Disclaimer: I don't own 'em…but I do like playing with 'em.
Notes, warnings, timeline: Epilog/missing scene for In Between. A lot of fans are less than thrilled with the series' writers, who tend to ignore continuity and logic and just give the characters random, disconnected bits of 'history' to suit that week's episode. This is my attempt to integrate some of those random bits of Jesse's past into a semi-coherent whole. Note: I am not a 'shipper', so if you're looking for romance, you got the wrong author. J Some violence, language, the usual rampant unkindness to my favorite Molecular. Rating: PGJesse
Jesse settled back into his chair, hands resting lightly on his blanket-covered thighs as Brennan strode from the room. He wondered if he'd sounded as awkward as he'd felt as he'd thanked his teammates for saving him. And – damn – he'd really hoped for a more positive response from Lexa when he'd admitted that she was his reason for surviving. The woman never gave an inch or anything away; one of the many reasons his feelings for her were so strong.
The slight smile that had unconsciously crossed his face faded and his thoughts drifted back over the last few hours. Had it really only been less than a day since he stepped in front of a bullet? It seemed a lifetime. He mentally cringed at the memory of how ready he'd been to just give up, to let go. But, it had hurt so much, and he'd grown so tired so quickly. The others couldn't understand how exhausting it was for Jesse to use his powers, even when it wasn't consciously him doing it. Having massing going on continuously drained his resources very rapidly, and as his physical condition weakened so did his emotional control.
He sighed quietly, shifting restlessly in his seat as he stared at the near wall and considered how relentlessly Brennan had fought for his survival. Encouraging and cajoling one minute, figuratively kicking his ass the next; the Elemental never allowed him to give up. And all the while Brennan had known that his own life was as much at risk as Jesse's was. The younger man was amazed and awed by the risk his friend took on his behalf and couldn't help but wonder if he'd have the same courage. He certainly hoped so, but wasn't as sure as Mulwray seemed to be about that.
Uncomfortable with the direction his thoughts were taking him, he shifted his position again and leaned his head back wearily. Doctor Robinson had told him it would take a few days for his strength to build back up, and had warned him sternly against using his powers or over exerting himself in the meantime. He hated - absolutely hated - being told to 'take it easy,' but this time he had to admit, he had no choice. Just walking from the infirmary to the living room had worn him out, and despite his intentions his eyes fluttered shut as he settled in comfortably.
With sleep fast approaching, his natural defenses against memories he didn't want to examine were lowered, and unerringly his mind drifted back to his past, to when he first encountered Dr. Harrison and his sadistic girlfriend, Laura Brooks….A Decade Earlier
The examination table was cold and uncomfortable under Jesse as he sat waiting for the doctor to return. He supposed he was being foolish going to a medical center so far from the ultra-modern facility his family normally used, but he didn't want word to get back to his family if at all possible. His mother, and especially his grandmother, were both more than a little angry with him after he'd unceremoniously dumped Alisha Keary just days before the wedding.
'Wedding?' his mind scoffed at him bitterly. 'More like a corporate merger.' True, he'd loved - still did love - Alisha, but he couldn't involve her in whatever weird shit was going on with him right now.
It had started a few months before; strange numbness in his extremities at odd times, or an overall feeling of stiffness, weight. The attacks didn't last long, but they were getting more frequent and more…severe. A week before, during a spell of stiffness, he'd inadvertently not only smashed his alarm clock, but the table beside his bed as well. And yesterday he would have sworn he literally put his hand through the wall as if it wasn't even there.
Try explaining that one to a doctor!
When it had first started, he'd visited his regular physician, only to be told it was just 'growing pains' and to 'take it easy' when he felt a spell coming on. He'd outgrow it. Disgusted, he'd decided to try just riding it out in hopes the problem would simply disappear.
When it didn't he'd started doing some research on his own, finally hearing of this place, which had a good reputation for dealing with more…unique…medical conditions, and he'd made an appointment. The doctor had listened with apparent seriousness, and had ordered a battery of tests as well as doing a thorough examination himself. After viewing the results, he'd excused himself to 'confer with his fellow physicians' and left the eighteen-year-old sitting in his boxer shorts.
"Mister Kilmartin, I'm sorry to keep you waiting," Doctor Asher said as he bustled back in amongst a flurry of words and white coat. "Your test results were inconclusive, but I did see some non-standard results. I'd like to refer you to a colleague of mine, who specializes in these sorts of phenomena. I took the liberty of setting an appointment for you for tomorrow, and with your permission will forward my own findings and test results. Here is his card, with directions to his office. Your appointment is at 10:30. I need your signature here to release your records. Any questions?"
Intimidated and overwhelmed, Jesse could only shake his head and scrawl his signature, at the moment wanting nothing more than to get his clothes back on and get out of there. He took the appointment slip and other paperwork, and made good his escape, stuffing the information in his hip pocket after barely glancing at the name on the small square.
Dr. Harrison MD.
The next morning Jesse vacillated between blowing the appointment with Dr. Harrison off, and keeping it in hopes he would be the one with the answer to Jesse's problem. Up until the moment he walked through the double glass doors and into the tastefully decorated waiting room, he had kept up the inner debate. Then it was finally too late; since he'd signed in he'd at least give this supposed miracle worker a chance.
A cold-eyed blonde nurse showed him to an examination room, taking his pulse, blood pressure and temperature with impersonal efficiency. Her unsmiling demeanor kept Jesse silent and subdued, a growing sense of doom filling him. As the door snicked shut in the wake of her silent departure, he noticed the heavy-duty hardware of the latch; not something he'd expect to see in a medical office and his sense of disquiet grew.
Dr. Harrison swept in, his attention on the sheaf of papers on a clipboard in his grasp, and he held up an impervious hand to forestall any questions the young man might have. Jesse's eyebrows climbed toward his hairline and his temper snapped, bringing to bear an unconscious arrogance born of a lifetime of privilege.
"Listen, Doc, I don't know what your game is here, but you and your staff have a lot to learn about dealing with people," he growled, sliding off the table and preparing to leave. "I may have some kind of a…a…condition…or whatever, but that's no reason for you or your nurse to treat me like I don't even exist."
Harrison looked up with badly concealed arrogance, before pasting a conciliatory expression in its place.
"My apologies, Mr. Kilmartin. I sometimes…lose…myself in a particularly interesting case. And you are definitely an interesting case. Please, have a seat and let's discuss what is happening to you," he invited, indicating the table. A smile was on his face, but looked foreign and out of place there; like a monk who'd wandered into a gay biker's bar. It didn't exactly soothe Jesse, but he was too innately polite to snub the man's attempt at making amends. Besides, he really did want answers.
"Okay, then," Kilmartin said, sitting back down on the table and trying to relax as the doctor went to the far side and opened a drawer there.
"Look forward, please," Harrison ordered, his sneer now fully visible as the young man was no longer looking at him. God, how he hated rich young punks like this one! He pulled the device he needed out of the drawer and quickly triggered it, embedding the subdermal governor in the Molecular's neck. He chuckled as Jesse gasped in pain and launched himself from his perch on the table.
"What the hell did you do?" Jesse demanded, cautious fingers going to the spot on the back of his neck that throbbed with his pulse. "What the hell is that?"
"That is a subdermal governor; a little something to keep your powers under our control," he explained haughtily.
"What? What powers? What are you talking about? Take it out, now!" the teenager demanded furiously.
"You, my arrogant young friend, are in no position to demand anything," Harrison grinned; the first real smile to cross his face. He did enjoy his work. "There is a bonus function to the governor; it can be used to help…shall we say?…encourage…you to behave. If you don't…" he trailed off, holding up what appeared to be a tiny remote in front of the young man. His finger moved slightly and pain exploded in Jesse's body, driving the Molecular to the ground in agony.
Unhurriedly Harrison went to the door and ushered in two men in dark suits, along with the blonde nurse. "Take this to Genomex, set him up in a pod. I'll be along shortly," he ordered, watching as the two men easily hefted the teen and hauled him out. The dark haired physician snaked an arm around his lover's waist, smiling down at Laura with contentment.
Oh, yes…this was going to be fun.
Jesse awoke to the mother of all headaches, and briefly wondered just how much fun he'd had the night before. Then it all came rushing back; Dr. Harrison and that…thing…in his neck. The pain. Suddenly afraid, he opened his eyes only to find himself in what appeared to be a glass encased coffin. Horrified, he tried to push the top up, and finding that impossible he panicked; screaming and flailing at the enclosure mindlessly.
Exhaustion brought his struggles to an end, and it was only then that he became aware of three figures standing outside his enclosure; Dr. Harrison, his surly nurse and a man who looked like a slightly deranged Andy Warhol.
"I fail to see what you think you can accomplish with this particular subject," the Warhol clone droned, giving Jesse a disinterested look.
"Moleculars are easily dismissed as unimportant mutations, not as useful as others that have developed. But I feel there is untapped potential there. What if I can determine what factors there are that allow him to become intangible? Perhaps I can develop a way to externalize that ability, create a device that can render any substance insubstantial? You have to admit, that would be a very useful ability to have," Harrison explained, oozing his particular brand of slimy charm in the presence of his boss.
"Very well. Keep me apprised of your progress," Eckhart ordered, giving one last dismissive glance at Kilmartin before leaving.
Harrison spared an affectionate look for Laura, then turned his attention to Jesse, who watched him with trepidation, able to hear the doctor clearly inside the pod.
"Scan his system. I want to try some neurological experiments," Harrison ordered someone outside Jesse's sight.
"That could be dangerous. He might not survive," reported the unseen assistant.
"Yes," Harrison agreed, not appearing particularly concerned. "Start with the proton coupler. That should allow me to establish control of his nervous system."
With those ominous words began an existence of pain and terror the eighteen year old hadn't even known could exist. Much of what Harrison needed to do could be accomplished with Jesse inside the pod, which was actually preferable to those times Harrison had him taken out of the container and moved to a laboratory.
Any attempt to do anything but exactly what the doctor ordered resulted in the governor being activated. It soon got to the point where the doctor had only to raise the device threateningly and Jesse would all but collapse. Having established complete control over Jesse's nervous system allowed the doctor precision in how close to death he could bring the young man. And he brought Kilmartin close every time.
Harrison needed Jesse alive, and occasionally functional, and anything beyond that was unimportant. Nutrition was provided via an IV line, he was roughly stripped and shoved into a cold shower when his odor became actively offensive; and after the first time clothing was apparently deemed unnecessary. Harrison's assistants took their clues from the doctor and treated Jesse at best like a slab of live meat.
But it was Laura Brooks who haunted Jesse's waking moments. Dr. Harrison was demented, perhaps, but very focused and driven in his madness. He was unmindful of any discomfort on his test subject's part; his entire focus was on results with no regard as to how he got them. His assistants were mindlessly cruel, much like boys who pulled the wings off of flies. As if they simply didn't understand or comprehend any other way of being, they were very direct in their unkindness.
Laura however, was a master at subtle cruelty, at manipulating and tormenting the young man; then communicating her mirth unerringly. Her tricks were aimed not so much at physically causing pain but inflicting humiliation and shame, wearing away at Jesse's self confidence and spirit. Already weakened by pain and hunger, chronically cold and afraid, Jess was an easy target for Brooks's cruelty.
Almost worse than the blatant attacks was the simple day-to-day taunting the woman delighted in. Whereas Harrison usually spoke of Jesse in such a way as to indicate he thought the Molecular was less than human, Laura went out of her way to find derogatory things to call him. It didn't take her long to discover that 'freak' was a particular trigger for him.
"Get out here, I need to run some more test phases," Harrison demanded, opening the pod and indicating Jesse should rise. Weakly, the young man pulled himself upright, only to fall trying to climb out of the chamber. He landed in an ungainly sprawl at Laura's feet, his face only inches from her Gucci clad feet.
"Oh, look, the freak's flirting with me again. Bad, bad boy!" she taunted, savoring her triumph when she noted Jesse's eyes closing in humiliation.
"Get up, you worthless piece of shit," Harrison ordered, roughly pulling the teen to his feet. Jesse swayed alarmingly, but managed to stay upright as the doctor roughly attached several leads to his body. "I'm deactivating the governor – I want you to phase then mass, as quickly as possible. Do I even need to remind you the consequences if you don't do as I order?"
Jesse shook his head despairingly, an involuntary shudder running through his now underweight body. He'd long since lost track of any sense of time, but he knew he'd been here quite a while just by the amount of weight he'd lost. His ribs were easily discernable, and his arms and legs had lost all muscle definition. His hair was longer than he'd ever worn it – lank and lifeless on his shoulders and falling often into listless, hopeless blue eyes.
The only positive result of his time in Genomex was that he was learning about his developing abilities, and discovering that he was able to control them – at least a little. Apparently he wasn't the only freak of nature running about, according to the conversations he overheard in the lab. And one memorable day he saw Laura Brooks wave her hands and blow up a large container, shocking everyone in the room. At a growled order from Dr. Harrison the debris was quickly cleaned up and no mention was made of the incident. Jesse got the impression that Harrison was anxious to conceal his girlfriend's abilities from the Andy Warhol clone.
Focusing on the task at hand, Kilmartin took a deep breath and felt the unpleasant sensation that accompanied going intangible. He held it for a few seconds, then took a deep breath in, shifting to a massed state. The shift from one to the other was painful, but hurt considerably less than a jolt from the device embedded in his neck.
After three more shifts – each one accomplished more slowly than the previous one – Harrison called a halt, leaving Jesse standing in the middle of the room trembling with exhaustion while he checked the various readouts.
"I think we've done as much as we can this way," Harrison commented to his crew. "I have a complete map of his neurological system, and all the changes that occur when he uses his powers. The logical next step would be to disconnect his nervous system from the body and see if we can manually recreate a mechanical replication of it. We will begin that procedure tomorrow. In the mean time, put the subject away," he ordered, ignoring Jesse's gasp of horrified comprehension.
Calling upon reserves of strength and energy he didn't know he possessed, Jesse desperately tried to elude the doctor's assistants, even managing to phase himself through the floor in an attempt to escape. However, unimpressed, Harrison simply activated the governor and sent his two cohorts to collect the writhing young man from the next floor down. By the time the doctor turned the governor off Jesse was unconscious.
An unknown time later he woke up to find himself once again in his pod in what he thought of as the 'storage room'. There was little activity or noise, indicating it was most likely the 'night' shift. It appeared that Genomex never actually shut down, so to speak, but there were definite ebbs and flows to the activity in the facility that gave the impression of night and day shifts.
In the quiet of his pod Jesse's memory played back Harrison's last comments, their impact not dulled in the slightest by distance. Harrison intended to kill him, probably in just a few short hours. Tears trickled slowly down his temples and past his ears as he thought about all the things he'd wanted out of his life, all the plans he'd made, that now he'd never get to realize. And for what? Why was he going to die? Because he was a freak, an oddity of nature that Harrison wanted to use for his own personal gain.
The faces of his mother and grandmother, the two most powerful forces in his life to that point, drifted through his mind. The maternal half of his heritage had provided the money and position he'd enjoyed in his youth – every advantage their social status could provide. On his father's side, things were a little more complicated. He loved his father – or at least the father he wanted Noah to be – but it was hard work to keep providing excuses for the man's absences. Still, the thought of never seeing his father again stung. A lot.
And Alisha. God, he'd blown that one so badly. If only he'd just gone ahead and married her, he'd be safe in some high-rise office, making money and holding her close each night. Lunching with other up-and-comers and eyeballing the newest member of the secretarial pool from his glass enclosed office. Playing golf on the weekends and learning to smoke those obnoxious cigars – why was it that the more a man was worth the worse his cigar smelled?
A watery chuckle escaped the young Molecular at that last thought, remembering how odious his maternal grandfather's cigars had been. Closing his eyes wearily, Jesse tried to relax, letting his thoughts drift to happier times.
A vague sense of movement outside his pod got his attention some time later and reluctantly he opened his eyes to gaze up at a large African American man dressed in the dark Genomex uniform. Adrenaline instantly flooded his system as the guard fiddled with the controls for the pod, frequently glancing about nervously.
"Got it," the big man muttered at last, carefully opening the pod. "Come on, kid, we don't have a lot of time."
Jesse stared at the man uncomprehendingly. Did they really think he was going to rush to his death? A nearly soundless whimper escaped him as he tried his level best to force himself even deeper into the pod.
"Jesus, Sam, why don't you just scare the poor kid to death?" a new voice interjected. "You might try telling him we're the good guys, at least." The speaker was a buxom dark haired woman with startling green eyes under steeply slanted brows.
"Fine. Look, we're the good guys. You know, like Luke Skywalker, we're here to rescue you," Sam told him, reaching out a big hand to assist the teen. "And unless you want us all to get caught, I need you to trust me."
"Christ! I tell you, sometimes I'd like to just gut Eckhart, you know?" the woman exclaimed, getting her first good look at Jesse. "Shal, see if you can find some coveralls or something," she hissed in the direction of the exit. "It's not like we can blend in with a naked kid between us."
Moments later another woman, much younger and smaller than the first one, returned with a pair of olive green coveralls, which she handed to Sam while averting her eyes from the trembling Jesse. The Molecular flushed with dull shame, his nudity seeming all the more obscene for having been witnessed by his rescuers. Awkwardly he tried to pull the rough clothing on, nearly tumbling over in his weakness.
With a muttered curse, Sam moved forward to help, only to find Shalimar had beat him to it. The young woman, barely nineteen herself, steadied the Molecular, helping him into the overalls with a remarkable lack of self-consciousness. Quickly zipping the front closed, she pulled one shaky arm over her shoulder, snaking her own arm around Jesse's waist.
"Let's go!" she declared softly, hurrying to follow the other woman while big Sam took up the rear. Jesse felt like he was holding on to animated steel; Shalimar was all coiled strength with only the thinnest layer of flesh covering it. He would have feared her if not for the sympathy and kindness he'd seen in her eyes as she'd gathered him to her. That alone allowed him to rally enough strength to at least assist in his own rescue.
However, weeks of deprivation had left Kilmartin far to weak to sustain him any distance, and it appeared that his rescue was fated to include a number of stairs. It was all too much for him and just as the distant sound of alarms reached them he collapsed, surprising Shalimar who nearly dropped him.
"Get the door open," Sam growled, sweeping the much smaller young man up in his powerful arms. "Tell Gilly to clear the way and get the Helix powered up," he ordered, barely pausing in his headlong rush up the seemingly endless stairs.
Shalimar didn't waste time with words, just bounded ahead, every sense on alert for danger. Gillian had heard enough to know what was happening so she didn't pause as she opened the door to the roof but simply bolted toward the door of the Helix, which seemed to appear out of thin air. Seconds later the roof vibrated as the powerful engines kicked into play.
Shalimar held the last door as Sam powered through, the barely conscious young man in his arms flopping bonelessly with his movements. Hustling into the Double Helix on Sam's heels, she slapped the control to close the doors just as the small 'craft lifted off, leaving a half dozen Genomex agents milling furiously in its wake.
"That was way too close," Gillian exclaimed, her words at odds with the excited gleam in her green eyes.
"No shit, Gilly. Didn't notice those agents coming up behind us," Sam grumbled, gently settling his burden on a seat before heading toward the front to help pilot the 'craft. "Shalimar, don't forget to put the blinder on him," he tossed out over his shoulder.
"Do I have to?" she asked plaintively, looking with sympathy at their companion. "He's barely conscious anyway, and he's terrified. He's not going to see anything he could ever report to anyone."
"Shal, you know Adam's rules as well as we do," the big man shrugged, his tone not unsympathetic.
"Sorry, but I guess he's right; it's the way it has to be, for our safety, you understand," she murmured to Jesse, reaching for a small disk in a nearby drawer. "This won't hurt you - WE won't hurt you - and I promise, it's just temporary," she soothed as she reached out to place the device on the side of his head.
He flinched from her touch, then panicked when his sight disappeared completely. Keening in terror, he threw himself from the chair, frantically digging at the device on his temple, tearing at the flesh around the disk in a frenzy.
"No, no! Don't do that!" Shalimar shouted, trying to break through his fear. "You're just hurting yourself." Desperately she grabbed both his hands, pulling them from his face and pinning them by his sides. He'd landed on the floor and she ended up basically sitting on his chest, using her body weight and considerable strength to subdue him.
"Need a hand here Shal?" Sam's voice was much closer and Jesse's waning struggles surged anew.
"I've got it, Sam," she insisted before turning her attention back to her charge. "What's your name?" she asked, hoping to break the hold terror seemed to have on him. "What's your name?"
She'd had to repeat the question a half dozen times before she got a stuttered reply that was barely loud enough for even her Feral hearing to discern. "J…Jesse."
"Well, Jesse, I don't know about you, but this is not the way I wanted to spend the flight back to Sanctuary. Think we could try sitting in the seat like a normal person again?" she wondered.
"I can't see," was the forlorn reply.
"I know. I told you; it's only temporary. When we get to Sanctuary we'll take the blinder off and you'll be able to see as good as ever. I promise. Now, you want to try that sitting thing?" At his cautious nod she helped him to his feet and guided him gently to the chair, settling him down as comfortably as she could.
"You…you're Shalimar, right?" he asked hesitantly, as if expecting to be punished for daring to ask a question.
"Yup, that's me. And the big guy up front is Sam, along with Gillian. And like I tried to tell you, Jesse, you're safe now. No one here is going to hurt you, and we'll do everything in our power to make sure Eckhart and Genomex never get their hands on you again. You have my word on that."
"You have all our words on that," Sam put in from just behind Shal. He didn't miss how Jesse tensed up at his voice, and the big man felt a stab of sorrow at the cruelty this kid had endured. "Here, I thought he might be thirsty," he said softly to Shalimar, passing her a chilled bottle of water before turning back to the front of the Helix.
Jesse accepted the water gratefully, following Shalimar's instructions to drink it slowly, and the rest of the flight went calmly, with the Helix coming to a smooth stop less than a half hour after its frantic takeoff. True to her promise, Shalimar removed the blinder as soon as they were fully stopped, and Jesse's relief at the return of his sight brought a smile to her face.
"See? Told you you'd be fine," she smirked, nudging him very gently, absurdly pleased when a ghost of a smile played at the corners of his mouth.
"Come on, kids, let's go see the man," Gillian announced, looking down at the still seated pair. Without further comment she and Sam exited the Helix, calling out friendly greetings to Adam, who was just entering the hangar.
"Were you successful?" Kane queried, looking past his two senior team members at the open door of the small craft.
"Of course. Aren't we always?" Gillian quipped, smiling at Adam's sardonic eyebrow lift.
"I think it might be safer for us not to address that question," he demurred, his smile giving him away. "I take it Shalimar is being her usual protective self?"
"Can't hardly blame her," Sam put in. "The kid's been through hell from the looks of him. Why the hell did it take so long to hear about his case? Another day or two he may not have made it."
"Because it was Harrison. He's been working as a botanist up until recently; we didn't know to watch his activities. If one of his assistants hadn't been too talkative in the wrong place at the right time we wouldn't have heard about him at all."
"Guess he's got a guardian angel after all," Gillian decided, watching as Shalimar gently escorted their guest out of the Helix. "Or maybe two."
"Why don't you two go on in and relax, looks like I'm going to have my hands full for a while and I'm sure Jesse doesn't need any extra stress right now. Good job, by the way, getting him out."
"No problem," Sam grinned, ushering his brunette teammate out of the hangar ahead of him. "If you need us give a shout."
Adam barely acknowledged Sam's comment as his attention turned fully on the frail figure next to his youngest charge. Once he'd gotten a name on the young man, Adam had done an extensive check on Jesse Kilmartin; he probably knew more about the teenager than even his parents did. But this wan figure slowly approaching bore only the faintest resemblance to the pictures he'd seen.
"This is Adam, he runs Sanctuary," Shalimar announced, leading Jesse up to Kane. The Feral was steadfastly ignoring the slow tears meandering down the pale cheeks of the young man by her side. Even Adam could clearly see how the Molecular was trembling, and he briskly took position on the opposite side of the newcomer, ushering him toward the infirmary.
"We need to check you out, see if we can't make you more comfortable," Adam explained, surreptitiously glancing behind Jesse and catching Shalimar's eye. He saw everything he needed to know in the brown depths, and realized he wouldn't even need to ask her to stay with Jesse. "You're safe here, no one will be allowed to hurt you any more."
"This is Sanctuary, a place where new mutants can be safe from Genomex and the GSA. That's where you were – Genomex. Mason Eckhart, the man in charge, is a threat to all new mutants, we're working here to counter is efforts," Adam explained.
"Mutants?" Despite his obvious pain and weakness, Jesse still displayed curiosity; a good sign as far as Adam was concerned.
"That's what you are. You and Shalimar and Sam and Gillian and a few thousand others. You were given treatments designed to save your lives…only something went wrong. Or right, depending on your point of view. And you developed extraordinary abilities."
"More freaks like me?"
Adam stopped abruptly, stepping in front of Jesse and taking his face in his hands, ignoring the way the younger man flinched from his touch. His voice was stern but not unkind. "You are NOT a freak. I will not allow that kind of talk in Sanctuary."
Watery blue eyes searched his anxiously - Adam could see the desperation in their depths, the need to believe again. But, before Kane could reply to the naked need before him, Shalimar spoke up from Jesse's side.
"Don't you ever let me catch you calling me or any of my friends 'freaks' again. And that includes YOU, got it?" she demanded, giving his arm a stern – but careful, Adam was amused to notice – shake. "I'll kick your scrawny butt."
Jesse's attention turned to Shalimar as he considered her words, wondering how a threat could sound so strangely kind. Finally, curiosity getting the better of him again, he got the nerve to ask. "What kind of…mutant?…are you?"
"I'm a Feral. I'm stronger, faster and have better senses than other people do," she bragged, a giggle escaping her and spoiling her attempt at haughtiness. "Sam's an Elemental; he can shoot balls of electricity from his hands. And Gilly can move things with her mind."
"You mean like the girl in that movie…Carrie?"
"Ho-boy. You want to live to fight another day, do not let Gilly hear you say that. You'll find yourself being bounced off the ceiling," Shal chuckled wickedly.
Even Adam laughed at that, causing Jesse to shift his attention between them like a spectator at a ping-pong tournament. They'd come to a stop in a room filled with rather ominous looking equipment and the Molecular's attention was instantly diverted back to his surroundings. A few of the items reminded him strongly of Harrison's lab and his heart rate skyrocketed in fear yet again.
Shalimar and Adam became aware of their companion's sudden trepidation and both hastened to reassure him.
"Hey, it's okay, Adam won't hurt you, I promise," Shalimar hastened to reassure him before Kane even had a chance to speak. He's going to scan you, first, I bet. It's totally painless, even feels kind of nice."
Adam was unable to suppress a smile at his young team member's enthusiasm, which appeared to be very reassuring to their traumatized guest. Keeping his voice soothing, he indicated the angled examination lounge. "Hop on up here and let's take a look at you."
An hour later, with the proton coupler and subdermal governor both removed, Jesse was sleeping deeply in the small room off the main lab. Shalimar watched the slumbering man breathe for a few moments before turning to her mentor who was hunched over one of his beloved machines.
"You sure he's okay?" she asked worriedly.
"Shalimar, he'll be fine. Harrison had him for nearly a month, from what I could tell, and it's going to take some time for him to recover from that. No permanent physical damage was done, though he'll have a few scars we can see, and a few we can't," the scientist reported.
"What about his mutant abilities? Are they what you've been looking for?"
"I didn't think this was the appropriate time to check that. Let's give him some time, a chance to learn to trust us, before we start testing him to see if he's Mutant X material," Kane suggested, not at all surprised that the young woman had guessed part of the reason he'd been anxious to recover this particular mutant.
"If who's Mutant X material?" Sam asked as he and Gillian entered the lab.
Adam snorted out an exasperated breath even as he smiled a little, recognizing once again how hard it was to keep any sort of confidence in this very enclosed little society he'd created.
"I've been thinking for some time that a Molecular would be a good addition to the team, and Jesse there reportedly has the ability to both mass and phase. Plus, according to his school records, he's very, very intelligent, with an aptitude for science and technology. If he's willing, and if he can learn to control his abilities, he could be a valuable resource to us."
"I dunno. He doesn't seem very…tough," Gillian commented, glancing at the open door as if to check that Jesse was still asleep.
Even as Shalimar bristled at the suggestion, Sam spoke up in his calm way. "He survived Harrison. Sometimes that's all the 'tough' one needs. Besides, you and Shalimar are tough enough for all of us," he grinned, indulging in his fondness for teasing his female teammates.
"And don't you forget it!" Gilly replied, sending a mock punch her teammate's way as Shalimar grinned and Adam watched them with indulgent affection.
"Knock it off you two," the older man admonished them after a moment, his usual sternness missing from his voice. "If you want to fight, take it to the dojo."
"Seriously, though, you're considering him?" Sam continued, absently swatting away a final jab from Gilly.
"Yeah, I am. A lot will depend on how he recovers from this experience. And who knows, he may surprise us."
"What do you mean? How do YOU think he's going to do?" the dark haired woman wanted to know.
"Well, so far he's not immediately asked to go home – which may or may not be a good sign. I don't think he had a terrible home life, but it's hard to say. What's a more positive sign is that he started asking some questions already, wanting to know about things here in Sanctuary. From what I found out before, it appears he landed in Eckhart's clutches because he'd been out looking for information from doctors on his 'condition.' He just went to the wrong doctor. All these things point – not to panic – but to a problem-solving mindset, which is what we need here. If Eckhart and Harrison haven't completely undermined his natural strengths he might indeed be Mutant X material. Provided, of course, he can get along with you three."
"But he's so young," Gillian countered.
"He's only a couple of months younger than Shalimar is."
"Well, yeah, but she's just a baby, too," Gilly teased, ignoring Sam who prudently stepped out of the line of fire. True to her nature, the petite Feral took exception to the slight and launched herself at the taller woman, snarling in frustration when Gillian's powers stopped her mid-leap.
"Okay, now that IS enough!" Adam ordered, glaring at the taller woman until she gently lowered her opponent to the ground again.
"Sorry, Shal, you know I'm just teasing," Gillian said, smiling at her teammate.
"Just wait until the next time we work out, I'll show you who's a baby," Shalimar countered, but her words lacked any true venom. Baiting each other mercilessly was a big part of the two women's relationship.
"Alright children, time to find somewhere new to play," Adam informed them, ushering the trio out of the lab and toward the common living areas. "Seems Jesse's not the only one who needs some rest."
For three days Jesse barely left the small room off the lab, spending most of his time sleeping with a bit of quiet reading in between. Shalimar or Adam brought him meals on a regular basis, and at least once a day Adam insisted on a quick examination to ensure the young man was healing.
On the fourth morning Shalimar decided that Jess had been hiding long enough, and waited until after he'd had his breakfast to put her plan into action.
"Come on, I want to show you around," she announced, reaching out and snagging his hand to pull him to his feet. Shalimar had spent far more time with Jesse than the others had and the young Molecular was quite comfortable in her presence, no longer shying away from her touch.
"I'm still tired," he protested faintly, already knowing it was a futile attempt. He'd quickly learned about the Feral's stubborn streak.
"Fine. By the time we've finished you'll still have plenty of time for a nap before lunch. Now come on."
Four hours later they'd still only covered half the facility. Jesse surprised Shalimar by being more observant than even she tended to be, and he asked questions about everything. Caught up in exploring the wonders that were Sanctuary, Jesse came out of his shell and for the first time Shalimar – and the surreptitiously observing Adam – saw a glimpse of the young man who had existed before Harrison and Genomex had gotten their hooks into him. Curiosity and intelligence and an oddly endearing enthusiasm were the cornerstones of his re-emerging personality.
When they reached the dojo, the Feral's enthusiasm got the better of her and she proudly showed off the various features of the facility.
"And, we can get all sorts of practice, to help us defeat Eckhart's goons. Here, let me show you," she said, punching in a series of commands. A trio of uniform-clad GSA agents appeared around the two mutants, appearing to block their exit from the dojo. When the middle agent took a step toward Shalimar the effect on Jesse was as immediate as it was startling.
With a guttural cry of mingled rage and terror, he flung himself at the agent sending them both tumbling down the stairs. The holographic image disappeared as soon as they left the influence of the dojo, and Shalimar could only watch in horror as Jesse toppled to the bottom, and then scrabbled into a corner, curling into a defensive ball.
Slapping the button to terminate the program, she flew down the steps, sliding to a crouched stop just beyond Jesse's reach. With tears shining in her dark eyes she tried desperately to reassure her frightened friend.
"I'm sorry, Jess, so sorry. They aren't real, I didn't lie, I swear it. They're fake, just holograms. Oh, please, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you." For all her toughness, Shalimar was remarkably sensitive, and the idea that she'd hurt her new friend upset her tremendously.
Caught up in a flashback, the Molecular reacted instinctively, going intangible and drifting through the wall to find himself in the infirmary. Startled, he was still looking around in a daze when Shalimar and Adam rushed in.
"Wow. So that's what you can do? Cool," Shalimar enthused, smiling at Jesse's surprise.
"I…how…where…the agents…" With obvious effort the young man took a deep breath and tried to settle his thoughts. "Those were GSA agents."
"Those were tangible holograms, created for training purposes," Adam informed him. "Sanctuary has a multi-tiered security system to keep us safe from any real agents of the GSA. We really are safe here."
Jesse sighed deeply, a faint blush coloring his cheeks. "Right. Sorry I panicked," he muttered, his gaze firmly on the ground near Adam's feet.
"First time Adam demonstrated the program, I nearly broke my neck when I tried to attack and ended up going over the edge. I was just lucky I was able to grab the railing before I fell. And Sam was holding one by the neck above his head, so when Adam terminated the program it looked like he was making some sort of offering to God or something. It was pretty funny, really. You should have seen how Gilly teased him for days after." Shalimar chuckled at the memory.
"They look so real."
A proud look crossed Adam's face along with a slightly smug grin. "That was my intention."
"I'd love to see how you programmed that," Kilmartin admitted, looking up at last and climbing back to his feet. "I've never even imagined such realism could be possible. I could FEEL that guy."
"Tell you what, how about a trade? I show you the programming for the holograms, and you agree to some tests of your abilities for me. I'd like to get some baseline stats, see if I can help you refine and develop your powers. Sound fair?"
At the mention of tests Jesse had tensed, but quickly realized he'd gotten no sense of threat from Adam. After a moment's consideration he nodded his agreement. "Fair enough."
"Good! Well, now that's settled, I'll let you two continue your tour, as it were. Try to avoid any more excitement, would you please?" he admonished Shalimar gently.
She smiled in agreement and quickly hauled Jesse out of there, muttering about making good their escape before he decided to assign chores to them for disturbing his peace. Adam watched the young pair hurry off, then turned at the quiet entrance of his two elder team members.
"I take it you two have been watching?"
"Oh, yeah," Sam admitted easily. "Kid surprised me; he was trying to defend Shalimar."
"Yeah, surprised me, too," Gillian put in. "Didn't think he had it in him."
"It's a good sign, a very good sign. If he's got any kind of control of his abilities, I think he'll be the fourth member of Mutant X," Adam noted, glancing at the other two. "Unless there are any objections?"
"Nah, he seems to be alright. But, boy, is he going to have to work his ass off to get into fighting trim," the dark man commented.
"We could do worse," Gilly conceded, smiling to soften her remark. "Needs more personality, though."
"Well, thank you for your votes of confidence," Adam chuckled. "And since you two have pointed out his potential shortcomings I think it's only fair to assign you to help address them."
Both the older mutants groaned at Adam's words, correctly foreseeing long days ahead of training a green recruit.
"Now, try to phase just your hand," Adam instructed, dividing his attention between the machines monitoring Jesse's biorhythms and the young man himself. "Concentrate."
The Molecular's face scrunched up with his effort, and for a moment just his left hand went blurry, the physical sign of his phasing ability. However, he quickly lost control, and his entire left side phased before he stopped it entirely by going solid again. He sighed in frustration.
"I'm never going to be able to control this," he complained, glaring at Adam and absently rubbing his left hand.
"You can and you will, it just takes time and practice," Adam insisted, pleased with what the readouts were telling him. In just a week's time Jesse had shown tremendous improvement in his control, especially in massing. Phasing was coming along a little more slowly.
"Yeah, but for what purpose," the younger man sighed, going over to view the results himself.
"Well, I wanted to talk to you about that," Kane replied, smiling slightly. "You know, I intended for Mutant X to be a four person team."
Adam chuckled at the younger man's apparent confusion.
"Well, mainly because with four members tasks can be divided with no one having to work alone," he explained. "And a Molecular would be a helpful addition."
Comprehension dawned on the youthful face, along with a large portion of surprised pleasure. "Are you asking ME to join your team?"
"If you're willing to keep working on your powers, and are willing to do some training in all the other aspects, such as fighting and utilizing the resources here at Sanctuary. And I do require that you live here in Sanctuary as long as you're a member of Mutant X."
"If you have room for me, living here is fine," Jesse told him, looking thoughtful. "And I used to take karate lessons, even competed in some tournaments with my father," he reported with a shy smile.
"Excellent. Sam incorporates a lot of karate in his fighting, while Gilly prefers Kung Fu and Shalimar…well, Shalimar uses whatever strikes her fancy at the time," Adam chuckled. "You want to give it a try?"
Jesse considered the offer seriously, typical self doubt raising its ugly head. In his mind he heard the bullies from all the years at school, taunting him with remembered cruelty. "Sissy Boy. Faggot. Crybaby. Loser." He'd heard them all. Despite his father's attempts to toughen him up, Jesse had never been as 'manly' as his father had wanted. Sensitive and emotional, he'd spent his youth tormented for not fitting the mold of a future 'macho man." And what would have been the point? He was destined to be a businessman; an Armani-clad corporate drone in a glass hive.
Now, seemingly out of the blue, here came Adam Kane, offering him a chance to make a difference in the world, to become a force of good. Like his father, and his grandfather before him – an opportunity he never expected to get. Nor had he particularly wanted it until it was offered. But now…
"Yeah. Yeah, I do." He turned, startled by the sound of clapping from the entrance, only to find himself caught up in an exuberant hug from Shalimar while Sam and Gillian watched from the doorway.Today
"Hey, you, I don't think this is what Dr. Robinson had in mind when she said to rest," a warm voice penetrated his mind, rousing Jesse from sleep. He grinned drowsily at his Feral teammate as she seated herself on the arm of his chair.
"Did I ever remember to thank you for saving me?" Jesse asked, looking up into the smiling face above him.
"Jesse, I didn't really do much. It was mostly Brennan and Lexa's doing," she demurred.
"Lexa, huh?" he grinned, a mischievous light in his blue eyes.
"Yeah, Lexa." She leaned in close to his ear, her voice dropping to a conspiratorial whisper. "I think she likes you."
Jesse laughed outright at Shal's comment, patting her leg as he leaned back in his chair. "That's nice to know. But…I wasn't talking about this time," he noted.
"Oh? And which time WERE you referring to?" she wondered with a smirk that couldn't belie the affection in her eyes as she considered her friend.
"The first time." The humor in his countenance had faded with those words and Shalimar sobered accordingly.
"You've thanked me; a hundred times in a hundred different ways. Ten years of thank-yous," she informed him, reaching over and running a hand through his tousled blond hair. "What brought that on?"
"I was just remembering…the first time I met Harrison. Got to wonder what God I pissed off so much that he'd send Harrison after me twice."
"Well, it doesn't matter any more; he's in the hands of the Dominion," the Feral replied.
"And Adam said the Dominion was not to be trusted," Jess countered, frowning.
"Adam said SOME of the Dominion was not to be trusted. They don't want Harrison running around any more than we do. I think we can trust them with this. Anyway, that doesn't matter right now. What does matter is you getting some more rest. In bed," she ordered, pulling him up with her.
"Yes ma'am," he snickered, wrapping an arm around her waist as they headed toward the door. On impulse he leaned over and kissed her on the temple. "Thank you."
"One hundred and one," she grinned up at him, tightening her own hold just a bit more. "Starting on the next ten years, are you?"
Author's Notes: In addition to various references from the series, including Shalimar's teasing in the pilot episode about Jesse crying when first seeing Sanctuary, I addressed my own belief that Mutant X existed in various forms before Emma and Brennan joined the team. Canon suggests that Jesse and Shal have been in Mutant X for ten or so years…at least. In Shal's case probably even longer.