Title – Suffer the Children, Part 2

Author - Ramos

Rating – PG for language

Disclaimer – These characters are the Property of Marvel Comics. No profit is made from their use. No, I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on T.V. Also, no Big Birds were harmed during the writing of this fic.

Feedback: Yes, I am a shameless feedback junkie. Please feed my habit.

The next few days were quiet as Jubilee slept a great deal, and when awake endured the pain and the respirator with resolute patience. Her friends were allowed to see her, one at a time, for only a few minutes at a time.

Hank installed a nasogastric tube, one that went up her nose and down her throat to her stomach and carried a thin white liquid to feed her. This tube seemed to bother her more than the other did, but she managed to leave it alone until Hank deemed her sufficiently recovered to remove the ventilator. After nearly a week, the machinery indicated that her body was doing more and more of the work, with less assistance from the equipment.

Logan had developed the habit of checking on Jubilee several times a day, after his morning class, before dinner and again after his final security check at night. The morning designated for tube removal found Logan running into Rogue as she left the Medical Bay, miffed at being chased out. He gave her complaints a partially sympathetic ear and promised to find out what was so dire that Jubilee should be isolated from her friends.

Hank glanced up as Logan entered, then turned to his patient and asked her a question, apparently forgetting Logan's keen hearing.

"Do you want Logan to leave as well?"

The nimble fingers spelled something, and Hank waved him over. "I'm preparing to remove her breathing tube, and I would appreciate a firm hand to help. Rogue was anxious to be of assistance, but I'm afraid I need someone who will be a bit less, or rather, a bit more, should I say…"

"Squeamish?" Logan suggested, raising an eyebrow. Marie's inability to dissect a frog had been a running joke for some time.

"Ruthless," Hank supplied. "This will not be entirely pleasant."

Sobered, Logan washed his hands as requested and joined the doctor on the far side of Jubilee's hospital bed, this time on the girl's left side. Hank fiddled with the bed controls until it had her sitting almost entirely erect, then tucked a pillow beneath her right arm.

"This will hurt, Jubilee, for which I can only offer my apologies. And afterwards, some Demerol," he added. Jubilee rolled her eyes, plainly telling him to shut up and hurry.

"You sure you don't want Jean in here instead of me?" Logan asked.

"Jean is in Washington this week," Hank answered shortly. Logan raised an eyebrow. He hadn't even noticed the red-head's absence.

A quick snap of plastic disconnected the tubing, leaving a rectangular apparatus in Jubilee's mouth. Hank positioned Logan's left hand over her sternum, just under her throat. The skin above the neckline of the gown, where it was not covered in medical tape, was livid with purple and green from her broken collarbone.

"Help her, if she needs it," Hank said quietly, leaving Logan mystified as to what exactly was expected of him. No time was allowed for him to wonder as the doctor grasped the small piece of plastic in Jubilee's mouth and told her to exhale as hard as she could. The other furry blue hand held her head back as the tube was extracted.

The tube did not come easily, and Logan was fairly sure it was the most painful thing he'd ever been forced to watch as the warm chest under his hand convulsed and tried to cough. Much longer than he expected, the white tube snaked its way out under Hank's careful guidance, until it was suddenly free and Jubilee began to cough, her agonized wheeze bending her nearly in half.

Logan's hand supported her as she bent forward, her body racked with coughs that she did not have the strength to fight or assist. The pillow Hank had provided made sense as she curled around it, her good right arm clutching it to her chest as it jerked and tried to remember how to breath entirely on its own.

The bed hummed as Hank lowered it to a gentler angle, and Logan helped her ease onto her right side. Rubbing her back seemed like the thing to do, and he kept it up as the coughing slowly subsided, avoiding the bandages under the thin material.

"Doing all right, kid?" he asked her finally.

"Fucking great," she muttered into the pillow. Her voice was a raspy wheeze.

Relinquishing his place to Hank, Logan stood back and out of the way. He turned his back and stared politely at the far wall as the big blue doctor untied the girl's gown at the back of her neck and laid it open. The scent of blood and something else brought his attention back.

Hank had gently moved her left arm up and forward to the support of another pillow he tucked between her front and the bed rail. Latex-covered claws pried up the back edge of the heavier bandage over her ribs, and they carefully checked the stitches and metal staples that held the girl's wound closed. The bandages swathed her side, and a large square of gauze covered her petite chest. While it betrayed nothing of her modesty, the brown stains marching across the pristine white left little doubt that one of Creed's talons had slashed up and across her petite left breast.

Logan considered himself at least as macho as the next man, but he would have had to be blind, deaf, and incredibly stupid to live in a house full of puberty-stricken adolescents and not realized how important body image was to them. Before, he had only considered the physical damage to Jubilee, but the guilt in him twisted just a bit more as he realized the cosmetic scarring the young woman would be left with.

With a vague snort, Hank replaced the bandages and repositioned her arm, tidying the gown and covers over her shoulders.

"She's got an infection," Logan said shortly as Hank left the bedside.

"I suspected as much, but I fear my sense of smell is not as keen as yours," Hank replied as he snapped off his gloves. "The damage is healing, but an infection has been my greatest concern since the beginning. I've been hesitant to use anything but a broad-based antibiotic, but it has not been as effective as I'd hoped. I shall be required to apply more drastic pharmaceuticals, but I am concerned how those will affect her system."

On his afternoon visit the two days later, Logan could detect an odd glitter in Jubilee's eyes, and the faint odor of putrefaction in the air. The monitor, much easier to find now that Hank had moved the larger pieces of equipment back to their storage cabinets, showed her heart rate had increased and her body temperature was hovering at one hundred degrees. She seemed relatively cheerful, but the listless droop of her eyelids worried him. He was even more worried when she asked him to find Rogue and Kitty and ask them to skip their usual after-dinner visit.

He found the girls at their usual table in the cafeteria and sat down on the opposite side of the table. Kitty shot him a surprised look, but Rogue accepted his presence without making any comments.

"I just saw Jube," he mentioned, poking at his dinner. "She's gonna try to get some sleep, so you girls probably ought to leave her be tonight."

"Oh. Okay," Rogue replied.

Kitty murmured something that sounded like agreement and hunched in on herself. The girls began eating again. Rogue made occasional comments to her friend, who answered in monosyllables before finally fleeing the table entirely.

Logan stopped chewing at the girl's abrupt departure, then continued and swallowed. "Do I make her nervous or something?" he asked bluntly. Rogue rolled her eyes, amused.

"Logan, you make everybody nervous."

He frowned at her ferociously. "Why?"

"Well," she began, "you stomp around here, growling at people, you never listen to Mr. Summers, and you do whatever you damned well please. You're like a big ol' dog off its leash. Add in the fact that you terrify everybody in your classes…"

"I never hurt any of those kids," he protested solidly.

"No, you don't. And we all know that, but you're still kinda intimidating."

"You're not intimidated. Neither is your little pal, Jubilee."

"Well, you don't scare me because I know you," Rogue said. "And regular rules don't really apply to Jubilee -- she's kind of an anarchist." She stabbed the last of her dinner with a fork. "It drives Mr. Summers crazy," she added with a grin.

Logan snorted. "Good for her."

"He still likes her, though. She gets pretty good grades when she bothers to pay attention, and she's always asking him questions he can't really answer without going into a lot of detail, which makes him lose track of time and forget about giving us homework."

"Lemme ask you something." The words came out before he actually considered them, but he forged ahead. "McCoy said something about these injuries being bad for somebody with Jubilee's abilities. What did he mean by that?"

Rogue stared at him. "You've seen her, haven't you? On the balance beam, or working out with Mr. Summers?"

It took a moment to dredge up the memories of Phys Ed classes and the ever- popular detention periods spent in the gym. Now that he considered it, he did remember seeing Jubilee throwing herself across a tumbling mat with exuberant cartwheels and other moves he couldn't name, or working with Cyclops on the various pieces of equipment. More than once he'd rebuked her for back-flipping her way out of his advance in his self-defense class, accusing her of watching too many kung-fu movies.

"Yeah," he admitted. "Never really thought much about it."

"Jubilee was a gymnast, back in California. She had a shot at the Olympic team."

"Huh," he replied, impressed. "What happened? Did she make it?"

Rogue blinked, her eyes dropping to the plate in front of her. "Her parents were killed."


"They were killed in a car wreck. She doesn't talk about them much, but I get the feeling sometimes that it wasn't really an accident. The authorities put her in a foster home, but I guess there wasn't enough money to keep her in the gymnastics program, and it just got worse when she found out she was a mutant. They kept changing the homes, and she just decided to run off."

The cold meal in front of him lost its appeal entirely, and he dropped his fork. "How'd she end up here?"

Rogue shrugged. "The way Jubilee tells it, the Professor heard this wild story about a mutant kid living in the Hollywood Mall, making light shows for money and the mall security couldn't catch her. He sent Scott to pick her up."

"How old was she?" Logan made himself ask, although he could have figured it out. Jubilee was seventeen now, and had been a resident of the school for three years.

"Twelve, I think, when her parents died." At his confusion, she added, "Jubilee was on the streets for almost two years before Scott found her."

He closed his eyes and rubbed his face, unable to bear the sight of Rogue's sympathetic face. "I am such an asshole. I didn't know any of this."

"It's alright, Logan. We all know you don't really get off on little kids…"

"I should have learned," he interrupted. Rogue did not immediately contradict him, and he knew he was only now realizing what he should have seen months ago. He carefully lowered his fist to the table, refraining from slamming it as his temper urged.

"I live in this house. I take Xavier's money in exchange for doing a job. But strapping on black leather and going out to kick ass… that's not a job. That's not what's really important." Logan swallowed hard. "This place is more than a school -- it's supposed to be a home."

His knuckles began to turn white as he clamped down on his rage and shame. He'd returned to the mansion again and again in the last year, but had never looked beyond his connection to Rogue. Only now was it being painfully brought to his attention that the building was full of teens in the same situation as she.

All of them were mutants. However varied their abilities or power, the children who populated the school were just as vulnerable, just as potentially valuable as Rogue. Any one of them could be taken, to be used by someone stronger than they, or simply beaten up or abused because they were mutants. Each one had been rejected, in great or small ways, by the family or society into which they'd been born.

Laughter from the adults' table caught his attention, and Logan glanced up to see Scott and Storm laughing at an unknown joke. The sight of them sitting so far removed from the younger generation made his irritation flare again. Xavier's was supposed to be a substitute family, but even Summers and Munroe viewed themselves as teachers first, X-men second, and replacement family as a distant and barely considered third. While the kids were encouraged to share their emotional problems with the paid counselor, the adult staff members still kept themselves separated from their charges.

A flicker of movement brought his gaze back to the table as Rogue tilted her head to one side, puzzled by his behavior. He unclenched his jaw and fist and reached out to grasp her gloved hand. "You know you'll always be special to me, don't you?" he asked quietly.

She gave him a curious look. "I know that." Her jaw dropped. "You're not leaving again, are you?"

"No," he assured her firmly. "I'm staying." Rogue's eyes widened at his emphasis. "I don't know if I can say this right, kid. I promised to take care of you, but the others… I've mostly just been putting up with them. And that was wrong."

Her satin covered fingers tightened on his, and he found the words to continue. "I'm supposed to be part of this place. But the kids, the ones like Jubilee… They're what this place is about. That means I've gotta watch out for them just like I do you. I hope you understand that, and know it doesn't mean I care any less about you."

To his surprise, a smile appeared on her face. "I knew you'd figure it out."

"Excuse me?" he asked, dumbfounded.

"One of the Sunday School lessons I always hated when I was growing up was about Jesus and some little kids, and he says 'suffer the little children to come unto me.' It always made me mad because, if you think about it, the word suffer means to just put up with something. And if Jesus really loved us, why would he have to put up with us?" She made a face. "I only asked my granddaddy that once, and he gave me a wallop, but it still made me mad every time I heard it."

Her fingers squeezed his again. "I'm really glad you won't be just 'suffering' the kids anymore, Logan. Xavier's is my home now, and I always wanted that for you, too. I just wasn't sure you'd ever see it that way."

"Hey," he warned her, "don't get the idea of telling your friends I've suddenly turned into a creampuff. I'm not gonna go any easier on them in class."

"Well, duh," she replied with a grin. "You wouldn't be the Wolverine if you did something like that!"

He gave her white streak an affectionate tug, then gathered the remains of his dinner and left the table. Feeling oddly liberated, he made a sweep of the grounds and smoked a cigar with his feet up on the Security desk, blatantly ignoring the "No Smoking" sign Scott had plastered on the wall.

The next morning at breakfast, Scott quietly informed the assembled students that Dr. McCoy was placing Jubilee in isolation, and no further visitors would be allowed. Logan didn't wait around to hear the rest of the announcements.

Sure enough, a 'No Visitors' sign was taped on the Medical Bay door, and it failed to open at Logan's approach. He was forced to toggle the intercom.

"Come in, Wolverine," came McCoy's voice, before he could demand entrance. The door slid open a moment later. The doctor looked bedraggled, and the slightly longer blue fur atop his head looked as though talons had raked through it repeatedly. "I've been expecting you," he added as he carefully placed his clipboard with Jubilee's medical chart on the counter.

"What's happened?" Logan demanded, inspecting the still form on the bed. An oxygen line ran under her nostrils, and he could hear the hiss of the gas. The pale face was waxy with perspiration.

"The infection is spreading rapidly, and I cannot stop it," Hank stated. "I've given her a round of every antibiotic I have access to, and while it slows down, nothing seems to eradicate the bacteria."

"There must be some way to help her," Logan insisted.

"At this point, I would welcome a shaman in a loincloth to shake a bean- filled tortoiseshell over her, if I could find one. If it were a limb, I would amputate without hesitation," Hank said bluntly. "The infection has apparently abscessed under her ribcage, between the pleural membrane and the intercostal muscles. It's spreading outward, which is a mercy since moving into the lung cavity would surely have killed her within forty-eight hours." He sighed, and leaned his bulk against the workspace beside the bed, visibly drooping. "Instead, it's killing her slowly."

"I don't believe this," Logan murmured to himself. "I refuse to believe she's going to die."

"There is nothing more I can do." The defeat in Hank's voice was like sandpaper on Logan's nerves.

"Don't count me out yet," came a raspy voice from the bed, and Logan moved to the girl's side. Her jaw was set stubbornly, and Logan brushed her hair out of her face as her throat worked.

A plastic glass with a flexible straw appeared in Hank's furry paw, and he angled the straw so she could take a sip. She managed a few swallows before turning her head away and closing her eyes. "I got a score to settle with that two-bit furball," Jubilee added, her voice barely audible. "No 'ffence, Hank."

"None taken," he assured her. When she did not respond, Hank placed the cup out of the way. "She's been drifting in and out for several hours now."

Restlessness seized Logan suddenly, and he abruptly left the Medical Bay before the urge to hit something overcame his self-control. The impulse wasn't helped much when he reached the main level and saw Jean dropping her luggage in the hall to give her fiancé a long, passionate kiss.

"You two can play tonsil hockey later," he informed the couple harshly. "Right now, Hank could use a break, and Jubilee needs a miracle. Why don't you put some of that energy into bein' a doctor instead of playing doctor?"

"Hey," objected Scott, but Jean immediately dropped back into a professional demeanor.

"Is something wrong?"

"Jubilee's condition isn't improving," Scott started, echoing the official announcement that had been couched in terms that would not alarm the students. Logan, however, did not believe in official.

"She's dying," he informed Jean callously. "And we're gonna find a way to stop it."

Scott bristled under Logan's challenge, but said nothing as Jean placed a calming hand on his arm. "Honey, would you take my things up? I'm going to see what I can do to help Hank."

Taking possession of the suitcase as Jean walked away, Scott shot him a challenging look that Logan had no qualms about returning in full force. The hallway crackled with their mutual antipathy until a group of the younger students came pelting down the stairs.

"Walk," Scott ordered automatically, breaking the tableau. When he turned back to Logan, the man had already headed out the door.

For several hours Logan rambled through the woods on the estate, but it failed to settle the anger and frustration within him. If it had been Rogue, he would have touched her without a second thought and they'd have been raiding the fridge for ice cream by that afternoon. Jubilee had no such easy recourse.

Once back at the house, the agitation was even worse. Swearing, he found the keys to his own Harley and started it. Scott and he had worked out a deal - Logan didn't take his bike any more, and Scott pulled every string he had to find a vintage Hog that was acceptable to Logan's taste. The one they'd found had glass packs in the exhaust, the original engine, and sounded like an amorous rhinoceros. Foe once, however, the power and noise failed to soothe his nerves.

Driving aimlessly, lost in thought, he was not quite prepared when he realized he'd driven back to the New Salem Mall, around the back where the loading bay accepted truckloads of merchandise for eager consumers. He stared at the brick and concrete building for quite some time before he got off his bike and walked up to the loading bay where he'd found Jubilee.

The concrete was once again a nondescript expanse of stains, oil-slicks and blackened streaks from the countless tires that crossed it daily. Any lingering blood had been washed away by the weather or worn away by the traffic. He kicked at the plain gray door, but it only echoed hollowly. The trucks and the people who serviced them had left for the day.

A tattered paper bag near the wall came to his notice, and he poked it idly. The logo on the front was nearly indecipherable, and it tore as the toe of his boot turned it over. A light blue fabric spilled out.

Curious now, he pulled out the fabric and held it up. It was a small tee- shirt, and when he turned it over the front read, "I have an attitude, and I'm not afraid to use it!" It was vintage Jubilee, and Logan couldn't repress the fond smile. The smile faded slowly, though, as he held the shirt and remembered that the girl who bought it would most likely never wear it. His hands began to shake, even though he clenched his fists tightly, until with a harsh scream he punched the solid wall with all his might. Again and again he lashed out at the unfeeling mortar and brick, letting the rough edges lacerate his knuckles without caring.

At last the rage subsided, dwindling down to a dull ache as he leaned against the mute wall, chest heaving from exertion. He sagged to the ground and sat, arms propped on his bent knees, mindless of the grime and trash around him. ~That was completely useless,~ he told himself bitterly. So was banging his head back against the wall, but he did that a few times as well.

The trickle of blood running down his finger from his abused knuckles finally registered, and he used the ruined tee-shirt to wipe his hands. Shaking off the majority of the blood, he swiped at the rest, glaring at his hand as the last damaged bits knit themselves together before his eyes, leaving only the traces of blood and dirt to be removed.

Slowly Logan heaved himself to his feet and walked back to his bike, still wiping his hands absently. He balled the fabric up to toss it towards the overflowing trash receptacle, but in mid-throw he abruptly changed his mind and caught the shirt instead. Flipped over, the streaks of fresh blood showed clearly. He stared at them, then at his own worn but whole knuckles.

"Hot damn!" he muttered as the idea hit him. Within moments he was back on the Harley and gunning it towards home.

It was dinnertime when he drove up, and the halls were empty as he passed through, his long, determined stride rapidly taking him to the elevator and down to the Medical Lab. "What's Jubilee's blood type?" he asked abruptly as he entered the room. Belatedly he realized he could have been a bit more quiet, but the still form on the hospital bed never moved. She was still unconscious.

"She's AB positive." Hank peered at him over his glasses. His fur was clean, and his eyes were no longer bloodshot. Jean had apparently made him nap and clean up before allowing him back in the lab, and the passage of time abruptly caught up to Logan as he glanced at the clock. On cue, his stomach rumbled. He ignored it.

"And what's my blood type?"

"You're O negative."

"That means we're not compatible," Logan surmised, crestfallen.

"Actually, that means that your blood is compatible with Jubilee's but hers is not compatible with yours."

Logan shot the blue doctor a puzzled frown, and Hank smiled genially. "Blood typing, Logan, is based on your blood reacting to certain agents. Type A reacts to one agent, Type B reacts to another. If the sample in question reacts to both agents, then the blood type is AB. If it reacts to neither, then the sample is judged to be type O. Your blood, it seems, has yet to react to anything, and is O negative by default."

"So you can give my blood to Jubilee, and it won't hurt her," Logan stated for clarification.

"No, it won't, but I don't see what good that would do."

"My body heals fast. I never get infections - I never even have so much as the sniffles."

"I fail to see how that would help Jubilee…"

"So if my body heals itself so great, why wouldn't my blood be like, I dunno, super-charged?"

Hank took a breath, ready to explain patiently, and abruptly held it. "Leukocytes. White blood cells." The doctor looked absolutely dumb- struck, quite an accomplishment. "Of course! My dear sir, you are absolutely brilliant. Have a seat, and roll up your sleeve. Better yet, lay down."

"What? I thought blood cells were red."

The blue doctor pushed him towards the cot and then bounded from one drawer to another, pulling out a rubber strap, a phlebotomy kit, and other accoutrements. Logan did his best to follow along as Hank lectured, fascinated as the normally calm and rational McCoy overflowed with energy, his careful grooming becoming disheveled in the wake of his excitement.

"There is far more to the elixir of human blood than red blood cells. Some of these marvelous components are five different varieties of leukocytes, collectively known as white blood cells. White blood cells are the infection fighters, the front line soldiers, if you will. They surge towards any invader, overwhelming it and eating it alive, overcoming it by sheer numbers."

Logan blinked, not quite wincing, as the rubber strap went around his bicep muscle and bit deeply.

"If the red blood cells are separated out, leaving only the plasma and white blood cells, the soldiers, so to speak, then your own natural antibodies should help fight the infection."

"What's wrong with the red ones?"

"Nothing; however anemia is not Jubilee's greatest concern at this moment, and her ability to fight infection is. Now hold still, this will pinch a bit."

Logan did his best to stare at the still form covered with a white blanket and ignore the bite of the needle and its associated phantoms of his past. He refused to lay down, and sitting instead on the tall lab stool with his arm hanging down. In short order, a squishy bag of red dangled from the edge of the counter. Hank eased the needle out and placed a cotton ball over the wound, bending Logan's arm up to hold it.

"You're kidding, right?" Logan raised an eyebrow as Hank approached with a Bugs Bunny Band-Aid. Plucking the cotton ball away, he rolled his arm to reveal the smooth, unblemished skin inside his elbow.

"Oh. Yes, of course," Hank muttered, absently tucking the bandage into his pocket. He hummed slightly as he picked up the rubber strap and other bits and then took the blood bag from its makeshift hook. With his glasses askew and his fur sticking up at odd angles, Hank resembled nothing so much as a mad scientist with a new inspiration. He thanked Logan absently and disappeared into the lab, telling him, in not so many words, to run along and let him work.

Back upstairs, Logan gravitated to the kitchen, suddenly ravenous. He grabbed a sandwich over the protests of the staff cleaning up from dinner and went outside, watching the teenage boys playing basketball. With an uneven number of players, the odd man out lounged on the sidelines, shouting occasional comments in a Russian-accented voice. It took a moment for Logan's brain to dredge up the boy's identity. Piotr Rasputin. Russian. Turns his body into metal. He stalked over to the basketball court.

"Hey, kid. Piotr."

The black haired boy startled, and stood up straight. "Sir," he replied respectfully. The other boys paused their play, watching uneasily.

"Relax, I just wanted to ask you something. You draw, right?"

"Da, some. Not so good."

"Right. Look, be modest later. I wanted to ask you a favor."

"A favor? Me?"

"Yeah. I need you to sketch something for me."

In the end, Logan donated five units of blood in the course of two days, refusing to listen to either Jean or Hank's warnings and insisting he was fine. He ate several blood-rare steaks, adding spinach salads to appease the doctors' fussing, and washed it down with a tomato juice cocktail which tasted just as nasty as it looked. But it was more than worth it when he entered the Medical Bay days later and a bright-eyed Jubilee popped her head up.

He gave Jean a nod of greeting and snagged her chair. Apparently she had chased her colleague away for some well-deserved rest. "Hey, kid."

"Heya Wolvie. What's shaking?" Jubilee's vocal cords had recovered from the indignity of the tubes, and had regained the contralto range. The volume was still subdued, however, which Logan did not consider a problem.

"Just saw your roommies upstairs. They're planning on invading here soon and doing something -- hair, nails, I'm not sure."

"Thank God," she replied fervently. "Do you know how long it's been since I've washed my hair?!" The outrage in her voice was only partially feigned.

"Yeah, you do smell kinda ripe," he teased.

"Really funny, coming from you," she shot back.

"So, how you feeling?"

"Umm… a little better. I can breathe, which is always good. The Red Menace says I can get the stitches out in a few days. The best part is they took out that freakin' needle!" She shoved her hand under his face.

Logan was still dealing with Jean's designation as a menace when Jubilee thrust her fist under his nose. He grabbed it out of reflex and ran a thumb over the blue-green skin. "Looks painful," he commented.

Jubilee made a disparaging noise. "I've had worse. Whatami saying - I've got worse right here." She indicated her side with a grin, but Logan sobered at the reminder.

"Look, kid. Jubilee." He leaned on the railing and stared at the bruised skin on the back of her hand, trying to find the right words. "I owe you an apology. I thought you were just screwin' around in class, and I rode you pretty hard for it. I was wrong. You did good, and you saved your friend."

"Hey -- don't blow your image as a hard-ass, Wolvie," she chided him, but Logan could see the personal shields the girl was drawing around herself. She may have been a loud-mouthed mall rat, but she'd perfected the image into an armor, and was uncomfortable with anyone penetrating beneath it. He understood it, but wasn't willing to let her dismiss him so easily.

"It took a lot of courage to do what you did. You didn't panic, and you gave Mystique a thumping she won't forget any time soon."

The teen stared at him, her eyes wide. "I did panic," she confessed in a small voice. "Creed scared the holy crap out of me."

"He has that effect on a lot of people," Logan assured her. "But when you figured out that Mystique wasn't me, you nailed her, right?"

Jubilee sniffed, still avoiding his gaze. "I remember thinking that something smelled funny. And I was thinking that maybe you'd gotten nailed by one of those perfume snipers in the department stores, but - I mean, jeez, you'd have killed any of those idiots, and then I remembered that you'd been just outside the store, so you couldn't have had time to go get sprayed, and then all of the sudden it hit me - that's not really Wolvie, and I just -- BOOM."

The corner of Logan's mouth twitched as he deciphered her usual stream of consciousness storytelling. "Boom, huh?"

She rolled her eyes, but managed to bring her gaze up to meet his. She looked a bit chagrined, but rather cute. The sparkle came back, and he was struck again by the oddity of the deep blue color before she sobered again.

"And then that guy - Sabretooth - he grabbed me an' Rogue and shoved all three of us out the door - that blue chick was pretty out of it, 'cause that door was mondo hard, and she hit it with her head after I paffed her - and he reached for me and I… and I … "

The fine tremors in her lower lip betrayed Jubilee's anxiety. Concerned, Logan put his hand on her shoulder. She flinched, her eyes growing huge as she stared up at his face. "I hit him with everything I had, Wolvie, but he just shook it off like it was nothing!"

"Do you think you could take me?" he asked her roughly.

"Not even on a good day," she admitted.

"Creed's the meanest mother-fucker I've ever run across," he told her, ignoring the dirty look from Jean for using crass language in front of a student. "and I'd need a good day to take him down without cashing in all my chips."

"No lie?"

"No lie, kid. You were lucky. And if you're really lucky, you might get another crack at him someday."

"Think I'll wait on that, thanks awful," she joked. The tension leaked out of her and she relaxed back into the pillows, giving him a wan smile that still held a touch of her normal insouciant grin. "I probably oughta get back on my game, first."

"Your pals will be glad to get you back upstairs where you belong," he told her. "They've been pretty worried about you."

"I know," she said, serious. "I really did thing I was gonna buy the farm, but I guess Hank found something to help after all." She glanced up at the empty metal loops at the head of her bed which had so recently been festooned with various plastic bags.

Leukocytes," Logan declared, proud of himself for remembering the word.

Jubilee blinked at him. "You do and you'll clean it up."

"Pay attention," he growled. "It's another word for white blood cells, the ones that attack infection. My blood cells, for your information, which are currently cruising around in you."

"Gross." Jubilee wrinkled her nose, then her face suddenly cleared as something occurred to her. "Hey, does this mean we're, like, blood brothers or something?"

Logan growled again, and got a faint grin in response.

"You also have several doses of his red blood cells, Jubilee." Jean told her as she moved between Logan and the bed with a blood pressure cuff. Jubilee made another face, but held her arm out. "Hank and I discussed it, and we came to the conclusion that it couldn't do any harm to give you a whole blood transfusion. Logan's cells are apparently accustomed to working overtime when it comes to providing oxygen and other nutrients, and they seem to have accelerated your recuperation. Not enough to make repeating this a feasible proposition, but you, at least, have had the partial benefit of Logan's healing."

The stethoscope was expertly hooked in Jean's as she pumped the cuff full of air and took Jubilee's pressure, then listened to her chest and took her pulse. Through it all, the teen kept a martyred look on her face.

"I think Jubilee needs to get some more rest now," Jean told Logan. "Would you tell Kitty and Rogue they can come see her after lunch?"

"Sure," Logan agreed as he got up out of the chair he'd borrowed earlier.

"And if you have a few minutes, I'd like to discuss you helping Jubilee with her physical therapy."

Jubilee made a horrible face behind Jean's back, and Logan winked at her while pretending to give Jean his full attention.

When Jubilee was allowed to leave the Medical Bay at last, the entire dining hall was decorated with balloons and streamers, with the color yellow predominating. The cooks baked a special cake, decorated with multi-colored starbursts of frosting.

Jubilee held court in the center of one of the long tables, her friends gathered around her in a raucous crowd, laughing and throwing jokes and insults around as though they had never come close to losing one of their own. Even the presence of Logan sitting near the end of the table did not diminish the festive atmosphere.

"Here. This is a get-well present from the gang." Rogue plunked a large hatbox in front of Jubilee with a flourish. Sneaking a couple of fingers out of her sling, Jubilee managed to get a grip on the edge of the ribbon and give herself the leverage she needed to pry the lid off.

"Ohh-kaaayy," Jubilee said as she got a look at the object inside.

"Put it on," urged Rogue.

Jubilee pulled out the top hat and gingerly placed it on her head. The fire-engine red satin and heavily sequined headband contrasted dramatically with her black hair.

"Not exactly my fashion statement, babe."

"Keep looking," Bobby told her.

Scrabbling under the tissue paper in the bottom of the box, Jubilee made a shocked face that caused the teens around her to laugh. That face was understandable when she pulled out a dark serpentine length of dark leather that revealed itself to be a miniature bullwhip.

"Hey, Wolvie. I think this one's more up your alley," she quipped.

"NO! No," objected Marie and Bobbie. "It's for your lion-taming act. Or Sabretooth taming act!"

Grinning, the girl shoved the hat a little harder on her head, jamming it on at a rakish angle, and shook the whip out to its full length on the table. The teens around her applauded.

When the chattering around the guest of honor died down, most of the people turning to their cake and individual conversations, Logan reached under the table and pulled out a large, flat box. Jubilee gave him a puzzled look as he shoved her cake to one side and placed the box in front of her, and he confessed that he'd gotten her a present as well.

"I hope you didn't get this at the same place you bought that whip," She commented as she ripped the bow and paper off one-handed.

"Actually…" drawled Logan.

"Eww," she replied as she flipped off the top. When she pulled aside the tissue paper, she paused, just looking at the contents.

"Well - what is it?" demanded St. John.

Her fingers trembled just a bit as she reached into the box with her good hand and pulled out the jacket. Made of supple leather and exquisitely crafted, the garment slithered out and hung heavily from her fingers. It was a blinding shade of yellow.

"Hey! Do you know how many Big Birds it takes to make a coat like that?" protested Bobby, getting another round of laughter.

Taken from Piotr Rasputin's drawings and using Jubilee's one other coat for a size guide, the wizened old man at Mickey's Leather had recreated the lost rain slicker into a leather trench coat, complete with a belt. Xavier had offered to help pay the exorbitant price, but Logan turned him down. It was a personal debt.

"Here. Try it on." Logan unhooked her sling and took the jacket from her hand, holding it out. Jubilee took off the red hat and fed her less cooperative left arm into the sleeve, then turned and thrust her right through that sleeve while Logan eased it up over her shoulders. She turned and allowed him to flap the front edges over each other and belt it for her. With his assistance she pulled the collar up the way she habitually wore it.

Under the cover of the chatter going on around her, Jubilee caressed the soft lapel and stared at the buttons on Logan's shirt.

"Thanks," she muttered. "I don't really know… how to.."

"You're welcome," he said firmly.

Blue eyes rose to meet his, frank and honest. "I think this is one of those huggy moments, but I don't really do those."

"Me either," he responded.

She shrugged her good shoulder, as if giving the jacket a hug, or letting it hug her. A brilliant smile tried to sneak around the lip she was biting. "Okay."

Logan flicked the knuckle of his index finger under her chin, and got a full-fledged Jubilee grin in response. She twirled around, letting the skirts of the coat flare. "So, is this, like, the first installment of my new wardrobe?"

His jaw dropped. "What?"

"Hey, I'd've had to be dead not to hear someone offer me a whole new wardrobe." She tried to put her left hand in the pocket, but the limb refused to cooperate. "As soon as my arm gets its act together, we can go to the mall. I can't wait!"