jalabert (jalabert) wrote,

FIC: Personal Sanctuary (Part 4)

Title: Personal Sanctuary (Part 4)
Author: Jalabert
Fandom: Mutant X
Rating: Mature
Summary: Jesse finds his personal sanctuary--outside of Mutant X. (Set in Season 3.)

A few days later, Ben was about to sign out and leave the precinct when the phone rang. He sighed and pulled it out of his pocket as his partner Dan asked if he was up for a beer on the way home. Ben put up his hand, signaling for him to wait as he said hello to Jesse.

"Are you busy tonight?" Jesse asked eagerly.

"Not if you aren't," Ben said as he shook his head at Dan, who waved and left him to his conversation. Ben signed out and walked out of the precinct as he continued the conversation. "What have you got in mind?"

"Nothing fancy," Jesse replied. "I've had a very tough day. How about I bring over some takeout and we just kick back and relax?"

"A grueling day at the keyboard, was it?" Ben teased. "I'm up for that."

"Any preference?"

"Well, I'm up for something hot, tasty and tempting, but you'll be bringing that, anyway."


"Thai? Something with noodles," Ben suggested.

"Okay," Jesse said, "I'll be there within the hour." He arrived at Ben's place approximately forty minutes later with a shopping bag full of food. Ben inhaled deeply and smiled.

"Hey," he said as he stood back to let Jesse pass. Ben grabbed the back of Jesse's jacket as he locked the door, effectively halting his progress.

"Hey, yourself," Jesse replied as he turned to kiss Ben. Then he headed for the dining room table, which was already set for dinner.

"Something smells great," Ben said as Jesse began to pull containers from the bag.

"Never let it be said that I didn't cover all the bases," Jesse said. "I got spring rolls, dumplings, basil chicken, lemongrass shrimp and angel hair noodles with beef."

"You just showered," Ben said, his mind on a completely different set of scents. "And you used Shalimar's conditioner again."

"She let me keep the bottle," Jesse said, highly amused by Ben's obsession with his scent. It had been several days since they were last together and Ben took a moment to re-familiarize himself with Jesse's smell. He wrapped an arm around Jesse's waist as the younger mutant opened the containers and began to dish out the food. Ben sniffed and nuzzled the nape of Jesse's neck. "Now Ben," Jesse admonished, "no dessert till after you've eaten dinner." Ben released him and sat down to enjoy the meal.

When they were done, Jesse helped Ben clean up, but Ben insisted on doing the dishes himself. He was curious about Jesse's mood. He'd been a bit quiet throughout dinner, animated enough when engaged, but otherwise pensive. There was something on the edge of Ben's senses but he couldn't quite place it. He began washing the plates and glasses while Jesse stowed the leftovers in the refrigerator. As he rinsed a plate, Ben once again pondered Jesse's odd behavior. He decided to confront Jesse on it and was trying to figure out how to broach the topic when he felt Jesse's arms wrap around his waist.

Jesse pressed the full length of his body against Ben's and nuzzled his neck, slowly moving his hips back and forth. Ben smelled Jesse's arousal before he felt it, lust so palpable he could almost taste it. He also sensed something else. He turned off the water and turned around in Jesse's arms. Jesse attacked Ben's mouth as soon as it came within reach, plunging his tongue into the moist heat to begin a now familiar exploration. Ben dried his hands on Jesse's denim-clad rear end and then gently pulled him far enough away so he could look Jesse in the eye.

"What's wrong, Jesse?" he asked softly.

Jesse simply continued his assault, leaning forward to recapture Ben's mouth. Ben let him, unwilling to deny himself the pleasure of Jesse's passion in spite of his concern that Jesse wouldn't meet his eyes. There was no longer any doubt in Ben's mind; he smelled fear. Again he pulled Jesse away, this time lifting his chin so Jesse was forced to look up. What he saw in Jesse's eyes made him forget his questions.

"Next time I'm going to ignore you and go for the dessert first option," Ben whispered as the scent of Jesse's fear began to mix with anticipation. He tugged at Jesse's tee, but rather than take it off of him, Ben used it as a makeshift lead and drew Jesse to the bedroom.

Ben began to feel more comfortable as he stripped Jesse's shirt off and began to explore his body. Jesse was busy, too, impatiently pulling at the buttons on Ben's shirt and eventually simply opting to pull it over his head. He pushed Ben onto the bed and they wrestled to get each other's jeans off. Ben was barefoot, so Jesse easily won the race. Ben growled and pushed Jesse onto his back so he could remove his shoes and socks before pulling off his snug-fitting jeans.

He took his revenge on Jesse by tickling him as he began to nibble his way up Jesse's body. Jesse curled into the fetal position, but it didn't deter Ben. When Jesse finally begged for mercy, Ben licked his aching ribs, offering little in the way of relief. Jesse grabbed Ben by the ears and lifted his head. The two men stared at each other for a moment. Then Jesse pulled Ben's face to his and kissed him.

It was a long and sensuous kiss, achingly sweet and overwhelming to Ben, who was stunned by the intensity of it. Every fiber of his being was aroused and he wanted to swallow Jesse whole. Still holding onto Ben's face, Jesse slowly kissed every inch of it. Ben was incredibly turned on by the simple gesture and he began to tremble as Jesse kissed his way to Ben's throat.

"Ben, I want you to make love to me."

Ben swallowed hard as the words echoed his ear. Jesse continued to whisper, his kisses becoming more urgent and more aggressive, turning into little nips and bites along his throat.

"Want you...need you. I want you, Ben... I want to feel you inside me."

Ben wanted to stop Jesse and ask a lot of questions. Every instinct he had to slow things down and assure himself that Jesse knew exactly what he was asking demanded it. Never mind the fact that Jesse had never been hesitant or indecisive during their brief relationship or the fact that from the beginning he'd never shied away from anything they'd tried in bed. Ben was the one who'd held back. He was the one who was determined to ease Jesse into his first gay relationship. Jesse had never asked him to do so.

And yet, Jesse had never pushed the envelope before, either. He'd allowed Ben to set the pace, enjoying each experience as it came. Ben knew he should worry at this sudden turn of events, especially in the context of Jesse's odd behavior that evening. He should have sat up and turned on the light. He could have pulled Jesse from his nipple, where he was tormenting him with the tip of his tongue. Ben might have done a lot of things, but he wanted Jesse so badly that he immediately surrendered every reasoned argument in his head and reached for the condoms in his drawer.

His free hand held Jesse down; he was like a wild thing, a bundle raw energy that someone had unleashed in Ben's bed. Jesse reached for Ben and pulled him back down to kiss again. Ben wasn't sure either of them would last long enough to actually do the deed. He needed to slow Jesse down, lest he become overwhelmed himself. He kissed his way down Jesse's body and took hold of Jesse's erection. When he began to stroke it, Jesse pushed his hand away.

"No, I want you to make love to me," he said insistently.

"I know, Jesse," Ben said hoarsely, "but we're going to have to do this my way or not at all." Jesse stilled immediately. "Good," Ben said soothingly. He placed a kiss on Jesse's hip. "I won't insult you by asking if you're sure about this, but if you should have second thoughts I want you to say so immediately, you hear me? This is a one-way trip, Jess. Once we cross this line there's no going back."

"I know," Jesse said simply.

His voice was clear and steady, almost resolved. Ben scooted up the bed a little to look him square in the eye. Something about the calmness of Jesse's gaze rattled Ben a bit, but he shook it off when Jesse reached up and caressed his cheek. Once again, it was a sweet, almost poignant gesture and Ben couldn't reconcile the sudden feeling of sadness that washed over him. He gazed at Jesse for another moment. Jesse smiled up at him.

"Are we going to do this today?"

"Smartass," Ben growled. He scooted back down to Jesse's hip and once again reached for his erection.

"Ben!" Jesse whined. "I--." He was rendered mute when Ben swallowed him and proceeded to ruthlessly and efficiently bring him to orgasm. When Jesse was dazed and gasping, Ben gently rolled him over onto his stomach.

"Before we do anything, let me emphasize the importance of preparation," Ben said as he opened a bottle of lubricant.

"I can read, you know," Jesse panted. Ben swatted Jesse on his rear.

"Humor me," Ben said as he continued his lecture, half to distract Jesse and half to calm his own nerves. Jesse's arousal had abated, allowing Ben to calm himself down, but his senses were still reeling. He began to prepare Jesse, who showed no sign of nervousness and whose arousal quickly returned with a vengeance. Ben knew that he was in over his head but he wasn't about to question his fate. He'd wanted this, wanted Jesse since he first laid eyes upon him and now his dreams were about to be fulfilled.

Ben carefully positioned Jesse and slowly joined with him. The reality of being inside of him far exceeded Ben's expectations and he momentarily fought for control. He fully expected to have to rein in Jesse's enthusiasm as well, but he only whispered, "Make love to me, Ben," and then allowed him to set the pace.

For a few moments, the only sound in the room was Jesse's labored breathing. Ben waited for Jesse's heart rate to steady and for the tension in his muscles to ease somewhat before he began to move. Ben stretched out over Jesse's back and wrapped an arm around Jesse's waist. Jesse moaned and tentatively rose up to meet Ben's thrust. It was the sign Ben was waiting for. He picked up the pace and began to nuzzle the nape of Jesse's neck, alternately licking and biting along Jesse's shoulder. Jesse groaned loudly and called out Ben's name before turning his head to kiss him.

The pace accelerated rapidly. Ben's confidence grew apace with Jesse's enthusiasm. What began slow and tentative became fast and furious. Ben came with a roar and collapsed over Jesse's back. Jesse grunted at the sudden weight and Ben quickly moved off of him, rolling over and pulling Jesse into his arms as he went. When he had Jesse on his back Ben noticed that Jesse had yet to reach orgasm. He took hold of Jesse's erection and brought him to completion as he whispered words of encouragement in his ear.

Jesse gasped as the sensations overtook him. Ben held him tightly to his chest and slowly caressed Jesse's body while he recovered. When Jesse had regained his breath, Ben stole it away again with a searing kiss. He finally took pity on the younger man and nuzzled his neck. Jesse began to laugh.

"You found that amusing?" Ben said in a low, husky voice.

"I find you tickling my ear amusing," Jesse replied, intertwining his fingers with Ben's.

"And the rest of it?"

"I'm going to have a sore ass for a week, aren't I?"

"Yep," Ben said unrepentantly. "I'll be in your thoughts with every step you take."

"I was already thinking of you with every step I took. Now I'm going to think of you as a pain in the ass...with every step I take."

"You're such a romantic," Ben quipped as he sat Jesse up and extricated himself from their tangle of sheets and legs. He went to the bathroom to dispose of his condom. He returned a moment later with a hand towel that had been dipped in warm water. He carefully cleaned Jesse's body and returned the towel to the bathroom. When he came back to bed, Jesse was fast asleep. Ben crawled into bed and joined him.


The next morning, Ben rose early as was his habit. He went to the bathroom and washed up before going to the kitchen to feed the cat. He collected the morning paper and made a pot of coffee and then returned to bed to wait for Jesse to awaken. A short time later, Jesse stumbled out of bed and headed to the bathroom to urinate. Ben heard Jesse brush his teeth and watched as he came back to bed and burrowed under the covers.

"If you're planning on going back to sleep, you'd better plan on sleeping on the floor," Ben said. Jesse looked up, noticing Ben for the first time.

"Ben!" he replied before scooting up to give his lover a kiss. "Hello," he said with a grin as he settled in Ben's arms.

"Hey, yourself," Ben replied.

"Last night was amazing. Did I tell you that?"

"No," Ben said bluntly. "You simply insisted that I make love to you, used me to fulfill your wanton desires and then promptly dozed off," he said feigning offense.

"Always the charmer in the mornings," Jesse yawned.

"I could charm the pants off of you if you'd like," Ben offered, "but you're still half asleep. I'd be wasting good material."

"My pants are already off, too, in case you hadn't noticed."

"So they are. And yet there you lie, unmolested."

"Actually, I'm feeling very molested," Jesse replied. He winced when Ben cupped one of his cheeks.

"Poor thing! Want me to kiss it and make it better?"

"You're planning to molest me again."

"You betcha," Ben said with a feral grin as he rolled Jesse over onto his back. "But don't worry," he said as he began to nuzzle Jesse's throat. "I'll make you forget all about--." He stopped speaking as he began to nibble and kiss Jesse's collarbone.

"...What a pain in the ass you are?"

Ben bit him for that remark, but he kept his promise and distracted Jesse completely.

The pair spent a lazy morning in bed, emerging only briefly for breakfast. They spent most of the time snuggled in one another's arms reading or talking, occasionally dozing off. Late in the morning, Jesse looked at the clock.

"I'm going to have to leave soon," he said soberly. He turned to look at Ben and sighed. Suddenly all of Ben's suspicions from the previous night came flooding back. Jesse grew quiet and brooding, barely smiling at Ben's attempts to lighten his mood.

"You want to talk about it?" Ben asked. Jesse shook his head and buried his face in Ben's chest.

"Nothing to talk about; I've got work to do," Jesse mumbled into Ben's pec. Ben lifted Jesse's face to look into his eyes. Jesse took the opportunity to kiss him and Ben cursed himself for letting himself be distracted again. Nonetheless, he went along with Jesse's sudden urgency. The sense of dread dissipated when Jesse rolled onto his stomach and presented himself for Ben.

The feral mutant promised himself that he'd have a good long talk with Jesse the next time he came over. For the time being, however, he had another agenda and he wasted no time in dealing with it.


Ben listened to Jesse's message for the second time that day and sighed. He snapped his phone shut and slipped it into his pocket and then emerged from his car. He chewed his lip as he walked into the police station, absently responding to greetings from his colleagues. When Ben reached his office he slipped out of his jacket and hung it up.

"Earth to Ben," his partner Dan said. Ben blinked and turned around.


"You've been staring into that closet for a full minute," Dan replied. "I know you guys have a thing about coming out; are you contemplating going back in?" Ben simply frowned at Dan in confusion. "Sorry, bad joke," Dan said before turning his attention back to the stack of papers in front of him.

"No, I'm sorry," Ben said. "I was a million miles away," he said as he sat down at his desk and opened the container of coffee he'd carried in.

"At least," Dan chuckled, but he quickly grew serious. "Trouble?"

"I don't know," Ben said. "I haven't been able to reach Jesse for two days." He picked up the phone and checked his phone mail. Jesse hadn't called him at the office. On impulse, Ben dialed Jesse's number again and got the recorded message. He sighed and hung up.

"Maybe something's wrong with his cell."

"His cell, his home phone, his email accounts..." Ben said.

"Is he out of town?"

"I don't know."

"Have you gone by his place?"

"I don't know where he lives."

"You have no idea where your lover lives?" Dan asked incredulously. Ben shrugged.

"It's complicated."

"Is he married?"

"No, it's nothing like that," Ben said. "And I wouldn't get involved with a married man, Dan."

"What is it, then?"

Ben looked around to make sure that they weren't overheard before he replied.

"Jesse's a member of Mutant X."

"Mutant X?"

"You know that organization I told you about, the one that helped out my sister a couple of years ago? That was Mutant X."

"So he's another mutant?"

Ben nodded. Dan shook his head.

"So is he a telepath like your sister or a feral like you?"

"Neither," Ben said as he sat back. "And I'm beginning to worry that something's happened to him."

"What could have happened to him?"

"Oh, I don't know," Ben said exasperatedly. "A month ago someone kidnapped him and try to use him for experiments."

"You don't think--?" Dan gasped.

"I already checked. The Black Widow is still safely behind bars. At least, that's what they told me when I checked," Ben replied. "No, if something has happened to Jesse, it hasn't got anything to do with her."


Jesse checked his messages and saw that he had two new calls from Ben. That made five calls in two days he'd missed, but he was in no position to return any of them at the moment. It had been foolish to even bring his phone with him. If he was caught or captured it could be used to identify him. It was too late to worry about that now.

Jesse continued unpacking the crate he'd carried into Barrett's lab. He'd needed to get inside and see for himself what the scientist was up to; he'd lucked out and was able to wangle a place on the crew that was delivering and setting up equipment.

The boss of the work crew called a lunch break and Jesse joined the others in walking to a diner a few blocks away from the lab. He took the opportunity to open his phone and noticed that Ben had called a third time. Jesse hit redial and checked to see if anyone was watching him.


"I give him a wake up call any morning we're not together," Ben said with a wistful smile. "It's a standing joke; Jesse's no morning person and I take great delight in forcing him to wake up long before he'd do so voluntarily. But for the last two mornings he hasn't answered the call."

"Maybe he decided to sleep in," Dan suggested.

"No, Jesse takes an equal delight in chewing me out for disturbing his slumber. It's a regular thing. That one morning when we had an early raid Jesse complained about waking up and waiting for my call that never came. Besides, he always calls me at least once or twice every afternoon."

"Until two days ago."


"When did you last see him?" Dan inquired.

"Sunday; he'd stayed over Saturday night," Ben said as disturbing thoughts about Jesse's odd behavior began to gnaw at him.

"And everything was okay then?" Dan frowned when Ben didn't answer. "Ben?"

"He seemed a bit distracted. Brooding--not at all like himself. Jesse can be a very serious guy, but he can also be very playful and lighthearted. That's the Jesse I usually see."

"And this weekend he was different," Dan said before delicately posing his next question. "Do you think he was in any kind of trouble?"

"No," Ben said. "And would you knock it off with the interrogation?" Ben said as he rose to his feet. "Don't you think I've already asked myself all these questions?"

"I'm just trying to help."

"Yeah," Ben said sheepishly as he sat down again. "I'm sorry. I'm just worried."

"Yeah," Dan said as he absently reached for the phone. It had rung once before he grabbed it. "Dan Bruno." He smiled and nodded toward the phone on Ben's desk. "It's Jesse." Ben grabbed the phone.


"Ben!" Jesse said excitedly at the sound of the feral's voice.

"Jesse, where are you?"

"I'd rather not say and I don't have a lot of time. I'm sorry I've missed your calls but I've been busy."

"At six in the morning?" Ben said doubtfully.

"Yeah; I'm working on something that's got me keeping very strange hours. I'll explain later. I'm sorry we haven't had a chance to talk. I really miss you, Ben."

"Yeah, me too," Ben replied. "Listen, what are you--?"

"I have to go, Ben. I'm sorry. I'll call you again when I get a chance."

"Jesse? Jesse!"

"What happened?" Dan asked when Ben hung up the phone.

"He hung up," Ben muttered.


"Is it common for this guy to make his employees live in?" Jesse asked the guy settling into the bunk next to his.

"I've never worked for this guy before, but when we do a major installation we often have to spend a few days on site. The company that hires us has to put us up, so I can't blame the guy for putting us up here. This is a lot cheaper than renting motel rooms."

"But we're in an underground bunker," Jesse reasoned. His companion shrugged.

"Yeah; this place is creepy. But what are ya gonna do?" He settled himself under the covers and lowered the brim of his baseball cap to shade his eyes. "Night, Bill."

"Goodnight," Jesse said, digging into his pocket for his phone. It'd been days since he'd seen Shalimar or any other member of Mutant X and a day since his brief conversation with Ben. It would be too risky to attempt a conversation. He was in a room with five other men. But he decided to reread Ben's latest text message.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," his neighbor said. Jesse looked down at the phone in his hand.

"Why not? he asked.

"That guy Barrett doesn't like cell phones. Joey tried to call his girl yesterday and Barrett threw it against the wall--shattered it into a million pieces."

"Barrett's not here," Jesse replied.

"He wasn't there when Joey called his girlfriend, neither. But he came running the minute he began to talk."

"I don't see any cameras."

"The boss said something about an electronic gizmo that picked up the transmission. If you want to keep that phone I suggest you don't try and use it in here."

Jesse sighed and pocketed the phone. He turned off the lamp and stared at the blackness overhead. Thoughts of Ben came to him unbidden and he felt a pang of remorse as the memories flooded in.


"I suppose you have a busy week ahead," Ben said as he wrapped his arms around Jesse's waist and nuzzled his throat.

"Yeah, probably," Jesse said absently as he buttoned the shirt he'd pulled on over a tank. Ben promptly began to undo them again.

"You know, those should be left open. As hot as you are, I don't know why you ever button your shirts."

Jesse smirked at Ben's tease and turned his head to kiss the tip of his nose. Ben pulled him closer for another kiss, but Jesse pulled away.

"I've got to go, Ben."

Ben impishly tousled his hair.

"Ben! I just combed that," Jesse said, though he really wasn't annoyed. He wanted more than anything to wrap himself in Ben's arms again. Instead, he sighed and headed for the door.

"So when will I see you again?" Ben asked. He'd followed Jess up the hall and wrapped himself around the smaller man as soon as he came to a stop.

"I don't know," Jesse replied honestly.

"Not acceptable," Ben said as he tightened his hold on Jesse's slim waist.

"Sorry," Jesse said as he tried to put on his jacket and gave up when he realized that Ben wasn't about to release him. "Ben?"

Ben let him go and stepped back. Jesse turned and looked at the pouting feral. He pulled Ben into his arms and hugged him tightly. Ben returned the fierce hug and kissed Jesse's brow.


"Soon," Jesse said softly. "As soon as I can get away."

"All right," Ben conceded as he loosened his grip. "Stay in touch."

"I promise," Jesse said. He didn't let go of Ben right away and Ben tightened his hold on Jesse once more. They held each other in silence, till Ben pulled far enough away to kiss him.

"Don't you have somewhere to go?" Ben asked a few minutes later.

"Uh, yeah," Jesse said sheepishly, reluctantly peeling himself off of Ben. He reached for the door, but turned back and reached up to caress Ben's cheek.

"Think of me," Ben said simply.

"With every step I take," Jesse said with a wink. "Bye."


Jesse slipped the phone out of his pocket and turned on his side so that he faced the wall. He opened the phone and brought up a picture of Ben he'd taken the day he'd taken him out to lunch. Jesse smiled sadly and closed the phone. He tried to get comfortable on the narrow bunk and eventually fell asleep.

The next day the crew finished up its installation of the lab equipment. Jesse had managed to catalog most of the equipment Barrett had installed in the lab, but it was unclear exactly what he intended to do with it. He was obviously going to do some sort of genetic experiments, but there was no way Barrett could hope to realize his goal of producing a mutant super soldier any time soon unless he had some way of accelerating human growth.

It had taken the engineers at Genomex well over a decade to begin to see the fruits of their genetic experiments. Jesse's mutation hadn't surfaced till well after his twelfth birthday. So if Barrett hoped to profit from his experiments, he was either prepared to wait at least twenty years to achieve his goals or he had acquired a means of accelerating the development of his clones. And if he did, Jesse had to find it.

He slipped away from the other four men on the work crew and snuck into a room that had previously been kept locked. There he found another lab much like Adam's genetic lab at Sanctuary. Jesse couldn't identify all of the equipment but he recognized enough of it to be very concerned. He searched for anything that could tell him exactly what Barrett was up to. Jesse spied a clipboard on a counter at the far side of the lab. Just as he started moving toward it he heard a strange voice in the outer room and rejoined the crew.


Ben climbed into bed and clicked on the remote. He stared at the object in his hand rather than at the television, trying to recall the last time he'd watched television in bed. It came to him after a few minutes; it was the night before he brought Jesse home to his place for the first time.

Ben dropped the remote on the nightstand and closed his eyes, instantly conjuring up the image of Jesse a moment after their first kiss. Lips slightly parted and moist, ripe and tender; Ben could almost taste Jesse's warm, sweet mouth. He saw again that look in Jesse's eyes, wide with surprise. He smelled the unmistakable scent of Jesse's arousal. Ben had long since become addicted to that scent as well as the scent and taste of Jesse's skin. But that first night was all about discovery.

Ben found himself growing hard as he remembered the sounds of Jesse's moaning and breathing that night. As Ben kissed and sniffed and nuzzled his hot skin, Jesse had responded enthusiastically, far more confident and eager than Ben himself had been his first time. Ben considered himself fortunate in his choice of lover. The sex between the two men had always been great, even that first night. Jesse surprised Ben both with his passion and his openness to new experiences.

Ben mentally cataloged all the things he learned about Jesse that night: the fact that Jesse was a great kisser; the fact that he had hair-trigger-sensitive spots on his throat, chest, ribs, groin, and thighs; the fact that Ben could turn Jesse on just by playing with his fingers; and best of all, that Jesse was as aggressive in bed as Ben himself. That had been an unexpected revelation to the feral. Ben recalled his excitement on that first night when Jesse had wrapped his legs around Ben's waist to increase the friction between their bodies and a more recent night, when they somehow managed to get into biting each other. While Ben tried to control his feral tendencies, Jesse attacked with wild abandon. Ben grew harder as he remembered Jesse's ardor and energy. But his own ardor fizzled when he thought about the fact that it had been nearly four days since he'd seen or heard from Jesse.


"You've done a splendid job, all of you," Jerome Barrett said as he handed an envelope to each man. "You'll see that you've been compensated nicely; in addition to your promised payment, there's a bit extra for each of you. I fully expect that to buy your silence, should anyone ask about your work here."

"I never even saw this place," one of the men said as he counted out the thousand dollar bonus in his envelope.

"Good," Barrett said. "You may go." Jesse turned to follow the other men. "Except for you, Mr. Kilmartin."

Jesse froze.


He woke up some time later with the sound of Shalimar shouting in his ear. Jesse felt a sharp pain in his head as he opened his eyes, trying to remember how he came to be lying on the floor. At first, Jesse saw nothing but pitch black and began to panic. Then he got his wits about him and realized that he was completely in the dark. He got up on his hands and knees and began to feel his way around.

"Jesse! Speak to me, Jesse! Where are you?"

"Shal!" Jesse said hoarsely.

"Jesse! Thank God, Jesse!" Shal cried. "Where are you?"

"I don't know!" Jesse said. "It's dark." He reached out and found a wall and began crawling along it to sketch the perimeter of his prison.

"We saw Barrett leave a half hour ago. I've been trying to raise you ever since. What happened?"

"I don't know, Shal," Jesse said in a shaky voice as realization dawned. "I'm trapped! I'm in a dark place, maybe about six or seven feet square. I can't find a door or any kind of opening," he said as his voice rose in pitch. "And I can't phase out of here."

"All right, Jess. We're on our way. Brennan and Lexa are already inside looking for you and I'm just at the entrance. We'll get to you as fast as we can."

"Hurry, Shal," Jesse said as he felt his throat beginning to constrict.

"We're coming, Jess."

"Don't leave me, Shal," Jesse said as he crumbled to the floor, panting.

"I won't leave you, Jess. I'm right here with you," Shal said soothingly. Jesse didn't respond and she worried as she made her way along the dim corridor. "Jess?"

"I'm here," he said weakly.

"All right. Stay with me."

"I'm with you," Jesse said softly. Shalimar swallowed hard and picked up her pace. Like Ben, she was very familiar with Jesse's scent. The challenge was to distinguish him from all the other scents in the bunker, some of which were very strong and unpleasant. But there were other, newer scents and they led her straight to Barrett's lab, where she found Brennan and Lexa.

"Well, here's the lab, but there's no sign of Jesse," Lexa said as she scanned the room. Brennan was searching the drawers for papers or other signs of Barrett's research materials.

"Nothing here," he said. "He's got to have an office."

"Our first priority is to find Jesse," Shalimar commanded. "And he's here somewhere." She knew that she was their best chance of finding the molecular so she ignored Brennan's reply and opened her senses to try again to pick up his scent.

"Speak to me, Jesse," she whispered to herself, but the incarcerated mutant heard her and responded.

"I'm still here," he said in a small voice.

"Listen to me, Jesse," Shalimar said. "I'm picking up your scent. I just have to find a way to get to you. You think pleasant thoughts, all right? I need to concentrate for a minute, but while I'm doing that you think of someone really special to you, okay? You just pass the time with those pleasant thoughts while I track you, okay handsome?" Jesse nodded, realizing belatedly that Shalimar couldn't hear him.

"Pleasant thoughts," he said.

"What's wrong with him?" Lexa asked quizzically. "He sounds like a little boy."

"Maybe he's injured," Brennan said as he felt along the walls. "Help me out here. Maybe Barrett's got an inner sanctum. There aren't any more rooms so it has to be in here somewhere."

Lexa joined him and they searched the perimeter of the inner lab. But Shalimar's trail led her to the outer room. She scanned it and frowned.


At the third stop on their pub crawl, Jesse ordered two beers as he and Ben took seats at the bar.

"Anything you want, sweet thing," the bartender replied. Jesse averted his eyes as his cheeks colored.

"You may as well accept it," Ben teased. "Everyone knows." Jesse's head shot up.

"How?" he croaked.

"How? They look at you."

"But I--."

"I'm talking about the fact that you're cute," Ben said impishly as he leaned closer to whisper in Jesse's ear. "Not the fact that you spent Friday night in my bed writhing like an eel and behaving just as shockingly." Jesse's mouth fell open. "You are so cute when you blush."

"I do not blush and I'm not cute," Jesse said through gritted teeth.

"Are too," Ben said, running a finger along Jesse's flushed cheek to emphasize his point. "Isn't he cute?" Ben asked the bartender as he placed two glasses on the counter.

"He's fucking adorable," the bartender agreed.

"He's got the face of an angel." Ben observed.

"I do not!" Jesse protested.

"He's got the libido of a fallen angel, that's for sure," Ben added with a wink for the bartender.

"Really?" the bartender said with an appraising gaze at Jesse. "I get off in an hour. Care to share?" Ben immediately grew serious.

"I don't share," he said with a bit of a growl and a flash of feral eyes. The stunned bartender stepped back.

"I won't either if you keep it up," Jesse said hotly. Ben found his comment amusing, which only added to Jesse's frustration. "Why am I even here with you again?" Jesse asked.

"Because you can't keep your eyes, hands, or tongue, for that matter, off of me," Ben said with a smolder that made Jesse squirm in his seat. "I rest my case."

It wasn't until a week later that Ben had revealed to Jesse his real reason for constantly baiting the younger man. The pair was having a quiet evening at Ben's apartment. They'd cooked and eaten dinner and were watching a basketball game, till Ben pulled Jesse onto his lap and stretched out on the couch--or tried to.

"Hormones," he said. "Pheromones! Endorphins, serotonin, adrenaline... They're all good."

"What are you talking about?" Jesse asked. Ben lifted his head and looked at him.

"I'm talking about body chemistry; yours, to be specific." Ben resumed nuzzling Jesse's throat. "I need a bigger sofa," he said absently as he attempted to stretch out his legs and failed. Jesse started to sit up but Ben pulled him back into his arms. Jesse sighed and allowed Ben to continue nuzzling his neck as he absently ran his hand along Ben's denim-clad bicep.

"We could move next door," he suggested. "This thing wasn't built for two to lie comfortably."

"I want to see the last quarter," Ben replied.

"Don't you have a TV in the bedroom?"

"If we go in there we are not watching TV."

"This is true," Jesse admitted. "So what about my body chemistry?"

"I get off on it," Ben said as he shifted the position of his head so he could sniff the other side of Jesse's neck.

"I had no idea I had smelly body chemistry--well, not when I observe good hygiene habits, anyway," Jesse smirked.

"You always do; it just takes feral senses to appreciate them."

"And you do."

Ben's response was a low growl. He shifted a thigh and Jesse's body sunk into the space between Ben's legs, bringing the two bodies even closer.

"I'll take that as a yes," Jesse said as he took advantage of the fact that he was sprawled comfortably atop of Ben and began to nibble just under his ear.

"Yes," Ben hissed as he inhaled deeply. Jesse lifted his head and frowned.

"What was that?" he asked.

"Eau de aroused molecular," Ben teased before inhaling deeply again.

"You're nuts," Jesse chuckled.

"No, seriously," Ben insisted. "I can smell your arousal. I can smell your fear, your excitement..." He sniffed at Jesse's throat again before giving it a long slow lick. Jesse squirmed. "And of course, my favorite is embarrassment. It's a heady mixture of anger and arousal."

"Is that why you constantly bait me?"

"Who, me?"

Jesse pulled away from Ben and tried to get up.

"You do, don't you? You get me all worked up so you can get your jollies off me," Jesse accused.

"Are you complaining?" Ben asked smugly. He reached up and stroked Jesse's arm and suppressed a grin when Jesse pulled it away. "I mean it's not as though you don't benefit."

"You use me!"

"I use you well," Ben said with a flash of his eyes. Jesse licked his lips.

"Point well taken."

"Come here. I want to get all that testosterone before it dissipates," Ben said as he pulled Jesse back down.

"My testosterone is not dissipating," Jesse said petulantly. Ben kissed away his pout but Jesse got his revenge on Ben by making sure he missed the entire fourth quarter.


"Jesse!" Shalimar shouted. She knew she was close to Jesse. She just couldn't reach him. When Jesse shouted back she smiled and called the others.

Jesse was shocked out of his reverie by the sound of Shalimar's voice. He nearly became hysterical with relief. The sound had come over the com link, but he'd also heard it loud and clear through the walls of his prison. A moment later, he heard a scratching noise.

"I hear you!" he shouted.

"Help me," Shalimar cried as she pushed a worktable out of the way. She fell to her knees and began to scrabble for the handle on the trap door.

"Let me," Brennan said. He pulled the door up and light flooded into the pit that held Jesse.

"Bren!" Jesse cried, jumping up and reaching for his extended hand.

Brennan told him to hold on a minute. Then Shalimar reached for Jesse while Brennan and Lexa held her waist. She easily pulled Jesse out of the pit he'd been dropped into. He scrambled out of the hole and hugged her tightly. He was trembling and muttering to himself. Lexa frowned as Shalimar whispered nonsense in Jesse's ear to calm him. After a moment, she got him to take a few deep breaths.

"What did you find out, Jesse?" Lexa said impatiently.

"Give him a minute," Shalimar snapped.

"We haven't got a minute. Barrett could return at any time," Lexa spat back. Brennan and Shalimar exchanged a glance.

"She's right. Think you can walk, Jess?" Brennan asked as he helped the shaken mutant to his feet. Jesse nodded and wrapped an arm around Brennan's shoulder. Shalimar stuck close to his other side as the group began to make its way toward the exit. When they were some distance away Lexa torched the labs.


"Talk to me, Jesse," Shalimar said as the Double Helix winged its way back to Sanctuary.

"He knew who I was," Jesse said between sips of water. "I never saw him face to face till today but he knew me on sight."

"That makes sense," Lexa said. "If Barrett formerly worked for Genomex he might have had access to your records. Or the Black Widow could have sent him Jesse's picture when she took him. Then he could easily have identified you."

"If you thought that was a possibility why did you send him in?" Shalimar said with a glare at Lexa. "He might have been killed."

"He obviously wasn't," Lexa replied.

"Well, something happened to him," Shalimar replied. She put her hand behind Jesse's left ear and it came away bloodied. She turned Jesse's head to examine the wound. "Get me the first aid kit." Lexa brought over the kit and Shalimar removed a tiny probe that had been implanted behind his ear.

"What is it?" Brennan called from the cockpit.

"I don't know, but I'm betting it's why Jesse couldn't phase," Shalimar said. "If you want to experiment on moleculars with phasing powers your first challenge would be to keep them from getting away."

"So that thing is some sort of governor?"

"Yeah. I don't know it if would prevent any mutant from using his powers but it certainly kept Jesse locked up."

"It's just as well," Jesse said dully. "I didn't know I was in a hole. I could have phased into a wall of solid concrete and died there." Shalimar wrapped an arm around him and kissed his hair.

"Good thing you waited for me to play the hero, then, though you're the buffest damsel in distress I've ever seen," she said, coaxing a tiny smile from Jesse.

Less than fifteen minutes later, Jesse was in Sanctuary's medical lab being subjected to a scan. Shalimar was all business as she thoroughly checked Jesse over. She saw a drop of blood on his inner arm and deduced that blood had been drawn. Jesse looked down at the spot.

"You have some mild bruising, but that might be due to the fact that you were dropped into that pit," Shalimar said. Jesse closed his eyes and swallowed hard. "Hang in there, Jess."

"He's got my blood," Jesse said dismally.

"Unless that blood sample went up with the rest of that lab," Brennan said.

"What if he took it with him?" Jesse asked.

"Why would he draw blood and take it with him?" Lexa asked. "He's got a brand new state of the art lab right there--or did."

"Operative words," Shalimar said, "brand new. It was just installed and Jess said that today was the first time he saw Barrett. Chances are good to excellent that Barrett's got an old lab somewhere." Jesse sighed and Shalimar gave him an encouraging squeeze.

"We'll find him, Jesse. Right now, I'm more concerned about you. You need some rest." She helped Jesse off the examination table and walked him to his room.

"You do realize what this means," he said softly. "Barrett now has the ability to clone me."

"We'll find him before that happens, Jess. Here," Shalimar said, handing him a packet of pills. "These will help you to relax. I'll get you some water." Jesse examined the packet while she was in his bathroom. He frowned and placed it on the nightstand.

"Those will put me to sleep."

"That's the idea, Jesse. You need to rest. Your vital signs are unstable."

"I need to speak to Ben," Jesse said as he reached for the phone. Shalimar intercepted him and grabbed it away.

"Rest first. You can talk to Ben later."

"I've got to talk to him now. You don't understand."

"I think I do, Jess, but you've been through a severe trauma."

"And I'll feel better when I've spoken to Ben."

"You'll feel better when you've rested."

"Then take me to Ben's place. I can rest there."


"Shal, I have to see him. I haven't spoken to him in nearly five days. He's got no idea where I've been all week and he's probably going crazy. I have to see him."

"Jess--." Shalimar started to argue, but she looked at Jesse's earnest expression and relented. "All right, take a shower and change. I'll take you to over to his place." Jesse hugged her gratefully and headed for the bathroom. Shalimar laid out a favorite shirt for Jesse to wear before she left the room. Jesse laughed at her choice when he emerged from the bathroom ten minutes later, but he wore it nonetheless. When Shalimar came back for him she found him frowning at the phone.

"I've been trying to call Ben's cell but I'm getting no response."

"Maybe his battery is dead," Shalimar said. "Have you tried his answering machine?"

"I left a message," Jesse said. Shalimar grabbed his arm and gently led him to the Double Helix.

"Come on, lover boy. I'll have you in Ben's arms in no time."


"Grab a beer," Ben said as he took Dan's jacket and hung it in the closet. "Get me one, too, while you're at it," he said as he headed to the bathroom. Dan pulled two beers from the refrigerator and returned to the living room. He placed the beers on the coffee table and bent to greet Little Bear, who was sniffing him inquisitively.

"You know, every time I see this guy I think he's gotten bigger," Dan said when Ben returned.

"Hear that, Bear?" Ben teased, "It's time to lay off the chips." He scratched the cat behind the ears while Dan looked around.

"You painted since I was last here."

"Yeah," Ben said absently, absorbed in playing with the Maine Coon.

"I like the beige."

"It's taupe, Dan. No one 'likes' beige," Ben said. He picked up his beer and sat down.

"You sound like my wife," Dan said as he examined a framed piece hanging over his computer desk. "Is that new?"

"Yeah," Ben said. "Jesse bought it for me."

"Jesse bought you a Smokey the Bear poster?"

"Private joke," Ben said curtly. Dan nodded; he knew better than to pursue the matter. Ben had been short-tempered all day; Jesse's disappearance had frayed his nerves. He'd gone over to Ben's to help him chill out and watch the game, not dredge up bitter thoughts.

"Hey, you've got a message on your answering machine."

"Yeah, my grandmother called to invite us to a barbecue this weekend."

Dan heard the word "us" and quickly turned back toward the desk. He looked down and saw the message counter flick to "2."

"Ben, do you have your phone turned off?"

"No, why?"

"Your answering machine just got another message without the phone ringing."

"It can do that."

"Well, how would you know if Jesse called if you don't even know when your phone rings?"

"It's probably just my grandmother again. I told her about Jesse and she's been calling every day to see if I've heard from him."

"You know that for a fact?"


"Ben, I understand how you feel--." Dan nearly dropped his beer when Ben growled. "Ben, you're being childish," he said with more conviction than he felt. He'd seen Ben in full feral mode and knew that it was dangerous to anger him, but he needed to make a point.

"I'm being childish?" Ben said, rising to his feet and advancing on Dan menacingly. Dan stood his ground and swallowed hard as he maintained eye contact.

"Listen to the message, Ben," Dan said softly, trying desperately not to wither under Ben's hard gaze. Ben sighed and hit the button on the machine.

Ben, it's me. I tried reaching you on your cell but I got no answer. I hope you're home. I'm on my way over.

The look on Ben's face was priceless, Dan thought, but he knew better than to say so out loud. He couldn't resist a little dig, however.

"Makes you sorry you threw your cell phone against that brick wall last night, doesn't it?"

Ben was too stunned to hear the remark. Leaving him to his thoughts, Dan set down his beer and went to the closet for his jacket.

"I guess you won't be watching the game tonight," he said. Ben looked up.

"Huh?" The intercom sounded as Ben spoke. He frowned and went to answer it.

"He couldn't possibly get here that fast, could he?" Dan asked.

"It depends on where he called from," Ben said as he buzzed Jesse in. He didn't trust himself to speak to Jesse until he had him face to face. "Uh, Dan. I'm sorry..."

"Hey! No need to apologize for my benefit, believe me. I'm glad Jesse's resurfaced. Hell, the entire squad will be thrilled to death," Dan said with a wink.

"Have I been that bad?" Ben asked.

"Worse," Dan chuckled as Ben opened the door. He turned and nearly walked into Jesse. "Excuse me," Dan said as he slid past the stunned mutant. "I'll see you on Monday, Ben," Dan said. Jesse watched him go, but Ben only had eyes for Jesse.

"Come in," Ben said finally. Jesse tore his eyes away from the elevator door and looked at Ben, who stepped back to allow him to enter. Jesse walked through the foyer into the living room and stopped. He turned around to look at Ben, who was leaning against the door. "Where the hell have you been for the past week?"

"I've been on assignment," Jesse replied. "Who was that?"

"That was a friend of mine," Ben said patiently. "What kind of assignment?"

Jesse shook his head and turned to pull off his jacket. He laid it over the back of the chair and attempted to gather his thoughts before facing Ben once more.

"I know you're probably very angry--."

"Angry? That's not near the top of the list," Ben said quietly, belying the fact that he was indeed angry. "Where the hell have you been?"

"Look, before you kick my ass, would you hold me for a minute?" Jesse asked shakily. "I could really use a hug."

Jesse averted his eyes as he spoke and Ben suddenly realized how pale and fragile he looked. Closing both the emotional and physical distance between them, he held Jesse to his heart as he assessed his physical state. Ben quickly determined that Jesse had all the symptoms of psychogenic shock. His breathing was irregular, his pulse was a bit elevated and although he had recently showered, he was sweating profusely. Ben pulled Jesse away slightly so he could look into his eyes; his pupils were dilated and lackluster, almost haunted. Ben could faintly taste his fear.

"What happened to you?" he asked

"I'm all right," Jesse said softly.

"The hell you are."

"I am." Jesse smiled. "I am now. You know, for the last five days the only thing I've had to sustain me was the thought of being in your arms again," he said in a voice choked with emotion. Ben held him tighter, but very carefully--as though he was afraid Jesse would break. After a moment, he released him, but only so he could lead him to the sofa to sit down, where he pulled him into his arms again.

"What happened?" Ben asked again.

"I went undercover. Lexa found Barrett's lab and I went in to find out what he was up to," Jesse said softly.

"Barrett? Who's Barrett?"

"I told you about him--he's the guy who wrote that paper on perfecting certain molecular traits."

"You mean the one who wanted to build a super army or something? What the hell were you thinking, going anywhere near that guy?" Ben felt Jesse wince and bit his lip to stop himself from saying more. Getting upset wouldn't help matters, especially with Jesse in his shell-shocked state.

"I had to do it, Ben. I was the only one qualified to assess the situation."

"You could have let me do it."

Jesse lifted his eyes to Ben's.

"What do you know about high-tech genetic lab equipment?" he asked. Ben shrugged. "Know anything about biomedical research?" Ben shook his head and sighed.

"Couldn't one of the others have gone in?" he asked.

"What--I should let them do all the stuff my boyfriend finds distasteful?" Jesse challenged with a smirk.

"Jesse, you know what I mean. It was dangerous for you to be anywhere near that guy. You should have told me what you were doing."

"So you could have stopped me?"

"You're damn right I would have," Ben said fiercely.

"That's why I didn't tell you," Jesse said with a sigh. "I'm sorry for deceiving you, Ben, but I'm not sorry for what I did. It had to be done." Ben brooded in silence. After a moment, Jesse hazarded a glance at his face. "Ben?"

"I would have done the exact same thing," he admitted.

"I know," Jesse said softly as he snuggled more deeply into Ben's arms. Ben absently stroked his hair and felt him relax a bit.

"What did he do to you, Jesse?"

"Ben, I'm fine."

"You're not fine. I don't have to know anything about biomedical research or genetics to know when a person is suffering from trauma." Ben nuzzled Jesse's neck and to his surprise, Jesse pulled away. "And I already know you've recently been bleeding."

"I took a shower!"

"And put on a Band-aid," Ben countered archly. Jesse slumped against Ben.

"He'd implanted me with a governor."

"What is a governor?"

"It's a device that prevents a mutant from using his powers. I'm not exactly sure how they work, but--."

"Barrett implanted one of those in you? So you couldn't escape?"

Jesse nodded dully.

"Son of a bitch! Jesse, did he hurt you?" Ben demanded. Jesse didn't answer and Ben sensed his growing anxiety. "What did he do to you, Jess?" he asked gently.

"I'm all right, Ben. It's over now."

"What's over?" Ben lifted Jesse's face to his. "What happened? Listen, Jess, this won't be over until you--."

"He had a hypodermic full of something and jabbed me with it before I had a chance to react. Then he took some of my blood, all right?" Jesse said exasperatedly. He pulled away from Ben and rose to his feet. He walked over to the window and stared out at the street. Ben knew that there was more to it, so he rose and followed him.


"He threw me into a cellar--a tiny cellar with a trap door in the ceiling and no lights."

"That's it?"

"According to Shal's post-mission physical, yes. She estimates that I was probably in there alone with Barrett for about two hours. I was unconscious most of the time, fortunately, but that was more than enough for me. I'm claustrophobic, Ben."

"Oh, jeez, Jesse," Ben said as he pulled Jesse into his arms. "No wonder you're shocky."

"Are you angry with me?" Jesse asked, his voice muffled by Ben's sweater.

"Yes," Ben said with a wry smile. "I'm going to nurse you back to health and then I'm going to kick your ass."

"Fair enough," Jesse replied, closing his eyes to revel in Ben's warmth. Ben held him for several minutes, till Jesse's heart rate was completely steady again. Then Ben kissed his forehead and smiled.

"Bed," Ben commanded.

"I promised Shalimar that I would rest if she let me come over."

"And you're going to. I may be a horny bastard, but I'm not a selfish one. You need a good night's sleep," Ben said. He took Jesse by the hand and led him to the bedroom. When Jesse started to undress, Ben slapped his hands away and did it himself, like a doting parent.

"I'm perfectly capable of undressing myself, Ben," Jesse said with a small smile.

"Nice shirt," Ben observed as he drew it off.

"Shal will be so thrilled that you noticed," Jesse deadpanned. Ben hung it over the back of the chair and resumed his task.

"Did she buy it for you?"

"For my last birthday, yes."

"Tell her I don't care for so many buttons," Ben said with a wink.

"I'll let her know you're an impatient guy," Jesse said. "Of course, had you let me do it myself..."

"Beginning to feel better, are you?"

"I always feel better when I'm around you, Ben," Jesse said as he slid his arms around Ben's waist. But Ben didn't allow himself to be distracted for long. He indulged Jesse only for a minute before he pushed him away and removed his pants, shoes and socks. Jesse crawled into bed while Ben laid the trousers across the chair.


Jesse rolled his eyes and drew a pair of boxers out from under the covers.

"That's better," Ben said as he watched Jesse toss them on the chair. He went to the bed and drew the covers back, exposing Jesse's nude body.

"What?" Jesse asked. "You think I'm smuggling contraband?"

"Humor me," Ben said gently, as he sat down on the edge of the bed and ran his hands over Jesse; he also made a visual inspection before rolling Jesse over and examining his backside.

"Trust me," Jesse challenged as he rolled back over.

"You said you were unconscious for more than an hour with that guy."

"Shal already subjected me to this," Jesse said crossly. "I think she just wanted to see me naked, though. The med-scan would have picked up anything." Ben leaned over and kissed him. Jesse grabbed his face and pulled him in for another one, slow and lingering.

"You go to sleep," Ben said. "And when you go back to Sanctuary--if and when I let you go--tell Shal to keep her eyes and hands off of you."

"Jealous?" Jesse asked with a smile.

"You're mine," Ben said. "If she gets in my way, I may have to kick her ass."

"Sorry, Ben, but if you try to kick Shal's ass I'm going to have to--."

Ben leaned in and kissed Jesse again before he could complete his sentence.


"I'm going to have to think long and hard before taking sides," he said breathlessly. Ben smiled as he reached for the lamp. Jesse stopped him before he could turn out the light.

"Speaking of prized possessions, who was that guy I saw leaving here earlier?"

"Jealous?" Ben shot back as he stood and pulled off his sweater.

"I was gone for less than a week. Tell me you weren't auditioning replacements already."

"I was worried about you, not desperate for company," Ben said. He shucked his pants and underwear and turned off the lamp. Carefully crawling over Jesse, he slid between the sheets. He enfolded the smaller man in his arms, spooned against Jesse's back.

"So you weren't replacing me and you didn't want company..." Jesse prompted.

"You are jealous."

"All right; I admit I did find it somewhat disconcerting to find you with another man," Jesse confessed.

"I wasn't with another man, Jess."

"You know what I mean! By the way, I'm sure I can kick his ass easily," Jesse said smugly.

"Oh, I don't doubt that," Ben said softly, nuzzling the nape of Jesse's neck and reveling in the scent of Jesse's skin. He'd missed him even more than he'd realized. "But I should warn you--Dan carries a gun."

"Dan? That was your partner?"

"My work partner, yes," Ben said as he nibbled Jesse's shoulder.

"Does that make me your play partner?" Jesse asked with a drowsy smile.

"Go to sleep," Ben said, returning the smile. "Rest up; you're going to need it later."

"Why?" Jesse asked around a yawn.

"I'm making plans for your welcome home party," Ben whispered in his ear. He smiled when Jesse's body reacted to his tease and enjoyed the scent while Jesse drifted off to sleep. Ben watched Jesse sleep for a time before dozing off himself. But days of worrying and waiting had taken their toll. With Jesse safely in his arms again, sleep overtook him easily.

Onto Part Five
Tags: jesse kilmartin, mutant x, personal sanctuary

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