio, now, Jubes. Be strong for her and the team, when they arrive. I didn’t mean fer it ta be like this, but know that I love ya, kid. You’ve been the best o’ my life fer a long time."

"I can’t believe you’re doing this! You! You said you’d be there for me! You said you understood about loss! I can’t believe you want me to feel like you do now!" She heard herself screaming at him, desperate, out of control. His quiet voice answered that the pain would pass, parroted something stupid, probably about disgrace and honor and better lives. She didn’t hear it as she shouted louder, trying to make him understand in volume what she lacked in words. "It won’t go away, you moron! I’m your partner, remember? If I lose you, I lose EVERYTHING that’s important to me! AGAIN! And this time it will be my fault. Why can’t you see that? Or are you so self-centered that you’ve lost sight of everybody else!"

Her eyes scanned his face, searching it for some fragment of hope. Nothing met her gaze save that same sad tenderness, the expression of a man who did not wish to hurt her but who accepted the possibility with deep sorrow. Struggling against her heart as it surged in her throat, Jubilee backed away from him in horror and disbelief and flung herself at the door before her knees remembered their numbness and refused to move again.

The door swung closed behind her with a final click. Jubilee’s legs gave way beneath her and she slid down its etched surface, tearless, voiceless. No wails, no screams. A blessed darkness hovered at the periphery of her vision and she scrabbled toward it, feeling the world sink slowly into a grey haze.

It could have been hours. It felt like days, or like a dream born out of her dry sobs and nerve-wracked brain. When she heard the soft footsteps beyond her head, nothing registered. When the door creaked and gave beneath her shoulder and cheek, she merely slipped to the floor entirely, curled tight and near insensible. Only when familiar gentle hands seized her arms, lifted her slightly, did she dare look up, her head heavy, the hallway spinning. But even in the chaos of shock, one thing was clear. Logan had emerged, stripped to the waist, blood streaming from a rapidly healing gash over his shoulder, but with the ritual wakizashi sheathed in his hand.

Wolverine gathered her to him, holding her trembling form against his chest. Dimly, she thought she heard her own relieved voice giggling, thought she felt her fist weakly pounding against him. "Hate you…" she murmured wearily. "I really would … really…. Don’t you dare… leave me…"

His voice rolled above her head, like nearby thunder to her exhausted mind. "I deserve that, darlin’. You’re right." The skin of his chest was icy and smelled of candles and incense and the bitter tang of blood, foreign and yet more welcome than anything she could ever remember. He muttered against her hair, breath warm on her forehead. "C’mon, darlin’, let’s get you ta bed. I’m gonna need ya, girl, if I’m ta repay Shinobi for what he’s done. An’ make amends fer my own foolishness."

Jubilee smiled softly, nestling her head against him. "No more killing?"

"No more killin’," he agreed. "Not me. Not while I’ve got family ta protect. I owe that punk more than my own death." In her relief, even his grim promise sounded warm and familiar. "What I owe ‘im isn’t quick, an’ it isn’t pretty. Blood remembers, I heard an old sensei say once. These blades o’ mine will have blood. An’ more."

"A world o’ hurt?" She relaxed in his arms as he carried her towards her room. Family, he said. Me.

"A world o’ hurt, darlin’." He growled quietly and the reverberations tickled her ear. "Fer us all."

Behind them on the brilliantly carpeted floor, a dropped sword lay abandoned in the shadow of the doorway, safe in its protective sheath.