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Jensen should have known that it was bad when Paul was still there, half an hour past the time Jensen had agreed to meet him at the restaurant. "Sorry," Jensen said, sliding into the seat across from Paul. "There was a crisis with the license agreement—"

"Stop it," Paul said, pushing his empty beer bottle away. His eyes were sparkling and his brows drawn tight with anger. He looked as gorgeous as he had the day they'd met at the bar mixer, when his animation was all outrage at the state of the juvenile justice system; he still made Jensen's breath catch, even now that it was Jensen and not undertrained guards riling him up.

Jensen shut his mouth, despite wanting very much to continue his explanation. Then his training overcame his caution. "Paul—"

"You know what?" Paul didn't wait for an answer. "The only thing worse than having you ignore me for work is having you talk about work, and since those are the only two things you do, I'm done. I kept thinking that it was worth it 'cause you're hot, but it turns out that not even I'm that shallow."

"I—"

"Put this in whatever computer system you use instead of a brain: looking pretty and sucking cock is not enough to get you a relationship. You can mail me my keys." He stood up so fast his chair rocked, and then he was hurrying away.

Jensen gaped after him, hand raised as if he could somehow reach out and, Darth Vader-like, pull Paul back. Then, slowly, he sat back in his seat, trying not to look around to see exactly how many people had watched his utter humiliation. He could feel his skin reddening and kind of hoped to burst into flames right there.

No such luck. His phone buzzed, which was probably Bruce wanting to know if Jensen had incorporated the changes from the tax guys into the latest draft of the contract. The funny thing was, Jensen had desperately wanted Paul to like him, and he thought Bruce was an ass, and yet he'd spent eighty hours in the past ten days on Bruce's contract and only maybe ten minutes talking to Paul in a context that wasn't either sex-related or while Jensen was in the process of getting ready to go to the law firm.

I am such a loser, he thought. Four guys, four years, all of them eventually in full rebellion against Jensen's workaholic tendencies. Apparently the only thing he could count on to stick with him were his student loans.

"Excuse me, sir," the waiter said, sidling up. "Will you be ordering?"

Jensen tugged at the knot of his tie and shook his head. He wasn't up to talking, so he made the universal 'check please' hand gesture, knowing that he was being even more of an asshole—but then again, apparently he didn't have any further to fall in that department.

He'd really thought that Paul liked him, how intense he got over his work—Bruce was an ass, all right, but Jensen was good at his job, figuring out the tangles made by words and how to straighten them out and curl them up again to serve the client. He'd thought that they shared that intensity, but apparently all Paul had seen was Jensen's face, like everybody else.

He left a big tip, along with what felt like a chunk of his heart.

****

Jensen took another protective sip of his beer. It tasted more like soapy water than anything he'd actually want to drink, but the crowd at the bar was so packed that he was getting shoved this way and that and a highball would have been an invitation to take a sticky bath. Jensen was considering it anyway—if he was lucky, maybe a hot guy would careen into him and then be honor-bound to offer to buy him another. But then again, he'd already turned down three come-ons, not counting the hands he'd removed from various parts of his person.

He wanted to get laid. Really, he did. He'd even dressed up, tight jeans and tighter shirt, product in his hair and maybe (not that he'd admit it) a little gloss and eyeliner. His shirt practically had the slogan 'I could be yours if you play your cards right' on it. But every time he tried to smile back at them, he just flashed forward to a month or so later, when they'd be telling him that he couldn't just expect them to be around on the rare occasions he emerged for air and decided he'd like to pretend to be a boyfriend.

Two more guys leaned in to yell in his ear before Jensen decided that there were better ways to use his night off than to lose his hearing and watch other people hook up. He shook his head one last time and turned towards the exit.

That was when the hottest man Jensen had seen in the place, ever, planted himself in front of Jensen. He was wearing a suit as well-cut as any worn by the equity partners in Jensen's firm, except that the equity partners didn't generally pair a bespoke jacket with a muscle-hugging white T-shirt that was either damp with sweat or with the drool of onlookers. Jesus, the last time he'd seen pecs like that he'd been watching bodybuilders. Jensen bit his lip to keep himself from reaching out and touching, then forced his eyes up enough to look at the guy's face. Long dark hair, strands stuck together with sweat, and slanted eyes glimmering with humor. Jensen wasn't short, but this guy was at least three inches taller.

Say something, he told himself. Except that the guy leaned down before Jensen could formulate a sentence. His lips brushed Jensen's ear as he said, "Come with me right now and I'll pay twice your regular rate."

For a second, all Jensen could think about was the rate the firm billed him at. "Six hundred an hour?" he asked, nearly blank with shock, except the guy must not have heard it as a question, because he just nodded and grabbed Jensen's arm, firm but not painful, and started walking them towards the door.

Three steps in, Jensen figured out that the guy had probably not been talking about the price of legal services, and he nearly fell over his own feet. But the guy pulled him in closer, grinning like Jensen had just made a hilarious joke, and Jensen's brain vapor-locked.

'Why not?' was the first thing in his head when they pushed through the doors and the cooler night air hit him, startling his thoughts into rebooting. Not that he was going to take Hot Guy's money, of course. But if Hot Guy thought that Jensen was there to get paid, then there was no way he wanted anything other than Jensen's ass and he wasn't going to be disappointed. And whatever else Jensen wanted, it was obvious that he wasn't going to get it, so he might as well relax and have some fun, right?

"I'm Jensen," he said, voice too loud now that they were out of the bar.

Hot Guy looked over, amused. He still hadn't let go of Jensen's arm. "Jared," he said, after a moment. Maybe it was an alias, Jensen thought. "My hotel's just up the block." He sounded relaxed, like the evening was going just as he'd planned, but his tone didn't invite a response.

Right, so Jared wasn't really into casual conversation. Why would he be? He hadn't exactly picked Jensen out of the crowd because of his fantastic performance in moot court. But Jensen hadn't stopped him, because before he'd been Jared he'd been Hot Guy, which meant that Jensen had precisely zero legs to stand on even without the part where he was letting Jared assume he was a hooker. (Also, apparently Jensen had overshot 'wants to get laid' by a country mile, which was ... dispiriting. Maybe next time he'd skip the eyeliner.)

Jensen managed not to dig himself in further with failed conversational gambits by virtue of barely looking at Jared at all for the rest of the walk to the hotel, through the over-airconditioned lobby, and up in the elevator.

Jared was stripping off his jacket before the door to his room swung closed, tossing it over a chair as he turned to inspect Jensen, nodding to himself. "Why don't you take off your clothes?" he asked, the way one of the partners at the firm would ask if Jensen wanted to take on an important matter—which meant that he wasn't asking at all.

Jensen felt himself blushing, and hid it by pulling his T-shirt up and over his head. Then, because this was why he'd followed Jared, he unbuckled his belt and slid it out of the loops. Then his shoes, toed off, and a quick bend to get rid of his socks without looking too goddamned stupid.

His hands hesitated on the top button of his jeans. When he looked up, Jared was sitting on the edge of the fucking enormous hotel bed, shirtless now. He was muscled like an Alex Ross superhero, elbows on his knees and chin in his hands, staring openly at Jensen. "Don't stop on my account," he said, again with that note in his voice like he was laughing at himself and at Jensen at the same time. Jensen's stomach flipped, but he flicked the buttons open and skinned down his jeans and boxer-briefs together. His dick, already taking an interest, twitched and thickened further when Jared smirked.

"I want you to suck my cock," Jared said, and maybe Jensen should've disabused him of the notion that this was a business arrangement already, except that Jesus fuck it was hot to be getting ordered around like this, which—a small part of Jensen's mind noted—was a little surprising given how much yessirring Jensen did on a daily basis already. Only this time at least he was going to get an orgasm out of it, instead of the usual backache/lack-of-sleep/boyfriend-abandoning-him-in-disgust combo.

Snapping himself back to reality, Jensen nodded and tried to cross the floor in as non-dorky a way as possible, which was probably hopeless but fortunately Jared wasn't all that far away. Jensen sank to his knees between Jared's spread legs and reached for Jared's belt, thin leather as expensive as the rest of his outfit. Jared's cock was already pushing out against the fine wool of his pants, and Jensen hurried to get the fly open with almost equal concern for the suit as for Jared. Except that his mouth was watering, so maybe he was a little more interested in what was underneath the suit. Jared helped, undoing the interior button that helped the pants hang better (Bruce had given a lecture on this exact topic one interminable taxi ride to the airport on the way to a deposition; Jensen appreciated it much more now that he'd seen how Jared looked, though honestly Jared would have been scorching in burlap) and raising his hips so that Jensen could get his pants and shorts down.

Jensen stopped and stared. He kind of wanted to say something, but he figured that Jared was probably about as used to comments on the size of his cock as Jensen was to expressions of interest in his cocksucking mouth. Come to think of it, that was a good pairing. Like peanut butter and jelly, but with extra sex. Jensen licked his lips, and Jared made a small, impatient sound. Jensen took a deep breath and bent forward, letting his tongue roll around Jared's cockhead, swelling even as Jensen got his first taste.

There was no way Jensen was getting all of that in his mouth, so he brought one hand up even as he worked himself as far down as he could, raising up on his knees. Jared's cock was just as thick and silky-smooth under his fingers as it was in his mouth, thick veins rising under his fingers as he worked down Jared's shaft, using the spit leaking out of his mouth to ease his way back up. Jared's taste was strong, day's-end strong, and Jensen wanted as much of it as he could get.

He moved slowly, and Jared was polite (or had a healthy respect for the ordinary gag reflex) and didn't shove forwards, so Jensen put his free hand on Jared's thigh, stopping to feel the muscle twitch, and slid up until he was cupping Jared's balls, his fingers trapped against the crease of Jared's thigh. With his eyes closed, he felt—weirdly safe. Like he could keep doing this forever, even though his jaw was going to crack and his tongue was going numb. Just giving pleasure, happy in the moment because there was no future to it at all.

When he pulled back to breathe, Jared put a hand on his shoulder, and Jensen looked up, lips still wrapped around that perfect, sticky-smooth head. The way Jared gasped told Jensen just how he looked.

"Jeez," Jared exhaled, pushing his hair out of his eyes. "I'm gonna fuck you now."

Jensen was a supporter of that plan. He let Jared's dick slide all the way out of his mouth, wobbling a little, and rose to his feet.

"On your back," Jared said. "Use a pillow. I want to watch you open yourself up."

Jensen swallowed the 'oh fuck' that wanted to come out. His lovers had always been about requests and negotiation, and his one-night stands even more so—all the care you took when you wanted to get laid again, or when you didn't want the guy to get pissed off or freaked out and leave in the middle. He'd never been a sure thing like this before. He was so hard his dick slapped his stomach when he managed to wrestle a pillow out from the huge pile provided by the hotel, and then he was on his back, as ordered, hips tilted up as he looked around wildly, only then realizing that he didn't exactly have the necessary supplies.

Fortunately, Jared had been well-prepared for his own night on the town, and there was a bottle of lube alongside a box of condoms on the nightstand. Jared reached over and handed him the lube with a grin that would've made Jensen blush if all his blood hadn't migrated to his dick, and he fumbled it open, his fingers instantly slick and messy.

He drew his legs up, letting his knees fall apart as his heels brushed against the edge of the pillow, feeling obscene and proud of it. Jared sat on the edge of the bed again, twisted this time so that he could watch. Jensen pushed two fingers inside himself at once, not minding the sting because of the hunger on Jared's face, then added a third as soon as he could breathe again. His other hand rubbed up and down his cock, pressing it down into his belly. He closed his eyes as he spread his fingers, knowing he wasn't going to be close to ready but wanting it anyway.

Jensen heard the rip of the condom packet; Jared was on the bed when he opened his eyes, stalking towards him on hands and knees. Jensen managed to pull his fingers out and grab on to the back of his thigh, lifting his leg to give Jared more room to work.

Jared felt even bigger than he looked, pushing in with a steady strength that said he could've gone faster if he wanted, grunting a little as he put his huge hands under Jensen's knees and pressed them up towards his chest. Jensen's tendons were probably protesting, but he couldn't feel anything other than the thick slide of Jared's cock. Gasping, he tried to relax and take it, letting his own hands fall to his sides, clenching in the covers.

"Fuck, you're tight," Jared said, surprised and almost to himself. Jensen grunted and made himself open up further, just as Jared pushed forward and slammed home, his flat belly brushing against Jensen's balls. Jensen shuddered and squirmed, nowhere to go even if he'd wanted to move.

And then Jared really started to give it to him, rocking his hips back and forth like he seriously thought he was going to get in deeper. Jensen could barely breathe, all that weight above and, Christ, inside him; he clutched at Jared's biceps out of pure self-defense and then couldn't help but love the feel of solid muscle, moaning even louder. His cock had softened some just from the shock, but he was quickly regaining his arousal. He could feel the slippery-wet head of his cock rubbing against Jared's abs.

"Talk to me," Jared ordered.

Seriously? Yeah, Jensen's day job involved producing words on demand, but this—

Well, okay. "Nnrrgh," he began, then took a deep breath. "Feel so fucking good inside me. So fucking hot, your gorgeous cock—" Jared thrust extra hard, and Jensen basically lost the plot. When his head cleared, he was still babbling, something about how he'd suck Jared all night long if he could. Jared was urging him on, asking "You like that?" and variants, which meant that it was okay for Jensen to dissolve into nothing much more than "yeah" and "please" and "yeah" again. Finally, when Jensen thought he was just about to die, Jared reached between them to wrap a big hand around his cock, and that was it, game over, tilt tilt tilt.

He came like he hadn't in months, maybe years, going boneless and heavy even as Jared's dick seemed to get bigger inside him, their chests slip-sliding together, both of them wet with Jensen's come. Jensen blinked up and saw Jared's head thrown back, long line of his throat and jaw like some sculptor's wet dream.

"Fuck," Jared said—as good as Jensen felt, it sounded like the wisdom of the ages, and he would've nodded if he'd had the energy—and came, his whole body stiffening and then collapsing on Jensen's.

They lay there, panting, until Jensen really had to move his legs, and then he sort of wriggled them feebly until Jared got the message and pulled out, carefully bringing the condom with him. Holy fuck Jensen was going to be sore in the morning, but it had been worth every twinge.

Jared rolled onto his back next to Jensen, breathing hard. "That was awesome," he said, and Jensen was not about to disagree. He tugged the condom off and tossed it over the side; Jensen had a moment of ewww, not wanting to step on it later, and brought his head up just enough to see that Jared, amazingly, had managed to lob the thing straight into the trash can. So: rich, hot, and well-coordinated. Jensen had a flash of one of those Hollywood celebrities explaining why he'd hired a hooker—I don't pay them for the sex, the guy'd said. I pay them to go away after.

It was a little bit of a buzz kill, but Jensen resolved to be well-behaved. As soon as he caught his breath, he'd leave—refusing any money of course, but out the door before anything could get awkward.

Except that Jared sighed, satisfied but loud, and folded his hands on his (extremely well-cut) stomach. "Lick me clean," he said, like that was something that you could actually say.

Jensen felt his mouth fall open. Jared looked over and grinned. "My hour's not even up," he said. Jensen had the irrational urge to explain that, as a matter of fact, he was used to keeping time in six-minute increments.

But that was not who he was tonight, apparently. Tonight he was apparently the guy who dutifully scooted down the bed and got on his hands and knees and started in again on that amazing cock, soft now and covered with a not entirely unpleasant mix of come and residue from the condom. He used his tongue to sweep up and down, unwilling to miss any patch of skin. The taste wasn't the best thing ever, yes, but Jensen couldn't help but think about how all that mess got there, thick and salty and only somewhat plasticky, plus he could get almost all of Jared's dick in his mouth this way and Jared was staring down at him like he was setting an Olympic record in cocksucking, so it was overall pretty hot.

And then Jared's length started to swell, forcing Jensen to back off some. He raised his eyebrows—are you fucking kidding me?—and Jared shrugged, more smug than sheepish, as he got all the way hard again, faster than Jensen had managed since he was maybe seventeen.

"That's good," Jared said, one hand on Jensen's shoulder to push him back. "You stay right there." He reached for another condom, and before Jensen could really process what was going on, he was behind Jensen, pushing him further up the bed and shoving his knees between Jensen's, one hand heavy on the nape of Jensen's neck.

He pushed in even more smoothly this time, bottoming out like he knew exactly how hard to thrust to keep from crossing the line into pain. Jensen felt strange, floaty, like even his heartbeat was tied to how Jared was moving inside him. He wasn't going to come again soon, probably couldn't even get hard, but every nerve was lit up with sensation. He concentrated on keeping his arms and legs from giving out on him and on rocking his hips back to match Jared's movements.

Jared grunted and shifted his hand; now he was holding on to Jensen's shoulders, pulling him back as his knees pushed Jensen's further out, destabilizing him and pushing him further down on Jared's cock. Jensen opened his mouth to protest but all that came out was a ragged "unnhh" that, even in his own ears, sounded more encouraging than pained.

Jared fucked him like that for a while, until Jensen's thighs were shaking and he'd lost control of his arms and faceplanted into the soft, clean-smelling covers. Jared's hands had drifted down to Jensen's hips, holding him in place as if Jensen had anywhere to go, and then Jared slid one hand all the way up Jensen's back, over his shoulder, curving around his neck and finally over his jaw, thumb pressing into Jensen's mouth with the same entitlement Jared had shown from the beginning. Jensen moaned and let him in, sucking sloppily, nipping at the pad of Jared's thumb. His skin tingled with aftershocks everywhere Jared had touched him.

"God," Jared said, like he was surprised, and then bucked his hips forward one last time and came. He collapsed down onto Jensen in slow motion, flailing with his other hand to take care of the condom, and somehow they ended up smashed together in a way that was probably going to get uncomfortable fast, Jared's mouth pressed into Jensen's neck and his leg splayed across Jensen's. Jensen's face was mostly pressed into a pillow; he had one eye and one nostril free, and Jared was still playing with his mouth, letting Jensen lick at his fingers. They were rough and salty and Jensen could've kept going for hours.

"Mmm," Jared hummed. "I need a snack. You want to eat?"

Jensen thought about it, to the extent that he could think. "Whaddaya got?"

Jared pulled away—Jensen couldn't stop himself from wriggling a little, suddenly cold—and Jensen heard some fumbling noises. A menu landed next to his face. "Anything you want," Jared said.

Jensen blinked. He really was not up to making complicated decisions like this. But food did sound good. "Get two of whatever you're having." So far, Jared hadn't exactly steered him wrong. And buying your date dinner was absolutely not the same thing as paying for sex, right?

More noise. "Yeah, hi," Jared said, voice muffled by the phone. "Two steaks, baked potato, asparagus. And two slices of key lime pie. Great, thanks." Jensen heard footsteps over the carpet. "If you hate key lime, I'll eat your slice."

Jensen made himself roll over and smile up at Jared. Wouldn't do to pass out right now. That would be rude. "Key lime's awesome," he said. "I'm a little surprised you eat dessert." Somehow, he made his hand rise enough to wave basically in the direction of Jared's muscles.

Jared actually got pink, high on his cheeks. "Metabolism," he said. "And, you know, an hour in the gym every day, plus I run with my dogs ..." He stopped, as if realizing that he didn't owe Jensen any sort of explanation. Jensen nodded, keeping the smile on his face. Jensen himself got most of his exercise running up and down stairs at the firm, and he'd have to pay for his pie with coffee for lunch the next few days, but he wasn't going to worry about that now.

"Hey," Jared said brightly. "How about a shower?"

"Even more awesome than key lime," Jensen agreed.

The stall was pretty big—Jensen hadn't quite noticed just how fancy the hotel was on the way in, but he was beginning to get a sense of why Jared hadn't flinched at the thought of paying six hundred an hour—but the two of them still barely fit in. There was a lot of rubbing and jostling and soap-stealing. Though maybe that would've happened even if they'd been in a space twice as large, because it was all fun. Jensen could tell that his ass and even his legs would be hating him tomorrow, but the full soreness hadn't set in yet and he was still riding the endorphins, so right now it was smooth sailing.

Just as they got out, there was a knock at the door, and Jared wrapped a towel around his waist to get the food. Jensen peered out of the bathroom, enjoying the play of muscles in Jared's back, and for a moment he wanted to let himself pretend that this was the start of something real.

But guys like Jared self-evidently weren't interested in overworked associates whose best conversational gambits centered on the latest outrage from the Fifth Circuit and the fascinating implications of the termination of transfer of copyright in Superman and the scope of the rights in the character exclusively as he existed as of Action Comics #1, but not as he was later developed. (Superman! Jensen would have thought that everything involving Superman was interesting to other people, but, sadly, no.)

"Come on," Jared called. "This food's too good to waste."

So Jensen grabbed a towel of his own and went out to enjoy the moment.

Jared was right about the food, too.

And, as it turned out, Jared was smart and funny, full of jokes about the differences between Texas and DC (he was from Texas, Jesus wept, the perfect man if not for the small fact that he thought he'd purchased Jensen's sexual favors). Jensen did his best to, well, not be himself, talking only about restaurants and good places to be a tourist. Since he couldn't discuss his profession (real or accidental-presumed), it wasn't as difficult as he usually found casual conversation. There was something oddly liberating about talking with a guy who was (a) never going to be around again and (b) completely mistaken about who Jensen was. Jensen found that he actually had some strong opinions about the various Smithsonian museums and that Jared had equally strong, though completely misguided, ideas of which he very much needed to be disabused before he headed back to Texas to spread his misinformation.

As he scraped the last graham cracker crumbs off of his plate, Jensen tried to figure out exactly what he was going to say to explain that, no, he wasn't really a hooker, but yes, he'd leave quietly and without a fuss. Maybe he could just stand up and start getting dressed.

Except that when he looked up, Jared was sitting back on the bed, towel discarded, one knee drawn up and the other off to the side, looking like a Playgirl centerfold up against the mountain of hotel pillows. His hand was working his cock, which was already half-hard.

No, seriously, are you fucking kidding me? did not come out of Jensen's mouth, but he was pretty sure his expression was saying most of that for him.

"Come on," Jared said, almost wheedling.

Jensen had sat there (wincing, to be sure, but he'd sat) and eaten the man's food. As far as Jared was concerned, Jensen was still on the clock.

His ass wasn't going to be happy tomorrow anyway, and Jared looked so good when he smiled. Jensen took a breath and stood, abandoning his towel.

By the time he joined Jared on the bed, Jared had the condom on and was reaching for the lube. "Allow me," he said, and Jensen wasn't going to dissuade him, so Jensen ended up crouched above Jared while Jared pushed his fingers deep inside—nothing like his cock, but they still felt enormous, stretching him open again. Then Jared pulled him down onto that thick, awesome dick, until he was riding Jared face-to-face, his head spinning as he clamped his thighs around Jared's waist and hung on.

"You have the most amazing pelvic cut," he told Jared, lightheaded as if he'd been drinking tequila instead of getting fucked for the past couple of hours.

Jared laughed, but not meanly, more as if he was happy to see Jensen happy, which was in some ways totally unfair. But Jensen pushed all that aside—there wasn't much room in his head right now, which was just the way he liked it—and shifted his weight so that he wasn't bruising himself quite so badly on Jared's hipbones.

Jared cupped Jensen's face, and Jensen instinctively turned to mouth against his palm. God, he could get addicted to the taste of Jared's skin, shower-clean now but still with that slight bite of salt. But Jared turned him gently back, pulling forward, and then they were kissing, sweet and wet but just barely pushing their tongues together, kind of a stunning contrast to how deep Jared was inside him.

Jensen's thighs were so exhausted that he could barely move himself back and forth, but Jared didn't complain. When their mouths broke apart, Jared looked nearly as stunned as Jensen felt. "Can you get yourself off? I want you to come on me," Jared said, so low that Jensen barely heard him even from inches away. But once he'd processed the words, his dick jumped. He hadn't expected—but Jared had asked, and it would be rude to refuse, surely.

Jensen leaned back a little, putting more of his weight on Jared's thighs, and brought his hand up to his mouth, licking the palm. Then, struck by an impulse, he offered his fingers to Jared. Jared's teeth were sharp, almost painful, but his tongue was hot and wet and the look on his face when his eyes closed and he sucked hard was enough to get Jensen well past the starting line even before he managed to wrap his spit-slick hand around his cock.

They both bent their heads until their foreheads touched, watching Jensen work. He'd slowed his rhythm on Jared to almost nothing, just rocking his hips up and down. His dick was hot and heavy, oversensitive so that he could barely stand to keep his grip even as he couldn't stop squeezing and pulling. Jared was panting, and Jensen could feel the air currents moving thick and humid on the head of his dick.

The sound Jensen made when he came was unrecognizable as a word. He could feel himself clenching around Jared's cock, painful-good. Backsplashes of his own jizz hit his fingers, but most of it ended up on Jared's stomach, messing up all that nice clean skin. He wasn't even done coming when Jared growled, surged up, and had him on his back again, fucking into him like he was going to die if he didn't get there in the next minute.

Jensen lay there and took it, loose-limbed and balloon-headed, letting his legs widen further to give Jared a better angle. Jared had his eyes closed, face screwed up in concentration, mouth pink and used, and Jensen's cock gave one last, near-painful twitch as Jared pushed them so far that Jensen's head hung off the edge of the bed and groaned out his orgasm.

This time, Jensen did whimper when Jared pulled out, and Jared made a sort of cooing, soothing sound that made Jensen want to hit him, except that his bones had been turned to Silly Putty.

He'd get up in a minute. Tell Jared that it had been amazing, wish him the best of luck on his business trip, and disappear from his life.

In just a minute.

****

Jensen woke with a foul taste in his mouth and the too-familiar ache of having left his contacts in too long. The phone was ringing, except he never had his phone set to ring.

Which was, he realized as he rolled over towards the noise, because he was still in Jared's hotel room. Also, fucking ow.

After a few pathetic attempts, he managed to grab the receiver off of the end table. An automated voice told him that this was his eight am wakeup call.

Fuck.

Oh, he didn't need to be at the office until ten; on a Saturday ten was reasonable. But if he hadn't gone home—

"Jared?" he asked.

Silence.

When Jensen investigated—moving slowly in the delusion that taking care would help him feel less like he'd been turned on a spit—he found his cellphone on the table below the big mirror, weighing down an envelope with the hotel's address on it; obviously Jared had used the phone to make sure he wouldn't leave without seeing the envelope.

"Fuck," he said to the uncaring, empty room. Carefully, he pulled out the note, ignoring for the moment the stack of cash it was wrapped around.

"Jensen," the note said in sloppy but readable handwriting. "I had a fantastic time. Thanks!"

Jensen stared at his phone like it was the idiot that had passed out and left his pickup with the impression that his virtue was negotiable.

The envelope held three thousand dollars.

Either Jensen's time sense was way off, or Jared was also a big tipper.

Now what?

His stomach growled, and simultaneously he remembered that the Johnson deal memo was due on Monday, which pretty much decisively answered the 'what now' question. But he had no idea what to do with the money. Maybe he could leave it with the hotel, and ask them to return it to ... Jared, if that was his name, with no last name, staying in room 1710? Yeah, he could do that, if his best-case scenario was dying of embarrassment. Worst-case was some sort of horrible solicitation arrest, disbarment, slow starvation on the streets—

Okay, no.

Maybe he could give the money to charity. Were there reporting requirements on cash? Shit, he'd have to look that up.

In the meantime, he had a walk of shame and a deal memo to finish.

Still, he couldn't help but smile as he opened the door to leave the room, and the lingering scent of Jared, behind. However it had happened, the hottest guy this side of Angelina Jolie had picked him, and then they'd had crazy sex for hours. That was definitely worth some compensation-related misunderstandings.

And when he remembered this—because it was going to be a key part of his fantasy life for years to come, that was for sure—he could edit out those awkward bits.

****

Which worked fine until two weeks later, when his phone buzzed in the middle of a meeting and the name on the display was Jared's.

Jensen froze for a second, then made frantic hand motions that he hoped conveyed 'I have to take this' as he hurried out into the hallway.

"Jared?" he asked, dumbfounded.

"Jensen, hi!" Jared sounded cheerful.

"You called," Jensen said, then wanted to smack himself in the face.

"Yeah," Jared said, dampened a little. "I programmed my number into your phone, I hope that's okay." He sounded tentative now, like he was going to try very hard not to be hurt if Jensen reacted badly.

"No, no, that's fine," Jensen said, because he didn't want to hurt Jared, who'd been a nice guy—except for the whole money thing and Jesus Christ

"Anyway," Jared said, before Jensen could really wrap his mind around revisiting previous events, "I'm gonna be in town Friday night, and I wondered if you were. You know. Available."

"Friday?" Jensen repeated. He didn't squeak, whatever the secretaries in the hallway might have said to the contrary.

"I'll pay double, same as before," Jared said hurriedly.

Jensen knew, then, that if he explained the truth to Jared, Jared would hang up and never call back. Never answer any calls that Jensen would never work up the courage to make in the first place. And Jensen would miss out on another chance to fuck Jared and maybe find out if he'd seen the error of his ways with respect to the Natural History Museum.

And it wasn't like Jensen was going to get confused about whether this was a real relationship. Not with the meter ticking. He wouldn't want more than Jared could give, because what Jared could give was absolutely, one hundred percent clear.

"What time and where?" he asked, closing his eyes.

After he'd taken down the details, he went back to the meeting, where they were debating the extent to which they could incorporate the latest demands into the Johnson deal. Jensen didn't even know why they were having this meeting, since the principals were set to resume negotiations at the end of the week, but he guessed that was why they paid the partners the big bucks.

****

Jensen spent half an hour he really couldn't spare that morning picking out the white shirt that made his eyes look extra green and the khakis that made his ass look amazing.

"Screw it, we're ordering in," Jared said as soon as he'd gotten a good look at Jensen.

Jensen flushed and wouldn't meet Jared's eyes, but he couldn't suppress a smile.

What was half an hour, in the greater scheme of things?

At that point, Jared put his hands on Jensen's shoulders, pushing him down, and the philosophical portion of the evening was pretty much concluded.

****

Jensen didn't donate the money, but he didn't spend it either. He put it in a shoebox at the back of his closet, and sometimes he looked at his loan balance and thought about being able to leave the firm, maybe do something he really wanted—one of his classmates was working at the Innocence Project, and she sent out these emails every once in a while that made his throat clench up—but he couldn't quite make himself do it. It didn't help that he was almost certain that he'd get busted for tax evasion if he tried, and he felt like a criminal even looking up the rules for cash deposits, which his ethics professor had said was generally a sign that you were trying to figure out how to do the wrong thing and get away with it. So, yeah. Shoebox, back of the closet.

Jared came to town every couple of weeks. They developed a pattern: they'd fuck at Jared's hotel, order some food, debate what tourist attraction Jared should see before he flew back, and then fuck again. Jensen put his foot down at work and made enough time to see a couple of shows or exhibits each week so that he'd be able to make solid recommendations. (Okay, he maybe put a couple of toes down, and also cancelled his cable, but it worked out that he had more free time on balance.) He started running to and from work and showering at the office, which took longer than taking the Metro but kept him from feeling too much like the 'before' picture compared to Jared.

Despite the fact that he turned down three assignments, or maybe because of it, his biennial evaluation was better than ever. "You really seem to have found your place," the partner leading the review said, and even though that wasn't exactly how Jensen felt, he nodded, because he hadn't lost all good sense. And he still thought that contractual loopholes were fantastic intellectual challenges, but having to talk to Jared about something else entirely turned out to be revitalizing.

They never talked about Jared's business either, though if it brought him to DC on a regular basis Jensen figured it had to be either politics or defense-related. Jensen was guessing defense contractor of some sort, important enough to get paid enough to drop thousands of dollars (on Jensen) each trip but not so important that a paid-gay-companion sex scandal would destroy him. He was careful not to ask. The illusion that they only existed when they were with each other was fragile (and directly contradicted by those discreet envelopes) but important—important enough to Jared for him to pay dearly for it, and important enough to Jensen that he couldn't afford to forget.

****

"Let's do something different," Jared said as soon as Jensen answered his phone one crisp fall day.

"No more food," Jensen said immediately, because he was still unable to eat sushi. Jared's sexcapade ideas were almost all excellent, but the occasional misfire was epic.

"No!" Jared made an embarrassed noise. "I mean, not like that. There's this restaurant, they do a tasting menu. Supposedly it takes four and a half hours."

Jensen closed his eyes and spun in his chair, facing the unseeing polarized windows of the building across the street. "Jared, I. I feel bad about you spending that kind of money on—"

"I want to," Jared said, almost sullen.

Jensen didn't know what to say to him. You should be careful so that I don't think this is a date? I'm already way too into you; I think about you every day you're not here? But the whole point of their—their business arrangement, that was the only word for it, was that Jensen didn't say no.

He cleared his throat. "What if we, you know, started counting after dinner?"

"Jensen," Jared said, and now his usual good humor was all but restored, "you're not gonna drive me into bankruptcy or anything. And I know the score."

"Still," Jensen told him, "let's—you know, it's a frequent flyer discount, whatever."

Jared laughed, and Jensen curled himself around the phone, wanting Jared there right now. "So do I also get a first class upgrade?"

Jensen froze, flummoxed. "What exactly did you have in mind?" If he'd just walked into some weird hooker lingo, he was going to be in deep trouble. Also, he was having a hard time imagining something he hadn't already allowed Jared to try.

"Why don't I leave it to your discretion?" Jared teased, and Jensen relaxed.

In the end, they did go to the restaurant. The meal took nearly five hours. Between courses, Jared told Jensen about his high school misadventures in San Antonio and Jensen gave back stories about Richardson, carefully free of last names or any references further forward in time. They were stuffed like overinflated balloons by the time the chocolate truffles arrived at the table—also buzzed, because they'd split a wine pairing, nine glasses for nine courses, so if they walked a straight line back to the hotel it was only because they were leaning on each other and cancelling each other out.

Jensen tried to put Jared into his bed, but Jared just pulled Jensen down and wouldn't let go, so they passed out like that until Jared woke at ass-o'-clock and then took the ass part seriously. Jensen ended up getting fucked as the predawn light seeped past the curtains, and then fucked again in the shower, and after that he declared that 'first class upgrade' meant a blowjob combined with a vibrator in Jared's ass, which worked well enough that it was worth having carried the little lipstick-sized thing around with him for a day.

After breakfast (the hotel made excellent scones), Jared mentioned his planned tour of the Hirshhorn. "Sounds great," Jensen said, and Jared got this funny tight look on his face, which made Jensen realize that he sounded like he was inviting himself along.

"I'll see you when you're back in town?" he said quickly, because even if Jared thought he was being offered a freebie, it wasn't in the terms of their arrangement that Jensen got to impose like that. Anyway, the now-Dickensian Johnson deal had suffered some sort of outbreak late Friday, right before they'd gone to dinner, and Jensen needed to go in and start shoveling away at the resulting mess.

When he hung up his jacket at the office, he found the usual envelope, with the usual three thousand. Jensen thought that, if he really had been a prostitute, he would have appreciated Jared's polite discretion even more.

****

He didn't hear from Jared for three weeks after that.

They'd compared opinions on Shakespeare, for fuck's sake. (Jared had this completely twisted preference for the comedies, when anyone could plainly see that Hamlet was the only play that mattered.)

Oh God, he was a Julia Roberts cliche. Except that Jensen knew what the original ending of that movie had been, and he wasn't expecting any Disney bluebirds to flutter down and give him his fairy-tale ending. And even if Jared, through some miracle, decided to 'rescue' him, that would only expose all the lies: what could he say? Sorry, I have this job already, it involves billing two thousand hours a year, more if I want a bonus—yeah, I guess you could call my profession corporate whore. In a sense, I do screw people for money. Just not quite as directly as you thought I did.

Right, that was enough to shrivel the fantasy before it unfurled.

Regardless, when Jared texted him in the middle of a dank Wednesday, Jensen felt like he'd been catapulted out of the office, soaring high into the clouds. "Free tonight?"

Jared had never wanted him except on the weekends. Heart pounding, he bent over his phone, carefully typing in the words. "You're in town? I'll rearrange my schedule." Bruce would live with getting the next draft tomorrow.

There was a delay, during which Jensen fretted that he'd texted too needily, or something.

The response disabused him of any notion that it mattered. "Actually I have these two friends. I thought I'd give them your number. If that's ok."

His whole body turned to ice. His phone began to slip from his numb hands, and he only just caught it before it smashed to the floor. Part of him wanted to see it shatter, have an excuse not to answer.

He was going to be sick.

But when he managed to get himself to the bathroom, shoulder aching from something or someone he'd bumped into on the way, all he could do was sink to his knees on the cold hard tile and lean over the toilet. Nothing came up.

He'd been a fool.

And he could hardly blame Jared, who'd been upfront about his intentions and his expectations. Jensen was a travel luxury, like one of those supersoft bathrobes in the hotel bathroom. You didn't worry that other people used them, not as long as they were cleaned in between. Jared had never offered anything other than what he was willing to give, steak dinners and dead presidents.

His hands were shaking and he mistyped at least a dozen times, but eventually he got the message together. "Sorry. Not taking on anybody new right now."

And if pressing 'send' felt like putting his hand through a wall, Jensen didn't have to admit that to anyone.

Jared didn't respond.

****

Another three weeks passed. Jensen said yes to a document review that would've made even him weep with boredom if it hadn't been a welcome distraction.

He thought about going out. It wouldn't have to be a bar. He could hit Kramerbooks, approach someone who was checking out the nonfiction.

The thought just made him want to curl up in the corner of his office and wait until the growing pile of paperwork smothered him. He didn't want to go out and make himself pretend to be interesting for some random stranger. He wanted Jared. Only he'd fucked that up, of course. Even when he pretended, his real, snoozeworthy self bled through.

Maybe he should've said yes to Jared's friends. They could've been not entirely disgusting. If Jared paid for it, after all, then anything was possible. He could have closed his eyes and thought about work to get through the experience.

And then Jared wouldn't have seen through his pathetic crush, and maybe he would've wanted Jensen again. If there'd been any doubt after the dinner and the morning after (but of course, Jared hadn't even noticed at that point, because Jared didn't see him that way), Jensen had confirmed it when he'd turned down Jared's friends: Jensen was acting like a boyfriend, and Jared had never given any indication he was okay with that.

When Jared called while Jensen was deep in parsing an expert report that he was pretty sure played fast and loose with Bayes' Theorem, Jensen almost didn't understand what was happening. That was probably the only reason his voice sounded normal when he answered.

"Hello?"

"Jensen, hi." Jared sounded—relieved? Nervous? Weird. "Hey, I know I haven't been around much, but is there any chance you're available Friday?"

"Friday?" Jensen repeated, more out of shock than anything else. He blinked, trying to clear his head, and pulled up his schedule, as if that mattered at all. "Uh—"

"It's for me," Jared said quickly. "I mean, it'd be me. You and me. If that's okay."

"Sure," Jensen said, mouth way ahead of his brain. "Yeah. I'd—yeah, great."

"Great!" Jared repeated, with considerably more enthusiasm. "See you then."

Jensen minimized his calendar and stared at the sensitivity and specificity measurements on his computer screen, wondering what the hell had just happened.

****

He arrived at Jared's hotel room resolved not to fuck up again, which wasn't a problem, since Jared basically picked him up and threw him at the bed. Jensen's vocabulary devolved to 'yeah' and 'like that' at variable volumes for a while, which was more than okay.

When he realized that he was leaning over Jared's sated body, running his fingers through Jared's sweaty, desperately-in-need-of-a-haircut bangs, he hesitated. But Jared had his eyes closed and made a displeased grunt when Jensen's hand faltered. So he figured that Jared considered the lesson taught, and redoubled his commitment to following Jared's rules.

"So what educational pastime do you have planned for tomorrow?" he asked idly, his voice hoarse from the second time, when Jared had practically shoved his cock down Jensen's throat and Jensen had come all over his own fist.

"Hadn't decided," Jared said, still not opening his eyes. "Any suggestions?"

Because Jared wasn't watching, Jensen risked smiling down at him, feeling light and heavy all at once. "I haven't been able to check out the Chinese terra cotta warriors at the Sackler, but I hear they're cool."

Jared turned his face away, his shoulders tensing, and Jensen carefully disentangled his hand. Their sides were still pressed together, sweat-damp, contact warming him and making his thoughts run syrup-slow. Jared's voice, when it came, was low enough that Jensen had to lean forward to hear him. "You could. I mean, we could go see them together."

Jensen swallowed. He wanted to do that, stand in front of the exhibits and make jokes about how the nearly life-sized figures were half Jared's height. Wanted people to look at them and think, those men are together. He could imagine the feel of Jared's hand in his, big as the rest of him, warm and reassuring and—totally fake. If he tried something like that in reality, Jared was likely to conclude that Jensen hadn't gotten the lesson the first time.

"I—I might have to work," he said, as close as he could make himself get to saying no, even though he knew that he was just tormenting himself.

"Work," Jared repeated, like the word tasted bad, and then he rolled further away, so that they weren't touching at any point, and sat up, shoving the pillows aside to make space for himself.

Jensen figured that he wasn't supposed to stay lying down either, so he sat too, pulling the sheet over his lap as if that would offer some sort of protection.

"How many clients do you have?" Jared asked, an unusual strain in his voice as he leaned back against the headboard.

Jensen suppressed the powerful impulse to say "one," because Jared had made it pretty clear how things stood between them. He thought about work, the client numbers it seemed like he dreamed about. "Four or five," he said, hoping it sounded plausible.

"And you, what, find them—?"

Jared was the one who seemed so familiar with the business in the first place, Jensen thought with a touch of resentment. "Uh, referrals," he guessed, trying to keep the hesitation out of his voice. He shifted a little, because even on a soft bed the fact that he'd gone six weeks without fucking Jared was making itself apparent.

"Oh, yeah," Jared said, like he was relieved. "But—how did you start?" His fingers were playing idly with the edge of one of the overstuffed pillows.

"Someone offered to pay me," Jensen said, biting his lip.

"You do background checks, right? You don't just—jeez, I should've given you names, no wonder you were mad." Jared's face was red now, spreading down his throat to his chest, looking away from Jensen.

"Hey, no," Jensen said, wondering how they'd gotten to this place where Jared was upset over having violated the—ettiquette? Ethics? Road rules? Whatever. He reached out and patted Jared's thigh. "You didn't do anything wrong." He'd needed the reminder, as it had happened.

"You're safe though, you don't just go with anyone." Jared had regained the confidence to look at him, but that was maybe worse, his eyes wide and sincere, all melting concern.

Jensen nodded, because he would have said anything to reassure Jared at this point. "Yeah, I check them out, like you said." He thought about the conflict checks they ran on new clients at the firm. "Credit, criminal records, other stuff. I don't want to be somebody's Eliot Spitzer moment."

"But you didn't do any of that with me," Jared said worriedly, and Jensen fought to hide his dismay.

"I, uh. Had a good feeling?" He tried to leer, but thought he was probably doing it wrong, given the expression on Jared's face. "Seriously, Jared. I promise, I'm careful. Maybe I bent a few rules for you, but look how that worked out."

Jared didn't look satisfied. Jensen hated the thought of making him unhappy. He was already screwed; the least he could do was make sure that Jared got what he wanted. "Hey," he said, moving to straddle Jared's legs, bringing his hands up to cup Jared's sharp jaw, "don't worry about any of that, okay? Just let me take care of you."

And if kissing Jared hurt some, like he'd been punched in the chest until he was tenderized, it was still worth it.

****

The next morning he had to beg off the Sackler, because the Johnson deal was bubbling towards a boil again after a month-and-a-half hiatus. Jensen spent most of the day updating the language on calculation of profits, which, though not nearly as enjoyable as hanging out with Jared, was engaging in its own right (confirming that Jensen was the dorkiest dork who ever dorked, but he was working on embracing his inner dweeb, since no one else was going to do it for him).

On Monday, Bruce had a surprise: both sides were now convinced that a deal was imminent, and Jensen was going to get to come to the final meeting, where the principals would sign on the dotted line. The firm didn't usually allow that kind of staffing for what was essentially a formality—they'd have to write off Jensen's time, which meant that the hours wouldn't count towards his billables goal, but Bruce said that it was important for the client to get to know Jensen for the future. If Jensen wanted to make partner, he knew, he had to do this kind of thing, and hopefully in the business context it wouldn't be that evident to the other people there that Jensen was nothing more than a contracts casebook poured into a decent suit. He didn't really get why more people didn't want to dissect all the decisions that went into a big deal like this one, but he thought he could fake something like normal interest in weather and real estate if they just did a casual meet-and-greet for fifteen minutes after the contract was signed.

He spent the week in a haze of combined reminiscence and anticipation—Jared was making up for lost time, coming back for the weekend. On Friday afternoon, just before Jensen was supposed to leave for the meeting, Jared texted: "Be ready when you come in the door. I've got some celebrating to do."

Jensen had to make a quick pitstop, because that got him hard so fast it hurt. He'd have to sneak out of the reception early, find a bathroom stall where he could open himself up, show up at the hotel with lube already dripping down his thighs. Luckily the thought was so hot that he came almost instantly, and even more luckily his suit was spared any damage, though his forearm was marked where he'd bitten deep to stifle his groan of ecstasy.

Bruce looked at him funny when he got into the cab—Jensen figured his color was probably still pretty high—but then visibly dismissed any concerns, turning instead to the brief he was reading. Jensen pulled out his own work, a draft Daubert motion to kick out that Bayes' Theorem-defying expert testimony, and they bent their heads in nearly companionable silence until they arrived at the other firm, a squat white marble building with golden lions bracketing the front steps, arrogantly situated within a few blocks of the House office buildings.

Inside they got visitor's badges with their pictures printed in black-and-white, pure Washington security theater, and were escorted by Susan (Jensen's counterpart worker bee on the other side) to the conference room, where there was a standard display of bottled water, sodas, fruit, and cookies; the elderly and cantankerous Mr. Johnson himself; the other associate on the deal and a partner Jensen remembered from checking the photo on the website during an especially boring conference call—

And Jared.

Jensen stopped so suddenly that Susan bumped into him, sending him flailing forwards. Everyone turned to him, and Jensen's shock was mirrored on Jared's face, shifting quickly to suspicion, even anger.

"Are you okay?" Bruce asked, with a decent approximation of true concern. "Everyone, this is Jensen Ackles, the associate who's done such good work on the licensing. Jensen, you know Bill, Susan, and Rachel, and this is J.T. Padalecki, who's been keeping us all on our toes."

Jensen couldn't breathe. He couldn't even blink.
Bruce had gone on and on about the wunderkind on the other side of the deal (long enough that Jensen would have suspected some interest on Bruce's part if Bruce hadn't been not just married but so stolidly heterosexual that he actually pinged Jensen's not-gaydar, which Jensen hadn't realized existed until he'd left law school). But he'd failed to mention that said wunderkind mistook hapless lawyers for hookers, which didn't exactly scream 'genius!' any more than Jensen's acquiescence had done.

"So!" Bruce said, clapping his hands together, either ignoring the undercurrents in the room or missing them entirely. "Any final questions before we put this to bed?"

"Actually," Jared said, his voice sounding like it had gone through a garbage disposal first, "I had a concern about paragraph 131, page 62?"

Jensen wanted to pinch himself, because this had to be a nightmare that was also a wet dream. He'd worked on that paragraph for two straight days.

"Yeah?" he said, and winced when everyone turned to him; Jared might sound thrown, but his voice had come out cigarettes-and-whiskey postcoital.

"Why don't we all sit down?" Bill suggested. Jensen let Bruce guide him to a seat, and then they were off.

Jared excused himself after they'd come to an agreement on the disputed issue—Jared had closed the loophole Jensen had deliberately left open, but it was still a good deal for the client, so Jensen couldn't have been upset even if he'd had any room for non-freakout emotions. After a minute where Jensen stared at the nondescript art on the conference room wall, his phone buzzed. Jensen successfully refrained from falling out of his chair—at this point, he was calling that a victory—and read Jared's text. "Come tonight if you don't want your boss to hear all about your second job."

After that, Jensen didn't really notice when they signed the documents.

Bruce had to jostle his shoulder to get him to stand up at the end, handshakes all around and congratulations (or at least Jensen thought that was what they were saying; he'd pretty much stopped processing words). Jared even shook his hand, firm and pleasant. Only the dangerous, angry gleam in his eyes suggested that anything was other than ordinary after closing a nearly billion-dollar deal.

"You did great," Bruce said before he got into his cab. "Take the weekend off!"

Since Jensen was pretty sure he was going to be unemployed come Monday, he figured he'd take Bruce's advice. He had just enough time for a quick trip back to his apartment before he was supposed to meet Jared.

****

Jensen only let himself stand in front of the hotel room door for half a second before he knocked.

Jared opened the door, mouth already forming some angry statement, then stopped. "What is that?"

Jensen held out the shoebox. "I didn't—this is all of it. I can give you interest, if you want. I mean, I'll have to write a check, but—I'm not. I never meant." He trailed off, because Jared had taken the box and was examining the contents. "I was going to explain," he tried again. "But then I fell asleep, and you were gone, and then—"

"Okay," Jared said slowly, and backed up enough to let Jensen into the room. Jensen stared at him, trying to memorize all the details, because this was his last chance and he wanted to remember Jared like this, before Jared let loose about just how ridiculous an excuse for a human being Jensen was. Hell, Jared might even punch him; Jensen wouldn't blame him.

Jared carefully put the shoebox down on the dresser. "What I don't get," he said, not turning back towards Jensen, "is why you kept pretending. Was it just that fucking funny to you? You must've thought it was hilarious. God, I was such an idiot."

"No!" Jensen protested. "No, I'd never—I didn't, I wasn't." He swallowed; it hurt, like there was a fist clenched around his throat. "I was trying to give you what you wanted. I didn't want you to think that I wanted more from you." He felt skinless, raw enough that he'd fall apart if Jared so much as touched him. "I'm the idiot, okay? You didn't do anything wrong—well, I'm pretty sure it was illegal, but. You were always honest with me, and I didn't want to give you up. I—I'm sorry." Jared stiffened, the muscles in his back knotting up, and Jensen wanted nothing more than to reach out and dig his fingers in deep until they were both groaning. But he wasn't allowed.

And then, because this was it, the total collapse of his fantasy life, he decided to get it all out. "But I'm not sorry for any minute I spent with you. You're funny and hot and I liked hearing what you thought about modern art, and you even cared about paragraph 131, and I would've been—I wanted to be yours. I know you thought I was getting too involved, and you were right. I know you don't owe me anything. I just—I can't help how I feel, and—I'm not sorry." His eyes were burning and he couldn't breathe. He wasn't going to inflict his breakdown on Jared, though. At least he could keep his end of the bargain that far. He turned to go, hand on the doorknob.

He'd only pulled the door a few inches open when Jared's full weight slammed into his back, shoving him face-first into the emergency exit diagram. Jensen's breath whooshed out of his lungs, not that he'd have been able to speak regardless.

"Where the fuck do you think you're going?" Jared panted. His hands, bizarrely, were scrabbling at Jensen's belt. Maybe sensing Jensen's confusion, he bit down on the back of Jensen's neck, wet and electric-painful-hot, so that Jensen's hips jerked involuntarily. "Think you can say something like that and walk away. You know how fucking hard I tried not to fall for you?" Wait, what? But Jared was already continuing, his fingers having conquered the belt and moving on to Jensen's fly, pulling out Jensen's quickly hardening cock. "Soon as I saw you, dressed like that, turning all those guys down. I didn't care, I had to have you. Knew I was being stupid, oldest story in the book, right? I wasn't supposed to fall for you, but then I did. I tried to be cool, 'cause I was paying you to like me."

"But," Jensen said, confused. "You tried to set me up with your friends."

Jared snorted and pushed Jensen's pants and shorts further down his thighs, pulling back on his hips to give himself more room to work. "Trying to remind myself that it wasn't real."

"But it was," Jensen said, and he couldn't keep the pain out of his voice, only grateful that Jared couldn't see his face.

Jared froze. "I'm sorry," he said, putting a gentle hand on Jensen's back. "I really—I just wanted to give you what you wanted."

"Wow, we are really stupid," Jensen realized, and they both cracked up, Jared swaying forward so that Jensen felt Jared's cock hard and hot against his back, at which point Jensen decided that bygones were substantially less important than the prospect of future, money-free, strings-attached sex.

Jared circled Jensen's cock with one hand, the other rubbing around his hole, thumb nearly pushing inside. Jensen gasped. "You didn't get yourself ready for me," Jared said, like he was considering what the appropriate punishment should be.

Jensen guessed that pointing out that he'd expected that Jared's priorities had changed wouldn't be helpful. Jensen had, it seemed, been wrong about a lot of things.

Jared grunted forgivingly and dropped to his knees behind Jensen. He let go of Jensen's cock in favor of grabbing Jensen's hips, locking him in place, and proceeded to suck and lick at Jensen's ass, his hot, thick tongue going deeper with each thrust as Jensen sagged further back and moaned into the crook of his own arm, braced against the door. Jensen's pants were puddled around his ankles, and Jared slid his hands back so that he was cupping Jensen's ass, tugging Jensen's cheeks further apart, thumbs sliding in to open him up even more.

"Stay just like that," Jared said when he pulled away. Since Jensen's only other possible move was to liquefy where he stood, he complied.

Jared announced his return by pressing the head of his cock up against Jensen's hole, driving his weight forward so that he popped in against the resistance of Jensen's body. "Fuck," Jensen moaned, wobbling forward until Jared grabbed him again and held him still. It hurt already—the lube on the condom and the minimal prep they'd done weren't going to do much for him—but he loved it, as the ache in his cock testified. He pressed his cheek against the door, staring at his own hand braced beside it, and groaned and panted while Jared worked himself all the way inside.

"For the record," Jared said, then stopped to suck in a couple of breaths. "You weren't—getting too involved. I want you—to be mine." He reached around and took Jensen's aching dick in his hand.

He might have said more, but Jensen was too busy coming his marrow out to hear. Jared followed right after, his weight bearing Jensen down to the floor. Jensen gave a pained whimper when the head of Jared's cock popped out, but Jared just smacked his ass, weakly. "Don't even," Jared said, honey-rich and tolerant. "You owe me bigtime."

They'd both been pretty dumb, if you thought about it, but Jensen wasn't prepared to argue the point. So: "Bed?" he suggested instead.

Jared wrapped his arm around Jensen's waist when they were finally naked and horizontal, pulling him in close. "So," he said, hooking his chin over Jensen's shoulder as he stroked his hand down Jensen's stomach, "did you really think you were going to get away with that trick you pulled in paragraph 131?"

Jensen's cock twitched. "Marry me," he said without thinking.

Jared went rigid behind him.

Jensen held his breath for a second, trying to figure out how to reassure Jared that he was just kidding, then realized that he didn't need more pointless angst in his life. "It's legal in DC," he said, putting his hand over Jared's. "Just something to think about, you know. In the long term."

He actually felt Jared swallow. "Is Tuesday good?"

****

Bruce sent them a raku vase and a reminder about the firm's confidentiality policy.

Jared refused to move into Jensen's apartment (claiming, with unfair exaggeration, that Jensen's shoebox had more space in it, but he was right about the lack of room for the dogs), so they ended up in a condo near Dupont Circle. They made the down payment in cash, ignoring the realtor's disapproval, and put the vase on the mantel. Whenever Bruce got too demanding, Jensen brought it down and put it on a side table, hoping one of the dogs would destroy it, but somehow they never did.

When anyone asked how they'd gotten together, Jared would just smile and say he'd decided that he preferred a long-term contract to being billed on a per-hour basis.