Disclaimer: The following work is fiction only, not intended to infringe on copyright(s) or make a profit. Tribune Entertainment and various other people own Mutant X; I'm merely playing in their sandbox and will return all seats to their original upright position when I'm done. Please don't post, redistribute, or sue without permission from the author.

Story info: Story two of the Claddagh series and also a set of missing scenes for Russian Roulette. Assume spoilers for any episodes up to and including that one. It helps to have read With This Ring, but of course that's up to you. Also assume a male/male romantic and sexual (eventually) relationship, language inappropriate for our younger audience, and the occasional reference to things the author thinks are funny.

Note: A few lines of dialogue in the third scene are taken directly from the episode, and therefore obviously weren't written by me. The lines in question start with Tina's "Get in" and end with Jesse's "Come on." Credit for these lines go to whoever wrote the episode.

I appreciate Angel and Carolyn's help in betaing this story, but I can't blame them for any remaining mistakes, as much as I might want to. I also appreciate any constructive feedback, including and especially suggestions for improvement. I'm new to writing slash and writing Mutant X, so I'll take all the pointers I can get.

Claddagh: In Sickness
by Katie

One move flowed into another as I worked my way through the kata, my mind empty of all but the pull and twist of muscle and bone. I was light, weightless, each movement made without any effort, completely at peace.

As I came to rest, warm hands closed on my shoulders from behind, but somehow I wasn't surprised. I knew there wasn't a threat, just the touch of lips behind my ear, the warm trail of a tongue tracing the muscle in my neck down to my shoulder. I moaned, but the sound didn't break the stillness. I reached back, my fingers digging into thick, soft hair, my body arching as teeth bit gently into my shoulder and sent a jolt of electricity straight down to my groin.

The hands left my shoulders and trailed across the bare skin of my chest, tracing a light circle around my nipples. I gasped, pressed backward, wanted more, catching his hands in mine and bringing one up to tenderly kiss each finger as the other moved down to cup my cock, the touch not quite tight enough to hurt. His cock pressed against me from behind, and I moved just barely, just enough to press and slide, just enough to make him suck in his breath and tighten his grip.

And then I was facing him, my hand on the back of his neck, my fingers threaded through his hair, pulling him down to taste his mouth, his body pressed against mine and fitting like it had been designed to . . .

And I snapped awake as Adam's voice came over the comm link. "Jesse, I hate to wake you, but . . ."

"Sure you do," I grumbled, shifting uncomfortably under the covers. I was suddenly glad I never slept with any lights on. "What's up?"

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I winced. Mornings were not my time.

"I have an assignment for you and Brennan. Are you in the mood for a rescue?"

"Sure." A quick, cold shower and I'd be good to go. Really. I buried my head under the pillow, but I could still hear Adam's voice.

"Good. I'll see you in twenty minutes for a quick briefing."

When I was sure he was gone, I reached down and touched myself, finally letting myself remember the dream Adam had interrupted. The same damn dream I'd been having every night forever, in which I made love to Brennan Mulwray. My teammate, and unless I'd misjudged him, my friend.

"Fuck," I said, and got up to take a shower.

Adam and Brennan were waiting for me in the main room, Brennan with a cup of coffee in hand. He learned fast. I took the cup as I sat down on the stairs beside Brennan. The coffee was good, hot and strong enough to jumpstart my brain. I took another sip and tried to pay attention to what Adam was saying.

Adam pulled up a picture of a young girl on the holo-display. "This is Tina. We placed her with a safehouse family a few years ago. This morning I got a call from her foster father saying that she'd called him in a panic, saying she was pretty sure someone was following her."

"The GSA?" Brennan asked. He leaned forward to get a closer look at the picture, the muscles in his arm flexing as it rested it on his knee, disturbingly close to my own arm. He looked like he'd been working out when Adam had called him; he was wearing black jogging shorts and a black tank top, and the ends of his hair were damp.

I felt myself hardening, focused on the girl and the bitter taste of coffee in my mouth and how much I'd rather still be asleep, dreaming about . . .

Damn it.

"It seems likely," Adam was saying, and I concentrated all my attention on his words, trying to block Brennan out of my mind. "And even if it's not, we owe it to her and her family to make sure she gets home safely."

"And here I was thinking it would be a boring day," Brennan said with a grin. "I've got to get changed, then I'll be ready to go. Meet you in ten minutes, Jess?"

"Yeah," I said, glad for once that no one expected me to make sense before the third cup of coffee. I couldn't have managed a more coherent answer than that if my life had depended on it, not with Brennan's hand on my shoulder as he levered himself up and his thighs flexing as he stood.

I had to get a grip. I couldn't go around fantasizing about my teammate. Futility aside, distraction could get someone killed.


I jumped, nearly spilling my coffee. Adam was watching me with a concerned expression.

"What? Sorry, I was thinking."

Adam smiled faintly. "I could tell. Is there something bothering you?"

Aside from Brennan's butt? Which wasn't exactly bothering me . . . "No, I'm fine."

"Is there a problem with doing this mission with Brennan?"

I looked at him sharply, realized he was thinking of a different kind of problem. "No, Brennan's doing great. I know what he did before wasn't exactly legal, but it was good training."

Adam nodded. "I noticed that myself. Listen, Jesse, I want you to keep your eyes open out there. This might be a tempest in a teapot, but you won't know until you get there."

"We'll handle it." I drained my cup and stood up. "I'm going to go find Brennan and get going."

I swear I thought he could handle it on his own. As new as he was to the team, he was experienced, used to thinking fast and moving faster, and I hadn't seen anything yet that made me worry about his ability to handle a couple of mutant-hungry Russians. And each time I looked back, he was on his feet; the last time, the Russians weren't. I thought he had it handled.

But when we got to the car, he wasn't coming up behind us. I felt something twist in my stomach. He can handle it, I told myself, and slammed the back door a little harder than necessary behind Tina.

"What about your friend?" Tina asked as I got in. "Brennan?"

"He's watching our backs," I said, hoping I was right. "We're going to swing back by and pick him up."

It only took a minute to drive around the bridge pylons where Shalimar had left the get-away car early that morning. A trio of rusty junkers still blocked my view of the space where I'd left Brennan, but I should have been able to see him. He could handle it, I told myself again.

And then I saw the Russians, the Ice Princess holding a bazooka in one hand and both of them with a nasty look in their eyes. Still no Brennan, but then I cleared the last of the wrecks and there he was, hunched over on the ground like he didn't have the strength to stand. Hurt or faking it, and I found myself praying that he was playing sheep to the Russian wolves as I swerved the car to a stop in front of him.

Tina gave a faint shreak as she was thrown against the door, but she kept her head. She had the door open almost before she'd landed against it and was leaning out to pull Brennan in.

"Get in," she said urgently, pulling him toward her.

"I lost my power." The voice didn't sound like his, weak and breathless with . . . pain? Fear? My stomach twisted again.

"Get him in," I snapped, my own voice sounding weird in my ears. Angry. Scared. "Come on."

Brennan fell forward, half on Tina and half on the floorboard. Tina slammed the door shut behind him as I floored the gas pedal, swerving around another wreck as I drove us back toward the main highway. I kept my eyes on the road and tried to avoid as many potholes as I could, but I could hear Brennan in the back seat, every breath coming in sharp, hurting gasps like you make when someone's been kicking you so long you can't even try to roll away.

Damn it.

"Tina, I need you to check and see if he's bleeding anywhere." I hadn't seen any blood, but there hadn't been time to tell for sure. Maybe he'd just been grazed. Maybe he had a flesh wound. Something small, treatable, not terrifying. "Brennan, talk to me, man. What happened?"

"That rifle." His voice shook, but at least he was answering. I almost hadn't expected him to. "Some sort of . . . laser . . . energy beam . . . I don't know." He made a sound that could just as easily have passed for a sob as a laugh. "Hurt like hell. I can't . . . lost my power, Jess."

"No." I said it like I knew something, like I was in control and got to make these decisions. I reached back and found his arm, felt heat burning through the fabric of his jacket, told myself my own hands were cold from the wind. "We all lose control when we get hurt. That doesn't mean anything. We'll get you back to Adam, and he'll figure out what they hit you with and get you fixed up, okay? You're going to be fine."

Brennan didn't answer. I risked a look back, saw that Tina had pulled him up so that his head rested in her lap. She gave me a brave smile that did nothing to make her look less young and afraid.

"I think he passed out," she said almost apologetically. "He's not bleeding anywhere, but he is burning up. I think he needs a doctor."

He needed Adam. I got my eyes back on the road and thought fast. The plan had been to take Tina to the safe house where she'd be living as soon as we met up with her, but I didn't know if Brennan had the time to wait while I dropped Tina off. With a quick touch to my ring, I activated my comm link.


"Jesse? How's it going? Do you have Tina?"

"We got her, but we've got a problem, Adam. The Russians who were after her hit Brennan with some sort of energy beam or something. He's hurting pretty bad."

"Is he conscious?" Adam's voice sharpened, and something about hearing his worry eased mine just a bit. "What exactly is wrong with him?"

I'd reached the point where I had to merge onto the main highway. Left took me closer to home, right took me toward the safehouse. I turned left.

"He passed out about three, maybe five minutes ago. He said he hurt, and Adam, he said he'd lost his power. He's got a high fever, too. I want to bring him in, Adam. Now."

"Where are you?"

"Just got on the highway headed west."


There was a pause. I could hear Brennan's breathing and Tina's low murmurs, as if she was trying to calm him.

"Jesse, there's an exit about two miles up, FM 5218. Go right for another mile or so, and you'll find an empty field. We'll pick you up there."

We got to the empty field first. It wasn't much, just a grass and bramble-covered clearing in the trees, but there would be enough room to land the aircraft. As far as I was concerned, it was the best looking field in the whole state. Brennan had started stirring not long after we turned onto the farm road; by the time we reached the field, Tina was fighting him to keep him still.

"I've got to go," Brennan insisted again.

"Ow," Tina added, sounding a little pissed.

I pulled over, not worried about elegant parking out here in the middle of nowhere. I turned around, catching Brennan's arm just before his elbow landed in Tina's ribs again.

"Brennan." The muscles in his arm were knotted and shaking with the strain, heat still radiating off him, and his eyes met mine with a wide terror. I tried to sound calm. "Brennan, just relax for a few minutes. As soon as Adam gets here, we're going home."

"It's not safe," he said almost angrily. "Let me go."

"Okay," I said, aiming for soothing this time. "We can both get some fresh air, all right?"

Brennan frowned at me suspiciously, but relaxed a little when I took my hand off his arm. I got out and came around the car just in time to catch him as he tried to stand up from the car and ended up pitching forward instead. I pushed him back to sit on the edge of the seat and squatted in front of him, keeping my hands on his arms to keep him upright.

"Take it easy," I said, hoping I sounded less out of my depth than I felt. Shalimar was better with the whole calming and comforting routine than I'd ever been, and Adam had been playing surrogate dad for years to scared kids in the midst of finding out that they really were different. Either one of them would have been able to talk Brennan down in an instant. "The Russians didn't follow us. We're safe here till Adam comes."

"I need to get out of here," Brennan repeated. He was looking at me, but his eyes were so fever-glazed that I wasn't sure he was seeing me.

He tensed suddenly, then hunched over with a sound that made my stomach twist again. I reached up and pulled him to me, letting his head rest against my shoulder as I rubbed the back of his neck like it might somehow brush away whatever was hurting him. Where the hell was Adam?

"Where are you going?" I asked softly. "We need you here, Brennan. Stay with me, okay?"

He didn't answer. He'd twisted his hand into my shirt with a grip that made me absently glad he hadn't latched on to anything else, but he didn't seem to be following what was going on outside his body. Each breath shook his body like a sob, and I found myself breathing deeper, trying to do the work for him. We were in a vulnerable position, me sitting on my heels and most of his weight resting on me, and I couldn't focus much beyond each breath he took, and the horrible silence between one and the next. I could only hope Tina was keeping watch from where she was standing behind us.

It hit me again, that if I'd kept a better eye on him, we wouldn't be here. I was supposed to be training him; he was my responsibility as much as Tina was. But I wasn't doing either of them any good by feeling sorry for myself. Brooding would have to wait for later.

It was just damn hard to think with Brennan so close and hurting so bad. I could smell the fever-sweat on him mixed with the slightly spicy scent of his hair gel, feel the tremble of his muscles as he fought whatever had gotten a hold on him. It was like a perversion of my dream the night before, turning everything I'd envisioned as good into horror. Why hadn't I stayed back to make sure he was okay?

"Jesse? I think something's coming."

Tina's voice interrupted my thoughts, followed a moment later by Adam's voice over the comm link.

"Jesse, we're within visual range. We'll be there in just a minute."

"Thanks," I said to both of them. I could hear the aircraft behind me but didn't turn to look. Brennan had dubbed it the Death Glider when he first saw it. I would have loved a smart-ass remark about it now, too, but all I got was the almost steady, rough gasp of his breathing.

I could live with that, too.

Adam's words played on an endless loop in my head as I walked back to the lab to see Brennan. If we didn't get the reversal sequence for that damned bazooka soon, Brennan would die.

I couldn't let that happen. It wasn't just that he was my responsibility, that I had already failed him once. It wasn't just that, even though he'd only been with us a few short weeks, he was family. It was that the mere thought of him gone made me feel like some stupid, scared little kid, lost and alone in a place where everything was out of reach and nothing connected. The reality . . . was that we had to get that reversal sequence. That was the only reality there could be.

Emma saw me coming and met me just outside the door to the lab.

"How is he?" I asked, even though I had a pretty good idea of the answer just from the look on her face.

"Not good. He's a little more with it now. I think maybe the shock wore off or something. But the pain's getting worse, and his vitals are getting more erratic." She bit her lip. "We've got to find something to help him fast, Jesse. He doesn't have long."

I put a hand on her shoulder. "We've got a plan." Such as it was. "I just wanted to see how he was doing before I got going."

She smiled weakly. "You came along just in time. I wanted to go check on some things with Adam, and I'd rather not leave Brennan alone. You'll stay with him till I get back?"

"Yeah, no problem." I gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze as she left.

Brennan lay on the observation table, staring fixedly at the ceiling, almost rigid from fighting his way through another spasm of pain. Sweat beaded on his forehead, glistened on the corded muscles in his arms as he gripped the edge of the table. I'd felt those arms around me in my dreams, and a brief, shameful flush of desire burned through me. Brennan groaned, shifting restlessly as if he wanted to curl in on himself, and the sound hit me like a dash of cold water. What kind of pervert gets turned on by seeing his friend in agony?

Brennan moved again, in eminent danger of falling off the table. I shoved the guilt to the back of my mind and moved forward, catching his arm to keep him still. He looked up at me--I didn't need psychic abilities to know how much he was hurting; it all but leapt from his eyes and lodged somewhere in the pit of my stomach.

"Careful, you'll roll off," I said stupidly, because anything was better than making a fool out of myself apologizing all over the place. When . . . when Brennan got better, he'd never let me live it down.

Brennan managed something that almost passed for a grin. "Yeah, bruises. Big concern right now."

I tried to smile, tried not to notice the strain in his voice. "It would be if Emma walked in. She'd think I pushed you."

He smirked. "She'd have your--"

His body arched, straining to contain the pain. I lunged, pulled him back just before he went over the side, braced myself as he collapsed half on the table and half on me. He shook and I held tight, bruises be damned.

"God . . . I can't . . ." He trailed off, voice muffled against my chest. His skin burned like there was a fire under it.

"I'm sorry," I whispered, helpless and hating that I couldn't do more than stand here and watch him hurt. My fingers threaded through his hair, holding him still as he tensed again. "You'll be okay. Adam knows a way to stop this, Brennan. It'll get better soon." It had to.

I don't know if he heard me. I don't know if my being there helped him or just kept him from falling off the table. I know I couldn't make myself let go, not until several minutes after he'd finally sighed and relaxed against me.

I helped him settle back, leaving my hand on his shoulder in case he started to move again. He closed his eyes, his breath slow and deliberate. Not knowing if he was falling asleep or just getting himself under control, I waited silently.

"Sorry." His voice was a harsh rasp.

I stared at him for a minute, not sure I'd heard right. "For what?"

"I'm not . . . " He stopped. Opened his eyes, stared at the ceiling for a long moment before looking at me. "I'm scared, Jess."

Me too. "Brennan, Adam's got a way to fix this. You're going to be all right."

"Yeah." He swallowed hard enough that I could see it. "Promise?"

Then I was the one looking away. Blinked. Reached down and caught his hand and squeezed it nearly as hard as he'd held on to mine earlier.


He gave our hands a long look, and then smiled. "Thanks."

I'd known Brennan would be okay from the moment I gave Adam the unlock sequence for the Pushka. We were still well within the twenty-four hour window; there was no way Adam wouldn't get to Brennan in time. But something twisted and broke in my chest when I saw Brennan walk through the door with the rest of the team, something that left me feeling a hundred pounds lighter. I lost another hundred pounds or so when Brennan fried the computers, and I could see the same relief in his eyes as he turned back toward us.

"How're you doing?" I asked as we walked out of the building behind Adam, Shal, and Emma.

"A hell of a lot better than I was." He grinned faintly, held up his hands and shook them like they were wet. "My power level's still a little screwy, though. I didn't intend to hit that computer bank so hard."

"Give it a day or two."


We left the building, and I could hear Sonya arguing with an INS agent. As we walked, Brennan's shoulder brushed against mine. It felt good.

I stretched, holding the ball of my foot with one hand as I leaned down and rested my head on my thigh. I held it, breathed evenly in and out, switched to the other leg. Stopped as a pair of bare feet came into view.

"Brennan." I followed the feet up past a pair of black warm-ups to a bare chest, paused, and forced my eyes up to his face. "You sure you feel up to this?"

The corner of his mouth turned up in that way that I suspected meant he was laughing at me. It seemed like I had been seeing that expression a lot lately. "I've been fine for days, Jess."

"Two days."

"I'm fine." He reached down, offering me his hand. "Come on, let's get started."

I took his hand and let him pull me up. "We'll just take it easy today."

He sighed. "Even Adam said I was good as new. Give it a rest, Mother."

"You remember those moves I was showing you?" I asked, settling into a ready stance and hoping he wouldn't notice that I was changing the subject. Or at least, wouldn't figure out why.

"I think so." He shifted so he was standing beside and slightly behind me where he could copy my movements. "Show me one more time?"

We moved through the kata slower than I usually did it so that Brennan could learn the sequence, but the discipline was good for both of us. Brennan needed to learn to focus his mind, and I . . . I needed to figure out where the balance was between my dreams and the reality of being Brennan's friend and teammate. I had to find some sort of peace, because even now, the sound of him breathing, the faint scent of sweat, the knowledge that he was behind me, made me want to turn and bury myself in him, feel his mouth and his cock against me and . . . damn, that was not focusing.


I abruptly realized that I'd come to a complete stop. I glanced over at my shoulder at Brennan, who was watching me with a frown.

"Was that it? I was thinking there was more to it."

I shook my head. "No. I mean, yeah, there's more to it. I just got distracted."

He smirked. "I thought you said the purpose of this was to help with focus and control?"

"Smartass." I said it lightly enough that he'd know I was kidding, and he chuckled. "Listen, my head just isn't in this today. What do you say we quit early?"

His frown was back. "Okay. Anything wrong?"

"No, I'm just not in the mood."

It seemed to satisfy him. The frown disappeared, and I held back a sigh of relief. The last thing I needed was for him to push the issue; how was I supposed to tell him that I was distracted by visions of his naked, sweaty body wrapped around mine? I turned to go, but he stopped me with a light touch on my arm.



He looked away, focusing on some spot over my shoulder. "I've been wanting to tell you . . ."

He stopped again. Suddenly uneasy and not sure why, I had to take a deep breath before I could say anything.

"Tell me what?"

He finally looked at me. I think it was the first time I'd ever seen him nervous.

"When I was sick . . . I never said thank you for everything you did for me."

I could feel my ears growing hot and hoped he wouldn't notice. "Hey, we look out for each other, right? No thanks necessary. Anyway, it was kind of fun doing that whole undercover routine."

He smiled, but his eyes were still serious. "That's not what I meant. I mean, that was part of it, and I'm grateful for that, too, but . . . " He stopped again and shook his head, his smile turning wry. "I'm not exactly good at this, Jess. What I meant was, when I was sick and scared and not sure I was going to make it, it really helped having someone there to hold on to. To hold on to me. So, thank you."

"Any time." It was out before I could think of something less stupid. There was no way he wouldn't know I was blushing this time, and that grin was back at the corner of his mouth. "I mean . . . "

His hand cupped my jaw as he leaned forward and kissed me. He tasted faintly of mint and his tongue found nerve endings I'd never dreamed of and I think my knees shook. His thumb trailed down my jaw as he released me, and I could still feel the heat of his touch as he walked away.

Fuck, I thought, and sat down ungracefully on the floor.