I. Ashley: How did you know I fell in love with this?
Brennan: Let's just say I got to know you a little.
Ashley: Maybe a little too well. But I'll never tell.
Brennan: Neither will I. C'mon.
---Lit Fuse, Mutant X season 1
"Brennan where are you going? Jesse asked. "You shouldn't be out of bed!"
"Jess, I'm fine, Adam gave me a clean bill of health, remember?"
Jesse frowned, eying Brennan suspiciously. "I'm pretty sure that didn't include a license to run out of here at 3 AM. Where are you going?"
"I just have something to take care of, I'll be back in a couple of hours."
"And you can't do this at something resembling a decent hour because..."
"Says the man whose normal bedtime is two hours from now," Brennan shot back.
"Fine. I'm coming with you. You've gotten yourself into enough trouble for one night."
"Me? This from the guy who got trapped by a couple of Russian operatives who didn't know you were a new mutant and then suddenly slapped a subdermal governor on?"
"As I recall, that was an undercover mission to save your ass," Jesse pointed out.
Brennan paused a moment, unable to come up with a rejoinder.
"Come on, Brennan, no questions asked, OK?" Jesse said, throwing him a pleading look. "I'll feel better if you're not going out there alone."
Brennan tried to glare at his friend, but he couldn't fight the smile. It was that look of complete trust in Jesse's eyes that had gotten him into this mess in the first place. Well, that and... No. He needed to focus. "No questions asked," Brennan replied sternly.
Jesse held up two fingers. "Scout's honor."
Brennan rolled his eyes, and gestured for Jesse to follow him towards the hanger.
"Three AM trips that require the Helix?" Jesse muttered, following Brennan up the ramp.
"If you break your word I'm breaking mine," Brennan said, taking a seat and firing up the controls.
"Right," Jesse said, frowning.
* * *
Jesse followed Brennan into an abandoned bus station, staring at his friend as he broke into a particular locker.
Brennan opened it, pulling out a brown paper bag and looking inside. "Oh, too easy."
Jesse bit his tongue, following Brennan back to the Helix.
"Would 'do I look as much like a puppy dog as I feel' count as a question?" Jesse mused as they went through the start up routines.
"No, but that does," Brennan deadpanned. He threw a grin over his shoulder at Jesse.
Jesse rolled his eyes. "Great."
"And no," Brennan said. "More like a tag-along kid brother."
"I'm not sure how to react to that."
"Maybe it'll be more clear the next time a pack of GS agents gangs up on you," Brennan said, waggling his fingers to show off a Tesla coil.
"Save it for the bad guys, Sparky," Jesse said.
"Don't worry, we won't be meeting them today," Brennan said, turning the Helix south.
Jesse punched at the read outs, then looked at Brennan skeptically. What could he possibly have to take care of in the Amazon jungle?
When they finally landed, Brennan bounded down the ramp. He walked about thirty paces into the jungle and pulled a red tripod device out of the bag. He then reached into his coat pocket, pulling out a timer, a piece of paper, and a ball of string.
Jesse watched quietly as Brennan set up the transmitter, setting the timer for half an hour later. Finally Brennan tied the sheet to the tripod, displaying a hand lettered sign:
I sing the body electric
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them;
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them,
And charge them full with the charge of the soul
Mutant X lives.
So long, suckers.
Jesse stared, looking from Brennan to the sign.
"No questions," Brennan repeated quietly.
Jesse nodded. "Let's go before that thing goes off."
"You don't have to tell me twice."
* * *
They flew in silence about halfway to Sanctuary until Jesse's curiosity got the better of him.
"Can I offer up a hypothetical?"
"OK, but I might not answer."
"All right, let's say when Genomex kidnapped you right before you joined Mutant X, they offered you a deal. A lot of money, position, no more Thorne controlling your subdermal governor. Maybe freedom, in exchange for infiltrating Mutant X."
Brennan's knuckles whitened, hands still on the controls.
"You were supposed to learn our secrets, the safe houses, then lead Genomex to Sanctuary. But something happened," Jesse continued. "Something made you decide to really join us, to tell Eckhart 'so long suckers' and really be a member of the team. I'm just wondering what that might be?"
"Hypothetically?" Brennan croaked out.
"Of course," Jesse said. He doubted Brennan really believed they were talking in hypotheticals, but if it helped Brennan to not really admit what he had almost done...
"You and those Russian gits who got a governor on you--and why. The way my stomach knotted when we realized that Shal had taken that 'cure.' You, Shal, and Emma practically piling on me this evening because you were so freaked out over what happened with Ashley. Adam somehow knowing exactly what was bothering me without being asked. And last week--the look on that shit scared boy's face when we got him out of that hellhole and into New Mutant foster care.
"Not to mention subdermal governors and the constant threat of being podded." Brennan paused, glancing at Jesse. "Mutant X is a family. Genomex is a prison. Hypothetically."
"Hypothetically," Jesse agreed.
Brennan started taking the Helix down for the approach to Stormking Mountain. "Is Adam going to hear about this little... hypothetical situation?"
"Nah," Jesse replied. "I may be a tag-along, but I'm no tattle tale."
Brennan glanced back, throwing Jesse a genuine smile. "Thanks."
"Anytime, dude," Jesse said. "But the next time you want to tell Eckhart off can we do it at a decent hour?"
"Man, bro, you're cranky when you're tired. Don't worry, we're almost home and I'll tuck you in for your troubles."
The wadded up paper bag that had held the Genomex tracking device careened toward Brennan's head.
Brennan sat quietly at the table, rubbing the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger, ignoring the steaming plate of Chinese food in front of him.
"Brennan, you need to eat," Shalimar nagged.
She and Jesse had dragged him here, claiming the change of scenery would do both Brennan and his appetite some good.
"I told you, I'm not really hungry, okay?"
"No, it's not," Jesse said. "Brennan, you haven't eaten since..." Jesse sighed. "Look, Adam and Emma wouldn't want you to shut down like this. They'd want you to keep living."
"They wouldn't have wanted me to..." Brennan paused, lowering his voice. "They wouldn't want Eckhart for company either."
Jesse opened his mouth, but the waiter approached their table.
"Can I get you anything else?"
"Just some to go boxes and the check please," Jesse said, giving Brennan a pointed look indicating that this conversation wasn't over.
"We'll talk when we get home,"Shalimar said, squeezing Brennan's shoulder.
* * *
As they exited the restaurant and headed for their car in the parking garage, they were approached by three men in trench coats.
The three moved slightly, flanking each other. Ready for trouble.
"What do you want?" Jesse asked.
"Who wants to know?"
The men produced badges. "Federal agents. Brennan Mulwray, you're under the arrest for the murder of Mason Eckhart..."
Jesse and Shalimar tensed, but Brennan held up his hands.
"Guys, no," Brennan said to them, firmly.
"Are you going to make trouble," one of the agents said, a little too much of a hopeful note in his voice.
"No trouble," Brennan said, firmly. "I'm going to come quietly and my friends here are going to walk away and call me a good lawyer."
"Brennan," Jesse started.
"Stay out of this, Jesse, you don't know what's going on here," Brennan said. Firmly. Hoping Jesse got the message and didn't get himself booked as an accessory.
"Listen to your friend, son," the agent added.
Jesse and Shalimar's muscles unclenched. Brennan wouldn't describe them as "relaxed" so much as "no longer ready for action."
"Come on, Shal Adam has..." Jesse winced, correcting himself, "I mean he had a friend. Let's go."
Shalimar let Jesse lead her to the car, glancing behind her.
Brennan obediently allowed himself to be cuffed and answered the agents' questions about sharp objects. They then led him to the car. An agent went into the car, and an agent produced a subdermal governor gun from the back seat.
Brennan tensed. "Who did you say you worked for?"
"FBI, son," the lead agent said, showing Brennan his badge again. "I can show you the warrant for your arrest if you like. There is no GSA."
"Yes, please," Brennan said. He was surprised at how... polite these agents were being. This must be what happened when you didn't run from the law.
The man held up the paper and Brennan read it. He sighed, then braced himself. "OK, hit me."
The circle of metal pressed to his neck, feeling cooler and stickier than the first time. There was a slight stick, then the gun dropped.
"That was it?" Brennan asked.
"You were expecting searing pain?"
"Hurt like hell when Genomex did it," Brennan replied.
"And the government wonders why so many mutants are criminals. Get in the car," the agent said, opening the door.
* * *
Brennan sat in the cell, legs drawn to his chest. They'd told him he had a visitor, but he really didn't care.
"Gee, Brennan, you've really done it this time."
Brennan looked up, his jaw dropping. "Adam?"
"Yes, Brennan and... oof." Adam cut off in mid-sentence as Brennan caught him in a bear hug.
"You're okay," Brennan said, holding on tight.
Adam chuckled. "Brennan, you might want to let go before someone thinks I'm here for a conjugal visit."
Brennan sighed, letting go before Adam pushed him away. "You could've sent us a message instead of letting us think..."
"I had my reasons, Brennan, this wasn't..."
"I know, I know," Brennan said, sighing miserably.
"So you're sorry?"
Brennan shrugged. "You were dead, Emma was dead, there wasn't another way."
"You killed the man who was practically my brother, Brennan."
"You'll pay for this," Adam said, drawing a gun.
Brennan instinctively tried to form a Tesla coil, then doubled over in pain as the subdermal governor in his neck activated. "Guard!" he called weakly.
Brennan's world went black.
Brennan awoke to a tiny body pouncing him. He groaned. "Emma, it's early."
"It's noon, you silly slug-a-bed," replied a tiny voice. Too tiny for an eleven year old, really, but she looked like she was nine.
Which was an improvement, because when she'd joined the Mulwray clan a year ago, she looked like she was six.
"Emma," he said, sleepily.
A different voice chimed in, more firm. "Brennan, wake up!"
"Oof," Brennan said as a significantly larger body squashed him towards the bed. "'Bella, you promised to keep her in check."
"No dice, bro," his twin sister Arabella replied. "Besides, we've been playing Monopoly for four hours now and we're done and we want to hear all about last night."
Brennan pulled the covers down to glare at his twin. Impressionable little Emma just-become-Mulwray did not need to hear about her sixteen year old brother's dating exploits.
Such as they were.
Emma bounced on the bed, voice rising in pitch. "Did you treat her like a princess? Did you kiss her goodnight and open the doors and..."
"Whoa, Emma, that's practically an earthquake, cut it out," Brennan said.
"Well?" Emma asked, ceasing her bouncing at looking at him with big eyes.
"I'd like to hear this too," said a a new voice from the doorway.
"Daddy!" Emma squealed, climbing over Arabella and running into Tim Mulwray's arms.
"Hi, sweetheart," Brennan's father scooped up Emma.
She buried her face in Tim's neck, hugging him tightly.
"Daddy?" Tim mouthed at Brennan and Arabella--the last time he'd seen his adopted daughter, she had to be convinced to call him "Tim" and not "Major Mulwray."
The twins flashed their father a double thumbs up, 'Bella bounding over to hug her father as well. Brennan followed a moment later, waiting for Arabella to let go before hugging his father and Emma at the same time.
As he pulled away, he tickled Emma's ribs.
"Brennan!" Emma shrieked, giggling.
"Nice boxers, champ," his father said, studying Brennan carefully.
"If someone had told me you were coming home early, I'd have set an alarm."
Arabella looked at the ceiling innocently.
"'Bella!" Brennan exclaimed, reaching for his twin and tickling mercilessly.
"Dad! Brennan's tickling me!"
"Be glad I'm not shocking you!" Brennan retorted.
"Don't worry, 'Bella, he's kidding!" Emma piped up.
"Get out of my head you little show off," Brennan said, glaring at the eleven year old.
"You're projecting!" Emma said.
"Brennan, quit torturing your sister. We're going out to lunch, I want you showered and ready in fifteen minutes."
Brennan rolled his eyes, releasing his twin and heading towards the closet.
"Let's let your brother get dressed," Tim said, beckoning his elder daughter to him. Emma was still holding on tightly as he turned to leave through the door.
"Dad," Brennan said.
His father turned.
"It's good to have you back."
"It's good to be back, son. See you soon."
Brennan smiled, going through his closet in search of jeans that weren't ripped as he heard Emma babbling all the news of the fifth grade to their father.
Brennan stood outside the room, tapping his foot impatiently. Lexa had been in there forever. He wanted to bust down the door, but as best as he could tell from what Candace had told Jesse and Shalimar, that was a bad idea.
As long as he didn't hear the signs of a struggle, it would simply be better to stay put. No matter how... no, he wasn't worried. He wasn't, damnit. He just didn't want Jesse going massive on his ass if anything happened to Lexa.
"Whoa, Leo!" Lexa exclaimed, nearly falling though the door.
Whatever alter ego Leo was using he was much taller and heavier than Lexa and having trouble walking.
"Here, man," Brennan said, taking Leo's free arm and wrapping it around his own neck.
Lexa glared daggers at him. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Making sure you don't get your ass kicked, you idiot," Brennan said.
"I don't need your protection," Lexa said testily.
"Tough shit, you're part of Mutant X now, which means you don't go off on half cocked missions by yourself."
"Look who's calling the kettle black, Mulwray," Lexa snapped.
"If you hurt her I'll beat you to death with a shovel," Leo murmured, stumbling as they reached the stairs.
"You're too tall to be telling me that," Brennan said.
Leo shook his head, gently.
"Careful, you'll knock your brains loser than they are all ready and we'll be in real trouble," Lexa said.
"Right," Leo said. "Who is this guy?"
"Brennan Mulwray I'm a f... I work with your sister."
Lexa eyed him suspiciously.
"And you came chasing after her?"
"We needed Jesse in Sanctuary to look after Candace, and the only way to make him stay was to come chasing after Lexa myself."
"Jesse's the one I should be threatening with a shovel?"
"If you insist," Brennan said, rolling his eyes. "I don't think Lexa's the one who's going to get hurt though."
Lexa raised an eyebrow at him, turning for the stairs.
"This way, the Helix is on the roof," Brennan said.
"Helix?" Leo asked.
"Our plane," Lexa said.
Leo grinned. "Going for a ride in the X jet?"
Brennan chuckled. "A comic book fan? You and Jesse are going to get along just fine."
"Brennan," Becca's voice cut into Brennan's dreams.
He sat up abruptly, cursing the day he'd set Becca up with an emergency code. What could possibly be so important that she was calling him at 3 AM?
An arc sailed by Becca's head. "It's Conner, he..." She trailed off, dissolving into tears.
Brennan frowned, was this a con? He'd never seen Becca cry. Then he caught sight of Conner in the background, holding his hands away from him in horror.
Bolts of blue lightening crackled between them.
"Conner! Pop quiz, where does electricity want to go?"
Conner glared at him, then his eyes lit up in realization. He bolted outside, and Brennan could see him laying his hands on the concrete. Arcs fizzled from his hands, safely dissipating into the ground.
"Atta boy," Brennan said, hoping Conner could hear him. "Just take deep breaths. I'll be right there."
He didn't respond.
"Becca," Brennan said, lowering his voice so Conner wouldn't hear what he was saying. "Conner needs you to calm down and get a grip. Keep him calm, and whatever you do keep him dry. I'll be there as soon as I can."
"Brennan I can't..."
"You can," Brennan said, firmly. "Just keep him calm and don't let him get wet. I'll be there as fast as I can."
"I'll be right there," Brennan repeated. Gulping. This wasn't the Becca he knew. He ended the connection, and went to grab jeans and a shirt. He needed to get over there, fast. This wasn't the Becca he fell in love with.
She hadn't known about his powers back then, of course, but she hadn't freaked at them two months ago.
Why was she freaking out about Conner's powers? Brennan prayed he would be able to put things right, and fast.
He'd put too many kids Conner's age--younger, usually, now that he thought about it--into the New Mutant Underground for reasons such as this. Shit scared, all of them.
Now it was happening to his son. Except Conner wasn't... or was he? Brennan grabbed his jacket, pushed the thought out of his mind and double timed it towards the hanger--where he nearly ran into Emma and Shalimar.
"Slow poke," Emma teased.
"Damn psionics," Brennan said. "Do..."
"Adam's getting the lab ready," Shalimar said, starting for the garage. "It sounds like he's late blooming in a big way."
"Thanks, guys," Brennan said gratefully as they headed for the car.
* * *
"We're lucky we didn't get a ticket," Emma said as they pulled up to the quiet suburban street where Conner and Becca lived.
Brennan didn't reply, just ran through the open door. "Conner? Becca?"
"I'm back here," Conner called.
Great, he sounded close to tears. Brennan ran to his... to Conner, sitting next to him and pulling him close. "Where's your mom?"
Conner shrugged, leaning into the embrace. "I think she's freaked."
"I'm here now, it's going to be okay."
Shalimar appeared at the doorway, holding the insulated gloves from their emergency kit.
"Those for me?" Conner asked.
"They'll keep you from having any accidents on the way to Sanctuary," Brennan said gently.
"Sanctuary?" Conner asked.
"We're gonna have Adam check you out, okay?"
Shalimar handed Brennan the gloves.
"Okay, buddy, one hand at a time," Brennan said, holding a glove next to Conner's right hand.
Conner moved his hand into it quickly. He took the other glove from Brennan and pulled it over his left hand.
"What's taking Emma and your mom so long?" Brennan asked, glancing towards the house.
"Why don't I walk Conner to the car and you can see what's keeping them?" Shalimar suggested.
"That okay, buddy?" Brennan asked, reluctant to leave him.
Conner nodded. "Just don't take too long."
"Shout if you need me." Brennan patted Conner's shoulder, heading for the stairs.
He found Becca and Emma in Conner's room. Arguing over a suitcase.
"What's going on?" Brennan asked, a lump rising in his throat. Becca wouldn't? Would she?
"I can't do this, Brennan. I can't take care of a... a..." Becca trailed off, choking down a sob.
Emma reached out and touched Becca's shoulder. "Becca, you're upset. You're frightened, I can feel that but..."
"I can't do it!" Becca shouted.
Brennan's stomach twisted. He could only hope Conner hadn't heard. "Becca, you're in shock..."
"I'm not..." Becca slammed the suitcase shut.
"Look, Adam's going to want to keep Conner for a few days anyway," Brennan said. "Let's talk about this when he's better."
Emma openly glared at him, but accepted the suitcase from Becca. Brennan took Emma's arm and led her down the stairs.
"Brennan, are you nuts?"
"You want to stand there arguing all night and wait for Conner to short circuit something?" Brennan threw back. "I know she's freaked, but she's not going to listen to reason. If you couldn't get her to open up by now, she's not going to."
"You don't know her like I do."
"You're not exactly..."
Brennan stopped. "Emma, please. I just..."
"Want to get Conner to Adam," she finished.
"Get out of my head," Brennan muttered grumpily, running down the steps again.
Emma sighed heavily and followed.
* * *
Once Conner was safely settled on the diagnostic couch in the lab, Adam handed Brennan a cotton swab. "I need..."
Brennan nodded, opening the sterile packet and obediently swabbing the inside of his cheek. Adam approached Conner with another swab.
"This should make things easier," Emma said, pulling a tube containing a few blond hairs out of her pocket. "I pulled them off of Becca's hairbrush."
"Good thinking, Emma." Adam opened his own sterile packet.
Conner was glaring him, lips tightly shut. He shook his head.
"Conner we need to do this," Adam said firmly.
Conner shook his head again.
Brennan put his cotton swab in a tube, approaching Conner's bed. "It's OK buddy."
Conner looked up at him with pleading eyes. "No paternity tests," he whispered.
"Conner, Adam's adjusted my DNA so many times--if this is my mutation--it's a huge shortcut. But if it's not, using those treatments could seriously hurt you. He has to know. And no matter what it says, I love you. Nothing's going to change that."
Conner shook his head again.
Brennan took a deep breath, stroking Conner's hair tenderly. "I'll leave if you want. I don't ever have to know. Adam won't even tell you if you don't want him to. Please, Conner."
Conner opened his mouth, finally. Brennan sighed with relief, taking the swab gently from Adam and swabbing Conner's cheek himself.
Jesse put a hand on Brennan's shoulder. "We got it from here, bro. Go get some rest. We'll come get you when Conner's ready for company."
"You okay here?" Brennan asked Conner.
The boy nodded tiredly. "Can I nap on this thing?"
"Absolutely," Jesse said.
Brennan squeezed Conner's shoulder reassuringly. "You be good for Jesse and Adam, OK buddy?"
"Yes, Dad," Conner replied.
"You got that right, no matter what that test says," Brennan said, and with that he left.
* * *
Brennan lay on his bed, staring up at the ceiling when the knock came. "Come in."
"Going to be fine, sleeping peacefully or we could release him to... where are we going to put him anyway?"
Brennan shrugged. "I hadn't gotten any farther than get him safe."
"And if Becca..."
"There's always Xavier," Brennan said. "Tell him to keep a close eye on his cousin."
"Katie will love that," Jesse said.
"No she won't," Brennan replied. "She'll think I don't have faith in her abilities as a Mutant X agent."
"Probably not," Jesse said, smiling. "She'll love the part where you called Conner her cousin though."
Brennan laughed. "Think if Conner knew it would convince him to let me know what that test said?"
"Does it matter or doesn't it?"
"I just want to know," Brennan said.
"I know," Jesse said. "I would too. I'm amazed you did that."
"What would you have done if it were Katie lying there refusing to..."
"Point taken," Jesse replied. "And speaking of what I would do, I set up the other cot in the infirmary if you want."
"Thanks bro," Brennan said, getting up.
"Try to actually get some sleep this time, okay?"
Brennan rolled his eyes, heading for the infirmary.