The Greater Good

Pairing:Jesse / Brennan

Rating: NC/17 - *rape*

Status: Complete

Series/Sequel:To be followed by 'Playing God'

Disclaimers:Not mine and I've already returned them to Tribune Entertainment as I no longer feel any need for them.

Summary:Life isn't a bed of roses, basically.

Warnings:Partner rape.  Not graphic, but it's nonetheless there.Not an overly pleasant fic all round, actually.

Notes: Narrated by Jesse.  Self-beta'd in fit of boredom at work.

Oh!  And, yeah, you don't need to say it - the 'serum' *is* a lot like the one used in Hard Times.  <shrugs>  What can I say other than this was written before I saw HT and I apologise if you find it just a bit 'samey'.

Startled by the kitchen light suddenly flickering into life, I turn away from the fridge and, shading my eyes from the brightness, squint at
Shalimar.  Dressed in pyjamas and with her hair giving every impression of having a life all of its own, she looks almost as exhausted as I feel. Making a beeline for the fridge, she grins as, gently knocking into me with her hip, she moves me out of her way.

"What are you doing in here?" she queries, opening the door and pulling out a bottle of water.  "Last I saw of you, you were swearing and declaring blindly that you weren't going to leave Brennan's side until he'd rejoined us in the -- *sane* -- land of the living."

"Same as you," I reply, waving the bottle of water in my hand at Shalimar. "It was either make a quick trip to the kitchen or risk dehydrating. Needless to say I was just going back."

Yawning, Shalimar shakes her head.  "You should go to bed, Jess," she murmurs, rolling the bottle between the palms of her hands.  "No offence, but, seriously, you look like death warmed up."

"I'll survive," I respond, shrugging dismissively.  "I...  I just want to be there when Brennan wakes up, you know.  After everything he's been through I just...  Well, I just thought he might like to see me."

"Of course he'll want to see you, silly!" Shalimar smiles, draping her arm around my shoulders and giving me a quick hug.  "A nap wouldn't hurt though, surely?  According to Adam the Brennan we know and -- some of us even more so than others -- love won't be back with us for a couple more hours yet. You need to rest, Jess.  The last few days have been harder on you than any of us and I hate seeing you this beat."

"I'll rest when I know for sure that Brennan's going to be okay," I murmur plainly, my attempt at a reassuring smile failing dismally. "Don't worry, Shal.  It's not exactly like I'm doing anything other than sitting on my ass watching him sleep.  Trust me, it ain't what you'd call taxing.  Besides... I want to be there.  If I went to my room I wouldn't sleep anyway.  After all the hell and the worry I just want to be with him."

"And there's nothing I could possibly say that would change your mind, is there?" Shal mutters fondly, her expression one of compassion.

I shake my head.  "No.  In fact, I should be getting back.  I only came to get a drink."

"C'mon then," Shalimar responds, linking her arm with mine.  "I'll walk you back to the observation cell...  Ooooops!  *Room*.  I tell you something, Jess, rather you than me.  I mean, I dunno, the idea of Adam having designed a room that stops us from being able to use our powers just kinda freaks me out.  I know, I know!  Better be safe than sorry and all that, but, nah... It goes without saying that I hope never to have to be placed in it.  Does it... ah... make you feel any different?"

"To tell you the truth I don't really know if I can answer that," I murmur, trailing after Shal as she leads the way out of the kitchen.  "It feels *different*, yeah, but I don't know whether that's simply because I'm so tired.  As it is it's just as though the air is... oh God, I don't know... *weighted*.  It doesn't hurt or anything, but you know there's something different about it.  If I had to pick one word to describe how it makes me feel I think I'd have to go for 'lethargic'.  I sit in the chair watching Brennan and, don't laugh, I feel for all the world like a giant sloth.  It's all kinda surreal."

"As I just said, rather you than me " Shal retorts, wrinkling her nose in distaste. "Personally I don't even know why Adam's keeping Bren in there. The dose he gave Pietra did the trick without any side effects or nasty surprises."

"Don't forget the bastards had Brennan for longer," I reply quietly, suppressing a shudder.  "I think Adam's worried that the dose they gave him may have been a far larger one than what they shoved into Pietra.  Oh, and Pietra's a hell of a lot smaller too.  Basically I think it's just, as you've already mentioned, a case of being better safe than sorry.  If..." If I can think it, I can say it, right?  "If... Um... If Brennan wakes up and he's not fully recovered at least he won't be able to hurt anyone if he's in the observation room."

"What about you?" Shalimar queries, glancing across at me and frowning.  "If there's any chance Brennan is going to wake up still firmly entrenched in psycho GI Joe mode then I don't want you anywhere near him.  For God's sake, Jess!  You've seen what Austin's science experiments are capable of.  I think..."

"Brennan would never hurt me," I interrupt, abruptly taking my arm away from Shal, miffed that she could even suggest such a thing.  "I know Austin's serum turned his unwitting test subjects into subhuman fighting machines that wouldn't have been able to tell right from wrong if their life depended on it, but this is Brennan we're talking about here.  Brennan!  Our friend and team mate... My lover.  He'd know me.  I'm confident of it."

"I hope you're right," Shal sighs, looking at me over her shoulder.  "I'll tell you now though I don't want to be the one scraping you off the walls if either you or Adam are wrong and Brennan *isn't* on the road to full recovery."

"He'll be fine," I respond adamantly.  "Adam has every confidence that he's given Bren the right dosage of the antidote and I believe him.  Again, look at Pietra, she's completely back to normal.  It'll be okay, Shal.  Have faith.  We've made it too far to lose it now."

"I suppose you've got a point," Shalimar murmurs wearily, pausing so I can stop dragging my heels and catch up with her.  "Now that the road ahead is suddenly darker than it's ever been we need the faith we have in each other more than ever.  I'm...  Shit.  I'm sorry for sounding so doubtful.  It's just that..."

"You're tired and hurting and have had a crap day," I finish, giving her arm a quick squeeze.  "I know, you don't have to tell me any of it.  Putting aside what they did to Brennan, which in itself is hard, I'm still having difficulties coming to grips with what Austin and his merry band of sociopathic government officials are up to.  Hell, I never thought I'd say it, but I think I miss Eckhart.  At least we knew where we stood with him. He wanted to keep us under control and use us for research.  Austin on the other hand just wants each and every one of us dead."

"Charmer, isn't he?" Shal mutters drily.  "I suspect the irony of his happy juice only working on other new mutants is lost on him too.  Fucker.  I'm still pissed that he managed to get away from us today."

"We'll get him," I state, firmly.  "When we're back to full strength his days will be numbered.  Nabbing Brennan just threw us, that's all.  Next time we'll be ready for him."

Shalimar nods.  "You're right.  With all five of us after him he won't stand a chance," she replies, yawning.  "Sorry, Jess, but I've got to love you and leave you.  If I don't crawl back into bed in the next minute or two I think I'm going to fall asleep on my feet.  If, and believe me I'm not implying anything here, Brennan's cranky when he wakes up, just remember I'm only a comlink away."

"It'll be fine," I murmur, smiling wanly.  "But thanks.  If I need you -- which I won't -- I won't hesitate to call."

"Mmm...  You'd better," Shal smiles, giving me a light kiss on the cheek."Just be careful, Jess, that's all.  I know it's Brennan, and that he'd never willingly hurt you, but I also know what that hellish serum is capable of."

"It'll be fine," I repeat, anxious to get back to Brennan.  "Go on, Shal, go back to bed.  If anything happens I'll call, I promise."

"'Night then," Shal responds, fixing me with a look before slowly walking off towards her bedroom.  "I'll see you..."

"When you're looking at me," I interject, waving at her.  "Go!  There's nothing to worry about," I add, turning around and, without waiting for a response, making my way back to the observation cell.  I'm so tired, not to mention out of sorts that, like Shal, I feel as though I could fall asleep on my feet.  Having well and truly had enough, I'd give just about anything to be able to simply crawl into bed with Brennan, hug him tight, and slide off into a very long and dreamless sleep.  Knowing that I can't even do that, something I take for granted, just, well, bites.

It bites big time.


Goddamn it!

I've just had enough.  I'm exhausted, sore, and...

And more afraid than I've ever been of what the future might hold.

Austin's a man possessed.  He wants the world, *his* world, wiped clean of new mutants and I honestly think he's prepared to do whatever it takes to see his nefarious plan through.  Adam thinks the serum was just plan one, that there's worse to come.

*Worse*!  Fuck.  I honestly just don't wanna know.  If Austin's got worse things up his sleeve than turning new mutants into conscienceless killing machines with the unerring ability to hit their victims where it hurts then, seriously, I so don't want to know.  Despite having been sucked into plan one as it was being played out, my mind is still having difficulties coming to terms with it.  Turning new mutants against other new mutants, making them take out their own kind?  It's just...

Sick.  It's just sick.

As is the way the serum operates.  We've come up against so-called 'super-soldiers' before, but this is something else again.  Although it increases their ability to fight its main claim to fame is the way it enables the unlucky recipient to not only detect other new mutants but also to immediately ascertain their weaknesses.  It also turns friends against friends, lovers against lovers.  Pietra, a Psionic who's usual idea of physical exercise is strolling around shopping centres, beat her boyfriend to within an inch of his life before snapping his neck.  Well...  That is we think the mangled corpse we found with her was Scott.  Given that his face was nothing more than a bloody pulp it was a little hard to be sure.  While Adam managed to save Pietra she's now going to have to live with what she did to Scott for the rest of her life.  As with so many things, I don't even want to imagine how she's feeling.  Just thinking about it makes me feel ill enough.

If Austin's plan had worked Brennan would have done his best to kill us. It's as simple as that.  If Adam hadn't come up with an antidote he may even have succeeded.  Watching Bren and Shalimar fight is something I hope never to have to experience again.  Nor do I ever want to see his eyes look so blank, so *dead*.  The pain I felt when he looked at me, just before Adam managed to shoot him in the thigh with the antidote, is something I suspect will never truly leave me.  For a split second I couldn't see Brennan, the man I love more than anything, in his determined, hate filled gaze.  If the antidote hadn't kicked in I have no trouble accepting that he would have killed me.  What's more, too stunned and distraught to defend myself, I probably would have just stood there and let him.  I can fight, yeah, but against my lover?  I just don't know whether my sense of self-preservation is that strong.

But I don't want to think like that.  All's well that ends well.  Well, sort of, anyway.  We've destroyed the lab that created the serum, Austin's licking his wounds somewhere, and Brennan, albeit battered and bruised, is alive and in one piece.  After the last couple of days, things are almost looking up.  All I need now is for Brennan to wake up and hug me and I may even remember what it feels like to smile and mean it.

Reaching the observation room, I stare through the one-way glass at Brennan and, Shalimar's earlier comments jumping uninvited into my head, hesitate over going in.  What if she's right and he *didn't* receive the correct dose of the antidote?  If he wakes up still wanting to have a go at me I wouldn't be able to use my powers and would have to rely on getting through the door and locking him in.  Assuming, of course, I'm even able to get away.

Sighing, I shake my head and mentally berate myself for falling prey to doubts.  Too tired to think straight, I'm just being silly.  Let's face it, Adam would never have given me the access code to the room if he thought for a second Brennan was still any sort of threat.  If his recovery follows Pietra's he'll simply wake up a bit groggy and that will be that.  Hey presto, everything will be back to an achy sort of normal.

And, to my way of thinking, the sooner the damn better.

Once again confident that things are finally on the up, I enter the access code into the electronic keypad and, the glass sliding doors silently opening, step into the room.  The force field or whatever it is immediately taking effect, I start to feel different the moment the doors glide closed, shutting me in.  Although I wouldn't say that I actually *feel* my powers when I'm not using them, in a round about sort of way I can definitely sense it when they're, for the want of a better description, 'switched off'.  It's not an entirely pleasant feeling either and I don't blame Shalimar for not wanting to experience it.  Still, if it means I can be there when Brennan wakes up then I think feeling a little strange is a small price to pay.

Stretching, I decide that I'm acclimatised to the room and walk over to Brennan.  Still dead to the world and sprawled on the dentist style chair,  he looks exactly as he did when I left to get my drink.  Although I should be used to them by now, I still flinch as I take in the myriad bruising covering his torso and arms.  The fight with Shalimar was a hard one, neither of them prepared to give up.  Brennan had his orders to kill her and she was prepared to do whatever it took to knock him out.  The serum making its host immune to Psionic mind control, Emma couldn't even do anything to call him off.  Watching two people you love fight it out to the death isn't something I'd wish on my worse enemy.

Wanting to touch him, to reassure myself that he's really here, I trail my fingers gently along Brennan's pale cheek.  His skin is cool to touch and I'm contemplating raising Adam on the comlink to check whether that's okay or not when, suddenly, Brennan lurches to life.  His eyes fluttering open, he sits up and abruptly grabs my arm, yanking it forcefully away from his face.

"Bren!" I yelp, trying to pull away as, his grip tightening, sharp pain begins to shoot up my arm.  "Hey!It's me, Jess...  C'mon.  Let go. You're...  Ow!  You're hurting me."

"And this is meant to bother me somehow?" Brennan queries conversationally, closing his hand even tighter around my forearm.  "What if I told you that hurting you is what I was aiming for?"

Oh.  Shit.

Shit, shit, *shit*!

"Brennan...  You don't want to do this," I respond breathlessly, all the time desperately trying to get free.  "Let me go and I'll get Adam.  He'll give you another dose of the antidote and..."

"I don't *want* another dose of the antidote," Brennan drawls, his eyes flicking over me dismissively.  "I want some fun and, well, seeing as you're here you're going to be the one to provide it."

"Bren, no!" I exclaim, shaking my head as my heart tries to pound straight through my chest.  "It's okay, I promise... I'll just call for help on the com and..."

The idea of entertaining company not sitting well with him, Brennan lets go of my arm only to grab my hand and rip off my com.  Oddly enough I *hear* more than *feel* my finger breaking.  The ability to speak deserting me, I stare blankly at Brennan as I fight against the instinctive desire to give in to flat panic.

"You...  You don't want to hurt me..." I whisper, whimpering as Brennan crushes my broken finger in his hand.  "Brennan...  You're not  yourself... You..."

"For crying out fucking loud!" Brennan sneers, swinging his legs over the side of the chair and, his hand still crushing mine, standing up.  "Whine, whine, whine!  Is that all you do?  If you don't want what I want then you're going to have to stop me..."  Pausing, his sneer gives way to a smirk.  "If you've got it in you, that is."

Oh dear God.  He wants to fight.

"*Shalimar*!" I shout, wrenching my hand away from Brennan and backing away. Raising her on the com not being an option, maybe I can rouse her by screaming my head off.  Either that or my overwhelming panic might get through to Emma.  Hell, right now, I'm not proud.  I'll take assistance in whatever form I can get it.  "Shal!"

Although I see Brennan lunge towards me, I'm too slow to deflect and his fist hits me square on the jaw.  Caught off balance and my balance shot, I slam, forehead first, into the wall.  Pain radiating down my body, for a second I literally see stars.  "Bren...  Believe me...  You don't want to do this..."

"And that's where you are *so* wrong," Brennan retorts coldly, his face contorting with rage as, somehow, I block his next blow.  "By the time I've finished with you you're going to be begging me to end your worthless existence."

"You're not yourself!" I exclaim, backing myself into the corner because I don't know what else to do.  "Listen to me..."

Choosing to let his fists and feet do the talking, Brennan throws himself at me, every punch and kick reaching its target with unerring accuracy.  Like my finger before it, I *hear* my rib crack.  Too stunned to protect myself, and both the door and the Brennan I know and love seeming like a million miles away, my mind decides to take pity and, pain encompassing me, I momentarily lose consciousness.

When I come to a few seconds later I'm pushed, face first, up against the wall, my wrists held high above my head.  Brennan, his breathing ragged, is so close behind me that I can feel not only his warmth but also...

Fact of life.  Things can *always* get worse.

"No!  Brennan!  You can't do this..." I plead, spitting blood out of my mouth and wincing as my ribs complain about the position I'm being held in. "You...  Oh God...  You just can't...  *Shal*!  *Shalimar*!"

Without bothering to tell me that he can, and that he's going to, Brennan shuts me up by slamming my head against the wall.  It's at this point, as the hand he's not using to trap my wrists works at pulling down my jeans, that I give up.  I'm so numb that I don't even feel it when, grunting with pleasure, he rams into me.  Nor do I feel the tears spilling down my cheeks. If I feel anything at all I don't know the word to describe it.

This is not happening...

This can't be happening...


"Fuck, yeah..."

He's enjoying it.  My lover is... *raping*... me and he's enjoying it.  To say it defies comprehension is an understatement of hideous proportions.

"You know, maybe you *do* have your uses after all," he grunts, his breath hot on my ear.

"Brennan..." I whisper his name and it tastes like acid in my mouth.  My world disintegrating around my ears, I almost hope that he *does* kill me. In a twisted way God knows death would be easier to cope with than having to *deal* with the days... weeks... months... *years*... to come.

"I'm..." he pants, his thrusts getting quicker, "I'm come..."

"Think again, asshole!" Shalimar, once again my saviour, spits, bounding into the room with Adam and Emma close at her heels.  Her eyes glowing orange, Shal leaps at Brennan, knocking him away from me.  She then punches him five times in quick succession before rolling out of the way and letting Adam shoot him with a tranquilliser dart.  No longer being held upright, I slide down the wall, landing in a crumpled heap on the floor. Part of me thinks I should feel embarrassed at being seen like this but, ultimately, I don't care.  All I want is for it to be over.

Brennan down for the count and already forgotten about, Shalimar crawls over and gathers me in her arms.  Not having the strength to do anything else, I slump against her, a low pitched keening sound coming out of my mouth as though I've got no control over it.  I'm so out of it that I don't even make any attempt to pull up my jeans.  If I've ever felt so wretched before I can't remember it and it goes without saying that I wish the ground would just open up and swallow me whole.

"It's okay, Jess," Shal murmurs, stroking my hair and all but cradling me. "It's... It's over now."

I want to tell her that, no, it'll never be over, not really, but I'm still too shocked to speak and can't get the words out.  All I can do is shake my head and long for oblivion.  Over...  It's a nice thought.  An impossible one, yeah, but nice nonetheless.  I mean, how can it ever be over when I don't know if I'll ever be able to look Brennan in the eye again?

Brennan.  Friend.  Lover.  Rapist.  Foe.

Too much.  It's all too much.

I can't deal with this...  With any of it.

My levels of agitation increasing, either my subconscious or Emma -- it's hard to tell the difference some times -- takes pity on me and, with a sigh of relief, I black out.


Waking in the medi-bay, my immediate thought is that I have no idea why I'm here and not in my own bed.  Struggling into a sitting position, my ribs issue forth with a vehement complaint against the management and, whoosh, just like that it all comes flooding back.  Gasping as the full force of the memories hit me, I only just manage to control the nausea I can feel bubbling in my stomach and, shakily, run my fingers through my hair, trying to calm down.  My entire body is both aching and trembling.  To say I feel as though I've been run over by a truck doesn't even come close to cutting it.

Blinking back tears, I look around and find Adam, Shal and Emma having what looks to be a mini-conference outside the glass wall of the medi-bay.  Adam has his 'I've made up my mind' face on while Shalimar, who's pacing and gesticulating wildly, looks severely  pissed.  Emma's expression is unreadable.  Noticing that I'm awake, she -- bravely -- interrupts Adam's and Shal's argument, drawing their attention to the fact that I'm watching them.  Flicking her hair angrily, Shal shoots one last sullen glare at Adam before, her expression softening, walking into the medi-bay.

"Hey," she murmurs, her bright smile not quite reaching her tired eyes. "How are you feeling?"

"Kill me now and put me out of my misery," I whisper dully.  "I..." ;Nah. Forget it.  There's nothing I have to say on the subject anyway.  "What's going on?" I query quietly, hoping to change the topic.  "Aren't you and Adam seeing eye to eye on something?"

"You could say that," Shal mutters, clambering on to the examination table I'm sitting on and, with feline ease, settling herself around me.  "Don't worry though, before he takes it from you he's going to explain it all."

"Jesse," Adam states, flashing a forced smile at me as he and Emma stroll into the room.  "Glad to see that you're awake.  I'm sorry if you're still feeling sore but, for reasons I'll explain in a moment, I haven't been able to give you any painkillers."

Uh-huh.  Something tells me I just don't want to know.

"You didn't say anything about not giving him something for the pain," Shal snaps, hugging me.  "God, Adam!  Show some freakin' compassion."

"His mind needs to be clear," Adam replies, shooting Shalimar a warning look.  "I thought I explained that.  Once it's done I'll give him something for the pain."

"Then get on with it then," Shalimar mutters.  "I still think what you're about to do is bad enough without Jess having to suffer in the interim."

Um...  Hello.  Like, I'm right here.  "What are you talking about?" I query, hesitantly meeting Adam's impassive gaze.

"I'm sorry for what happened to you," Adam responds with a sigh, completely ignoring my question.  "I misjudged the dosage of the antidote Brennan needed to fully recover and you paid the price for my mistake.  Again, I'm sorry and believe me when I say that I wish it had never happened.  If it makes you feel any better I can tell you that what Brennan did wasn't personal.  The serum still having a hold over him, he would have reacted the way he did regardless of who it was in the room with him."

"Doesn't make me feel any better," I mumble, glancing away and staring at my knees.  "Whether that was Brennan or not he still did it and..."  Pausing, I shake my head.  "And I don't know if I can work with him now, okay?  Even if he's one hundred percent back to normal it'll still be there, you know, in the back of my head."

"And that's why, despite Shalimar's disapproval, I'm doing this," Adam replies cryptically, crouching down in front of me.  "Now, with the threat of Austin hanging over our heads, more than ever, I need the four of you to be able to operate effectively as a team.  I need you, Jesse, to trust Brennan and I need Shalimar to be able to work with him as opposed to wanting to leave him to rot like she is now.  We can only defeat Austin as a team.  Please, Jesse, Shalimar, don't think I want this.  I don't.  Neither does Emma.  It's the only way though.  There's just too much at stake."

"It's okay, Jess," Shal whispers, "You're not going through this alone. I'm getting the full whammy too.  Hell, think happy thoughts.  If Emma stuffs up we'll both be vegetables."

"I won't stuff up," Emma murmurs sadly.  "They won't be the truth but at least they won't hurt as much."

"You're... what?  Modifying our memories?" I exclaim as, finally, the penny drops.  They're going to pretend this never happened?  "No!  You've got to be kidding me.  Adam, you...  you can't do this."

"I'm sorry, Jesse, but I have to," Adam states, standing up and moving away so Emma can take his place directly in front of me.  "It's for the best. Only as a team do we stand a chance of defeating Austin."

"No!" I shout, glaring at Adam.  "There has to be another..."

"Don't worry, Jess," Emma whispers, placing her hand lightly on my knee. "This won't hurt, I promise, and when it's over you'll... well... in a way anyway... feel better about things.  You too, Shal."

It starts before I have time to argue.  Images -- courtesy of Emma's mind -- of our new and improved memories flash before my eyes.

... I'm watching Shal and Brennan fight when, out of the corner of my eye, I spot another one of Austin's men.  Not wanting him to get away, I give chase.  Rounding a corner, he jumps me from behind.  We fight.  I give it all I've got but it doesn't take him long to get the upper hand.  Slamming me against the wall, he sneers that he loves his job and wrenches my jeans down.  I struggle, but I can't get him off me.  When he enters me I bite down on my lip so hard that my mouth fills with blood.  My mind and body shutting down in horror, I'm not aware that Shalimar and Brennan have entered the room until, with a cry of outrage, Brennan throws himself at my attacker, knocking him away...



Adam.  "Did you stick to the plan we agreed on?"

"I modified it slightly."  Emma.  "I had Brennan come to his rescue."

"Excellent."  Adam again.  "A nice touch."


Consciousness.  Reality.  The medi-bay.  Shalimar hugging me tight and Adam and Emma looking at me with obvious concern.

"Jesse?" Adam murmurs softly.  "We were beginning to think you weren't going to wake up."

"Brennan!" I exclaim anxiously, looking around the room for my lover and almost panicking when I can't see him.  "Where's Brennan?  Is he here?  Is he okay?  I want Brennan."

Adam smiles, an expression of relief crossing over his face.  "Emma and I will just go and get him," he replies.  "Although the antidote kicked in with perfect timing, allowing him to save you, I've still had him under observation just to be sure.  I'm confident that he'll be fully recovered now though."

"I want to see him, please," I murmur faintly.  "I...  I need to see him."

"We'll be back with him in a sec, promise," Emma smiles, placing her hand on Adam's arm and leading him out of the room.

"Jess?" Shalimar whispers.  "I'm so sorry that I wasn't able to get to you sooner.  If Adam hadn't managed to hit Brennan with the antidote when he did and..."

"It's okay," I interrupt, shaking my head.  "Please, Shal...  I don't want to talk about it.  You both got there, that's all that has to matter."

"Remember, Jess, I'm here for you," Shal replies softly, kissing the top of my head.  "We're *all* here for you."

"You can say that again," Brennan states, limping slowly into the room, his expression one of sheer relief as he sees me.  "Whatever it takes, Jess, we'll get through this."

Delighted at seeing Brennan, I slide off the examination table and,
stumbling towards him, all but fall into his waiting arms.

Safe in Brennan's embrace, for the first time all day I actually feel as
though things are going to be all right.  Together, as a team, Austin won't know what hit him.