The Twist Inside

by Allykat

Rating: R

Archive: Please ask. It's usually okay, I just want to know where it is.

Summary & Author's note: Yeah yeah, you think this is just another Logan/Jubilee pairing fic. After reading a dozen or so Logan/Jubilee pairing stories scattered around the internet, I decided to write my own to explore what *I* think would happen between them once Jubilee came of age. In the comics, it has been established in several stories that she has a crush on him. In Wolverine #51, written by Larry Hama, Jubilee finds Logan in a cheap motel room with a woman. In a jealous tizzy, she kicks over his motorcycle. So what exactly was Hama thinking? Or for that matter, the other writers who've given Logan and Jubilee's relationship a strange twist. Something is going on there in order for the lot of us to come to a similar conclusion about the nature of their relationship・-at least there's something going on from Jubilee・s point of view. As for Logan, the guy is downright honorable despite everything and has his own set of rules. Who knows what he・d do? This story is my vision of what might really happen.

Jubilee left her fancy red sports car parked out in the front of the mansion. The tres cool convertible was a college present from Logan: surrogate brother, father, best friend... and something else. But she wasn't too certain about what that something else was yet. She was still working on it, figuring it out, and deciding what she should do about it・ if she should do anything.

The spring day was perfect, the air was clear and warm and a breeze sifted through her hair. She'd been growing it long and it hung down her back in a loose French braid. Her friends at the sorority had transformed her from a gawky teenage mallrat into a sophisticated young woman... at least on the outside, she amended. Her step was light and her silky purple mini dress moved against her legs as she walked into the mansion. She escaped from college and her well-meaning, but sometimes cloying sorority sisters, for the weekend and she was looking forward to spending time with her favorite person. He didn't know she was coming.

Remy walked down the staircase just as she entered the foyer. He wore a pair of sneakers, cut-off shorts and a New York giants t-shirt. On the tip of one finger he spun a basketball.

"Hello, Remy," she chimed, stood on tip-toe and gave him a peck on the cheek.

"'Ello, petite. You are looking nice."

"Thank you," she replied with a smile and wondered at Remy's appraising expression. "Where is Logan?"

"Out back near the garage wid・ one of his few loves," Remy replied. Jubilee couldn't tell if the Cajun was joking or serious.

Jubilee wasn't going to let anything spoil this day. Wolvie was hers and she didn't share. "I'm just going to have to tell her to leave. I drove all the way up to see Logan and no floozy is going to spoil it."

"I don't think your going to send dis love packin'," Remy called.

And he was right.

At the rear of the mansion outside the garages, Jubilee found Logan working on his Harley. He wore jeans and a once-white tank top now smeared with grease. A few parts from his scoot were scattered around on a greasy drop cloth. She stayed out of his line of sight and watched him for a moment. He always looked hot in tank tops and jeans and, as her friends in college told her after meeting him, he had a killer body. He'd caused quite a stir the day he came to see her, riding up on his Harley looking both dangerous and desirable. Her friends didn't stop pestering her about him for weeks after, wondering what exactly their relationship was. Their relationship was not easy to define and although he'd played many roles in her life, a lover was not one of those. Her friends did not believe the truth, as simple as she had tried to make it. She'd never told Wolvie about her friends questions; she was still unsure about how to address them herself.

The wind blew towards her, so she knew he couldn't catch her scent and she used the advantage to watch him. He popped a claw, placed a cloth strip on the tip and used it to clean the grease out of a cylindrical motorcycle part. He held the part up to the light, grumbled something then retracted the claw. A surge of warm affection filled her and she hugged herself. She wanted to throw herself on him and hug on him instead, but he'd never go for that. A very large loner streak vied for dominance with a stubborn streak that would shame a mule. She watched the muscles of his arm bunch as he worked a tool. The tool slipped and he raked his knuckles, leaving a bleeding red gash on his hand. Logan had a mutant healing factor, but he didn't have a pain dampening factor.

"Son of a whore mongering...." He trailed off at the sight of Jubilee walking across the lawn toward him.

Jubilee stopped in front of him, raised her eyebrows and crossed her arms. "Son of a whore mongering what?"

"Just you never mind, an' watch yer mouth," he growled. His gaze flicked over her, then he glared at the gash but it had healed. "What 'cho doing here?"

"I haven't seen you since winter break and that's all I'm going to get?" She raised her arms then let them fall back to her sides and quelling a rush of disappointment. She kept her voice light. "I have to admit I was expecting a different greeting, like, 'Hey Jubes, great to see you!'" She sat down on the grass, crossed her legs out in front of her and braced her arms behind her. "I'm visiting for the weekend."

"That so?" His attention was wholly focused on the motorcycle. "You've been doing well at school, darlin. Your political science professors have been singin' praises. I'm proud o' ya."

Jubilee flushed at the compliment. Logan didn't give them out often. "Thanks, but I didn't come to talk about school."

"That so," he said absently, and frowned at a greasy part he held between two fingers. He popped a claw again and used the rag on the claw to clean the part.

"That's the second time you've said that. You're being downright loquacious today." He scowled at her for that and she gave him her sweetest smile. "I've come to tell you that I've decided you need a birthday party."

"Tell me...! Decided....?" he stuttered then jerked towards her, his brows pulled together. "A flamin' *what*!"

At least she had his complete attention now. "You know, a birthday party. Cake, balloons, presents in bright bows, pin the tail on the donkey. Hellooo? Any of that, like, sound familiar?"

"Darlin', how in the flamin' hell can I have a birthday party if I don't even know my birth date."

"A technicality," Jubilee replied and shrugged. "I think one of the reasons that you've been stalking around like a badger with a toothache is because you need to have some fun."

"I go ta' the Auger Inn or Hardcase・s place if I want some fun," he grumbled. "And I ain't been stalking around like..." he grunted, "like whatever it was ya' said."

"A badger with a toothache. That's what Rogue told me." Jubilee snorted. "And, you may not know this, but kicking butt is not the only way to have a good time."

"Tell me it ain't so." This time there was a hint of a smile on his mouth.

She leaned over on her knees and punched him in the arm. "Ow!" She shook her hand. "That hurt!"

"Never hit a man with adamantium-laced bones." He continued to work on the Harley. "Now where'd ya get the hare-brained idea o' givin' me a party."

"It's not hare-brained. I just that that... since... well, since there's some aspects of your life that you don't uh・."

"Remember?" Logan inserted. "You don't have to pussy foot around, darlin'. Like I've said before, I ain't got clue one about parts o' my life. Sometimes a stray memory will pop into my head and I have no idea if it's real or not."

"Well, then, that's a good reason to give you a real party. It'll be one that you can't forget. Then I'll know when you wish you happy birthday."

"Well, that's nice o' ya', darlin', but I ain't much o' a birthday boy." He reached blindly for a tool behind him. "Hand me the ratchet, will ya'?"

Jubilee looked at the array of tools on the drop cloth. "Uh. Hmm. Here, I think." She slapped it into his hand.

"This is a wrench." Logan handed it back to her. "The ratchet is right here." He grabbed the tool.

"Wolvie, how am I supposed to know what a ratchet looks like? I'm an ex-mall rat, not a grease monkey."

Logan finally looked back at her. She couldn't decipher the strange look on his face. "Ya' callin' me a grease monkey?"

"If the ratchet fits," she replied. "Ahh!" she screeched as Logan got up and stalked toward her. She scrambled backward in the grass and held up one hand. "Don't you come near me with those greasy paws! This... this dress is silk. Don't touch me." Fireworks sparkled from her fingertips but that didn't deter him.

"We'll see who the grease monkey is now, darlin'," he growled, and grabbed her ankle and pulled her toward him.

"Wolvie!" Jubilee screeched and pushed at his chest as he crawled over her. "You big oaf!" she cried, laughed and beat at his shoulders with her fists, not that it did much to stop him. The guy had to weigh close to two hundred pounds more than she did.

Logan loomed above her, his weight on both knees. With one large hand, he pinned her wrists over her head to the ground and swiped a finger across both cheeks and down her nose. He tilted his head, regarded her for a moment, then swiped a finger in some grease on his shirt and put it right in the middle of her chin.

"I think this makes ya' my assistant grease monkey."

"Wolvie! Oooooo!" Jubilee screeched, struggled and kicked the ground. Sparklers flashed from her fingers, but with him pinning her wrists she couldn't direct her fireworks effectively, and he knew it. "You... you meanie!"

"Meanie?" When Logan began laughing, it was almost enough to make Jubilee forget her indignation. Logan laughing? Not just a chuckle, but real honest to goodness laughter. Catching him in a weak moment, she pushed him off and he rolled to the ground, holding his sides, his whole body shaking.

"Oh, so you think wiping your dirty grease on me is funny!"

"Yeah, darlin', you should see your face. When did ya' start gettin' all prissy on yer ole' Canucklehead?"

"I'm. Not. Prissy!" Jumping on him and straddling him, she pummeled him with her fists; not that it did any good. The guy was like a rock. He didn't try to fight back, just curled up, held his arms over his head and laughed. "Apologize," she demanded. "Tell me you're sorry and take it back."

"No," came Logan's muffled response.

Jubilee dug her fingers into his sides and tickled him. "Say uncle, Wolvie. Say it!"

"No!" he howled. "Never uncle."

"I knew you'd say that, it's just like you to be stubborn to the end." She leaned down and grabbed his ear lob between her teeth. "Thay ooncle. Thay it!"

Logan drew a huge, quick breath then rose up so suddenly that she sprawled backwards into the grass.

"Hey! You could have given me some warning," she said, brushing at her dress. "I think I have grass stains on my dress, now."

He walked away a few steps and stood with his back to her, hands clenched against his thighs, his laughter gone.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

He shook his head, looked over his shoulder at her and took a deep breath. "Nothing, darlin'. It's nothing. Go ahead and plan yer party. I'll be there."

"Tres cool!" she responded and jumped up. "I promise it'll be fun."

"And do something about that grease on your face." Logan was chuckling again. Whatever his problem was he seemed to have gotten over it. He faced her and crossed his arms.

"Oh, yeah? And here's your stupid racket." Jubilee reached down, grabbed the tool and tossed it at his head. He ducked and she stuck out her tongue.

"It's a ratchet." A dangerous, but teasing expression crossed his features. "And that wasn't nice."

"It wasn't meant to be. Not that it would ever hurt your hard head if it ever connected." She walked up to him and threw her arms around his neck. "You big lug. You don't scare me." She sighed. "I've missed you, Wolvie. College is nice, but you're not there," she mumbled into his neck, and ran a hand down his hair. She tried to date a few boys, but she inevitably compared them to Logan, and there was no one on earth who could compare to this hairy guy. They had been through so much together. Logan hesitated, then returned her hug, holding her tight. Jubilee sighed again, contented, and burrowed her face into his shoulder.

"I've missed you, too, kiddo," he finally replied. He released her and she stepped back and gave him her best smile.

"I promise it'll be a good party."

"Better have a keg or two.... or three." He paused. "Better make that three."

"Don't worry," she replied, picked up his hand and squeezed it. "I'll take care of it, and I'm going to start on it right now." She winked and sauntered away, putting an extra sway into her hips. She didn't know why she did it, but at least he was noticing, and she was keenly aware of his gaze all the way up to the mansion.

* * *

Jubilee had notepaper and invitations spread across the kitchen table. "Hmm. Two weeks should be a long enough notice for invitations. I'll make it an evening party with dinner, say around 6 in the evening with a BBQ. Informal is more Wolvie's style. And there should be a band, and some dancing." She grabbed the telephone book lying near her elbow.

"Did someone say dancin'?" said a familiar voice. "Ah like dancin'"

Jubilee looked up. "Oh hey, Rogue."

"What ya' doing, sugah? I thought that was ya' cah parked out 'n front."

"I came down to visit. I'm planning a birthday party for the Wolvster." She turned to the 'p' page in the phonebook and ran her finger down the listings for party supplies. "We're going to have cake, a band, some dancing. And Wolvie is going to have fun whether he likes it or not."

"A party fa' Logan?" Rogue's brows climbed up to her hairline. She sat down and picked up one of the invitations. "Does he know about this?"

"Yep. I already told him that he's going to have it."

"You told him?"

"Is there an echo in here," Jubilee teased. "The big lug doesn't have a choice, and you told me on the phone that he's been grumpy."

"It's been quiet, so ah figured it was because he hasn't been thumping any heads togetha' lately. "

"Funny, 'cause that's almost what he said," she replied without looking up. "I don't think the band should be rock and roll--that's not Wolvie's style. He likes that country western stuff. Will you teach me to two step, Rogue?" She looked up and found Rogue staring at her. "What?"

"I'll teach ya' to two step, honey, but did you know you have dirt on yer face?" Rogue licked her glove-encased thumb and leaned forward.

"Yuck!" Jubilee cringed, held a notebook up in front of her face and peered around it. She'd forgotten that Logan had rubbed grease on her face. "Don't you dare."

"Dare what?" Jean said as she and Scott walked into the kitchen. They were both sweaty from a session in the danger room. One aspect of being an X-Man that Jubilee did not miss; she hated the danger room. Scott grabbed a banana from a decorative fruit bowl and leaned against the kitchen counter to peel it.

"Jubilee is throwing Logan ah birthday party," Rogue replied.

"But the man doesn't even know his own parents, let alone how old he is," Scott said around a bite of banana. "And besides that, what does he think about this party?"

"He was his usual recalcitrant self at first, but he relented." Jubilee found Jean and Scott staring at her. "You guys don't think it's a good idea?"

"No, it'll be fun and good for Logan, but you have dirt on your face," Jean said, licking her thumb and reaching for Jubilee.

Jubilee covered her arms over her head and ducked. "When did everyone decide that they're my mother?"

They all looked up at the sound of a Harley-Davidson engine amplified by drag pipes. The engine revved loudly a few more times before it settled down to its usual distinctive rumble. Jubilee's first instinct was to run out to make sure Logan wasn't going to ride off and leave her behind, but maybe it would be nice to have him away from the mansion for the rest of the afternoon while she learned a few new tricks.

* * * *

Only a few patrons hung out at Hardcase・s bar during the early afternoon. Logan didn・t want company so it suited his mood.

・I hear you・re linin・ up a team for some job in San Salvador,・ Logan said to Harcase. He puffed on a cigar and flicked the ashes off in an ash tray.

"You・ve heard correctly. I have a good team of men, but...," Hardcase, the silver-haired bartender, replied and shrugged. "I just don't have the right man to lead them." The bar that shared the same name as its owner was a front for mercenaries. Hardcase put together mercenary teams for a variety of covert military jobs in a variety of countries for as many reasons; they choose no sides.

"Good mercs are a dyin' breed." Logan finished off his beer and took another long drag of the cigar. "Why don't ya lead them yerself?"

"Never thought I'd say this, but I'm gettin' too old." Hardcase swiped a rag over the bar top.

"Day I get too old to kick some ass is the day ya' gotta bury me six feet under." Logan rapped the bar with his knuckles. "Line up a half dozen more o' them whisky shots. Don't bother with the beer this time, it's dilutin' my buzz." Hardcase raised one inquiring eyebrow and Logan growled. "Ya' cen keep yer thoughts to yerself.・

・Might help to talk to someone.・ Hardcase reached for the half empty bottle of whiskey. "You know I'm always up for a good tale of woe."

"Yeah, yeah," Logan said and watched the man pour a row of six whisky shots. The bottle had been full when he had started twenty minutes ago. "This ain't no case o' woe."

"Why don't you just slug it from the bottle, friend," Hardcase said and plunked the bottle on the bar.

"Temptin'," Logan replied, and without drawing a breath downed the whisky in the shot glasses. He belched then thumped his chest with a fist. "Burns all the way down," he said on a cough, his voice hoarse.

"That'd kill a lesser man," Hardcase commented, his voice half serious, half teasing.

"It ain't the whisky or the cigars that・re gonna be the end o' me," Logan replied and wiped his mouth on the back of his sleeve. "Line 'em up again."

"These are on me if you tell what's eatin' you."

"Don・t push, old man. Ain't none o' yer business."

Hardcase squinted into Logan's face. "Guilt." He nodded. "It's a woman, I bet on it." He poured the rest of the whisky into the shot glasses and held the empty bottle up to the light. "Give up, you won't win."

Logan growled a warning, not that he expected it would shut Hardcase up. A fist in the bartender's mouth might work, but he wouldn't do that to a man pouring his whisky. "Shud-up, and get another bottle o' whisky over here, pronto." If he drank fast enough, his healing factor wouldn't be able to keep up and that's what he wanted. Logan wanted to be numb.

"She must be married," Hardcase said, raked a key across the empty whisky bottle label and tossed it into a bin and took an unopened bottle from the rack behind him. "Otherwise you wouldn't be here drownin' your sorrows."

"She ain't married. Might be better if she was."

"So it is a woman," Hardcase said smugly. "Knew it."

Logan's hands clenched on the bar top and he stared straight a head. "Yer job is shut yer mouth and keep pouring. I don't wanna see the bottom o' these glasses."

Hardcase popped open the whisky bottle and refilled the shot glasses. "You know, Judy over there would be happy to take your mind off whoever it is."

Judy was a buxom blonde waitress who worked tables for Hardcase. On more then one occasion she'd made it plain that she was available whenever Logan was willing. Judy was a nice gal and single-mom working two jobs. Logan wasn't inclined to take advantage of her. "Judy deserves more than a one night stand."

"Then get a grip, man," Hardcase said and braced both hands on the bar. "Just tell this gal how you feel and get on with life."

"She's young." He drank down two of the whisky shots.

The mercenary laughed. "As long as she's legal I don・t see why is that is a problem. Might even be a plus.・

Logan snarled, reached across the bar, grabbed Hardcase's shirt and pulled him halfway over the bar, their faces inches apart. "She's decent and she doesn・t deserve that." Logan let the man go, took a drag on the cigar and squinted through the smoke. "And she's too good fer me." He drank down two more whisky shots.

Hardcase whistled and straightened his shirt. "This is worse than I thought."

"Damn right," Logan said and stared fuzzily at the remaining shot glasses, then finished them off. Those last six were doing the trick. "It's easier to think o' her when I'm flamin' drunk out o' my mind. I'm too old fer her. I've seen too many things. Have too much blood on my hands. Done too many things that I ain't proud of. She's just startin' out, she has her college friends and there's a world o' experience for her ta' discover." Logan closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He could feel his healing factor struggling to keep up with the alcohol. He wasn't going to let it. He opened his eyes. His vision was still too steady. Had to fix that. "Whenever she comes around, she tortures the flamin' hell out 'o me, huggin' n' kissin' on me. Teasin' me n' givin' me these looks, gettin・ me all twisted up inside." He rapped his knuckles on the bar. "Don't stop know."

Hardcase complied and Logan downed six more shots. "So the gal likes you back?" Hardcase asked.

"Yeah, she thinks she does.・ Those last six shots did the trick this time. The room spun and he braced a hand on the bar counter for support. "Problem is that she's too young to really know what she wants. As long as I'm around, she's jus' gonna keep comin' back ta' me." He tried to focus unsteadily on Hardcase and saw three of the old geezer instead of one. He pointed to the whisky bottle. "Keep goin'. I'm jus' gettin' ta' the point where the problem isn・t so bad."

"You know I could cut you off," Hardcase said. He poured six more shots.

Logan stared at the man for a moment, then made a fist and lifted a middle finger.

Part 2

Later that evening, Jubilee and Rogue met in the mansion's huge front room. Logan was still out on his scoot probably at one of his favorite sleazy biker bars. Normally Jubilee might have complained that he took off during one of her rare visits, but for now she wanted him out of the house. She didn't want him witnessing her feeble, inept attempt at learning cowboy dancing. ・Dances with two left feet' Logan would call her.

"So you think Logan two-steps, right? I mean," she twisted her hands together, "I'd like to dance with him on his birthday and not look like a total lame-o."

"Sugah, one of the biggest rodeos, the Calgary Stampede, is in Canada. Ifn' yer a cowboy, ya' know the two-step. Logan ain't exactly a cowboy, but he is Canadian so ah guarantee ya' that he knows how ta' kicker dance."

"Kicker dance?" Jubilee asked.

"Two-step. Kicker dance. All the same." Rogue selected a CD and put it in the player. A snazzy country western song filled the room.

"What's this?" Jubilee asked, tapping one toe. "Uh, it's not my usual style, but I like it."

"What's not to like about Brooks and Dunn, sugah. This song is called the Boot Scootin' Boogie." Rogue slipped on a pair of gloves and approached Jubilee. " I'll be the guy, so I lead. Place yer hand up here in mine and I'll place my hand on yer waist, like so."

Jubilee flapped her remaining hand. "What do I do with this?"

Rogue lifted an eyebrow then took the hand and guided it to her shoulder. "Really sugah."

Jubilee licked her lips. "You know I've just kinda free danced to like rock n' roll and stuff."

"Relax. Anyone can do the two step. Now ya' follow me. Move yer feet like this and that's all there is to it. It ain't called the two step for nothin'. Relax your shoulders. Heal toe doesy doe. Get down, turn around, go to town, boot scootin' boogie," she sang with a smile. "Ah, I haven't danced like this in a long time."

Jubilee watched Rogue's feet, letting the rhythm dictate the beat of her steps. "Hey, this is fun!"

"Darn right." Rogue smiled. "You a natural, sugah. Now I'm gonna make it more complicated an' add a few steps. My hand here on your waist will cue you when to move forwards, backwards or around. Very good. Why don't we try a spin? Stay with the beat." Rogue picked up Jubilee's hand and without breaking step, spun her around. "Very good!" she praised and they both laughed. "Now pick up the two step, one two, one two. See there ya' go. Hear comes another spin, and again pick right back up on the two step. Forward two steps, backwards five. One two one two." Rogue laughed. "Yah' got it. Let's put some variation into it an' move around the room. Yer gonna be dancin' with Logan like a pro."

"You havin' a party without us, cherie?" Remy said from the doorway. He sauntered into the room and held his hand out to Rogue. Behind him Betsy and Hank peered in. "Mind if I cut in?"

"You moving in on my date?" Jubilee teased and stepped aside. Remy took Rogue's hand and placed another hand on her hip.

"Sorry, petite." To show that he really wasn't, Remy cast her that flirtatious cajun smile and a wink. Jubilee rolled her eyes.

"We heard the music," Betsy said to no one in particular. She looked over at Hank. "It's not like we hear country western music often around here. Want to try?"

Hank bowed and held out his hand. "I would be honored if you would dance with me."

Betsy raised her eyebrows, smiled and placed her hand in his furry blue one. There might be something going on there, but Jubilee didn't want to speculate, she had enough of her own relationship problems to worry about someone else's. She sighed heavily and watched Rogue and Remy dance. They certainly knew how to, Jubilee thought. Not content to just sit and watch, she positioned herself beside Remy and Rogue and tried to mimic their steps. It was hard without a partner. She supposed she could go find another partner. Maybe Forge or Bishop would be willing. Naw, she couldn't imagine either of those guys two-stepping.

"One, two, one two," she counted under her breath. "Heel toe dosey doe. Turn around, forward, backwards. Another spin," she said under her breath, never taking her eyes off them. She held a hand over her head as if her imaginary partner held it. "Two more spins.... Ack!"

Someone grabbed her hand and spun her around in time to the music, pulled her in against a rock hard chest then placed a hand on her hip. "Looks like I've been missin' all the fun. Didn't know you could two step, kiddo," Logan said.

Jubilee stumbled. "Logan! I'm, uh... just learning so slow down and don't pull anything fancy. I thought you were on your scoot."

"Was," he replied. "Went to Hardcase's for a couple o' drinks, but I figured something was goin' on when ya' didn't pester me to tag along."

He almost sounded offended that she hadn't pestered him, or maybe that was wishful thinking on her part. Their last outing together was quite an adventure, one that she wasn't willing to repeat just yet, as much as she liked going out with Logan. [Author note: See "Tagging Along with Wolvie"] "Oh, oh. I think I'm getting predictable," Jubilee responded after a brief silence that was more uncomfortable than she wanted to admit. Something was going on with Logan, she could sense it, but she couldn't name it. Was it uncertainty? She rejected that. When was Logan ever uncertain?

Logan gave her an unreadable look. "I don't think so. Jus' when I think I got ya' figured out, ya' do something ta' throw me off. And ya' jus' stepped on my foot."

"Opps!" Jubilee stumbled against him. He righted her with a quick hand on her arm. She wrinkled up her nose. "You smell like you took a dip in whisky lake."

"Ain't surprisin' considering that I drank all the whisky out o' Hardcase's place."

Jubilee studied his face. Something was bothering him though he was doing his best not to let it show. "Is there a problem?"

"You could say that, darlin'," he replied. Judging by the stubborn set of his jaw, Jubilee knew she wasn't going to elaborate. The guy could give mule lessons in stubborn.

"I think Logan's doing a passable job of dancing," Rogue said, punctuating that with a wink as she and Remy danced by. Logan was as skilled as either Rogue or Remy.

"Rogue was teaching me when Remy cut in," Jubilee explained.

"Well, darlin', the ole' canucklehead'll teach ya'. Just relax and put your hand on my shoulder."

Jubilee realized she'd been stiff and nervous. Licking her lips, she complied, liking the feel of his muscular shoulder under her hand. The power in this man was unfathomable, wild and only half under control most of the time. Yet despite his capacity for violence, his arms were the safest haven on earth. With his hand resting on her hip and her hand in his, he lead her around the front room, and moved in perfect step to the music, spinning her around, first one way then the other.

"Woohoo!" Jubilee shouted. "This is more fun than jammin' to rock n' roll." The song changed, but was no less fun with a good beat.

By the end of the fifth song, Jubilee had the two-step down. Then the next song took the beat down a dozen notches; a slow song. Her stomach twisted nervously over the thought of Logan holding her to a slow tune. "Uh, how do we do this?" She sounded as unsure as she felt.

"Same thing, just slower," Logan said, his tone distracted. He slipped a hand around her waist and gathered her close.

Jubilee found it hard to breathe and a shiver traveled up her spine. It had been years since Logan had held her tight. He'd give her a quick hug now and then, but not like this, not anymore. The protective shelter of his arms when she was young and lost had disappeared now that she was older. She missed that. She looked over and saw Rogue laying her head on Remy's shoulder. She hesitated, then did the same. Logan tensed, then relaxed and his hand moved over her back.

"This is nice," she said softly. Logan was very warm, and his arms around her felt assuring and she suddenly found herself envying every woman who had been intimate with him. "You know, you and I have never danced."

"Ain't never had a moment, darlin'," Logan said close to her ear. It tickled, and another shiver feathered down her spine. "Being an X-man is no picnic. Have to take these moments and enjoy them when ya' get 'em 'cause ya' never know if they'll come around again."

"Yeah," Jubilee answered, knowing she felt the same way but for an entirely different reason. She was growing up and Logan was pulling away. "I think I know what you mean." And she snuggled closer to him.

* * * *

Jubilee's plan was to begin a full assault on Logan for the next two weeks before his birthday; she didn't want him to forget that she wasn't a little girl any longer. Unfortunately she had finals, so she couldn't skip any classes and she had to study hard. When she'd call the mansion Logan was never there. Bishop told her that he had heard distant and frequent gunfire toward the rear of the mansion's property. Further investigation by Bishop revealed that Logan was busy target practicing. Logan was an expert shot though he rarely touched a gun instead preferring his adamantium claws. Jubilee wanted to know why, Bishop said he had asked and Logan only said that he was polishing up on his accuracy. Whatever that was suppose to mean.

On the weekend of Logan's party, Jubilee arrived at the mansion Friday night late, almost midnight. She was tired but she'd finished finals and though she didn't know her grades yet, she knew she'd done well. She looked for Logan's scoot before going in through the back and running into Bobby raiding the kitchen. He started and looked up at she entered, a sheepish expression on his face. His arms were loaded down with chips, French onion dip and cookies.

"Oh, uh, hey Jubilee. I thought you were Logan."

"Sorry, don't have the hair or the claws," Jubilee laughed and smiled. "Got munchies?"

"Want some." He proffered the chip bag and she shook her head.

"No thanks, my stomach's all twisted in knots from finals." Well, that was one reason, but the real reason was anticipation of seeing a certain hairy Canuck. "Where's Logan? His scoot is gone."

"Don't know. Don't care. Good riddance."

"You jumped when I walk in, what's going on?"

Bobby frowned, then shrugged. "What does a rampaging 800 pound gorilla do?"

Jubilee stared at him for a moment. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Humor me for a moment. What does a rampaging 800 pound gorilla do?"

Jubilee sighed. "I don't know, what?"

"Anything it damn well wants," he replied and stuffed his mouth full of chips. "That's Logan, except worse because an 800 pound gorilla doesn't have nine inch Adamantium claws," he mumbled around a full mouth and gestured with the chip bag. "The way he's been acting lately you don't even want to say boo. We should all be glad he's generally on our side. Tell you what, when Apocalypse got a hold of him and turned him into Death, that was my worst nightmare. If we're lucky, maybe he's gone to thump a few heads together at one of those bars that he likes."

"If we're lucky," Jubilee replied. She didn't like to be reminded of what Apocalypse had done to Logan. She watched Bobby leave the kitchen then sat down at the kitchen table and played with a lacy doily. "What is wrong with you, Logan." She said to herself. "Why won't you talk to me?"

She made herself a cup of hot chocolate then yawning, headed upstairs to bed, and despite bone weary exhausted from long nights of studying, she couldn't get to sleep. Tossing and turning, she alternately stewed over Logan and her just completed final exams. She had fallen into a light doze when she heard the put-put of Logan's Harley. Bleary eyed, she rolled over and blinked at the clock. It was a quarter to four. She rose, threw a robe around the long t-shirt that she wore to bed, and padded downstairs.

Logan stumbled through the kitchen door. His black tank top was ripped and dark splattered stains speckled both shirt and blue jeans. Blood, Jubilee realized. He had healing bruises and cuts on his face. His long black hair was whipped back from riding on the Harley, and he had a half smile on his face. He looked like hammered hell.

"I hope the other guys look worse than you do," she said walking into the light of the kitchen. "Though that would be hard to imagine."

"Hey, darlin'. What 'cho doin' up this time o' night," he slurred and squinted at her.

"Obviously not what you've been doing." He was drunk. She had never seen him drunk. His mutant healing factor took care of the alcohol effects, unless he drank in quantities that it couldn't handle. She didn't even want to think about how much he had consumed.

"S'better that you haven't darlin'." He staggered and started to fall. Jubilee hurried forward and tried to catch him, but holding up 300 pounds of adamantium laced skeleton was impossible and they both fell to the floor, he on top of her.

"Oof!" The breath whooshed from Jubilee's lungs. "Logan," she rasped, "you're squishing me you big oaf." She pushed at his shoulder, but as she had found out a few weeks ago when he was teasing her, he was too heavy to budge. "'Crushed under a man with metal skeleton' is not the epitaph I want on my tombstone."

"I think this is... rather... cozy...."

The sounds of his snores filled the kitchen.

"Wonderful," Jubilee grumbled. "I think it would serve you right if you woke up with the mother of all hangovers. No such luck though."

Somehow she managed to wiggle out from underneath him. She stood and looked down at him, hands on hips. "Men," she said finally. "They all think they're rough and tough but in the end, they all need nursemaids no matter how old they are." She frowned at him. He looked too peaceful for her own peace of mind. She kicked him in the ribs. It was suppose to be a nudge, but it was more of a kick and she paid for it. "Son of a--," she moaned and grabbed her toe and hopped around the kitchen. "Note to self, never kick man with metal bones."

Still, the kick had the desired effect and Logan groan. Toe still smarting, Jubilee leaned down and wrapped her arms under his armpits. "Okay, big guy. You can't sleep down here, let's get to bed."

"Only if you go there with me," he said.

Jubilee froze. He couldn't know what he was talking about; he had to be mistaking her for... well... whomever he was last intimate with. "Let's worry about putting you to bed." Briefly she considered taking advantage of his inebriated state, but rejected that idea. If she ever made love to Logan, she didn't want him drunk out of his senses. She wanted him fully cognizant and at peak performance. She blushed at that thought. "Pervert," she mumbled to herself. "Or desperate." She wasn't that desperate... yet.

She helped him get to his feet and braced one arm around his waist and he threw a hand over her shoulders. Weaving through the house, Jubilee always on the verge of loosing her balance, she got him up the stairs to his room as quietly as possible so as not to wake the sleeping household. Logan was singing under his breath.

"Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine." Logan hiccuped. "Never understood a single word he said, but I helped him a drinkin' his wine. Yeah he always had some might fine wine."

"Here we go," she said as they stopped in front of his door. "Let's get you to bed. I don't think I can deal with any more songs."

"Sing joy to the world, all the boy's n' girls. Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea, joy to you and me."

"Dude, that's like some serious old fogey music," she informed Logan and scrunched up her nose. Wasn't that a song from an old band called Five Dog Night, or something like that? She twisted the doorknob and pushed opened the door with her foot and they stumbled in. His room was less of a wreck than usual. "Here we are, and don't you pass out on me yet or I'll leave you on the floor."

"Slept in worse places," he mumbled and pulled off his ripped shirt. Jubilee tried not to stare. As far as her experience with men went rippling muscles was just a trite cliché, but not on Logan. She hoped her tongue wasn't hanging out. He started to unzip his blue jeans, but that's as far as he got before he collapsed into the covers.

"You owe me for this one, Wolvie. Now off with the cowboy hat. You'll just have to sleep in the rest of your cloths, because as much as I'd like to see them off you, now is not the time."

Jubilee reached over for the cowboy hat, and suddenly, quickly, Logan's arm snaked around her waist and he pulled her down on the bed. He easily shifted her weight against him and she found her back pressed against his chest and her rear end against his crotch・ she ignore a shiver of awareness. He didn't know what he was doing. Did he?

"Logan! Let me go!" She braced her hands against his arm and tried to squeeze out of his embrace. Judging by the sound of his deep breathing, he was asleep again and his arm was like a steel band around her waist. Resigning herself to a few hours next to him, she reached down grabbed the blankets and wrangling with them managed to cover them both. Not that this was a bad thing, she reminded herself, but she had a feeling she was the one who would pay for it.

* * * *

The sun warm on her face and bright against her closed eyes, Jubilee woke. Something tickled her nose. She rubbed it... her hand froze. Hair? Her eyes popped open.

Hairy chest. Muscular shoulder.


He was sleeping on his back; she was snuggled up against him with her head on his shoulder. Her t-shirt had ridden up around her waist and one of his thick arms cradled her against him, his other hand rested on her hip.

She moved her head slightly and looked up at his face. Against her own chest, she felt his rise and fall evenly. Tentatively, cautiously, she reached out and ran a hand lightly across his chest. The guy was superbly buff. With all his excesses, it had to be his healing factor that helped to keep him in peak shape. He didn't stir so she continued her exploration and ran her hand down his stomach. Not an iota of flab on the man. Wonderful.

"Have you seen Jubilee?" a voice said from outside Logan's room. It was Ororo. Her exploring hand stilled and she took a quick breath.

"I spoke with her when she came in late last night," another answered. Bobby. "I bet she・s still asleep."

"No, I checked," Ororo answered. ・Her bed was rumpled, but she wasn・t in it or the shower.・

"It's almost noon, maybe she's out with Logan," Bobby replied.

"I think Logan's still asleep."

・Let sleeping dogs lie,・ Bobby grumbled.

・Logan,・ came Ororo・s voice outside the door.

Jubilee heard the door handle turn. She struggled to scramble out of bed. The arm around her clamped tighter. Logan's eyes popped open, and he pulled her over him onto the other side of the bed, covered her then sat up, his feet thumping to the floor.

"Oh, Logan!" Jubilee heard a started voice followed by a delicate snort. "You look like you've been through the spin cycle." Jubilee could just imagine Ororo standing there with a hand on her hip.

"Worse," Logan replied.

"Have you seen Jubilee?"

"She's around," Logan answered, his answer sufficiently vague. Jubilee felt him shift on the bed.

The door closed and a scant moment later the blankets were whipped off her and she found herself looking up at Logan. He stared down; she stared up. She searched his face trying to assess what he might be thinking, but the only thing that came to mind was that he looked better than a man should after a night of drinking. She clenched her hand to keep herself from touching his face, instead she swallowed and finally spoke.

"Ain't my fault."

"I know." He turned his back to her and rubbed a hand over his face. ・Pull your shirt down.・

She complied, feeling heat in her cheeks. She sat up and behind him, her legs on either side of his waist and smoothed a hand over his shoulders and down over his back. For a moment he was very still, then stood up and crossed to a battered chest of drawers. There he picked up a cigar, lit it and took a long drag.

・Logan・・ she began.

"Better get out Jubes before they find you here."

・We need to talk.・

・No.・ There was a stubborn set to his jaw that she recognized. The I-Don・t-Wanna-Talk-About-it look.

・You can・t・.・

・Yes I can.・ He was ignoring the fact that he almost dragged her into bed... well he did, Jubilee reminded herself, and was now excusing her just like that. Like nothing happened. Well nothing did, but it could of.

Could of, would have, should have. None of those counted as far as he appeared to care. Something had gone through his mind during unguarded moments last night, but he wasn't going to acknowledge them. Logan. Macho-shithead. Typical. *Jerk*.

Jubilee got off the bed, stood and smoothed down the long t-shirt and, head down, crossed the room to the door. She stopped by Logan and looked up at him. He was still bare chested, blue jeans unzipped. She licked her lips. "What are you planning to do today?"

"What's it to you?" He took a drag on the cigar and exhaled a long cloud of smoke. He didn・t look at her, just stared straight ahead.

Jubilee sucked in a short breath. That hurt. "Yeah, what's it to me."

She left, closing the door softly behind her.

Part 3

Hand in hand, Jean and Scott Summers wandered into the department store. They roamed aisles between clothing and manly accouterments like cologne, expensive watches--Jean could never imagine Logan wearing anything flashy or fancy・and finely tailored suits. After two hours they had several shopping bags full of items, but nothing for Logan. Finally, Jean sighed and sat down on a bench across from a pipe and tobacco store and sniffed the spicy scents. Scott collapsed next to her. For a moment they sat in silence listening to the piped music over the mall・s PA system while watching flocks of mothers with strollers and groups of teenage girls pretending to ignore ogling teenage boys. The faint scent of grilled hamburgers lingered in the air from a nearby food court.

"I'm about ready to give up. What do you get for a man like Logan?" Scott finally said. Their gazes both tracked a young woman sauntering by who looked like Jubilee.

Jean nodded, agreeing. "You can't buy him the usual manly objects like a pocket knife, he has his own built-in weapons. A sharpening stone might be nice, but he never sharpens uh... them."

"I've never thought of that. I don't think Adamantium needs to be sharpened," Scott replied and looked around with a lost expression.

"We've known Logan for years, yet we don't really know him,・ Jean said more to herself than Scott.

"I don・t think man even knows himself." He patted her hand then took a breath. ・What・s been going on between Jubilee and Logan?・

・She likes him.・ Jean wished he hadn・t asked.

・Sure she likes him.・ Scott appeared determined to pursue the subject. ・He・s been her surrogate father for years.・

・No, I mean she *likes* him,・ Jean stressed and mentally rolled her eyes. Men could be so obtuse. It was so obvious to her what was going on, Jubilee might as well wear a stamp on her forehead that read ・Logan Crush・. Though Jean thought a ・kick me・ sign should be pinned to her back. Any woman falling in love with Logan needed a good reminder kick that the guy was the quintessential loner. Any woman who thought she could change him was dreaming. She・d never told Logan, but always thought that a match between he and Mariko was a big mistake. Though he・d never purposely hurt Mariko, he・d get bored of domestic life and end up chasing off in pursuit of bad guys. Logan may like the idea of domesticity, but reality and idea were two completely different things. She made an airy gesture. ・Scott, it・s not like this is anything new. She・s liked him for years.・

・Likes? As in・・ Scott trailed off and coughed, ・・*love*?・ Jean stifled a giggled at the incredulous expression on her husband's face. Shaking his head, he continued: "I don't understand the attraction women have for Logan. I mean, I like the man and I respect him, but when you get down to it, he's a arrogant son of a bitch--."

"Now Scott," Jean said and nudged him, inwardly a little embarrassed. She knew why women were drawn to Logan. She'd once been torn between him and Scott and then she had only felt a minute thread of his passion, like a heady wine that left her craving more. As a grown woman it had been difficult to resist him, but she had. She couldn't image a young girl like Jubilee having any hope. Plus Jubilee had the added handicap of hero worship.

"Are you・ certain about this・ uh・ crush?"

"I・m not certain it・s a crush any longer," Jean replied. ・Relationships evolve. Jubilee・s older now, more mature, I suppose that now she feels mature enough to pursue her interest in Logan.・

・Ridiculous.・ Scott rubbed a hand through his hair. ・She・s only, what? Twenty-one? And Logan is maybe a few hundred years old? She・s so young. What are we going to do about this?・

・We? What・s this we thing? We・re not going to do anything. It・s all a part of growing up and Jubilee has to sort it out for herself.・

・It・s a given that she・ll get hurt.・

・And we・ll be there for her,・ she replied gently.

・What about Logan? What do you think will he do? The way he・s been lately, he can・t stomp around biting off everyone・s head indefinitely.・

・I trust that Logan will do the right thing, whatever he feels that might be. We might disagree but in the end we probably won't argue. Logan is Logan, the quintessential loner and tough guy with his Harley, beer and cigars.・

Scott straightened. "Hey, that gives me an idea!"

"Which about what?" Jean asked, disconcerted by the quick change in topic. "Jubilee or Harleys, beer and cigars?"

"Yep." Scott stood, grabbed her hand and pulled her off the bench and pulled her along behind him.

・Yep to which?・ Jean tried to retrieve her hand from his grip but he held fast. "Scott, what are you doing?" she asked. One moment they had been calmly discussing Logan and Jubilee and now he was dragging her along behind him.

"I know just the thing," he said. "Up for a ride in the Blackbird?" He smiled back and her and winked.

・Where・ what?・

・Cuba!・ Scott replied.

* * * *

・Butthead,・ Jubilee mumbled, half at an annoying motorist who cut her off and half at Logan.

・Learn to drive, girlie,・ the motorist shouted and flipped her off and she stuck her tongue at him.

・Use that finger again and I・ll paf it off!・ she yelled out the window.

One day back and things were not going as she had planned. She hoped tonight the party would work out better than her major of a bummer morning. Besides wanting to kick Logan in the ass for being a jerk this morning・a kick wouldn't make a good birthday present but it'd make her happy--she knew exactly what she wanted to give him. Finding that particular item was an adventure in itself and she almost drove out a tank of gas looking for it. There weren't many western clothing stores in the New York metropolitan area. She finally found one in downtown Manhattan of all places. It was a pricey store that carried a large array of the most fashionable western clothing for the urban cowboy. It took Jubilee fifteen minutes to find what she wanted, winced at the price and took it up to the cashier counter.

・Would you like this gift wrapped?・ asked the friendly ersatz cowgirl behind the counter. At Jubilee・s nod she took the box and wrapped it in western motif paper with a big white bow. The woman・s smart cowboy skirt and boots gave Jubilee an idea.

・Excuse me,・ she said to the woman, who turned around with a professional smile. ・Could you help me find some clothes for a western motif party.・

・Of course.・

And for the next hour, with the help of the chatty cowgirl, Jubilee tried on one set of clothes after another until she had what she needed. Sure, exactly what I need, she thought to herself, along with a huge credit card bill to show for it.

"Well, thanks to Garth Brooks for bringing country western chic to New York City," Jubilee later said under her breath a she left the story with a huge bag stuff with clothes and a square box tucked under one arm.

The mansion seemed deserted when she got back and she went straight to her room. She dropped the package on her bed, sat down and drew her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. She rested her chin on her knees and yawned. She hadn・t slept much last night, a few wonderful hours cradled in Logan・s arms, but that was it. Falling back on her bed she closed her eyes and thought of what else might have happened last night. What would have happened if Ororo hadn・t been outside Logan・s room looking for her? Would Logan have kicked her out of bed? Would he have turned her over, slipped off her nightshirt, ran his hands down her flat stomach and into the waistband of her panties. She let her mind wander, feeling him caress her and undress her. What would it be like to kiss Logan, like really kiss him and explore his body, running her fingers over him, touching him, letting her tongue follow・

・What a minute, girl. Stop right there,・ Jubilee bolted upright, her eyes wide. Small beads of sweat had collected on her upper lip. Panting, her chest rose and fell quickly. She swung her legs over the bed and rested her head in her hands. ・Where did that come from?・ she said aloud. ・Girl, you need a cold shower after that. Or a swim.・ Rifling around in her overnight bag, she drew out her red bikini, grabbed a towel from the bathroom and headed out. Maybe she just needed a few hours by the pool lazing by the pool, and then tonight was the night. The caterers would arrive at about 6pm, dinner at 7:30. She arranged a lounger toward the sun, sat down, slathered herself with sunblock and lay down. Plenty of time to relax, she told herself and promptly fell asleep.

* * * *

・Something for his Harley?" Rogue suggested to Remy who sat across from her at a table outside behind the mansion. They were both sweaty and hot just having finished their third games of one on one basketball. Across the patio Jubilee lay sunbathing near the pool, her body clad in the smallest red bathing suit Rogue had ever seen. The younger girl lay on her stomach and had the back of the bathing suit top untied. Rogue had to admit that the suit was an article of clothing that even she would think twice about wearing. Logan was going to blow a head gasket when he saw it.

"His Harley? No," Remy shook his head discarding his own idea, his eyes wandering toward Jubilee. ・Petite looks all grown up, no?・

・Unfortunately for poor Logan.・ Rogue raised an eyebrow and leaned forward on her elbows. ・Now lets heah some idea from you, sugah・.

Remy picked up an empty glass and turned it around slowly, staring at it intently. A pitcher of frosty lemonade sat off to one side. He filled his glass and took a sip then paused.

"Cherie, if relief is what the man needs, I know just the thing."

・It ain・t illegal, is it?・

・No worries, eh?・ Remy smiled, raised her gloved hand and kissed it. ・It・s not what you think.・

That smiled always made her knees feel like jelly, but she hid her reaction. ・Well ・round you sugah, ya・ never know.・

* * * *

Jubilee awoke slowly, blinking at the sun. She looked up at sound of footsteps and found Kurt crossing the patio. Rolling over, she tied her bikini back and sat up. Kurt had Professor X・s gadget activated and appeared like a regular man, which meant he was going out somewhere and he seemed in a hurry. She was used to his usual appearance and found this more human-like image somewhat disconcerting, though most people would disagree.

・Kurt!・ she called and waved. He hesitated then walked over. ・Time?・ she pointed to her wrist.

・It is close to 3pm,・ he replied. For some odd reason he was looking everywhere but at her. Did she have something on her face? Maybe she had like a gross booger hanging out of her nose. She took a swipe at it but didn・t feel anything. What was wrong with him?

・And have you seen Logan?・ Jubilee asked and stood.

・Ah・,・ Kurt stuttered, nodded and stared at his feet, then at the trees, then at the sky. ・Last I heard he was in the Danger room.・

・A work out?・ She moved around a little trying to look into Kurt・s face but he always looked away.

・Ah no, I would be more comforted if that were the case. This is something else.・

・What is he doing?・ Jubilee asked. Why was Kurt being vague? ・Either Logan is working out or he isn・t.・

・He is a man with a purpose,・ Kurt said and shrugged.

Jubilee watched him hurry off. ・What・s his problem?・ Throwing her towel over her shoulders, she headed into the mansion and down to the Danger Room and there she found Professor Xavier and Hank quietly observing something below. The Danger Room was simulating a steamy jungle, the undergrowth thick and green. It took her a moment to find what they were watching. Dressed in jungle camouflage, Logan crawled through dense jungle undergrowth like a silent snake, blending into the undergrowth, deadly and purposeful. The humans in the scenario were simulated, but still, when Logan crept up behind one and dispatched it, wrapping a quick hand around its forehead and sending a single claw through its throat, Jubilee winced. There were some things that Logan was just too good at, things that Jubilee didn・t care to think about. He didn・t remember much of his past but he still retained skills he・d learned from somewhere. Logan pinned another simulated human to a tree with three claws to the chest.

・Ow, you know that・s gotta hurt,・ she said to no one in particular. ・Uh・ what is he doing,・ she whispered to Hank.

・I・m not quite certain,・ Hank replied in a distracted tone, his chin resting on his hand. Jubilee had never seen him looking so worried, especially over Logan. ・He・s been doing this for a few weeks now. He・s been at this since noon and I・ve been checking on him on and off. He・s training in guerilla warfare, though training doesn・t appear to be necessary. For this scenario, Logan・s set the Danger Room at maximum threat for full scale solo combat mode. We haven・t been monitoring much of a heart rate or respiration increase. The man is a machine. He knows that he・s doing and his kills indicate just under a dozen. I・ve never seen him at it before; he・s quite good.・ Hank taped the tips of his fingers together while he checked a monitor.

・I can see,・ she replied, and swallowed. Logan was like really creeping her out・this was a side of him that she knew about but had never witnessed first hand. ・Have you asked him what・s going on?・

・He hasn・t given us the chance,・ Hank said. Throughout their exchange, the Professor had remained silent, his brows drawn together. Hank continued: ・I have a strong sense that he doesn・t want to be disturbed. Bishop thinks these simulations have something to do with his earlier target practicing at the back of the property.・

Jubilee plopped down in a chair next to Hank. Funny how her former bad habits returned whenever she stayed at the mansion. At school, her sorority sisters would be horrified the way she splayed in the chair with one leg swigging over the chair arm. For a good hour she sat with the Professor and Hank watching Logan creep through the jungle. He coldly dispatched two more simulated humans. She had to remind herself none of this was real, still it gave her a chill.

・One has to wonder who would want to make such a man,・ Hank said, tilting his head to one side, talking more to himself then Jubilee. ・What was his original purpose? Whom would he have served?・

*Make*, how did one *make* a human being? Jubilee mulled over the question. She saw Logan as a protector, someone she could trust, and it was rare to see him through another・s eyes, like Hanks. See him for his intented purpose: a living tactile weapon. No, she told herself. That wasn't Logan.

・Terminate,・ Logan said suddenly, his voice coming through the speakers into the observation deck and the jungles blinked away.

・Total kills, fourteen,・ the professor said, his voice almost a whisper. ・None of them saw him coming.・ His fingers went to the console system and called up Logan・s vital statistics. ・Heart rate and blood pressure normal, his mind was akin to a predator, hunt and destroy. ・ He pressed the intercom button. ・Logan!・

Logan stopped and turned seeing them for the first time. ・What is it, Chuck?・

・Come up here, please, Logan. I would like to speak with you.・

・Don・t think so. Nothing to discuss.・ He strode toward the exit.

・Logan, it wasn・t a request,・ replied the professor, a tone in his voice that Jubilee had never heard. She and Hank looked at each other with raised eyebrows.

・An order?・ Logan growled. *Snikt!* ・Want to rephrase that?・

・I don・t like what you・re doing. This is not a productive use of this facility.・

・I didn・t ask for your approval, Charley,・ Logan replied and exited the Danger Room. Conversation over.

・Geez, like the guy・s having one mucho bad hair day.・ Jubilee said.

The professor drew a long breath and sat back in his chair, his expression distant, his brows drawn together. ・Difficult man,・ he said under his breath.

・Understatement,・ Jubilee sang. ・Catch you guys later.・ She didn・t expect an answer and hurried out of the observation deck and ran down the empty hallway toward the exit he had taken out of the danger room. ・Hey Logan,・ Jubilee called when she saw him.

・Not now, Jubes,・ he replied over his shoulder and kept walking. ・I ain・t in the mood.・

・That・s just too bad,・ she called and ran up to him. ・I was watching you. What were you doing? What・s with the jungle creeping stuff? The professor is majorly pissed.・

・I told you I・m not・.・ He stopped, turned and both eyebrows rose to his hairline while his eyes swept over her from head to toe. ・Jubes, for the flamin・ sake of mankind, what the *hell* are you wearing?・

・It・s a bathing suit,・ she replied and smiled up at him, sauntering a bit closer. So he noticed, he・s not as immune to me as he・d want me to think. She watched his eyes fall to her cleavage. It was a daring bikini, the bottom almost a thong and the top just two tiny pieces of bright fire red material held together with a bit of black string・they weren・t called string bikinis for nothing. Her sorority sisters had chosen it for her saying she had a nice body and as one of them claimed ・If you・ve got it, flaunt it・. Supposedly the red looked good with her dark hair and eyes. ・Do you like it?・

・Ain・t much of it to like, darlin・. An・ I wouldn・t bounce around too much if I were ya・. You・ uh・,・ he rubbed his chin then gestured in the general direction of her top with one finger, ・might fall out.・

She looked down and ran her splayed hands over her flat stomach then glanced up into his face, his pupils were dilated watching her hands and he swallowed but he didn・t move. ・I・m surprised you notice.・ She stepped toward him again, her breasts almost brushing his chest.

・A man would have to be flamin・ blind not to,・ he admitted after a short paused, then snorted with something akin to exasperation. ・Is this・?・ He stepped forward to look behind her. ・Christ, kid! You・re missing some material in the back.・ Logan reached for her and she took a quick breath, but it wasn・t her he wanted. He yanked the towel out of her hands wrapped it around her, tucking the ends over her breasts, his knuckles brushing the soft flesh. Her breath caught in her throat and she found his staring down at her.

・It・s suppose to be like that,・ she told him.

・Make sure you don・t go out in public wearing this,・ he said. ・You might cause a traffic jam, kiddo.・

・Really? Come here, I have a secret to tell you,・ she said in a conspiratorial voice and wiggled a finger at him. He quirked one eyebrow and leaned forward and she let the towel drop to her feet. ・I・m not a kid,・ she whispered in his ear, and breathed in his sweaty maleness, an intoxicating scent.

・That so,・ he replied his voice pseudo-teasing then it fell several octaves to a rumbling growl and his eyes glittered. He grasped her wrist in a hard grip and she could feel his anger still pumping through him from the danger room session. ・Don・t flamin・ play with me, Jubes. This isn・t a good time.・

A chill ran up her spine and she moved closer, their bodies lightly touching, her breasts pressing against his chest. ・Do you think I・m playing?・ She cocked her head at him and she lightly clasped her free arm around his neck, her other still imprisoned in his hand. ・Reality check, Wolvie. Does it look like I・m playing?・

He grasped her chin in one hand and held her face up to his scrutiny, his brows drawn together in a frown. He suddenly pulled her against him, one hand on her waist holding her firmly. Her arm tightened around his neck for balance. He bent his head down and nuzzled her sensitive ear. Her skin prickled in awareness, she closed her eyes and reveled in his nearness, his power.

・It ・pears to me that this is a game your playin・ with me darlin・, n・ I don・t like being one o・ the game pieces, and I don・t like losin・,・ he said into her ear, the rough whiskers on his cheek grazed her neck.

・I assure you, there are no losers in this game,・ she said, her voice shaking, husky, while his head dipped down and his mouth followed the line of her shoulder, never actually touching her but she could feel the heat of him. He hadn・t kissed her and Jubilee wondered what would happen if he did, she wondered if she・d melt into a puddle. His hand moved from her waist down to the skin exposed by the brief cut of the bikini bottom. One of his fingers traced over her flesh just under the hem of the material, down the curve of her rear end. She didn・t think she could stand up right if her arm wasn・t around his neck and her voice shook as she whispered: ・Only two players allowed and they both win.・

・You sound certain. It ain・t always like that.・ His lips followed the curve of her collarbone, she couldn・t prevent the moan that escaped her lips and she tilted her head back, giving him more access. His lips moved forward to the swell of her breast and touched the skin lightly. She gasped and her body came alive, quicksilver shots of desire firing up and down her nerves. He continued, his voice muffled against her skin: ・Do you really know what you want? Does it twist you up inside, Jubes?・

・Yes,・ she managed, her voice shaky. This was torture, sweet torture.

Logan lifted his head and a large hand cupped the side of her face. SNIKT! A single claw slid out, grazing her cheek and nicking her ear. Jubilee gasped, the sharp pain exquisite. Blood welled out and trickled down the side of her head. ・Jubes, you have this crazy idea in your head of what I am. I am not what you think.・

・Remember, I・ve fought beside you Logan. I・ve seen what you can do, and of what you・re capable.・ She met his gaze steadily. ・You don・t scare me. I know you better than you think.・

Logan retracted the claw. ・You only think you know, darlin・.・ He abruptly released her, took two steps back then spun on his heel and walked away, his strides long and sure. The man had way too much self-confidence, arrogance others would call it. ・See ya・ at the party, Jubes,・ he called back, a hint of laughter in his voice.

Jubilee reached blindly for the wall, leaning against it for without its support she knew she・d fall. It took her several moments to find her equilibrium. Her legs were weak, tingles ran up and down her body, desire flushing her face. Oh, he felt it, she knew he did, and he was close to giving in, he was just the most stubborn man she knew.

・Should have given him a good paf,・ she mumble. Now she really needed that cold shower. She had to face the caterers in a few hours.

Part 4

Professor Xavier paused outside Logan's room.

"Come on in, Chuck," the man called.

Xavier smiled slightly and motored his chair inside. An assortment of guns lay in a neat row beside a half-full duffel bag on the rumpled bed. Logan, standing at the bed, dropped a stack of neatly folded clothing into the duffel and zipped it up. He turned; his arms were crossed his expression closed. He must have just stepped out of the shower. He wore a pair of Levis, but no shirt and his hair was wet, a towel hung around his shoulders.

"You leaving us, Logan?" the professor asked mildly. Logan was one of the few people who could make him lose his composure, make him angry, but Logan was just being Logan and the professor didn・t hold it against the man.

"Looks like it."

"May I inquire where?"

"No," the man replied.

"Should we be concerned for your safety?"

"You・ve seen the results of the danger room combat scenarios, you tell me. Maybe you should be prayin・ fer th・ other side.・

The professor swallowed his frustration. Logan could irritate a saint. "Will you tell the others goodbye?"

"No. They・ll figure it out.・


"I ain・t into playin・ twenty questions with you, professor," Logan interrupted and walked over to stand beside his friend and mentor. "You an・ the others are the closest I have to a family, and my home will always be here. But sometimes things get too cozy an' I'm gettin' lazy ・an cantankerous."

・Does your destination have anything in common with the terrain in the danger room?・

・Maybe,・ he replied. Out of the closet he took out a starched white cowboy shirt and shrugged it on, snapping up the pearl buttons.

・When should we look for your return?・ Xavier tried a question in a different route.

・When ya' hear my flamin・ bike puttin・ down that driveway, otherwise, don・t be lookin・ out the window for me or ya・ might be looking fer a long, long time.・

・Logan, we need you here,・ the professor stressed. From what he・d seen in the Danger Room, he had a feeling he knew what Logan would be doing. The man needed a gentle guiding hand away from his past, not a push back to it. ・The team needs you.・

Logan paused as he tried a black string tie around his neck. ・I・m no good to anyone this way. I can・t live this way for long; it starts to get on my nerves. Starts to stifle me, an・ I get twitchy.・

・As long as your reasons and objectives are clear for what you are about to do,・ Xavier said quietly.

At that Logan paused. ・Crystal clear, Chuck. I gotta do what I gotta do.・

・Very well. There is nothing I can do or say that'll convince you to stay?・

・You? Nothing.・

* * * *

Jubilee tried to contain her panic. Everything looked great. The BBQ chicken and ribs smelled good, and the table top was neatly arranged with bowls of different types of salads, baked beans, corn on the cob, lots of honey butter, cornbread and coleslaw. Balloons were tied to each chair and a huge chocolate cake made a mouth-watering centerpiece to it all. The country western band was setting up near the pool. They had come highly recommended. Everyone was dressed up in country western gear. Rogue and Jean both looked good in western mini skirts and boots. Storm stepped out of the mansion wearing a black and white western skirt ensemble that looked stunning. Kurt and Hank both sported cowboy hats.

The only important element missing to the birthday part was the birthday boy. She hadn・t seen him since their encountered near the Danger Room. Taking a deep breath, she wandered away from the gathering party crowd, and once out of sight, ran to the garage. She drew a sigh of relief. Logan's scoot was here, which meant he hadn't taken off. She took a sharp breath.

There was a pack strapped to the back of the Harley.

"Damn him!" she muttered under her breath, her hands clenched against her thighs. He wouldn't dare leave.

Jubilee ran into the mansion, up the stairs and on her way to his room she found the professor coming out. ・Good evening Jubilee,・ he said in his quiet, dignified voice. ・You are looking nice.・

・Thanks, you look handsome, too・ she replied and leaned down to kiss his cheek. ・I・ve never seen you in cowboy duds. It suits you. Is Logan in his room?・

・He is indeed,・ the professor replied and continued down the hall. She watched him, her brows drawn together. What was up with that? Maybe they were talking about the danger room scenario? She detoured to her room first, grabbed Logan・s birthday present and ran back.

"Come on in, darlin',・ Logan・s voice called as she was about to knock.

Jubilee smile to herself and her fear and anger evaporated. She walked in, and stopped short, her mouth working wordless for a moment as she stared. "Logan!" she finally burst out. "You... you.... you look great!"

And he did indeed look magnificent. He wore a starched white cowboy shirt with pearl buttons, a leather cowboy belt with a silver buckle and a black string tie around the collar of his shirt. And he looked hot in those tight Wranglers, Jubilee thought with raised brows. His boots were polished and his hair combed back, dark and silky. Her heart thumped rapidly in her chest.

"You done lookin・?・ he asked, amused.

"Oh yeah," she managed. "I approve of this. No dirt," she teased. "And you don't smell like grease or sweat. In fact, something smells good." She sniffed the air. "I think you should dress like this more often. I didn't know you cleaned up so nicely."

Logan lifted one brow. "Thanks, I think, kiddo. You don't look so bad yourself. I like a gal in cowboy boots." His eyes lingered on her midriff left bare by the western crop-top, then swept down her long legs from the red western mini skirt to the matching red and white boots.

・You approve?・

・Better than what you were wearin・ earlier,・ he said, his voice neutral.

・There are other men who might disagree,・ she replied, crossed her arms and gave him a cheeky smile.

・Not around me they wouldn・t,・ he returned, and lifted one brow.

・Please, Wolvie, this is your night, I don・t want to argue.・ She held out the box. ・This is for you. I want you to open it before you go down."

Logan opened it and grinned at the new white Stetson in the box. He put it on and it looked perfect with his white shirt. "Can I take the birthday boy to his party?" she asked. Over his broad shoulder she saw an assault weapon and several handguns laid out on the bed. She swallowed. Later, she told herself. Ask later.

"Darlin', I can't think of a better escort." He held out his arm and she tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow and together they went down to his birthday party.

The porch was lit up and close to fifty people milled around the grounds. Almost all the invitations had been accepted. Frank Castle had said he had things to take care of and couldn・t come. Yukio couldn・t make it either. That didn・t surprise Jubilee. Otherwise, this was a veritable superhero gathering for Logan・s birthday. Bruce Wayne had the requisite bubble headed beauty hanging on his arm. Clark Kent was standing near the pool talking to Matt Murdock and Nick Fury. Carol Danvers, wearing a barely there black dress, her long blond hair up in a loose chignon, circulated through the crowd. She caught sight of them, smiling at Jubilee but her eyes on Logan. She sauntered up to him, her gaze traveling from his head to his boot tips.

・A kiss for the birthday boy,・ she said, leaned up and planted her lips on his while reaching around to pinch him. ・And a pinch to grow an inch. Dance later.・ Winking she slinked away. Jubilee・s eyes followed her and wishing she could kiss Logan as easily and know for certain he would kiss her back. Unfortunately that kiss wasn・t the end of it. It seemed Carol had started a trend. Heather Hudson was next. Logan looked surprised to see her.

・Wouldn・t miss it,・ she said and gave him a lingering kiss. Zoe Culloden was little less friendly, but not by much. Even Emma defrosted long enough to give him a quick peck on the cheek.

・Should have done this ages ago,・ Logan said as Natalia, AKA Black Widow, stopped him for yet another birthday kiss--the third one tonight. Jubilee wanted to elbow him. She finally steered him to the table filled with a bright array of gifts. He had to be impressed. She took a peek at him. Logan's expression was a mixture of bemusement and glee. Jubilee wondered it he'd ever received a present before.

At a signal from the band・s lead singer, the party crowd gathered around and sang Logan ・Happy Birthday・ and in turns he looked pleased and embarrassed. It was probably the first birthday party he could remember. Everyone clapped and called for him to open presents. Jubilee picked one out for him. It was a flat, rectangular box wrapped in red foil with a big red bow.

"This is from...."

"Red and Slim," he finished for her.

"How'd you know?"

"A good guess," he said and winked.

It was a box of expensive and illegal Cuban cigars. Jubilee didn't even want to ask Jean and Scott where they found them. Maybe it had something to do with the Blackbird disappearing for an afternoon. Storm bought Logan a silver money clip with his name inscribed on it. And from Kurt came an aboriginal tiki god for good luck. Remy and Rogue had bought Logan three aged bottles of scotch and a personalized shotglass that read "Happy Birthday, Logan".

"You have to share dat, mon ami," Remy said, sat down and fished another shotglass from a pocket. ・I・ve come prepared.・ Logan laughed, opened the bottle and poured them both a glass of the amber liquid. Their faces held identical expressions of ecstasy as they sipped the scotch.

"To good scotch," Remy held up his glass. His eyes wandered to Rogue. "And good women."

"I'll drink to that," Logan replied, and Jubilee suddenly found herself under his close scrutiny and her breath caught in her throat. She didn't know exactly what he was thinking, but for the first time he was looking at her like a man looked at a woman.

Maybe tonight it would happen.

The moment broke when Jean and Scott joined them. Jean grabbed Logan's arms and insisted on a dance with the birthday boy. Jubilee didn't mind, she needed a moment to find her equilibrium.

"Dis a good thing you did for Logan," Remy said when they were left alone at the table for a moment. ・I've never seen Logan like dis. He looks happy."

"Yeah, I rock, don't I," Jubilee responded, satisfied. "The big lug doesn't know what's good for him, but I do. And he needed this." She regarded the Cajun for a moment, her smile faltered at his reserved expression. "But what," she finally said, "there's this tone in your voice and your looking at me funny.・

"But," Remy measured her expression, ・careful you don't scare him, cherie."

Jubilee snorted, her smile returning. "Me scare Logan?" She laughed. "I don・t think so. Nothing scares the Wolvester."

"Logan is an unusual man and abides by his own code of ethics. Careful you don't try to make him break his code, I think you may not like the results." With that, the Cajun stood, gave her a quick nod and disappeared into the crowd. Troubled, Jubilee stared after him.

What did he mean by that?

Pushing aside troubling thoughts, Jubilee went to find Logan and found him still sipping scotch, this time with Peter Parker who looked a little worse for wear. She decided to revise that first impression; the guy was looped. Wasted. Potted.

・Hey Jubilee,・ Peter said, his words a little slurred and his eyes a bit crossed. ・Yer looking pretty. Hows about a dance?・ He hiccupped.

・I think you need a seat, bub,・ Logan chuckled. At that moment Peter・s eyes rolled up in his head and in slow motion he collapsed to the ground. Logan and Jubilee stood over him and looked down.

・He doesn・t look so good,・ Jubilee said and cocked her head sideways.

Logan nodded in agreement and nudged his with the toe of one cowboy boot. ・Hey Petey.・ He leaned down and poked Spiderman in the chest with a finger, then shook his head. ・Out cold. The kid should stick with lemonade.・

・Anyone drinking with you should stick to lemonade.・

・You, too・, he said and took her drink out of her hand and put it in a flower planter behind him.

・Logan! What・s up with that? Give it back! I・m legal.・

・Don・t remind me,・ he mumbled, staring at her for a long moment before crouching down and easily picking Peter up and propping him upright in nearby chair. Peter mumbled something but didn・t wake up and fell forward on the table into a plate of potato salad. He began snoring. Jubilee clamped a hand over her mouth and giggled.

"Now that・s a Kodak moment. I bet in the morning he・ll wish he had your healing ability.・ The band started up Boot Scootin・ Boogie. ・Hey, I think this is our song," she said and held out a hand and Logan took it.

"You're not going to step on my toe again, are you?" he said and Jubilee did just that, sticking her heel into his instep. Logan winced.

Jubilee smiled sweetly. "That's what you get for mentioning it. A gentlemen would never point out a lady・s foibles."

・Darlin・, I ain・t never claimed ta' be a gentleman.・

Later, after several dances, both slow and fast with Logan, Nick Fury, and Warren, Jubilee took a break to get a drink. She tried to make her way back to Logan but found herself detained by first M, than Everett and Angelo. They wanted her to stick around but she wasn・t interested. Extracting herself, finally, she looked around, her gaze gliding over groups of people and dancers. Where was Logan? She approached Kitty. "Kitty, did you see where Logan went."

Kitty shook her head. "I danced with him a few times, but that was it. I haven't seen him in about twenty minutes."

A shiver of dread coursed down her spine and she fought off a sensation of foreboding. She had forgotten the pack tied to his saddle. Biting off a strangled cry, she launched through the crowd, pushing her way through and running toward the garage. His scoot was still there, but another pack had been added to the first and the Clan Yashida honor sword was strapped to the side.

"Wolvie, where are you?" She said, moving into the light of the garage lamp.

Logan suddenly loomed out of the darkness, his demeanor dangerous and predatory, the dim light partially illuminating his face. Jubilee drew back and suppressed a shiver. She was around him so often that she forgot who and what he was. He said nothing and finally Jubilee found her voice and approached him, but he drew back.

"Logan?" she said softly. "What is it?" She licked her lips, her gaze going to the pack on the back of his scoot "You're leaving again. That's it, isn't it?"

"That's about the size of it," he replied. His voice sounded gruff, almost a growl. "I appreciate the birthday party, darlin'. That's the nicest thing that anyone has done for me in a long time and yer right, I'll remember it, but now it・s time for the Canucklehead to take off before he grows roots."

"No," she said, her voice strangled. She quickly covered the few steps dividing them and threw her hands around his neck and hugged him tight. Now was not the time to be flirtatious or coy. "Don't leave again. I couldn't stand it." Her voice was muffled against his neck. "Please. Don't."

"I need to go," he said, his hands gripping her upper arms trying to pull her away.

"You're leaving because of me, I just know it." Jubilee tried to hold back the tears and tried to choke them down but her emotions demanded outlet. She clung to him tighter. "I'm sorry, Logan. I'm sorry I'm bossy. I'm sorry I'm a smartass. I'm sorry for whatever I've done to make you want to leave. I promise I'll be good, and I won・t wear the bikini.・

Logan half groaned and half chuckled. His arms went around her, almost crushing her to him. "Darlin'," he said, his lips near her ear and she felt him breathe deeply. "This is not yer fault. Don't blame yerself. Never blame yerself. An・ I like the bikini, too much I think."

"Then don・t leave, I love--" she began.

"Don't say it, Jubes. Just... don't." He placed a hand against her check and stared into her face.

And Jubilee realized he stared at her like they weren't going to see each other for a very very long time. Well, if this is it, I have nothing to lose. She leaned up and pressed her lips to his, opening her mouth and sliding her hands over his shoulders, up the side of his neck and into his hair. She felt him groan against her mouth and then he was kissing her back, gathering her closer against him, tracing his fingers up her spine, touching the warm skin that the crop top left bare. Another hand slid up along her ribcage and under her shirt and just underneath the swell of one breast. Shivers of longing danced up and down her body from her toes to her head. She'd been kissed before, but every kiss she'd experienced in college paled in comparison. It was all she had expected.

A growl, deep and passionate, rumbled through Logan and heat curled up through Jubilee's stomach. Her desire cried out for fulfillment, completion to the ultimate end.

・No holding back this time, no games,・ she whispered against his lips and jerked his shirttails out of his jeans and popped the pearl snaps on his shirt. With complete freedom, she ran her hands over his hard stomach, tracing each washboard ab then traveling up over his chest, over the perfection of each well-defined muscle. She looked up him and his eyes were closed. Logan was magnificent, so elementally male and he was hers. Then he was kissing her again, this was no dream, it was better than anything she could have imagined. His lips left her and nibbled along her jawline and down her neck, his breath hot against her sensitive skin.

・I ain・t doin・ this.・ Logan pulled away so suddenly that she swayed and would have fallen if he hadn't reached out, grabbed her forearm and steadied her. He then quickly released her and snapped up his shirt but didn't bother to tuck it back in. "I shouldn't o' done it,・ he said. His voice was hoarse, his face strained. His arousal obvious and Jubilee flushed with pleasure knowing he had been affected as much as she.

They were both breathing hard and for a moment Jubilee couldn't speak. She took a deep breath and found her voice. "You... you can't kiss me like that and expect me to believe you think this was a mistake." She gently touched her lips and Logan's gaze followed the motion. He seemed to struggle with something and she took a step toward him. "Logan, I know you want what I want. Why is that bad?" She realized suddenly that this was what Remy had warned her about. Don・t make the man break his code. He still thought of her as a child, as his responsibility. That she had grown up was the very thing Logan was afraid of. He wanted to think her as a fifteen-year-old mall rat with a sassy mouth and an attitude problem. She wasn・t that any longer. ・I・m not a little girl.・

"Doesn・t matter. Too old fer ya'," he said.

"Logan, using that logic you're too old for everyone." Jubilee held out her arms in silent supplication. "By the time I'm old enough for you, I--like any normal person--will be dead!"

"Then switch old for experience," a hint of exasperation crept into his tone.

"Teach me," she whispered. He jerked around and stared at her.

・Girl, you don・t know what you・re asking for.・ His jaw clenched and his hands balled into fists at his side. Suddenly, he strode up to her and folded her into his arms, his cheek resting on the top of her head. This embrace was different, loving but not passionate, caring but not heated. ・I・m not the one to teach you those things Jubes. I・m not the one.・ He pulled her away gently and looked at her face, swiping a thumb across her cheek. ・I・m gonna miss you more than ya・ know. You be good and do yer ole・ Canucklehead proud.・

・So you're just going to get on that Harley and ride away?" she asked, wanting to snuggle deeper into him, wanting her dreams to be reality.

"Yeah, darlin'," his voice was hoarse when he replied. He straddled the Harley and snapped back the kickstand with the heel of his cowboy boot. "That's exactly what I'm gonna do." He started the motorcycle, the engine noise drowning out the sounds of the party and the band.

"Coward," Jubilee said, and they both knew this cowardice had nothing to do with bravery.

・That・s right darlin・, you scare the hell out o・ me.・

"I've been your friend, Logan, and you've been my surrogate brother, father. At least in that capacity you owe it to me to talk to me. Tell me what you're thinking."

"I'm thinking, darlin', that I need to get back to doing what I do best and you need to get on with your life, one that has nothing to do with me.・ Logan put the motorcycle in gear, nodded, winked, then turned and rode off down the driveway. Jubilee ran a dozen steps after him then stopped.

"Logan!" she shouted and waved. He didn't even look back. "I love・," she began then bit back the words. Angrily she swiped away her tears with the back of her hand and clenched her fists at her thighs. ・If you think this is the end just wait until you get back you cocky, arrogant dweeb!・ she shouted and held up a middle finger in the direction of the disappearing Harley while a few angry sparklers rained from the upraised fingertip. Jubilee thought she heard a laugh, but couldn't be certain. With Logan's sensitive hearing, perhaps he had heard.

・Then hear this you muscle-bound jerk!・ she shouted. ・I・ll be waiting!・

* * * *


Logan turned his Harley into Hardcase・s lot. At 11pm the rutted dirt parking area was filled with motorcycles, mostly Harley Davidsons, and a few old model trucks. He turned off the Harley, kicked forward the kickstand and swung off.

・Hey, asshole!・ a guy called from the corner of the building. He sat on a dilapidated brick planter filled with dead plants and smoked a cigarette with another biker. ・You blocked me in ya・ dumb moron.・

・Hey man, don・t mess with this little fucker,・ another biker with long greasy blond hair said, he was sitting on his bike and drinking a beer. ・He・s trouble.・

・I ain・t afraid of this runt. I can handle him,・ the other said and spat on the ground.

・Whatever. Don・t say I didn・t warn you,・ the greasy blond replied and took a sip of his beer.

Logan, striding for the bar door, changed course without a break in stride and headed toward the guy who smirked and took his cigarette out of his mouth. ・Maybe I didn・t say it clear enough,・ the biker sneered. ・Move your sled fuckhead.・

・Hey, that rhymes,・ his drunk buddy chuckled. ・Sled and fuckhead. Heh heh.・

Logan said nothing, didn・t pause or halt, just took the last step toward the loudmouth and struck, his fist connecting on the guy・s jaw with a muted crack. Blood flew in an upward arc, and the guy・s eyes rolled up in his head and he fell back without a sound. The guy・s drunk companion rose to help, Logan crouched, spun and rammed his elbow into the other・s solar plexus and he sunk to the ground and gasped for breath. One out cold, the other clutching his stomach and groaning, Logan looked to the half-dozen others who had sat around and watched.

・Anyone else have something they want to say ta・ me?・

・No man. I・m cool.・ The biker sitting on his Harley held up his hands. ・I told him not to fuck with you.・

・Maybe next time he・ll listen to a friend・s sound advice,・ Logan said and then looked at the two guys laying on the dirty asphalt. ・Thanks for the fight, asshole.・ He turned back toward the bar and entered, throwing open the door. It hit the wall with a loud bang and shivered closed on its hinges. He ignored the startled looks cast his way as he stalked across the floor and sat down on a stool.

"Evenin' Logan, you look like a man on a mission," Hardcase said. "I・ll send you the bill for the door.・

・You flamin・ do that,・ he growled, and rubbed his right fist. The scratches on his knuckles had already healed.

・What you do to Eddie out there,・ Hardcase asked.

・Taught him some flamin・ manners. He needs to watch that mouth of his.・ He brushed at the spots on his leather jacket. ・Son of a bitch bled on me.・

Hardcase popped a shotglass onto the bar. ・Want me to line you up six of whisky?"

"You said it.・ Logan leaned one elbow on the bar. "You found a commander for that job in El Salvador?" he asked, keeping his voice low.

"No, still looking and the team is restless," Hardcase replied and filled the six shot glasses. "And other individual offers for the men are coming down the line. They've only held on this long because the money is enough that some of them could retire. I may have to pass on it and that'd be too bad, unless you have some suggestions."

"Yer lookin' at the man who's gonna lead that team." He drank the first shot, savoring the slow burn.

Hardcase stared for a moment. "Logan, it's not that I don't want you aboard, and you're exactly the kind of man I need to lead this crew, but..." his eyes narrowed, "this don't have to do with that gal does it?"

"What the flamin・ hell does it matter?" he growled. His hand shot out and bunched Hardcase's collar up in one thick fist and held him there, slightly suspended for a moment. Letting out a disgusted grunt, he let the man go. "Ain't none o' yer business either way, bub. All that matters is that I'm here and I'm ready. And I guarantee you that your clients will be so flamin' happy when this mission succeeds, that they'll come begging." His smile was unpleasant. "An' I'm ready to dole out some serious butt kickin'. It's been too long an' I'm getting' restless myself."

Logan knew that despite whatever reasons he had for taking the job, Hardcase was too smart a merc to turn down the opportunity of adding Logan--an experienced commander--to his payroll. Hardcase stuck his hand over the bar and they shook.

"Welcome aboard, Logan. Men are bunkin' down at the Cloud Nine. I'll get Nan to take my place rest for the rest of the night and I'll be down about 2300 hours for briefing. We'll be flyin' out in the mornin'."

"Sooner we leave the better," Logan said, and pointed over the bar. "And hand me that bottle o' whisky."

Hardcase complied. "To any other man I'd say no, but Logan, I've never seen anyone who can put it down like you and walk a straight line. Your kidneys must be made out of iron."

"Something like that," he returned as he left the bar, whisky bottle clamped in one big hand.


Author・s end notes: So what・d you expect, eh? As much as we・d like to see them together, we all know deep down that Logan would never go for it. I've been reading about Logan and Jubilee for close to fifteen years and I feel that I know these characters as well as the Marvel writers. As hard as I tried and as much as I wanted it, I couldn't get them romantically (sexually) involved in this story. It seemed completely against Logan's personality. So in the end, true to her nature, Jubilee finds the spunk that always brings her through hard times and Logan, true to his own nature, does what Logan does・ he just takes off to do his own thing while trusting that everyone is strong enough to sort out their own problems. In regards to Jubilee he's right; she's as strong as they come・ after all, look who practically raised her. ;)


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