by Jane Westin

Summary: Logan・s POV. Sequel to ・A Conflict of Interests.・

Disclaimer: The usual・none of the characters are mine. Additionally, the last few lines are taken from the X-Men comic (Logan・s conversation with Rose). To all the MLA fans out there: I know I don・t have quotation marks around them. But I・m not plagiarizing. Please don・t flunk me J

Author・s Notes: Sorry this has taken so long, folks・I・ve been phenomenally busy with moving and school so it might not live up to your expectations <sniffle>. I・ll do my best to get the next one up in a jiffy (and hopefully resolve this whole situation, ・cause I want to move on <g>). Also, I overused the apostrophe. I・m very sorry. I got a little carried away.

I think one of the curses of bein・ human is the ability to remember with painful lucidity.

I know that for the rest of my life, I・ll remember the night I broke Marie・s heart. I know I・ll never forget the look of wide-eyed hope on her face when she told me she loved me. I・ll never forget how that expression crumbled into one of shattered heartbreak when I told her it wasn・t mutual.

Should have just kept my flamin・ mouth shut.

I don・t think Marie・s ever reacted that violently to anything. She fell completely to pieces, an・ I had to push her off me. Had to shove her away, hold her down, when I・d sworn to myself long ago that I・d never hurt her. She・d slapped me, an・ it hurt my heart more than it did my face.

I remember the last words she said to me; don・t think I・ll ever forget ・em, ・cause they tore me all up inside.

・You said you・d protect me.・

The last thing I saw as I backed out the door was my dog tag, lying in a puddle of silver chain on the carpet.

I don・t know how it happened, but next thing I know I・m raiding Baldy・s liquor stash. I grab the biggest bottle of Jack Daniels in the cabinet and go right to work. Don・t even bother with a shotglass. Damn healing factor won・t even let me get drunk without a lot of effort.

I wander up to the roof. Marie an・ I used to sit up here on warm nights an・ talk・not about anything in particular, just chitchat. Those were the days when she still told me about everything goin・ on in her life, before she started clammin・ up on me an・ runnin・ away whenever I came back. Even as early as six months after Storm an・ Cyke brought us back to this goddamn hole, she was gettin・ weird・lookin・ at me sideways all the time, gettin・ all stuttery when I talked to her, then finally disappearin・ altogether whenever I showed up at the Mansion. For the better part of a year and half she・s actin・ like she don・t want me around at all, then she goes and tells me she loves me an・s surprised when I tell her it ain・t like that. Confuses the hell outta me. I wonder if it・s some teenage thing. I don・t remember ever actin・ like that, but then, I don・t remember bein・ a teenager.

Her last words to me are repeatin・ themselves over and over in my head, an・ the whisky ain・t doin・ a damn thing to quiet them. I was tryin・ to protect her, after all・even if I did feel that way about her, bein・ with me would only hurt her more. She means the flamin・ world to me, has since I first laid eyes on her, but she・s too good for me. She・s like some kinda angel, with those big eyes and that sweet smile.

I think back to the night in Laughlin City. I hadn・t been able to see her from the cage, but I・d smelled a scent that didn・t belong in such a place. I・d used it to track her down after the fight; turned out that was easier than I・d thought. She・d been sittin・ at the bar, all huddled under this big green hooded thing, lookin・ for all the world like a lost little girl. She didn・t belong in that bar・she belonged in some warm home with a mother an・ a father and maybe a little brother an・ a pet dog.

I・d sat down a few feet away an・ snuck a glance at her when I ordered a drink. Bein・ on her own had made a skinny little wraith outta her, but she was still abso-flamin・-lutely breathtaking. Not beautiful by the traditional definition of the word, but with that kind of striking timidity that makes you want to stare. She reminded me of a deer or somethin・・scared and skittish but with a sort of ironclad determination. She・d been starin・ at me with those brown eyes every time I looked at her, which I guess was why she noticed the knife before I did.

I regretted leavin・ her there with all those predators, but I knew she・d be better off there than she would with, say, me.

・Course, if I・d known she・d hitch a ride in my trailer, I wouldn・t have bothered worryin・.

Jeannie・d asked me later why I・d left her on the side of the road like I did・like what kinda heartless bastard would just dump a kid in the middle・a nowhere in the flamin・ snow. She didn・t say it like that, of course・Jeannie・s too refined for ・that sort of language.・ There was definitely some implied profanity in the question, though; her tone coulda put Popsicle Boy to shame.

I didn・t kick her outta the trailer because I・m a heartless bastard. I did it for her own good. It don・t make a whole lotta sense, but it seemed right to me then and it still sorta seems right to me now. I knew right off the bat I couldn・t touch her, an・ I don・t mean that in just the literal sense. Even eight months on the road hadn・t touched the little-girl innocence in her eyes, an・ I knew that gettin・ tangled up with me was probably her worst move. I・m not exactly a positive influence. The last thing I wanted to do was corrupt the kid.

But those pleadin・ eyes wouldn・t leave me be as I pulled away, so against my better judgment I stopped the damn camper and waited.

・Course, it went downhill from there. For some reason that don・t make a bit of sense, Marie formed this weird attachment to me. Dunno why・I don・t deserve the hero-worshiping looks she keeps aimin・ my way, not even after I healed her up on the Statue of Liberty. But she kept taggin・ along, smilin・ up at me with that little angel face. An・ I, badass that I am, started feelin・ a little pull of affection toward her. Started to feel like she was a kid sister, or somethin・・an・ suddenly keepin・ her safe became the most important item on my Marie agenda.

For a while, everything was hunky-dory. I left the mansion, my dog tag, and Marie; when I came back, everything seemed normal. I talked to Marie almost every day・she・d tell me about school, her roommates, her crush on this kid Bobby who could freeze himself. I wasn・t too keen on little Marie havin・ a love life・I did promise to protect her, an・ I definitely felt that the attentions of little hormone factories like Bobby warranted protection. But she assured me that it was perfectly innocent, so okay, everything was still hunky-dory.

My second week back I met Jubilation Lee.

Kid wasn・t like anyone I・ve ever met in my life. Loud, obnoxious, up to her ears in attitude, an・ for some reason never without these big ugly sunglasses propped up on her head. Just a year older than Marie an・ had already gone through more shit than half the people in the Mansion, X-Men included. Yet she was somehow always smilin・.

Needless to say, she annoyed the hell outta me.

I take another deep swig of whisky and reminisce.


Memory: Two Years Earlier

I saunter into the gym in the basement of the Mansion, planning on liftin・ weights. Can・t keep up the whole badass image with a gut, not that the ol・ healing factor would ever let me have a gut. Still, though, can・t let all those new machines go to waste.

I・m two steps in the door when I see the girl on the mat.

She・s spinnin・ by in a blur of kicks an・ punches an・ these quick sideways maneuvers. Looks like some kinda bizarre combination of martial arts and gymnastics. I・m impressed・not too many people can move that fast. I squint, tryin・ to see a few details in between techniques.

I make out slender arms an・ legs whirlin・ every which way, muscles rippling under a yellow bodysuit. Her hair・s dark an・ short, flyin・ all over the place as she careens across the mat. Somehow, though, she never seems to lose control of her actions, an・ that impresses me, too. I watch her for a while, decidin・ at last that she・d be a pretty good fighter in hand-to-hand. Wonder if Wheels is considerin・ her for the team.

I turn to go, figurin・ I・ll leave her be and lift weights later, when I hear her stop moving and yell. ・Hey!・

I turn around. Great. I get to make a new friend. How flamin・ great.

I give her the one-eyebrow stare, but she doesn・t appear to be intimidated. Matter of fact, she runs right over, little feet slappin・ the mat as she screeches to a halt just before crashin・ right into me. Up close, I see she・s maybe a year or two older than Marie. She・s lithe an・ little, an・ pretty to boot・Asian, with bright blue eyes an・ cheeks flushed pink from her workout. The eyes are a little unnerving: blue・s the last color you・d expect to see on her, but they give her character. She・s got a cute chin, too・this I only notice ・cause it・s juttin・ out aggressively. She・s standin・ on her tiptoes, right up in my face.

・You・re that Wolverine guy, aren・t you,・ she says loudly, an・ I take a step back・see, that・s how it started, gettin・ me to back down right off the bat.

・Yeah,・ I grunt, now only wantin・ her to leave me the hell alone. I hope she gets the hint.

She doesn・t. ・Jubilation Lee,・ she announces, as if it were some kinda privilege for me to know her name. She don・t even offer her hand; instead, she backs up a little and looks me up and down, her narrowed eyes appraising. After a moment, she speaks again, an・ this time there・s a definite challenge in her voice.

・You fight?・ she asks.

My jaw about falls on the floor. Fight a woman・a girl? Christ, I・d kill her. ・Not you,・ I answer tersely.

・C・mon.・ She pokes at my arm. My God, she・s annoying.

・No.・ I try to turn and leave, but she seizes my arm.

・C・mon, puh-leeeeeeeeeaze, there・s no one to fight with, and I・m so bored.

She talks like a flamin・ Valley Girl. Argh. ・I said no,・ I growl, wrenchin・ my arm away and glarin・ at her. I refuse to fight a kid I・ve got at least seven inches and a hundred pounds on.

But she keeps on cajolin・ an・ tauntin・ an・ jabbin・ until at last I relent, if only to get her to shut the hell up. And damn if she don・t give me a run for my money. She・s even faster in hand-to-hand combat than she was on the mat goin・ solo・her agility beats mine ten to one. She puts up a helluva fight, but I pin her in the end. I grin down at her.

・Not bad, kid,・ I say, and I feel a grudging sort of respect for the kid. She ain・t no shrinkin・ violet, that・s for sure.

・Not bad yourself, Wolvie,・ she replies. She gives me a neat little smile, wriggles out from under me, an・ before I can even react to the nickname, she・s gone.

End Memory


I sigh an・ roll the whisky bottle between my hands. ・Wolvie,・ I mutter to myself. She・s been callin・ me that for nearly two years an・ it still makes me wince. Hard to be a badass when you・ve got a cute little Asian chick hangin・ all over you an・ callin・ you some pansy nickname.

・Course, she hasn・t been hangin・ on me at all today, ・cause ever since I danced with her at the Shack, things have gotten weird.

Jubilation・s always had a way of gettin・ me to do things I wouldn・t normally do. Like fight a girl, for instance. She・s got this・I don・t know what it is, but I・ve never been able to tell her no. I・ve taken her to the movies, for rides on Scooter・s bike, even to the flamin・ mall, all because she has this thing about gettin・ me to do what she wants. Hell, I・ve taken her to the bar with me on more than one occasion. An・ she・s the same way about talkin・・the reason she and I・ve gotten so close is because she don・t let me alone until I talk to her. She gets me to tell her things I won・t tell anyone else. An・ I trust her, because despite the fact that she talks nonstop, I know she wouldn・t breathe so much as a word of what I tell her. Guess that・s why I got used to her after a while, then started to like her, then maybe even started lovin・ her a little. Good old Jubes, teammate and friend, always there for me, even when I failed her. Which has happened more than once. But all that good-buddy shit changed the weekend her classes ended.


Memory: Saturday Night

Gettig・ boring, Logan・home on a Saturday night, I think to myself, heading for the couch. I・m about to set these adamantium bones down on the worn cushions when I notice that the couch is already occupied. One Jubilation Lee is sprawled out on it, apparently asleep.

・Hi, kid.・

She rolls over, blue eyes crackin・ open in a glare. ・Dammit, Logan!・

Ah, she・s pissed. ・Where is everybody?・ I ask, sitting down by her head.

She puts an arm over her eyes. ・Out,・ she says irritably.

I glance at the TV and chuckle to myself. SportsCenter. Never pegged Jubes for a football lover. ・I didn・t think you were a SportsCenter fan, Jubes.・

・I・m not, usually,・ she practically yells, reachin・ back with the arm that・s not over her eyes to jab me in the leg. ・I turned it on just for you.・

What is it with this kid? ・Again with the violence. You wanna stop with that already?・

・You・re one to talk!・ She takes her arm off her face an・ squints up at me with an expression I・m sure is supposed to be intimidating. It・s actually kinda cute. ・Whaddya want, anyway? Can・t a girl get any peace around here?・

I pat her head in an attempt to placate her. ・Just wanted some company. That okay by you?・

She puts her arm back over her eyes. ・I guess.・ Great. I start flippin・ channels. ・But I・m going back to sleep.・

I sit there for a while, watchin・ Jubes more than the TV. She・s rolled over on her side and has one leg sorta curled up under her, hands tucked under her face like a little kid. She・s always sweeter when she sleeps・mostly ・cause her mouth ain・t movin・. Smartass, I think affectionately, reaching down to push her dark hair out of her face. She mumbles somethin・ when my hand brushes her cheek, an・ I smile a little to myself. Too bad she ain・t a little older; too bad we already got a nice buddy-buddy arrangement, ・cause she and I would definitely work well together in a very non-buddy situation. The way she was lookin・ in that little yellow two-piece・

I shake myself an・ make myself stop thinkin・ along those lines before my imagination gets outta hand. For awhile I force myself to stare at the TV an・ not at Jubilation. It・s a lost cause, though, so I resign myself to my fate and turn my eyes back to her. She・s smilin・ in her sleep, an・ I think I could watch her forever.

An hour later, I・m beginnin・ to think I just might. Jubilee・s not showin・ any signs of returnin・ to the land of the livin・ anytime soon. Not that I・m complainin・, ・cause she・s shifted around in her sleep so her head・s pillowed on my leg an・ her hand・s sorta tucked behind my knee. She・s always liked layin・ that way when we・re watchin・ TV. Says she likes snugglin・ with her Wolvie.

Might get more than you bargained for, Jubes, I think, an・ shake my head hard to banish the thought.

Fortunately, I・m saved by a voice from the doorway. ・Logan!・

・Yeah.・ It・s Ororo, bless her. She comes sailing in, does a little double-take when she sees Jubilation; to her credit, though, she don・t do a thing except raise her eyebrow a little. ・Remy called for Jubilee. She・s supposed to meet them at the Shack, whatever that is, as soon as possible.・

The Shack, huh. It is the first weekend of summer, I remember. Figures those I.D.s are gettin・ used tonight.

・I・ll let her know.・ I don・t want to wake her up quite yet・that little smile hasn・t faded, an・ I wonder briefly what she・s dreamin・ about. Ororo gives me the raised-eyebrow again, an・ I shrug at her. She quirks a smile at me an・ disappears.

I wait fifteen more minutes before I decide I・d better wake Jubilee up. I poke her shoulder.

No response. She・s dead to the world.

I poke her again. And again. ・Jubilee.・

・NNGH!・ She lives! I think. A second later her eyes open. She looks even more annoyed than when I woke her up the first time. ・Dammit, Logan!・

I give her my best innocent look. ・What?・

She sits up. ・I was having a positively wonderful dream about Heath Ledger,・ she says huffily, glaring at me. ・I hate you.・

I love this girl.

・Ororo says Remy called. They want you to meet them at the Shack.・ I ignore her little outburst.

・Now?・ She leans forward, squints at the clock. ・You gonna drive me?・

Uh-uh. No flamin・ way I・m gettin・ suckered into chaufferin・ her to some little hippy-hop club. ・Nope,・ I say, even as the pleadin・ look in her pretty eyes melts my resolve. I sigh.

See? Can・t ever tell her no.

End Memory


I was determined not to get anywhere near the dance floor. Jubilation bugged me and bugged me, bein・ her usual annoyin・ self, an・ I was prepared to tell her no all night. But she surprised me・after a coupla minutes, she gave up an・ wandered off.

Not, however, without callin・ me a boring old person an・ stickin・ her lower lip out in a pout that was very cute an・ had, in my opinion, adverse effects on my nether regions・which, naturally, unnerved me a little. I was all set to go back to my beer an・ wait for her to come around and try again when I spotted her dancing.

With Gambit.

I shudder as I remember my reaction to seein・ my Jubilation snuggled entirely too close to the Mansion・s resident sex machine. Seein・ Marie with Bobby was bad enough. Remy makes Bobby look like the flamin・ Pillsbury Doughboy, in terms of testosterone.

I・d marched right over to the happy little couple an・ cut in. Coulda sworn I glimpsed a smug little smile on Jubilee・s face. Damn if she didn・t know exactly what she was doin・. ・Course, she freaked out about a minute later an・ went runnin・ off to the bar for another beer. Women.

By the time we were dancin・ for the third time, I・d begun to wonder if she did know what she was doing. She・d had several beers an・ I knew her tolerance was low, especially ・cause she・s Asian. But even drunkenness shouldn・t have compelled her to shimmy right up close and practically glue herself to me. I was beginnin・ to wonder about what exactly was goin・ on. All I knew was that I had my hands on her waist an・ her arms were around my neck an・ she was lookin・ up at me as though I・d answered every prayer she・d ever offered up an・ I don・t know when I・ve ever been happier, even if I did look like a pansy. I mean, we were dancin・ to Lee Ann Womack, for pete・s sake. At that moment, I・d felt like I・d do anything to keep her in my arms, an・ that definitely wasn・t a good-buddy thought. But before I could muse any more about the topic, Jubes started weavin・ and stumblin・ an・ I knew it was time to take her home.

As I・d cleaned her up after her second re-visitation with her Coronas, I thought back, tryin・ to remember when exactly I・d figured out she・d grown out of Yappy Teenager Mode. I decided it was probably the other day when I saw her hangin・ out with the other kids at the pool. She・d been wearin・ this little yellow two-piece that showed off every curve an・ slope an・ proved without a shadow of a doubt she wasn・t a little obnoxious eighteen-year-old any more.

It occurs to me in the middle of my reverie that her birthday・s comin・ up in a few weeks, an・ I make a mental note not to forget it this year. I should get her somethin・ nice to make up for not rememberin・ her nineteenth or twentieth.

Twenty-one, I realize. She・s gonna be twenty-one.

Guess she can get rid of that damn fake I.D. she carries around all the time.

It・s probably a good thing I didn・t figure out she・s not a kid any more when she was asleep in my bed after passin・ out in my bathroom. After our little display at the club, it was hard enough to keep from crawlin・ in between the covers with her an・ curlin・ up close. She just looked so damn cute, all mussed and rumpled an・ as content as you please.

An・ it・s just like Jubilation, too, to make me want to use the word cute.

The whisky・s almost half gone, an・ I don・t feel a damn bit better. Matter of fact, I feel worse. This is, after all, what most people would call a bad situation. I did, after all, jus・ break it to Marie that she ain・t the woman I want. Worse, it seems more an・ more that the one I do want is Jubilee.

An・ judgin・ by the way she acted the morning after she passed out in my room, it ain・t as mutual as I・d like it to be.

If that wasn・t bad enough, now I・ve got this problem with Marie. I・ve got no idea what I・m supposed to do about that. It kills me to know how bad I・ve hurt her. I tried so hard to keep her safe an・ happy, and I wind up lettin・ her down anyway. I don・t know how I・ll be able to face her, or the team, for that matter・Marie・s their little darlin・, an・ I know well enough that they don・t stand for anyone makin・ her cry. Used to be I was the chief enforcer of that policy, but now I・m the one who・s upset her more・n anyone else, an・ I think that definitely affects my say in the matter.

I decide I better just head outta here first thing in the mornin・.

I stand up, wobblin・ a little. The whisky・s buzzin・ in the back of my head, but it・s already fadin・, an・ I・m pretty sure that by the time I get downstairs I・ll be stone sober again. Unfortunately.

I throw the empty bottle away an・ wander outside, feelin・ weirdly lost. I don・t like these emotional situations. I・d rather be fightin・ Sabretooth or Mystique・or anyone, for that matter. Don・t know what to do about anything right now. Kinda wish Jubes were here.

I round the corner to the courtyard an・ suddenly there she is.

She・s meanderin・ along, hands stuffed in her pockets, her back to me. I hear her hummin・ a faint little tuneless melody.

・Jubilation,・ I hear myself say, an・ she turns. An odd expression flashes across her face when she sees me, somethin・ like pain. She starts toward me, an・ I see exhaustion in every move she makes. She・s pale, with circles under her eyes, an・ I instinctively want to tell her to get to bed, because what・s a kid like her doin・ up at this hour anyway?

But, I remember, she ain・t a kid any more. An・ I do really want to be with her right now. Guilt・s eatin・ me up inside, an・ I don・t know what to do about it.

She walks right up to me an・ touches my arm, an・ I feel somethin・ in my chest constrict.

・What・s happenin・, champ?・ she says. Her tone is light but her gaze is not; she・s starin・ at me, searchin・ my eyes. I want to say somethin・ to her, but I can・t seem to find my voice, so I just shake my head.

There・s a long pause. I turn my eyes away. I don・t like her seein・ me like this.

But she doesn・t seem to mind. In that same false-bright voice she suggests we go somewhere an・ talk, and the idea seems so absurdly inappropriate that I have to grin a little. I nod at her.

She hesitates a moment, then reaches out and slips her hand into mine. It startles me, an・ I・m suddenly so grateful for her presence that all I can do is squeeze back so hard I・m sure I・m hurtin・ her. But the small smile she flashes up at me is a reassuring one, an・ I feel a twinge of relief.

We walk slowly back toward the gazebo. I feel the weight on my chest lighten just a little bit as Jubilation・s thumb grazes my knuckles. She・s good to me, this woman, and it goes beyond just savin・ my ass on a regular basis.

Once I thought Jubes would be the death of me. Now I know otherwise. No matter where I am, she・s my lifeline.

Without her, I wouldn・t be here.

Without her, I won・t be goin・ on.