Owe Me Nothing

pairing: Jesse/Brennan

rating: PG-13

spoilers: none, just a hurt/comfort piece

feedback: please & always, but don't flame Alanis ;D

summary: Jesse explains his side of their relationship to Brennan

warnings: songfic, Brennan's sequel is planned, too bad words don't flow like music...

This song just seemed to sum up so many things about Jesse & Brennan I had to do it...

disclaimer: They're not mine, I make no money from this; I just like watching them jump through my hoops...

I don't own Alanis Morissette's music or songs, either; they just speak to my soul

"you owe me nothing in return" is from Alanis Morissette's album: Under Rug Swept

Brennan slipped through the empty halls of Sanctuary, desperate to reach the privacy of his room before he encountered any of his teammates. He needed his space, space to lose his head in without witnesses. He didn't think he had ever been this close to the cracking point before, and he wanted to pull himself together and back away from that edge before any well-meaning friends pushed him over it. Luckily, Shalimar had managed to cut her evacuation just a hair too close, again, and had picked up a small piece of shrapnel in her leg when the latest secret Genomex compound's self-destruct sequence had initiated. This had Adam waiting in the hangar as Brennan set the Double Helix down, and he and Emma quickly bustled Shalimar into the med-lab, despite her protests that it was a flesh wound and she could walk on it. Had walked on it, sprinted on it even, to the Double Helix.

The tall elemental shook his head to himself, refusing to feel guilty that Shalimar's injury had worked in his favor, drawing Adam and Emma's focus away from himself and onto her. Her protests hadn't been heartfelt; she was simply milking the situation to get as much attention as she could out of her family members while they were paying it to her, much like a housecat. Which was fine by Brennan, her antics and decision that if she wasn't fit to walk on her injured leg, then Adam and Emma would have to carry her to the med-lab, left three out of the four other members of Mutant X occupied, so he only had to worry about one stopping him before he could isolate himself in his room.

The most important one.

The one who was lounging against the wall, just waiting for Brennan as he came around the corner.

Damn, shouldn't Jesse be doing something on the computer? Purging the GSA files they had connected him to while they were there? Oh, wait, he probably wrapped that up and got the med-lab prepped for Shal while they had been flying home. Damned efficient molecular.

Jesse didn't need Emma's psionic abilities to read every thought that flickered across Brennan's face; he knew his partner well enough to read him like one of his own beloved poetry books. He could read the underlying tension, bordering on panic, that was beneath Brennan's surprise and annoyance at being caught before he could hide in his room. It hurt his heart a little to know that Brennan was disappointed to see him, but he also knew that it was because of what the elemental had just been through, the fact that he didn't want anyone to see him in his weakness. Jesse's eyes grew even softer as he resolutely decided to let Brennan know that he would always, always be there to listen if the other man wanted to tell him anything. Anything, no matter how guilty or embarrassed he felt about it, no matter how out of proportion some damned psionic had made him feel his problems were while Emma rescued captive new mutants and Shalimar fought off hordes of GSA agents.

The question was, how did he get Brennan to believe him?

"Jesse..." Brennan said, and winced at the crack in his voice. The shorter man held up one forestalling hand, lowering his eyes and shaking his head softly as he cut Brennan off before the darker man could say anything, trying to come up with an excuse to avoid him. Jesse lowered his gaze because he didn't want Brennan to see the tears in his eyes, tears that were a response to Brennan's own. If Brennan realized he was crying in front of Jesse while he was still in this avoidance mode, Jesse wasn't sure what the man would do.

What Jesse wanted to do was throw his arms around the larger man and hold him close, reassure him that everything was going to be fine, and hold him until he vented all the pent up anxieties that were threatening to break him. Unfortunately, Jesse knew that although it might be what he wanted, and exactly what Brennan needed, Brennan would never see it as such in his current frame of mind, and would probably snap under the misplaced guilt he would feel at Jesse's offer.

Jesse kept his gaze on Brennan's hand, which had started to rise as the emotional man tried to come up with something to say to excuse himself from Jesse's presence. The younger man held his gaze on Brennan's comm ring, focusing on that neutral link between them as he clasped Brennan's right hand with his own, their rings clicking together as Jesse firmed his grip and dragged Brennan down the hall.

"Jess," Brennan tried again, trying to pull his hand free of Jesse's as they passed the door to his room, his head turning and eyes seeking that haven as it fell away behind them, Jesse determinedly pulling Brennan down the hallway to his own room.

Jesse reached behind himself to open the door and dragged Brennan through it and into his room, then released Brennan's hand as he pointed at a chair in the middle of the room and simply said: "Sit." Without waiting to see if his partner did as he asked, Jesse turned and closed the door, then stepped over to his stereo on the bookcase to one side of the door, and punched a few buttons.

Palming the remote to his stereo as he turned away from it, Jesse crossed the room and sank down to sit on the floor in front of Brennan's chair. Brennan had slumped forward as he sat, resting his creased forehead in the palm of one hand, elbow resting on his knee, the other dangling limply at the end of the forearm sprawled over his other knee. Jesse looked up into the face he loved as he sat, and flinched to see a tear fall from it, dripping off the ends of the thick black eyelashes and narrowly missing Brennan's left thumb as it fell to the carpet. Jesse frowned, knowing that Brennan had to be aware he was crying now, and assumed that he had heard him sitting down in front of him. Brennan wasn't stupid, even when distressed, in fact stress seemed to kick his survivalist mentality into overdrive, so Jesse was a little amazed that Brennan could apparently be crying freely in front of him. The concept of that gave him hope that Brennan trusted him enough to lower his defenses and let Jesse in.

"Brennan..." Jesse said softly, reaching out and taking Brennan's free hand, simply holding it softly, gently. Jesse couldn't miss the quiver that shot through Brennan's body at the contact, and hoped that he wasn't misinterpreting the signs or overstepping his boundaries. Brennan's dark, wet eyes opened at the sound of his name, and Jesse's watered again as he saw the depths of the pain in them.

"Brennan, Emma's empathic. She felt what you were going through out there," Jesse told him, watching carefully as the seated man's eyes flared, bright with fear at being found out, then calming a few degrees as the logic of what Jesse was saying processed in his mind. Of course Emma had felt it...

"Shalimar's a Feral. One of the most powerful, with incredibly keen senses. She probably smelled the pheromones of your distress from outside the Double Helix," Jesse told his partner. Brennan winced at that, dropping the hand from his forehead over the back of Jesse's own as he nodded. Jesse took heart at that, Brennan was reaching out to him, and was listening...

"When Emma was relaying Shal's condition to Adam, she mentioned what you were feeling, that you would need help. I'm willing to bet you were so wrapped up in that and focusing on getting back to Sanctuary as fast as possible that you didn't even notice." Jesse grinned slightly at the unwilling chuckle this provoked from Brennan; Jesse obviously did know him that well...

"I... ..have a confession to make, Bren. I..." Brennan looked up at that, meeting Jesse's eyes again, wondering where this was going. Jesse hurried to finish, before Brennan could work himself up by leaping to all sorts of inaccurate conclusions. "I hate being left behind, even when we need Sanctuary's computer systems to accomplish the mission... ..so I was monitoring your comm ring." Brennan's face softened at that, only the tiniest bit mindful of the fact that Jesse would invade his privacy like that, knowing the blond man would only do so when he was left behind at Sanctuary, not out of any maliciousness or petty jealousy. The fact that he felt it was a confession he had to make was testament to that.

"I... ..heard what that psionic said to you, Bren. I heard your answers; I may not know exactly what she was making you feel as she did all that... ..but I heard it in your voice, and Emma filled me in a little." Brennan's head bent forward even further, hiding his face from the younger man, despite the fact Jesse was seated two feet lower than he was, his broad frame shuddering with the silent sobs that wrenched through him.

Jesse desperately wanted to get his feet under himself in a crouch and shuffle forward to embrace Brennan, to hold him and let him cry himself out on Jesse's shoulder. He wanted to fulfill that position for the rest of his life, he wanted to make Brennan's life so perfect that he would never need a shoulder to cry on again... ..but he knew that he couldn't, that the guilt Brennan was feeling would make that whole plan backfire and bring Brennan's peace of mind crashing down around them, irreparably damaged. The young molecular swore he would prevent that, and circumvent the emotional booby trap that had been erected.

"Brennan..." Jesse said again, setting the remote on the floor and reaching out with his left hand to gently grasp Brennan's chin. "Look at me."

Brennan's dark brown eyes snapped open, streaming tears of pain as they bored intensely into Jesse's gaze, infinitely deep with an even mixture of guilt and grief.

"Brennan, you have to know that what she made you feel isn't real, isn't true," Jesse said as he locked his gaze with the older man's. The blond's fingers gripped Brennan's chin tighter, holding his head still as he tried to shake it in denial. "It's not true, Brennan. You may be feeling guilt, having unresolved issues about being given a second chance at life, or love, or whatever..." Jesse insisted, giving the elemental's hand a squeeze of reassurance as he mentioned love. "But it's all unnecessary. Delusional, even." Jesse smirked at the look of shock his last comment generated on Brennan's face.

Jesse released Brennan's chin and shifted his hand to cup the stubbly side of the dark-haired man's face.

"Brennan, do you understand the concept of unconditional love? I mean, really understand it?" Jesse asked, still looking into Brennan's eyes. Brennan could tell that Jesse had shifted mental gears, that he was genuinely asking a question, not simply illustrating his point, whatever that might be. Brennan opened his mouth to respond, to say 'of course', to say that he understood that was the sort of love they all shared as teammates, as members of this strange second family known as Mutant X. He checked himself as he continued to look into Jesse's eyes, realizing that the sudden, honest question needed more than a knee-jerk answer. Brennan closed his mouth, thought for a second, started to open it again, then shut it and blinked.

Jesse smiled softly, his eyes lighting up even as they continued to pin Brennan's own.

"I want you to think about it, Bren," Jesse said as he let go of Brennan's face, and released his gaze, looking down as he picked up the remote from where he had set it on the carpet. Brennan found himself missing both the touch of the hand on his face and the warmth of the gaze that had met his own.

"You're feeling all this guilt, guilt that that bitch blew all out of proportion, but you don't believe it because you were feeling it before you met her. You think you deserve that guilt, that you're somehow deserving of some sort of punishment for your past, that you were supposed to be living the miserable life of an ex-con and thief on the streets, that becoming a part of Mutant X was some huge mistake, that..." Jesse paused as his own breath hitched, "..That falling in love with me, getting me to fall in love you was somehow wrong, that you don't deserve that kind of happiness..." Jesse's fingers tightened involuntarily around Brennan's as he spoke of himself. Brennan was shaking his head in denial now, denying what Jesse was saying, denying the very concept that Jesse somehow didn't deserve love and happiness, just because he was associated with Brennan Mulwray, who didn't...

The shaking of Brennan's head slowed to a stop as he realized what he was thinking, that everything the young man who continued to look at him with tears in his own blue eyes was saying was true. He continued to look into Jesse's eyes as the blond molecular started speaking to him again.

"It's not true, Brennan. None of it. You have the heart for this; you wouldn't be here if you didn't, wouldn't have stayed here this long; you've proved your devotion a million times, in a million ways, big and small, every time you question Adam because you want things to turn out right..." Jesse shook his head, frustrated at his inability to put into words what he was trying to say.

"You are as deserving of happiness, of good fortune, as anyone, Brennan. Yes, you committed crimes in your past, but for the most part you had no choice, and I know you never committed them with malicious intent. You regret them now, and that just makes you even more of a hero. You're protective, and would give anything to help others, to protect people from dangers and hardships... ..You are a hero, Brennan; the fact that you don't think you are just proves it. You're as much a hero as any firefighter or policeman, and just as deserving of reward for it. I know you're going to struggle with accepting that, and I know that you struggle with believing you deserve any sort of goodness at all; that's why that psionic was able to get to you as deeply as she did."

Jesse had put his other hand over the back of Brennan's as he tried to make him understand, despite the fact it was slightly encumbered by the small stereo remote. Brennan didn't seem to notice; Jesse's eyes had pinned his gaze again, holding it and insisting that Brennan accept what he was saying.

"Brennan, I want you to understand, I Love You. I love you with all my heart and soul, and I love you unconditionally. I'm not so sure you really understand what that means, how much it frees you to accept the rest of the happiness and goodness that life has given you... ..but I hope this helps."

Jesse turned slightly to point the remote at the stereo across the room and pressed "play", activating the single song he had programmed into the system when they came in.

" just listen " he said softly as the machine whirred and found the track he had selected.

Soft piano chords and a synthesized warble wove through each other, filling the air as the melody ascended through the background, taking the fore as the backbeat started, building until the soft voice of the artist began.

I'll give you countless amounts of outright acceptance, if you want it

Jesse put the remote back down, and wrapped his hand over the back of Brennan's, stroking it with his fingertips.

I will give you encouragement to choose the path that you want, if you need it

He squeezed Brennan's hands gently, still gazing into his eyes to reinforce that he himself meant what the words were saying.

You can speak of anger and doubts, your fears and freak outs, and I'll hold it

Jesse brought Brennan's hands to his lips and kissed the backs of his fingers, still looking into his eyes.

You can share your so-called shame-filled accounts of times in your life, and I won't judge it

and there are no strings attached to it

You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give

You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have

"Nothing," Jesse repeated softly.

I give you thanks for receiving; it's my privilege

"Thank You."

and you owe me nothing in return

You can ask for space for yourself and only yourself, and I'll grant it

You can ask for freedom as well, or time to travel, and you'll have it

Brennan's eyes were somewhat confused as they met Jesse's, wondering how the younger man could possibly mean all the things the song was saying.

You can ask to live by yourself, or love someone else, and I'll support it

Brennan shook his head slightly at the idea of loving someone else; Jesse simply kissed his fingers softly again.

You can ask for anything you want, anything at all and I'll understand it

Jesse's eyes met Brennan's again as he straightened from the kiss, and nodded softly. "Anything," he repeated.

and there are no strings attached to it

You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give

"I give it freely," Jesse whispered.

You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have

"It's my choice to do so."

I give you thanks for receiving; it's my privilege

and you owe me nothing in return

I bet you're wondering when the next payback shoe will eventually drop

Jesse tilted his head slightly as they continued to look into one another's eyes, a smile behind them because he knew Brennan thought that way.

I bet you're wondering when my conditional police will force you to cough up

Jesse's lips pursed into a hint of a smile that matched his eyes as Brennan blushed, knowing the words described him accurately.

I bet you're wondering how far you have now danc-ed your way back into debt

"Ssshhh..." Jesse warned as Brennan opened his mouth, about to comment on the mutilated pronunciation of "danced" to make it fit the song.

This is the only kind of love, as I understand it, that there really is

Brennan's face blanked as he considered this; Jesse nodded again.

You can express your deepest of truths, even if it means I'll lose you, and I'll hear it

"I will always listen, Bren."

You can fall into the abyss on your way to your bliss; I'll empathize with

"To anything you have to say."

You can say that you have to skip town to chase your passion, and I'll hear it

"I will always be here for you."

You can even hit rock bottom, have a midlife crisis, and I'll hold it

and there are no strings attached to it

You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give

You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have

I give you thanks for receiving; it's my privilege

and you owe me nothing in return

"But..." Brennan tried to interrupt, but fell silent as Jesse softly shook his head.

You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give

"You owe me nothing, Brennan," Jesse said.

You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have

"I'll accept anything you want to give me, but you owe me nothing," he explained.

I give you thanks for receiving; it's my privilege

"I thank you for everything you give me, every moment, every thought...."

and you owe me nothing in return

The song took a few moments to fade away the same way it had faded in, the cd player whirring to a stop as Brennan just sat there and stared into Jesse's eyes. He continued to stare as the silence grew, long enough that Jesse began to wonder what was going through his mind.

Jesse continued to look into Brennan's eyes, his own gaze beginning to question, then filling with confused worry for a split second as Brennan's eyes filled with tears that quickly flowed over his lower eyelids and rolled down his face. Jesse's gaze softened in realization as he saw that these were not the tears of anguish from before, but of a more cathartic pain, a catharsis that began when Brennan had begun to accept what Jesse was using the song to tell him.

A muffled cry broke from Brennan's lips as his eyes narrowed, his body shuddering with sobs once more, but this time there was an element of relief to those sobs. This time, Brennan's eyes didn't close in anguish, only narrowed in the pain of his heart, but were unwilling to break their connection with Jesse's own as the younger man gave in to his earlier fantasy, moving forward and wrapping Brennan in a warm embrace, one hand over the back of his neck and head, holding the dark head to his strong shoulder as the older man cried, venting his pain, wrapping both his arms around the back of the man who loved him so much. Jesse held him, held the man he loved and rocked him, saying nothing, but running his other hand up and down his back reassuringly as the emotional floodgates were opened, holding him until he was indeed cried out.

Jesse stood, removing his arm from Brennan's back and slipping it under his knees, lifting the taller man out of the chair and carrying him across the room to his bed. Jesse was glad he hadn't made the bed that morning, thankful he didn't have to make Brennan stand while he peeled back the bedcovers before he could lay him down. Brennan lay still, practically insensate, while Jesse untied his boots and pulled them off his feet. The taller man only moved slightly, pulling his feet side by side as he resumed a fetal position when Jesse released his second foot.

Jesse considered this a moment, then carefully reached forward and used his nimble fingers to grasp both of Brennan's socks, one between his pinky and ring fingers, and one between his middle and forefingers, and pinched the hem of the leg of his jeans between the same index finger and his thumb. With his other hand, Jesse pinched the lower hems of Brennan's overshirt and the tee he wore beneath it, curling his other fingers under the elastic waistband of his underwear. Jesse concentrated for a single second, exhaling steadily, then inhaled deeply and pulled at the various pieces of cloth intertwined with his fingers, rendering them intangible and pulling them through Brennan's body as his own clothes fell through his phased form and dropped to the floor.

Brennan started slightly at the sensation of having his clothes phased off of him, then relaxed as Jesse slid into the bed behind him, molding his body up against the taller man's and immediately warming him up again, reaching over Brennan's side to grab the topsheet and comforter and fling them over their spooned forms. Jesse slid his arm beneath Brennan's, laying his hand over the elemental's thick chest and feeling his heart beat as they sank into sleep together.