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Saul Goodman's Lonely Hearts Club Hotline

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Jesse hates Valentine's Day.

Except when he doesn't. He's a big fan of the whole candy thing, as he's been known to buy shitloads of heart-shaped antacids and Russian roulette chocolates and eat them all himself in a sad, lonely binge; the day after Valentine's Day is like candy Christmas for him.

He wouldn't say he's bitter, not really. He loves how important love is to people and how it makes them feel. Seeing happy couples exchange over-sized gifts and walk arm-in-arm is a beautiful thing. One year he was hanging out with Badger, Skinny Pete, and Combo at the amusement park when he saw a guy propose to his girlfriend—she said yes. Another year he witnessed a proposal at the botanic garden—again, he was with his lonely trio of friends.

But Jesse hates Valentine's Day because he knows he'll never have that kind of love. He gets around, sure, but his one-night stands are just that—temporary. He must give off some sort of aura that alerts everyone in a five-mile radius that he's damaged goods and carrying more baggage than an airport.

Deep down, he's just a romantic teenager at heart, pining for true love like the princess in a damn Disney movie.

Jesse blinks himself awake around 3 a.m., having dozed off on the couch watching some shitty movie on basic cable. It's that time of night where awful, laughable infomercials commandeer the airwaves, boasting a variety of products for those unfortunate enough to have difficulty with the most simple of tasks. He's about to switch off the TV and drag himself upstairs to the bedroom when one of the commercials catches his attention: "Are you lonely?"

Damn right he is. Jesse sits up, intrigued.

"Looking for love this Valentine's Day? Can't make connections with that special someone? Better call Saul!"

Wait, what? Jesse clearly remembers the "Better Call Saul" commercials advertising some smug lawyer with a really punchable face. He's not ruling out the possibility that he's still asleep and is dreaming some weird amalgamation of two entirely different commercials.

That's when Saul shows up on screen dressed in a pink and red suit that even MC Hammer would deem too garish. Jesse's almost positive that he's dreaming now. "February may be the Month of Love, but for you lonesome losers out there, yours truly and my sizeable harem of lovely ladies will be taking your calls! That's right; you can talk to a real live girl without leaving your mom's basement! Or a guy, if you're into that. I don't judge." He shrugs—actually fucking shrugs. This dude is a living, breathing cartoon character.

A 900 number flashes on the screen over clips of attractive, young women in their underwear—who of course actually work there—talking on the phone and laughing like the lonely guy on the other end of the line is a real jokester. Jesse groans. "Sexy operators are standing by, ready to take your call," Saul says. "One-on-one private conversation. Discreetly billed to your phone." Small text beneath the number appears, reading: $3.99 for the first minute, $2 each additional minute.

The words "total scam" come to Jesse's mind.

"So, if you're all alone this Valentine's Day, you know what to do: better call Saul!"

Jesse refuses to believe this is actually real. He switches off the television and goes to bed.

#

Jesse's crew show up at his place the next afternoon for a rousing game of Team Fortress 2, some weed, and a healthy lunch of junk food.

"Goddammit, Jesse!" Badger wails, throwing the controller down as his Pyro dramatically dies on screen. "What did I say about backstabbing me?"

Jesse grins. "Not to do it?"

"And what did you just do?"

"Whoops."

"You're supposed to be on my team, you asshole!"

"You set me on fire."

"That was an accident!" Badger protests.

After Jesse's team wins—in your face, Badger—he stretches out on the couch. "So, we gonna hang next Friday?" Valentine's Day outings with the crew has become a sort of ritual for the four of them, usually through circumstance rather than actual planning. None of them are relationship material, so they end up being available.

"Can't, man," Combo says through a mouthful of Doritos. "Mom's got some big family dinner, wants me to help cook."

"Lame," Jesse mumbles, but he's happy for him. He looks at Skinny Pete. "What about you?"

Skinny Pete frowns like he's been caught doing something he's not supposed to. "Man, I wish I could, but I'm going outta town to visit my cousins. They got this sick dirt-bike show in Santa Fe."

Strike two. Jesse smiles, tries his hardest to look like he's not disappointed. "Hey, that's cool. Have fun."

On the other side of the couch, Badger's turning not looking at Jesse into an Olympic sport.

"Yo, Badger, you got anything goin' on?"

"Uh, yeah, actually. I got a date."

Jesse's eyes go wide. "What? Shut the fuck up. No, you don't."

"I do! Dude, I must've told you, like, five times."

Jesse vaguely remembers hearing something like that, but it's Badger; he'd assumed the girl had come to her senses and Badger was too embarrassed to admit the whole thing was off.

Well, shit. Looks like Jesse's going to be alone on Valentine's Day.

Better call Saul.

No. He's still of the opinion that he dreamed up that ridiculous commercial. Saul Goodman is still just a sleazy lawyer with absolutely no connections to any sex hotlines.

"You got anything planned?" Badger asks him.

Jesse rubs the back of his neck. "No, yeah, I'll be fine. I got shit to do anyway." He picks up his controller. "You wanna play another round?"

It's past midnight when Jesse sees the commercial again, and this time he knows it's real, because he's wide awake, flipping channels when Saul's stupid red and pink suit—ugh, seriously, whoever told Saul that worked on him was not looking out for his best interest—catches his eye. Then his gaze snags on the 900 number on screen.

Should he?

He knows he'll end up spending almost fifty bucks on a twenty-minute phone call, because all those numbers are the same; every word is stretched out to eat up as much of your time and money as possible. But, holy shit, he has to call and see for himself, because there's no way Saul Goodman is actually manning one of the lines. This has the potential to be really fucking hilarious.

Jesse grabs his cell phone off of the table and dials the number. He can just tell he's going to regret this, that this is going to be a mind-boggling bad decision that will rise above all others. But he's stupidly curious enough to throw caution to the wayside and plunge headfirst into this.

The phone rings twice before it's picked up, and Jesse's a little disappointed to hear a woman's voice on the other end. "Welcome to the Valentine's Hotline, where you can talk to the sexiest, most desirable men and women in the world. If you are under eighteen or do not wish to pay for this call, please hang up now." Yep, Jesse thinks, just as he'd suspected; every word is practically its own sentence. He stays on the line. "In a moment you will be connected with one of our beautiful, gorgeous, seductive girls or guys to take your pleasure to new heights of ecstasy. Press one if you want a lovely lady to take your call. If you would like to talk to the man of your dreams, press two."

Jesse decides, what the hell, and presses two.

There's a long interim of on-hold music—another brilliant way to stretch the time—before he hears a familiar voice say, "Saul Goodman at your service. What's your name, honey?"

And Jesse can't help it. He starts laughing. "Oh my God. This is actually for real? You're seriously—holy shit, I thought this was a scam."

He hears Saul sigh on the other end, like this is the first time anyone's ever gotten through and been surprised that it's actually Saul Goodman taking calls.

"Dude, what the hell are you doing answering phones? Aren't you, like, a big hot-shot lawyer?"

"Well, everybody needs a hobby. And how old are you? Didn't you hear the tape? If you're under eighteen, get off the phone."

Jesse frowns. "I'm twenty-five."

"Yeah, and I'm Kevin Costner. Nice try, kid," Saul grumbles, but he doesn't hang up.

"No, I'm serious. C'mon, you're obviously in this to make money, and I got money." Jesse doesn't like to brag, but when it works to his advantage... "So, what's the deal? What makes a guy like you start a hotline for horny, lonely people?"

Saul chuckles. "Check your calendar; it's about two weeks to Valentine's Day, and there's never a shortage of desperation. It's easy money."

"Do you do this kind of crap around other holidays too? Like, start up a Thanksgiving or Christmas hotline for people who don't have anybody to spend it with?"

"Those kind of family-friendly hotlines died out in the '90s. Now, you call a 900 number, you don't wanna talk to Santa or the Easter Bunny." He pauses. "Or do you? That's actually a genius idea: dirty holiday lines."

"You're joking, right?"

"No, I'm pretty sure there's people out there with a Santa kink. Can you imagine? 'Have you been a naughty boy this year? I bet you have.'"

Jesse's insides twist into a confused knot of arousal. No, goddammit, he's not going to be one of the aforementioned people with a Santa kink. It's just the way Saul's voice drips with sleaze. Jesse chuckles, feels his mouth go dry.

"So, what's your name, kid?"

He wonders briefly if giving out his real name is a monumentally stupid idea or not. Then he realizes he doesn't much care. "Jesse."

"Jesse..." Saul says, like he's testing it out on his tongue. "Sounds hot."

"Uh, thanks. My parents picked it out." Jesse Pinkman: Master of the Debonair.

"You're new to this, aren't you?" Jesse can almost hear the way Saul's raising an eyebrow and judging him right now.

"Yeah, kinda." Jesse rubs the back of his neck. He feels embarrassingly young and inexperienced.

"What'd'ya look like, Jesse? Paint me a picture."

"Uh...blue eyes, blond hair—kinda brownish, maybe—tall..."

"Okay, so it's not a Monet—more like a six-year-old's fingerpainting, but, whatever, I can work with it."

Jesse feels vaguely insulted.

"So, Jesse"—okay, the constant use of his name is kind of turning him on—"what do you like to do?"

"Like, what, dirty stuff, or—"

"Anything. Gimme something."

"Uh, video games, movies, fine herbage, a couple of my friends and I have a band—"

"Whoa, whoa, did you just say 'fine herbage'?" Saul interrupts.

"Yeah?" Is that bad? Should he not have done that? Saul's a lawyer, but maybe he doesn't want to hear about illegal activity until it lands on his desk.

To Jesse's surprise, Saul actually laughs. "That's why you're still on the line."

"I'm not high right now," Jesse says, feeling compelled to defend himself.

"So you always have such a way with words?"

"Yeah," Jesse argues. Though maybe it's in his best interest if Saul thinks he's high, because nothing racks up the minutes like a stoner's train of thought. "I'm a regular wordsmith, yo."

"Alright, Shakespeare, I'll take your word for it."

Jesse chuckles, even though he figures that wasn't supposed to be a joke.

"What kind of movies do you like, Jesse?" Saul says, and every word sounds like a double entendre. "You into the amateur stuff or you prefer something with a plot?"

Jesse knows Saul's trying to get him to talk dirty, but Jesse's not going to play into that. "I dig horror movies, y'know, like Evil Dead and stuff with zombies. I like, um—do you like superheroes? Spider-Man, Captain America, Batman?"

"George Clooney Batman or Christian Bale Batman?"

"George Clooney was Batman?"

Saul laughs again; Jesse likes the way it sounds. "Oh man, you are young. Or just blissfully ignorant of the cinematic turd that is Batman and Robin. Keep it that way, kid. You're one of the lucky ones."

"Now I'm kinda curious."

"Don't be. Save yourself."

"You know I'm gonna Netflix that shit as soon as I hang up, right?"

"See, now I have to keep you on the line so you don't do that. The government could use Batman and Robin as a weapon of psychological warfare when they wanna get war criminals talking."

Jesse laughs. "You are so weird."

"You're the one calling a 900 number to talk about movies that aren't dirty. That's what a serial killer does."

"And you're a lawyer running a hotline for lonely virgins," Jesse shoots back.

"So you're a virgin, huh?" Saul's grin is nearly audible. "Ooh, this brings out the artist in me."

"Whoa, I—I didn't say that." Thank God this conversation's taking place over the phone, because Saul would absolutely make fun of the way Jesse's blushing right now. He wonders what kind of kinky shit Saul has in mind for him if he really were a virgin.

"You don't need to. I can smell it on you."

Jesse wrinkles his nose. "Over the phone?"

"What can I say? It's a gift."

Jesse's fairly certain that arguing how he is most definitely not a virgin will only cement Saul's faulty hypothesis, so he keeps his mouth shut on the issue. If Saul gets his rocks off thinking Jesse's a timid little flower, more power to him. "Some gift."

"You can't buy that at Sears, that's for sure."

Jesse checks his watch. He's been on the line for about five minutes, which makes him twelve dollars poorer. "Yeah, well, you oughta return it, 'cause it's defective as shit. Trade it in for the ability to read minds or somethin'."

"You'd be less flustered and awkward if I could read your mind? I doubt it."

Jesse sniffles. "No, but that would be a way more useful superpower than"—he searches for the word—"being able to smell someone's virginity, which, wow, that sounds really gross when I hear it out loud."

Saul huffs a laugh on the other end. Jesse can't help but smile. "You weren't kidding about being a wordsmith. Jesus."

An hour later, Jesse hangs up and goes to bed.

#

Jesse wakes up fairly certain that his conversation last night with Saul was some sort of hallucination. Did he really call a 900 number he saw advertised in a shitty commercial—and not even utilize it for its intended purpose? Apparently Jesse's that much of a loser, because that's exactly what happened.

He stares up at the ceiling for a silent minute and thinks about what he's done. No one can ever know about that phone call. Especially Badger. Holy shit, Badger will find this hilarious forever.

#

Midnight is generally when Jesse's better judgement abandons him like rats on a sinking ship, because he makes stupid, potentially incriminating decisions like calling Saul Goodman's Lonely Hearts Club Hotline—which really ought to be the official name for it. Whoever was in charge of nomenclature really dropped the ball there.

"Saul Goodman at your service. What's your name, honey?"

"Yo, it's me again."

Saul sighs, and Jesse can almost hear the way he's probably rolling his eyes. "Jesse? God, don't you have anything better to do? It's Friday night. Christ, go to a bar or a club or wherever you kids go to have fun. Oh, no, wait, I bet your parents will hear you sneak out at this hour, huh?"

"I told you I'm twenty-five," Jesse grumbles, because, seriously, does he really sound that young?

"Yeah, okay, keep drinking your milk and maybe you'll grow up big and strong."

Jesse leans back in his bed, crosses one leg over the other. "If you actually thought I was under eighteen, you wouldn't be talkin' to me right now. There's laws against that kind of stuff, right? That's why you got that disclaimer on the tape."

"Well, well, well, somebody's been paying attention in class!" Saul sounds impressed.

"Do you even get repeat callers?" Jesse wonders aloud.

"Sometimes. But you're my favorite."

"I bet you say that to everyone," Jesse says, devoid of amusement. "You're the only dude taking calls, aren't you? The rest are all women."

"Forget about them, Jesse. I'm the best," Saul says in a low voice.

Whoa. Why does that turn him on? Jesse wets his mouth. "I—I'm sure you are. I bet you got a lot of practice gettin' people off, y'know, bein' a lawyer and all."

"Oh man, your dirty talk is adorable. It's like watching a clumsy deer learning to walk and flopping all over itself."

"Do you always make fun of the people who call you?"

"Nope, just you. You're special."

"Well, thanks, I feel awesome," Jesse says flatly. "Incidentally, you got a real punchable-lookin' face."

"So I've been told. The camera adds ten pounds, you know."

"Right, so how many cameras are actually on you?" Jesse teases.

Saul starts laughing. "Look who's got jokes! You're officially my favorite caller. Never change, Jesse."

Jesse grins until his face hurts.

#

Saul's packing up for the night when Francesca pushes her way into his office. "You really do not pay me enough for this shit," she grumbles. "I just spent ten minutes talking to a guy who wanted me to pretend I lived in a castle and was married to a dragon."

Saul snickers. "Was he supposed to be the dragon?"

"No!" She makes a face.

"Because, clearly, once you've made love to a dragon, regular ol' human-sized wang is supposed to satisfy you?"

Francesca shakes her head. "The only thing giving me hope right now is that you might have gotten some perv."

"Sorry, sweet-cheeks," Saul says with a sigh. "Nothing out of the ordinary for me. Well, except Jesse, but I think he's in his own class entirely."

Her mouth quirks into a smile. "Jesse? The shy little virgin you told me about the other day?"

"The one and only." He throws his arms out to the side like he's trying to fly. "I don't get this guy! Who calls a 900 number just for a pleasant conversation?"

Francesca glares at him. "Stop rubbing it in."

"He just talks about movies and weird shit he's done with his friends while high, and, boy, let me tell you does that rack up the minutes!" Saul stops talking when he sees the look of disapproval on Francesca's face.

"I'm crying for you on the inside," she says with no emotion. "Really."

"Hey, I'm not complaining. I just wish I could figure this kid out."

"Send him my way. It'd be a nice change from all the perverts."

"If he asks for a girl, he's all yours."

"So he's gay?" she asks as Saul's locking up the place.

He shrugs. "Hell if I know. Maybe he's trying to practice being normal and holding a conversation. That seems kind of adorable."

"Adorable?" Saul realizes what he's said and swears through his teeth. "Someone has a crush," Francesca sing-songs.

Saul glowers at her. "No, I don't. I don't even know what he looks like."

"He didn't tell you?"

"Well, he tried, but he doesn't paint the most vivid of pictures." Saul unlocks the door to his Cadillac and drops his briefcase inside. He thinks for a moment. "Sounds kinda hot, though." Saul thinks Jesse's voice is aural whiskey and honey, and he can't help but wonder what Jesse sounds like when he's moaning his way through rough pushes of hips.

"You so have a crush. I didn't even know you liked guys."

Neither did Saul, really. His sexuality's always been somewhat of a question mark. "I'm full of mystery and surprise, sweetheart."

Francesca frowns at the nickname. "You're full of something."

"You're a peach, Frannie." He ignores her death glare as he gets into his car. "Drive safe."

He sits in the parking lot for a while, lets the heater warm up the interior of the Cadillac while he watches Francesca drive off. Saul figures he has two options here: option a) man the fuck up and ask Jesse out on a date so he can actually meet the guy, or option b) ignore whatever burgeoning emotions are going on here, because there's no way Jesse would agree to meet him in a date-like setting.

Option B sounds like a whirling dong tornado of disaster, because Saul's attempts to ignore his confusing emotions clearly haven't been working, and it's only been two days. Swallowing down that kind of thing over a prolonged period of time cannot be healthy.

But, damn, Saul really likes what they've got going here. Jesse's calls are a goddamn gold mine, averaging fifty to a hundred bucks a pop. If he asks the kid out and scares him off, that's lost income. Most callers don't stay on the phone that long; they either blow their load and lose interest, or things escalate to a point that can't be advanced on a 900 line. At this rate, Jesse's stupidly profitable; Saul would be an idiot to jump the gun and lose out on that.

But he thinks he's being an idiot either way. Christ. Of all the potential problems with operating a 900 line, developing a crush on one of his callers was not what Saul would have predicted.

#

Saul mindlessly taps his fingers on his desk, eyeing the clock's neon numbers. It's a little after one in the morning, and one a.m. is generally when Jesse makes his nightly bad decision and calls Saul's hotline. Though tonight he's suspiciously absent. Saul's already waded through a couple quick routine calls—boring as hell, if he's honest. At least it's a challenge getting Jesse to talk dirty; there should be an award for that, because it's not an easy task.

He tries to form a mental picture of Jesse in his head based on his voice and the lackluster description he gave. Saul finds it a little strange that Jesse didn't brag, didn't describe himself as super ripped or athletic or even talk about the size of his dick. So Jesse's not trying to impress him in the slightest. Interesting, if not a little disheartening.

The phone trills on his desk. Saul answers immediately, completely forgoing the extra rings to rack up more time. "Saul Goodman at your service. What's your name, sweetie?"

"Oh, I got a 'sweetie' this time? Nice." It's Jesse.

Saul kicks his feet up on his desk. "Yeah, I like to change the greeting up so it doesn't sound insincere."

"Well, it works. I feel like you actually are at my service." He can hear the grin in Jesse's voice, and fuck if it doesn't make his stomach do flips.

#

Jesse's called Saul for five consecutive days now. This is getting kind of ridiculous. Saul thinks he might be slowly losing his mind, because this fixation on a stranger with a cute laugh and stupid jokes is just embarrassing.

Francesca seems to be tiring of his constant sad eyes and frowny faces. "Will you just ask him out already?" she insists that afternoon at lunch, stabbing a fork into her salad in what seems like a threatening way. "God, I'm sick of you mooning over this guy. It's pathetic."

Saul frowns. "I am not mooning."

She lifts an eyebrow. "You're mooning so hard you could double as a lunar phase." Saul can't resist smirking at that. "Don't give me too much credit; Patrick came up with that one."

Saul's mouth drops open. "Why does he know? Have you been talking about this to other living, breathing people?"

Francesca just shrugs. "It's very painful watching you bumble around like this when you so clearly want to jump the guy's bones. Just ask him out and get it over with."

Saul huffs in annoyance. There's very few things he hates more than when Francesca's right about his love life. "And we're just assuming he'll be fine with my advances?"

"That has literally never stopped you before."

True. But this just feels different somehow. Saul doesn't have the best track record with successful relationships; he's been married three times already, each one ending in soul-crushing failure and humiliation. He's not exactly looking to strike out again, let alone in completely new territory.

Francesca must be able to read the distress on his face, because she rolls her eyes like he's being difficult. "For fuck's sake, he's called you five nights in a row for nothing more than just simple conversation. You ask him to have lunch or dinner with you, and he'll hang on your every goddamn word. Do it before you give yourself a brain hemorrhage overthinking it." She stands up, takes her salad and sashays out the door of his office.

Saul grumbles to himself, wondering why he hired her in the first place.

Like clockwork, Jesse calls him up after midnight, all enthusiasm and smiles. "Yo, Mr. Goodman." He snickers. "How weird is that, by the way? Like, how lucky you gotta be to get a name that actually describes you? Good-man?"

"Don't think too hard on it, kiddo. My real name's McGill. The Jew thing I just do for the homeboys; they want a pipe-hitting member of the tribe, so to speak."

Jesse chuckles; Saul figures the kid's been sniffing gas. "Yeah, better go with Goodman. I dunno, it works on you."

Saul opens his mouth to say something like, "I've got something I like to work on you," but manages to stop himself. He doesn't want to scare Jesse off this early in their conversation. "While we're on the subject of last names, what about you?"

"I'm not tellin' you shit," Jesse says, but he sounds like he's smiling, so Saul thinks he can pull it out of him with enough coaxing.

"Aw, c'mon, we've shared so much together. I feel like we're best buds already." Saul claps his hands together. "And that doubles as a pot joke! See, you're not just a faceless caller to me, Jesse. Well, okay, you kind of are because I've never actually seen your face, but the point is I remember things!"

Jesse sighs, and Saul can almost hear the gears turning in his head as he deliberates whether or not to give up the information. Of course, he succumbs: "It's Jesse Pinkman. You're not gonna Google me, are you?"

"Of course not!" Saul says, immediately flipping open his laptop lid. "Your secret is safe with me." His hands pause over the keys as a wave of guilt washes over him. He's not doing anything wrong here. Just checking to see who exactly he's talking to, to get a face in mind the next time he's jerking off thinking of how Jesse might sound in bed.

Or maybe Saul should quit being a chickenshit and just ask the guy out so he can see Jesse in person instead of being a creeper. And maybe—if he plays his cards right—he'll actually get to watch Jesse squirm and shiver when he comes instead of just imagining it.

Saul thinks of a dozen different ways to start, but none of them feel right, so he just goes with his gut. "Alright, look, Jesse, as your fantasy line operator I'm more than happy to take your money, but as your friend I gotta say this whole arrangement we got going here is starting to toe the line of my ethical limits."

Silence, then: "You have ethical limits?"

"Ha-ha, hee-hee, ho-ho, very funny."

There's a short pause, then Jesse's voice is laced with panic. "Whoa, whoa, wait, is this—are you friend-breaking-up with me?"

Saul feels his stomach drop. Is that how this sounds? "What? No! Jesus. I'm asking if you'd rather meet in person instead of dropping about fifty bucks a night to talk to me, because I feel like I'm ripping you off if you're not talking dirty."

Jesse goes worryingly silent for a moment.

"This would be the part where you say something, because that kind of needs a reply, so if you wanna chime in at any point—"

"Yeah, okay, I'll meet you. Somewhere public, right? And if I change my mind I can just bounce, no hard feelings?"

"Of course. Totally casual."

Jesse laughs to himself. "You're workin' me, aren't you? Callin' us friends, sayin' you actually have ethical limits..."

Saul throws caution to the wind and says, "If I was workin' you, you'd know it."

Jesse goes quiet again; Saul worries that he's broken him. "Was that supposed to be dirty?"

"Absolutely."

He hears Jesse laugh quietly on the other end. "Alright, I guess I can drop by sometime. Can't miss your place; it's an eyesore."

"N—no, no, you, uh, we don't have to meet at my office. That's so drab and dull. C'mon, let's go somewhere exciting, maybe do lunch, yeah?"

"Sounds cool."

"Great. You know La Bella Italia? They've got garlic bread to die for."

Jesse chuckles. "You die for your family or your country—not bread."

"Oh ho ho, just you wait. You'll change your tune."

"Whatever, man," Jesse says, but there's a lilt of a smile in his voice.

"How about tomorrow at two? That work for you?"

"Yeah, sure."

Maybe this won't be so difficult after all.

#

Jesse's sitting in his car outside the restaurant, debating whether or not to go inside. The place is kind of crowded for a Wednesday afternoon, but none of the people going in and coming out look too well-dressed, which is great for Jesse, because he's wearing a hoodie and jeans and doesn't want to stand out if formal attire is a requirement.

Really, he's just stalling, because he's nervous as hell. What if Saul takes one look at him and walks out or, worse, laughs? Jesse should be beyond caring about this kind of shit, but he really likes his conversations with Saul and would like them to continue. He doesn't think he looks that young, but what if Saul sees him and can't take him seriously?

Jesse has to remind himself that Saul told him to meet here, that if he didn't like Jesse's goofy conversations he wouldn't be sitting inside the restaurant now waiting for him. So Jesse should probably get out of the damn car before Saul catches him being a chickenshit.

Jesse ducks inside the building. It's about half-full and dimly-lit, but Jesse spots Saul right away, tucked into a booth near one of the windows. He looks hilariously out of place in a neatly-pressed suit—thankfully not one of the hues he sported in the hotline commercials. Jesse marches over to him and notices a plate of something delicious and greasy on the table.

"You started eating without me? Dick," Jesse teases as he slides in opposite Saul.

Saul looks up, drops the little slice of garlic bread he's holding into the dip as his mouth falls open. "Jesse?"

"Yeah. 'Sup?"

"Wow. You—you look exactly like I pictured you," Saul says, chuckling in a way that sounds throaty and nervous.

"For real? Even though you said my little picture was, like, a six-year-old's fingerpainting?" He doesn't know why he remembers that.

Saul scoffs, waves a hand. "Hey, we're all wrong sometimes, right?" He pushes his plate toward Jesse. "You gotta try this. It's better than most of the sex I've had."

"So this is either really good dip, or you've had really crappy sex."

"A little of column A, a little of column B."

Jesse drags the plate closer and takes a good look at what he's about to put into his mouth. It looks like a pizza if a pizza were a giant crater of tomato sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms, and onions, topped with a layer of cheese thick enough to double as a skin.

"Don't worry," Saul says, "they got an EKG machine in the back."

Jesse glances up at him. "Seriously?"

Saul snorts a laugh. "Oh my God, you're like a martian. That was a joke, kiddo. I'm full of 'em. Now eat up."

This is all very strange. Jesse uses one of the little bread slices arranged around the plate to scoop out a chunk of gooey cheese and sauce. It is indeed pretty damn good, and if Saul's intent on winning him over via delicious food, well, he's got his work cut out for him. "'S'good," Jesse mumbles with his mouth full.

"See, I told you."

"I'll never doubt you again," Jesse says, taking another bite. Apparently the butterflies in his stomach are hungry too. "This is dope. I should totally make this the next time I happen to have all this shit in my fridge."

Saul lifts an eyebrow. "You cook?"

Uh-oh. Jesse isn't sure if that's a tidbit of information he should have saved for a later date—like never. "Uh, yeah, sometimes. What? Is that, like, super lame?"

"No, I'm impressed. I sorta pegged you for a take-out and ramen noodles kind of guy."

"Well, you're not totally wrong. But I used to cook for my aunt all the time when she got sick, so I, uh, I got pretty good at it." Jesse swallows another bite, his face going hot with embarrassment; does he know how to kill a mood or what?

His cell phone vibrates in the pocket of his hoodie. Jesse opts to ignore it, because it's probably nothing that can't wait until later, and he needs to turn this conversation around immediately. "So why am I really here? Did you wanna make sure I'm not some kid usin' his parents' credit card?"

"Well, yes, actually, but primarily because, shockingly enough, I actually enjoy our conversations and would like to continue having them without charging you two bucks a minute."

"Did you suddenly develop a conscience?"

"Oh, another lawyer joke; what fresh new ground to tread! Lemme let you in on a little secret: I've heard them all, and they suck."

"No, that was a legit question," Jesse says around another mouthful of dip.

Saul rubs his chin. "Of course it was; the concept of jokes is lost on you today."

Jesse scowls at him in offense. "I know what jokes are. You wore a great example of one in that commercial for the hotline."

Saul grins, chuckling to himself. "Whoa, watch out! Kitty's got claws! Rule number one: don't go after the low-hanging fruit. You're better than that." Jesse opens his mouth to speak, but Saul cuts him off. "See, right there, you were gonna make a joke out of that 'low-hanging fruit' bit, which would in fact be breaking rule number one. Aim higher."

"You were a lot less bossy when I had to pay to talk to you," Jesse observes.

"Why didn't you tell me you were into that?" Saul smirks at the way Jesse's face flushes red. "Come to think of it, why didn't you say anything dirty when you called me? I mean, I get that you're new to the whole thing, but not even one 'what are you wearing?' or 'how big is your dick?'"

Jesse nearly chokes, his stomach knotting. That is not where he saw this conversation going. "Would you—would you have answered honestly?"

"I suppose there's no way to know for sure," Saul says, smile spreading on his face. "I could've told you I was in pajamas and you'd never know if I was lying."

Jesse's kind of curious about the second question, but, okay, he's not going to push. Give it time. "Do you even own a pair of normal clothes? I've never seen you in anything but suits."

"Dress to impress, right? Besides, I came straight from work. And, hey, you're nitpicking my clothes? You look like you walked right out of a Converse ad."

Jesse takes another bite, oblivious to Saul's criticism. "Whatever, man. You're the one who wore a pink and red suit on TV."

"Like you've never made any questionable fashion choices." Saul lifts an eyebrow like he thinks Jesse's entire wardrobe is a questionable fashion choice.

"Not on TV." He smirks, thinks about sticking out his tongue but decides against it. Mr. Mature.

Saul sits back in his seat and frowns at him. "Next time you get snatched up by the cops for your 'fine herbage,' as you so eloquently put it, I'm not going to help you."

"Next time? You think it's inevitable?"

"You admitted to a lawyer via telephone that you smoke pot. Something tells me you suck at hiding your criminal activities."

Jesse thinks about how to play this one. Saul's probably expecting him to bite with an argument about how he's awesome at hiding his weed, so Jesse tries something to knock Saul off his game a little: "Among other things."

Saul blinks, cheeks gaining a bit of color. Jesse hides a smirk. "You got this whole thing backwards, don't you? You're supposed to talk dirty on the phone."

"I think you're totally diggin' it though," Jesse says, because Saul has a terrible poker face. "I mean, you wouldn't really want me to do it on the phone 'cause you wouldn't make as much money. I'd be done in, like, ten minutes."

"Ten minutes, huh?"

Jesse shrugs. "I guess, I've never really...timed it." Why the fuck are they having this conversation? "Why would you even—why would you do that?"

Saul spreads his hands. "To impress the chickies?"

"Yeah, but it's not totally accurate 'cause it's just you. I mean, things are way different when there's another person in the room." Saul drags the plate back and scoops out another mouthful, making a thoughtful noise while he chews. Jesse reaches over, chases a gooey glob of cheese around the bowl. "And the time doesn't really mean anything. I mean, my ten minutes could be really awesome, and your, say, thirty might be really boring."

Saul glares, like he's offended by Jesse's hypothetical situation. "Whoa, first of all: why do I take thirty minutes, and second: why are they boring?"

"Well, 'cause you're older." He rubs a hand along the back of his neck. "Isn't that basic biology or something?"

Jesse knows he's scored a point, because Saul's making what can only be described as a bitchface. "Okay, so taking your time is an old-person thing now?"

"That's...not exactly what I said. I said you were older. As in older than me. Which, if you aren't, dude, you look horrible for your age."

Saul holds up his hands. "Whoa, slow down! Any more compliments and I might disrobe."

"Right here?" Jesse asks, lifting an eyebrow.

"Is that, uh, is that something you're into?" Saul starts loosening his tie.

"Jesus, don't—" Jesse throws Saul a horrified look and covers his face with a hand like he can't bear to watch. "I don't need a demonstration."

"You sure? I've been told I'm a pretty impressive sight."

Jesse makes a face. "I officially hate you for making me picture that."

Saul grins and leans back like he's scored some sort of point. "You're welcome."

They find a conversational groove and stay there through the rest of the dip, a round of drinks, and a plate of stuffed mushrooms. Jesse's hungrier than he thought, but Saul doesn't seem to mind. Saul actually attempts to talk to him without double entendres or innuendos, and they manage to have a real conversation about terrible movies that Jesse absolutely needs to see.

Saul's raving about so-bad-it's-good brilliance of Face/Off when Jesse's phone vibrates in his pocket again. He drags it out of his pocket and sees that he's missed a couple texts from Badger:

can u hang 2day

dude where r u?

did u die?

Jesse looks up from the screen and is met with Saul's questioning eyebrows. "Got somewhere else to be, Mr. Popular?"

"N—no, my friend just...thinks I died."

The corner of Saul's mouth twitches into a smile. "Because you didn't answer your phone?"

"Yeah, he's...he's somethin'." Jesse types a quick reply before turning his phone off and shoving it into his pocket. Badger can calm his tits and wait, damn it. "Kinda impatient. Or maybe he lit up and thinks it's, like, five hours from now."

"Did you?" Saul asks. "Because one of my special powers is the ability to smell marijuana, and when you walked in here you smelled like somebody opened the doors to the Mystery Machine."

Jesse squirms, looking away. He focuses on a bead of condensation dripping down his glass. "I was kinda nervous..." Understatement of the century.

"About meeting little ol' me?" Saul's smile is warm and inviting and makes Jesse's heart lurch up into his throat.

"Well, yeah, I mean, what if you didn't like me? We spent all that time talkin' and gettin' to know each other, but you could'a took one look at me and said 'forget it.'"

"That would make me an asshole."

"Are you saying you're not?" Jesse asks, half-teasing.

"I prefer to think of myself as a lovable scamp."

Jesse tosses him a flirtatious smile. "Which is just a nicer way of saying 'asshole.'"

"There are varying degrees of asshole. There's Stage Five Asshole, which is exactly what you think, and then there's Stage One Assholes, the kind of people who'd draw dicks on your face while you're asleep."

Jesse raises a dubious eyebrow. "You would draw a dick on my face while I'm asleep?"

"I wouldn't stop talking to you if I didn't like the way you look." He shrugs. "You gotta take the good with the bad."

"Remind me to never fall asleep around you."

"Duly noted." Saul chews his lip and looks away for a second, and that really shouldn't turn Jesse on as much as it does.

When they finish eating and get outside, Saul unlocks the driver's door of an ostentatious white Cadillac parked up front. "This is yours?" Jesse asks, immediately wanting to punch himself in the face for asking such a stupid, obvious question.

"Nope, I have a universal key that unlocks all the doors to all the cars in the world. It's a life-saver. I'm always forgetting where I parked."

Jesse figures he deserved that. The colorful yellow license plate catches his eye—LWYRUP. Oh boy. "Well, this was..." Jesse searches for the proper word. He doesn't find it, so he settles on: "Fun." At least he's honest.

"Yeah, you're pretty cute when you get all red and embarrassed."

Like Jesse's doing now, no doubt. He lets out a breath he doesn't know he's been holding. "We should, uh, we should hang out again sometime, if—if you want, I mean."

"Absolutely." Saul digs into his pocket and takes a business card out of his wallet. Jesse can see numbers scribbled on the back. "Hey, here's my card—I wrote the number for my personal line on the other side. I feel like we're past the whole pay-per-minute thing at this point, don't you think?"

Jesse takes the card and tries his hardest not to grin like a moron.

"So, hey, if you ever wanna talk or catch a movie or something"—Saul clicks his tongue—"better call Saul!"

Jesse snorts a laugh. "Alright, see ya." He's still smiling like a dope when he gets to his car.

#

Jesse pulls into the driveway to his house and sees Badger sitting on the front steps like he's waiting for a bus. Badger hops to his feet as Jesse approaches. "Dude, what the hell are you doing here?" Jesse asks. "Didn't you get my text?"

Badger blinks. "You sent me a text?"

Jesse sighs, realizing he must have shut his phone off before the message could go through. "I tried." He rubs a hand over his face. "I guess it didn't send."

Badger looks like he's going to say something else, but his expression changes while he watches Jesse. "So what's up? Where were you? I thought you, like, died. I was psyching myself up to go in here and find a body. Do you know how psychologically not ready I am for that?"

Jesse makes a face and lets himself inside. "I was busy."

Badger trails in after him, dropping onto the sofa. "Busy gettin' busy?"

"Ugh, no. Jesus." Jesse has no idea how to feel about his lunch with Saul today, and he definitely doesn't want to think about that right now. "I was just—" Badger is absolutely the last person he wants to talk with about this little dilemma, but he's the best Jesse's got right now, and, if he's honest, Jesse wants to talk it out, if only to keep it from bouncing around in his own head. He takes a breath, preparing himself for Badger's not-at-all offensive reaction. "Okay, so don't freak out, but I might have accidentally gone on a date with Saul Goodman."

Badger's face caves in for a split-second, and then he's laughing so hard he might actually die. He's slapping a knee with one hand, arm wrapped around his middle like this is the funniest fucking thing he'll ever hear in his entire life.

Jesse's a little insulted. "Dude, I said don't freak out."

"I'm not!" Badger manages to say through his laughter.

"I'm pretty sure this counts as freaking out." Jesse sighs. Badger's still snorting amusement. "Goddammit, stop laughing. This isn't funny."

"It's a little funny."

Jesse scrubs a hand through his hair. To be fair, he should have expected this kind of reaction; he doesn't keep the most understanding company when it comes to stuff like this.

"How do you even 'accidentally' go on a date?" Badger asks, breathless.

"I didn't know it was a date," Jesse mumbles. "I thought we were just gonna hang out."

Badger makes a show out of wiping his eyes, as if he's been crying through his laughter. Dick. "Did you go to his place or what?"

"We, uh, we had lunch." Jesse realizes he's not making a very convincing "not a date" argument. "Some Italian place with this really badass pizza dip, y'know, with those little bread slices—"

Badger sits up impossibly straight.. "La Bella Italia? He took you to La Bella Italia and you didn't think it was a date?"

That's pretty damning evidence, really. "No, 'cause we sorta already knew each other. We'd been talking for a while, and he wanted to meet me in person."

"What, like, on the internet?" Badger's grinning from ear to ear. At least Jesse's life is amusing to someone. "Did you meet him on a dating site?" His voice cracks like that might be the most hilarious thing possible.

Jesse squirms, shakes his head. He rubs a hand over his eyes. "No, we talked on the phone."

And right then, that's when Badger gets it, because his eyes go wide enough to double as flying saucers. "You called his sex line?"

"It's not a sex line!" Which is so not the point right now.

"You totally did!" Badger crows, slapping his knee again. "Oh my God!" Jesse goes to get a beer while Badger's making unattractive horse noises. "I didn't even know you liked dudes, and now you're goin' out with a big-shot lawyer slash call-guy?"

"Yeah, see, this"—Jesse motions in a way that's supposed to encompass whatever's going on here—"is why I never tell you guys anything."

Badger stops laughing and looks unfairly wounded. "Aw, c'mon, Jesse. I don't even care about the gay thing. It's just funny that you'd pick Saul Goodman—I mean, if you ask me, you could do way better."

Jesse sits beside him, starts peeling the label off his beer bottle. "Well, I didn't ask you. Can you just, like, be supportive for once?"

"Y—yeah, sure, man." Badger nods, then: "So, did he get in your pants or did you just make out?"

"Badger, Jesus." Jesse squeezes his eyes shut. "We didn't do anything."

"You sound sorta bummed about that."

"I'm not—" Jesse takes a breath, starts over. "I don't even know how I feel about it. I mean, I don't think I have a 'type' or anything, but if I did he's totally not it. But he makes me laugh and kinda like him, I guess." His mouth quirks into a smile. "He said I was cute."

"Jesse likes older men," Badger sing-songs.

"I will fucking end you," Jesse growls. Yes, this is exactly what he was hoping to avoid.

#

Jesse waits a while before utilizing Saul's private number, because he doesn't want to come across as needy, and he also sort of wants to play hard to get here—since Saul actually said he was cute Jesse figures he's not hard to want, so why not? Make the guy sweat a little. He takes some confidence in the fact that Saul wouldn't have given Jesse his personal number if he didn't like him. So there's that.

Jesse does wonder how far Saul's flirty jokes and come-ons actually go though. Is it just residue from the job, or does Saul actually sorta maybe like Jesse in a non-platonic way? Jesse's still not sure how he feels about that, but the idea makes his mouth go dry and his stomach drop like he's on a roller coaster, so he thinks he wants it enough to withstand any awkwardness that might come along with it. Sometimes he'll catch himself thinking about Saul's hands skimming over his waist, and he loses all the breath in his lungs. But he doesn't want things to get weird if Saul's just being facetious with his flirtation. Because this is one of the best relationships he's ever been a part of, and it would be so like Jesse to shoot it down in flames by saying the wrong thing.

On Thursday night, Jesse decides to send Saul a text to his personal number, because he needs some time to put his thoughts together about what to suggest for their platonic not-date. And whatever he has to say isn't super important anyway, though he's probably going to be overcome with an awful combination of panic and horror as he second-guesses whatever he says in his message. But, whatever, Saul gave Jesse this number—he knew what he was signing on for.

He stares at the blank message for a while. Suggesting a repeat of Wednesday's lunch might come across as uncreative and dull. Both of them have fairly strong opinions about movies, but mutually staring at a giant screen for two hours doesn't seem like the best way to get to know somebody. Jesse's at a loss for any other activities, mostly because the kind he enjoys—miniature golf, go-karts, laser tag—he can't really picture Saul partaking in with any sense of enthusiasm.

Maybe he should just leave the destination up to Saul. Jesse sighs and starts typing: hey, do you wanna hang out tomorrow?

"Hang out," yeah, no, that doesn't make him sound like an awkward high-schooler at all. He erases the message and starts over: so if you're not busy tomorrow you wanna do something?

Now he just sounds indecisive and immature.

He tries again: you wanna chill at my place tomorrow?

Okay, that still makes him sound like he's thirteen, but at least it leaves options open. They could order food, watch a movie or two, or maybe touching of a sexual nature could occur.

Or all three of those things could happen. There's a lot more possibilities there than with his other ideas. He thinks this one's a keeper.

It's only immediately after Jesse hits "send" that he realizes in bone-chilling horror that tomorrow is Valentine's Day. He makes a terrified screeching noise, watches the text show up in a little bubble in the message window. "No, no!" He frantically presses the screen, dismayed to find there's no way to claw the message back. "You bitch!" Why does technology make it so simple for one stupid text to ruin his entire life?

Saul is never texting him back, save for maybe a cruel joke at his expense. Fuck.

Jesse crawls into bed and prays for the Earth to swallow him.

He wakes up at some ungodly hour to an obnoxious sound his brain identifies as his phone's ringtone. Someone is calling him. Who the fuck is calling him at this hour?

He blindy reaches out for the stupid phone and presses the answer button before he thinks to check who's calling. "Yo."

Saul's voice wakes him the hell up. "Is this the Rent-A-Stud hotline?"

"Saul?" Jesse sits up in bed, heart hammering in his chest.

"Yeah, I just got your message. Apparently you want to 'chill.' What exactly does that entail?"

"Whatever you want. We can talk, order pizza, watch a movie..." He trails off in a way that suggests other activities. "I got a big-ass plasma TV."

"The only ass I'm interested in is yours, but that does sound mighty tempting."

Jesse fears Saul can sense that he's blushing over the phone. "So...you'll come?"

Saul chuckles, and Jesse can only imagine all the possible jokes running through his head. "I'll do my best. I can't exactly skip out on the golden goose." Jesse shuts his eyes in pain. "See, tomorrow is Valentine's Day, which means a metric butt-ton of people calling my humble hotline."

"Hey, if it's too much trouble, don't worry about it. I don't want you to miss out on that." Jesse hopes his first awkward attempt at snagging a date for Valentine's Day isn't in danger of being squashed beneath the unforgiving boot of reality.

"I can make it, I'll just be a little late. Maybe ten-ish instead of eight-ish."

"That's cool. Better late than never, right? I'll, uh, I'll text you my address. And, hey, don't think you're gettin' out of bringin' me chocolate." He's partially joking, but Saul says something that surprises him.

"I'll see what I can do, but all that's left are probably those crappy gamble chocolates filled with toothpaste and mayonnaise."

"It's the thought that counts," Jesse reminds him.

"You know who says that? People who give shitty gifts."

"Whatever. Just get me some chocolate, bitch," he says with a smile.

Saul makes a show out of sighing. "Alright, sheesh. Somebody's got their bossy pants on tonight."

"Want me to take 'em off?"

He can almost hear the sexual frustration in Saul's voice. "Not when I can't see you."

"Fine, I'll save it for tomorrow night." Jesse grins, just has to push it further. "Or maybe you could do it for me."

Saul drags in a breath. "I—I think that could be arranged."

#

On Friday, Saul sends Francesca out to pick up some chocolate for his date tonight. She had argued that there wouldn't be anything decent left—"way to go on waiting until the absolute last minute," she said—but Saul insisted and added an extra twenty bucks until she caved.

She brings back two things, both of which amaze him in different ways. The first is a goddamn cake lathered in white frosting and covered in chocolate ganache. Saul just stares at it after Francesca sets it on his desk. "I ask you for chocolate and you bring back a cake."

"It is chocolate," she insists. Saul just gives her a look. "You never said the chocolate had to be Valentine's themed, and considering the lackluster choices available you should be thanking me for pulling your ass out of the fire—again."

Saul's tempted to cut into the cake now, because it looks pretty damn enticing. "I'm not saying it's not delicious—because I'm sure it is—but I think it's a bit much."

"If he's going to be disappointed or offended by free cake, dump his ass. No one needs that kind of negativity in their life."

"He did ask for chocolate," Saul mumbles, mostly to himself, while he admires the dessert. "And it was either this or the gamble chocolates."

Francesca spreads her hands. "Oh, ye of little faith."

"Alright, don't rub it in."

The second thing she sets on his desk makes him start laughing, and he immediately knows this date is going to go perfectly.

#

After Jesse drags himself out of bed, he shoots a text to Saul while he pulls on a pair of jeans: so what do u wanna eat tonight?

He's really not expecting the answer he gets about a minute later: you ;)

Jesse loses his balance, one leg awkwardly shoved inside his jeans, and he drops down onto the bed. He stares at the message in disbelief, as if it might change before his eyes. It doesn't. The idea of Saul putting his mouth anywhere on Jesse makes Jesse's lungs and brain stop working.

He types back: jfc be serious

He gets his other leg through his jeans when Saul writes: I was being 69% serious (but I'll eat anything—as long as I get you for dessert) ;)

Jesse has no idea how much jittery arousal he can take before his hormones just explode in a pent-up frenzy. If Saul's experiencing anything close to Jesse's level of sexual frustration, the man must have the self-control of a saint. Jesse can't help but poke at the tension: maybe dessert should cum first?

A moment later, Saul writes back: You actually got me to laugh out loud at a pun. You have dark and terrifying powers.

Jesse grins to himself and goes downstairs into the kitchen. If Saul's not gonna show up until at least ten, Jesse's not going to order food that won't even be good an hour later. Besides, he wants to show off a little. He's sort of lazy today and doesn't feel like going out into the cold, so he'll just have to work with whatever ingredients are lying around. He finds a bag of hash browns in the freezer and decides that potato soup is on tonight's menu.

Badger drops by about an hour later after Jesse's got the soup in the slow cooker. "Somethin' smells awesome!" he says when he gets inside.

Jesse eyes him warily. "I thought you had a date today."

"Tonight, bro," Badger corrects him, but Jesse's still convinced that Badger fabricated the entire date story as to not sound left out of all the Valentine's festivities. After all, he would have ended up stuck with Jesse, and that might've seemed too date-like for Badger's liking. Joke's on him now, though, Jesse thinks to himself.

"So, 'sup? You need me to give you dating advice?" he jokes.

"No offense, but I don't think somebody who called a sex hotline should be giving dating advice."

Jesse scowls at him. That is totally uncalled for. "Even when I got a second date?"

Badger's eyes go wide. "He asked you out again?"

"I asked him out." Jesse can't help but smile stupidly over that, like he's managed to win Saul over in a way he'll never be able to understand or duplicate ever again. The one-hit wonder of Jesse's love life. "I think he totally digs me." He has to busy himself when he says that, opens the fridge with a sucking pop, because the thought alone makes him jittery with nervous energy.

Badger's smile is way too wide and demented. "Jesse's got a boyfriend," he teases. "And it only cost you how much?"

"Shut up," Jesse mumbles, discovering a still-sealed package of bacon in the refrigerator drawer. "Oh, hell yeah, bacon."

"So I guess he's coming over, 'cause you're all Iron Chef up in here." Badger makes an all-encompassing gesture to the kitchen. "What's for dinner?"

"Potato soup," Jesse answers around a slice of raw bacon.

Badger snorts laughter. "Oh my God, are you guys really gonna eat soup and cuddle on the couch like something out of a fuckin' Campbell's commmercial?"

"What, like your date's gonna be any less lame? Yeah, take her out to some fancy restaurant, 'cause you're totally a guy who drops fifty bucks for a steak on the regular."

"It's all about first impressions!" Badger argues back. "What was Saul's first impression of you? Some perv who had phone sex with him?" He says the last part like the words are riddled with some sort of disease.

"We didn't have phone sex," Jesse says with a sigh. "We haven't had any sex."

Badger stares at Jesse as if he's trying to do a complicated math problem in his head. "You called up a sex line just to talk?" His mouth's doing that half-smile thing it does when he's trying very hard not to laugh.

Jesse scowls and shovels in another strip of bacon. "Whatever, man. It worked. He's totally into me." Badger grins like he wants to make a dirty joke out of that, but Jesse points a finger at him and says, "Don't."

Badger shakes his head, still grinning like the damn Cheshire Cat. "Saul Goodman though. Seriously? Dude couldn't find somebody his own age?" Jesse glares at him, and Badger's face scrunches in. "Are you into older guys? Like, a dude version of a MILF? 'Cause that's...cool, I guess. Equal opportunity and all."

Jesse scrubs a hand over his face. Badger has the amazing ability of making everything sound so much worse. "No, Jesus, it's not—I like him, alright? He makes me laugh. I can't explain it, he just—he just gets me, y'know? He likes my dumb jokes, doesn't give me crap about my taste in movies, and he doesn't push." Jesse shrugs like that should explain everything. "I dunno, I just really like him."

There's a brief moment of silence, and Jesse holds his breath, waiting for Badger to make a joke or criticize him, but Badger just huffs out laughter and says, "You're blushing."

"Ugh, fine, be a dick about it."

Badger ends up staying a little longer than Jesse would have liked, even going so far as to snag a few strips of bacon before Jesse fries it up to crumble over the soup. Badger leaves for his own date around six, so Jesse's got a couple hours to himself before Saul shows up.

Around ten, Jesse's halfway through Portal's advanced mode when Saul texts him: On my way. You didn't de-pants without me, did you?

Jesse types back: nope, the honor's all yours

Saul shows up about thirty minutes later, and the first thing Jesse notices about him is that he's wearing normal, non-court-appearance clothes. Very casual. Then Jesse remembers that Saul had said he'd be working late tonight, so Saul may have actually gone home and changed clothes before he showed up.

"Wow..." Jesse rubs his neck and looks away as he lets Saul inside. He can't stop smiling like an idiot. "You—you look hot."

Saul gives him a smirk and a smart answer. "I thought I felt over-dressed." While Jesse's hoping that's the most embarrassing thing he'll say tonight, Saul says, "As per your request, I brought you chocolate," and produces a heavenly-looking cake from behind his back.

"Holy shit, you brought me a cake?" Jesse gapes in awe, snatching the cake out of his hands and setting it on the kitchen counter. He pops open the top so he can appreciate the smell. "You're awesome!" The whole idea of being brought a cake when it isn't even his birthday should confuse Jesse, but cake is amazing and ranks fairly high on Jesse's list of favorite things, so he's not going to think about it too deeply.

Saul chuckles. "Well, you know me. Above and beyond. There's also this, which I felt would speak to you on a very deep, intrinsic level." He withdraws his other hand from behind his back and sets a plush Valentine's bear on the counter. Jesse smiles, then he loses it completely when he reads the message emblazoned on the heart clutched between the bear's paws: shit bitch you is fine.

Jesse doesn't even care if the way he's laughing is completely unattractive; this shit is priceless. "Oh my God, dude, you totally get me!" he says, breathless. "I was so right about you!" Jesse huffs out the last of his laughter before getting his hands full of Saul's shirt and dragging him in to seal their mouths together. He's working on adrenaline and temporary insanity, but it feels right, and Saul seems to move at a glacial pace on his own, so Jesse ought to give him a little push.

Saul kisses him back, hands settling on Jesse's hips, and lets him lead. Jesse doesn't push too far, just holds his mouth there, because this is a first for him in so many ways, and he doesn't want to be too overzealous and send it all crashing down. Saul makes a quiet noise of contentment against his mouth, then his hands start sliding underneath Jesse's t-shirt in a way that feels like it's going somewhere. Jesse gasps around his lips, and Saul just kisses him harder. It's the most innocent kiss Jesse's ever been a part of, which stuns him a little, because "innocent" and "Saul Goodman" don't seem like they belong in the same sentence.

When Jesse gets his mouth free—it takes a while—he's grinning stupidly wide and is certain his face is cherry red right now. Saul doesn't seem to find this combination off-putting; his mouth's quirked into a smile like he appreciates Jesse's ridiculous facial expressions. "That was so much better than I imagined it would be," Saul says.

Jesse feels his face go impossibly redder. "You—you imagined kissing me?"

"I've imagined things that are probably illegal in other states."

Jesse's too shy to admit that he has too. He lets his hands fall away and rest over Saul's arms, which have settled just above his hips. The words stall in his throat, and he has to wet his lips to speak. "Like what?"

"Hey, I'm not gonna give away all my secrets just yet. But maybe you could attempt to ply me with dinner, and we'll see where things go from there."

"If I knew you were such a cheap date I wouldn't've tried so hard," Jesse says, stealing another kiss before moving deeper into the kitchen; he loves that that's a thing they can just do now. Jesse can kiss Saul whenever he wants. Holy shit. With great power comes great responsibility.

"Tried to what, impress me?" Saul looks amused by the idea.

"Well, yeah."

"As if I didn't like you already."

Jesse smiles despite himself. He might be losing his mind a little. Maybe everything that's happened has been a week-long hallucination, because he can't wrap his head around the concept of Saul actually liking him enough to date him continuously or look at him the way he's doing now...

Jesse snaps out of his daze and starts doling out the soup. At this rate, he's going to walk into a door or a wall because Saul said something that made his brain wander off.

Saul moves closer, digs his phone out of his pocket. "So, I had my secretary do me a huge favor, and because she's evil incarnate she wants a picture."

"Of what?"

"Your dick," Saul says with an impossibly straight face. Jesse's mouth drops open, then Saul starts laughing. "That was a joke! C'mon! She just wants a regular picture of you—all inappropriate-to-show-in-public parts covered."

"Aw, damn, that means I can't show off my killer abs," Jesse bemoans, and Saul's expression is a thing to be treasured. He has to shove a bowl of soup into Saul's free hand to snap him back to reality. "That was a joke." Jesse grins.

"So why does your secretary want a picture of me?" Jesse asks once they're settled on the couch. He's leaning against Saul's arm, like they fit together. "Does she do this with all of your dates or just"—Jesse freezes in realization—"Have you been talking about me?"

Saul squirms a little, which might be one of the most adorable things Jesse's ever seen in his life, second to only videos of kittens playing with yarn or getting spooked by their own reflections. "I might have mentioned you once...or twice. And, let's just say, hypothetically, that the word 'cute' was thrown around—"

"You called me cute?" Jesse cannot stop smiling tonight if his life depended on it.

"Allegedly," Saul corrects. "Would it be less weird if you just sent me a picture of you on your phone?"

"I'm not really a selfie kind of guy," Jesse says around a mouthful of delicious soup. The picture of grace.

Saul's brow furrows. "Have you seen you? Your phone should be filled with photos of yourself. This is a disgrace."

"Whatever, man. See for yourself." Jesse frees his phone from the pocket of his jeans and hands it to Saul, who casually flips through his photos.

"You're right; these are phenomenally boring."

"You're just sayin' that 'cause there's no nudes."

Saul gives him a pointed look. "Can you really blame me for being disappointed?" He scrolls through more pictures, then: "Oh, look, there you are!"

Jesse groans. The photo's of him at the aquarium, pointing to a hideous-looking blobfish. Not the best first impression, really. "Ugh, no, don't use that one."

"Then you give me no choice." Saul hands Jesse's phone back and takes out his own. "Try to look like a normal person."

Jesse turns his head away from the lens. "I suck at taking pictures. I feel like you should'a picked up on that."

Saul glances at him over the phone. "Just look at the camera like you're making love to it."

Jesse huffs out a laugh, and Saul snaps a picture before Jesse can scold him for it. "You fuckin' sneak," Jesse grumbles.

"This is perfect; you look adorable," Saul says, gleeful as he sends the photo off and pockets his phone. "She's going to be so jealous."

"You took a picture of me just to make your secretary jealous?"

"Hey, she's been giving me an uncalled-for amount of crap about dating someone I met through a 900 hotline." He loops his free arm around Jesse's waist and tugs him in closer. Jesse swoons in secret. "I don't think she expects you to be good-looking." Saul chuckles. "Joke's on her."

They spend the rest of the evening casually sprawled against each other while they eat. They end up sharing the cake as Jesse teaches Saul the fine art of shooting zombies in Left 4 Dead 2. "Whoa, whoa, don't shoot at that car!" Jesse warns him around a mouthful of decadent chocolate cake.

"Why not?"

"Because it'll set off the alarm and a fuck-ton of zombies will show up." He dispatches of a Jockey chittering noisily down an alleyway. "Trust me. Just don't use your gun at all here, Mr. Spray-and-Pray. Use the golf club." They're still reeling from a Tank ambush merely moments ago; that's what Jesse gets for letting Saul throw the molotov cocktail.

"It's a nine-iron," Saul corrects.

"Ugh, whatever." Jesse sighs, uses his health pack on Saul because he's just that nice. "Try not to die again. Wha—No!" Almost immediately after Jesse's finished healing Saul, a Smoker reaches out and drags Jesse away. "Ah, you bitch! What are you doing? Shoot it!" Saul moves in on the zombie and whacks it with the golf club. "Oh my God, seriously?"

"You said not to use the gun," Saul explains, like bludgeoning Special Infected with melee weapons is routine for him.

"The car's behind you now. I don't think even your aim is that bad."

The Smoker dies in a particularly dramatic fashion, complete with a plume of smoke and a hacking cough. "Ha! I saved you!" He knocks the heads off of a couple approaching zombies. "See, using your healing kit on me was a good idea."

Jesse thinks about commenting on how the computer-controlled team players would have saved him in Saul's absence, but he decides not to be a dick and let Saul have his moment of glory.

It's about two in the morning when they've finished the cake and switched off the Xbox. Jesse yawns and stretches, briefly considering throwing an arm around Saul's shoulders, but instead just cuddles alongside him. Saul's warm, impossibly warm; Jesse feels like he could fall asleep against him if he were at all tired.

His heart flutters when he thinks about inviting Saul upstairs. He doesn't think Saul will say no, but he isn't sure how far exactly he wants to go. Because Jesse actually likes him, and if Saul's just sticking around to get into his pants... Jesse doesn't want that to be what's happening here.

"Do you—do you have to work tomorrow?" he asks in a quiet voice.

Saul half-smiles at him. "Depends on what you have in mind."

Jesse decides he's just going to go for it and kisses him. Saul shifts, turns so Jesse can crawl over him, which he does. Jesse's got his knees in the space between Saul's legs, hands planted on the arm of the couch under Saul's head. Saul lets Jesse capture his mouth while he glides his fingers over Jesse's arms and traces the lines and swirls of his tattoo. Jesse nibbles at the corner of Saul's mouth for a moment before letting himself sink on top of him. He's hard in his jeans, and he can't help but shift his hips a little throughout the kiss. He wants—needs—to be closer.

Saul grunts around Jesse's mouth, appreciative of the friction. His hands push underneath Jesse's t-shirt, fingers trailing over the dip at the base of his spine. Jesse's hips stutter in need as his heart thumps madly in his chest. He can feel Saul's hands sinking lower until they're shoved into the back pockets of his jeans, groping his ass in a way that feels excitingly dirty. Jesse gets Saul's bottom lip between his teeth before grinding their hips together. Saul makes a breathy sound of want and pushes back, turns the nudge of Jesse's hips into something mutual.

"Shit," Jesse breathes out shakily, because Saul's dick feels huge against his own, and if this keeps going he's absolutely going to blow his load. But Jesse doesn't stop, keeps pushing his hips into Saul's movements, and Saul skims a hand over Jesse's chest and flicks at a nipple with his thumb. Jesse gasps, feeling heat bloom in his nerves. Jesse tips his head down to kiss him again, then they're panting and grinding against each other, and Saul's hands are everywhere at once: hot palms against Jesse's ass, then fingers feathering over his hip bones.

Saul drags a hand along Jesse's stomach and fans his fingers out. Jesse rocks his hips into the heel of Saul's hand, and it's just enough to break him apart, make him come with a cracked little moan in his throat, groaning through his teeth as his orgasm drags out of him. Saul watches him unravel, his hips still grinding up against Jesse's ass, but he doesn't last long, because it's less than a minute until Saul falls over the edge himself. He moans the hottest sound Jesse's ever heard in his life, and Jesse can't help but dig his hands into Saul's hair, smothering his helpless, breathy noises with frantic kisses.

Saul cups Jesse's face in his hands to pull him in closer, like he never wants to stop kissing Jesse for even a second; Jesse's not entirely sure he'd mind that, really. He's breathing hot against Jesse's mouth a moment, then he kisses the line of his jaw, the curve of his neck, and Jesse groans at the spike of pleasure that ripples through his groin.

Saul's licking at the hollow of Jesse's throat when someone's cell phone trills. "Was that you or me?" Saul mumbles, sucking kisses into Jesse's neck that are definitely going to leave evidence.

Jesse sighs in contentment and tips his head to expose more of his throat to Saul's eager mouth. "You, I think."

Saul makes an aggrieved noise before he drags his phone out of his pocket. He has to stop kissing Jesse to read the message, which Jesse's a little put out about. But Saul starts chuckling, so Jesse can't be too upset. "What is it?" Jesse asks, craning his neck to get a look at the screen.

Saul turns the phone so Jesse can see. "Remember that picture of you I sent to my secretary? She just answered back: 'I'd do him.'"

Jesse laughs. "Oh, wow. Glad I got the, uh, secretarial seal of approval."

Saul starts typing. "Would you be offended if I wrote back: 'already did'?"

Jesse lays a hand on Saul's chest and works it inside of his shirt, fingers skimming over his collarbone. "Nah, I wouldn't be offended. But you'd kinda be lying though." He sniffles.

Saul lifts a questioning eyebrow, fingers frozen over the keys.

"I mean, I don't think that totally counts, right?" Jesse sits up in his lap; Saul bites his bottom lip with the slightest pressure, swallows back a groan. Jesse follows the line of Saul's arm with his hand until he finds the fingers clutched around his hip. "But if you want, we could go upstairs and make it count." He laces their fingers together and pulls Saul up with him, gives him a kiss that promises everything. Saul doesn't have to be asked twice.

Jesse can't wait for next Valentine's Day.