Fandom: Mutant X
Summary: Jesse finds his personal sanctuary--outside of Mutant X. (Set in Season 3.)
Jesse spent the next several days at Sanctuary lying low. He slept a lot and when he was awake he spent most of his time closeted in the computer lab, basically avoiding contact with the others. Shalimar, of course, ignored the subtle hints that kept everyone else at bay and spent hours in his company. She sat and read while he worked, sometimes reading aloud when he was in the mood to be entertained. He rarely engaged her in conversation, however, and Shalimar finally gave up waiting for him to speak.
"What's wrong, Jess?"
Jesse looked up from the keyboard and frowned.
"Oh, it's nothing serious. I've just got a minor glitch in the--."
"No," she said gently as she pulled his hands away from the keyboard. "I mean what's bothering you, Jess. You've been holed up in here for days, barely leaving for meals and when you aren't in here, you're buried under the covers in your room. What's eating you?"
Jesse shook his head.
"I'm fine, Shal."
"You're hiding from the world, Jess."
Jesse laughed at the suggestion.
"How the hell can you tell? I'm always in here whether I'm hiding or not!" Jesse said with uncharacteristic bitterness. "This is all I do, 24/7, 365 days a year. I sit here and monitor systems, set up new systems, troubleshoot systems--I'm nothing more than the Mutant X handy man!"
"I'm sorry, Shal," he said as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders. "Maybe I am hiding, but I think I'm entitled to a few days of solitude after my ordeal."
"Jesse, that little outburst had nothing to do with your ordeal. You've fallen right back into your little rut. Why don't you get out of Sanctuary for a while?"
"And go where?"
"Anywhere, Jess. You're right; you're always cooped up in here and you're bored and lonely. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience last week but moping around here isn't going to improve anything."
"I know, but there isn't any point, is there?"
Shalimar sighed and stroked Jesse's hair, trying to figure out what was wrong. She knew that Jesse's mutation made him practically impervious to assault or injury, yet a complete stranger had been able to violate Jesse's defenses and make him the one thing he was wholly unaccustomed to being: vulnerable. To make matters worse, Shalimar suspected, Jesse probably feared that his behavior during his last visit to the club frightened away his potential love interest.
"You know, there are millions of wonderful women out there, Jess," she said encouragingly. Her comment was met with silence. "They aren't all black widows and they aren't all shrinking violets, either."
"Where are you going with this?" Jesse asked teasingly.
"I think it's high time you went out there and found the woman of your dreams," Shalimar said as she tousled his hair.
"Suppose I haven't been dreaming about one?" he said experimentally.
"You should start, then," she said as she playfully cuffed him. "You need someone in your life, Jess."
"I need a life, Shal."
"So go out and find one! Get out there! Find your soul mate, Jess."
"You make it sound so easy," he said wistfully.
"Sometimes it is. Why don't you try going back to the club this weekend? Your friend may be there again."
"The one you spotted that first night," Shalimar prodded.
"Shal," Jesse pleaded.
"The Black Widow is safely locked up where she can't harm you or anyone else again."
"So you should get back out there, Jess."
"It's worth a shot. She may have seen you leave with the Black Widow, but she shouldn't hold that against you. The capture of the Black Widow made all the papers."
"Oh, great! I'll have that to live down on top of everything else."
"Your name wasn't published. And any woman who can't see you for the wonderful man you are doesn't deserve you."
Jesse shook his head.
"If I promise to go out Friday will you leave me alone now?"
Shalimar kissed his forehead.
"Yes, I will. I'll even go with you Friday night if you like."
"Oh, yeah, that'll help. Bringing a date always has a way of improving a guy's chances of meeting someone new."
"All right, smartass; go on your own. But go!"
"All right! I'll go."
Satisfied with her victory, Shalimar kissed Jesse's temple and left the lab. Jesse sighed; Shalimar made it all sound so easy. Of course, she was completely wrong about Jesse's motives for crawling back into his shell. But he wasn't about to correct her assumptions. It wasn't that he feared Shalimar's reaction. It was just that it all seemed pointless.
Some time over the past week he'd fallen hard for Ben. Perhaps it was the fact that he'd been flattered by Ben's attentions, or perhaps he idolized the man who'd rescued him from potential demise. Whatever the reason, Jesse had not stopped thinking about Ben since his visit to the precinct.
But it was pointless. Ben had simply done his job that night. Jesse could not attribute his behavior to anything more than professional conduct, even if he had flirted with him the previous night. Ben had been undercover; perhaps it had all been an act. Maybe Jesse had imagined the chemistry between them. Perhaps none of it had meant anything to Ben at all. Perhaps he had meant nothing to Ben. It was pointless. Jesse would never see him again, anyway. Ben found his kidnapper. He'd be assigned to some other case and Jesse would be a dim memory, just one of thousands of people he'd helped during his career in the police force.
Jesse closed his eyes and sighed again. He chuckled to himself as he considered saying a prayer to Saint Jude--the patron saint of lost causes.
Ben topped off his cup of coffee and carried the steaming mug into the living room. He turned on the television and watched the news for about ten minutes as his fingers fiddled with the remote control in his hand. Finally, he gave in to temptation and hit a button to turn on the DVD player.
The DVD had been queued up in the machine for the better part of the week. He hadn't watched it, though he was practically brimming with curiosity. There was something inherently dangerous in what he was about to do. His psych professors had all sorts of words for it, words he later heard again in his courses on criminal profiling. Of course, Ben couldn't exactly be called a stalker, could he? He didn't know where to find Jesse if he wanted to. But he had to admit that he was somewhat obsessed.
"Somewhat," Ben said as he hit the button. The video began and he stared at the face before him, completely ignoring Jesse's brief deposition. Jesse was as compelling as he remembered. The pale, blue-grey eyes, the soft, sensuous mouth--. It was the face of Ben's dreams.
He propped his chin and hit the rewind button, promising himself that he'd watch it only once more though he knew he was lying even as the words formed in his head. He watched it three more times before he pulled the disk from the machine and placed it back in its jacket. He could not bring himself to discard it, so he decided to return it to his office and leave it in his desk until temptation overcame him again.
When Friday rolled around Jesse found himself feeling rather ambivalent. He was itching to get out of Sanctuary but at the same time he was resigned to a disappointing evening. He logged out of the program he'd been fiddling with all day and went to his room to shower and shave. He emerged with a more positive attitude. He was going to go out and have some fun. Maybe he'd return to the 'M' Club, maybe he'd go somewhere else. But he was not going to let an idle crush stop him from getting out into the world again. Shalimar was right. There was someone out there for him somewhere and Jesse decided that it was time to begin the search.
He went to his closet and drew out the second of the two new shirts he'd purchased the previous week. The other one had been torn in the struggle with the Black Widow. Shalimar had thoughtfully replaced it but Jesse couldn't bring himself to wear it just yet. Even though he had no memory of that night, he was genuinely spooked by the idea of repeating anything to do with it. He would return to the club, however. He needed to confront his demons and dispatch them as quickly as possible.
Jesse ran a comb through his hair and checked himself in the mirror one last time before leaving his room. He hadn't traveled twenty feet before he was greeted with cat calls from down the hall. Jesse smiled and turned to see Shalimar and Lexa.
"Going cruising again?" Lexa said with a smirk. Jesse opened his mouth but Shalimar stopped him with a look.
"You go and have a great time," she said taking his arm and drawing him away from Lexa. "You look fabulous."
"You said that last week," Jesse said. He stopped and looked at her. "Didn't you?"
"Yes, I did and it was true then, too. Stop worrying about that and go out and have some fun." She kissed his cheek and gave him a little push. Jesse shook his head and headed for the garage. "What's wrong with you?" Shalimar said turning around to glare at Lexa.
"Why are you sending him out again?" she asked. "We've got important things to do here and he's out looking for love in all the wrong places."
"Well, better there than here," Shalimar replied.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, I think you know exactly what I mean" Shalimar said. "You know very well that Jesse had a crush on you. You treated him like dirt and quite frankly I'm glad you did. He got over it faster than I'd hoped. Leave him alone." Lexa shrugged insouciantly and walked away. Shalimar watched her go before returning to her room.
"Hey!" Brennan said as Jesse entered the garage. He watched as Jesse tossed his leather jacket on the hood of his car and went to the security panel on the wall to do one last check on the system. "This is supposed to be your night off, Jess. Give it a rest."
"I am. I just wanted to see if--." He caught himself and smiled. "Yeah; night off, right." He went back to his car and retrieved his jacket.
"If you're willing to wait a little while I'll go with you," Brennan said as he closed the hood of the car he was working on.
"Thanks, but I want to do this alone," Jesse replied. "I need to do this alone."
"I hear you," Brennan nodded. "Hey, I hear that the 'M' Club attracts really hot women."
"Where did you hear that?" Jesse frowned.
"Not from you, certainly," Brennan said. "You obviously want to keep them all for yourself." Jesse smiled and got into the car.
"I don't know where you get such strange notions, Bren," he said. "See you later."
"Have fun," Brennan replied as the doors opened and Jesse drove out into the night.
Everything about the club looked the same as it did the last time he was there, but it felt different to Jesse somehow. He remembered nothing of his last visit. Everything about it was a complete blank. Jesse felt nervous and uncomfortable. He almost succumbed to the anxious feeling in the pit of his stomach and turned back toward the door. That's when he caught sight of Ben at the bar speaking to an attractive woman.
All the doubts that had plagued him over the last several days came flooding back and he suddenly wished he had gone elsewhere instead. He felt foolish and ashamed for ever entertaining any hope of Ben returning his feelings. Jesse struggled with his composure as the disappointment of rejection began to gnaw at his belly. He decided to pack it in and go home, but before he could make himself take that first step Ben noticed him and called him over.
Ben was comfortably situated at one end of the bar wearing a chocolate brown suede shirt over faded denim jeans and a pair of old comfortable boots. Jesse was surprised by his visceral reaction to the sight of bare skin peeking from underneath Ben's shirt and hoped he wouldn't add humiliation to his growing list of transgressions.
"Smile, Jesse. See? I told you I didn't have the prettiest smile in the place," Ben said with a wink for Jesse, who immediately averted his eyes at the unexpected praise.
The woman's eyes glowed feral when she smiled back at him. Jesse blanched. It wasn't Drusilla, Jesse told himself. The club was full of mutants; he was bound to encounter other ferals there. He was safe. Ben wouldn't be talking to her if she was dangerous, would he? Jesse looked at Ben, who immediately sensed Jesse's distress and laid a comforting arm on his shoulder.
"But you can't have him," Ben said as he rose from his stool and drew Jesse away. "He and I have some very serious business to discuss." Ben led Jesse over to a table. Jesse looked back at the pouting woman and shrugged. Ben gently pushed Jesse down into a seat and signaled for the waiter to bring him a beer.
"I'm glad to see you again," he said with a warm smile. "How are you?"
"I'm fine," Jesse said, still distracted by the feral at the bar, who was unabashedly staring at the two men.
"Oh, don't mind Lacey," Ben said. "She's a predator of an entirely different kind." Jesse turned to him with a questioning look. "I think she's in heat," Ben said with a laugh. "She wasn't interested in taking no for an answer. Right now she's probably thinking of taking both of us on."
"You're kidding, right?"
"It's a moot point; I pretty much lost all interest in women about three years ago. Right now, I'm far more interested in you," he said matter-of-factly. He sat forward and looked Jesse in the eye. "How are you, really? Last time I saw you, you were still suffering from the aftereffects of those drugs."
"I'm--uh--I came out of it rather quickly," Jesse said as he felt his cheeks flush slightly in response to Ben's ambiguous comment. "I felt like crap for a few days but I'm fine now."
"I'm glad to hear it," Ben said. He saw the confusion in Jesse's eyes and waited for him to speak.
"Are you still staking the place out?"
"Hmm?" Now Ben was equally confused.
"You said you were here at the club that night trying to catch Drusilla."
"Well, I guess I was," Ben said speculatively. "I'm off duty tonight, however."
"May I ask you a question? How did you manage to contact Mutant X? We aren't exactly in the phone book."
"I've got a sister in the underground," Ben replied. "She gave me your number and told me that if anything ever happened to her I should contact you guys."
"Is that why you were interested in those disappearances, because your sister is one of us?"
"I was interested in those disappearances because two people had gone missing and the chief of my squad refused to take the matter seriously. Club kids go missing all the time and the fact that they were mutants didn't make them a priority, either."
"You know, I've probably met your sister if Mutant X helped to place her. What's her name?"
"Beth," Ben said with a smile, "she's the telepath in the family."
"Maybe some of it rubbed off on you," Jesse quipped.
"Possibly; we're twins," Ben said. Jesse looked up from his glass, intrigued.
"Really? Then you must be--. Are you?"
"I'm a feral. Ursine, and if you make a 'Gentle Ben' joke I will pull your tongue out," Ben said. Jesse smiled, but he was clearly not reacting to Ben's remark. "What?"
"I thought I'd imagined it," Jesse said.
"What did you imagine?"
"At the Black Widow's--you; breaking the door down, growling at Drusilla and tossing her to the floor like she weighed nothing. I thought it was the drugs."
"No, that was me," Ben confessed shyly. "When my endorphins kick in I sometimes go completely feral; it comes in handy sometimes. You didn't put that in your report."
"No," Jesse said as his cheeks flushed slightly. "I thought I dreamt it a few days after the incident." Ben nodded. "How did you know I was a member of Mutant X?"
"I didn't, at first. I called Mutant X because I knew I was going to need back up dealing with the Black Widow. I didn't find out you were one of them till they showed up."
"Well, I'm in your debt," Jesse said sincerely.
"Really?" Ben said with a decidedly playful smile. Jesse fought in vain to prevent his cheeks from glowing. "I hope we're not talking cash here. I have a healthy respect for money, but I've got more than enough to tide me over." Jesse ducked his head and smiled. Ben took it as his cue to press the issue. He ordered a second round of beers and pretended to think for a moment.
"You could give me your firstborn son--have you got a son?"
"I'm afraid not," Jesse said.
"Good; women keep telling me I'm great father material but I think that's just an excuse to swap DNA. Now, I'm as much for DNA swapping as the next guy, but I'm not sure I'm cut out for parenthood, especially in my line of work."
"Yeah, me either," Jesse said wistfully, "not with my DNA, anyway." He hazarded a look at Ben, who was frowning in concern. "Moleculars are the most unstable mutation and I have the misfortune of being a double molecular."
"I see," Ben said. He smiled again, determined to distract Jesse. "I will take stamps." As expected, Jesse grinned. "Of course, we're talking a lot of stamps," Ben said as he made a point of leaning over the side of the table and eying Jesse head to toe. "Unless you'd like to negotiate for something else..."
Jesse smiled; Ben was flirting again and this time it was real.
"What did you have in mind?" Jesse challenged.
"Oh, lots of things; I'll have to think about it," Ben said, before changing the subject to the music being performed on the stage. Jesse was surprised and a bit disappointed, but he quickly realized that Ben was deliberately toying with him. Jesse relaxed and played along as Ben alternately flirted and spoke seriously, keeping Jesse off balance and in a heady state of anticipation. As it drew near eleven o'clock, Ben finally made his move.
"Would you like to come home with me tonight, Jesse?" he asked. Ben watched as Jesse's face conveyed surprise, followed by a slight flush of his cheeks.
"What do you want from me, Ben?" Jesse asked bluntly.
"What do you want from me, Jesse?" Ben returned, but it was no tease. Jesse cleared his throat and watched with mild alarm as Ben's fingers flirted with the back of his hand. He looked around to see if they were being observed. "Jesse?"
"I'm not sure," Jesse admitted.
"Then maybe this should wait," Ben said. Jesse looked up. "There's no need to rush this--if you want it at all."
"I do, but--."
"Yes?" Ben said encouragingly.
"I've--," he glanced around and lowered his voice. "I've never been with a man before."
Jesse's eyes went wide and he shook his head admonishingly. His hand tensed, but Ben noticed that he didn't pull it away.
"Are you always so incorrigible?" Jesse asked.
"Consistency is the hallmark of an honest man."
"Says who?" Jesse asked seriously, but he saw the twinkle in Ben's eye and moved on. "And you haven't answered my question."
"I want you."
"Just for tonight?"
"I'll take as many nights as I can get; mornings, too, if you're available," Ben said impishly. But he grew serious and sat forward in his seat. "I want you, Jesse. I've never been one for one night stands, but I'd take that if it's all you'll give me."
"I don't know why," Ben replied honestly. "You're special. You--do something to me. I can't explain it. All I can say is that I want you. I've wanted you since the first time I saw you." Jesse found his admission amusing.
"What's so funny?" Ben asked.
"I--," Jesse ducked his head shyly. "I guess I was smitten, too, that first night we met. I was really flattered by your interest in me and I couldn't get you out of my mind all night."
"Wet dreams?" Ben asked hopefully. Jesse's cheeks turned crimson. "I could watch that all day," he sighed. Jesse rolled his eyes. "Hey, if it makes you feel any better I had to change my sheets, too. I want you, Jesse."
"What do you want, Jesse?" Ben asked. "You said you were smitten, you're obviously interested enough to consider what I've got on offer--."
"You're quite the package," Jesse said, propping his chin to stare at Ben's chest. Ben swallowed hard. He felt a tightening in his groin and wanted to leap across the table and swallow Jesse whole.
"Take me," he said huskily. "If you aren't satisfied we can still work something out with the stamps." Jesse shook his head.
"Not interested in stamps."
Ben reached behind his chair for his leather jacket and stood.
"We can negotiate terms on the way. My place is a few blocks from here."
As it turned out, they'd done little talking on the way to Ben's place. They walked in silence for the most part, broken only by Jesse's questions about the neighborhood. Ben's mind was racing ahead and it was all he could do to not grab Jesse's hand and run. His feral senses had read Jesse's vital signs and gauged his state of arousal. Jesse wanted him as much as he wanted Jesse.
Ben unlocked the door and pushed it open, standing back so that Jesse could enter before him. Jesse walked into the spacious living room and pulled off his jacket. He tossed it on a chair and wandered over to the shelves that lined one wall of the room.
"Can I offer you something?" Ben asked as he collected the jacket and hung it up.
"No, I'm good," Jesse answered absently as he opened a book and flipped through the pages.
Ben took a seat on the sofa and observed Jesse as he explored. He paused to look at a few books and other objects on the shelves with genuine interest and Ben wondered briefly if the younger man had forgotten why he'd been invited over. The two men had spent hours talking at the club, sometimes seriously, sometimes flirting outrageously. Truth be told, Ben had to admit, all the outrageous flirtation had been his doing. Jesse, for the most part, spent the evening blushing like the virgin that he was.
Jesse admitted to having never been with a man before, however, that didn't prevent him from encouraging Ben's advances. Ben was absolutely intrigued by the slightly younger man. Jesse was unlike anyone he had been involved with before, and Ben instinctively knew that he and Jesse were destined to become involved. Jesse was not the stuff of one night stands. He was a keeper and Ben was already mentally building a place for him in his life.
Jesse was Ben's first mutant and he wondered if being with him would be different from his other experiences with men. Ben was eager to find out and his pulse began to accelerate in anticipation of the pleasures yet to come. Jesse chose that moment to turn around. Catching Ben staring, he smiled sheepishly and joined him on the couch.
"You're very well read," he said as he settled into the deep leather cushions. Ben reached out and allowed his fingers to lightly graze Jesse's jaw.
"For a cop, you mean?" he said self-deprecatingly.
"For anyone," Jesse replied, leaning into the gentle caress.
"Aren't you nervous?" Ben asked curiously.
"Yeah, I suppose," Jesse admitted, "more with anticipation than anything else." He turned a shy smile to Ben. "I really want this."
Again, Ben swallowed hard. He wanted to let loose and ravish the younger man, but his instincts told him that they had to take things slowly. He leaned forward, closing the distance between them and extended his hand to caress the back of Jesse's neck.
"In that case I won't keep you waiting," he said softly before his lips met Jesse's mouth for the first time. It was a brief, awkward kiss. Ben knew that Jesse would react to the odd sensation of kissing someone with facial hair for the first time. As he expected, however, Jesse's moment of uncertainty was brief and they began a series of more exploratory kisses that quickly escalated into serious necking.
Ben silently applauded Jesse's steep learning curve when he opened his mouth to Ben's wandering tongue. He let his hands wander over Jesse's chest, shoulders and back, while Jesse buried one hand in Ben's hair. The other held Ben's bicep in a firm grip that was pulling Ben to him rather than holding him at bay.
So much for the frightened virgin, Ben thought wryly as his hand trailed down Jesse's chest to stroke his abdomen. The moan his actions elicited went straight to his groin and emitted a soft growl as he reluctantly pulled away from Jesse's succulent mouth to plunder his throat. Ben's feral senses went into overdrive as he inhaled Jesse's unique scent and became intoxicated by the heady combination of cologne, soap, sweat and natural pheromones.
Jesse was equally overwhelmed. In his wildest fantasies he had never imagined kissing a man, so it was a revelation to him that such a thing could be so erotic. He reveled in the sensation of Ben's warm lips on his, kissing, licking, nibbling his mouth and throat. Their tongues danced in and out of each other's mouths, teasing, challenging, inciting. Jesse had never felt so turned on in his life until Ben growled softly and ran his hand across Jesse's lower abdomen in a gesture that was somehow both tentative and possessive. Then it was all Jesse could do not to embarrass himself.
It took every ounce of his will to not explode in his pants like an adolescent as Ben's hand grew more self-assured and questing. The hand found its way under his shirt and made contact with his skin as Ben began to lick the artery pulsing in Jesse's throat. Ben growled again and Jesse realized that he had gone completely feral. For a moment Jesse panicked, but Ben lifted his head and smiled before lowering his mouth to Jesse's. His fears were forgotten and once again, Jesse lost himself in sensation.
Ben's hand traced a path up Jesse's chest to caress a sculpted pectoral. Then it pushed the shirt up further and suddenly Jesse was bare-chested. Ben laid him back on the sofa and began to kiss and nibble his way down Jesse's chest, pausing to tease at each nipple before beginning to slowly and languidly lick long strokes down his belly toward Jesse's navel. Again, Jesse saw himself as Ben's prey, being toyed with before the kill, but this time he found the thought more amusing than frightening and more arousing than anything he'd ever experienced. He felt he should be reciprocating in some way but for the life of him he didn't know what to do besides stroke the back of Ben's head with both hands.
For his part, Ben was content with Jesse's enthusiastic scalp massage. It was frankly more than he expected. He'd been with virgins before and it hadn't been a wholly satisfying experience either time. Ben preferred a partner who was responsive and Jesse was not only animated but also extremely sensitive to stimulation. Ben bared his teeth and lightly nibbled Jesse's ribs. As he expected, Jesse nearly hit the ceiling. The sound of blood racing through the younger man's body, the rapid beating of his heart and the naked lust in Jesse's eyes fired Ben's blood. He abruptly stood and pulled Jesse to his feet.
Jesse was slightly dazed and disoriented and not at all sure his legs could support him. He reached forward and slumped in Ben's arms as the slightly taller mutant pulled him close. Ben sniffed at Jesse's throat and nibbled at it, smiling when Jesse giggled at the sensation. Growing impatient to possess his prize, Ben effortlessly lifted Jesse, threw him over his shoulder and carried him to the bedroom, where he lowered Jesse to his feet again and drew him into his arms once more.
The two men stood in the dimly lit bedroom kissing for some time before Ben released him and gave him a tiny shove. Jesse yelped and fell backward onto the bed he didn't know was behind him. Ben bent to kiss the tip of his nose before he unbuckled Jesse's belt and unbuttoned his jeans and then removed Jesse's shoes and socks, caressing and massaging each foot before releasing it.
Jesse enjoyed the attention being lavished on him, but he was not completely idle. He ran his hand over Ben's broad back and slipped it under his shirt so he could reach the smooth, hot skin underneath the soft suede. He sat up, intent of relieving Ben of his shirt, but Ben chose that moment to kneel in front of Jesse so he could remove his jeans. He kissed Jesse's chest, moving downward at an agonizingly slow pace. Jesse couldn't stand it any longer and he grabbed Ben's face and pulled it to his own.
Ben growled as their mouths met. He rose off his knees and pushed Jesse down on the bed. He crawled over Jesse and laid atop him as their tongues battled with one another. Jesse's hands found their way under Ben's shirt and he stroked the strong, muscular back and firm buttocks. Ben was heavier and larger than he and it felt odd being weighted down by his partner but there was something about it that Jesse found oddly erotic--as was the sensation of Ben's erection insistently pressing at his thigh. He was completely out of his depths, but Jesse wanted more. He managed to reverse their positions, flipping Ben onto his back so he could straddle the surprised man. He sat up and began to unbutton Ben's shirt.
"You taking over?" Ben asked with amusement as he allowed himself to be undressed.
"Nope; just leveling the playing field," Jesse said as he ran his hands over the newly revealed expanse of finely sculpted skin. He bent his head to Ben's throat and nibbled a spot beneath his ear that made him buck wildly. Jesse laughed as Ben flipped the pair back over and clumsily pulled off Jesse's jeans while Jesse continued his bold exploration of Ben's sensitive spots. He left Jesse in his shorts to slow himself down, but removed all his own clothing before stretching out along Jesse's body.
Ben knew he was deluding himself. The thin layer of cotton proved no obstacle as he pored over Jesse's skin, sniffing, tasting, and occasionally biting his way down Jesse's body. One hand slowly stroked the length of Jesse's erection as he made his survey of the silken skin. Ben was prepared to allow Jesse to dictate the pace but he suddenly found himself struggling to keep up with the writhing, moaning figure beneath him.
Frightened virgin, my ass, Ben chuckled to himself as he slowly drew down the shorts and freed the pulsing organ. He ignored it momentarily and nuzzled Jesse's groin, inhaling the musky aroma and committing it to memory. Then he continued his study of Jesse's body, stroking, licking, gently--ever so gently--nibbling and kissing everything within reach. Ben finally took mercy on Jesse and quickly brought him to orgasm to take the edge off. His seduction had only begun; Ben wanted to make Jesse's first experience unforgettable. He slowly kissed and licked and nibbled his way back up to Jesse's throat and began to lick his carotid slowly.
"Are you sure you're not a feline feral?" Jesse said as he opened his eyes and drew Ben's mouth up to his. Jesse tasted himself in Ben's kiss and wondered at it briefly but all coherent thought quickly fled as Ben unleashed his second assault.
He flipped Jesse over onto his stomach and began to nuzzle the back of his neck. Then he proceeded to kiss and nibble and lick his way down Jesse's back. He traced a path from shoulder to fingertip and back on each arm before investigating Jesse's spine and ribs. Ben planted kisses at the small of his back, gently kneaded and massaged the taut, muscular globes of Jesse's buttocks and spreading them, he painstakingly licked his way down to Jesse's perineum till he was driven wild with need.
Once again Jesse took charge, abruptly rolling Ben off of him and straddling his torso. He grabbed Ben's wrists and pressed them to the mattress as he kissed him deeply. This was a completely new experience for Ben. He had never been in a submissive position in bed, not even his first time with a man. He was turned on by Jesse's aggressiveness and the prospect of Jesse bringing him off. Ben was rock hard and when Jesse stretched out over his body and began to grind their groins together he saw stars and released his seed between their two hot bodies. Jesse followed a moment later before collapsing onto Ben's chest, dazed and sated. Ben held him to his chest and listened to his breathing till it steadied.
"Jesse?" he said softly between kisses to Jesse's hair.
"I want to do that again," Jesse muttered.
"At our earliest convenience. Shower first, though, okay?"
Ben coaxed a nod from the younger man and then got him to his feet. He led Jesse by the hand to the bathroom and into the large shower stall where he leaned Jesse against the cool tile and washed him head to toe. Jesse recovered before he was halfway done, and took his turn at washing Ben.
As Jesse did what Ben had done, slowly massaging soap over his lover's chiseled form, he took the opportunity to examine his lover's naked body for the first time. Ben was slightly taller than Jesse and his chest was hairy where Jesse's was smooth. It tapered toward a narrow waist and when Jesse looked down he swallowed hard at the sight before him. He'd already encountered Ben's impressive organ when they were in bed together, but confronting it in the bright lights of the bathroom was another matter entirely.
Jesse glanced up at Ben, whose eyes were closed, and wondered exactly what he'd just gotten himself into. A moment later he reordered his thinking and began to worry about what might be getting into him. Ben opened his eyes and winked. Jesse pushed him under the spray and licked droplets of water off the back of his neck. Ben growled low in his throat at the sensation and Jesse smiled.
"Do you always growl like that in bed?" he asked.
"No," Ben admitted. "I make it a practice not to, actually. It has a way of scaring people."
"I think it's hot," Jesse said. Ben turned around to kiss him.
"I can be myself with you. You know what I am. With someone who doesn't know--."
He didn't need to finish the sentence. Jesse pulled Ben into his arms and held him for a long moment. But Ben quickly got over his brief funk and began to lick and kiss the wet, slippery skin of Jesse's shoulder. He followed the path of the droplets to a nipple and played there till Jesse was tingling with anticipation. Ben knelt and took Jesse in his mouth and slowly brought him to the brink. Jesse moaned and muttered incoherently when Ben swallowed him, doubling over when his legs gave out. Ben caught him in his arms and carefully rinsed him off before wrapping him in a towel and bringing him back to bed. He dried him and pulled the covers over him. Jesse reached out to Ben like a small child as Ben climbed into bed and wrapped himself around Jesse's warm body.
Three hours later, Ben opened his eyes and they flashed golden as his feral senses picked up a strange voice in his room. He turned his head and heard the female voice again.
Jesse groggily lifted his head and yawned. It took him a moment to get his bearings and remember where he was. He put his fingers to his ear momentarily and then, carefully extricating himself from Ben's arms, he slid out of bed and went out into the hall.
"Shal?" he said softly when he was a few feet from the bedroom door.
"Jesse, where are you? I've been worried sick!"
"Why, what's wrong?"
"What's wrong? It's nearly three in the morning and you're not at Sanctuary."
Jesse sighed in relief and leaned against a wall.
"I'm a big boy, Shal."
"I know you are, but last time you went out alone we found you lying unconscious in some strange woman's house, remember?"
"I'm not in some strange woman's house, okay?" Jesse said with a smile. "I went back to the club and ran into Ben. We decided to hang out and I'm at his place."
"Are you spending the night there?"
"Yes, Shal," Jesse said tolerantly.
"I'm sorry for waking you but I was worried."
"And I'm sorry for worrying you. I didn't think."
"No, I'm probably overreacting. I'm the one who told you to go out and have some fun and now I'm acting like a mother hen. Good night, Jess."
"Good night, Shal. I'll see you tomorrow," Jesse yawned. Jesse padded back to the bedroom and started when he saw Ben sitting up and watching him. "Sorry if I woke you," he said apologetically as he crawled back into bed. "Shal was worried about me and activated the com link."
"Yeah," Jesse said as he scratched his head. "This is the receiver and transmitter," he said as he raised his right hand to show the silver band. "And there's a teeny little speaker implanted right here under my ear."
"That must be what I heard," Ben said as he settled back into the pile of pillows.
"It's designed so only the wearer can hear it," Jesse replied, frowning.
"Or a feral with extremely acute hearing?"
"Right," Jesse smiled as he snuggled into the crook of Ben's arm.
"So who's Shal?"
"Shalimar--she's a member of Mutant X. You probably met her last week."
"Is she the blonde feral who had to be physically removed from your side by the big guy?"
"That would be Shal," Jesse laughed. "I could easily imagine her hovering over me protectively and intimidating the hell out of the medical staff."
"So you two are very close?" Ben said carefully. Jesse, however, picked up the hidden agenda in his tone and turned to eye him doubtfully.
"Shal has been looking after me since we were kids. She's the big sister I never had."
"So her interest in you is strictly platonic?"
"Do you think I would be lying here if it wasn't?" Jesse asked impertinently. Ben growled and Jesse kissed away his pout. "Shal is Sanctuary's alpha. She sees me as one of her cubs, Ben, nothing more. And I see her as my best friend, nothing more."
"Is she going to give me a hard time about you?" Ben asked. Jesse shook his head.
"No, I don't think she'll have a problem with you," Jesse said groggily. Ben ran his hand along Jesse's arm for a few minutes as Jesse began to drift off again.
"Jesse?" he said.
"You said you'd never been with a man before."
"I haven't," he replied as he opened his eyes and looked at Ben. "Why?"
"Nothing; you just seemed very comfortable with what we did here tonight."
"I'm comfortable with you," Jesse replied with a shrug. He reached out and ran a hand over Ben's chest. "I'm comfortable with sex--at least as far as it went."
"We won't go any farther unless you feel up to it," Ben assured him. "This is no good unless we both want it and we're both comfortable."
"Got it," Jesse said with a small smile. "May I go back to sleep now?"
"I guess so," Ben said impishly. Jesse leaned in and gave him a slow, lingering kiss before he turned back over and snuggled more deeply in Ben's arms. A moment later he was out like a light. Ben listened to him breathe for a while, until he, too, drifted off to sleep.
"All right, sleeping beauty," Ben said early the next morning.
He had awakened at his usual time and remained spooned against Jesse's body for about twenty minutes before he rose. After another half hour, during which he'd had coffee, scanned the paper and puttered around the apartment, he'd grown impatient. He stood in the doorway and stared at the long legs protruding from the tangle of sheets on the bed. He was very tempted to join Jesse, but it would be pointless to do so if the younger mutant was still comatose.
"You can't still be sleeping," Ben said as he walked into the room and sat on the edge of the bed.
"Sure I can," Jesse replied. He was facing away from the door, but he'd heard Ben's remarks and couldn't resist the tease. Ben growled and pulled away the sheet to bite Jesse on his right cheek. Jesse yelped and tried to wriggle away but Ben pounced on him and the two began to wrestle playfully. Ben quickly had Jesse on his back and pinned to the mattress.
"Good morning," Ben said softly. He smiled predatorily and bit Jesse's lower lip before kissing him deeply. Jesse pulled away Ben's robe and wrapped his legs around his waist to pull him closer, though his upper body was still completely at Ben's mercy. Ben took advantage of the opportunity to multi-task, kissing all over Jesse's face, throat and shoulders while thrusting the lower half of his body against Jesse's groin. The pace was fast and furious and both men were soon lying on their backs, panting and sated.
"I have to go to work," Ben said glancing at the clock on the nightstand.
"On a Saturday? Bummer," Jesse replied. He sat up and looked at Ben slyly. Ben sat up and kissed him. "Race you to the shower," Jesse cried as he pushed Ben back down and made a break for it. Just as his feet hit the floor Ben let out a roar and Jesse froze in his tracks. Ben froze, too, mortified. Jesse slowly turned his head to look back at the stricken man and smiled. "All right, then; we'll just walk," he said. Ben returned the smile and scooted to the end of the bed and accepted Jesse's hand to help him up. He held onto Jesse's hand and they walked to the bathroom together.
Ben seemed to be in a pensive mood and Jesse wasn't sure why. Once again he soaped up Jesse's body, but he kept his eyes averted, focused on the task of bathing his partner. Jesse reached for his chin and lifted his face.
"Talk to me."
"It's nothing," Ben said, shaking his head. "Well, just a memory."
"And you don't care to talk about it."
Ben pulled Jesse into his arms and hugged him.
"No, but thank you," Ben said soberly. He held Jesse for another minute and then he turned and rinsed himself off. Jesse quickly followed suit and met him in the bedroom, where Ben was already half dressed and writing something on a card.
Jesse looked around for his clothes, which he was certain had been strewn about the room with wild abandon the previous night. They were all neatly piled on a chair, however, with his shoes lined up beside it. Jesse began to get dressed, keeping an eye on Ben as he wrote.
"Here," Ben said, extending the card toward Jesse. "That's all my contact information: my home phone, my cell, my office phone and three emails. Stay in touch." Jesse took the card and wrapped his arms around Ben's waist.
"I fully intend to do that," he said softly. He kissed Ben briefly and then pulled the pen out of Ben's hand. He went to his jacket and produced his own card. He wrote down his personal contact information on the back of the card and gave it to Ben.
"I didn't know Mutant X had business cards," Ben smirked as he read the card. "Whose idea was 'sweet innocent' as an email addie?"
"That was Shal. I use that one a lot when I'm looking for mutants who need our help getting into the underground because I can be really anonymous in chat rooms," Jesse said as he pulled on his shirt.
"Cute. You want coffee?" Ben asked. Jesse nodded and followed Ben to the kitchen. "I make a wicked pancake but you slept through breakfast," Ben said. He offered to make Jesse toast.
"Thanks, I'll eat when I get back to Sanctuary. And who'd want a wicked pancake, anyway?" he teased. Ben playfully cuffed him and they sat and drank coffee over light conversation.
"Can I drop you somewhere?" Ben said checking his watch. "I've got to get moving."
"Can you drop me by the club? That's where I left my car."
"Sure," Ben said. Five minutes later they pulled up in front of the club. "I'll probably be on stakeout duty all day today but I'm off tomorrow. Does Mutant X have weekends off?"
"Usually, yeah. We tend to work when we're needed out there and when we're not needed out there we're back at base monitoring things."
"Sounds like police work," Ben said as he turned in his seat and reached out to caress Jesse's cheek. To his surprise, Jesse flinched and shyly dipped his head. "What's wrong?" he asked before he realized for himself what it was. He withdrew his hand and sat back. "Sorry."
"No, I'm sorry," Jesse said quickly. "I'm not used to this."
"Understood," Ben said. "I respect your right to privacy." Jesse nodded awkwardly. "I'll call you later." Jesse nodded and opened the car door. He started to turn to get out, thought better of it and turned back to Ben. Glancing quickly out the window, he leaned over and quickly kissed Ben on the lips before exiting the car and jogging across the street to his own.
"Now, he's the shy virgin," Ben chuckled to himself as he started the car. He waved to Jesse and took off.
Jesse returned to Sanctuary with a smile on his face. He felt wonderful and it showed. Brennan looked up as he strode through the main living space.
"Well, somebody got laid last night!" he teased.
Jesse stopped in his tracks, but couldn't bring himself to turn around. He was sure that his face would give him away. So he continued moving toward his room without responding to the barb. Shalimar elbowed Brennan in the ribs.
"Stop it, Brennan."
"What? Did you get a look at that shit-eating grin on his face?"
"No, but I do happen to know where he spent the night. Trust me; he did not get laid."
"He spent the night at Ben Fitzwilliam's place," Shalimar said. Brennan opened his mouth and then closed it.
"Oh. You don't think Ben--?"
Shalimar looked up.
"No way," they said in unison.
Jesse was at his keyboard working early that afternoon when his phone rang. He reached into his pocket for the phone and answered it.
"Did I mention that stakeouts are boring as hell?" Ben said dully. Jesse smiled and felt his heart rate quicken.
"Is it more boring than running a system scan?"
"You've got me there. I can't say I've had any experience running system scans."
"Trust me; it's boring."
"So we're both bored," Ben replied.
"Actually, no," Jesse said impishly. "I'm not scanning systems at the moment. As a matter of fact, I was doing that computer search I promised you."
"Oh?" Ben said sitting up eagerly. "Have you found anything yet?"
"Yes, I think so; at least I found a place to start. Some guy by the name of Barrett wrote a paper about ten years ago on potential methods of exploiting the molecular mutation in the human male. He theorized that the government could harness the mutation, stabilize it and ultimately develop stealth warriors."
"That sounds like a bad science fiction movie," Ben replied.
"Yeah," Jesse said. "I'm trying to track Barrett's activities since that article. He seems to have gone underground about a year ago; completely dropped off the radar."
"Sounds like this character has potential," Ben said. "So what are you wearing?"
"Huh?" Jesse said, unable to follow his sudden change of topic.
"I need a good wholesome image here. Every time I think of you right now, I see you naked and sweaty in my bed. Not that I mind thinking of you that way. In fact, that'll be my favorite way to think of you for decades to come, but I can't afford to get too distracted right now."
"Should we be even having this conversation?"
"You mean is it against regs for me to be on the phone during a stakeout or are you suggesting that this is an obscene call?"
"You haven't quite gone that far yet," Jesse replied. A brief silence ensued during which both men's minds traveled back to the previous night. When they spoke again, they started simultaneously.
"Sorry," Ben said. "You go ahead."
"No, it's--. Well, I was just saying that I've been thinking about you all day," Jesse said softly.
"I've been thinking about you," Ben said. "You know, in the aforementioned sweaty, naked way that gets me so--. Jess, I'm going to have to call you back."
Ben was gone before Jesse could respond. It would be hours before he heard from Ben again. Jesse spent every moment of the interim worrying.
Jesse was in his room staring at Barrett's report when Shalimar knocked at the door.
"May I come in?"
"You're asking this time?"
"Hey, I know better than to wear out my welcome," she replied as she strolled in and sat on the edge of his desk. "What are you reading?"
"I found this on the web; it's a research proposal from a guy who wanted to develop a race of superhuman soldiers," Jesse said.
"A research proposal?"
"A rejected one, fortunately."
Shalimar frowned at the cover page. It was a classified document submitted to the Defense Department marked "Eyes Only."
"How did you get a hold of that?"
Jesse looked up incredulously.
"Never mind--who is this guy?"
"His name is Barrett and he did a whole report on the uses to which the military could put moleculars if he could just stabilize the phasing mutation."
Shalimar looked up sharply.
"You don't think--?"
"If not Barrett, then someone else," Jesse said. "Why not? Just think how much a guy with my talents might be worth to the military if I could phase for three to five minutes, as opposed to just a matter of seconds."
"And not just the military," Shalimar said warily. "Terrorists, thieves, soldiers of fortune... Oh God, Jesse!"
"My thoughts exactly."
"Have we got anything else on him?" Shalimar asked as she picked up another printout on the desk.
"Not much. No one seems to have had any contact with him lately. He up and disappeared around about the time the GSA went under."
"Then he may well be somehow connected to the disappearances," Shalimar said as Jesse's phone rang. Jesse flinched and Shalimar smiled. "I'll let you get that. If you need any help on your search, I'm all yours tomorrow."
"Thanks, Shal," Jesse said as he impatiently waited for her to close his bedroom door. "Ben?" he said as soon as she was gone. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," he replied. "Sorry about the dramatic exit earlier but our suspect decided to try and escape justice. And after we had him in custody I had to sit and wait for a judge to issue a search warrant."
"Sounds like a very tiring afternoon," Jesse said as he went and stretched out on his bed.
"It was," Ben said wearily. "So where were we?"
"Where are you?" Jesse countered.
"Just got home. I'm brewing coffee, feeding the cat--."
"You have a cat?" Jesse frowned. "I didn't see any cat last night."
"Well, you wouldn't unless he wanted you to see him. He's currently angry with me for giving you his usual pillow space last night."
"Sorry," Jesse chuckled.
"Don't be. I've just been explaining to him that he's going to have to make alternative sleeping arrangements henceforth. By the way," Ben said after a sip of coffee, "is there any way to tell that someone is a mutant without an analysis at the DNA level?"
"Then not usually, no; unless he's a feral with pronounced features."
"I didn't think so. I'd like to get a read on that body we found, but I don't want to arouse any unnecessary suspicion, if you get my meaning."
"Think you can get us a DNA sample? We can do the testing here at Sanctuary. Or simpler yet, give us a name or picture of his face and we can check him through the mutant database."
"There's a mutant database?"
"Yeah; Genomex kept records of all the mutants they sent out into the world. We obtained a copy of those records before they went under. It helps us to locate new mutants who may be in need of our help."
"Am I in that database?"
"I don't know. I'll have to look," Jesse said as he rose from his bed and returned to the desk. "Are you Benjamin or Benedict Fitzwilliam?"
"Benjamin, please," Ben said.
"Oh, weren't you cute," Jesse said a few seconds later.
"'Weren't'?" Ben said warily.
"This picture of you must have been taken in college. Your hair was longer than mine."
"Oh, yes, that would be in the days before I joined the force."
"You know, based on this picture, I would never have guessed that you'd turn out to be a cop. You look more like a 'make love not war' kind of guy," Jesse teased.
"Oh, I am," Ben said smoothly. "And I'm more than willing to prove it."
"Do you still have tomorrow off?" Jesse asked coyly.
"Indeed I do," Ben said with a smile. "Can I pry you away from your keyboard to come out and play tomorrow?" Jesse returned to his bed and stretched out.
"What did you have in mind?"
"Anything you want," Ben said. "Or we could start with brunch and let fate take us from there."
"I like that idea."
"Where do I pick you up?"
"You can't," Jesse said awkwardly. "Our base of operations is--."
"--Apparently not the old Sullivan's Drug Store."
"I understand. Just tell me where to meet you."
"Why not just meet where you dropped me off this morning? I can leave my car there."
"Cool. So what are you wearing? And don't spare the details--you don't have to worry about distracting me this time."
They talked for another twenty minutes, trading provocative comments and just enjoying a chance to talk again. Jesse sat up and peered at the door when he heard a noise.
"I think I'd better go. It sounds like there's something going on outside."
"Nothing serious, I hope," Ben said with concern.
"No, no; but I think Shal wants me," Jesse replied.
"Don't we all?" Ben sighed. "Goodnight beautiful."
"'Night, Ben." Jesse said with a smile. "I'm looking forward to tomorrow." He hung up the phone and went to the door. "Are you eavesdropping on me?"
"No!" Shalimar said. "I was just waiting for you to get off the phone. Lexa ran Barrett's name through the Dominion database and we came up with something."
"Let's see!" Jesse said eagerly. He took off down the hall toward the office. Shalimar just stood for a moment watching him.
She hadn't been eavesdropping but her feral hearing distinctly picked up the sound of Jesse saying goodnight to Ben. But she'd also heard him laughing a moment earlier and speaking in a decidedly flirtatious manner. Surely he wasn't speaking with Ben then, was he?
Shalimar followed Jesse down the hall. Whatever she'd heard, it was none of her business. She was just happy that Jesse seemed so upbeat. But she couldn't stop wondering as she reached the office and saw him reading over Lexa's shoulder.
"This guy's really bad news," Lexa was saying. "He was a staff researcher at Genomex thirty years ago, Jesse. He worked on the team that did the original research on the molecular genome. He was fired, according to this, because of some irregularities in his research findings. Apparently, he faked some of his results and when he was booted out he took some of his research with him.
"He resurfaced a few years ago with his proposal. It was rejected after Genomex protested to the Pentagon that his research was based on stolen data. They also claimed that Barrett's work was shoddy; he'd rushed to judgment on a number of tests that later turned out to be inconclusive."
"So not only is he a mad scientist, he's a bad scientist as well," Jesse said. "Swell."
He sat on the edge of the desk and continued to read the screen. Shalimar observed him from the doorway. Jesse's body language carried none of the tension she had come to associate with his being around Lexa. She didn't really know what had transpired between them, but something had changed of late and Jesse had become uncomfortable in her presence as a result. She was glad to see that he was relaxed now. It meant that he was really getting over her. But she couldn't help wonder what he was getting into.
"Well, I'll continue to follow up on my leads on Monday," Jesse said as he rose from the desk.
"Monday?" Lexa said, looking up at him. "Why not tomorrow?"
"It's the weekend, Lexa," Jesse grinned, "and I, for once, I intend to take advantage of it." He smiled and left the office, pausing at the door to kiss Shalimar's temple. "Night, Shal."
"See what you've done?" Lexa said, as she rose from her seat. "You send him out to play and just like that he forgets all about work."
"Jesse works harder around here than any of us and you know it. He deserves a little time off and it's high time he took it," Shalimar said fervently.
"Shalimar, this is far more important than Jesse's need for down time. There's a mad scientist out there! Jesse very nearly became his victim!"
"You think I don't know that, Lexa?" Shalimar spat back. "Do you think he's forgotten?"
"Hey, what's going on?" Brennan said as he arrived at the office. "It sounds like World War III is about to break out in here."
"Sorry," Shalimar said as she pushed past him and went to her room. Brennan turned to Lexa for an explanation, but she, too, walked away and he was left alone to wonder what they were arguing about so passionately.
Ben was rather surprised to see Jesse at his door at nine o'clock the following morning. They'd arranged to meet in front of the club at eleven. He greeted his guest fresh from his morning workout, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and sneakers--and a welcoming smile.
"I think I'll file this image away for later," Jesse said as he leaned against the doorframe and stared.
"You're early," Ben replied as he mopped his face with a towel.
"Do I get points for being eager?"
"Get in here," Ben said stepping back to let Jesse pass. "I'd kiss you but I'm sweating like a pig. I was just about to hop in the shower before you buzzed."
"Pigs don't sweat," Jesse corrected mildly. "And I think I'll wait till you've showered."
"Make yourself comfortable. There's coffee and juice in the kitchen," Ben said as he headed down the hall. "I'll be back in five."
Jesse helped himself to coffee and located a plate in the cupboard for the muffins he'd brought with him. He arranged them carefully and was looking in a drawer for a knife when a huge cat strode into the kitchen and eyed him warily. It was the largest cat Jesse had ever seen and it hopped up on a stool to get a closer look at the interloper. Jesse stared right back at the giant feline.
"I see you've met Little Bear," Ben said as he swept into the kitchen, clad in a thick terry robe. He leaned over Jesse's shoulder to kiss him. "Good morning."
"Hello," Jesse said returning the compliment. "Little Bear?"
"Well, I think we can guess who the big one is," Ben replied as he reached for a mug.
"There's nothing little about that cat."
Ben chuckled at the remark.
"He's a Maine Coon," he explained, "and an average sized one at that. You brought breakfast! Cool," he observed as he helped himself to a muffin.
"I figured it was the least I could do after showing up uninvited and two hours early."
Ben picked up his mug and the plate and gestured with his head for Jesse to follow. They adjourned to the dining area and sat down at the table.
"Why are you here early?" Ben asked. "Not that I mind at all; you're more than welcome. I'm just surprised to see you."
"Yeah, well, things were a little tense at Sanctuary this morning," Jesse said sheepishly. "Apparently, Lexa is not too thrilled with the idea of my having a life."
"Sanctuary--you've mentioned that before. What is it?"
"It's the name of our home base. Sounds a little pretentious, I suppose, but that's what it's called."
"And Lexa's put out because--?" Ben prompted. Jesse shrugged.
"Brennan goes out chasing women three, four nights a week and no one's ever complained," he said.
"But she objects to you going out twice this week to see me?" Ben asked carefully. Jesse looked up.
"No one knows that I'm seeing you. They haven't asked and I haven't volunteered the information. It's none of their business who I spend my time with, frankly. Lexa just objects to my doing anything but working."
"I see." Ben sat back and regarded Jesse thoughtfully. "It sounds as though she's jealous."
"Jealous!" Jesse spat. "That's rich!"
"Is the idea so farfetched? You're a very handsome, charming, personable guy. My sister still remembers you as 'the sweet, cute one.' She'd be so jealous if she knew I'd slept with you," Ben said as an aside. "My point is that maybe Lexa harbored some feelings toward you and she's not happy to see your attentions turn elsewhere."
"She had her chance," Jesse said quietly. "When she joined Mutant X a few months back I went out of my way to make her feel welcome when the others were openly hostile toward her. She made it quite clear that she wanted to keep her distance. She said that feelings make people vulnerable and she couldn't afford that."
"Then there's no 'maybe' about it. She's definitely feeling jealous." Ben reached out to caress Jesse's cheek. "She's a fool."
Jesse smiled shyly as the cat walked into the dining area and hopped up on an empty chair complaining loudly. Ben reached over and absently scratched his head.
"He prefers blueberry muffins," he explained as the cat continued to voice his displeasure. Jesse watched the cat with fascination as it leaned into Ben's touch, much as Jesse himself had done two nights earlier.
"I'll try and remember that for next time."
"Don't--he has no business eating muffins anyway," Ben said with a wink.
"Is he friendly?"
"I wouldn't get between him and his bowl when he's hungry, but otherwise he's pretty gregarious."
"He sounds a lot like Big Bear."
"Have I told you today how adorable you are?" Ben said before he leaned across the table and kissed Jesse.
On to Part Three