saga/title/fandom: Two of Us chapter 26 (X-Men)
author: Alex L
rating/genre: (R) - Romance/Drama
warnings: het, language, adult situtations
summary: Set after the kiss in Homecomings, Bobby finds happiness with Jubilee. In progress. Please read and review!
comments/disclaimers: I forgot the disclaimer for this one---my apologies. All characters belong to Marvel. The story is mine.Feedback is always appreciated.
Chapter Twenty-Six: Whatever Happened?
Outside of Edmonton, stood a solitary, log cabin nestled in a secluded forest. Surrounded by 60 acres of blanketed meadow and woods, the home came with a panoramic view of the nearby lake. The warmth from the cedar wood it was constructed from and the gray smoke from the chimney were contrasts against the pristine white of the fresh snow. Winter, woodland creatures moved about in their surroundings, occasionally breaking the placid silence. So remote was the location that the consideration of civilization was improbable. While most people would consider the location isolating and lonely, the owner would not have it any other way.
Inside the old-fashioned cabin, exposed beams and pine floors were showcased. A stone fireplace harbored a crackling fire in the open living room to ward off the winter chills. Hickory wood mixed with the faint smell of cigars hung in the air. The kitchen was rustic, equipped with a wood burning stove and a compact icebox. Cedar stairs led to the two bedrooms. A small washroom with a scratched, porcelain sink, toilet, and bathtub with feet was situated between the living quarters.
Minimal and sparse were words that could best describe the décor inside the cabin. Items were present for their function for the homeowner. Given that the cabin was far from the nearest town, the pantry was stocked with canned and preserved foods. Most of them were reminiscent of military rations—contained in tins and with no expiration dates. While the amenities were few in number, the owner of the property did break down and made some needed repairs and renovations. The pipes were fixed to supply running water, and wiring had been laid underground for electricity.
A laconic man with stony, green eyes was standing over the stove in the kitchen. He was warming two tins for the afternoon meal. Meanwhile, his companion, a stunning young girl with long, black hair and midnight blue streaks, sat at the kitchen table—a slab of pine laid across two large stones. Although the two of them could not be mistaken for father and daughter, there was an unspoken bond that implied otherwise. Every once in a while, the older man would flick his gaze to the girl, the hard lines around his face softening ever so slightly. This was not motivated by any romantic or lecherous feelings. Rather, it stemmed from a sense of pride and affection that had grown over the course of their relationship.
After several minutes, he removed the tins from the heat and ambled towards the girl. He set each tin on worn, gray towels, which were used as makeshift placemats. Then he wandered to the icebox, retrieving a bottle of beer for himself and a glass of milk for the girl. His steps were quick as he returned to her.
Jubilee peered at her tin meal with skepticism and wariness. For the past week and a half, she and Logan had been subsisting on bland, canned foods and the occasional beef jerky and trail mix. Privately, she yearned for the warm, hearty meals Cook would have prepared for those staying back at the mansion. When she approached her beloved Wolvie about a change in menu, her attempts were met with gruff rejection. According to him, food was food. He also bluntly informed her that he had survived on this stock for years and nothing happened to him.
Her sapphire eyes flicked to her mentor, who was now sitting across from her. She watched as he scooped the contents with his fork and lifted it to his lips. “How is it?” she asked.
“Tastes like chicken,” Logan spat out, grimacing. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
She gave him a quizzical look. “What’s wrong with that?”
He rose to his feet and tossed the canister in the trashcan. Clad in his usual white T-shirt and faded jeans with boots, he resembled a sleek animal. “It’s macaroni and cheese.” His green eyes were amused when she pushed away her own canister in disgust.
She pushed up the sleeves of her gray, turtleneck sweater, worn over a pair of dark-blue, boot cut jeans. Her movements towards the pantry were light and swift. With accumulated familiarity, she began to seek out a substitute for the offending tins of food. Her eyes scanned the shelves, past several unlabeled cans and jars. When she discovered a stash of beef jerky, she grabbed two sticks and dashed to the table, where Logan was sitting with beer in hand.
As she seated herself in front of him, she suddenly realized what day it was. January 1st, the first day of the new calendar year. Automatically, her thoughts turned to a tradition associated with this time. The corners of her mouth lifted in an amused smile.
“New Year’s resolutions?” she inquired, offering him a stick of jerky.
He raised a brow at her and took the jerky. Tearing the cellophane wrapper off, he shrugged. “Don’t usually think about that kind of thing, kid,” he told her flatly.
“Why not?” Jubilee was already biting into the salty, preserved meat. “I mean it’s like starting anew. You get the opportunity to tackle new things and meet new goals.”
Logan took a swig of beer. “It’d be great if you remembered by the end of the year,” he countered. He raised a cynical brow at her, his expression softened by the warmth that glowed from the gold flecks in his eyes.
“I remember my resolutions,” she said, somewhat defensively as she chewed. “Sometimes, it’s too much of a hassle to keep them.” Her cerulean eyes twinkled mischievously.
The usually surly and terse Wolverine was not a man who smiled easily. Indeed, it was rare to observe Logan smiling. Smirking, yes. But smiling? It was almost comparable to a UFO sighting. Yet, here he was, wearing an expression that could only be construed as a genuine smile.
With his dark and tortured past, he found that life, for the most part, gave him very little to smile about. He was a man who had no past. He was a man whose body and mind were used in a series of cruel experiments. He was a man who had known briefly of love and lost it as soon as it was realized. Most of all, he was a man who did not deserve to become acquainted with any semblance of belonging. Even with the others at the mansion, Logan considered himself an outsider, only worthy of scorn and impatience by the likes of Summers and Worthington. Simply being in the same room with these men only served to remind him that he was a freak. Yes, he had decided, keeping himself closed off to the rest of the world would make his life uncomplicated.
However, all of this changed during a chance meeting with a skinny pixie. Granted, he was not totally comfortable with completely opening himself up to her. There were things that lingered in his closet of secrets, but he became aware that living life was not about taking the easy route. His firmly entrenched defenses were challenged by a child who did not know or care about his what he might have done years ago, and who shared his deep sense of pain and loss.
Logan supposed it was their common dealings with grief that drew him close to Jubilee. He wanted to ensure that she never became the embittered soul he once was. She was young and despite her cynical view of things, quite innocent. There was no need for her to follow the road he had taken. So many wasted years, drinking in various dives and spending empty nights with faceless women. Jubilee did not deserve any of that. As her self-appointed protector, he swore to provide her with some normalcy. While his presence in her life in the past was somewhat sporadic, he felt as if he was putting a more conscious effort now.
Take for instance, this vacation at his cabin. Although it was not as glamorous as the trip Summers had taken her on last year, Logan was of the opinion that the intimate nature of this outing was what made it more special. His cabin was located several miles from his closest neighbor, who happened to be away for the winter. It was simply just himself and Jubilee, as it had been when she was younger. For the most part, only the most rudimentary supplies—food, running water, medicine, and heat—were present. He did indulge in what he perceived as extravagances to make the stay more comfortable for his young charge, such as electricity and an AM/FM radio. The latter was used sparingly. His intention was to eliminate any distractions from their time together. That, and he hated the cheesy seasonal music that seemed to play in a continuous loop.
As the holiday season began to wrap up, he found himself mulling over the return trip to Westchester. The very thought of their time together ending made him ache inside. He perceived it as another denouement he was not quite ready for.
In spite of his efforts, there was something in the way. It was not out in the open, but he could still detect it nonetheless. In addition to his senses, Logan relied on knowledge based on their relationship. Nothing had to be spelled out for him to know that she was preoccupied. A barrier was put up, preventing her from being her usual self. Her grins and that light tone of voice she used were devoid of the Jubilee he knew. They were simply empty gestures utilized to throw him off.
Not known for prying into other people’s affairs, Logan struggled internally. He wanted to inquire as to what was weighing on her mind. There were many times when the questions were on the tip of his tongue, particularly when it was so obvious that she was somewhere else. For example, as she was opening her gifts on Christmas morning, there was a faraway quality to her expression. Even with the iPod she received from him, Jubilee was restrained. Logan had made a passing remark about her quiet mood, hoping that it would spark some conversation about what was vexing her. Unfortunately, this was quickly dismissed with forced, cheeriness from her.
In the end, Logan found himself holding back. At first, he wondered why. His first instinct had always been to look after her and make things better. Years ago, he had no qualms about letting her cry on his shoulder. It was something that made him feel needed and not so much of the freak he felt he was. She made him belong.
When it came to the heart of the matter, the surly loner I knew /I he could not make things better. Not this time. Things were different; things had changed. Jubilee was no longer a child. She was an adult now, dealing with new issues that were seemingly outside of his comfort zone.
At least, that was what Logan concluded.
“Where are you?” Jubilee’s voice broke into his thoughts. She was leaning towards him, her scent of bubblegum and cinnamon filling his nostrils.
Slightly startled, he raised his both brows, which wrinkled his forehead. “Just thinkin’ about what you were sayin’, kid,” he lied. His husky voice was even, not betraying his thoughts.
“Oh.” If she was unconvinced of his candor, she certainly was not revealing her skepticism. She tucked a lock of silky hair behind a delicate ear and chewed on her lower lip thoughtfully. “So, do you have any resolutions? Maybe quitting smoking?”
His brows furrowed together as he frowned. “Not likely,” he said gruffly and took a swig of his beer. Already, his mouth craved a nice Cuban cigar.
She giggled, the sound resembling the tinkling of a bell. It was so light and clear—as she should always be. He almost wrote off his initial suspicions that something was wrong. However, upon further analysis, he noticed that there was a flat quality to her usually sparkling eyes. Then it all came back to him—the hurt she was hiding, their stale dance surrounding their avoidance of addressing it. Logan was tired of allowing things to remain unspoken any longer.
He cleared his throat and stared deeply into her lovely face. “Listen, kid,” he began, trying to hide the reluctance that threatened to hold him back once again. Inhaling sharply, he pressed on. “Level with me. What’s with you?”
Jubilee gave him a quizzical look while appearing flustered. “What do you mean?” she asked, lowering her thick lashes slightly. “I’m OK. I’ve been having a good time... I mean you know that, right? Yeah, it’s been kind of rough with the food situation, but this place is cozy and...”
The wrinkles in his forehead deepened. His hunches that something was amiss were confirmed. For as long as he knew her, he could always pinpoint signs of anxiety in her behavior through certain cues. She had a tendency to babble when she was distressed. All that was missing from this picture was the snapping of gum in her mouth.
“Ever since we got up here, you’ve been acting different,” Logan informed her, locking his eyes on hers.
She tried to tear her gaze from his. Unfortunately, Logan had this way of captivating one’s attention against their will. When he spoke and used his steely, Stoic stare, one had no choice but to focus. For Jubilee, this made it harder for her to deceive him. Despite the fact that she was an adult now, she suddenly felt like the child he had take under his wing so long ago.
“Kid?” Logan’s stony face now wore a concerned frown. Without hesitation, he reached across the table for her small hand. Usually, he was not the touchy-feely type. Hell, he was the first to mock such people. However, with Jubilee, he was willing to make a special exception.
Her lower lip was trapped beneath her white teeth. She thought she had him fooled. All those smiles, the quick reassurances that all was well amounted to nothing. Inwardly, she cursed her arrogance and naiveté. The young girl felt as if she should have known better.
As she studied the weathered hand she had come to associate with strength, feral-like behavior, and most importantly, comfort, she pondered her response. In the past, she would have had no hesitation to disclose her problems to her beloved Wolvie. Whether it was combating feelings of loneliness or expressing frustration about being sent away to Massachusetts, she could count on him. He always knew how to handle things.
Yet, she found herself holding back from him. She despised every fiber of her being for it. It was as if she were a prisoner in some painfully repetitive cycle—first with Bobby, and now with Logan. The worst part of it was the fact that she was capable of exerting some control. She could change things. She could tell Logan what was troubling her lately.
But she did not.
It was not that Jubilee believed she was doing a stellar job of handling things. Unless one considered being miserable during the holidays a success, then she was a high achiever. Her somber mood was antithetical to the sentiments of the season. Good cheer, the opportunity to spend time with the man she considered a father, and the booty of presents was unable to lighten her outlook. Compared to her, the cynical Logan seemed to have Christmas cheer pouring out of his nose.
When it came down to the heart of the matter, she was apprehensive about approaching Logan. Not that there was a remote chance that he would laugh or act annoyed upon hearing what she had to say. Rather, she was afraid he would become tense and uncomfortable. It was no secret that he was not a man who was particularly introspective about emotions and relationships. While he never talked about this aspect of his life with her, she was aware of his reputation as someone who preferred hassle-free encounters without any baggage.
Complicating matters was the fact that he was still adjusting to the idea of her romance with Bobby. Like Scott, Logan had toned down the more overt aspects of his protectiveness. He was less inclined to growl or flash a warning glare at Bobby every time he observed the younger man holding her hand or wrapping an arm around her shoulders. The loner’s wariness was soon replaced with a sense of “I may not like it, but I don’t want to know too much about it”.
At first, Jubilee found his demeanor rather amusing, even cute. The ferocious Wolverine spooked by the mere thought of her dating. He would stiffen whenever she would gush about Bobby. Then he would abruptly change the subject or grind his cigar between his teeth. She had even teased him once about it. However, that quickly became a singular episode when he told her to cut it out in that low, rumbling voice he used when he meant business.
But analyzing his response now, the message he conveyed through his actions left her wondering. There were so many unanswered questions that raced through her mind each time she thought about saying something to him. Would Logan understand? More importantly, would he even want to listen in the first place?
It was this uncertainty that compelled her to draw her hand back from his.
Jubilee wrapped her arms around her lithe form. She furiously searched for something to throw him off. Her sapphire eyes soaked up the grain of the wooden table in front of her in an attempt to avoid peering up at Logan any longer. “I’m not ready for my vacation to end,” she lied.
His features arranged themselves into a skeptical expression. With anyone else, he would have been more explicit in his conveying his doubt. But given how ambivalent she seemed at that moment, an aggressive move had the potential to make her retreat even further from him. He could tell that she desperately wanted to tell him what was responsible for her despondent demeanor. At the same time, he knew that she was struggling internally with her decision to disclose.
In the end, he decided that if he were ever going to discover what was bothering his protégée, he would have to exercise some patience. As a someone who hunted regularly (stalking animals only to touch them), he was familiar with such an approach. Thoughts of initiating anything would have to be tempered by his determination. Ultimately, he would have to wait for her to come to him.
Rising to his feet, the wiry and sleek Logan circled the table. When he was next to Jubilee, he bent down so that his face was level with hers. “I hear you,” he said in his gravelly voice. He pressed his lips against her forehead, inhaling her sweet perfume. Then he drew back and straightened to his full height before leaving her.
Evening had arrived several hours later, bringing with it pitch-black skies and twinkling stars that peeked from behind tall pine trees. The moon was luminous over the snow-covered hills that surrounded Logan’s cabin. The arctic air that was indigenous to this part of the country ushered in howling wind. Its cries were a marked contrast against the placid, soothing glow cast by the silvery moon overhead.
For Jubilee, the screeching wind did not act as a deterrent to a peaceful slumber. It did not draw nightmarish images of evil monsters. Fears of being attacked were quite remote in her consciousness. The young girl had already stared down her share of such individuals—and survived. Her strength and the life lessons learned from these encounters were testaments to that.
Nor was it the sparse accommodations that came with the guestroom she was staying in. Granted, the small room with its creaky floors, barren walls, and worn mattress made her space back at the Summers’ home akin to an oasis. But given Jubilee’s low-maintenance attitude and her experience with living on the streets as young child, this did not trouble her all that much. In fact, she was finding herself getting used to her basic surroundings.
No, it was something else that kept her awake at night. It made the promise of a fitful slumber elude her grasp for the last two weeks. To her, this something else filled her with unprecedented levels of fear and anxiety. She could not remember dealing with anything like it before.
“If you really cared about me, you would understand. You wouldn’t be acting so...so childish.”
“You’re a bastard.”
Jubilee shook her head, forcing herself back into present reality. She blinked rapidly as she laid in the narrow twin bed she called hers for the past two weeks. Sighing, she turned on her side and pulled the scratchy, flannel blanket under her chin. Her mind attempted to will itself to clear any remnants of the echoing conversation. Various thoughts pulsed her brain in a vain effort: catching up on the latest gossip with Paige, eating one of Cook’s piping hot meals, being coddled by Jean and Ororo upon her return, thanking Scott for the MP3 player for her car. Yet, in this makeshift list, there was an important item that was missing.
Rather, it was an important person.
Despite her resolve to keep herself distracted, she could not help but be moved as to how vivid the memory of her argument with him continued to be in her mind. She could still see the anguish in his usually playful gray eyes. It was something she had never seen before and did not ever want to see again. Simply thinking about him being in pain made her heart ache deeply inside her chest. Even worse, she was aware that she was partially responsible for it. Her inability to share and communicate with him was still a source of silent frustration for her. It was something she could not quite forgive herself for.
There were nights when she felt completely consumed by her guilt. Lying awake then, she briefly considered picking up the phone and calling information for the Drake’s number. Beyond that, any semblance of a proposed conversation escaped her. How she was going to approach him did not seem all that important to her. What was paramount was getting in touch with Bobby, hearing his voice. To her, it was the next best thing to experiencing the closeness of his body to hers.
Yet, she always hesitated from executing this plan. Her rationalizations that her Wolvie would erupt into a series of conniptions from the ensuing phone bill were valid and persuasive. She inferred that the long-distance charges between this province and Long Island were possibly quite hefty. However, this not was the sole reason that held her back. As much as she yearned to contact her boyfriend, she was cognizant of the fact that he had hurt her as well. The feelings of sadness and disbelief were still seared into her consciousness. Having experienced losses and traumas in her young lifetime, this was a profound statement. She could not remember the last time she had felt so betrayed and so utterly alone. Bobby, the person she associated with safety and feelings of wonder and contentment, had inflicted this pain she carried with her during the holidays. Not only did he make her perceive herself as inadequate, but also he questioned her commitment, her feelings for him. It was the latter that seemed that especially painful.
“If you really cared about me, you would understand.”
Her immediate reaction produced bitter tears that she desperately fought to conceal. In the quiet and privacy of her room, she vacillated between ruminating and crying. The first two nights at the cabin were particularly difficult, as the wounds received from the fight were still fresh. Each time the argument replayed in her mind, she noticed how convinced he was of the sentiment in his statements. The fact that he doubted her in the first place was too much.
Because it was the farthest thing from the truth.
Jubilee turned over in bed so that she was now lying on her back. She closed her eyes tightly. It was incredible that someone who once believed that love was reserved for other people was now struggling with the emotion. She was both exhilarated and frightened at the same time. There was a natural high that was brought on by thinking about Bobby and what she came to associate with him—his kindness, sense of humor, and tenderness. This was coupled with a sense of trepidation as to what was ahead for them. Implied with the word love was a deeper sort of commitment—at least that was what she understood.
Though she had accepted that her feelings for Bobby certainly fell under the descriptor of love, verbalizing it out loud continued to be another issue entirely. Jubilee slid one of her arms under the pillow that cradled her head. Initially, she wondered if Bobby would reciprocate her feelings. Exacerbating her anxiety was the fact that he had expressed doubt about her intentions. She dismissed this quickly, given his demeanor during their fight. He was genuinely upset while he operated under the assumption that she might not care for him the way he cared for her.
She knew that she could have easily placated his doubts by admitting that she was in love with him. Perhaps the altercation would not have gone any farther had she done so. Maybe things would have not deteriorated the way they did. Then we might not be these miserable losers who spent their Christmases brooding, she mused.
When it became abundantly clear that she was nowhere near sleep, she opened her eyes. The door to her room was ajar, allowing light from downstairs to filter through. Logan, not one who required hours and hours of respite, was still awake. After they returned to the cabin from an outing into town for dinner, he decided to read through a copy of the local paper he had picked up. He informed her it was a pleasant change of pace from listening to the radio in the cabin.
Jubilee’s ears could pick up the crackling of the flames burning in the fireplace. The smell of hickory wood tickled her nostrils. As she continued to lie in bed, she wondered if Logan was still preoccupied with their conversation earlier that day. Well, it was more like a soliloquy from his end since she was not willing to participate. He certainly made no mention of the topic during their dinner at the local greasy spoon. There were no subtle, indirect attempts at dredging up the subject—not even a raised eyebrow in her direction. It was as if his concern had dissipated, becoming a distant memory.
At first, she was relieved. In a way, Logan had provided her with a green light to continue with her little charade. The pressure to talk and reflect upon her current woes was lifted from her weary shoulders. She did not have to worry about whether or not there was going to be any discomfort on both their parts upon talking about her relationship with Bobby. Instead, she could keep plastering on those wide grins, force those girlish giggles, and talk about matters that warranted the least amount of attention on her part. That way, she could deal with her problems by herself. After all, that was what she wanted.
Her slender limbs tensed under the worn, flannel blanket. Suddenly feeling very warm, she kicked off the covers. She placed her hand on her forehead where Logan had kissed her that afternoon. His voice—gruff, rumbling, and surprisingly tender—echoed inside her head. Both of these elements were not unlike other memories she had of the man she came to view as her mentor. Yet, they seemed to fly in the face of the way he was handling this situation...
It was then that she realized what he was up to.
This late evening found Logan stretched out on the couch in front of the fireplace. The piece of furniture was definitely something Jean or Ororo would have attempted to talk him out of purchasing. It was overstuffed and lumpy in some spots. The bright orange velour that was upholstered to the couch was tattered and smelled rather musty and a little bit like old Cohibas. There were a couple of burn holes in the cushions from his less careful moments. Yet, he was able to see past through these obvious flaws. He appreciated the piece for what it was. The self-professed loner was not concerned about whether or not it matched anything in his home. As long it was comfortable enough to cradle his tired, adamantium bones, he was satisfied. Besides, it had been quite a steal at forty-five dollars from the Salvation Army.
Flipping through the classified section of the local paper, he exhaled loudly. While it was partly attributed to the dull writing style that was included in the publication, he knew the true source of the sigh. As he folded the paper in his lap, he could not help but feel somewhat frustrated. He had tried the less invasive approach when it came to Jubilee. By giving her some space and not cajoling her, he believed she would confide in him. He would no longer be shut out or in the dark as to what was troubling her. Furthermore, he would be able to give her guidance as to how deal with the outstanding issue.
But none of this happened. Much to his chagrin, Jubilee was not receptive to his less direct approach. She chose to act oblivious, acting as if he was ignorant of her mood. The smiles she flashed him throughout their excursion into town continued to lack the genuineness and light that were usually present. When she laughed, he noticed that her sparkling eyes were flat as they had been during their entire time at the cabin. Given the cues in her behavior, he reached one conclusion.
She had no intention of letting him in.
For this, Logan felt impotent and powerless. He supposed what was especially trying was the fact that there was very little he could to help in the end. Rather than being her protector and the one she could rely on to mend things, Logan was relegated to the role of bystander. He cursed himself wildly for not being more proactive. Contrary to his confident and self-assured nature, he started to second-guess himself. It was an unsettling experience for a man who prided himself in his ability to read people easily.
His somber and introspective musings were interrupted when he suddenly sensed he was no longer alone. Bubblegum and cinnamon mingled together in the air. Light footfalls crossed the hardwood floor of the living room. They grew louder with each passing second, indicating the other person’s closer proximity to him. In addition to the footfalls, his ears picked up on a faint humming. Though it was a tune he was not all that familiar with, he found himself becoming removed from his brooding state of mind.
“What’s with the humming?” he asked in greeting as Jubilee circled the couch. In spite of his best efforts to suppress a smile, he felt the corners of his mouth lift slightly. Seeing her sweet face always had that effect on him. She looked very angelic that evening. Her long, dark hair spilled down her graceful shoulders, providing a contrast to her almost alabaster skin and delicate features. She wore a pair of loose-fitting, blue pajamas. The color brought out the hypnotic depths of her sapphire eyes. Looking at her now, he was curious as to how Drake ended up being so lucky.
“I deleted that Black-Eyed Peas song that was already downloaded on my iPod,” she sighed as she seated herself next to him. “Now I wish hadn’t.”
He raised a stony brow at her. “Then why did you do it?”
She shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly. “I heard Alex and Kurt say they don’t have the urban vibe like other groups.”
“Those two have as much street credit as Bert and Ernie,” Logan commented wryly, turning his attention from the bright orange flames of the fire to the beautiful young girl next to him.
Jubilee let out a loud snort, which produced a honking sound. Quickly, she covered the lower half of her face sheepishly. “Sorry,” she apologized when she observed a mixture of amusement and shock that played out across his face. Had she been in a more jovial mood, she might have made a comment about Logan cracking a joke.
Instead, she decided to press on with the matter at hand. Taking a deep breath, she said quietly, “You win.”
He leaned towards her, his craggy face edging close to hers. “What do you mean?” he asked.
She fought the urge to pout. Despite his best efforts to appear neutral and guileless, she was able to discern that Logan was enjoying this. She was playing into his hand like he probably suspected. “I said you win,” she told him brusquely. “You win, OK? I’ll tell you everything. I’m miserable because I screwed up. Happy now?”
Logan’s green eyes soaked up the picture in front of him. Her shoulders were hunched over and she wrung her small hands tightly. This girl was a foil to the Jubilee he knew and loved. Whatever was causing her deep-seeded anguish, he knew he wanted to quash it immediately. “No,” he answered, drawing her close to his side. “You being upset doesn’t make me happy, kid.”
The young girl gazed up at him, wide-eyed. It never ceased to amaze her as to how tender he could be sometimes. This was the same individual known for his feral temperament and his distant ways with people. His hand, which was often used to inflict damage to various enemies on the field, was now stroking her hair in a manner that many did not think he was capable of. Taking all of this in, she realized that it was safe to talk to him. No matter what, he was going to listen and make her feel heard.
She sighed softly and bit her lower lip. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap like that.” She paused and stared at her clasped hands. “I did something really stupid while I was at Bobby’s for Thanksgiving.”
“What happened?” Logan rested his stubble-ridden chin on the top of her head.
She swallowed hard and shook her head. “I said something to his dad.”
He frowned at her thoughtfully, wondering if she had actually taken his advice about giving Drake’s parents hell if they gave her a hard time. At the time, he sensed she was not going to follow that path. “Why? What did you say?”
“I said I love him,” Jubilee said glumly, resting her head against Logan’s broad shoulder. She sighed heavily. “I’m such a tool.”
He raised a brow at her, intrigued. “You’re in love with Drake’s dad?”
“What?” She pulled away immediately. Her sapphire eyes became as round as saucers, emphasizing her incredulity. Then she slapped his shoulder when she noticed a mischievous glint in the golden flecks of his eyes. “Ew, Wolvie, no... I meant I told Mr. Drake I love Bobby.”
Logan stiffened slightly. His features drew themselves into a pensive, but unreadable expression. “Oh.”
She stole a hesitant glance, trying to decipher his reaction. Shock? Disapproval? Amusement? No, there was none of that. Instead, he appeared painfully neutral. Immediately, she was consumed with trepidation as she pondered how to deal with the conversation from this point. There was no way she could take back her words. They seemed to dangle in the air rather starkly.
“You think it’s stupid,” she said, feeling her cheeks flush with embarrassment. She shifted on the couch so that she could draw even further from him. Her mind raced with possibilities to salvage things.
His weathered, dry hand immediately shot out, clamping firmly on her knee. He frowned at her with puzzlement and asked, “What makes you say that, kid?”
She bit her lower lip and turned her gaze from his face. “I... I don’t know.”
“Sure you do.” He moved closer to her and draped his other arm over the back of the couch. “You don’t think I understand why it’s scary for you to admit that.”
Her mouth nearly gaped open from astonishment. Then she tucked a lock of hair nervously behind a delicate ear. “Am I that easy to read?” she whispered.
He shook his head. “No. Let’s just say that you and I have something in common.” He noticed a hint of curiosity washing over her face and immediately; he knew she wanted to query him as to his experiences. Normally, he would have tried to dismiss her attempts and insist that they were talking about her and not him. But he was aware that would not be setting the best example for her.
Finally, he said, “I know what it’s like to be afraid to let someone in. It was a hard thing to do. I thought I was weak for doing it. You know, for letting myself be that vulnerable in front of someone else. Looking back, I would have been a weaker person for not doing it at all.”
Jubilee nodded in agreement, captivated by the fact that Logan was revealing an aspect of himself he kept sheltered inside. Yes, he made sure to be as general as he could, but he was still putting himself out there. His sage words acted as reinforcement, encouraging her to press on. “You’re right,” she told him, taking a shaky breath. “It’s just...strange. I love Bobby. I love him and I can’t even tell him. I mean he has no idea.”
Then she laughed bitterly, which made her seem older beyond her years at that moment. “That’s not the best part of it, Wolvie. You see, not only does Bobby not know that I’m in love with him, he seems to think that I don’t care about him. The fact that we got into this knock-down, drag-out fight didn’t really help things.” She threw her hands in the air out of frustration and disgust with the situation. “Since he has doubts about me, I guess he’s experiencing some uncertainty about us.”
Logan sat back on the couch, riveted by what he just heard. The turmoil that emanated from her was quite palpable. It was hard not be empathic to what she was going through. Obviously, this predicament had consumed her in every aspect. She was angry with herself and Drake. She was despondent over this rift between them. He could see that more anything, she wanted desperately to find some way to fix things. Her tone and the way she was speaking conveyed that.
Given all of this, there was only one thing he could do. Calmly, he asked, “So, what are you going to do about it?”
Jubilee’s shoulders sank, evoking a comparison to a rapidly deflating balloon. She drew her knees to her chest and rested her chin between them. “No clue,” she admitted gloomily. Then she turned to him with her grave face. “What do you think I should do?”
He wrapped an arm around her slender form. “I think you should follow your instincts,” he told her quietly.
She looked at him quizzically with those wide, old-soul blue eyes. “What does that mean?”
“It means don’t spend every minute over-thinking things and making assumptions you don’t know are true.”
“I haven’t been doing any of that.”
“Come on, kid. Do you know for a fact that Drake might not feel the same way?”
“Well, not exactly.”
“Maybe instead of jumping to these conclusions, you should try talking to the guy.”
“I like how you’ve taken a complex situation, otherwise known as my life, and simplified it.”
“Listen, I don’t know Icicle that well and I’m not going to go out of my way to defend him. But from what I’ve seen, he seems to be pretty decent. A little off, but decent.”
“Seriously, Wolvie, it’s hard. I don’t know if I can do it.”
“That fight you were talking about... That’s not keeping you back, is it?”
“No. Granted, I’m still pissed. But in the grand scheme of things, that’s not it at all.”
“Then what is it?”
Jubilee chewed on her lower lip and hugged her knees tightly. “Because for the first time in my life, I know what it’s like to be happy with another person. It’s territory I’ve never ventured into before. I’m ecstatic and scared out of my mind at the same time. If he doesn’t feel the same way, I don’t know what I’m going to do.” She grimaced. “I sound like such a dip.”
Logan brushed a wisp of hair from her soft cheek. “No, I don’t think so,” he observed. “You found someone who means a great deal to you. In this world and for some people, that’s a rare thing. Consider yourself a part of the lucky ones.”
home prior chapter next chapter fiction gateway