Fandom: Mutant X
Author: Beren (beren_writes)
Pairing: Shalimar/Brennan, Shalimar/Jesse/Brennan
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned Marvel Studios, Tribune Entertainment and Fireworks Entertainment. No money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.
Warnings/Spoilers: explicit sexual situation, assumes season 3 did not happen
Summary: The team think Jesse is dead; killed by a fatal shot to the back, only there are things going on they could not possibly have predicted. Jesse isn't dead, but is he really Jesse any more?
Author's Notes: Thanks to Soph for the beta. This fic has been languishing on my hard drive for years, requiring three scenes to finish it, well I finally wrote them :).
Word Count: ~42,360
Links: Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5 | Ch6 | Ch7 | Ch8
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Chapter 6 Nothing But the Truth
Jesse wandered into the lab and hopped up onto the examination couch; he was very much used to the routine these days. The daily checkups were more a habit now than an annoyance, but he was hoping that sooner or later they would be cut down again. Adam had assured him that the scans were more for just making sure that everything was okay rather than significant treatment so Jesse was hopeful that things would go back to normal soon.
"Morning, Jesse," Adam said calmly, turning from where he has been examining a work station, "ready for your scan."
"As always, Adam," he replied brightly.
Jesse was in a good mood and he had decided to just ride the high; it made a change these days.
"Okay, you know the drill," the older man instructed calmly, "this will only take a few seconds."
Jesse lay back and closed his eyes, feeling the beam as it riffled through his DNA. It was a pleasant, kind of tingly sensation and he rather enjoyed it. When it ended, he just lay there letting the feeling fade.
"Jesse," Adam sounded intrigued and it broke Jesse out of his reverie, "what exactly were you doing with Shalimar yesterday?"
Jesse sat up and turned around trying not to look embarrassed.
"Why?" he hedged quickly.
"Because your feral DNA has evolved and your hormone levels are almost off the scale," Adam replied evenly and looked Jesse straight in the eye.
Jesse felt his face colour and he really wasn't sure what to say; it wasn't as if he could just explain.
"Jesse," Adam said patiently and walked away from the screen, "Emma told me that you had a reaction to Shalimar and Brennan yesterday, does this have something to do with that?"
He opened his mouth to say something, but no words came to mind and his face was burning. This had not been a scenario that Jesse had even considered; that his activities would have an effect on his genetic structure had not exactly occurred to him although, thinking about it now, he knew he should have realised.
"If I don't know what is affecting you I can't be sure I'm helping you, Jesse," Adam said calmly. "Were you working on your feral side with Shalimar?"
"You could say that," Jesse said before his brain caught up with his mouth.
Adam gave him a long hard look and he realised that he was going to have to talk fast to get out of this.
"Jesse," the scientist said firmly, "what were you doing with Shalimar yesterday afternoon? I need to know."
Jesse found his eyes slipping to the door, but he knew there was no way out. He desperately tried to find someway of explaining, but he was out of options.
"Sex," he finally said as if the word was forced out of him.
For a moment Adam just looked at him as if he hadn't heard what Jesse said, but eventually the older man moved.
"You and Shalimar," the scientist said slowly and let the sentence hang.
Jesse took a deep breath and decided that he might as well go the whole hog.
"And Brennan," he said as quickly as he could manage and still get the words out.
He did not try and meet his mentor's eyes. There was silence for a good few seconds.
"Well this is something I had not expected," Adam said calmly, "but your sex lives are your own business. I assume you were exercising your feral instincts."
There was no condemnation in Adam's voice, in fact nothing judgemental at all and Jesse decided that he really should look at his companion. When he did his mentor appeared vaguely surprised, but that was all.
"Yes," Jesse said very carefully looking for any sign that Adam might be changing his mind as he spoke. When the man continued to look at him in a perfectly normal manner, Jesse continued. "It started in the rec area; I reacted badly to Shalimar and Brennan. Shal came after me and we had a little talk that turned into more than talking. Then Brennan came looking for Shalimar and we ... um ..."
"Seduced," Adam offered helpfully.
"Yeah," the younger man admitted slowly, "we seduced him."
"Well at least that explains the scratches on your back," Adam said in what sounded like a relieved tone, "I was afraid you and Shalimar had been fighting."
Jesse glanced futilely at his back trying to see the scratches Adam was referring to; he hadn't known there were any. It all suddenly made sense and Jesse realised how it must have looked to the older man. That Adam had been worried about him and seemed to be relieved rather than outraged by the solution Jesse, Shalimar and Brennan had found struck him as somewhat funny. Jesse was embarrassed as hell, but at least Adam seemed to be taking things calmly.
"Well having seen the three of you yesterday evening I can't say your activities have had a detrimental effect on the team," Adam said evenly, walking back to the computer, "but just be careful. Shalimar knows how to handle her feral instincts, you don't."
Jesse nodded; he was fully aware just how out of control he had been the previous day. It had occurred to him several times that the afternoon's activities could have been disastrous and was thanking every deity he could think of that it had worked out well.
"So are we finished?" he asked lightly.
"We're finished," Adam acknowledged with a smile.
Jesse slipped off the couch and made his escape, trying to figure out how he was going to explain this one to Shalimar and Brennan.
Adam was staring at a readout when Emma walked into the lab just after lunch. She was beginning to think this was becoming a habit with Adam. She wandered over and glanced at the screen; it was not difficult to recognise Jesse's DNA profile; after all it was very unusual.
"Anything the matter?" Emma asked calmly, fully aware that there was something that was bothering Adam, although not to a hugely worrying extent.
"I've been re-examining the scans I did of Jesse this morning," Adam offered slowly and turned to look at her. "I thought they were a little unusual, or rather, even more unusual than I have come to expect, so I asked Shalimar to come in for her regular scan early."
"What did you find?" Emma asked as her companion paused.
Adam looked very thoughtful.
"I don't believe that Jesse's encounter with the other two was entirely accidental," the man replied evenly, "I believe he may have been following a genetic imperative."
Emma was not sure she was following her companion's reasoning; it must have shown on her face because Adam went on to explain.
"I could not work out why Praeteise included feline feral in Jesse's genetic profile," he said calmly. "All the other elements have a part to play in the gestalt, but the feline is unnecessary and actually alien to the thermal elemental, until you look at motivation. How do you get a thinking, feeling, living bomb to actively commit suicide?"
"Mind control, sub dermal governor?" Emma offered still not quite understanding the reasoning.
"Dangerous if you cannot guarantee the mind control will hold and a governor can only force an individual so far," Adam pointed out and walked towards another part of the lab.
"Brainwashing," was her next suggestion.
She followed her companion to the other display.
"In an indirect way, yes," Adam returned and typed in something at the keyboard to bring up another readout. "Feline ferals are very loyal, they adhere to the pack structure, and they are also the most emotive of the ferals. Jesse was given feline feral DNA to gain his cooperation by making him loyal to his new pack. And what better way to do that than giving him an imperative to bond with an individual in that pack in the most intimate way."
"But Jesse escaped," Emma continued the logic, "and instead of bonding with someone in Praeteise's group Jesse chose Brennan."
"And inadvertently Shalimar as well," Adam finished.
Emma frowned slightly as the implications of conversation sunk in.
"So is Jesse permanently bonded to Brennan and Shalimar?" she asked eventually.
"That was why I asked Shalimar to come in for a scan," Adam explained quickly, "I wanted to find out if there was any effect on her from the experience. Feral's are loyal, but Jesse's feral DNA is not dominant so I suspected there would have to be something else as well. Look at this."
He pointed to the display readings; Emma saw what he was getting at immediately.
"Jesse's DNA is in Shalimar's bloodstream," she said with growing concern.
"And both Shalimar's and Brennan's are in Jesse's," Adam told her evenly. "I haven't scanned Brennan, but I'm almost sure that I will find Jesse's DNA in his bloodstream as well. The effect is not permanent; between the two scans I took of Shalimar the levels dropped, but every time they have sex they will reaffirm the bond."
"Even with unprotected sex this shouldn't happen like that," Emma said as she tried to understand, "and definitely not so quickly."
Adam nodded; this was not like a virus or a straightforward contamination and they both knew it.
"Jesse did it," Adam said calmly. "He probably has no idea exactly how or when he did it, but his phasing power is the only way it could have happened."
Emma looked at Adam and now she knew why he had been concerned.
"He's going to freak," she said shortly.
"Unfortunately I think you may be right," Adam replied with a nod. "On the good side I believe this process is designed to mostly effect Jessie and his unique genetic structure rather than his choice of bond mate, so we should be able to avoid any guilt from that angle, but I do not think this is going to please him."
That had to be the understatement of the century. Emma was in the unique position that she knew a lot of what was going on in Jesse's head and he was a lot more stressed by the whole situation than he was letting anyone else know. Too many things had happened to him in too short a time. She knew that her friend was coping with the changes in his body, but just barely, and this was not something he needed on top of that.
"Don't tell him," she said very firmly.
Adam looked at her in a rather surprised manner. It was not in the scientist's nature to hold things back from his patients when it came to their mutant abilities.
"I don't mean not ever," Emma clarified quickly, "but Jesse's closer to the edge than you know. Wait until he's more settled."
"But this effects Shalimar and Brennan as well, Emma," Adam pointed out.
"Then tell them," she insisted evenly, "but talk about it before anyone tells Jesse."
Adam glanced back at the screen thoughtfully and Emma could feel the conflict within him as the man's open nature fought with logical reasoning. Then he reached out and flicked off the display, nodding slowly as he did so.
"You're right," he said slowly. "I'll talk to Shalimar and Brennan later today; you'll have to keep Jesse occupied."
That Emma had no problem with at all.
Brennan had been out most of the day dealing with an incident involving an out of control invisible molecular and was surprised when Adam asked him to come in for a scan as soon as he returned. It never occurred to him it was anything to do with what he, Jesse and Shalimar had been up to the pervious day. Not having spoken to either of the other two since breakfast he had no idea Adam even knew what they'd been up to, which was why it was such a shock when Mutant X's leader mentioned it.
"What?" Brennan asked rapidly as he climbed off the scanner.
"I said, you, Shalimar and I need to have a talk about your relationship with Jesse," Adam said calmly.
"You know?" Brennan did not know quite how to react.
The other man just looked at him evenly and smiled.
"Yes," Adam replied openly, "you activities had a distinct effect on Jesse's feral mutation and he told me this morning. I've already given Shalimar several scans today and there's something we need to talk about. She should be here in a few minutes."
Brennan was not sure how to feel. Part of him wanted to be embarrassed, after all you didn't usually discus your sex life with a man who was technically your boss; then there was the part of him that was a little angry that someone else was sticking their nose into what was only the business of himself, Shalimar and Jesse; and finally there was the part of him that was slightly worried that Adam felt it necessary to do any of this. He was about to launch into a thousand questions when Shalimar walked in.
"Ah, there you are Shalimar," Adam greeted with a warm smile, "thank you for coming."
"What's up, Adam," Shalimar asked evenly, "and why is Emma keeping Jesse occupied; shouldn't he be here?"
"That's something you two have to decide," the scientist replied calmly.
Adam didn't appear to be particularly worried, but the way he was talking was making Brennan nervous. The fact that Jesse was deliberately being kept out of this did not sit right with him.
"What have you found?" he asked directly.
"This," Adam replied and flicked on the big screen.
Brennan had seen plenty of genetic scans before; it came with the territory around Sanctuary, but he did not really know what was on the screen.
"You're looking at Jesse's DNA," Adam explained before the elemental had to ask for clarification. "I found it in both of your blood streams in quantities that could not be explained by any normal method of transmission."
Well that was a revelation, but Brennan was still not sure what was going on.
"And," prompted Shalimar.
"Jesse put it there to bond himself to you both," the scientist continued, "as he also took your DNA and added it to his bloodstream. I am in no doubt that he has no idea this took place."
Brennan was even more confused.
"But why?" he asked reasonably. "I don't get it."
"Jesse was created for a task," Adam said slowly, "a very specific task with very specific parameters, but also a task that no sane individual would follow through with."
"Suicide and homicide all rolled into one," Brennan knew what the scientist was getting at; Jesse's engineering was no secret to the team.
"As with the rest of Jesse's genetic structure part of it was designed specifically to make sure he would follow through," Adam explained evenly. "He was given a genetic imperative to bond with his new pack and specifically bond intimately with someone within that pack."
"Are you trying to say that yesterday Jesse was just acting out some form of pre-programming?" Brennan didn't like where this was going.
Adam shook his head slightly.
"Technically when we seek out a partner we are all acting out pre-programming," the scientist said reasonably, "Jesse's is just a little more specific. As far as he's concerned he reacted in a perfectly natural manner. His feline feral is designed to make him loyal and then follow through with the genetic exchange. Some reptilian species are very sensitive to genetics and the fact that his DNA is in you and yours is in him will back up the feline instincts. Your bloodstreams are reacting normally to the foreign content and cleaning it away, but it is logical to assume every time you engage in sex the exchange will occur again."
This was quite a big concept to grasp and it was taking Brennan some time to get his head around it. It wasn't as if he had really completely come to terms with the fact that he was in a relationship with two other people; that the relationship had ulterior motives was not helping.
"So Jesse is bonded to us at a fundamental level?" Shalimar asked as Brennan tried to sort out everything in his head.
"From his point of view, yes," Adam replied with a nod. "I have made significant changes to his mutations which have lessened the effect to a certain extent, but it is still there. From analysing the first scans I took, I believe that the instincts he's been following would have been compulsions had I not interfered, but he is bonded to you nevertheless and to a certain extent you to him. I doubt it will make any difference to you Shalimar; your instinctive loyalty will most likely out weigh any effect the DNA swapping will have. Brennan, on the other hand, you may find that the bonding affects your hormonal levels slightly. You may not even notice, but it is a possibility."
Brennan shared a look with Shalimar for a moment; this was all a little too much for him. Shalimar placed her hand on his shoulder in a supportive manner; she seemed to be taking this much better than he was. Of course Shalimar was ruled by instincts that Brennan could not begin to totally understand anyway, which gave her a whole different worldview.
"Jesse's not here because you know he won't like this," Shalimar was not asking a question she was making a statement.
Brennan had been so wrapped up in his own reaction that it was only as Shalimar pointed this out that he tried to look at the situation from more than his own perspective. It gave him something else to think about and brought the whole thing into proportion for him. So he was bonded to Jesse at a deeper level than he had expected, but it wasn't as if he hadn't known that the previous afternoon was not just a fling. Shaking his head he pulled his scattered thoughts together and decided to stop worrying about it all.
"He must not know," Brennan decided resolutely, "he's in no state of mind to deal with it properly. It'll be like pulling the rug out from under him and Jesse will blame himself for forcing us into this; which, for the record, he didn't."
Shalimar nodded her head firmly.
"I agree," she backed up Brennan. "Right now he needs this like he needs a hole in the head. But you knew that anyway didn't you Adam?"
"Emma was of the same opinion as you two when I showed her my analysis this afternoon," Adam admitted calmly, "and she convinced me of her point of view. I don't normally advocate withholding information, but in this instance I believe that we should at least wait."
It occurred to Brennan that his whole outlook on life had taken a major side road in the last day and a half, but, as Shalimar decided to perch next to him on the couch and drape her arm over his shoulders, he was not of a mind to resent it. This was strange, but then his whole life was strange; how many people could say that they could throw lightening bolts from their hands.
"Then we go on as normal," he said evenly, "and take it as it comes."
"I'll be keeping an eye on you," Adam replied in a very fatherly manner, "but I don't foresee any side effects other than the obvious."
It took almost another week and a lot of digging, but eventually things began to make sense and the information Mutant X needed started to form a pattern. The computer watchdogs began to show up interesting anomalies and an old report of a sighting of Maria Montoban gave them a lead. Piecing together vague references and rumours along with shipping records and supplies that appeared to go nowhere, they tracked down what had to be the headquarters of the group who had taken Jesse.
Once they had identified the facility, Adam's long reach and high up contacts soon came back with plans of the place. The blue prints were not new and there was information that the facility had been refurbished recently, but it was enough information to make a reasonable facsimile. Mutant X had been running holographic scenarios for two days before Adam decided they were ready.
Jesse placed his hands on the metal grill over the air duct and, taking a deep breath, phased it into intangibility. The other three climbed past him into the building and Jesse followed quickly. Brennan had already fried the alarm on the ducting and they moved quickly without fear of immediate discovery. There was a short piece of ducting they all had to crawl along and Jesse was just behind Emma. He watched his friend move over the way down and gently lower herself into the hole, before giving her a couple of seconds and following. He dropped out quietly into a dimly lit corridor where the other three were already standing.
"Okay," Brennan said in little more than a whisper, "Everyone know what they're supposed to do?"
Jesse nodded as did Emma and Shalimar. From their intel they knew that most of the new mutants in the facility were there against their will, but that Praeteise was using something similar to a sub-dermal governor on them all. One of their big problems is they didn't really know what the collars did. That was Emma and Jesse's part of the operation; to find the prisoners, ascertain what the collars did and decide how to proceed from there. If they could they would rescue the others and be done with it.
Meanwhile Shalimar and Brennan were on a sabotage mission. It was their job to destroy Praeteise's work and make sure the man couldn't continue what he was doing, at least for now. Shutting down the whole program was unlikely to work, not with the short notice they were working with, but they hoped to destroy it for now. Even black ops needed funding and with luck further work would turn out to be prohibitively expensive if they did the job properly.
Shalimar put her hand out and Jesse reached out without thinking to lay his hand over hers. Brennan did the same and Emma placed her fingers delicately on top of all of them.
"Stay safe," was all Shalimar said.
"Always," Jesse replied.
He knew there was a good chance Shalimar and Brennan would run into Praeteise, it was one of the reasons he was on the other part of the mission and he had to sit on his fear for them. The doctor had become a figure of nightmare for him and, even in the light of day, he could not think rationally about the man. He prayed this would go as simply as most of their simulations; if something happened to any of his friends he had no idea what he would do.
What looked like barracks was to the left and the control room was right so, with a quick nod, Jesse turned, ready to head off to his and Emma's target. He didn't want to give himself time for the fear to take hold. He was stopped by a hand grabbing his arm and then he was turned and Shalimar planted a furious kiss right on his lips.
"See you soon," she said and then she was off in the other direction, dragging Brennan with her.
For a moment Jesse just stood there and then he turned to Emma.
"Come on," he said and headed towards the stairs he knew would take them down a level.
The door slid back and Jesse slipped through followed by Emma. Jesse was watching out behind them and it was only as Emma tapped him on the shoulder that he actually looked into the room. It was a bunkroom and there were now five startled appearing people staring at them from where they were sitting or lying on the regulation looking beds. Each one wore a collar around there necks. Jesse's eyes fixed on one woman and his mind's eye filled with a memory.
"I'm sorry," the woman said quietly bending over Jesse and pushing the hair off of his face, "I don't mean to cause you pain. I have no choice; if I don't do as they say I will end up just like you."
With a blink Jesse snapped back to reality and he knew who he was looking at. She barely resembled the picture from the computer that they had been using to search for her; the slightly plump, smiling face from the photograph had been replaced by a thin, dejected visage of a woman who had lost hope.
"Maria?" Jesse asked quietly.
"Delta?" the woman sounded less sure of her recognition than Jesse was of his.
"It's Jesse actually," Emma provided the information as Jesse and Maria just stared at each other, "and I'm Emma, we're here to get you out."
The woman looked dubious, but two of the other people in the room stood up at the news.
"You haven't neutralised the restraining collars," she said pointedly. "If we leave this room every alarm in the building will go off and then at least one of us will be dead."
"We're working on it," Jesse said pointedly, shaking himself out of the slight disassociation he was feeling.
It was difficult to know whether to feel sympathy for the woman or to be angry with her, after all she had caused him a great deal of agony.
"How do they work?" Emma asked evenly as Jesse tried not to glare at Maria.
"There's a central computer in the main lab," the other mutant provided as if it meant nothing to her, "it controls the collars. Dr Praeteise has a remote he can use to set off certain functions."
"What are the effects and can you resist them?" Emma continued to question the woman as Jesse glanced around the other faces in the room.
There was a degree of hopelessness in each expression and Jesse felt a sudden responsibility to these people he did not know.
"Stun or kill work instantly," Maria said as if she was so used to providing answers on demand that she just did it, "the other effects are more subtle. He's connected to our nervous systems; he can make us see and hear things. We don't know what's real to resist."
Jesse did not like the tone in her voice; it was as if she had no way out and would not even try to find one. He found that he wanted to know what could cause that.
"How long have you been here?" he asked quietly.
"Nearly a year," Maria told him openly. "The government came to my house and told me I could help the one man who helped me survive puberty, so I came."
"What happened?" Jesse could not stop himself asking.
"He was half dead," the woman continued evenly. "Genomex had placed him in stasis after the incident; it hadn't been an accident if you know what I mean; something to do with his morals getting in the way of Genomex. The people running this operation had taken him out of stasis and rebuilt some of his equipment; they used me to bring him back from the edge. Only I didn't bring back the man I knew, I brought back a monster: he's insane. The next thing I know I'm in one of these things," she indicated the collar, "and I'm part of a brave new weapons program."
"How many before me?" Jesse asked as the question was drawn from him.
"He started with a feral," Maria said looking him straight in the eye, "then an elemental, then another molecular and then you. We've been working our way through the Greek alphabet. The others all died."
Her words caused the smouldering anger that Jesse was carrying around with him to flare up and he felt his feral leap to the surface. He looked away from Maria blinking away the golden eyes he knew would be showing; now was not the time or place to loose his temper. Three other lives wiped out and all because the government wanted a weapon; it was hideous.
"We're going to stop this," Jesse said evenly and looked to Emma. "Ready?"
Emma nodded and Jesse went through the blueprint of the complex in his head.
"Is the main lab one floor down three doors after the stairwell?" he asked Maria pointedly.
The woman just nodded; she seemed surprised by his attitude.
"We'll be back," Emma said and Jesse turned to the door.
With a sign from his companion, Jesse opened the door and peered into the corridor. It was time to show the government that messing with new mutants was a very bad idea.
End of Chapter 6
On to part 7