Fandom: Mutant X
Summary: Jesse finds his personal sanctuary--outside of Mutant X. (Set in Season 3.)
Jesse was a bit bewildered at how easily he'd tumbled into bed with Ben. One minute they were eating breakfast and discussing a cat and the next thing he knew he was naked and writhing in Ben's arms. It had never been so easy with a woman. He chalked it up to the fact that men were far more pragmatic about sex. Women always wanted to be romanced first. Ben somehow managed to combine romance and speed and for the second time in three days, Jesse found himself being peeled out of his clothes by the gorgeous, semi-feral man who was currently nuzzling his crotch like a dog. Jesse closed his eyes and sighed. He was of no mind to question his fate.
"If you're thinking about system scans, I'm throwing you out of here and giving Bear back his spot," Ben said after an experimental lick. Jesse knew he was kidding. He defied anyone to think when Ben began to lick long slow strokes the length of his penis. By the time Ben stopped sampling and began to suck him into oblivion Jesse could barely remember his name, much less what a system scan was.
When Ben was done and softly growling into Jesse's shoulder, urgently rubbing himself against Jesse's thigh, Jesse decided that it was time to return the favor. He gathered his courage, rolled Ben onto his back and, taking a deep breath, duplicated the actions Ben just used on him.
Jesse had never before pondered the mechanics involved in giving someone a blowjob, so it was a revelation to him that it required more skill than he thought. At least he felt that it required more skill than he currently possessed. He had trouble figuring out what to do with his tongue, until Ben gently directed him. Jesse was also surprised to find that he liked what he was doing and took great satisfaction in Ben's squirms and moans.
Jesse was too focused on his task to notice when Ben tapped him on his shoulder. As a result, he was taken aback by the sudden spurt of ejaculate that filled his mouth and nearly gagged him. Ben had swallowed, so Jesse did, too. He sloppily wiped his chin and crawled up to lie beside Ben with a smug smile on his face.
"How did I do?" he asked giddily.
"Low on style," Ben said as he wiped a drop of semen from Jesse's chin, "but extra points for effort and enthusiasm," he said before he licked his finger.
"Eww, that's gross!" Jesse said. Ben laughed at the younger man.
"You just swallowed an ounce of this stuff--from the source, I might add--and I'm gross?" Ben asked incredulously. Jesse could only shrug at the flaw in his logic. "Would you like to go and brush your teeth before you kiss me again?"
Jesse grinned and shook his head. Ben leaned over and kissed him and before he knew what had hit him Jesse forgot his name again.
"Having read your profile, I now know that you were born in New York City nearly 35 years ago, we share the same rare blood type and you're allergic to nuts," Jesse said as he toyed with the silky hairs on Ben's forearm. He was lying across Ben's chest as they enjoyed a post-coital bliss.
"Which is a shame because I was just beginning to like you," Ben shot back with a grin.
"Does that mean I'll have to give up my peanut butter obsession?"
"Actually, I outgrew my nut allergy."
"I thought people couldn't do that."
"Most people don't, but some do. I was only allergic to cashews, anyway."
"I'll have to update the database," Jesse decided.
"You have me at a huge disadvantage. I don't have a database," Ben said as he examined the fine hairs at the base of Jesse's scalp. He resisted the urge to lick the exposed skin.
"I'll tell you anything you want to know."
"Where were you born?"
"I was born in Litchfield, Connecticut on May 12, 1973 to Irene and Noah Kilmartin."
Ben sat up, dislodging Jesse.
"You're one of those Kilmartins?"
"You've heard of them?"
"The Kilmartins of Litchfield and the Fitzwilliams of Greenwich and New York are old friends from way back."
"So we're just continuing a longstanding family tradition," Jesse suggested playfully. Ben fell back on the bed laughing.
"I doubt our forefathers would say so."
"I doubt our current fathers would say so--not that mine is likely to care," Jesse said. Ben waited for an explanation, but Jesse fell silent.
"Well, my dad would be highly amused," Ben said in an attempt to lighten the mood. "My branch of the family has a lovely flair for irony."
"So you come by your biting wit naturally?"
"I come by my wit and my biting naturally," Ben replied, before he nipped Jesse's earlobe. Jesse yelped and sat up. Ben followed, nipping at his shoulder as he tried vainly to escape the assault. Ben pinned Jesse to the mattress so he couldn't scramble away and continued to bite, lick and kiss the back of his shoulder.
"Ow! Hey!" Jesse squealed. He managed to wriggle forward far enough so that he could turn over. Undaunted, Ben proceeded to bite Jesse's abdomen. Jesse stopped struggling and lifted his head to watch as Ben licked at his navel.
"Do you always treat your lovers like food?"
"I have to admit that none of them have ever looked as edible as you," Ben replied between licks at Jesse's appendix scar.
"Cute," Jesse sighed as he let his head fall back.
"Adorable," Ben whispered. "And delicious."
"That tickles, you know."
Ben bit Jesse just under a rib and he nearly leapt off the bed.
"Ouch!" Jesse giggled as he lay back down.
"Don't get comfortable," Ben said as he rose from the bed. "I'm starving. Let's go have that brunch."
"Sounds good to me," Jesse said as he slid out of bed. "Maybe if we get something into your belly you'll stop treating me like a teething toy."
"Dream on," Ben said as he gestured for Jesse to precede him into the bathroom. Jesse moved cautiously and turned to run when Ben smiled predatorily and chased him to the shower.
After they showered and dressed, Ben and Jesse repaired to a small restaurant a few blocks from Ben's apartment. They took a seat at an outside table and perused the menu together. They placed their orders and sipped iced coffees while they waited for their meal. Both men looked up a few minutes later when they heard Ben's name called from somewhere behind them. Ben froze and turned to look over his shoulder as Jesse looked on curiously.
"Ben! I thought that was you! I knew there couldn't be two such gorgeous men in this city."
Ben rose to acknowledge the woman who had spoken. Jesse smiled as he watched Ben bend to kiss her cheek.
"Hello, Grandma Bess," he said dutifully. He straightened up after receiving a warm hug, and the diminutive septuagenarian noticed Jesse for the first time.
"Well, well; I stand corrected. Hello, beautiful," she said. Ben looked skyward and shook his head.
"Jesse Kilmartin, it's my somewhat dubious honor to introduce Bess Fitzwilliam--beloved grandmother and incorrigible flirt."
"So that's where you got it from," Jesse said as he rose and charmed Bess with a smile.
"He had to learn fast, too. I was stealing all his boyfriends," she replied with a wink. Jesse was surprised by the ease with which she spoke of her grandson's sexuality. "I do hope you're his boyfriend. I'd love to make off with you."
"I won't stand much of a chance with him if you scare him away, Grandma Bess," Ben quipped. "Will you join us?"
"Oh, she won't scare me away," Jesse said gallantly as he held a chair. Bess wrapped her arm around one of his and spoke conspiratorially.
"Ben is quite the prize, isn't he? I'd put up with frequent sexual harassment from his adorable but incorrigibly flirtatious grandmother to keep him, if I were you." Jesse's cheeks glowed as he stole a glance at Ben, who was very amused by Jesse's bewildered expression.
"So, Grandma Bess," Ben said as he gently extricated Jesse from her grasp and sat her down, "what brings you out on this lovely afternoon?" Bess waited for Ben to sit and then patted the seat beside her. Jesse reluctantly sat down and she promptly resumed her grip on his arm.
"Oh, I just came from the doctor," she said.
"Nothing's wrong, I hope," Jesse replied.
"Oh, aren't you a dear for worrying," Bess cooed as she caressed his cheek. "But when you reach my age it doesn't hurt to periodically get checked out to make sure all your parts are still in working order."
"It also doesn't hurt that her doctor is my age and looks like Hugh Grant."
"That's just a bonus," Bess said defensively. "I'm in perfect health, thank you so much for asking. I'll very likely outlive you, I'm so healthy."
"I hope so," Ben said as he nuzzled his grandmother's temple. "I want to see you dance at my 100th birthday party."
"If the dance is with hot stuff here, I'll be there will bells on," she said as she patted Jesse's thigh and rose. "Wait--did you say Kilmartin?" she asked. "I once knew a Moira Kilmartin."
"She's my grandmother," Jesse said proudly.
"She was a lovely woman," Bess said as she once again caressed Jesse's cheek. "You have her eyes."
"Take your hands off of him, you!" Ben cried as he pried Bess's hand away.
"I'd better get going. I've got things to do at home and I've taken up enough of your date."
"We aren't on a date," Jesse said. Bess raised her eyebrows, clearly registering disbelief.
"Oh," she said with a curious look at Ben. He returned a look that promised an explanation at a later time. "It was lovely to meet you, Jesse Kilmartin. Goodbye, my darling," she said as she hugged Ben tightly. Both men smiled as they watched her go.
"Are we?" Jesse asked, interrupting Ben's reverie.
"Well, if you have to ask..."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make that sound the way it did."
"It's all right. I don't think that a post-roll in the hay brunch constitutes a date."
"It doesn't?" Jesse asked ingenuously.
"No," Ben smiled. "So that means we still have that to look forward to. Dinner, movie...do you like to dance?"
"With men?" Jesse squeaked.
"With anyone; never mind. I don't think you're ready for that yet," Ben teased.
"I'm sorry," Jesse said again, but Ben put a finger to his lips.
"We've all been there, Jesse," he said gently.
"I know," the younger man replied, frustration writ plain on his face. "It's just that we spent one night together and all of a sudden everything's changed. I guess I'm kind of freaked. Not about us," he added hastily. "It's everything else that comes with it." Ben sighed dramatically.
"Yeah, Grandma Bess has that effect on people," he said before becoming serious. "Look, Jess, nothing's changed. You're still you. Maybe you're you with a whole lot of uncharted territory before you, but you're still the same Jesse Kilmartin you were before our first kiss two nights ago. Nothing has to change because of that kiss--or what occurred in the ensuing hours--unless you want it to. I won't ask you to change a thing. I'm very attracted to you. I want a relationship with you, but I'm not looking for a renovation project. You have to decide whether or not we want the same thing and then you've got to think about what, if any, changes you're willing to accept to have it. Some of those changes you may want to make for yourself. Others, people may want to force on you--attitudes about same-sex relationships, for example. But it's your call, Jesse."
"I guess I feel a little confused."
"I know what you're feeing. I also woke up in a man's bed one morning feeling very confused."
"How did you deal with it?"
"With typical procrastination--I stayed in that bed for as long as I could," he said with a roguish smile. Jesse rolled his eyes and Ben reached out to put his hand on Jesse's arm. He retracted it immediately, however, when he felt Jesse stiffen.
"I'm sorry," Jesse said apologetically. "I--."
"It's okay," Ben said, shoving his hands into his pockets to avoid the temptation to touch the skittish man. Their food came a few minutes later, providing Ben with a welcome distraction.
"So is no one going to do any work this weekend?"
"Face it, Lexa; normal people take the weekend off."
"And what if something happens?"
"Like when we got that call about a domestic dispute between two mutants?"
"Oh, will you get past that already? I'm talking about you and Jesse going out to play when--."
"Oh yes, let's get back to Jesse, shall we?" Shalimar said, turning to confront Lexa.
"What about him?"
"He's a healthy, normal heterosexual male, Lexa; he needs to go out and play."
"So you sent him out to get some ass?"
"Well, he certainly wasn't getting any here," Shalimar said, taking delight in seeing Lexa flinch uncomfortably. She turned and strode to the garage with a smug smile on her face.
After brunch, Ben and Jesse took a long walk in the park. They talked about a number of things, but mostly Ben allowed Jesse to satisfy his curiosity about Ben's experience in coming to terms with his sexuality. Ben answered every one of Jesse's questions without hesitation, including about his first experience with a man five years earlier.
Jesse was very careful not to pry too deeply, both because he respected Ben's privacy and because he wasn't sure he wanted to imagine Ben with anyone else. It hit him then--like a thunderbolt--that he was falling for Ben hard and fast and he didn't mind it one bit.
He looked up and saw he was several steps behind Ben, who'd turned to wait for him. Jesse smiled and received Ben's warm smile in return. Ben extended his hand and this time when he placed it on Jesse's shoulder it was welcome.
"Ready to acquire a new skill?" Ben whispered in Jesse's ear as he pressed him to the mattress hours later.
"I have yet to master the last one I tried," Jesse replied as Ben blew on Jesse's chest and raised gooseflesh.
"This is true," Ben said lightly. He flopped face down on the bed and rolled onto his back. "I insist you practice until you perfect your technique," he said with a gesture of his hand towards his crotch. Jesse laughed as he clumsily sat up to reposition himself.
They were both nicely buzzed. As promised, Ben had taken Jesse on a proper date--dinner and a movie--followed by a pub crawl through some of the area's more colorful bars. It was Jesse's idea to try a gay bar. He wanted an exposure to "the life," as Ben called it. But it had been Ben's idea to visit several and in descending order, beginning with an upscale club that Jesse never would have dreamed catered to gay clientele and ending with a dive that looked so seedy Jesse was hesitant to go in. It turned out not to be as scary inside, even though Ben dismissed it as a "meat market."
At each of their stops Jesse was hit on by bouncers, bartenders, waiters, and patrons alike. He was amused, in an abstract way, by how easily his admirers identified him as a virgin. Ben explained that in addition to being a new face, Jesse had an "irresistible aura of purity" about him.
"Is that what attracted you to me?" Jesse had asked him boldly.
"I'd be lying if I said that your innocence wasn't a big part of your appeal. It truly is irresistible," Ben said lightly touching his cheek. "But I'm not out to put notches on my bedpost, Jesse. I wanted more than just a conquest from the beginning." Ben looked down at his beer and frowned. "What first attracted you to me?"
"I thought you were hot," Jesse said simply. Ben blinked. "No, seriously, I did. I also thought you were charming, and funny and probably a lot more than I was prepared to deal with. But mostly, I thought you were incredibly hot."
"Thanks," Ben said evenly. He tried to keep a straight face but Jesse could see that he was very flattered. Hours later, in Ben's bedroom, Jesse tried to flatter Ben again as he kissed and caressed his way down his body. Ben was practically purring.
"You know," Jesse said matter-of-factly between a series of nibbles just beneath Ben's navel, "you really shouldn't flash your eyes at people in bars."
"Well, they shouldn't come on to my date, either," Ben said.
"That's no excuse for scaring them half to death," Jesse chuckled.
"Well, the growling wasn't working with those characters in that dive. Sterner measures were called for," Ben said as he bucked his hips. He breathlessly apologized for smacking Jesse in the nose. "Have you always been such a quick study?"
Jesse grinned up at him with a full mouth. Ben groaned at the sight and forced himself to lie still. It took a Herculean effort, especially when Jesse licked a spot beneath his balls in a way that made him see stars. When he finally relented, Jesse crawled up to lie beside Ben, who was still whimpering to himself. Jesse pulled him into his arms and held him till he stilled.
"So was I any better this time?" he asked. Ben raised his head and examined Jesse's chin.
"I don't see any spillage, but you could have wiped," he said critically. "Enthusiasm and effort still an A+, though," he said before he let his head drop to Jesse's chest.
"Rest up a bit and then I'll go again," Jesse said smugly. Ben lifted his head again and looked him in the eye. "Hey, you're the one who said--and I quote, 'I insist you practice until you perfect your technique.'" Ben groaned and muttered an oath.
"Go to sleep, kid," he said wearily.
"Uh, no," Jesse said brazenly, nudging Ben with his hips to remind him that there was still some unfinished business. Ben sighed.
"Note to self," Ben muttered as he took Jesse's erection in hand, "always service the impertinent youth first." Jesse laughed and leaned forward to kiss his shoulder. A moment later he groaned and fell back among the pillows, panting Ben's name.
"Watch and learn, kid," Ben said. "There'll be a quiz later."
"An oral quiz?" Jesse asked, lifting his head to peer at Ben.
"Want me to start biting again?"
Jesse left Ben's place after a late breakfast the following morning. He returned to Sanctuary and discovered that it was empty. Shalimar had left a note saying that she was taking "another" ride, but there was nothing to indicate where Lexa or Brennan had gone. Jesse did a few chores and then settled in at his computer to start on the second round of research on Jerome Barrett. He worked for about an hour before he heard signs that the others were returning. What he actually heard, though, was Lexa and Shalimar arguing. He came out of his room to see the women standing toe to toe.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"They're fighting over you again, Jess," Brennan said as he strode into the room. "They've been at it like this since you left." Jesse eyed both women curiously.
"Lexa doesn't seem to think you're entitled to a life," Shalimar said.
"Lexa is mistaken," Jesse replied as he turned his attention to the dark-haired mutant. "Not that it's worth arguing about."
He turned and walked back into his room and sat down again as the other three members of Mutant X stared after him. Shalimar and Brennan exchanged a shrug. Brennan shook his head and walked away, as did Lexa. Shalimar peeked into Jesse's room.
"Come in, Shal," Jesse said without turning around. She smiled and walked over to him, bending to lightly kiss the top of his head.
"Hi, handsome. Did you have a nice time?"
"Yes, I did," Jesse smiled.
"I'm not going to pry," Shalimar said tentatively.
"Good," Jesse said as he typed in his search parameters.
"Of course, if you were willing to volunteer something..."
Jesse turned to look up at Shalimar, who shrugged.
"It was worth a shot."
"Do I pry into your private life?"
"My private life isn't all that private," she replied. "And yes, you have," Shalimar added as she playfully slapped his shoulder.
"I was just doing the scary big brother thing," Jesse chuckled.
"You certainly scared him away," she said as she recalled a potential romance that fizzled after Jesse's intervention.
"Shal, he was a loser. You deserve better."
"So do you. Just remember that. If your new 'friend' acts up she'll have to answer to me."
Jesse laughed at the thought of Ben and Shalimar butting heads over him.
"I'll remember that."
Jesse saw Ben twice over the course of the next week, managing to sneak out to meet him for lunch one day and to spend one evening at his place midweek. He was looking forward to the weekend when he would have more time to spend with Ben. Until then, their respective schedules made it virtually impossible to do more than talk on the phone. Jesse's day began each morning with a wakeup call from Ben. Jesse tried to return the favor during the day when time allowed. Often as not, though, they had to settle for exchanging racy text messages.
Shalimar casually observed Jesse frequently checking his phone. Brennan noted it, too, and teased Jesse about being at the beck and call of his new girlfriend. Jesse took the ribbing in stride, which only made Shalimar even more curious.
When he wasn't trading messages with Ben, Jesse was working hard to track down Barrett. He managed to identify a few likely places where Barrett might be hiding out and conducting his experiments. Each member of Mutant X was assigned a site to check out and all came up empty handed.
Undaunted, Jesse went back to his research and he found that there was a long-abandoned air raid shelter underneath the site Brennan had checked. He and Brennan went there to do a bit of reconnaissance. They found evidence that suggested that the facility was occupied and headed back to Sanctuary to discuss their findings with the others.
"Let's grab a beer before we head back," Brennan suggested as they turned onto the highway.
"I'm up for that," Jesse replied. "Where do you want to go?"
"Let's go to that club you've been hanging out at, lately. I imagine the women there are very pretty."
"I wouldn't know," Jesse replied honestly. Brennan glanced at him.
"You wouldn't know?"
"Well, I haven't been there lately," Jesse admitted.
"You weren't there last Saturday?" Brennan asked suspiciously.
"No. I went out to eat and then saw a movie."
"Jesse, Jesse, Jesse...alone on a Saturday night?"
"Who said anything about being alone?"
"You didn't have to say it. I really need to take you under my wing and teach you a few things about the opposite sex."
"Thanks, but no thanks," Jesse replied. He was far more interested in his own sex these days, but there was no way he was going to tell Brennan that just yet.
"The 'M' Club is on Fulton, right?"
"Why don't we just go to Tony's? It's closer to Sanctuary." Jesse asked. He knew that Ben and his partner on the detective squad both lived a short distance from the club. They often stopped in for an after work beer before going their separate ways.
"But we're closer to the 'M' Club and I'm thirsty," Brennan insisted. "Besides, I want to check it out. I hear it's a great place to meet the ladies." Jesse rolled his eyes as they pulled up in front of the club and found a convenient parking place. He reluctantly followed Brennan into the club and took a seat at the bar. The bartender greeted Jesse by name and eyed Brennan strangely as he served him his beer.
"What's up with him?" Brennan asked.
"I have no idea," Jesse said.
"Nice looking crowd."
"Yeah, it's a nice place, though it's pretty quiet on weeknights," Jesse said as he glanced up at the bartender, who was gesturing with his head. Jesse turned around and saw Ben emerging from the men's room. Brennan also spotted Ben at the same moment.
"Hey, it's that cop we met that night," he said. "What was his name?"
"Ben," Jesse said softly. He'd been looking forward to seeing Ben again, but seeing him while in Brennan's company was not what he'd had in mind.
"Ben!" Brennan called out. He needn't have bothered. Ben's feral senses had already picked up Jesse's scent and he was on his way over. Brennan stuck out his hand and greeted Ben like an old friend. "Hey, how ya doin'?" he said. "You remember Jesse, don't you?"
"Yes," Ben replied, "the last time I saw you, though, you were sleeping like a baby." Brennan had no way of knowing that Ben was referring to two nights earlier, when Ben left Jesse sleeping at his place to respond to a summons from his commanding officer to investigate a late night homicide. Jesse awoke a short time later and went home before Ben returned just after dawn.
"Jesse, this is the man who saved your life," Brennan said.
"We've met," Jesse said smugly.
"Oh, yeah, right," Brennan apologized. "Shal said something about you hanging two out together a couple of weeks ago."
Ben sensed Jesse's mild discomfort and quickly chalked it up to a fear of being outed.
"Why don't you join us for a beer? I'm buying," Brennan offered.
"I just had one and was about to head home," Ben said, looking to Jesse for a sign that he should leave. To his surprise, however, Jesse endorsed the suggestion, adding that it had been a while since they'd seen each other. The trio repaired to a table and settled in with their drinks.
"You know, I'm glad you've taken an interest in Jesse here," Brennan said. "The poor guy has had really lousy luck with women lately." Jesse's mouth fell open.
"Is that a fact?" Ben replied. "Poor Jesse," he smirked into his beer.
"I bet you can help him out. You have no problems with women, do you?"
"I am very proud to say that I have none whatsoever," Ben replied impishly before leaning on the table and speaking to Brennan conspiratorially. "So, what's his problem?" Jesse looked up and glared into Ben's laughing eyes.
"I don't know, exactly," Brennan replied as he gave Jesse an appraising look. "He's obviously got all the essentials: he's a good looking guy, he's got the clothes, the car, and the cash. He just never seems to get the girl." Jesse turned his glare on him and began to sputter a protest as the taller mutant pressed on. "Come on, Jess! You struck out with Lexa, and she knows better than most what a great guy you are," Brennan said, digging a deeper grave for himself.
"Maybe Jesse doesn't really want to get the girl," Ben suggested, emphasizing the last word. To Jesse's surprise, Brennan laughed. Ben turned to Jesse and shrugged.
"Are you kidding, man?" Brennan cried. "Jesse? Does he strike you as the kind of guy who wants to play the field?"
"Are you?" Ben asked Jesse, with a look that was meant for him alone. Ben could sense Jesse's annoyance and was turned on by the slight increase in Jesse's respiration.
"Look, Ben, Jess is a great guy, really, but let's face it--he's a nerd."
"You don't look like a nerd, Jesse," Ben said with another smoldering look.
"Thank you," Jesse said gratefully.
"Take my word for it. Jesse is a card-carrying member of the nerd society. White bread, safe, boring--he's the kind of guy fathers love seeing their daughters involved with," Ben said.
"Of course, that would be a flash card, right?" Ben said with a wink. Jesse rolled his eyes.
"Can we change the subject, please?" he begged.
"No, actually, I'd like to hear what Brennan has to say about your love life," Ben replied. "Do go on, Brennan."
"Jesse's a romantic," Brennan declared.
"A romantic nerd?" Ben frowned.
"So how do you know he's not doing well in the romance department?" Ben asked with genuine curiosity.
"Well, when Jesse falls for someone she's all he ever talks about. He can't seem to think or talk about anything else. It drives me and Shal crazy. I half expect to catch him writing the girl's name all over his notebook like a high school kid with a crush."
"All over his netbook, you mean," Ben quipped. The joke was lost on Brennan, but Jesse smirked and punched Ben in the arm. "So when he falls he falls hard, eh?" Jesse glowed with embarrassment.
"Yeah and he gets sappy, too," Brennan teased.
"That's a lie!" Jesse cried. "I'm going to finish my beer at the bar," he announced, "though truly, Brennan, we should think about getting back to Sanctuary. We didn't tell anyone we were making a stop."
"Pity," Ben said with a soft smile for Jesse. "This was just beginning to get interesting."
"Yeah, well, maybe some other time," Jesse said sarcastically. "Maybe we can dissect Bren's love life. That's vastly more entertaining."
"Hey, why don't the three of us go out together tomorrow night?" Brennan suggested. "Maybe you and I can teach Jess a thing or two about women since he's obviously not getting any action in that quarter."
"I'd love to," Ben replied promptly with a look at Jesse, who appeared to be on the verge of apoplexy. Ben was aroused by the pulsing of blood in Jesse's veins. "But I think I may have other plans," he added after a second. His look changed from teasing to hot in a millisecond and his feral senses picked up the immediate change in Jesse's scent.
"Me too," Jesse said with a slow smile.
"Yeah, right, Jess," Brennan said. "But hey, more for me." Jesse rolled his eyes as he rose from the table. He flashed a smile at Ben, albeit brief.
"Have a great time tomorrow night," he said.
"I'm sure I will," Ben replied. "You, too."
"Thanks," Jesse said, averting his eyes lest he give something away. Brennan said goodbye to Ben and the two men walked back to Brennan's car.
"He seems like a nice guy," Brennan said.
"I like him a lot," Jesse said cagily as he strapped himself into the passenger seat. Inside the club, meanwhile, Ben went to the bar to retrieve the jacket he'd left there earlier.
"The kid's got balls, I'll say that for him," the bartender said.
"Jesse? Yeah, he's got balls. But that wasn't what you think it was. Those two work together, like me and Dan."
"Ah," the bartender said with a crooked smile. "In that case, can you get me the other one's number?"
"Probably--but I have to warn you; he bats for the other team."
"So did Jesse, before you got a hold of him."
"True," Ben admitted as he waved and headed for the door.
He walked to his apartment, stopping at the local market to pick up some salmon for dinner. He was tossing a salad when the phone rang. Ben knew who it was before he heard Jesse's voice.
"Hello, Jesse," he said smugly.
"Hello yourself," the blond mutant replied. "Did you have fun jerking my chain at the club?"
"Not nearly as much as I would have had jerking it here," Ben replied. He smiled at the slight intake of breath on the other end of the line. "Hello?"
"You're in a very good mood today."
"Have you ever seen me not in a good mood?" Ben asked as he offered a cooked broccoli spear to Little Bear. The cat carried off his prize to eat it in the corner.
"Let's see; last Saturday at that dive you seemed to lose your sense of humor when that guy in leather--."
"I didn't like the way he was staring at your ass," Ben said defensively. "But you're right," he conceded. "That did put me right off my good mood."
"Speaking of being put off, I'm really sorry about Brennan's behavior," Jesse began.
"He doesn't know we're dating."
"No," Jesse admitted. "I still haven't told anyone."
"All right," Ben said calmly as he set the salad aside and washed his hands.
"It's not that I'm ashamed of what we're doing--."
"I never thought that, Jesse, and as I told you on Saturday, I'll leave it to you to decide if and when you want to come out to your friends. I will say this, though. If you do plan on telling them at some point, sooner is going to be better than later for everyone involved."
"I know," Jesse sighed. "It's just that, well, I'm still working out some things. Not about us," he added hastily.
"Are you sure?" Ben asked. He went into the dining room to sit down. "Look, Jess, I don't want to rush you into anything. I've made it clear that I want a relationship with you. But if you have doubts--."
"No, that's not it," Jesse insisted. "I really like what's happening between us. For the first time in a very long time--too long a time--I have something in my life that makes me want to wake up in the morning."
"Are you sure? I was under the impression that nothing makes you want to wake up in the morning," Ben teased.
"I'm serious, Ben," Jesse said, even though Ben could hear the smile in his voice. "What we have is important...very important to me."
"No buts. It's important."
"Then why do I get the impression there's something you aren't telling me?"
"I'm not keeping anything from you. I'm just trying to keep my life with Mutant X and my life with you separate. For the last ten years my life has belonged to Mutant X and the cause. Everything I did, everything I said...just everything was Mutant X. I had nothing of my own, no life outside of the cause. I only dated women I'd met through the underground because I was afraid that a non-mutant wouldn't understand me or my commitment to Mutant X. But it's different with you."
"I'm a mutant, Jess."
"I know that, Ben, but my attraction to you, my relationship with you has nothing to do with that. I would have gone out with you regardless of what you were. I didn't fall for you because you're a mutant. I fell for you the first time I saw you, long before I found out you were a feral. I really like the idea of having a private life that truly is a private life. Maybe I'm being selfish keeping you to myself, but right now I don't feel like sharing you with Mutant X. Do you understand that?"
"You've noticed that I'm not willing to share you with anyone," Ben said sardonically.
"Yes and you think nothing of growling at people twice your size," Jesse teased.
"That guy would have presented no challenge," Ben sighed as he rose and returned to the kitchen. Little Bear was waiting for another broccoli spear and Ben handed him one. "If you have any idea what a full-grown grizzly is capable of you know that. So when am I going to see you again--alone, preferably."
"Yeah, I was just thinking about that. How about if I take you out tomorrow night? Or are you supposed to be calling all the shots?"
"Not at all," Ben replied with a smile. "Where are you planning on taking me?"
"Do you like seafood?"
"Do bears shit in the woods?"
"None that I've met," Jesse quipped. "But, I'll take that as a yes. There's a great seafood place near the river I really like. I only take special dates there, though."
"Glad to hear that I rate," Ben said as he grabbed the salad and returned to the dining room to eat it while the salmon baked in the oven. "So what are you wearing?"
"Are you done, lover boy?" Lexa said sarcastically when Jesse finished his call and headed for the kitchen. He turned and regarded her oddly.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You were talking to your new girlfriend, weren't you?"
"And you're not the least bit bitter," Jesse muttered under his breath as he resumed walking.
"While you were busy whispering sweet nothings into the phone, Brennan got me caught up what you two found at that old shelter."
"Great," Jesse replied as he opened the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of juice. "I'm glad to know that my need to make a phone call didn't interfere with your obsessive-compulsive desire to work." Jesse walked past Lexa, intent on returning to his room. Lexa bristled at his dismissal.
"If you've got a moment to spare for serious business, I'd like to talk to you about our next steps."
"Lexa, my next step is into the shower. I'll be happy to discuss whatever you want once I've showered and changed."
"I'd offer to join you and kill two birds with one stone, but I'm sure your new girlfriend wouldn't approve," Lexa said coyly. Jesse was surprised by her remark, but he smiled.
"Actually, my new lover has a possessive streak a mile wide; not a good idea to mess with a feral's temper." He continued down the hall back toward his room. Lexa watched him go. Shalimar observed their exchange from the living area and frowned thoughtfully.
After he showered and changed, Jesse sought out Lexa and sat down with her to discuss their next steps. Brennan and Shalimar joined them and an argument soon developed over Lexa's choice of strategy.
"Have you forgotten what the Black Widow did to that poor man who was found in her basement? Have you forgotten what she tried to do to Jesse?" Shalimar said.
"I'm sorry, Shal, but I'm with Lexa on this. We have to go after this guy now," Brennan said.
"But we can't go in half-cocked," Shalimar insisted. "At this point we have no idea what we're dealing with. We need more information."
"What for? We know where Barrett is, let's get him before he has a chance to get his hands on another mutant," Lexa said.
"I agree," Brennan said firmly.
"What do you think, Jesse, if you're thinking about this at all," Lexa said sarcastically. Jesse looked up. He'd been staring at his hands since the argument began.
"Define 'get him' first," he challenged.
"Let's get this guy off the streets!" Lexa replied exasperatedly.
"For what?" Jesse asked calmly. "All we have is a site that is very likely Barrett's base of operations. At this point we have absolutely no evidence that he's done anything illegal, or that he has any evil intentions, except for a paper he wrote a decade ago. We have nothing to tie him to the Black Widow or the disappearances. We have no proof that he has any interest in this field of research anymore. Hell, we don't even know if he's there."
"If he's not our man, why is he working out of a bunker? You think he's down there 'cause the rent is cheap and it's got good acoustics?" Lexa asked.
"Yeah," Brennan said, taking up her argument. "If the guy's got nothing to hide, why is he working out of a secret hideout?"
"Does having a secret hideout make someone a bad guy?" Jesse asked pointedly. He gestured at their surroundings and stared at Brennan till he looked away. "Look, all I'm saying is that before we do anything we need to be sure of our facts."
"So we do a raid, grab Barrett and make him answer some questions," Brennan suggested.
"Or we could simply do a little more research," Jesse countered.
"What research? You said you couldn't find anything else on the net," Brennan argued.
"We do it the old fashioned way," Jesse replied. "We do a little legwork, we watch his place. We get something we can take to the police. In fact, maybe we should start with the police," Jesse said thoughtfully. "I'll ask Ben if he got any information from the Black Widow that ties her to Barrett. Who knows; maybe we can even use Barrett as leverage to get the information we need."
Lexa shook her head and walked away. Jesse found that reaction odd, but Brennan, who continued to lobby for a more expeditious end to the investigation, drew his attention.
"Brennan, if we don't build a solid case against Barrett, he'll walk. We can't afford to be sloppy about this."
"Jesse's right," Shalimar said. "If we want to put this Barrett away we've got to get the goods on him and build a solid case before we act."
Brennan relented and agreed to the scheme. The three began to map out a strategy for keeping an eye on Barrett's place. They drew straws to establish a schedule for a stakeout of the air raid shelter.
"Well, it looks as though you won't be using those plans for tomorrow night after all," Brennan grinned. "You get the late night shift."
"Swell," Jesse replied darkly.
"I'll switch with you," Shalimar promptly offered. "I have no plans for tomorrow night and I'm nocturnal by nature anyway."
"Thanks, Shal, but fair is fair," Jesse said as he rose and headed for his room. Brennan was highly amused by Jesse's fate, but Shalimar frowned and followed him to his room. When she reached his door and was about to knock she heard him speaking on the phone.
"Hey, Ben, it's me. Would you mind if we had lunch tomorrow instead of dinner? Something came up and I'm going to be busy tomorrow night... No, nothing serious, just Mutant X business... Hey, do I ask you about police business?"
Jesse laughed at something Ben apparently said, and Shalimar backed away from the door. But as she discreetly left Jesse to his personal conversation her feral hearing nonetheless picked up more of his words.
"Yes, I'll still take you to the same place. They serve lunch--actually, we could do an early dinner, but I'd rather we had more time together... Well, for that, too, but I thought we might actually share a little quality time. I always feel like we're always rushing off in different directions... Yeah. So what are you wearing?"
Shalimar watched Jesse's car pull up a short distance from where she was perched on the ledge of a building a short distance from the entrance to Barrett's hideout. She jumped and landed on the hood of the car as gracefully as a cat. Jesse smiled at her and got out of the car.
"That had better not be scratched," he teased as she neatly slid off the car and leaned against it. "Anything happening?"
"Nope. I did get a glimpse of Barrett about three hours ago, but that was it. There's been no activity in or out since."
"Cool," Jesse said. He reached through the window and grabbed a small bag that was sitting on the dashboard. He handed it to Shalimar. "Here, I brought you a treat."
"Oatmeal raisin?" Shalimar pulled Jesse into a hug, "You're so sweet."
"Well, I was near Sandolino's Bakery--hey, wait a minute! You didn't even open the bag!"
"Don't have to," Shalimar said as she opened it and inhaled. "I could smell this luscious thing before you took it out of the car."
"You ferals and your sense of smell," Jesse chuckled as he leaned against the car and accepted Shalimar's offer of a chunk of her saucer-sized cookie.
"Oh, that's right," she replied, "Ben's a feral, too, isn't he?"
"Yes," Jesse said with a frown. "How did you know I was talking about Ben?"
"I said I wouldn't pry," Shalimar said tentatively.
"But you've been talking to him on the phone a lot over the past three weeks."
"Yeah, we've become good friends," Jesse replied.
"Very good friends, I'd say," Shalimar replied cryptically.
"I guess so," Jesse said, avoiding her eyes.
"You guess so?" Shalimar rolled up the bag and placed it on the hood before turning to confront him. "Jess, you really don't think I'd disapprove of your relationship, do you?"
"With Ben," Shalimar said with a smile. She wrapped an arm around his shoulder. "Let's examine the evidence, shall we? Not only do you speak with him on the phone every day, three or four times a day, you've also come home twice wearing clothes that didn't belong to you. Now, I've come home wearing a man's shirt before but I borrowed it from my boyfriend. I can't imagine you being involved with a gal who has a ready supply of men's wear around--unless she owned a clothing store. Besides, you've let Brennan speculate wildly about your new 'girlfriend' but you've never once used the word yourself. You even referred to your 'lover' once, and I've never heard you use that term in that way before."
Jesse opened his mouth and closed it again, reconsidering his words. Shalimar waited for him to gather his thoughts.
"You've been spying on me," he said softly.
"No, I've just got super-sensitive hearing and good powers of observation," she replied. "I wasn't trying to pry into your personal life, Jess, honestly. In fact, I kept trying to convince myself that I was imagining things until tonight." Jess looked up and Shalimar lifted his chin a bit higher to examine the bite mark on his neck. "Kinky," she said with a wink.
"It's a feral thing," Jesse said with a lopsided smile. "That and the licking."
"I know," Shalimar said with an amused flash of her eyes. She glanced up at him. "He's the one you met at the club that first night." Jesse nodded, smiling shyly.
"We only spoke for a few minutes that night; you called me away to that domestic abuse situation. But we clicked right away. I did manage to meet up with him again the next night, but the Black Widow had other plans. Fortunately, Ben was able to prevent her from following through on them."
"Way to impress a guy, playing the hero," Shalimar teased.
"I know," Jesse said with a slight coloring of his cheeks.
"Are you happy?" she asked. Jesse nodded and she pulled him into a hug. "That's all that matters." Jesse kissed her hair and held her for a moment. "What do you say I stick around and keep you company?" Shalimar suggested as she picked up the bag and walked around to the passenger side of the car.
"Fishing for details?" Jesse smirked as he got in on the driver's side.
"I'm not fishing for details!" Shalimar said with mock horror. "I'm demanding them."
Jesse laughed and settled in for a long overdue talk. He'd wanted to tell Shalimar about Ben earlier; he'd never kept secrets from her before, so he'd felt guilty about not telling her about his new relationship. It felt good to finally be able to share.
"Yeah," Shalimar said. "I can see it in your eyes whenever you come back from seeing him or after you've spoken to him on the phone. Your entire disposition changes."
"I guess it does. Having him in my life has made me feel so...free," Jesse said with an awkward chuckle. "I know that sounds as corny as hell, but it's true. And he said it's the same for him. Until we met, he's always had to repress his feral nature. With me, he doesn't have to hold back."
"I'm happy for both of you, then," Shalimar said. "But my warning still applies; if he hurts you he's a dead man." Jesse laughed.
"I don't think Ben would ever do that; not intentionally, anyway."
"Good; I'd hate to have to rip off that gorgeous face," Shalimar replied. "And for the record, I am so jealous! It's so not fair that you have a better-looking boyfriend than me! He's really hot."
"You don't know the half of it," Jesse sighed. Shalimar smiled at him like a proud parent. "Shal, I've only kept this to myself because I'm not willing to share him yet. It's not as though I didn't trust you or because I'm ashamed of finding myself in a gay relationship."
"Yeah; how's that working out for you?"
Jesse lightly slapped her arm, but he smiled.
"Ben said I was highly adaptive and flexible."
"Flexible? Exactly what do you boys get up to?"
Even in the dim light of the car Shalimar could see Jesse blush.
Very early the following morning, Jesse returned to Ben's apartment. He and Shalimar handed over stakeout duty to Lexa and were about to head back to Sanctuary when Shalimar suggested that he take the day off and spend it with Ben rather than wait around at home for something to happen. Jesse showed up at Ben's door with a sunny smile on his face. Ben, who'd been awakened by Jesse's 5:00 a.m. call, was far less cheerful. He took one look at Jesse's grinning countenance and frowned.
"It's 5:17," he said with a glower as he closed and locked the door.
"Good morning to you, too," Jess said cheerfully. Ben sighed and headed back to the bedroom. "Grumpy old bear," Jesse muttered affectionately. He slipped off his jacket and followed the gloriously naked figure to the bedroom.
"I heard that!" Ben replied.
"You were meant to," Jesse said. He watched Ben climb back into bed and then sat on the edge to lean in and give him a brief kiss. "Good morning."
"You said that already."
"If this is how you are when you get up every morning, I'm really glad I always sleep till seven."
"At least then you aren't beaming like some deranged human lighthouse. What's wrong with you?"
"You could have just told me to go home, you know," Jesse said, leaning in to kiss the pouting mouth once more.
"Why should I, after you'd already woken me up?" Ben groused, although Jesse's tiny kisses to his forehead, cheeks, nose and mouth had begun to crack the veneer of Ben's charade.
"True," Jesse agreed as he tugged at the sheet to expose a bit more skin to kiss.
"And now you're going to sit here and keep me awake," he complained even as he lifted his chin so that Jesse could nibble at his clavicle. Jesse abruptly sat up.
"You're right. I should probably just go home and let you rest," he said. "I recall hearing somewhere that it's a very bad idea to anger a bear. Now was that at a scout meeting or on a trip to the zoo?" Jesse smiled at Ben's growl.
"It's 5:20 and you're still fully dressed. This I do not understand," Ben said. Jesse grinned again and rose to pull off his tee shirt. He kicked off his shoes and quickly stepped out of his pants and socks. Ben forgot about being surly as he watched Jesse disrobe. "So where have you been all night, or do I want to know, considering that shit-eating grin you can't seem to get off your face?"
"Stakeout," Jesse replied before climbing over Ben and sliding under the covers.
"Have I ever mentioned that my bed is a 'no underwear' zone?" Ben said. Jesse shook his head. "You have fifteen seconds." Less than ten seconds later Jesse handed him his briefs. Ben tossed them across the room. "Now, what was that about a stakeout?"
"It's Mutant X business, Ben. I didn't come here to discuss Mutant X business," Jesse replied as he wormed his way into Ben's arms. Ben kissed the top of his head.
"What aren't you telling me?"
"I'm not telling you anything," Jesse said archly.
He kissed Ben before he could protest and climbed onto his body, straddling his hips as he stole Ben's breath away. Ben ran his hands up Jesse's back and down again, deepening the kiss before taking the lead. He rolled them over so that he was on top and began kissing his way down Jesse's throat. Jesse fought to regain control, but Ben easily pinned his hands down. It was a now-familiar game between them, each one vying for dominance as they worked each other into a frenzy. The animal in Ben loved Jesse's competitive nature and he found their mating ritual highly erotic. Jesse, on the other hand, instinctively rejected the submissive role and tried to level the playing field. Their coupling was hot, passionate and short-lived. The lovers came within seconds of one another and collapsed amid a tangle of sheets. They were hot and sweaty and sticky and neither man cared. By silent and mutual consent, they snuggled on Ben's side of the bed and fell asleep.
"I'm hungry," Jesse said two hours later after a massive yawn. Ben groaned and sat up.
"You ate everything I had in the fridge before you left yesterday," he said. He stretched and climbed out of bed, headed for the bathroom.
"All you had in the fridge was mozzarella cheese and a half pint of chocolate ice cream."
"I haven't gone shopping," Ben said from behind the bathroom door.
"Well, you'd better go," Jesse said as he sat up. "I can't live on love alone, you know." He froze for a moment, cognizant of his statement, but hearing no response from the bathroom he assumed Ben hadn't heard it. He heard the shower start and knocked on the door. "Can I come in?"
Jesse entered the bathroom and quickly relieved his bladder before joining Ben in the shower. Ben immediately pulled him into his arms and started washing his back.
"I do have to go shopping," he said. "I'm down to one can of cat food and if I don't buy more Little Bear will be looking to eat you for dinner."
"Why don't we have breakfast at that little place next to the bakery and then go get some food?" Jesse suggested.
"Sounds like a plan." Ben began to wash the front of Jesse's torso. "Did Shalimar like the cookie you bought her yesterday?"
"Oh, yeah, she's addicted to those things," Jesse said as he turned and allowed Ben to shampoo his hair. He loved showering with Ben, who made the experience a complete indulgence. "She knows about us, by the way."
"You told her?"
"I didn't have to; she figured it out for herself."
"I suppose it's pretty hard to hide something like that from a feral. She could hear, smell and sense the evidence."
"Yeah," Ben said as he gently pushed Jesse under the water to rinse. "She'd be able to tell, for example, that you came home with foreign scents on you: my cologne, my soap--she would even be able to smell my semen if you didn't shower before you left."
"Oh," Jesse said squeamishly. "She noticed that I came home wearing your clothes a couple of times."
"There's a big clue," Ben replied with a smile. "Out," he commanded.
Jesse stepped out of the shower and Ben stayed for a moment to rinse himself off. They got dressed--Jesse in yet another of Ben's shirts--and went to the small diner for breakfast. Afterwards, they hopped into Ben's car and drove over to the supermarket to stock up on food. Ben focused on stocking up on perishable goods, like fresh meat, fish, poultry, vegetables and fruit, while Jesse seemed more interested in snacks. While Ben squeezed mangoes, Jesse scanned the shelves for a jar of peanut butter.
"You are not bringing that into my house," Ben declared firmly.
"I thought you said you weren't allergic to peanuts," Jesse said.
"I'm not, but I do have standards. If you want peanut butter get a decent brand. And I wasn't talking about that, anyway. I meant that," he said pointing to the offending item Jesse had placed in the cart.
"It's staying here."
"I like honey in my--."
"I buy honey in glass jars."
Ben growled and Jesse put the honey-filled bear back on the shelf with a wry grin on his face.
"I am so going to kick your ass when we get home," Ben said softly as they passed a pair of women who turned to admire the two men. "Come on."
"Ooh, Teddy Grahams!" Jesse said ingenuously as he followed Ben to the front of the store and got on line. "Shal loves to bite their little heads...off." He fell silent when Ben turned around and glared at him.
"Are you always like this when you wake up early?"
"You're displaying a callous disregard for your personal safety," Ben said as he began to unload the cart. Jesse moved to help him and whispered as drew closer.
"I can't help it. You're so damned hot when you're surly," Jesse teased. Ben bit his lip to prevent himself from laughing as the cashier greeted him.
"Hello, Darla," he said with a smile for the middle-aged woman behind the counter.
"Hey, hot stuff. Where have you been? I haven't seen you in here in over a week," Darla replied as she began to ring up his purchases.
"I've been working too hard lately, Darla," Ben replied with a sigh. Darla glanced at Jesse, who was reading the label on the jar of gourmet peanut butter Ben had selected.
"Not so hard that you couldn't make time to finally find a new boyfriend," she replied knowingly. Ben froze and cast a sidelong glance at Jesse who looked up in surprise. His mouth fell open but he smiled at Darla.
"You're jealous," he said impishly. Darla returned the smile.
"A girl's gotta have a dream," she said with a wink. Jesse slid past Ben to start bagging groceries. "He's really cute," Darla said to Ben.
"Yeah, but look what he eats! This would normally be a week's worth of food for me and it probably won't last the weekend," Ben teased.
"Well, can I help it if I need more food lately?" Jesse retorted. "For some reason I feel as though I need more energy."
"I wonder why?" Darla said with a grin for Ben.
"I have no idea," Ben said innocently.
"Well, if his appetite means you'll have to come in and stock up more frequently, I'm certainly not going to complain," she said. Ben smiled coyly. "And by all means, bring him with you," she added as she handed Ben his receipt. Ben started toward the door, but Jesse leaned across the counter and whispered something in Darla's ear before following.
"What did you say to her?" Ben said as he looked back and saw Darla fanning herself.
"Same thing you say to everyone who looks at me," Jesse said.
"You threatened that sweet woman?" Ben said, horrified.
"Does she look as though she's been threatened? I can't even make that growling sound you do. No, I just reminded her that you were already spoken for."
Ben smiled crookedly.
"I like that," he said, fighting the temptation to pull Jesse over and kiss him on the spot.
"Where's Jesse?" Lexa said as she strode into Shalimar's bedroom.
"He's out," Shalimar said. She wasn't about to betray Jesse's confidence. "Why?"
"We've got the goods on Barrett," Lexa said. "I went in and took a look around while Barrett was out. He's got some sort of lab down there and he's definitely up to something. I need Jesse to figure out what it is. We've got to move on this."
"Why?" Shalimar asked suspiciously. "Is he holding someone down there?"
"No, I didn't see anyone or any apparent evidence that he had anyone down there recently. But maybe that's because he just relocated. There were lots of boxes and it looks as though Barrett was getting settled in. I want him shut down before he's had enough time to get set up."
"I'll give Jesse a call," Shalimar said as she reached for her phone.
"Never mind, I'll just get him on the com link," Lexa replied. "Jesse?"
After returning from their outing, Jesse and Ben spent a quiet morning at the apartment, sharing the Sunday paper over coffee, discussing topical issues from the headlines and simply enjoying each other's company. After Ben made Jesse a lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Jesse settled in to do a bit of work on Ben's computer. After using it just once, Jesse concluded that it was in serious need of an upgrade and had given Ben a shopping list. They'd stopped at a computer store and made the necessary software purchases. Jesse had brought a new hard drive from his computer lab and was in the process of installing it when he heard Lexa's hail. Ben looked up from his reading when Jesse answered her.
"What's going on, Lexa?" Jesse asked. His phone rang and he frowned as he reached for it.
"We need you back here now."
Glancing down at his phone and seeing that his caller was Shalimar, he spoke to both women at once.
"What's happening?" he asked.
"I just told you. We need you at Sanctuary," Lexa said. "Play time is over."
Jesse pressed his lips together to prevent himself from responding to her tone.
"I'll be there in an hour," he said evenly. "I'm in the middle of something."
"Well, pull out of it, put your pants on and get back here," Lexa said before closing the link.
"I'm sorry, Jesse," Shalimar said soothingly. She knew he was seething in anger. "I was trying to call you before she decided to use the com link."
"Do you know what's going on?"
"Yes; Lexa did a little investigating and found evidence that Barrett's in the process of setting up a lab. She wants to know what he's up to and shut him down before he becomes fully operational."
"I'm for that," Jesse said with a glance at Ben, who was watching him intently. Jesse gave him an apologetic look. "I'm in the middle of installing a hard drive in Ben's computer. I'll head out as soon as I'm done. I don't want to leave him with his computer in pieces."
"Take your time," Shalimar said mischievously. "See you soon."
"Bye, Shal." Jesse closed the phone. "They want me back at Sanctuary," he said as he turned his attention back to the computer.
"Trouble?" Ben asked. He rose from the couch and went over to where Jesse was working.
"Probably not," Jesse said. "Lexa's just pretty impatient lately."
"She's still jealous," Ben concluded dismissively. "What's happening at Sanctuary?"
"She needs an analysis of something, I guess," Jesse said distractedly. "You know, everyone is always quick to claim that they know how to do my job, but no one ever does it." Jesse carefully replaced the panel on the processor unit and reached for a screwdriver.
"I can finish that and install the stuff," Ben said.
"Are you sure?"
"I know how to do your job and I will," Ben said as he shooed Jesse out of the chair and sat down. He pulled Jesse onto his lap. "I don't want you to leave here thinking that I'm only interested in you for your computer skills."
"I never thought that for a moment." Jesse smiled as Ben nuzzled his neck. He indulged Ben's explorations for a moment, but when he felt his body begin to respond to Ben's wandering hands he abruptly rose to his feet. "I've got to go."
"I know," Ben sighed. He held onto Jesse's hand as the younger man headed toward the door. Ben released him and reached into the closet for his jacket and gallantly held it for him. "What about your stuff?" he asked, gesturing with his head toward the pile of tools and equipment spread out across Ben's desk.
"I'll be back for those," Jesse said. "And you," he added with a brief kiss. Ben pulled him into his arms for a second, lingering kiss.
"Be careful," he said before releasing Jesse and opening the door.
"I always am," he replied with a wink.
Jesse drove halfway home with a smile on his face but by the time he entered the Sanctuary's garage he was angry again. He strode into the office positively seething.
"Jesse," Lexa said dryly. She made a show of glancing at her watch. "Did you take the scenic route?"
"Who the hell do you think you are?" Jesse said in a deceptively quiet tone.
"What?" Lexa asked, genuinely taken aback by his question.
"And where the hell do you get off talking to me like that?"
"If you've got a problem with something you tell me what it is right now, face to face and we'll clear the air. But you have absolutely no right to sit there and cast aspersions on something you know nothing about," Jesse said leaning on the desk to make his point.
"I have a problem with needing you here and not being able to find you," Lexa replied.
"You found me as soon as you turned on the com link."
"But you weren't here."
"Get used to it."
"You have a job to do," Lexa challenged.
"And I'm doing it," Jesse spat back. "What do you want?"
"I need you to do an analysis of some things I found in Barrett's hideout." She handed Jesse a list and he shook his head as he read it.
"I could have searched this from where I was," he said, dropping it on the desk. "Hell, you could have done the search in the time it took me to get here if you weren't so busy being a--."
"Jess, you're back!" Shalimar said as she entered the room with Brennan on her heels.
"Yeah," he said with a pointed look at Lexa. He picked up the piece of paper and headed for the door.
"Jess?" Shalimar said with a frown.
"Excuse me, Shal. I have important work to do," he said as he strode down the hall to his lab, where he pulled off his jacket and threw it on the floor. He gritted his teeth and sat down to work.
On to Part Four