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I Kind of Liked It Your Way

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"Happy birthday, I got you a hooker."

As greetings from Chad go, Jared has heard worst--"Happy Secretary's Day, I totaled your mom's car" in high school comes to mind--but he's still pretty terrified.

"You know I'm gay, right?" he asks, figuring it's as good a place to start as any. If he's lucky, Chad forgot (or remembered and wants an excuse to take the hooker for himself) and he won't have to deal with it at all and can go back to playing Hearthstone.

Which, okay, is a pretty sad way to spend his twenty-first birthday, but he's broke and it's not like he's never been drunk before. Why couldn't Chad have just put this money toward alcohol? That would have been great. He could be playing drunk Hearthstone right now instead.

"Dude," says Chad, like he's deeply wounded. "I know you're gay. It's a dude hooker."

"There are dude hookers?"

"See, this is why you're still a virgin, asswipe. You don't even know about gay hookers! There are hookers for everything. You want a hooker who dresses up like motherfucking Tony the Tiger? You get on Craigslist and let your freak flag fly. Dude hookers are normal."

"I didn't mean--" Jared sighs and rubs his face. "I thought if they were dudes you didn't call them hookers. Like, there was another name or something. Never mind."

"It's a hooker," Chad says patiently. You get to call him whatever you want. That's why you get a hooker. Anyway, he'll be here in like fifteen, so mazel tov."

Jared chokes on nothing. "He's coming here? You hired someone to come to my room and have sex with me in fifteen minutes and you didn't even tell me?"

"Yeah," says Chad, unconcerned, as Jared scrambles to tidy up his mess of a room. "Dude, again, hooker. He doesn't care if he sees your dirty underwear. Hell, maybe he's into that. I dunno. You don't have to impress him."

"In what world is it a good idea for you to get me a hooker to come to my dorm room? Isn't it illegal?"

"I already paid him, so it's not like you're paying him here. I have hookers in my room all the time."

Jared stops shoving clothes under his bed to gape at Chad. "You have a roommate!"

Chad shrugs. "Yeah, but he has girls over to have sex too. Man, this one time--"

Jared realizes he absolutely does not, in any universe, want to know how this sentence ends. "Okay, yeah, if some random hooker you found is coming over, you need to leave so I can--"

"Get laid."

"Deal with it."

"With your dick!" says Chad. "You could at least thank me, cockweed."

"Yeah," says Jared. "Thanks. Next time, just get me booze, okay? The good shit."

"Booze isn't going to stamp your v-card!"

"Thanks, Chad." He shoves him out of the room and locks his door, just to be on the safe side. Maybe he can just turn off the light and pretend he's not home. Chad already paid, after all, so it's not like the poor hooker is going to be out a night's pay if he doesn't fuck Jared. Of course, Chad will want to know how it went, and Jared isn't that confident about his ability to BS sleeping with a hooker. He's seen a lot of porn, but the farthest he's ever gotten with real sex is making out with Milo Ventimiglia during their senior prom, and that ended when their dates found them and everything got weird and ugly.

(Milo's girlfriend was furious; Jared's friend Kristen wanted to watch.)

And, well, knowing Chad, he probably got a really freaky hooker, one who's into the really kinky shit. Or he probably told the hooker Jared likes being tied up and covered in whipped cream or something. Or he gave the hooker a secret password to tell Jared, so he could verify that Jared really got it done. Chad will probably have some kind of fail safe to ensure that Jared did not attempt to weasel out of this.

In a lot of ways, Chad is a great friend. He's loyal and dedicated and very invested in Jared's well-being. If he had any actual understanding of what was good for Jared, he would really be just about perfect. Instead, he's, well--Chad.

Jared has his room tidied up enough that he won't be embarrassed to have another person see it when he hears the knock on his door. He even changed out of his old Magic: the Gathering t-shirt and into something that looks like a non-dork might wear it. He's not saying he looks good or anything, but he at least vaguely resembles an adult human.

Who lives in a college dorm and hires hookers.

God, he's going to murder Chad.

He wipes his gross, sweaty palms on his jeans and opens the door.

"Hi," says the guy at the door, presumably the hooker. "You must be Jared."

Jared hadn't put that much thought into what the hooker would look like; given he's only known about the hooker for fifteen minutes, he didn't really have a chance. But Chad dragged him to a strip club once and he sort of figured a male hooker would be a lot like the strippers he saw--pretty average-looking, dressed in really cheap-looking clothes, and kind of bored and annoyed with the clientele. He's pretty sure that's how he'd be if he was a hooker.

Instead the guy is, well, really hot. He's wearing a soft-looking gray t-shirt, worn-in jeans, and glasses. He's a few years older than Jared, probably, but not so much that he looks out of place. Maybe a grad student. An insanely hot grad student. He could star in grad student porn. He has green eyes and freckles. Jared would probably be terrified to ever speak to him if they ran into each other under regular circumstances; knowing he's a hired hooker isn't really much of an improvement.

"Uh," he manages, licking his lips. "Yeah, I'm Jared. You're, um--come on in?" It's not like Chad gave him the guy's name. Chad probably thought it was just Hooker.

"Thanks," says the guy, sliding past Jared into the room. He smells crisp and clean, like laundry soap and fall air. "I'm Jensen," he adds, going over to sit on Jared's bed. Jared closes the door and locks it again, leaning back against it like it's going to save him from this situation.

"Nice to meet you," he says. He clears his throat. "I, uh--my friend Chad did this. For my birthday. He didn't tell me about it first. So, um--sorry."

Jensen smiles, and Jared's heart flips over. "Well, happy birthday. Are you gay, or is this one of those gross, homophobic birthday surprises?"

That makes him laugh. "No, I'm gay. I think he thought he was helping."

"But you don't think so?" asks Jensen, leaning back and crossing his legs at the ankles. His shirt rides up a little, and Jared's mouth goes dry.

"I never thought about it."

Jensen grins broadly. "Well, come over here and relax, okay? I'm here for the rest of the night, it's going to be awkward if you're just standing by the door the whole time." His grin softens into a kind smile. "I'm here to make sure you have a nice birthday, not scare the shit out of you."

"I'm not scared," Jared grumbles, but he obeys and goes over to sit next to Jensen on the bed. He doesn't really have much by way of other furniture, which he's never regretted until right now. Having the hot hooker on his bed is just asking for trouble.

"So, are you taking summer classes or working on campus or what?" asks Jensen.

The question catches him off guard. "Working. I'm doing summer tech support for the IT department. Installing computers for new faculty members, stuff like that. It's pretty dead, I mostly just play Hearthstone." He flushes, realizing what he's said. Jensen is probably not a Hearthstone guy.

"That's the online card game, right?" he asks, though, and Jared feels a little better.

"Yeah. It's dumb, but--at least I don't have a bunch of cards to deal with, I started running out of places to put them." He groans and flops back on the bed. "Oh god, kill me now."

Jensen laughs softly. It's a nice sound. "Dude, calm down. I don't even know what you're stressing out about."

"This is why I'm, like, perpetually single and scare guys off. Because I spend all my time playing video games and CCGs and not, you know. Being a normal person. Doing sports. Or whatever."

"Okay, first, liking things is cool," says Jensen. "I promise. Being passionate about things is awesome, stop worrying about what the things are. Second, tons of normal people like video games and--okay, I don't know what a CCG is, but it's probably fine."

"Collectible card game," Jared says, trying to reign in his blush. "Sorry, I just--man, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing," he admits. "I was really not prepared for this at all."

"That's fine," says Jensen. "You really don't have to make a good impression on me."

"I always want to make a good impression on everyone."

He feels Jensen reach over and ruffle his hair. "Okay, well, you are making a good impression on me. I promise. Now, that looks like a Wii U. Do you have Mario Kart?"


"Great, let's go."

So Jared gets the Wii started and he and Jensen play a few rounds of Mario Kart. Jensen, as it turns out, is actually kind of a shark, which Jared knows shouldn't surprise him. Tons of people play video games. It's not like being a hooker means Jensen never does anything fun. It's a job. The guy must have hobbies and a social life like everyone else. Plenty of hot people are into Mario Kart. Probably.

After their third game, Jensen yawns and stretches. "Do you have beer or anything?"

"Uh, nothing good," Jared says, trying not to look at Jensen's stomach when his shirt rides up again. It's a problem. "Just some cheap shit Chad bought me. He said if I wanted the good stuff myself I could hurry up and turn twenty-one."

"He sounds like a really good friend," Jensen observes dryly, and Jared grins and gives him a Natty Light. Jensen makes a face. "Jesus Christ, you weren't kidding. God, I'm glad I'm out of college."

"You went to college?" Jared asks, and then turns bright red. "Uh, fuck, I didn't mean."

Jensen's smile is a little twisted. "Yeah, I went to college. I'm saving up for law school right now, actually."


"I have a full-time job during the week," he says. "But--my parents disowned me when I was sixteen. The whole gay in Texas thing, not really a great scene. I had a few really bad years, but one of my buddies finally tracked me down, helped me get back on my feet. Doing this--" he gestures to the room, like hanging out, drinking nasty beer and playing video games with a dorky virgin is an accurate summary of his history as a prostitute. "Well, I started doing it so I could eat, but once I could afford to be a little pickier, I figured out I didn't mind doing it. The money's pretty good, and--" he rubs the back of his neck. "I had some pretty bad self-loathing for a while. Meeting other guys who were all over the spectrum of out and proud actually helped a lot."

"Oh," says Jared again. He clears his throat, feels inadequate. "That's--I can't even imagine. I mean, I can, a little. I'm from San Antonio, I was pretty terrified to come out to my parents. I was always the good kid, you know? Straight A's, home by curfew. Not a lot of friends, but well behaved. I was really scared it was going to go wrong and suddenly my parents would hate me. But it didn't. I've had a really easy time of it." He smiles wryly. "Feel kind of like a chump, complaining just because I'm too nerdy to land a boyfriend."

Jensen laughs. "Sorry, I got pretty maudlin there, huh? Dude, you're fine."

"You are too," Jared says, a little hesitantly. "I don't mind the, uh--back story."

"Thanks," says Jensen. He sits down on Jared's bed, cross-legged. "So, these card games you're into. Got any of those?"

"Uh, depends. Have you ever played any before?"

"Poker, gin rummy, the usual."

"Yeah, those are--different," he says. He worries his lip. "Uh, Hearthstone is just online, all my Magic decks are kind of complicated, not really good for beginners--" He goes over to look through his cards and laughs suddenly. "I've got this one, I've never actually played it before," he says. "One of my buddies swears it's good but no one is willing to try to learn it with me."

"Well, they sound like losers," says Jensen. "Bring it."

"My Little Pony?" Jared offers, holding up the cards. He is not convinced Jensen is really prepared to do this. Yes, he's getting paid to be here, but there are lines for everyone.

"Awesome," Jensen says. "Can we make it into a drinking game?"

"I'm pretty sure you can make anything into a drinking game."

"That's the spirit."


The first game they don't actually drink, because they're too busy figuring out the rules, and Jared feels like you can't really create an optimal drinking game without understanding the mechanics. Jensen gives him a smile in response that makes his stomach flip over. It's really problematic. He's pretty sure you're not supposed to get a crush on your birthday hooker. There's probably a rule.

"Okay," he says, looking at the piece of paper where he was drafting drinking game rules. "Drink every time your opponent scores a victory point," he says. "And maybe something extra if they get three VP in a turn? That covers, like, beating a trouble-maker, scoring a big problem, winning a face-off, so it'll come up kind of often, but it's big enough it seems like we should do something special."

"Remove an article of clothing," Jensen says, and Jared chokes on his beer. Jensen winks. "Just to make it interesting."

"Uh," says Jared. "We're going to hell, right? We're playing strip My Little Pony."

"I dunno what's wrong with you," says Jensen. "I was already going to hell."

He laughs. "Yeah, okay, point." He licks his lips, looking at Jensen. He hasn't ever forgotten why Jensen showed up in the first place, but--well, they really hadn't been talking about getting naked or doing anything sexy. Just hanging out and shooting the shit. It's felt more like making a new friend, or maybe a really stellar first date, and Jared isn't sure how he's going to function if it tips over toward having sex. But Jensen probably feels bad about not giving him his money's worth or something. "If you want, sure," he says.

"I think my deck's better than yours," Jensen says, starting to shuffle. "I feel good about this."

As it turns out, Jensen's deck is definitely better than Jared's; by the end of their first game, Jared has drunk half his beer and lost both his socks and his belt.

"Okay, amendment," says Jensen. "If I win a double face-off, you have to remove real clothing. None of this socks and belt shit."

"I'm out of socks and belts," Jared says. "What if I win a double face-off?"

"If you'd ever scored three points I was just going to take off my shirt, because I'm not a wuss," Jensen says, grinning. "But you're playing Applejack, so sucks to be you."

Jared gets to go first in the next game and does better than before--he gets three points, which is a major improvement, but then Jensen takes off his shirt. Jared's not convinced that'ts the only reason he loses the game, his deck really is shit, but Jensen hanging out all shirtless and ripped certainly doesn't help. When Jared gets rid of his own shirt, it certainly doesn't seem to distract Jensen from his total domination. Life really isn't fair.

Jensen gathers up his deck and starts shuffling, not looking at Jared. "So, where do you see this going?" he asks.

"Where do I see what going?"

Jensen's eyes flick up to him before they go back to the deck. "You've got me for the rest of the night. What did you want to do with it?"

Jared gulps. "Oh, uh--" He rubs the back of his neck. "I've never really, um--never--"

"It's cool," Jensen says, saving him from tripping over his own tongue. "That's really not a big deal. It's just about what you want to do." He smiles. "I'm having fun, whatever you want is cool with me."

Jared opens and shuts his mouth. "Do you always say that?" he asks, and regrets it immediately. "Sorry, I--"

Jensen puts his hand over Jared's mouth. "You don't have to apologize all the time. I get this is new and weird for you. You're fine. You haven't offended me yet." He takes his hand back. "I don't usually say that, because it doesn't usually come up. Most people who hire me already know what they want, and we're on the same page."

"Oh, right," says Jared. He smiles. "Sorry, I blame Chad. He doesn't really understand what helping is. But I'd--" he starts, and then stops, not really able to find the words to answer Jensen. Instead, he licks his lips and leans in. Jensen catches his cheek on the way, tilts his head up and makes sure the angle is right for the kiss. And it's--well, it's a hell of a lot better than making out with Milo, right from the start. Jensen kisses slow and easy, not quite taking control from Jared, just guiding him, making sure they stay on the right track. Jared whimpers a little, pulling Jensen closer, and he hears an odd crunch.

Jensen pulls back, laughing. "Maybe clear off the bed first," he says, eyes twinkling, amusement plain in his voice.

"Yeah," Jared agrees, grinning. He gets to make out with Jensen. It shouldn't really be that big a deal--Chad paid Jensen to do a lot more than just make out with him--but it still feels like a victory somehow.

They get the cards cleaned up and put away and then it's awkward again, just the two of them sitting on the bed, Jared not quite sure what to do with his hands. He clears his throat and Jensen just says, "Jesus," and kisses him hard, pushing him back into his pillows. Jared squeaks a little, but he adjusts quickly, pulling Jensen in, and then it's long, slow kisses, Jensen pressed up against him. He slides his hands up Jensen's bare back, hesitant, but Jensen presses closer and that's all the encouragement Jared needs.

He freezes when Jensen's hand finds his fly. "Um," he says, vaguely. Jensen's lips are red from kissing and it's distracting.

"We don't have to," Jensen says. "But I want to."

Jared blinks a few times, trying to process that. "Oh," he finally says.

Jensen presses his lips to the side of Jared's mouth. "I don't always say that either," he says.

"Oh," Jared says again. He shifts a little. "What did you want to do?"

Jensen smirks and palms Jared through his jeans, which is--awesome. "I wanted to suck your dick."

"That would work for me."

Jensen laughs. "You're adorable," he says, and kisses Jared again. Jared feels like adorable isn't a word he should be excited about being called, not now that he's over age ten, but considering Jensen combined it with getting him out of his jeans and he's actually going to have another person's hand on his dick, he thinks it's probably a good thing. He's certainly not going to object.

Jensen's hand isn't as large as his is, but it's firm and sure, and feels way, way better than his own ever has. He gasps. "Fuck."

"Dude, we've barely even started," Jensen says, sounding smug. "Don't set your standards so low. If my hand job blows your mind you're not going to be able to fully appreciate all of my other talents."

"I'll probably die before we get there," Jared says. "Sorry in advance."

"Yeah, that would be really awkward to explain. I didn't mean to kill him, your honor, I'm just that good in bed."

Jared snorts. "Yeah, not sure they're going to buy that one."

"Probably the judge would just want a demonstration," says Jensen. "I think I've seen that porno." He slides down, tugging Jared's boxers off and settling between Jared's legs. Jared's already most of the way to hard, and all Jensen has to do to get him there is lick a long stripe up his dick. He lets his head fall back with a moan, but Jensen doesn't do anything else for a long minute. Jared finally looks back up to see Jensen grinning at him. "It's hotter when you watch me," he explains, and then slides his mouth over the length of Jared's dick.

"Jesus Christ," he says. Jensen is right; watching him is really hot. Jensen makes a noise, which Jared feels through his dick, and guides one of Jared's hands into his hair. Jared lets him, tugs and moves his head less because he thinks Jensen needs the help and more because it seems to turn Jensen on. Anything he can do to make this hot for Jensen is a win in his book.

Jensen pulls off before Jared actually comes, and Jared lets out a very undignified whine. "I was enjoying that," he protests, glaring.

Jensen smirks. "Yeah, me too," he says. "But I don't know what kind of recovery time you have, and I wanted you to fuck me."

"Oh." He bites his lip. "I guess I don't really know either. Never been tested."

Jensen glances over at the alarm clock next to Jared's bed. "What the hell, we've got time. Let's find out." And then he goes back down on Jared and proceeds to suck his brain out through his dick.

It's a pretty great birthday, all things considered.


Jared wakes up the next morning with someone else's arm over his chest, which is a surprise. He knows it's Jensen, but he hadn't really expected him to still be there come morning, even if he had been there when Jared finally went to sleep. Everything pop culture has taught him about hookers supports the idea that they don't sleep over. Of course, he also didn't think they kissed, and playing strip My Little Pony was also not really on the table. So either pop culture is really wrong about hookers, or Jensen is weird, or both.

Either way, Jared's glad that he stayed.

He can't really get up without dislodging Jensen, so he just tries to grab his phone off his bedside table to check his email. He can see he has a bunch of texts from Chad, at least one of which is just, duck size?????, so that's something to be excited about for later. But just grabbing the phone is enough to wake Jensen up, apparently, because he hears Jensen make a grumpy noise and feels him stirring.

"Sorry," Jared soothes. "Go back to sleep."

That's apparently the wrong thing to say, because Jensen stiffens and jerks his head up, looking at Jared in wide-eyed confusion.

"Sorry," he says again. "I didn't mean to wake you. It's pretty early, you can seriously go back to sleep if you want, I don't mind."

"Jared?" asks Jensen, sounding muzzy and confused. He looks around. "Jesus. Did I fall asleep on you?"

"I think with me, but, yeah, pretty much."

Jensen rubs his face. "Jesus," he says again. "I'm sorry, I don't usually do that."

"It's okay. Sorry it's so cramped. I got the bed extender thing, but I'm pretty big, so it's still kind of a tight fit in dorm beds," he babbles uselessly. "I blame genetics. My brother is even taller, if you can believe it. It's okay if you can't, no one else does. I have to show them pictures."

Jensen seems to be regaining some of his composure; he's looking amused at Jared again instead of freaked out. "Why are you so nervous?" he asks, amused. "I'm the one who overstayed his welcome."

"No, you didn't," Jared says. "I don't mind."

Jensen smiles. "Nice of you to say." He glances at Jared's clock again. "Shit. I do actually have things to do today." He looks back at Jared with something that feels like genuine remorse. "Sorry to dash out on you. Uh, genuinely. I'm not looking for excuses because I'm embarrassed."

"You sound like me," says Jared, laughing.

Jensen rolls out of bed and finds his clothes, tugging them on quickly. It's a shame; Jared liked the view. "Well, I'm not as smooth in the morning," he says. He leans down and kisses Jared, quick and soft. "Happy birthday."

"Thanks," says Jared automatically, but Jensen is already gone.

Jared stares at the door for a minute, not really sure what just happened. He is definitely not a virgin anymore. It mostly feels like he had a great date with an abrupt ending, but that's not what happened. Jensen was probably just paid until six a.m. or something, and he's annoyed Jared took up time he could have been working. Although Jared kind of assumes there isn't a lot of call for hookers at six a.m. on a Sunday. And Jensen did kiss him goodbye. That's something, right?

He groans, buries his face in his pillow, and calls Gen to see if she'll get brunch with him.

On his way to meet her, he checks his texts from Chad. They're about as horrific as he expected.

he's pretty, right? they told me he was pretty

duck size?????



anyway like did you measure it?

I would measure it

dude how have you not gotten back to me was that like the best two hours of your life?? COME ON YOU OWE ME I AM LIKE GAY SANTA

that's santa for gay dudes

but santa still loves the ladies

call me assface

There's really only one possible way to respond to that, so he texts, hi, assface, nice to meet you and then turns off his phone.

Gen is already waiting for him. She's wearing giant sunglasses and a sundress, looking like she just stepped off the set of a movie or something. She's also already halfway through a mimosa. She is definitely Jared's favorite person.

"Hey, kiddo, happy birthday," she says, giving him a hug. "What's up? Why do you need emergency brunch? Does it have to do with Chad telling me that I wasn't allowed to go to your place last night? He threatened to bite me. I think he might have been trying to be sexy, but--Chad. It's so hard to tell with Chad."

"Yeah, uh--he got me a prostitute."

"Like, a dude one?" asks Gen. "Or did he forget you were gay?"

"A dude one."

"Oh," says Gen. "Good for Chad?"

"Maybe," says Jared.

"How was it?"

"It was--" he starts, and then stops. He makes a face and settles on, "Weird."


"No! I mean--he was really cool. I was nervous, so we, like, played video games, and some cards, and then we, uh--yeah. Did stuff. And it was awesome. And I guess he didn't mean to crash but he did and then this morning was kind of awkward. I think he felt bad and I tried to tell him it wasn't a big deal, but he had stuff to do and ran off. But he kissed me first."

"Oh, Jare," says Gen, and the tone of her voice pretty much makes him want to die.

"I know," he says. "But--what was Chad thinking? I'm not him! I'm not going to just sleep with some guy I don't even know! But he was--he seemed really nice. And we were having fun. And he was so hot, Gen, oh my god. But also, you know. Prostitute. So."

"Yeah," says Gen.

"So, yeah," says Jared, running his hand through his hair. "That was my birthday. And that's why I need emergency brunch."

"Maybe Chad has his number," she offers.

"What would I even say?" Jared asks. "He was working. I don't know how much he cost. It's not like I can keep paying for a guy to come over and play My Little Pony and sleep with me. Even if it's really cheap, that's going to add up eventually."

"You played My Little Pony with your hooker?"

"I played strip My Little Pony with my hooker." He thunks his head down on the table with a sigh. "I should probably get a mimosa, right?"

"You should probably get two."


Chad shows up the next day.

"You don't actually want details about the gay sex I had, do you?" Jared asks, before he can say anything.

Chad whoops and runs over to put Jared in a headlock and give him a noogie. "Dude, you had gay sex! I thought you were gonna wuss out!"

Jared blushes; he hadn't really meant to give that much away, but he didn't want Chad to start talking either. "Shut up," he mutters.

"Dude, I was really worried!" Chad continues, ignoring him. Chad never obeys orders to shut up. "I could only afford two hours and I was like, JT's gonna spend at least an hour of that talking about fucking World of Warcraft, probably won't have time to get it in. But you made it!"

Jared blinks and looks up at Chad. "Two hours?"

"Yeah. Dude, hookers are expensive! Don't tell me he fucking short-changed you."

"No," says Jared slowly. "He didn't short-change me."

Chad's eyes widen. "Holy shit, you got bonus time! Dude, up top! You're a fucking god! You got free sex from a hooker!"

"I'm not going to high-five you," Jared mutters, rubbing his face. He's pretty sure Jensen said they had the whole night. More than once, even. And it's not Jared's fault if he fucked up the math. "Do you have his number?"

"Not, like, direct," says Chad. "But I got his agency. You want to get him for another night? Dude, don't get greedy. Or at least switch it up a little. There are tons of hookers in the sea!"

"I want to offer to pay him for the rest of the night," says Jared. "He probably lost sales because he was hanging out with me."

"Dude! Why would you want to pay him? It's bonus hooker!"

"It's his job, Chad," Jared says, glaring. "It's dishonest. He deserves to be paid for the whole night."

"The whole night?" asks Chad.

"He slept over," Jared mutters.

"Dude!" says Chad, again. "You totally win at hookers. And there is no way you can afford that." He gives Jared a surprisingly shrewd look. "If he wanted you to pay him, he would have asked. He knows how much he got paid."

It's a surprisingly good point, especially for Chad. "I still feel bad."

"You won hookers," Chad says. "Stop stressing out. You're like a god, man! Now go and turn this into, you know. Getting laid for free. I believe in you."

"That makes one of us," Jared mutters. But he does feel a little better.


Thursday is sealed deck at Jared's local game store, which is the only way he really plays Magic anymore. He sells any valuable cards he gets and just gives the rest to newbies, mostly to keep from clogging up his room with more commons and uncommons that he already has. It's nice to have a social activity, too. There's always the dream that someday a hot, gay guy will show up and decide he wants to date Jared, too. That's less exciting in a post-Jensen world, though, because Jensen was hot and gay and willing to play strip My Little Pony, which Jared can't help thinking is going to be a high bar for future nerds.

He's tried reminding himself that Jensen was also a hooker Chad paid to have sex with him, but it's not really helping. Jared hates his fucking brain.

"Hey, Aldis," he says, looking away from the boosters of pony cards and refocusing on the guy behind the counter. He's on a first-name basis with everyone on staff. "How's the sealed crowd?"

"Pretty decent," says Aldis. "Even got a couple newbies, so be nice, okay? I want more regulars. And one of them is a seriously hot girl. I know you're not into it, but even you would be into it. Redheads, man."

"They feel more welcome if you don't objectify them," Jared says, laughing.

"Hey, I am a perfect gentleman!" Aldis protests. "I was very welcoming. I'm playing a long game anyway, because she was with a seriously hot guy. Not sure if they were dating, so scope it out for me. Maybe seduce him if you can. Everyone wins."

Jared snorts. "I don't think I'm the guy for that. I'm not very seductive."

"Don't sell yourself short!" says Aldis. "I mean, you've never turned your charms on me, but I always figured you had them. You look charming."

"Thanks," says Jared dryly. "I want into the sealed. And throw in a couple boosters of My Little Pony." Aldis's eyebrows shoot up. "Yeah, yeah, shut up. It's fun, okay?"

"Whatever you say, man. That hot guy bought some too, so you guys can bond over ponies. Just don't tell me about it, okay? I've been on the internet. I know what dudes who are into that show are into."

"I'm not into that show, so please never give me more information on this topic," says Jared. "Like, ever."

"How are you going to seduce him if you don't know what he's into?"

"I'm sure I'll figure something out," Jared says, giving Aldis a wave and heading back to the tournament area.

And then he drops his My Little Pony booster packs, because Jensen is sitting back there, with a hot redhead. He's wearing a shirt and tie, but he's got the top button undone and the tie is loose, which just makes Jared imagine him getting dressed hastily after a quickie. But Jensen said he had a real job, didn't he? So he's probably just here after work. To play Magic.

Jared wants to run away a little. but the sound of him dropping his packs got everyone's attention, and Jensen is definitely staring at him. Which is probably fair, given Jared was staring at him first, but there's no way to gracefully extricate himself from the situation. His hooker is definitely here to play sealed, and he has to pick up his My Little Pony cards, which Jensen will probably also notice, and maybe read into.

But Aldis said Jensen also bought them, assuming Jensen's hot redhead is also Aldis's hot redhead. Which has got to be the case, because she's the only woman in the room, and the only redhead. He has to admit, Aldis is right. He's not into it, but he's a little into it. In the theoretical world where he's into women.

Jared picks up his cards and when he glances back at Jensen, said hot redhead is elbowing him. Jensen ducks his head, flushing, and Jared wonders what the correct move here is. But then Jensen looks back up and gives him a little wave, which means there's only one possible choice; he goes over and sits down across from the two of them.

"Hi," he says, running his hand through his hair. "Haven't seen you guys in here before."

"Yeah, I, uh," says Jensen, looking down at the table. He has six booster packs of My Little Pony, and the Rainbow Dash starter deck he was playing at Jared's. "I called and asked what a good event would be if you were pretty new but knew how to play."

"We learned how to play on Monday," the redhead puts in, and Jensen glares at her. "So we're going to suck."

"No, um, that's cool," Jared says. "This is a pretty good event for newbies. The prizes are just store credit so there are plenty of good players, but everyone's pretty laid back about it." He glances at the redhead and offers his hand. "I'm Jared."

"Oh, yeah, I got that," she says, beaming. "Danneel."

"I am going to murder you," Jensen tells her.

"He's been saying that for years," says Danneel brightly. "Look, Jensen, he bought the pony cards too."

"It was pretty fun," Jared offers, giving Jensen a shy smile.

Jensen smiles back, small and surprisingly shy. "Yeah, it was." He looks away again, over at the door. "So, uh, do these things usually start on time?"

"Yeah," says Jared, feeling a little off balance. "Shouldn't take too long. And I can help you guys with your decks, if you need, um, advice or whatever."

Danneel looks between them, huffs, and says, "I'm going to go browse the comic books," she says. "Jensen, you wanted this to happen, so stop being a failure, okay?"

"Yes, Mom," Jensen shoots back, and gives Jared another shy smile. "She's right, I was hoping you were going to come to this. I didn't want to have to try to make a deck for the constructed tournament. And I didn't see anything for My Little Pony on the schedule."

Jared opens and closes his mouth a few times. "You were looking for me?" he finally manages.

"I, uh--" says Jensen, looking over at Danneel. "I had a lot of fun. The other night. I was hoping you did too."

"I did," he says instantly.

"I know it's kind of--weird." He rubs the back of his neck. "I'm not trying to stalk you or anything. But I was hoping we could be--" he looks at Jared and away again. "Friends," he finishes, like it's not really what he wanted to say.

"Oh," says Jared.

"That's really weird, huh?" asks Jensen, with a self-deprecating laugh. "This seemed like a way better idea when I didn't really think you were going to show up."

And just like that, it feels easy to Jared. Jensen's not some unbelievably smooth, confident guy. He's just as nervous and insecure as everyone else on the planet. Jared reaches over and squeezes his hand. "Do you want to go out for dinner sometime?"

Jensen jerks his head up, surprised. "Dinner?"

"Yeah," says Jared. "On a date," he adds, even though he's pretty sure that was obvious.

"On a date," Jensen repeats. He licks his lips. "Yeah. I'd love to go on a date."

"Cool," says Jared, and squeezes Jensen's hand again, for good measure.

"I'm not sure I've ever actually been on a date," Jensen admits, and Jared stares at him.


Jensen's smile is crooked. "It's kind of hard to date when you're, uh, working on the weekends."

"Oh," says Jared. He'd kind of forgotten about that.

"Yeah. So if you want to, uh, not get dinner with me--"

"No! I just hadn't thought of it like that. I still want to get dinner with you." He grins. "Also, unrelated, is your friend Danneel single?"

"Uh, did you want her to get dinner with us?" Jensen asks, sounding dubious.

"I said unrelated. The cashier wants to hit on her."

Jensen snorts. "Oh, well, in that case. Yes, she is single. And she really does like comic books. She's not sure about Magic yet, but I'm sure with some loving support and guidance--"

Jared laughs. "Even better."


They get dinner the next Tuesday. Gen makes sure Jared looks presentable; Chad gives him a box of condoms so giant that Jared is honestly not sure how any human being could use that many. Maybe if he did nothing but have sex for a straight year, and he wore two condoms at a time, he'd get through it, but he's honestly not sure. It's really a lot of condoms. But Chad means well. Probably. It's nice to have a goal to work toward.

Jensen's waiting at the restaurant when he arrives. He's wearing what Jared assumes are work clothes again; he's taken off his tie and undone his top button, and the semi-casual suit really is a good look on him. Jared doesn't feel under-dressed, exactly, but he does feel young. He's just some college kid wearing an ill-fitting shirt and slacks, and Jensen is out in the real world, working two jobs to put himself through law school.

Jensen gives him a kiss when he sees him, though, and that's pretty great.

"So, where do you work?" he asks. "When it's not the weekend, I mean."

"I'm a clerk at a law firm," says Jensen, and smiles when Jared goggles at him. "I know, I know."

"Isn't your, uh, part-time job kind of--" he makes a hand gesture that he hopes conveys illegal.

"Kind of," Jensen agrees. He shrugs. "There are plenty of lawyers who have shady pasts. And I'm, uh. I'm thinking of quitting. Pretty soon. The part-time job," he adds quickly. "Not the clerk job."

"Really?" Jared asks.

"The extra money is nice, but--" he looks away. "Well, I don't really need it. My firm will help out with my tuition if I get into law school, so. I could quit. Free up my weekends."

Jared nods, not sure what to say. Part of him hopes that he's a factor, that Jensen doesn't want to sell himself anymore now that he has a kind of boyfriend. But it's their first date. Jensen's probably been thinking about it for a while. It would be weird if Jared asked.

"Yeah, I can see that," is what he says. "So, why do you want to be a lawyer?"

Jensen gives him an odd smile, but if he has a comment on Jared's behavior, he keeps it to himself. "I had a pretty crappy time for a while, with my parents and everything. I want to be there for other kids like me. My firm specializes in LGBT rights and cases. I want to be able to give something back."

"Oh, wow," says Jared. "That's--really awesome."

Jensen smiles, looking a little embarrassed. "Yeah, that's kind of why I worry less about--my past, I guess. Everyone there knows I've got a personal stake in this stuff, and they know I had kind of a rough time of it. They expect me to be fucked up."

"You don't seem fucked up to me," Jared says, and winces. "Uh, but, obviously, you know best."

Jensen laughs and kicks him lightly under the table. "I'm getting better," he says. "You don't have to worry about offending me so much, you know."

"I do if I keep saying shit like that."

"Nah, it's nice," says Jensen. "I know where I stand with you. You don't tiptoe around."

"My mom always said my feet were too big for me to tiptoe around anything."

Jensen laughs again. "Sounds about right. But seriously. I like it."

"Good," says Jared, and blushes when Jensen laughs.

"And I am a little fucked up," Jensen admits. "I hide it pretty well, most of the time. And I'm working through it."

Jared smiles, reaches out to squeeze Jensen's hand again. "Well, you look like you're doing great from here."

"Thanks. That actually means a lot."

It's a nice date, all things considered. Jared's not sure they do it right, since neither of them has actually dated before, but he has trouble caring too much. As long as they have fun, it's a good date, right? That seems like how it should work. They talk about video games (Jensen is apparently really into the entire Civilization series, which is more adorable than Jared would have expected) and Jared's job and classes, and Jensen's coworkers. They don't talk much about Jensen's other job, but Jared doesn't avoid it either, and he can see Jensen's gratitude every time he talks about it like it's not a big deal.

Jared might be a little in love already, but he tries not to think about that.

"So, I had fun," Jensen says, lingering outside the restaurant after they're done.

"Me too."

"I think we should probably do this again."

Jared laughs. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. I feel like people might be onto something with this whole dating thing."

Jared laughs and leans down to kiss him. "Me too."


"It's great!" says Jared to Gen at brunch a couple weeks later. Regular brunch, not emergency brunch. It's pretty much the same thing, except they planned it farther in advance, and they drink for fun instead of from necessity. "He's great. I really like him. It's awesome."

"I feel like there's a but coming," says Gen dryly.

Jared sighs. "I would really like to be getting laid."

"Ah," says Gen. "Yeah, I'd think that would be one upside of dating a hooker. Or maybe not. Maybe it's like, no, honey, I get enough of that at the office. I just want to sit at home and not get pounded for once."

"I don't know what it is," Jared says. He sighs. "It's not actually that weird, right? We've had dinner three times and he's been coming to the sealed, but I feel like playing in the same Magic tournament doesn't really count as a date."

"It might for you. Your life is actually that sad."

"Okay, point, but still. We've only been dating for two weeks, it's not actually weird that we haven't had sex yet. But I guess since we'd already had sex, I kind of figured we would again?" He groans. "I dunno. I feel dumb for worrying about it. I'm happy, it'll happen when it happens, right?"

"I'm not an expert or anything, but have you considered having a conversation like this with your boyfriend?" she asks. "I feel like he's much more of an authority on this than I am. He might have more insight. My psychic powers are woefully underdeveloped."

"I don't want him to think I'm, like. Pressuring him or whatever. Maybe it is a hooker thing. Maybe he's embarrassed."

"Didn't you tell me one of the things he liked about you was that you were honest and just said what you were thinking?"

"Yes," says Jared. "But I still feel bad every time I do it. I'm working on it."

Gen smiles and ruffles his hair. "He seems to like you. And you seem to like him. And you guys have fun together and he's honest with you, right?"

"As far as I know, that is all true." He gives Gen a smile. "I guess I'm just--I'm happy. I feel like kind of a dick being like, I'm having a great time, I really love spending time with you, but have you considered that you're not naked enough?"

"Well, what if he's feeling the same way? One of you needs to say something about it eventually. Sex is one of those things people expect to be having."

"Yeah, but--I wouldn't expect it this soon if we hadn't, uh. Already done it. But we only did it because Chad was paying him, so--you know."

"When are you seeing him next?"

"Uh, after this, actually. He's going to come over to play video games."

Gen snorts. "Yeah, stop worrying, you're fine. Come over to play video games is definitely code for sex. Everyone knows that."

"Who has ever used that as code for sex?"

"Um, me? All the time. Matt knows if I tell him I'm coming over for video games, he is going to get laid."

"I use it to mean playing video games," Jared mutters. "I wanted to play Smash Brothers."

"Would you rather play Smash Brothers or get laid?"

Jared considers. "He's coming over for a while, do I really have to pick just one?"

Gen rolls her eyes. "This is why you had to get a hooker from Chad to get laid."

"Yeah, but I'm dating him now," Jared says. "Chad thinks I'm some kind of god. He's been asking me for guidance."

"Oh god."

"Yeah, it was pretty bad. He wanted me to teach him my ways. I reminded him my ways were gay and that scared him off, but I doubt it'll last."

Gen laughs. "Only you, Padalecki."

"I know, right?" His phone buzzes in his pocket and he pulls it out, glancing down at the display. It's his get home alarm, and he smiles. "I need to head out to meet Jensen," he tells her. "But I'll call you tonight?"

"You better," she says. "Have fun playing video games," she adds, making ridiculous air quotes.

Jared just rolls his eyes.

Still, he can't actually forget what Gen said. Maybe Jensen is coming over to get laid. He'd be okay with that. More than okay with it, really. Just in case, he tidies up a little, makes sure his sheets don't smell, and grabs a few of the metric ton of condoms from Chad, just so he's got them. Always be prepared, right?

God, he's pathetic.

Jensen shows up right on time with a bottle of champagne. Jared blinks as he comes in. "What's the occasion?" he asks.

Jensen grins. "Had my last client last night."

"Your last--oh," he says. He tries not to think about Jensen having sex with some other guy last night; it stings a little, but it was the last one. And it was Jensen's job. It's not like he didn't know. "Congratulations?"

"Thanks," says Jensen, toeing off his shoes. He opens the champagne and swigs right from the bottle, then hands it over to Jared. Jared takes a gulp too, but he can't help eyeing Jensen. Jensen deflates a little, looking sheepish. "I'm acting weird, right?"

"Not, like, super weird," says Jared. "But. Kind of."

"Sorry. It's pretty--it's been overwhelming."

Jared sits down on the bed and pulls Jensen with him, against his side. He's always been best at physical kinds of comfort. "So tell me. That's what I'm here for."

Jensen leans against him. "I told you I don't really date."


"I was pretty fucked up about the whole--well, everything. After my parents disowned me. I was raised religious and already felt pretty shitty about all the sexuality stuff, and then I lost my family. When some guy offered me some cash to suck his dick when I was homeless, I figured--maybe it'd cure me, you know? I'd never actually sucked a dick before, maybe I'd try it and I'd hate it, and I could go back to my parents and tell them it was a fluke or whatever."

"Jesus," says Jared, tugging him closer. He winces. "Should I not, like--say Jesus? Is that weird?"

Jensen laughs and squeezes him. "You're the best, Jared, seriously. It's fine." He closes his eyes. "Anyway, I just--it was a lot easier to just keep doing the whole, uh, hooker thing. Even once I was back on my feet. It felt like maybe I could quit or whatever. I was getting something out of it other than just sex, I was making money, so it wasn't like I really wanted to." He makes a face. "Obviously I did, in general, but making it a work thing made it--easier to deal with, I guess. And there were guys who hired me I really didn't want to have sex with, and none I really, uh." He lets out a breath. "Turns out there isn't a lot of overlap between guys who hire hookers and guys who are my type. So I could--I could get laid and scratch the itch for companionship, but I never really had to worry about it turning into anything. I would't even see the same client more than once." He smiles a little. "It drove Danneel nuts. She was so worried about me. She was convinced it was part of a destructive cycle. I'm not sure she was right, but--it wasn't healthy. She was probably right about that. And then--I met you."

Jared looks at him sharply. "Me?"

"Yeah. You opened that door and I was just a goner, you know?"

He didn't know. He'd had no idea.

Jensen doesn't make him reply, though. Jared gets the impression he kind of needs to plow through this one. "I figured I'd just sleep with you, but then I woke up in your bed, and it was awesome, and I couldn't stop thinking about you. And it was suddenly really obvious why people have relationships instead of just, you know. Being hookers." Jared can't help snorting, and Jensen grins. "Yeah, I know. Who knew, right?"

"Hey, I can't talk," Jared says. "I didn't have a relationship either, and I wasn't a hooker. I was just missing out on everything."

Jensen laughs. "Yeah, yeah."

"So, that's why you decided to stop doing the whole--" Jared waves his hand. "Hooker thing?"

Jensen shrugs, a little awkwardly. "It turns out it's harder to pretend to be into random dudes when there's an actual guy I'd rather be having sex with."

"Oh," says Jared, pleased. "I guess that could be an issue, yeah."

Jensen gives him a funny look and then snorts, shaking his head. "Anyway, yeah. Growth! I'm no longer dealing with my homophobic upbringing by having sex for money. So that's a positive. It's like I'm becoming an adult or something."

Jared tugs Jensen into his lap and hugs him. "That's great. I mean it. It sucks that you were going through that, but I'm glad it's getting better for you."

Jensen snorts again. "Jesus, you really are the nicest guy on the planet, aren't you?"

"Well, I haven't met everyone--" Jared says, and Jensen shoves him lightly, and then harder, all the way back onto the bed for a long kiss. "Oh my god, is video games really code for sex?" he asks, when they come up for air again. "I can't believe Gen was right."

"I wasn't sure it was code for sex. I wanted to make sure I was really done with the other stuff first."

"Oh," says Jared. "You didn't have to do that."

"I did. For me, even if you didn't care."

"I kind of cared," Jared admits. "But I would have rather been having sex. Even if I wasn't the only one."

Jensen laughs and kisses him again. "Well, sorry I kept you waiting."

"It's really, really okay," Jared assures him, sliding his hands up under Jensen's shirt and tugging it off. "We're having sex now, right?"

"Yeah," says Jensen. "Lots of sex. And then Smash Brothers after."

Jared grins. "You're the best boyfriend in the universe."

"If you haven't met everyone on the planet, I'm pretty sure you haven't date everyone in the universe," Jensen teases.

"Nope, just you," says Jared, and he's rewarded with Jensen's blinding grin.


"I can't believe I let you talk me into running this," says Aldis.

"You begged me to come up with an event you could run that Danneel would come to," Jared says. "Jared, please, I'll do anything. That's an exact quote."

"Yeah, but, man, come on. Pony tournament? Who knows who's coming to this! Have you been on the internet yet? It is a scary place."

"I go to the non-scary parts. Also, it's a fun game. Have you even tried it?"

"You sound like a drug dealer. Oh, it's fun, come on, just give it a try."

"Everyone who's involved in CCGs sounds like they're on drugs."

"Cardboard crack," Jensen interjects. He's reviewing his deck again. It's kind of adorable how dedicated he is. He told Jared that he was probably too far behind to catch up in Magic, so he wanted to get in on the ground floor of ponies. The week he spent reading every thread on Reddit about the game meta was kind of terrifying, but also pretty adorable. He hadn't really believed when Jensen told him being passionate about nerdy things could be a turn-on, but watching Jensen fall into the abyss of collectible card games has really turned him around.

"Yeah, I might be a drug dealer," he tells Aldis. "That's on me."

"Just a little," Jensen agrees. "You don't think anyone's going to have really competitive decks, right? I didn't really buy many of the ultra-rares and I don't want to get sharked."

"I think it's going to be a four-person tournament," says Aldis. "And one of those four is going to be me, playing with an unmodified starter deck, just to get the numbers up."

"But one of them will be Danneel!" Jared says, clapping Aldis on the shoulder. "Come on. She's single. She thinks you're cute."

"She thought I was cute. Now she's going to associate me with cartoon ponies."

"She likes ponies," says Jensen absently. "She probably net-decked something really hardcore. She's going to destroy us all."

Jared kisses the top of his head. "You're adorable. Remember, it's just a game. Friendship is magic."

"Your face is magic," Jensen grumbles.

"I know that was supposed to be a burn, but it was actually very sweet," says Jared. "Thank you."

"Y'all are so cute," says Aldis. "Really. Not at all nauseating. I'm enjoying this. I'm not bitter at all."

"Again, we set up the event you are running and the girl you like is coming to it," says Jared. "You owe us. We're going to be aggressively cute at you as much as we want." He attempts to eskimo kiss Jensen, but Jensen's still reviewing his deck and moving his head too much, so he actually just sticks his nose in Jensen's ear.

"I hate you guys," says Aldis. "I'm going to go try to make this starter deck suck less. Don't have sex back here, okay? I'm the one who has to clean up."

Jared laughs and flops down next to Jensen. "Think he's got a chance with Danneel?"

"Oh, definitely," says Jensen. He glances over and Jared and grins. "You think he'll let us play with the stripping rules? If Danneel does it?"

"Why would you even want to play strip ponies with Aldis?"

"Because it would eventually involve you being naked," says Jensen. "Seeing other people naked is a price I'm willing to pay. I'll make that sacrifice."

"Or you could just wait like three hours until we get back to my dorm. Just a thought."

Jensen clears his throat. "Yeah, uh--no offense, but your dorm bed sucks. I was thinking you could come to my place."

Jared hasn't really made a big deal about not having been to Jensen's place--he doesn't mind, not really. Jensen seems more upset about it than he does, occasionally talking about how it was his private place and how he could keep it separate from stuff he didn't know how to deal with. Jared got it, and he was fine with it, but as it turns out, he's really, really happy to be invited over.

Still, he can't help teasing a little. "I dunno," he says, tapping his chin with one finger. "Do you have a Wii U? Because if you don't--" Jensen elbows him in the ribs, and he falls over laughing. "Sorry, sorry. I'd love to come over to your place."

"You're such a dick," Jensen says, rolling his eyes. "I'm trying to be romantic."

"Yeah, you knew I sucked at that when you met me," Jared says, unrepentant. "But you're stuck with me now, so sucks to be you."

Jensen laughs and kisses him. "Yeah, yeah. It's the fucking worst."