All These Wasted Dreams
by Catlin O'Connor

It wasn't as though she'd planned it. Not any of it. And if she'd known, if she'd known . . .

She thought that if she had, things, people, might have been different. If she'd known, she wouldn't have done it.

But how could she have? She couldn't foretell the future, after all. And-

And it wasn't as though she'd meant for things to turn out as they had.

Not intentionally.


"Emma, you're blocking the screen."

Certain traditions never changed. It was somewhat comforting to know that even amongst those with altered DNA, football games, Sunday afternoons and men on couches were considered normal. Annoying and frustrating as well, but she supposed that was a sort of tradition, too.

She raised an eyebrow, contemplating Brennan's slouched form. "Sorry. I wasn't aware you were so . . . involved in football."

"What'd you think I'd be doing on a Sunday afternoon?" he asked, motioning for her to move out of the way.

She sighed, but complied and sat on the arm of the couch to watch him watching the game. "I don't know," she replied, "reading or flirting with Shalimar."

"Shalimar is out with Adam and Jesse. And I can't read all the time. 'Sides, watching a game and knowing you don't have to do anything but watch is relaxing."

"So you're saying it relaxes you to know you can't affect the outcome?"

He shook his head. "No, you don't understand."

He glanced up at her. She stared down at him, waiting with a kind of anticipation for his answer, for an explanation.

Eventually, he said, "It's being able to sit here and yell at the television and tell myself that if I'd been there, I'd have done it differently and we'd have won. It's-"

He shrugged.

"Safe," she finished, softly.

"I guess."

She leaned a little toward him, to see what he saw, and found the view not all that different from her own. "They don't look very happy," she observed, inhaling the barely-there scent of soap and electrons that was pure Brennan.

"How can you tell? Their faces are- Whoa, you can't sense anything from them, can you?"

Emma laughed, the tension that had tautened her muscles to steel bending and melting and flowing from her. What a simple cure, she thought, wondering what power Brennan had that allowed him to soothe her with his easy conversation and fascinated curiosity.

"No, they're too far away. But I can sense a few things from you," she teased, resting her hand on his shoulder.

"Oh yeah? Like what?" he challenged, stretching his arm out a little. His elbow brushed against her breast, so lightly that if she hadn't been as acutely aware of him as she was, she wouldn't have noticed.

Her breath caught and her eyes fluttered closed as he settled back, oblivious.

A tingle coursed from her breasts to her thighs to her toes. She drew in a breath and released it, a harsh pant of oxygen and carbon dioxide that served only to make her feel all the more light headed, all the more aroused by that one single, almost nonexistent touch of his arm to her cotton and bra-encased breast.

"Em?" she heard him say, vaguely, and somehow recognized that he seemed concerned. Before she could open her eyes and respond to him, his hand brushed her cheek and began a fresh ripple of emotion.

She imagined his lips on hers, crushing and parting and tasting, and his body, so hot and hard and consuming. The need, the desire, to be with him, to have him, to have him be with her and taste her and touch her and know her was overwhelming. She could see it, feel it in the satin rub against her nipples, the sleek press between her legs and the damp heat molding itself around her body.

She heard again, "Emma," and his voice was husky as un-chaffed wheat.

His hand, when it cupped her chin, was firm, the skin rough from picking locks and lifting weights. When she at last, at last, opened her eyes, it was to find him staring at her, into her, with a burning, a fire that encompassed and inflamed and devoured all that was in its path.

"Brennan," she said, and the words were swallowed and forgotten by the firm pressure of his mouth against hers, warm and dry, the thrust of his tongue, so slick and confident and arousing. A lick and a plunge and her every thought disappeared until all she was, was feeling, pure and bright and hot and wet. And the sensations, the luscious and leaping flames, flooded through her and over her and she felt almost drowned with the wonder of it, the wonder of him.

And the contrast of her naked back against the chilled tile of the floor, and her breasts against the awesome heat of his hard chest made everything she'd experienced before, felt before, insignificant. He wrapped her legs around his waist and the flesh that had been so cool was heated almost too quickly, for the burn of it spread through her and it was too much, too hot. But then . . . he kissed her and the too much dropped away and became enough, just right, and his tongue twined around her own as his torso met hers and his muscled chest coaxed her breasts to swell and press against him, her body soft and full and perfectly fit to his.

His hands slid down her sides to her hips and he gripped her and raised her and simply sank down and inside, velvet steel into liquid heat, thrusting in again and again and again until the velvet was soaked through and so hot that the explosion, when it came, was magnificent in its beauty, its lush fulfillment.

She lay beneath him, her hand stroking his back, gently, her body supple and . . . free. His head was buried in the crook of her neck and she felt his breath, hot and unsteady as it shuddered over her heated flesh.

"Em," he said finally, and it was almost an exclamation. "I don't-"

"Shh," she whispered, cradling him to her. "It's all right."

And it was, for her, until she felt the trickle of wet that ran down her collarbone to her back and she realized if it hadn't come from her, it must have been from him. He didn't, she thought, and shock kept her motionless, fingers still on the rigid muscles of his shoulder, but I did. I did, and so he did.

Her eyes ached with it, with the incredible wrongness of what she'd done, made him do, even if it had been unintentional. Her fantasy had become a reality, and the price of the transformation was the certainty of what he didn't want, and the knowledge of what she always had.

"Em," he said, and it was a broken sound. "Oh, Em."


She couldn't look at him, couldn't bear to see his eyes filled with worry and concern and that horrible burden of guilt that should have been hers alone, would have been if she hadn't been too afraid, too much a coward to tell him the truth. But she couldn't have born it if those emotions, so wrong for him to be feeling, had been replaced by hatred. And so she busied herself with helping Adam and talking to Jesse and laughing with Shalimar, and she avoided Brennan so expertly that no one but he noticed the absence of her in his presence.

And when she did happen to run across him and she saw the weight of his feelings, those honorable feelings, bowing his head and bending his soul in two, she swallowed and told herself he'd get over it, far easier than he would the truth of what she'd done to him.

But honesty was thick and bitter in her throat and she had to keep swallowing and swallowing to keep it from bursting up and out and into the world, and eventually she managed to keep it down long enough to say hello to him. He said it back, a reflex, really, before he realized who he was speaking to and that she was speaking to him.

He opened his mouth, and she turned on her heel - the elegant boot-heel Shalimar had helped her to pick out on their last, furtive, shopping trip - and walked away. Strode down the hallway toward her room, but when she passed his she paused, touched the wooden door and thought that if she'd broken it down and ripped off his clothes it would have seemed more like the assault it had been, but her attack had been mental and so much more effective for it. She dropped her head to the wood and curled her fingers around the doorknob and her eyelids felt like sandpaper, scraping and abrading and sanding her down until the tears were ground away.

She heard footsteps, recognized from the quick and lengthy stride that they were Brennan's.

"Emma?" His voice was gentle and questioning, and she wondered if her name from his lips would ever again not sound like an apology.

"Are you all right?" he asked, and she tried to speak, but the sawdust that had accumulated in her mouth and nose and throat kept her silent, slid down to her spine and kept her in place when all she wanted to do was move, run, get away.

She couldn't look at him, not when they were this close and she could see exactly what she'd done to him. "I," she tried, "I . . . "

"You're not." A statement, and his hand hovered over her shoulder as though he didn't want to touch her, as though he feared what he'd do if his body so much as grazed hers. He should be afraid, she thought, because that was what had started it all the last time. But she was the one to fear, she and her mind and her terrible and twisted DNA.

"Please," he said, "please look at me."

And she couldn't resist that, not when his voice was so soft and so filled with self-hatred, and he didn't deserve it, not any of it. He didn't look all that different, she saw, a little paler, a little more strained, but otherwise the same. The only real difference was in his eyes. They held a sadness, an awareness of the darkness people hold inside and are capable of at times, and she wanted to cry because he- Oh, God, Brennan, she wanted to scream, what have I done to you?

She felt the tear as it slid into her mouth and the other as it dripped from her chin. His image blurred as her mouth filled with salt and her face became cool and tight, and she saw fuzzy blue arms wrap around her and pull her to him. He held her and comforted her and the sound of his heartbeat, steady and a little fast beneath her ear, calmed her and flooded her with regret. You wouldn't be doing this, if you knew, she thought. And because of that, I'll never tell you.

"It's going to be okay," he said, and she realized how much she'd missed him, just being with him, in the weeks since . . .


She raised her head to look up at him, and his eyes were so understanding she wanted to collapse again, but she didn't because she owed him that much at least. "Brennan," she said softly, so softly she didn't know if he'd even heard her, and her eyes fell to his lips. So warm and so talented, she remembered. So certain of what to do, of how to be. She wanted that, wanted to have that certainty, that utter assurance.

And Brennan . . . she'd missed him so much, so much. He was always sure, she thought, of everything, and she'd had that when she was with him. She had that when they were together, and she needed it, needed it every bit as much as she needed him. Surely one kiss, one little kiss wouldn't hurt anything, wouldn't change anything. Couldn't make things worse than they already were, at any rate. One kiss, she promised herself, and she'd stop. One kiss-

She reached out and an instant later his lips touched hers, so much softer and silkier than she'd thought they were. His tongue slipped like a promise between her lips and teased her own into a subtle dance, a gentle sway of desire and ease.

His hand traced her shoulders beneath her blouse, and when his nimble fingers unhooked her bra, she told herself that it was just touching, light touching, and it wouldn't go any further than that, this time. And when her shirt lay on the floor and his lips closed around her nipple, sucked, when he swirled his tongue and bit her gently, her head fell back to rest against the wall and she gasped and let her hands tangle in the long strands of his hair. His hand slid beneath her slacks and into her panties and stroked her and his finger worked into her, rocking and gliding and making her flow like honey. She was so ready for him by the time they were both naked and he'd nudged her legs further apart and eased into her that she came with his first thrust, white and blue strands swirling around her and tingling in her and when her muscles fluttered around him, he gritted his teeth and she felt his release, warm and deep and shivering through her like the faintest electric shock.

This time he looked her in the eye, and it had been so unlike what had happened before that she could almost have believed he'd wanted it as much as she had. Could almost have believed it hadn't been the same, until she tasted something bitter and metallic in her mouth, blood from where she'd bitten her lip to keep from screaming. Almost believed, because he looked so tender and so content, almost.

And she could almost tell herself that it had been different, if not for the confusion in his eyes.

She pushed on his shoulders and he let her go, watched her snatch up her clothes and hurry down the corridor to her room, watched her until she disappeared into it and could no longer feel the prickle of his eyes on her nude form.

She closed the door and held her blouse to her chest and stared at the floor until she could breathe again.


She'd never do it again, that much she knew, and so she tried to avoid Brennan again and when she couldn't, to ignore him. But something had changed, because he wasn't letting her.

"We need to talk," he told her, and she agreed to meet him in her room, but the thought of being so near a bed, a floor, a wall, a Brennan was too frightening to contemplate, and so she locked the door and crawled beneath the covers of the bed and pretended to be asleep when he knocked on the door.

She should've known that wouldn't keep a former thief from entering. She heard a faint crackle, then the snick of a lock and a creak as her door opened. She kept her eyes closed and eventually heard the door click shut. She waited, and when she'd heard nothing but her own soft breathing for a few minutes, opened her eyes.

And nearly shrieked when she saw him standing beside her bed, hands in his jacket pocket, watching her lie there and breathe and pretend to sleep.

He sat down beside her, and she sat up and listened to the sound of her blood rushing through her veins and pounding into her head. She glanced down at her lap and folded her fingers together, pulled them apart, examined her fingernails. But after a time she raised her head and he looked a little uncomfortable and a little tense and his lips were twitching, as though he didn't know whether to smile or frown.

She wanted him to smile at her, to care for her, to need her as she did him, and her longing rose and swelled and overflowed and swamped her. Before she was fully aware of what she was doing, she'd pulled him toward her and kissed him and they were in her bed, together, making love.

Afterwards, she thought that her contact with him had been lighter, more of a butterfly's touch than anything, but he'd responded, he'd come to her, held her, desired her. She told herself that obviously that meant he cared, he needed, he loved.

But he didn't. He couldn't, because those were her emotions, and no matter how faint it had been, it had still been her mind in his.

And so she made him leave, and she refused to talk to him, and she tried to resist, she did, but her need for him propelled her forward, onward, her dark, hot, terrifying need.

And they became lovers. She understood where he didn't, but it was becoming apparent that he no longer felt the need to, no longer seemed to want to understand where his sudden, inexplicable desire for her had come from. He was content simply to be with her, to want her, to . . . love her.

She lay in his bed and watched him sleep, and as she did the curtain rustled, letting in a sharp ray of moonlight and a shadow that brushed over her cheek; a caress, as close to a true lover as she feared she'd ever get.

She choked back a sob, because she had what she'd always wanted, and he loved her now. Loved her and it wasn't even her mind, her emotions anymore. But she wondered, had to wonder if every time she had been with him, minds brushing, she had left bits of herself in his head; pieces that had built up behind his eyes to the extent that he wasn't able to see anything but her.

Couldn't see past the emotion to the deceit it had been built on. It was a kind of horrible, wonderful, agonizing magic, she thought, much like the juice of the flower in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

She wondered if Demetrius had ever realized how false his emotions for Helena were. Maybe he woke up one day and realized that he didn't love the woman in his arms, didn't even like her. Maybe he realized she'd tricked him and deceived him and made him believe he felt things he didn't. Maybe-

But nobody remembered Shakespeare nowadays, anyway.


She sat on the couch where it had first happened and shook her head at the wavering reflection on the screen. Her skin was smooth, as unlined as ever, but she could see the dark power in her eyes, the knowledge of what she could do, had done, to people, the man she loved.

She glanced over at Brennan, and found him shaking his head at the football game. Love for him, pure and aching for a moment, filled her, then the remembrance returned and the emotion became strung up with guilt and tangled itself up in a sticky web she'd created and yet was unable to free herself from. Unwilling to free herself from, and risk losing him.

But she couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if she hadn't done what she had. If she'd known the consequences and had stopped it at that first kiss. How different would things have been? Who would he, she, have been with? Would either of them have been happy, would the other, un-thought-of people in the team have smiled more, laughed more?

Oh Emma, she thought, and would have wept if she could've found the tears. What are you doing to yourself, to him? What are you changing, Em, what course of the future, whose lives, whose dreams are you affecting? What have you done?

And though her mind was closed and barren, Brennan's arm came around her shoulders and he kissed her, gently, lovingly.

She kissed him back and tried to ignore the ache in her heart when she saw Shalimar and Jesse turn away.

"Em," he whispered, and smiled at her, and she laid her head on his chest to hide her trembling mouth, her guilt- and love-filled heart.

Oh, Emma.


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