Title: The Life of Him
Series: Steppin' Out With Wolvie
Rating: PG for language
Disclaimer: These characters are the property of Marvel Comics. No profit
is made by their use.
I was digging in the fridge for a cold one when Jubilee and Drake blew in
from a Danger Room session and started at it again.
"Hey, gimme that back!"
"Finders keepers, Jube. You ate the last of the Sugar Bombs, I get the
last of these."
'These,' it turned out, were the tail end of a bag of chips, and Drake was
currently using his ten-inch advantage in height to hold the bag out of
Jubilee's reach. Dumb move really, and I heard the 'oof' just as I went
back to excavating the bottom shelf. Yep, sounded like an elbow in the
gut, and believe me, that kid's got some sharp elbows. Aha, there's the
beauty I was looking for, hiding in the very back.
The sound of mylar rustling and Jubilee's giggling and Bobby grunting and
protesting her underhanded tactics was damned annoying, and it ratcheted up
about ten notches when I pulled my brew out and read the label. Diet
cherry-chocolate soda, with a crust on the rim of some unknown leftover. I
slapped it back down on the shelf and shut the fridge with a little more
force than was strictly necessary. It must have caught Fric and Frak's
attention, 'cause the two looked up from a tangle of arms, legs, and
scattered chip flotsam on the floor. For some reason, that just pissed me
off a little bit more.
"Dammit, you two, why don't you grow up?"
Bobby actually looked a bit embarrassed at my growled demand, but Jubilee
just propped herself on his back and narrowed her eyes at me. "Wolvie,
when's the last time you got laid?"
I dunno if Drake laughed or barked, but I was beginning to get really
riled. "None of your damned business," I snarled. Jubilee may not have
been a teenager any longer - heck, she graduated from college almost a year
ago, but I was not about to discuss my sex life, or lack thereof, with her
now or ever.
"Uh huh," she said archly, extricating herself from Drake and pulling him
up off the floor with ease. She wasn't super strong like Rogue; she was
just in damn good shape. She brushed the chips out of her messy black hair
and pulled a broom out of the utility closet, and I caught myself noticing
the nice way she filled out her uniform. I stuck my hands in my jacket
pockets. Crap, maybe she was right.
"I'm goin' out fer a beer," I announced.
"No, you're not," Jube had the nerve to reply, as she thwacked Bobby in the
chest with a dustpan and started sweeping the mess up. "We got mutant time
at the petting zoo tonight, remember?"
I muttered something obscene, which only got another chortle from Jube.
Damn, damn, and double damn. Chuck had some stupid benefit or other in New
York tonight, guaranteed to be excruciating, and we'd all promised to show
up. Show everybody what nice mutants really looked like. Freaks on
flamin' parade. I stomped off and just made it out the door into the main
hall when Jube grabbed my arm from behind. Her eyes darted to Bobby
through the doorway.
"Hank and Popsicle Boy have a half case of Molson in the laboratory
fridge," she whispered. "Hank's not due back for an hour, and I'll keep
Bobby busy for ya." Then she winked at me.
Impulsively I grabbed her by the ears and planted a wet one on her
forehead. "Jube, you're the best."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," she replied, grinning.
I left a twenty on the shelf where the beer used to be and went back
upstairs to find my monkey suit. Not even for Xavier would I wear a tie,
but Jubilee had nagged me until I'd finally let her drag me out shopping to
get some clothes. Everything was in black, so I didn't have to worry about
matching stuff. Clean shirt, pants, and a jacket, and a bolo tie that was
a quick slide on or off, and I never had to worry about the knot being
Between the beer and the painless clothing choices, I was feeling better by
muster time. Seven adults and an hour-long ride into the city demanded two
cars, and I was convincing the Professor's collapsible wheelchair it would
fit in the trunk of the BMW when Jubilee finally made it down the front
steps. I was busy and didn't look at her just then. I mean, cripes, you
can hear that girl a mile away even when she's trying to be quiet. You'd
think I'd never taught her a thing about stealthy movement.
I finally shut the lid and then I got a look at her as she was climbing in
the back of Bobby's new convertible. I'm not sure what the style was
called, but it was made of blue cobwebs and showed one bare shoulder and
nearly all of one leg, and was definitely not designed to cover while its
wearer climbed over a bucket seat.
"What the hell are you wearin', kid?"
She stood up straight, and I guess it did look better if she held perfectly
still, but she pulled her sunglasses down and glared at me. "Don't start,
I held up my hands, signaling surrender, so she flopped down in the seat
and pulled the shawl, excuse me, wrap, over her shoulders. I took shotgun,
and Bobby made us all put on our seatbelts before we followed the Beamer
out of the drive and out onto the highway.
Scott drives like a little old lady and I could see 'Ro and Jean gabbing
away in the back seat, obviously not in any hurry, so it took us a while to
reach this shindig. I listened to Drake bragging about the car, and
Jubilee bitching about the back seat being too small, and could he turn up
the heat, she was freezing her butt off. For some reason, that made me
grin. Don't get me wrong, Jube can gripe like nobody's business. Take her
on a mission, she breaks a nail and it's a major catastrophe. But the
funny thing is, when the chips are down and the prospects of just surviving
seem bleak, she's the toughest person I know. Tougher than me, sometimes.
She just doesn't know how to quit and she'd never let you quit either, no
matter how hopeless you feel or how bad it really is. So listening to her
complain was sometimes just an amusing Zen exercise.
The amusement lasted about five minutes after we hit the door. Half the
politicians and assorted big sticks Xavier knew had been invited to this
event, and as much as I appreciate the fact that this crowd had made being
a mutant a lot easier in the last couple of years, I wasn't about to put a
sticker on my chest that said 'Hi, I'm not human.' Scott was officially
out of the closet, and Jubilee was gonna put on a little show tonight, but
the first yahoo who asked me if I was 'one of those people' was gonna wake
up wondering who spiked his drink.
I hit the bar regularly, ignored the speeches, and generally cooled my
heels for several really boring hours. Jubilee's little show was the
highlight, as far as I was concerned. She told me once she performed in a
mall for tips, making her sparkles and fireworks into pictures. I don't
know how good she was back then, but she was damned fabulous now. She
started off slow, with flowers that bloomed and burned, a lion pounced out
of nowhere, then curled up and disintegrated, but the whole crowd was
gasping by the time a flight of multi-colored dragons swooped down on them,
then wheeled and enacted an aerial battle. The applause was sustained, and
I have to admit I felt pretty proud of her right then.
She almost escaped off the stage when some yahoo I recognized from a news
show cornered her at the stairs and started asking her a bunch of questions
about how strong was she really, had she ever done any damage to property.
Moving in, I was close enough to hear her make a joke about popping a bag
of popcorn without a microwave. Geek didn't know ol' Jube could probably
take down the entire hotel if she were really trying, but from the way her
shoulders were tensing, if he didn't back off, she might let him in on it.
"Aren't you afraid you could hurt somebody with powers like that?"
I put a heavy hand on the guy's shoulder, ready to hurt him some without
any powers, when Jubilee smiled sweetly at him.
"Actually, if I wanted to do some damage to somebody, I'd probably just
punch him out."
He finally took the hint and moved out of the way, though my grip grinding
his shoulder bones together might have had something to do with it.
I got her moved away from the stage and found her a club soda at the bar,
shared some of the tortured chow being passed around as edible, and spent
the rest of the evening acting like a guard dog against the political
climbers in thousand dollar suits who thought the cute mutie would be an
interesting addition to their bedpost notches. I'm still processing the
fact that Jubilee's an adult now, not to mention she can kick butt and take
names with the best of 'em, but old habits die hard. She, on the other
hand, showed her appreciation of my efforts by flirting outrageously and
collecting their business cards like they were valuable or something.
Things finally wound down, and Scott and Jean began making noises about
getting back to the mansion and their kids, like Hank couldn't watch over a
pair of ankle biters sound asleep in their own beds. Xavier was staying at
the hotel for a conference, so when I turned to tell Jube it was time to
go, the speculative look in her eye caught me by surprise.
"Bobby, can I borrow your car?" She never looked at him, just kept pinning
me with those dark blue eyes and the little wheels in there were spinning
for all they were worth. Foreboding, yeah, that's the word I'm looking
Drake choked on the last of his drink. "Of course not."
"C'mon, Bobby. Lend me your car, and Wolvie will let ya take his bike out
for a spin."
"Like hell," I grunted, at the same time he said "Absolutely no way."
Jube rolled her eyes at both of us. "Gawd, why don't you just pee on them
or something. They're vehicles, dudes, not your 'nads."
Drake stuck to his guns. "No way, chick. You are not taking my wheels."
The little brat stalked right up to him, crossed her arms and stuck out one
hip like she does when she's being stubborn, like that's an unusual
situation. "All right, final offer. Your car, tonight, for a favor to be
She must have been serious, 'cause Jube just doesn't usually make that
bargain. She was offering her word to do whatever Drake wanted, from
breakfast in bed for a week to a blind date from hell with one of his old
frat buddies. Bobby was considering it when a set of keys dangled in front
of her face.
"I'll take that offer," Scott smirked. "I've got a ton of paperwork at the
office, the Blackbird needs waxing . . . " Even 'Ro and Jean were
laughing, but Jube grabbed the keys in a flash.
"Deal. You hitch home with the Popsicle, and I'll be along later."
"Wait a minute," I said, grabbing her arm. "That little car ain't gonna
hold five people."
"Wow, you're right," she replied. "It'll hold four, though, and you're
coming with me."
"Jubilee," I growled.
"C'mon, it'll be fun," she wheedled, reversing my hold on her and pulling.
I pulled back, and I still outweigh her by a good fifty pounds, even if
she's taller than I am. Just barely taller, but I didn't budge.
"No way, Darlin'."
"Oh, you want to go back to brooding in the mansion. Think you're Bruce
Wayne, or somthin'?"
I stuck my jaw out, prepared to be obstinate, but she knew me too well.
Leaning in to my ear, she murmured, "I'm buyin' the booze, and if you're
lucky, we'll find a bar fight somewhere." I think she was kidding about
the fight, but with Jube, you never know.
And hell, I really didn't want to go back to the house.
"Alright," I grumbled, and was rewarded with a brilliant smile that made me
feel like a jerk. She gave a merry wave to the rest of the gang, dragging
"See ya later!"
"Where are you going?" Cyke wasn't curious; he was probably weighing the
likelihood of having to post bail.
"Trolling for babes!" she shouted, ignoring the shocked expressions of the
older couple who had to get out of the way of her charge. "Don't worry,
Dad, we'll be home by dawn!"
I should have known better.
Like a force of nature, Jubilee had me in the car and zipping down the
freeway to another part of the city before I could ask her where the hell
she was kidnapping me to. Pulsing music, at least it was supposed to be
music, rolled out into the street when she parked illegally in the little
parking lot and left me trailing after her. The building was plain brick,
and over the door a flashing neon sign spelled out something. I was trying
to puzzle out the jagged letters, but she grabbed me by the hand before I
A line of people were waiting in a ragged row up the steps, but the
firecracker ignored them and gave the bouncer at the door a full body hug
and a kiss on the cheek. The bastard returned the favor, giving her butt a
squeeze in the process and getting a giggle for his efforts. I was
thinking about detaching his hand painfully from his arm and making him a
present of it, especially after he grinned at me, but he opened the door
and Jube slithered in, dragging me right behind. The queue still standing
out there started protesting, but their yammering was drowned out by the
sudden and really painful increase in music volume. Jube must have seen me
wince, 'cause she dropped the car keys into her itty bitty purse, dug out a
pair of disposable earplugs and stuffed them in my ears, and damned if it
didn't confirm she had this evening planned.
"What the hell are you up to, Jubilation Lee?" I shouted over the music.
"Quit bein' a grouch, Wolvie! I'm gonna take care of your lizard," she
shouted back. I wasn't even sure I wanted to know what that meant.
Apparently she was looking for someone, cause she parked me on a barstool
with the instructions to stay put, paid the frou-frou behind the bar way
too much for some really bad bourbon, and took off. I caught site of her a
bit later, whispering in the ear of a blonde with jazzed up hair. Blondie
looked at me and gave me a speculative once over, then sauntered my
direction while Jube disappeared again.
She was a fine lookin' woman, and, to give her credit, she knew how to walk
when a man was watching her. She told me her name, which I promptly
forgot, and offered to buy me a drink. Don't get me wrong, I've got
nothing against bold women, and believe me, she was bold, but something
about her set my teeth on edge. She leaned on me, squeezed my knee, asked
leading questions and all but got a yardstick and asked how I measured out.
Finally, I guess I pissed her off, 'cause she left me alone. I had thirty
seconds of peace with my booze before a brunette moved in. This one
stuffed a piece of paper with her phone number on it into the pocket of my
pants with some interesting moves of her finger along my thigh.
An eternity later, I checked my watch, then just to be sure asked the
jackass behind the bar what time it was. When I did the math I'd been
there for all of forty-five minutes. The annoyance I'd been dealing with
earlier today returned, and brought some of its buddies with it. I'd had
five women buy me drinks, six push their phone numbers in my pants, and one
gal that I'm pretty sure was actually a guy in drag offered to do something
to me that I ain't repeating in a million years, even if you torture me.
Right now, though, I was ready to torture one particular teammate of mine,
as soon as I found her. The dance floor was one of those raised affairs,
and I circled the perimeter searching for a certain lethal blue dress. I
might not be as tall as the GQ wannabes surrounding me, but they all got
the hell out of the way when I ran down my quarry. She was dancing with a
buck who had one hand on her neck and one thigh arched over hers, and he
made nice big saucer eyes at me when I ground my heel on his toe and yanked
Jube right off the floor. Seriously, I wrapped an arm around her middle,
lifted all hundred pounds or so of her, and headed for the exit.
The same guy was at the door as I hauled her out with me, and she said
something to him I was too pissed off to hear. Anyway, he stayed where he
was, and I toted her across the street and halfway to the car before I
dropped her and made a grab for the purse. Jube is faster than a snake,
though, and she evaded me and held it behind her back.
"Gimme those keys!" I demanded.
"What the hell is your problem?"
"Next time I wanna be pawed over by a bunch of women, Jube, I'll find my
"They're not whores, Wolvie. They're friends of mine. And don't worry,
they knew ya wasn't in the market for a relationship, just a good time."
"What exactly did ya tell 'em?"
She glared at me. "I told them your lizard was lonely, and that you had
stamina. That's all."
"And just what in hell is that supposed to mean?"
"Everybody's got two brains, Wolvie. Regular brain handles complex stuff
like which flight gets you to D.C. faster, stuff like that. Your lizard
brain... handles the basics."
"The basics," I echoed, knowing where this was going.
"Yeah, you know, the basics." A slight flush rose in her cheeks. "Hungry.
Oh, great. As if I didn't have enough trouble keepin' my inner beast under
control, now apparently I had a lizard in there too.
"I can handle my own sex drive, Jube!" I shouted, not really caring if it
came out the way I think it just did.
"Apparently not!" she shouted back. "You've been a major league grouch for
three weeks solid, and I'm getting real sick of it! Something's bothering
you, and if it's not the lack of horizontal exercise, then what the hell is
"Dammit, kid! It's none of yer flamin' business!"
I tried to control it, but in a split second I remembered that Jubilee had
known Rosie, had spent time with her, and possibly remembered her with some
of the same affection I did. It must have shown in my face, because
Jubilee got real quiet for a second. The purse and the shawl dropped on
the sidewalk, forgotten as she planted a hand on each of my shoulders and
pinned me with a look in her sapphire eyes I don't often see. It basically
meant the world could come to an end, but she wasn't budging until I
answered the question.
"What. Is. It?"
My mouth opened, but it took a painful moment I could grind the words out.
"I got a letter from Madripoor, coupl'a weeks ago."
Jube just waited until the uneasy burn in my chest forced my mouth to move
again. "Rose Wu died."
Jubilee's eyes widened, and I felt like a bastard for not telling her
earlier. She and Rosie musta had some girl time I didn't know about,
'cause damned if she didn't look like she was going to cry.
"Oh, god," she whispered. "What happened?"
I sighed. "Nothin' happened, Darlin.' Rosie was pushing sixty somethin',
and she had a bad heart. She died in her sleep."
Two shimmering tears squeezed out from her eyelids as her arms went around
my neck, and after a moment I put my arms around her, too. "I'm so sorry,
Wolvie," she sniffled quietly. "Rosie was a great gal."
I rubbed Jube's back, glad we weren't yelling any more, and kinda touched
that Jubilee remembered Rosie so well.
"Yeah, she was." I leaned my head against hers and closed my eyes, which
turned out to be a big mistake when she suddenly yanked away from me and
nailed me with a right cross that had me seeing stars.
"You ASS!" she yelled.
I worked my jaw and blinked at her. "Huh?" Two fists grabbed me and
banged me back against the brick wall.
"You think we're all gonna die on you, don'cha? Don'cha!? You listen to
me, bub, I'm gonna be seventy-five years old and calling you every other
day nagging you to come over and fix my drains and change my lightbulbs and
bitchin' about how young people got no respect. You hear me? You're gonna
die first, just so you can get away from me!"
She was so outrageous, so typically Jubilee, that I couldn't stop the weak
laughter forcing its way out of my chest. Only Jube would think of making
me feel better by reassuring me that I would indeed die some day. Hell,
who needs a shrink to examine your psyche when Jubilee can peel your head
faster than unwrapping a piece of bubble-gum.
"Yeah, darlin', I hear ya."
"I don't believe this!" she fumed. "You really think you'll live longer
than me? You've aged a lot since ya lost your adamantium, you know, and I
swear to ya, Wolvie, the miles are showing a lot more these days. I even
saw a gray hair on you the other day."
On reflex, one hand made it up to my head. The corner of Jubilee's mouth
twitched, and one eyebrow went up.
"Well, if there are any, you put 'em there."
"Uh huh." She eyed me critically, then gave me another quick hug that made
my ribs creak. They say sorrow shared is sorrow halved, and right then I
believed it. I had to admit that I felt a heap better than I did just ten
Jube scooped up her stuff and held out a hand to me. I took it in mine.
'C'mon." She tugged on her hold, and didn't let go as we walked down the
sidewalk. The flickering light of yet another bar called to us, and we
headed for it without discussion. This joint was more like Hardcase's
place, with a full-sized bar and cracked vinyl booths. Pool tables in the
back, and a small open space where two couples were shuffling in slow
circles to the moldy oldies from the jukebox.
We pulled up a couple of stools at the end of the bar, and the older gent
behind the counter just grunted and started lining up the glasses when Jube
ordered an even dozen shots of bourbon. We lifted the first pair and
clinked them solemnly.
"To Rosie," she said.
"To Rosie," I agreed, and tossed it back.
Gamely, Jubilee tossed hers back as well, the cleared her throat with a
rasp. I handed her the next, and took one for myself. We lifted them
together, and I gathered my thoughts while I gave her a minute to recover.
Her eyes were dark in the dim light, and her hand steady as she held out
the shot glass, and it occurred to me that there was no-one else in the
world I'd rather be with right now than her.
"To friends that are gone, and friends that are still here," I said. She
smiled, just a little, and I think she understood.
We downed our drinks, and this time Jube's eyes started to water. I patted
her on the back, only slightly tempted to laugh at her, and the bartender
brought her a glass of water when I waved. Jube doesn't have the body mass
to drink like I do, and she sure doesn't have my healing factor, shot to
hell as it is. She drank the water, then murmured something about the
ladies room, pushing the rest of the drinks my way.
There were two shots left when a woman slithered her way onto Jube's
barstool and offered me a simpering little smile that left no doubts in my
mind what she was after. From the smell pouring off of her, she'd had at
least one customer already that night, and it made me tired just thinking
about dealing with her.
"I'm waiting for someone, darlin'." I drank the next shot.
"And ain't I someone?" she countered, brassy and sugar sweet all at once.
A hand with bright red nail polish swept in and took the last shot of
bourbon, and it disappeared between red lips without any effect. The gal
was attractive enough in a blowsy, well-worn way, and I'd spent plenty of
time in the company of women just like her. Tonight, however, I wanted to
spend with Jube, not an on the prowl hooker.
"My name's Linda," she offered, holding the empty glass to her temple, like
I didn't already know it was empty. I grunted back at her, then a flash of
blue caught my eye, and I looked up to see Jubilee staring at the newcomer
with narrowed eyes.
"You wanna get your butt off my seat?" Trust Jubilee to use the least
tactful approach. I may not be a gentleman, but I knew how easy it would
be start something here, and I don't usually bust up a bar unless I know
the place better.
Linda turned on the stool, leaning her elbows back and deliberately showing
off a cleavage that you could lose your car keys in. "Aren't you up past
your bedtime, little girl?" she purred.
A nasty little smile formed on Jube's mouth, and I stifled a groan. The
fastest way to get her knickers in a twist is to call her little girl. It
took me a while to learn that, but Linda was about to get the speed readin'
version of this lesson.
"What, no bingo at the retirement home tonight?"
"Why, you horrible little…"
"Listen, doll." Jubilee interrupted, putting her weight on one hip and
sounding bored. "You know, if you really want him, he's all yours, but he
promised me five hundred to spend the whole evening with him. Now, you
wanna buy him out, that's fine, but he already owes me a c note for the
blow-job in the car, and frankly, I don't think he's got more than two
fifty in his wallet."
I could feel my face going red, cause I'd kinda forgotten how to breathe
just then. Linda just looked me over once, then apparently decided I
wasn't worth it and slid down off the seat.
"He's all yours, dearie."
Jubilee switched out the stool with the one next to it and plopped herself
onto it with a smug expression on her face. I coughed and sputtered for a
second, staring at the girl beside me with disbelief. Finally, the
laughter won out and I just shook my head.
"You're something else, Jube."
The jukebox started up again just then, and when another couple headed
into the open area and started swaying slowly, it gave me an idea. I used
to love slow dancing with Rosie, back before it was renamed ballroom
dancing and dismissed by anyone under the AARP cutoff age.
"Dance with me," I said.
"Huh? You don't dance."
I gave her my best scowl. "I don't jump around and grind on a gal's leg
like a damn dog, ya mean. That ain't dancing. C'mon," I demanded. "Dance
She rolled her eyes, but chucked her high heels under the brass kick bar
and let me pull her out on the floor. I could understand why they'd hurt,
even if I never would understand why women wear the things in the first
place. With her in her stockings, my boots let me look down on her for the
first time in years, and I couldn't help the little smirk on my face
because she'd crowed like a rooster when she turned seventeen and was
officially taller than me. The look in her eye told me she knew exactly
what I was thinking, and dared me to say anything about it.
I folded my other arm around her, and she snuggled up to my chest and
demonstrated the fact that Emma Frost had managed to get a few things
besides book learning and world domination through that little head. She
followed my lead and matched my steps for a bit before we noticed every
other fool out there was staring at us like we were idiots. Well, screw
And you know, all the accumulated tension of the last three weeks just
seemed to fade away. Jube does that to me. She's my opposite, in a lot of
ways, but she has the knack of getting me out of my bad times with an ease
that still just floors me. A peaceful sensation came over and I let it
settle around me, for one moment in time not thinking about anything at
But I still kept one eye open for unexpected rights.
We finished that quarter on the jukebox and had started another when I saw
my would-be flame heading out the door. A few seconds later, a guy who was
trying for casual and only made it to goofy-looking followed her out. I
could feel Jubilee's back shake as she held down the snicker.
'Hope he's got more than two fifty in his wallet."
I resisted the urge to smack her on the butt. "Kid, you're gonna be the
death of me."
That earned me a small feminine chuckle. "Don't be stupid, Wolvie. I'm
the life of you, and you know it." Her head tucked itself back on my
I could say I was hit with one of those epiphany things, but it wasn't
bright lights, or the world realigning or some other dumb ass image. It
was more like one of Jubilee's patented 'Duh' moments.
She was right. She was my life and my salvation. She'd been yanking my
fat out of the fire since the day she met me, and of all the people I've
ever known, she alone had never been afraid of me. Afraid for me, maybe,
or fully aware that I could kill her in an instant, but never afraid of me
no matter how close to the edge or over it I careened. Nobody else could
say that, not even the women I'd loved. They had feared me at times as
much as they'd loved me, even Jean, and I in return had looked upon them as
someone to protect, to cherish. No matter how much I cherished Jubilee,
she didn't really need my protection. We were partners, and teammates, and
What more could a man ask for?
I said man, not lizard.
The music kept going, and I concentrated on the feel of the muscles in her
back, shifting in time like steel cables under the silky texture of her
cobweb dress. She felt wonderful, she smelled wonderful, and damn, she was
beautiful. I glanced down at her bare shoulder, the skin a pale honey hue
to go with her extraordinary almond eyes, and she must have felt the slight
movement of my head because she looked up at me. Her expression was just
one of mild inquiry, and could have meant anything from 'are you feeling
better now' to 'need to inspect the bathroom before we hit the road?'
And I was perfectly, totally aware and in control as I lowered my mouth to
hers and kissed her softly.
Her eyelids closed, and she began to kiss me back, then abruptly she shoved
me away, her hands clenched in mid-air as multi-colored sparks dripped from
her fists and popped and sizzled their way to the floor. Not a good sign.
Her eyes flew open and pinned me with a hot blue stare.
"I am not falling in love with you again." She was out the door fast, and
I was halfway there myself when I backtracked to get her shoes, then
followed her out.
What the hell did she mean by 'again?'
Bare feet don't make a lot of noise on the sidewalk, but I could smell her
heading for the parking lot. I caught sight of her dark hair moving
through the scattered cars about the same time I picked up the scent of a
man. The air was full of smells, the wet, cold concrete and gas and oil
and rubber, but this one was fresh and smelled desperate. Crap.
On the far side of our car, Jubilee made an "Eep" sound and disappeared
from view. I ran flat out, the red rage of my anger and fear almost
drowning out the sound of blows as fists met flesh and the metallic sound
of a switchblade being triggered. Desperate, I launched myself over the
hood of the car with a roar, my claws popping out, before I realized what I
was looking at.
"Jeez, buddy, what kind of an idiot are you?"
Jube was crouching over the semi-prone junkie, fishing a tissue out of her
purse and ruthlessly stuffing it up his amazingly bloody nose. Bewildered
eyes looked up at her as she rattled on.
"You really gotta be more careful, dude. Look, why don't you go home, or
back to your alley or whatever, and I've got two words for you - re and
hab. You'll like it there, I hear they're really nice, they've got showers
and everything. You could take a bath, 'cause you, like, really reek."
She got a hand under his arm and hauled him up, and he made the mistake of
reaching for the knife lying there on the pavement. Jube flicked her
fingers at it, and in a haze of plasma melted it into slag.
"Oh no, ya don't. Look, here's a twenty. Get some food, and I mean real
food, nothing that comes in a little vial, 'kay? Go home and get some
rest, and then you think about that rehab thing."
The strung out fool nodded blankly, tangled hair bobbing, and stumbled
away. Jubilee watched him for a second, then turned to where I was leaning
against the car, grinning like a fan with a ringside seat. She didn't grin
back. She unlocked the passenger door, then tossed the keys to me and got
in the car without a word.
I did some thinking while I drove us home. Now, one of the advantages of
being around for a while is you get something called experience. Big
concept for finally understanding the little things in life. For instance,
realizing when you're about to stick your head up your ass. Take all those
chick flicks I've endured with Jubilee, the ones that have these people who
should know better being swept away by waves of supposed passion and doing
stupid things when the mood strikes them like they've never heard of the
word 'consequences.' And by the time the credits roll, everything just
magically works out. Well, that's why it's called fiction, folks. Real
life doesn't work that way, and Consequences should be a four-letter word.
Or maybe a five-letter word, one that rhymes with witch.
The consequences of screwing this up would be monumental. I'd lose the
most important person in my life. But another thing I've learned after
having been around for so long is that time does not stand still, and that
point had been brought painfully home to me these last few weeks with
Rosie's passing. Things change.
Now, I've loved Jubilee since the first time she told me she had nothing
better to do than hang with me, but I'd have to work on my macho attitude.
I think she was eleven. And no, I'm not talking anything sick here; I just
admired the spunky attitude that covered up such a big heart. And now,
things were changing, and experience was telling me that I was on the verge
of falling in love again. Teetering, and still able to pull back if I
needed to, or cross the line if I wanted.
I glanced at her sitting there, and she still hadn't said a word since
muttering 'thank-you' when I turned the heater on in the car. She was my
best friend, and I literally could not image my life without having her in
it. Did I want to cross that line?
Hell yes, the man in me replied. The inner beast in me growled in
approval, 'cause I'd never need to hide it from her.
And we all know what the lizard said, so I guess that makes it unanimous.
I pulled the car into the drive, and moved to intercept her when she headed
for the door. She didn't even seem surprised when I got my arm around her
and led her out under the trees, 'cause I'll be damned if I'm going to have
the most important conversation of my life on the front porch of the house
like some sixteen year old.
At the last moment I realized the grass was wet with dew and probably cold
as hell, but Jube didn't say a word and I'm sure this wasn't the time to do
something stupid and macho like give her my jacket.
"What did you mean by that?" My voice was a little more harsh that I'd
The fuzzy shawl shifted as she shrugged, and she refused to look at me.
"I'm not going to fall in love with you again."
"That mean you've been in love with me before?" I asked gruffly.
Of course, the eyes rolled. "You are such a man." No kidding, that wasn't
meant as a compliment. I reached out and put one hand on her arm. Those
beautiful sapphire eyes finally met mine, and she sighed softly.
"Wolvie, I've fallen in love with you more times than I can count. I
always get over it, 'cause I know you don't really think of me that way.
But tonight… if I'd let you kiss me, I don't think I could get over it.
Not when I know you'd be all embarrassed and 'forget about it, kid' later
Her soft voice hit me with more force than all the booze I'd consumed
earlier, and warmed me more than it ever could have.
"And what if I don't want you to get over it, Jubilee?" I asked. My other
hand found her opposite arm, and I could feel her trembling slightly.
"Logan," she almost moaned, and that answered every question I had.
Jubilee never calls me Logan. Not once, in years, had she addressed me as
anything but Wolvie, Wolvster, or an amazing variety of annoying and
endearing variations of my code name. Hearing her cross over to that
adult, equal to equal name let me know what she really wanted. She wanted
me. Triumph, and joy, and several other things for which I really outta
get slapped crashed through me.
I let go of her arms, removing the temptation, and both disappointment and
relief were evident in her posture. Then that old dog experience let me
say something right instead of kissing her thoroughly and dragging her up
to my room.
"Have dinner with me."
That got an eyebrow quirked at me. "Dinner," she repeated. "You're
talking, dinner, like..." It took her a second. "A date?"
"You're asking me out?"
I couldn't help it. I'd never said the word before in my life, but I just
couldn't help it.
"Duh," I replied.
She thought about it for a second, and I could see the conflicting emotions
in her eyes before they narrowed and her head cocked to one side, that
stubborn little chin coming up. One damp toe started tapping in the grass.
"Wear a tie."
"Bolo. Best offer you're getting."
"No honky tonk dives."
"No techno bars," I countered.
"No stuck up French waiters," we said at the same time. She laughed in
response, the merry sparkle I loved so much resurfacing -- and then she
shivered with the cold, and, damn my arrogant macho male pride, something
else. I really wanted to kiss her at that moment, but this was too
important to screw up. We had time to do it right.
"Deal," she said, softly, and held out her right hand.
I took it in mine. "Deal," I agreed.