He knew she didn't mean anything by it. True, he was shocked; she had never yelled at him like that. And though he knew better than to take it to heart. . . he couldn't seem to get it out of his head, every second of it, and his heart, which still seemed to beat a wee bit too fast was proof enough. It was heavy action back then, way heavier than most of the stuff they'd gone through before.

God, his whole body hurt.

Not that anybody seemed to care.

He bitterly watched through narrowed eyes as Adam patted Brennan on the back approvingly for the second time since they arrived home safely that night, obviously complimenting him, AGAIN, on the good job he did back in Kovakistan while Shalimar and Emma flocked around them, beaming, grinning from ear to ear.

The American pilot they managed to save from the clutches of the terrorist regime was resting on a couch in the living room, receiving first-class treatment with a dish of home-cooked food and a few cans of beer in his lap, obviously enjoying the comfort of home once again. Jesse had nothing against him personally and though saving him was Brennan's idea, it was an idea Jesse didn't mind tagging along with. But of course, naturally, he had to stay behind in the Helix (as always, who else but good old reliable Jesse?) and managed to electrocute himself more times than he would have preferred trying to fix the thing.

That wasn't so bad he guessed. At least Emma was there to keep him company. Yeah, right. If you can call sitting stone still and glaring your head off whenever someone gets close company, he thought. True, Emma had seemed a bit weird, somehow a little-off.

Just then Emma twisted her head slightly and looked directly at him. Think nice thoughts, that was what she said. Slightly taken aback, Jesse diverted his gaze toward Adam who was looking mighty pleased, so pleased Jesse felt sick to his stomach.

Adam. A lump rose in Jesse's throat. He had known Adam almost all his life but at times like these, to Jesse they were better off strangers to each other. He was sick of trying to please the older man all the time, of trying to make Adam the least bit proud of him, to show him that he was worthy of being one of Mutant X. He tore his eyes away when Shalimar rose on tiptoes to give Brennan a peck on the cheek, but he didn't miss Brennan's modest shrug. Jesse burned.

Am I jealous? Come on, Jess, Brennan's your friend. He DID do the right thing. You should be proud of him.

No, Jesse wasn't jealous. He was just tired- completely drained.

Quietly he retreated into the shadows and leaned against the wall, resting his head against the hard concrete. His head was hurting like crazy and his knees felt weak. He needed to sit.

His ears stung at the pilot's next words. "You've got some fine men here, Dr Kane. Without Brennan, I wouldn't even be alive right now. I don't know how I'm ever going to repay you guys."

"You've made us all very proud," Shalimar gushed, leaning her head against Brennan's shoulder.

Jesse stared at the floor.

He wanted them to be proud of him too.

But everything I've done tonight, it's obviously not enough, he thought bitterly.

When Emma first urged him to phase the Helix, he was dumbfounded. And petrified. He didn't know if he had the strength to phase even the Helix, much less its occupants. They were desperate, that much he knew, and a missile was seconds away from blowing them to pieces but at the time, it didn't seem possible to Jesse. He didn't even dare to imagine what could have happened to all of them if he had failed. He didn't know whether he was going to make it or not. But one thing he knew was, it would definitely hurt like hell. And true enough, it did.

But it didn't hurt so much as the words Shalimar spat his way seconds before he saved all their asses from being blown to bits and strewn all over the state.

*************

"I can't do that!!!!" The feat was impossible; at least 20 tonnes of steel and flesh. It would literally tear him apart. Deadly missiles were flying all around the craft, and one came close to graze the right wing. The radar was blinking furiously; four fighter jets were on their tail.

"You can TRY!!!!"

***************

It wasn't so much of the words but the way she snarled at him. . . for a split-second there he really believed Shalimar only cared about her own safety but not his. She of all people should know of the impact phasing such a huge mass could have on him. She had seen him gone under after phasing objects much smaller than the Helix many times before and how on earth could she possibly think he could do it?

True, Jesse knew perfectly well he could at least try but-

********************

"Jesse, please," Emma implored. "We don't have any other choice!" He was torn. Emma was begging him now, how could he say no?

"JUST DO IT!!!!" Shalimar.

********************

It was easy for you to say, Jesse thought her eyes fixed on the feral. He couldn't help feeling betrayed. He never liked to think of himself as sensitive, and maybe it was due to his upbringing, but he had never had anyone yell at him like that, not even when he was a kid. And when she shouted at him like that. . . Jesse felt his heart shatter.

Because he knew in his heart that he would have phased the Helix anyway no matter what without anyone urging him on. If Emma hadn't suggested him phase the Helix, his instincts would have told him to and he would not have hesitated. It was his nature to always put other people first before himself. Shalimar should have known that.

***************

"DO IT, JESSE!!!" She screamed.

****************

Jesse closed his eyes. The expression on her face, the tone of her voice. . . they told Jesse everything he needed to know about what Shalimar really thought of him.

She thought I didn't care enough about the team. That I wouldn't put my life at risk to save them. Until tonight, he had never known how low the rest of his team mates really thought of him. And now he knew.

*************** Emma was distracted momentarily by a sudden foreboding wave of despair. Jesse?

Jesse avoided her gaze, his pale face partially hidden by the shadows. Emma was just about to read him but stopped herself in time. After what she did to him back in Kovakistan, she doubted she would ever have the heart to read him again after this.

But what she couldn't understand was the expression on his face. There was only one word to describe it. Rejection.

Oh Jesse.

*****************

When he phased the Helix, his whole body was on fire; his every cell, every fibre of his being pulled in hundreds of different directions. Only God knew how much pain he was in, Jesse was sure he was going to die. He almost lost it, he could feel the cold metal body of the ship pulling him in little by little, begging, just begging for him to be a part of it. If it wasn't for his friends, who would surely plunge to their deaths if he had given in, Jesse wouldn't have pushed himself beyond his limit, he couldn't have hung on that long.

None of then knew how it felt like to phase before.

And now they do, he thought with the least bit satisfaction. And maybe next time Shalimar, you'll think twice before doubting my loyalty and my sacrifice for the team.

The pain still lingered, clinging to his muscles and limbs, circulating in his blood, accumulating at the back of his skull and scorching his insides. But still, he stood there standing. He had been standing there for almost an hour, just waiting for someone, anyone to come up to him and simply say, 'Oh, good job back there, Jesse' or 'Hey, Jess, you saved my life, that's way cool' or simply-'Thank You.'

He didn't ask for much in return, he never did. He just wanted to FEEL like he was part of the team. He just wanted to be appreciated, to be loved. Was that too much too ask?

The rest of his team mates were now moving toward the kitchen for a celebratory drink, not even once glancing his way.

That's it then, Jesse thought. On top of the pain and cramps, he felt empty.

He dragged his feet toward the staircase. Sleep. That would make him feel the least bit better. Sleep. Rest. Energy for more selfless yet always overlooked sacrifices, yay.

He stumbled. And started to fall.

But someone grabbed his arm from behind, keeping him from falling flat on his face.

It was Morrison, the American pilot.

"Hey. You're Jesse, right? You alright?" He asked with concern. Talking required too much energy so Jesse just nodded and allowed Morrison to help him up.

"That was a very brave thing you did back there, you know making the wall of the ship disappear and all. Couldn't help noticing how much it was hurting you." Jesse was amazed to hear it all coming from him.

"But I never forget those who saved my life, and you're one of them. So, thank you." Jesse broke into a smile.

Morrison grabbed his hand and pumped it up and down.

"Thank you," he thanked Jesse again.

Maybe this is the way it will always is and will always be. The people closest to you never notice you the time you need them the most, but someone always will. If I'm only worthy of what a stranger thinks of me, so be it. That doesn't make me love my friends less. I'm done yearning for other people's approval and getting into everyone's good book. But I will continue giving, I will continue sacrificing; that's who I am. And maybe, MAYBE, someday they will realize that I'm more than just wallpaper.

"At your service," Jesse replied casually with a shrug, with a grin.