He was on his third beer, but it was just like she remembered. He was showing no signs of drunkenness.
"That didnít work this time," he commented. "I had to microwave my arm.
"You nuked yourself?" Jubilee asked incredulously.
"I had to get rid of it somehow. It was fused to the bone."
Jubilee looked him over skeptically. "Why didnít your arm fall off or something, then?"
"I heal fast," he said matter-of-factly. "You should know that."
"Thereís a difference between healing fast and surviving--well I told you I thought you were dead, right?" She stared into her own glass, which was still mostly full. She didnít dare meet his gaze. She knew heíd see her feelings in her eyes, and that just wasnít fair to either of them. He didnít remember, and from what he said he was never going to.
"Jubes, Iím back," he called from the front door, but she didnít bother replying. It would have been too much trouble to find the right words through the waves of self-loathing. She lay on her good side; sheíd gotten into the habit over the long period of healing, and though she was mostly better the caution persisted.
"Jubes?" he said again, from the bedroom door this time. "Hi," she said quietly.
"Hey, kiddo. Whatís wrong? Your side bothering you again?"
In fact it was a little, but she shook her head. She deserved it.
"Donít give me that crap," he said. "Youíre taking a pain pill."
"I donít want a pill," she said, and reached up to push away the hand heíd laid on her shoulder. "Just leave me alone."
"Oh," he said, and was silent. She rolled onto her back and wiped her eyes enough to see him, though the tears continued to flow silently down her cheeks.
"íOhí what?" she asked with mild curiosity.
"I was wonderiní when this was gonna happen," Logan said. "I was getting kinda worried--itís been more than a month."
"Yeah," she said. "More than a month." She squeezed her eyes shut, but that only made the image more vivid. She could pick out every detail of the limp form, from his polished shoes to the top of his head, but the part she saw most easily was the set of red marks, like burns on the back of his neck. She had left those burns there. "I canít stop thinking about it," she said, her tone still dull.
"Thatís why youín me are different," he said. "I donít remember how many people Iíve killed."
"I shouldnítíve done it," Jubilee said, and for the first time emotion crept into her voice. "I shouldíve turned him in."
"Maybe, maybe not," he replied. "I guarantee you he wouldnít have stayed in jail. People like him can afford good lawyers. Anyway, that wasnít really an option. I would have killed him if you hadnít."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" she asked, and turned away from him again.
"Itís the truth," he said. "Your way was probably less painful, too."
"Iím no better than he was," Jubilee said. Her breath caught in a sob.
"Thatís not true," he said. "Come on, Jubes, sit up." He helped her mostly upright and leaned against the wall at the head of the bed, his arms around her. "You think heíd be crying for you? That makes you better, OK? Betterín me, thatís for sure."
She shook her head wordlessly and the sobs started in earnest. Logan held her for a long time, talking to her softly on a consistent theme: youíre not evil, not worthless, not heartless. Youíre a good person. Afterwards she remembered only one phrase. "I may not be a good guy," he said, "but I know good when I see it."
When she finally calmed, they sat there quietly for a few minutes longer. She wiped her eyes with one hand and produced a watery smile.
"I need a kleenex," she said.
Logan replied, "You shoulda thought of that before. Iíve only got so many shirts, yíknow."
Jubilee sat up straight and fixed him with a glare until she saw the half-smile he was trying to hide. "Jerk," she said affectionately.
"Took you this long to figure that out, huh? You feeliní any better?"
She paused to think it over. "Yeah," she said at last. "I dunno for how long, but I feel better."
"It wonít be this bad again," he said.
"I hope not," she replied fervently. "I wanted to kill myself, but it seemed like too much effort." He nodded and carefully began extricating himself from between her and the wall.
"Some people are like that," Logan said. "Iíve seen it before." He crossed the room quickly and grabbed her box of tissues from the bathroom. She took it and pulled out a tissue to blow her nose, and another to wipe her face. He sat down next to her on the bed again.
Jubilee set the box of tissues on her tiny nightstand and suddenly, impulsively, leaned forward to hug him. She was aiming the kiss for his cheek but he was startled and moved just enough that she hit about half on his lips instead. Through her shock, she decided that perhaps this wasnít an entirely bad thing. He had very nice lips.
Both of them stayed perfectly still for a long, frozen moment. Logan pulled back first and their eyes met, wide, startled blue to thoughtful black. He leaned towards her again, giving her plenty of time to move away--but she didnít, and they kissed, gently at first.
After some indeterminate interval they came up for air. "Jubilee," he said.
"What?" She pulled at his shoulders and he chuckled.
"Iím not gonna say I donít want you, but you better think about this," he said. He sounded mildly surprised, though she wasnít sure at what.
"Whatís to think?" Jubilee asked indistinctly.
"I donít believe Iím saying this, but itís a big step. If you decide in five minutes you donít wanna do it, Iím not sure how good my controlís gonna be." She bit his earlobe and he jerked. "Especially if you keep doing that."
"Good. Shut up and kiss me," she said firmly.
He smiled against her shoulder. "I was hopiní youíd say that," he said.
She grabbed a sugar packet and shook it back and forth for lack of anything better to do, and to avoid his direct gaze. It was so eerie to look into those black eyes and see nothing--no recognition, no acknowledgement, no acceptance.
"Three months, huh?" he said at last, when it became clear she wasnít going to continue without prompting.
Jubilee nodded. "If you count the time I was hurt, then yeah. Three months almost to the day." How can you not remember me? she wailed internally.
"Why did I leave?" he asked.
"You didnít," she said, looking up from her sugar packet. "They came for you."
When the door was kicked in, they were discussing where they could go.
"New York," Logan said. "Itís big enough and far enough away that they wonít find us." Jubilee was nodding when the crash startled a yelp out of her. Logan was out of bed and on his feet so fast he might have teleported. "Hide!" he snapped. She had cast the covers aside and was scrambling for the bathroom when the bedroom door slammed open and he leapt for it, his claws flashing in the light from the lamp. Someone was standing in the doorway with a short baton held at chest level; Jubilee stifled a cry as he ran into it, unable to stop the momentum of his leap, and fell to the floor amid a sudden crackle and the smell of ozone. The man with the baton followed him down, keeping the weapon in contact with his flesh for what seemed like an eternity. Jubilee just stood in the bathroom door and watched, barely breathing. She raised her hands, ready to release her power--and stopped short.
The man with the baton had a patch on his jacket pocket. It was exactly like the one Logan had ripped from his.
She gritted her teeth and the St. Elmoís fire didnít rise. Her fingers itched, as they always did when she had to restrain her power.
"Wolverine, how many times do we have to tell you?" a manís voice said from the other room. "Screaming and leaping like that is gonna get you killed someday." The man with the baton--Jubilee had decided it must be a tazer--moved aside and another man took his place. He looked down at Logan with an expression of amused contempt and kicked him hard in the side. Then he looked up and said musingly, "Well. What have we here? Friend of yours, Wolverine?" His gaze traveled over her slowly and deliberately, taking in her panties and bra with frightening interest. Jubilee opened her mouth to answer when Logan gasped out, "Hooker."
"That so?" The man stepped over Logan without so much as a glance and grabbed her by her upper arm, pulling her against him. "Pretty good shape for a whore." His other hand ran down her back and over her buttocks. She shuddered. "Whatís the matter, honey? A real man ainít good enough for you?" he asked.
Her eyes met Loganís for a long moment.
"You didnít pay," she said, and pushed the uniformed man away. He grinned.
"You oughta thank me," he said. "You know this scumís a mutant?" He kicked Logan again, harder. Oh God, she thought despairingly, but her tone was all she could have hoped for when she spoke.
"I shoulda charged him double," she said. "Freak." The uniformed man laughed.
"I donít think your chickie likes you any more," he informed Logan, who was trying to sit up. "Watkins, hit him again." The man with the baton nodded and shoved the implement into Loganís shoulder. He fell again with an inarticulate moan that went through her like a knife. He lay there panting for an eternity before he managed to draw breath enough to speak. "Wraith," he said. "Kill you--"
Wraith grinned at him. "Not fucking likely. Get him up." Two more men crowded through the bedroom door and grabbed Loganís arms, hauling him to his feet. Under cover of the movement he met Jubileeís eyes again. She clenched her fists; the itching was maddening and she could barely contain it. He had never said the word Ďloveí even once, but she could read it in his gaze and felt her heart breaking.
He looked away at last.
"You know, I think this little honey took a liking to you, Wolverine," Wraith drawled. Jubileeís breath caught in her throat. His voice was thick with lust and sniggering contempt; she knew precisely what he meant to do even before he spoke again.
"Bring her along," he said. Logan twitched. "Something funny about her, and anyway sheíll be fun to have around. No oneís gonna miss a mutie-loving whore."
"Are you nuts?" Jubilee exclaimed, as the man with the baton stepped around Logan and his two guards to reach her. "Not a fucking chance." She backed away.
So casually that she didnít realize what was happening at first, Wraith pulled a gun from under his jacket and pointed it at her head. "Want to rethink that position?" he asked. She swallowed.
"Can I put some clothes on first?" she asked.
"No time for that, honey. Letís go."
All the way down the stairs she could hear Logan growling. It was barely audible but it never stopped. He didnít struggle against his two guards; he didnít say anything; he didnít even make them carry him. But he growled, all the way. By the time they got to the ground floor Jubilee was shivering violently, a combination of cold and abject fear. Every few steps Wraith jabbed her bare back with his gun, which only made things worse.
She realized later that he was resting, waiting for the last of the tazer to wear off. Four flights of quiet cooperation had also let their captors relax a notch. He waited until she was outside; Wraith was right behind her but Logan and his two guards, as well as the man with the tazer, were still inside.
The first hint she got was a gurgling scream as the door swung shut behind her. Wraith spun to face the closed door and Jubilee tackled him, knocking his gun from his hand. The two of them tottered off-balance and went over, Wraith on the bottom. His head hit the pavement with an audible crack and he went limp, dazed if not unconscious. She struggled to her feet and reached for the door handle just as it burst open. Logan stood in the doorway panting, his claws extended on both hands and a snarl on his face that hardly faded when he saw her. He grabbed her hand, remembering just in time to let his claws retract.
"We gotta run," he said bluntly.
"All my stuff's up there! All your stuff!" she protested.
"We can get new stuff," he said. "Now run." With that he started for the other end of the parking lot and she, perforce, followed.
She thought the noise was a backfire and at first didn't understand why Logan suddenly stumbled. Only when the second shot came and he fell did she make the connection. It took her a few steps to slow down and turn back to him.
He was trying to push himself to his feet. Blood was pouring from a wound in his shoulder, and his left leg seemed to be encased in a red, knee-high sock. With a cry she knelt next to him.
"Go," he said. "I'll make sure they donít follow but you have to run right now."
She shook her head frantically. "I'm not leaving you," she said. "You need help."
"I'll be OK, Jubes, but only if I know you got away so run." Over his shoulder she saw Wraith approaching, a machine gun held at the ready. Logan must have heard him. He took her face in his hands and said, "Go, Jubilee. I love you." He spun her and shoved her away, hard, and she came to her feet running. She could barely see for the tears, but there was nothing wrong with her hearing; she heard his desperate yell and the rattle of machine-gun fire as she turned the corner.
Jubilee set her glass down. He seemed to be accepting her slightly-edited version of what had happened, though he had looked skeptical at first.
"So you thought I was dead because they shot me?" Logan said at last. She nodded. "And that's all you know?"
"Except for stupid things like what kind of hot dogs you like, yeah," she said. He considered for a moment.
"OK. Thanks for the info, kid." He pulled a wallet from his pocket and extracted a twenty, which he dropped on the table. She opened her mouth as he slid from the booth. "Don't worry about it," he said. "I got connections these days."
"I don't care about the money," she said indignantly, looking up at him. He returned her stare.
"What, then?" he asked.
"I--I just thought you might...we could--" She sputtered to a stop in the face of his expression, a strange mixture of annoyance and pity.
"Look, kid," he said. "That guy's dead. He didn't die when they shot him but he's still dead and he's not coming back. I'm not that guy anymore and I couldn't be even if I wanted to."
"Wolvie--you don't have to be that guy," she said desperately. "You can be a new guy." He was shaking his head even before she finished speaking.
"Sorry, kid, I got other stuff to do." He turned and headed for the door. She refused to watch him go, but she heard him stop and speak in low tones to the bartender. Once he was gone, she got up stiffly and collected her things. The bartender--not the one she'd known when she worked there--called to her as she passed.
"Hey, miss," he said. "That guy told me to give you this." He held out a business card; after a brief internal struggle Jubilee took it. 'Xavier Institute for Gifted Children,' it read on the front, along with an address that had to be upstate. She turned it over. On the back, in familiar spiky handwriting, was a short note.
'You seem like a nice enough kid,' it read. 'If you get in a jam, come to these folks. They'll help you out.' There was no salutation or signature. She snorted and grabbed the upper edge to tear the thing in half.
"He said to tell you he was sorry, too," the bartender said. He was watching her curiously. Jubilee nodded and shoved the card into her purse.
"Thanks," she said. "Money's on the table."
A few weeks later Jubilee lay on her bed, her bear clutched to her chest and nothing but darkness around her. She'd been cooking dinner when the news story about the bombing in Westchester County had come on. With the handle of her wok slowly burning her palm she'd stood silently in the arch between kitchen and living room until the story was over.
"He's not dead," she said out loud into the silent room. Midnight had come and gone. "He survived a whole machine-gun clip, he can survive this too."
She thought about it for a long time. "They caught up with him, but he's not dead." she said at last. "And if they caught up with him he needs help."
She sat up and turned the bear to face her. Gazing into its button eyes she said, "He needs my help." The bear said nothing. "I'm probably going to get myself killed," she commented. Still no response. "So what am I waiting for?" She got up and padded to the closet to drag out the packed duffel bag. She checked over its contents, musing that she should get a good night's sleep before she left.
The bag was ready to go and Jubilee slung it onto a chair to wait for morning. She got back into bed and wrapped the bear in her arms. "I'll pack you in the morning," she said, and closed her eyes.