AN and warnings: Novocaine is a series of loosely linked short stories. It's not necessary to read them in order, or read one to understand the others. As for the warnings, they deal with a disturbing subject matter and are not for the faint of heart. There is sex, though it is not particularly graphic, and mention of violence and abuse. Canonically, they make mention of Uncanny X-Men #423 and Operation: Zero Tolerance. They're also Wolverine/Jubilee. If that makes you feel dirty, you'll want to skip them.
When one has had a particularly nasty series of misfortunes, one tends to receive a lot of well-intentioned advice. Once, while shoving her into a new foster placement, a social worker had told Jubilee that home was where her heart was. She had thought the pronouncement to be particularly cruel. Most of the time, she had felt as though her heart had been ripped from her chest and burned to greasy char with her parents in the wreckage of their car off of Mulholland Drive. She still thought about that woman. How her shitty, little car had reeked of stale cigarettes and old fast food. How she had patted Jubilee on the head and said it was too bad that they couldn't find her a Japanese family. She hadn't bothered correcting the woman. It was then that she had decided that, in the whole world, there wasn't a place that could feel like home or a person who could understand her.
After Australia, though, everything changed. And, for a while, she had been astounded by how happy and safe she felt. There were days when she had thought she might explode from the joy of being alive and loved and wanted. She didn't have those days anymore. Now, she thought about that social worker more and more frequently. Home is where the heart is, the woman had said. Home is where the heart is. Jubilee couldn't help but wonder when all of the heart had gone out of the mansion.
The halls were filled with shadowy ghosts, just before three o'clock in the morning, though the sconces that lined the walls fought bravely to chase them away. Jubilee crept on silent sock feet, her boots in hand, ready to be laced once stealth was no longer a consideration. Her body bowed under the weight of the over-stuffed bag she carried and with the determination that comes from having a final destination in mind. She hated the early morning hours, when any pretense at warmth had gone, leaving only the oozing chill of death and doom and betrayal.
She went to him, masked in the murmuring shadows of the mansion by night, an apparition at his bedside. He knew it was her before the door opened, even before he was awake. She never fully disturbed his slumber when she crept into his room at night - a feat only she could claim. Anyone else would have ended up with a throat full of adamantium. But she could slip into his bed without triggering his internal alarms. It was only her hot hands on his bare chest and cinnamon toothpaste breath on his lips that coaxed his body awake.
That night, she wasn't there for him. Not in the way he was used to. Not in the way he wanted her. She stood over his bed in street clothes, her bag hanging heavily from her shoulder.
"I'm leaving," she whispered. She was nervous; her body gravitated toward the door as though she was already making an exit. "I'm leaving a note for...I don't even know who. Everyone. No one. Paige, I guess. It doesn't matter anyway."
She sighed. The heavy bag pulled her thin shoulder down, making her look slumped. Defeated. She licked her lips and avoided looking at his prone figure.
"I just...I wanted to let you know that I'm going. That's all." She started moving before she finished speaking, desperate, it seemed, to get away. He reached out, his hand moving without his brain consciously telling it to, and grabbed her wrist as she turned. For a moment, they were silent and still. She leaned away while he grounded her to him.
"Darlin'," he breathed the endearment more than said it. He heard her short, hitching breaths.
"Wolvie," she said. Her voice was plaintive, pleading, almost whining. He heard her swallow.
"Jubilation," he said, his voice rasping and low.
He was a siren, calling her to the rocks; she couldn't ignore his song. He heard her bag drop heavily to the floor, signaling his victory. When she turned, finally, her face and form were illuminated by the grounds lights that streamed in through the window. She looked like a small child – thin and petulant. He drew her to him, as he always had. She acquiesced, as she always would.
He had been her everything for as long as she had known him, but it was only in his bed that his world shrank down to her size. How she smelled like salt sweat and chewing gum, like little girl and woman. How her body danced against his with an exceptional grace. How she breathed and moaned, gasped and sighed. Armageddon couldn't drag his focus away when she wrapped her body around him. With her, he didn't rage, didn't hurt, didn't think. With her, he simply was. She was dangerous. She was a drug, his drug - the only drug that worked for him.
Afterward, she lay on the broad expanse of his chest, her sweat-damp hair itching her neck and back. He pulled it away from her face, wrapping it idly around his fingers.
"I'm still going," she said. With her fingertips, she traced circles and squares through the hair on his chest. He watched her lips while she spoke. They were swollen, enflamed from his rough kisses.
"I know," he replied. Her hair was long now, so much longer than it had been the first time he had kissed her.
"And you're going to let me go?" She asked, raising her head to look at him. Her distrust was evident.
"Nah." He said it casually and watched the contours of her face change with the clenching of her jaw.
"You can't stop me."
"You know that ain't true," he murmured.
With his rough, worn hand still tangled in her hair, he cupped the back of her neck and pulled her back down to him. He drew too hard, overestimating the strength of her resolve; she whimpered when her lips hit his teeth. He wasn't sure what was more thrilling – that sound or the taste of her blood on his tongue. Her resistance had been cursory. Once engaged, she returned the kiss with a voracity that matched his own until, breathless, she broke away. He let her withdraw from him, went so as to untangle his hand from her hair. He gave her every opportunity to run; she didn't disappoint him by actually doing it.
She lay upon him, her whip-like spine cambered like the Sphinx. He moved his hands down the tensed muscles of her back, finally resting on her hips. Her hands caressed his shoulders while she layered kiss after kiss on his collarbones, over his chest, all the while whispering, "please". Over and over, she made her appeal to him. He tightened his grip.
"Please," she whispered. "Don't make me beg."
He was fairly certain there must have been a point in their history when he had said those same words to her. When he didn't respond, she said his name – awkwardly, he noted. He couldn't remember the last time she had called him by anything other than one of the million little nicknames she had christened him with.
"I ain't letting you go," he said forcefully, each word a harpoon tethering her to him. "I'm going with you."
Her face darkened momentarily before smoothing into a visage of absolute neutrality. Jubilee had a different mask for every occasion, each one a seamless representation of what she assumed was expected of her - the mischievous smile of a prankster; the laughing ebullience of a child; the sullen scowl of a teenager; the tough glare of a warrior; the glowing features of a lover. They were perfect, glossy simulacrums.
"Can I put my clothes on now, please?" Her voice was even and cold, and, with little inflection, a near-perfect mimic of Emma Frost.
He released her instantly, recoiling. She rolled her eyes and pushed herself roughly off of him. He watched her search for her garments.
When he asked her where they were going, she turned her back to him. While she ignored him, he watched her. She slid her panties on and twisted her arms behind to fasten her brassiere; he took inventory of her body. Her back was a roadmap of scars and clearly defined ribs. He frowned at the white lines, the darker shadows, the way her elbows and wrists knobbed. He hadn't noticed before that her hips were jagged edges. That she had small starbursts of puckered pink skin on her palms. He wondered that Warren's healing blood had raised her from the dead, but it hadn't erased the scars.
She turned finally when she heard whine of the hinges on his closet door.
"I think you're kind of missing the point of the whole unceremonious dumping thing," she said, her voice unnaturally high-pitched. "I should've just left you a note. 'Dear Wolvie, Stick with Chuck. He's a hell of a guy. If you're a really useful boy, maybe he won't ship you off to boarding school. Love always, Jubilee.' That would have made this lots easier. I can see why you like it so much, now."
She was nasty when cornered; her vicious little tongue betrayed her fear.
"Keep your voice down. You wanna have to come with an explanation as to why you're standing in my room in your underwear?"
Logan watched the mask wither as her face contorted into a sneer. She shook her shirt, clenched in her fist, at him.
"Yeah, because, obviously, it would be up to me to explain."
She struggled with her tee-shirt, the long sleeves bunching into themselves. Her jeans lay on the floor at his feet. He picked them up. They seemed impossibly tiny in his hands.
"How about this: I came in here and threw myself at you," Jubilee ranted, pauses punctuated with violent gesticulations. "Confessed my undying love. You, being Wolverine, the noble savage, the honor-bound samurai, turned me away because you couldn't feel that way for the little girl you had raised as your own daughter. Is that a more socially acceptable piece of revisionist history? Yeah? Well, let's get 'em in here so I can get the hell out."
She tried to comb the snarls out of her still damp hair with her fingers, glaring at him for his culpability in the mess. Noticing that he still held her jeans, she held her hand out for them, wiggling her fingers impatiently at him. He grinned, savagely playful, and shook the denim at her. In response, her scowl deepened. She strode the distance to him and snatched the jeans away from him. Logan sighed and sat on the edge of the bed in jeans, bare-chested and bare-footed. She pulled her pants on - first one leg and then, shakily, the other. She was unstable, her balance unusually off kilter. He had to restrain himself from steadying her.
"Godammit," she hissed at him. "You pulled the fucking button off.
She fiercely kicked the jeans off and hurled them at his face. He caught them and threw them back at her.
"Hey, take it easy, kid," he said lightly.
He was surprised when her face contorted. She snarled, her teeth flashing, gleaming like knives in the low light. He recognized himself in the ugliness of the expression. Her rage was his eidetic image. Logan wondered if the twist in his gut was what others felt around him.
"You always do that."
When he asked her what it was that he always did, his voice was hushed. She looked up at him in amazement.
"You call me 'kid'." She spat the word out. "You fuck me and then you call me 'kid'. Christ, Wolvie, don't you think that says something about you? Psychologically, I mean?" She foraged in her bag until she found a pair of green cargo pants.
"You're angry," he said, watching her struggle with her garments again.
"Duh," Jubilee seethed, fumbling with her clothing. "I'm always angry. Right now I'm so beyond mad at myself because I'm actually glad you want to come with me. I have to get the hell out of here and I'm relieved that you want to come along and hold my little hand out in the big, bad, scary world. I'm so unbelievably pathetic."
Hissing through her teeth, she struggled to button the fly of her pants, her fingers clumsily failing.
"God, these things are impossible," she finally exclaimed, kicking so that the wide leg of the cargos flapped angrily.
Logan watched her struggle. He watched her fail. And then he pulled her to him by her belt loops, gently brushed her hands away and buttoned neatly what she had toiled over.
When a hot drop of water hit his arm, he was confused for the instant it took to pick up the scent of her tears. He hadn't seen her cry in years. Motiveless for the first time in as long, he pulled her down into his arms. She crumpled. Fragmented. Broke apart as she had been secretly, dangerously threatening to since the first nail had been driven into her palm. Unable to support her own weight, she collapsed against him. Gathering her to him, he let her sob into his neck until she choked and gasped quiet. He stroked her hair, her neck, her back. He lifted her chin and kissed her eyelids, her cheeks, her lips. He tasted her tears. He whispered to her that everything was going to be alright.
She raised her lids and looked at him.
"I don't think so," she whispered back. "I don't think anything will ever be right again."
In the phosphorescence of her wide and watery eyes, he saw a reflection of himself in blue.
And what he saw wasn't very nice.