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FIC: Across the Line Part 4) - Hotitudinosity
fiction by jalabert
jalabert
jalabert
FIC: Across the Line Part 4)
Title: Across the Line (Part 4)
Author: Jalabert
Fandoms: Mutant X/Once a Thief
Rating: Mature

"Who are you, Jesse Kilmartin?" the Director drawled as she slowly walked around him.

"You obviously know who I am, so why don't we skip the preliminaries? Why was I brought here? What do you want with me?"

"I'll ask the questions here, Mr. Kilmartin."

"Can we skip the clichés, too?" Jesse folded his arms and stared back at the Director defiantly.

"You think you're rather clever."

Jesse shrugged, refusing to be baited.

"What do you want from me?"

"I want to know why you're here, Mr. Kilmartin," the Director said as she slid into her seat and crossed her legs provocatively. Jesse resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

"I'm here because you had Mac drag me down here--against my will, I might add. And while we're on the subject of Mac, why was I saddled with a bodyguard, anyway; or do you do that for every tourist?"

"Oh, you're no ordinary tourist, Mr. Kilmartin. Ordinary tourists don't have gangs of thugs chasing after them."

"That's good to hear. I was beginning to think Toronto was a very unfriendly city."

"Then why have you stayed?"

"I was getting ready to leave when Mac decided to glom onto me," Jesse said exasperatedly. "He told me I was in danger and needed to stay put for a few days. No offense, but if I have to be in danger I'd rather be in New York where I could at least be protected by people from agencies with names."

"Sit down, Mr., Kilmartin," the Director demanded impatiently. Jesse pulled out a chair and sank down into the seat, deliberately crossing his legs in a perfect imitation of the Director, who was quickly losing her patience. "Very amusing, Mr. Kilmartin, but your little antics won't work on me."

"What antics? All I'm trying to do is get out of here."

"You'll get out of here when you've answered my questions," the Director said leaning forward for emphasis.

"Ask away," Jesse challenged, extending his arms wide.

"Why are you here?"

This time Jesse did roll his eyes.

"I needed to get away from work for a while," he shrugged. "I'm just here taking in the sights."

"What is your work, Mr. Kilmartin?"

"Oh, I phase in and out of things," Jesse replied easily.

"You aren't taking this seriously, Mr. Kilmartin. Believe me," the Director said, "this is very serious. Where is your father?"

"My father? What does he have to do with anything?"

"He's the reason why you're here, Mr. Kilmartin. You received a phone call from him a week ago and he told you come up here, didn't you?"

"Yes," Jesse said seriously.

"Finally, a straight answer. What did he tell you exactly?"

"I told him that I was stressed out and needed to get away for a while. He suggested that I come to Toronto. He said there were great restaurants and night life," Jesse said with a smile.

"What did he tell you about the disk?" The Director said in a tight voice.

"You know, I can never understand why people ask questions about things they already know. You've obviously bugged my room, so you know everything I told Mac. You also know that I don't have the disk anymore," Jesse said as he rose to his feet and headed for the door.

"We'd like to help you get it back," the Director said. Jesse turns and looked at her, frankly stunned by her statement.

"What makes you think I want it?" he said, recovering quickly. "In case you haven't noticed, I don't exactly like being a target."

"Your father wants it," the Director said smugly as she rose from the chair and closed the distance between them. She moved to step into Jesse's personal space and he put out his hands to stop her.

"At this point, I could care less. I'm tired of being a pawn. First my father used me and now you want to do the same. What's in it for you?"

"That doesn't concern you."

"The hell it doesn't!" Jesse spat. "I don't want any part of that disk or my father." With that Jesse turned and strode from the room. "I'm outta here."

"Mr. Kilmartin!" The Director called after him as she followed him into the corridor. Mac, who'd been leaning against the wall outside the office, started when the pair burst through the door and went storming past. Jesse stopped and spun around so that the Director nearly collided with his chest.

"You can't keep me here," he said evenly.

"All right, Mr. Kilmartin. We'll do this your way. Will you come back inside? I'll answer your questions."

Mac's mouth fell open. Jesse glanced at him and then strode back into the office. The Director smiled and followed him, slamming the door in Mac's face a second time.

"What do you want?" Jesse demanded.

"I want that disk."

"I can't help you."

"Oh, but you can," the Director purred.

"How?" Jesse asked suspiciously.

"Mr. Mulwray said he'd be in touch. You can help us to acquire the disk."

"Why should I? And what do you want with it?"

"That's no concern of yours."

Jesse shook his head and turned toward the door. The Director reached out and held his arm. He looked at her as she stroked it and pulled away.

"I really don't have time for games. Either you level with me now or I'll disappear."

The Director went to her desk and picked up a folder. She selected a photograph and handed it to Jesse.

"Do you recognize this man?"

"I've never seen him before," he replied as he returned the photo.

"His name is Scott Rhodes."

"Who is he?"

"He's an American biogeneticist currently residing somewhere in Canada. He's the reason I want that disk."

"Why?" Jesse persisted.

"Really, Mr. Kilmartin, you're becoming quite tedious."

"If you want him what does the disk have to do with it?"

"I have reason to believe that some of his men have been pursuing you as well as the GSA. He wants that disk and I want him. Understand?"

"So you want me to acquire the disk so that you can use it to lure Rhodes out of hiding?"

"I knew you were more than just a pretty face, Mr. Kilmartin."

"I'm smart enough to see the flaw in your plan, too," he said cheekily. "Presumably, you don't want to get a hold of him just to make nice. So even if you get the disk he's likely to try and elude you. And therefore you don't simply want Rhodes; you want the disk and Rhodes. You've got an agenda."

"What if we do?" the Director shrugged, annoyed at Jesse's display of mental acuity.

"Your agenda has nothing to do with either me or my father. I don't see any possible reason why I'd want to play along with it. And even if I wanted to, as Mac said, we can't even be sure Brennan Mulwray has the disk."

"Aren't you the slightest bit curious--for your father's sake?" the Director asked as once again she ran her hand along his bicep.

Jesse fought an urge to phase his arm; he wouldn't give the Director the satisfaction of knowing that she was making him uncomfortable. He could easily imagine Mac squirming under her unwanted attentions, and he was sure she used sexual harassment to manipulate him every chance she got.

"Quite frankly, no; I've had enough of him and his games. I was better off with him out of my life. "

"Oh come, Mr. Kilmartin," the Director cooed. "You at least want reassurance that your father is alive and well, don't you? All you have to do is force Mulwray to prove he has the disk."

"Thanks for the opportunity, but I think I'll pass." Jesse turned and headed for the door.

"Say goodbye to Mac on the way out. You won't be seeing him anymore," the Director said slyly. Jesse stopped at the door.

"Throwing me to the sharks, are you?" Jesse turned around and smiled at the Director. "Well, good luck finding Rhodes," he said as he turned and left the room.

"Well?" Mac said when Jesse emerged.

"I'm done here," he replied. He turned to the Director, who, as he expected, was at his heels. "Will you at least allow him to drive me back to my hotel? I have no idea where I am or how to find a cab out here."

"I've changed my mind about throwing you to the sharks," the Director said. "You may be of some use to me after all. Take him back to the hotel, Mac. Don't let him out of your sight again."

"Sometimes I love my job," Mac said with a sloppy salute. Jesse smiled to himself, but Mac was still confused by Jesse's exchange with the Director. He followed Jesse back to the elevator positively brimming with curiosity.

"What the hell went on in there?" Mac asked when the elevator doors closed. Jesse simply smiled serenely. Mac sighed, knowing from experience that it would be fruitless to press him for an answer he was unwilling to give. The walked in silence till they were outside.

"What a piece of work!" Jesse said after taking in a long breath.

"Welcome to my life," Mac said as he led the way to the car.

"You have my sympathies."

"Are you going to tell me what happened or do I have to play twenty questions?" Mac asked finally once they were on the road and Jesse had satisfied himself that neither the car nor his possessions had been tampered with.

"She wanted me to help her trap Rhodes. I told her to get lost."

"What did she say?" Mac persisted.

"Oh, she tried to guilt me into getting the disk back from Brennan so she could use it to trap Rhodes."

"That's consistent with our plans."

"Yeah, but I'm not about to agree to anything with that woman. I wouldn't trust her as far as I could throw her."

"Your instincts are flawless," Mac said with a smile. "So what was that bit about the sharks?" Jesse smiled.

"Oh, she threatened to take you away from me," he said puckishly.

"That bitch!" Mac said.

"Don't worry. She fully intends to keep us together. She knows that whether I want to or not, I'm going to see Brennan again and she intends for you to be there when he shows up. If she can't use me, she certainly can use you."

"So now what?" Mac asked as they reached the downtown area.

"We'd better check in with Brennan before he pops something," Jesse said. He dialed Brennan's number but got no answer and was forced to leave a message.

"Dinner?" Mac said.

"Sounds good to me. I good go for a burger right now."

"Say no more, I know just the place."

**

"You do realize your room is still bugged," Mac said as he toyed with a puddle of ketchup on his plate.

"Don't worry. I fully intend to pull it all out the moment I get back to the hotel. She'll expect me to."

"And she probably has a set of secondary bugs."

Jesse nodded.

"Once I put the camera out of commission I can do a sweep for listening devices. She's probably bugged your room as well," he said.

"In that case, can I stay in your room?" Mac asked.

"I could just loan you my sweeper," Jesse suggested with a teasing smile. Mac sighed dramatically.

"Nah, if you remove your bugs she'd be cool with it. If I remove mine I'll get a midnight visit that'll give me nightmares for a week."

"Does she intimidate everyone at the Agency?"

"To my knowledge, she's only got a handful of agents to terrorize. She seems to have a special thing for me, though."

"I can see that," Jesse said, leaving Mac to interpret his words.

"Let's change the subject while I still have my appetite," he said as Jesse leaned forward and used his napkin to remove a drop of ketchup from the corner of Mac's mouth. He sat back and watched as Mac slowly licked his lips.

"That reminds me," Jesse said. "I should try Brennan again." He pulled out his phone and punched up the number.

"How does my mouth remind you to call Brennan?" Mac frowned, affronted. Jesse smiled.

"I was wondering what Brennan would say if he knew about that kiss we shared earlier," he said. "Damn, where is he?" He shut the phone and tried to reach him on the com link and got no response.

"I don't like this," Mac said as he signaled for the check. "You don't think he's gone and done something crazy, do you?"

"Like what?"

"I don't know, but from the way you were talking about him earlier--."

Jesse didn't wait for him to finish the sentence. He rose and pulled out his wallet and when the waiter handed him the check, he gave him a bill and shoved the wallet back into his pocket, gesturing for Mac to get moving.

"Where to?" Mac asked as he put the car in gear.

"The hotel," Jesse suggested. "If we're right and he's going to pull something to protect me that would be the logical place to do it."

Five minutes later they pulled up in front of the hotel. Mac lucked into a parking space across the street and they entered the lobby at a jog.

"Where?" Mac asked again.

"Let's try your room," Jesse said.

"My room?"

"He'd want to find out what he could about you so he could plot his next move," Jesse said as they caught the elevator.

"Have I mentioned that I intensely dislike this guy?" Mac said, fairly brimming with nervous energy. He put his hand to his waist near his holster and Jesse quickly grabbed it away. Mac glared at him, but Jesse glared right back.

"If he's up there, let me handle it."

"Can't I shoot him just once? I'll just wing him, I promise."

"No; we need him, remember? Besides, you don't want to piss Brennan off. He can be extremely dangerous to mess with."

"Now you tell me," Mac said dryly as the door opened. As Jesse predicted, they found Brennan outside Mac's door. He was in the process of applying a jolt of electricity to the electronic lock.

"Breaking and entering is so rude," Mac said as he strolled over to Brennan. There was a woman standing beside him. She looked up and spotted Jesse just as he caught sight of her.

"Shalimar?" he gasped as she pushed past the other two men to enfold him in a hug.

"Are you all right?" she replied holding him tightly.

"Of course I'm all right! Why shouldn't I be? And what the hell are you doing here?" Jesse demanded, gently pulling away so he could look at her.

"I sent for her after Mac pulled his fast one," Brennan said. "After your little disappearing act I decided that we should have Shal in on this." Jesse just stared at him in disbelief, his mouth agape.

"I told you where I was going, Bren! Why'd you push the panic button?"

"He was just trying to help, Jess," Shalimar said.

"He was just second guessing me like he always does, you mean," Jesse spat back.

"Hey, you I trust. It's your new boyfriend, here, I don't know about," Brennan said with a glare at Mac, who simply leaned against the wall and shook his head. Shalimar turned and looked at him for the first time.

"Nice try, Sparky," Mac said as he pushed the door to his room open. "But if you don't trust me, then you essentially doubt Jesse's judgment. Congratulations, loser." He went into his room and shut the door, leaving the others to talk. Jesse just shook his head and turned to his door. He was too angry to speak so he held his tongue as he dug in his pocket for his passkey.

"Jess," Shalimar said, reaching out to touch his arm.

"You should have trusted me, both of you," Jesse said softly.

"We do trust you, Jess. Brennan was just worried about you," Shalimar said. Jesse turned around and raised his eyes to Brennan, who averted his gaze. Jesse shook his head in disgust.

"Well, in spite of what either of you may think, things are going exactly according to plan. At least they were before you two decided to mess around up here; if Mac's boss has tapped into security cameras in the hall--and I certainly wouldn't put it past her--we're all busted," Jesse said with annoyance.

"Let's go somewhere where we can talk safely, then," Shalimar insisted.

"What's to talk about? Brennan's already explained everything, hasn't he? He's the one who knows everything. He's the one with the street smarts and the experience. What the hell do you need to talk to me for?"

"Jesse?" Shalimar replied, stunned by the bitterness in his voice.

"I'm tired, Shal," Jesse said as he turned back to the door.

"Please, Jess, talk to me," she said softly. "I need to know what's going on with you."

"My room is bugged; you can't come in." With that, he opened the door and went inside, closing the door without looking back. Shalimar turned and glared at Brennan.

"Mac's got Jesse completely turned around," Brennan said defensively. "He hasn't been thinking straight since he got here. That's why I called you."

Shalimar sighed and headed for the elevator. Brennan started to say something and she silenced him with a fierce look.

**

As soon as he was inside his room, Jesse went straight to the camera in the smoke detector and yanked it out. Then he pulled out his sweeping device and located three listening devices in the bedroom and another camera in the bathroom.

"Kinky bitch," Jesse growled. There was a light knock on the door and Jesse clenched his jaw as he went to it, prepared for an argument. He relaxed when he saw it was Mac.

"Everything okay?" he asked as he looked past Jesse to see if the others were in the room.

"Yeah," Jesse said, stepping back to allow him entrance. Mac sauntered into the room, looking for signs of the bugs.

"It's okay, they're all gone," Jesse said. "I just flushed them."

"Nice touch," Mac said with a smile as he leaned against the wall. Jesse walked over to him and then seemed to hesitate for a moment before leaning in and kissing Mac. It was a tentative, needy kiss and Mac brought his hands up to Jesse's face and pulled him closer. The kiss quickly intensified and Jesse wrapped his arms around Mac's waist and pressed their bodies together.

Mac licked at Jesse's mouth and gained entrance to the moist heat within as Jesse moaned and buried his fingers in Mac's hair. When Jesse pulled away to nuzzle his throat, Mac took a deep breath and gently pulled him away. Jesse looked at him in confusion.

"Are you sure this is what you really want right now?" Mac panted.

"Yes, I really want this," Jesse said with a slightly hurt expression. Mac reached up and caressed his cheek but before he knew it they were kissing again and Jesse was insistently grinding himself against Mac's thigh. Mac was more than ready to lose himself in Jesse's passion, but once again he forced himself to pull away.

"I can't believe I'm going to say this, because I want you more than my next breath at the moment," Mac said unsteadily, "but maybe we should wait until--."

Jesse abruptly turned away and threw himself on the bed.

"You know, I wish just once someone would let me decide what's best for me," he said petulantly. Mac went over and sat on the edge of the bed.

"Have you decided that I'm what's best for you?" he asked.

"Yes," Jesse said as he reached out and ran his hand up Mac's arm.

"Good, at least we're in agreement on that," Mac said cheekily as he grabbed Jesse's wandering hand and entangled their fingers. "I think our only disagreement, then, is on a timetable." Jesse groaned and tried to turn over but Mac held his hand firmly and prevented it. "Call me crazy for worrying about this because when all this is over you'll probably pack up and go back to the States and I may never see you again. But I still think you deserve better than a frenzied coupling that's more about a need to feel something than a need to be with each other. I can do the former if you really want it, but I'd much prefer the latter. I hope you do, too." Jesse pouted for a moment, but conceding the correctness of Mac's assumption, he sat up.

"So what's the timetable?" Jesse said, brightening a bit.

"You call it; any time, any place. My only stipulation is that there be no hidden agendas, okay?"

"I'm sorry, Mac. I wasn't trying to use--."

Mac placed two fingers over Jesse's lips. When Jesse stopped talking, he removed them and gave him a lingering kiss.

"I'm going to leave now," Mac said firmly as he rose and headed for the door. He glanced back at Jesse, who was sprawled across the bed, and shuddered. Jesse laughed and Mac shook his head and left. He crossed the hall and started to slide his passkey through the lock when he noticed that it was slightly open. The arousal that had threatened to overwhelm him a moment earlier completely disappeared as he made a quick threat assessment. Drawing his gun, he pushed the door open and slowly advanced. But he was surprised to find not Brennan, but Shalimar, waiting for him.

"You're back sooner than I expected," she said as she used the remote to shut off the television. She was stretched out on his bed, in a position very reminiscent of the one in which he last saw Jesse. "I was about to find a movie." Mac holstered the gun and glanced up at the smoke detector. Shalimar pulled a small device from her pocket and held it up. It was identical to Jesse's. "I've temporarily jammed the signals," she said. "We need to talk."

"Do we?" Mac said as he sat on the chair a safe distance away.

"Well, Jesse won't talk; I figure you could give me some answers."

"What do you want to know?"

"I want to know what you and Jesse have planned."

"I'm sure Brennan already told you."

"I want to hear it from you," Shalimar said. "Please."

Mac sighed and sat back before laying out the plan as far as they had worked it out.

"So how do you plan to lure Rhodes across the border?"

"We haven't quite worked that out yet," Mac admitted.

"I may be able to help you there. I came up on the Double Helix."

"Really," Mac said, clearly clueless as to what she meant.

"The Double Helix is a jet," she explained. "We can simply fly him back to the States."

"And how are you going to explain him to the authorities?"

"You let us worry about that," Shalimar said. "So tell me about you and Jesse."

"What's there to tell?"

"You obviously care about him. Even Brennan had to admit that he thought so."

"And what's your interest in this?

"Jesse's my closest friend. If you make him happy then you and I will get on famously. But if you hurt him I'll rip out your heart with my bare hands."

There wasn't a doubt in Mac's mind that Shalimar intended to make good on her threat, but he couldn't resist turning the tables on her.

"You should have tried that line on Brennan," he said cockily. "In fact, from what I've heard, you should have practiced it in the mirror." Mac's words hit their target and Shalimar averted her eyes uncomfortably.

"Yes, I've made mistakes, and so did Brennan. But that's why I don't want to see Jesse hurt again."

"Doesn't Jesse get to make mistakes?"

"Are you a mistake?" Shalimar challenged.

"That's for him to find out," Mac said, rising to pace. "I get the distinct impression that you all treat him with kid gloves, like he's some sort of precious object you're afraid will shatter. He's a grown man, for Pete's sake. Let him live his life! Why do you think he left the States? He needed to get away from Sanctuary for a while, to do some thinking on his own. And what do you do? The two people who threw his life into confusion in the first place, follow him up here, butt into his personal affairs and start second-guessing him. What gives you the right?" Shalimar rose from the bed, pouting.

"Is that what you think we're doing?"

"Prove you aren't doing it!" Mac spat back. Shalimar looked up at him and smiled. She pulled his face down to hers and kissed his cheek.

"I think Jesse's going to be fine with you." She reached past Mac to pick up her discarded jacket and walked to the door. "And you don't look anything like Brennan," she said with a wink before departing. She was about to shut the door before she pushed it open it again and held up the device. She flipped the switch, waved and closed the door.

Mac sat down on the bed, ran his hands over his face and laid back on the bed, cognizant of the fact that he was now under surveillance. He glared up at the camera on the ceiling.

"She is one kinky bitch," he muttered as he reached up to turn off the light. Mac put his arm over his eyes and allowed his mind to travel back to the moment when Jesse launched himself at Mac and kissed him. He savored the memory of Jesse's intensity, his scent, his taste...

Mac groaned and rolled over onto his stomach.

**

Mac's phone rang early the next morning. He grunted and rolled over, blindly reaching for the phone.

"Mac?" Jesse said before Mac could even grumble a hello. "There's someone outside my door."

Mac threw down the phone and sprang out of his bed. He grabbed his gun from the nightstand and went to peek through the peephole. He swore and threw open the door. Ignoring the fact that he was clad only in a pair of burgundy silk briefs, he went across the hall and knocked on Jesse's door.

"Go ahead and open it," he called. "It's dick brain and cat woman." Mac went back to his room and shut the door as Jesse opened his door.

"Get in here," he said to Brennan and Shalimar. They turned in surprise; they had both turned to stare at Mac as he departed. "I said get in here!" The pair exchanged glances and did as they were bidden. Jesse shut the door behind them and scratched his head. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"I thought it was time for me to pay you another visit," Brennan said. "I did say I'd be back."

"Before dawn?" Jesse asked around a huge yawn.

"It's well past dawn," Brennan countered.

"Not much," Jesse replied as he checked the clock. "And you can skip the act; the cameras are gone so you're going to have to accost me in a more public place next time."

There was a knock at the door and Jesse opened it to admit Mac.

"What are you two doing here so early?" Mac asked as he strode in. He'd put on a pair of pants and a tee shirt but he was still barefoot.

"Shal did a little prowling last night," Brennan replied as he sat down. "She found two GSA guys and one of Rhodes' men lurking around the hotel."

"I let the GSA weasels go after playing with them a little," Shalimar said with a feral grin. Mac blinked when he thought her eyes momentarily flashed a golden glow. "I did interrogate Rhodes' little minion, however. He took a message back to his boss."

"Shal told him she was my associate and that she wanted to arrange a meeting," Brennan explained.

"You didn't reveal any of your powers, did you?" Jesse said worriedly.

"I knew both the GSA people from previous run-ins so I didn't hold back," Shalimar said. "But I knew when to be subtle. I only used karate on poor Tony." She walked over to Jesse and looked at him hopefully. "Are you still mad at me for coming?"

"Yes," Jesse said even as he pulled her into his arms for a hug. "It's nothing personal, Shal. I just think that the more of us are here, the more danger we'll bring upon ourselves."

"Hey, we're almost out of here," Brennan said. "As soon as Tony gets back to Shal about that meeting, I'll move in and arrange the sting. We lure Rhodes into our trap and you can kiss Toronto goodbye," he said with a pointed look at Mac.

"You make it all sound so simple," Mac sighed, ignoring the obvious bait. He shook his head disparagingly and went into the bathroom.

"You two shouldn't be here," Jesse said. "You're supposed to be the bad guys, remember? If anyone sees us consorting—."

"How else are we supposed to know what's going on?" Brennan demanded.

"Telephone?" Mac suggested as he came out of the bathroom drying his face. "Email? Carrier pigeon?" He dropped the towel and sat down on Jesse's bed, feeling the residual warmth. He laid down and stretched out, observing the loose fitting pajama pants that constituted Jesse's entire outfit. "I don't suppose either of you thought to bring coffee?"

"You look pretty comfortable there, stud," Brennan said disparagingly.

"Thanks, 'stud,'" Mac replied.

"All right," Jesse said, interrupting them before they got into it, "We need a game plan, people." He ran a hand over his face and thought as he fingered the stubble.

"It's simple," Mac said, "We stay here. They go away."

"You call that a game plan?" Brennan said.

"He's right, Bren," Shalimar said. "We should steer clear of them till Rhodes shows up. Otherwise, he'll smell a rat."

"And we all know who that is," Mac said.

"Mac," Jesse said as he shot Brennan a warning look. "Look, I'll tell you what--we'll dress, go down to the lobby and spend the day in plain sight. You two can stalk us. That way you'll be on hand when Rhodes' people show up."

"And what if the GSA shows up?" Brennan asked.

"Don't worry," Mac said as he sat up. "Shal will protect you." Shalimar laughed as Brennan bristled and Jesse quickly jumped between the two men to prevent a fight.

"Shal," he said wearily. She grabbed Brennan by the arm and led him from the room. "We'll be down in a little while," he said as the door closed. "And as for you..."

"Moi?" Mac asked as he stood up and stretched.

"You're incorrigible," Jesse said. "Do you think you can manage to stop baiting Brennan till this is over?"

"I think I can, but really, what's in it for me?" Mac asked puckishly.

"Mac," Jesse groaned, but his heart wasn't in it. Mac pulled Jesse into his arms and smiled lewdly. "Aren't you the guy who recently counseled me to behave?"

"I wanted you to behave," Mac replied playfully. "I didn't say anything about myself." He pulled Jesse closer and kissed him. He tasted even better than Mac remembered. Too good; Mac reluctantly pulled away, lest he forget himself entirely.

"All right," he said. "That ought to make me cooperative for a few hours." He winked at Jesse and released him. "I'll meet you back here in twenty." With that he left Jesse to shower and change.

**

Mac and Jesse met up twenty minutes later and headed for the hotel's cafe for breakfast. They placed their orders and Mac sipped coffee while Jesse scanned the morning headlines.

"Brennan looks bored," Mac observed. Jesse glanced up and saw Brennan and Shalimar sitting at the rear of the cafe.

"He doesn't like waiting," Jesse replied. "He's not exactly the patient type."

"Tell me; is he actually good at anything?"

"Mac," Jesse drawled reproachfully.

"Hey! You accused me of incompetence and I haven't even bungled anything."

"I apologize. You aren't incompetent and neither is Brennan."

"Why don't I believe you?" Mac asked boyishly.

"You don't want to believe me," Jesse said.

"Guilty as charged, but then, I have my reasons."

"And those would be entirely subjective."

"Subjective? Let's see; he tried to break into my room yesterday--twice. He tried to fry me in the middle of a public park after I explained the need for him to keep a low profile. He had cat woman fly up here after you told him there was no need to call in back up--."

"Mac..."

"And he's a lousy dresser."

"Hey! I bought him that shirt!" Jesse said defensively.

"You wasted your time. He's got no style," Mac said critically.

"Mac..."

"You know, I love it when you say my name like that."

Jesse sighed and shook his head. He looked up again when the waiter brought their food and saw something out of the corner of his eye. He glanced over at Brennan and Shalimar, who were engaged in discussion.

"Hey, you two got your ears on?" he said softly.

"Hello? There's only one of me," Mac said.

"Thank God," Brennan sneered in Jesse's ear.

"I wasn't talking to you," Jesse explained to Mac. "Listen, you guys. There are two men near the door. See where the waitress is pouring coffee? Unless I miss my guess, those two aren't tourists."

"Rhodes' boys?" Brennan asked.

"Oh lord, what's she up to now?" Mac said after turning to glance at the newcomers.

"You know those guys?" Jesse said.

"Yeah. They're the Agency's contract killers."

"Contract killers?" Shalimar said in Jesse's ear through the com link.

"Hold on, Shal. I'll ask," Jesse replied.

"Can they hear me?" Mac asked with a frown.

"Yes, they can hear you, Mac."

He smiled impishly and Jesse shook his head like a scolding parent.

"Don't even think about it. Who are these contract killers and why are they here?"

"They're called 'the Cleaners.' I don't know much about them except that they're damned good at what they do. I can only imagine that the Director sent them here to make a point."

"Which is?" Brennan said.

"Which is?" Jesse repeated.

"She doesn't trust us."

"Us or you, Mac?" Brennan spat.

"Bren!" Jesse warned. "Are they here to take us out or--."

"My guess is that they're here for Brennan," Mac said. Brennan promptly rose from his seat and Shalimar sat him down again. The Cleaners casually observed the scene. "Now you see what I mean about incompetence? He'll completely blow it if he--."

"I'll blow something all right!"

"Brennan!" Shalimar said firmly. Jesse sighed and shut the com link.

"Maybe it's better if you and I just sit here and enjoy our breakfast alone," he said.

"Now, you're talking," Mac said with a smile. "I was serious, by the way. My guess is that the Director doesn't trust Brennan. She wants what she thinks he's got and she's undoubtedly aware that he's been snooping around our rooms. She may even have seen our conversation in the hall last night. I hope for your sake she couldn't hear it; otherwise she'll be convinced that we're all scamming her."

"Damn," Jesse said.

"Yeah, really," Mac replied.

"So what's the worst case scenario here?"

"Well, scenario one: she saw and heard us in the hall last night and knows that we're all in cahoots. That being the case, she's here to make sure you don't walk off with the disk or me."

"You?" Jesse smirked.

"Not a joke; people aren't allowed to walk away from the Agency. You either leave on their terms or not at all."

"Ouch."

"Worst case scenario two: she somehow managed to forget to bug the hallway and didn't hear what transpired last night. She did have people around, though, so they would have seen Brennan and the cat woman poking around last night and this morning. That would lead her to believe that Brennan's talking out of his ass and doesn't have the disk. That would also lead her to conclude that you've scammed her and are in on it with Brennan."

"To what purpose? Why should we come up to Canada and put on an elaborate show?"

"Jesse, Jesse, Jesse..." Mac sighed. "Why not?"

"Mac!"

"I love that!" Mac said gleefully.

"Could you focus here for a minute?" Jesse said, glancing over at Brennan and Shalimar, who were watching them intently.

"All right; let's say your dad stole the disk and gave it to you for safekeeping. What's to say that you didn't decide to screw everyone and sell it yourself? You bring Nexxogen, the GSA and Rhodes into a bidding war. Brennan becomes your accomplice."

"Why should he?"

"Have I mentioned that you're cute as a button?" Mac said seriously. He pressed on before Jesse could respond. "He was sent after you but you used your considerable charm to lure him into cooperating in your scheme. Now the two of you are trying to pull the wool over everyone's eyes."

"So the Director would try to take out Brennan--.


"To force you to give up the disk and Rhodes. But I don't think she'll try to off Brennan yet. Trust me; if the Cleaners were sent to kill Brennan he'd be dead already."

"So what do we do?"

"We sit tight," Mac said. "That includes Mr. Excitable over there."

"Okay," Jesse said. He touched his thumb to the back of his ring to activate the com link and spoke to the others while giving the outward appearance of chatting with Mac over breakfast. He filled the others in on what Mac had just told him.

"How do we know we can trust him?" Brennan asked.

"Come on, Bren. We've been around this bend a dozen times, already. We've got to trust someone, and I for one am going to trust Mac," Jesse said. Mac beamed back at him and Jesse succumbed to the infectious grin and returned the smile.

"Well, I for one am going to continue to keep a close eye on things," Brennan said.

"I wouldn't have it any other way, Bren," Jesse replied. "Just keep your distance until it's show time, all right?" Brennan gave Shalimar a look of disgust and nodded begrudgingly.

"You know, if he's still trying to win her he's blowing that chance, too," Mac observed.

"I don't want to discuss it," Jesse said firmly as he dropped his napkin.

"Sorry," Mac said sincerely. He observed Jesse for a few minutes as he pondered the confusion that must still be holding sway in his head. Brennan didn't seem to be faring any better. He had to be between a rock and a hard place, caught between the man he loved and the woman he'd chosen. Mac could only imagine how Shalimar felt about what was going on. And he thought he had problems with Vic and Liann. Mac's lot was a comparatively simple one.

When Mac and Jesse were done eating, they left the cafe and walked out of the hotel. They walked aimlessly for a bit, window shopping and just taking in the sights as they talked.

"So where's a good place to be accosted around here?" Jesse said good-naturedly.

"Hey, you're the one who's been the target of three kidnappings. You tell me."

"Four, but who's counting," Jesse corrected. He stopped and did a full turn. "Oh, here are our GSA friends now. Shal, Bren--do you see them?"

"Got 'em," Shalimar said. Mac grabbed Jesse's arm.

"Wait. Don't let them do anything," he advised.

"Just keep them in your sights," Jesse told the others before closing the link. "Why not? We don't want them in the way."

"The Director's watching, remember? If she sees those two trying to rub out the competition things can get messy," Mac explained. "Just hang loose and wait for Rhodes." Jesse nodded. Mac slipped an arm around his shoulder.

"Let's go find some quiet, secluded place--."

"Mac!"

"...And get you attacked, shall we? Not too secluded, though. We don't want to give the Cleaners any ideas."

Jesse sighed and Mac led him toward a little park.

"This is too public," Jesse complained.

"Maybe they'll ask you to come along quietly," Mac suggested. "Let's sit here near the playground. That'll give Bren a chance to get in a little exercise on the monkey bars."
Jesse glared him but Mac smiled unrepentantly.

"So what are you going to do when this is all over?" Mac asked as he opened a pack of gum and offered Jesse a stick.

"I've got to go home. I've already been here twice as long as I expected to be and I've got work I've got to get back to," Jesse said.

"I see."

"I wish I had more time to just hang out."

"Yeah, I've been thinking a lot about 'hanging out' with you, too," Mac confessed. Jesse glanced up and chuckled. But a moment later he leapt to his feet.

"They're here."

"Amazingly predictable, aren't they?" Mac said as he rose to face the approaching trio. "Are your little friends ready to play their part?"

"Bren? Shal?" Jesse called.

"We see them," Shalimar replied.

"Tell Brennan not to blow it," Mac said.

"Don't blow it, Bren," Jesse said. Mac looked at him, surprised that he repeated the remark. Jesse shrugged. Mac looked around as Jesse faced the approaching men.

"They brought company. I count six, including these three in the bad suits."

"Good," Jesse replied. "Let them take me."

"What?" Brennan spat. "I am so not--."

"You've got the Helix, Bren. Pick up Mac and follow me wherever the trail leads. No arguments," Jesse said tersely just as the three reached him.

"That's not part of our plan," Brennan replied. "Jess! Jess!"

The three assailants pulled guns and Jesse immediately raised his hands in surrender. Mac, however, had already drawn his weapon and was felled by a single shot fired by one of the men behind them. Jesse screamed his name and tried to reach for him, but he was dragged away kicking and screaming.

Shalimar pulled out a device and began to track Jesse's com link even as she ran to Mac's side. Brennan just stared in shock for a moment before he sprang into action. He rushed over to where Mac lay on the ground.

**

"Is it bad?" he shouted.

"I'm shot, not deaf," Mac said in annoyance. "And what constitutes a good bullet wound in your undoubtedly warped opinion?"

"Let's get him to the Helix," Shalimar said. "We've got equipment aboard that can take care of this." She helped Mac to his feet and helped him walk to the street, where Brennan hailed a cab.

"What did he hit?" he asked when they were on their way to where Shalimar had left the Helix. "I don't see any blood."

"So sorry to disappoint you," Max said. "Give me your pen knife and I'll try to make the wound a little bigger for you."

"It was a lucky shot. It just nicked the fleshy part of his side," Shalimar said. She had a handkerchief pressed over the small wound on Mac's right side.

"It was a lousy shot," Mac countered. "At that distance I should have been hit square in the chest."

"Just my luck," Brennan said as the cab pulled up at the spot had asked for. The driver asked him if he was sure he'd given the right address. Brennan paid him and helped Mac out of the cab. They waited till it left and then walked Mac over to a bare patch of ground in a large empty lot.

"Look, I don't want to sound skeptical or anything, but where the hell are you taking me?"

"Just watch, Mac," Shalimar said. She pulled a device from her pocket and hit a button. The Helix came out of stealth mode and appeared right in front of them.

"You've got mutant airplanes, too?" Mac quipped.

"Even injured he can't shut his mouth," Brennan griped. He led Mac to a seat and Shalimar got the first aid kit and set about patching him up. Jesse, meanwhile, was dragged into a waiting car screaming for Mac.

"Shut up!" One of the men shouted.

"You didn't have to shoot him!" Jesse cried. "I would have come along peacefully."

"I said quiet!" the man said, raising a fist. The man on Jesse's other side stopped him before he could strike.

"I need him in one piece," he said firmly. Scott Rhodes sat back and the car sped along the highway. "I apologize about your friend," the man said to Jesse, "but he had a gun and we had to do what was necessary."

"Where are you taking me?" Jesse demanded.

"Somewhere we can speak privately."

"We could have spoken in the park and without gun play."

"There were too many distractions there. You're a very popular man, Jesse Kilmartin. I'm dying to find out why."

"I'm darned if I know. One minute I was minding my own business and checking out the tourist spots, the next people started chasing me."

"Very amusing; but I doubt the GSA is just chasing you for sport. There must be something they want from you."

"What's the GSA?" Jesse said ingenuously.

**

"Thanks a lot, Shal," Mac said gratefully. "But right now, I'm more concerned about Jess."

"I've got him, don't worry," Brennan said from the console. "We're closing in on him now."

"Closing in? This thing is moving?"

"It's an aircraft, Mac. That's what it's supposed to do," Brennan replied.

"That's it!" Mac said, throwing down the bloodied handkerchief in his hand. "I'm going to bitch slap that--." Shalimar grabbed his arm and threw him back into his seat.

"Stay put," she commanded before she left him to join Brennan. "I've had it with you guys," she said with a glare for Brennan. "How the hell Jess put up with the two of you, I'll never know."

"Well at least he didn't try to tear my arm out of its socket," Mac said. Shalimar sent him a look that made him fall silent. He turned to look out of a window and saw the ground seem to rise up to meet the Helix as it touched down. "Smooth," he said with a smile. Shalimar rose and went to him. She kneeled at his feet and opened the first aid kit once more. She pulled out a needle and prepared a dose of medication.

"What's that for?" Mac asked doubtfully as she injected him just under the ribs.

"Painkiller."

"It'll take a much bigger dose than that to put him down," Brennan said. Shalimar's eyes flashed a warning. "Let's move," he said. "I've got Jesse's location pinned down inside a house about a quarter mile from here." Mac got to his feet gingerly and Brennan put a hand on his shoulder.

"You stay here. You're no good to us in your condition."

"Even wounded I bet I'm a better shot than either of you," Mac said as he pulled away. "You might just need to do things the old-fashioned way."

"He's right," Shalimar said. "Come on."

She led the way out of the Double Helix and flipped the switch. The jet twinkled and disappeared. Shalimar tapped Mac on the shoulder and started through a small copse toward where Jesse was being held. It was a large farmhouse a few miles outside the city. Shalimar settled in the bushes just at the edge of the lawn and checked for guards and surveillance cameras. Mac looked over his shoulder.

"Where's Brennan?" he asked warily.

"He's supposed to be paying Rhodes a visit, remember?"

A rumbling noise was heard in the background and two men came out of the house as a motorcycle pulled up in front.

"Right on cue," Shalimar said as Brennan got off the bike and removed his helmet.

"You guys get all the good stuff," Mac pouted. "Are there any civilians in Mutant X?" Shalimar laughed as she watched Brennan speak with the two men.

"How's the pain?"

"Oh, never better," Mac said as he attempted a deep breath. It hurt and he grit his teeth.

"Hang in there. Jess may need you," Shalimar said.

"I'm ready," Mac said firmly as Brennan was led into the house.

On to Part Five

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