Revelations

by Jane Westin


Summary: The long-awaited sequel to ・Eating Worms!・ Yes, it・s finally here! Let・s see where we find our heroes after a year and a half・

Disclaimer: Nothing and nobody belongs to me, sadly enough.

Author・s Note: Okay, so it took me forever to write. But it・ll be worth the wait (I hope)! I very much enjoyed writing this one; I hope you enjoy reading it. Tell me what you think, please; it gives me inspiration! Oh, and I would just like to say that I *highly* recommend Ultimate X-Men by Peter Sanderson. It is the definitive resource book for X-Men characters and locations. I give it two very enthusiastic thumbs up! : )


 

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Subject: ?

i・ll be in new haven this weekend. can i stop by friday night?

logan

***

It takes a moment to register.

I had been clicking idly through my daily wad of junk e-mail, deleting the usual advertisements for debt reduction, diet pills, and, of course, ・HOT CHEERLEADERS SUCKING・・your choice of appendage. These days it・s rare that I find anything in my inbox that isn・t mailed in bulk・the kids at the X-Mansion are all busy with crimefighting and college, and I use my Yale account to correspond with my friends here. As for Logan・well, I haven・t heard a whisper from him in more than ten months.

He wrote frequently at first, after he・d departed the mansion so abruptly; each time he did, I sat down and typed a response, thinking, even as I clicked Send, This is it. This is the last one. Logan doesn・t write for long, especially not when he・s somewhere like Japan. It won・t last.

Well, Logan is Logan, and of course it didn・t. The days between e-mails stretched into weeks, then months, until finally, almost a year after he left, they stopped coming at all.

And now this, completely out of the blue. No ・Hi, how are you, what・s new,・ just ・I・m coming back to town and I want you to drop everything and visit with me.・ Typical Logan. Like I didn・t spend my first year away from home getting over him.

Bastard.

I hit Reply and hesitate. What on earth am I supposed to say to him? I haven・t seen him for over a year and a half. I have nothing to say to him. And even though he・d e-mailed an apology after storming out of my life, we hadn・t exactly been on good terms when he left.

I type in my address, a link to Mapquest, and send the e-mail before I can think too much about it. There. Done. Finis.

Then I lean back in my chair and consider what・s just happened. Huh.

Well, Logan will be here in four days.

Shouldn・t I be more excited? I wonder. After all, I was closer to Logan than I was to anybody throughout much of my teenage life. I had been traumatized when he left; most of the summer after his departure, with the exception of a brief, bright trip to Los Angeles to visit Jono, had been spent in a dark depression. Had I become a little jaded, perhaps? Maybe. But I・d realized that a girl can・t mourn forever, and when I・d moved to New Haven to begin my junior year at Yale, I had promised myself that I would move on. Apparently, I・ve done a better job of it than I thought. My thoughts of Logan in the past few months have been fleeting and few; I・ve been more concerned with filling the requirements of my final year of undergraduate studies.

The phone rings, and I jump. Yow. Maybe I・m not as composed as I thought I was.

・・Lo?・

・Hey, Jube, it・s me.・

・Hi!・ It・s Chandler, bless him. ・What・s up?・

・Not much. I・m running a little late getting over there. Traffic・s horrible.・ In the background, there・s a well-timed horn honk. ・I・ll be there in about fifteen minutes, okay?・

I glance at the clock. Eight-fourteen. Bad traffic this late in the day? On a Monday? Okay, whatever. ・Sure. Hey, did you remember my lab book?・

・Oh, no・・

・Chandler!・

・Kidding!・

・Ooh, you little・When I see you・・

・Empty threats. Hey, I gotta let you go. I have to drive.・

・・Kay. See you in a little while.・

・Love you.・

・You, too.・

I cradle the phone and exhale loudly. Whoo. Thanks to Logan・s e-mail, things are about a zillion times more complicated than they were an hour ago. First off, what on earth am I supposed to tell Chandler? I can just see it: ・Hey, Chandler? You remember that guy I told you about who ran out of my life two years ago and left me traumatized for the majority of my junior year? Well, he・s coming back to town. And he・s staying at my apartment. Is that okay with you?・

Yeah. I think not. Still, I・m sure Chandler would like to have more than five minutes・ notice before Logan comes barging back into the picture.

I decide I ought to just chill out and cross that bridge when I come to it. After all, Logan・s never been Mr. Dependability. Chances are he・ll find some reason to back out, and I・ll be off the hook. Right? Oh, man, I hate making important decisions like this.

The knock comes while I・m still vacillating between my options. Sighing, I get up and open the door.

・Hi, Ch・ergle,・ I say, as a large bouquet of flowers is thrust into my face. My distress dissipates, and I laugh. ・Wow! What・s this?・

・Just a little something I picked up on the way over.・ Chandler looks proud of himself. ・You like ・em?・

・Absolutely!・ I wrap one arm around the flowers and another around Chandler・s waist, pulling him inside. ・You・re the best.・

・I・ve been waiting all my life to hear you say that,・ he replies, dropping my books onto the floor and collapsing on the couch. ・How was your day?・

・All right.・ I sit down next to him and prop my feet on the decoupaged foot locker that serves as a coffee table. ・I need your help with the snail writeup, though. Every time I do the calculations, I wind up with a screwy ratio.・

・Did you remember the lethal mutations?・

・Oh, shoot, no. That・s probably why, isn・t it?・

・Most likely.・ He leans against me and turns on the TV. ・Wanna get a pizza?・

・Sure.・ I pause. Should I tell him about Logan?

Better to do it sooner than later, I think. Even if Logan backs out, Chandler deserves to know. ・・Hey, Chandler?・

・Yeah?・ Chandler swings his eyes from Maury to me. ・You okay?・

・Yep. Er・do you remember Logan? From the mansion?・

There・s a brief, awkward silence. ・Yeah, why?・

・Got an e-mail from him today.・ I make every attempt to sound breezy, surprising myself when I actually succeed. ・I guess he・s coming into town on Friday, wants to visit for a while.・

I can almost hear the wheels turning in Chandler・s head; for a moment he・s tense, thinking, but then he shrugs. ・Cool.・

I hesitate. ・He might need to crash here that night, too. I don・t know that for sure.・

Again he・s silent for a moment, his brown eyes small and thoughtful, one hand tapping his thigh. And, again, he seems to relax. ・Okay.・

・You・re all right with it?・ I peer at him suspiciously. Is this the neurotic, insecure Chandler I know?

He shrugs again and smiles at me, a real smile. ・Is there any reason I shouldn・t be?・

I laugh. ・No, but I thought・・

He cuts me off, smoothing my hair with one well-formed hand. ・Don・t worry about it. I trust you.・

Just like that. Huh. He makes it look so easy.

・Okay.・ I settle back, but・wait a minute. What・s going on here anyway? I sit up again and peer at my beloved boyfriend. ・Are you sure it・s you in there?・

Chandler laughs. ・I thought I was being too jealous all the time, that・s all. Now・s a good time to show you how un-jealous I am. See?・ He holds out both hands and offers me another smile. ・You and Logan are just friends. You have a couch. And I trust you. So I・m totally okay with the situation.・ Then he grabs me around the waist and kisses my neck. ・Logan won・t steal you away,・ he adds, and, laughing, I succumb to his embrace.

・Now,・ I say, after a few minutes of kissing and nuzzling, ・how about that pizza?・

***

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Subject: Re: ?

 

hey j

i should get into town between 8 and 10 friday night. that work for you?

l

 

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Subject: Re: ?

 

sure, that・s fine.. i・m in apartment c-10.

see you then,

Jubilee

 

***

I really should go to bed, I think, sending my e-mail to Logan on its merry way. Chandler・s been asleep for almost two hours now, and I know I ought to join him, but I・m restless and jittery. I feel a little guilty, too・we rarely spend weeknights together, thanks to our heavy homework-load, so this is sort of a treat and I ought to be enjoying it. Suddenly, though, all I can think about is Logan-Chandler, Chandler-Logan. First, Logan doesn・t even know Chandler exists, and I can just imagine his reaction when I tell him I・m ・with him,・ so to speak. If he・s anything like he was two years ago・and he probably is; Logan doesn・t change much・he・ll go into the protective ・I・m-the-manliest-man・ alpha-male routine and try to scare Chandler away from me. Not that Chandler・s a pansy or anything, but, needless to say, Logan has bested greater men, and Chandler doesn・t even have the benefit of a mutation.

Second, and far more worrisome, is the fact that Chandler doesn・t know the whole saga of Logan and I. I・ve given him a vague, perfunctory outline of my relationship with Wolvie・how we・d met, where we・d hung out, bad guys we・d fought, and yadda yadda yadda. He knows nothing of the complications that arose during Logan・s last stay at the Mansion: the night we・d all gone to the Shack, the drama with Rogue, the conversation I・d had with Ororo in the garden. And I had meant to keep it that way. It was, in my opinion, just another part of the convoluted history of Jubilee. Was, but not any more, because my history has always had a nasty habit of showing up for an encore when I least expect it.

I・m torn. Should I tell Chandler the rest of the story? To him, Logan is just some guy I palled around with during the first two years of college: a drinking buddy, a good friend, but definitely way too old for me. Heck, he・s still way too old for me. But that fact doesn・t change what could have・almost・happened.

But, I remind myself firmly, it didn・t. Logan left and nothing came of it. And aside from what Ororo told me in the garden, there・s no reason to think anything would have. Right. The could-have-would-have-almosts・they・re just speculations. No basis in fact. None whatsoever.

Yeah, right, says a mean little voice in my head. You know darn well what Wolvie was thinking when he was watching you at the pool that day. You know darn well.

I make a horrible face. I do NOT know darn well. I don・t know ANYTHING. Everyone has an overactive imagination, I think emphatically.

Finally I decide I don・t need to explain the whole dramatic story. It would be counterproductive. As far as Chandler knows, Logan・s just an old friend; more importantly, as far as the facts go, Logan・s just an old friend. There・s absolutely no reason to make Chandler any more paranoid than he might already be.

Okay, what about the night you went to the Shack and ended up in Logan・s bed? cackles the voice.

I bristle. That was completely innocent!

My ass.

Shut up, I tell the voice, and mercifully, it does.

Then I snort. Talking to myself. Better yet・arguing with myself. Very sane.

・I・m going to bed,・ I announce.

I stumble over my genetics text as I pass the bathroom, and my startled yelp elicits a muffled ・Mmph・ from the vicinity of the bed.

・Sorry,・ I whisper.

Chandler scoots over. ・S・okay,・ he mumbles. ・Here.・

He reaches for me, and I crawl into his arms to snuggle against the warmth of his chest.

・Love you,・ he mumbles, kissing my forehead.

・Love you, too,・ I whisper back, then close my eyes and let myself drift into the blissful oblivion of sleep.

***

Morning comes entirely too soon, but I・m wakened by the pleasant feeling of Chandler kissing me over and over, so I don・t mind that much.

・Morning, beautiful,・ he says, as my eyes creak open and behold his fuzzy image smiling at me. ・How・d you sleep?・

・Like this,・ I say, closing my eyes again.

He plants another kiss on my lips, this one firmer. ・No can do. Got classes to attend. Come on, it・s another day to excel!・

Even in my sleep-softened state, I don・t miss the sarcasm. ・Okay, I・m up,・ I groan, rolling away from him and pulling the blankets over my head.

He curls himself around me and begins poking at my ribs. ・Jubie-Jube-Jube,・ he sings softly. ・Wakie, wakie, eggs and bakie.・

・Oogh!・ I sit up and rub my eyes fiercely. ・You・re the only person I know who can annoy me awake.・

・It・s a gift.・ He smiles at me, then heads into the kitchen to (hopefully) make coffee. God. He・s the only person I know who・s as chipper at seven a.m. as he is at two in the afternoon. It drives me nuts sometimes.

Still, I love the dork, I really do. He・s probably the nicest guy I・ve ever met・a little weird sometimes, but definitely sweet. And after・what, eleven months? A year?・I feel more comfortable around him than I・ve ever felt around anyone, Logan included. Of course, I wasn・t sleeping with Logan, so that・s definitely a factor. I laugh to myself. It・s nice being away from home and on my own, I think reflectively. I feel so totally normal here, not like a friggin・ mutant superhero at all. And it・s a welcome change. Chandler・s been wonderfully understanding about it, although when I first confided in him, he was as fascinated by my abilities as a small child with a new toy. Now, however, it・s old hat even to him, and my friends here that do know about my mutation don・t really seem to be affected by it.

Life is good, I decide. Life is normal. Life is delightfully, wonderfully normal.

And, Logan or no Logan, it is going to stay this way.

***

Finally the Big Day arrives. The Day of the Arrival. L-Day, if you will. It・s four in the afternoon and I・m pacing around my apartment because I can・t think of a damn thing better to do. For the first time since Logan said he was coming to visit, I・m nervous. And I can・t even call Chandler・he・s in the lab until seven or eight tonight, then he・s going out with the guys to・get this・play Warhammer 40K.

What a nerd. Gotta love him.

Okay. Okay. Gotta calm down. Gotta chill out. Gotta stop saying ・gotta.・

Where did I hear that? Some comic strip?

I・m losing my mind!

Suddenly I・m inspired. A cake! I・ll make a cake! Baking always makes me feel better, especially now that I・m cooking for myself and my culinary skills have improved.

I feel bizarrely relieved now that I have A Mission in mind. I rummage through my pantry and come up with a box of devil・s food cake mix. Okay, so it・s not exactly Food Network-quality, but a cake・s a cake.

Eggs, oil, water, bowl, cake mix, mixer, wooden spoon・I set everything out on the counter and methodically begin making my cake. By the time it・s in the oven, I feel a million times more relaxed.

Forty-five minutes later, the cake・s cooling on the stove and I・ve developed a sudden, violent craving for a cigarette. This is highly dismaying, because I・d kicked the habit two months ago. I・d first lit up on my trip to L.A. to visit Jono・his bandmates all chain-smoke, and I don・t mean just cigarettes. I・d quit the herbal when classes started, but the tobacco monkey had clung to my back like a barnacle. Persistent little bugger.

Actually, it had been Chandler who・d finally convinced me to quit. He and I had first met over an ashtray, and he・d decided in August it was high time he gave his lungs a break, no pun intended. So I・ve been smoke-free for almost seven weeks, admittedly miserably so, but now the monkey・s back and nagging at me worse than ever. And in my harried, stressed-out state, I・m in no mood to fight it. Sighing, I pull on my jacket and mittens and prepare to brave the two-block walk to the BP.

・Hey, haven・t seen you in a while,・ the clerk greets me. I think his name is Steven or Seth or something like that. When you buy cigarettes at the same gas station every other day, you can・t help but get familiar with the place.

・Yeah,・ I grunt. I・m really not in the mood for his playful flirtation today. I pay for my Morley Lights and walk out, slapping the pack upside-down against the heel of my hand. Oh, I・m horrible. Horrible, I think.

I・m not ten feet away from the gas station before I・m flicking a spark to light up. I draw on it deeply, feeling a rush of guilty pleasure as the nicotine washes over me. I clamp my lips and exhale twin streams of smoke through my nostrils.

Oh, Logan, look what you・ve gone and done. You・ve turned a good-girl non-smoker back into her nic-fit alter ego.

Sigh.

By the time I get back to my complex, my mittenless left hand is frozen. I sit down on the stairs leading up to my apartment and decide that, while I・m out here, I may as well even the score. I pull off my right mitten and light another cigarette with the still-glowing tip of the first, then re-sheath my poor left hand.

God. It・s so grey, worse than New York. Everyone ranted about Connecticut in the fall; no one told me how ugly it is in December.

I smoke my second cigarette down to the filter and flick the butt into the parking lot. It lands in a spray of sparks.

Then I head inside to ice the cake.

Unfortunately, the only frosting flavor available is lemon. That・s Chandler・s fault, for the record. I personally find lemon-iced chocolate cake positively revolting, but Chandler swears by it. Says it helped his MCAT score.

I realize after a moment that I・ve opened the frosting can and am now absentmindedly eating it off the knife. Ew. I chuck the knife in the sink. So much for hygiene.

Better bare than violated by lemon, I decide, glancing at my cake. I put the icing away and glance at my watch. Five thirty! How can it only be five thirty? I・ve been waiting for days! Years!

I stuff a chunk of cake in my mouth. It occurs to me as I・m brushing cake crumbs on the seat of my jeans that I perhaps ought to pay some attention to my appearance. Because of my morning classes, I usually don・t bother, but it has been over a year since I・ve seen Logan. I don・t want him to find out that I・ve become a cake-munching slob.

I change into black slacks and a snug green sweater and contemplate myself in the mirror. Not bad, I think, eyeing my reflected butt over my shoulder. Not Cindy Crawford, but definitely not bad.

I・ve put on some makeup and tamed my hair before I realize what I・m doing. I stop mid-brush and stare at my reflection.

・What the hell?・ I exclaim out loud. I don・t care what Logan thinks of me. No. Don・t care. I don・t need to be doing this, I tell myself firmly. It・s stupid to primp for Logan. Logan no longer matters. Nope. Not a bit. Not a shred.

I change back into my jeans, but I leave the sweater and makeup.

Unfortunately, those two impulse-smokes woke the nic-fit Jubilee, and before I know it I・m shivering on the deck. It・s kind of a crappy deck・the wood・s weathered and blackened in one corner from spilled charcoal, and it barely fits two plastic chairs and a drink stand. Still, it・s private, and I like it. I light up with another plasma spark・this is a great smoker・s mutation, I・m a walking Zippo・and check my watch again. Six twenty.

I try desperately to ignore the anticipation fluttering in my stomach. I・ve got a feeling the tremble in my hands isn・t due to the cold. I think I may go crazy if I have to wait any longer.

Down the street, an ancient pickup truck rumbles into view. It・s black, mud-spattered・ sounds like it needs a new muffler and maybe some transmission work. Huh. How about that.

Probably one of the neighbors, I tell myself reassuringly. Not Logan. So no biggie.

The truck・s heading this way. It slows in front of the building next door, picks up speed again, then swings into the parking spot directly in front of my stairs.

I freeze. My heart, pounding wildly, leaps into my throat.

Oh Jesusjesusjesusjesus・

The driver・s door opens.

I・ve barely caught a glimpse of that familiar, beat-up Stetson before I・m crushing my Morley in the ashtray and lunging back into my apartment. I collapse against the front door, barely able to breathe, and blink back the sudden tears that have leapt to my eyes. He・s here. Oh God, he・s here. Any moment he・ll・

Knock, knock.

Oh, Logan, I think, and, shaking, open the door.

 

He・s standing a few feet away from the welcome mat, looking exactly as I remember him. Worn jeans, leather jacket, horrendous belt buckle, hair still growing up and back into those two crazy points・and the muttonchops, of course, still dominate his face. His eyes take me in all at once, sweeping up and down and then dropping to the Stetson in his hand. He looks like a bizarre John Wayne version of an old-fashioned gentleman.

It・s really him.

・You・re early,・ I blurt, unable to rein in my nervousness.

・I・m sorry.・ His hat brim trembles a little, and he shifts his weight from one foot to the other. Seeing him so uncertain stuns and sobers me・can it be he is as nervous as I am? I regret my words immediately; it・s obviously not the reception he expected.

I reach out and brush his arm, and he starts a little at my touch. Hurt, I drop my hand. ・Come in.・

He does, kicking off his boots and standing awkwardly near my desk. I gesture towards the couch. He sits.

Well, we・re off to a great start. Least I・m not falling all over myself like I did when I saw him coming.

I take a deep breath to calm my racing heart. ・Want something to drink?・ I offer. I・m impressed with how steady and normal my voice sounds.

・Sure.・

・I have water, Sprite, orange juice, Miller Light・・ I trail off, watching him expectantly.

・I・ll have a beer.・ He doesn・t look at me, but when I turn my back, I feel the intensity of his gaze. It brings a flush to my cheeks, and I turn around fast. He drops his eyes.

He takes the beer. ・Thanks.・

・Welcome.・ I sit down next to him and study him out of the corner of my eye. He・s got a weird expression on his face, and he・s studying the beer like it・s a centerfold, or something. Good lord, I didn・t think it・d be this awkward.

I can・t quite identify the weird expression. It bothers me.

Logan・s hazel eyes slide sideways and meet mine. ・Been smokin・?・ he asks, too casually.

・One or two.・ I struggle to keep defensiveness from my tone. Logan・s been out of my life for months. He has no say in what I do and don・t do, dammit・he has no right to act disapproving. He seems to sense my irritation and nods.

There・s a long, uncomfortable silence.

・You・ve changed, Jubilation,・ he says at last, and I think I see something like sadness in his face.

I look away, startled and dismayed at the lump that rises in my throat. My voice is very quiet.

・Yes, I suppose I have.・

Well. Very cheery conversation we・re having here. Perhaps it would be wise to change the subject.

I crack open my Sprite and put my feet up on the coffee table. ・Tell me about Japan.・

He smirks. ・Well, it・s this little island in the Pacific・・

I cut him off with an elbow to the ribs. ・Smartass,・ I say. Both of us laugh a little, and for a moment it・s like old times.

Then he sobers. ・Japan was all right.・

・All right? Wow, Wolvie, your conversational skills have really improved over the past year. Come on. What did you do?・

・Martial arts. Meditation.・ He swirls the beer in its bottle.

Honestly. Sometimes getting him to talk is like pulling teeth. ・Meet anyone cool?・

Oops. Apparently that wasn・t the right thing to say. His lips tighten, and that odd expression comes back. He doesn・t answer directly. ・Stayed in a little place near the Yashida clan base.・

Yashida? ・What・s a Yashida?・ I ask.

・Kinda like a political family,・ he replies.

・Like the Mafia?・

・Yeah, sorta, but without the bad reputation.・

・So what else did you do?・

He shrugs. ・Learned to use a katana.・

・That・s it? Karate and swords?・ I roll my eyes.

・It ain・t easy to sum up a year in two sentences, Jube!・ Logan replies, exasperated.

I hide a smile. That・s the Logan I remember.

・Okay.・ I sit back and study the nutrition information on my Sprite can. When he wants to talk, he will.

・Look,・ Logan says after a moment. ・I・m not really feelin・ up t・ talkin・. Why don・t you tell me how you・ve been.・ His eyes fall on a photo of Chandler and I, framed on my desk. It・s from spring break this past March; we spent the week at Panama City with the millions of other college kids. In it, Chandler・s carrying me piggyback on the beach, and we・re both laughing.

Logan reaches over and picks up the photograph. ・Who・s this?・

Why, Logan, is that possessiveness I hear in your voice?

・Chandler Millet. My boyfriend,・ I reply nonchalantly.

・How old・s he?・ Logan・s frowning visibly. I have to fight the smile that wants to creep across my face.

・He turned twenty-three last month.・ I・d given him a watch. Not a very creative gift, I know, but it・s a nice watch, at least.

Logan nods and replaces the picture. It・s hard to tell what he・s thinking.

There・s a pause.

・How・s Marie?・ Logan asks. I・m grateful to him for filling the silence.

・Good. I haven・t talked to her in a couple weeks, but last I heard she was teaching Artie and Leech piano.・

・Artie and Leech?・

・Yeah, you remember, the rugrats that attached themselves to Rogue after you left.・ Truth to be told, I・m not surprised he・s forgotten. I told him about them in the first e-mail I wrote to him, and I・m pretty sure the e-mail was longer than his attention span. They were the reason Rogue and I started talking again, actually; she・d had them ask me to accompany them to Mary Poppins the week after I・d sent that first e-mail. I・d accepted, and three matinees later the whole thing had blown over. Just as Kitty had said it would. ・She・s a full team member now,・ I add.

He nods. ・She wrote a coupla times. Once when she got the promotion.・

Only a couple of times, I muse. I guess her thing for Logan blew over with the fight. I remember the long hours she spent crying over him and am proud of her.

・Chuck expanded the school, too,・ I add. ・Banshee and this woman Emma Frost opened a branch in Massachusetts. They sent all the younger kids over.・ I glance at Logan, wondering if I ought to bring up the X-Men. Well, I・ve never been that good about boundaries. I decide to go ahead and ask.

・Do you miss them?・

Logan looks surprised. ・Sometimes,・ he says. He glances at me, then looks down.

・Yeah, me too.・ I reply before he can tack anything else onto his response. Okay, so I chickened out at the last minute. Okay, so I think I・d fall apart if he said he missed me too. Okay, okay, okay, already. I admit it. I・m a wimp.

・I・m going to have a cigarette,・ I say abruptly, standing up.

He follows me outside. We squeeze around the deck chairs and sit without speaking. I offer him the pack, thinking he・ll refuse・Logan likes his cigars・but he takes one, surprising me.

・How ・bout a light?・ he asks, nodding at my hand. He leans forward a little, and I paf life into the Morley. In the brief illumination, his face looks worn and weary.

We smoke silently in the dark. I can see his features only when he draws on the cigarette.

・You look good, Jube,・ he says suddenly. It doesn・t sound like a come-on; the blunt honesty in his voice makes him sound strangely gentle.

Surprised, I thank him and return the compliment. It・s true, he does look good・he always looks good.

He reaches out and thumbs a strand of my hair. My stomach lurches. ・It・s longer,・ he says.

・Yeah.・ I・ve been growing it out since before he left, and it falls past my shoulders. I can・t meet his eyes.

・I like it.・

・Thanks.・ I exhale a little louder than I intend to. Okay, fine, already. Fine. I give up. Now that he・s here I can no longer act like I haven・t missed him. I can no longer pretend he doesn・t exist. I can no longer not care about him. Fact of the matter is, I missed him terribly, and I・m so glad to see him I could cry. Suddenly I want to hear him say it.

・I missed you,・ I say, a little scared he won・t respond. He looks up sharply; I know he heard the quaver in my voice.

・I missed you too, Jube,・ he replies in that same gentle tone.

My stomach sinks in relief.

He looks at me. I look back.

Then we drop our cigarettes in the ashtray, smile at each other, and meet in the middle. Embracing over the drink stand is awkward, so we get to our feet; then I・m snugly in his arms and it・s as if he never left.

I feel him stroking my hair; he turns his face into it, so I know he・s breathing me in. I slip both hands under his jacket and lock them around his waist, feeling the muscles beneath his shirt. His breath catches.

・I missed you,・ he murmurs again, into my hair.

I nod, my cheek rubbing against his jacket, loving the reality of him in my arms. He・s really here.

It・s all I need.

 

After that, conversation becomes considerably easier. He tells me about his training, the food・very important, you know・and the cherry blossoms in the spring. He tells me about his master and how peaceful he feels when he meditates. In turn, I tell him about school and studying. I don・t talk about Chandler and I sense that he・s glad.

Still it・s weird・as he speaks, I sense that difference about him, that sadness reflected every now and then in his speech and expression. But he doesn・t explain it, and I don・t ask.

At two a.m., I finally begin to yawn. He looks tired too, but considerably less so, damn that healing factor of his.

I glance at him, almost afraid to ask. ・You crashin・ here tonight?・ I ask, fighting to keep my voice casual.

He looks away. ・Nah. Got a place.・

Oh.

My heart sinks. I berate myself mentally: you told yourself you weren・t going to let him get to you, Jubilee; you have Chandler, Chandler・s wonderful, Chandler・s everything you wanted.

Somehow, it doesn・t help.

・I should get goin・,・ he adds, still averting his eyes.

Feeling deflated, I nod.

He hugs me goodbye at the door, but the embrace is brief and lacks warmth.

Damn you. Damn you for walking in and out of my life as if it were nothing. Damn you for reminding me that I still care about you.

・Bye, Jube.・ His voice sounds strained.

・Bye.・

I don・t watch him drive away.

I feel hollow and robotic as I go about my nighttime routine. I change into my pajamas. I brush my teeth. I wash off the makeup I so carefully applied.

Even after all this time, he can still hurt me more than anyone else, and I hate him for it.

I climb into bed and realize I・ve forgotten to call Chandler. I don・t want to, but I know I・d want a phone call if our roles were reversed.

The cell phone rings twice before he answers it. I don・t want to talk to him.

・Hi, sweetie.・ He must have looked at the caller ID on the phone. He usually doesn・t.

Hi, sweetie!・ caws a male voice in the background. It must be one of his gaming buddies・probably Joe. Simon and Nick are a little weird, but they rarely give him crap about having a girlfriend.

・Shut up, dude,・ Chandler yells. To me, he says, ・Hi. How was your visit?・

・Good.・ I twine the phone cord around my fingers. ・How・s the game?・

・All right. My Space Marines are getting slaughtered.・

・That・s ・cause Space Marines blow it out the ass!・ Joe cackles. How juvenile he sounds. How juvenile they all sound.

・Dude, shut up!・ Chandler says again. ・Sorry. Logan still there?・

・No.・ If he hears the emptiness in my voice, he doesn・t acknowledge it. ・I was just calling to say goodnight.・

・Measure that, asshole, you can・t make that shot!・ Chandler fumbles with the phone. ・What, sweetie?・

・Goodnight.・ I sigh. He・s distracted, but I・m glad he・s having fun. He doesn・t get to see the guys very much.

・Oh. ・Night. I・ll call you tomorrow, ・kay?・

・Sure. Love you.・

・Love you, too.・

Before I hang up, I hear Joe shriek, ・I love you too, Jubilee!・

Damn you, Logan, for making the man I love seem no more than a boy.

I curl up under the covers, chest aching, and try to ignore the tears that now spill unbidden from my eyes.

***

I・m just drifting off to sleep when there・s a knock at the door. I sit bolt upright, heart racing, momentarily forgetting where I am. Then I remember the evening・s events and sigh. It must be Chandler. He probably figured that since Logan left, it・s okay to come over. I・m glad at least it・ll make me stop thinking about Logan.

I roll out of bed and pad to the door. Yawning, I peer through the peephole.

And freeze.

Standing on the stoop, carrying his old knapsack and looking exhausted, is Logan.

Surprised, I unlock the door and pull it open. The expression on his face tells me not to ask why he・s come back, so I simply step aside and let him in.

For a moment he just stands there looking at me. I blush hotly under the intensity of his gaze, wishing I・d thought to throw a robe over my pajamas.

・Lemme get you a blanket,・ I mutter, turning away.

When I return with an old comforter and one of my pillows, the strange, hungry look is gone, replaced by that same weary expression. He nods his thanks, drops his knapsack on the couch, and sinks down next to it. He puts his head in his hands.

I wish he would tell me what・s wrong. But again, I don・t ask. Instead I sit down next to him and put an arm around his shoulders.

He leans into me, closes his eyes, and rests his head against mine.

・Wanna talk?・ I ask softly, knowing he doesn・t.

Not surprisingly, he shakes his head. No. So we just sit like that, not moving, not speaking. I wish I was a telepath.

・Get some sleep,・ he mutters after a long moment. He pulls away and begins to rummage through his bag. ・Didn・t mean t・ keep ya up.・

I nod and stand. ・Goodnight, Wolvie.・

・・Night.・

Sleep. Ha. That・s a joke. I can hardly relax with him not forty feet away from me・not to mention the fact that he・ll shortly be, I・m sure, stripped down to his boxers. I try counting sheep, but the damn things all have pointy Wolverine ears and Stetsons. Finally I decide it・s a futile effort and settle for lying in bed with my eyes closed.

Argh. I・m going to be exhausted tomorrow.

A few minutes later I hear Logan throw off the comforter and get up. His footsteps come close to my door and pause. Then he pushes the door open and walks in.

My heart・s beating so loudly I・m sure he can hear it, but I keep my breathing deep and steady.

Now he・s next to my bed. What・s he going to do?

I get my answer a few seconds later.

Very gently, he brushes my hair back from my face. His fingers are warm and rough. They linger on my cheek, tracing the line of my jaw up to my ear. I hear him sigh.

Then he backs away.

I open my eyes and smile into the darkness.

Needless to say, it・s downright impossible to fall asleep after that. I can・t even keep my eyes shut. After an hour of staring at the clock, I decide I・d benefit from some Haagen Dazs. I get up and start to tiptoe to the kitchen. As soon as I see Logan, though, I forget about the ice cream.

He・s having a nightmare.

Now, it・s not like this is a new occurrence, or even a rare one. Logan・s had nightmares for as long as I・ve known him. I remember one time in particular when he and Rogue first came to the Mansion; she・d wandered into his room one night and found him tossing and turning and decided, not very intelligently, to wake him up while standing directly over him. (Rule number one, she told me later, is to let men with nine-inch-long claws lie.) He・d seen her, freaked out, and skewered her. Not a big surprise, given the intensity of his nightmares, but it was definitely a scary night. He ran her right through. She・d・ve died had she not reached out and absorbed his healing factor. After that, she stayed in her room at night; soon after, nightmare duty transferred over to me.

It had happened by accident, really. A couple weeks after I・d met Logan, I・d been up late reading The Shining and hadn・t been able to fall asleep. I・d gone downstairs, put the book in the freezer (because you just never know), and somehow ended up at Logan・s door (I suspect that・s what happened with Rogue, though she never admitted to stealing my copy of The Shining). Like me, he was often up till the wee hours of morning, and I figured I might as well see what he was up to. Maybe, I・d thought, we could take in a late-night game of Scrabble.

Well, as it turned out, I・d woken him from a nasty nightmare. He・d looked pale and shaken when he・d opened the door・it was the first time I・d seen him without his unflappable confidence. Come to think of it, it was also the first time I・d seen him in just his shorts, but that is an entirely different and very yummy story. Anyway, he・d let me in, I・d asked what was wrong, and he・d told me. It was then that I realized I liked being with him. A lot.

After that I ended up spending a lot more time in Logan・s room at night. Often I・d be sleepless, prowling the grounds, and I・d show up at his door in time to talk him down from a bad dream. Eventually it got to the point where I・d wake up in the middle of the night and know it was because of him, so I・d just head straight down to his room. And sure enough, when I got there, he・d either be in the middle of or recovering from a real screamer. He never asked how I knew, and neither did I. Because there are some things you just can・t explain.

Tonight, though, something・s different. It・s not terror or fury on his face; it・s anguish. He・s twisting from side to side, clenching and unclenching his fists, muttering over and over something that sounds like ・Nico.・

Well, nothing to do but wake this sleeping ugly up. I walk around the coffee table, careful to keep my distance, and drop into a crouch on the floor by the armrest. I nudge his bare shoulder and whisper into his ear. ・Hey, Wolvster.・

He flinches violently and lets out a soft whimper.

I put my hand more firmly on his arm. ・Wolvie,・ I say again, a little louder. ・Wolvie.・

・Huh!・ Logan jerks awake and makes a grab for my hand. I snatch it away. He turns his head and sees me, and his eyes round with shock. ・Miko!・

・Wolvie. It・s me. Jubilee.・

His eyes come into focus, and his expression changes to one of utter hopelessness. He sits up quickly and looks away.

I stand up, my heart heavy. Mine is clearly not the face he・d hoped to see.

・You were havin・ a nightmare,・ I hear myself say dully. I take a step back. ・Thought I should wake you.・

I head towards my bedroom, feeling tears prick at my eyes. I hate the fact that, after all this time, he can still make me cry.

・Jube.・

I stop. I don・t turn around. ・Yeah?・

・C・mere.・

I hesitate. I don・t want to open myself up to any more attacks on my emotions.

He senses my reluctance. ・Please.・

I heave a silent sigh and turn back to the couch. When I sit down, he slips his hand into mine, surprising me.

・I met a woman in Japan,・ he says. I nearly fall off the couch. Huh. So this is about some chick. Who・dathunkit? Well, bummer. I do not, however, have any desire to hear about his trysts overseas. Just twist the goddamn knife, why don・t you? I want to say, but decide it would be wiser to keep my mouth shut.

・I was stayin・ near the base of the Yashida clan,・ he says. ・They・ve got a lot o・ power. Lotta money.・ He pulls his hand away and begins to pluck at the blanket.

Great. So she・s rich and powerful. How totally rad.

・The head of the clan was this woman.・ His voice trembles a little. His hands begin to twist the blanket first one way, then the other, and it occurs to me that he・s about to tell me the reason he・s hurting. ・Her name was Mariko.・

He chokes a little on the name.

Aha, I think. Miko.

Then I think, was, and I finally understand.

・She was amazing, Jube.・ He pauses. His eyes are distant. ・She was wonderful. We started seein・ each other not long after I moved in.・ Then he takes a deep breath. ・I fell in love with her.・

Holy shit.

Logan in love? His past affairs, which he occasionally described to me in more detail than I would have liked, had generally been more of the ・wham-bam-thank-you-ma・am・ variety. It gives me a weird little twinge in my chest to think that he might be capable of more.

Logan・s twisting the blanket harder now. His knuckles are white.

I reach over and put my hands over his. He closes his eyes, takes a breath, releases the blanket. I pull my hands away.

・I wanted to marry her,・ he says at last.

Oh, God, no wonder he・s been devastated. Logan・s usual show of affection is to buy a woman a beer. To care about her enough to ask her to marry him・I can・t even comprehend it.

I feel a stab of guilt for my momentary envy of poor dead Mariko.

・There was a man・・ He stops for a moment. There is raw, helpless fury in his face. ・There was this man who hated me. Wanted me dead.・

A pause.

・He decided the best way t・ get ta me was through her. He poisoned her the day I was gonna ask her to marry me.・

My chest tightens at his pain. Oh, God. Logan. Logan. I want to help him. I want to put my arms around him.

I don・t dare.

・She hurt,・ he says, and now his voice isn・t steady at all. ・The poison was killin・ her, but it was slow, and she hurt.・ He closes his eyes; his hands ball into fists again. This time I don・t try to coax them open. ・She asked me to do it. She wanted the pain to stop.・

Claws shoot out of his left fist and I jump back, alarmed.

He drops his head into his right hand. His shoulders heave once.

・I did it,・ he says brokenly. ・She died in my arms. I killed her.・

And then he begins to weep.

I sit for a moment, stunned and heartbroken, watching him uncertainly. I can・t say anything. There・s nothing to say.

He doesn・t flinch away when I touch his shoulder, so I pull him into my arms and hold him, and hold him.

 

After a while his shoulders stop shaking and the left-hand claws retract. He pulls away a little.

・I stayed on for a coupla weeks,・ he says. His voice wavers; he struggles to steady it. ・Couldn・t do it. Saw her everywhere. Had t・ come home.・

・I・m glad you did,・ I say without thinking. I regret my words immediately; I hadn・t meant to sound so insensitive.

He looks at me, and, horrified, I pull back. ・I・m sorry,・ I whisper.

But instead of getting angry, he puts his arms around me and embraces me so tightly it hurts.

・Don・t,・ he whispers.

So I don・t.

And the next time he begins to shudder with nightmares, I・m already there.

***

HOW will Jubilee solve the Logan-Chandler dilemma? WHAT will she do next? WHERE will Logan go? DID anyone catch my blatant ・Friends・ references? To find out, STAY TUNED!

And remember, it・s nice to review! : )