Fandom: Mutant X
Summary: Jesse finds his personal sanctuary--outside of Mutant X. (Set in Season 3.)
Two hours later, Ben woke up alone. He immediately panicked and scrambled out of the bed, reaching for his robe. Before he'd gotten as far as the hall, he heard sounds of Jesse moving about in the kitchen.
"Why are you out of bed?" Ben asked tersely.
"I was hungry," Jesse said. "I can't even remember the last time I ate. Your refrigerator is empty again," he complained. "Just about the only thing in there is juice and beer." Ben shrugged.
"I've been too busy worrying about you to go shopping. Sue me," he said as he walked past Jesse and went to the counter. "Take out?"
"What do you want?"
"Anything," Jesse said promptly. "A lot of it." Ben sighed and opened a drawer. He pulled out a stack of menus and tried to hand them to Jesse, who recoiled from the proffered bundle.
"Just order something. I'm too hungry to choose."
Ben rolled his eyes and reached for the phone. He called a local pizzeria and placed an order for two pies with the works.
Jesse smiled gratefully. Ben hung up the phone and pulled him into his arms.
"You shouldn't be walking around like that. You need to keep warm."
"You are such a mother hen, Ben," Jesse said as he wrapped his arms around him. "Besides, you're all the warmth I need."
"Very romantic," Ben said, "now humor me and go put something on. We don't want to frighten the delivery guy, now, do we?"
"First you peel me out of my clothes, now you want me to get dressed again. I wish you'd make up your mind," Jesse complained good-naturedly as he went down the hall back to the bedroom with Ben on his heels.
"It's only temporary, I assure you," Ben said. "There are some sweats in the bottom drawer on the left," he said as he pulled on his own jeans. "You can put those on, but not till the pizza gets here. For now, you're going back to bed."
"Shal was right. I should have rested back at Sanctuary before I came over."
"You probably should have; not that I don't appreciate you coming over. You were in no condition to be driving."
"Who drove? Shal brought me over in the Double Helix."
"Double Helix? What's that?"
"You don't want to know," Jesse said as he slid back under the covers. "Suffice to say, it took her all of five minutes to get me here."
"How--?" Ben aborted the question when Jesse yawned. He pulled the covers up over him and kissed his brow before leaving Jesse to sleep. About a half hour later, Ben poked his head into the bedroom to announce that the pizza had arrived. Jesse climbed out of bed and pulled on the sweats and a tee shirt before heading for the dining area.
"Hey," Jesse said absently, making a beeline for the pizza. Ben looked up as he passed by. He joined Ben a moment later in the living room, where he was watching a basketball game.
"Chew," Ben demanded firmly.
"I am chewing," Jesse replied with his mouth full.
"You're inhaling," Ben corrected. He rose and went to the kitchen, returning a minute later with a glass of juice.
"How come I get juice and you get beer?"
"My vital signs aren't erratic," Ben replied.
"I'm fine, Ben."
"Keep saying that," Ben teased.
"I can manage one beer."
"Probably, but I don't want you passing out in your pizza. Eat."
Jesse muttered something under his breath and Ben threw a pillow at him.
"I heard that."
Jesse smiled and continued to eat. Ben turned off the television so they could talk.
"So is Barrett in federal custody or local?"
"We didn't get Barrett," Jesse replied glumly. "I was there strictly to do reconnaissance. The only way I could manage that was to wangle my way onto a work crew that delivered and installed some lab equipment. I worked there all week with five other guys, under strict house rules. After the first couple of days we weren't allowed off the premises. Meals were brought in and we slept in a makeshift dorm. We weren't allowed calls, either. That's why I haven't been in touch. Barrett apparently had the place electronically monitored. I never saw him till the last day. We finished up and he came down to personally deliver our pay. He knew exactly who I was."
"Because you're in that mutant database you told me about?"
"Either that or intel from the Black Widow. Anyway, he asked me to wait when the others left and he called me 'Mr. Kilmartin.' I'd gone by the name 'Bill' all week and had never given a surname. Before I could say or do anything, he jabbed me in the throat with a hypodermic. I came to a while later in the cellar. By then, according to Shal, Barrett had vacated the premises."
"Vacated--as in abandoned, or had he just left?"
"I have to assume he just went out for something. Why would he vacate after taking me prisoner? After all, I'm exactly what he needs to carry out his master plan."
"Did anyone stake out the place to wait for him to return?" Ben rose and went to the phone. "I can get a team down there--."
"Don't bother," Jesse said. "Lexa torched the place."
"She what? Why?" Ben shouted angrily.
"She wanted to prevent him from using that lab."
"That's all well and good but she probably also destroyed every shred of evidence we'd need to convict him of kidnapping you, not to mention the fact that arson is a felony itself. I thought Mutant X was about seeking justice and protecting the innocent. How do you justify taking the law into your own hands like that?"
"I know, Ben," Jesse sighed, "and I agree. But I was in no condition to argue with her at the time." Ben reached out and caressed Jesse's face in mute apology. "He's got my blood, Ben."
"But you said the lab went up in flames."
"Yeah, but--." Jesse sighed again. "It's likely that he took the sample with him when he went."
"Why would he do that?"
"Because he's probably still working out of his old lab. If you were Barrett and your associate was arrested you'd pull up stakes and relocate, right?"
"So you build a fancy new lab, only it's not finished yet. What do you do?"
"I'd continue to use the old lab until the new one was ready--if I thought it was safe," Ben replied.
"It could be just a matter of time before the Black Widow cracks and gives up its location."
"Actually, Jess," Ben said hesitantly, "I got some news this morning. The Black Widow was found dead in her cell about an hour after she had a visitor who represented himself as her counsel. It turned out that the guy wasn't her attorney and he'd used an alias."
"Barrett," Jesse said bluntly, eyes wide with surprise.
"We don't have a positive ID on the guy."
"Have you got a security camera photo? I can identify him."
"That's right!" Ben said, brightening. "I'll get you one as soon as possible." The pair fell silent and Jesse resumed eating. Ben observed him for a few minutes. "Finish up and then it's back to bed for you."
"For once I don't think I'll argue with you," Jesse said with a yawn. "I feel like crap." Ben rose and fetched him another slice of pizza and earned a kiss for his trouble.
"So tell me about these plans of yours," Jesse said after a few minutes.
"You said you were planning a welcome home party. Who's on the invite list?"
"It's pretty short; just me and Bear and he's already told me he couldn't make it."
"Pity," Jesse said.
"Yeah, I was crushed too," Ben said archly. Jesse smiled.
"Will there be entertainment?"
"Oh yes, live entertainment," Ben said suggestively.
"I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise by telling you now. You wouldn't be able to sleep," Ben told Jesse as he picked up his empty plate and carried them to the kitchen. "Now be a good boy and go back to bed."
"Yes, Poppa Bear," Jesse muttered as he rose to his feet and stretched languidly. As he dropped his arms, he felt a hard smack on his bottom. "Ow!"
"Back to bed, smartass!"
Jesse laughed and returned to the bedroom. He went into the bathroom to brush his teeth before going to bed. When he opened the medicine chest he saw that Ben had stocked Jesse's preferred brand of toothpaste. As he brushed his teeth, Jesse also noted that Ben had laid in a supply of the shampoo and conditioner Shalimar had given him.
"Silly old bear," Jesse said with amusement. "Sappy old bear, actually," he chuckled after rinsing his mouth. He returned to the bedroom and crawled under covers. Just as he fell asleep again, Ben entered the room and lightly jostled him.
"Jess? I have to go out for a while, but I'll be back soon."
"Hmm?" Jesse asked, rolling over to look up at him.
"Go back to sleep, Jess," Ben said before giving him a brief kiss.
"You woke me up to tell me to go back to sleep?"
"It's been a while since my last wake up call," Ben grinned as he rose and headed for the door. It was only then that Jesse noticed his jacket.
"Hey, where are you going?"
"Police business," Ben said cryptically. "I should be back within an hour."
"I'm only going to the precinct," Ben said. "Sleep."
"No need to ask twice," Jesse said. He was asleep again before Ben left the apartment building.
When he arrived at the precinct, Ben tracked down details about a suspicious fire that had taken place at what was thought to be an abandoned air raid shelter. The fire department recovered seven male bodies at the scene. Two were found in a box that firefighters broke open as they tried to remove flammable objects from the fire's path. Both bodies were believed to be between 25 and 30 years of age. The others, of varying ages, were found locked in a room a short distance from the exit. The preliminary report indicated that all seven men had died prior to the fire. The five in the locked room had been shot, but the cause of death for the others was not readily apparent, although they'd been dead for some time.
Ben shuddered to think that under other circumstances Jesse's body might have been among the dead and couldn't help speculating about the possibility that Mutant X had been involved in the deaths of the five men. He tried to erase that thought as he looked through his files and found the pictures of the two missing mutants. He fully expected them to be identified as the bodies found in the box. Ben called the precinct where the fire had occurred and offered to fax over the pictures and relevant information.
When he got off the phone he dug out the pictures from the jail security camera. He made a copy of them, along with the statements of eye witnesses who described the Black Widow's last visitor. He was determined to do anything he could to build a case against Barrett and get him into custody before Mutant X went after him again. First and foremost, Ben wanted to see Barrett brought to justice, but more importantly, he knew that as long as Barrett was on the loose, Jesse would not be safe. He also feared that as long as Barrett was at large, Jesse would be looking for him and Ben was not about to let him put his life at risk again if it could be avoided.
When he returned to his apartment, he stowed his briefcase and jacket in the closet and went to check on Jesse. He sat on the edge of the bed and watched him sleep for a moment. Jesse looked terribly young when he slept, which always made Ben smile. He lightly brushed away the tresses that covered the tiny wound at the base of his neck. The smile faded and Ben felt a surge of anger. Jesse opened his eyes and squinted up at him.
"Sorry," Ben said, bending to kiss him. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"In that case you shouldn't sit there and growl," Jesse said as he reached up and caressed his chest. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. Go back to sleep."
"Too late," Jesse said. He sat up and kissed Ben, pulling him down with him as he laid back down. Jesse ran his fingers through Ben's hair as he deepened the kiss.
"Jess, you need to sleep," Ben said hoarsely when Jesse finally let him escape.
"I need you, Ben."
"Jess--." He was pulled down again and kissed more thoroughly. "Jesse, you need to rest."
"I must be losing my touch," Jesse quipped.
"You haven't lost anything," Ben assured him.
"So I'm still hot as hell?"
"And cute; don't forget that you're terribly cute," Ben said as he pulled away and got up to get undressed.
"Prove it," Jesse challenged. Ben grinned and went into the bathroom. He returned a moment later with a mirror.
"See for yourself," he said. Jesse rolled his eyes.
"You can do better than that," Jesse replied. "I need reassurance."
"You need a good spanking. I'll reassure you tomorrow." Ben slipped under the covers, but made a show of leaving a space between the two men. Jesse sat up and looked at the clock.
"Okay," Jesse said impishly. Ben was suspicious.
"Okay? No argument?"
"It's 11:58, Ben." Jesse waited exactly two minutes before he pounced. This time Ben didn't fight him. It had been five long days since he and Jesse were together. He was more than ready to have him in his arms again.
"Hey!" Ben yelped.
"Hello," Jesse said with a breezy smile before resuming his assault on Ben's chest. Ben gasped and reluctantly pulled the blond head up to look into Jesse's eyes.
"What time is it?"
"Six o'clock," Jesse said as he attempted to extricate himself from Ben's grip.
"How do you feel?"
"Great; probably even better if you let go of me," Jesse replied. Ben didn't comply so Jesse used a hand to do what his lips could not. He trailed a path from Ben's sternum to his pubic bone with his hand. Ben hissed as he felt a frisson of pleasure travel the length of his body.
"Are you sure you're all right? You attacked me at midnight and again at three this morning. Now at six--I've never seen you smile laciviously at this hour, by the way," Ben said as an aside. "What gives?"
"I'm trying to get you to give, Ben. I should have thought that was obvious."
"I gave earlier."
"You rejected me, you mean."
"You call that rejection?" Ben said incredulously. "Consider yourself fortunate--I don't usually service my partners on demand."
"Service, yes, but satisfy..."
Ben's mouth fell open in shock. His grip loosened and Jesse took advantage of the opportunity to straddle the feral.
"I've never had complaints before," Ben said as Jesse slowly massaged Ben's chest with his palms.
"You've never had me before," Jesse countered pointedly. He punctuated his remark with a brief kiss and nibble of Ben's lips.
"True," Ben conceded. "Well, there was the one occasion last week before you disappeared..."
"Going for two here, stud," Jesse said as he lowered his face to Ben's chest and kissed it. Ben closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, as Jesse slid down his body and began to lick Ben's abdomen.
"You know, if you keep that up--," Ben said hoarsely.
"You'll keep this up?" Jesse said with a waggle of brows as he took hold of Ben's healthy morning erection.
"It's fairly hard to keep it down with you on the premises," Ben said as Jesse slowly began to stroke him into greater arousal.
"Really? You showed an amazing amount of restraint earlier this morning. You know, you're going to have to give in at some point."
"So you're going to do this every three hours until I--." Ben hissed and muttered something incoherent; Jesse giggled.
"I could try every two hours if you prefer."
"Ever hear of the guy who flew too close to the sun?" Ben asked when he'd recovered his powers of speech.
"Right now, you're flying solo."
"You keep teasing me like this and you'll be flying solo," Ben said with a significant look. Jesse smiled and bent to kiss him.
"Want to see me fly solo, Ben?" he asked, sitting up again and releasing his grip on Ben to take hold of his own member. He got up on his knees and, locking his eyes with Ben's, began to stroke himself.
"Jesse," Ben whispered as his eyes traveled down Jesse's body and locked on Jesse's penis. For the next few minutes Ben was mesmerized as he watched Jesse perform. Jesse gently taunted him the entire time as he slowly moved his hand up and down.
"Haven't you missed me, Ben? I missed you. Look how much I missed you, Ben. Look at what you do to me, Ben."
Ben grew hotter and harder as he watched Jesse tease and torment him. Jesse smiled lewdly when he felt Ben squirm under him. He leaned forward and kissed Ben but withdrew before Ben was satisfied. He growled and grabbed Jesse, wrestling him to the bed. Jesse giggled as Ben flipped him onto his back and bit his neck. He continued to laugh as Ben kissed, licked and bit him. Ben bit harder and Jesse arched up off of the bed. As he moaned, Ben buried his face in Jesse's neck and inhaled as his hands played along Jesse's hot skin.
"Ben," Jesse sighed, "could you skip the scratch and sniff portion of your routine and just do me?" Ben raised his eyebrows and glared.
"Scratch and sniff? You know, five and a half weeks ago, you were sweet, innocent, and virginal--."
"Until you came along and saved me from a life of sexual tedium," Jesse said as he nibbled along Ben's collarbone.
"So I did."
"And your problem with this is--?"
"I created a monster."
"Your monster, Ben," Jesse whispered in his ear. "Do me."
"A very pushy monster," Ben added with a smirk, "with great ideas."
"Impertinent whelp!" Ben silenced Jesse with a kiss and blindly reached for the drawer.
Making love to Jesse was even better than he'd remembered. The last night they spent together had been magical. It had been so perfect in Ben's mind, in fact, that he'd spent the ensuing six days thinking that he'd imagined the whole thing. Now he knew that it was no dream. Jesse was in his arms again, alive and warm and hungry--too animated, too hot and too vocal to be a figment of Ben's imagination.
But in spite of his eagerness, Ben set a slow pace. He wanted to make Jesse savor every second of the experience. Their first couplings had been fast and furious; Ben had succumbed to Jesse's energy and eroticism. It had been heady and passionate and wonderful, exhilarating and fun. Making love to Jesse had been a complete revelation. Never before had Ben felt so completely free in bed. He let loose his feral tendencies without fear of scaring or harming his partner. Jesse reveled in Ben's true nature and was nearly just as wild when aroused. Now it was time for the younger man to learn that there was more--much more to experience in the arms of his lover.
"Ben," Jesse moaned, elongating the one syllable as he crested a wave of sensation. His cry incited Ben to thrust more deeply into him. Jesse responded enthusiastically, tightening his grip on Ben's arms and raising his hips to meet Ben's. When Jesse growled impatiently, Ben pinned his wrists to the bed and laughed.
"We're going to do this my way this time," he said tenderly. "And I thought I was the growler in this couple," he teased as he lowered his head to kiss Jesse. As Ben allowed his tongue to taste and explore Jesse's mouth he idly wondered if forcing Jesse to lie relatively still would imperil his sheets. He smiled into Jesse's mouth and imagined a chat with a suspicious fire marshal.
"Honestly, sir, I wasn't smoking in bed. My lover is really hot stuff--REALLY hot stuff.
"Does this tickle or are you having a private joke at my expense?" Jesse asked playfully. "And should I be insulted that you're so easily distracted while making love to me?"
It was only then that Ben realized that he'd been laughing out loud. He tried to suppress his smile but he was too damned happy. He kissed Jesse between the eyes.
"Yes, I was having a private joke at your expense and no, you shouldn't be insulted," Ben assured him. "I was just wondering if you were going to make the sheets spontaneously combust."
"I was hoping you'd make me spontaneously combust," Jesse replied archly.
"When did you get to be such a pushy bottom?"
Jesse opened his mouth to answer, but Ben decided that he'd had enough conversation. He kissed Jesse before he could speak and made a study of Jesse's lips till the man beneath him cried out in ecstasy.
"Like that, did you?" Ben asked, repeating the motion of his hips that had brought Jesse perilously close to the brink. His response was incoherent and Ben reveled in Jesse's physical reaction, which raised the ante by nearly toppling Ben over the edge as well. Ben was determined to eschew spontaneous combustion in favor of slow burn, however, so he reined himself in.
It took a few moments to get Jesse to go along with the program, but it paid off. Their climax was sweet and romantic and for Ben, hotter than anything he and Jesse had ever experienced together. The look in Jesse's eyes told him that he, too, was equally moved. He pulled Ben's face down to his for one of those long, lingering kisses that Ben always found so achingly sweet. Ben was as romantic as they came but something about those kisses always unmanned him and he buried his face in Jesse's neck as he fought to control his emotions.
"I love you, Jesse," Ben said softly.
"I know; I love you, too," Jesse replied. Ben's eyes opened wide and he turned his face to gaze at Jesse, who smiled back at him.
"I know?" Ben repeated.
"I should have told you before I went undercover, but I wasn't sure you were ready to hear it. I wasn't even sure I was ready to say it, but it was all I thought about while I was in that bunker. I'm sorry I put you through hell this past week, Ben."
"What do you mean, 'I know'?" Ben replied, still focused on the wrong part of Jesse's pronouncement.
"Well, you told me before."
"Well, maybe you didn't mean to tell me. In fact, at the time I thought you were talking in your sleep. But you were muttering right in my ear so I heard you loud and clear."
"What did I say, exactly?" Ben asked worriedly. He was of the opinion that he'd kept his secret better than that.
"Well, you said you were crazy about my ass--which is a great and truly unique lead-in to a declaration of love, by the way," Jesse teased.
"Hey, I'm crazy about your ass, too--especially as it seems to be so attached to the rest of your incredibly gorgeous body. I'm crazy about that, too, by the way."
"...And I said?"
"Oh; you said, 'love you, kid.' I assumed you meant me, because you had that annoying habit of calling me 'kid' when we first met and there weren't any other young people around--."
Ben put his hand over Jesse's mouth. Jesse promptly licked it.
"Are you sure you were only given a sedative in that place?" he asked as he wiped his palm on the sheets.
"I'm happy, Ben. I get like this when I'm happy."
"Ah, so this is the annoyingly ebullient behavior Brennan warned me about," Ben said dryly. "How long does this euphoria last?"
"Hey, if you don't want my company I can always go back to Sanctuary," Jesse threatened.
"You aren't going anywhere," Ben said, rolling on top of Jesse to pin him down again. "When exactly did I allegedly make this declaration?"
"A few weeks back."
"Precisely," Ben said with a hint of a growl. Jesse smiled affectionately. Jesse was fond of Ben's feral persona, especially when he growled.
"What difference does it make?"
Ben knew he was being baited, he didn't disappoint. He nipped Jesse's left ear and the younger man arched off the bed. The movement went right through Ben, inciting interest in both their groins despite their recent activities.
"Jess..." Ben growled softly in his ear and felt the shiver of pleasure travel through first his lover's and then his own body. "Interesting kink," Ben observed as he began to nibble Jesse's throat and inhaled his pheromones. "Before you make me forget myself--again--will you answer my question?"
"What was your question again?"
Ben growled and nipped Jesse's throat. Jesse began to squirm and freed his wrists. Ben quickly grabbed them again.
"You are so in need of a spanking right now," he said.
"Is that your kink, Ben? I have to admit I could never understand the appeal," Jesse said as Ben began to wrestle Jesse onto his lap. However, Jesse was not about to submit. As Ben lifted his hand to swat his rear, Jesse seemed to shimmer and then became transparent as he scooted to the far end of the bed, leaving Ben empty handed.
"Remember what you're dealing with, Ben," Jesse said smugly.
"That must come in very handy," Ben said as he pounced on Jesse. Once again Jesse phased and this time Ben passed right through him. "Whoa!"
"You were saying?" Jesse grinned. Ben slowly rolled over and stared up at the smiling man.
"Very cute. Come here." Jesse obediently crawled into Ben's arms. "I was never really going to be able to kick your ass, was I?" Ben asked as Jesse nuzzled his throat.
"Not unless I let you, no," Jesse said as he nibbled and kissed his way to Ben's mouth. He phased his lower body as once again Ben tried to swat his bottom. "Are you done? I can't keep doing that indefinitely."
"Oh?" Ben asked seriously. "There's a limit to how often you can phase?"
"It's not that, really; it's physically exhausting. I have to separate and alter the density of my molecules in order to phase or mass. It's painful, too, although short spurts are no big deal. But it takes its toll. I get really tired afterward, especially after phasing. And if I stay phased for more than thirty seconds I stand an excellent chance of dissipating entirely."
"And that's why Barrett wants to perfect the mutation," Ben said thoughtfully.
"Let's not talk about Barrett," Jesse mumbled into Ben's throat as he continued to kiss and nibble the hot skin.
"Right," Ben said as he closed his eyes and reveled in the sensation of Jesse's body rubbing against his own. "Let's talk about us."
"Let's not talk," Jesse said as he increased the friction. "We're both men of action."
"Whoa, there!" Ben said, grabbing Jesse's rear end to halt his movement. "Didn't you ever learn that rubbing two sticks together could start a fire?"
"That was the general idea."
"I have a better idea," Ben said as he reached into the top drawer of his nightstand once more. He retrieved the bottle of lubricant and a condom and handed them to Jesse.
"I want you to make love to me, Jesse."
"You want me--?"
"To make love to me, yes," Ben said as he gently rolled Jesse off of his body. He turned over and laid his cheek on crossed hands. He gazed at Jesse patiently. "Unless you'd rather not..."
Jesse didn't need any more encouragement. With Ben's gentle guidance, Jesse prepped and entered Ben. It wasn't destined to last long. From the beginning, Jesse was overwhelmed by the sensation of being inside his lover. It was like nothing he'd ever felt before, far different--better than the best sex he'd ever had with a woman. Jesse wanted to return the compliment Ben had paid him by making it as special for him as possible. He was cognizant that in offering himself to Jesse, Ben was showing his love in a manner that spoke louder than words. Ultimately, however, Jesse wasn't up to the task of impressing Ben with anything more than sincere passion. After just a few minutes, he came with a roar and began to apologize as soon as he could speak. Ben pulled Jesse into his arms and laughed.
"Jess! Jess; there's nothing to apologize for. As you might have noticed I popped my cork, too," he said as he rubbed Jesse's back soothingly. "I actually prefer it hard and fast and your natural...ebullience worked to my advantage perfectly."
Ben aborted Jesse's self-reproaching comeback with a kiss. He rolled Jesse onto his back and spent the next several minutes showering him with kisses, showing him with words and actions just how much he'd enjoyed the sex.
"On the other hand," Ben said, "if you're dissatisfied with your technique, I'd be happy to schedule a few dozen training sessions."
"You're so generous."
"Your happiness means the world to me, whatever the sacrifice."
"And what if I decide that I prefer being a top?" Jesse asked as he caressed Ben's arm.
"I'll have to buy you one of those inflatable love dolls," Ben replied, ducking when Jesse rose up and tried to bite him. They wrestled on the bed for several minutes, ending up with Jesse straddling the larger man's chest.
"My happiness means the world to you," he repeated mockingly.
"It does," Ben said seriously. He pulled Jesse's face to his for another kiss, this time soft and gentle and full of tenderness. They remained like that for a while, till Jesse raised his head.
"I'm hungry," he announced, sitting up.
"I'm not surprised. Being a horn dog must burn an awful lot of calories," Ben replied as he slid out from under his lover and headed for the bathroom. "Shower first and then I'll make breakfast."
The two men indulged in their usual morning ritual, taking turns lavishing attention on one another under the water before wrapping themselves into terrycloth robes and heading for the kitchen. Jesse helped himself to a slice of cold pizza while Ben began to prepare French toast.
"You had better eat this when I'm done," he said with a disapproving look for his lover.
"Oh, don't worry," Jesse assured him. "I've worked up quite an appetite."
"Yes, you do have quite an appetite," Ben agreed, though he was no longer only thinking of Jesse's stomach. "Tell me, something; if you weren't getting any before you met me, what were you doing with all that excess sexual energy?"
"Two hundred sit-ups a day, two hundred push-ups a day, a few dozen pull-ups a day, and a lot of whacking off," Jesse chuckled as he wrapped his arms around Ben's waist and slipped a hand inside his robe. "The rest I saved for you."
Ben smiled and carefully extricated Jesse's hand before he slipped out of his loose hold.
"Down boy, I'm cooking here. Make yourself useful and start a pot of coffee."
"And feed Bear before he starts chewing on your ankle, will you?"
"Why are you always suggesting that he's going to eat me?" Jesse laughed as he reached for a can of cat food.
"Because you are extremely edible, as I can well attest, and we have similar tastes," Ben quipped.
"Is that what became of your last boyfriend?" Jesse replied, playing along. Ben sighed dramatically and adopted a pose of sadness.
"I came home late one night and found a very neat pile of bones in a corner," he said mournfully. Then he smiled. "Of course, Bear is a complete slob, so he must have split her with the cleaning lady." Jesse filled the cat's bowl and turned his attention to the coffee. He was reaching for mugs when he heard Shalimar's voice on the com link.
"Got your ears on handsome?"
"For you, Shal? Anytime," Jesse replied.
"Morning, Shal," Ben said, leaning close to Jesse before he spoke.
"Is that Ben?" she asked.
"No, it's his cat," Jesse said. "Of course it's Ben. He can hear you when we speak on this thing."
"Feral hearing--I'm not surprised," Shalimar said. "Good morning, Ben. How's our patient?"
"He's looking like his old self," Ben said, slapping Jesse's wandering hand away. "Acting like himself, too." Ben menaced Jesse with the spatula in his hand.
"I guess you were right, Jess. You did rest better once you saw Ben," she conceded.
"What can I say? He has a relaxing effect on me."
"Do I? I hadn't noticed that," Ben teased, recalling the lengths to which he had gone the previous night to subdue Jesse's urges. Two hand jobs during the night and Jesse still woke up horny and full of energy.
"So what's up, Shal?"
"I'm just checking to see how you're holding up. You looked pretty bad when I dropped you off last night."
"He looks terrific this morning," Ben observed with a head to toe look at the man in question. "I'd say he's holding up extremely well." Jesse smiled and waggled his eyebrows.
"You must be some kind of miracle cure," Shalimar teased.
"You'd be amazed what the love of a good man can do," Jesse said. "...Or maybe not..." Shalimar laughed.
"Well, I'll leave you two lovebirds alone. I'm glad you're feeling better, hon."
"Thank you, Shal," Ben added as he slid the last slice of toast onto a plate. He heard the com link click off. "I forgot to warn her about touching your body."
"Hey, don't pick a fight with Shal. I've got loyalty issues."
"I'll give you loyalty issues," Ben said. He turned off the stove and pulled Jesse into his arms. "Repeat after me: 'I belong to Ben--fuck off.'"
"I belong to Ben--fuck off."
"Very good." Ben rewarded Jesse with a kiss, although Jesse's laughter made it awkward. "Now let's eat."
They sat down to breakfast. When Jesse reached for the newspaper, Ben stopped him and went to fetch his briefcase.
"Here; I picked these up at the station last night," Ben said, handing Jesse the security camera images of a man approaching the Black Widow's high security cell.
"That's him," Jesse said promptly. "That's Barrett. When was this taken?"
"Early yesterday afternoon. I assume that he went from wherever he left you to dispatch her. She was the only person who could connect him to you."
"Yeah, except that he caught me in the morning. We finished up around eleven."
"That still works. He clearly felt he had no further need of her."
"Yeah," Jesse said soberly. He dropped the photos and resumed eating.
"There's more," Jesse," Ben said gently. "The fire department found bodies, seven of them."
"Two of them had been dead for some time and I suspect that they're the two missing mutants. The others were shot shortly before the fire."
"The work crew."
"So even if he hadn't recognized you, there was no way Barrett would have let you walk out of there alive--assuming Barrett is responsible for their deaths."
"Who else would be responsible?"
"I have to ask, Jess--."
"No!" Jesse said emphatically. "There's no way Mutant X was involved in that."
"Didn't any of you see the bodies?"
"I was completely out of it when they pulled me out of that cell," Jesse said with a shudder. "I didn't see or hear anything but the sound of Shalimar's voice as she talked me back from my anxiety attack." Ben reached out and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "But I can speak with the others and find out if they noticed anything."
"Listen, Jesse; Barrett's still out there and I know Mutant X is determined to go after him. I want them to stay clear of Barrett. Let the police handle this, you hear me? And I especially want you to stay away from him. You've already been compromised twice. I don't want him getting a third chance at you."
"I mean it, Jesse! If you or Mutant X attempts to interfere in the police investigation--."
"The police have no idea what they're dealing with!" Jesse spat. "He may have vital information that in the wrong hands could be very dangerous. We can't afford to let anyone get a hold of it."
"Jesse, let us handle it."
"I can't, Ben, not as far as that data is concerned. I agree with you--Barrett should be brought to justice and he should be held accountable for those murders. But--."
"No buts, Jesse," Ben said firmly. "If Mutant X gets in our way--." Jesse averted his eyes and Ben sighed. "I'm only trying to do what's right."
"You're trying to protect me, you mean," Jesse said angrily.
"Hell yes, I'm trying to protect you! There's a man out there who had you kidnapped and then imprisoned you himself, or have you forgotten that?"
"Of course I haven't forgotten it," Jesse replied exasperatedly. "But I can't just let you guys run roughshod over this."
"Oh, please! Give us a little credit, Jess!"
"You, yes; I can't speak for the rest of your department. And I can guarantee you right now that Mutant X will not back down on this, even if I wanted them to."
Ben growled low and menacingly. Jesse brooded as they finished their meal in silence.
"I should go," he said finally.
Jesse pulled away from the hand Ben placed on his arm and rose to his feet. He took his plate and mug to the kitchen and placed them in the sink before speaking again.
"Look, Ben, I know you've got my best interests at heart, but I don't think you realize what you're asking."
"I'm asking you to stay away from Barrett," Ben said, rising to join him. "I can't protect you if you and Mutant X go after Barrett on your own." He pulled Jesse into his arms and hugged him fiercely. "I love you, Jess. I don't want to see anything happen to you. And I don't want Mutant X dispensing its own justice. You should have called me the moment you found Barrett's hideout." Jesse sighed. "You are one stubborn little cur," he said fondly. He kissed Jesse's hair and released him. Jesse reached up and caressed his cheek with a sad smile.
"I have to do this, Ben."
"Do you want me to drive you somewhere?" Ben asked, doing is best to ignore the remark. "How will you get back to Sanctuary?"
"I'll call Shal," Jesse said. He went to the bedroom and called her on the com link while he dressed. Ben followed him to the bedroom and also dressed. "She'll be waiting for me by the time I get to the pick up point."
"A couple of blocks from here. I can walk it."
"Not alone, you can't," Ben said firmly.
"I'm a grown man, you know."
"That just makes you a bigger target," Ben said with a wink. "Besides, I need to get milk. Humor me." The couple walked over to an empty schoolyard a short distance from Ben's apartment. Ben looked around and frowned.
"I thought you said she'd be here," Ben said.
"She is," Jesse replied with a smile. He leaned in and gave Ben a brief kiss. "I'll talk to you later." Ben glared at him. "Honest! I'm won't be leaving Sanctuary today. And I'll let everyone know what you said."
"Good," Ben said, pulling Jesse into a hug. They held each other for a moment. "I still don't see Shalimar." Jesse smiled and turned Ben around. An access panel seemed to appear out of nowhere and lowered to reveal a set of steps.
"Did I mention that the Double Helix is invisible?" Jesse said before he jogged over to the jet. He turned and waved at Ben and entered the jet. The steps disappeared and Ben felt and heard the engine of the stealth vehicle as it took off.
On the ride back to Sanctuary, Jesse told Shalimar all he had learned from Ben about the Barrett case and about their ensuing argument about Mutant X's involvement.
"He sounds like a man in love," Shalimar said knowingly.
"That doesn't give him the right to make demands we can't accept," Jesse protested.
"You know, he's got a point. I'm not crazy about the idea of you being anywhere near Barrett, either. We obviously couldn't protect you, even with our surveillance and com links."
"We've got to get him, Shal. I want him stopped."
"We'll stop him, Jesse. Let's get you back to Sanctuary and we'll all sit down and discuss this."
"What's this about?" Brennan asked when the four members of Mutant X had assembled. Shalimar looked at Jesse.
"I spoke with Ben this morning," he began.
"Ben?" Lexa asked.
"The hunky cop, remember?" Shalimar said with a wink. Jesse gaped at her as a twinge of jealousy momentarily overtook him. "Jess," she prompted.
"Yeah," he said, clearing his throat. "There were two things he wanted to pass on; first, the fire department found seven bodies at the bunker. Two of them are probably the missing mutants he's been trying to locate. The others were the guys I worked with. They'd all been shot."
"I never saw them leave the bunker, but I didn't give that any thought. We went in after Barrett left," Lexa said.
"What's the other thing?" Brennan asked.
"The Black Widow is dead. Barrett was the last person to visit her, passing himself off as her attorney," Jesse said.
"It looks like he's tying up all loose ends," Shalimar said. "Thank goodness we got you back in one piece," she said as she wrapped an arm around Jesse's shoulders.
"I'm worth more to him alive--at least, I was," Jesse said. "He's got at least eight murders to his credit and right now I'm the only person who can tie him to the Black Widow and the murders at his lab. I doubt that he'd hesitate to add me to his list."
"That's why we've got to take him down," Lexa said emphatically.
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Brennan agreed.
"The police want us out of it," Jesse said. "Ben's not at all pleased that you torched the lab, Lexa."
"And just how would he know about that?" she replied.
"I told him what happened."
"What the hell for?" Brennan spat. "We don't need the police breathing down our backs."
"And they don't need us destroying their evidence," Jesse said with an accusatory glare at Lexa. "Barrett's a murderer and they want to bring him to justice."
"Sure; they've been doing such a good job so far," Lexa sneered.
"We've been impeding their investigation up till now and they're asking us to back off," Jesse said firmly. "I think they're right--to a point. We can't afford to let Barrett's data fall into the wrong hands."
"Which is why we can't back off," Lexa said. "You tell Ben to steer clear."
"Or what?" Jesse said. Shalimar gripped his shoulder.
"Or I'll go through him to get to Barrett," Lexa said. Shalimar tightened her grip, effectively preventing Jesse from rising. But she couldn't silence him.
"Will you listen to yourself? We're supposed to be on the same side, Lexa! What the hell's gotten into you?"
"What's gotten into you? You of all people know how dangerous Barrett is. He's got to be stopped."
"And it has to be your way? I don't buy that, Lexa." With that Jesse rose and strode out of the room.
"What's eating him?" Brennan asked.
"Seems like getting a new girlfriend hasn't mellowed him out, after all," Lexa sneered. Shalimar growled softly and rose.
"For what it's worth, Lexa, Jesse's got a point. Sometimes blind justice isn't justice at all." She turned and walked away, heading for Jesse's room. But she had a thought and decided to get some air. She grabbed a jacket and went to the garage. Hopping on her motorcycle, she left Sanctuary.
Ben was changing the bed sheets when his phone rang. He assumed that his caller was Jesse, so he answered the phone in a light tone.
"Hi, Ben," said an unexpected voice.
"I hope you don't mind my calling. We have to talk."
"Do we?" he said suspiciously. "What's this about, Shal?"
"It's about protecting someone we both care a great deal about. Interested?" Shalimar didn't wait for an answer. "I'm outside a little coffee shop on Fifth. You know it?"
"I'm on my way." Ben hung up the phone and gathered up the soiled linen. He stuffed it into a laundry bag on his way out of the bedroom. Then, stopping only for his jacket and keys, he headed for the rendezvous. He was very suspicious of Shalimar's motives for wanting to see him, but she'd said the right words to arouse his interest.
Within a few minutes, Ben arrived at the coffee shop and looked for Shalimar. She was easy to spot. She was right out front, sitting on her bike talking to two men who were only marginally interested in her answers to their questions about her Harley. She looked up as Ben approached and smiled.
"Excuse me, boys," she said as she threw her leg over the bike and hopped off. She tucked her helmet under her arm and strode over to Ben. He'd been too focused on Jesse to pay her much attention the first time they met. Now he was impressed by her beauty and feline grace and he fleetingly wondered if her relationship with Jesse was ever anything less than platonic. "Thanks for coming," Shalimar said as she took a seat at one of the outdoor tables. A waitress appeared and she ordered a latte. Ben ordered a cup of coffee and regarded her in silence. She smiled reassuringly. "You're just as handsome as I remembered." Ben removed his sunglasses.
"You didn't call me here to admire my looks. What's this about?"
If Shalimar was taken aback by his brusque response, it didn't show. On the contrary, she found it slightly amusing. Jesse had told her about Ben's sometimes-taciturn nature and how he found it sexy. Shalimar was inclined to agree that Ben looked handsome even when frowning, but she knew that his was a temper not to be provoked. Not by her, anyway--she strongly suspected that Jesse could easily charm Ben into submission.
"Jesse told me about your argument this morning," she began.
"And you're here to--."
"I'm here to back you up one hundred percent. We nearly lost Jesse yesterday. I'm not about to see him put at risk again," Shalimar said fiercely. Ben sat up straighter in his seat.
"Well, that's refreshingly sane," he said. "I've got to tell you, I was seriously beginning to wonder about Jesse's associates."
"We do sometimes get a little...passionate about our work," Shalimar admitted.
"That doesn't give you the right to interfere in an ongoing police investigation and it certainly doesn't justify putting Jesse's life in danger twice."
"I agree," Shalimar said. "We have our own reasons for wanting to see Barrett taken down, but in this case the ends don't justify the means." They were interrupted by the waitress, who returned with their order; they waited till she left to speak again. "Listen, Ben, I believe we can work together on this and achieve both our objectives."
"No," he said flatly.
"Don't you even want to hear my idea?"
"No. I want you and Mutant X--and especially Jesse--to stay away from Barrett."
"I'm sure Jesse told you--."
"And I'm sure he told you my response."
"Look, unless you've found a way to subdue Jesse without a sub-dermal governor you don't have a chance in hell of preventing him from going after Barrett."
For the first time since they sat down, Ben smiled, but only fleetingly.
"He is an elusive little bugger when he wants to be, I'll grant you. But I think it's safe to assume that he's not eager to encounter Barrett again anytime soon."
"No, but he will," Shalimar said. "You see, we're a team and when one of us goes in, the others back her up. Lexa's not going to give up on Barrett regardless of the cost."
"Lexa?" Ben spat the name. His eyes flared in anger and Shalimar caught a brief glimpse of his feral persona. "What's in this for her?"
"She lost a brother who was experimented on by a group of researchers who assured her that they were looking for a cure."
"So for her this is little more than a personal vendetta."
"Hey, she's a bit of a loose cannon sometimes, but she's right about Barrett. We can't allow his work to continue and we can't allow him to kill any more people."
"Then let us do our job."
"We can catch him far faster than the police. And if you help us, we stand to get what we both want: Barrett brought to justice, his research destroyed and, most importantly, Jesse safe and sound."
Ben stared at her for a moment as she sipped her drink.
"All right, I'm listening."
Jesse was in his lab running a system check when Brennan found him. He observed Jesse for a moment before entering the space and sat down.
"What do you want, Bren?" Jesse said without looking up.
"How did you know I wasn't Shal or Lexa?"
"You don't smell like Shal or Lexa," Jesse replied as he examined the data on the screen.
"What do they smell like?"
"Lexa smells like Obsession and Shalimar smells like...Shalimar."
"What--are you a feral now?" Brennan chuckled. Jesse looked up and smiled.
"Maybe it's rubbing off on me."
"Yeah, maybe," Brennan replied as he picked up and examined a disk. "Look, I know it's a day late and a dime short, but I just wanted to ask how you're doing."
"I'm fine, thanks."
"You sure? I looked in on you last night and you weren't in bed. I was too zonked to come all the way down here and check up on you. You should be taking it easy, you know."
Jesse frowned at Brennan in confusion. Then he realized that Brennan was not aware that Jesse had spent the night away from Sanctuary. Jesse didn't bother to correct his mistake, but for the first time it bothered him that he was being less than completely honest about his relationship with Ben. He barely had a chance to think about it. A moment later he heard what he thought was Ben's voice, coming from the living area. Jesse frowned and went to investigate. Brennan looked up as he left.
"Where are you going?"
Jesse didn't reply. He strode into the lounge area and smiled when he saw Ben.
"Hey," Ben said as Jesse went over and kissed him.
"Hey yourself," Jesse replied as he released him and frowned. "How the hell did you get here?"
"Shalimar brought me."
Jesse turned and looked at Shalimar, who was sitting on the couch with a Cheshire cat grin.
"You two are so hot together," she said.
"Shal," Jesse repeated. "What are you up to?"
"I was about to ask you the same thing, Jess," Brennan said. Jesse spun around at the sound of his voice. There was no doubt as to what Brennan meant. Jesse didn't try to dissemble, but he wasn't about to defend his relationship, either.
"Me? I had nothing to do with this; Shal brought him here."
Brennan opened his mouth to say something but the glint in Shalimar's eyes silenced him. He frowned at her and then looked at the two men, who were looking at each other with slightly amused grins.
"We need backup if we're going to go after Barrett," Shalimar said. "Ben has graciously agreed to assist us."
"Why?" Brennan asked suspiciously.
"Because Jesse will be vulnerable if we go after Barrett and no one watches Jesse's ass better than I do--except for Ben."
"So I see," Brennan sneered. "So, Jess, anything you care to share?"
"I don't share," Jesse said, coloring slightly. "But since you refuse to accept the evidence of your own eyes--."
"What the hell is he doing here?"
All eyes turned to see Lexa descending the steps to the lounge. She quickly closed the distance and got into Jesse's face.
"What were you thinking, bringing him here?"
Ben growled deeply and Jesse absently placed a hand on his arm. Ben quieted but he glared at Lexa so hard that she stepped backward.
"I asked you a question!"
"His name is Ben and I didn't bring him, Shal did," Jesse said as he went to sit down. Ben didn't move, so Jesse grabbed him by the arm to draw him away. He stood firm. "Ben," Jesse sighed. Ben blinked and looked at his lover before moving to sit on the sofa beside him.
"As I was saying," Shalimar continued. "If we're going to get Barrett, we're going to need to work together."
"We don't need the police getting in our way," Lexa spat.
"Ben's not here in his official capacity, Lexa. He's an ursine feral and can track scents better than I can," Shalimar said.
"What's that got to do anything?" Brennan asked.
"We need to find Barrett and we need to protect Jesse."
"Oh, I thought he was just going to watch his ass," he quipped.
"Someone ought to," Ben said gravely. "So far you've managed to lose him twice."
"The first time was a fluke, but you're right, Ben," Shalimar said. "Com links aren't enough. We need to give Jesse reliable back up. Between the two of us there's enough tracking skill and brawn to keep him safe."
"So you plan to use Jesse as bait?" Lexa asked. "Excuse me, but not two hours ago, you were insisting that Jesse not be allowed anywhere near Barrett."
"Has it not occurred to you yet that Barrett's managed to find Jesse twice?" Ben asked pointedly. "We found pictures of Jesse and several other mutants at the Black Widow's place. She didn't just select her victims at random. So unless you plan on keeping him here under lock and key, it's highly likely that Barrett will find him a third time if you're not careful."
"That's where we come in," Shalimar said.
"I don't trust him," Lexa said. "How do we know he won't pull a fast one and call in the cops when we get the drop on Barrett?"
"He won't have to," Shalimar said. "That's part of our arrangement. We'll use our combined resources to track Barrett. Once we get the goods on him, we get the data and Ben gets the arrest."
"I don't like it," Lexa said. "I don't trust the police."
"Fine," Ben said, rising, "then Jesse comes with me."
"House arrest?" Brennan teased.
"You bet," Ben said in deadly earnest.
"Hey, do I get any say in this?" Jesse asked.
"No," Ben replied. "Go get whatever you're going to need for a while."
"I'm not leaving, Ben."
"The hell you're not!" Ben replied in a tone that brooked no argument. Jesse showed no sign of caving to his demand, however, and Shalimar observed him like a proud parent as he calmly argued his point.
"Look, Ben, we've got to get Barrett and we've got to do it now. I've just done a check of the mutant database. There are two other moleculars in the general vicinity who stand to be targets if we don't shut him down. I'm not budging. Lexa will cooperate."
"Hey, I don't--."
"Look! You've been bossing everyone around since you got here, Lexa. It's about time you took some orders," Jesse said sternly. "You're going to cooperate on this or you can go back to the Dominion and explain to them why you didn't destroy Barrett's data." Lexa sighed and giving a noncommittal gesture she turned and left the room.
"Well, that's settled," Shalimar said, wiping her hands clean. "Why don't we go and scare up some dinner? Then we can sit down and see what we can come up with on Barrett's likely whereabouts."
Shalimar rose and left the room. Ben and Jesse exchanged a look. Jesse wanted to ask questions, but he was aware that Brennan was still with them. And he had questions of his own.
"So all that stuff you said at the club that day," he said. "Bullshit?" Ben and Jesse exchanged another glance.
"You asked if I had any problems with women and I said I had none. That wasn't bullshit," Ben said artlessly.
"I denied having problems with women, too, if you recall," Jesse said puckishly.
"So how long has this been going on?" Brennan asked. "You never told me you--you know."
"I know," Jesse said. "And it's been going on since it began," he said vaguely, earning odd looks from both Ben and Brennan. "Come on. Let's go help Shal in the kitchen."
On to Part Six