“One short of feeling.”
“My thoughts exactly.”
Emma was losing it now. Whoever gave the Times crossword the right to be so damn complicated? They’re supposed to be easy and predictable the way they’ve been since only the last century. But no, they just had to go break tradition and make difficult ones to boggle her brilliant telepathic mind. And whose idea was it to do the stupid crossword anyway? She glared at the electrical stunner sitting next to her.
“You’re giving me that look again.”
“And what look might that be?”
“THAT look.. that.. says its all your fault and I’m pissed so I’m going to make you feel like there’s million ants in your pants using my mutant powers! That look!”
“Oh shut up!”
Emma chuckled and threw the magazine at Brennan. Brennan pretended to duck.
“Not a bad suggestion though..”
And they laughed. Laughter.. friendship.. ease of company.. all this came easily to members of MutantX. They were sitting on top of the stairs to the simulation training area, trying to vile away time while waiting for Shalimar and Jesse. Adam had sent them on a non-routine surveillance round at the new safe house.
“So why did Adam do it?”
Brennan asked even as they both peered into the puzzle.
“Adam alone knows what Adam thinks. But ever since a GSA agent tried to expose the mutant underground pretending to be just another mutant in trouble, he’s become extra-cautious hence the extra surveillance.”
“Yes that sure was a tough one. But like always, Mutant X prevailed! Never fear.. electrical Brennan is here!”
Brennan grinned away like a six year old absolutely pleased with himself. Emma couldn’t help laughing at his antics. Boys can be such kids!
She raised a hand and brushed away a stray hair from his forehead.
“Of course Brennan we couldn’t possibly have done it without you.”
Brennan smiled and looked down. Shyly? Naah..
“Actually that’s not what I was asking. “
“I meant why did Adam send Jesse and Shalimar and make Us stay? He could have sent Jesse and me instead..”
Emma looked at Brennan questioningly, and he quickly added..
“..or you and me! Or .. Shalimar and me.. I need some action in life you know. And you could have done this completely asinine crossword with.. with Jesse. He’s much better at all this linguistic stuff anyways.”
“Hmm that’s true..”
Emma agreed, looked sideways at Brennan and softly added..
“But I would still have preferred me and Shalimar had gone. That way, you’d get the time you need with … Jesse..?”
Brennan looked up startled. She knew? Damn she knew?
Brennan was not feeling too good right now. So maybe this is why Jesse left? Because he realized other people had gotten to know?
“Emma have you been scanning me?”
“I didn’t need to.. its all in plain sight. The looks I’ve seen exchanged between you two is enough to indicate something is going on.. and its not too healthy I can sense that as well. What’s up with you two anyway?”
Okay maybe she didn’t know the whole truth. But Emma didn’t get any answers from Brennan right then. Before he could say anything, Jesse and Shalimar walked in.
“Back so soon?”
Brennan called out, hugely relieved to have the conversation stalled, as he threw Emma a glance that said “Keep it down, we’ll talk later.”
Or it could have said ..”Mind your own business”
For once Emma wasn’t sure.
“Hey how did it go?” Emma asked as Jesse and Shalimar walked up to the top of the stairs to stand next to the other two seated members of MutantX. Shalimar offered an answer.
“All clear. No signs of trouble whatsoever. What did you guys do?”
Emma rolled her eyes while Brennan reached a hand out to rub his neck and looked away.
“We .. we were trying to do the crossword”
Shal chuckled. Jesse looked amused too. Course, he was avoiding directly looking at Brennan.
“Well.. it was going fine until we got stuck..”
Brennan was not about to sit and watch while Jesse ignored him so he flung out the latest clue that was bothering them.
“One short of feeling”
And he looked directly at Jesse. Jesse stared back at him but gave away nothing but cold indifference.
“Here let me see it.”
And Emma gave the magazine to Jesse. He looked at the crossword, which he incidentally Was better at doing than any of the others.
“One short of feeling” he echoed.
“And it has to start with an S. Because you see.. the word going down .. SECRETIVE ?”
Emma explained as she stood up to join him. Shal sat in her place next to Brennan and smiled at him.
“Hmm.. You know you might have this one here wrong.. this one should be .. SANE and not FEAR. “
“See I told you FEAR was wrong!”
Emma chided Brennan as the latter made a face. Jesse continued.
“So now that you have an S here instead of an F.. I think this will be ..”
Everyone craned in to take a look..
Emma was delighted.
“Brennan was right.. I should do crosswords with you. He’s no help whatsoever.”
Shalimar and Emma laughed while Brennan squinted at his accuser and smiled lopsidedly.
“So many Ss.. who could have guessed? Besides I don’t really like that alphabet!”
Lame excuse alright. And he grinned childishly at that.
Jesse handed over the magazine to him.. unamused, but smiling coolly anyhow.
“Well.. if you wanna catch up, maybe you should dig out the dictionary and start on your Ss tonight then.”
“Got better things to do with my time thank you.”
“Sure you do.” Jesse offered sarcastically.
“Yeah? Like what?” That was Emma.
Jesse spoke up before Brennan could respond.
“Must have plans to snare another one of those pretty young things we dropped at the new safehouse.”
Jesse smirked at him. Brennan smirked back.
“Sorry Einstein that aint it.”
“Then what? Not like I care..”
“Not like I owe you an explanation either.. but me and Shal plan to catch up on our combat training .. “
He winked at Shal who nodded in acknowledgement.
“I got a hunch that might come more in handy when fighting off GSA agents than vocabulary. O Hey! You suppose I could throw a crossword clue at them to keep their slow minds occupied while we kick their asses?”
And they all burst into laughter. Except Jesse, who didn’t think it was funny.
“Why does everything have to be about fighting and violence with you?”
“Says who? Hey I admire Gandhi I really do. Gimme a non-violent way to get rid of the GSA and I’ll do it! But I’m guessing a modern day pro-mutant Gandhi is a bit longer in the coming kid.”
Jesse scowled at his sarcasm. Plus he hated.. he so hated being called a kid.
“I didn’t mean that. “
“What did you mean then?”
“I was just saying that.. there are other important things in life too.”
“Like what rich boy?”
“Oh forget it. Just.. ” Jesse shook his head in annoyance and made to move.
“Great. Now he’s sulking.”
Brennan crossed his arms, pleased with himself.
“Gawd this man is so irritating. How can you girls stand him?” Jesse was asking Shal and Emma.
“Hey don’t look at us!” Emma said. And Shal added,
“Yeah we’re just here to sit back and enjoy the show… Down.”
And the three burst into giggles. Jesse gave up.
“I give up. I don’t have all day to listen to this arrogant loudmouthed fat-ass…”
“Hey who you callin fat ass?!?”
Emma chirped in, using her best Motown accent..
“Yeah! Who you callin fat ass?!?”
And the girls were in splits, even though Shal was feeling sorry for ganging up on poor Jesse like that. Brennan was impressed too.. plus he was enjoying the expression on Jesse’s face. Too much. Jesse grunted.
“You keep missing the point don’t you?”
“Funny .. 'cos I never notice any points in whatever you say.. Kid.”
“Ffffuck.. .. you and your.. your… superciliousness.. I‘ve had it!”
Jesse turned to leave.
“Super what?” Brennan was genuinely stumped.
“Look it up moron.”
Brennan threw him a bad scowl as Jesse started to climb down the stairs.
“Where you off to? Another date?”
That was flung out as casually as possible but both Brennan and Jesse knew it was anything but. Jesse stopped and turned to face him.
“As a matter of fact yes. She’s a student of literature at UCLA. My favorite subject.. as you very well know…”
If Shal hadn’t spoken up, the eerie silence between the two men would have surely given them away.
“Same girl? Danielle?”
Jesse answered her but was looking at Brennan. Though only for a nano-second. Then he looked away. He wouldn’t have liked what he saw on Brennan’s face anyway.
On second thoughts, maybe he would. Brennan looked away too.
// Danielle my ass. What a master storyteller this guy is! //
He didn’t think he’d ever felt this way.. he’d never been .. envious..?.. a day in his life. Of anyone. About anyone.
“Ahh.. Stud you!”
Shalimar was throwing Jesse one of her teasing smiles which also held within itself a hidden message that said… “Be careful kid”
“Have fun Jesse. Let us know if you plan to marry this one.”
Emma joked and Shal laughed with her.
Jesse winked at them and left to get ready. Emma and Shal engaged in some more girl talk unintentionally ignoring Brennan but that suited him just fine.
He watched as Jesse walked out of eyeshot. The swish of Jesse’s jeans ringing sweetly in his ears.. the sight of Jesse’s beautiful butt arousing him. Each passing day looking at him like this .. looking and not touching… it was torture. But now he’d had enough. He wasn’t gonna sit around and do nothing no more.
He got up and went looking for a dictionary.