Jared’s line of work is probably the biggest deterrent he has when it comes to being stupid enough to fall in love. He's a hooker, and well, the entire profession is pretty much the end result of the unfairness of love. Husbands with secrets to hide, lonely men and women convinced that there's no missing piece out there, college kids - desperate to lose their virginities. People like him, selling themselves because the ones that they loved let them down. It's basically Hooker 101. Don't fall in love. Love is for fools. Your clients are never going to see you as another person. Just a form of release, an escape. Jared knows all of that, he agrees with it. However, there's still the small (or rather, big) matter of falling in love with a fellow hooker.
He has completely fucked up because maybe, just maybe he hasn't gotten the whole love is for fools thing, because he's hopelessly and ridiculously in love with another hooker called Jensen who works the same street that he does. It's not like he can't have sex with Jensen, because he did that once, as a favour and sort of ended up in this mess. And then he did it again and again and the rest is history. Before they had sex, Jensen was pretty much his best friend. He showed Jared the ropes, gave him a place to stay and took care of him.
Sometimes Jensen says that he regrets not helping Jared go back to school or something, but as far as Jared's concerned, he owes Jensen his life. Sex just kind of made Jared’s feelings for Jensen go into overdrive, hence why he doesn't get mad when Jensen calls him at three am on this particular day. It might be really fucking cheesy, but he plans on being there whenever Jensen needs him, no matter what the time is.
"Yo," Jared says; his voice groggy with sleep.
"Yo?" Jensen echoes. "Have you been hanging around with Chad again?"
"What do you want?" Jared asks. They don’t need to get into yet another argument about Chad, it’s a lost cause.
"To get my water heater fixed," Jensen says easily. "One of my regular offered me some extra cash, said he wanted to shake things up a little."
"What does he want?"
"He must have seen us talking or something, ‘cause he want a session with both of us. Just for an hour. I'll approve everything beforehand."
Despite the late hour, Jared is suddenly very, very awake. He's not sure what to say, really. Yeah, he could do with the money, and he's not really in a position to turn down work. A threesome with Jensen however, is sort of a major sticking point. He'll probably screw up the night and leave neither of them with cash. Leave both of them hungry and possibly homeless in his case. His landlord’s been a little testy of late and Jared can’t understand why. His place is a shithole, yet the guy seems to enjoy upping the rent whenever he wants, seemingly gleeful in the knowledge that Jared won’t be able to pay it in cash. He hasn’t even told Jensen about that whole situation because he doesn’t want to burden him.
"Can I get back to you?" Jared asks, running a hand through his hair nervously. "I'm still trying to shake off this bug I got from that sweaty, gross guy from last week." He isn't, but Jensen doesn't need to know that. And while he can afford to take a night or two off, he really does need to pay his rent, which is due at the end of the week, and he’d really like to pay it in cash.
"You've got two days," Jensen says seriously, because even though they're hookers, he's all about the business side of things. He's never seen Jensen panic about anything, or heard him talk about his feelings. Sometimes, Jared seriously wonders if Jensen's a robot. Even when they have sex, it's more about release than having a good time.
Jared always spends the day after pretending that it doesn’t sting.
The next night, Jared finds himself considering Jensen's proposal once again. He's come to find that most of his clients are usually too into the sex to realise that his mind is elsewhere. Of course, there are some who are more observant, but Jared's learned to spot that right away. No one wants to sleep with a hooker that has black eyes, or bruises that they didn’t inflict. His latest client falls under suppressed husband and Jared lets his mind drift off as the guy strips him of his tight, white shirt and form-clinging jeans. He thinks about Jensen while the guy is muttering filthy words into his ear and shoving his hands down Jared's boxers. He pretend that it's Jensen that he's with, pretends that Jensen's hand is down his pants. It doesn't take long before he comes, biting his lip to stop Jensen's name from escaping. The guy is still rubbing his dick all over him, so Jared brings him off quickly, collects his cash and gets the fuck out of there.
He bumps into Jensen in the lobby of the motel and he feels his face flush. He’s been doing this for what seems like forever, yet he still feels dirty when he’s around Jensen, feels as if he’s betraying the other man somehow.
"Are you okay?" Jensen asks. Jared nods, not trusting himself to speak.
"Wanna come to my place? One of my clients brought me a bottle of Jack. Who said that taking it up for the ass for money doesn’t have its benefits?" Jared’s sure that that his smile is more of a grimace, but he doubts that Jensen will notice the difference.
Dawn is approaching when they finally polish off the bottle. They're both lying on Jensen's bed, facing each other. Jensen looks loose and relaxed; a stark contrast to how he usually looks. Sometimes Jared wonders how it is that someone wound that tight ended up doing what they do. Common sense tells him that it's a side effect of being alone, with no one to turn to, but sometimes he really wonders.
"You got an answer yet?" Jensen asks in a whisky-rough voice. Jared wants to laugh, because he's known his answer since Jensen asked. He’s never been able to say no to Jensen, ever.
"I'll do it," he says, pretending not to hear the quiver in his own voice. He can tell that Jensen spots because he tenses up slightly, his shoulders no longer as relaxed and limber as they were moments earlier.
"Wanna practice?" Jensen's voice is quieter now, and he sounds like he's close to falling asleep. Unfortunately, Jared is now awake enough for the both of them. The alcohol in his system is still blurring his thought process a little but he's lucid enough to know that sex with Jensen would be a bad idea. But he wants it, wants it a lot. So he says yes.
Afterwards when Jared is lying in Jensen’s arms, he can’t help wondering why anyone wouldn’t want this, hooker or not. To be held, to be loved, to feel cherished. To feel like there's at least one person out there who loves you for who you are. After all, Jared might be stupid, he might be naive, but he's only human. He can't help wanting those things, and as he's lying here, breathing in Jensen's scent, feeling the rhythm of his heartbeat, he can't help wanting those things with Jensen.
With all these feelings bubbling up inside of him, Jared wonders if he should pull out of the job with Jensen's client. It's all in vain though because there's no way that he's going to let Jensen down like that. Yet Jared feels like he should say something, tell Jensen. See if Jensen would maybe feel the same way, because everything that Jensen's done for him seems like so much more than friendship.
"What are you thinking about over there," Jensen says groggily. "I can hear you from here."
Jared thinks about not answering, does his best not to tense up. They've got four years of friendship here, four years of being...well, a family of sorts, and Jared doesn't want to fuck that up.
"What would you say if..." Jared falters briefly and clears his throat. Jensen's arms stiffen behind him, so he extracts himself and turns around. Jensen's looking at him with concern, and Jared feels his heart stop. It never fails to amaze him, how beautiful Jensen is, both on the inside and the outside. Not that Jared will ever say such a Hallmark-ish type of comment out loud.
"If..." Jensen echoes, eyes concerned.
"If I told you I was in love with you," Jared says all in one go. His chest heaves while his heart beats rapidly. It feels good to finally say it to Jensen's face but he's also scared. Of being rejected, or laughed at or...Jensen's face closing down the way it is now. There's a flicker in his eyes, but the thin line of his mouth tells Jared all he needs to know. Jensen doesn't want him. And he never will, and hell, why would he? Jared's a grubby hooker with no prospects, no money, a shitty, tiny mess of an apartment, jeans with more holes in them than a coriander, shoes that have never seen better days. He's a mess. No one as smart and beautiful as Jensen would be dumb enough to love a guy like Jared.
"Jared, look..." Jensen trails off, words of rejection and placation seemingly stuck, and really that's okay. Jensen won't be able to make him feel better, not when his heart feels like it's been ripped out and stamped on by an elephant, a really big one.
"I'm gonna go," Jared mumbles as gets out of the bed, glad that it'd been cold enough for them to put their underwear back on after they'd had sex. He's just about shimmied into his jeans when Jensen calls his name again.
"Look, I just need a min---"
"It's fine," Jared interrupts. "You don't need to explain yourself to me. I gotta go." He grabs his cell and leaves quickly, noting the fact that Jensen doesn't ask him to stay.
Jared gets a text from one of his regulars offering him fifty for a blowjob and some 'feelin up', but he doesn't reply. It would feel wrong, to let someone touch him the night after Jensen did. Pathetic as it may seem, he wants Jensen's scent to be on him just for a couple more hours. So he goes to the library. The head librarian, Samantha, is always some sort of calming fixture for Jared. She's not old enough to be his mother, but that doesn't stop her from trying to mother him. In a way he kind of hopes that she isn't there, because while he'd like to regain some sense of perspective, he kind of doesn't want to talk about the whole Jensen thing. He’s here to flip through a newspaper, expose himself to a world where he’s not the worst off, read about people suffering more than he ever could.
It turns out that he has some sort of masochistic urge running through him today, because when Sam asks him what's wrong, he says,
"I'm in love with someone I shouldn’t be,” instead of taking himself over the quiet section and doing what he came to do. He wants to tell her everything, wants to spill his whole story, tell someone that he hates being out on the streets. That he hates that Jensen doesn't ever complain; he just works tirelessly until there are dark circles under his eyes, and his skin is so pale that it looks translucent. That he hates that Jensen does so much for him when he has nothing to give in return; that life is much paler now that he knows Jensen doesn’t feel the same. Not that Jensen said that in so many words. In fact, he didn’t even given him a chance to get any words out before he bolted, afraid of hearing rejection on Jensen’s lips, afraid of seeing pity reflected in his eyes. He can’t though, because there’s no way she could ever understand; she’s just someone he sees every once in a while.
“Oh honey, it happens to best of us,” Sam says. “Have you tried talking to them about it?”
“Not really,” he answers, and she gives him a look that says, ‘well, what are you waiting for?’
He doesn’t leave right away, but when he finds that he can’t really focus on what he’s reading. If his thoughts are going to be consumed with Jensen for the rest of the day, he might as well talk to him.
He makes the mistake of going back to his apartment, not that it could really be considered as such. It’s a poky room, mostly, with an ancient bathroom and a kitchenette that comes with a stove that only works when it wants to. Back when he first hit the streets, Jensen let him stay at his place, gave up his bed until Jared realised just how fucking cold the floor was. The nights they spent huddled together, sharing warmth, are the nights that he’ll never forget. All he has to do is hear Jensen out, whether he’ll let Jared down or reciprocate his feelings is up to Jensen. Jared owes it to him to at least listen, even if it’s not what he wants to hear. He just has to grab a quick shower and a change of clothes first.
With his mind clouded with thoughts of Jensen, he makes the error of forgetting that he’s supposed to be avoiding his landlord and as he walks through the lobby of the building, the hairs on the back of his neck rise and he knows that he’s in trouble. His landlord has maybe ten years on him and he’s nasty, slimy prick always desperate for a quick fuck, regardless of whether or not Jared gives his consent. Today is no different, except for the way he’s waiting when Jared unlocks the door; just sitting there on the bed with an expectant smirk on his face. Something in Jared snaps and he swallows, eyes scanning the room for any potential weapons. There aren't any, the room scarce and devoid of his meagre belongings. He swallows hard, considers backing away, leaving without his things. That's one of Jensen's rules. At the first sign of trouble: run. 'Nothing material holds more worth than your life, don't try to take these guys on - you'll lose'. He turns and spots two bulky guys standing there, watching, waiting and fear starts to rise in his stomach.
"I think it's time we discuss what you owe me, don't you?" Skeevy says as he approaches. Jared doesn't know the guy’s real name but Skeevy suits him perfectly.
"Let me go," he spits out angrily. "And you'll get your money."
"Oh, darling, I don't want your money, not anymore," Skeevy says coldly. "It seems cruel accepting cash for this...hovel, when you can reward me for putting a roof over your head in the best way that you know how." Jared's eyes dart towards the window. It's big enough for him to climb out of it, he knows that much. He just needs to take down Skeevy somehow.
So he stands there and lets the man rub his greasy fingers on his cheek, lets him run a hand down his chest. He waits until Skeevy's head is down and knees him in crotch, shoving him onto the ground. He doesn't stick around to see the damage, bolting towards the window as fast as he can. He kicks the latch open and climbs out onto the ledge, sirens and car horns sounding in the distance. He hears movement behind him and he takes a deep breath and jumps.
His room is only on the second floor of the building but the cold concrete beneath him still sends waves of pain crashing inside him, white hot and fiery but Jared has to push past it and drag himself up. He stumbles out of the small alleyway, blood trickling out of the corner of his mouth as his lungs threaten to collapse. He doesn't know where to go. He could go to Jensen, but despite how he's feeling, he doesn't want to be a burden. He doesn't want to be that scared kid again, relying on him for shelter and food, too weak to take care of himself.
As his luck would have it, Jensen finds him. He's huddled in a back street behind a boarded up shop, flyers discarded everywhere, street wet with rain water. He sits there with his hood up over his head, praying for some kind of miracle. He thinks his injuries are non-threatening, doesn't seem to have any broken bones, but he's sick of being out on the streets, sick of hot breath fanning over him as someone sticks their cock in him, tearing him open and discarding him like trash afterwards. It might be all business for Jensen, all about making enough money to make ends meet, letting people use his body and staying detached from all of it but Jared can’t do it anymore.
He doesn’t want to.
Jensen’s words fly over his head, they sound muffled, as if Jared’s got cotton wool stuffed in his ears. Maybe he just doesn’t want to listen, or maybe he’s drowning and the water’s too deep.
When Jared wakes up he’s at Jensen’s apartment, recognises the framed print of New York City on the wall. The glass is cracked, and the picture is worn but for as long as he’s known Jensen, it’s been there. A sign of what he’s working towards, a goal, a reason to keep living. Jared doesn’t get it really, he had that same dream about this city and he is, bruised, battered, while his aspirations are shattered the pieces with each waking moment. This is his life. His eyes flicker slightly and there’s a rustling sound nearby.
“Why didn’t you tell me that things had gotten so bad with your landlord?” Jared finally manages to crack an eye open and Jensen’s sitting there, on the plastic barrel that passes for a chair. Jensen’s kind of frugal that way. “I went to see him.” Both of Jared’s eyes fly open. He did what?!
“Relax,” Jensen says. “I didn’t do anything to him, just asked where you were. Had to find out from one of his cronies in the end. And, it so happened to be the guy in charge of collecting rent.” Jared looks away, not wanting to see the disappointment in Jensen’s eyes.
“Word got back to him that I worked on the streets,” he says. “He started upping my rent, and you’ve seen my place, it’s not worth a hundred bucks a month, let alone five. So I paid him the only way that I could. And even if it left me in this mess, I’d do it again. I’m sorry that I can’t be like you.”
Jensen sounds as if he’s confused. “Like me?”
“All about the business always prepared for things going wrong all of that shit.” Jared can’t help it, he feels like an idiot. A silly naive idiot, who’s possibly screwed up the one decent friendship he’s ever had.
“Jared, look at me.” Jensen’s voice is pleading, soft and Jared almost doesn’t want to look. He doesn’t want pity or sympathy - he just wants to be left alone. Far away from here, somewhere where he won’t bring Jensen down to his level. Useless and helpless, destined to be a failure forever. Yet, he looks. He looks because he can’t help himself, he’s like a child who doesn’t know when to quit. His parents used to laugh about it and ruffle his hair it doesn’t seem so funny anymore. Not when they’ve turned their backs on him, left him high and dry with nothing.
“I was like you once, okay? I got into these situations and had to get myself out of them. You know why I have all those rules? Because of past experience. They’re not some standard that I hold myself by - they’re things that I learned the hard way. I told you everything to avoid something like this happening because I wasn’t going to be there to watch over you. You’ve got to know that I’d do anything to stop you from getting you hurt.”
“Why?” Jared asks; he doesn’t think he’s all that special, and sure, they’re friends, but Jensen doesn’t have to look after him.
Jensen takes a breath and says, “‘Cause I love you too, you idiot.” He looks slightly terrified, but Jared’s heart is soaring. He almost doesn’t believe it.
“Yes,” Jensen says in a gruff tone. “I don’t pick up strays, or give tips or let anyone stay at my place. My number one rule before I met you was ‘Don’t make friends’”
“Why would that be a rule?”
Jensen laughs bitterly. “There’s no such thing as friends out here, just people who sometimes choose not to stab you in the back until the day they do. It’s like the saying goes. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”
“That just seems so lonely,” Jared murmurs. He clears his throat, and speaks louder. “I mean, I get it but...I don’t think I’d be able to function on my own.” He doesn’t mention that it’s obvious that he can’t. Jensen’s clearly been looking after him since the incident with his landlord so he’s probably well aware of the fact.
“It was lonely...until I met you,” Jensen says quietly. “Yesterday morning when you asked me what I would say…I wanted to tell you that I already know.”
“What?” Jared exclaims. He winces as his sudden movement sends a wave of pain reverberating across his body. So much for his secret pining. “You knew?”
“You’re not the most subtle guy, plus, I’ve been getting this vibe whenever we hook up.” Jared’s face grows hot with embarrassment; he’s always been one to wear his heart on his sleeve, and never really been able to put his all into sex unless he’s really into his partner. Not that his customers seem to mind, but then again, he’s just an escape to them.
Something easy with no strings attached.
He sits up slowly so he can look at Jensen better, see the emotions reflected in his eyes.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Jensen shrugs and picks at a loose thread on his jeans. He’s clearly uncomfortable and Jared hates it, even if he knows that they can’t avoid the conversation.
“I’ve seen hookers try to have relationships and nine times out of ten it doesn’t work,” Jensen says. “Not unless they get out, and I couldn’t promise you that, couldn’t for a long time.”
Jensen frowns. “You can’t stay here, not with your landlord being in the same area. It’s dangerous. I have some money saved up, not a lot, but it’s a healthy amount. I might know a guy up in New York who can help us out for a little while. That’s if you want to leave, though. It’s, uh, it’s up to you.” Jensen’s nervousness is uncharacteristic, and Jared should probably question everything, should try to work out the particulars but he doesn’t. He trusts Jensen. He loves him.
If Jensen’s leaving, he’s going to be right there by his side.
A month later and they’re not much better off financially than they were before, but they both have jobs, they have a place to stay and they have each other. Jared still flinches whenever people get too close and Jensen’s blown up at more than one person over the slightest thing - it’s an adjustment to say the least, but...they have each other.
“Do you regret leaving?” Jared asks one night, as they sit on the beat down couch, listening to the late night train rattling the tracks nearby. “We had more money, had more freedom at least, instead of spending twelve hours earning a shitty pay check.”
Jensen’s silent for a long time before he answers. “If we’d stayed you would have been terrified, more so that you are now. So, no, I don’t regret it. It might be a struggle now but anything beats being pounded in the ass every night by some jackass who refuses to look you in the eye.”
“I just...I sometimes think that you’d be better off without me,” Jared says. “Things were going well for you - as well as they good - and then I came along and screwed it all up.” He’s voiced this a million times, sure that Jensen’s just being nice when he says that he doesn’t feel like that at all because life is hard and he can’t shake the feeling that he’s this burden, this weight that Jensen feels that he has to carry.
“Things weren’t good or going well,” Jensen says tersely. “Not by a long shot, and well, I for one don’t think I’d be better off because you gave me a reason to get out of the life and I needed that, we both did.” His tone is final, and Jared knows that he won’t get another answer if he pushes things.
They’re both broken, Jared thinks, both in pieces, lost in the darkness, waiting for someone to put them back together again. Maybe one day they can help each other become whole again, or maybe one day they’ll fall apart and this will all be a fading memory, a distant dream. A fleeting chance of happiness washed away by the past and all of its regrets.
They’re both broken, but...
...for now, they’re not alone, and sometimes, that’s all that matters