Title: Collateral Damage

Fandom: Mutant X

Author: Piper

E-mail: hyperpiper_019@hotmail.com

Rating: PG

Category: drama, angst, hurt-comfort

Summary: An old "friend" of Adam's needs his help. To get it, she's going to go through someone he cares about.

Spoilers: small ones for "Sign from Above" and "Fool for Love"

Disclaimer: The characters and situations of Mutant X do not belong to me. This is for entertainment only; I make no money from this story. Please don't sue!

Author's Note: I know the plot of "a woman from Adam's past" has been done more than once, by fans in fiction and by the show itself. But they've built Adam's life such that there is plenty of room for past enemies, so I decided to add one more to the mix. This is really an ensemble fic, but there is definite focus on Jesse. (What can I say, I have my favorites!) This isn't meant to be slash or romance, just friendship. Enjoy!

Prologue

~*~

Brennan Mulwray plastered a smile on his face and nodded a goodbye to the brunette as she fished a few dollars for the drink from her purse and turned to go. Once she was out of sight, he dropped the façade and sighed.

He was not having a good night. It had taken him two hours and five girls to find this one, who he'd enjoyed talking to and had actually seemed interested in him. But she'd been sitting with him no more than ten minutes when her pager had gone off—a babysitter calling to let her know her son was sick. Needless to say, she'd gone running. And now here he sat, alone. Again.

With another sigh he turned his gaze to the bar. Jesse had the blond on the barstool beside him laughing as he told some story. Brennan would never admit it, but he was a little envious. The same woman had been with Jesse most of the night. She was beautiful and seemed to have a genuine interest in his friend.

Brennan glanced at his watch, then reached for the money on the table and went to pay the tab. He doubted Jesse was ready to leave, but hey, he could get her phone number. Brennan didn't relish the idea of sitting alone and playing chaperone until dawn.

After paying he approached the couple. Jesse was so involved in their conversation that it was actually the girl who noticed him first. Jesse noticed that he'd lost her attention and finally glanced up. "Oh, hey Brennan," he said with a smile, then hastened to make introductions. "This is Fiona. Fiona, this is my friend, Brennan."

She gave him a sweet smile and offered her hand. "Hi Brennan. Nice to meet you."

He shook her hand gently. "You too."

She glanced between them, then stood. "I'll let you two boys talk."

Jesse quickly gripped her wrist gently, looking slightly panicked. "Whoa, you're leaving?"

She laughed softly. "I'm just going to the ladies' room." With that she leaned in, planting a kiss on his lips with enough intensity that Brennan stared for a moment before glancing away, coughing slightly to cover his smile.

Fiona pulled back. "Don't go away," she instructed before turning to walk into the thinning crowd.

Jesse stared after her, slightly dazed. Brennan cleared his throat and took her seat, no longer hiding the knowing smile he sent his friend. "Having a good night, brother?"

"Yeah, yeah…unbelievably good," Jesse responded absently. After a moment he looked to Brennan. "This is real, right? I didn't dream her up?"

Brennan laughed. "She looked pretty real to me."

"She seems to she like me, right? I mean, she's sweet and smart and…"

"…sexy?" Brennan supplied.

Jesse grinned. "Definitely sexy. But it's more than that. She seems different from most of the girls I've met lately. It's been a long time since I've met anyone I thought I could have a real relationship with."

"Whoa, slow down there," Brennan cautioned, slightly amused at the dreamy look in his friend's eyes. "You just met the girl, Jess."

"I know, I know, but…"

"Look, it's getting late. Why don't we call it a night? You get her number, call her tomorrow, maybe spend some more time with her before you decide to elope, all right?"

Jesse looked at him in disbelief. "You're kidding, right? You want me to leave now?"

Brennan sighed. "You want some advice? She seems to genuinely like you. Don't rush it."

"Thanks, but no, I don't really want advice. I'm gonna stay a while longer. Don't worry about me; you go ahead."

"We have one car, Jess."

Jesse shrugged, not seeing a problem. He glanced at his watch. "You know Shal's probably heading home about now. She could swing by and give you a ride."

That was a perfectly logical solution. But Brennan stubbornly shook his head. "No, if you want to stay I'll stay with you."

Jesse gave him an exasperated look. "Brennan, drop the big brother thing for one night, will you? I don't need a babysitter."

Brennan sighed, then wondered why he was resisting this so much. For some reason, leaving Jesse alone suddenly just seemed like a bad idea. They stared at each other for a few minutes, Jesse's eyes defiant and Brennan's unrelenting.

Eventually, Brennan realized they looked like they were playing out some twisted father-son conflict. He convinced himself to back down. After all, he wasn't Jesse's keeper. He'd leave that job to Adam.

"All right," he capitulated. As he moved away to call Shalimar, he caught Jesse's grin—the one he reserved for times when he'd just won a round. Brennan rolled his eyes.

When he went back to the bar, Fiona had returned. She and Jesse were looking at each other with goofy smiles on their faces. Brennan couldn't help but smile himself as he cleared his throat, announcing his presence. "I'm gonna head out. I've got another friend coming to pick me up. It was good to meet you Fiona."

"You too," she responded.

He turned to Jesse. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do," he instructed.

Jesse looked to Fiona. "Don't worry. I don't think there's anything he hasn't done."

She giggled. Brennan cuffed him lightly on the head, eliciting a small "ouch" before he told the couple good night and headed for the door.

Once out in the cool night air he headed to a nearby retaining wall to sit down and wait for Shalimar. But he found himself walking slowly and glancing back at the club. The uneasy feeling he'd had a few minutes earlier was creeping back. It was like some instinct was telling him not to leave Jesse alone.

He settled on the wall, shaking his head and telling himself to stop it. Jesse was a big boy. He could certainly take care of himself with a girl. He'd be fine.

When the motorcycle pulled up a few minutes later he pushed himself off the wall and went to meet it. Shalimar pulled off her helmet, tossing long blond hair. "Hey stranger," she said with a smile. "Did you strike out tonight?"

"Hey I had plenty of prospects," he said indignantly. "I was just holding out for someone special."

"Yeah, sure you were," she responded, eyes sparkling with humor. "Jess had more luck, huh?"

He grunted and rolled his eyes.

She took that as an affirmative, laughing softly. After a pause she added more seriously, "Somebody serious?"

Brennan shrugged. "Jess seems to think so. She was nice enough."

Shalimar nodded slowly. "That's good. After Amanda, I wondered how long it would be before he was ready to let someone get close again," she said softly. "I hope he doesn't get hurt this time."

Brennan had wondered the same thing as Jesse grieved his dead girlfriend. He'd watched the younger man refuse to get close to any of the girls he'd met recently. He considered what Shalimar had said about Jesse getting hurt. "Maybe that's all it is," he said absently.

"What?"

He tried to explain. "You ever get this feeling…like a need to keep an eye on somebody? Like something bad is going to happen if you don't?"

"Like protective feelings for the people you care about? You're talking to a feral, Brennan. It comes with the territory," she said with a smile. After a pause she added, "You worried about Jess?"

He nodded hesitantly. "Yeah. I couldn't really explain it."

"Well, I think it comes with your territory, too." At his questioning look she continued, "You've been in the leadership position more lately. I'd be concerned if you weren't a little protective of the rest of us. You know you have a tendency to be overprotective sometimes."

"I do not," he protested. She raised her eyebrows. After a few seconds he conceded, "Okay, maybe sometimes."

"So you think maybe that's all this is?"

"I guess it makes sense," he said, though he still looked apprehensively back at the club. He shook his head again, trying to shake away the paranoid feeling. After a minute he turned back to Shalimar. "Hey, you want to get something to eat before we head back to Sanctuary?"

She saw right through him, of course. "To keep yourself occupied so you don't have to sit around worrying?" she asked teasingly.

"That's one reason," he conceded, but smiled back at her.

She studied him, that Cheshire smile still present on her lips, then nodded. "Great. But I'm driving." She handed him the extra helmet.

"Whatever you say," he responded, settling in behind her and placing his arms around her waist. She smiled at him over her shoulder, then restarted the engine.

But even with the plethora of distraction he now had, he still couldn't help but cast a look back at the nightclub as they drove away.

~*~

To be continued

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