Jensen couldn't believe how much his life had changed in just a few short years. He was married to an amazing man, had a beautiful, precocious daughter, and was three months pregnant with twins. His gallery was making a profit and he'd been able to employee several of the young adults from the center. Jared's new production company had several movies under contract and he'd been able to hire a few center residents as well.
His best friend had gotten married and was due to have her and Chad's first child a month before him, and the center his friends Chris and Steve ran was flourishing, their dreams of a safe haven for those that needed it finally becoming a reality.
Once Gabriel had started healing, Chris and Steve had given Jared the go ahead to set up a meeting with the security firm he'd recommended. Steve had called Jensen afterwards. They had been guardedly optimistic, but there had been several details that had to be worked out. As soon as things had been ironed out everything had been going well.
Gabriel's recovery had taken some time and physical therapy, but he'd healed and he was back in school with only two more classes to graduate with a degree in early education. Chris and Steve were in the process of adopting a little boy named Aaron who'd lost his parents in a house fire.
Chris was not so quietly freaking out, which amused Jensen to no end. Steve had confided that he'd woken several nights in the last few months to find his husband pacing in the little boy’s room mumbling to himself. Jensen had cornered his friend and told him he was acting like a nut and waited for his friend to crack.
Chris had tried to brush it off, but Jensen had been tenacious. He'd talked until Chris relaxed and opened up about what had been bothering him. Jensen had been shocked to discover that even after years of taking care of men, women, and children, the man in front of him was terrified he'd mess up. He would have laughed if his friend hadn't been dead serious.
It had taken another hour to assure Chris that everyone made mistakes when parenting. You asked for forgiveness, gave out some hugs and kisses, and kept moving forward. As long as you loved them and treated them the way they should be treated, everything else would fall into place. He had no doubt that both Steve and Chris were up to the task and he told Chris as much.
They had decided to wait to decorate until Aaron could choose what he liked. Jensen agreed with them, having just a little bit of input made anyone, no matter their age, feel like they had some control. For a four year old little boy whose life had been turned upside down, control was just as important as the security of a home and someone to love him.
Jensen had promised to paint whatever Aaron wanted in his room. Sophia had pretended to pout until Jensen had promised to do her baby's nursery as well, not that he hadn't already planned to do it as a baby present anyway. She didn't need to know that. This way, he was sure to get all the goodies his heart and stomach desired.
The first time Jensen had met anyone from the security team it had been Cliff, and he'd been more than a little taken back by just how big the man was. He'd been worried about how the kids and some of the more fragile residents would handle someone so physically imposing.
However, when he'd watched a group of little boys and girls vie for the two seats on either side of the man at lunch one day, he'd realized there wasn't anything to worry about. Chris had told him later, when he'd mentioned it that 'like knew like'. Jensen was a little dismayed by the thought that he put off some kind of vibe that identified him as an abuse survivor.
It wasn't that he was ashamed of the fact, it just freaked him out that someone could look at him and know something so intimate and painful about him. Chris had rolled his eyes and explained there was no such thing. It was just a sixth sense most people never had to develop, but that people who'd had to read the moods and body language of others to survive had cultivated, and they never truly lost it.
Alex was the newest member of Cliff's team, having shown up four months prior with a slight limp and a story lurking behind haunted eyes. No one had been able to pry it out of him, not that anyone had tried particularly hard, as everyone at the center knew time and trust was needed before people would open up. Jensen was positive that Cliff at least had the basics, because there was no way he'd have let Alex anywhere near the people he was charged with protecting otherwise.
Jensen had decided to target Alex as his helper in a secret mission. He hoped the other man didn't know about Jared and their friend's 'coddle Jensen clause'. Little did he know there were several paragraphs set aside for 'Things you didn't help Jensen get away with'. It had started out as a joke. Chad had been listing things that Jared would lose his shit over his husband doing, one night.
Jared had caught wind of it and blackmailed Chad into showing him. Then, he had mentioned the list to Chris, and between the three, it had grown rather large. When Jensen told Jared they were having twins, his first call had been to Chad to have him set the list up as protocol. Thankfully, for the health and well being of all those involved, Jensen was still unaware of said protocols.
Alex for his part thought everyone was just a little spastic when it came to Jensen, but when he'd gotten the other man's call, and Jensen hadn't wanted anyone else to know about it, he'd had to rethink his position. He decided, hopefully not at the risk of his life or limbs, to go along with the secrecy until he found out what Jensen's problem and plan was.
Jensen's request to bring mini cameras and mics made him a little twitchy, but he was confident he could handle whatever one pregnant man, who didn't have the good sense God gave him, could pull them into. Alex wasn't intimidated easily but Jensen's husband, while very affable and laid back, freaked the ever-lovin’-shit out of him when it came to Jensen's protection and well being.
Of course, it wasn't limited to just Jensen, close friends and family were included as well, and having heard the history behind Jared's need to keep Jensen healthy, happy and safe, he could understand.
Alex pulled up outside Jensen's gallery, which was apparently where the problem existed. He wasn't surprised when Jensen appeared at the door as he was pulling his equipment out of the storage compartment in the back of his truck.
"Did you get everything?" Jensen asked, looking up and down both sides of the street.
"Yeah. Was there a reason you wanted me to drive my own truck and not the company one?" Alex asked, trying to figure out what was going on.
Jensen had been adamant about there being nothing official looking being where anyone could see it. Alex thought it might be because Jensen didn't want anyone to think there was a problem at the gallery. If some of the artist that showed their art there thought there was a security issue it might cause problems.
Jensen waved him into the workshop portion of the gallery and locked the door. They didn't open until 10:00 so it gave Alex three hours to set up whatever he needed to. It wouldn't take him that long, but he was going to find out what was going on before he did anything else.
He followed Jensen to the break rom in the back, which was apparently their destination. Alex set the two duffle bags he was carrying on one of the tables and took a seat, waiting for some clarification on what he was doing there.
Jensen took in the unmovable picture Alex made with his arms crossed and his jaw jutting out. He sighed and pulled another chair out, settling himself with a pillow behind his back.
"About three weeks ago, I started noticing food was missing from the break room. Nothing major, just a few drinks here, and some bread and sandwich meat there. I probably wouldn't have even registered if my cookies hadn't disappeared."
Alex kept silent and waited. He hadn't known Jensen long but the man had never struck him as eccentric or a prima donna. There had to be something besides cookies that had made Jensen call him.
Jensen sighed when Alex just looked at him, he knew how it sounded, but he was not going nuts. "Look, I know it sounds weird, but nobody likes my cookies. Natalie makes me keep them in a plastic bag just so she doesn't have to smell them and Avery and Jared give me wrinkly noses every time they enter the house."
"I'm sort of scared to ask if Avery won't even touch them," Alex commented. He'd seen the little girl wolf down an inordinate amount of sweets given a few minutes. Cliff called her the Cookie Monster but it wasn't just cookies the kid would inhale, anything sweet was fair game.
"I was craving something and I couldn't figure out what it was. When I explained it to Sophia she made me a batch of molasses cookies. I'd never had them before, but it's apparently what these two want." Jensen rubbed a hand across his stomach indicating the twins.
"So someone's sneaking in here stealing cookies but not any of the high dollar art you have hanging all over the place? How come the alarms aren't going off?" Alex asked, looking around.
"I'm not sure. I know the gallery floor and storage are all set for motion just in case someone gets through the alarms at the doors or windows. They may not have thought it was necessary to put them in the bathrooms and break room."
"Well, no matter what we find, that's going to be the next upgrade," Alex grumbled as he started checking the room to see if he could figure out where the intruder was getting in and why none of the alarms were going off. He stopped suddenly and swung back around, pinning Jensen with unwavering eyes.
"Why did you include the bathrooms?"
Jensen sighed. He wasn't used to dealing with security issues and most certainly didn't have experience dealing with people that saw every comment as a reason to ask a million questions. "I've noticed some odd things in there recently."
Alex sat back down and waited. He could tell Jensen wasn't comfortable. He didn't know if it was with him or the situation he'd found himself in but Alex wasn't about to lose his head to this man's husband. He'd made it through numerous campaigns alive, maybe not always in one piece, but he was still here.
"I don't know really, it's like someone was cleaning up in there. There was a large amount of paper towels in the trash can and the soap container looks like someone tried to wipe it down after but didn't do such a good job, same with the sink."
"Do you think it might be someone that's homeless?" Alex asked, getting back up and resuming his search around the room. He didn't come across any obvious places that someone could get in other than the vent. True, it was close to the floor, but even a small adult wouldn't have been able to fit inside.
"I'd thought of that, but I can't see how they'd be getting in." Jensen waved his hand at the vent Alex had just inspected. "I don't think anyone can get in that way and there's just no where else that the alarms wouldn't pick them up at."
Alex headed to the bathrooms down the hallway Jensen had indicated. After a quick look around, he agreed with Jensen. There were no windows, a floor vent that only a mouse could get through, and nothing else.
He rounded the corner into the break room, catching Jensen chewing on a thumbnail. "I'm going to do a walk around and see where everything is set up and then I'll get the cameras and mics in place."
Jensen trailed behind Alex, watching as he checked every inch of the gallery, making notes as he went. Jensen wished he'd make some kind of noise because the silent inspection was starting to wear on his nerves. A few um's and grunts would at least give him some idea of what Alex was thinking.
"It's not too bad, but it's got some holes we need to plug," Alex finally commented, crawling down off one of the counters.
"Okay," Jensen stepped back so Alex wouldn't kick him.
"Give me about an hour to set up and then I'll walk you through where everything is."
"Sure, I'm going to go check on some of the canvases." Jensen gestured behind him before making a quick exit.
Alex busied himself with pulling all his equipment out and tried to keep his mind off what Jared would do when he found out. It took almost two hours to get everything put in place and tested. He found Jensen two steps up a ladder with a painting clutched in his hands.
He backed up and scraped his shoes against the floor, creating the squeaking affect everyone hated to announce his presence. By the time he rounded the corner, Jensen was standing on the floor with the painting propped on the ladder.
"You saw me didn't you?" Jensen asked.
"I won't tell if you stay off them," Alex offered.
Jensen sighed. "Fine, I forgot how frustrating it is not being able to do the things I see that need doing."
"Don't you have help?" Alex lifted the painting, shooing Jensen out of the way so he could get to the ladder.
"Yeah, but I hate getting Natalie to do everything. It makes me feel like a slacker getting someone else to do it for me and she's the only one I trust hanging paintings right now."
"Somehow, I don't think anyone can call you a slacker when you're carting around two babies that given the size of their daddy can't be lightweights." He paused looking at Jensen to see if he had the picture up straight.
"A little to the left," Jensen motioned. "I know, but it's still not easy to just stand by and have someone else do it for you."
"I get it, laying around’s never been my thing either," Alex acknowledged as he led the way back to the break room.
It took him a half hour to walk Jensen through the placement of all the cameras and mics. He'd explained the system would record for twenty-four hours, more than enough time to catch whatever was going on through the night. The system would switch over to a secondary device for the next twenty-four hours, giving them time to go through the previous one before it was recorded over.
Jensen relaxed when Alex promised to come over the next afternoon and look through the footage with him. He wasn't technologically challenged, but he wasn't a guru either so having Alex show him how to do it the first time was a great relief.
Needless to say, they hadn't thought it would take almost a month for them to find the culprit, nor were they prepared for what they found.