Hi everyone! This is it! The final chapter!
Many thanks, as always, to my wonderful reviewers - bluedragon1836, Frozen Voices, nileena, Laudine and huffle-bibin! Your continued support means so much to me!
And now, I know you're all anxious to find out if Kristi gets her man, so enough waffle from me! Onward ..... !!
Confessions and Conclusions
Kristi blew her nose into a tissue, sniffling dejectedly as she tried to coax her shattered emotions into some form of order. It wasn't easy. She felt as though everything inside her had been run through a press, stretched and kneaded until her feelings were wafer thin and transparent. And it annoyed her, because normally she was quite a level headed person, not given to flights of fancy or floods of tears. But everything had changed since joining the X-Men and meeting Wolverine. One look from the team's feral bruiser and her whole world had been blown sideways, ending up completely out of kilter and all askew. She didn't know where it was all going to end, but one thing was for sure – she was going to have to get her head in some form of order very soon because she couldn't stay in her room forever.
There was a soft tap at her door and she turned, dashing away an errant tear with the tissue. "Go away, Jubilee. I've told you, I don't want to go into town."
"It's not Jubilee," came the gruff reply and Kristi's heart jumped as she recognised the voice of her mate. "Can I come in?"
Her head desperately wanted to say no, but her heart couldn't deny him anything, so she shrugged, despite him not being able to see her. "Suit yourself," she said, out loud. "It's not locked."
The door opened and Wolverine entered, closing it softly behind him. He hesitated a moment, looking strangely unsure of himself, before walking forwards a few steps, stopping just short of Kristi to lean casually against her chest of drawers. "We need ta talk, darlin'," he drawled.
Kristi's breath hitched at the sound of his voice and she turned away to look out of the window, fighting the impulse that wanted to run to Wolverine there and then and bury herself in his arms. Was it the bond making her want to do that? Treacherous thing! A quick glance back showed him still waiting for her response, one eyebrow raised slightly as though surprised by her silence. God, he looks hot! Faded jeans and a black T-shirt gave him a roguish look, yet the image was softened by still damp hair, evidence that he'd recently showered. Kristi bit her lower lip, longing to run her fingers through the silky black strands to find out if the two crests were really as heavenly to touch as they looked to be.
Instead, she turned back to the window. "What about?" she forced out.
Wolverine blinked at her tone. What the hell …… ? The damn kid's emotions switched faster than Quicksilver on speed. Before he'd entered, she'd been broadcasting hurt so forcefully that it was actually uncomfortable. Seconds ago, he'd been positive she was on the verge of throwing him to the bed and ripping his shirt off. Now he just felt anger from her. And her scent backed that up, too. She smelled …… well …… spiky, was the word he'd use to describe it. Seemed as though he needed to tread careful for the next few minutes, lest he land himself in a whole world o' hurt. Trouble is, 'careful' had never been his forte.
He took a couple of tentative steps forward, closing the distance between them physically if not emotionally. "We need ta talk about the bond, darlin'," he said hesitantly, testing the waters. "Yer probably feelin' a bit confused right now ……"
"No, Wolverine, I'm past confused." Kristi turned from the window to fix him with a withering glare. "I've got it all worked out. It runs something along the lines of 'Kristi loves Wolverine, Wolverine bonds Kristi, Kristi gets screwed'. Have I got it right?"
Wolverine rocked back slightly at the force of her anger. "Is that what ya think?"
"The hell it is, bub! You know, I had you figured for a really nice guy. Slightly scary and a bit intense, but still a nice guy underneath it all. I didn't figure you for a guy who would matebond someone without their permission and then leave them to fend for themselves. I'm not a toy you can just throw aside when you get tired of it, Wolverine! I've got feelings! And right now I'm feeling pretty damn stupid for ever thinking that I loved you! Whatever love I had went right out the window when you rejected me back at the barn and I won't let you do that to me again!"
Wolverine winced, grimacing as her emotions battered into his mind with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. "Tone it down a bit, will ya …… ?"
Kristi's hands balled into little fists as her sides and, despite his discomfort, Wolverine actually felt a surge of pride that his chosen mate was so feisty. The animal within him was another matter. Like the beast it was, it wanted to show its mate who was the dominant personality, make her submit to him, and Wolverine growled as he fought his bestial nature back down into the abyss before it could emerge and make things much worse.
Kristi actually took the growl as a threat, stepping back slightly and fearing she'd overstepped the mark. Anxiety rolled off her in waves. Wolverine suddenly found himself wanting to take her in his arms, tangle his fingers in her hair and assure her that everything would be alright, but instead he used her silence as an opportunity to get a word in edgeways.
Stalking forward, his eyes ablaze with feral intensity, he grabbed her shoulders and forced her to look at him, ignoring her startled squeak.
"Ya've had your say, Kristi, now it's time fer me ta have mine. First off, I have not been avoidin' ya. When I wake up in a lab, even one as benign as ours, it pretty much sets me on edge an' when that happens I'm not safe ta be around. So I spent the mornin' meditatin' an' puttin' my brain in order. If ya couldn't get through ta me, that's why."
Kristi's mouth formed into a silent 'oh'. Now she knew why Wolverine's feelings had felt calm and focused. But before she could voice her regrets, he continued.
"Secondly, I did not reject ya back at the barn." His voice was gruff, barely more than a growl as he looked earnestly into his mate's chocolate brown eyes. "I …… I was about ta mark ya, Kristi, an' it didn't seem right."
Kristi's eyes were as big as saucers. "Mark me?" Her voice was shaky and hesitant.
"Yeah." Wolverine really wasn't comfortable talking about his animal side, but he felt he owed Kristi an explanation. "Ferals mark their mates with a bite. Usually ta the neck, but anywhere'll do. I was about ta do that. An' I didn't think it was the right time or place. The animal side o' me isn't pretty, Kristi, an' I didn't want ta scare ya."
"But if you were going to mark me as your mate, then …… that means ……" Kristi trailed off, unable to voice the thought.
"Thirdly," continued Wolverine, oblivious to the girl's incredulous expression. "I admit I matebonded ya 'without permission', but I didn't exactly have much say in that either. From what I know of these bonds – an' it ain't much – it's pretty much an unconscious reaction, but always initiated by the male. However, as fer not lovin' ya, Kristi, there's one thing ya really ought ta know. The bonds manifest only when there is an attraction between both male and female." He snorted and drew a hand through his hair, distractedly, making it seem wilder than before. "I guess I didn't realise it myself right at the start. Knew there was somethin' between us, but it wasn't until that night at the barn when we linked ta get the bullets out that it all dropped inta place."
Kristi's mouth dropped open at this revelation. She stared at Wolverine in stunned silence, simply unable to assimilate the implications of this through her shocked brain.
Wolverine chuckled, tucked a finger under her chin and closed her mouth with a soft click, as her teeth came together.
The action shocked Kristi back to her senses, and a single tear rolled down her cheek. "Oh …… oh, Wolverine, I'm so sorry! I didn't know!"
"Not your fault." Wolverine wiped the tear away with his thumb and then drew her close, wrapping his arms around her and pressing a kiss to the top of her head. She felt so good in his embrace, like she truly belonged there. The beast within him seemed to agree, and purred happily. "The bond manifested at a bad time, darlin'. Didn't give us time ta talk about it much."
"I honestly thought you didn't care for me." Kristi's hands hovered uncertainly for a moment and then Wolverine felt them slipping around his waist to rest in the small of his back. The inner purring went up a notch. "And then there was Jean ……"
"What about Jean?"
Kristi stirred uncertainly against him and he allowed her to step back and look up into his face, while still maintaining his hold on her waist. "When Gina shifted into Jean, I thought …… I thought you loved her and not me."
Wolverine's eyes darkened. "I won't lie ta ya, Kristi, there's always been an attraction between Jeannie an' me. But she chose her man, an' I've come ta terms with that. But I'd trust Jean with my life. Gina coulda shifted inta any one o' the X-Men, it just happened ta be Jeannie, 'cause o' that connection."
Kristi sighed, sadly. "God, Wolverine, I've been such a fool, haven't I?"
Wolverine pulled her back into the close embrace, burying his nose in her hair and inhaling her intoxicating scent. "It coulda been worse," he admitted finally, against her ear. He felt her shiver in his embrace and responded by giving her a squeeze. "Y'know, Kris, we're gonna be bonded fer a long time – the least ya could do is drop the formalities an' call me Logan. Use it, but don't wear it out, 'kay? It's the only name I got."
The surge of happiness, pride and love he received through the bond was so strong that he actually took a step back, rocked by the intensity. He grinned and tightened his embrace, resting his chin on the top of Kristi's head and puffing out a contented sigh at the feel of her hands running up and down his back. God, she felt so good. He hadn't felt this at peace with himself since ……
He suddenly released her, pushing her back gently so that he could look into her eyes. "We gotta keep this quiet, y'hear, Kris? Not a word ta anybody?"
Kristi looked back at him in confusion. "But why?" She felt so elated she wanted to shout their newfound love from the rooftops.
"People like me …… ferals …… we don't bond very often. A true matebondin' is rare. An' if the Furball gets wind of it, he'll have me in the lab so fast my feet won't touch the ground. I …… I couldn't go through that, Kris. It'd drive me crazy."
"Are you sure? About him dragging you into the lab, I mean?" Kristi frowned. "He seems such a nice guy. Surely he'd understand."
Logan shook his head. "Yeah, Henry's a nice guy, but he's also a scientist, darlin', an' if he knew of our bond he wouldn't be able to resist pokin' an' proddin' ta find out how it works. I can't deal with that. So we gotta keep this quiet, okay? Not a word."
Kristi nodded, slowly. "Well …… okay, if that's what you want. But it's bound to get out sooner or later. Gina and Jubilee know."
Logan grinned slyly, holding up a fist. "I'll swear 'em ta secrecy."
Kristi gasped. "Wol …… Logan, no! You can't threaten them!" She felt her heart leap at the feel of his name on her tongue and she couldn't help smiling at him in admiration and pride.
Logan, however, took that as encouragement. He grinned back, revealing sharply pointed canines. "Don't worry. I won't hurt them. Much."
Kristi would have been concerned at his words, but she could feel his intent through the bond and knew he was only boasting. He thought too much of Jubilee to even consider doing her harm, and Gina had sacrificed much to save them from her father and was now similarly trusted. A simple word in both their ears would serve to ensure their silence, although Jubilee was often something of a blabbermouth – secrets didn't stay secrets for long once the young firecracker got to hear of them. She didn't let them out intentially – she wasn't that coldhearted – but once her mouth got going it often didn't know when to stop. Kristi hoped her young friend would show some restraint for once. She honestly didn't know what Logan would do if news of their bond got out and the two of them became the focus of everyone's attention.
For now, though, she was quite happy to go along with whatever he said as long as it meant she could stay in his arms. He felt warm and strong, and smelled deliciously of a woodland scented shower gel. Bravely, she rested her head on his shoulder, and then blinked in surprise as he suddenly released her and moved away slightly. At first, she thought his feral instincts had resurfaced again and he had pulled away to restrain the animal within him once more, but then she realised he was looking around her room as though seeing the sterile walls of his cell. He 'felt' agitated and a sudden jolt of memory – a sense of being shut in and helpless – invaded her mind. She reached out with a pulse of reassurance, letting him know she was there for him as and when he needed.
He prowled up and down for a moment, then turned to her as he came to a decision. "Look, Kris, I don't know about you, but I need ta get outta here before I start climbin' the flamin' walls. Been shut in too flamin' long." He gestured towards the window. "There's a diner not too far away from here. It's not fancy, but it's clean an' the coffee's good. Hank told me they brought the jeep home, so I'll gas it up an' meet ya out front in twenty minutes, okay?"
Kristi nodded, surprised but elated at the chance to be out alone with the man of her dreams. However, one thing bothered her and, as Logan turned to go she stopped him with a hand on his arm. "Wait, Logan, what about Roberts?"
Wolverine snorted. "What about him? He ain't gonna come an' get me again, not now the whole team know his game. An' I'll be prepared this time. If he is out there, he won't get the drop on me again." He stalked to the door, swinging it open with the easy grace of the predator he so resembled. "Get changed. I'll be waitin'."
"Get changed?" Kristi looked down at herself, suddenly realising she wasn't exactly dressed for a trip outdoors and, before Logan had even closed the door behind him she was rooting through her wardrobe and pulling out clothes as though her life depended on it.
"Kristi! Hey, Kristi, wait up!"
Kristi paused halfway down the stairs, looking back to see Jubilee bounding down them behind her. She waited for her friend to catch up and together they continued down, Kristi aware that Jubilee was casting her furtive sideways glances.
"What?" she asked, as they reached the bottom step and started down the hallway to the front door. "You're making me nervous, Jubes! Have I put my clothes on backwards, or something?"
"Just makin' sure you're okay," responded Jubilee, with a pout. "You seemed pretty down this morning. I didn't expect to see you out of your room until the middle of next week." She paused, considering. She hoped Kristi's change of outlook was due to a visit by a certain stubborn but handsome feral who would remain nameless, but she could hardly ask and thereby reveal her hand in the plot. Instead she settled for something more innocent. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," replied Kristi, with a smile. "Really." She reached out to take Jubilee's hand in her own. "Look, Jubes, I'm sorry for snapping at you earlier, okay? I had a lot on my mind and I felt a little emotional."
"Hey, no worries!" Jubilee flapped a hand in the air dismissively as they reached the front door. "Us girls are entitled to have a hissy fit every now an' then. Clears the air, y'know?"
"Thanks for being there for me, Jubes. You're a good friend." Kristi pulled Jubilee into a heartfelt hug, which the young X-Man returned in kind for all of three seconds before stepping back with an amused snort.
"Hey, enough o' that! I've got an image to maintain!" She looked Kristi up and down appraisingly. "You look nice. Why so dressed up all of a sudden?"
Kristi grinned, looking down at herself. In just fifteen minutes, she'd achieved miracles, in her opinion. She'd changed into a pair of smart blue pants, with a cream spangly top and black leather jacket. She'd redone her hair, sweeping it up at the sides with two pretty combs with an effect, she was pleased to note, that resembled Logan's natural crests. She'd even found time to apply some make-up, skilfully accentuating her eyes, her best feature.
She gave Jubilee a sideways glance. "I'm going out."
"Out? Out where?"
"Nowhere special. Just for coffee."
"Oh?" Jubilee's hopes raised. Please, God, let it be …… "Who with? You've missed Paige an' Sam, they left about an hour ago."
"You'll see." Kristi grinned widely and opened the front door, just in time to see Logan's jeep draw up outside.
Even though she'd been keeping her fingers mentally crossed in hope, Jubilee's mouth still dropped open and her eyes went wide. "Well, I …… you sneaky …… how? ……" She shook her head and settled for a grin instead of the words that would not come. "Way to go, dude!"
Kristi put a hand on her friend's shoulder, willing her to look at her. "You must promise not to breathe a word of this to anyone, Jubilee. Logan doesn't want news of our bond getting out."
"Not a word, Jubilee! I mean it!"
Jubilee frowned, sulkily. "Oh, alright, I promise! Although how you expect to keep something secret around here when there are three telepaths on the team is beyond me."
"It'll get out sooner or later, Jubes, but we need time to come to terms with it on our own before everyone else starts to add their own input." She turned to watch Logan as he adjusted his battered cowboy hat and then busied himself lighting one of his trademark cigars. "He loves me, Jubes. Isn't that wonderful?"
Jubilee pretended to poke a finger down her throat. "Oh, please! You're gonna make me ill!"
Logan leaned over the car door, gesturing impatiently. "Hurry up, dammit! I ain't gonna wait all day."
Kristi shook her head, grinning ruefully. "And he's got such a way with women, hasn't he?"
Jubilee laughed. "Hey, it coulda been worse! At least he brought the jeep an' not the bike!" She gave her friend a little push out onto the porch. "Go on! Get outta here before somebody sees you!"
Kristi chuckled and skipped down the porch steps. "See you later! Don't wait up!"
"You be back before midnight, y'hear?" Jubilee shouted after her friend, as she hopped into the jeep. "An' for heaven's sake, Wolvie, don't get into any bar brawls!"
She winced as Wolverine crunched the gears and sent the jeep hurtling down the driveway in a characteristic spray of gravel. She watched and waved until they turned out onto the roadway and drove out of sight, before turning back into the hallway and closing the front door behind her.
Wuffing out a relieved breath, she leaned against it for a moment, as her thoughts unexpectedly turned to more serious matters. Things were always changing within the world that surrounded the X-Men – people came and went, great events unfolded, doors opened and others closed. They were used to the unexpected – it came with the territory. Yet somehow, she couldn't help feeling that something momentous had just happened – something more important in the scheme of things than the simple act of two people declaring their love for each other.
For better or for worse, destiny had plans for the X-Men. Pushing away from the door, Jubilee wondered if destiny knew what it was letting itself in for ……..
NEXT: Shadows of a Dark Mind!! In which a group of new members to the team have their own personal agenda, and Logan and Kristi learn more about what it means to be bonded. Will their newfound love survive the evil that has infiltrated the mansion?
So this final chapter brings us to the end of Death By Healing but, fear not, because the story now continues in Shadows of a Dark Mind! Set just three weeks after the end of this story, it continues the saga of Logan and Kristi, as the X-Men find themselves fighting for Xavier's dream in another mind-blowing adventure!
If you haven't already done so, click on Author Alert at the bottom of the page and you will receive a message as soon as I upload the first chapter! (Due at the end of the week!)
Those of you who are wondering what happens to Gina's father, wonder no longer! He will return in a later story and I think his involvement will amaze you!
I would like to thank all who have read and reviewed Death By Healing and I hope you have all enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed updating it! Your input has been greatly appreciated. When I uploaded the first chapter just five months ago, I expected to get little or no interest, but the response was overwhelming and encouraged me to continue and share my stories with you all! Now, with one story completed and another about to start, I hope you will follow myself and the X-Men into their new adventure!
The saga is just beginning …… !!