Lying From You

Rating: R

Status: Complete

Archive: Yes to WWOMB, anywhere else the answer is still yes but please just let me know...

Feedback: Please.

Series/Sequel: Follow up, albeit in a completely different style, to Acceptance.

Disclaimers: Not mine! Mutant X are the property of Tribune Entertainment.

Summary: Jesse's past comes back to haunt him.

Warnings: Unless drug references and rude words count, none.

Notes: Self beta'd, narrated by Jesse

There I was wondering what to call this when the wonderful Linkin Park released their new CD and, voila, the problem was instantly solved... Needless to say the lyrics are used without permission. If they wish to sue me they can get in line after Tribune. What either of them will do with what little I have escapes me, but hey...

Thank you to everyone who's sent me feedback for any of my stories. It's because of you that I'm still writing.

Please. Enjoy.


When I pretend

Everything is what I want it to be

I look exactly like what you had always

Wanted to see

I can forget about the criminal I am

Stealing second after second 'cause

I know I can / but

I can't pretend this is the way

It will stay / I'm just

Trying to bend the truth

I can't pretend I'm who you want me to be

So I'm

Lying my way from you

== Linkin Park, 2003 ==

Beat one, two...

Here it comes.

"It's not too late to change your mind, you know."


Now, how did I know that was coming?

Ah... That's right. Because it's been our one and only topic of conversation ever since we left Sanctuary, that's how. I now know that a cracked record has nothing on Brennan when he's set his mind on something.

"Stop worrying," I grin, rolling my eyes in mock annoyance. "Honestly Bren, you worry too much. I'll be fine."

"I still think you should have gone with Emma," Brennan mutters with a resigned sounding sigh, shooting me a glance as he pulls the car to a stop at a set of inconsiderately red traffic lights. "It just would have been better."

"Adam sent me with you," I reply matter-of-factly, the mock annoyance in threat of rapidly giving way to real annoyance. "He clearly respects my abilities even if you don't."

Brennan sighs again, drumming his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel. "It's not your abilities I'm talking about, Jess."

"No? Then what's with the big brother routine all of a sudden?" I mutter, exasperated and just about nearly having had enough of this pointless and futile conversation. "You say you trust me with your back but now you're wanting to get rid of me? I'm sorry if I sound dense Bren, but I don't get


"Of course I trust you with my back," Brennan mumbles, putting the car into gear as the lights change to green and, seemingly relieved at having to return his concentration to the road, driving off. "Hell, I trust you with my front too," he continues, making a lame ass attempt to lighten the moment. "Trust is so not the issue here, Jess. I just think you'd have been better off being kept away from this particular part of town. It's just not your scene, you know, that's all."

"You afraid I'll stand out like a sore thumb, blow your cover?" I query flatly, the part of me that's touched by Brennan's concern for my allegedly delicate sensibilities being overruled by the part that wishes he'd pull his head in. "Tell you what, I won't stand too close to you. How does that sound? With any luck no one will even notice we're together."

"C'mon Jess, there's no need to get defensive," Brennan murmurs, shaking his head. I know him well enough to know that he's wishing he'd never opened his mouth. "For what's it worth I don't think you'll stand out, okay? Nor do I think you'll blow my cover."

"Then what then?" I mutter querulously, folding my arms across my chest and staring directly out the windscreen. "Don't you want to be seen with me? Is that it? Oh! I know! You're afraid that someone from your past life will see me with you and it'll damage your street cred. Shit, Bren, maybe I should just return to Sanctuary, you know, to warm the bed for your all-conquering return. What do you reckon, eh? Sound good?"


I'm on a roll now.

"For God's sake Bren, we're going into one of the nastier parts of town looking for a new mutant that Adam wants to save before he self-destructs, not trying to take on the entire GSA with governors in our necks and one hand tied behind our backs. You don't think I don't know that the world isn't all strawberries and cream, that bad things like drugs and crime don't happen, huh? I'm not someone you have to shelter or constantly look out for. I can take care of myself and I know what it is that I'm doing. Perhaps I would have fitted in better at the café district that Emma was going to check but, tough, I'm with you and I'm not going anywhere."

There. Take that.

"Quite finished?" Brennan murmurs wearily, glancing at me from underneath raised eyebrows as he pulls up at yet another red light.

"Depends on what you've got to say," I reply cautiously, not really knowing what else I can say to convince him. "Just 'cos we're lovers, Bren, doesn't mean that you have to take it upon yourself to protect me from things you don't think I need to see. I'm perfectly adept at handling situations for myself. Let's face it, I survived twenty-four years of life before you came along so I must be capable of doing something right."

"Fine!" Brennan exclaims, his expression not exactly what you'd call a happy one. "You win. I hadn't wanted to drag you through Hell's Kitchen because I didn't think you'd like it, that it might make you feel uncomfortable, but, hell, if that's what you want then knock yourself out, the joy of sidestepping all the drunken bums by my side is all yours. If you ask nicely I might even take you on a guided tour of the cesspool. You'll just love it. Guaranteed. Got a hankering for something hardcore? Just let me know and I'll point you in the right direction."

Oh. Shit.

When Adam said the downtown red-light districts I didn't know he meant Hell's Kitchen in particular.


If there's any place I'd be happy living my entire life without ever seeing again then Hell's Kitchen is that place.

Brennan's now not the only one regretting ever having opened his mouth. Nor is he the one with the threat of his past catching up with him hanging heavily over his head. Brennan's from the streets. Fact of life. It's not an issue, one of those things that anyone who counts knows and accepts and doesn't pass judgement on. Although I don't think it bothers him like it used to, Brennan once thought that I, with my society background and 'good' family name, looked down on him, that someone from the streets was far beneath me. To Brennan I represent a different world, a world of class and privilege that he could never hope to a part of. I think there's still a part of him that believes he's not good enough for him, that I'm lowering my standards by being with him.

The fact that he couldn't be further from the truth isn't something I've felt compelled to share with him. Adam knows. As does Shalimar. But that's only because they were there. If I had my way no one would know.

Oh yeah. There's no help for it. There's every chance that I've just really put my foot in it this time.


"One more club and we're outta here," Brennan comments, his face expressionless as we deflect the advances of yet another sick and tired looking prostitute. This one looks to be all of fourteen, her sunken eyes haunted in a haggard face that once upon a time, before Hell's Kitchen consumed her and sucked away her vitality, might just have been pretty.

"C'mon mister! Special offer. For thirty I'll do both you an' your friend."

Ignoring her is hard. If I could I'd just give her the money. I can't though as it'd draw attention to us and that's not really something I want. If I can get out of here without being recognised or even seeing someone I remember then I'll go home happy. So far I've been lucky. Hell, if I'm really lucky they'll all be dead.

Same old, same old though. Some things just never change. Although I haven't been here for over four years it's all exactly as I remember it. Scantily clad hookers jostling for prime corner space with all the dealers and pimps, beaten up looking cars cruising the alleyways, their drivers looking to buy whatever's on offer. The aura of despair hanging over the place is all pervading. It even smells the same, the air having a scent all of its own. Bourbon, blood, sweat, vomit, sex, urine - the unmistakable odour of poverty and despair. It's an aroma I'd hoped never to experience ever again, one that I can't smell without feeling slightly nauseous.

Have I mentioned that I really don't want to be here?

"Hope Em's having more luck than we are," I mutter, walking closely to Brennan, all but trying to disguise myself in the folds of his leather trench coat. "If Peter's here he's doing one hell of a job keeping himself hidden."

"Tell me about it," Brennan scowls. "If he's here at all he needs even more help than Adam originally thought. Christ this place is the worst. Believe it or not I've always avoided it. Even when I was desperate I used to manage to avoid jobs that would have sent me here. It's just like a different universe, one completely devoid of all light and hope. I don't know how anyone manages to survive here, I honestly don't."

"Perhaps they have no other choice," I murmur quietly, only just suppressing a shudder as we stride past a far too familiar black door. A dealer by the name of Caspian used to hold fort behind it. He liked Cognac, French cigarettes, and to watch. Oddly enough I have no inclination to find out whether he's still there. "Perhaps they find themselves here by mistake and then don't know how to get out."

Brennan shrugs. "Maybe. It's not something I really want to think about," he mutters blandly. "I just want out of here. We've been here for, what, just over an hour and it's already giving me the creeps. C'mon Jess, let's get a move on. Once we're done with Harley's we can blow this joint."

"Sounds good to me," I smile wanly, wishing I had eyes in the back of my head so I could see what was going on behind me, whether anyone was showing us any particular attention. "Harley's? I don't... ah..." I don't remember any club called Harley's -- not that Brennan needs to know that --and only just catch myself in time. "What's Harley's?"

"Another dive masquerading as a club," Brennan replies. "I've never actually been in it but by all accounts it just about the worst of the worst. I could be wrong but I think it used to be called The Black Cat. It's just up this alleyway here."

The Black Cat. Oh great. Yet another place I never wanted to lay eyes on again. It's obviously my night for unwanted surprises then.

"Just a quick look around, yeah?" I murmur hopefully, praying I don't look as mortified as I feel and trailing listlessly after Brennan. "If we don't see any sign of Peter we'll give up and leave? I mean, there's not really anything else we can do here tonight."

"Oh yeah, definitely," Brennan confirms, giving my arm a quick, reassuring squeeze before pushing open the door to Harley's with his shoulder and gesturing me in. "After you," he states facetiously, letting the door bang shut as he follows me inside. Brennan, to his credit, hasn't once pushed it down my throat that I shouldn't be here. I've dogged his every step, not letting him out of my sight for so much as a second, but he hasn't once reminded me of his offer to keep me out of it. As small as it may be, and despite the fact it contradicts the fact that I'd rather be just about anywhere else, I appreciate the gesture. Without knowing the half of it, Brennan was just trying to look out for me. Hindsight always being learnt the hard way, I should have let him.

Change of name aside, Harley's is all but exactly as I remember it, right down to old Toothless Joe propping up the bar, his bedraggled black sweater no doubt the exact same one I last saw him wearing so many years ago. Even the raucous industrial music being churned out at a deafening volume by the band of emaciated goths on the small stage at the back of the club sounds the same. The singer's voice is like nails being scraped down a blackboard, his interpretation of dancing like that of a scarecrow blowing in the wind.

The club is close to deserted, no one paying the band the slightest bit of attention. Going by their identically blank faces I think they're too high to care. A knot of tension forms in my stomach and it takes all my self-control not to simply turn and bolt. God knows it's what I want to do.

"Well, I can't see him, can you?" I mutter urgently, hating how desperate I sound, my gaze constantly darting around the cavernous club, seeking out all the familiar hidey-holes. "Let's just get out of here. I don't think I can take much more of the so called music without snapping."

"Fuckin' dreadful, isn't it," Brennan comments drily, his eyes settling on the back of a man ordering a drink from the bar. "I'll just go and ask that guy over there if he's seen our man and then we're outta here. You can wait here if you'd like."

No. No I wouldn't like. Not even close in fact. Safety in numbers and all that.

"Wherever you lead I follow," I murmur, somehow dredging up a smile to flash at Brennan. "Now, move! We ask, we leave."

"Yes boss!" Brennan laughs, striding across the empty dance floor towards the bar. Looking at my feet, I follow him, very nearly walking straight into his back as a result of not watching where I'm going. My skin crawls and I can't wait to get back to Sanctuary in order to have a shower. A long, hot shower with plenty of shower gel that'll erase the smell of Hell's Kitchen not only from my body but also from my mind as well. Well, I can hope, can't I?

I listen half-heartedly as Brennan asks the man whether he's seen anyone fitting Peter's description around the place, my eyes still fixed firmly on the sawdust covered wooden floor. When the man replies I know that my luck has run out, that the game's up. If I had one wish it would be for the ground to open up and swallow me whole.

"Nah, ain't seen nobody looking like that around these parts. Sorry I can't be of any assistance."

It's his voice, not his response that sends shivers along my spine. It's a voice from the grave, one that I still occasionally hear in my nightmares.


I look up just as Brennan thanks him for his time and steps back. I don't want to but can't help myself. History repeating itself, I'm unable to deny the hold he has over me, the hold that nearly destroyed me.

Piercing blue eyes meet mine in a pale angular face framed by shaggy blue-black hair. Despite the eyebrow and lip piercings being new he looks just as he always did - lean and dangerous, attractive in his own bad-boy sort of way, a devil barely disguised as human. Recognition flashes in his eyes and he winks, mouthing 'long time no see', causing me to flinch and press myself tighter against Brennan.

So much for hoping I'd changed, that no one would be able to recognise me. Shit. If Viper says my name I'll have to explain everything to Brennan and, although I know that I really should, it's just about the last thing I want.

Viper smiles knowingly and casually runs his fingers along my arm. "You look familiar," he purrs, "Do I know you from somewhere?"

"Me?" I squeak, giving up any pretence of appearing casual and backing away from him hurriedly. "I don't think so."

"It's not really his kind of scene," Brennan adds, flashing Viper a blank smile. "Thanks for your help but we really must go now."

"Bye then," Vipers grins, waving coyly. "It's been nice meeting you both. Who knows, perhaps we'll get together again sometime."

"Not if I have any say in it," Brennan mutters under his breath. "C'mon Jess, let's get the hell out of here."

"Right behind you," I whisper, following Brennan out of Harley's. Although I can feel Viper's eyes watching me, I don't look back. I can't decide whether I've just had a near miss or whether seeing Viper again is just the very beginning of my carefully constructed, finally content world disintegrating around my ears.


"Whatcha doin' in here, Jess?" Shalimar queries, grinning at me as strolls into the living area, making a beeline for where I'm sitting huddled on the sofa. "Don't tell me the course of true love isn't running smoothly?" she adds, her eyes narrowing as she sinks down next to me, immediately helping herself to the cushion I'd been hugging. "If Brennan's hurt you just say the word and I'll go hurt him in return."

Sighing, I shake my head and snatch my cushion back. "Brennan's fine," I murmur, "we're fine, hell, everything's fine."

"Pull the other leg," Shal replies, feigning a lunge for the cushion and causing me to squirm further along the sofa, out of arms reach. "Hate to break this to you Jess, but you don't usually camp out in here during the middle of the night when everything's peachy. C'mon, spill. What gives?"

"Nothing. I'm fine. I just couldn't sleep and decided to come out here for a while, that's all," I respond, shrugging dismissively. Well, that's part of it anyway. I couldn't sleep. Every time I closed my eyes I saw Viper leering at me. It didn't even matter that I was lying next to Brennan, his arms draped warmly and possessively around me, as all I could think about was Viper. In the end, after staring at the ceiling for close to an hour and not wanting Brennan to pick up on my unease, I gave up and slunk out here. Needless to say I hadn't been expecting any company.

Shalimar fixes a look on me, her expression telling me that she's not buying my response for a second. "C'mon, and the rest of it," she demands softly. "I'm not leaving here until I know what's up so you may as well just come clean."

"Honest Shal, I'm fine," I sigh, staring down at the cushion and longing to be left alone. I came out here for peace and quiet, not to put under the spotlight or play twenty questions. "What about you? Did you enjoy your trip around the out-of-town safe houses? Is all the security up-to-date or do I need to work on it?"

"Don't try and change the subject," Shalimar mutters warningly. "You're sitting out here for a reason Jess and I want to know it." Pausing, she looks me up and down and grins, her eyes lighting up. "Don't make me have to tickle it out of you," she teases, inching along the sofa towards me. "I'm warning you Jess, fess up or I'm gonna tickle you. Remember the last time? You nearly screamed the ceiling down with your shrieking and begging for mercy. I swear Adam thought I was trying to kill you."

"It's really nothing," I murmur, the threat of being tickled not one I'm willing to risk. She'd do it to. I know this from experience. "It's just... well, Adam sent Brennan and I down to... ah... Hell's Kitchen tonight and it's just thrown me a bit, you know."

"Shit," Shal swears, shaking her head, her eyes flashing orange, her annoyance both immediate and heartfelt. "What the fuck was Adam thinking? Hell, I can hardly believe Adam would have sent you there. More to the point, why didn't you say something? God Jess, you shouldn't have had to have gone down there. "

"I didn't actually hear him say it. As for why, well, he must have just have kinda forgot," I confess wearily. "By the time I knew exactly where it was we were heading it was too late."

Shalimar shakes her head again, her anger obvious. "Crap it was too late. If you'd told Brennan he never would have let you go down there anyway," she mutters. "Shit. Why didn't you say something, huh? There's no reason you should have gone down there, none."

"I... I... ah... couldn't say anything," I whisper quietly, hugging the cushion tighter. "Brennan already thought that I shouldn't have been going down there because he didn't think it was my sort of place and, well, after making a song and dance about there being no reason for him to shelter me from things he didn't think I'd been exposed to before I just... ah... couldn't."

"What do you mean you couldn't..." Trailing off, Shal sighs heavily. "Christ. He doesn't know, does he? You haven't told him."

"He doesn't need to know," I mumble miserably, the look of disbelief in Shalimar's eyes making me feel, not that I really needed it, just that little bit worse. "It's in the past, Shal, that's all, something to be forgotten about," I add, the lie sounding unconvincing even to my own ears. As much as I try to forget about it it'll forever be a part of me, a part that I wish I could just cut out and discard but know I'll never be able to.

"You've got to tell him," Shal replies firmly, moving closer and putting her arm around my shoulders, hugging me. "You can't keep it from him forever. C'mon Jess, it's nothing to be ashamed off. Hell, it's not like we haven't all made mistakes. Trust me, he'd never hold it against you."

"Don't care," I mutter flatly, "I don't want him to know and that's all there is to it. He... He thinks I'm better than that, okay, and I don't want to disappoint him with the cold, hard truth. I may be making a mistake but it's my mistake to make. He doesn't know and I don't want him to find out. Please Shal, promise me you won't tell him."

"He'd be able to cope, Jess. I think you should..."

"Promise me," I interrupt agitatedly, my mind well and truly made up. Fuck it. If I'm going to continue digging my own grave then I'm going to make sure it's nice and deep. Yeah. Okay. I should have told him right at the very beginning but it's too late for that now. Now the best I can hope for is that nothing comes of tonight and I'm once again able to relegate the whole sordid experience to the very back of my mind. "Brennan isn't to know, okay? He knows I'm not perfect but I don't want him to know about this. If you tell him I'll never be able to forgive you."

Emotional blackmail. I hate having to use it but, with too much to lose, it's truly a case of using whatever works.

"I still think you're making a mistake," Shalimar comments softly, resting her head on my arm, "but because it obviously means so much to you I promise not to say a word. I'll say this though, if you won't turn to Brennan then I want you to know that I'm here for you and that I'm incapable of judging you. Don't forget I was there, that I know the whole story. God, we're all here for you Jess. There's not a person here who wouldn't do whatever it took to help you if the memories got too much to handle or you just needed someone to talk to."

"Thank you," I whisper, wanting to believe her whole heartedly but, as usual, something holding me back. "It's not a big issue. Just going back there tonight kinda threw me. Nothing... ah... happened or anything, it was just being there and seeing how unchanged it was that got to me, you know. I'll be fine in the morning, trust me."

Shalimar looks up at me, her expression solemn, her eyes full of compassion. "You'd better be," she murmurs. "Believe me Jess, I'll be keeping an eye on you. You've come too far to let a combination of misguided pig headedness and an error on Adam's behalf to bring you down. You're right, I'm sure everything will be fine. I doubt any of those assholes are still breathing anyway."


No comment.

Just no comment.


He waits nine days before getting in contact with me. Just long enough for me to have thought that I'd escaped our encounter unscathed. Of course. Hell, I was even deluded enough to be beginning to consider myself lucky. It was stupid of me to even think nothing was going to come of it though. Viper doesn't just know how to play the game, he wrote the handbook, designed the website and sold the rights to Hollywood. I should have known better than to get my fool hopes up.

I stare at the unopened email on the computer monitor and it stares back at me, mocking my confusion and weakness. Although it's now too late I regret having kept my old email address active and linking it back to my mailbox at Sanctuary. I want to delete the message, to pretend that he never sent it, but can't. When it comes to Viper I'm helpless. It was like that from the very beginning and it's still like it now. The idea of free will loses all meaning when used in relation to Viper. He's not even here yet I feel his presence looming over me, his brilliant blue eyes waiting for me to give in, to do what's expected of me, what he knows I'll do. It's eerie how familiar the feeling is.

Common sense tells me to delete the message and to come clean, to tell Adam that I ran into him and to break it to Brennan that I'm not quite the man he thinks I am. God knows it's the only logical thing to do. Just about the worst thing that would come out of it is that Brennan would write me off as a bad joke and Shalimar would hunt down Viper in order to present him with the offer of a free facial rearrangement. I'd have exorcised my past once and for all, there'd be no more secrets weighing me down and, just like that, we'd all live happily ever after.

Or something like that anyway.

As much as I long to do it though, I can't. I just can't. No doubt entirely misguided -- if not downright fucked in the head -- determination dictates that I have to see this through on my own. If not for Adam's and Shalimar's intervention four years ago Viper would have -- albeit in no way intentionally -- defeated me. I like to think that I'm a stronger person than I was back then, that I'm capable of standing up to him and everything he represents by myself. It's because of this, along with not wanting to be a burden to anyone, that I decide to keep what's going on a secret. Again, stupid though it may be, I just feel as though I have to see it through on my own. More to the point, it's what I need to do. I haven't made it this far just to have Viper come along and destroy it. Once was enough.

Perhaps when it's all over I might even have gained the strength to confess everything to Brennan. If he judges me unfavourably then, well, so be it. I'll have no one to blame other than myself. I can live with that if I have. Well, let's face it, it's not like I'll really have any choice in the matter.

Sighing heavily, I steel myself for what's to come and, after quickly confirming I'm still alone, that no one's lurking nearby, click open the email. White Gothic script on a black background lights up the screen - typical Viper. Goosebumps break out over my skin as I read it. Once again, I just should have fucking known better. Viper's on the ball, I'll say that for him. Just about every sentence knocks a punch.

// Yo J,

Man was it good to see you the other night at Harley's. Long time no see and all that shit. You're looking well. Given that I'd all but put you down as being dead in a gutter somewhere, real fuckin' good. Where ya been, J? Word on the street was that you just disappeared. Saying adios wouldn't have killed you now, would it? I wasted both time and resources looking for you. Shit happens though. I suppose you had your reasons for ditching your friends and blowing off the way you did. Woulda been nice of you if you coulda rocked up for Billy's funeral though. Shit J, the way that kid used to look up to you the least you could have fuckin' done was pay your last respects. You know he's dead, don't you? Took a stray bullet in the last turf war. The poor bastard bled to death in my arms. In case you care, yeah, I got the fucker who did it. Doesn't bring Billy back though, does it.

I look after my own. Remember that.

So J, whatcha been up to? Was a shock to see you with Mulwray. How'd ya meet up with him? I've never met the guy before but I definitely know of him. He used to be a bit of a mover himself. Maybe I should just ask him myself. It wouldn't be hard. We have mutual acquaintances, you know. I bet he'd just love to hear about what we used to get up to. Remember the night Caspian tried to take photos? Man did he shit bricks when I let him know that it wasn't on. He still managed to take some though. Fucker. It goes without saying that I had to liberate them from his sweaty clutches. Perhaps Mulwray would like copies? You sure were hot back then, a right little piece.

God! What am I saying? You're still hot. You and me, J, we used to be spectacular together. What gives with Mulwray anyway? You his?

Let's meet up, J. What do you say? We can talk about the old times and you can tell where you fucked off to. I want to see you.

This Friday. The witching hour. Asylum.

If you're not there I'll put in an offer to Mulwray, one that I doubt he'll be able to refuse.

Until then.

Yours Eternally

Viper //

Reaching out blindly, I shut the computer down, my arm trembling as though I have no control over it. Nausea rises in my stomach, making me regret the coffee I'd been drinking as I checked my messages.

Billy's dead.

Viper has incriminating photos that he has no qualms about sending to Brennan.

He wants to see me.

Oh God, oh God, oh God...

The plot thickens. Already I feel as though I'm in danger of being suffocated by it. The fact that I didn't know Billy was dead hurts. It hurts a lot. He deserved better. The lingering feeling that I'd failed him is now back stronger than ever. If I'd stayed... If I'd gone back for him... If I'd gotten Adam to get him out...

Too late. As with just about everything it's too fucking late to do a damn thing about any of it. I chose my path and now I have to live with it. All of it. Every choice I've made, from hiding my past from Brennan and not letting it be known that Viper's back in my life, along with every decision I'm going to make is down to me and me alone. Whether I like it or not I'm back in the game.

All being well this time I'll at least be in with a chance of surviving it.


'... Okay, so this is how it's going to work. I'm going to talk and you're going to listen. Got it? Just listen. Question time can come after I've finished. Please. This is going to be hard enough without being interrupted every thirty seconds. You'll have questions. Guaranteed. And I promise to try my best to answer them but, please, if you'd just wait until I've got it all off my chest first, yeah?

First off. I don't want to be doing this. Hell, I really don't want to be doing this. I'm afraid of how you'll react, what you'll think of me. You don't have to tell me that I should have told you all of this earlier as, trust me, I already know. If I could change how I've done things I would.

You know as well as I do however that I can't, that this is how it now is and there's nothing either of us can do about it. It mightn't help but, well, it's just the cold hard truth.

Secondly. I'm sorry, okay. Really sorry. I've fucked up. There's no other real way of looking at it. For what it's worth I'll understand if you can't forgive me. You deserved better.

More importantly, you deserved the truth.

Hope you're ready for this because I know I'm not. But, hey, nothing ventured nothing gained and all that. I promised myself that I'd see this through to the end and that's what I'm going to do. I owe it you. Better late than never, yeah?

Brennan, when you look at me you only see what I allow you to see. With the exception of Adam and Shalimar no one really knows the real me. Some days perhaps not even them. Truth be told there's even days when I'm not exactly sure who or what the real me is either. One thing's certain though, I'm not who you think I am. Not even close in fact.

You think I'm pure. I'm not.

You think I need protecting from the streets. I don't. Well, not in the way you think anyway.

You think my background makes me better than you. It doesn't.

You think you're not good enough for me. You are. Hell, you're too good for me.

You consider yourself lucky to have me. You're not. Not really.

To put it perfectly bluntly, I'm a fuck up. No. Seriously. I am. A huge freakin' fuck up. Wanna know why? Despite everything I feel for you I've never told you the truth about my past. I trust you but I've never told you.


Because by the time we got together it was already too late. Because I thought you'd be disappointed, possibly even disgusted. Because it's not something I like remembering, let alone confessing to.

Christ! I'm dragging this out, aren't I? Making the hard even harder. Go figure. All I want is this to be over and done with yet I'm taking my own sweet time getting to the point.

Okay. Fine. Here goes.

I come from a well-respected family and have access to more money than I'll ever need. My childhood was not a happy one but, barring affection and friendship, I never knew what it was like to lack anything. If I wanted the latest games console or the most expensive pair of jeans in the shop I got it, no questions asked. You're right in that my childhood was one of privilege, that I probably wouldn't have been allowed to look twice at you if we'd met at the mall.

What you're wrong about though is thinking that there's no way I'd know what it was like to live on the streets, to do everything and anything I had to do to simply survive.

I know.

Been there, done that, got the mental scars to prove it. Used to have the physical scars too but, well, thank God for laser surgery is all I can say. Hell, I had track marks that looked like varicose veins just about everywhere you care to imagine. My arms in particular looked like road maps.

But I'm jumping ahead here. Sorry.

You say you made a point of avoiding Hell's Kitchen and I say I made it my home for six months. If you don't believe me ask Shal or Adam. They can confirm it. God knows it's not a competition but I'd think that I've been lower than you have.

Drug fucked. Petty thief. Whore. One hundred percent owned, operated and ruled. Oh, and I should add here that it was all willingly. I wasn't made to do any of it.

Ever had anyone pay to watch you and your lover having sex? How about having no shame when it came to doing whatever it took to score the money for a desperately needed fix?

I wish I was lying, you know, pulling your leg, but I'm not. Even at your worst you never even would have given me a second glance. I was lower than low.

Four years ago I was living in Hell's Kitchen, my life on a fast track to the grave, a one way ticked clutched in my sweaty hand. Get this though, I thought I was happy. I actually thought that for the first time in my life I was in charge of my own destiny, that I was living the life I wanted to lead. What I was though was addicted to heroin and out of my depth. Not that I knew this at the time. I just thought that I was in love and finally free. Naïve doesn't even begin to explain it. If I'd been offered a pass out of it all I wouldn't have taken it. However low I got, whatever I had to do to score a fix, I still thought it was a vast improvement on returning to my old life.

The first time I went to Hell's Kitchen I only went in a desperate attempt to fit in with a group of guys from college. As you probably know venturing into Hell's Kitchen was like a rite of passage, something that every young man has to be able to say he's done at least once. I'll be honest with you, the whole place freaked me out. All I wanted was to turn around and retreat back to the dorm. Somehow though, and I don't know how, I got separated from the rest of the group in The Black Cat. Talk about nearly succumbing to a panic attack. The place was so packed and the smoke was so think that I couldn't even see the exit. I could literally feel my heart just about trying to pound through my chest when, literally out of nowhere, he materialised next to me, an unearthly looking saviour in black leather.

Do you believe in lust at first sight, Brennan? Not love. Just lust.

I looked at him and I knew that I wanted him. It was almost like a need. Although I was twenty I wasn't very sexually experienced and I'd never experienced anything like what I was feeling for the stranger. Looking at him my desire to cut my losses and run deserted me. For the first time I was actually glad to be there.


Viper is... I was going to say special but that's not quite the right way to describe him. He's different. I'm not sure that's the best term to use either but, whatever, it'll do for now. I think, despite never having been able to find him on any of Adam's databases that he may be a Feral. It'd certainly explain not only the sensual ease with which he carried himself but also the reason why I felt so instantly attracted to him, the animal magnetism he exuded. If he wanted you there was nothing you could do about it, not a damn thing. And, yeah, for reasons unknown he wanted me.

You may not remember but it was Viper you spoke to the other night at Harley's. If you think back you're bound to remember him. He looks like an anime character brought to life, like a black haired version of Spike from Cowboy Bebop. Albeit not exactly in a classical sense you've got to admit that there's just something about him. Hell's Kitchen is Viper's home; he's as much a part of it as the used syringes lying in the gutter and not even close to legal teenage prostitutes. Rumour has it that he was even born there, that his mother abandoned him when he was five and he's been on his own ever since. If he has a different name no one knows it. One thing's for sure though, he all but rules the place. No one messes with him and lives to tell the tale. He's not a player though, not in the strictest sense of the term, more an overseer. Viper has his hands in many pies but he only ever plays in them with his gloves on. The police have never been able to pin anything on him. His true party piece though would have to be his ability to manipulate people. I think it's just all but instinctive to him.

I digress though. As imperative as Viper is to this sad and sorry tale is I doubt you're currently that interested in him. Although I could talk about him and our... ah... exploits for hours, I'll cut a long story short and put it to you like this.

Viper and I started talking. While I can't remember about what exactly I can definitely remember feeling a sense of inanely happy disbelief that he was giving me the time of night. When he offered me the needle I accepted without pausing to think. Perhaps I wanted to look cool. Perhaps he'd already slipped something into my drink. I don't know. Despite having made a concentrated effort to stay away from drugs I let him inject me without hesitation. As mistakes go it was a massive one. One that I spent the next six months paying for.

The heroin took away all my inhibitions and feelings of inadequacy. It made me feel free. Not that I knew it at the time it also bonded to my new mutant DNA, resulting in instantaneous addiction. One hit and, just like that, I was hooked. The following morning when I woke up in Viper's bed -- with Viper himself lying sprawled next to me -- I felt like death warmed up. God, talk about the hangover from hell. I was so sick that I couldn't even lift my head off the pillow. Needless to say another hit provided me with a miraculous cure and I, just like that, was quickly back to feeling on top of the world. It was great. I loved it.

>From that humble start I spent six months in Hell's Kitchen with Viper. I blew off college, my trust fund and all ties to my past and simply revelled in the freedom of basically doing whatever the fuck I wanted. Sex. Drugs. Partying. More sex. More drugs. Viper was my everything. If he wanted something done I did it, no questions asked. It probably sounds impossible to believe but there's part of me that still believes, in his own way, that he loved me. And that's not only because I was so subservient either. He never let anyone touch me. They could watch but they could never touch. Nor did he ever make me do anything. I know it doesn't sound like much but, well... Viper looked out for me. We were definitely a pair. The only thing I kept from him was my abilities. Like everything else from my 'past' I simply chose to forget all about them. I know I'm repeating myself here, but I genuinely thought I was free. And, again, I was happy. I didn't think anything was wrong

It was all too much though. My body simply isn't designed to cope with drugs. I began to feel sick all the time. Some days it took all my energy to get out of bed and make it to the sofa. I looked like a walking skeleton. I know you think I could probably do to put on some weight now but, believe me, compared to back then I look as though I'm about to take up Sumo wrestling as a hobby.

I was, not to put a too fine a point on it or anything, dying. If not for Adam coming along when he did I would have too. Although I hadn't been aware of it, Adam had been looking for me ever since he'd spoken to my mother and become concerned that I'd 'disappeared'. I was sitting in the gutter, quite unable to get up and not all bothered about it, when he came for me. Not that I wanted anything to do with him. Hell, I was perfectly content with things exactly how they were and wanted to stay with Viper. It being Hell's Kitchen though, no one batted an eyelid when Shalimar got out of the car and picked me up, quite literally kicking and screaming, in order to throw me into the backseat.

Two long months later -- which was how long it took to get the toxins out of my system -- I couldn't think back to my time in Hell's Kitchen without wanting the ground to simply open up and swallow me. As nauseating as it sounds, without Adam and Shal I honestly wouldn't be here. They took me in and cared for me when no one, not even my parents, not really, cared. They literally saved me from myself, from Viper. When Adam said that I was welcome to stay with them, that he thought there'd be a part for me in the team he was thinking of forming to help the cause of other new mutants, I knew that I'd truly been offered a second chance.

Now, as you know, they're my family. I owe them my life and there's nothing I wouldn't do for them. It goes without saying though that that's pretty much the hugely abridged version of events. The two months were not pleasant ones and to be honest with you I don't really want to talk about them. I'll say this however, Shalimar's way more patient then she lets on.

Between us we decided that it would be in my own best interests to be kept away from Hell's Kitchen. Although going back may have resulted in closure, thus avoiding the current fucked state of affairs, the risk was just too great. Viper would have only had to have slipped me something and I'd have been back where I started. It's not like I wanted to go back anyway. Truth be told I could have lived the rest of my life without ever setting foot in the place again.

I could keep talking, tell you about Billy and some of the others that hung around with us, but I'll finish with the history now and move closer to the present. Telling you this hurts and I want it over with.

When you joined us here at Sanctuary I honestly didn't know what to think. Not only were you disrupting the status quo that was so important to me but you also represented a world that I'd sworn never again to have anything to do with. You were street, a part of something I'd spent the past three plus years trying to put behind me. For the first couple of weeks I lived in fear of you somehow recognising me. When I realised that you had me on some sort of rich kid pedestal I began to relax and pay you more open-minded attention. I never wanted you to think I thought I was better than you or that I wanted nothing to do with you. We were both just so busy falling prey to misguided stereotypes that that's just how it played out.

Falling for you came as a massive shock. Don't take this the wrong way but it was just about the last thing I wanted. When it became clear that you felt something for me too I toyed with the idea of coming clean but, I'm sorry, I just couldn't do it. I was afraid that it would tarnish your opinion of me. I'd already come to accept what you meant to me and, selfishly, I didn't want to fuck anything up. To me it was simply easier to let you labour under your misconceptions than it was slapping you in the face with the truth.

Given the point we're at now, and the fact that there's so much more at stake, I realise how stupid I was. I should have told you before the fickle hands of fate played me back into the hands of Viper.

Do you understand what I've been trying to tell you though, Bren? I'm not the person you think I am. I've lied to you and I've done things that I doubt you've even imagined. You thought that I was better than you but now you know that I'm not.

I'm sorry. Okay. Please. You've got to believe me.

I'm... God, I'm so sorry...'

If only...

Oh yeah. I wish.

My internal soliloquy, the one I've been running through my head ever since receiving Viper's email two days ago but am too gutless to actually voice, finally coming to an end, I lean across the bed and kiss Brennan's forehead. He stirs but thankfully doesn't wake. I watch him sleep and feel as though I'm slowly being torn in two. The desire to crawl into bed with him is nearly overwhelming.

I can't though.

It's nearly the witching hour and Viper beckons.

Tonight though, it ends.

One way or another it all comes to a head tonight.

I can't keep up the deception any longer.


My resolve falters as I hurry through Hell's Kitchen, en route to Asylum. As bad as it was the other night I at least had Brennan to hide behind. I want to either run or stare directly at my feet, avoiding eye contact at all costs, but know that I can't. The locals are well trained to spot any signs of weakness and have no qualms about exploiting it. Even though I once lived here I know that I still stand out, that everything about me screams 'tourist'. Although I dressed accordingly, black leather and denim being the Kitchen's accepted uniform, I still don't look as though I truly belong. Dull eyes peering out from sunken sockets watch me as I stride past. Some offer their particular services for a fee while others simply beg. A fat middle-aged policeman, a waiflike prostitute on her knees before him, winks at me, clearly pleased with himself. The girl's young enough to be his granddaughter. It just makes me sick.

Reaching the line up of surly looking clubbers -- the sort any sane person would cross the street to avoid -- queuing to get into Asylum, I try to convince myself it's only paranoia that's making me feel as though I'm being followed. Although I keep sneaking surreptitious glances behind me I can't see anyone and berate myself for being silly. Having someone tailed isn't Viper's style and no one else knows I'm here. A quick glance at my watch tells me that it's ten minutes to midnight and I realise that I'm going to have to take matters into my own hands if I want to get inside on time. Going by the line up it looks like Asylum is still the place to go on a Friday night then. It's almost reassuring to know that some things just never change. Despite the fact that I don't really want to, I can remember a number of Friday nights spent killing time in Asylum. It was one of Viper's favourite haunts. He used to talk about wanting to turn the upper levels of the old warehouse it's situated in into apartments. It wouldn't really surprise me to discover that he has either. Wishful thinking has never been one of Viper's follies. If he wants something he makes it happen.

Standing around reminiscing not going to get me inside the club, I step away from the queue and, after ensuring no one's paying me any attention, slip around the corner into a deserted alleyway. Confident that I'm alone, I exhale and phase through the wall. At least one thing going right for the night, I find myself in the men's bathroom. A young man is standing at the urinal, his fly zipped up, his expression glazed. He doesn't seem surprised to see me and smiles dreamily as a damp patch spreads across the front of his chinos. I don't even want to contemplate what he's taken and, flashing a forced smile in return, walk out of the bathroom. Already I feel as though it'll take all of the hot water in Sanctuary to make me feel clean again.

Leaving the relative peace and quiet of the bathroom behind, I walk along the darkened corridor and, hoping for the best, step out into Asylum's dance floor. If Hell's Kitchen is like the ass end of the earth then Asylum isn't even on the planet. Hard core to the max, it should offer free Rabies shots for its patrons before allowing them through the door. Anything goes at Asylum. If you want to walk around, and I'm talking either male or female here, wearing nothing other than a pair of thigh high patent leather boots and a lace g-string then go for it. No one will so much as blink an eyelid. Wanna do a line on the bar? Knock yourself out. Indulge in a spot of exhibitionist sex in the middle of the dance floor? Not a problem. Inhibitions along with coats are checked at the door. The music coming from the DJ in the converted shipping container at the back of the dance floor is both deafening and awful. Despite having been here before and knowing what it's like I feel as though I've stepped into another dimension, one that I well and truly don't belong in.

Once my eyes have adapted to the laser light show flashing across the dance floor I start looking around for Viper. The club is so full of people that he could be anywhere. Unable to read the time on my watch, I begin to worry. Knowing that he has to be here isn't good enough. I have to be able to find him. Dances jostle me as I hesitantly make my way across the dance floor, my eyes scanning the crowd for any sign of Viper. When the smoke machine kicks in I want to scream. Goddamn it! The last thing I want is to get off on the wrong foot by being late.

Swearing under my breath and hoping that I'm heading in the right direction, I decide to make my way over to the bar. If I ask nicely or offer a big enough bribe the barman might be able to tell me where to find Viper. A female dancer nearly smacking me in the head as she loses herself in the music, I spin around and find myself walking straight into another dancer. There being no point in apologising, I make to step around them just as the smoke lifts. I then find myself staring directly at Viper, a knowing smirk playing across his thin lips. Although I shouldn't be, I'm surprised and take a hurried step backwards, causing his smirk to broaden.

Come into the parlour said the spider to the fly.

Shit! How'd he fucking do that? One second he was nowhere to be found and the next he's directly in front of me! Bastard. Motherfucking sneaky ass bastard!

My heartbeat speeds up and my mouth goes dry as I stare at Viper. No doubt timed to perfection, the laser show is even replaced by brilliant light, meaning I can see him clearly. My mind threatening to go out on strike, I can't tell whether he's dressed up for my benefit or whether his outfit is, for him, casual. Either way I can't help but be impressed. No one but Viper could carry off tight black leather trousers topped by a floor length, red satin lined leopard print fur coat. Even in Asylum he stands out, his toned chest gleaming with a combination of glitter and sweat, the tattoo of a snake that curls up his left side almost looking to be alive. Kohl rimmed black eyes watch me intently, his gaze holding me captive. I could no more turn and escape than I could fly. Although it's far too late for second thoughts I begin to regret my determination to see this through on my own.

When he curls his finger, indicating that I should follow him, and walks off I trail after him instinctively. Just like old times. His presence preceding him, the crowd parts for Viper, allowing easy passage. Reaching an old freight lift by the bar, we stand side by side, waiting for it to arrive. We don't attempt to speak. Common sense whispers dimly in my ear not to get in the lift with him, to stay in plain sight, but when the doors open I get in without hesitation. Viper smiles at me, a cruel smile that sends shivers down my spine. The time to talk still not being upon us we travel in silence to the second floor, stepping out of the lift into a modern loft-style apartment. The black walls, concealed lighting and chrome and leather furniture give it away as Viper's without the need of hearing verification. One wall is half taken up by a massive grey and white painting of a spider's web. Certain segments of the web have been painted to represent trapped, screaming faces. I can't help but admire the artist's skill while at the same time feeling creeped out by it. The spider itself, an intricate sculpture that looks to be made out of microchips, looms over the top left hand corner of the painting.

"Beautiful, isn't it," Viper comments softly, reaching back into the lift in order to send it back to the ground floor before gesturing proudly at his artwork. "If this place were to go up in flames and I could only save one thing then that would be that one thing."

There not really being a lot I can say to that, I grunt noncommittally and, not caring if I look defensive or uneasy, cross my arms across my chest. Although it's on top of Asylum the loft is thankfully silent, the only sounds coming from the fridge in the stainless steel kitchenette and the hum of the wide-screen television set. Oddly enough it's almost too quiet. I suspect I could scream the place down and no one other than Viper would hear me. "I see you've got your wish about having the top of Asylum turned into apartments," I murmur flatly, watching Viper warily as he strolls across to a particularly uncomfortable looking black leather sofa. "Congratulations. It's very... ah... you."

"It could have been you too," Viper replies, settling himself on the sofa and casually leaning back, his gaze never leaving me. "That's if you hadn't abandoned me, of course. Why'd you do that, J, huh? I thought we were friends."

"I was dying," I retort matter-of-factly, pressing myself against the wall, keeping my distance from Viper. I know that if he wants me he'll get me but I can still delude myself that I've got a chance of having the upper hand. "I'm sorry about the way it happened but there wasn't anything I could have done about it. The whole thing was taken out of my hands."

Viper blinks slowly. "Tell me," he demands. "After everything I did for you I deserve an explanation."

"No." I shake my head. "I'm not going to tell you. It's over Viper, in the past. I'm not the person I was back then and, no offence, nor do I want to be. I'm not blaming you. You never forced me into anything and, yeah, we were good together. I can't go back though. This is not who I am now."

"But it's not who you ever were, not really," Viper responds, his eyes narrowing, "is it, Jess? Poor little rich boy who strayed from the flock and found himself in big bad Hell's Kitchen. You looked shocked that I now know your true name. I don't know why. Despite not having been able to locate you I've been busy these last four years. Tell me Mr Kilmartin, those pictures I told you about in the email, where would they do the most damage? Think about it for a second, who'd react the worst, Mulwray or your parents? Perhaps I should put them online and send invites out to everyone. How does that sound?"

"I... I'm not going to be blackmailed, Viper," I grind out weakly, praying that I don't look as mortified as I feel. Viper's right, he's been busy. Very busy. Names and history of no real importance to our lives back then, he'd only ever known me as J. While he knew I'd been at college that was it. To the best of my knowledge he never knew anything about my background. Once again though, I should have fucking known better. "You... You can't do this to me! I'm sorry for the way it ended but, fuck it, shit happens! You've got your life to lead and I've got mine. Goddamn it Viper! I won't play this game. Call it selfish but I want to live, okay? And in order to live I can't be here. If you don't like it then that's just tough shit. I'm not going to pay you a cent." The words fall out of mouth in a rush. I didn't even know I had them in me. All I know is that I'm determined that this all ends tonight. Whatever it takes. I don't care. Viper's not going to win.

Viper stretches languidly and wags his finger at me. "There, there Jess," he purrs, reaching slowly between the sofa cushions and retrieving a small black lacquer box. "Who said I wanted money? With one notable exception I've got everything I want. Do you want to know what the one thing I'm missing though is?"

"Not really," I whisper, watching with mounting horror as Viper opens the box and pulls out a syringe. "Listen Viper, it's been great catching up with you again but I really think I should go. Do what you like with the pictures. The truth has to come out sometime and now is as good a time as any." Wanting to get the hell out of here, I start to inch towards the lift. I haven't even got close enough to call it when, moving with Feral speed, Viper's next to me, the syringe held loosely in his hand. Grabbing me by the shoulder he slams me back first against the wall, knocking the wind out of me.

"Not so fast, Jess," he sneers, pressing his weight against my body, trapping me. Too startled to think straight I don't even consider phasing. "You see, in case you haven't worked it out yet, the only thing I'm missing is you. While it mightn't have been love, I liked having you around. You had your uses and you've gotta admit the sex was freakin' great. If I remember correctly you liked a bit of this too. Don't struggle. I don't want to miss the vein now, do I?"

"No! Oh God! No! Please Viper, don't! I'll stay... I'll stay voluntarily, do whatever you like, just please don't inject me." I don't care that I'm begging, that I'm effectively giving myself over to him. There's no saying what impact heroin would have on my system now. One hit could possibly even kill me. "Please... I..."

I'm saved from having to offer up my soul in exchange for the syringe being put away by Shalimar coming crashing through the window. Shards of glass fly across the room, dropping to the floor mere inches away from where we're standing. Shalimar's eyes flash orange as, shaking off the glass, she advances towards us. I've never been so pleased to see anyone in my life.

"Drop it," she growls, glowering at Viper. "Trust me when I say you so don't want to do that."

"Oh, but I do," Viper smirks, winking at me as, through my jacket, he embeds the needle in my arm. I try to pull away, to phase or mass, anything, but it's too late. I can already feel the heroin working its way through me. Jerking my arm away from Viper, I push him away as the room begins to spin around me. I have to lean against the wall for support. Shalimar and Viper are fighting in front of me but, my vision blurring, I can't really see them. When the lift doors slide open and what looks to be Brennan and Emma get out of it I start to laugh, delighted with the form my hallucinations are taking.

I'm still laughing as, everything fading to black, I crash heavily to the floor.


Waking sluggishly to muted, foggy consciousness, my head and body feeling as though they're both weighted down with lead weights, I accept without question that I'm still hallucinating, that Viper's little 'gift' to me is still running rampant through my bloodstream. It's just easier -- and how -- than deluding myself with the possibility that it could be real.

I mean... Nah. It's just not worth it. My hopes just aren't up to being crushed and kicked back down into the gutter at the moment. I'm either hooked up to machines in the medi-bay at Sanctuary or I was already tripping when I thought I saw Shalimar and I'm still at Viper's. Whatever. I'm not really in a position to care at the moment. Besides, my subconscious apparently having decided to take pity on me for a change, I like the form this particular hallucination is taking. To put it simply, it's nice. And -- taking into consideration how sick and downright terrible I feel -- nice is good.

Oh yeah. I'm all for nice.

Nice, you see, has me in Brennan's room lying in Brennan's bed buried under Brennan's comforter. I'm warm, cosy, and can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be. As hallucinations go it's an award winner, the attention to detail, right down to being able to smell Brennan in the bedding, just perfect.

When I hear a door open and feel someone sit on the edge of the mattress I tense, not wanting reality to intrude on my peachy little dream world. Although I want to see who it is that's just joined me I lack both the energy and required limb coordination to roll over and, there being just about no other option available to me, screw my eyes tightly shut, slipping effortlessly into the welcoming arms of denial. The power of the mind being nothing short of astonishing, I'm even able to convince myself that the person sliding under the comforter and pulling me close is actually Brennan.

Feels like Brennan... Smells like Brennan... Can't be Viper... Isn't Viper... I'm back at Sanctuary and everything's going to be okay...

I'm not...

This is real...




The next time I wake up it actually feels as though all the weight has been lifted off me and that maybe, just maybe, everything I'm slowly blinking into focus is in fact real.

Real as in oh-my-God-you-mean-to-say-I-wasn't-hallucinating-before-and-there's-a-chance -I-wasn't-wrong-to-hope?

Brennan's room. Brennan's bed. Brennan's odd collection of different sized lava lamps that I don't think he ever turns off.

Okay. Uh-huh.

No Brennan though, only Shalimar.

Shalimar, who's apparently so happy to see me with my eyes open that she's celebrating by pulling me towards her and trying her hardest to hug me to death.

"Welcome back to the land of the living," she exclaims brightly, letting me go and ruffling my hair. "You have no idea how relieved I am to see you awake. Believe it or not Sleeping Beauty, you've -- oh, and I'm choosing to ignore the truly inspired hour or two of vomiting you started off with here -- been asleep for the past thirty-six or so hours. Even Adam was beginning, not that he was admitting it, you know how he is, to worry. God Jess! You didn't half have us all going out of our mind with worry."

"'M'sorry," I mumble, avoiding Shalimar's concerned glance and looking around the room. "Brennan? Where's... I thought..." Trailing off, I sigh heavily, unsure as to whether I'm up to knowing the truth yet or not. The way I'm feeling it's a tough call.

"Brennan's having his Adam enforced break," Shalimar murmurs, smiling warmly and ruffling my hair again. "If you'd crashed back into consciousness a couple of minutes ago he would have been here. Trust me Jess, he's hardly left your side. If anything had... ah... gone wrong I reckon he even would have beat back me to that lowlife Viper.

"Oh..." I blink slowly at Shalimar, willing my mind to fully comprehend and accept what I think it is she's saying. "He... He doesn't hate me?" Both my head and mouth feeling as though they're stuffed full of cotton wool, talking is a struggle. "Even though..."

"Of course he doesn't hate you," Shalimar interrupts, draping her arm around my shoulder and pulling me close. "He's confused and concerned, yeah, but he doesn't hate you."

"Should," I mutter miserably. "I... I failed him. Hell... I failed everyone. Should have just... left me with Viper."

"I'm going to put that down to the residue of the heroin talking," Shalimar states flatly, her eyes narrowing as she glares me. "Listen up Jess, I'm only going to say this once and you'd better damn well believe it. You didn't fail anyone. Sure things could have been done differently but, look at it this way, all's well that ends well. You stood up to Viper and lived to tell the tale so cheer up. That in itself is an achievement."

"Yeah, one he's going to make me pay for throughout the rest of my lousy existence," I murmur softly. "Let's face it Shal, do you honestly expect him to just leave it like this? You know what he's like. The photos probably already have pride of place on a website somewhere and he'll already be halfway through executing his next plan. I don't want to sound defeatist, and I doubt I'll ever be able to successfully convey to all of you how grateful I am that you came through for me, but... Viper just doesn't lose. It's not in his nature."

"It is now," Shalimar declares matter-of-factly, a decidedly self-satisfied smirk crossing her face. "Trust me when I say you'll never have to worried about Viper again."

"No?" I query cautiously, "why's that? Oh God, Shal! Don't tell me you killed him! I know he's scum, but..." Pausing, I shake my head. Just because I want nothing to do with Viper doesn't mean that I want him dead. "You didn't... Did you?"

"I thought you just said you didn't want to know," Shalimar teases, resting her head on my shoulder and looking at me coyly. "Make your mind up here, Jess."

"Shal!" I'm barely awake, I feel as though I've run over by a herd of overweight elephants and I'm not up to being teased. "Please. Just tell me. I need to know."

"Although I don't know why you'd care whether the bastard was dead or not," Shalimar replies, grinning, "no, I didn't kill him. Nor did Brennan. Oh, we both really wanted to but in the end we decided to simply give him to Emma. You should like this, without hurting a hair on the poor boy's head she had a quick trip through his mind and wiped it free of all his memories of you. In other words, even if he does have more pictures stashed somewhere he won't know who the hell it is that's in them!" Clearly happy with Emma giving Viper a memory wipe, Shalimar laughs. "See? As I said, all's well that ends well. I saw to the destruction of all the photos personally and you'll never have to worry about Viper again. Once you've been checked out by Adam everything will be back to normal."

"To an extent anyway," I sigh, the worry I'm still feeling about what Brennan's going to have to say dampening my relief at knowing that, albeit not exactly the way I'd had in mind, I'm now free of Viper once and for all. "Um... Thanks Shal. I don't know where I'd be without you."

"I've got a fair idea," Shalimar mutters blithely, kissing my cheek before clambering gracefully off the bed. "Now, c'mon. Let's get you to Adam so he can give you the all clean and you can then go and grovel to Brennan safe in the knowledge that you're not going to pass out or throw up again."

"You're all heart," I mock grumble as, without bothering to warn me, Shalimar scoops me up as though I weigh little more than an infant. "Hey! Put me down! Just because I've been out of it for almost two days doesn't mean I can't put one foot in front of the other, you know!"

"Adam said to bring you to him when you regained consciousness and, well, I'm just following orders," Shalimar retorts cheerfully, carrying me out of the room.

"Following orders, huh? So it's true then, there really is a first time for everything."

"Oh yeah. Perhaps you'd like to try it sometime."

"You up to giving me pointers?"

"So long as it's not a hair washing night and there isn't a shoe sale on then, yeah, I'm up for it if you are."

"Is there gonna be a test at the end? I don't want to do it if there's going to be a test."

It's almost unbelievable how good it feels to be able to banter like this. Whatever happens when I talk to Brennan -- and this time I will, for real and not just silently in my head -- I know that I've been given a second chance and that I'm home, where I belong.


"You'll live," Adam declares, turning away from the monitor and indicating that I can put my top back on. "You were lucky. It appears that your body had a nervous reaction to the heroin. Unlike last time though your system hasn't bonded with it. I won't know without performing further tests whether this is because the heroin Viper injected into you was of a lower grade or whether it's because you've formed an immunity to it. Although you're going to need a couple of days to fully recuperate I can't foresee any lasting effects. Again, and I can't stress this enough, you were incredibly lucky."

"I know," I murmur, swinging my legs over the side of the examination chair and sitting up. "How... Um... I suppose what I'm trying to ask is how did anyone know where I was?" Not that I'm complaining or anything but, well, so much for thinking I was being sneaky.

"Shalimar was worried enough about you to follow you," Adam replies, fixing me with a stern look as he strolls over to the chair. "Emma in turn sensed her concern and woke Brennan. Not knowing what else to do they tracked Shalimar's comlink signal to Asylum and, well, I think you know the rest."

I nod, embarrassed at all the trouble I've caused. "I'm sorry," I whisper dejectedly, focussing my attention on doing the buttons on my pyjama top up as opposed to meeting Adam's eyes. "I've failed everyone and I want you to know that I'm sorry, that I'll do whatever it takes to make it up. I... I made a mistake in thinking I was strong enough to face Viper on my own. I should have known better and can only hope that I haven't done too much damage to your opinion of me."

"You haven't done any damage," Adam surprises me by responding, "in fact, despite there being a lot of things you could have done differently and the small matter of how you've been hiding your past from Brennan, I'm quite proud of you. Despite the considerable risk in trying to deal with Viper on your own, the way you handled things shows both a decided strength of character and a determined streak of willpower." Pausing, Adam sighs lightly before continuing. "You will note I'm doing my best to ignore here how it all could have gone horribly wrong. I'm not going to lecture you Jesse, not this time. You've been through a lot in the past week. I also think you're already aware of where you went wrong without needing me to come along and point them out to you."

"I made a lot of mistakes," I mumble, glancing at Adam and smiling wanly. "Too caught up in the hole I'd dug for myself I forgot that I'm no longer as alone as I used to be. I should have come clean about running into Viper before he had time to attempt to blackmail me and... And I should have come clean about things in general. I'm not proud of my past but I can't change it. Viper might have, thanks to Emma, forgotten me but I'll never be able to truly forget him. In a way he's part of me. But, yeah, not owning up to my less than exemplary past was a huge mistake, one that I have no qualms about accepting unconditionally. I'll know better next time."

Well I never. Getting that off my chest was actually a hell of a lot easier than I expected it to be.

"I'm sure you will," Adam smiles reassuringly. "Your stint in Hell's Kitchen only makes up a very small part of you. I can understand why it weighs heavily on you but it doesn't have to. Look at it this way, if not for Viper you may never have ended up here. Good can come from bad and it often does. Although you've, in a sense, lost control of the situation, there's now nothing to stop you from starting afresh with a perfectly clean slate. I know it may seem hard but you've got to look at everything that's happened as a positive. You stood up to Viper and now never have to worry about him again. Not only that but you also should have had it reiterated to you that we're a team and that we're all here for you. You're not alone anymore."

"When you put everything like that," I murmur blithely, deciding to keep to myself that the concept of 'alone' all depends on Adam's interpretation of the word. As relieved as I am that he's not pissed off with my Lone Ranger routine I'm still worried about how Brennan's going to react. Adam's absolution means a lot to me but it's Brennan's that I really want. I admire Adam and I want him to be proud of me but, let's put it this way, I have no inclination whatsoever to share a bed with him. Despite being a man of many talents Adam just doesn't make me tingle like Brennan does.


Speak of the devil.

Too caught up in my conversation with Adam I'm not even aware that Brennan has entered the medi-bay until he's standing all but directly in front of me.

"Verdict?" Brennan queries, directing his question to Adam as though I wasn't even in the room. "Everything's okay, yeah?"

Adam nods. "While not exactly good to go anywhere other than bed I'm pleased to say that I can't find anything wrong with him," he replies, shrugging out of his white lab coat and hanging it up before heading towards the door. "So long as you realise he's not up to much he's all yours."

I am?


Adam, come back! Don't leave me! Knowing that I have to talk to Brennan and actually doing it are two different things entirely and I'm not exactly convinced I'm up to it yet.

Okay. Fine. Leave then.

"Hey," Brennan mutters, his attempt at sounding casual failing dismally.

"Hey," I echo lamely, toying aimlessly with the hem of my pyjama top.

"You... ah... look like shit."

"Feel like shit too."

"Oh." For the first time since entering the room Brennan stops feigning fascination with the medi-bay's myriad monitors and looks me in the eye. "C'mon then," he adds softly, "let's get you back to bed."

"I'm fine here," I mutter stubbornly, shaking my head and suddenly not wanting to delay the inevitable. It's on me now and I just want it over and done with. If Brennan's going to cut his losses and turn his back on me then it's better that I know, that I abandon all hope right here and now.

"You look like you're going to slide off the chair," Brennan retorts flatly. "Now, before you try to argue with me, you're going back to bed and that's all there is to it. I'm warning you, if you dig your heels in I'm just going to have call Shal and I'll tell you now that she's just dying for an excuse to carry you again."

"But we need to talk," I whisper, hating how plaintive I sound. "It... This... It's been put off for too long as it is and I just want it over."

"And I'm thinking you can talk in bed just as easily as you can talk here," Brennan replies, holding his hand out and waiting for me to take it. "Last chance, Jess, either get off the chair or I swear I'll call for Shal. I want to get through this conversation as much, if not more, as you do but not to the detriment of your health. Now, come on, move it."

"Bully," I grumble, hopping off the chair and, my legs apparently not yet up to holding me upright, very nearly falling spectacularly on my ass. Sighing, Brennan catches me just in time. "Don't say it," I mutter, leaning against him for support, loving how he instinctively places his arm around my shoulders. "Don't even think it and most definitely don't say it."

"If you wanted Shal to come carry you you only had to say something," Brennan smirks, guiding me towards the door. "You didn't need to indulge in a spot of miming, you know, a couple of words would have done just fine."

"Smart ass."

"Perhaps you'd like me to carry you then? You only have to ask."

"Again, don't even think it. I'm not an invalid."

"You nearly fell down."

"Tell me something I don't know. Okay, okay! So maybe I'm a little weak. That does not mean however that I need to be carried or babied."

"So, if I were to let you go you wouldn't go crashing to the floor then?"

"Wanna find out?"

"Er... Not particularly, no. If you hurt yourself Shal would find a way to blame me and, well, call me selfish but I'd kinda prefer to stay in Shal's good books."

To my surprise, I laugh, our effortless banter seeming like old times. "Anyone ever told you that, deep down, you're about as tough as a marshmallow?"

"Oi! Watch it, you. Keep up the marshmallow taunts and I will let you go," Brennan retorts, smiling as we come to a stop outside his room. "Here do you?" he queries quietly, his mood suddenly shifting to serious. "Or would you prefer to carry on to your room?"

"Um... Here's fine," I murmur, somewhat taken aback by the offer. I know I woke up in Brennan's room but I'm -- to an extent anyway -- better now and don't need a baby sitter. "That's... ah... if you want me in there," I add slowly, watching Brennan closely. "I'd, well, you know, understand if you didn't."

Ignoring me, Brennan uses his free hand to open the door and, without deigning to answer, helps me into the room. Once I'm settled on the bed, sitting propped up against a mound of pillows, the comforter pulled up to my waist, he steps back and sighs, his expression unreadable. "This is it, yeah?" Brennan murmurs, his voice emotionless. "This is where we talk about secrets and what's been going on this last week, yeah? Or do you need more time? Me, I'm all for getting it out in the open now but it's your show, Jess, your call. You up to it now or do you need to rest?"

"I'm up for it," I reply, feeling just about anything but. "We need to talk and... ah... I want to do it now."

Brennan nods. "You wanna start?"

"Er..." Oh God. Not particularly. Just 'cos it's my story doesn't mean I want tell it.

"Or do you want me to tell you what I already know and then just take it from there?" Brennan offers flatly, shrugging. "Would that be easier?"

"Um..." Oh yeah. This is going well. With any luck I'll have built up to a word with two syllables in it before Brennan storms out of the room in disgust.

"I'll take that as a yes then shall I?"

"Please." Woo-hoo! Well, if nothing else it's at least a proper word.

"Okay," Brennan sighs, moving further away from the bed and leaning his back against the wall. "Thanks to Shalimar taking pity on me while you were unconscious, this is what I know. I know about Viper, Hell's Kitchen, the heroin addiction, and the six months you spent there. I know that because you were too off your head to know any better you actually, at the time anyway, enjoyed your time at Hell's Kitchen and the impact Viper had on you. I also know that Adam saved you -- not that you knew you needed saving or were even very grateful for it -- from the heroin, Viper and, let's face it, yourself."

Pausing, Brennan looks at me sadly and shakes his head. "Moving on," he continues, "I'm also reasonably up-to-date with your little run in with Viper last week at Harley's and how it affected you. Not only does seeing him again after so long throw you but he then gets in contact with you and makes a lame ass attempt at blackmailing you. Believe it or not I also know why you would have decided to deal with it all yourself. You wanted to prove to yourself that you could and you didn't want to drag anyone else into your mess. I get that. Hell Jess, I actually get all of it. There's only one thing I don't get and that's why it took this fuck up for the truth to come out. I... Shit! I thought you trusted me, that we were friends. Get this, I even thought I knew you! Christ, just goes to show how stupid I really am I suppose."

His piece apparently said, Brennan falls silent, his eyes fixed on a spot on the wall above my head. He looks, not to put a too fine a point on it or anything, completely dejected. Although stunned by what Brennan already knows and the fact that I don't have to start from scratch, I still don't really know what to say I do know nonetheless that the ball is now in my court and that I have to make the most of it.

So, ah, yeah, here goes.

"You're not stupid," I murmur softly, mentally crossing my fingers and blindly hoping for the best, "and I do trust you. I also want, more than just about anything, for us to still be friends. None of this is your fault, Brennan and I don't want you to think for a second that it is. It's all down to me and me alone. Not telling you about Viper and the rest was a mistake. I should have told you in the very beginning but, I'm sorry, I just couldn't."

"Why?" Brennan queries plainly, his gaze sliding down to meet mine. "Don't tell me you thought I would have judged you? I hate to say it but you should have known better."

"You thought I was something that I wasn't," I whisper. "You thought I was something far removed from your old life on the streets and, desperate for y ou to like me, I in turn thought that you would have been disappointed, that you wouldn't have been interested in me, if you knew the truth. I know, I know! It sounds simple. Hell, it sounds downright pathetic, but it's the truth. Because I'm ashamed of that part of my life and because I wanted to be the person you thought I was I made the decision to keep it from you. I made a mistake, okay? A big one. I realise that and, although I probably have no right to, I hope that our relationship isn't going to be the cost of it. I'll... I'll understand if you want to end it but I'm hoping that you'll give me a second chance. I know I don't deserve it but I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to make it up to you."

"You know, I've never met anyone quite like you," Brennan murmurs, a hint of a smile tugging on his lips as, pushing himself away from the wall, he makes his way over to the bed. "You're... God! I don't know," he continues, sitting on the edge of the mattress and running his hands through his hair. "You're one of the most confusing people around. That said, and I don't know whether this is something that should worry me or not, I think I'm beginning to get a grip on how your mind works."

"I'd worry if I were you," I reply, smiling hesitantly. "I'm sorry Brennan, about everything. I've lied to you, hid things from you, and made you believe that I'm far purer than I actually am. I accept full responsibility and know that I've made a mistake. You're... ah... very, very important to me though and I meant what I said about being willing to do whatever it takes for you to give me another chance. No more lies, I promise."

"One hundred percent honesty?"

"One hundred percent honesty. Guaranteed. You wanna know it and I'll tell you."

"Even if it's embarrassing?"

"Scout's honour."

"You were a Scout?"

"No... You know what I mean though!"

More banter. Things are most definitely looking up.

"Okay. First crush. Celebrity, teacher, whatever."

"Oh God... I change my mind. There are some things that are just better off kept secret."

"Uh-uh. One hundred percent honesty, remember?"

"Okay. Fine. My first crush was... ah... Luke Skywalker."

"The black outfit in Jedi?"

"Nooo... The farm boy get up, poncho and all, in A New Hope."

Brennan laughs. "You know, I think you're right, some things are better kept secret."

"My taste has improved though," I protest, grinning, "besides, you asked. Be it on your own head if you can't handle the truth."

Swinging his legs onto the mattress, Brennan crawls along the bed and settles himself next to me, his head sharing the edge of my pillow. "I've forgiven you Jess," he murmurs quietly, abruptly changing the topic "and I do understand your garbled reasoning for doing things the way you did but, and I've got to say this, the fact that you didn't feel as though you could tell me about Viper hurts. I'm no angel myself. I've done things that I'm not proud of and am never going to willingly bring up in a conversation. Should they somehow come up though I'll never deny them. Our past is just that though, past. Over. Done with. History. Only fools allow themselves to get caught up in the past. It's the future we've all got to look forward to."

"Tomorrow is another day and all that," I state gently, resting my hand on Brennan's thigh. "You're right. Again, I'm sorry. When you want to hear it from me as opposed to from Shalimar I'll tell you everything. I can't change it or undo it but I can tell you."

"And that's all I ask," Brennan replies, placing his hand over mine and squeezing it gently. "We'll get through this, Jess. We've, in our different ways, made it too far forward not to. There's really nothing else to say."

"Um... There isn't?"

I mean, excuse me? There's no way he can just let me off so easily.

"No," Brennan states firmly, shaking his head.


"But nothing, think about it Jess. Are you happy with the point we're at here?"

"Shit yeah, but..."

"Again, but nothing. Even if we dredge up the past and apologise for our mistakes for the next three hours do you honestly think it'll place us in a better position than we are now?"

"No," I murmur slowly, barely believing my luck. "I don't suppose it would. Um... Thank you for... ah... everything."

"We'll make it," Brennan responds, brushing off my gratitude and, kissing the top of my head, draping his arm around my shoulder, hugging me. I lean into his embrace instinctively, luxuriating in the warmth of his body against mine.

We will make it too. I don't think, thankfully, either of us would be willing to accept it any other way.


Lost Souls, as well as being somewhere I hoped never to find myself, is a small cemetery situated in the heart of Hell's Kitchen. Surrounded by crumbling concrete and decaying lives, it's an oasis of serenity in a world otherwise devoid of beauty. The locals, as faithless and as apathetic as they are, look after Lost Souls with all the fervour of the devout. Only those with a death wish attempt to vandalise the cemetery. Everywhere else in Hell's Kitchen is open slather -- you wanna graffiti you just have to hunt around for a free patch of wall somewhere -- but Lost Souls is off limits. Street code dictates that the Kitchen look after their own. Living or dead.

Shivering despite the warm afternoon sun beating down on my back, I hug my leather jacket tightly around me and mentally say my belated final goodbye to Billy. Three days have passed since I woke up safe and sound in Sanctuary and this is the first time, Adam having meant it when he said he wanted me to rest, I've been let out. Brennan's standing by my side (that he's hardly left since our big heart to heart in his bedroom) but, my gaze focussed on the elaborately carved gravestone in front of me, I can't see him. I can sense him though and am thankful for his presence. The fact that he wanted to come with me means a lot. Complete with his tag etched into the base, Billy's gravestone positively screams of Viper's handiwork. A creeping rose bush, its flowers and thorns sculpted perfectly, curls around a prematurely aged Celtic cross. It's nothing short of breathtaking. If not for Billy's details carved in the centre of the cross it looks as though it should be taking pride of place in an art gallery.

I blink back tears as I note that he was only nineteen when he was killed, just two months shy of his twentieth birthday. A life wasted doesn't even come close to covering it.

Billy arrived in Hell's Kitchen a couple of months after I did. Fleeing an abusive stepfather who thought Billy was his own personal punching bag, he took to life on the streets like the proverbial duck to water. Although he was only sixteen he'd already had enough hatred and misery in his life to view Hell's Kitchen as a move forward. Like everyone young and impressionable he only had to lay eyes on Viper to fall for him. Because he followed us around and because he was just too damn cute for his own good, we took him in under our protection. His youth made him easy prey and we took it upon ourselves to look out for him. Respecting my position with Viper, Billy's crush turned to far less dangerous admiration and we became friends. Whenever I came down he was there was a glass of water and quick, reassuring hug. A simple soul, Billy didn't have a mean bone in his body. If he could help you he would. We both liked him. Viper even used to talk about helping him get out of Hell's Kitchen.

And now, like so many things, it's too late.

Wiping my tears away with the back of my hand, I take a step away from the grave and nod at Brennan. "Ready," I whisper, turning away from the gravestone and the small smattering of offerings I'd placed against it. A Spiderman comic, a Snickers bar, a bottle of Coca-Cola, and a Red Sox beanie bear - just a few of Billy's favourite things. If Brennan thinks I'm mad for placing them on the grave he's doing a good job of hiding it.

"You don't have to hurry on my account," Brennan murmurs, taking his sunglasses off and looking me in the eye. "We can stay all day if you want to."

"I'm ready to go," I reply, starting to walk slowly away, "I've said my goodbyes."

Side by side we stroll towards the exit, neither of us feeling the urge to break the comfortable silence. We've nearly reached the gate when a black Nissan Skyline, oddly silent despite the huge Sony sticker covering most of the back window, pulls up outside of it. A young man with closely cropped electric blue hair clambers out of the passenger side. He sneers at us, his expression cold, as the driver's door opens and Viper climbs elegantly out of it. Dressed in leather trousers and a buttoned up, black patent leather trench coat with a Mandarin collar, he looks as though he's en route to a Matrix convention. No one other than Viper would be able to carry it off. On Viper though, it looks good. In the bright sunlight his pale skin appears almost translucent and I realise that this may very well be the first time I've ever seen him in natural light.

When our eyes meet I see no recognition in Viper's expression. Like his companion, he sneers as they walk into the cemetery, his gaze flicking dismissively over us. Brennan moves instinctively closer to me his, his stance defensive. Although I tense, oddly enough I'm not worried. In fact I feel calmer than I have in a long time.

"Fuckin' tourists," the young man, no doubt Viper's latest acolyte spits contemptuously as they stride past. If Viper bothers to reply I don't hear him.

The moment over without incident, we both breathe a sigh of relief and continue on our way. Reaching the gate though, I can't help myself, I have to turn around, have to have one final look. As though sensing my gaze on him, Viper turns away from Billy's grave and this time our gazes lock. He looks puzzled, as though he thinks he should remember me. The feeling this installs in me is quite surreal. He just stares, his expression blank, as I smile at him before turning back to Brennan.

"You okay?" Brennan queries quietly, his concern obvious.

The answer coming to me effortlessly, my smile broadens and I take Brennan's hand in mine, squeezing it.

"Never better," I reply contentedly, confident beyond all doubt that what Shalimar said is true and that it's definitely a case of all's well that ends well.

Here's to a new beginning, one that I'm not going to fuck up this time.

~ end ~


Created on ... April 29, 2003