Wheel of Fortune

Pairing:Brennan / Jesse

Rating:R - for violence and rude words



Feedback:... Makes me a happy camper.  <hint, hint>


Spoilers:Pretty much for all of 'I Scream The Body Electric'

Disclaimers:Not mine. Characters etc are the property of Tribune
Entertainment. I merely borrow because, well <shrugs> because I *can*, you
know... <g>  Oh!  And certain part of dialogue are lifted straight from the
episode - which was written by Howard Chaykin.

Summary:Just a little, shall we say, *different* take on 'I Scream...'
<g>  In other words, I've *slightly* amended how Brennan became a member of
Mutant X. <innocently>  Only slightly though, honest. <g>

Warnings:We-ell... <slowly>  Although the 'R' word is never mentioned,
reference is made to rape.  If the mere thought of this offends you then
please feel free to hit delete now.  Anyone else... Don't say I didn't warn

Notes:Narrated by Brennan.  Self-beta'd

'Kay...  Just to make it clear here <g> this is a variation on 'I
Scream...'.  It follows the ep -- more or less -- for the first few sections
and then things take a considerable turn for the worse (I don't like Thorne.
Sue me) before meandering back to the 'ring sharing ceremony' at the end.
And, yeah, before you ask, this *was* done entirely to rectify the 'what, no
hug?' line. <g>

Please.  <hopeful>  Enjoy!


My guard not exactly being the brightest spark in the box of matches,
shaking him off is far easier than I expected it to be.  Pausing to chat up
a curiously hard faced piece of skirt, I see my chance and grab it.  One
blow to the gut and a knee to the chin and it's game over.  Short, sharp,
and effective, brute strength at the cost of elegance and grace.

Free, I run.  Not having the slightest fucking idea as to where the hell I
am doesn't stop me.  I just run.  By my addled reckoning there has to be a
freakin' exit somewhere.  I'll just run until I find it.  Not a problem.

Two scientists, their minds no doubt full to the brim of formulas and web
addresses for the best porn sites, wander out in front of me.  Somehow,
don't ask me how, I miss colliding with them and, adrenaline coursing
through my veins, continue down the sterile concrete corridor.  I don't know
what's louder, the sound of my footsteps or the pounding of my heart.




Make that two guards.

One front, one back.

So much for thinking this was going to be easy.

Whatever it takes though, they're not going to recapture me.  People to see,
places to go.  I don't belong here, not by a long shot.

Thinking fast, I, yeah, okay, through more good luck than actual skill on my
behalf, take out the two guards.  Timing it perfectly, one hits the other
with the taser blast meant for me and they both go down.

Woo-hoo.  Two down and...

Goddamn it!

And another five of the bastards closing in behind me.  What do they do
here?  Breed the fuckers?

Okay.  Fine.

I can deal with this.  Desperation gives me the upper hand, right?  They're
chasing me because that's what they're paid to do whereas I'm running --
quite literally -- for my life.  By my way of thinking that definitely gives
me the upper hand.

Oh yeah.  And how.

The two guards that come at me on the stairs don't stand a chance.  I take
them out without even having to slow down.  For a split second, in a
decidedly twisted and really quite wrong sort of way, I almost find it all
fun.  You know, like an arcade game.  By the time I've successfully knocked
out or evaded another six of the bastards I'm feeling close to invincible.
My points are going through the roof -- the high score's mine, the taste of
sweet victory already in my mouth -- and I've got a couple of lifelines in
the bag.  For the first time all day things are suddenly looking up

Not wanting to let the success go to my head, I decide to give the guards
lumbering behind me a break and duck into a small, dimly lit corridor.
Their I.Q. not quite stretching to being able to run and look around them at
the same time, they thunder past without so much as glancing down it.
Breathing a sigh of relief, I venture hesitantly down the corridor.  An
eerie humming sound emanates from the end of it and for some reason I feel
compelled to go investigate.  Fuck knows why.  Common sense tells me to get
the hell out of here as quickly as my legs will carry me but idle curiosity
beats it down, telling me that now I'm here I may as well investigate.

Reaching the end of the corridor, I walk into a large, cavernous room that
looks as though it would be right at home on the Death Star.  My breath
catches in my throat and my skin crawls as, dumbfounded, I stare around me,
my mind refusing to compute what it is I'm seeing.


I'm not seeing...

I mean.  No way.  The emaciated man in that strange pod thing has to be a
mannequin and this has to be some sort of movie set.  Surely.  It couldn't
be real.  *He* couldn't be real.

Oh God...  Ohgodohgodohgod...

His chest just moved!  He...  He's *alive*?  He's being kept alive in a
freakin' pod?  Christ.  Just where the fuck am I?  Why on earth would...


I don't care.  I *can't* care.  I've gotta get out of here.

All I have to do is turn around, retrace my steps, and...

Too late.

A blow to the back of my head brings me down while a well-aimed kick keeps
me there.  I don't have to look up and take in the smug, self-satisfied
smirk to know that it's Thorne.

"Attempting to escape is a waste of time," he comments conversationally,
staring down at me with contempt in his eyes.  While I'm not one for making
rash judgments about people, I already know that I wouldn't piss on the
fucker if he was on fire.  Pushing my buttons the wrong way had nothing on

Speaking of fire though...

Dragging myself to my knees, I try to spark up.  I don't really want to zap
Thorne again but, to hell with it, I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to
escape.  If lighting him up like a Christmas tree is the only way to go
about it then, well, so be it.  I've done it once so I can do it again.

Or perhaps not.

To my dismay the familiar, tingling sense of power dancing through my body
towards my fingertips eludes me and I'm not even able to generate enough
electricity to give a mouse an electric shock.

Thorne's smirk broadens.  "Still an hour off your game, Mr Mulwray," he
states almost cheerfully as two uniformed guards drag me to my feet.  "You
keep playing hard to get and you're in for the world's worst nightmare," he
adds, moving closer, his dead eyed stare almost creeping me out as much as
the pod room in general is.

"Don't be so sure about that," I sneer, calling on my well of mock bravado
and hoping like mad Thorne can't see straight through it.  "Any nightmare
you can dish out will be like a sweet dream to me."

And, yeah, my reply sounded shit to my ears too.  What can I say.  Stress
does funny things to my ability to come up with pithy replies.  Sue me.

Apparently not a fan of being spoken back to, Thorne responds by punching me
repeatedly in the chest.  If not for the two guards holding me the force of
his blows would have landed me on my ass.  Pain radiating through my body,
it takes all of my willpower to remain upright.  Although it's just about
the last thing I feel like doing, I force myself to look Thorne in the eye.
Liking that about as much as he did the fact I dared to speak to him, he
clenches his fist and makes a show of preparing to hit me again.

"That's enough, Mr Thorne.  I'd prefer him in once piece."

A voice coming from above stops him, much, going by the pained expression on
his face, to his considerable annoyance.

I look up at the source of the voice, you know, for the change of scenery,
and immediately wish I hadn't.

Oh.  *Excellent*.  Just fucking excellent.  And there I was thinking today
couldn't really get much worse.  Some weird ass Andy Warhol, circa his most
prolific, Factory period, look-alike wants me in one piece.  Thorne wants to
beat me into a pulp, Andy wants me in one piece for reasons I don't even
want to think about, I'm in an ultramodern looking room where people are
kept in pods and, God, I'm *so* wishing I'd never gotten out of bed this

Although I hope that I'm not showing it, I'm now scared.  Okay.  I'm scared

One thing's for sure though.  I've learnt my lesson.  The next damsel in
distress that strays across my path can fucking well stay distressed.


My eyes slowly obeying my commands to open, I find myself sitting, strapped
to some sort of futuristic looking metal chair.  Everything aches like a
bitch.  I feel as though I haven't so much as been run over by *a* truck as
I have a fucking convoy of eighteen-wheelers.  Thorne, who perhaps isn't
quite as stupid as he looks, waited until his handler the Warhol clone was
out of sight before laying into me.  I lost consciousness before he lost his
self-satisfied smirk.

Willing the pain down to a dull roar, I lift my head and hesitantly look
around me.  It being par for the course for the day -- it *is* still today,
isn't it? -- I immediately wish that I hadn't.  Hell, given a choice I'd
even go so far as to wish I was still unconscious.  I don't know what's
worse, the sterile room itself or the audience of ghouls surrounding me.
Two suited and blank faced guards, Thorne, a lab coated geek and, just to
top it all off, Andy himself.  Wonderful.  Looks like the whole gang's here

Andy peers at me through a pair of decidedly dork-like black rimmed glasses,
his expression equal parts distain and fascination.  The hairs on the back
of my neck standing up, I try to meet his gaze but can't.  Up close he's
even scarier looking, his skin pale almost to the point of being

"We've been waiting to meet you for a long time Mr Mulwray," Andy states
matter-of-factly, positioning himself directly in front of me.

"Oh yeah, is that right?" I drawl, flicking him a dismissive look as
successfully shrugging is currently out of the question.

"You and Ms De Lauro are high on my... *shopping list* of anomalies," Andy
replies, still staring at me as though I'm some sort of prize lab rat.

"Mmm...  You know, it feels so good to be so wanted," I retort, once again
hoping like hell that I'm sounding more confident than I feel.

His sense of humour clearly lacking, Thorne jumps to his master's defence by
delivering a well aimed slap to my cheek.  "Mr Eckhart does not have time
for sarcasm," he mutters, walking over to a rack and picking up a strange
looking device.

My Eckhart?  Who the fuck is Mr Eck...

Oh.  Andy.

It's okay.  I'm with you now.

Moving to stand behind me, Thorne roughly pushes my head down.  "Um...  This
is gonna hurt," he mutters, sounding oddly delighted with the thought of
causing me more pain.  I'm still trying to think of a scathing reply when
something cold, metal, and freakin' painful is implanted in the base of my
neck.  If I could open my mouth without screaming I'd congratulate Thorne on
succeeding in confirming my suspicions that, yeah, things *can* always get

"We've just implanted you with a device called a sub-dermal governor,
something my people created especially for people like you," Andy...
Ooops...  Eckhart, explains, strolling over to a bank of computer monitors
displaying what I think has to be my skeletal structure.  "It connects us
directly with your DNA," he continues, pointing to the monitor showing the
implant in the back of my neck, "so that when you use your abilities without
our approval the pain is debilitating."

Whoa...  What?  Back up here a minute.  'Without *our* approval?'  What
gives with that particular delusion of grandeur?  I mean, over my dead body.

I mean...  They can't keep me here...  Can they?

"Bring it on," I smirk, glowering defiantly at Eckhart.  I still don't know
what the fuck I'm doing here but, that aside, I'll be damned if I'm going to
just dutifully jump through their hoops.

"Well, alright then Mr Mulwray.  Let's see what you're made of," Eckhart
replies, his expression giving me the impression that he's finding it
incredibly difficult to stop himself from clapping his hands together
gleefully like a small child.  "Release him."

His master having spoken, Thorne retrieves a small remote device from his
pocket and, pressing it, the cuffs holding my wrists unlock, freeing me.
Despite my body complaining about having to move, I stand up and prepare to
spark up.  Slowly, electricity begins to course through my fingers.
Confident that the thing in the back of my neck isn't going to have any
impact, I look around me, trying to decide who to take out first.

"Well, give us your best shot," Thorne comments, sounding bored.

Wanting to show him that he's chosen the wrong guy to mess with, I'm about
to let him have it when...


Pain shooting through my body, I stumble backwards, very nearly screaming
from the agony.  The pain is like nothing I've ever experienced before.
It's like all my veins and internal organs are pulsating, threatening to

Eckhart smiles triumphantly.  "Well, I gather we all have a better idea of
what you can take," he murmurs, " don't you think?"

Too intent on trying to ride out the pain, I don't even attempt to reply.
Simply remaining standing is taking enough out of me as it is.  Walking up
to me, Eckhart leans in close, his hideous death mask of a face far to close
to mine for comfort.  "This is your chance to redeem a misspent life, an
opportunity to protect the world from genetic terrorism as an operative of
the Genetic Security Council," he states softly, malevolently.  "Mr Thorne
will give you the details."

I want to tell him that I don't want to have anything to do with him or his
Genetic Security Council and that, while I'm at it, Thorne can take his
details and shove 'em where the sun doesn't shine but, still in agony, I
can't speak.  I'm afraid that if I open my mouth I'll drool or moan and I
don't want to give them the fucking satisfaction.

His piece said, Eckhart strolls out of the room.  Thorne watches him go
before turning his attention to me.  "You know, I reckon the two of us
should learn to get along," he smirks.

Okay.  That's it.  If I dribble or slur my words then that's just too bad.
Ignoring the fact that I don't exactly have a choice in the subject, while
I'll put up with the pain there's just no freakin' way I'll put up with
Thorne playing one sided verbal games with me.

Dragging myself up to my full height, I sneer at Thorne and shake my head.
"If you believe that you're crazier than he is."

Yay me.  Although I have no idea how I actually managed to get that out
without sounding retarded.  Having nothing else to cheer about at the moment
I'm almost proud of myself.


I hit the ground as Thorne hits a button on the remote device.  Although I
would have thought... okay, *hoped*... the pain couldn't get any worse I now
know beyond all doubt that it can.

And is.

"There's a second feature that Mr Eckhart neglected to mention," Thorne
mutters smugly.  "I have the ability to turn it both on... and off..."
Pausing, he waves the device at me as the pain slowly begins to lessen.
"And give you a little jolt from time to time to keep you in line," he
finishes cheerfully.

Kill me now.

Eckhart holds Thorne's leash and Thorne holds mine.  Obviously whoever it
was I offended in a former life was incredibly high up the food chain and
I'm now paying the price for my past indiscretions.

Dragging myself to my feet, I brush my clothes off and glare at Thorne, my
brain refusing to compute and accept what appears to be happening.

"You comin'?" Thorne queries, spinning on his heels and stalking out of the

"Where are we going?" I mutter, trailing after him because, let's face it,
if I don't he'll probably just see it as an excuse to zap me again.  And,
well, if I'm going to be a lab rat then I'm going to be a quick learning lab

Looking over his shoulder, Thorne smiles the kind of smile that would scare
Satan.  "We're goin' to round ourselves up some freaks," he replies.  "Now,
c'mon.  I'm sure you'd like some little friends to play with."


"Watch and learn," Thorne mutters, waving cursorily at the laptop set up on
the bonnet of the car.  "That fat mind reading freak came through with the
goods big time.  It's gonna be like shooting fish in a barrel."

"Whatever," I state flatly, shrugging.   It goes without saying that I don't
want to be here.  I don't want to be standing outside an abandoned looking
warehouse that Thorne keeps referring to as a Mutant X safe-house and I
don't want to be made to play a part in whatever it is that's about to go
down inside.  Without knowing any of the details I now know enough about
this Godforsaken Genetic Security Council to know that it isn't going to be

Evil.  Bad.  Insane.  Amnesty International's worst enemy.  Hell on earth.
Again, without knowing the full story I'm still pretty confident that that
just about sums up the GSA in a nutshell.

Unfortunately however, what I want doesn't come into it.  Don't want to be
here.  Don't want to have anything to do with Thorne.  Don't want that
governor thing in my neck.  But hey, tough shit.  Not that I didn't know it
already, we don't -- fact of life -- always get what we want.  Well, with
perhaps the notable exception of Thorne that is.  Although I'm not really up
on the body language of sociopaths, I think he's enjoying this.

"Here we go," Thorne grunts, visibly brightening as blurry moving images
begin to appear on the laptop's screen.  "This is gonna be sweet.

"Yeah.  Sweet," I echo, sighing as, slowly, the images begin to clear and
I'm able to make out what's happening.  Their arrogance knowing no bounds,
the GSA are filming their little round up.  It reminds me of the Nazi's and
their propaganda machine.  Join the GSA!  Get out in the community and meet
new and interesting people and beat the crap out of them for no real reason
other than you can!

Despite not wanting to see what's happening I'm unable to drag my attention
away from the screen, mentally crossing my fingers that the GSA get their
asses kicked.  Coming in from different points, the agents converge on a
large room half full of young men and women.  Their arrival unexpected,
pandemonium ensues.  Although outnumbering the agents, the -- to use my
freshly learnt term -- new mutants are easy prey.  Only one, a young man
that looks vaguely familiar, puts up a fight.  The others already
surrounded, I focus my attention on the man, silently egging him on.

Thorne hisses with annoyance as, massing his body, the man kicks an agent,
the force of the impact lifting his target off the ground and flinging him
in the air.  "Fucking Molecular," he growls.  "You watchin' Mulwray?  That's
one of Adam's men."

I wonder idly why I feel as though the name Adam should mean something to
me.  Nothing ventured nothing gained, I'm about risk Thorne's wrath by
asking him about Adam when, *damn*, agents form a circle around the
Molecular, trapping him.

"Showtime," Thorne mutters, snapping the lid down on the laptop before
striding off in the direction of the warehouse.  "C'mon Mulwray.  Be a good
dog and heel."

"Fuck you," I snarl, nonetheless hurrying after him.  Follow and hate myself
versus no doubt hitting the ground in agony.  It's a tough call and I can
only hope I'm making the right choice.  "You'll get yours Thorne."

"You keep tellin' yourself that if it makes you feel better," Thorne
replies, digging his ever-present remote device out of his pocket and
clutching it in his hand.  Yet again I would like nothing more than ramming
it down his throat.  "Word of advice Mulwray, give it up.  You're ours now
and that's just all there is to it.  You may as well just resign yourself to
the fact."

"Not in this lifetime," I mutter, a combination of fear and dread twisting
my insides into knots.  Although I haven't eaten for hours I feel like
throwing up.  Knowing that none of this should be happening doesn't help in
the slightest.

"Shut up Mulwray," Thorne scowls, shooting me a warning look over his
shoulder.  "If I wanted to hear an asshole talk I'd fart."

Not feeling any sort of compulsion to reply to that shining example of
verbal brilliance, I remain silent.  Entering the warehouse, I follow Thorne
down a darkened corridor and into the room we'd been watching on the laptop.
Ignoring the subdued crowd of new mutants, Thorne makes a beeline for the
circle of agents still surrounding the Molecular.  Walking over to join
them, I realise why the man looks familiar and swear under my breath.


It's the man from the Sky-Course, the one who rocked up with the kick ass
living Barbie doll in the black leather and the older man who seemed to be
there to rescue Emma.  Hmmm...  Blond.  Lithe.  Cute.  Crap circumstances
aside, he looks even better this close up.  Figures.  The first cute guy I
meet in ages and he's going to think I've got it in for him.  Not that I
really needed it, but that's just another black mark against the fucking

Recognition flashes in the man's blue eyes as, standing next to Thorne, I
position myself directly in front of him.  Time pauses as we stare at each
other, his unblinking gaze imploring me for assistance.  I'm still staring
at him as Thorne surprises the hell out of me by turning off my governor.

"Alright Mulwray," Thorne declares, "your powers are back on.  Let's see
what you've got."

Excuse me?

Oh God.  You've got to be freaking kidding me.  I mean, no way... He wants
me to just charge up and fry an unarmed and trapped man?


I can't...

Even if he wasn't cute and I didn't recognise him I couldn't do it.  I'll do
a lot of things to survive but not this...  I don't think I can do this.

Thorne sighs and waves the remote in front of me.  "Or do you require a
little jolt for motivation?" he drawls.

Between a rock and a hard place had fucking nothing on it.  Praying that I
come up with some sort of plan before it's too late, I draw my hands
together, sparking up in an attempt to buy some time.

His eyes widening, the man stands his ground, watching me.  My respect for
him grows as he doesn't try to escape or beg for his freedom.  He knows I'm
expected to kill him and he's refusing to back down.  I look into his eyes
and know instinctively that, whoever he is, I could never hurt him.
Whatever the personal cost is, I can't do this.

I won't do this.

Our gazes locking, I glance at the floor, waiting for him to nod his
understanding before raising my hands and, hoping like mad that I'm not
making a hideous mistake, letting rip.  His timing immaculate, the man
phases, allowing my electrical charges to pass through him and hitting two
of the agents at the back of the circle.  They crash to the ground as, with
one last, grateful look, the man disappears through the floor.  Don't ask me
how the fuck he does it, he just does.  One second he's there and the next
he's not.  For the first time since meeting Thorne I feel like smiling.

"Nice work, Mulwray," Thorne mutters, glaring at me with anger in his eyes.

Deciding that now may not be the time to grin at him, I shrug.  "Hey, it was
an accident.  He went ghost on me.  What was I supposed to do?"

If Thorne replies before viciously jabbing his finger into the remote I
don't hear him.  The pain about fifty times worse than it was when he first
demonstrated his toy, the last thing I hear is myself screaming before
blissful darkness descends and I pass out.


Staring at Eckhart, who's staring right back with an expression on his face
that makes it clear he's less than happy, I wish I was still unconscious.
Being unconscious was nice, you know.  Quiet, peaceful, and completely
devoid of anything relating to this current fucked state of reality I've
somehow found myself inhabiting.  If I can't escape I'll settle for simply
being kept constantly unconscious.  God knows it's preferable to being

"Nicely done Mr Thorne," Eckhart scowls, peering at us over his clinically
clean glass desk.  "I understand there were problems."

"My Mulwray took aim at one of Adam's men," Thorne replies, if I'm not
mistaken, nervously.  "The man went intangible, Mr Mulwray shot through him,
which in turn allowed the man to escape."

So there, Eckhart.  Take that.  Sorry to disappoint but, unlike dour faced
Thorne here, I'm not your trained monkey.

Giving us both a long suffering look, Eckhart reaches out a gloved hand and
picks up a small device from the desk.

Oh.  Yay.  Another remote.  Looks like Thorne has to share his toys then.

I brace myself for what's to come, dimly noticing that Thorne too seems to
be standing straighter, stiffening.

Huh?  Why would Thorne be...

Ha!  Because he's a freak too, that's why.  Two faced, hypocritical prick.
Wonder what his gift is then, the ability to trick people into believing
that he's *not* the devil's offspring?

Seeing Thorne's face twist in agony takes some of the edge off my own pain.
With the exception of that young Molecular it's the best thing I've seen all
day.  Through the pain I smirk at Thorne, quite enjoying watching him

"Bring me the De Lauro girl, no excuses," Eckhart sighs, turning the
governor off and dropping the remote carelessly back on the desk.  Unlike
Thorne he seems to find the whole thing too distasteful for words.

Dismissed, I follow Thorne out of the office.  Once the doors to the inner
sanctum have slid closed he turns to me and sneers.  "Don't tell me, let me
guess," he mutters, "you're disappointed that we're more alike than you

I shake my head and shrug.  "We're not alike."

"No?"  Thorne raises an eyebrow and snorts.  "Coulda fooled me."

"We're not anything alike," I reply coldly, looking Thorne up and down
dismissively.  "Let's face it, I'm at least sane."

He responds, big surprise here, with his fists.  Uniformed guards appear out
of nowhere to hold me up.  Despite it not being in the slightest bit funny,
I start to laugh.  Needless to say this infuriates Thorne and he goes
ballistic.  Within seconds I'm huddled on the floor, my body alive with pain
as much longed for unconsciousness finally claims me.  Pyrrhic victory or
not, sucks to you Thorne, I win again.


"Please...  Don't!  Oh God!  Please...  You can't do this to me.  Ple..."

I bury my head in my folded arms as the sound of begging next door is
replaced first by a door forcefully slamming and then silence.  It's hard to
say what's worse, the deathly, unnatural silence or the treacherous sounds
of suffering that have been coming from the unknown victim in the cell next
to mine.  Knowing that I can't help myself let alone go to the stranger's
aid eats at me.  I've never, not even when I was at my worst and having to
rely entirely on scavenging for food scraps in order to survive, felt so

Although I could be wrong, I *think* I've been stuck here, locked away like
some rabid animal, for at least a day or two now.  The pain is constant.  If
it isn't the myriad bruises and abrasions making me ache then it's the
governor.  The damn thing appears to be set permanently on 'low to medium'
as even moving causes me pain.  It's like a stomach cramp that's taken over
my entire body.  Everything from my head to my toes is a giant ball of hurt.

Not content with simply leaving me agony, Eckhart, apparently liking a
captive audience, has to add insult to injury by visiting whenever the mood
takes him.  He stands on the other side of a glass wall, that becomes see
through only when he's standing there, and drones on to me about how
wonderful the GSA is and how, basically, Mutant X is the Antichrist and that
when I come to my senses I'll see that I'm really very lucky to have been
chosen to be a part of the special GSA team.  All I get from his little
lectures is that he appears to be enamoured with the sound of his own voice.
Interestingly, Eckhart never ventures into my actual cell, always choosing
to stay safe and sound on the other side of the glass.  In a perverse way
it's almost nice to know that, despite the fact I could no more hurt him
than I could flap my arms and fly at the moment, he's still wary, if not
downright scared of me.

Other than Eckhart and the nervy little guard who opens the door just far
enough to push my food rations through the me, I've seen no one since waking
up in here.  The closest I can get to finding a silver lining in any of it
is that Thorne hasn't been in to see me.  Oddly enough I don't miss not
seeing his scowling countenance in the slightest.  I may be being kept in a
tiny concrete cell devoid of furniture and light but, hell, it's still
better than having to deal with Thorne.  I still get to hear him though,
barking commands and issuing forth with a never ending stream of sarcastic
comments to whoever the poor bastard is next door.  Without even knowing who
my neighbour is, he has my sympathy.  Whoever he is he's dragged Thorne's
attention away from me and, for him, there's no way that can be a good

I'll say this for the good ol' GSA, they're nothing if not clever and
cunning.  Piping the sounds of someone being tortured into my cell is, I
think, a nice touch.  Whether it's meant to make me afraid or thankful that
it's not happening to me isn't something I know.

Then again, what do I know?  Not much, that's for sure.  The two things that
I am confident of, that I shouldn't be here and that I'm in agony, don't
really help.  Everything else is unknown.  Although I've tried to fight
it -- understatement -- I've reluctantly come to accept the fact that
there's a very good chance that I'll never be free again, that I might die
here.  This in turn leads me to think of my so called friends and the fact
that I doubt any of them would even know that I'm missing.  I've always
considered myself to be a survivor, someone who doesn't need others, but

I've never felt more alone.

Or more afraid.

Sighing, I hug my knees to my chest and long for oblivion.  Although not
defeatist by nature, I don't have it in me to think happy thoughts.
Trapped.  In pain.  Doomed.  Sometimes I even think, if I could, I'd just
kill myself to end it all.  While survival at all costs is a good motto to
have I honestly think I'd rather be dead than to work for Eckhart and risk
turning into a Thorne clone.  I just would.

I want to die...  It's not a thought I ever expected to have.  Not even
knowing that my mother would be disappointed in me is enough to sway me
though.  I may be many things, thief, hustler, pool shark, but I'm not
cruel.  I can't do what Eckhart expects of me.  I just can't.

The door to my cell opening and bathing me in harsh light, I squint as two
uninformed guards stride over and haul me to my feet.  Used to being on the
floor, pain shoots through my body, nearly causing me to slump back down
again.  The guards -- my heroes -- don't let me fall though and drag me, as
though I was little more than a corpse to them already, out of the cell.
Knowing that there's no point, I don't bother asking where they're taking
me.  Hell, I don't even want to know.


Don't wanna know.

Shit.  Lifting my head, I glance around the fluorescent lit stainless steel
bathroom they drag me into and involuntarily shiver.  Fitting in with every
other hellish aspect of the place, it looks as though it would double as a
torture chamber set on a sci-fi movie.  Too weak to put up any fight, the
guards waste no time in stripping me before shoving me unceremoniously into
the shower.  I'm still coming to terms with being naked when freezing cold
water comes gushing out of the shower nozzle, drenching me.  For the first
time I can see the extent of my injuries and the sight disgusts me.  I'm
more bruises and abrasions than I am unblemished skin.  I look, not to put a
too fine a point on it or anything, as though I've been in a car crash.  The
guards laugh as, the force of the water further weakening me, I nearly fall
down, my shame now all but complete.

After losing a quick round of 'Rock, Paper, Scissors', one of the guard
grabs a bar of soap and begins to roughly wash me.  There being nothing else
I can do, I watch him dispassionately, my skin crawling at his touch.  When
I get spun around in order for him to reach my back, I freeze, an unwanted
and incredibly terrifying thought leaping uninvited into my head.

"Don't worry, Mulwray," a familiar voice drawls from behind me, "you're not
my type."

Thank God for small mercies.

"Nah..." Thorne continues lightly, "Too big and ugly for me.  I like 'em
smaller and *blonder*.  You know, just like you do."

"Aaaw...  You've hurt my feelings now," I wheeze, blinking water out of my
eyes as the guard spins me around again.

Thorne looks me up and down, his all but permanent smirk well and truly in
place.  "I see your brain isn't the only part of your anatomy that's small,"
he comments, gesturing for the guard to turn off the water.  Wanting to look
anywhere other than his face, I stare at his hands, noting that in his left
one he's holding what looks to be a heavy silver ring.  For some reason I
decide that I want it and concentrate on keeping my eyes on it as the guards
dry me off and dress me in an ill fitting suit.  Once I'm dressed I realise
with displeasure that I now look like Thorne, right down to the
unimaginative spotted tie and dark blue business shirt.

Yet again, if any unknown and omniscient deity is listening, kill me now.

My transformation into a GSA agent clone not yet complete, the guard who
washed me appears with an electric shaver in his hand.  Standing still as he
runs it over my face is, given the way my legs are trembling, incredibly

"You wanna look your best for meeting your new playmate," Thorne murmurs,
leaning in and smirking directly in my ear.  "Trust me Mulwray, first
impressions count for a lot.  Especially in this case."

"Bite me," I sneer as, finished shaving, the guard moves to one side,
allowing Thorne to take his place directly in front of me.  Handing the ring
to the guard, Thorne reaches up and straightens my tie, causing me to
flinch.  Once again wanting to look anywhere but at his ugly face, I snatch
the ring out of the guard's hand, closing my fingers around it and holding
it tight.  For some reason the weight of it feels reassuring in my palm.

"Once a thief, always a thief, eh," Thorne states, shaking his head.  "It
won't do you any good but, be my guest, keep it.  Consider it a gift from
your new friend, something to remember him by."

"I hope you realise I wouldn't have a fucking clue about what you're going
on about," I mutter, defiantly slipping the ring on the little finger of my
right hand, the only finger it'll fit on.

"Then let's rectify that, shall we," Thorne replies, nodding to the guards
who immediately close in behind me.  "Come along Mulwray, fun and games

"I can hardly wait," I scowl, the guards pushing me after Thorne as he
strides out of the bathroom.  My entire body wanting to call a stop work
meeting, I'm almost relieved when Thorne stops out the front of a door only
a little way down the corridor.  As much as I don't want to know what's
behind it I don't think I'd be able to remain upright if I was made to go
much further.  Not that I was up to much before the shower but the cold
water has now made me even weaker.

Reaching the door, the guards step back, leaving me to follow Thorne as
though of my own volition.  Although it sets off warning bells, there's
nothing I can do about it and, feeling as though I'm being prodded along a
gangplank, I force myself to walk into the room after Thorne.

At first I don't recognise the man barely standing between the two suited
guards in the middle of the otherwise empty room.  Dressed only in a pair of
blood stained grey cargo pants, his bare skin even more bruised and damaged
than mine, he looks like the walking dead, his pale face a death mask of
pain.  I've never seen someone who's been thoroughly worked over before and
don't know how he's managing to stand.  Even his feet are bruised.  I look
at him trembling and gasping weakly for breath and only just control the
sudden desire to throw up.

"And there I was thinking you'd be happy to see him again," Thorne drawls,
his smirk being replaced by a calculating smile.  "Don't tell me you can't
recognise him, Mulwray.  I'll admit he's not quite as clean cut and cute as
he was back then, but still..."

"Oh my God..."  The words slip breathlessly out of my mouth as recognition
finally dawns on me.  "You... You sick bastard."  It's the man from the
safe-house, the young Molecular they refer to as being one of Adam's men.
Instinct tells me that he was in the cell next to mine, that the suffering I
was made to listen to was his.

"Sticks and stones," Thorne murmurs, pointing at the man.  "Mr Mulwray, meet
Mr Kilmartin, our, if you like, test subject for today's proceedings."

"What?"  I shake my head, panic threatening to swamp me.  Fuck.  This is
even worse than it was at the safe-house.  "Uh-uh...  No way."

"Don't be like that, Mr Mulwray," Thorne replies, patting me on the
shoulder.  "Unlike last time it's a *controlled* experiment.  Mr Kilmartin
this time, as you've no doubt already gathered, can't go anywhere.  Even if
he hadn't resisted testing, thus resulting in our having to beat the shit
out of him, the sub-dermal governor embedded in his neck means that he can't
go ghost on you again anyway."

I shake my head again, unable to look at the tragic creature in front of me.
I hope, for his sake, that he can't hear what's being said.  "No.  I won't
do it."

"How about if I sweeten the deal then," Thorne retorts.  "You be a good boy
and do as you're told and you can have what's left of him afterwards.  Don't
tell me you don't want him.  Travis, who's another freak just like us, said
you were hot for him at the safe-house.  Of course, and this is something
you'll have to get used to, you'll be following me.  Wasn't bad though, even
if I do say so myself."

"No!" I shout, outraged as what Thorne's saying penetrates through the fog
in my head.  "You sick and twisted fucker!  I'm not like you!  I won't do
it!  I would never, *never* do that and I'm disgusted that you could even
imply such a thing.  You...  You're just..."  I trail off, unable to come up
with an insult that would do him justice, my mind spinning out of control.

"Again Mulwray, sticks and stones," Thorne smirks, pulling the remote device
out of his pocket and waving it at me cheerfully.  "It's like this.  We want
you to learn how to use your powers when we tell you to and, well, what
better test subject than this waste of space before us.  Moleculars, with
few exceptions, are the most uninteresting of all new mutants.  Mr Kilmartin
unfortunately holds no interest for the GSA.  If you kill him you'll be
saving him from spending the rest of his miserable, pointless existence in a
pod.  He's of no real use to us.  Won't tell us where Adam's holed up,
doesn't do anything over spectacular.  Look at it this way Mulwray, you'll
be doing him a favour."

"I won't do it," I repeat faintly, noticing with horror the lone tear
slipping down the man's cheek.  Goddamn it!  He can hear everything.  "I
won't hurt him.  I don't care what you do to me, I won't do it!"

Thorne sighs and makes 'tsk, tsking' sounds under his breath.  "Believe me
when I say that this misguided noble attitude of yours isn't going to help
either of you in the slightest.  You don't do as you're told and I maximise
your pain while the two guards there turn their tasers on Mr Kilmartin.
See?  You can't win.  All you can do is save yourself from more pain."

"To hell with you Thorne," I whisper defiantly, glowering at him.  "I'll die
before I hurt him.  What's more, I don't care if I'm making the wrong
decision in your mind.  Got it?  I'd rather be dead than become a
conscienceless psychopath like you."  Taking a deep breath, I look across to
Kilmartin.  He meets my gaze, his haunted eyes causing me to flinch.  "I'm
sorry, okay?" I murmur desperately.  "If there was anything else I could do
I'd do it."  When I see understanding in his blue eyes I very nearly start
to cry.

"Have it your way then," Thorne shrugs, viciously stabbing his finger into
the remote.  The pain is so immediate and so great that I hit the floor,
convulsing like an epileptic, my spine feeling like it wants to become
detached from my body.  My own pain encompassing me, I'm unable to see
what's happening to the Molecular but, even through the agony I can hear him
screaming.  Or maybe it's me...  Maybe I'm the one screaming.  I don't know.
Perhaps we're both screaming.

"Mr Thorne!  What on earth do you think that you are doing?"

Eckhart's arrival sees the pain lessening slightly and I'm slowly able to
uncurl myself, all the time watching both Thorne and his master warily.
Eckhart looks pissed, his eyes burning with anger behind his black rimmed
glasses.  "When I said I wanted these two men broken I didn't mean that I
wanted them killed!" he snaps, glaring at Thorne.  "My apologies if my
instructions weren't clear enough."

"Mr Eckhart, sir..." Thorne starts to say nervously, standing to attention.
"I was just..."

"Enough!" Eckhart interrupts, scowling.  "The three of you, my office.  Mr
Thorne, I have to say that I'm extremely disappointed with you.  If my
sources prove to be correct and I find proof that you've had your perverse
way with the Molecular then, well, let's just say you'd better have your
last will and testament in order."

Paling, Thorne runs his finger along the collar of his shirt.  "Sir, I..."

"Shut up," Eckhart mutters, stalking out of the room.  "I'll hear your
pathetic excuses in my office, not here."

"Yes sir," Thorne replies dutifully, trailing immediately after Eckhart.
The two guards, who I'm not even sure are capable of speaking for
themselves, follow Thorne.  I'm so relieved that they're leaving that I'm
not even bothered by the door being locked behind them.  My relief then
grows even further as I hear the sounds of laboured, pained breathing coming
from the floor behind me.

He's still alive.  Thank God.

Dragging myself to my knees, I crawl over to him, instinct making me gather
him in my arms.  Too weak to do anything else, he slumps against me,
whimpering softly.  The smell of scorched flesh nearly makes me gag but I
push it to the back of my mind and concentrate on trying to hold him in a
way that causes the least pain.  Devastated, we cling to each other, too
lost and too shocked to do anything else.  Gradually he begins to calm down,
to get his breathing under control.  Loosening my grip, I give him space to
move away but he doesn't, choosing instead to remain huddled against me.  I
realise, as I look down at him, that I'd do anything to take away his pain,
that something about him touches me in a way that I've never felt before.

"Hey," I murmur, gently pushing back a stray lock of hair from his forehead.
"What's your name?"  While I may look like Thorne I refuse follow suit and
refer to him by his surname.

Hazy blue eyes blink at me uncomprehendingly as the man struggles to answer.
I don't know whether this is because he's forgotten his name or whether
what's been done to him has made him forget that he's worthy of one.
"Jesse," he eventually croaks hoarsely, frowning in concentration.  "My
name's...ah... Jesse."

"Brennan," I reply simply, placing my right hand in his left and squeezing
it to emulate a handshake.  "Shit circumstances aside, I'm pleased to
finally get to meet you."

Blinking at me again, Jesse holds on to my hand, his fingers scrabbling at
the ring I took off Thorne.  "My ring," he whispers agitatedly.  "You're...
You're wearing my ring."

"And you're more than welcome to have it back," I murmur soothingly,
surprised by his reaction.  "I took it off Thorne before he dragged me in
here.  Here though, it's all yours."  Taking the ring off, I slip it on his
trembling finger, my eyes widening as the ring glows momentarily before
quickly reverting back to plain silver.  Startled by the reaction it had on
his finger, I'm about to ask Jesse about it when, with a sigh of relief, he
passes out, his body going limp against mine.

Gathering him to me, I close my eyes as, my body having had enough, I follow
Jesse into unconsciousness.


Cracking an eye open, I stare at the stiletto clad feet standing in front of
me and quickly reach the conclusion that I don't really want to know.
Curiosity overriding my fear though, I can't help myself and have to look
up.  The tight fitting, charcoal coloured skirt suit and sensible pony tail
tell me that she has to be GSA.  Oddly though, she looks kinda familiar.

I still don't really want to know however and surreptitiously tighten my
grip around the still unconscious body in my arms.

"They're both here, Adam," a female voice intones gravely as the feet back
up and their owner crouches down, her eyes widening slightly as she
discovers me peering at her.  "Both appear to be in a bad way," she
continues, seemingly talking to herself.  "Jess seems worse though."

"There's guards heading your way," a male voice replies, coming, if I'm not
hallucinating, from the silver ring -- the twin, by the looks of things, of
Jesse's -- on her right ring finger.  "You need to get a move on, Shalimar.
Can either of them walk?"

"Just checking now," Shalimar replies, reaching out a hand to touch Jesse.
Not knowing whether she's friend or foe, I open my other eye and pull him
closer, just out of reach.  His breathing shallow, Jesse remains dead to the
world.  I don't like how pale and feverish he looks and, as I'm becoming
increasingly used to, don't know what to do.

"Hey," Shalimar murmurs, retracting her hand and smiling wanly.  "Brennan,
you remember me, right?  We kinda... well, sorta... in a round about sort of
way met on the Sky-Course.  Remember?  I was there with Jesse and Adam and
we tried to fight off the GSA with you.  I'm not going to hurt you.  In fact
I'm here to rescue you.  Well, I'm here for Jesse and finding you with him
is just an added bonus."

Her piece said, Shalimar doesn't wait for me to reply and moves closer,
brushing her fingers against Jesse's cheek.  Her nostrils flaring, she
inhales deeply and moans.  "Oh God, Jess, no..."  Shaking her head, she
glances at me, her eyes flashing orange.  "Bastards," she hisses.  "When I
get my hands on..."

"Shalimar!" The voice comes through her ring again, interrupting her.  "The
guards are moving towards your corridor.  You've got to get out of there."

"On my way," Shalimar replies, effortlessly taking Jesse from me and
standing up.  Although I know that he's not very big she's holding him as
though he weighs next to nothing.  "Can you stand?" she queries anxiously.
"You heard Adam, we've got to move."

Wanting to stand and actually being able to manage it being two entirely
different things, I fail in my attempt to drag myself upright and crash
heavily back to the floor.  It has to be said that I've definitely moved
more gracefully.  Hell, even when I've been paralytic I've moved more
freakin' gracefully.

"Shit," Shalimar swears, her eyes darting from me to the door and back

"Shalimar!  You've got to move *now*!"  The urgency in Adam's voice makes my
mind up for me.  As much as I want to get out of here I can't let her risk

"Go," I mutter, waving weakly towards the door.  "Get Jesse out of here.
I'll...  I'll be fine."

Shalimar hesitates for a split second before nodding sadly and moving
towards the door.  "Hold tight, Brennan," she states firmly, her eyes once
again flashing gold.  "We'll be back.  Mark my word.  We won't leave you

"Hope to see you again soon," I whisper to myself, Shalimar and Jesse
already gone.  If I don't though then, well, so be it.  Whatever the
consequences turn out to be I know in myself that I made the right choice.

Noble and self-sacrificing to the bitter end, that's me all over.


Eckhart tries one more time to get me to play docile before cutting his
losses and writing me off as yet another pointless mutant freak.  To his
credit though he takes the fact that Jesse was all but snatched back right
out from under his nose in his stride.  He even stepped in and stopped
Thorne from taking his considerable frustrations out on me, meaning that
when the time came for my next excursion I was actually able to walk
unaided.  Well, unaided save for a couple of injections of industrial
strength painkillers that is.

Not that, really, it did me a lot of good.  I was just along for the ride.
The black marks in his book in danger of making him lose his golden boy
status in Eckhart's eyes, Thorne made sure he was the one responsible for
Emma's successful capture.  I think he just wanted me there to watch how it
was done, to see what I could have been a part of if only I wasn't so
stubborn and set in my misguided ways.  Too doped up to do anything about it
I watched the whole sorry thing through glazed eyes, unable to so much as to
call out to warn her.  Hell,  I couldn't even react when Thorne's hand
strayed across her breast during the drive back.

Too far gone.  Don't care anymore.  My one and only hope is that Jesse's
safe and recovering.  I'm too numb to care about anything else.  Emma
doesn't seem particularly bothered about being locked up but I don't have
the strength to ask why.  She's told me that she doesn't blame me for her
capture, that none of it's my fault, but I'm not sure I believe her.  The
painkillers are wearing off and I'm beginning to feel like a zombie.  Not
even knowing that I'm no longer quite so alone helps.  I don't know why
Emma, radiating calmness and lack of concern, stays by my side.  If I were
her I'd stay away from me.  God knows I'm not actually of any use.

Oh.  Yay.  Changing of the guards time.  That means another long and tedious
hour has passed.

Watching the guards for no other real reason than I can, I note without any
particular interest that while two guards turn to leave only one appears to
be coming to replace them.  I then, after blinking twice in an attempt to
confirm that my eyes aren't playing tricks on me, realise with a jolt that
the new guard looks remarkably like Jesse.  Not that there's any chance it
could be.  Yesterday when I last saw him he looked as though it would take a
miracle to successfully put him back together again.

"Does Jesse have a twin?" I murmur, glancing at Emma.  "I mean, I know it
can't be, but that guard looks remarkably like him."

"That's because it is Jesse," Emma replies softly.  "I couldn't say anything
earlier in case the walls had ears, but this is all part of the rescue

"But..."  I shake my head, turning my attention back to what's going on
outside the cage and watching as, massing his arms, Jesse knocks out the two
guards.  "H-how?"  From here at least he looks to be in perfect health.

"You don't want to know," Emma responds, blinking large compassion filled
eyes at me.  "We needed someone else to ensure that the plan would work and
he insisted."

"But he looks fine," I mutter, shaking my head again as, taking a deep
breath, Jesse phases through the fencing of our cage, joining us.  "I... I
don't understand."

"Looks can be deceiving," Emma murmurs, giving my arm a gentle squeeze.  "A
glamour accounts for his appearance and half a pack of Tylenol is giving him
the strength to move.  That's all.  His body can't tolerate anything
stronger and he wouldn't hear of being left behind.  He won't be able to
keep it together much longer though and the sooner we get the hell out of
here the better."

My admiration from Jesse, that I'd first felt upon seeing him at the
safe-house, growing, I nod, suddenly feeling more alive than I have in days.
"Gotcha," I confirm, smiling for the first time in what seems like ages as
Jesse, after telling them that Adam has disengaged the sub-dermal governors,
hands out fresh IDs to the other new mutants in the cage with us.

Seeing my chance to help the escape, I power up and hit the fence with
enough voltage to unlock the gate.  It feels good to be able to use my
powers again without being made to direct them at someone.

His IDs given out, Jesse slowly walks over to where Emma and I are standing.
As I watch him the glamour momentarily slips, giving me a glimpse of the
true extent to his injuries, the sight of which quite literally boils my
blood.  Everything that Thorne did to me pales in comparison to what he put
Jesse through.  I think back more to what I heard being piped into my cell
than the Thorne directed showdown and know that I can't just let him get
away with it.

Knowing that I have to move quickly, before doubts get the better of me, I
hurry towards the gate, determination coursing through my veins.

"Brennan!" Emma calls after me, sounding confused.  "Where are you going?"

"I've got some unfinished business to take care of," I reply over my
shoulder.  "Take care of Jesse and I'll see you shortly."

"Brennan!  Come back here!  I..."

Ignoring Emma's entreaties to return, I jog into the building, my body
protesting with every step.  The guards apparently being otherwise occupied,
the corridors of the GSA are thankfully empty and I'm able to prowl around
them without being detected.  My luck having finally changed for the better,
I find Thorne alone.  He doesn't seem surprised to see me and nonchalantly
reaches into his pocket, pulling out the remote for the governor.  Powering
up, I smirk as, ensnared in his own perceived supremacy, he casually presses
it.  When I show no signs of losing power or clutching my stomach in agony
he begins to look worried.  It's the first time I've seen him look so much
as close to possessing a human emotion.

Not that it's going to save him though.  It's a case of too little, too

The burst of electricity that shoots out of my fingers is unlike any I've
ever felt before.  The force is so great that it picks Thorne up and slams
him, back first, against the wall.  Smoke comes off him as he hits the
ground, a dead weight, his eyes permanently opened in wide surprise.

I look at him and feel nothing.  I've just killed a man and I feel nothing.
It's an discomforting sensation.

A hand lightly touching my arm nearly causing me to jump out of my skin, I
spin around and find myself staring at Shalimar.  Her eyes glowing orange,
she glances at Thorne's body, her expression one of complete and utter

"For Jesse," I whisper lamely, running my hands through my hair and

Shalimar smiles, a feral grin that has me making a mental note to never get
on her wrong side.  "Beat me to it," she murmurs coldly, turning her back on
Thorne and starting to walk down the corridor.  "Come on, let's get the hell
out of here."

"I...  I've got nowhere to go," I mumble, glancing one last time at Thorne
before trailing after Shalimar.  Although I hadn't thought about it before,
I know I don't want to go back to the streets, that after this I just want
somewhere peaceful to lick my wounds and rethink my life.

"Course you do," Shalimar states brightly, letting me catch up and draping
her arm around my shoulder.  "You're coming back with us.  We look after our
own and you, Brennan, definitely belong back at Sanctuary.  Besides, Jesse
will want to see you and, given what he's been through, what Jess wants he

The adrenaline I'd been feeling ever since seeing Jesse deserting me again,
I relax against Shalimar and, the pain back with a vengeance, groan.

Her arm tightening around me, Shalimar ruffles my hair and laughs softly.
"I'll take that as meaning you'd be delighted to be our guest, shall I?"


An insistent beam of bright light being shone in my eyes wakes me.  Hazily
taking in the dentist style chair I'm lying on and the white lab coat
standing next to me, my first thought is to panic.  A hand lightly touching
my bare shoulder only just stops me from lurching off the chair and
launching into an immediate, and no doubt completely incoherent rant.

"There's nothing to worry about, Brennan," Emma murmurs softly, smiling as I
turn my head towards her.  "This isn't Genomex and you're safe."

"Where's here?" I croak, disorientated not only by the brightly lit medi-bay
but also the fact I'm only wearing what look and feel suspiciously like a
pair of lycra shorts.  How I come to be wearing black lycra shorts, I think,
is one of those questions I'll be happy to never have answered.

"Emma's right, you're safe now," the man in the white lab coat replies,
slipping a mini Maglite into his pocket.  "I'm Adam and this is Sanctuary,
the headquarters, if you like, of Mutant X."

"Oh."  So this is the mysterious Adam.  Expecting the forked tail and horns
of Eckhart's colourful description, it's no wonder I didn't recognise him.

"What's the last thing you remember, Brennan?" Adam queries, looking at me
concernedly, no doubt perturbed by the blank expression I can literally
*feel* plastered all over my face.

"Um..."  Concentrating hard, I fight through the cotton wool that appears to
have taken up residence in my head and try to search my memories for what
happened before waking up here.  "I...  Escape from the GSA...  Oh!  Oh
God!"  Struggling into a sitting position, I look around agitatedly, panic
once again threatening to settle over me.  "Jesse!  Where's Jesse?  I... I
saw him collapse and..."

"And he's fine," Shalimar interrupts, strolling through the glass sliding
door into the medi-bay.  "Trust me, Brennan, he's tucked up in his own bed
and dead to the world.  When you're feeling up to it I'll take you to see
him, promise."

"I saw him collapse," I repeat dully, shaking my head.  "One second Emma was
helping him towards some sort of freaky looking plane, space ship sort of
thing and the next he went down.  I wanted to help him but couldn't... Too
weak.  I..."

"Chill, Brennan," Shalimar smiles, coming over to stand next to Emma.  "I
carried him into the Helix, or, if you prefer, the freaky looking plane
thing, and the pair of you sat slumped next to each other during the flight
home.  At some point or another you blacked out so I suppose that accounts
for why you can't remember."

"Oh," I mumble, flinching as I suddenly remember what took place just before
leaving Genomex.  "I..."  I hang my head, shame and disgust creeping over
me.  "I killed Thorne," I whisper, the confession tasting bitter on my

"And I meant what I said back at Genomex," Shalimar states, barely disguised
venom entering her voice.  "You beat me to it.  If you hadn't got to him
first I would have had him."

"Shalimar!" Adam exclaims, glancing across at her, his expression one of
shock.  "What about what we talked about?  I thought..."

"You did the talking, not me," Shalimar replies bluntly, shrugging.  "Sorry
if you're disappointed in me Adam but I told you what I had to do.  Just
because I know I have to live with not being able to protect Jess doesn't
mean I wasn't going to do whatever it took to gain revenge.  Thorne didn't
deserve to live.  What he did to Jess wouldn't be a once off and you know
it.  Brennan did the bastard a favour.  If I'd got my hands on him it would
have been a hell of a lot more painful and a great deal messier."

"We'll just have to agree to disagree on this point, Shalimar," Adam sighs.
"I agree that Thorne had to be stopped but..."  He trails off and shrugs.
"Whatever.  What's done is done.  Brennan, I'll never be able to condone
your actions but at the same time I want you to know that I understand both
your and Shalimar's reasons for wanting him dead.  If it makes you feel any
better I can also tell you that, having failed Eckhart, he was as good as
dead anyway, that, essentially, you saved him from being placed in stasis
and basically being left to rot."

"I'm sorry I killed him, but I'm not sorry he's dead," I mumble wanly.  "I
know that doesn't make any sense but..."

"It's the best you can do given the circumstances," Emma interrupts, her
soft smile still very much in place.  "Don't worry Brennan, no one expects
anything of you.  You're here to recover and regroup.  Everything that
happened at Genomex is horrible but it's in the past now."

"Emma's right," Adam continues, helping me sit up.  "As long and as
difficult as I can tell you now the road ahead is, it's the only thing we
all have to focus on.  What happened at Genomex, Thorne's death - it's all
history.  We've now got to work on putting it all behind us and regaining
our strength.  Eckhart's war against new mutants has only just started."

"Anyone ever told you your bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired?" I
murmur drily, not really wanting to know about Eckhart's planned reign of
terror.  "I mean, no offence Adam, but couldn't the horror stories wait
awhile?  You know, at least until I'm perhaps over round one?"

"Brennan's right," Shalimar laughs, walking around the chair and lightly
punching the older man on the forearm.  "I say we've earned a day or two of
rest before having to deal with round two.  I mean, c'mon Adam, give us a
break.  Jess is out for the count and Brennan here looks as though he's
about to slide off the chair."

"Sorry," Adam apologies, absentmindedly running his fingers through his
hair.  "I was jumping ahead and I apologise," he continues, making a point
of speaking directly to me.  "Brennan, preliminary tests show that you've
suffered no permanent damage at the hands of the GSA and I'd say after a
couple of days rest you'll be as good as new.  You'll be sore, *very* sore,
but that's about it.  I've taken the governor out and your powers are once
again your sole property.  They too should be fully restored in a day or
two.  Until you're recovered you're more than welcome to stay here as our
guest.  You don't have to, and no one's forcing you to remain here, but I
think I speak for all of us when I say that we'd really like you to stay."

"Adam's putting it nicer than I would," Shalimar grins, reaching out and --
the fact that we don't really know each other not bothering her in the
slightest -- ruffling my hair playfully.  "Me, I'd insist that you stay.
You're one of us now Bren and we all want you here."

"Um...  Thanks," I mumble, not quite knowing what to make of everything.
One day I'm on the streets, the next I'm in some sort of Nazi prison camp,
and, lo and behold, a couple of days after that I'm in a place called
Sanctuary.  It's all very... Yeah...  Go figure.     "It's... ah... very
kind of you... er... of all of you."

"What Brennan is trying to say is that this is all a bit too much for him at
the moment and that, really, he'd just like to go to bed," Emma interjects
lightly, her eyes twinkling as, giggling, she shakes her head at Shalimar.
"And no, before you ask, I'm *not* reading him.  Don't take this the wrong
way Brennan, but you kinda look like you've just followed the White Rabbit
down the rabbit hole and have no idea where you've ended up."

"No offence taken," I reply, somehow managing to dredge up a honest to
goodness grin.  "Besides, you're right.  As grateful as I am to all of you
I'd really like nothing more than just to crash for a couple of hours."

"Then your wish is our command," Adam intones, giving a show of bowing and
gesturing towards the door.  "Shalimar, if you'd be so kind as to show our
guest to his room while Emma and I tidy up in here."

"You got it," Shalimar retorts, bouncing energetically over to the door.
"Come on you, your bed awaits."

"Thanks, again," I mutter, gingerly standing up and, far less energetically,
following Shalimar out of the medi-bay and down a corridor.  "I'm hoping
this room isn't far or I might just decide to have a nap on the floor here,"
I comment, trailing after her.

"Not far at all," Shalimar replies, waiting for me to catch up.  "As big and
as eye opening as it must look to you now, you'll get used to Sanctuary.  It
mightn't be like anything you've ever seen before and, yeah, some of the
technology *is* spookily similar to what they use at Genomex, but to us it's
just home.  Tomorrow, or whenever you're feeling up to it, I'll give you the
grand tour.  You'll love it.  Guaranteed."

"It's not Genomex," I murmur blithely, "for that reason alone I love it."
Not really looking where I'm going, I very nearly walk into Shalimar as she
stops outside an open door.  Shaking her head, she smiles fondly and strokes
my cheek.  "You're really not with it, are you?" she comments, guiding me
into the room.

"I've had my better days," I mumble, glancing around the sparsely furnished
bedroom, my gaze falling on a familiar collection of bedraggled looking
backpacks and small cases.  "Hey...  They look like mine."

"That's 'cos they are yours, silly," Shalimar responds, leading me across to
the queen size bed with the blue and green striped comforter and helping me
to sit down on it.  "Don't worry.  We're not up to anything nefarious.  Me
and Jess just beat the GSA to your stuff, that's all.  Hope it's all there.
We packed everything that looked like yours.  I wasn't so sure about the
books but Jess insisted, said you looked like a reader."

"Um...  Wow...  This is just... ah... all too much," I whisper, having
control of my own life still seeming like little more than a distant memory.
"Thanks, though...  I... ah... appreciate it."

"I know I've said it already, but I'll say it again," Shalimar responds,
crouching down in front of me and putting her hand on my knee.  "You're safe
here, Brennan, and you've got nothing to worry about.  Just say the word and
I'll take you away from here.  If at any time you want to go then, again,
all you have to do is say the word.  Believe me though, you're both safe and
welcome here.  All that said, I can't force you to stay."  Pausing, she
gives me a reassuring smile and lightly squeezes my knee.  "Sleep on it,

I nod, not really possessing the energy to get up and leave even if I
particularly wanted to.  "Yeah," I murmur, "sounds good to me."

Taking her hand away from my knee, Shalimar stands up and, stifling a yawn,
stretches languidly.  "That's what I was hoping you'd say," she smiles.
"Okay then, last list of instructions and I'm outta here.  Feel free to
wander around, even if doors are shut you can open them and poke your head
in.  The only five people in the whole complex are the two of us, Adam, Emma
and, of course, Jesse.  There's no hidden surprises, trust me.  If you're
hungry the kitchen's just down the end of the corridor and, yeah, help
yourself.  If it's there it's there to be eaten by whoever gets to it first.
Think that's all I was trying to remember to tell you.  Now, what about you?
Got any questions?"

"Think you've covered everything," I reply, touched by how much care and
attention everyone's showing me.  "Shalimar... ah... thanks.  You've all
been very kind."

Shaking her head, Shalimar turns around and heads for the door.  "Nonsense,"
she murmurs over her shoulder.  "We owe you for what you did for Jess.
Without you standing up to Thorne I...  I don't even want to think about
what could have happened."

"Makes two of us," I whisper watching Shalimar as, pausing in the doorway,
her expression solemn, she waves good night.  "Sleep well," I add, returning
her wave as the desire to simply crawl into bed and sleep rolls over me.
Alone, I weigh up the pros and cons of clambering into bed without bathing
and decide that, as tired as I am, a shower is still in order.  Adam may
have looked over my injuries, and no one might be blaming me for killing
Thorne, but I still feel kinda dirty.

Standing up, I wobble unsteadily over to my decrepit looking luggage and,
after a moment's ferreting, triumphantly pull out a clean pair of black
sweat pants and an off white t-shirt that was once, a long time ago, white.
Sleepwear obtained, I slowly make my way over to the small en suite that
leads off the bedroom.  Eschewing checking out my reflection in the mirror
above the basin, I dump my clothes on the floor and turn the shower on to
both full heat and full pressure.  My time in the darkened cell having made
me just that little bit claustrophobic, I leave the door open, strip off my
shorts, and step into the shower.  The warm water cascading over my body is
like heaven.  Sure it further weakens me, but I don't care and stay under it
for as long as I can.

Once I'm clean, and the threat of my knees buckling beneath me is too great
to ignore, I turn the shower off, towel myself dry and pull on my sweats and
t-shirt.  Sanctuary apparently being like some sort of high class motel, I
find everything from a razor and shaving foam to a toothbrush and toothpaste
placed neatly on the vanity unit.  After cleaning my teeth and having a
quick, slapdash shave, I turn the light off in the bathroom and, exhausted,
crawl into bed.  The fact that I neglect to switch the overhead light off
isn't an issue as I'm asleep the second my head hits the pillow.


I sleep the sleep of the dead.  No dreams, no nothing, just sweet, blissful
oblivion.  When I wake however many hours later I feel more human than I
have for what feels like an exceptionally long time.  I'm also starved and,
my hunger overriding my compulsion to pull the comforter over my head and
stay put, I get up and hesitantly venture out of the room my mind already
seems to have claimed as mine.

Remembering Shalimar's comment about the kitchen being at the end of the
corridor, I tiptoe down there, the rest of Sanctuary, going by the silence,
seemingly still fast asleep.  I have absolutely no idea what time of
night -- or day -- it is and, locating the kitchen with ease, settle on
making myself a cheese sandwich.  Or two.  Oh.  Okay.  Three.

Three sandwiches and two glasses of orange juice later, I tidy everything
up, leaving the kitchen exactly as I found it, and head back to my room.  My
stomach sated, I move slowly, all the time looking around me.  Although
dimly lit, Sanctuary seems like one hell of a pad.  Looking up, I can't even
see the ceiling and wonder just how huge the place really is.  Passing two
shut doors, I resist the urge to look in them and am about to walk straight
past an open door when, from inside the room, I hear what sounds like
plaintive sounding whimpering.

Without stopping to think, I hurry into the room, making my way directly
over to the bed.  A blue neon tube running across the wall above the bed, I
can make out everything in the room clearly.  Don't ask me how but I know
it's Jesse's even before I reach the bed and see him.  The faint blue
lighting making his pale, bruised face appear positively ghostlike, I cringe
as, in the grips of a nightmare, he cries out again.  Still without pausing
to contemplate my actions, I sit down on the edge of the mattress and gently
place my hand on his shoulder.  His reaction to my touch is immediate and,
his features relaxing, he calms down.

Intent on watching Jess, I don't know that Shalimar's materialised in the
doorway until she softly clears her throat.  Wary of how she'll react to
finding me in her friend's bedroom, I hesitantly turn to face her.  When I
see that she's wearing a pair of bright orange, tiger striped pyjama pants
and a black tank top with orange paw prints embroidered on it I very nearly
laugh.  I also note that she looks sleepy and hope that that's enough to
keep her possible anger under control.  "Shal, I..."

"Shhh..." she whispers, cutting me off.  "You've really got the touch,
haven't you," she continues quietly, padding over to the bed and crouching
down next to me.  "I've got our com's linked and I was coming to see if I
could help calm him.  I see that I'm too late though, that I'm not needed."

"I was just passing," I murmur, my hand frozen on Jesse's shoulder as,
thankfully, he sleeps on.  "I... ah... I didn't mean to step on your toes.
It's just, well, he sounded to be in pain and I couldn't just leave him."

"You're right on so many levels there," Shalimar replies, running her hands
through her hair and yawning.  "C'mon you, up," she adds, standing and
waiting for me to follow suit.  Once I'm standing, she pulls back Jesse's
plain, calico covered comforter and points at the freshly uncovered bottom
sheet.  "There you go.  You said you couldn't leave him and I agree.  So,
hop in.  He doesn't bite."

"Shal, I..." I protest faintly, shaking my head.  "I don't know about this."

"I do," Shal states firmly, "and I know Jess.  You can see for yourself
Brennan, he's a mess and, well, he shouldn't really be alone.  When you get
to know him better you'll understand why.  Until then though, be his human
sized teddy bear.  Please?  You mightn't know each other but he trusts you
already and I'm pretty sure you feel something for him as well."

"What about you?" I murmur, trying desperately to come up with a better,
more compelling argument and failing dismally.

"Less incestuous this way," Shalimar grins, pointing at the bed again.
"Trust me, he'd rather it was you anyway."


"Just get in, Brennan.  Please  You don't want him to have another nightmare
and I know that your presence will keep him calm.  Think about it, it's a
win-win situation."

"And if Jess wakes up and freaks at finding me in his bed?"

"He won't."

"He...  He might!"

As arguments go this would have to be the strangest one I've ever been
involved in, without a doubt.

Jesse, his subconscious deciding to take matters in hand, whimpers again,
his hands clutching at the comforter.  Irrationally -- for God's sake I
don't even know him! -- the sound nearly breaks my heart.  "He won't freak
out?" I mumble, throwing caution to the winds and pretty much giving up.

"He won't freak," Shalimar echoes softly.  "Again, you can see it yourself.
Jess is beyond the point of freaking at the moment.  He just needs to feel
safe and to be looked after."  Pausing, she fixes me with a look.  "And,
Bren, there's only so much I can do.  You were there.  You can offer him
more than I can."

"Fine," I sigh, sitting back down on the edge of the bed and shaking my
head.  "He reacts badly and, be warned, I'm so dropping you in it."

"He won't," Shal murmurs, smiling contentedly now that she knows she's won.
"Now shut up, get in, and go to sleep."

"You always this bossy?" I query, doing as I'm told and wriggling under the

"When it comes to those I love, yeah, I am," Shalimar replies, walking over
to the door, her work done.  "Keep going the way you are, Brennan, and you
might just even make my very short list of special people I look out for."

"Shucks, you're making me feel all warm inside," I whisper, settling down.
I've barely made myself comfortable before a warm, pyjama clad body squirms
close and arranges itself around mine.  Not surprisingly it's at this point
that I whole heartedly accept the peculiar position I've placed myself in.
I mean, what else can I do?

Draping my arms around Jesse, I hug him close as, still asleep and mumbling
something unintelligible, he closes his fingers around my t-shirt, anchoring
himself to me.  I realise, as I listen to his deep and even breathing that,
oddness of the situation aside, I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather

Within minutes, and despite everything defying all rhyme and reason, I too
am fast asleep.


Although I've been here for a couple of days now I still keep finding new
and interesting things hidden around Sanctuary.  Take the Koi Carp, their
multicoloured scales glinting in the fluorescent light, that are swimming
around lazily in the pond. I swear they weren't there yesterday.  Or if they
were they were hiding from me.  Honest.  I stood here for a good ten minutes
and I never saw a single solitary fish.  If Emma wasn't out with Adam and
Shalimar I'd think she was putting the damn things in my mind.  Why?  Well,
why not, I suppose.

Hoping that the fish, be they hallucinatory or not, will have a calming
effect on me, I crouch down and try to focus my attention on them.  Without
wanting to beat around the bush or anything, after three or however many
days being cooped up inside -- a mountain, apparently -- I'm beginning to
feel just a tad claustrophobic.  To put it another way, if I knew how to get
outside I'd be there like a shot.  Unfortunately however I have no idea how
to get out.  If there's a plainly marked exit then, just call me blind, I'm
missing it.  I've looked, hell I've been looking ever since leaving Jess to
have his third shower for the day, but I can't for the life of me find it.

Oh well.

Looks like I'll just have to wait for the others to come back then.  Shit
happens.  In the grand scheme of things it's nothing overly important.  I'd
just like to feel some fresh air, that's all.  I can wait though.  Even if I
could get out I wouldn't leave until someone was around to keep an eye on
Jess anyway.  Not, mind you, that he's going anywhere in a hurry.   More,
well, just to be on the safe side, you know.  Apart from when he's in the
bathroom he's never left on his own.  If he's sick of having his personal
space being constantly invaded then he's doing a good job of keeping it to
himself.  I don't think he is though.  Although I could be wrong I think
he's grateful for the company.

Not that he's exactly said anything to this effect.  Okay.  Fine.  So he
hasn't actually said *anything* to me.  This'd be cause for concern if not
for the fact he seems just so damn accepting of my presence.  When he woke
up -- in his own bed and after going to sleep alone, mind you -- wrapped
around me, he blinked sleepily, yawned, and snuggled closer before going
straight back to sleep.  It was great.  He took it all in his stride while I
was so nervous, so worried about how he'd react, that I was bracing myself
for all hell breaking loose.  When I told Shalimar about Jess' non-reaction
she did a funny little 'I told you so' dance and informed me that, well,
she's always right and that it would do me good to make a note of this for
future reference.

The past few days have been... *interesting*, to say the least.  My body
still very much in healing mode, I've spent most of my time asleep.  In
Jesse's room.  In Jesse's bed.  With Jesse himself asleep next to me, his
body pressed tight against mine.  I've stopped trying to convince myself
that it's all just too peculiar for words.  What can I say?  It works.  I'm
so out of it that I could sleep just about anywhere and, for reasons
unknown, Jess seems to draw comfort from having me next to him.  If he's
asleep I'm either asleep next to him or lying there reading.  It's just how
it is.  We don't talk or cling to each other like two lost souls searching
for peace, we just sleep together.


Nah.  Screw trying to justify it.  It works.  End of story.

When Adam wants to check me over or I feel as though my ass is going numb
and just have to go for a quick walk, Shalimar's always quick to slip in and
take my place.  Again, it all seems to be working nicely.  Despite only
getting out of bed to shower and the whole not talking thing, Adam doesn't
appear too worried about Jess.  Nor for that matter, and I think far more
importantly, is Shalimar.  Even Emma, who I suspect has had a quick trawl
through his head, says that, albeit in his own way, he's dealing with
things.  As for me?  What would I know.  I'm just here as an invited guest
and human sized hot water bottle.

Not that I'm complaining.  Far from in fact.  Despite never having
experienced anything quite like any of it before in my life, I like it here.
I like the people, I like Sanctuary and I like the idea of Mutant X's cause.
Part of me feels as though I'm home, that somehow I belong here.  I tell
myself that the only reason I placed my books on the shelf above the desk in
my room was in order to see whether they were all still there.  And, once
I'd confirmed that they were, that I may as well leave them there, you know,
so as to not damage their spines by being kicked around the floor in the
bags.  Shalimar grinned when she saw them.  Strangely enough so did Adam.

Although my body still resembles a giant bruise and I'd be lucky to take on
an Ewok in arm-to-arm combat, Adam tells me that I'm healing well.  By the
end of the week I should even be back to feeling like myself.  I can't wait.
The sooner I can remain standing up for longer than five minutes without
having to lean against whatever's available -- wall, person, piece of
furniture, I'm not fussy -- for support the better.  So far Adam hasn't said
anything about when I have to leave.  I don't know whether this is because
he feels Jess needs me or because of some other reason.  Nor is it something
I care to think about either.  For now I'm just happy to do an impression of
an ostrich with its head in the sand and to steadfastly ignore what the
future might hold.

As invasive as his check ups are, I enjoy my brief periods with Adam in the
medi-lab because, clearly proud of his team, he likes to talk and to bring
me up to speed on things.  I don't even have to ask questions to get
answers.  It's cool.  Knowing that he trusts me enough to tell me about
things is, yeah... cool.  While I'm sure there's still a lot I don't know
I'm happy enough with what I now do know.  I know that Adam used to work for
Genomex and that Mutant X is not only his attempt to atone for his past sins
but also to protect the rights and lives of the new mutants Eckhart pretty
much wants to round up and wipe out.  I know that Shalimar's a Feline Feral
and that she and Jesse make up the core of Mutant X.  I also know that
they're not, as I'd just assumed by her comment in his bedroom the other
night, brother and sister.  They may as well be, but they're not, not in
blood anyway.  As for Emma, she's a powerful Psionic, a Telempeth, that Adam
hopes will join the team.  Jess is from a privileged background and is just
too sensitive for his own good.  Shalimar is highly protective of him and
makes a point of looking out for him.  Eckhart, before going insane and
turning himself into a Warhol clone, used to work with Adam and was, once
upon a time, a reasonable human being.

See?  I know lots of stuff.  Not too sure I believe the bit about Eckhart
ever playing with a full deck though.  That just sounds a bit too far
fetched if you ask me.

If Adam's theories are correct, and I see no reason why they wouldn't be, I
even kinda know why it is Jesse and I appear to have formed this, for the
want of a better word, bond without so much as ever having a conversation.
According to Adam it's either because, as fellow new mutants, we were
instinctively attracted to each other at the Sky-Course, or, failing that,
it's because we went through something terrible together and now share some
sort of intrinsic link that makes us think we're separated from everyone
else, that no one else would understand.  His other option, and I think he
found it hard to voice this one, as though his analytical brain couldn't
quite come to terms with the idea, is that it was simply fate.  Fate, as in
perhaps we were simply meant to end up together.

When Adam told me that, contrary to Shalimar's assertions on the subject, I
didn't have to stay with Jesse, not if I didn't want to or it made me feel
uncomfortable, I had to reply that, oddly enough, it didn't make me feel
even the slightest bit uncomfortable.  Common sense told me that it
*should*, but it didn't, that however hard I thought about it I was
perfectly happy to have him sleeping next to me, that I didn't want to be
anywhere else.  I think Adam meant to help me when he smiled and murmured
that there, I had my answer.  Not really seeing it myself -- the answer *or*
the question for that matter --  I merely smiled politely and mooched back
to bed.  I've already realised that, as intelligent as he is, Adam doesn't
always have to make sense.

Goddamn it!

Stupid fish.  Relaxing my ass.

The Koi Carp not succeeding in making me forget I'm trapped inside, I stand
up and decide that I may as well return to the bedroom.  If Jess is still in
the shower then, well, whatever.  I may as well feel the walls closing in on
me there as here.

Reaching the bedroom, the sound of running water greets me and I sigh.
Going by the time on the clock on the bedside table he's been in the shower
for over thirty minutes.  Another ten and he'll break his record.  Knowing
that he constantly feels unclean, soiled, all but null and voids the remorse
I feel over killing Thorne.  Perverted asshole.  Maybe I was wrong to rush
into ridding the world of his slimy presence though and should have waited
for Shalimar to get her claws into him.  It's not like he wouldn't have
deserved the drawn out pain.

Sighing again, I forcefully tell myself not to waste my time thinking along
those lines and begin to pace.  Back and forth I go, retracing the same
steps over and over again like a caged tiger.  I'm so intent on pacing that
I don't hear the shower stop.  Subsequently, when the bathroom door opens
and Jesse -- the image of a battered angel with his scrubbed pink skin and
white cotton pyjamas -- steps into the room, I'm looking anything but my
usual cool, calm and collected self.

Stilling just through the door, he stares at me wide eyed, his impersonation
of a bunny frozen in the headlights of an oncoming truck close to faultless.
My feet suddenly feeling like lead weights, I stop pacing and stare back at
him, the ability to speak deserting me.  The words 'now what?' spring all
too readily to mind.

Warily, Jess takes a step towards me.  "Are you... ah... okay?" he murmurs
hesitantly, his voice barely above that of a whisper.

"Log cabin fever," I croak, my response slipping out of my mouth without
pause for thought.  "You know after the whole... um... Genomex thing I'm
kinda forgetting what fresh air feels like."

Hugging himself, Jess hangs his head and looks away.  "Sorry," he whispers
faintly.  "You didn't have to stay with me, not if you didn't want to."

Oh.  Good one.  He asks me if I'm okay and I -- ignorantly -- hurt his
feelings.  Go me.  I shudder to think what I could do to him if I really put
my mind to it.

"It's not that at all," I stammer, trying to make an effort to actually
think before I speak.  "I wanted... ah... *want*... to stay with you.  It's
just *now*, you know...  Right now I feel as though I'm going stir crazy.
It's okay though.  It'll pass.  I don't want you to worry."

"You still don't have to stay on my account," Jess murmurs, slowly backing
away and pushing himself up against the wall.   "I...  I know what it feels
like to be trapped," he continues dully.

"It's not you," I mutter, nervously running my fingers back and forth
through my hair.  He looks so fragile that all I want to do is go over and
take him in my arms.  Not knowing what he's thinking though or whether that
now he's rejoined the land of the talking he wants nothing to do with me, I
don't move.  Be it the coward's way out or not, it just seems safer.  Not
knowing what else to say, I decide that I may as well go for the truth and
smile wanly. "If you really want to know, the reason I can't go outside is
because I don't, and don't laugh, know how to get out of here."

"Ask Shalimar, she'd show you," Jess replies, cautiously glancing at me.
"Or Adam.  I suspect even Emma would know her way around by now."

"I would only they're all out," I sigh, shrugging.  "Think they've gone to
show Emma some of the safe-houses or something.  They'll probably be back
shortly though.  I can wait.  It's not like I'm not house-trained or
anything," I finish lamely, shrugging again.

His eyes meeting mine, Jess nods, his mind apparently made up about
something.  "I'll take you," he states softly, his offer coming as even more
of a surprise to me than the fact he's currently talking.  "I don't want you
to feel claustrophobic so I'll take you up to the surface."

"That's... ah v-very kind of you," I stutter, berating myself for ever
having opened my fool mouth.  "You don't have to though.  Honestly.  I'll be
fine.  I don't want to put you out."  Hell, more to the point I don't want
to *stress* him out.

"You're not putting me out," Jess mutters stubbornly, defiantly pushing
himself away from the wall and making his way over to the chest of drawers.
"Besides," he continues, opening a drawer and pulling out a selection of
clothes, "gotta get out of this room sometime."

"You don't have to.  I..."


His use of my name silences me and I stare at him as, clothing obtained, he
wanders towards the bathroom.

"You might want to consider getting changed yourself," he murmurs over his
shoulder.  "It's usually pretty cool on top of the mountain."

"You mean we really *are* embedded in the middle of a mountain?" I query, my
mind still not doing a good job of coming to grips with this idea.  "I
kinda, well, thought that Shalimar might have been joking."

"You mean to say you didn't see it as we flew in?" Jess replies, glancing at
me as he starts to shut the door, his expression curiously unreadable.

I shrug.  "Didn't see a thing.  According to Shal I was out cold."

"Makes two of us then," Jess whispers, his gaze once again momentarily
meeting mine before he gently closes the door.

Apparently not having a choice in the matter, I stare at the door for a
couple of seconds before hurrying back to my room and getting changed.
After so many days slobbing around in sweats and t-shirts it feels strange
to actually be wearing clothes again.  Mind you, if the jeans and sweater
feel rough on my still healing skin then the shoes on my feet, that are used
to being bare, feel positively foreign.

Dressed, I return to Jess' room, determined have one last attempt at
convincing him he doesn't need to put himself out.  Finding the door to the
bathroom still closed, I walk across to it and knock softly.


Hang on.  Stop right there.  What gives me the right to think I can use the
familiar, diminutive of his name?  Just because that's what Shalimar calls
him and it's what I've become used to calling him in my head doesn't mean I
can just go ahead and blithely use it when speaking to him.


Should have thought of that before.

Flustered, I fall silent.  When the door opens a few seconds later and
*Jesse*, dressed in a baggy pair of jeans and an equally baggy black leather
jacket worn over a black t-shirt, steps back into the room I'm still no
closer to having wrestled my tongue back off the cat and, my mouth no doubt
hanging open, I just stare at him.  Like an idiot.

"Brennan?" he queries softly, sounding almost as worried as he looks.

"Um...  Is it okay if I call you Jess?" I blurt out.  "I suddenly thought
that... well... that you mightn't like me calling you that and..." I trail
off as a flicker of amusement crosses Jesse's pale face.  For a split second
he almost looks happy.  'We've been *sleeping* together and you seriously
think you have to ask whether you can call me Jess?' is what I read in his

Shaking his head, he flashes an all too brief smile at me and starts to walk
out of the room.  "Of *course* you can call me Jess," he murmurs, waiting
for me by the door.  "Come on, having had the idea planted in my head I
think I want to get outside even more than you do now."

"Right behind you," I mumble, giving up on arguing and following him through
the door.  Neither of us up to what you'd exactly call speedy movement, we
walk slowly down the corridor.  Reaching what I'd decided was a keypad for
the security system, I'm somewhat nonplussed as Jess enters a code and the
wall before us slides back, uncovering the stainless steel doors of a small

"Although there's a lot of exits, hidden and other, I'll show you what's
both the shortest and easiest one for the time being," Jess states as the
lift doors glide open.  "Given that all we want is to get outside it'll do
for now.  Come on.  In a second or two we'll be there."

"Uh-huh," I grunt, stepping into the lift behind Jess.  "I take it there's
more surprises like this around the place then?"

"More than you can imagine," Jess replies, pushing the up button on the
lift's control.  "Let's just say that a lot of effort went into designing
Sanctuary and leave it at that.  Well, for now anyway."

"Works for me," I murmur lightly, not wanting to sound like I'm trying to
stick my nose into where it's not wanted.  Within seconds, just as Jess
mentioned, the lift reaches its destination and -- no shit -- we step out of
it onto grass.  Expecting another corridor of sorts, I'm so surprised that
Jess has to pull me fully out of the lift before I'm caught in the closing
doors.  Stumbling away from it, I spin around just in time to see the lift
miraculously disappear, leaving nothing but rocky mountainside in its place.

"Before you ask, yeah, I know how to get back in again," Jess declares
softly, walking away from me and heading in the direction of the cliff top.
My shock at -- just like that -- being in the great outdoors being tempered
by a sudden fear that he might do something stupid -- like, oh, I don't
know, *jump* -- I scurry after him, fighting the urge to panic

Screaming, 'don't do it!' at the top of my lungs not striking me as a
particularly good idea, I slow down as I near him and force myself to hang
back.  When he slowly, and with obvious effort, lowers himself to the ground
and sits, hugging his knees to his chest, I breathe a huge, heartfelt sigh
of relief.  Not knowing whether he wants to be alone or not, I hesitantly
walk over and, deciding to risk it, sit down next to him.

"If you don't want company you just have to say," I whisper, looking down
the cliff face and repressing a shudder at the sight of the jagged looking
rocks at the base of it.  One thing's for sure, if you went over the edge
the only way you'd be coming back up would be in a body bag.  Beautiful
though, in its own harsh way.

"Stay.  Please," Jess murmurs simply, his gaze focussed somewhere far away
on the horizon.

So I stay.  And, despite the fact that we're still essentially strangers, we
sit in comfortable, understanding silence as the sun slowly sets around us.
When Jess eventually decides to speak it seems right, almost as though we'd
both been waiting for him to feel ready.

"You know..."  He trails off, leaving his unvoiced question hanging heavily,
weighted, in the air.

Thing is though, I *do* know.  Without having to hear any more I know what's
going through his mind.  Don't ask me how.  I just do.  Somehow.

I nod.  "I know."

Jess digests my response for a moment before accepting it and moving on.
"Did he..."

"No.  He didn't."  Not his type.  Too big.

Just -- ironically -- lucky, I guess.

Reaching across the small distance that separates us, Jess places his hand
lightly on my arm.  "I'm glad," he whispers adamantly, nodding to himself.
"It's not something I'd wish on my worst enemy."  Pausing, he turns to face
me.  "It's not something I'd even wish on... on Thorne!"

"He's dead," I confess flatly, now striking me as good a time as any to come
clean, to get it off my chest once and for all.  "I...  ah... I killed him."

"Saved Shalimar the hassle then," Jess murmurs drily, blinking very blue and
very clear eyes at me, his fingers curling into my sweater.  "Don't look so
concerned, Brennan.  I'm not sorry he's dead.  I probably should be, but I'm
not.  He'd done it before...  He'd have done it again...  And...  And he
enjoyed it!  He...  Oh God!  I..."

I close my hand over his, squeezing it.  "Shhh...  Let's just enjoy the
sunset, yeah?"  Talking may be all well and good, but right now, when he's
only just started speaking again?  I could be wrong, but I just don't think
so.  I personally think he needs more time.

Nodding, Jess leans against me and sighs softly.  "I'm glad you're here."

My response coming to me easily, I drape my arm around his shoulders and
murmur, "You and me both, Jess...  You and me both."

And I mean it in oh-so-many ways too.


"Whatcha readin'?" Emma queries, strolling into the room and sinking down on
the sofa next to me.  Looking up from my book, that I haven't been reading
so much as been staring at for the past four hours, I notice that her hair
is sticking out in even more directions than usual and that, really, she
looks as though she's been dragged through a hedge backwards.  Going on her
appearance I'd say that she had more stuff to move than she'd originally

"Lookin' good there, Em," I murmur blithely, closing the book and holding it
towards her.  "Just The Fellowship Of The Ring.  I've read it God alone
knows how many times before, but..."  I shrug, placing the battered
paperback on the coffee table.  "I dunno.  For some reason I just felt like
reading it again."

"Better the devil you know," Emma smiles, kicking her shoes off and curling
up on the sofa.  "In times of personal upheaval we all retreat to old
favourites.  Trust me.  I should know.  The grand reunion I had with Oscar
back at my apartment would have been embarrassing to watch.  I'm just glad
both Adam and Shalimar were otherwise occupied at the time."

"Oscar?" I prompt, idle curiosity sidling in and beating off my attack of
the 'I want to be alone's'.  "C'mon.  And the rest of it.  Who or what is

"Oscar's a small, very bedraggled black stuffed cat that my father gave me
as a baby," Emma explains, blushing.  "I know, I know.  It's silly being so
attached to a decrepit inanimate object, and it's not as if I actually miss
my parents or anything, it's just...  Well, I suppose it's just because
Oscar's been the one constant thing in my life.  I've had him for as long as
I can remember.  Whenever I was scared he was just, you know, he was there
for me..."  Trailing off, Emma narrows her eyes and wags her finger at me.
"By the way Brennan, you so much as *consider* laughing or teasing me about
Oscar and I'm going to let you spend the rest of the day thinking you're a
slimy green frog!"

"A slimy green frog?" I laugh, raising an eyebrow.  "Um...  With a threat
like that hanging over my head I hereby solemnly declare that I'll never,
*ever* tease you about Oscar.  How does that sound?"

"Sounds good to me," Emma smiles.  "Hey, what are you doing reading out here
anyway?  Did Jess kick you out?"

"I thought he might have wanted some time to himself," I mutter
dismissively.  "Last I saw of him he was asleep."  It's true too.  When I
snuck out of his room approximately two seconds after everyone else had left
in the Helix he'd been dead to the world.  Whether he's still asleep however
isn't something I can answer.  Not wanting to appear to be crowding him I
decided, after yesterday's confessional on top of the mountain, to back off
a bit, to give him space.  Although I stayed in his room last night I didn't
sleep with him, choosing instead to squash myself into an armchair next to
his bed.  Well, that's where I moved to once he'd fallen asleep.  It was
hard, dragging myself away from him, but I forced myself to do it.  Just as
I forced myself to be gone from the room before he woke up.  Confused over
everything that's happening -- too fast, too out of my control -- I felt as
though we needed some time apart.  My only hope is that I've gone the right
way about it, that I haven't made a mistake by not talking to Jess about it
before, no doubt in his eyes, just disappearing.

"You mean you've been so engrossed in your book that you haven't been back
to check on him?" Emma queries, looking rather taken aback.  "I thought..."

"I'm sure he's fine," I interrupt flatly before sighing heavily.  "What
about you?" I continue, changing the subject.  "Get all your stuff?"

"Mmm..." Emma murmurs, nodding, her eyes boring into me.  "All my earthly
possessions are now here at Sanctuary."

"Including Oscar, of course," I reply with a laugh, trying to lighten the

"Of course," Emma confirms, still watching me closely.  "Oscar's already
taking pride of place on my bed.  If you're lucky I may even introduce you
to him one day."

"Given that I can't stay here forever that day will have to be pretty soon I
reckon," I respond, meeting Emma's gaze and shrugging.  Okay.  Fine.  To
hell with lightening the moment then.  "You've made the right choice though,
Em, choosing to stay, to be a part of Mutant X.  They're good people and
their cause is definitely one worth fighting for."

"You sound as though you're preparing to wander off into the sunset," Emma
murmurs quietly.  "What's up, Bren?  Do you want to leave?  I'll admit it
all takes some getting used to but, as you just said, it's worth it."

Needing something to fiddle with, I lean forward and pick my book up, my
fingers listlessly caressing the dog eared pages.  "I can't just expect to
stay here," I reply matter-of-factly.  "Because Adam and Shalimar believe I
somehow helped Jesse they've probably felt obliged to help me in return.  As
you can see for yourself, I'm nearly fully healed and, really, should be
going.  I don't want to outstay my welcome."

Emma shakes her head.  "They want you here," she replies adamantly.  "If
they didn't you would have been taken to a safe-house and looked after
there.  If you wanted to leave then I can tell you now that no one would
stop you.  Search yourself though.  Is that what you want?  Do you want to
go back to the streets and just forget about all of this?  About Mutant X
and their fight against Eckhart and his GSA grunts?  About *Jesse*?  What
about Jess, huh?  Can you just leave him behind?"

"What's to say there's actually anything between us?" I query dully,
glancing down at my book.  "Jess has been so out of it that he probably
wouldn't have noticed if he'd been sharing a bed with Jack the freakin'
Ripper.  You can't say that just because he's been letting me near him that
he actually feels anything for me.  He's damaged and he's hurting.  That
said he'll heal and move on.  What if having me around is nothing more than
a constant reminder to him of what happened?  Have you thought about that?"

"No, I haven't thought about that," Emma sighs, stretching out her foot and
poking me in the thigh.  "And you wanna know why I haven't thought about
that?  Hell, even if you don't want to know I'm going to tell you anyway.
The reason I haven't tried to second guess the bond the pair of you share is
because I can *feel* it.  I even felt the initial flare at the Sky-Course.
Call it fate or whatever, you share *something*.  Okay though, if you want
we'll try it your way.  Let's for a moment accept your theory that Jess is
so off with the fairies that he wouldn't know who's been comforting him.
Okay?  That explains his behaviour.  What about yours though?  No one's been
forcing you to stay with him.  Everything you've ever done in relation to
Jesse has been entirely of your own volition.  Now, think about it and be
honest here, can you seriously tell me that you don't feel anything for him,
that you could just leave here without so much as a backwards glance?"

"I..."  Goddamn it.  Why is it that having to talk about things is always
harder than it is thinking about them?  And, yeah, in this case that in
itself is saying something.

Emma pokes me again with her foot, rolling her eyes when I glance at her.
"Okay.  Sorry.  I forgot that I have to compensate for the fact that you're
a male and as such at times incapable of rational thought," she smirks.
"Let's try it is this way then.  I ask a simple question and you try to give
me a simple answer, yeah?"

"If we *must*," I drawl, wishing like mad I was still alone, not-reading my
book.  "Go on then, ask away."

"Do you like it here?" Emma queries simply, her eyes watching me like a



I nod.  "Yeah, it's cool.  I'm even beginning to come to grips with the
whole hollowed out mountain and freaky plane deal."

"What about Adam and Shalimar?" she continues, moving straight on.  "Do you
like them too?"

"Yeah.  Of course.  They're both great."


"What about Jesse?" I murmur, knowing full well I'm being obtuse.

"Do you like him too?" Emma sighs, shaking her head in annoyance.  "Honestly
Bren, it's like pulling teeth."

"You're the one that started it," I mutter blithely.  "If I'm pissing you
off I'm more than happy to call it a day."

"Nice try," Emma replies, her foot once again pushing against my thigh.
"Not on your life though.  Everyone's done so much for me that I'm hoping
I'll be able to begin repaying them by helping you wake up to yourself.
Now, Jess...  Do you like him?"

"I don't really know him," I protest, dropping my book onto my lap and
rubbing my hands over my face.  "Yesterday was the first time we've
actually, you know, talked.  And even that wasn't exactly what you'd call a
getting to know you session."

"Fine.  I'll rephrase the question.  Despite knowing next to nothing about
Jesse, do you like him?"

"I..."  Giving up attempting to play pointless mind games, I turn to Emma
and smile wanly.  "Of course I like him," I murmur softly.  "What's not to
like, huh?  His strength, and I'm not talking the whole massing thing here
either, is incredible.  You didn't see him at the safe-house, Em.  He was
surrounded by agents, and Thorne was demanding that I fry him, but I could
just see that there was no way he was going to back down.  Although I knew
that Thorne would make me pay for disobeying him I also knew that I couldn't
hurt Jess.  Choosing my own pain over his was easy.  Didn't know him from --
and, ah, no pun intended here -- Adam but, I dunno, instinct or something
told me to protect him.  He's... ah... special, you know.  Going back to one
of your earlier questions, the reason I've been staying with him is because
I wanted to.  I wanted to be there if he needed me.  I also want him to be

"Is that all you want?" Emma murmurs gently, her expression thankfully not
*too* self-satisfied at having finally gotten me to spill.

"I want to be his friend," I confess wearily.  "And I want to know him.  I
also want to make sure he's able to put all of this behind him, that what
that asshole did doesn't ruin his life.  A week ago I didn't even know he
existed and now I feel as though my life would be incomplete without him.
It...  It scares me..."

"There's no need for it to," Emma smiles.  "Just take each day as it comes.
That's all any of us can do.  Me, I think the pair of you are meant to be,
one way or another, together.  Think Shalimar thinks so too and if it's
anyone's blessing you want it's hers.  Something in you is drawn to Jesse.
Just as he's drawn to you.  My advice is to simply go with the flow.  If
you're afraid of what you're feeling then go to Jess and work through it.
You can think and you can think and you can think some more and all you'll
be doing is wasting your time because you don't know what he's feeling.  I
know it's an unimaginative thing to say but, really, you've just got to
talk.  If it makes you feel any better I can tell you that Jess is even more
confused than you are.  The issues you're eating yourself up over are
nothing compared to his.  Think about it."

"And I thought Adam was the wisest one here," I murmur, reaching down and
giving Emma's foot a quick squeeze.

"When it comes to emotion I think I've got something of a head start over
Adam," Emma replies almost sadly.  "Now, scoot.  I came in here to recover
from the whole horrid packing deal before having to start *unpacking*, not
to give you a free lecture.  Go on!  And before you say anything, I don't
care that you were here first."

"Yes ma'am," I mock salute, placing my book on the coffee table and standing
up.  "Any other orders before I leave?"

"I don't think I need to tell you what to do now," Emma murmurs, stretching
out across the sofa and closing her eyes.  "All being well you know

"Mmm...  I think I do too," I murmur, heading towards the door.  "By the
way, Em...  Thanks.  Despite not wanting this conversation I have to say
that it's... that *you've* helped."

"My pleasure, Bren," Emma mumbles, stifling a yawn.  "Now go.  Lecture time
is over."

Leaving the living area, I, slowly and with much feet dragging and pausing
to admire fixtures, make my way towards Jess' room.  Given that I want to
talk to him just about as much as I *don't* want to talk to him, I feel as
though I'm being torn in two.  Everything Emma said makes sense though.  *I*
have to talk to him, *we* have to talk.  Yesterday was a good start but if
we're to have any chance of moving on we have to a have at least a clear
idea in respect to where we stand with each other.


And the sooner we talk the better.


Oh God.  I *so* don't want to be doing this.  Knowing that I already have
stronger feelings for Jess than I've had for any of my previous partners
doesn't help.  Not in the freakin' slightest.  What if I inadvertently hurt

Urgh.  What if he doesn't want me?

Reaching his room, I find the door closed and very nearly turn on my heels.
It's the first time I've seen the door to his room shut and hesitate over
what to do.  Perhaps Shalimar's in there with him.  Or Adam.  Maybe he just
wants to be alone.

Or maybe he's hurting and being left on his own is the last thing he needs.

And maybe I should rediscover what my balls are for, bite the fucking
bullet, and knock already.

"Jess?" I call out, gently tapping on the door.

"Go away."

He's awake then.  That's a start.  Not a particularly good one, I'll grant
you, but a start nonetheless.

"Can I come in?"

The fact that I'm going in regardless of his response isn't something he
really needs to know.  Hell, I'm here now and I ain't going *nowhere*
without talking to him.

"If you've seriously got nothing better to do with your time then, please,
be my guest," Jess calls back, his voice sounding spookily hollow.

Okay.  On second thoughts perhaps I was hasty in deciding that now would be
a good time for a little chat.  Still, can't back away now.  Having started
it I've got to see it through.

Taking a deep breath, I slowly push the door open and step into the room.
Jess isn't on the bed, where I expected him to be, and I find him sitting,
his shoulders slumped, on his desk, his back resting against the wall, his
legs crossed.  Time stands still as, frozen, we stare at each other.
Dressed in the white pyjamas he went to bed in, he looks far younger than
his twenty-four years, the faint shadow of stubble seeming out of place on
his pale face.  I hope that it's only the dim light coming from the lamp on
the bedside table that's making him look as though he's been crying.

"Don't tell me, let me guess," he mutters emotionlessly, "Shalimar told you
to get in here unless you wanted to learn first hand what your entrails
would look like out of your body."

"I haven't seen Shalimar," I reply, feeling like a flat-footed giant
standing in the middle of the room as he huddles, shrinking further and
further in on himself, on the desk.  "I'm here because I want to be, because
I want to see you," I add softly, backing over to the bed and sitting down
on it.

"Why?" Jess murmurs, watching me through downcast eyes.  "When I woke up
this morning and you weren't there I thought that you'd come to your senses
and written me off as bad joke.  God knows it's not like I could blame you.
It's okay Brennan.  I'm a bit of a wreck but I'm not going to slit my wrists
or swallow a couple packets of Tylenol.  Seriously.  You don't have to worry
about me.  I'm a big boy."

Oh yeah.  A big boy wearing white cotton pyjamas in a transparent attempt to
regain his lost innocence and who looks as though a gust of wind would blow
him over.  Once again I'm left regretting having let Thorne off so easily.

"If I want to worry about you then that's my business," I respond softly.
"And, believe me or not, I *do* want to be here.  The reason I left in the
first place was because I thought you might like some time on your own.  You
know, to think or whatever.  I'm sorry though, I should have told you before
just up and leaving.  If I'd known...  Christ, if I'd known you were
thinking I'd abandoned you I would have been back sooner.  Again, I'm

"Why?" Jess repeats plaintively.  "I don't get it.  Why concern yourself
with me?  You heard Thorne. I'm nothing, not worth the effort.  He even said
he was doing me a favour by f-fu..."  Unable to say it, he represses a
shudder and blinks luminous blue eyes at me, his pain palpable.

"Thorne was a psychopathic asshole," I reply bluntly, wanting to go over to
Jess but forcing myself to remain on the bed.  Right now giving every
impression of being make or break time, I don't want to make the wrong move.
"Everything that came out of his mouth was complete bullshit.  You're not
nothing, Jess, and I don't want you to ever think it.  If you don't believe
me I'll call Adam and Shalimar in here and they can tell you.  I may not
know you as well as they do but already I know that you're far from nothing.
You can't believe anything Thorne said to you.  I'm not saying it'll be
easy, but you just can't.  You can't let him hold any power of you."

"That's easy for you to say," Jess whispers, uncrossing his legs and,
pressing his bare feet tightly together, wrapping his arms around his knees.
"They actually had a purpose for you other than possible source of
information and lab-rat.  I...  I honestly thought I was going to die.
Thorne, h-he knew all the right buttons to push and, from the very moment I
met him, he succeeded in making me feel less than human.  I'm
claustrophobic, like *severely* so, and he somehow knew it.  When he wasn't
beating me and... ah... yeah... he kept me in a pod.  I thought I was going
out of my mind.  He even... one time... face down... in a pod...  I..."
Falling silent, Jess lowers his head and hugs his knees closer to his chest.
"I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I don't understand why you'd want
to waste your time on me," he finishes despondently.

"Because I don't feel as though I am wasting my time," I reply plainly,
uncurling my fingers that had unconsciously curled into my palm during Jess'
halting confession.  "I look at you, Jess, and I see someone incredibly
special, someone that I want to get to know.  Why?  To be honest with you I
don't truly know.  What I do know however is that every time I'm with you I
can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be.  I also know that I could never
willingly hurt you and that you're strong enough to get over this and to
move on with your life.  You're hurting now but it won't last, not when
you're surrounded by people that love and care for you.  We may not know
each other, not in the, shall we say, *normal* sense of the word, but you've
got to believe me when I say that I admire you and... and that I want to be
with you."

Looking up, Jess looks across at me, his expression heartbreakingly hopeful.
"You want to be with me?" he mumbles, sounding as though he's not quite
believing what he's hearing.

I nod.  "I do.  I may not look it but, be warned, I'm patient too.  I'll
wait for you, Jess.  Hell, just say the word and I'll be there.  That's...
ah...  well, that's if you want me to, of course.  No pressure, no
expectations.  If you want me I'll just be here."

Jess cocks his head to one side and peers at me out from under a lock of
fringe.  "I... I want," he murmurs hesitantly.  "When I saw you on the
Sky-Course I was attracted to you but I never thought, especially not after
this, that you'd be interested.  Hell, even before any of this I wasn't any
great catch."

"That, my friend, is a matter of opinion," I smile, standing up and walking
slowly over to him.  "Hey Jess," I continue lightly, smiling as he unfolds
himself and shuffles over, making room for me on the desk, "You believe in

"Fate?" he echoes, watching me as I seat myself next to him.  His eyes
widening, he nods, a soft smile breaking out across his face.  "You know, I
just might."  Pausing, he wriggles closer until our thighs are touching.
"What about you?"

"Oh yeah, a convert, definitely," I reply, draping my arm around his
shoulder, loving how he instinctively gives a sigh of relief and relaxes
against me. "And, let's face it, who are we to argue with fate?  You an' me
Jess, whatever it takes, we're gonna make it."  What's more I believe it
unconditionally too.  More talking and healing will need to be done, but
we'll get there.  This is only the beginning of what's going to be an
exceptionally long haul, one that I wouldn't miss for the world.

"When you put it like that," Jess smiles, surprising me by leaning across
and planting a soft, moist kiss on my cheek.  "Here's to a fate decreed


Looking up from my book, I watch Shalimar as, obviously on some sort of
mission, she bustles into the room, making a beeline for Jess.

"Hey," I murmur, smiling.  "What's up?

"Hey yourself," Shal cheerfully replies, presenting her back to me and
making a show of leaning over Jess as he sits doing whatever it is he's
doing on the computer.  "As for what's up?  Well, you'll find out soon
enough," she adds with a laugh before leaning closer to Jess and whispering
something in his ear.  Although I try to catch what's being said I can't
make any of it out and, with a resigned shrug, return to the adventures of
the 'Fellowship'.

Well, *try* to return that is.  I swear I've never read this slow in my
life.  Although I started reading it three days ago, Frodo *still* hasn't
left the damn Shire.  At the rate I'm going I'll be well into middle age
before the Ring reaches Mount Doom.  Every time I sit down to read someone
either comes along and distracts me or my mind simply wanders and I lose all
interest in the written word.  Not, I hasten to add, that I'm complaining,
Hell, far from in fact.  Unlike my own life, I *know* what happens to Frodo
and friends.  And as interesting as their adventures are I have to say I'm
just kind of a bit more fascinated by my own at the moment.

My attempt at reading failing yet again, I peer surreptitiously over the top
of the book and watch with mounting curiosity as Jess pushes the chair back
and stands up, a huge smile on his face.  Catching me looking at him, his
smile broadens.  I can't help but smile back.  He looks so delighted that
it's almost as though his happiness is infectious.  Shalimar too is grinning
and I realise with a start that it's the happiest I've seen either of them.

"Gonna let me in on the joke then?" I query hopefully, closing the book and
dropping it on the sofa.  "You're making me feel all left out and unloved
I'll have you know."

"Aaaaw...  Poor Brennan," Shalimar laughs, her eyes twinkling with good
humour.  "We can't have him feeling all unloved now, can we Jess?"

"Good heavens no," Jess retorts with patently mock seriousness.  "You know,
perhaps we ought to do something about it, yeah?"

Shalimar nods, bouncing up and down as though she can't stand still.
"Perhaps we should," she replies, winking at Jess.  "Now work for you?"

"I think I can fit it into my hectic schedule of mooching," Jess responds,
laughing at the blank expression of confusion I just *know* is plastered all
over my place.  "Come on you," he continues, walking over to the sofa and
extending his hand.  "We've got a surprise that we're hoping you'll like."

Taking his hand, I allow him to help me up, my gaze darting from Jess to
Shal and back again.  "Am I going to get any hints?" I murmur cautiously.

"None whatsoever," Shalimar grins, bounding out of the room.  "Now, come on.
We don't want to keep Adam waiting."

Adam's in on the secret too?  Great.  Wonder if Emma is too and it's just me
who's being kept in the dark.

"You'll like it, I promise," Jess whispers, giving my hand a squeeze before
letting it go and following Shal out of the room.  Suppressing a sigh, I
trail after him, not quite knowing whether I should be nervous of not.  God
knows I have no idea what's going on or what to expect.  There you have it
though.  So much for thinking I was just getting a hang of things around

I watch Jess' back -- yes, *back*, not butt -- as I follow him along the
corridor, relieved that he's moving freely, that he's well on the road to
recovery.  Thanks to the wondrous things in Adam's lab he's even looking
better too.  The bruising on his face is fully healed and he looks just as
he did the first time I laid eyes on him at the Sky-Course.  Needless to say
it's a look that suits him, one that I hope to see a lot more of.

Two days have passed since our heart-to-heart in the bedroom and I can now
say with complete honesty and without hesitation that I know Jess pretty
well.  Just about you name it and we've talked about it.  Childhood, likes,
dislikes, hell, even our favourite television programs.  Nothing too deep or
prying but more than enough to prove we're capable of having comfortable,
free roaming conversations.  The fact we have little in common doesn't
matter.  We have enough to know that we're happy together.  I look at Jess
and I see someone that I never want to be apart from.

Rounding the corner, I see that Adam and Emma are waiting for us near the
steps of the Dojo and swallow nervously.  I don't know why I'm worried but I
just am.  Adam smiles at me but it does nothing to make me feel more
positive about things.  Joining Emma, I smile wanly at her as Jess and Shal
move around to stand either side of Adam.

"Emma," Adam starts as, out of nowhere, Shal seems to hand Jess something
behind Adam's back, "When I started this journey I always knew I needed
someone like you, someone with the gift of inner vision and the strength of
character to bear the weight of such powerful a gift.  In time you'll come
to see yourself as I see you but for now you'll just have to take my word
for it.  You're an answered prayer."

Emma, not exactly surprisingly, blushes at this.

"And, Brennan," Adam continues, turning to me, "I never wanted to work with
someone like you, someone who would squander his incredible gift on petty
crime, an outlaw's live for the moment mentality..."

Oh-oh.  Here it comes.  It's been great having you here but you can go now.
Don't worry about Jess, I'll just have Emma here, the great white hope, wipe
his memory and he'll forget that you even exist.

Why the fuck everyone's still smiling escapes me.

Oh.  Hang on.  Adam's still talking.

"... Until I realised that I'd chosen the path of the outlaw for myself.
And who better than a fellow outlaw to show me the way?"

Uh-huh.  This is getting surreal.  So...  He's not kicking me out then?
Hang on.  Still talking.

"You've both seen what we're up against and the odds are against us but,
Emma, I'm hoping this is a chance for you to fulfil the potential that you
know is inside you and you've never able to quite reach.  And, Brennan, for
you it's an opportunity to put the past behind you and to join with us all
in helping create a new future."

Is he saying what I *think* he's saying?

Going by the way Jess' eyes are locked on mine I'd say, yeah, it is.  Looks
like -- oh my God!  They want me to join them? -- I wasted my energy on
worrying then.

Moving forward, Shalimar reverently hands Emma a silver case.  Looking close
to tears, Emma takes it, flipping it open.  Inside is a silver ring
identical in style to the one both Shal and Jess are wearing.  A quick
glance confirms that Adam too is wearing one.

"Thank you," Emma whispers as she and Shal hug.  Once they separate, Jess
steps towards me, a silver case in his hands,.  Flicking the lid, he
presents me with a silver ring that I slowly take from the case.  Words
can't even begin to come close to describing how I feel about receiving it,
about being invited to be a part of Mutant X.  All of this *and* Jess?  Wow.
Whoever would have thought having a run in with the GSA could have turned
out so well.

"What, no hug?" Jess murmurs softly, his voice slicing through my reverie
and bringing me quickly back to reality.

"You have to ask?" I reply lightly as I close the distance that separates
us, my arms instinctively reaching for him.  Our bodies pressed tight, we
embrace, the future -- GSA and all -- suddenly looking brighter than ever.
When Shalimar and Emma press in close, we separate and form a four way hug,
all of us laughing and smiling.  I think I now know what it means to truly

"Welcome to Mutant X," Adam intones from somewhere just outside the circle,
making no attempt to join us.  "God help anyone who stands in our way."

Looking at Jess and knowing how'd I'd feel if he was ever threatened or in
pain, I can't help but agree wholeheartedly with Adam's sentiment.  With a
team like this though, one that I already feel that I've been a part of
forever, I don't really think the issue of success is going to be much of a

 To put it another way, given that we've survived the hellish start I reckon
we can just about survive anything.

So long as we're together, so long as I'm by Jess' side, we'll be
unstoppable.  As Adam said, God help anyone who stands in our way.

= End =