I've been here for what seems like hours, leaning against a desk just a few feet from him and yet we're both silent. He hasn't even acknowledged my presence, and while I know I'm silent, my feral abilities allowing me to sneak up on just about anyone when I need to, I never thought that would come to include him.
In some ways this scene reminds me of the old days when it was just Jesse and me, before we'd ever heard of Emma or Brennan. Jesse would spend every second of every day staring at the computer screen, shoulders hunched forward as if he could merge into the computer itself by sheer force of will alone. Back then I wondered if Adam had got it wrong, if perhaps Jesse's mutation was telecyber-psionic instead of molecular. He certainly had that kind of personality – more comfortable interacting with a machine than another human being, his face fixed in a permanent, emotionless mask.
He drove me crazy for those first few months. It wasn't long after Nikki had left and I still missed her desperately, craving the intense friendship that we once shared. I'd tried to recreate that with Jesse but he made it plain that he wasn't interested. There were some quite explosive clashes between us until Adam finally pulled me to one side and explained Jesse's real background. It was only then that I began to see the truth; that Jesse Kilmartin wasn't the spoiled, stuck up little rich kid I'd mistaken him for, and that his reticence with people was a product of his upbringing, not his genetic make up. An upbringing that had left him afraid to get close to people for fear of getting hurt again, preferring to rely on the cold, hard logic of computers and science.
My reaction to that realization was inevitable I suppose, given my own feral instincts. Adam would call it a feral's need to protect her pack, hell, it wouldn't even surprise me if he'd been counting on that reaction when he brought Jesse home, but whatever his intentions, it worked.
I became fiercely overprotective of my new companion, refusing to let him shut himself away and slowly over time, he began to come out of his shell. He spent less time in front of a computer screen and more time training in the dojo or outside with me on the mountain. The more secure he felt with us the more confident he became, and Sanctuary became a happy home again instead of the lonely place it had turned into after Nikki's departure. Though I have to say, playing tag with someone who can walk through walls is practically impossible and completely unfair, even on a feral. Then Brennan came, and Emma, and while Mutant X was finally complete, my relationship with Jesse changed all over again. Not necessarily for the better, either.
All of Adam's attention shifted on to Brennan and Emma, and rightly so. They were the new members of Mutant X, the ones who needed help to adjust to their new lives and the insane world that they had found themselves in, but I don't think either Adam or I realized just how insecure Jesse still was.
Brennan is, well, Brennan. Brash, confident and outspoken, and however unintentionally, I could see that Brennan's open derision of Jesse's upbringing hurt, dredging up ghosts that Jess had thought were long since buried. We'd both fought long and hard to get rid of them, but over time Jesse's old habits began to resurface. He grew quiet, withdrawn, preferring to spend time alone instead of with the rest of us, and I know that my attraction to Brennan didn't help matters.
We spent so much time making sure that Brennan and Emma had settled into their new lives, that somewhere along the line we forgot they weren't the only members of Mutant X. Jesse must have felt like he'd been forgotten, threatened by Brennan's presence and self confidence, that much is obvious now, but then most things are with the benefit of hindsight. Either way it's too late to start fixing them now.
Hillview was the turning point, I can see that now. Neither Brennan nor Jesse have ever talked much about what went on inside the prison, and whatever Emma may have picked up on she kept to herself, but there's no doubt that their experiences changed them. Brennan's confidence was shot; he became hyperaware of the damage that his powers could do to the rest of us, and while he claimed that it was a fear he'd always lived with, it can't be a coincidence that the first time he actually raised the issue was a few short weeks after he'd nearly killed Jesse.
Jess, on the other hand, grew stronger. Initially I'd been afraid that the beating he'd taken at Brennan's hands would be the final straw, that it would destroy what was left of Jesse's confidence and self-belief after months of Brennan's supposedly good natured taunting.
At first I was right. It took him weeks to heal physically, and in that time he did little more than sleep and eat, barely even looking the rest of us in the eye. Eventually, after another attempt to get him to open up to me was met with a stone wall I revealed my fears to Emma, expecting her to agree with me. Instead she simply smiled and told me to be patient. That angered me at first – I'd lived with Jesse for years while she'd only known him a few months, what gave her the right to think that she knew me better than I did? Only the fact that she'd been into Hillview and had access to knowledge that the rest of us didn't kept me quiet, and she was right.
The Jesse that rejoined the team after recovering from Hillview wasn't the same man who went in, and there is a self-assuredness in his presence now that I've never seen before. In his own mind I think he proved himself inside the prison. Proved to everyone else what we'd always known, that he could look after himself. That need to be valued and respected is what kept him standing in the ring that night, in spite of the punishment that Brennan was handing out, or perhaps because of it.
Now he has faith in himself, and it shows in everything he does. In the easy way he moves, in those amused little grins that he gives when he thinks no-one is watching and Adam's told him to do something that he's already thought about. It's changing the way he interacts with us, and that's the real problem.
Jesse's confidence is growing by the day, and as such he's losing that urgency, that need to be accepted into a family that he's had for as long as I've known him. He's learning that he doesn't actually need us, that he's perfectly capable of surviving without anyone else's help.
Which is why I'm standing here silently, watching him as he relaxes back in his chair, idly surfing through whatever he's doing on the computer. He hasn't noticed me simply because he doesn't have to, he's no longer hyper aware of the thoughts and actions of those around him because it no longer matters. We're not a threat any more.
He's pulling away from us, and I don't need Emma's psionic powers to see it. Right now, I'd give anything to have the insecure, self-conscious Jesse back with us, because that's the Jesse I know. We've fought his demons before, and won, but know we're losing him through his own choice, because he's finally realized that he's stronger than he ever thought possible.
I don't want to lose him, but nor can I fight him. I can't force him to stay, so I watch, and wait for the day that he walks out and doesn't look back.
I wait for the day that he leaves.