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Title: The Knight's a Lady, and the Damsel's on His Knees
Author: [livejournal.com profile] mya_rofki
Rating: R
Words: 5,500ish
Characters: Sam/Jess
Warnings: Prostitution
Summary: Based on the prompt "Jess discovers that the tall, cute guy she's had her eye on is selling himself to keep up financially while also struggling to excel in class. She somehow convinces him to let her help him out."
Written for the [livejournal.com profile] het_idcrack challenge, then completed a bit too late to actually qualify.
Disclaimer: These are not my characters. I'm not making any money off of this.
Author's Note: A million thanks go to my lovely, amazing beta, [livejournal.com profile] charmedstrange1. Anything that still doesn't work in the story is all down to me, because she is marvelous. Also, without her encouragement I very well might not ever have worked myself up to posting it, so if you like it, you owe her for the pleasure. :)






Jess has always been curious. Today she just came inside to pee, but Sam's door is open and for all the times Mark’s invited her over, she’s never been here when Sam’s door was open. She tiptoes inside.

The first thing she sees is that it's a disaster area. That's good. If it weren't, she'd wonder what was wrong with him. Jess has never trusted anybody without at least one dirty sock lying around somewhere on their bedroom floor. Sam's definitely passed the dirty sock test. Surpassed it even. Also the messy desk test, and the dirty dishes test.

She doesn't know what it is that makes the letter stand out amid all that chaos. Maybe Jess just has an instinct for trouble. At any rate, she spots it on the desk, and then there's really no decision making process. She sees it, and a minute later she's read it. In her defense, it's really short.

Dear Dean, it says. Is it too late for me to change my mind? This isn’t working out like I thought it would. I think I’m going to have to do something really stupid. If you ever found out, you'd kick my ass, but I don’t know what else to do. I’m-

It ends mid line, there’s no signature. He must’ve had to leave it mid-sentence, probably when Mark hollered at him to get his lazy ass out and help with the grilling. Sam’s basically at Mark’s beck and call lately, since he had trouble paying his rent last month.

She tries to remember what Sam’s face looked like as he emerged into the back yard. She can’t, really. She wasn’t paying very close attention. She thought he’d smiled at her and said ‘Hey,’ like always. She was busy at the time, laughing at Mark, who was saying something stupid.

Then Mark sent him out for beer, and a few minutes later Jess came inside to pee, and apparently he'd forgotten to close his door. Jess really wishes he'd remembered to close his door. It’s just going to be killing her until she figures out what he's going to do that's so stupid.

*****

A month later she's no closer to figuring that out, or forgetting about it. In fact, since she's started wondering about Sam, she's had a lot of trouble ignoring things that used to make no difference to her at all: the way he always has a smile for her, the way he slumps down so far in class when someone shorter is sitting behind him, the exact way his hair curls at the nape of his neck, the graceful way his fingers close around pens. The more she studies Sam, the more she wants him, and the more it drives her crazy how little she knows about him.

“Hey, Sam still having trouble with his rent?” she slips in casually as Mark sets his beer on the coffee table and reaches for the remote.

“Keep it down,” Mark answers with a glance at Sam’s closed door. “He’s in there right now. Sleeping, I hope.” He mutters the last sentence low under his breath and she can’t help but raise an eyebrow.

“You hope?” she murmurs with a glance of her own at the door.

“Well, if he’s not sleeping in there then he’s just being creepy as fuck. Disappears in there for hours every day and when I put my ear to the door there’s nothing.”

“You put your ear to his door?” Jess exclaims.

“Fuckin’ right I do, he’s sacrificing squirrels in there I wanna know about it! It’s my apartment!” Mark scowls and turns the TV on with a vicious jab at the power button.

“C’mon, sacrificing squirrels?” she snorts, and keeps her feelings that actually, they share the apartment, to herself.

“Whatever,” Mark scowls harder. He definitely does not have much of a sense of humor about his own problems. It's one of many things she's recently discovered she doesn't like about him. “He goes creeping out every night, skulking like this big fucking freak, all in black... comes back in at ass-o-clock in the morning without any explanation. He never says anything about himself. Friends never call. Parents never call. The only call he’s gotten in the last week was from some professor, left a message. Sounded like he was in danger of flunking, so he’s clearly not in there studying. Plus all that stuff with the rent. If he was sacrificing animals at least I could just kick him out, you know? Fuckin’ asshole.” He shakes his head and glares at a rerun of Full House.

“So he’s still having trouble with the rent, then?” Jess repeats.

“He paid on time this month.” Mark admits grudgingly. “I swear, he gets behind again and I’m kicking him out, I don’t care how scary that motherfucker is.”

Jess wonders if they’re talking about the same Sam. She remembers seeing Sam in class with his shoulders hunched and a bruise high on his cheek, and how she hadn’t felt anything but curiosity and worry for him. Maybe the evidence of violence should have frightened her, but it just... didn't. She hadn't asked him about it, but only because she hadn't wanted to embarrass him.

“You guys have that one class, right?” Mark asks suddenly, breaking her from her thoughts.

“Yeah. Logic.”

“You talk to him in that class?”

“Sometimes,” she shrugs.

“You shouldn’t,” Mark says darkly, and turns back to the TV.

*****

Jess’s parents stopped telling her to be careful of things when she was about 5. They had learned by that early age that no words were more likely to incite her interest in something than telling her to be careful of it. She recognizes by now that it’s not exactly the best trait to have, self-preservation wise, but it has always made her life more interesting.

For example, her friend Stacy had introduced her to Mark at a party, and warned her not to date him because he'd cheated on his last girlfriend. But Mark was hot, and she'd ended up sleeping with him at that party, and then again once or twice a week for the next month. They weren't exactly dating, but people who liked to define things might, maybe, call it that.

She’d quickly realized Stacy was completely right and he was kind of a dick. By then she was kind of integrating herself into his group of friends, plus the sex wasn't half bad, and she'd thought there wasn't any real harm in continuing to sleep with the guy, even if there wasn't any real future in it.

Of course, now that she's developed a little bit of a fascination for his roommate, she's beginning to see the harm. Too late, like always.

It doesn't mean she's going to suddenly start being careful.

*****

Mark’s passed out on the couch, snoring lightly. The apartment door opens and Jess peels her head up off the floor and watches Sam slip in, eyes surveying the room. For a second she thinks there's something wary in his expression. Then he sees her and it’s gone, hidden away behind a friendly smile. He sketches out a brief wave and wanders towards his room. She avidly takes in his too-tight jean and the artful way they hug his perfect ass. He's definitely never worn that pair to class. She would remember them.

She'd remember the jacket he’s wearing too, black leather, kind of ripped and scuffed. The night is warm and it's unzipped to reveal a black cotton shirt underneath, stretched tight across his chest and stomach. Must’ve been some club he was out at. It doesn't look like the usual way he dresses at all, but she's not complaining.

She levers herself up off the floor and trails after him. He’s already closed his bedroom door by the time she gets there, so she taps on it lightly. On the couch Mark snuffles and carries on snoring. She leans in towards the door and listens as hard as she can, but there's no movement. Inside the room Sam is silent.

There’s no warning before the door cracks open. Sam’s face is suddenly inches from hers. She steps back a little and his intense expression lightens.

“Is everything alright?” he asks, eyes open and concerned, and she wonders how Mark can look at this guy and see something dangerous, but then, jealousy can be a powerful motivator. All the girls in their group agree that Mark's roommate is a perfect ten.

“Yeah, sure, I just thought I’d say hey.”

“Oh.” Sam blinks a minute, studies her, then opens the door a tiny bit wider. “Hey.”

“'Sup.” She throws in a casual toss of her chin and he grins, startled. It's a nice grin, playful and bright and not one she's seen on his face before. It looks damn good there, and she starts to tingle a little bit, but she can ignore that for now.

“Are you trying to be gangster or something?” he asks.

“I was born gangster,” Jess shoots back and realizes that she might have reached that punchy stage of tiredness where whatever dumb thing that occurs to her just falls right out of her mouth. It's a stage she enjoys, so why waste it? “Can I come in?” she asks.

“Uh. Yeah. Sure,” he seems reluctant but falls back instantly as she presses forward. “It’s kind of a mess,” he shrugs sheepishly.

“Understatement,” she smirks. It’s probably even messier than it was when she snuck in. Clothes form a mountainous topography over every inch of floor, and his desk is swamped with books, notebooks and handouts. His bed is unmade. There’s a stack of crusted bowls on the nightstand a half a foot high.

It’s pretty gross, but Jess grew up spending summers with her boy cousins and she’s seen worse.

She wades through the piles of clothes to the desk and drops down into the hardbacked chair. It’s the only place to sit in the room, and she’s the guest so she’s sure he would’ve offered it to her eventually. She casually passes her eyes over the surface of the desk. There’s no sign of the letter. She’d pay every dollar in her wallet if she could find out whether he ever finished it and sent it.

She studies the chaos of handwritten assignments and dogeared textbooks before her and suddenly realizes something’s missing.

“You don’t have a computer?”

“Oh. No.” Sam shakes his head, still seeming a little off balance. She bets she’s the first person who’s been in here with him since he moved in.

“So how do you get your papers done?”

“I. Ah. The library? I’m saving up, though.” He wanders over to his bed and starts straightening the
sheets a little before sitting down across from her. The whole bedframe creaks under his weight, and the mattress sags low under his butt like he’s made of solid lead.

“That must suck,” she offers.

“Yeah. Well. It’s not so bad. I’m used to it. I always spent a lot of time in libraries growing up.”

“Oh, me too,” Jess assures him, and is rewarded with a broad smile.

They end up talking til about four in the morning, and then somehow the making out starts. They don't make it past second base, and it's Sam who sets that limit, not Jess. He's the one who stops them, pulling away from her and stroking her hair gently back from her face before pulling the blankets up over them both and punching at his pillow. They fall asleep together on Sam's bed, and it feels like the easiest start to a relationship she's ever had.

*****

Jess wakes up to a gentle shaking.

“Hey, hey Jess,” someone male who is definitely not Mark whispers.

“Whuh?” she asks. She pries her eyes open and sees Sam’s worried face and everything comes back to her. “Sam,” she beams.

“Uh, hi,” he looks momentarily taken aback, and then returns her grin with a small but genuine smile of his own. She smells a faint hint of mint toothpaste and a stronger hint of sweat and cigarette smoke. The toothpaste is new. The rest is how he smelled last night, and probably shouldn't be as alluring as she finds it. The way Sam’s leaning over her she has a distractingly good view of his darkly curling lashes. “Listen, I’m uh, heading out for class. Mark’s asleep in his room, but if you don’t wanna... I mean... I go in and out of my window sometimes...”

“That’s... good to know,” Jess drawls. She blinks at the window a few times, then turns back to Sam.

“What time is it?”

“Uh. 7:45?”

“Ugh. Too early. Come back to bed.” She can admit that the expression she makes could be called a pout, but in her defense she’s still half asleep. Sam flushes.

“I- um. I’d really like to, but unfortunately I gotta get to this class.”

“Failing?” she asks drowsily. She wouldn’t have if she’d realized it was true. Sam’s jaw clenches and she realizes her mistake a second too late. “Go then,” she says quickly, smiling, before he either has to admit it or tries to lie about it. “Don’t be late to class. Go forth and learn!”

“Yeah, okay,” he says, relaxing. “Lock the bedroom door if you leave through the window? But if you don’t wanna, that’s okay too. It’s not- uh- not real important.”

Except clearly it is, or he wouldn’t be asking.

“I’ll use the window, and I’ll lock up,” she promises.

She watches him swing his ratty black backpack onto his back, pop open the window and clamber gracefully out into the sunlight. For a second he’s silhouetted against the sunny light outside, half-in, half-out, halo of messy hair giving the impression of a painting, something beautiful and surreal about the moment. Then he’s outside, sliding the window down behind him. With a small awkward wave through the glass he suddenly disappears, and she rolls out of bed and crawls over to the window, still drowsy and happy and feeling like giving in to every impulse.

He’s running, long legs eating up the concrete so fast that he’s out of her view within five seconds. If she’d taken her time getting to the window she would’ve been convinced he’d disappeared into thin air. There's something about him that makes it seem possible that he could. Something mysterious.

*****

That night she's out with the girls. She's trying to wait until Jenna, who's the worst gossip ever, has decided to call it a night before spilling her guts. She needs some advice on the best way to break things to Mark, before he finds out about Sam and her on his own, and blood is spilled. Unfortunately, Jenna seems to be in a partying mood, and Jess is about to go insane. She needs a break. She lights up as she stumbles out the door. There's a couple making out against the wall next to her and she keeps walking, weaving slightly, until she's reached the mouth of the alley seperating one bar from the next.

There’s darkness in the alley, darkness and moving shapes. Jess has an idea almost instantly about what the men are doing, but she’s drunk and the alley’s dark, and as long as they don't notice her, she decides to finish her cigarette right there. She just lit it, and this is her last pack ever. She's not wasting one just because a couple of guys couldn't wait to get home. She's far enough away from them not to be intruding.

She sees it mostly from the corner of her eye. The one bobs his head forward and back, down on his knees, and the other leans on the wall and groans and arches his hips rhythmically. They don't exchange words. The only communication seems to be the occasional groan and the controlling grip the one standing has on the one kneeling's hair. She's amazed by how long it goes on. If she were blowing someone for that long without a break, her jaw would be killing her.

She doesn’t recognize the one on his knees til the end, when the money changes hands. Funny it took her so long, when he's been on her mind all night.

*****

It’s so strange. Mostly, her idea of prostitution is an unholy cross between Pretty Woman and Law & Order: SVU. She knows that neither is a good basis for understanding reality.

She tries to roll it around in her head. Sam is a prostitute. Not an actor, like Julia Roberts. Sam is a real college student. He goes to Stanford University. And he's a prostitute, too.

She watches him smile and laugh in the Student Union, drinking coffee and obviously working on a group project. When his grin reaches his eyes, it’s easy to ignore the bags under them, unless you’ve seen what she’s seen, of course.

In class he gives an explanation of universal quantification that has the professor nodding and saying ‘Excellent definition. Thank you Sam.’ That professor doesn’t even know her name. Sam's really smart. He's not faking that, even if he is pretending to be someone he's not.

She tells herself it’s really not as big a deal as she’s making it out to be. It’s not like people haven’t been doing this since the beginning of civilization. It’s not the end of the world to know that Sam Winchester is different than she’d thought. She tells herself she should probably just avoid him. She tells herself there's nothing she can do about it, and it's none of her business anyway.

She stops returning Mark's calls, and stops saying 'hi' to Sam in class. He looks sad, but he accepts it. They never talked about their make-out session that night. He probably thinks it's just a reaction from that.

She lasts about a week before she realizes that this just isn't going away. She needs to do something. Not something useless like dwell and dwell and build it up in her mind until she can’t think of anything else.

No, she needs to do the hardest thing, which is take a step back and look at it objectively. Because ultimately, she needs a plan.

*****

She calls her best friend, Liza.

“Woah? Like, seriously he’s a male prostitute? You saw it?”

“Yeah, Liza, I saw it, okay?”

“Okay.” There’s the silence of two girls contemplating how their minds have been blown.

“And he’s a nice guy? You’re sure, I mean, not that he can’t be and do that, but you know...”

“He’s really nice, Liza,” and Jess is a little embarrassed to feel tears pricking at her eyes. Liza is the cryer, not Jess. Except, apparently, when she’s found out the guy she likes is a male prostitute and it's shaken her to her foundations and she can't stop letting it drive her crazy... She lets out a sob and has to clamp her lips shut to stop herself from breaking down completely.

“Okay. I believe you," Liza says quickly, obviously freaked. "You've gotta get him outta that, then. You've gotta get him to stop before something happens, don't you?”

And Jess sees immediately that she's right. She has no idea what to do, still, but at least now she has something to work towards.

*****

This particular drinking game got boring about two spins of the bottle ago, and Jess would've headed off to look for more excitement if she weren't kind of staking out the front door. Finally, she looks up and there he is. It's 3AM and he's just getting in. He stops dead.

It’s his apartment too, but Jess has the sudden certainty that Mark didn’t let him know about the party tonight. He’s eyeing the room and he looks like he was just confronted with a tank of piranas.

His hair is matted down like hands have been in it, twisting it out of shape, and he’s spent all night flattening it clumsily back down with his palms. Jess has a pretty good idea how that happened, and she's suddenly ashamed and angry with herself that she didn't have the guts to do this sooner. She tries to let that shame and anger fuel her determination.

She stands up and calls “Sam!” and he jerks his head around and his eyes lights up. Then his face closes back down again and he sends a shifty glance around the room. Mark is off in some other part of the house, and everybody in the room is toasted, including Jess. Nobody's paying attention. He seems to realize that, because he looks back a her and gives her a smile and a wave, small but genuine.

The problem is, she can’t ever make herself remember quite how fucking attractive he is until they’re in the same room, and her plan goes out the window when he's smiling at her, leaving her tongue-tied. If he were a little bit pathetic: smart but a little bit weedy, or else cute but not too bright, then she could sit him down and have it out with him.

Instead he’s smart and gorgeous, and even though she's almost certain she knows what he just came from doing, his smile is the farthest thing from that grim, sordid world. She can't deal. She tries to picture the conversation in her head, and instead of making her way over to him she ends up veering off to get another drink.

In the kitchen Mark starts hitting on her hard core, and coaxes her into slamming back a shot with him. By the time she pries herself free and escapes back out into the party, Sam’s nowhere to be seen.

She knocks on his door for about a minute before it occurs to her that maybe she should let him know she’s not just another drunken idiot.

“Sam? It’s Jess. Are you in there?” Her words slur a bit, and it occurs to her too late that Mark's shot might not have been the best idea, on top of everything else she's had to drink. But she decides to let the liquor work for her. Right now, being drunk enough to be fearless might be her best asset.

“Please?” she slurs. “I wanna talk to you.”

When she goes to knock the next time she’s knocking on his chest instead of the door, and Jesus. She'd forgotten how good that felt.

“You must work out,” she jokes weakly.

He lets her in, though it looks like his face is saying that maybe he shouldn’t. She hopes nobody else sees her and goes tattling to Mark, but she doesn’t care all that deeply at the moment. Things with Mark are over. She cares about Sam Winchester about ten million times more than she’s ever cared about Mark.

“Everything okay?” Sam asks, closing the door behind her.

“Yep! Everything’s great! But I think there’s something reeeeally alcoholic in the punch.” He smiles a little bit to himself, like he agrees. She focuses on carefully forming the next syllables that comes out of her mouth, so she doesn't sound like her tongue's made of a wet sock. “But enough about me. How are you Sam?"

"I'm fine," Sam says.

"No!" she says sternly. "I mean, how are you really?” She wavers over to his desk, still the same disaster as before, and runs her hand over the place where that letter had been. She takes a deep breath. She’s going for it. “I ask because I was coming out of a bar the other night and saw... you... working. I saw you. In an alley.”

Sam’s face sags. He nods a couple times and swallows hard.

“You told Mark?” he asks, voice tight.

“No.”

“Are you...” he swallows again. “When are you going to?”

“I don’t think I am,” she answers slowly. “I think it’s a bad idea.”

“What makes you say that?” he snorts, with a pitiful attempt at a smirk, like he’s trying to emulate someone much cooler than him.

“He wouldn't understand,” she says earnestly, and feels like a hypocrite when she knows she doesn't understand either. But whatever, she understands more than Mark would at least.

“No. Probably not,” Sam says. His miserable smirk falters and he just looks around his room with a lost expression. “Anyway, you don't have to tell him. I'll go." He drags a trembling hand through his matted hair, then yanks it out with a wince when it gets stuck. "I can be packed in an hour. Maybe two... I have a lot of stuff these days.” The snarl of hair sticks up, makes him look like a child. She wants to hug him.

Let’s be professional about this, she thinks to herself firmly. Let’s get this conversation back under control.

Sometimes, when she’s gotten herself in trouble, it helps to pretend she’s an entire posse, not just one dumb girl, winging it. Now her posse assures her she should just say what she feels, straight out.

“No," she declares. "I’m not telling anybody and I’m not making you leave. You’re staying right here, Sam. Right where I can keep an eye on you.”

“You want to keep an eye on me,” he repeats carefully. Jess thinks that it’s really hard, in a situation like this, not to say things that sound creepy.

“Not like that,” she says. She reminds herself to choose her words carefully at the same time as she's saying what she feels. “I mean... I guess what I mean is... You must be pretty broke to be doing this, and you’re failing at least one of your classes, even though you’re one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Like, you’re really smart. So that’s just... wrong. That shouldn’t be happening in the world. It makes me want to keep an eye on you.” She shifts her weight a little too fast and stumbles slightly just standing in place. “Shit,” she mumbles, scrubbing at her face. “I’m really drunk. I wish I weren’t really drunk doing this.”

“It’s okay,” Sam says quietly. “At least it means I could probably tell if you were lying.”

“I’m not,” she promises.

“No. I know. I... um.” Whatever Sam was going to say, he changes his mind when he sees her swaying again. “Listen, do you want me to go find Mark? Or could I call a friend for you? Someone you trust?”

“I trust you,” she says, then carefully lowers herself onto the mattress behind her. “Can I sleep here?”

“I- uh. Are you sure?”

“I’m sure,” she nods. She lies back and closes her eyes, and then realizes she is really really tired. “Get in bed and let’s go to sleep,” she mumbles. She thinks that even if she's too out of it to convince him that everything's going to be okay, her staying will at least show him that she trusts him. She’ll fix it completely in the morning.

“Yeah. Okay,” he mumbles after a minute. He eases himself down beside her, and her last memory of the night is the sensation of his sheet being pulled up to her chin.

*****

In the morning, she wanders out to find Sam drinking coffee in front of the kitchen sink. He's just standing there, staring into space, but the way his shoulders tense is a good indicator that he's aware of her presence.

The place is a mess, but at least there aren't any partiers from last night still lying around. There's no sign of Mark either.

She considers starting out with a 'good morning' and following up with a little small talk until the tension eases. Then she decides that even with politician-level small talk it might be the next ice age before the tension eases. Her stomach's flipping too hard for small talk anyway.

“So,” Jess throws out there, caution to the wind. “How much do you, uh, charge, you know, per hour?”

Sam turns around, looking confused, with a thick underlay of exhaustion. “Uh. Are you seriously asking?” At her nod, he shrugs and sighs. “It depends on what they want. If they want, you know, just...” he makes the universal motion for jerking off. “I charge less than if they want... more. Why are you asking?”

“Okay, so,” Jess quickly puts on her best ‘bear with me’ smile. “What if someone wanted to buy your time for something that was not strictly traditional? Would you work out some kind of special rate?”

“Are you like, asking for a friend?” Sam asks instead of answering, because he is the most contrary human being on the planet. There’s a grand plan here and she needs him not to ruin it with his perfectly natural questions.

“Say that I was,” Jess forces out cheerily. “Is that something that you theoretically do?”

“I’d have to know what it is first. I’ve got limits.” Sam’s voice is carefully neutral.

She drives forward, undeterred.

“Okay, but you would consider it, depending on what it was, and work out some kind of special rate? Because the thing is, I know my parents are well off, but I myself am kind of an unemployed college student at the moment, and most of what I have to offer is the extra bedroom at my apartment.”

“You’re asking for yourself?” Sam interjects in a strangled tone, but Jess steamrolls over him.

“And I have some cash too, in the bank, to sweeten the deal, but like, long term I can’t you know, just keep paying by the hour at what I imagine your rates to be-” Sam is staring at her like he’s never seen her or her species before. She takes a deep breath. “I need someone to keep me company, is the thing. The place is too big, and boring. It’s boring, without a roommate. So you know, what I’m trying to ask here is, what would you charge for being a strictly platonic, there-in-the-evenings-to-watch movies-and-eat-popcorn, there-in-the-mornings-to-drink-my-awful-coffee, kind of roommate? Is there some kind of deal we can work out for that?”

“Uh,” he says, blank look in his eyes. She waits, tense, for which way he'll go. She's kind of waiting for anger, lots of yelling about charity and flinging his hands around. Instead, the awkward silence just stretches out forever.

“You-" he finally stutters. "-I don’t understand... You want to pay me to be your roommate? Without sex. Just,” he pats the air with his graceful hands. “Just roommates.”

“Yeah, Sam, that’s what I want,” she answers, looking him in the eyes and lying as well as she knows how. She wants a lot more, but she'll take what she can get when it comes to Sam.

"Have you been paying attention?" Sam asks incredulously. "I mean, I'm not a very good roommate. I got behind on the rent with Mark, and then I stole his girlfriend."

"You didn't steal his girlfriend," Jess answers back instantly. "I was never his girlfriend. And the great thing about my arrangement is that there won't be any rent involved."

"This is crazy," Sam says. "This is a bad idea."

"Maybe it is," Jess says. "But I have confidence I'll get over the guilt of stealing you eventually."

"You're stealing me? Stealing me from who?" Sam sputters. "C'mon Jess, you're really not stealing from Mark if you give me a place to stay. More like picking up some furniture he left at the curb." His voice is light, like he's joking, but his eyes are dark.

Not just stealing you from Mark, she thinks, stealing you from everybody.

"His loss," is all she says out loud.

"This is a bad idea," Sam says again.

"I think it's the best idea I've ever had," she answers. And decides it's time to get what she came for. If he thinks he's furniture she can work with that maybe, just this once. "C'mon Sam," she says, like she already knows just what he'll do, like on the inside she isn't praying to God for the first time in years. "Start packing. We're leaving in an hour."

For some reason his face gets really still at that. He's staring at her like he's just seen a ghost. And this is the moment, this is him making his call, right here in front of her. His adam's apple bobs once before he finally nods.

"Yeah," he murmurs softly, like someone in a dream. "Yeah, okay."

She waits until he's out of the room before sagging against the counter. Tonight, she'll call Liza and babble about this ad nauseum. Tomorrow, she'll call her parents and tell them in carefully edited bits and pieces about her new roommate. She'll get some books for recovering prostitutes, or call some hotlines if books like that don't exist. She knows this was probably only the first battle. This might be a terrible idea, and she's definitely messing with things she doesn't understand. She listens to the rhythmic thumps and rustles coming from Sam's room as he packs up his stuff without a second's hesitation, and can't find it in herself to feel anything but optimism.




The End



If you're interested, this story now has a sequel that can be read here: Or So This Kinda Story Goes.

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mya_rofki

December 2011

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