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He sat up slowly, as gently as he could manage even though he knew it would never quite be gentle enough to stop the pain from setting in, a sharp, physical reminder of what had, in a single day, changed everything he held dear.

It appeared on schedule, as he reached halfway between laying and sitting, an uncomfortable angle where his body simply refused to go any further, strongly demanding to be allowed to lay back down where it didn't have to move. He didn't particularly want to refuse it. Moving brought nothing but pain; his head spinning where the concussion hadn't quite healed and ribs protesting the slightest intake of breath, whereas when he was lying still on his bed he could almost ignore the residual twinges, could almost pretend that none of it had happened.

Yet, in spite of all that, lying down was worse. With nothing to do but stare at the ceiling his mind wandered, thinking about everything and nothing, and however hard he tried, always eventually returning to the one thing he wished he could forget.


The whole sorry business had been a disaster from day one, even when he'd truly believed that facing Brennan's open derision in front of Adam was the worst it was going to get.

But he'd been wrong there, too. It seemed as if he'd been wrong about everything, lately.

At least when he was moving, when the pain crowded in and threatened to overwhelm everything in spite of the Tylenol, it overwhelmed the part of his mind that insisted on remembering.

Hindsight was the last thing that he needed right now.

He still teetered halfway between laying and sitting, trying to build up the nerve to take the final, most painful step towards getting up off the bed before he sent himself crazy. Tensing, he pushed himself forward, breath catching in his throat as the pain in his ribs sent lightning in front of his eyes, but after a heart-stopping second when he thought he was going to fail in spite of his efforts his body finally gave in to inertia and pushed forward, stilling only when he was sitting, hands trembling, on the edge of his bed.

After that, standing was relatively easy. Feet shuffling, Jesse slowly made his way towards the door of his room. Still unable to stand completely straight, he felt like an old man.

Sanctuary was quiet, the others having been sent off on some mission or other that he still wasn't well enough to go on, with Adam co-ordinating from the lab.

Jesse had waited until he was sure that they'd all gone before venturing out of his room, not feeling up to dealing with them. He had thinking of his own to do, and for that he needed space that none of them seemed to want to give him.

Shalimar's feral instincts meant she was still hovering, apparently needing to protect him from something, though considering the damage had already been done, Jesse wasn't all that sure what she thought the danger was. Emma was watching him, and not being particularly subtle about it, and while Jesse couldn't be sure that she'd read him, wasn't even sure whether or not you could feel someone poking around in your mind in the first place, he was still convinced that she knew more about what had happened between Brennan and him than she should.

Jesse had been slightly suspicious of Emma since their mission into Kovakistan; getting the feeling that there was something about Emma that no longer felt right. There was no basis for his suspicions, and Jesse would never dream of letting on to anyone that they existed in the first place, but the easy trust that had once lain between them was gone, and while he knew that he was the one who had lost the trust, he had no idea why.

And then there was Brennan. The man still seemed awkward around him, which didn't particularly surprise Jesse but the sudden attention where before there was little more than contempt unnerved him. He knew he was bound to be a little nervous around the Elemental considering the fight, something that Adam himself had warned them both about during their belated mission briefing once Brennan was back to his old self. Even so, Jesse knew that if it had just been the beating, the fact that it was Brennan who was responsible for the concussion and the fractured ribs, that he would have been okay with it.

It wouldn't have bothered him as much as this. Because inside Hillview, words had hurt more than fists. Brennan's initial belief that he would be more hindrance than help inside the prison had infuriated Jesse. In spite of the way he had covered it up with jokes, he'd been determined to prove Brennan wrong, to finally try and convince the man that he could hold his own in spite of, or perhaps even because of, his privileged background. But his smart-alec remark in the prison line-up had sounded stupid even to him, and the deserved consequences had left him nervous, doubting his own abilities and blaming himself when it all started to go wrong.

After all, if he hadn't drawn attention to himself in the line up, would McMullen have come after him in the first place? And if not, then Brennan would never have been thrown into solitary. They might not have been able to bring Denny's killers to justice, but that didn't bring back Denny or any of the other inmates they'd killed, and Jesse was half convinced that justice was a small price to pay for what Mutant X had lost.

Jesse carefully sat down at the workbench near the computers, staring down at the fragments of a blue mug that littered the table top. It was Shalimar's favourite, one that she'd been asking him for weeks to mend for her, and since it seemed that feral territoriality even extended to trivial things, Jesse had agreed to at least try. It wasn't too badly damaged: the handle had snapped off and there was a chip in the top that could be easily mended given that she'd managed to find the missing fragment, so since he couldn't go out to work with the rest of the team, Jesse figured he might as well try and get done some of the things that got abandoned when spare time was lacking. Superglue was within easy reach and he started, making sure that the pieces fitted together before running glue down the jagged edges.

Brennan was the problem now. His disdain of Jesse's upbringing and capabilities was obvious and had been for a long time, but what Jesse had once taken for the well-meaning jibes of an older brother had recently taken on a bitter tone, and Jesse had begun to suspect that there was more than joking behind the barbs long before Hillview.

Still he'd ignored it, choosing to believe that it was his own insecurities rather than anything real, but their final confrontation in Hillview had blown away the lies that he'd been hiding behind. ST1277 might have been responsible for Brennan's aggression, for making him act the way he did, but what he said, his belief that Jesse was worse than useless: that had nothing to do with the serum and everything to do with what Brennan really felt.

One piece in place, and Jesse moved on to the handle, perhaps the easiest one since it hadn't broken off at the core, leaving two clean stumps for him to glue the rest on to. Nor did Jesse entirely believe that Brennan had conveniently forgotten all the things that had been said. Still he'd played along with it, not wanting to tell anyone else what Brennan had said simply because he'd known what their reaction would be.

The steroid gave the elemental a perfect get out clause for explaining away the hurtful words, an easy excuse that would draw everyone's sympathy and leave Jesse the unreasonable outsider. Even if they did believe him, what good would it accomplish? Revealing the gulf that now lay between them would only force others to choose sides, and Jesse had a horrible feeling that he knew who would end up losing.

So he'd accepted Brennan's apology, waved away the hurt as if it meant nothing, and gone back to pretending that everything was normal. Except that it wasn't. Because Jesse knew that his previous suspicions had been based in fact, and he didn't know if he could continue to ignore them now that he was sure it wasn't just his own paranoia.

The mug was finished, one whole piece again and he smiled because he knew that Shalimar would be pleased, but he'd have to warn her that even with the superglue, the mug wouldn't be as strong as it once was. Next time he might not be able to repair it.

Anything could be mended temporarily, whether it was with glue, or words, or simply by turning a blind eye, but once something had been broken, one thing would always be true.

You could always see the cracks.