<< Previous chapter
Shalimar couldn’t stop pacing. She was angry and upset and angry and she couldn’t stop pacing. Emma was reluctantly going over the entire story for the second time at Brennan’s request, occasionally looking at Shal, trying to pacify her and get her to stop prowling. The electrical stood rigid, arms crossed, shoulders hunched, eyes fixed undeterred at the computer screen. He refused to turn around. He refused to look at anyone, including Jesse.
Jesse was sitting at the last stair to the training arena, knees between his arms, head lowered. To the casual eye, he seemed casual. But fact was, he was clutching his knees extremely tight and his knuckles were turning white. He was trembling from head to toe and his palms were sweating profusely. His head came up now and then only to see if Brennan would look at him, talk to him, but each time he’d be disappointed and had to go back to staring at his shoelaces. He was anxious, he was sorry, he was so sorry… and he was scared.
The truth had been out the moment Emma had called out for help over the comlink. Shalimar and Brennan were airborne at the time, mission aborted, on their way back when they heard Emma screaming for Jesse but they didn’t hear any response from the latter. Obviously something bad was going down and they were miles away to do anything. But Jesse? Where was Jesse?
Emma and Jesse had returned to the Sanctuary from their encounter to find Shalimar and Brennan docking the aircraft. The latter had some context from what they’d found out over the comlink, and demanded to know more.
“What took you so long Jesse?” Shalimar had asked. Jesse had been unable to answer. Eventually, other questions had followed. But none were from Brennan. He chose not to say a word. Jesse would have preferred his lover’s yelling to his silence, which was slowly choking the life out of him.
“You put your WHAT at stake?”
“For God’s sake how could you gamble with your ring!?!”
“I don’t believe it!”
“Your ring is supposed to be your religion Jesse. It’s the mark of Mutant X. It’s the symbol of us! Doesn’t it mean anything to you?”
“Do you realize what could have happened?”
“There were eight of them. No nine of them Jesse. NINE!”
Emma tried to get Shalimar to simmer down. “Shalimar he did bail me out just when…”
“That’s not the point Emma. He was supposed to have protected you, been with you in the first place. Saving lives is what we do, that’s our job and needs no extra credits. But being irresponsible here is a crime Emma, it’s murder!”
Jesse closed his eyes.“I’m sorry.”
Shalimar stopped to look at him. She shook her head.
“That’s not good enough Jess.”
Emma was feeling slightly guilty for Jesse’s current dilemma and offered to take part of the blame.
“Shalimar it’s my fault. I never should have taken him out.”
“Yeh why did you Emma? When Adam told you clearly not to?”
“Because I asked her to.” Brennan finally spoke up. Jesse looked to him with meek hopefulness but his boyfriend was steadfastly ignoring him. Shalimar turned to him.
“You? Why? Why when you… why?”
He replied somberly, “Because I wasn’t expecting him to break his promise to me.”
He finally looked to Jesse who was both relieved to have his attention, and at the same time miserable with the realization that he did lie to Brennan and break his promise to him. It also occurred to him that everyone called him Jesse but Brennan would always call him Jess. That is until now. He bit his lip and tried to apologize.
“Bren I’m sorry. I… I don’t know what got into me…”
“Where have I heard that before?”
The comment was as sad as it was sarcastic.
Shalimar spoke up, “Brennan you shouldn’t have.
Brennan looked uncomfortable. “I folded okay. He said he was unhappy. He was upset that we didn’t trust him and that he didn’t get to go to Hawaii with us and… he’d been holed up for three whole days and…”
“When was this?” Emma asked.
Brennan paused only for a second and it was enough. Emma began.
“Guys I’m sorry but there’s something else I didn’t tell you. I should have and maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Jesse hadn’t really been holed up for three whole days…”
//I’m dead. I’m dead.//
Shalimar grimaced, she so did not want to hear this. But when she and Brennan came to know that Jesse had defied their trust not once but twice, it got way too much.
Jesse panicked at the sudden shroud of silence that descended over his teammates. He’d rather have them whaling. He got up, trying to make one last attempt to justify himself.
“Guys… look… I’m sorry okay. I know I’ve caused you all a lot of trouble and…” he looked at Brennan who was back to his silent sulk mode, “and… I’ve betrayed your trust and God knows I’m sorry for it. I was out of control … I swear it will never happen again, please…”
He didn’t know what else to say.
“And you say we didn’t trust you.”
Jesse was nearing his wits end now. “Emma I did reach you didn’t I?” Immediately realizing that was absolutely the wrong thing to say, he retracted.
“Look I’m sorry. I’m sorry okay, I’m telling you it will never happen again. What else do you want me to say?”
“There is nothing you can say Jesse.” Brennan called him Jesse again!
//Why is he being so cruel?//
“I guess we should just let Adam do the talking.” And he made to move out.
Jesse panicked. The thought of how Adam would react made him shake uncontrollably.
“Brennan wait! You… you cant tell Adam!”
Brennan turned slowly to him. “Why not?”
“Be-because … Shalimar please… you can’t tell Adam, you wont tell him will you?”
Shalimar ignored him and answered Brennan’s question with another question.
“Do you realize what Adam might do if he found out?”
The silent glances exchanged between the two and with Emma were enough to realize telling Adam would be disastrous. Adam would never forgive Jesse, and things could drastically change at MutantX.
The relationship of the young mutants with Adam was like a group of children’s with their parent. Strict parent. They knew trust and honesty was of the utmost importance to Adam and he would have no tolerance for what Jesse had done. At the same time, like the tight, close-knit family they were, they couldn’t just let one of their own get in trouble with Adam. Jesse was the youngest and most pampered member of their family. However angry and dismayed they might personally be, they just couldn’t do that to him.
“Guys please, Brennan listen to me… Have I ever let you down before? I… give me this one chance will you? I swear to you this will never ever happen again. I pro…”
Emma interrupted him. “How can we believe you Jesse? This gambling of yours has turned you into a complete different person. I looked into your eyes this morning and could swear you were totally honest with me. I believed you when you promised me that last night would never happen again. But here we are…”
Shalimar decided to say something on behalf of Brennan since he obviously wasn’t interested.
“And didn’t you promise Brennan you’d stay out of trouble? What happened to that promise Jesse?”
Jesse was panting with the effort of trying to keep his cool. Obviously that wasn’t meant to be.
“What do you want me to do huh Shal? WHAT?? JUST TELL ME! WHAT??”
Shalimar was quiet for the longest time as she looked at Jesse, his temper flaring, his stance obstinate and defensive. She could sense the guilt, but she also smelt defiance. She knew that even though the run-in with GSA had shaken him up a lot, the yearning for tempting his fate was still there. What she wanted to do was stamp out the fire once and for all. To make this whole ordeal leave an everlasting impression on the boy so that in future, he would think twice before giving in to temptation.
After a few prolonged moments of silence, she’d made her decision.
“Come here Jesse.” She beckoned to him softly, sadly. Jesse noticed the change in her, bit his lip and walked up to her. She sat down at the stairs and Jesse joined her there. Emma and Brennan continued to linger nearby. Brennan still wasn’t keen on meeting Jesse’s eyes, because every time he did so, he felt tears welling up in his. He was extremely hurt, and he didn’t know how to express himself. So he paced.
Shalimar began, “Jesse, tell me, do you realize what you did was wrong?”
Jesse nodded ever so slightly.
“You do realize this has consequences?”
Another hesitant nod.
“If you hadn’t reached Emma on time, the consequences would have been completely out of our hands. But luckily you did. So as of now, we can control what these consequences should be. Right?”
Jesse looked up at Brennan, who had stopped pacing and was looking at Shalimar intently. Shalimar, not him. Shalimar brought his attention back to the conversation.
“Now we obviously don’t want you to get in trouble with Adam, because that would be… well, that would be just too much so… we wont tell him.” and she looked up at the other two for their approval. They agreed. Jesse was relieved.
“But, we cant leave things be. Emma tried that and look what happened.”
Jesse looked to Emma but couldn’t meet her eyes so lowered his head.
“Jesse, are you prepared to take responsibility for your actions?”
Jesse didn’t know where this was going, so he looked up at Shalimar. He found no anger, only undiluted concern and compassion, and sadness in her eyes. He swallowed and nodded again.
Shalimar sighed. “Alright then Jesse. I want you to go to your room, and we’ll call you in awhile. Okay?”
Jesse was confused. He felt a huge foreboding but couldn’t muster up enough courage to ask what she had in mind. He looked at Brennan, who was now… looking at him. He felt like the sun came out shining just for him. There were lines of sadness and disappointment on his face, which broke his heart. But he consoled himself with the fact that he could see no anger on his lover’s face. Not anymore.
Shalimar tugged him out of his reverie and quietly, he walked back to his room.
Jesse had been about twenty minutes in his room when Brennan paged him on his comlink.
//Jesse again. Jesse again!//
With a thumping heart, Jesse walked out the safety of his room.
He found Shalimar and Brennan sitting at the stairs right where he’d left them. Brennan was half lying on his side, lost deep in thought. When he saw Jesse approaching, he sat up and beckoned him over.
“Come on here Jesse.”
//Well at least he’s talking to me.//
Jesse joined them and sat a stair below. Emma was pacing, arms crossed, deep in thought again.
Shalimar took his hand in both of hers and began. “Jesse, Brennan and I have reached a decision. We’re happy to see that you realize your fault, but that isn’t enough. You understand this cant be allowed to go unpunished right?”
Jesse was trembling.
“Wha-what do you want me to do?”
He felt Brennan’s hand at the back of his head, stroking him gently. It gave him comfort, it gave him courage.
“You know what corporal punishment is Jesse?”