Fandoms: Mutant X/Once a Thief
"Who's your friend?" Brennan said as he looked around the room.
"What are you doing here, Brennan?" Jesse demanded.
"You suddenly up and disappeared; what did you expect me to do?"
"Wonder a little; worry a little, perhaps--I certainly didn't expect you to follow me here."
"Well, I'm sorry if I interrupted your little tryst with... Mac, was it?"
Jesse just glared at Brennan, who defiantly sat down and made himself comfortable.
"Who is he?"
"He's none of your business, Brennan. What do you want?"
"I want to know why you left Sanctuary."
"I needed a vacation, all right?"
"So you just decided to slip away under the cover of darkness?"
"What can I say? I got a great price on a late flight."
"And our last conversation had nothing to do with your hasty departure? Or did you and
Mac already have this little vacation planned?"
"Look, would leave him out of this? Mac has nothing to do with why I left Sanctuary."
"But I did?"
"You flatter yourself, Brennan," Jesse said, giving in and sitting on the edge of the bed. "I had several reasons for wanting to get away. You were only one of them."
"What were the others?"
"Where the hell do you get off demanding to know what's going on in my head? You never gave a damn about my thoughts or my feelings when I was back at Sanctuary. Isn't it a little late to start now?"
"Well, forgive me for coming into the game a little late, Jess, but I had no idea of your feelings until you unloaded that bombshell on me back at Sanctuary."
"Bombshell? You are so full of shit, Bren!" Jesse spat as he leapt from the bed and began to pace. "This thing between us has been brewing for more than a year and now you tell me it came as a surprise to you?"
"What 'thing'?" Brennan demanded.
"What 'thing'? The 'thing' you told me you weren't sure you were ready to deal with. The 'thing' you said you needed to think about for a while. Well, I left you plenty of space to think about it, Bren. No pressure, no ultimatums. I backed off."
"And flew to Canada to pass the time with another man?"
Jesse ran his hands through his hair in frustration.
"Look; I told you how I felt about you and you said you weren't ready to deal with it. What am I supposed to do, sit quietly and wait while you decide what you want? Your indecision hasn't stopped you from putting moves on Shalimar or any other woman who walks into your line of vision. Why can't I move on with my life if I choose to?"
"So the two of you are together?" Brennan persisted.
"Are you even listening to yourself?" Jesse shouted. "For the record, no; Mac and I are not together. I'm not even sure I want to be with anyone right now, but that's not the point."
"What is your point, Jesse?"
"The point is that you have absolutely no right to waltz in here and act like the jealous lover. I'm the one who was rejected, remember? You and I don't have a relationship. I'm not even sure we have a friendship, anymore, Brennan. You don't get to question my life or my decisions. Got it?"
"Go home, Brennan. I don't want to see you here again."
"Jess--. Will you at least tell me when you're planning on coming back?"
"I don't know."
"We need you there, man. I need you there."
Jesse sat on the edge of the bed and laughed bitterly.
"Goodbye, Brennan." When Jesse stood and met Brennan's eyes his expression clearly brooked no further argument. Brennan slowly walked to the door.
"All right, I'll leave--for now. But I'm not going back just yet."
"Suit yourself. Just steer clear of me."
"Can't we just talk about this?"
"About what? The fact that I'm standing here wondering what I ever saw in you in the first place? I must have been insane. But I'm sure I'll get over it, sooner or later."
"With Mac's help?" Brennan said angrily.
"Or someone else's; I don't know yet. As I said, I'm not sure what I want anymore. That's why I left Sanctuary; there are a lot of things in my life I need to think through," Jesse said. "And you're wasting my time." He opened the door and stood back to let Brennan pass.
"We aren't finished."
"We never began," Jesse countered. He unceremoniously let the door go, not caring whether or not it hit Brennan as it slammed, and went to the window. He stared out at the darkness below him until he saw Brennan emerge from the building. Only then did he allow himself to collapse into the chair and run his hands over his face, still shaking with anger.
After less than a minute alone, Mac was up and pacing his room. He heard the sound of raised voices but could not discern what was being said between the two men across the hall. Mac went to the door, but could still not understand what was being said.
He was genuinely concerned for Jesse. He might be able to handle himself among known enemies, but if Brennan meant to do him harm Jesse could be in serious trouble. There was no doubt in Mac's mind that there was more going on between the two men than Jesse had let on, perhaps more than Jesse knew himself. It was blatantly obvious to Mac that Brennan was jealous. Maybe he was what Jesse had been running from when he decided to cross the border into Canada. Was it a relationship gone sour? Mac didn't bother to speculate. His only concern was Jesse's continued well-being.
He was about to open his door when he heard the door across the hall open and the voices become clearer. Mac shamelessly peered through the peephole and saw the two men glaring at each other.
"We aren't finished."
"We never began."
With that, Jesse let the door slam in Brennan's face. Brennan stood there for a moment, at loose ends, before he walked away. Mac was torn between going over to check on Jesse and following Brennan to make sure he left. In the end he opted to wait. If he confronted Brennan he stood a good chance of escalating a situation he knew nothing about and he was certain that Jesse would not appreciate his interference. Moreover, Jesse knew exactly where to find him if he wanted Mac's company, so Mac forced himself to return to his bed to wait for Jesse's knock.
It never came.
Jesse was staring at the ceiling when his phone rang. He fumbled in the dark for his jacket, pulled his phone from the pocket and checked the caller ID before answering.
"Hello, Shal," he said with a smile.
"You don't sound surprised to hear from me."
"I figured you'd call after you got my message."
"So you're safe, wherever you are, and sorry for making me worry myself sick. Where are you?"
"I'd rather not say, although Brennan will probably tell you if you ask."
"Brennan? Is he with you? Did you two finally--?"
"No," Jesse said darkly.
"Oh, Jess, what happened?"
Jesse briefly described the scene that had taken place in his room two hours earlier and found his anger rising again as he spoke.
"I can't believe he had the audacity to show up here and start asking questions!"
"He's in denial, Jesse."
"That doesn't give him the right."
"I know," Shalimar said soothingly, "but if you two would just sit down and talk, maybe you could still work things out."
"I think we're past that point."
"Because of Mac? Who is he?"
"Mac's someone I met here. And he has nothing to do with it. Look, it's just everything. You, Bren--."
"I'm sorry for complicating things."
"It's not your fault, Shal."
"When are you coming home, Jesse? I miss you terribly."
"I know and I'm sorry. I miss you, too. But I can't be there right now. There's just too much going on in my head."
"I'm sorry, Jess. I never meant to--."
"It's not your fault, Shal," Jesse repeated more firmly.
"So you say. But if I had left things as they were--."
"I'd still be in a muddle."
There was an awkward silence for a few moments.
"Well, you do what you have to, but stay in touch," Shalimar said.
"I'll do that."
"You'd better!" she laughed. "I can out-stalk Brennan by a long shot."
"I don't doubt that for a minute," Jesse replied.
"I love you, Jesse. Take of yourself."
"Love you, too, Shal." Jesse closed the phone and sighed. He placed the phone on the nightstand and laid down once more. It was hours before he fell asleep.
The following morning Mac awoke early. He checked his watch and clucked in disgust when he realized that he'd fallen asleep in his clothes. He took a quick shower and dressed before crossing the hall to Jesse's room. He knocked twice and, after getting no response, used his well-honed burglary skills to defeat the electronic lock and enter the room.
"What the hell?" Jesse cried. Mac spun around and saw Jesse emerge from the bathroom, soaking wet and clad only in a towel.
"You didn't answer the door," Mac said sheepishly.
"I didn't hear the door," Jesse said, as he hitched the towel a bit higher. "You can put away the gun."
Mac holstered his weapon and Jesse returned to the bathroom. He emerged again two minutes later, this time in a pair of boxer shorts. He crossed the room and snatched his laptop out of Mac's hands.
"Do you mind?"
"You left it open," Mac said unrepentantly. "I was just reading your notes on Rhodes. I think you've got more on him than we do."
"You must work for a piss-poor organization, then," Jesse said as he grabbed a pair of jeans from the closet and pulled them on. "I got most of that stuff off the net." But Mac was no longer interested in Scott Rhodes or the Agency's data gathering problems.
"What happened last night?" he asked gently. Jesse sat down at the edge of the bed to put on his socks and shoes.
"Not much. Brennan asked questions. I refused to answer them. You know the drill," he said with a wry smile.
"He's more than just a co-worker, isn't he?"
"No--nor is he ever likely to be," Jesse replied. He kept his eyes on the shoe he was tying as he spoke and Mac couldn't tell if Jesse was relieved or disappointed by this development.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"What do you think?" Jesse spat. He dropped his foot to the floor and looked at Mac. "All right; I was interested in him at one time--very interested. I thought we had something. I was mistaken. Is that what you wanted to know?"
"I wanted to know if you're okay," Mac said quietly. Jesse's expression softened.
"I'm sorry. I didn't sleep well last night."
"I didn't sleep well, either. I was concerned about you," Mac said. Jesse looked up sharply as he pressed on. "At first I hoped you'd come by after Brennan left. When you didn't I just began to worry that you might be alone and hurting but I didn't want to intrude."
"Thank you for respecting my privacy," Jesse said after a moment. "I wouldn't have been very good company last night, believe me."
"That bad, eh?" Mac winced. Jesse laughed bitterly and Mac could see the pain in his eyes.
"Let's just say that Brennan is the last person I needed to see right now. I left Sanctuary--that's the name of the organization I work for," he lied, "in order to put some distance between us."
"So you two do have some history," Mac pried. Jesse sighed and decided to come clean. He wasn't sure where he and Mac were headed, if anywhere, but he was going to go about things differently than he had with Brennan, and that meant being completely honest with Mac from the beginning.
"You could say that. For the past year and a half Bren and I have danced around this unspoken 'thing' between us. The sexual tension got so thick that Shalimar claimed she could smell it."
"Another co-worker. We're like a family. It's a very small, very private organization that does a variety of good works for special causes. We live and work out of our base of operations. As you surmised, I do a lot of the technical work. Shal and Bren do a lot of the legwork in the field. Shalimar and I have been at Sanctuary the longest; Brennan came along almost two years ago and I fell for him almost immediately.
"I kept my feelings to myself, however. To my knowledge, Brennan was 100% straight, for one thing. Every time he went near a woman he would come on to her. But more importantly, I didn't want to do anything that might ruin the dynamics of our team. Shal kept urging me to go for it, though. She was convinced that Brennan felt the same way I did. She insisted that she'd caught him checking me out more times than she could count. She also insisted that Brennan wasn't as straight as I originally thought. The two of them were trying to track down someone once and when the trail led them to a gay bar she was a bit surprised when the bouncer greeted Brennan by name."
"What was the deal?" Mac asked. Jesse shrugged.
"I don't know. I kept my mouth shut and Brennan kept up the womanizer act. I resigned myself to the fact that it wasn't going to happen."
"And you needed to put some space between you?" Mac supplied, but Jesse shook his head.
"There's more. Out of the blue, Brennan suddenly began coming on to Shal."
"What was that about?"
"I have no idea. Shal later told me that she allowed Brennan's advances because she thought that he was about to make his move on me and was trying to get my attention. We'd grown a bit distant after I decided to give up on him. I don't know what either of them expected me to do. It hurt; it seemed like Shal didn't give a damn about my feelings anymore and Brennan...well, he was just being the arrogant, self-absorbed prick he was capable of being sometimes. It was like he suddenly wanted to rub my nose in it for some reason," Jesse said.
"So both your friends betrayed you," Mac said. "I can so relate to that."
"Shal and I have since squared things, though it'll be some time before we'll be able to forget about this. I know she never meant to hurt me. She said she expected me to stake my claim on Brennan before things ever went that far. For my part, I thought that if they wanted to be together who was I to interfere? I thought Shal was succumbing to his charms, just like every other woman who's ever fallen under his spell."
"You cast quite a spell yourself," Mac said with a disarming smile. Jesse blushed at the compliment.
"That's what Shalimar said," he replied, refusing to let Mac get to him. He rose and went to the closet for a shirt.
"Smart woman," Mac said, letting Jesse escape for the moment. Now was not the time to pursue anything. "I'm surprised she didn't go after you herself."
Once again, Jesse laughed self-deprecatingly.
"For the record, Shal and I have--are--how should I put this?" Jesse turned his attention to buttoning his shirt, leaving Mac to wonder. "Let's just say we've occasionally succumbed to our baser urges. Sometimes you just need someone, you know?"
"No, it's not like that," Jesse insisted. "It's only when we've been through something really traumatic and just need to remind ourselves we're alive."
"This Sanctuary must be a very stressful place to work," Mac quipped. Jesse smiled.
"Anyway, when we finally sat down and cleared the air, Shal admitted that if she didn't already know that my heart was Brennan's for the taking she would have claimed it for herself."
"Feast or famine," Mac said, remembering what Jesse had said on the night they met.
"Feast or famine," Jesse repeated. "Speaking of which: breakfast?"
"Please," Mac said, "soap operas really work up an appetite."
"How about you?" Jesse asked when the two men were seated in a booth in a local diner. "How's your love life these days?"
"Comparatively non-existent," Mac said simply. "But I've been in a similar snafu." He explained how he'd come to learn that Liann Tsei, the woman he was engaged to marry, became the object of a struggle between himself and his adopted brother Michael Tang. "And things didn't exactly improve when I came here. Shortly after my recruitment by the Agency I found out that I'd be working with Liann--who I had believed to be dead for eighteen months by the way--and the man she was currently engaged to.
"She didn't marry him, either, and we all work together now; one big, happy, dysfunctional family, just like yours."
"Can we change the subject?" Jesse suggested. "I want to enjoy my breakfast."
"Here, here," Mac said as he raised his mug. His phone rang and he put the mug down as his face fell. "Excuse me," he said, rising. He was gone before Jesse could respond. He stepped out of the restaurant to speak with the Director.
"I want you to bring Mr. Kilmartin to me," she said before he even finished saying hello.
"Why? Yesterday you said we could stay here to flush out Rhodes."
"I've changed my mind. I want him here--now, Mac."
"What if he refuses to cooperate?"
"If you are incapable of doing your job I will send someone over to the hotel who is. Do not disappoint me, Mr. Ramsey."
Mac closed the phone and returned to his seat. His expression spoke volumes.
"What's wrong?" Jesse asked.
"The Director's got a bug up her ass about something," Mac replied apologetically. "She wants to see you at the Agency." Jesse sat forward in his seat.
"You've got to be joking. There's no way in hell I'm subjecting myself to that."
"I know, I know. But if I don't bring you in she's going to send someone else to fetch you," Mac said apologetically.
"Why does she want to speak to me, anyway?"
"I have no idea. All I can guess is that she's learned something."
"I don't...know," Mac said thoughtfully. "Tell me something; does your pal Brennan know about your little 'gift'?"
"Gift?" Jesse frowned. A second later he nodded. "But he certainly wouldn't tell anyone about it."
"I'm willing to bet he was pretty angry when he left you last night."
"Angry enough to sell me out to a complete stranger? Brennan would never do that," Jesse insisted. "How would he even know about the Agency?"
"The Director knows about him. I wouldn't put it past her to bring him in for a chat."
Jesse's eyes grew wide at the possibility that Brennan might have gotten himself into trouble.
"What do you mean 'the Director knows about him'? How?" he demanded. Mac shrugged.
"You first came to the Director's attention when you tangled with a few GSA agents she had under surveillance. She did a background check on you, got virtually nothing that would explain why the GSA was after you, and decided to keep an eye on you for a few days. That's how she knew that both Rhodes and this Brennan guy were also looking for you."
"And that justifies her dragging him in for questioning?" Jesse asked. Mac shrugged one shoulder.
"Let's just say she doesn't like a mystery."
Jesse pushed away his plate, his appetite gone. He ran his hands over his face and thought. Mac observed him curiously.
"All right," Jesse said finally. "Give me a few minutes to make a few calls to my friends back at Sanctuary then I'll go with you to headquarters." Mac was a bit surprised and suspicious of his quick capitulation.
"He means that much to you?" he asked indelicately. Jesse rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to answer but Mac had another thought. "Or is Brennan also 'bearing gifts'?"
"Yeah," Jesse admitted after a moment's hesitation. "I doubt that they'll suspect him of being anything more than someone on my trail, but if they do... Let's just say that he'd be less than shy about revealing his talents." He rose and went to the counter at the front of the restaurant to pay the bill. Mac threw down his napkin and rose to meet Jesse at the door. They walked out of the restaurant and immediately spotted a car they'd seen the previous day. Mac grabbed Jesse by the wrist and pulled him into the crowd on the street.
They made it back to the hotel without incident and Mac took Jesse straight to his room. But Jesse balked at letting Mac join him, insisting that he needed to speak with Shalimar in private. Mac was reluctant, but finally agreed and waited for him in the hall. He paced back and forth nervously, waiting impatiently for Jesse to come out. The elevator doors opened and Mac spun around, reaching for his gun. The Director stepped off the elevator glaring.
Jesse pulled out his laptop and quickly booted up. He logged on to a connection that intentionally bounced his signal halfway around the world before it linked him to Sanctuary.
"Come on, come on, Shal! Answer me!" Jessed pleaded. He tapped the desk impatiently while he waited, but got no response. Jesse decided to simply leave a message, though he would have preferred to speak with Shalimar. He heard voices outside his door and quickly shut down the computer, his message incomplete.
"Where is Kilmartin?" the Director demanded. "I told you I wanted him at headquarters immediately."
"And we're headed there as soon as he's ready."
"As soon as he's ready? Where is he, Mac? I'm in no mood for games."
"He's in his room," Mac replied with a gesture behind him.
"Get him--now," the Director shouted. Mac opened his mouth and closed it again then turned and went to Jesse's door. He knocked twice and got no answer.
"Jesse?" Mac called. Frowning, Mac glanced back at the Director before he knocked again. "Jesse? We need to speak with you," he said, hoping that was enough of a warning before he tripped the electronic lock. He rushed into the room with the Director on his heels and found an empty room.
Jesse took a deep breath and leaned against the wall for a moment to think. He was not about to allow himself to be taken in by the Agency unless it was on his own terms. When he heard Mac knock he'd made a decision to flee. He knew that the agent wasn't alone and he had no illusions that Mac would be in control of the situation. Grabbing the laptop and the bag he'd kept packed with a few essentials he exhaled. A second later he phased his body into an intangible state and stepped through the wall into the next room, which was fortunately uninhabited. He would remain there until it was safe to leave.
"What the hell?" Mac said as he drew his gun and scanned the room for signs of Jesse.
"I am not amused, Mr. Ramsey," the Director said.
"He was in here, I swear it," Mac cried, shocked and a bit worried about the mutant's apparent disappearance. He briefly wondered if Jesse's powers could him render him invisible. That was the only explanation for it.
"I'm tired of playing games," the Director spat. "Where is Kilmartin?"
"I wish I knew! We were about to go down to headquarters--."
"Don't tell me," the Director said dryly. "He asked to be allowed to get something from his room first? It's the oldest trick in the book, Mac! I'm sure you've used it more times than you care to admit yourself."
"Yeah, but there's no way he could have gotten past me. I was standing out there the whole time!" Mac said frantically.
"I knew it was a mistake to leave you alone with him, Mac," the Director said. "He's just your type, isn't he?" Mac's mouth fell open. "Don't bother pretending to be shocked. I know all there is to know about you, including your thing for pretty blonds of either gender."
"What do my sexual preferences have to do with anything?"
"They could make you careless--or worse. They could make your loyalties waver."
"I left him in this room; I swear it!"
"And now he's not here. Can you explain that, Mac?"
"Maybe he walked through the wall, okay? How the hell should I know?" Mac hit the wall with his fist as he spoke. In the room next door, Jesse smiled.
"Let's find out, shall we?" the Director said. "Go next door and look."
"Are you insane?" Mac said before he could stop himself. The Director eyed him dangerously and Mac cringed as she drew very close.
"I am not insane, Mac. I am well aware of the fact that Mr. Kilmartin is not an illusionist, but perhaps he was just desperate enough to risk going out on the ledge."
Mac glanced at the window. He doubted that Director believed that for an instant, but he went out into the hall and walked to the room next door. He raised his hand to knock but the Director prevented him from doing so.
"Open it," she commanded. Mac did as he was bidden and was relieved to find an empty room.
"Satisfied?" Mac said recklessly, earning a glare in response.
"Try the room on the other side," the Director said simply. Mac did as he was bidden and was forced to act surprised at having accidentally been given the key to the wrong room. He apologized to the room's occupant as he backed his way out and then turned to the
Director to await further orders.
"Find him now, Mr. Ramsey, or your life will be made a living hell." The Director turned on her heel and strode away.
"That'll be new," Mac muttered as he watched the elevator doors close. On an impulse he returned to Jesse's room and searched it thoroughly. There was nothing to give him any indication of where Jesse might have gone. Mac suddenly snapped his fingers and crossed the hall to his own room. He opened the door and found Jesse's laptop on his bed, but there was no sign of the elusive man himself.
Mac sat down on the bed and turned on the computer. He was hoping to find a message from Jesse but there was nothing but a black screen with a password prompt. There was also no hard drive; whatever information had been on the computer, Jesse took it with him and Mac wondered why he'd bothered to leave it behind along with a small bag. Mac searched that as well, but all he found were a change of clothes and a few personal effects, nothing that answered any of the questions on the growing list in Mac's head.
He knew he ought to be doing something but he hadn't a clue as to where to start. He fervently hoped that Jesse hadn't truly pulled a disappearing act. Everything about him made Mac doubt that. Jesse had been concerned about Brennan. That was a good starting point for his search. Mac needed to know whether Brennan was, in fact, in the Agency's hands. There was no way he was going to ask the Director, so he pulled a notebook from his pocket and checked his notes. Brennan Mulwray was very likely staying at a hotel just three blocks away. Mac would begin his search there.
He checked his weapons and got ready to leave. When he opened the door, however, he found himself staring into the eyes of Brennan Mulwray, who unceremoniously shoved
Mac in the chest and pushed his way into the room.
"Where's Jesse?" he demanded as his eyes scanned the room. He took in the sight of Jesse's laptop, the bag and the clothing scattered on the bed before he turned to face Mac. "I'll only ask this one more time. Where is he?"
"I have no idea," Mac said sincerely. "Wish I did."
"Where is he?" Brennan demanded again as he rushed at Mac.
"Now see? How can you ever expect anyone to trust you if you're going to lie like that?" Mac said even as Brennan grabbed him by the lapels and shoved him against the wall.
"You just said you weren't going to ask a third time."
"Listen, smartass," Brennan snarled as he pressed one hand against Mac's trachea and brought the other up to Mac's face. He flexed his fingers and a small Tesla coil began to form at the tips. Mac observed it with morbid fascination. "Last chance; where's Jesse?"
"He's obviously not here," Mac said calmly. "In fact, the last time I saw him he said something about going to look for you. Lord knows why he'd want to," Mac added, cognizant of the danger he was putting himself in. As he expected, however, the remark threw Brennan for a loop. The coil of electric energy disappeared and he released his hold on Mac, who shrugged and straightened his jacket.
"Why would he be looking for me? Last night he said I was the last person he wanted to see."
"And yet, here you are," Mac said dryly as he sat on the edge of the bed and rubbed his throat.
"Did he spend the night here?" Brennan asked as he once again took in the rumpled sheets and Jesse's shirt on the bed.
"I wish!" Mac said earnestly. "But I'm a bit more considerate of Jesse's feelings than some people I know."
"Let's concentrate on the matter at hand, shall we?" Brennan said brusquely. "Why was Jess looking for me?"
"He had reason to believe that you might have been brought in for questioning by the Canadian authorities and was afraid you'd be too stupid to refrain from revealing your powers," Mac replied tartly.
"Jesse told you I was a mutant?"
"What can I say? We have no secrets," Mac said sarcastically.
"What made him think I'd been taken in for questioning?" Brennan asked, ignoring the jibe. Mac was disarmed by the question and, feeling somewhat contrite for having planted the seed in Jesse's mind, he averted his eyes.
"I'm employed by those authorities," he said. "I was sent here to keep an eye on Jesse after he had a run in with the GSA."
"Well, you sure did a great job of it," Brennan taunted. "You were so busy trying to get into his pants he got taken from right under your nose." Mac rose to his feet again and stepped into Brennan's personal space.
"You know, Jesse was right about you; you are a prick," Mac said angrily. "He wasn't taken, you idiot! He gave me the slip so he could go looking for you! At least, I think he went looking for you," he finished sheepishly. "He didn't leave a message."
"Yes he did. He sent a message to a mutual friend saying that he was in trouble."
"He spoke to Shalimar?" Mac asked. Brennan blanched, much to Mac's amusement.
"Jesse told you about Mutant X?"
That was the first Mac had ever heard such a name but he wasn't about to let Brennan know that. Brennan reached for the laptop and began to boot up.
"I already tried that. It's password protected and there's no hard drive, anyway. Whatever Jesse had on that thing went with him."
"Smart boy," Brennan muttered as he closed the laptop and pulled out his phone. "Shal? I'm at the hotel with Mac," Brennan said as he spared the other man a glance. Mac raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. "Have you heard anything more from Jesse?" After about a minute, Brennan spoke again. "Okay, I'll get back to you as soon as I've found anything. Sit tight."
"I take it she hasn't heard from him," Mac said.
"No, all she got was a partial message about a half hour ago," Brennan said. "The two of them have some sort of secret code they worked out. All she got was 'danger GSA' and 'contact Bren.'" Brennan shook his head and ran a hand over his face. Then he stared into the mirror and spoke again. "Jesse? Jess, can you hear me? Come on, buddy, speak to me," he called out.
"No answer?" Mac asked, generously assuming that mutant powers extended to some sort of telepathic communication--either that or Brennan enjoyed talking to himself. "Tell me, something; can you all do that?" Mac asked with a gesture toward his head.
"What?" Brennan frowned. "You mean communicate? Yeah, everyone in Mutant X is fitted with a special ring that allows us to stay in constant communication."
"I don't suppose it has call waiting," Mac quipped. Brennan gave him a dark look.
"But it does have a global positioning system," he said as he as realization hit and he slapped his forehead. Mac wanted to slap it for him as Brennan smiled and again pulled out his phone. "Hello, Shal," he said a few seconds later. "Can you pick up Jesse on the GPS?"
"Does your little trinket have a limit on its range?" Mac asked as he began to pace. Brennan ignored him as he spoke to Shalimar. When he ended the call he looked up.
"Yeah, the communications range is limited to about fifty miles. But the GPS can be tracked a lot farther than that."
"And she's not getting a signal," Brennan said flatly. "But that might be due to the fact that Sanctuary's too far away to pick up his GPS."
"How reliable are these things?" Mac asked as he examined the ring on Brennan's hand.
"They're some of the most reliable technology on or off the market," Brennan replied. "Look, this isn't getting us anywhere. We have to find Jesse."
"What do you think I'm trying to do?" Mac spat back. "If this thing has a fifty mile range and you're within fifty miles of him, why aren't you getting a response?" Brennan shrugged.
"He might not be answering because he's unable to speak. No one can hear it except the person wearing it, but he may not be in a place where he can answer."
"Or he may be in no condition to answer," Mac surmised. Brennan nodded grimly.
"The other possibility is that he removed the ring for some reason."
"All right," Mac said decisively as he headed for the door. "I've got a couple of leads I want to track down. Go back to your hotel and stay put. I'll let you know when I find something."
"The hell I will! I'm going with you," Brennan declared.
"Look, this is no time to play the hero," Mac argued. "I know my job; let me do it."
"Hey, I know my job, too," Brennan shouted. "Jesse is my friend. If he's in trouble I'm going to get him out of it, with or without your help. We stand a better chance of finding him if we work together, so let's stop arguing and get out there."
Mac glared at him for a moment and then nodded. Having a mutant on his side might come in handy. But he wanted to make it clear who'd be calling the shots.
"Listen," he said, "there are things at stake here you know nothing about. If you aren't willing to follow my lead, say so now and we part company."
Brennan bristled, but he agreed to the scheme. Mac had little doubt that he'd be tested constantly, but with the tentative agreement in place, the two men left the hotel. On their way to the parking garage, Mac filled Brennan in on the details of Jesse's disappearance.
"What worries me is if he left just to evade questioning, where would he go?" Mac asked, more to himself than to Brennan. "And why is he incommunicado?"
"Why do the Canadian authorities want to speak with either of us?" Brennan asked as he slid into the passenger seat of Mac's low-slung coupe.
"My superiors were tracking the movements of several GSA agents who came into the country earlier this week. They seemed to take a great interest in our mutual friend," Mac said, "and they'd like to know why. Jesse's been under surveillance ever since."
"Till you lost him, you mean."
"Yeah, well he wouldn't have been so worried in the first place if he didn't know you were such a loose cannon," Mac shot back, but his heart wasn't in it. "And blaming each other isn't going to get us anywhere," he admitted. "Let's assume that Jesse only left to avoid being taken in for questioning. If that were the case, where would he hide? In my room, naturally."
"He wasn't there, genius."
"Oh, but he was there," Mac replied. "He probably only left because he thought the Director was pissed enough to do a room by room search."
"Who's the Director?"
"So if he was looking for me," Mac continued, oblivious to Brennan's question, "where else might he go?"
"Will you get it through your thick skull? Jesse was taken by the GSA! If he was free he would have answered my hail."
Mac turned his head to look at Brennan for the first time since they'd gotten into the car.
"You said you were the last person he wanted to speak to."
"Yeah, but suppose he thought I was in trouble?"
"You would have said as much, right, big guy?" Mac said smugly.
"Maybe I couldn't; maybe I didn't have time. Jesse would want to be sure I was all right--even if he does think I'm a prick."
"Oh, he does," Mac said with a smirk as he started the engine and put the car into gear.
"Where are we going?" Brennan asked.
"If he doesn't have confirmation that you're safe and off licking your wounds somewhere, he'd assume you were down at headquarters."
"But he'd be crazy to go there on his own! He'd have no idea what he was walking into."
"Relax," Mac said. "Jesse doesn't even know where our headquarters is located. Look, the way I see it, there are four options: one, he ran off to escape my boss and got caught by some of her minions; two, he ran off to escape my boss and got caught by the GSA; three, he ran off to escape my boss and Rhodes' people got to him; or four, he's out there waiting for me. Now I know he can be an elusive little bugger when he wants to, so let's start there and work our way backward."
"Wait a minute: Rhodes? Who's Rhodes?"
"He's a biogeneticist who'd like to get his hands on Jesse. Apparently, lots of people feel that way about him, Brennan. He's quite the lust magnet," Mac said as he turned off onto a side street and slowed the car. He glanced at Brennan--who looked slightly stricken--and gloated privately.
"Where are we?" Brennan asked as he turned his head to look out the window. They were in a residential area. Mac pulled the car into an underground garage and slowly drove to his parking space.
"My place," Mac said as he pulled the keys out of the ignition and got out of the car. Brennan followed suit, a grim expression on his place. "I brought him here briefly yesterday."
"You certainly didn't waste any time, did you?" Brennan said in the elevator.
"It was the safest place I could think of while the sharks were circling," Mac explained.
They emerged from the elevator and Mac put his fingers to his lips. Brennan frowned but obeyed when Mac signaled for him to stay put. Mac entered the apartment, leaving Brennan in the hall. He returned a moment later. Frowning, he went to the stairwell and started walking down, examining every surface, apparently searching for something. Brennan asked what he was doing, but Mac ignored the question and continued moving slowly down the stairs.
"Aha!" he cried as he knelt to retrieve the note he found tucked neatly under the rise of a step. He opened and read it then refolded it and slipped into his pocket with a smile on his face. He turned and started to continue down the steps but Brennan caught hold of his arm.
"Was that from Jesse?" he demanded.
"Well, what does it say?"
Mac sighed and pulled the note from his pocket. He gave Brennan a smirk and began to read aloud.
"Sorry for giving you the slip back there, but I have to march to the beat of my own drum. I've heard from B but don't know his whereabouts. Please check that out.
"I was followed from the hotel, so I'm lying low. If you don't hear from me by 3:00 (I'll call the desk and leave a message) assume the worst. Find B; he has special methods of contacting me and he's almost as handy as you are in a fight--even if he is an arrogant, self-absorbed prick. Can I pick them or what? I have got to improve my taste in men--oh, wait; I already have."
Brennan snatched the note from Mac's hand to examine it for himself. Mac had read it verbatim, save for the post script:
"P.S.: She really IS a bitch, isn't she?"
The note was signed "Pretty Blond." Mac smiled at Brennan's growl of displeasure and laughed outright when he crumpled the paper in his fist and handed it back.
"Has it occurred to you that Jesse's interest in you might lie solely in the fact that you resemble me?" Brennan asked.
"Nope," Mac replied blithely. "But that wouldn't bother me half as much as it would bother you." He returned to the garage and checked his watch. "We've got some time to kill. Let's go somewhere and strategize."
"Why don't we just go back up to your place?"
"Well, for one thing my apartment is bugged, and for another," Mac said as he put the car in reverse, "I only invite people I like into my apartment. I don't like you."
Jesse wended his way through the narrow crowded aisles of a large bookstore, pausing only when he reached a quiet corner. He lightly ran his thumb across the underside of the silver ring on his right hand, activating the communications link to Brennan. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he could do so, Mac's voice reached his ears.
"I don't like you."
Jesse smiled to himself and shut the com link, deciding that he wanted no part of that pissing match. He'd bide his time and contact the hotel as planned. If Mac and Brennan were together things must be going well. He grabbed a book and hunkered down in a chair to pass the time, but his thoughts repeatedly wandered back to Mac and Brennan and the inevitable comparisons between the two men. He tried to resist; he knew so little about Mac and had suffered so much disappointment with Brennan that any comparison was bound to be more than a little biased. Finally, Jesse succeeded in purging thoughts of Brennan from his head and smiling, he proceeded to spend the next half hour contemplating Mac.
On to Part Three