Disclaimer: These characters don't belong to me, and I'm not making any money from using them. Marvel owns them, darnit.
Rating: R for language, violence, and implied sex. BTW, big warning--the sex in question is consensual, but it involves an underage participant.
Continuity: Sometime between Ultimate X-Men #6 and #8.
Archive OK, especially if you notify me so I can get that glow of pride. Let me know what you think--beyond 'For God's sake, Miko, write a story without Logan in it!' :)
******************** Ultimate Firecracker
She stopped short in the street as he passed her. It couldn't be. He was dead.
She turned slowly, catching a glimpse of him as he turned the corner, and it /was/. Even from behind, there was no mistaking that walk, as if he was ready at any moment for someone, something to jump at him.
She broke into a run, calling his name.
Jubilation Lee sat shivering on her bed as the cop paced up and down. She was too old for a teddy bear, but she didn't care. Right now she was terrified, and plush comfort was the best she was going to get.
"You're really trying to tell me you knew nothing about your parents' activities?" the cop asked, his voice heavy with incredulity. She was sure he was putting it on, but that didn't help.
"I told you!" she said, hating the fear in her voice and certain he could hear it. "They never told me anything! It was just, go to school, go to your friend's house, have some money and go shopping. They never told me anything." And now they never would. She hugged her bear tighter. No one had described the scene to her, but she had a vivid imagination. She could picture her parents, trapped in the explosion that had killed them. She could taste their pain, feel their terror as the flames consumed them...
He was watching her carefully and she shook her head, trying to clear it. "Well, Miss Lee," he said at last, "You'll forgive me if I say I find that unlikely. You're a smart girl--you could have figured it out." Suddenly a spark of anger rose up in her chest. Who the hell did he think he was, treating her like a criminal with no proof?
"I guess I'm not as smart as you think," Jubilee said scornfully. Anger was better than fear. Anger was something she could use, and she nurtured it carefully. Even when he stopped in front of her, eyes narrowed, she didn't let the fear grow. Not even when he suddenly reached out a hand and grabbed her chin.
"You're hiding something, and I'm going to find out what it is," he said softly.
"You're going to take your hand off me before I start screaming rape," she corrected coldly, and met his eyes. They gazed at each other for a long, frozen moment until his eyes dropped.
"Gonna play hardball, huh?" he said. He was trying to scare her again, but she stared him down and didn't let it work. Never again. "Fine." He stomped out the door, slamming it behind him. As soon as he was gone, Jubilee leapt to her feet. She had to get out of here. Luckily, her parents had had a few habits she'd picked up, like keeping a stash of cash where she could get at it. She pulled a duffel from the closet and shoved a haphazard collection of clothes into it. From the top drawer of her dresser she got her money, counting it quickly. Not a fortune, but enough.
On her way out the window she paused, one leg over the sill, and looked back at her room. Her bear lay forlornly on the bed, staring at the ceiling with blank glass eyes. She fought with herself, cursed, and hopped back in long enough to snatch the stuffed toy and jam it into her bag.
By the time he came back, this time with a policewoman in tow, she was ten blocks away and still running.
Even in the noise of a busy afternoon, he heard her. He'd always had the best ears, the best vision. He stopped and turned, searching the crowd for the person who knew his name. Jubilee panted to a halt beside him and threw her arms around his neck, scarcely noticing the way he tensed.
"Oh God, Wolvie, I thought you were dead! Why didn't you ever let me know?" she said, grinning against his shoulder. She pulled back and looked into his face, and her smile faded at what she saw there. He didn't know her.
Jubilee turned over restlessly. She was too warm, despite the fan that played over her bed. In theory, the tiny apartment had air conditioning. In practice, the machine produced nothing but smoke, and she couldn't afford the electricity to run it anyway. So she spent her nights bathed in sweat, sleeping naked or clad in panties and a bra.
Three months after her parents' death, she was no closer to her goal. She still had no idea who had killed them, or why. She sighed in the dim light that filtered through her blinds, rubbing her hands together in a futile attempt to dispel the itching in her fingers. It was beginning to worry her, but she didn't dare go to a doctor. No money, and too great a risk of being identified. In any case, a doctor would know she wasn't as old as she claimed to be.
She rolled again, half-crushing the bear that was tangled in her discarded blankets. Despite the heat she wrestled the toy out from under her weight and pressed it to her chest. "What the hell am I doing?" she asked it, staring into the darkness above her bed. There was no reply but the whir of the fan. "I should be in a nice foster home right now, getting ready for my junior prom at the nice school they'd be sending me to. That damn cop would never have made anything stick and anyway I'm a minor."
Jubilee released the bear and let it lie on her chest so she could rub her hands together again. She held them up before her in the darkness. There was enough light drifting through the blinds that she could see her fingers clearly, outlined against the black ceiling...except that wasn't why she could see them. Her fingers were glowing faintly, a scrim of Saint Elmo's fire that shifted as she watched.
"Ohshit," she said, all one word full of terrified fascination. The glow strengthened and she shook her hands frantically, trying to shake it away. There were colors to it now, moiré patterns of yellow and electric blue and magenta. She sat up straight and the bear tumbled to the floor, unnoticed.
With shocking suddenness the aura around her right hand flared and a shower of sparks flew from her fingertips. They flew across the room before exploding with a sound like distant thunder.
"Oh /shit/!" Jubilee said quietly.
"I'm a mutant."
He put his hands on her shoulders and pushed her away and she felt incredulity crash over her in a wave. "Wolvie," she said pleadingly. "Logan."
His eyes widened. "How do you know my name?" he demanded, his grip on her shoulders tightening painfully.
"Don't you know me?" she asked, knowing it was pointless and unable to stop. "It's me, it's Jubilee, don't you remember?"
"No," he said, and amazingly his black eyes fell from hers. "I don't remember." He dropped his hands.
She took refuge in humor. "Well, I guess that explains why you didn't call," she said, trying for a light tone and failing miserably. "And here I thought you were just an asshole."
"Where did you know me?" he asked, suddenly urgent. "Was it..." He lowered his voice and glanced around, but no one on the street was paying any attention to them. Not in New York. "...Weapon X?"
Jubilee drew in a frightened breath. "The people you work for?" she asked. He studied her face intently for several seconds before he relaxed.
"Not anymore," he said. "Not anymore."
Jubilee leaned against the concrete wall in the alley, trying to stay in the shadows. She was about 90% certain that the restaurant across the way was a meeting-place for tong members--in essence, gangsters. She'd come on the off chance that she might see someone she recognized. So far, though, all she'd accomplished was boredom. Even the idea that she was staking it out wasn't going to keep her here another night.
She shifted her weight and sighed. It was so pointless. She was never going--
A hand slid out of the darkness and covered her mouth, muffling her squeak of alarm. As her captor dragged her further back into the alley she raised her hands, her fingers beginning to glimmer with her power.
"Nona that," a man's voice growled in her ear. His thumb jabbed into the nerve plexus under her ear and the world went gray around her.
A few minutes later she shook herself awake to find him staring at her. She studied him as well as she could in the dim light that filtered back from the street. His hair was black and swept back from his face like wings; his dark eyes glittered like obsidian. He wore dark clothing that wouldn't have looked out of place on the street, but in the shadows it hid him just as effectively as a movie ninja's black suit.
"So what I'm wondering is, what're you doing here three nights running?" he asked. His tone was conversational but there was a thread of menace in it that made her eyes widen despite herself. She got a grip on her rising fear. No one was going to make her afraid. Not even this guy, who looked like he'd tear her throat out as soon as look at her.
"None of your business," she said defiantly. She was proud of that voice. It didn't waver, even when she suddenly realized her hands were cuffed behind her back.
"It's my business now, darlin," he said, and a shiver ran up her spine. "You can tell me, or you can get hurt. Now I don't wanna hurt you, but I promise you I will." He reached out and caressed the side of her face with one hand; she tried to jerk away but he'd propped her up against the brick wall and there was nowhere to go. And this time when his fingers hit the nerves, it hurt like fire and she had to stifle a cry.
"Well? And by the way, I'll know if you're lying," he said. Jubilee didn't doubt it for a second. She struggled with herself for a long moment. Did she really need to prove she was stubborn, when she knew perfectly well that she couldn't hold out forever? He'd hurt her till she talked, she was sure of it. She took a deep breath.
"They killed my parents," she said, and despite everything the surprise on his face was comical. He recovered quickly, though. She had the feeling he needed to be able to recover quickly from just about anything.
"Sucks to be you," he said casually. "Keep away if you don't want to end up shishkebab, get it?" He held up one hand and three long blades slid from the back of it, within inches of her suddenly-wider eyes. "I saw the way your fingers were glowing, " he continued. "They check suspected runaways for mutancy, so if you turn me in you're going down too. So stay away and we'll forget we met, got it?"
He was moving even as he spoke and he was halfway to the alley mouth, the claws sliding smoothly back into their sockets, before she recovered her voice.
"You're gonna kill them, aren't you?" she asked, but he didn't even turn. Desperately, she said, "Let me come too!" He stopped. After a moment he turned to look at her.
"Are you nuts?" he said flatly. "Last thing I need is some kid getting in my way." But he hadn't denied he appraisal of his intentions, she noted, and felt a spark of hope.
"They killed my folks. They ruined my life. All I wanted was to graduate high school, go to Europe, marry Nicholas Brendan and die, but they ruined it. All I want now is to see them dead." For a long, long moment he didn't reply.
Just as she was sure she'd lost him, he grinned. "What the hell?" he said."Worst that happens is you get killed." Jubilee blinked at him.
"You're pretty cocky for a guy about to take on the tongs with a built-in switchblade," she said as he leaned her forward to unlock the cuffs.
"It's better than what you got," he pointed out. "Sparkly fingers don't really strike fear into people." She resisted the urge to paff him. He'd get struck with fear when he couldn't see.
"Stay behind me when we get over there," he said. Jubilee rolled her eyes at him as he turned away.
"Why? Don't want me to get hurt?" she asked.
"No," he said patiently, as if to a slow three-year-old. "Don't want you to do something stupid and scare them." She glared at him as he left the alley, but he didn't notice. Or didn't care.
They crossed the street as if it were a shortcut and turned into the alley next to the restaurant with nothing furtive about them--at least, he didn't look furtive, and Jubilee tried to emulate him.
The smell of egg rolls and lo mein mixed with a more generic alley-stink, and she had to stifle a gag. "This place stinks," she said softly. "Tell me about it," he whispered. "Now shut up." He went a few more feet, just past the Dumpster, and slid his hands carefully over the wall.
"Heh. The assholes in Intel got something right for once," he said with satisfaction. Jubilee glared at him. No talking, huh? Just for that, she didn't ask him what "Intel" was. He prodded at the seemingly blank wall for a second, then something clicked and a panel swung open. "Come on," he said, and vanished.
She stared into the darkness and swallowed. It was pitch black in there. "If you're coming, get in here," the man's voice floated out to her, and she stepped forward. The door, naturally, swung shut behind her and she jumped a little.
"What's your name, anyway?" she asked to break the oppressive silence.
"Wolverine. Now shut up," he said. Jubilee didn't laugh out loud, but it was a near thing. At least her nickname wasn't that dumb.
A hand grabbed her upper arm and she gasped. "Come on, kid," Wolverine said calmly. "Gotta go get a look at things, right?" They moved through the dark for a long time. Jubilee kept stumbling, but Wolverine's steps were sure and even. Once they went up a short flight of stairs.
Finally he stopped. "OK, from here on not a sound," he said, his voice startlingly close to her ear. "You'll scare them and besides they might start shooting." As if scaring them were more important, Jubilee thought. There was a scraping sound. She blinked as light suddenly flooded the tiny compartment they stood in.
It only took a moment for her eyes to adjust, and she saw that all he'd done was pull back a small sliding panel in the wall. The light was in fact fairly muted; only the contrast had made it blinding. He was standing enough to the side that she could look out too, so she took a step forward.
The room was large and well decorated in a tasteful mixture of Chinese and Western styles. Their point of view was near the ceiling, so in general all she could see was the tops of people's heads, but there were a few men sitting on the far side of the room who Jubilee could make out clearly.
She drew breath to say something, not thinking, and Wolverine's hand wrapped around her mouth. With his other hand he slid the panel shut.
"What?" he demanded, still whispering.
"That man, the one in the gray suit," she whispered back. "He's one of my parents' friends. He used to bring me moon cookies. Oh God." Her knees felt weak and she wanted nothing more than to sit down. "They really were criminals," she said, a false calm settling over her voice. "They were in this up to their necks. That's why I never got to stay when they wanted to talk business with Mr. Yun. Oh God, oh God--"
"Shut the fuck up," Wolverine said briskly. Her train of thought derailed and she shut her mouth with a snap. "OK. That guy's the one I'm here to off." Jubilee had never heard anyone seriously mention committing murder before, and the new experience was hard to assimilate. "Thing is, my boss don't care who kills him, only that he gets dead, so here's what we're gonna do." In the darkness his voice became her only focal point. "I'm gonna go in there and deal with his guards." His voice was so confident that she didn't bother asking how he planned to do it with nothing but a couple of knives. "When that's done, I'll hold him down and you can kill him, OK?"
Jubilee turned the plan over in her mind, examining it from every angle. Assuming he could do what he claimed, she'd never get a better chance--or, most likely, any other chance at all. If he failed, the attempt would make them cautious for a long time to come; if he succeeded the man who'd caused her parents’ deaths would be at her mercy.
"This is your only chance, kid," he said, and she started. "Try this on your own and you'll die."
"I don't know if I can just kill a guy," she said after a long pause.
"Then what the fuck were you doing, staking this place out?" he asked, a tinge of irritation in his voice. "If they'd caught you, you'd be dead. Anyway I can guarantee you he ain't innocent. Even if he didn't have your folks offed, he's killed enough other people to deserve it. I saw his file."
For a moment she was silent, and a parade of images danced before her eyes. She saw her father, usually undemonstrative, one day catching her up in a hug and telling her he loved her. She saw her mother, standing in the kitchen over a smoking wok, cursing in Chinese as she burned dinner. She saw the three of them driving to Disneyland.
She saw herself, sitting on her bed clutching a stuffed animal while an angry cop tried to frighten her. She saw herself huddled in a tiny apartment, living in fear that someone would discover she wasn't yet eighteen. She saw herself afraid and alone and cut off from everything that had ever given her life stability.
"Let's do it," she said calmly.
Jubilee nodded. "I'm happy for you," she said. "I know you didn't like those guys."
He laughed, but the humor didn't reach his eyes. "That's the understatement of the year," he said bitterly.
"Look," she said, searching his face, "You wanna get a drink or something?"
"You aren't old enough to drink," he said.
"That's not what my ID says." In fact she was a month past her nineteenth birthday.
"All right, sure," he said. "You can tell me how we knew each other." The two of them started walking.
"We lived together for three months," she said, and noted with satisfaction that he missed a step.
"When was this?" he asked after a moment.
"Three years ago," Jubilee said. "After I..."
"After you what?"
"After I killed Mr. Yun."