“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me…” the song continued as it streamed loudly from the speakers on the walls. Christmas had come again, quicker than expected for some people’s tastes. One person in particular, _mutant_, he would be sure to correct you, shared this opinion wholeheartedly.
“…five gold rings,” Logan muttered to himself as he continued to peruse the jewelry counter of Macy’s. “What is it with women and jewelry, anyhow?” he asked no one in particular. Clutched in his hand were the results of tonight’s shopping expedition (“torture”, he would call it) and with just one more gift on his list he was more than ready to see this place in his rear-view mirror.
“Damn, how do women do this shit?” he wondered as he shook his head. Glancing at the counter he noticed a simple pair of emerald studs on display.
“There, that takes care of Marie,” he thought as he waved the saleswoman over. “Jewelry and perfume, Scott said I couldn’t go wrong with jewelry and perfume.” Acknowledging that he was not as schooled in women as his fellow X-Man, (“oh, I can keep ‘em satisfied,” he remembered telling a flustered Scott, “but my gift ain’t of the..._tangible_ type”) Logan listened and took his teammate’s advice. The last thing he wanted was a repeat of _last_ Christmas.
Taking his receipt Logan maneuvered his way through the crowded mall to the food court. While shopping was certainly the activity of choice for many of his housemates he himself did not share their enthusiasm. Yet he couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride for not only finishing his Christmas shopping early but also for not including in his purchases a pre-packed, cholesterol filled gift box from Hickory Farms. “Never makin’ that mistake again,” he chuckled as he searched the food stands for a beer. Finding none he settled for a burger and a Coca-Cola and made his way to one of the few empty tables on the floor.
As he ate his dinner Logan did what he did best: observed. He knew of his reputation as a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants, instinct-driven fighter but the few who really knew him _knew_ that he rarely went into any situation unprepared. Though he masked it very well, Logan was always watching, always paying attention to those around him. He caught more actions with his peripheral vision than many saw right under their noses. Little did he know that one of these said actions would change his life forever.
The young girl moved stealthy, slipping between the mall patrons like water through one’s fingers. A light caress here, a gently squeeze there and soon her fanny-pack was filled with the wallets of many unsuspecting shoppers. Chuckling, she mentally patted herself on the back before eyeing her final victim of the evening. Leaning over the kiosk to admire the collection of cell-phone plastic covers the poor man had no clue just how far his wallet was hanging out of his back pocket. Recognizing she had to move quickly the young girl stroked her collection pouch and cut through the food court. Looking behind her she continued walking until she ‘accidentally’ bumped into the man from behind.
“Hey!” the man bellowed as he spun around to face the child. “Watch it, will you!”
“Like, I’m sorry!” the girl began, working up a few tears for effect. “I’ve gotten, like, separated from my group an’ I thought I heard them an’ I was lookin’ around an’ I didn’t see you there.”
“Yeah, well...just be more careful, alright?” The man’s tone softened as he witnessed the hurt expression on her face.
“Yes…yes sir,” she replied as she bent down to pick up the plastic cover he had been handling. “Here, you dropped this,” she added as she turned away, stuffing her latest prize in her coat pocket.
Sipping on the last of his Coke Logan watched the show from a distance. He had seen this girl around the mall before, when he had dropped Marie and Kitty off at the movies. He knew she was the same girl; shoulder-length straight black hair, almond shaped eyes. The girl was definitely of Asian decent, and young. ‘Young and sneaky,’ Logan thought as he threw his empty cup in the trash and absently reached behind him to make sure his wallet was in place. Satisfied with the bulk protruding from his back left pocket he quickly grabbed his purchases and headed off after the young woman.
Sniffing the air Logan picked up his pace. He knew he needed to retrieve the girl before she left the mall or he’d never find her. ‘Don’t even know why I’m botherin’,’ he told himself before settling for the answer he already knew. ‘’Cause I’m an X-Man, an’ it’s what we do.’ He rolled his eyes before muttering, “Even some snot-nosed thief-of-a-brat pickpocket.”
Rounding the corner to the mall entrance he came to an abrupt halt. Up ahead the young girl was surrounded by two security guards and a couple of men Logan could only assume were victims of the girls antics. Logan leaned against the wall out of view and used his hyper-sensitive hearing to eavesdrop on the conversation.
“I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, you pig!” the girl blasted as she struggled within the first guard’s grasp. “I ain’t no thief, I didn’t take nothin’!”
“Oh no?” the second guard asked casually as he ripped the fanny pack from her waist.
The girl’s eyes grew three sizes as she watched the guard grasp the zipper handle and start to pull. One wallet she could explain, but seven? Seven would put her in juvie again, and for that she would not stand.
“NO! Ain’t it like, against my rights or somethin’ for you to be goin’ through my stuff without my permission?!”
“Not without probable cause, it’s not. And I think this,” he paused and held up the wallet found stuffed in her coat, “constitutes as probable cause.”
“I don’t know how that got there, honest!” the girl cried.
“Yeah, and I’m the King of England,” the guard chuckled as he continued unzipping the bag. The girl watched as panic began to course through her body. Memories of her last stint in juvenile hall came flooding back, memories she’d just as soon forget. Memories that she would do anything; even fight off men twice her size, to keep from occurring once more. In a surge of strength she ripped the guard’s arms off of her and took on a defensive stance. Energy crackled between her fingertips as she summoned control of her mutant powers. Colorful waves of lights and sounds shot from her hands as she tried in vain to blind her captors and create an escape route. It worked…for about 5 seconds before the power drained from her, leaving her exhausted and spent.
“What the…?” the first guard asked as he scrambled to his feet.
“My eyes…can’t see,” one of the men cried as he rubbed his eyes with the backs of his hands.
“Damn…those….those lights! She’s a _mutant_!” the second guard cried as he took off after her.
Standing inconspicuously by the wall Logan recognized the severe turn the situation had taken and knew he could no longer stand idly by. The light show defense, though short lived, was very determined and very accurate; it also was very much a mutation. This young girl was a mutant and now, whether he really agreed with it before or not, she really _was_ his business. Besides, the only thing she managed to accomplish in addition to giving away her secret was to piss the men off and Logan feared in her fatigued state she would be no match for them.
Walking determinedly down the hall Logan caught the young girl by the arm and dragged her back to the guards.
“What’s goin’ on here? Whaddya doing with my _daughter_?”
Panting, the young girl looked up at the large man with the death-grip on her arm. Too exhausted to fight, she stood with her mouth agape as he repeated his question to the uniformed men before them.
“This girl’s your daughter, you say?” the guard asked as he tried to blink away the flashing lights in his eyes.
Logan glanced sideways at the girl, the look on his face unmistakably telling her to keep her trap shut. Contemplating her options she opted to obey him, looking up to him with a mix confusion and fear clouding her face.
“Yeah, we kinda lost track of each other, what with the holiday crowds an’ all. Why, she been givin’ ya any trouble?” Logan asked as he tightened his grip on the girl’s arm.
“Yes she has, actually. She stole my wallet!” said the man from the cell-phone kiosk. “What kind of father are you, just letting your daughter roam free, stealing from unsuspecting’ shoppers?”
Logan bit his tongue and forced himself to take a breath. He didn’t take kindly to people questioning him and his actions, whether they were his actual ones or not. He tried to submerge himself into his new ‘role’ and to act as he would should this situation be for real.
“Stealin’?!” he bellowed as he shook the young girl’s arm. “Is that true, girl?”
“Uh…yes sir?” the girl answered apprehensively. She wasn’t sure what this big mass of muscle had in store for her but she figured it couldn’t be any worse than what she would suffer at the mercy of the others so she decided she’d best play along. Plus, if she admitted to the one stolen wallet maybe they wouldn’t remember to check the fanny-pack.
“That’s not all, sir. I don’t know if you’re aware or not but this kid of yours is a mutie…ah, a mutant. She attacked us with some light beams, blinded us for a bit,” the guard added.
“You did _what_???” Logan asked angrily. “Don’t you remember what happened the last time ya used your powers on another person?” Logan turned and looked at the guards. “Girl didn’t sit for two days after that incident. Looks like it may be time for a reminder.”
The girl gulped as she listened to Logan deliver the last line to the men. Her eyes grew wide and she began to struggle against his strong grip. She couldn’t tell if this stranger was serious with what he was saying or not but she knew one thing for certain, she wasn’t going to stand around and find out.
Logan could feel the girl struggling against him and reckoned it was his last statement that threw her into a tizzy. ‘Good,’ he thought as turned his attention towards her. Little punk gonna go an’ do somethin’ stupid like stealin’, she deserves to sweat over it.’ Releasing her arm he quickly flattened his right hand and brought it down in a stinging swat to the middle of her bottom. Shock overtook her and she immediately quit struggling, only managing to stand with her mouth wide open as the muscled man resumed talking with the guards.
“Again, I’m real sorry about this. Trust me when I say that this’ll never, _never_ happen again,” Logan said, punctuating the second ‘never’ with an additional swat to the girls backside before taking her back into his grasp.
“Well sir, while you seem a man who’s pretty true to his word, it ain’t really that easy,” the guard began. “The girl’s been accused of stealing, not just this wallet but several others. We’ve got reason to believe she’s got them stashed in this fanny pack.”
Logan looked at the pack and seethed. Stooping down he put himself face to face with the accused girl. “I thought I told ya to take that to the lost an’ found!” he growled quietly. Standing straight he took the pack in his hand and began to unzip it. A treasure in the form of multiple wallets appeared and the guards raised their eyebrows for an explanation.
“She found this in the women’s room earlier this evenin’. I told her to take it to the lost and found. I guess we just got a little…_sidetracked_, didn’t we, girl?” Logan put on his most stern face as he glared at his ‘daughter’.
“Uh…yeah, _dad_. I was gonna turn it in but then I lost you an’ I was tryin’ to find you an’…well…” she said, struggling for the most convincing words.
“Uh huh,” Logan replied before turning his attention back to the guards. “My girl’s not a thief,” he began when he noticed the doubting look on the men’s faces. “Curious? Yeah, but not a thief,” he insisted. “Sir, you’ve got your wallet back. Rest assured my girl here’s in for a long and painful lesson on takin’ what don’t belong to her.” He turned to the guards. “Sir, here’s the pack of wallets that my daughter found. You too can rest assure knowin’ she’ll be takin’ in a lesson on obeyin’ what she’s been told. Now, if you don’t mind I’d like to get this little brat home an’ deal with her accordingly.”
“Well sir,” the first guard began, offering his hand in a handshake. “If more parents, mutant or human, would take as much of an interest in their children as you seem to this city would be a better place. Go on, take your girl home.”
“Thanks,” Logan said as he released the guard’s hand. Tightening his grip on the girl’s arm he dragged her behind him through the front door and into the cold and snowy night.
Once in the safety of the parking lot Logan released his grip on the girl’s arm and fished out a cigar from the front inside pocket of his jacket. Chomping off the end he light it and began puffing until a warm glow illuminated the other side. He cocked an eyebrow as he studied the young girl carefully.
“Yeah, so uh…thanks for that, you know?” the girl began, unsure of what to say. In releasing her she was partially reassured that everything that was said by this man had been an act but she didn’t want to give him cause to change his mind.
Logan nodded his head slightly and looked her over. With the exception of her ratted yellow windbreaker the girl was definitely not dressed for the weather. Black and white striped tights shot out from beneath a denim knee-length skirt. Black Converse low-tops covered her feet, her white shoelaces frayed and threatening to snap any minute now. Crossing his arms over his chest Logan leaned against the hood of a black jeep.
“So, ya gotta name?” he asked.
“Yeah. What about you, _dad_?” she answered with a cocky smirk. .
“I asked you first,” Logan said
“I asked you second,” the girl replied.
The man chuckled. “Logan,” he answered.
“Jubilee,” she answered back.
“Come on kid, your _real_ name,” Logan said a little more curtly than intended.
“That _is_ my real name. Jubilation Lee. My friends call me ‘Jubilee’…well, they used to.”
Logan nodded. He looked to the sky, the snow was starting to fall heavily now. “Well, Jubilation Lee, ya got anyone I can talk to about this little stunt you tried pullin’ tonight?”
“Well, even if I _did_ I sure as hell wouldn’t tell you,” she said with a sneer as she turned to walk away.
Logan caught her by the arm and turned her back towards him. He shook his head and sighed. “Ok, where ya stayin’, I’ll give ya a lift”
“Well, you _were_ lookin’ at it,” Jubilee began as she jerked her head towards the mall. “Looks like I’ll be findin’ me some new digs,” she added quietly.
“So, no parents. No home. Nothin’?”
“Myself,” Jubilee offered with a shrug before adding gruffly. “Besides, that’s all I need.”
“Well, not tonight. Come on, get in the car,” Logan said as he unlocked the jeep.
“Nuh uh mister. I mean, like, thanks an’ all for helpin’ me with those goons back there but I don’t do that,” Jubilee said as she began backing away.
“Kid, if I’d wanted anythin’ like that from ya I’da taken it long ago,” Logan informed her. “I ain’t gonna hurt ya, I’m just gonna take you somewhere for a hot meal an’ a good night’s sleep.
Jubilee tensed. The idea of a hot meal sounded wonderful. And a good night’s sleep? In a _bed_? It’d been ages since she’d slept on something softer than her windbreaker. She looked at him with skepticism.
Logan met her eyes as he opened the passenger door and held it for her. Motioning for her to get in he waited patiently as she made her final decision and climbed inside. Situating himself in his seat he cranked up the heater and turned to her.
“So where is this place?” Jubilee asked as her hands refused to release their grip on the passenger door handle.
“It’s my place,” Logan answered. “Well…not exactly _mine_, but it’s where I live. Where a bunch of us live.”
“A bunch of who?” Jubilee asked.
“Mutants. Like you.”
“Oh,” Jubilee said quietly. She looked down at her fingers, watching as faint charges escaped their tips. Slowly she glanced at the man beside her.
“So, that means you’re a mutant too?” she asked.
“Yup,” Logan replied, his eyes locked on the road.
“So, what can you do? I mean, you know, what’s your power and stuff?”
“Ah, gotta couple. I got a regenerative factor,” Logan began when he noticed the confused look on the girl’s face. “I can _heal_ myself. Plus, I got these,” Logan added as he took his right hand off of the steering wheel and put in front of Jubilee’s face. A snikt and a scream later and the 9 inch metal claws found their way back into his forearm.
“What the hell was that?” Jubilee yelled as she scrambled to unlock the seatbelt.
“Cool it, kid,” Logan ordered as he put his large, calloused hand over her two small ones. “Didn’t mean to scare ya there.”
Jubilee stared wide eyed at Logan as he continued concentrating on the road. He glanced sideways at her and gave her a small grin in an attempt to reassure her that he indeed meant her no harm. An internal conflict ensued in her head: should she trust this man with knives coming from his hands or should she make a run for it? Looking out her window at the snowy landscape she decided she’d go ahead and stick it out…for now.
Settling back into her seat Jubilee searched through her jacket pocket and produced a piece of bubble gum. She held it out to Logan as an offering but a shake of his head later and the wad of gum was stuffed in her mouth.
“So,” she asked between blowing bubbles, “do you make a habit of findin’ ‘long lost daughters’ in the mall or am I just special?”
“Neither,” Logan replied. “I saw ya take the man’s wallet over by the food court. I was on my way to apprehend ya when ya got caught.”
“_Apprehend me_? What are you, some kinda narc?”
“Nope. I’m an X-Man.”
“An _X-Man_?” Jubilee asked, astonished. “No shit?”
“Yup. And let’s watch the language, kid,” Logan reprimanded.
The girl rolled her eyes. “Wow, a real, live X-Man comin’ to _my_ rescue. And here I was thinkin’ you guys didn’t really exist.”
“Oh we exist. We just don’t make a habit outta rescuin’ pickpockets from the Salem mall.”
“Well who the fuck asked you to,” Jubilee muttered, unable to let Logan’s subtle dig at her expense go by.
“Excuse me? What did you say?” Logan asked, clearly perturbed.
Jubilee took one glance at Logan’s furrowed brow. “Nothin’,” she muttered.
“Damn right, ‘nothing’. Look kid, I ain’t gonna tell ya again to watch your mouth.”
“You can’t tell me what to do, you ain’t my father,” Jubilee reminded him.
“Nope, I’m not. But you’re a kid an’ I’m an adult an’ you’re gonna do what I tell ya,” he growled sternly.
Jubilee opened her mouth to protest but was instantly reminded of the two sharp swats her backside had received at the hands of the man beside her. She had a feeling that hadn’t been the only time he’d laid a hand on a kid and while she didn’t want to find out first hand she did want to know what she was getting herself into.
“So, do you go around swattin’ kids for fun or was that just part of the act?” she asked apprehensively.
“Whaddya mean?” Logan asked.
“I mean in the mall, when you…you know, when you gave me those swats,” she answered, blushing slightly. “That was just like, part of your act, right?”
“Why, you think I need to finish the job?” Logan asked seriously.
“NO! I mean…NO! X-Man or not you’re still a stranger; strangers don’t just go around swattin’ kids on the butt!”
“Well at the time I wasn’t some stranger swattin’ ya on the butt, I was an angry father spankin’ his daughter,” Logan corrected her as a smile escaped his lips. The smile soon vanished as he added in a more serious tone. “Though if you ask me it looks like it’s been too long since someone had you over their knee.”
Jubilee gasped. “I don’t know what you think’s goin’ on here but I ain’t just some kid you can just push around. And I sure as hell _ain’t_ your daughter. The way I act and what I say ain’t none of your business,” she cried. “I mean, thanks for the help an’ all but as far as I’m concerned your ‘fatherly duty’ is over.”
“Well, mind your manners and your lip and we’ll see,” Logan said.
“Look here mister,” Jubilee began.
“No, _you_ look, little girl,” Logan interrupted. “I get that you’ve been on your own and you’re used to answerin’ to no one but when you’re a guest in my car and my home you’re gonna behave yourself an’ mind your manners.” Logan sighed and ran a hand through his dark brown hair. “Look, do I plan on takin’ ya upstairs the moment I get ya to the house and tannin’ your hide? No, but don’t think I won’t hesitate to do it should ya give me reason.”
Jubilee stared at Logan, dumbfounded. “Who the hell do you think you are?”
Logan yanked the steering wheel to the right and skidded to a stop on the side of the road. Turning to face her, his eyes boring into hers, he began to speak. “I think I’m the guy who just saved your butt another trip to juvie. Am I right?” When he received no verbal response he continued. “Pickpocketin’ is stealin’, and that’s against the law. Whatever your reasons for doin’ so, it don’t make it right. I know ya probably felt ya had no other choice, that life had dealt ya this bum deal and to hell with everyone else, your gonna take what ya feel’s owed you. Well darlin’, sometimes life does hand ya a bum deal. Happens to all of us. It’s what ya make from it that counts, and stealin’ a dollar here and ten bucks there ain’t gonna get you nowhere.” Logan studied the girl as she picked at the drawstring of her torn windbreaker. “How old are ya, kid?”
“What’s it matter?” Jubilee replied.
“How _old_?” Logan asked again, his tone menacing.
“Thirteen,” Jubilee answered before quickly adding “and a half.”
Logan chuckled sadly. ‘Shit,’ he thought, ‘she’s just a baby.’
Jubilee glared. “Yeah, so I’m young. I can still take care of myself. Been doin’ it for over a year now. You ain’t got no right judgin’ me, you don’t even know me!”
“No I don’t,” Logan interjected, “but I’ve known a lot of kids like ya. Kids who needed some love an’ attention an’ the occasional butt blisterin’ to keep ‘em straight. Kids you’re gonna meet real soon.”
“Oh no I ain’t, I’m outta here!” Jubilee yelled as she threw open the passenger door. Unbeknownst to Logan she had already unfastened her seatbelt and was out of the jeep before he could register what was happening.
“Shit,” Logan hissed as he threw off his seat belt and flew out of the Jeep. The girl’s energy had returned during the car ride and Logan had to break into a sprint to catch up to her. And catch up to her he did, scooping her up by her waist and carrying her on his hip back to the jeep.
Little fists punched at his upper arm and chest as expletives of every shape and size escaped the girl’s lips. Logan ignored them until he got to the jeep, where he ripped open the back door and shoved her inside. Slamming the door shut he walked to the driver side, mentally counting to ten before climbing back into the front seat. He made sure the child-proof locks were activated before he exhaled deeply and turned to face the cursing girl in the back seat.
“You can’t do this, you creep! You can’t just go pickin’ up young girls an’ take them home with you, that’s called kidnappin’!”
“Yeah, well who ya gonna call?” Logan said sarcastically. “The cops? Ya wouldn’t get two words out before they had your ass back in juvenile hall.”
Jubilee glared at Logan, seething.
Exhaling again Logan shut his eyes. He knew he had handled this wrong from the get go and was really beginning to wish he had a more soft spoken X-Man with him to get through to the girl. ‘Fuck that’ he thought, ‘I can do this. This girl’s comin’ home with me tonight if I have to hog-tie her to the roof.’
“Look,” he began, more calmly than before. “It’s getting’ late an’ I promised ya a hot meal. What say we stop someplace and get ya somethin’ to eat?
Jubilee continued rubbing the chill out of her upper arms. She met Logan’s gaze and though still frightened by the man she found a sincerity in his eyes that comforted her. She began to believe that the man truly wanted to help her.
“Well, yeah. You _did_ promise me some food. Ok,” she agreed.
Logan nodded and turned back towards the steering wheel. Several minutes later the florescent glow from the ‘Rex’s Diner’ sign illuminated the barren road. Logan pulled into one of the many vacant spots and exited the jeep, opening Jubilee’s door and guiding her into the restaurant.
A handful of patrons watched as the tall, muscular man with the short Asian girl took their seats in a booth at the back of the dining room.
“Welcome to Rex’s, what can I gettcha?” asked the older waitress as she set a couple of water glasses on the table.
“Steak an’ eggs. You?” Logan answered as he turned the question to Jubilee.
“Sorry sir, kitchen’s closed for the night. Cook fell ill. What else can I gettcha?”
“Well, whaddya got?” Logan asked.
“Coffee and pie, mostly. I think we still have some soup and I’m sure I can muster you up a couple of turkey sandwiches.”
“How’s that sound to you?” Logan asked Jubilee.
“Sounds like a gyp,” Jubilee muttered. Logan raised an eyebrow. “I mean, sounds great!” Jubilee corrected herself as she took a sip of her water.
The waitress gave Jubilee a look before turning to Logan. “Cute kid,” she said as she rolled her eyes and walked away.
“Sorry about that, kid. I didn’t know,” Logan said.
“Yeah well,” Jubilee shrugged. Soup and a sandwich was a far cry better than the junk she’d been surviving on this past week so she wasn’t really going to complain.
“So look,” Logan began. “We kinda got off on the wrong foot back there. What say we start over?”
Jubilee raised her eyebrows and shrugged as she piddled with her straw. “So, who’s joint is this that you’re takin’ me too?” she asked as she ran her finger along the Formica tabletop.
“The Professor’s, Charles Xavier. He owns the home and runs the school.”
“School? You didn’t mention no school!” Jubilee cried.
“Didn’t I?” Logan asked with a smirk. “Yeah, we’re runnin’ a school there. A school for mutants.”
“For mutants?” Jubilee asked, instantly intrigued. “Like, no normal people go there?”
“Nope. Mutants only.”
“So what do you all teach?”
“The usual. Math. English. Science. But we also focus on teachin’ ya how to control an’ master your mutation, your powers,” Logan told her.
“Really?” Jubilee asked quietly.
“Yup,” Logan said as the waitress returned with their makeshift dinner. “Why, you interested?”
“Who, me? Nuh uh mister, I found out long ago that me an’ school don’t work. Thanks, but no thanks.” Jubilee shook her head as she crammed her sandwich into her mouth.
“Well, can’t make ya do what ya don’t wanna do,” Logan began in what would be a failed attempt at reverse psychology. “’Course only kids who can stay there are kids who are in school, but if it ain’t your thing…”
“I ain’t fallin’ for that! Besides, who said I was goin’ there to stay, anyhow! You promised me a hot meal an’ a good night’s sleep an’ that’s the _only_ reason I’m still with you, mister.” Jubilee paused as she motioned towards the food before her. “‘Course if this is what goes for a ‘hot meal’ in these parts I hate to see what you all consider a good night’s sleep!”
Logan couldn’t help but chuckle. The kid had spunk, that was for sure. She could also see through his lines and she wasn’t buying. ‘Gotta get Scott or Jean to handle that part. I just bring ‘em in, I don’t keep ‘em around,’ he thought with a touch of sadness as he watched the young girl down her soup.
Logan sipped his coffee as Jubilee worked on her second slice of pie. Logan wondered just how this skinny little girl had managed so long on her own. Inside he was infuriated that the world was such a fucked-up place that a thirteen year old child had to fend for herself, with no place to eat or sleep, no place to call home. He shook his head in disgust.
“So tell me about yourself. How’d you get to be on your own?”
Jubilee swallowed her bite, debating just how much to tell him. She’d learned not to get too close to people; she’d been burned too many times. Yet there was something about this man that was inviting to her, something that made her feel safe.
Logan sat and listened as the girl opened up to him, telling him how her parents were murdered in a drive-by shooting when she was eight. How she was shuffled from foster home to foster home until she was twelve, when she finally had had enough and took off.
“Why’d you do that?” he asked.
“Well, every foster home I’ve ever been in has found a way to get rid of me. With the last one I decided to go ahead an’ get rid of myself before they had a chance to,” she said, the sadness in her voice unmistakable.
“Why’d they get rid of you?”
Jubilee shrugged her shoulders. She knew the answer to that but was too ashamed to admit it. Logan sensed this yet continued to press on.
“They just up and got rid of you? With no reason?”
Jubilee grew very still. She remembered the meetings between her foster families and her case workers, words like ‘out-of-control’, ‘disrespectful’, and ‘unmanageable’ being thrown around as if she weren’t even in the room. And the worst of it was, she knew they were right. She had a wild streak in her that she’d never been able to completely control. Defiant, rude…these adjectives described her to a tee. Yet she _knew_ that she was wrong, she _knew_ how she was just throwing away these wonderful opportunities. Opportunities that most children would kill for, a chance to grow up in a loving family that not only provided but actually cared for her, and she blew them.
She allowed her eyes to meet Logan’s. She knew she’d get no sympathy from him, he’d only agree with her. The man didn’t seem to mince words and she knew if she tried to play the ‘poor, pitiful me’ act that he’d call her on it, so she just shrugged.
Logan just nodded and sipped his coffee. He knew that she knew that he thought she was the root of her own problem and he wasn’t going to correct her on it, her silence had been his proof.
As Logan settled the bill Jubilee excused herself to the restroom. Washing her face in the mirror she began thinking of their conversation, replacing his concerned looks with _condescending_ ones, his silent responses with judgments. ‘I don’t need to take this,’ she thought, trying to convince herself. She really wanted to stay; being with him gave her a sense of peace and warmth that she hadn’t felt in a long time. At the same time, her stubborn pride was once again rearing its ugly head. “No one’s gonna judge me, they don’t like me they can kiss my ass,” she muttered as she spotted the small window above the toilet. Balancing on the toilet seat she shimmied the window open and quickly slipped out.
Figuring the girl was taking care of business Logan respected her privacy. Five minutes passed, then ten. Logan sniffed the air and immediately noticed her scent was missing. A low growl grumbled in his chest as he stomped over to the bathroom door and shoved it open. He quickly ran to the open window and peered out, his keen eyesight spotting the silhouette of the young girl in the moonlight.
“Shit!” he hissed for the second time that evening. He was absolutely infuriated yet confused. He really thought he’d been getting through to her, dinner had gone off without a hitch and he’d even gotten her to open up to him. ‘What’d I do wrong?’ he asked himself before quickly answering his own question. ‘Not a damn thing. I tried to do this the nice way, now we’re gonna do it _my_ way,’ he decided as he darted out of the diner and into the cold night.
The snow had lightened its descent and Logan could easily make out the figure before him. For the second time that night he quickly gained ground on the young girl, scooping her up and roughly depositing over his shoulder.
“Let-me-GO!” Jubilee insisted as she pounded on his back.
“Oh, I’ll let you go alright, don’t you worry,” Logan growled as he made his way through the ankle-deep snow to the jeep. Grabbing the back door her threw it open and quickly slid Jubilee off of his shoulder. Standing before him, her wrists gripped in his firm fingers she fought frantically, wiggling and screaming a blue streak. With determined motions Logan hoisted himself onto the backseat and hauled Jubilee with him, turning her onto her belly right over his massive thighs.
“I tried to be nice. I tried to be patient,” he said through gritted teeth. “That didn’t work, we’re gonna see if this does.”
In a blinding flash Logan yanked the hem of her yellow windbreaker up and over Jubilee’s bottom. The denim skirt created complete coverage to both her backside and her upper-thighs and half a second later the skirt was no longer a factor as it was shoved over her small bottom and gathered at her waist. Logan carried a strict ‘Underwear Only’ rule and was not about to make an exception now. Reaching his hand into the top of her black and white stripped tights he yanked them down in one fell swoop, leaving only a thin layer of pink cotton between her quivering bottom and his calloused hand.
Jubilee struggled against the massive thighs beneath her and the crushing hand around her waist to no avail. She was caught and she knew it. Part of her was even willing to think she deserved it, though you’d never catch her admitting it. ‘At least not from this jerk,’ she thought. This stranger, this man who didn’t even know her! Sure, he’d helped her out of a bind but he didn’t know her from Adam, yet here he was about to start playing bongos with her butt cheeks! Well, not if she could help it. Stretching down the length of his calf Jubilee reached inside Logan’s jeans and grabbed hold of his ankle.
Logan raised his hand and snapped it back down on Jubilee’s bottom. He could see her wiggle and reach forward in an attempt to escape but Logan was not having it. This little girl needed to be set straight and come hell or high water he intended on doing it. A second and third smack came down before Logan felt a burning sensation on his left ankle. The unmistakable scent of burning flesh soon followed and then the pain.
“Ow!” Logan growled as he ripped Jubilee’s hands away from his ankle. As he reached down to check out the damage he could already see his mutant healing factor was taking care of it, only a few burns remained. He gripped her hands in his and secured them to the small of her back.
“Ya wanna play nasty? We’ll play nasty,” he told her as he raised his right hand high and brought it crashing down. Initially intent on staying silent Jubilee’s defenses soon fell by the wayside and by the sixth spank she was howling.
Her cries and screams fell on deaf ears as Logan resumed his duty of delivering a spanking this girl would feel for a long time. Unlike some of his teammates, he didn’t have any method when it came administering a spanking. He never really gave it much thought; he just raised his hand and let it fall where it may. He didn’t stop until the bottom was a nice shade of red, a fact that some of the children at the institute deemed unfair since it meant some of the fairer skinned children received less spanks than their olive-skinned classmates. Unfortunately Jubilee’s skin-tone fell in the latter category.
Writhing and wiggling over Logan’s lap, memories began flooding through her. Memories of being spanked by her parents when she’d done something they’d disapproved of. It hadn’t happened often, only a handful of times but it was something she remembered distinctly, not so much for the spanking but for what happened afterwards. Her father would gather her on his lap and hug her, wiping away her tears and explaining why she had been punished yet still proclaiming his love for her. She always felt so warm and safe during these moments; they never lessened the pain in her tiny bottom but they lessened the pain in her heart.
As she sobbed into Logan’s jean-covered leg more memories came, memories of the spankings she’d received from several of her foster families. Never abusive and, though she hated to admit it, almost always well deserved they were not the same as the punishments from her father. Carried out methodically and business-like, her foster fathers would bend her over the edge of her bed, deliver her spanking in a timely fashion and restrict her to her room. No hug, no reassurance of love, nothing. She remembered spending many a night crying herself to sleep, the hurt in her bottom recovering long before her feelings did.
Logan continued his lesson on the girl’s bottom even though he could tell a distinct change in her reaction. She was no longer fighting against her punishment, only the occasional kick as he worked on her soft undercurve. Confident he had made his point, and satisfied with the reddish hue he’d created he delivered five final stinging smacks. He rested his hand on the girl’s hot backside, the sounds of her sobbing cries filling the nighttime air.
Jubilee continued sobbing, her breath catching in hitches as she tried to
think clearly. Between the memories and the very painful spanking she’d
just endured she felt like she’d been run over by a truck, too exhausted
to move from what she was certain was a most unflattering position. She could
feel Logan’s fingers as he softly patted and rubbed her sore bottom. Suddenly
they were gone and she could slowly feel herself being lifted from his lap and
turned around. Staring up at him with wide eyes she noticed the change in his
face. No longer menacing and angry, it was now calm and serene, loving even.
This realization brought forth more tears and the sobbing continued once more.
Logan gathered the young girl in his arms and leaned her head against his chest. He tried to shift himself so as to not irritate her sore bottom but all that brought forth was a hiss so he remained still. Stroking her hair with his right hand he used his thumb to wipe the flowing tears from her cheeks. When her second wave of tears started to cease he began to speak.
“Darlin’,” he said, using his favorite term of endearment for the first time since they’d met. “I ain’t gonna say I’m sorry I had to do that. Seems to me like you’ve had it comin’ for a long time now.”
Jubilee just sighed. She had no energy to disagree with the man and she was slightly afraid to find out what would happen if she did.
Logan continued rubbing her upper arm as he cradled her closer to him. “I know it’s gotta be tough for ya; bein’ on your own, not havin’ anyplace to call home, anyone to call family. Up until a few years ago I was in your same shoes. ‘Course, I’m an adult, older than you realize. I can take care of myself, keep shelter over my head an’ food in my belly. Ain’t as easy when you’re thirteen.”
“And a half,” Jubilee added weakly.
“An’ a half,” Logan chuckled as he tried to suppress a grin.
“So what happened to you?” Jubilee asked meekly, sniffling as she rubbed her hand under her nose. She kept her eyes peeled to her lap, too embarrassed to look Logan in the eye.
Logan sensed this and let her be. “Well, I met a young girl; I guess she was a coupla years older than ya at the time. Together we met the Professor I was tellin’ ya about.”
“What’s her name?” Jubilee asked.
“Marie,” Logan answered.
“That’s a pretty name,”
“Well, she’s a pretty girl. Inside and out.”
Jubilee inhaled a ragged breath. “So, this girl, is she your girlfriend?”
Logan looked at Jubilee questioningly. “No. She’s just a kid. Well, not so much a kid anymore, I guess she’s goin’ on nineteen now. To me she’ll always be a kid though. My kid.”
“Oh,” Jubilee said quietly.
A few moments passed and Jubilee’s breathing returned to normal, only the occasional sniffle interrupting the silence. Logan gently placed a couple of fingers under her chin and lifted her head up to face him.
“Darlin’, as you’ve probably guessed by now I’m ain’t just gonna let you go. I _can’t_. We’ve already found out what happens when we do things the hard way, why don’t we try doin’ it the easy way?”
“And what’s that?” she asked.
“Gettin’ this heap back to the school. Gettin’ you a warm bath an’ a change of clothes. Besides, I’m sure they’ve already got a room ready for ya,” Logan replied.
“But how…why would they have a room ready for me?”
“Well, let’s just say the Professor’s a bit of a busy body, he and that damn Cerebro toy of his,” Logan told her with smiling eyes.
Jubilee gave him a questioning look.
“Nevermind,” Logan chuckled as he shook his head. “So whattcha say?”
Jubilee nestled in a little closer. Her heart was racing; was this really her chance at a new life? A life void of rummaging through garbage cans and sleeping over heating grates outside the Orange Julius? Could it be? Doubts immediately filled her head.
“What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t like them? What if they get mad and kick me out?” she blurted out, almost afraid to hear the answers.
“You don’t like ‘em? You’ll deal. They don’t like you? _They’ll_ deal. They get mad an’ kick ya out? Ain’t gonna happen,” Logan told her before taking her chin in his hand once more. “We’ve had a lot of different kids with a lot of different attitudes an’ we ain’t kicked a one out yet. It ain’t what we do.”
“Yeah, well,” Jubilee began, skeptically.
“Well nothin’. You give us lip or beef, pull any stunts like you’ve done in the past, you’ll get dealt with just like all the others. But you’ll never, _never_ be thrown out. That I promise,” Logan said as he held up his dogtags, his own personal bible of sorts.
“And by dealt with you mean…?” Jubilee began, certain of the answer but feeling the need to ask just the same.
“The same as what you got tonight. No ‘ifs’, ‘ands’, or ‘buts’,” Logan answered.
Jubilee grinned slightly at the pun. She thought for a moment, debating in her head the pros and cons of the offer. She laughed to herself, for she knew it wasn’t really an offer but a proclamation of sorts, a decision that had already been made for her and one that deep down she really didn’t seem to mind.
Logan could tell she was debating the matter in her head and he didn’t want to rush her. Of course he knew there was no debate to be had, and that she knew it too. He also knew what it was like to be ferociously proud and he wanted to offer her that benefit. She finally looked up at him and smiled, her ‘decision’ was made. A familiar feeling overtook him, one he’d felt four years ago when he let a little southern girl into his heart. The sensation was unmistakable as he realized that his heart had just made room for one more.
“Come on, let’s go home,” he said quietly as he brushed a kiss on the top of her black hair. Opening the back door he dropped onto the ground first, helping her out and re-adjusting her tights and skirt. He opened the front door for her and ushered her in, climbed behind the wheel for the final time that night and pulled back onto the road.
“So, Jubilation, tomorrow’s Christmas. What’d ya ask Santa for?” Logan asked with a grin. Leaning against his muscular arm, sleep slowly threatening to overcome her, Jubilee smiled. She remembered various gifts Santa had left her in the past, yet none of them compared to the one he had given her this year. “A home,” she said quietly. It was indeed the best Christmas present she’d ever received.
THE END ?