Jubilee stood in the corridor outside the meeting room, listening to the sudden silence. The last of the gunfire had stopped with the abruptness of a thrown switch, and she wasn't sure whether that was good or bad. Was Wolverine dead? Were they gathered around his body, prodding it to make sure he was really down?
Her fingers were starting to glow of their own volition. She clenched her fists, trying to stop it.
If he's dead, so am I, she thought distantly, her eyes fixed on the door. There's no way I can get out of here in time. She wasn't even sure which way was out.
The door swung abruptly open and she brought her hands up, her fingers flaring brightly.
"Hey! It's me," Wolverine said. She let out her breath and lowered her hands.
"Way to give me a heart attack," she said through her teeth.
"My name's Jubilee," she said. "Can I--I mean, is he--?"
He stood aside and made a florid, ironic gesture of invitation. "Right this way, kid."
The tasteful room was unrecognizable. Chairs lay on their sides next to overturned tables; the walls had bullet holes in them, and the carpet was stained with something dark and wet. Lumps of fabric were scattered over the floor. A heavy smell hung in the air, a combination of the fireworks scent of gunpowder and wet pennies. Blood, she thought absently. That must be blood. As if identifying the smell had enabled her to see its source, she suddenly realized that the lumps were, in fact, bodies.
Jubilee stopped walking. "Whatís the problem, kid?" Wolverine asked casually. She turned slowly to face him and he grinned at her. She could feel her eyes widening. The world around her went gray and she thought desperately, If I faint Iíll fall in it, I canít faint, I canít faint. It took an effort of will to drive the mists away from the edges of her vision, but she succeeded, and when she had attention to spare again she looked into his face, searching for regret for the terrible thing he'd done.
She found none. But his grin had faded and his expression held something so alien it puzzled her for a long moment: grudging respect.
"Heís over here," Wolverine said, and led the way to the other end of the room. Jubilee followed, carefully skirting the bodies and their attendant bloodstains. She felt as if there were a thick sheet of glass between her and everything she saw, and intellectually she knew it must be shock that was letting her handle it so calmly.
"Iím gonna puke later," she said conversationally.
"Me too," he said, and she stared at his back.
He stopped on the other side of one of the toppled tables and reached down to grab something. She rounded the table herself in time to see him haul her parentsí friend by the hair into a sitting position. Mr. Yun seemed unharmed except for a bruise forming on his temple; his eyes were closed but Jubilee had the distinct feeling that he was awake.
Wolverine shook the man roughly. "I know youíre fakiní it," he said. "Open your eyes and tell the kid youíre sorry before you die." For a long moment there was no response. Then Yunís eyes opened. He was looking straight at her and she met his gaze squarely.
"You killed my parents," she said. The tone of her voice frightened her even as she welcomed its absolute flatness.
"I ordered them killed," Yun corrected, and she shook her head in disgust. He was still responsible.
"They were going to betray me," he said. "They planned to go to the police. What they knew would have ruined me."
Jubilee nodded. She could feel her anger, settling into place like an old and welcomed friend. The anger cast a red veil over the gray world.
"Here," Wolverine said, and offered her a handgun, butt first. She shook her head.
"Lean him over forward," she said. It was almost as if it wasnít her own voice at all. He did as she asked, and she saw that Yunís hands were cuffed. It was probably even the same pair of cuffs.
She took a long step forward and put her hand gently on the back of the manís neck. His skin was warm under her fingertips. The anger leaped up in flames at the feel of his life, when people she loved were dead.
"Burn in hell," she said conversationally, and triggered her power. Mr. Yun stiffened, then went limp in Wolverineís grasp. She took her hand away and stared at the pattern of red burn marks sheíd left on the skin. The flames that had warmed her were dying.
Wolverine dropped Mr. Yunís body like a sack of dirty laundry. Her gaze followed it to the floor. She couldnít look away. From a great distance she heard him talking.
"Next time remind me not to make fun of a power until I see it in action," Wolverine said. "OK. Been nice knowiní you, kid, but--" In mid-sentence he broke off and looked in the direction of the door. "Shit!" he exclaimed.
"What?" Jubilee asked. She couldnít take her eyes away from the body on the floor. Outside she heard the sound of voices, faint but getting louder rapidly.
"Reinforcements," Wolverine said. "Coming fast. Get down, idiot!" She tore her eyes away from Mr. Yun and started turning to the door. She got her head around just in time to see someone leap into the room.
A shot echoed in the confined space. Something hit her hard in the side. She saw the room tilt.
Sunk in her memories, she was silent for nearly a block. He seemed content to let her walk, though she caught the curious glances he gave her sidelong.
"Right up here," she said at last. "Itís a decent bar, I used to work there."
"You donít look the type," he said.
"What, to work in a bar?" she asked, deliberately misinterpreting him.
"No," he said.
"There were special circumstances," she said, and pulled open the door for him.
She struggled through mist that seemed strangely solid, in pursuit of something that she couldnít name. She had a stitch in her side and it wouldnít go away no matter how she rubbed at it; she couldnít stop to let it ease because she had to keep running. A voice echoed around her, asking the same question over and over. She wished fervently that it would stop. If it would stop, she could stop, and then the stitch would go away.
"Where do you live, kid? Come on, come on, we gotta go somewhere, where do you live, goddammit, wake up and tell me where you live!"
She wondered if she should tell the voice where she lived. Maybe it was a trick. It wanted to find out where she lived so it could come and get her as she slept. She shook her head and the voice exclaimed in frustration.
"Tell me where you live or I swear Iíll leave you here," it threatened. She suppressed a pang of fear. She didnít want to stay in the mists alone.
"Where do you live?"
"Upstairs from Murphyís,"she called into the mist.
"Where the fuck is Murphy's?"
"Sepulveda," she said. The voice didnít ask her any more questions and she fell gratefully into the darkness.
When she opened her eyes again she thought she was dreaming. It was her own ceiling, grimy and painfully familiar. Her bear was nestled against her right side.
"Took you long enough," Wolverine said.
Jubilee gave a startled cry and started to sit up. Pain flared from her side and she fell back again.
"What the hell are you doing here?" she demanded. She tried for angry and only managed petulant; her voice was weak and her vision swam.
"Saving your life," he said succinctly. Carefully, she turned her head to look at him.
"I got shot," she said.
He grinned. "Got it in one."
"Why are you helping me?" she asked, with the last of her strength. He didnít answer for so long that she began to drift off again.
"Wish to hell I knew," he said softly.
She never knew how long she slept. Sometimes she opened her eyes to light, sometimes to darkness. He was always there when she looked for him, and she began to count on it. No matter how terrible her dreams or how great the pain, there would always be a presence next to her bed, watching her.
Until the time she opened her eyes to find him gone.
Panic shot through her heart like ice and she sat up as quickly as she dared. Heís just in the bathroom, she thought. But a glance in that direction did nothing to calm her fears. The door to the tiny room was open, but the light was not on. Nor could she hear any sound. There was nowhere to hide in the bedroom, unless he was under the bed. Jubilee swung her legs over the side of the bed and attempted, cautiously, to stand up. She swayed and gasped as the movement pulled something in her side.
Cold air rushed up under the T-shirt she was wearing, but she took a shaky step away from the bed. Another step, and she was just congratulating herself on her success when her knees buckled. She caught herself on the doorframe with the arm on her bad side and tried to scream, but she had no breath for it. She crumpled into a heap and sat there for a long time, tears of pain welling in her eyes. Heíd left her. No doubt he was tired of taking care of her. Whatever aberration had led him to care for her welfare in the first place, it had worn off. More tears rose, though she tried to fend them off. Why should she care anyway? Everyone else had abandoned her; why shouldnít he?
Jubilee buried her face in her hands and wept. She was still there, on the floor and shivering, when keys rattled in the lock. Awash in pain, convinced sheíd been abandoned, she didnít hear a thing until he knelt at her side.
"Hey, kid. You shouldnít be up," he said gently. He put a hand on her shoulder.
She turned and flung her arms around his neck. "Where did you go?" she asked, her voice muffled against his chest.
"I just went to the store," he said. "Come on, letís get you back in bed." He slid one arm around her shoulders and the other, cautiously, around her waist. Jubilee hissed with the pain of it.
"I thought you left me here to die," she said as she struggled to her feet. They wouldnít hold her.
He stooped to get a better grip and lifted her. Jubilee gasped and he said, "Iím not gonna leave you, kiddo. Iíve put too much effort in to let you die now." In two steps he was back to the bed, laying her down carefully. He pulled the covers back up and she grabbed his hand.
"Whatís your name?" she asked.
"Wolverine," he said. "I told you that."
"No, I mean your real name," she insisted. For a long moment he was silent.
"Logan," he said at last. 'Get some sleep, kiddo. You need it."
"Why donít you remember me?" Jubilee asked. Logan gazed down into his beer.
"Come on," she said. He gave her a narrow look.
"How do I know you are who you say you are?" he asked in return, and she snorted.
"You have a scar under your arm from when you were a kid," she said. "Itís shaped like Texas."
"All that proves is that youíve seen my file," he said.
She sighed. "Would your file tell me about the spot on your neck thatíll give you a hard-on in about ten seconds if I suck on it? Anyway, you can smell Iím not lying." She met his eyes squarely. "Besides, if Iíve seen your file, whatever the hell that means, I know why you donít remember, so what harm can it do to tell me?" She took a sip of her own drink while he thought it over.
"The people I used to work for," he said. "They donít like it when you get ideas." He paused and she nodded encouragingly. "One of the ways they keep you from getting ideas is by making sure you donít remember anything but them."
"Youíre telling me your bosses gave you amnesia?" Jubilee asked incredulously. "Man, if that were any lamer Iíd have to kick your ass."
He set his beer mug down, too hard. The crack rang through the interior of the bar like a shot and earned them a dirty look from the bartender. "Fine," Logan said. "Donít believe me." He started sliding out of the booth and she put her hand out to stop him.
"You didnít let me finish," Jubilee said. He paused for a bare second. "I was gonna say, I canít think of a better explanation, so I guess the lame one must be true." She smiled and he slowly sat back down.
"What happened when we lived together?" he asked. Her smile faded.
He let her out of bed a few days later. Jubilee was so tired of the same stretch of ceiling that the change of scene made her giddy with delight.
"Iím starving," she exclaimed as he settled her in. She still wasnít allowed to walk on her own.
"Iíll see if I can work something up," he said. She gave him a skeptical look.
"You cook?" she asked.
He grinned at her from the door of her kitchen--all six square feet of it. "Guyís gotta eat," he said. She teased him while he scrambled eggs and made toast, and he returned her volleys in kind. Once he had her plate balanced on the shaggy arm of her couch, however, his expression changed.
"Iíve got to go out tonight," he said seriously. Jubilee felt her good mood draining away, but she smiled resolutely anyway.
"Are--I mean, am I out of something"idnít want.
"No," he said quietly. She gave up on the smile as a bad job.
"Youíre not leaving?" she asked.
"I donít want to, kiddo, but I may not have any choice," he said.
"What do you mean?" Jubilee put her fork down.
"I have to check in," he said. "I donít know if Iím gonna be able to convince them I need to stay on this assignment." She stared at him, confused, and he sighed. "I work for--the government," he said. "They send me out to do things, and I have to check in so they know Iím doing them. Tonightís the night. If they think thereís more for me to do here, theyíll let me stay, but if not..."
"If not, theyíll take you away, is that it? Jesus, Logan. You could just tell me youíre tired of taking care of me instead of trying to feed me this cloak-and-dagger crap."
"Itís not like that!" he exclaimed. His eyes met hers and both were equally angry. "Iím not tired of you, Jubilee, but these people--you have no idea what theyíre like. If I donít check in, theyíll come lookiní for me, and trust me when I say neither of us wants that."
"Sure," she said, and picked up her fork again. "I shoulda known." She poked at her eggs, horrified to realize that she was going to cry.
"Oh for Chrissakes," he said. "If you donít trust me to tell you the simple truth, why the fuck do you care whether I stay or not?" He put his own plate down on the milk crate she used for a coffee table and stood up. She looked resolutely at her eggs.
"Why did you help me?" she asked at last. She couldnít look at him but she felt his regard as if he were touching her.
"Because you would have gotten killed if I hadnít," he said.
He hesitated. Jubilee lifted her eyes from her plate and stared at him silently. "So you were in that alley and you were scared out of your head, but you were there anyway, and when I asked you why you said you wanted revenge. And lemme tell you, I can relate to that. And you went into that place, still scared shitless and determined not to show it, not even to let yourself know it, and when you went into that room I thought you were gonna faint right there. But you didnít. And when it came time to take care of Yun, you didnít cry and you didnít back out and you didnít even take the easy way and use the gun."
"So Iím tough, is that it?" she snarled.
"If I were as innocent as you, I couldnít have done it," he said. She laughed incredulously. "Youíve got something. Call it what you want but it comes down to guts. I didnít want to see guts like that die, thatís all."
"Iím so flattered," she said, her voice heavy with sarcasm.
"Well you fucking well should be!" he yelled. Jubilee flinched and looked away. "Jubes--come on, Iím sorry," he said. She shook her head, not trusting herself to talk. "I promise, if I can come back I will." He put an arm around her shoulders, but she refused to let him draw her in. Her side ached miserably.
"Howíre they gonna find you?" she asked at last. "Thereíre like ten million people in LA." He sighed.
"Thereís a little radio under my skin," he said. "It has to be reset once a week or it starts broadcasting continuously. When that happens they send some very bad men after me." He paused. His voice was flat and perfectly calm, but Jubilee was certain she heard fear in it. "I got back to base once fifteen minutes after the radio went off," he continued. "For a full week afterwards they came and beat me up every three hours."
"Who the hell are these people?" she asked. Impossible to believe him--and impossible not to. She let herself relax enough to take the pressure off her side.
"Weapon X," he said. She almost recoiled from the raw hatred in his tone. All at once he took her by the shoulders and turned her to face him, gazing at her with terrible intensity. "Jubilee. If you ever see someone with a tattoo like the patch on my jacket, or hear about a man named John Wraith, you have to get away, just as quick and as quiet as you can. Donít stop to pack, donít take time to quit your job, just run like hell and donít look back. And whatever you do, donít let them know youíre a mutant, you understand me?" She nodded slowly, her eyes wide. "Good. Now I have to go and check in."
She stared at him for a long moment, thinking furiously. "Why?" she asked at last.
"Cause I donít want them following the signal here and finding you," he said. "Anyway Iím not up for a week of spitting out my teeth."
"Canít you, I donít know, jam the thing or break it or something?"
He shook his head. "I donít know where it is or what frequency it uses," he said. "Iíd have to dig for it and thereís no time. I have to be there in an hour."
Jubilee said, "Look. Go then. Get your thingie reset and convince them you have more work to do--and then when you come back we can figure out how to get rid of it."
"Iíll try," he said. She shook her head furiously, ignoring the complaints from her side.
"Donít try. Just do it."
By dawn she was starting to loose hope. Sheíd spent the night sitting on the couch, listening to the sounds of traffic and trying not to think. Her side throbbed continuously and screamed when she moved; she couldnít sleep and couldnít get comfortable and sheíd been crying off and on since he left. Late-night broadcast TV did nothing to distract her from any of it.
She was dozing when he slipped in, moving like he hadnít slept in a week. At the sound of the door closing she jerked awake.
"Logan," she said. He came to the couch, all but staggering, and she looked him over anxiously. "Are you OK?" she asked as he sat down.
"I found it," he said, and dug in his pocket. "Little bastard lied to me about where it was, but I found it in the end." He pulled out his hand and opened it. In his palm lay a tiny electronic device, perhaps the size of a dime.
Jubilee regarded it warily. "Itís not doing anything now, is it?" she asked.
"I donít think so," he replied, turning the thing over to reveal a blinking light. "That hasnít changed." For a minute they were both silent, watching the light flash balefully, like an unfriendly eye.
At last she asked, "What are you going to do with it?"
"Toss it in the ocean," he said.