The Monster Inside

Summary: After rescuing a lab full of new mutants, the team must figure out what experiments were being done in order to save one of their own.

Warnings: Eh? Cussing? Bad writing? I can't really think of anything, but just to be safe… blanket warning! Also, I have no rights to Mutant X, just a fading dream that the series will one day be revived.

-line-

"You look like hell," Brennan said as he stepped aside from the safe house door to allow Jesse inside.

The blond gave his friend a tired smirk and shook his head, "Thanks."

Brennan shrugged and shut the door behind Jesse, making sure to lock it. "Hey, I only tell the truth," the elemental came back as he turned around to face Jesse.

"Yeah, well, you're not looking much better…" Jesse observed noting the circles under the older man's eyes that he guessed looked similar to his own.

For the past week, Mutant X had been spread thin as they tried to move twelve new mutants into the underground. The team had rescued them from a lab facility that Jesse had discovered in Genomex's archives. The new mutants imprisoned there had been slated for testing and Mutant X had managed to get them out and disable the lab just in the nick of time. It was a great victory for the team, however, it was also the beginning of a lot of work.

After Adam had given each of the new mutants a check up, the team had split them into groups of four and took each to a safe house with Shalimar, Emma, and Brennan to guard them. Jesse had set about making new IDs, backgrounds, and lives for all twelve as well as sort the data he had stolen from the lab for Adam to look over. Everyone was exhausted and looking forward to when this would be over.

"Is that so?" Brennan said, eyebrows raised.

"Yeah," Jesse smirked, "Just like the old man you are."

"Thanks," Brennan grumbled, "so, what's the latest?"

Jesse took a quick look around to make sure that Brennan's charges weren't near before he said in low tones, "Shalimar and Emma's houses are clear. Their groups have been moved into the underground. This is the last house, but Adam wants to hold them for a bit longer. Is the air condition broken in here or something?" Jesse tugged at his shirt collar; sweat already forming on his brow.

Brennan was too tired to hide his aggravated sigh, there was nothing that he wanted more than a hot shower and his own bed but apparently that wasn't going to happen. "They like it warm, nothing lower than eighty degrees. You get use to it. Any particular reason why Adam wants to keep them?" he asked.

Jesse made a face at the heat, and stopped messing with his collar. "They have some anomalies in their blood work, nothing special, but Adam wants to be careful. And don't worry; you're going home tonight."

Brennan was surprised, happily so, but still surprised, "Huh. I get to go home tonight? Really?"

"Yeah, Adam wants you to update him on their behavior," Jesse.

"Ah… there is a God…" Brennan sighed.

"Maybe for you," Jesse yawned.

Brennan shook his head, for all his complaining, the older man had at least been able to get some steady sleep. He doubted Jesse had. "What anomalies did Adam find?" he asked, out of curiosity.

"Some kind of chemical, it's got a weird structure. It's a mixture of synthetic and organic. Adam thinks the blood samples may have been contaminated. Then again, the groupings of the mutants could also mean a test group. So, he wants more blood work, and to keep them longer."

Brennan nodded, better safe than sorry was always the rule in these situations. "They're not going to be happy, they're already going stir crazy," Brennan sighed.

"They'll just have to hang on a little bit longer. And you need you to go check in with Adam, he wants to make sure whatever the anomalies are, they're not contagious."

Brennan nodded, "so does that mean you're babysitting now?"

"Yeah… It's my turn."

"Well, they're a fun bunch. Four feral males who are quite, withdrawn, and sulking."

"Can't really blame them. They've been through hell… I wasn't much better when Adam and Shal pulled me out of Genomex," Jesse said, allowing a rare mention of his past to slip out.

Brennan studied the younger man for a long moment and fought the urge to press for more details. He had known Jesse for a year and a half, and he knew who Jesse was, what type of person he was, but he didn't know what had made him that way. Sure, he had heard the story, but never the details. Jesse never told anyone the details. The moment passed, and Brennan let the comment go without mention, "So, how long are you here for?"

Jesse shrugged, "Not sure. I know that Marcus is going to stop by tomorrow, but we're still don't know how long we have to hold them or if Marcus can stick around. We've still got others to move besides this group."

Brennan nodded; Marcus was Jesse's lieutenant when it came to the underground. Jesse, for the most part, ran the day to day operations, movement of the new mutants and conductors, as well as the security of the under ground, and had for some time. Marcus had been the molecular's right hand for just about the whole time, and was one of the most experienced agents that they had.

"Are you going to be up to babysitting? I mean, how much sleep have you actually gotten this week?"

"About as much as you?" Jesse said, and Brennan had to give him that. He didn't have to like it though.

"Come on, I'll introduce you."

-line-

Thomas, Bryan, Greg, and Chris were the four ferals that Brennan had been guarding. Each could have been each other's brother, all with dark hair and variations of hazel eyes. They ranged in height from five nine to six two. Each were fit, though they did look a little ragged and restless. It was to be expected, ferals hated being cooped up, and these four had been cooped up in a lab and now a safe house for an unknown amount of time.

Jesse felt for them, he did. He understood all too well what they had gone through and what they were going through now. But Jesse was also weary. Something wasn't right with this group of ferals. He and Brennan had just told them that they would have to spend another week locked up, yet neither one seemed to care.

Brennan had said that they were off, but Jesse had thought it was just stress. Now, being here, he wasn't so sure. He was trying to work on the computer, trying to finish shifting through the data he had collected. All the while, however, he was aware of eyes watching him.

Bryan, Greg, and Chris were pretending to play poker at the dinning table, but more than once Jesse had caught them watching him when they thought he wasn't looking. Every now and then, they spoke in low whispers to each other, and the bits and pieces that Jesse could hear all sounded… odd. Thomas, the oldest of the group didn't even bother to hide the fact that he was watching Jesse; he just stared at the blond intently.

The whole situation made him feel… nervous. Jesse tried to play it off as sleep deprivation, after all, he couldn't remember the last time he had had a full night's sleep. But the more time he spent alone with the four, the more weary he was growing, and he couldn't pin down any reason why. It was just his instincts. Brennan had only been gone for two hours, and Jesse was already wondering if he should call for backup. Yeah, right… what would I tell them? They looked at me funny? That'll go over well….

"Do you mind me asking something, Jesse," Thomas asked after several minutes of silence, snapping Jesse out of his thoughts. The blond looked up and met Thomas gaze. For a moment, Jesse tensed, he thought he saw the feral's eyes pulse with his power, but the moment passed and Jesse wrote it off as a trick of the light.

"Ask me what?" Jesse replied, trying to sound neutral.

"What type of mutant are you?" Thomas said so casually, but Jesse couldn't help but sense some underlying motive. It didn't help that he was suddenly aware that the other three had stopped pretending to play cards to pay full attention to the conversation.

"I'm a molecular," Jesse said, guarded. He didn't like the way that the four all shared knowing looks.

"What kind?" Thomas pressed, leaning forward, eyes locking onto Jesse.

"I can change my molecular structure, make it harder," Jesse said, purposely leaving out the other side of his powers.

"Hm. Must be useful," Thomas continued, and Jesse couldn't help but feel like the fly in the spider's web.

"Sometimes it is. Are you guys thirsty?" Jesse replied, standing up. He wanted out of that room.

"Nah, thanks," Thomas said, clearly answering for all four of them.

Jesse nodded once before heading into the kitchen. He did his best to ignore the eyes that followed him.

-line-

Brennan sat on one of the bio beds, watching as Adam worked. Though he was beyond tired, Adam was busying around the lab at a near frantic pace and it made the elemental's head spin. He didn't know how his mentor found the energy to work.

"Am I going to live?" Brennan asked, breaking the silence.

"You're fine," Adam said eyes still glued to the screens.

"You know, your bedside manor could use some work," Brennan teased the all too serious scientist.

Adam paused in his work and gave Brennan a mock glare. "I never worked in a hospital so I never needed one," he replied, coming over to Brennan. The scientist took a moment to be a father, examining his eldest 'son' with a more human eye. He felt a knot in his stomach untwist, and he allowed himself to relax some when he didn't see any apparent signs of contagion.

"What's wrong?" Brennan asked, sensing Adam's thoughts.

"I'm just tired," Adam said, "it's been a long week."

Brennan chuckled, "Yeah. I know."

"How was babysitting?" Adam asked.

"Boring. But strange; the guys were all… off…" Brennan answered, trying to think of the best way to describe his charges.

"How so?"

"Quiet… they like the room too damn hot. Umm… they were way too calm for ferals who were cooped up. They were just off."

Adam sighed, "Well, it could easily be trying to adjust to being out of the lab."

"That's exactly what Jesse said," Brennan said, amused.

"He should know…" Adam said, a hint of sadness in his voice; Jesse was the one who Adam still felt that he had failed.

"He's fine, Adam. He's the perfect one to get through to them and not just our current guests. What he went through, it was bad, but it's made him pretty damn strong. It's because of that, that he's the perfect one to run the underground," Brennan said, hoping to ease some of the older man's worry.

It worked. Adam gave Brennan a quick smile of gratitude. There was a reason Brennan lead Mutant X in the field. He had never met a non-empath who could get a reading for another person as quickly as him. The young man could size someone up in a matter of seconds and be able to tell exactly where they would fit. It was an excellent skill for a leader to have.

"What else is bothering you?" Brennan asked, cocking his head.

Adam shook his head, amused; there was also a downside to Brennan's ability to read people… he always knew when something was happening. "It's nothing that's terribly concerning or anything that puts anyone in danger."

"It's just annoying you?" Brennan pressed.

Adam nodded. "The way the groups were broken up… Shal had four elementals. Emma had four psyonics. You had four ferals…. There were no moleculars. That screams of a control sample to me. The data at the lab… Jesse's still running it through an extraction program, but the bits and pieces all indicate some type of forced mutation. They were doing something to both stem cells and the brain stem. Problem is I just don't know what."

"But once Jesse's program finishes, won't you have the data? Then you'll have the answers?" Brennan asked.

Adam shrugged, "If he can clean up and defragment the data, then yes. But It's not going to be a high priority for him. He's been trying to pull double duty but he's behind on other things."

"He'll get to it Adam, you know he will and it's not like anyone's dependent on the data, right?"

"This is true…." Adam sighed and turned away from Brennan, "alright. You're clear. Go on and get some sleep. You've earned it."

-line-

Jesse returned from the kitchen and was surprised to see that Greg and Chris were gone. Suddenly Jesse was on edge, he felt like he had just hit the calm before the storm. "Where did they go?" Jesse asked, nodding his head towards the two empty chairs at the poker table.

Thomas, who had moved to the table to play poker with Bryan, looked over at Jesse. "They went to bed. Want to deal in? It's too easy with just Bryan."

"Sure," Jesse said as he took a seat at the table. If it made him nervous that the only chairs open to him were the ones that had his back to the room. "So, what are we playing?"

"Texas Hold 'Em," Thomas replied, dealing some cards to Jesse.

Jesse took them, but before he had a chance to flip them over he was grabbed from behind. Instantly, Jesse began to struggle, head butting the feral who had grabbed him. The feral, Chris, grunted and stumbled back, releasing Jesse. In a heartbeat, Jesse was up and moving. But so were the other three ferals and they were all moving towards him.

Quickly, Jesse took stock of his situation. He had three ferals within arms reach and one that was getting ready to rejoin the fight. He was outnumbered and outclassed, so even if he called for backup he was pretty sure he wouldn't last until then. Running was his best bet, but he had two ferals between him and the door. He had been hoping to keep his phasing a secret, but it looked like it was his only option.

Taking a deep breath, Jesse let it out as slowly as he dared, triggering his phase as Greg prepared to grab him. He made it through Greg, and then Bryan behind him. He was almost to the door, when Chris tackled him into the wall. Chris struck Jesse across the jaw, stunning the blond long enough to take his comm.

Chris then began to choke Jesse, wrapping both hands around Jesse's throat and lifting the smaller man off his feet. For a horrible moment, Jesse's vision tunneled and he saw stars; he swore he was going to die. Then Thomas intervened, "Knock it off. He's no good to us dead. Tie his hands and keep a hold on him."

With a growl and a flash of silver eyes, Chris let Jesse drop to the floor. The molecular fell ungracefully into a heap and coughed violently for a moment before he was roughly shoved onto his side. Jesse's belt was removed from his pants and then used to tie his hands, all before he had managed to regain his breath.

Jesse struggled with the men that restrained him as he was forced to his knees. A hand pressed to his throat and the fact that he was outnumbered by ferals made it difficult. He was helpless, and he knew it, but he struggled on anyways. At least until his arms were yanked so hard that his shoulders were nearly dislocated. Then he decided to remain still.

"Hold him still," Thomas ordered calmly, his eyes glowing as he watched.

"He's not going anywhere," growled Chris, then, adding pressure to Jesse's arms, he added, "Are you?"

Jesse hissed as he tried to shift his body to relieve the pressure on his shoulder. "Why are you doing this?" Jesse asked, looking at Thomas

"Because you're the one," Thomas said as he ran his hand through Jesse's hair.

Jesse jerked his head away from the touch, "We're trying to help you!"

A slap to Jesse's face silenced him and split his lip. "Settle down," growled Thomas, his patience running out.

Jesse licked the blood on his lip, using his tongue to examine the cut. It wasn't bad, just stung. "They'll come. If they don't hear from me by morning, they'll come," Jesse said, his voice even and gaze steady.

"Then we'll have to be quick," Thomas replied, unimpressed.

"You won't get away with this. No matter what yo -"

Thomas punched Jesse in the stomach, causing the younger man to double over and gasp for breath. Then grabbed a handful of Jesse's hair and yanked his head up. "Speak again and I'll break your jaw."

Jesse glared at the feral, though he didn't speak. He was still trying to catch his breath anyways.

Thomas nodded with satisfaction. He turned to the rest of his pack and asked, "What do you think?"

"He's more trouble than he's worth," growled the Bryan.

"Yeah, but he's a molecular. That's what the others were. That's what we need," Greg said.

"He's still trouble, he can walk through walls. How we going to keep him still?" Chris asked.

"Yes…. Very sneaky not telling us about that, Jesse," Thomas growled taking a step back. "Well, once it's in him, he won't have the strength to fight. Get him up."

Greg and Chris dragged Jesse to his feet. Jesse did his best to struggle, but he was overpowered and outclassed. All he earned was more pain for his efforts as his arms were forced back and up into an unnatural position and Chris tightened his grip on his throat.

"You keep struggling, kid, and they'll rip your arms right off," Bryan warned, amusement coloring his words. Jesse didn't say anything in response, just glared.

"Did you finish setting up the bedroom?" Thomas asked.

"Oh yeah, it's ready," Greg confirmed.

Jesse felt his heart speed up, bedroom? What the hell were they going to do to him? If he could have moved without risk of dislocating his shoulders, he would have put up more of a fight as he was dragged towards the back. Once inside the room, he was roughly shoved on the bed and used the momentary freedom as an opportunity to escape.

Jesse used the momentum from the push onto the bed to roll off the far side and managed to slide under the twin sized bed frame. Shalimar often teased him about his slight build, especially in sparring matches, but it often had advantages. He was under the bed and past his attackers before they could even register what had happened. Before he could get to the door, however, Bryan tackled him from behind.

Jesse twisted as he went down, so he landed on his side. The fall was jarring, but he didn't risk hesitating for a moment. He kicked out with his leg, making contact with Bryan's jaw, knocking him back. Then, he quickly scrambled back to his feet and tried again. This time he was intercepted by Greg, who tried to grab his arm. Instead, Greg got Jesse's fist square in the jaw. He stumbled back, stunned, and Jesse managed to make it to the front room.

That was where Jesse's luck ran out. In his mad dash for freedom, Jesse hadn't noticed Thomas gaining on him. It was a costly oversight. He was just feet from the door when Thomas tackled him, knocking him head first into the wall. That was the last thing Jesse remembered before the world went dark.

-line-

Jesse rejoined the land of the living just as Chris finished securing him to the bed. "Well, look who's back," Chris said with a smile as Jesse glared up at him.

Instantly, the blond began to struggle, but he was no match for the belts that restrained him. The only thing he seemed to be doing was bruising his body and exhausting himself. Frustrated, Jesse stopped his struggles and resumed glaring up at his capture. "What do you want?" the blond growled at the gloating feral.

"Oh, you'll find out. Don't worry, so much," Chris taunted, ruffling Jesse's hair.

Jesse did his best to yank his head away, but he didn't have much room to move. He was bound spread eagle on his stomach, with a belt around his neck limiting his airflow that served as a makeshift governor. His shirt and shoes had also been removed leaving him in only his jeans and feeling a little exposed.

Chris laughed again and moved away from Jesse as the others walked into the room. Greg carried with him, a small container, one that Jesse swore he recognized from the lab.

"What is that?" Jesse asked, his voice a harsh whisper. His initial waking panic over, he was starting to feel the crushing effects of the belt mixed with fear.

"That?" Thomas answered, "It's a souvenir from the lab." Thomas walked over to Greg and took the container from him before walking back over to Jesse. "You see, when we were there, we were part of test group c. We were the third in line for a splicing experiment. The docs there, they were trying to make a new kind of freak, one that could be used as a remote controlled biological weapon. Mutants, like us, we were better than normal people, we were sturdier. Besides, nobody knows we exist, so who notices when we go missing?"

"Look, I know it was bad in there. Look at my scars," Jesse said, referring to the numerous surgical scars that Genomex had inflicted upon him. His eyes were glued to the container and fear colored his words. "I was a lab rat, but you don't have to do this…"

"No, you don't understand, what they did to us…what we watched them do to the others, it made us stronger. It was horrible, but it made us better. We're going to make you better. You're going to be better than us even; the moleculars, they were the best. They lasted the longest. And you… you're already so strong… We're going to help you Jesse," Thomas said as he opened the container.

Jesse was frozen with fear when he saw what Thomas pulled from the container. The creature looked like a hookworm straight out of hell. It was long, roughly four inches, and about an inch thick and an inch wide. For a long moment, Jesse could only watch in horror as Thomas examined the creature but when Thomas said, "cut him," Jesse's struggles renewed.

Despite the restraints and the belt around his neck, Jesse put up one hell of a fight. It took both Greg and Chris to hold him still while Bryan cut a three inch length gash in the small of Jesse's back. The molecular cried out as the knife dug into him. "Please… don't do this…" Jesse begged as Bryan stepped back allowing Thomas to approach.

"Shhh…" Thomas said as he ran a hand through Jesse's hair, "You're going to become so much more than you are now. You're going to be so much better." Then, Thomas placed the worm at the entrance to the wound. For a moment, Jesse felt the worm just sit on his skin, it's cool slim chilling him… that was bad enough. Then, the worm moved into the wound and began to wiggle its way inside Jesse; that was when the molecular began to scream.

-line-

Shalimar sighed, contently, as she took a long sip of cocoa. For the first time in what felt like a lifetime, the feral felt refreshed.

"Good to be home?" Emma teased.

"You better believe it," she said with a smile. The two friends were in the kitchen, finishing up their first decent meal in a week. Not that either of them were complaining about the babysitting details, they would rather have those then having to dispose of bodies.

With a yawn, Shalimar stood, "All I want now is my own bed."

"No patrol tonight?" Emma asked. It was no secret that Shalimar often roamed the halls at night.

"Nope. Maybe tomorrow. I am so ready to be unconscious," she sighed, setting her dishes in the sink. "Good night, Em," Shal called as she made her way off to her room.

Emma smiled, wishing she could share Shalimar's peace. But something didn't feel right with her, something pulled at her mind. She sat, sipping her tea, contemplating what her senses were trying to tell her.

"Hey there stranger," Brennan called softly, startling Emma out of her thoughts. He laughed, tiredly, when he saw her jump and heard her yelp. "Sorry," he offered with a shake of his head.

Emma gave her 'big brother' a mock glare as he plopped down in the chair across from her. "Next time, I'll make you think you're a chicken for a week," she threatened causing Brennan to laugh again.

"No! Not the chicken… anything but that," he teased.

Emma laughed, "Well, don't sneak up on a gal."

"Won't happen again. Promise."

"Good," Emma said triumphantly causing Brennan to laugh again.

The two remained laughing as Emma sat and talked with the older man as he ate. Whatever nagging feeling of worry that had so briefly been bothering her was easily chased away from the red head with laughter and the company of a good friend.

-line-

Jesse was still screaming. At least he thought he was screaming… if sobbing could be screaming, then he was still screaming.

The molecular had known pain.

He had been the son of a monster who had berated him with hurtful slurs. He had been beaten by bullies in front of jeering crowds of his peers until his nose was broken and his vision blurred. He had felt his body dissolve molecule by molecule while his lungs pleaded for air only to have them suddenly turn into unbreakable diamonds that felt like daggers slashing every single fiber of his being. He had felt himself be torn apart and then slammed back together over and over again until he could remember nothing but pain. He had been the prisoner of mad men who had cut him open to see how he was put together.

None of those horrors could even come close to comparing to what he was feeling right now.

Something was crawling inside his body. Something was digging into his spine and making its way up. He could feel every second of the invasion, every single movement of the monster. He couldn't describe the pain he was in because no words existed to accurately depict it.

He was being invaded and consumed. All he could do was scream. But even screaming did nothing to help, and so he had begun to sob. He twisted and pulled on the restraints that kept him on the bed. He felt his skin breaking and body bruising with his efforts. He knew the moment when his wrist broke and knew it should be painful but he felt nothing except the burning consumption.

"Please… stop it… please… get it out! Make it stop!" He begged, sobbed, and screamed all at once. Over and over again until his brain no longer registered that he was saying anything at all.

All the while, the ferals watched, their eyes glowing. None of them moved to help the moleculer. None of them offered him any reassurance or sympathy. This was the trial by fire. He would survive it and come out stronger. They had, after all. They were so much better for this, and Jesse would be too.

It was just a matter of time….

-line-

Hours had passed. At least it felt like hours.

Jesse was exhausted and his world was nothing but a pain filled fog. He stared blankly at the wall, mouth taking in hiccupped gasps. He could no longer scream. He could no longer cry. He could no longer move. He could no longer do anything except feel the monster crawl oh so slowly up his spine.

He stared at the wall, seeing nothing but dancing spots of light in front of his eyes. He had long ago stopped his begging, his voice becoming too damaged to be of any use. His brain had long ago begun to shut down all of his sensory input. The pain was too much for him to remain sane.

The ferals had retreated when the screaming had stopped. They were tired and wanted to sleep. The molecular would either live or die. They would find out when they woke up. They had left him to face his fate alone.

Jesse hadn't noticed their departure. He hadn't noticed anything after he felt the monster finish crawling inside him through the wound. Now he lay paralyzed by pain as it made its slow path up his spine.

-line-

Emma woke with a start. She felt acid shooting up her back and bile rising in her stomach. She barely had time to scramble to the bathroom before retching. For several horrible minutes, she felt as if her insides were going to come out before slumping boneless to the floor. She sat there, staring at nothing for a very long time as the dream that had caused all this slowly slipped from her mind. The empath could not fathom what had caused such a horrible dream nor could she understand why she felt such terrible pain and fear. She could feel her friends, her family, all of them. Shalimar's restless energy was as calm as it ever was, Brennan was content, Adam was as he always felt, busy, and Jesse… he was off.

She could sense him pulsing rapidly… but the rhythm wasn't familiar. Still, that in and of itself wasn't odd. She always had a hard time reading Jesse. Between the walls he had developed throughout his life and the instability of his powers Emma could rarely get a solid connection. As far as she could tell, Jesse was tired. Just like the rest of them. With a bone weary sigh, Emma pushed herself to her feet and made her way to the kitchen. She had a supply of ginger tea that she kept for times like these. It was early enough in the morning that if she was quick, she could still get another few hours of sleep. Or so she hoped, but when she heard voices coming from the kitchen, that hope was pretty well dashed.

"The first two sets are already moving. I have Penny and Ross taking them up north and then splitting up. The four we're hanging onto I plan to take down south. Jesse's ID's places them about the age of college kids so that's what I'm setting up. I figure they're already a pack, so they're gonna want to stay together. A college town might be the best fit for them. Enough people to stay under the raider but no one will question a group of four guys living together," came the steady voice of Marcus, bringing a smile to Emma's face.

"That sounds like a good idea. What about the others we have in the houses?" asked Adam with a tired sigh.

"Whelp, that's why I had to stop by here. Jesse forgot to bring their ID's with him," Marcus answered.

"Silly Jesse, how could he do a thing like that? It's not like he had twelve emergency IDs to make, or computer data to decrypt, or plan out twelve emergency relocations, or something," Emma said, causing both men to look up at her.

"You're up early," Adam said with a smile, though Emma could sense his concern.

She returned their smiles and sent Adam a soothing wave, "Yeah. Couldn't sleep. I'm still on edge."

Adam nodded, some of his worry easing. The emapth had just spent a week with four very distressed people, of course she was going to be restless. Still, he watched her as she moved to fix herself tea, an eyebrow raised when he saw it was ginger.

Emma, for her part, ignored Adam's concerned gaze and instead focused on Marcus. As her water boiled, she turned to study the young man she hadn't seen in months. Marcus was just a few inches shorter than Brennan with sandy hair and bright green eyes. He almost always had a smile on his face and seemed to never stop fidgeting. The constant motion was due to Marcus' powers, he was a molecular classification nicknamed speedster. Basically, he was the living breathing Flash.

"Hey Marc," Emma said, happy to see him.

"Hey Em-Em," he greeted teasingly before taking another sip of his coffee.

"Oh, great, that's just what you need," came the tired voice of Shalimar as she sleepily padded her way into the kitchen.

"Relax, it's decaf," Marcus replied, "Adam won't let me have the real stuff."

"Thank god for common sense," Emma sighed as she poured Shalimar some regular coffee. The others laughed, and Emma was thankful for the normalcy. It helped to ease her worry.

Shalimar took the offered mug from Emma with a grateful smile before turning to Marcus. "What brings you here?" she asked as she took a sip.

"Jesse asked me to pick up some IDs he left here last night before I meet him over at the safe house," Marcus answered.

"You've heard from Jess?" Emma asking, and for some reason the answer to that question was very important to her. Perhaps it was because the thought of Jesse made her remember the acid that had been crawling up her spine when she woke.

"Not since last night, just after he relieved Brennan. I've been a little busy," Marcus said with a lopsided smile.

"We all have. Although, when you get to the safe house, have him report in, will you? I've been trying to get a hold of him for a couple of hours," Adam sighed.

"He isn't answering?" Shalimar asked, her eyes flashing gold with worry.

Adam sighed, "He's probably asleep. Of all of us, I think he's gotten the least… I wish I could have sent someone other than him."

"Eh, he's a big boy. He can take it," Marcus said, "Besides, I'm on my way over now. I'll wake him up, give him some coffee, and send him on home."

"Thanks Marcus," Adam said with a tired sigh.

"Hey, Marc, do me a favor?" Shalimar asked. When the speedster nodded, she continued, "Make Jesse video call to report in, please?" The feral wanted to see that her 'cub' was alright.

"Yes ma'am," Marcus agreed with a salute.

Emma glanced over at Shalimar, who caught her eye. Apparently the empath wasn't the only one worrying about the youngest member of Mutant X.

-line-

"Hey, you still with us?" Thomas asked softly as he made his way to Jesse.

Tenderly, like a father would for a sleeping child, he ran his hand through Jesse's hair smoothing back some of the stray strands. He eyed the blond with concern taking in the pale skin, the sweat soaked mess of hair and sheets, and the slight trickle of blood running from his nose. The catatonic stare didn't bother him, but the shivering was cause for concern.

"Cold, huh?" Thomas asked as he pulled a spare blanket from the room's closet. "Well, don't worry. We can fix that." Thomas laid the blanket over Jesse's body, ensuring that he was covered. "You don't need this anymore…" he murmured as he freed Jesse from the belt and then the ropes, then he sat down next to him and continued to smooth back Jesse's hair.

"It's almost over," Thomas said, "Just a few more hours. You're doing well, almost through the worst of it… I promise, when it's over, it's going to feel amazing…"

"Hey Tom…" Chris called from the doorway causing the older man to look up.

"What?" He asked, his eyes flashing. The other feral was nervous and it set Tom on edge.

"Someone else is coming… we can smell him…" Chris answered lowering his head submissively. He sensed Tom's aggression, and he wanted to made known that we was not a challenge to his alpha.

Tom growled and looked back over at Jesse, "Guess you were right, your people are coming for you. But they can't have you, not yet…." He stroked Jesse's hair one last time before standing.

"Tell the others to hide and wait for my signal," Tom ordered and watched Chris leave to obey before he hid himself in the room to wait.

-line-

Marcus whistled as he walked up to the safe house door. The speedster had always been, all things considering, a laid back easygoing guy. Unlike many of the mutants he had met, he had had a fairly unremarkable life. His powers had presented in high school, and made him the track star. His parents had been loving and his friends genuine and plentiful. It wasn't until college where things started to turn south for him.

It was his first semester and suddenly he got a huge power burst. His powers became so unstable that they threatened his life. His parents, not knowing what else to do, contacted Genomex in hops that they could save their son. Genomex did save him, but then they held him prisoner as a lab rat for a year until Mutant X got him out.

After that, Marcus wasn't so easy going, happy-go-lucky. He didn't know how to reconnect to his old life after what he had been through. He knew he couldn't go back. And that was when Jesse and Adam had made him an offer. six years had passed since that day and Marcus had adjusted well to his role. He particularly enjoyed working with Jesse.

The younger man never micro managed. He let Marcus run the day to day and only stepped in if Marcus asked for help. And when Jesse stepped in, the problem got solved. The blond had a quiet authority about him; never rushed or panicked when dealing with those under him, but his word was absolute. He always listened to them, he always considered what they were advising, and always supported them. As bosses went, Marcus had never had a better one; but Jesse was more than his boss, Jesse was his friend.

Entering the safe house, Marcus didn't have a care in the world. As soon as he shut the door, however, a switch in his head flipped and he was on high alert. He didn't know if it was some instinct or the fact that the house was too quiet. Or maybe it was the absence of people, of activity. If Jesse was sleeping, Marcus didn't expect to see him out and about, but the ferals should have been. Marcus had never known ferals who had been cooped up to be silent.

Moving cautiously, Marcus scanned his surroundings. Feeling confident that there wasn't anyone lurking in the shadows to surprise him, he made his way to the computer. Typing in a few short commands on the board, Marcus brought up the cameras. What he saw did nothing to ease his nervousness. He couldn't see the ferals, and from what he could tell Jesse appeared to be sleeping in one of the rooms, but something seemed off about the way that the blond was lying.

A frown on his face, Marcus typed in a few commands into the computer before cautiously making his way back to the room Jesse was in. He was careful, scanning the hallways and opening the doors he passed to check for people. There were plenty of places for the ferals to hide and Marcus knew he couldn't spend the time searching for them, but he was going to make it hard for them to sneak up on him. If they were even still in the building, stir-crazy ferals did stupid things. It was not out of the realm of possibilities that they knocked Jesse out and fled the safe house.

Reaching the door to the room that Jesse was in, Marcus took a deep breath and gave one last look around him. He wanted to make sure that he wasn't being sneaked up on, although he knew very well that the Ferals could be anywhere. Eyes glued to the hallway, Marcus slowly pushed the doors open.

"Jess, you awake?" he called, eyes still scanning the halls. He wasn't surprised when the blond didn't answer him. He was surprised, however, by how labored his friend's breathing was. "Jesse?" he called risking a glance into the room.

It was dark and the shadows hung heavily. He could see the outline of the younger man on the bed with a blanket covering his torso. Marcus didn't like how still or how unresponsive his friend was. The conductor tapped his comm. ring once before stepping into the room closer to the bed. His eyes still scanned the hall, which was a mistake.

Tom had been watching the speedster from under the bed. So, while Marcus expected an attack from behind, he did not expect the attack that came when he reached the bed. Tom struck, reaching out and grabbing the other man's feet out from under him. Marcus crashed to the floor, barely managing to catch himself in time. He managed to land on his forearms, which allowed him to roll away from the emerging form of Tom.

Marcus was on his feet in an instant and he was moving. His path had been blocked by the other ferals, but he had anticipated this. He may not be the best of fighters, having only an understanding of basic self-defense, but that didn't really matter if he ran into someone at 60 miles per hour. Crashing into Chris, he used the momentum to pin ball off the others. He heard each one of them slam into the wall and had a slew of curse words in his wake before he came to a stop at the end of the hall. He looked back at the ferals with a smirk as he saw all but Thomas groaning on the floor.

The alpha feral was standing in the doorway glaring at the speedster, eyes glowing. "Want to race?" Marcus taunted, "I hear sometimes the tortoise wins…"

Thomas snarled at Marcus before charging the speedster.

-line-

The quiet of the morning was shattered by alarms. In mere seconds the exhausted members of Mutant X were awake and ready to fight. Adam positioned himself at the comms, setting up command for his team who were already in flight towards the alarm's source. No one spoke while they all followed their well rehearsed routine.

In less than three minutes, the team was on their way to the safe house in the helix with Adam at the comms, updating them on what he could see from the security footage.

"It looks like Marcus is holding off the ferals. He's holding his own, but you need to hurry before he exhausts himself," Adam said, his voice tone less over the speakers.

"And Jesse?" Shall asked, her voice edged with a growl. She was already tapping into her feral senses.

"He's in the far right bedroom. He's not moving and he's not responding to comms. I can't tell what's wrong, he's covered with a blanket…" Adam answered and the worry in his voice could still be felt, even miles away.

"We're almost there," Brennan said, his voice tight. They were all tense, but he had the added guilt of being the last one to see Jesse.

"Step it up… Marcus is starting to tire. He's not going to be able to hold his own in a fight," Adam warned.

-line-

Marcus backed up to the wall, panting hard and eyes darting around. The only problem with his speedster powers, was the toll it took on his stamina. The human body just couldn't maintain that level of stress… He had sound the alarm the moment that he knew he was in danger. He guessed that it would take them about five minutes to get in the air, and maybe ten to get to him. That meant playing keep away for fifteen minutes.

That was pushing it, but he had to make it work.

The ferals had clearly done something to Jesse, and whatever it was was bad enough that the younger man wasn't responding. He did not want to find out first hand what it was. But he was getting tired and now he was surrounded. He had two to his right, near the back hallway, one to his right near the door, and one in front of him. It wasn't great odds.

"You guys having fun?" He panted, trying to figure out his next move,

There was no reply from the ferals, at least nothing that could be understood, but he knew they were bad. They were circling him, or at least trying to, closing in and preparing to attack. Marcus knew that if they all came at him at once, he'd most likely be done for. He could dodge one or two, but not four. His best option was to dodge left, but he didn't like the idea of moving farther away from Jesse. Not that he had much choice…

Movement to his right caught his attention and he managed to move just before Bryan lunged. Bryan missed him, but Greg was already moving in, causing Marcus to spin right where Chris was waiting. This time, his luck ran out, Chris managed to tackle him, dragging him to the ground. Marcus struggled, trying to shake the other man off him, but the feral's strength was too much for him and the adverse effects of his powers were starting to rear their ugly head. He was exhausted, and he couldn't fight any more. There was nothing he could to prevent himself from the beating that was reigned down upon him.

As soon as Chris had control of him, he had straddled the speedster and begun punching him in the chest and face. He had gotten about six good hits in, before there was a sizzle and then a bright arch of electricity. Ears ringing, and head spinning from the assault, Marcus became aware of the sounds of a fight.

Unable to move from a combination of pain, exhaustion, and the bulk of Chris on top of him, he was only able to vaguely comprehend that the rest of Mutant X had arrived. He was in a daze as he heard the others quickly take control of the situation, and it wasn't long before he felt the weight removed from his lower body and soft hands on his face.

"Marc!" Emma called, her voice worried.

The speedster blinked up at her through blurry vision and opened his mouth to speak, but there was a sudden sharp pain that darkened his vision. His words came out a groan and he felt his body start to go limp. Still, Emma seemed to understand what was going through his head.

"Shal and Bren are checking on Jesse now, just stay with me. We're gonna get you back to Sanctuary."

-line-

Shalamar reached the room first, fully engulfed in her feral state. When they had arrived to the safe house and found Marcus pinned by one of the ferals, she had stopped caring about control and gone right into action. Brennan had dealt with the one hurting Marcus, and she went straight for the alpha, tackling him. The fight had been fierce and she was going to feel it for a little while, but she had been the victor. The other two were easy after that. After all, no pup could take on a lioness when her cubs were in danger.

Now the lioness was following the scent of blood to where Jesse was, Brennan close on her heels. She reached the door and paused, eyes scanning and breath catching in her throat. Jesse wasn't moving, she could hear his breathing labored and slow, but other than that there was no sign of life. Moving cautiously but quickly towards him, she called "Jess?" Her voice was almost a growl.

She heard Brennan reach the door, felt him pause, but didn't take her eyes off her brother. "Jesse, answer me," she barked, coming up to him and extending her hand towards him. She was now aware of his paler and the fine sheen of sweat on his skin as well as the nose bleed. The creepiest and most upsetting thing was the blank stare and dilated eyes combined with the ragged breathing.

"Shal, Adam want's an update…" Brennan called from the door, his voice shaky.

"I… His eyes are open but he's not responding. He's breathing…" She answered, smoothing back Jesse's hair. "Jess, please, speak to me," she tried again but there was no answer. "He's freezing," she called and finally looked back towards Brennan, "I think he's in shock."

"Can he be moved?" Brennan asked, worry making his voice harsh.

"I don't know what's wrong with him," Shalimar said, "Hang on a second…" She stood up and carefully pulled the blanket away from her 'cub'. She gasped at what she found.

There was a clear lump about halfway up his back along the spine, and it was moving.

-line-

In all his years of practice, Adam had never seen anything like this. The scans he had taken of Jesse's back all seemed to indicate that there was a parasite bonding to Jesse's spinal cord. The parasite appeared to be moving from Jesse's pelvic region towards his brain stem, leaving in its wake what appeared to be its own nerve endings. Those nerve endings were penetrating between the vertebra and melding with his spinal cord and nervous system.

From what Adam could tell from stimuli tests, Jesse still had sensation in all his limbs and free movement. He seemed to have control over his body. Yet, at the same time, when the parasite was stimulated Jesse's legs would also move. It was like the thing was trying to take control of the molecular.

Jesse was currently laying in a catatonic state in the med bay with a fever of 103 degrees. He was only responding to painful stimuli, and his breathing was shallow and rapid. His right wrist had been fractured and he had deep ligature marks that were all bruised, bloody, and burned on his ankles and wrists. He also had bruising around his neck, that thankfully didn't seem to be impeding his breathing. One of the most worrying things however, was the fact that Jess' powers were having micro spasms and Adam couldn't tell exactly what was the cause.

Worst still, he didn't know how to help Jesse.

"Adam, how is he?" Shalimar asked from the doorway. Her eyes were pulsing gold as she waited for permission to enter the lab. Since discovering the parasite in Jesse's back, Adam had begun a loose quarantine of the lab. He wanted to make sure nothing would spread to the others. It was a precaution that was proving very difficult for the feral to obey.

"He's stable, but unresponsive," Adam answered stepping out of Shalimar's line of vision so she could see her younger brother. "Did you do the tests like I asked?"

"Yeah… They all came back positive for the same DNA structure as the thing inside Jess. What is it?" Shalimar responded, eyes glued on the molecular.

"I'm not sure. It's a parasite clearly. It appears to be a genetically altered hookworm, but that's a rough guess," Adam answered.

"How do we get it out of him?" Shalimar asked, wanting so badly to touch Jesse, to make sure he was breathing...to reassure herself that he was still alive. He was so still lying in the lab, and the unblinking stare was terrifying. So was Adam's answer.

"I don't know if we can… It's fusing to his spine. I would say surgery, but there's too much risk involved with this…" Adam sighed, looking at one of the monitors.

Shalimar felt the icy grip of fear tighten its hold on her and her eyes flashed gold, "so you mean, you don't know what to do."

-line-

"How's Jess?" Marcus asked as Emma finished her 'bed check'.

The speedster was tucked away in one of the guest rooms so that Adam could monitor him for the next forty eight hours. He wasn't seriously injured from his encounter with the ferals, but he had lost consciousness and was most definitely the worse for wear. He had also over extended his powers which had left him exhausted and had its own possibilities for complications. Emma had been tasked with caring for him while Adam tried to figure out how to help Jess.. She had just finished checking his vitals when he had woken up from his nap.

The empath smiled softly at him and sat on the edge of the bed. "He's stable but still catatonic. Adam doesn't know how best to help him yet, but he's working on it,"she answered her friend.

"Does he know what's wrong?" Marcus asked, pushing himself up into a seated position.

"Yeah. Some kind of parasite is attaching itself to Jesse. But Adam doesn't have any other information on it. We think it's from the lab, and it's infected the three ferals. But all the data we have from the lab is still encrypted. Jesse was trying to clean up the files before he switched out with Brennan."

"Did Jesse already start running it through a program?" Marcus asked, trying to think of anyway he could help. He, like Jess, was an expert when it came to coding and computers.

"Yeah… You think you can do something?" Emma asked, picking up on what the other was feeling.

"Jesse and I have similar coding patterns. Even if he built the programs from scratch, I could probably figure it out. It's at least worth a shot."

"It is," Emma agreed, "I'll get you a computer."

-line-

Shalimar watched the holding cell cameras intently, her gold eyes pulsing. The traitors in the cells were all off limits. No one was to touch them or engage them. No one was to go near them, not since the parasite was discovered. Adam had made that clear. The human in her understood the why, the lion wanted to hurt them.

Jesse was hurting. Jesse was dying. They had done that to him. They had caused it, and yet they were fine. They were breathing. They shouldn't be.

"Shal...have you heard anything I said?" Brennan asked, his voice breaking through her feral mind.

She jumped, coming back to herself, "huh?"

"Yeah...that's what I thought," Brennan grumbled, then sighed. He was tired, they all were, but Brennan more so. He had spent almost a week with the ferals but had failed to notice anything wrong, and he had left Jesse alone with them. He had been the last to see his friend, the last to speak to him, before the 'exposure' took place. He knew that it was irrational, that he shouldn't, but all of that just made him feel so damn guilty.

"Sorry Bren," Shalimar said, resting her head against his leg. She was seated at the console while he stood just next to her. "I was just...feral...for a moment."

Brennan smiled for a second, a dark one, as he interpreted her meaning, but then frowned. "I was saying that they look cold. It makes them seem weaker...almost sick."

Shalimar sat up straight, brow frowned, as she took another look at their 'guests'. Two of the ferals were huddled in on themselves, rocking slightly and rubbing their arms. One was lying on his side, sleeping restlessly, and the alpha was pacing. "Hmm…" She said, "what temperature is it?"

"Seventy five, heat is on," Brennan answered.

"That's weird… Were they like this at the safehouse?"

"They liked it warm, temp stayed about eighty the whole time. Five degrees difference shouldn't have them acting hypothermic," Brennan answered.

The wheels in Shalimar's head started to turning, nothing had clicked yet but a thought was forming. She wasn't sure exactly why, but this was important. "We need to tell Adam."

-line-

Adam studied the files intently, reading over every word to make sure he didn't miss anything. Marcus had been a godsend, speeding up the decryption process so that Adam could finally see the information he lab group, the ones they had rescued the mutants from, they were crazy. They were so far off the path of ethical research that they made the Nazis look like college professors.

They were attempting to make remote controlled assets by using a parasite to take over the host body's neurosystem. The parasite, which was part nanotech and part organizism that the creators could direct. It was a program that went against every value of science Adam ever believed in and it disgusted him to no end. Worst still, while Adam now knew what was infecting Jesse, he was no closer to stopping it.

He sighed, his frustration clear as he pushed himself back from the desk. He looked over to Jesse who still lay catatonic and unmoving. He felt, not for the first time, a great wave of helplessness. He now knew exactly what was inside of his 'son', he knew exactly what was happening to him, and what the end result would be, but he was no closer to finding a way to stop it.

Looking at the moving lump on Jesse's back, now almost all the way up to his shoulder blades, he knew that time was running out. Once the creature reached Jesse's brain stem, it would be too late. It may even be too late now considering how entangled it already was along Jesse's spine.

The bastards at that facility had thought of everything, except how to undo their Frankenstein monster. Adam was going to have to come up with a way to stop it, but there was no clear answer. No obvious weakness to exploit… He, the man who had once played God, was failing Jesse, and it would be his punishment to watch his youngest die.

"Adam," Emma called from behind him, her voice gentle, "does it help?"

"I now know what is inside of him," he answered still looking at the spot on Jesse's back.

"But not how to stop it," Emma finished, sagging in disappointment.

"It is wrapping itself around his spinal column and inserting itself into the nerves. Once it reaches his brain stem it will anchor itself there and embed the rest of its body into his brain. Jesse's consciousness, for lack of a better term, will be suppressed and his brain activity will deteriorate over a matter of weeks until only his primal brain functions remain. But those too will fail and he will die…"

Emma nodded, shutting her eyes tightly for a moment to ward off her emotions. "You can't cut it out or...poison it? Shock it? Anything?"

"If I were to attempt removal, Jesse would suffer nerve damage that would most likely kill him or leave him permanently disabled. Injecting poison or electricity would result in hurting Jesse and permanent damage… When they created this thing they wanted to ensure it wouldn't fail. The thing they were trying to fix was the deteriorating factor," Adam sighed. He had never felt so helpless and useless then he did now.

"Is there away to… reason with it?" Emma asked, and she would have blushed at the ridiculousness of the idea if they hadn't been so desperate.

"It's not sentient, it's barely alive. If it has any higher brain functions it comes from a 'queen bee' so to speak. Hived mind. What's in Jesse, and based on the research, the ferals, are all larvae," Adam replied, and the fact that he had an answer at all ment he had been desperate enough to ask the same question. Emma wasn't sure if that was comforting or frightening.

The comms beeped then and before Adam could acknowledge the signal Brennan's voice interrupted their conversation. "Hey Adam, Shal and I think we've noticed something that's important."

"Go ahead," replied the scientist, giving his protégé his full attention.

"Adam, remember what I told you about the ferals liking things way too hot? There's a five degree difference in temperature from the safe house and here, and they're showing early signs of hypothermia as well as deteriorating health. I mean… They all look like they have the flu or something."

Adam frowned, but this time it was because he had the forming of an idea. He remembered a passage of data that specifically mentioned cold testing. "I'm going to have Emma come do exams on the ferals, she'll need assistance. "

"Understood," and then the line closed.

"What are you think?" Emma asked, sensing the new purpose.

"It could be nothing. I need to do more research…" Adam said abruptly turning from her back to the screen. That, Emma knew, was definitely a good sign.

-line-

"Prolonged cold exposure detrimental to parasite growth. Host stability affected only past stage two of fusion, indicated rapid decline. Hosts in stage one and two, fusion halted. In some cases, indicators of reversal. Unknown lasting effects."

It was a footnote in a series of data points, just something that could be glanced over by the casual observer. It was noted, marked, but not something consider significant, except to Adam. He had overlooked it before because there was no referencing data, no cited work or anything he could use to put it in context. But the observation that Shalimar and Brennan had made, it sparked an idea...a hypothesis.

Emma and Shalimar had examined the four mutants, and found they were in stage two of hypothermia and they were most certainly dying. There was a sense of sadness, of failure, but he shelved it, filing it away for later. He focused on the blood tests, looking at the differences in each. He found indicators of decreased enzymes from what he suspected to be the parasite. He also found chemical compounds that showed a breakdown of genetic material. These signs indicated one thing clearly to Adam, cold killed the worm.

So he came up with an idea, foolish and desperate, but they had nothing to lose and there was a chance to save Jesse. Using a technique similar to cryolipolysis, Adam began freezing the area around the parasite while giving Jesse anthelmintic medications to help his body fight off the invading worm. And it worked. It took forty eight hours, all of which the scientist held his breath for, but finally Jesse's blood work showed he was clear of the parasite's enzymes. A series of scans showed it had become completely detached from his spine and was safe for removal.

They could all breathe a sigh of relief. The only tragedy in this was the death of the four ferals who the treatment came too late for. Now, all that was left for Mutant X was to wait for Jesse to wake up.

-line-

"That was what they put in me?" Jesse asked, and he sounded disgusted.

He was looking at pictures of the worm that Adam had cut out of him. He had spent a long week in and out of consciousness recovering from his infection and the subsequent treatments. When he had first woken up, he had be delirious and still in so much pain that he had had to be sedated. It had taken him almost three days to recover to the point he didn't need massive amounts of painkillers to survive and another two until he was alert enough to talk.

Much to everyone's relief, he seemed to recognize them and where he was. He also had a fairly good recollection of the events leading up to the attack but not anything after. Though, considering what Emma had described as his mind screaming, that was probably a good thing. Besides, they had all seen the security footage of what he had suffered, nobody wanted him to remember that. The biggest concern was the numbness he had in his legs and feet, but even that Adam doubted was permanent.

"Yup. Adam cut it out of you, like a c-section… guess that makes you a mom," Brennan teased. He was sitting with Jesse in the medbay, letting Shalimar get some food when the molecular had asked to see the worm. Brennan knew that the others were being protective, not wanting to add to his nightmares, but part of getting over things was facing them as far as he was concerned.

Jesse looked up at his friend, an unimpressive murderous glare. He was too tired for it to have any effect. Brennan just smiled and shrugged, "What, no maternal instincts kicking in? Need more bonding time with it?" Brennan continued.

Jesse shook his head, rather quickly, face pale and Brennan realized he may have gone a little too far. Sobering up quickly, he added, "Jess… seriously, Adam got all of it out. You're fine now."

"And… they never put it in Marc, right? He's alright?" Jesse asked, staring at the thing.

"He's fine...well, I mean… He got his ass kicked, but he's fine. They didn't get the chance to hurt him."

The two were quiet for a long moment, Jesse still staring at the pictures. Curiosity got the better of Brennan though, and he finally asked, "what was it like? I mean...did you know what was happening?"

Jesse sighed and shook his head. "I remember being held down, but… it was like acid and fire were being rubbed into cuts. I could feel it moving too and it was… it was wrong. It wasn't right…" his voice was strained and he shuddered slightly when he finished, turning the picture over. "That thing is ugly."

Brennan, who had now been completely sobered by the conversation, said, "I'm sorry you had to go through it. I'm sorry I left you alone with them."

Jesse shook his head, "Bren, you didn't know anything. Hell, Adam didn't notice it at first. He just thought the samples were contaminated. I just...god...what they must have gone through…"

Brennan shook his head, that was always the thing he appreciated most about Jesse, his ability to think about others even in his own trouble. "Yeah well...they passed on quickly. Emma said it was painless. So there's that."

Jesse nodded, taking what comfort he could from that knowledge. He had hated them, wanted them dead even, when they had attacked him. He wanted them to suffer when he felt the thing slither inside him. But now...now he wished there had been a way to help them.

"Hey….what ya thinking about?" Brennan asked,taking the pictures away from Jess and looking at them for himself.

"I just...I think the worst part was feeling it slide inside of me. I'm a molecular, and I could feel it reaching through my spine even when my powers were fluctuating. I can't imagine what a feral would have felt," Jesse said.

"Then don't," Shalimar said softly before glaring at Brennan. "And you...get out. You were told not to show him those damn pictures!"

"Hey! He asked to see them!" Brennan protested.

"I don't know what he's talking about…" Jesse said, a mischievous glint in his eye.

"Hey!" Brennan cried.

-line-

Emma was watching him sleep, amazed at the stillness that now radiated from him. The frantic screaming of his mind had been so frightening to witness...to feel… She never, never, wanted to experience that again, especially from him. But everything was calm now, everyone was safe. This would be his last night in the medbay, Adam had declared him parasite free and sufficiently recovered enough to sleep in his own room. Jesse had been relieved.

He was going to need to take it easy though. He'd been out for at least two months. He had to do physical therapy for his motor skills and for walking. He was reasonably steady already, but they needed him back at a hundred percent. He needed the time to recover mentally as much as physically. As much as he was able to joke and talk about what had happened, there were still parts of it he wasn't able to voice, feelings he didn't want to face. He was going to have to though, and she would be there to help him.

"Hey...what are you doing here?" He said, sleepily.

She smiled at him, brushing some stray hair out of his face. "Just checking on you," she said.

"Well...I'm not up to anything terribly exciting," he yawned, "give me a second to get changed...we can go dancing."

Emma giggled and shook her head, "you're ridiculous. How are you doing?"

"Honestly? I...I feel weird. Not like, I'm about to crash weird but… If I close my eyes, I think I can still feel it inside me. I mean, really feel it. There was a time...when I stopped screaming...I thought I could hear it talking to me. I guess I was losing it, maybe I still am, huh?" Jesse said.

"No, I don't think you are at all. It was a receiver, designed to interrupt signals sent to it by a remote. It makes an odd kind of sense," she said softly, "and as for feeling it...it was in your spinal column. Your body is probably treating it like a phantom limb…"

Jesse cringed at that thought, "has Adam learned anything about how it was made or how...I guess...reproduces?"

"It doesn't lay eggs Jess," she reassured him and was only half joking, "but other then that, no. We did manage to locate the ferals' families and told them what happened. I mean… A cover story. Not exactly sure what Adam told them to be honest."

Jesse sighed and shook his head, "I hope I never have to do Adam's job."

Emma smiled sadly, "me too. You should get some rest."

Jesse scuffed, "all I do now days is sleep."

"Yeah, and you're still exhausted."

The molecular's response was to stick out his tongue. Emma laughed then leaned in and kissed him softly on the lips. "Go to sleep."

"He, Em…" Jesse asked softly, starting to drift off. "If we destroyed the lab, how was it receiving a signal?"

"Go to sleep Jesse," Emma said, purposely avoiding the question. She didn't have an answer for him, and this was not a thought she wanted him to dwell on. Right now was not the time to chase monsters, it was the time to be thankful the monsters hadn't taken one of their own.

End.