Fandom: Mutant X
Summary: Jesse finds his personal sanctuary--outside of Mutant X. (Set in Season 3.)
Author's Note: I have decided to post a few of my older stories here, several of which are from fandoms you may never have heard of. This one, however, may be (painfully) familiar. Although I couldn't love Mutant X, watching the show become something of a sick obsession for a brief period. Eventually, I came to realize that I loved one particular character. This story features Jesse Kilmartin and an original character. And it's long--very long: 66,291 words. I don't really expect you to read it, but I think you'll enjoy it if you do.
Jesse took a long swig from his beer and carefully set the bottle down, keeping his hand on it so as to prevent himself from covering his offended ears. The other hand gripped the edge of the bar. It was open mike night at the club he'd recently discovered and he made a mental note to avoid the place henceforth on Thursdays.
He really liked the place; the "M" Club was small enough to be called intimate but large enough to lose himself in. The place was also known to be mutant-friendly and Jesse found the atmosphere relaxing. If he'd only waited another day he might be enjoying some excellent blues music. Instead, his senses were being assaulted by a performer with questionable taste in her choice of material and unquestionably little talent. He sighed in relief as the song ended and the singer departed the stage to a smattering of tepid applause. Another person took her place on the stage, carrying a guitar. Jesse squeezed his eyes shut and said a silent prayer.
"I hope he's an instrumentalist," someone said behind him. Jesse spun around and regarded the man who shrugged impishly.
"You must be a telepath," Jesse said.
"No, I'm just a person who values his eardrums above my desire for another beer," the stranger replied, waggling his nearly empty bottle a bit for emphasis. Jesse smiled and both men turned toward the stage as the young musician began to play an instrumental piece. They exchanged a glance and smiled.
"Looks like you get to stay and enjoy your brew," Jesse said.
"Good idea," the man replied. "Care to join me?"
"Thanks," Jesse said. "My name is Jesse."
The man signaled for two more beers and turned back to Jesse.
"Ben," he replied, extending his hand. Jesse reached out and took it. Ben closed his eyes and held Jesse's hand momentarily, as though he was trying to read something in his warm grip. Jesse took advantage of the opportunity to look at his companion. Even sitting, he appeared to be taller than Jesse, with an athletic physique that his cream-colored sweater showed to advantage. He had dark, close-cropped hair, with long sideburns that ended just above the sculpted line of his jaw. Ben opened his eyes, revealing two pools of chocolate brown flecked with gold. He'd caught Jesse staring and seemed amused by his interest.
"Are you sure you're not psionic?" Jesse said as he averted his eyes.
Ben smiled as he released Jesse's hand.
"I'm sure. I was just trying something my mother used to do. She always said that you could tell a lot about a man just by shaking his hand."
"Really?" Jesse replied a bit skeptically. "And what did my hand tell you?" he asked as he examined it for himself.
"You've got a strong grip. It's the grip of someone with an athletic discipline, though I'm not sure what it is. Your hand doesn't have many calluses in spite of that, though, so it's probably not the average team sport we're talking about. You also work with your hands. You use a computer a lot and not just to play games or surf the net for porn, either."
"Now, how can you possibly tell that?" Jesse asked.
"About the porn or the computer?" Ben asked. He gazed at Jesse intently as he spoke. Jesse felt simultaneously awkward and flattered by Ben's obvious interest.
"Either," Jesse said as he hefted his new beer. He touched his bottle to Ben's and took a sip.
"Well, you've got strong fingers but there are no calluses to indicate that you use a pen. I was just guessing about the porn." Ben smiled. "So how did I do?
"I hate to admit it but you're right on every point," Jesse confessed.
"Good. Your turn," Ben said, leaning back in his stool to hear what the younger man had to say. Jesse's eyes went wide and he nearly choked on his beer.
"Me? I don't know anything about reading hands!"
"Give it a shot," Ben said. He extended his hand and, feeling foolish for doing so, Jesse took hold of it. He gently ran his fingers over the palm and then felt each of the digits. Ben suppressed a giggle and closed his eyes.
"Tell, me, is this a joke?" Jesse asked. "Are you just trying to make me hold your hand?"
"I knew you were going to say that," Ben chuckled.
"And yet you're not a telepath," Jesse deadpanned as Ben gently withdrew his hand.
"So what did you learn?"
Jesse frowned at Ben's hand for a moment as his long, slender fingers caressed the beer bottle. Then he smiled broadly.
"I think you have very warm hands...and a wicked sense of humor."
Ben lifted his beer and chuckled before he took a sip.
"Is that all?"
"And you're left-handed!" Jesse said triumphantly. It was Ben's turn to frown.
"How did you know?" he asked. Jesse shrugged.
"I couldn't learn anything from the right one, so I figured all the real interesting stuff was on the left."
Ben smiled at the mutant and sat back.
"I knew you were very intelligent."
"Now, how could my hand possibly have told you that?"
"It was nothing to do with your hand. Your eyes tell an entire story of their own," Ben said enigmatically.
"Really?" Jesse said dryly. "So you read more than one body part fluently?" Ben smiled and Jesse paled, realizing that his words were open to a variety of interpretations, especially when Ben leaned forward again.
"Why don't we grab a table?" he suggested. He picked up his beer and began to move without waiting for a response. Jesse followed like a man who'd been mesmerized. Ben held his chair, which Jesse found slightly odd. He soon forgot about it, however, as Ben explained that eyes were the window to the soul and as people passed their table, he told Jesse what he saw in their eyes.
"You haven't told me what you read in my eyes," Jesse said curiously. Ben smiled and leaned forward to gaze into the mutant's pale grey-blue eyes.
"You have the face of an angel that has fallen to earth."
"What?" Jesse sputtered, his cheeks coloring. "What has that got to do with my eyes?"
"A great deal," Ben explained. "Your face is pure innocence--guileless, open, honest... Your eyes, however, tell a slightly different story. They reveal you to be a man who is worldlier than you first appear. Still open and honest, but also eager to experience what life has to offer...curious, perhaps?"
Ben's question was clearly meant to provoke a response that Jesse wasn't sure he could give. He felt a tiny thrill surge through his body and averted his eyes, afraid that Ben would notice it. But he knew that Ben had noticed it, somehow. His fears were confirmed by Ben's next words.
"You're a man in search of something."
Jesse looked up sharply. Ben's comment had struck a chord within him and he wondered how Ben instantly knew what he himself had only just figured out. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he could form a response his phone rang. Jesse gave Ben an apologetic look and left the table to take the call. He returned a moment later with another apologetic look.
"Problem?" Ben asked.
"Duty calls, I'm afraid," Jesse said. "I'll have to buy the second round another time."
"I'd like that," Ben said. "Tomorrow night?"
"I'm not sure. But soon," Jesse assured him with an easy smile. "Thanks for the beer and the parlor tricks." Ben extended his hand and Jesse gave him a wary look. Ben retracted the hand, used it to prop his chin and smiled back.
Jesse departed, a bit surprised by his own boldness. It was not the first time a man had ever flirted with him, and Ben had definitely been flirting. It was, however, the first time Jesse had ever flirted back. He tried to account for his behavior as he walked out to the car and headed back to Sanctuary.
Jesse was admittedly curious about the idea of having sex with a man, although he'd never actually considered doing anything about it. Suddenly, though, it seemed a viable possibility and his body fairly tingled at the thought. There was something about Ben... He was frankly gorgeous, open and engaging, and Jesse had no doubt that if he'd remained at the club Ben would have been able to charm him into anything he wanted--and he clearly wanted Jesse.
Jesse turned his attention to his own wants as he reached the car and began the drive back to Sanctuary. At least part of him, he acknowledged, wanted Ben, but Jesse wasn't completely ready to deal with that yet. He first had to deal with the fact that he was more than a little eager to forget his unfortunate infatuation with Lexa. He'd found himself falling for her in spite of her aloof demeanor and her insistence that developing feelings for others was a weakness she couldn't afford. Her recent behavior changed things, however. When Mutant X was called upon to track down a document hidden in a stolen work of art, Lexa seduced and bedded an art thief in order to acquire it. Jesse was frankly repulsed by the ease with which she'd given her body to a complete stranger. Of course, Jesse was forced to concede, he was currently contemplating doing the same thing. Or was he?
He didn't have much of a chance to think about it. Shalimar reached him on the com link and instructed him to meet her at the home of a pair of new mutants, where there was trouble brewing. It was all but over by the time he arrived. He helped Shalimar and Brennan settle a domestic dispute. The couple refused to be separated so the members of Mutant X were only able to exact a promise that the next time they argued they would not resort to using their mutant powers to destroy half the neighborhood.
"Well, that was interesting," Shalimar said as the trio walked out to their waiting vehicles.
"Definitely a first for Mutant X," Brennan agreed. Jesse didn't answer. He appeared to be lost in thought as he ambled back to his car. Shalimar patted Brennan on the shoulder and then went after the younger man.
"Jess? Mind if I ride back with you?" she asked casually.
"Suit yourself," Jesse said. He opened the door for her and walked around to the driver's side of the vehicle. Perhaps it was for the best that she'd chosen to ride with him, he decided. It would preclude the possibility of returning to the club to look for Ben. Jesse had some thinking to do first. "Where's Lexa?" he asked once they were on the road. Shalimar smirked at the question.
"A simple domestic dispute is far too trivial to distract her from more important things like being the Dominion's gopher."
"Are you kidding?" Jesses said incredulously. "That woman was tossing lightning bolts back there."
"You should have seen the two of them when we arrived. He was using telekinesis to throw furniture at her and she was shooting it down with lightning bolts. It looked like skeet shooting from hell."
"No kidding. We can't have new mutants out there creating a public hazard! Those two were really dangerous; Lexa should have been there."
"Why don't you try telling her that?" Shalimar said slyly. "You're the only one she ever listens to." Jesse shook his head disparagingly and sighed. "Hey, has something happened between you two? I've noticed that ever since we met up with that art thief you've been giving her wide berth."
"No," Jesse replied darkly. "Nothing happened between us. I'm just tired of beating my head against a brick wall, you know? I went out of my way to make Lexa feel like she belonged here with us and every chance she gets she just pushes us away."
"'Us,' or do you mean 'you'? Sorry, Jess, but I can't help but notice that you're a little infatuated with her."
"I know," Jesse said bluntly, much to Shalimar's surprise. "But I'll get over it, don't worry."
"You don't have to," Shalimar laughed. "Well, not on my account, anyway. It might be best for you, though. She's never been my favorite person on the planet but I've made my peace with her. If she messes with your heart, however, I will take great delight in disemboweling her." Jesse smiled and leaned over to kiss her cheek.
"Don't ever change, Shal."
Jesse had systems checks to run when he reached Sanctuary. He'd originally planned on doing it the next day, but he found that he was too wired to sleep. He sat at his keyboard and allowed his thoughts to drift to Ben. Warm hands, even warmer smile--Jesse felt like a schoolgirl experiencing her first crush. He couldn't shake thoughts of Ben from his mind, nor could he prevent himself from speculating about what it might be like to be made love to by him. Jesse stared at the monitor and wondered if the desire he was feeling was genuine. Did he really want Ben or was he simply enamored of the idea of being wanted? Barely a week earlier, he'd wanted Lexa to want him, hadn't he?
Jesse sighed and tried to focus on the numbers flashing on the screen. He didn't want to think about the pathetic state of his love life, which seemed doomed by his association with Mutant X. Jesse's commitment to Mutant X consumed most of his adult life and it had taken its toll. He considered his infatuation with Lexa its nadir; it was time for Jesse to move on. And mooning over a handsome, charming man he met in a nightclub was hardly the right first step.
"Burning the midnight oil?"
Jesse looked up at the sound of Lexa's voice as she strode into the room. He felt his earlier annoyance return.
"Someone has to do the work, Lexa," he said evenly.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Where were you tonight? Brennan and Shal had a real emergency on their hands and you didn't think it was important enough to show up to help them out?"
"You should talk! As I recall, you were out clubbing when the call came in."
"And I went right over and joined them when I got that call, Lexa. You should have been there, too."
"For a domestic dispute?" she scoffed.
"For two mutants starting World War III on their front lawn! And that's not even the point! We're supposed to be a team!"
"What's the big deal? You three handled it, right? Don't hassle me."
"I'm not hassling you; I'm--. You're right," Jesse said, hitting a button on the keyboard and rising. "What's the big deal? You're going to do whatever the hell you want, anyway and I'm tired of trying to get you to do otherwise." He turned and walked away, leaving Lexa stunned by his uncharacteristic display of temper.
"What's eating Jesse?" Lexa asked Brennan and Shalimar the following morning as she poured a cup of coffee. "He nearly took my head off last night over nothing and he's been looking like an impending storm all day." Shalimar shrugged. Lexa mimicked the gesture and headed for the office.
"If you ask me," Brennan said slyly, "it's not what's eating him that's got him so wired. It's what's not." Shalimar frowned at him and he gestured in the direction Lexa had gone.
"You think so?" Shalimar replied pensively. "He did admit to having a crush on her but he sounded as though he was ready to be over it."
"Well, between you and me, he's lying through his teeth," Brennan said.
"No, I doubt it," Shalimar said. "He seemed preoccupied last night, but it certainly wasn't with Lexa."
"I hope not. I think she's completely wrong for him."
"I won't argue that," Shalimar replied, "but I wish I knew what was bothering him."
"Why don't you ask him? He'd talk to you."
"Maybe I will."
Jesse sat at the small desk in his room staring at an image on his laptop of two men engaged in anal intercourse. He tried to imagine himself in the image, but quickly gave it up and hit the "back" key to return to the image of the Double Helix that served as his desktop background. He went over to his bed and threw himself down, admonishing himself for his behavior. He was simply lonely, he concluded, and frustrated--anxious to ease the numbness he'd felt since the death of Emma and the disappearance of Adam several months earlier. Ben was nothing more than a convenient fantasy, just as Lexa had been before he realized his mistake.
More importantly, Jesse decided, Ben wasn't really interested in him. How could he be? They were complete strangers. No, Ben was simply interested in sex and Jesse had never been one for casual encounters. He was a bit of romantic at heart, believing that sex was meaningless unless there was more to it than a mutual release. Jesse didn't want sex; he wanted love.
"Fat chance," he groaned.
"Talking to yourself again, handsome?" Shalimar said brightly as she crawled onto his bed to sit cross-legged beside him.
"I thought so," Jesse said sarcastically.
"Well, you were mistaken," Shalimar said as she tousled his hair. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, Shal," Jesse said tightly, staring at the ceiling. She burst into laughter.
"You don't expect me to buy that, do you? Come on, sweetie, I know you far too well to fall for that."
Jesse eyed her for a moment and then shrugged, as much as the pillows under his head and shoulders would allow.
"And lonely, and tired of this place," Jesse added.
"Oh," Shalimar pouted.
She immediately felt empathy for the man she saw as a younger brother. She knew that he'd led a fairly isolated existence at Sanctuary and the few times he'd tried to find something outside of it, the fates had not been kind. She stroked his hair absently as she sought words to say that would not sound trivial. She smiled when something occurred to her.
"How did you like that new club last night?"
"I didn't get much of a chance to enjoy it. I wasn't there more than twenty minutes before I had to leave," Jesse said.
"I'm sorry about that. But you must have gotten some sense of the crowd, picked up the vibe--did you like it?"
"Yeah, I guess so," Jesse said as his thoughts wandered back to Ben. He smiled and Shalimar easily guessed why.
"So why don't you go back there tonight and find whoever it was that put that smile on your face?"
"What smile?" Jesse asked, in spite of his grin. "Who's smiling?"
"You are, you big lug," Shalimar said with a playful punch to his shoulder. "Who is she?"
"The woman you met last night."
"I didn't meet any women last night," Jesse answered honestly.
"But you saw someone," Shalimar persisted.
"Maybe I did."
"Well, go back to the club tonight and find her!"
Jesse's smile broadened as he considered the possibility. He'd all but discarded the notion until that moment. But it couldn't hurt to go back to the club. After all, he owed Ben a beer. The least he could do was fulfill his obligation. And while he was there, perhaps, he could learn a few things about himself, if not about Ben.
He sat up and kissed Shalimar's nose.
"That's an excellent idea," he said. He scrambled off the bed and headed for the bathroom to shower.
"Isn't it a bit early?" Shalimar frowned.
"I feel like going shopping," Jesse replied.
"Sounds very serious."
"Have you seen my closet lately? It's hardly brimming with club wear."
"Jesse you have a wardrobe most people would die for."
"And it would look very good in a coffin," he replied from the bathroom.
Shalimar shook her head. She started to say something more but decided that it wasn't important. Jesse looked like himself again. He was smiling and that was a good thing. She went to the bathroom door and spoke through it.
"Have a good time tonight, Jess."
"Don't get into any scrapes tonight," he called back from the sink, where he was shaving.
"Promise; and if something comes up we'll drag Lexa out by the ears if necessary," Shalimar replied. She heard Jesse laugh, and buoyed by the sound she left him to his preparations.
At around nine o'clock that evening, Jesse entered the club and paused near the entrance to let his eyes adjust to the light. He made a quick survey of the room. The Friday night crowd was much larger than Thursday's and a blues trio on stage had the crowd hopping. Jesse smiled and went to the bar. He saw no sign of Ben, but he wasn't discouraged. It would be a challenge to find anyone in the club easily when it was that full. He found an empty spot at the bar and ordered a beer.
Jesse was confident that Ben would appear. He was, after all, the one who'd suggested that Jesse might come back tonight, implying that he intended to be at the club. Jesse turned in the stool to listen to the music, occasionally glancing around for Ben. The fifth or sixth time he scanned the room he caught a glimpse of him standing near the door.
He had just entered the club and like Jesse had done, he stopped to take in the lay of the land. He made a slow sweep of the room with his eyes, beginning with the stage and ending at the bar. Ben saw Jesse and smiled. Jesse looked up at that moment and returned the smile. He lifted his glass and Ben headed over. By the time he reached the bar, a cold beer was waiting for him.
"Hello, Jesse," Ben said with a warm smile. "I'm glad you decided to come tonight."
"You didn't think I would?" Jesse asked, amused. It hadn't occurred to him that it would matter to Ben one way or the other. "Hey, I owed you a beer and I always pay my debts."
The club was too crowded for them to find a table, so they moved to the end of the bar and fell into easy conversation about the music and other innocuous topics as they came up. Jesse was full of nervous energy, fidgeting with the cuff of his shirt, peeling the label off his bottle and toying with the com link ring on his right hand. After a time, Ben placed his hand on top of Jesse's, causing the molecular to practically jump out of his seat.
"How much coffee have you had today?" Ben asked calmly as he removed his hand.
"Sorry," Jesse said sheepishly. "I guess I'm kind of on edge tonight." Ben propped his head on his fist and regarded him earnestly.
"Care to talk about it?"
"There's nothing to talk about," Jesse replied. He stared at the bottle between his fingers, willing himself to keep them still. He certainly couldn't explain to Ben that he'd developed a huge crush on him and felt like a teenager on his first date, or that he was hoping for, if not anticipating a move on Ben's part. In fact, Jesse felt like screaming for Ben to get on with it already. Ben had been flirting with him from the moment they'd settled at the end of the bar and Jesse was beginning to feel like a fish on a hook waiting to be reeled in.
"Okay," Ben said, pulling back and turning slightly away from him to listen to the music. Jesse immediately regretted his words and turned to say something to Ben. As he did so, his arm made contact with Ben's, causing him to splatter beer on his pants leg.
"Oh, geez, Ben, I'm sorry," Jesse said, looking around for something with which to wipe up the mess. All he had on hand was a tiny napkin, which was already damp.
"I got it," Ben said easily. "Save my seat," he said as he rose and went to the men's room. Jesse sighed and closed his eyes. He felt like a complete idiot and wondered if he'd hurt his chances with Ben. He quickly reassured himself that he hadn't and had begun to relax when a woman tapped him on the shoulder.
"Is this seat taken?" she asked. Jesse looked up in response to the voice and promptly forgot that Ben even existed. The woman didn't make any effort to take the seat. She spoke to Jesse in slow, carefully-enunciated words. It didn't matter. He was too busy staring at her to listen to a word she said.
Ben left the men's room and headed back to his seat. He caught sight of Jesse and smiled. Although he seemed to be rather young, Ben was very attracted to him and he sensed that Jesse was equally smitten. He could tell at a glance that Jesse was inexperienced, so Ben decided to proceed with caution.
Someone crossed Ben's line of vision and when she was gone, Jesse's eyes were on a woman who walked right up to him and invaded his personal space. Ben froze. The tiny, dark-haired woman seemed to be someone known to Jesse; her body language suggested it. But Jesse was oddly unresponsive. Ben observed the pair, trying to guess at the nature of their relationship.
The longer he watched, the more concerned he became. The woman did all the talking. Jesse simply stared right through her, not acknowledging a single word. The woman leaned close to Jesse twice, as if to whisper in his ear. Jesse didn't even blink. After about a minute, the woman abruptly turned and walked away. Jesse rose from his seat and followed her. Ben moved to intercept Jesse as he headed for the door. There were alarms going off in Ben's head now, as he realized that Jesse was about to become a victim.
"Jesse!" Ben called sharply when the other man came within a few feet of him. He hoped to snap Jesse out of his stupor, but the only thing he managed to do was draw the woman's attention. She turned just as Ben grabbed Jesse's arm and shook him roughly. "Jesse!" Ben shouted.
The woman hissed and Ben smelt a foul odor that clouded his senses and stung his eyes momentarily. When it cleared, Jess and the woman had both disappeared. Ben ran out into the parking lot in time to see a red sedan speed past. He ran to his own vehicle and hopped in, praying that he was following the right car.
"Damn!" he said as he accelerated and began to close the distance between the two vehicles. In spite of the fact that his eyes were still tearing, he could see now that Jesse was indeed in the passenger seat. Ben was furious with himself. He'd messed up royally.
Ben had been hanging out at the club specifically looking for a woman known as the Black Widow, who was alleged to be behind the disappearance of two young mutants. He'd been looking for leads on the two missing persons cases for more than a month and recently learned that the Black Widow frequented the club, coming in about once every two weeks, often as not leaving with a young, very attractive male. Most of them resurfaced, none the worst for wear, but two of them had never been seen or heard from again. Now the Black Widow had shown up again and was trying to make off with Jesse.
Ben swore again, blaming himself for Jesse's plight. He'd gotten careless. After meeting Jesse the previous night he'd completely forgotten why he'd gone to the club. He was so taken with the other man that he went home soon after Jesse left. Ben knew he'd been very open and direct with him and figured he had probably scared the kid off. So he was pleasantly surprised to see Jesse at the bar. So surprised was he, in fact, that for the second night in a row he'd forgotten himself. And as a result, Jesse was now in mortal danger.
He pulled his car into the lane to the right of the red sedan so he could keep an eye on it. The Black Widow would not be able to leave the highway without him. Ben glanced at his odometer and kept tabs on the distance he was traveling, as well as the route he was taking. He focused on the road, but as he did so, he tried to process what he knew.
The two mutants who disappeared earlier were both moleculars, as were the others the Black Widow had lured from the club. It followed, then, that Jesse was a molecular. All Ben knew about mutants with molecular abilities was that they were relatively rare and that their mutations varied. Ben had to assume that the Black Widow was interested in a particular strain of mutant variation and prayed that whatever it was, Jesse didn't fill the bill.
Ben considered calling the police for backup but lacking any hard evidence, he opted for an alternative. He absently dug into his pocket for his wallet and pulled out a card. He pulled out his phone and punched up the number on the card and said a silent prayer.
"Hello?" a female voice said.
"My name is Ben Fitzwilliam and I'm trying to contact Mutant X."
"I'm a police detective investigating the disappearance of a pair of new mutants. I believe I have located the suspect who's probably responsible for the disappearances. She left a club downtown with her possible next victim. I'm in pursuit on Watermill Road heading south."
"Why'd you call Mutant X?" a male voice asked suspiciously. "Why didn't you simply call for backup?"
"I called Mutant X because you're supposed to be the group that looks after your own," Ben said somewhat testily. "The police aren't interested in a few missing mutants. That's why I've been following up leads on my own."
"Well, now you've got a solid lead, your buddies down at headquarters--."
"Look, could we debate this later? There's a very dangerous woman out there who I suspect is a mutant of some sort herself, and she's got--."
"How did you even get this number?"
"Look!" Ben shouted. "Jesse doesn't have time for this!"
"Jesse?" the woman asked.
"He's the molecular she lured from the club," Ben explained.
"Look, could you keep your phone line open?" a second woman's voice asked. Clearly something had changed in their attitude and Ben could tell that they were on the move. "We'll pick up your signal and track you."
"You got it," Ben said, resisting the urge to say a few other things. He let the phone drop to the dashboard and put his hand on the steering wheel.
His knuckles had turned white by the time the sedan turned off the highway and onto a narrow service road that led farther out into the country. He turned off the car's lights and followed slowly, stopping about fifty feet behind the sedan when it came to a stop in front of a nondescript ranch. Ben grabbed the phone and exited the car.
"We've stopped about three miles east of Watermill. We turned onto an unmarked road right next to a large sign--."
"We gotcha covered," the male voice said. "Just sit tight and we'll be there in about five minutes."
"I hope he has that long," Ben said as he clipped the phone to his belt and silently made his way to the side of the house.
Jesse had ridden the entire way to the house in a stupor. The Black Widow had used one of several neurotoxins her body was capable of producing to neutralize Jesse's brain functions back at the club. Now, as they neared the house, Jesse began to feel a tingling sensation in his limbs and his head began to hurt. The car came to a stop and the Black Widow got out and went around to the passenger side.
"Come, my lovely," she said as she opened the door. She reached for Jesse's hand and drew him out. She spoke soothingly to him, but as the cool night air hit Jesse's face he inhaled deeply and his head slowly began to clear.
He allowed her to lead him into the house, but there he stopped and frowned. He had no idea where he was or how he'd gotten there, nor did he recognize the woman puttering around what looked like a laboratory. Jesse rubbed his head trying to clear the cobwebs. He felt as though he had a hangover, but he only remembered ordering one beer at the club. When was he at the club, he wondered? At the moment he wasn't even sure of the day or time.
"Where am I?" he said. The Black Widow spun around, startled by the sound of his voice. She quickly pasted on a smile and went to him.
"Hello, my pretty," she said as she ran her hands up Jesse's arms. Jesse instinctively stepped backward. The diminutive woman reached up to wrap her arms around his neck. Jesse promptly pulled her away. "What's the matter?" she asked as she pressed her body closer, trying to close the distance between their bodies. At the bar it had been easy to dose Jesse. Now he was standing and she was having a hard time getting close enough to deliver a second dose of the neurotoxin. "Don't tell me you've gone shy on me. You were very bold when you suggested we come back to my place."
"I suggested?" Jesse croaked as once again he attempted to evade the Black Widow's advances. "I don't recall making any suggestions. In fact, I don't even recall meeting you," he said as he firmly pulled away and put several feet of space between them.
"No matter," the Black Widow said sweetly. "I'll introduce myself now. My name is Drusilla, although I'm usually referred to as the Black Widow," she said as once again she closed in on Jesse. He took another step backward but his back made contact with a tall cabinet. Drusilla grabbed hold of his jacket and lifted him off the ground as though he was weightless.
Outside, Ben looked on with morbid fascination. He wanted to wait until Mutant X arrived but the Black Widow had wasted no time in putting the moves on Jesse and she looked as though she was in no mood for games. When she lifted Jesse off the floor and threw him onto a table Ben knew it was time to act. He left his position at the window and went around to the front door.
"You're trying my patience, my beauty," Drusilla said as she held Jesse down with one hand. Her other hand searched for something on a nearby cart. Jesse was too stunned and out of breath to phase, but he began to struggle when Drusilla held up a hypodermic needle. "I guess we'll do this the old fashioned way. It's not as effective, but it lasts much longer," the Black Widow said as she plunged the needle into his arm.
Jesse felt the sedative course through his veins, but before it began to take effect he heard a loud, blood-curdling roar. Then the front door of the house was ripped off its hinges, its glass pane shattering into countless pieces as it flew inward into the room. Jesse frowned and saw a man he thought was Ben grab hold of Drusilla. He tried to warn Ben about her but he couldn't make his mouth form words. He barely had time to see Drusilla fall to the ground unconscious before he lost consciousness himself.
Ben had burst through the front door with every ounce of energy he could muster. It flew inward and skittered to a stop at the base of the stairs but Ben was already halfway across the room. He lifted Drusilla off the floor and threw her to the ground. She passed out before she could release the noxious gases she feebly attempted to spray in his face. Ben didn't bother to determine the extent of the injuries he might have caused her. He immediately turned his attention to the man sprawled across the table. Jesse was unconscious and for a split second, Ben feared that he was too late.
"Jesse!" Ben cried as he assessed his vital signs and was relieved to see that he was alive. He bent to pick up the syringe, looked around and found a bottle labeled "Gamma Hydroxybutyrate." He found a plastic bag in a drawer and carefully bagged the drug before he put it in his pocket. Then he returned his attention to Jesse. He absently reached for the phone as he gently stroked Jesse's hair and called 911 for an ambulance. He pocketed the phone and bent his head to check Jesse's breathing when he heard voices behind him.
"Get away from him!"
Ben spun around and saw a blonde woman bearing down on him.
"I'm--," he began.
"You heard the lady. Back off," Brennan said as he flexed his fingers and began to form a coil of electricity. Ben stepped back and allowed Shalimar to approach Jesse.
"What have you done to him?" she demanded as she protectively wrapped an arm around Jesse and like Ben had just done, stroked his hair.
"You know him?"
"She asked you a question," Lexa said menacingly from where she was kneeling beside Drusilla.
"I just saved him from her," Ben said exasperatedly with a nod toward the Black Widow. "I'm the one who invited you to this party, remember?" Shalimar softened then, and smiled weakly.
"I'm sorry. Jesse's one of us."
"He's part of Mutant X?"
"Yes. When you said that the victim was a molecular named Jesse--."
"What happened here?" Lexa interrupted.
"I saw the Black Widow here--or Drusilla, as she called herself--lure Jesse from a club. She must have used this," Ben said as he pulled the bottle from his pocket and held it up.
"What is it?" Shalimar asked.
"It's GHB, commonly used as a date rape drug," Ben explained. "I don't know if she gave it to him at the club, but she certainly used it on him here."
"Well, we'll check it out when we get him home," Shalimar said as she began to scoop Jesse up in her arms.
"Wait, you can't take him," Ben said.
"The hell we can't!" Brennan said. "Like you said earlier, we take care of our own."
"I'm sorry, but this is a police matter. That woman kidnapped Jesse and at least two other mutants. You take him out of here and I haven't got a shred of evidence to build a case around," Ben argued. "More importantly, don't you think your friend should go to the hospital and get checked out? There's no telling what else he might have been subjected to before she got him here."
Brennan and Shalimar exchanged a glance. Sirens could be heard in the distance and Shalimar shook her head.
"We know a doctor who specializes in mutant cases," she said as she lifted Jesse in her arms.
"Maybe he should go to a hospital," Lexa said as she rose and went over to Shalimar. "That mutant is an arachnid feral. My guess is that she subjected Jesse to some sort of neurotoxin to get him out of that club. That's pretty nasty stuff."
"Dr. Shaw--," Shalimar began.
"Does your Dr. Shaw keep a supply of anti-venom on hand?" Ben asked bluntly. Shalimar sighed and placed Jesse back on the table. She stepped back as the police burst in. Ben went to speak with them as the ambulance arrived. The paramedics quickly assessed Jesse's condition and started an intravenous drip. Shalimar never left his side, Ben noted absently, and he wondered if she and Jesse were somehow involved.
"We'll let them check him out at the hospital," Lexa said quietly. "But as soon as we're sure he's out of danger we'll get him back to Sanctuary."
"Agreed," Brennan said before he went over to Shalimar and gently pried her away from Jesse so that the paramedics could load him into the ambulance. Shalimar insisted on riding with him and Brennan reluctantly let her go. He glanced over at Ben, who was staring at the departing ambulance.
"Thank you," he said extending his hand.
"I'm just glad I got here before things got worse," Ben replied. "Now that we've found her lair we're going to look for signs of the others. I have no illusions that this will have a happy ending." Brennan shook his head.
"I'll see you at the hospital," Brennan said.
"I've got to stay here," Ben repeated although he clearly wished that weren't the case.
"Well, you ought to get that hand looked at," Brennan said as he backed away toward the door. Ben looked down and noted for the first time, that there was a large gash in his hand. He smiled wryly. He accepted a gauze pad but otherwise refused medical attention on site. As soon as his supervisor reached the scene he made his excuses and headed for the hospital.
By the time Ben arrived there his hand was throbbing. He flashed his badge and made his way to the cubicle where Jesse was being treated. The blonde woman was hovering beside Jesse's gurney and the male elemental stood a short distance away, brooding. The other member of Mutant X was nowhere to be seen.
"How is he?" Ben asked as he approached. Brennan looked up.
"He's going to be okay. You were right--he was hit with some sort of insect venom, but not enough to do any real damage. Right now, he's just dealing with the effects of the GHB. The doc said he'd probably sleep for a long time and wake up with one hell of a hangover."
"Yeah, that's usually what happens," Ben said as he dug into his pocket for a business card. "I'm going to have to get a statement from him when he's able to talk," he said as he handed Brennan the card.
"Yeah," Brennan said, "but according to the doc he may not remember much."
"That's okay. We need him to tell us whatever he can," Ben insisted. Brennan nodded and Ben went over to the nurses' station, where he held up his hand. "Do you think I can get a little help with this?"
Brennan smiled as three nurses led Ben to a cubicle. A doctor was summoned and his injury was tended to. When he emerged about ten minutes later, the three conscious members of Mutant X were gathered at the nurses' station deep in conversation. Ben took the opportunity to slip into Jesse's cubicle.
He went to the head of the gurney where Jesse lay and observed the serene expression on his face. He looked terribly young, even younger than Ben suspected he was, and once again Ben felt guilty for what he had suffered at the hands of the Black Widow. It was very unlike Ben to lose sight of his priorities and his distraction had very nearly cost Jesse his life.
Ben frowned and tried to come to terms with his behavior. Jesse was beautiful, he readily conceded, but he'd seen many beautiful men in his lifetime and none of them ever made him forget his job. But even as he extended his hand and lightly traced the outline of Jesse's jaw, he knew what had attracted him. It was the same thing that made him lose all objectivity when Jesse was taken. He retracted his hand quickly when he heard footsteps and looked up to see Lexa and Shalimar.
"He's very lucky," Ben said. "On my way in I got a call from my captain. They found a body in the basement and from the look of it he'd been experimented on. I don't know if the deceased was a mutant, but he wasn't one of the two who'd gone missing. There's been no sign of them so far."
"We have you to thank for Jesse's survival," Shalimar as she went to the bed and reclaimed her spot at Jesse's side.
"As I said, he was lucky," Ben said self-deprecatingly.
"We were wondering what you could tell us about the Black Widow," Lexa said.
"Not much," Ben said as he shifted under the stern looks of the two women. He was certain that neither of them would appreciate his recent thoughts about Jesse, even if Ben's infatuation did save his life. "I've been looking for two mutants who disappeared last month. At first I had no leads, but I finally found someone down at the club who remembered them. They said that both of them left with a woman who was known as the Black Widow. They couldn't tell me anything about her except that she always dressed in black. She was a watcher--never really engaged with the crowd. Occasionally, she'd pick out a man and take him home. The guys were all like Jesse: young and very attractive and they generally came back a few days later with no memory of that night."
"What happened tonight?" Lexa asked.
"Jesse and I were talking at the bar," Ben began. "I left him alone for a minute to use the men's room--."
"You two know each other?" Shalimar asked.
"Yeah," Ben said. "I was on my way back to Jesse when I saw the Black Widow approach him, though I didn't realize who she was at the time. She walked over, got right up in Jesse's face and began to talk to him. At first, I assumed that she was a friend of his. But then I noticed that he wasn't moving. He seemed to just be staring blankly. When the Black Widow turned to leave the club he got up and followed her. I tried to stop them but she hit me with some sort of chemical that blinded me for a few seconds. That was enough time for her to get Jesse to her car and make her getaway. I followed and you know the rest."
"Did any of your contacts ever mention the Black Widow working with an accomplice?" Lexa pressed. Ben shook his head.
Lexa didn't reply and Shalimar rolled her eyes before speaking.
"Our contacts say that the Black Widow had an accomplice--someone she was harvesting moleculars for."
"Your contacts?" Ben asked suspiciously.
"We have our sources," Shalimar said cryptically.
"Why would someone want moleculars?" Ben demanded.
"We don't know yet," Lexa said with a glare for Shalimar. "Anyway, thank you for your help with Jesse." Ben saw that he was being dismissed and suspected that they were planning to take Jesse home.
"Um, yeah... Listen, don't forget that I'll need that statement," he said as he backed out of the cubicle. He walked a few feet and then stopped, ostensibly to make a notation in the small notebook he carried. He was actually eavesdropping on the two women.
"He can frisk me any time he wants," Shalimar said. Lexa snorted, but as usual, she was all business.
"I've contacted the Dominion and they'll take care of getting the Black Widow into more secure containment. If she's spewing toxins there's no way a police lock-up is going to hold her for long. I hope Jesse can tell us something when he wakes up."
"That's not likely," Shalimar replied. "Between the labrotoxin and the GHB the Black Widow used on him, he may have trouble remembering anything at all. We don't even know if he was conscious after he left the club."
"I'll bet that handsome detective could have told us," Lexa said.
"I volunteer to go and interrogate him," Shalimar said brightly.
"Down, girl. Let's start with Jesse, shall we? If he can't give us any answers we'll turn you loose on the hottie."
Outside the cubicle, Ben shook his head and walked away.
"Hey, handsome," Shalimar said when Jesse opened his eyes late the following morning. Jesse squinted and shut his eyes again. "Jesse?"
"Hurts," he muttered as he squeezed his eyes shut. Shalimar reached for a bottle of painkillers Dr. Shaw had left for him.
"Here, take one of these," she said softly. She helped him to take the pill and settled him among the pillows.
"What hit me?" Jesse asked with a pained sigh.
"A double whammy, I'm afraid. You had a dose of a labrotoxin and an injection of GHB." Jesse's eyes went wide and he lifted the bed covers and peered underneath. "Don't worry, your virtue is intact."
"My virtue hasn't been 'intact' since I was16, thanks," Jesse said. "What happened?"
"What do you remember?"
Jesse closed his eyes and tried to think.
"I remember you, sitting here next to me like this. Then I went shopping. I bought a couple of new shirts and you made me wear the blue one because you thought I looked hot in it," he said. Shalimar smiled encouragingly.
"I went out. I drove into the city and went to the 'M' Club. That's all I remember."
"You can't recall anything else about last night?"
"Was it that bad?" Jesse asked meekly.
"You were drugged and abducted by an arachnid feral that apparently has a thing for moleculars," Shalimar said.
"You're joking, right?"
Shalimar shook her head.
"I wish I was, Jesse. Several have gone missing in the past month. One of them has turned up dead. If it hadn't been for Ben you might have become another victim."
"Ben?" Jesse squeaked. "What did he have to do with this?"
"He followed you from the club to where the Black Widow had taken you."
"The Black Widow."
"Yes, and he single-handedly rescued you, too," Shalimar said with a smile. "He's quite the man." Jesse looked at Shalimar and frowned. Then he slowly sat up and looked at her again. "What?" Jesse shook his head, which he instantly regretted.
"Tell you what," he said, scooting over to the far side of the bed. "Let me take a shower and try to clear my head a little. Then I want to hear this whole story from the beginning."
"I'll make us some coffee," Shalimar said. Twenty minutes later, they reconvened in the garden and Shalimar told him all she knew about the previous night's events.
"Ben wants you to go down to the precinct to make a statement," she concluded.
"Ben's a cop?" Jesse said. His head was still muzzy and he was having a hard time keeping up with the story Shalimar had woven for him.
"Yes, I told you," Shalimar said as she rose and went to fetch something. She returned a moment later with a card. "Here; he left this for you."
"But I can't remember anything," Jesse insisted.
"I know, but I guess even that has to be documented."
"All right," Jesse shrugged. "I'll go give him a call." He rose a bit unsteadily and made his way to his room where he dialed Ben's number. Ben was out of the office but the person who took the message said that he'd be in all afternoon and that Jesse should come down at his earliest convenience. Jesse returned to the garden and sat down beside Shalimar.
"Did you speak with him?" she asked.
"No," Jesse said, "but I was told that he'd be back in a while and I should go on down."
"I think I should drive you," Shalimar said teasingly. She helped Jesse to rise and escorted him to his room to get ready.
Ben was frankly stunned when he was told the name of the visitor headed up to his office. He went out into the hall to meet Jesse at the top of the stairs.
"Should you be out of bed?" he asked as he took Jesse's arm and gently steered him toward his desk.
"Probably not," Jesse said. "But it's too late to worry about that now, isn't it?"
"I suppose," Ben said as he eyed Jesse worriedly. "Can I get you some coffee?"
Jesse carefully shook his head.
"Some water would be great," Jesse admitted. Ben went to a vending machine and purchased a bottle. He returned and handed it to Jesse, who immediately opened it and downed half the contents.
"Whatever that stuff was I had last night it's left me very thirsty," he explained.
"There's more where that came from," Ben said frowning at the expression on Jesse's face. "What?"
"I'm sorry," Jesse said, averting his eyes. "I--. You just look so different."
"No jeans? No leather? No earring? Not exactly on-duty attire," Ben said with a flash of the wicked smile that had haunted Jesse for the past two days.
"I see," Jesse said as he once again eyed the crisp blue business shirt and tie Ben wore. His eyes lingered on the leather shoulder holster momentarily before he forced himself to take his eyes off of Ben's chest. He dug into a jacket pocket and produced a DVD. "I made this in case you weren't in when I got here," he explained. "It's my statement."
"On DVD?" Ben said, impressed. "Thanks, but since I am here, do you feel up to answering a few questions?"
"Sure," Jesse said. He sat back in his seat and Ben noted that he moved gingerly.
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather wait till another time?"
"No, I'd rather get this over with," Jesse replied. "It's not as though there's much as I can tell you."
"Well, what can you tell me?"
"I really don't remember anything about last night," Jesse said softly, his eyes averted to his hands.
"What's the last thing you do remember?"
"The last thing I can remember is driving to the club."
"That's the last thing? You don't remember entering the bar at all?"
Jesse shook his head.
"You were there," he said. "I thought you saw what happened."
"Yes, I did, but I need your statement. I don't want to influence you," Ben said apologetically. Jesse laughed uncomfortably.
"I've just told you all I know, so I don't think you have to worry about influencing me," he said. "That DVD is all of three minutes long and most of it consists of me grimacing in pain."
"So you have no memory of entering the club or taking a seat at the bar?"
"You have no memory of talking to me or anyone else, or any recollection of leaving the club, getting into a car or being in a strange house?"
"No." Jesse frowned. Ben sat back and regarded the younger man pensively. Then he opened a drawer and pulled out a form.
"Would you fill this out, please? It's just basic information we need to accompany your statement. I can have your video transcribed, so you don't have to write it out."
"It's no problem," Jesse replied with a smirk. "It doesn't take long to write, 'My mind is a complete blank regarding the events of March 16th."
"Would you like to know what happened?" Ben said sympathetically.
"Was I--did I--?" he sputtered, suddenly afraid that he'd done something humiliating.
"I saw everything that happened at the bar," Ben said reassuringly. "You and I met up about twenty minutes before your abduction. We talked for a while and then I left you to use the men's room. When I came out I saw a woman standing near our seats. She approached you and spoke; you looked up. From that moment on, all you did was stare. You were pretty much a zombie," he said. "I initially thought she was a friend of yours, so I hung back. I couldn't hear anything she said, but I suppose she was just chatting you up long enough to make sure that the neurotoxins she released took full effect. Drusilla is an arachnid feral--a black widow, to be precise. She had you under her control from the word 'go.'" Ben paused to take a sip of his coffee. "I watched you two as she spoke and I could tell you weren't yourself, so when you left with her, I followed."
"Thank you," Jesse said earnestly. "If you hadn't--."
"There's no point in speculating, is there?" Ben said gently.
"I guess not. There's more to the story," Jesse prodded.
"Yes," Ben said. "I followed her car to a house about five miles outside of town. She led you inside. You began to come out of whatever haze she had you in and when she realized that you were beginning to recover she gave you an injection of GHB. I broke into the house when I saw the needle and subdued her shortly before your friends showed up." Ben saw Jesse swallow hard and paused for a moment. But Jesse looked up promptly.
"Why me?" he asked simply.
"I've been staking out the 'M' Club this past week because I had reason to believe that it was the regular haunt of a woman named Drusilla Mann, also known as the Black Widow. She's wanted in connection with the disappearance of two mutants who were last seen leaving the club with her. She apparently went there because it's a mutant-friendly club, a likely place to find what she was after. She apparently had a thing for handsome male moleculars."
"It's an odd kink," Ben grinned, "but I can't say I fault her taste." Jesse colored slightly at the implied compliment, but his mind was racing.
"Why did she want male moleculars?"
"Beats me," Ben said.
"Well, there has to be some reason," Jesse said. "Shal told me that she was 'harvesting' moleculars for someone else. If she was purposely choosing male moleculars chances are that she was looking for something very specific."
"So--not a kink?" Ben said lightly. Jesse shook his head.
"There are several manifestations to the molecular mutation. But for some reason no one has ever figured out, only male moleculars acquired the ability to phase."
"What does that mean?" Ben asked. Jesse looked around and seeing that no one was watching, he phased his hand and passed it through his water bottle. He quickly re-solidified his hand as Ben stared dumbly. "So all male moleculars can do that?" he asked when he found his voice.
"No; not all. But only males acquired that trait."
"So if the Black Widow was only interested in males who could do that..." Ben sat back. "Thanks, Jesse. That's very helpful to know."
"Because some of the men she picked up returned from their experience with no memory of what happened to them but they were essentially unharmed. I'm willing to bet that the two who haven't resurfaced could phase. The question is why she wanted them."
"Well, I can probably help you there," Jesse said.
"Does Mutant X have information on her?" Ben asked. Jesse looked up sharply. "I called them in last night. I figured they would be helpful in retrieving you from the Black Widow. I had no idea you were one of them."
"We have access to a lot of data sources," Jesse said cryptically. "If there is someone out there experimenting on moleculars we'll find him." He carefully rose to his feet. Ben also rose. "If we learn anything we'll let you know."
"I'd appreciate that," Ben said, extending his hand.
"Thank you for your help last night," Jesse said as he took the hand and glanced down. A small smile crept over his face as Ben gave it a gentle squeeze and released it.
"My pleasure," he said. "Listen; do you need someone to drive you home?"
"No, it's okay. I've got a ride waiting outside," Jesse said. He took his leave and Ben watched him go. When he was out of sight, Ben picked up the form Jesse had filled out and noted that the address he out on the statement was false. He was very familiar with the block where Jesse claimed to make his home and knew that the address was for an old drugstore. He was aware that Mutant X was a clandestine organization, so he smiled and slipped the form into his folder. He picked up the DVD and carried it over to the secretary.
"Would you be a doll and transcribe this for me?" Ben asked sweetly. "I understand it's very short."
"What's in it for me?" the secretary asked flirtatiously. Ben bent and kissed her cheek. "You know, I was hoping for another piece of that cheesecake you brought me the other day," the matronly woman said. "But that'll do."
"Let me know when it's done please, Ruth." Ben gave her a wink and returned to his desk.
When Ben passed by Ruth's desk a half hour later, she waved a piece of paper at him. Ben frowned and went over to her desk.
"Here," she said as she plucked a second page from her printer. "Here's that transcript you asked for."
"That didn't take long," Ben said as he frowned at the pages she handed him.
"It probably took all of ten minutes," Ruth said with a wink. "I just kept watching the video. That poor thing."
"Yeah," Ben said. "Thanks, Ruth."
"Have you seen it?" she asked him as she handed him the disk. Ben shook his head.
"You ought to; he's your type," Ruth said with a wink.
"You don't think he's a little young?" Ben asked critically.
"He's twenty-eight, according to his driver's license; I looked it up. Not exactly a boy toy."
"What do you know about boy toys, Ruth?" Ben grinned.
"I know I'd like to have one."
Ben laughed all the way back to his desk. When he sat down he started to throw the disk into a desk drawer. He thought better of it and tossed it into his gym bag under his desk.
On to Part Two