Flightless
Jessica S

***
Summary: He always takes away her wings.
Classification: Vignette. Emma/Brennan. Angst.
Spoilers: Slight ones for Lazarus Syndrome, Deadly Desire, and A Breed Apart.
Disclaimer: Mutant X doesn't belong to me. But everyone already knew that.
Dedicated: To Aire who rocks my socks. Thanks for the amazing beta read and the randomly beautiful paragraphs written by her, which inspired me to move along.
A/N: This is my first Mutant X fic. Be kind. Feedback is much appreciated, both good and bad. It goes to breathe@mail.nu
***



He stares at her sometimes. As if he's trying to make sure that she's really alive. His gaze is sharp and deep. She feels her heart beat, and the blood coursing through her veins with a heightened awareness when his gaze hits her. Their eyes connect and they are one. The air flickers with electricity; alive. And she feels like she's falling -- falling out of the sky. Flying.

But he always turns away, taking her wings with him. And she always shatters and hits the ground. Crashing and burning through the stars.

*

He treats her like glass after her miraculous revival. Shalimar tries to act normal; whispering and laughing, painfully avoiding the subject of her death. Jesse smiles at her, teaching her new moves to chase away boys like Caleb. Adam whispers prayers of thanks and tinkers some more in his lab, seeking knowledge, searching for answers -- answers to her revival. But Brennan, Brennan is still. He stares at her, silent. He doesn't talk to her much. When he does, his words are trivial and useless. For a week, he stays in his room, reading, talking to Shalimar and Jesse, but not to her; never really talks to her. And she misses his words, because the air doesn't have the same weight, not without the sounds and vibrations of his voice.

That whole week, she aches. She misses him. And she needs him to be there for her. They have a connection. Something deep, and she had felt it that day. The day Jesse saved her, the day she met Adam, the day her life changed. Time froze when his eyes met hers, as the bodies swirled around them. And she knew -- she knew she could trust him. And she did. It was an unspoken bond, but they both knew it existed. It was an unspoken promise, one that said, "I'll be there for you." But he isn't. He isn't there when she needs him -- him most of all.

The revelation trickles through her mind, and a part of her wilts. A part of her shrivels and dies.

She actually feels dead without him, because the memory of him had been something that she clung to, something she instinctively reached out for. She realizes it now, just as she had realized it then, and she hates him. She hates his smell, his touch, his texture. She hates him. And even though she tries, she knows she can't. Despite the fact that he won't talk to her, won't get near her, she can't hate him. She cares for him too much.

And for that, she hates herself.

Brennan tries to make peace with her a few days after her epiphany. She feels emotions radiating from him. He is sorry for leaving her, for abandoning her in her time of need. He doesn't say it aloud, but she knows. He asks her to watch movies that they both loved to mock. She remembers the endless nights they spent doing that, mimicking the voices of the plastic actors desperately attempting to be real. She knows it is his attempt at a truce. Brennan was never good at expressing his emotions. But she is angry, tired, hurt. So she refuses. The wounded look on his face breaks her heart in two, but she steels herself and walks away.

Jesse finds her, hours later, looking into the water, watching it reflect the deep red of the sky at dusk. She doesn't see him, but she hears Jesse's footsteps, feels Jesse's hesitancy. She feels him -- the full weight of him -- the kind, loving, sweet person that he is.

"Emma?" His voice resonates through the silence.

She turns around, seeing concern flicker pass in his eyes. He is worried about her. They are all worried about her. She knows that, she feels their concern so thickly around her it is almost suffocating. She smiles reassuringly at him, but the smile feels artificial and cold. She wonders it will fool him.

"Hey Jesse," she says, briefly glancing at him before returning her gaze to the shimmery depths.

"I never understood why people stared at water. It's not like it'll provide you answers to all of life's questions," Jesse comments, settling beside her.

She glances at him, smiles weakly at him again. Jesse doesn't have an artist's soul, not like Brennan. Yet he is loyal, protective, honest, and she loves him for it. "It's beautiful," she says simply. "It's the elixir of life."

He raises an eyebrow at her and smiles, "That's one way to look at it."

When all he hears is silence, he asks her, "Are you okay?" His voice laced with worry and fear. "You've been thou-"

"I'm not made of candy glass," she interrupts, softly, "I'm not fragile, I'm not broken. Just, please. Just...be quiet, okay?"

From the look etched on his face, she knows that he doesn't agree. She knows he wants to say more, needs to say more. She looks at him, fascinated by the expression on his face; confusion over his next words. Finally, he whispers a soft, "Okay," before saying, "Shal brought some Chinese food. We better get inside before it's gone."

When she steps inside the warmth and comfort of the Sanctuary, she sees Shamilar with a wide smirk on her face, gazing at Brennan, his mouth tugged into a small smile. She feels a twinge of pain when she sees his smile -- so unaffected by her anger, as if her approval, her friendship meant nothing. Her skin feels prickly, and she clenches her fists, nails almost drawing blood. She takes a deep breath, waiting for the molecules of oxygen to travel down her windpipe, before she steps into his view.

"Hey, did you guys eat all of the food?" Jesse sounds from her side.

Shalimar breaks away from Brennan's gaze, and smiles. "We were about to send out a search party for the two of you. Right, Bren?"

But he doesn't respond. The smile slides off his face, like water rushing over smooth stones. His eyes are soft, yet filled with guilt. They plead for forgiveness. But she can't do it. Not yet. She doesn't want to forgive him now. So she just turns away, asking, "Did you buy any Kung Pao Chicken?"

His face hardens just then, and he says, "Yes." Before turning away from her and shoving a spoonful of rice into his mouth.

As she helps herself to some food, Shamilar jumps up and says, "Adam gave us a night off. After we eat, we should go out."

"Beats being here," Jesse replies, "I'm in."

"Great." Shamilar grins, and crosses her arms, "Hurry up and eat."

She instinctively turns her head to look at Brennan. His gaze hit her at full force and her heart spasms painfully. She realizes then that she can't mad at him any longer. He does that to her. He changes her feelings in seconds, filling her with so many intangible emotions all at once. She hates his power over her, hates herself more for letting him have it. She wants to show him that she is strong, that she can do without him.

But her heart contradicts her mind, and she hears herself saying, "Sorry, I was going to mock Marsha Brady tonight."

"What?" Jesse asks, confused.

But she doesn't look at him, she looks at Brennan. He smiles at her, relief painted over all over his features.

She remembers laughter and eating popcorn that night. And after, she cries into his shoulders, while he strokes her hair with traces of salt and butter on his fingers. "I never want to lose you again. I was so scared, so scared. Promise me you won't do that again."

She nods tearfully, and when she looks in his eyes, she sees their glow. In that instant, she forgets how much he hurt her, how many tears she shed in solitude. In that instant, she realizes that she just may love him.

*

He knocks on her door one night. 3 AM, clear and cloudless. She wakes up yawning as she stumbles to the door, cursing softly under her breath. She finds him standing with a blanket haphazardly wrapped around his body. Eyes tired, scared, like a vulnerable little boy.

"I couldn't sleep," he says, "I-"

She nods before he finishes. She doesn't need an explanation, she feels him; feels his pain, his anxiety, his fears. She knows he's been through so much, and though he tries to act strong, to act normal, she knows he really isn't. No one could be, not after what Lorna did to him. Not after Lorna drugged him, manipulated his mind, made him love her. She aches for him.

He makes his way to her bed, sitting, his head against the headboard. She settles in beside him. The silence is warm and thick, but comfortable. She understands him. No words are needed. No words are really ever needed between them.

Minutes later, when sleep threatened to overtake her, he speaks. "I'm sorry," he whispers, his voice barely audible.

But she hears him, nonetheless. "For what?"

He leans over and touches her cheek, "For throwing that electric bolt at you, for hurting you, for-"

She shakes her head vigorously. "Brennan, that wasn't your fault. It wasn't you."

He laughs bitterly. "It was me."

"You would never hurt me, the real you would have never hurt me. I know that."

"But I did. I knocked you out, I-"

"It was an electric bolt, Brennan. I'm not as weak as everyone believes, you know," she says, rolling her eyes, "All of you have been through so much more."

"I still hurt you," he insists, stubbornly.

"You didn't," she says, then pauses, because she's uncertain of what to say next. She doesn't know what would happen if she says Lorna's name. But she needs to say it, needs to make him understand that it's all Lorna's fault. "Brennan, you were not yourself. Lorna, she's the one-"

"Stop," he whispers painfully. "Just, don't. I don't want to talk about her, okay?"

"Brennan," she answers, "You need to-"

"Stop," he says, almost angrily. "God, Emma."

She observes his eyes more closely now. His eyes pain-ravaged, pupils flecked with worry. "Brennan..." she whispers, voice trailing off.

"You don't know how it felt," he snaps suddenly.

She touches his jaw, "Then show me, I want to understand you. I-"

Something snaps inside of him. He doesn't need her pity, doesn't want her pity. He angrily stumbled from her bed, "I don't need to hear this. You're just like everyone else."

He's at the door when she grabs his arm. Her grip is surprisingly strong. "Brennan, please. Let me help you."

He freezes at the tone of her voice. Her energy flows into him. Their eyes meet, and his mind opens up to her. She receives the strands of his thoughts, and tears well up in her eyes. She gasps at the pain, her pain, his pain. Their pain.

"I'm-" her voice falters. "I'm-"

"I can still feel her," he whispers, "Her skin, her touch, her lips. She's just, she's always there. Mocking me, laughing at my stupidity, my lust."

"Caleb, Lorna," she says uncertainly, "They're both the same, using passion to hurt us. You can beat this, Bren. You can beat this."

He stares at her again, taking in her innocence, her empathy. And when she touches his cheek once more, the dam inside him breaks. "I need-" he whispers, "I need-her touch, it's just--help me, help it go away. Emma, I-I-"

And suddenly his mouth is on hers, and she is breathing into him. An act of resuscitation. She can feel his uncertainty, his pain, and she clings to him, knowing he needs this -- needs her to erase Lorna's touch. Needs her to stop the pain. She understands it all to well, and remembers Caleb all too well.

She sinks onto the carpet, and he is hesitant to hurt her, doesn't want to use her for his own needs. "We shouldn't do this-we-" But he follows her anyway. He kisses her neck, his thumbs tracing patterns her cheekbones. She closes her eyes, wonders what is happening, wonders if this is really the solution to his pain. She suddenly wonders if she can make him forget, if doing this will heal him. But her mind seems to stop when she feels his breath tickle her neck like feathers.

What follows is a frightening physical sensation. They are moving towards something new, something different. It is noisy and sweaty, but all he can think about is the feel of her skin against hers. The air is thick with passion tinged with pain. Her fingertips brushes against him, erasing Lorna's fingerprints on his back. Their bodies meshing together, their mouths desperately seeking.

And when they are through, he leans over and runs a hand over the curve of her mouth and the shape of her face. Giving her a sad, tight smile, he whispers, "I'm sorry. God, I'm sorry, Emma."

She wants to tell him that she's not. She is not sorry. But her body aches, and her eyelids are heavy. Before she can respond to him, sleep's magic is cast and she is lost in a haze with no sense of time. It has no concept of emotions or tales, for she does not dream.

When she awakes, she does not hear his breathing and she feels cold. She feels a twinge of worry, and she suddenly knows that their friendship has been changed, compromised.

They don't speak of the events when she saw him downstairs even though Adam scans him, suspiciously asking about the scars on his back. The scars that she gave him when she dug her nails into his back. He lies about them, telling Adam they were from Lorna.

The lie rings in her ears, and she looks sharply at him. When she sees the emotions radiating from his eyes, her stomach lurches. She realizes that he thinks last night is a mistake. She realizes that he doesn't want her, doesn't want her the way she wants him. Suddenly, she can't swallow and she's gasping for air. Jesse is patting her back in an instant, asking her if she was alright.

"I'm fine," she says, hoping her voice is strong, not as wavery as it sounds to her own ears. "My throat hurts," she lies, "I-I just need a drink of water."

She turns around on her heel and walks out of the room. Deliberate steps. Trying not to stumble, trying to walk with a confident gait.

She hears Brennan say, "Emma."

But she doesn't stop, doesn't look back, doesn't give him the satisfaction. She just keeps walking.

*

She feels the attraction between Brennan and Shamilar before she sees it. They always flirted, and it never felt like anything more then friendship to her. But perhaps she was only blinded by her own emotions. The air was just beginning to smell like Christmas, and she suddenly became painfully aware of the way the air crackled between them.

She finds them together on a Sunday morning, sleeping peacefully on the couch. His arm is draped across Shamilar's shoulders, in a way that was too intimate for friendship. She carefully, quietly inches towards them. Notices Marsha Brady on the TV screen. She grits her teeth and shuts her eyes to keep the tears down.

A moment later, she finds herself viciously shredding jack cheese for an omelete. She's angrily whipping an egg when she feels a presence come into the room. She doesn't have to turn around to know it's him. He doesn't say anything, but he stares at her. She can feel it. She always has. Finally, she spins around and snaps.

"What?"

He looks shocked by her outburst, but quickly says, "Emma, Shalimar and I, we're see-"

She can't hear it, she doesn't want to hear it, not now. So she interrupts him. "I'm glad you found a replacement movie buddy," she tells him. The temperature of her voice shocks him, shocks both of them.

He opens his mouth to protest, but the gods have sympathy on her and Shalimar chooses that very moment to walk into the kitchen. Shalimar's eyes are watery with sleep, and she's perfectly oblivious to the negative energy flowing through the room at high speed. Shalimar's eyes brighten as she looks at the bowl in front of Emma, "What are you cooking? I'm starved."

"A jack cheese omelet with cubed tomatoes," she answers.

"Sounds good!" Shalimar says, walking towards her and opening the egg carton. "There's no more eggs," she says, sighing. "I suppose Brennan and I will have to eat something else."

She winces at the mention of Brennan's name. Glances quickly at him, the guilt in his eyes smother her. "You can have my eggs. Don't worry."

"No!" Shalimar protests, "I can't-"

She glances at Brennan again and pinches the bridge of her nose. "I'm suddenly not so hungry anymore."

She and Jesse catch Shalimar and Brennan kissing on the couch two nights later. When she sees them, twisted together as one, her stomach hurts and she feels dizzy. She catches the look of surprise, mixed with disgust in Jesse's face as he mutters, "God. Get a room you guys."

The sound of Jesse's voice breaks their reverie. They leap apart, their eyes both wide and guilty. Like deers caught in the headlights of a Ford about to run them down. She avoids Brennan's gaze, knows her heart will bleed if she does. "Emma! Jesse!" Shamilar stammers. "What are you doing here?"

But she doesn't answer. All she can see now is how bruised Shalimar's lips are. Suddenly, she feels empty inside. Her knees threaten to buckle, and she needs to grab on to Jesse's arm for support. "My head hurts," she mumbles, "I'm going to go to my room."

"Are you okay?" Jesse asks.

"Fine, just fine," She smiles weakly, closes her eyes and turns away. "I just need some rest."

"Are you sure you're okay?" Shalimar asks, but she doesn't answer. Can't answer after seeing Shalimar's face, Shamilar's arms tangled with Brennan's. She just walks away, rubs her head, pretends not to hear.

When she stumbles to her room, she sinks into her bed. Her room is too bright, and she realizes she forgot to turn off the light. She shuts her eyes, too tired to turn off the light. But her mind mocks her, projects images of Brennan and Shamilar, twisted together. She opens her eyes, lets the light through, stares at the flowers on her blanket. She squeezes her bear, holding it with a tenacious grasp. She doesn't want to cry, doesn't want to be the girl next door who is only defined by the men she loved. She hates the fact that she is like this, empty without him, pained without him. She doesn't want to be like this, hates herself for being this.

A knock on the door startles out of her cloud of pain. He's predictable, she figures. He wants to explain, wants to make her understand. But she doesn't want to hear it. Never wants to hear it. "Emma?" he knocks harder, "We need to talk."

Her fingertips burn, and she has the urge to do something to his mind, use her powers selfishly. But she closes her eyes and doesn't. Instead, she gets up, softly, slowly, and opens the door. Not because she wants to hear him, but because she needs to create an illusion. An illusion of a girl strong, unaffected by heartbreak.

"Brennan, I'm tired," she says. Her voice is empty, slightly wavering, but confident.

"I'm sorry," he says, "Emma, I-"

"What are you sorry for?" she asks. She keeps her face cold, but she knows he can feel her pain anyway.

He looks at her, sadly, "You don't have to act this way, not with me."

She laughs, tries to make it carefree, but it sounds so harsh and bitter that he flinches. She almost grins at his reaction. "Look, Brennan, you don't owe me an explanation."

"But I do. I was going to tell you, about Shalimar and I, but then you saw us, um-"

Her face tightens, but she says, "You and Shalimar. That's great. I'm happy for you. She's great, you know I love her. I hope you guys are happy," she chokes.

He stares at her, "Emma..."

"I'm tired, Brennan," she whispers, after a moment, "Could you please go?"

He doesn't make a move, debating his next move. She starts to close the door, wanting to shut it in his face. But he whispers, "I never meant to hurt you, Emma."

She freezes then, and looks him into the eye, "It's a bit too late for that, Brennan. Much too late for that."

*

Their eyes still meet across the room, sometimes. Yet the harmony has gone to discord; notes are flat and dull. And the nuances of their world have been reborn. Formerly beautiful, trusting, true. Presently apathetic, jagged, desolate. She wonders what has become of them, what has become of her. She is slowly rebuilding, becoming her, getting over her pain, but her heart feels void now. An undefined void that can only seem real in the whitewashed walls of a vision...

But in her dreams, she still can fly. Soaring and falling through the sky. Feathery wings that feel like snow on her fingertips. She doesn't stumble and fall. She doesn't cry, doesn't crumble. And he doesn't take away her wings.



***
End
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