Disclaimer: MutantX and its associated characters, locales, etc. belong to Tribune Entertainment et al and I claim no ownership of them and intend no copyright infringement. Original characters and locales such as Father Awa, Detective Lewis, and St. John of the Cross church are my own and I would appreciate being consulted if someone wishes to use them.
Author's Note: Well, that's it for this one. Thanks again to all of the reviewers – you guys rock! And without you the story would likely not have been finished. Sometimes, once I have a plotline all figured out in my head, I get a little less driven to actually sit down and write the ending, so I need a good kick in the pants. It's encouraging to me that a story like this one got such a favourable response – and such a complete lack of negative response. :D :D :D So I say it again – you guys rock! God Bless.
Crisis of Faith – Chapter 9
Brennan finished the last form of the Poomse TaeBaek with tired muscles, and picked up the towel he'd brought with him to the dojo and mopped his face with it, thankful for its rough texture against his skin. He had come to the dojo alone that evening, partly because so much time in close confinement left his fit body crying for exercise, but moreso because he needed to work through some of the feelings still roiling through him, needed to re-centre himself, after the events of the last weeks. The others seemed to have sensed his need to be alone, and had given him his privacy, for which he was grateful; the raised position of the dojo always made him feel a little on display. He was somewhat surprised to find that the flowing movements of the Poomse and the visioning techniques he had learned when he was first learning them put him into a state of mind where almost without realizing it, he slipped into prayer. It felt strange, but good, to pray without feeling like he was forcing something; he stopped worrying about what exactly to say, and just let his mind speak to God unencumbered by words.
Now that he had finished, he heard quiet footsteps approaching, and lowering his towel he saw Adam standing near the foot of the stairs, looking up at him with an unreadable expression.
"Brennan," he said, "if you're finished, do you have a minute? We need to talk."
Brennan felt his newfound tenuous inner peace dissolve. He had anticipated this moment, and Jesse's apology in the garage had confirmed his suspicions. Adam would oh-so-tactfully say that, though he had wanted things to be different, he just didn't think Brennan was going to work out as a member of Mutant X. He needed someone whose past was clean – Brennan's past put them all at risk. Brennan had no idea what he would say about his Sunday morning forays, though. He put the towel around his neck with slow, deliberate movements, then, sighing, began to descend.
"Come on into my study," Adam said, motioning, and Brennan followed him into the spacious, warmly-lit room. He was unsurprised to find it tastefully decorated in minimalist fashion, with just a hint of oriental influence. At Adam's gesture, he dropped into one of the overstuffed leather chairs sitting in front of the desk, and to his surprise, Adam declined to take the position of authority on the other side of the desk, but rather pulled his chair around to sit across from him, fingers steepled in thought.
"I'm not really sure how to begin," Adam said after a pause. "This isn't easy for me to say."
Brennan ran his fingers through his sweaty hair, making it stand on end every which way. "Don't worry about it. I think I know what you're going to say anyway."
"Oh?" Adam looked surprised, but Brennan stood up and put his hands in the pockets of his sweat pants. "Yeah. Look Adam, I know I let you down. I should have told you about the bank from the beginning. I just…I wanted to put all that behind me." He shook his head. "I don't know how I ever managed to convince myself that I might ever really fit in here, and I think I understand why you want me to leave. I tried to work it out with the church, and it helped, but I just – I have too much…" he groped for a word. "History. But…thanks, for the chance."
Adam's eyes widened and he reached out to stop the door that Brennan had begun to open. "Brennan, sit down," he said, in a low, somehow thick voice. Looking at the older man's eyes, Brennan couldn't define what he saw there. Guilt? Compassion? Confused, he slowly lowered himself into the chair again, unwilling to look at the man's face.
There was another pause, as Brennan studied his hands and Adam struggled to find the words to say what needed saying.
Finally, Adam said, "Brennan, do you know why you're a New Mutant?"
Brennan's head came up quickly. He didn't know what he had been expecting, but it wasn't that. "What?"
"Do you know why you're a New Mutant?" Adam repeated.
Brennan shrugged, his brows furrowed. "Because some scientists at Genomex messed around with my DNA."
"Why your DNA, in particular?"
He shrugged again. "Never really thought about it," he confessed.
"When your mother came to Genomex, the disease that would kill her eleven years later was already beginning its attack on her cells. For her at the time, the progress of the disease was slow, barely noticeable. But even as early as two months into her pregnancy, she knew it was already killing you."
Brennan sat unmoving. What Adam was saying was the last thing he had expected, and the emotions it was raising in him were strong, despite his having (he thought) put them to rest years ago. "I never really understood why my mother died," he said quietly.
"The disease was very rare, and there was no known cure. It attached the mitochondria – the part of the cell which provides the cell the energy it needs to grow and perform its function. You were still developing in your mother's womb, but your cells couldn't generate the energy they needed to divide and reproduce. You couldn't grow. At two months gestation, you were only as far along as most healthy embryos at six weeks." Adam held his hand up, fingers about one third of an inch apart. "This big.
"When your mother came to Genomex, she knew she would die from the disease. But she was willing to try anything to allow you to live."
Brennan felt like squirrels had gotten into his stomach and were chasing each other in a frenzied game of tag. He listened silently.
"I was already chief biogeneticist at the time, and though I moved back and forth among the four main research teams, I was always drawn most to the Elementals and the Moleculars. Your mother's case especially attracted me; she was so determined to give you a fighting chance. I worked with her for almost the entire length of her pregnancy. I want to tell you, too, that though it was a very hard pregnancy, and a lot of the work we did must have been very painful, she never once complained.
"By this time, we were only just beginning to see mutations in the children we had helped, and we believed we had corrected the problem. I never expected what the results of our 'messing around' would be for you. And when, at eight months gestation, you were no longer showing any signs of the mitochondrial disorder and the heightened electrical impulses were compensating for your cells' weakness, we sent your mother home. A month and a half later, your mother sent me this."
Adam reached across the deck to pull something out of the top drawer, and handed it to Brennan. It was an old Polaroid snapshot of Brennan's mother, looking young, tired, but happy, holding an exhausted-looking infant, bright-eyed, with a shock of dark hair. Across the bottom of the picture was written, in his mother's characteristically hurried handwriting, "Brennan James Mulwray, 8 lbs, 7 oz."
Brennan stared at his mother's smiling face and his younger self, trying to absorb the story. Finally he looked up at Adam again, his eyes wet. "I don't understand. Why are you telling me all this?"
"You said you had history that could never let you be a part of this team. I want you to know that you have a history that ties you to us, too.
"Your mother was willing to do anything to give you a chance at life. And when you came to Mutant X, I was so happy to be able to give you a second chance, for her sake as much as yours, or ours. But when I thought you'd gone back to your old life – I've spoken to Father Awa, Brennan, and I know now how wrong I was about this whole situation – when I thought you'd gone back to a life of crime, that you'd thrown away that chance I had given you, I was so disappointed, so angry at you, at myself, for being so wrong, for failing…." Adam trailed off, and his eyes grew misty as he saw the guilt and self-blame Brennan was feeling. He leaned forward and reached out suddenly to grasp Brennan's shoulders tightly, and he looked earnestly into the younger man's eyes.
"I was wrong, Brennan. You never betrayed me. Never. You tried to tell me what was happening, and I didn't listen. In my pride, I had been so happy to be giving you a chance at a new life, but when put to the test, I never really gave you a chance at all. I will totally understand if you choose to leave, but I hope that you can find it in you to give Mutant X – to give me – a second chance. You do belong here, Brennan Mulwray, as much as any of us. Can you forgive me?"
Brennan's face was wet with tears now, and he reached out to grasp Adam's shoulders, joining him in a kind of half-hug. "Oh, Adam," was all he could say. They stayed that way, heads bowed with emotion, for a long time, unspeaking, until finally Brennan pulled away and wiped his nose roughly on his arm.
"Okay, I'll stay," he said, finally, "on one condition."
Adam raised an eyebrow in surprise.
"You never, ever, tell Jesse or the others that you saw me cry."
Adam smiled. "Agreed."
A light of mischief sprang into Brennan's red-rimmed eyes, and he grinned suddenly. "And I never have to mop the concourse."
Adam smiled and gave him a mock-severe, fatherly frown. "Don't push your luck."
Brennan laughed, and together they stood and went out to join the rest of their family.
That Sunday, Jesse rose early, wiping the sleep out of his eyes with his left hand even as he turned off his alarm with his right. In the next room, Jesse could hear Brennan's shower turn on, and he quickly pushed himself up out of bed and began pulling on his clothes.
When Brennan reached the door to the garage, Jesse was waiting for him. The tall Elemental looked down at him warily.
"Hey Brennan. You headed out?"
"Mind if I come along?" In the past week, Jesse and Brennan's relationship had been somewhat strained, and Jesse had decided to get it dealt with.
Brennan looked uncomfortable. "I'm, ah, going to church," he said, a little embarrassed.
Jesse nodded. "Oh, I know. Mike told me."
Brennan blinked. "Mike told you?"
"Yeah. After I threatened him a bit, of course."
"No, but it doesn't matter. I was raised Christian, and since I talked to Mike and found out what you were doing, I thought maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to revisit that side of myself."
Brennan nodded, recognizing the gesture Jesse was making, and touched deeply by it. He grinned rakishly."Okay. But I'm driving."
"Peace be with you."
"And also with you."
Brennan turned from the little old lady in front of him to face Jesse. "Peace be with you," he said.
Jesse took his offered hand and smiled. "You too."
When Brennan turned around, he saw that the young woman he had seen there before, the one from the bank, was there again today, in the same spot. Reaching into his pocket, he felt the chain of her necklace, let his thumb brush over the engraving on the pendant.
When the Mass was over, Brennan rose quickly to catch up to the girl before she left, leaving a puzzled Jesse waiting in the pew. "Excuse me," he said, touching her elbow lightly.
She stopped, and looked at him. The way her eyes searched his face, he felt sure that she recognized him, but could not remember why. "I think I have something of yours," he said, and then, slowly, drew the necklace from his pocket.
She reached out and took it, looked at it, then looked up at him again. "You!" she said at last, her eyes widening in recognition as she stepped back a pace. "I knew I knew you from somewhere."
"Well, I want you to know that what happened at the bank that day – well, I don't do that anymore, and I've spoken to the police about it. But I wanted to give that back to you myself."
She stared at him. "Um, okay….well, thanks, I guess."
"I'm sorry, if I frightened you, and for taking this from you. I never wanted to hurt anyone. But at that time, I guess I was choosing not to see that I was doing just that." His face was red, now, and he couldn't meet her eyes.
She hesitated, then held the necklace out to him. "Would you put it on me? The catch is hard."
Gently, he took it from her, and she turned her back and bent her head so that her short hair would be away from her neck. Brennan softly draped it around her neck, and fastened the clasp.
"Thanks," she said, then smiled a little kind of half-smile. "It was my mother's," she continued, and her hand raised to close around the pendant.
"I understand," Brennan said, quietly. "Say a prayer for me sometime, okay?"
When she left, Brennan turned to see Jesse and Father Awa, trying very hard to look like they had not been watching the exchange. "So, Father," Jesse said loudly. "How about those Mets?"
"Yes, how about those Mets?" Awa responded, looking a little abashed.
"Okay, okay, you guys," Brennan said, grinning, as he walked back over to them. "You don't have to pretend."
"Well," Awa said, more seriously. "It was the right thing to do, and it took courage."
Brennan shrugged. "I didn't really need it anymore. See you around, Father."
"Till next week."
Brennan slid into the car behind the driver's seat, and looked over at Jesse as the young Molecular was fastening his seatbelt. "Any particular reason you need to get back to Sanctuary right away?" Brennan asked.
"No, not really. Why?"
Brennan started the engine. "Thought I might hit the mall. I think it's time I did some shopping. My room's kind of empty looking, don't you think? After all," he said with mock seriousness, "'it's the little touches that make a house a home'."
Jesse grinned back. "Just as long as we don't spend too much time looking at doilies."
Brennan broke into a laugh, loud and long and happy. "Agreed."
Tae Kwan Do info from h t t p : w w w .b a r r e l . n e t / p a t t e r n s . p h p