Jensen's costume, which had never been washed and merely Febreezed by the last ten owners, had given him a rash, and he'd prepared a nasty reprimand for the seamstress on the way to the props room when he burst through the door and found Jared curled up against the wall in a hospital blanket.

"Oh, sorry, I was looking for Maxine, is she..." he squinted in the shadows. He flipped on a light switch but it flickered once and died, leaving only the little lamp over the sewing machine.

"Why do you have it so dark?"

Someone must have been cooking. Chinese take-out cartons lined the trash can, but no it was something else. Jensen followed the smell to the pair of sneakered feet behind a costume rack and pushed the dresses aside.

"Are you okay?"

The kid didn't look okay. Jared's eyes were shut in concentration, the side of his face pressed to the cool brick wall. Sweat rolled down his neck and into his collar. He couldn't have been more than eighteen. "You need something Mister Ackles?"

"Oh um..."

Jensen was a good boy. He was raised not to say the H-word in polite company. His army of maiden aunts back in Texas used to refer to it as Bitch Week before kicking him out of the living room so they could drink Schlitz and watch dubbed episodes of Naked Chef. Jensen clenched the soft white fabric of the shirt in his hand.

"Where's Maxine?"

Jared swallowed, adam's apple bobbing in his throat. "She's at a conference."

"It's just that I need a new shirt."

A long skinny arm extended from the blanket and pointed. "Toss it on the table."

A tower of old costumes teetered beside the work station. Jared must have been working all night. "Here give me your hand, you don't look so hot."

Jensen didn't smell it until he helped Jared to his feet. After recieving his acceptance letter from a prestigious Young Artist Program, Jensen had started a juice fast, purchased a teeth whitening kit, and doubled down on his daily ten mile run, which lately had been more a one-mile run/nine-mile saunter, and at that point he could have eaten a kitchen sponge. All of New York City smelled great to him.

But Jared didn't smell like any one thing Jensen could put his finger on. Cotton candy. Brown sugar melting on oatmeal. The top of his baby sister's head the day she came back from the hospital. It hit Jensen like a freight train.

Jared must have seen the hunger in Jensen's face because he took his hand back and lurched across the room unaided.

"Two minute warning!" the stage manager shouted. Jensen bit back whatever he had been about to say next and dropped his shirt on the pile. He stood silhouetted against the light with one hand on the doorknob. "Are you really okay?"

Jared sat down behind the sewing machine, sweeping wet bangs out of his eyes. "I'll be fine."

"Don't you wanna know my measurements?"

"Don't worry," said Jared, eyes flicking down and then up again dismissively, "I can size you just by looking."

Danneel and Jensen had married three weeks after meeting at undergrad auditions for the Manhatten School of Music. To be honest, the MSM audition that Jensen barely scraped through was to Danneel a mere dry run for her Julliard audition, which she passed with flying colors. New York had several excellent conservatories, but Julliard was the kingmaker, and their school rivalry was a constant nagging buzz in the background of an otherwise amicable marriage.

Danneel sat before the vanity mirror and teased her hair with a comb. "I've got rehearsal with Anatoly tonight, don't wait up."

"That's fine," he said, kissing her bare shoulder, "Rob wants me to lay a few tracks at his place anyway."

She looked at him over her shoulder, lip curled. "Are you gonna be doing that voice?"

"What, my real voice?" he said, half-smiling.

She lay down the comb and proceeded to draw in her eyebrows. "Anatoly says I must only speak in my opera voice. Keeps the diaphragm strong. You ought to do the same, your real voice sounds..." she said, sniffing, "...wounded."


Rob Bebedict wrote and directed Christian action movies for the local Baptist church. He was the textbook definition of an OCD film maker if you substituted Jesus for cocaine.

"Jensen!" he shouted into the reciever so that Jensen had to hold the phone away, "I need some intersticial music for the cut scenes, can you write some guitar licks?!"

Jensen hung on the leather handle of a subway car. "Don't you have a composer for that?"

"Yeah but that guy costs money, come oooooooooooon Jen, pleeeeeeze?"

Rob's apartment was an efficiency in Brooklyn, a toilet in the kitchen and just enough space for his recording equipment. Mattresses stood against the walls for sound-proofing. He took off his headphones. "Oh good you're here, check this out."

Jensen sat down and a music score landed perfectly in his lap. "What've we got this time?"

"Oh it's gonna be terrific! A teenage run-away looking for love in all the wrong places! I call it Teenage Run-Away Looking For Love in All the Wrong Places: the Musical!"

Jensen pulled the guitar strap over his shoulder. "And what am I playing?"

"The guitar battle between the angels and the vampires!"


"Hey if the Mormons can do it..." said Rob, tossing him a second set of headphones, "Let's listen to the click-track first."

Afterwards, they chit-chatted over coffee and Jensen let slip that he'd been accepted into the Young Artist Program, and with any luck there wouldn't be much competition at the tenor auditions.

"What are you gunning for?" said Rob, blowing steam off his mug.

"Marriage of Figaro. It's not my favorite opera, but I heard they hired this amazing conductor."

Rob raised his eyebrows approvingly. "So you're going to the party Saturday?"

Jensen blinked. "What party?"

"That conductor, he is crazypants for parties. We met at a film festival last summer and he said I had a standing invitation to all of his shindigs. As long as I didn't eat the food. You could probably come too."

"Rob you are my hero."

"Yeah man it's not a thing," he said, writing down the address and handing it to Jensen, "Just, ya know, don't eat the food."

Jensen took the paper and folded it into his wallet. "Wait, what's the conductor's name?"


"Morgan was here." Danneel whispered.

It was the dinner break between rehearsals. Opera companies are as cliquy as any high school, cafeteria tables self-segregating between, in descending order of rank, management, singers, orchestra musicians, and stage techs, and they had the far end of the table to themselves.

Jensen leaned in. "What was he doing?"

"He's friends with Maxine," she said, gripping his hand, "He might still be hanging around backstage, you ought to go introduce yourself."

He smiled and looked at his feet, his usual bravado evaporating. "Oh I couldn't do that."

"Honey..." she said, slipping in a little sugar to hide her frustration. Her nails bit into his palm. "Now's the time. You've been working your ass off. You look great, that juice fast really brings out your cheekbones."

"I'm starving."

"Yes but you look great in the face, what I wouldn't give to fit in your clothes, if I could just get the stomach flu, like for a week, like really intense-"

"I can't just go up to someone I might be working for."

"Yes you can," she said, running a gentle finger along his chin, "You have to make connections."

Which translated to, Strap on your dick and show a little ambition. She cradled his face in her hands and kissed him, but he knew better. She wanted to be at the top too. And she would step on a ladder of faces to get there.


Morgan was nowhere to be found, but there was one place Jensen hadn't looked. He mounted the stairs, a cacophony of voices swirling up the stairwell like sheet music caught in a tornado, and ended up on the loading dock, where he found Jared lying on the ramp with his blanket spread beneath him. His arms were folded behind his head and he wore a too-small t-shirt that exposed a inch of belly above his waistband.

Jared twisted his head around to look at him. For a second Jensen forgot why he'd come outside.

"Hey," said Jensen, "I'm looking for this guy, I don't know what he looks like, but he's friends with Maxine and he was just here."

Jared held his gaze for a moment and then went back to watching the sky. "He's gone."

Jensen was about to go back inside, casting a long look down the hallway. They didn't really need him on stage for a few hours. "Can I join you?"

"It's a free country."

Jensen sat with his arms around his knees. "Whatcha doing outside alone?"

Jared stared up at the New York sky, the color of a dead TV channel. "Stargazing."

Jensen snorted, and Jared looked up. "What?"

"Nothing, you're funny."

"I'm not kidding, look," he said, pointing at various spots in succession, "Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, the Pleiades, the Archer, Mars and Venus."

Jensen lay down beside him, their heads inches aparts. "How do you know that?"

Jared dropped his arm. "I grew up in the middle of nowhere. At night the sky would be more white than black," he said, cracking the first smile Jensen had seen so far, "I'd know where the stars are blindfolded."

Jensen punched his shoulder playfully. "Wait are you from Amarillo?"

Jared turned his head. "No way."

"I'm from Austin, I got family out there," said Jensen, turning on his side and both of them grinning like two refugees reuiniting at an airport, "I thought I recognized your accent."

Jared ran his fingers through his bangs and laughed. "Man you're the first Southerner I've met out here. I was afraid to say anything, a lot of these guys think you step off the George Washington bridge and it's nothing but corn and bad teeth."

"Oh it's worse, I just lie and say I'm from Baltimore."

"Like we're some kind of third world country."

"Are you from Teh-xas?" said Jensen, imitating a nasal Jersey accent, "Do you have paved roads in Teh-xas? Do you have e-lec-tricity in Teh-xas?'"

Jared clutched his stomach and began to laugh, great belly laughs that rolled up and down his body and had him in tears. That's when Jensen noticed the bites.

"Hey what happened there?" he asked, reaching for Jared's collar.

Jared shrank away, pulling his shirt up. "Nothing."

Jensen inhaled the night air, and mixed with Jared's scent and his own was an unfamiliar Alpha whiff that brought to mind leather armchairs and expensive watch ads. "Someone bothering you?"

Jared rubbed his arm self-consciously. "Morgan got a little hungry."

"How do you know him?"

"I don't. He was looking for Aunt Maxine and instead he found an...opportunity."

Jensen said nothing. It was not his place to interfere with another's man claim, even an uncivilized one, and besides, he was already married.

He studied the lines of Jared's face and something wrapped itself around Jensen's heart and squeezed. "Is it okay if I hold your hand?"

Jared looked at him.

"You can say no if you want."

Jared pursed his lips, and then, letting go of his arm, laced his fingers between Jensen's and together they stared at the unseen stars.


"Do another one."

Jared and Jensen were in the props room the next day, ostensibly to repair a zipper but quickly becoming a one-man act where Jared would request his favorite cartoon voices.

Jensen rubbed his hands together, looking around to make sure no one was walking toward them. "Okay but only one more, it's getting late."

"That's cool."

"You can't laugh."

"Why would I laugh?"

Jensen cleared his throat, and suddenly his voice ratched up an octave and couple of rungs up the social ladder. "Daddy if you don't let me out this instant I will stomp on my hair ribbons, just see if I don't!"

Jared howled with laughter, covering his mouth with both hands before he could stop himself. "Holy shit!" he said, lowering his voice, "Holy shit you were Princess Jellybean? You?"

Jensen blushed, looking down at his shoes. "It was just a job. It's not a big deal."

"Dude you're a Happy Meal toy!" said Jared, hands on his knees and leaning in excitedly, "You think they'll call you back?"

"Maybe. I dunno, I've been too busy with school to pursue it. And the residuals are okay."

"O-kay?" said Jared. Jensen told him much he got each month. "That's more than okay. That's Buy-Your-Own-House money."

Jensen scratched his neck and looked out the window. "Not in New York it isn't."

Jared followed his gaze, staring out the window at a wall of faceless apartment blocks. "No, I guess not."

"Still," said Jensen, "It's steady. I'll be getting checks from Uncle Walt when my grandkids are old. If I um, I mean..."

Jared tilted his head in understanding. Singers with children were considered second-class and often overlooked for more 'serious' performers.

"I always knew I was going to have kids," said Jared, "I've been running around theaters since I was in diapers. I love my work, I want to be able to pass that down to someone."

Jensen looked up, his voice very quiet as if the others might hear. "Same here."

"So um, have you heard from Morgan since yesterday?" Jensen asked while Jared did the zipper repair on his vest.

"He wants me to come to this party on Saturday."

"Oh. Great. You bringing a date? I mean, you should bring a date, does he know if you're single or not?"

"He didn't exactly ask."

"Well I'm sure there's...somebody who'd go with you."

Jared snorted. "Who would date a theater tech?"

Jensen ran his hand through his hair. Jared was right, musicians didn't date outside their caste. "I wish I could help."

Jared held the vest against Jensen's chest, looking from it to Jensen's face and then back again with a calculating slowness. "I just had an idea," said Jared, "What's your mailing address?"


The next day, Jensen stood staring into a cardboard box with his thumb pressed to his mouth, lost in consideration, and managed to hide it right as Danneel breezed past him in a cloud of hairspray and perfume.

"Have fun tonight," she said, giving him a minty kiss, "Don't wait up."

"You got rehearsal with Anatoly?"

"Uh-huh." she said over her shoulder as the door slammed. Jensen shrugged and sat on the edge of the bed drumming his fingers against the package. What did his instructors also say, acting is being honest in an imaginary setting?

The party started in three hours. He stared at his reflection in the closet mirror opposite him.

"I'm gonna need more hairspray."


Morgan was an ex-piano prodigy who'd turned to conducting late in life, having been the trophy husband to several grand dames of the recording industry but now lived alone on his combined inheritance. Jared studied a framed photograph, Morgan's enormous bull shoulders hunched over the nine-foot Steinway. He made it look like a toy.

"...Morgan's bitch over there."

Jared turned to locate the cone of conversation aimed at him and spotted three men walking his way with shark grins. He dabbed his neck with a handkerchief, cursing himself for skipping the afternoon pills. The men spoke in quick succession.

"I heard you're from Texas."

"Do they teach sex ed in Texas?"

"Be nice, that's private."

"Yeah, that's between a couple on their wedding night."

They crowded Jared in a corner. They didn't actually want to touch him, but Morgan had a habit of stealing all the pretty ones away and these three just wanted a little tribute.

"But you can ask us any questions you might have."

"Yeah, there's a room upstairs."

"Ask away."

"I can show you things in a book."

"I can show you where to put your hands."

"And I can show you what a cat taught me about slow lickin'."

Jared shivered at such close proximity to three good-looking men, warm slick running down the inside of his thigh, and was about to excuse himself when a high girlish voice broke in.

"Mm-mm lookit you, don't he clean up well," she said, a stranger's arm snaking around his waist, "Honey you gonna make me clutch my pearls."

Jared's gaze traveled up, up miles of tight red sequined fabric to fake press-on nails, fake eyelashes, screaming blue eyeshadow, and a blonde wig teased three inches above the woman's head. She sounded like a televangelist's wife. She looked like Satan's secretary. And she had her arm wrapped around Jared tighter than bark on a tree.

"Gentlemen, this is m-m-my girlfriend..." Jared stammered.

"Jenny." said Jensen helpfully.

"Yes, Jenny. From my old hometown."

The men crucified Jensen with their eyes, but there were too many people around to start a fight. "That's quite the up-do."

Jensen patted his boufant with fingerless lace gloves. "Well you know what they say: The higher the hair, the closer to Heaven."

"Wow that actually fit you," said Jared, when the others finally left, "Where'd you get the wig?"

"It's Danneel's, she has a shelf full of them."

"And you did the make-up?"

"I am an actor."

Jared held out his arm. "Care to dance?"

"Would I."


Jenny was brilliant. Flirty yet elegant, rude yet charmingly so, and a light behind those green eyes Jared had never seen before.

After an hour of dancing Jensen said he'd never had so much fun and pulled Jared into a hug. It felt perfect. Under the mask of Danneel's hair products, Jensen smelled like baseball and butterscotch and lazy hammocks in July. Jensen smiled and Jared wanted to perish in that smile.

"How's the fever?" asked Jensen.

Jared's eyes open and shut sleepily. "It comes and goes."

"You have the pills?"

"Yeah, but they only do so much."

Jared stretched against Jensen on a couch, cuddling into him. "I mean there are...things I used to do back home, but...I dunno, I don't feel safe in my apartment. If I had a roommate, someone I knew wouldn't make a pass at me then maybe..."

"Don't you have any friends?"

"We're friends. Aren't we? You're so nice. Nobody's nice in this city."

"I think you're nice too."

Jensen's lips almost grazed Jared's ear. "There's a lot of rooms upstairs. We could lock the door. You wouldn't have to do anything, you could just...lay there. Next to me."

A shard of fear shot through Jensen. Jared's eyes glittered, flush with Heat, those perfectly upturned lips inches from Jensen's. Jensen imagined what those "things" might be, Jared naked in his bed, alone, fingering himself until he left a warm wet spot on the sheets...

He was about to pull away when he spied Anatoly, Daneel's accompanist, heading up the stairwell. What's he doing here? thought Jensen.

"I need to talk to that guy for a second. Be right back," said Jensen, giving Jared's hand a reassuring squeeze, "Stay here."

Jensen gathered up his skirts and climbed the stairs, now wondering when Danneel had last texted him. She was usually fastidious about last minute schedule changes. He sent up a tiny prayer that she wasn't dead in a ditch and then an even tinier prayer to whoever might be listening.

Please let this work. Please don't let Jared feel weird about this tomorrow. Please don't let my boss find out.

Please let Jared be my friend.


Anatoly was underdressed, in a turtleneck and dinner jacket he bought off the rack at Men's Warehouse the day before, and stuck out like a turtle in a cat house amongst all the bespoke Italian suits.

Jensen caught up to him. "Hey there," he said, still in character, "We haven't met, but my friend Daneel said she had rehearsal with you today, any idea when she went home?"

Anatoly's eyebrows drew together like two caterpillars. "I hyeff not seen her all week," he said in a thick Moscow accent, "Hyeff you tried asking her husband?"

Jensen smiled. "No, I guess I'll try him next."

Jensen tried not to sprint upstairs to get a better cell phone signal. He stretched out his arm, hoping for a single bar, and turned several corners before ending up in a darkened sitting room where he plopped on a couch and kicked off his high heels.

No texts. No messages. Where the hell is she? he thought. The phone lay silent in his lap. He worried about Danneel. He already missed Jared.

Something moved behind him and he straightened. "Who's there?"

There was that smell again. Leather armstairs and expensive watches. Floorboards creaked. A silken baritone issued from the shadows.

"Hey there Little Red."

Jensen whipped around, his face stopped by a warm, enormous hand that caressed his cheek. "Aren't you a pretty one."

"Oh sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt." said Jensen, self-consciously pulling up the top of his dress.

"You weren't interrupting anything."

"I couldn't get a phone signal," said Jensen, pushing on the couch cushions with both hands to stand, "I'll try down the hall."

A hand gripped Jensen's shoulder, powerful fingers pushing him back down. "Please, stay a while. We've only just met."

The man smiled. It was a smile in magazines that sold fine aged whiskey. It was a smile like polished oak. It was a smile that made men shake hands and puppies want to hibernate. He pushed back a lock of blonde hair to caress Jensen's neck. Jensen wondered if the man recognized him.

"I should go, my date is probably looking for me."

"He can wait."

Jensen silently counted to ten, not sure if he was breathing too fast or too slowly, then tried standing up only to be pushed down again.

"Shh shh," said the man, his thumb traced Jensen's lower lip, "You're so pale."

"I'm not a girl."

"I know. I'm not blind Mister Ackles," said Morgan, "Otherwise you wouldn't have gotten this far."

Jensen nearly got up a third time, but remembered his wife. Remembered his college debt. The city they loved, the apartment they couldn't really afford, the fear of going back to Texas. He needed this job. Morgan appraised Jensen's hair and make-up, turning his jaw this way and that. "It could use a little something."

Morgan reached behind him to a cluttered table, the contents of several purses dumped on top like discarded food containers. He plucked a red lipstick from the top.

"Hold still."

His skin was warm and smelled like the colognes you passed by in the Tax-Free section of the airport. It felt nice in his hands. Jensen held his knees together to hide his erection.

Morgan leaned back to appraise his handiwork. "You look good like that." he said, reaching behind him to place the lipstick on the table.

His thumb caught a thin smudge of red beneath Jensen's lip. "Do you use it?"

"Use what?"

"Your mouth."

Jensen froze.

"Because if you're not using it, then I can think of a few things."

There were no clocks up here. How long since Jensen had left Jared alone downstairs? Five minutes? Twenty minutes? Jensen didn't care what kind of eccentric crap this guy was into, just so long as he could leave the room.

"You like the view from up here?" said Morgan, glancing toward the window, "You can see all the way to the river. A lot of people want to be up here with me. But this is my house. And I get to decide who comes up here," he said, pointing to the muddy parking lot outside, "And who stays down there."

Jensen imagined his life a year from now, far from this dark room, wine and shared secrets backstage and drinking coffee with well-connected composers instead of the silly Baptist musicals and never ever having to wait tables.

Morgan's thumb slid inside Jensen's mouth, testing the tip of Jensen's tongue. "You have talent. I like working with talented people. But I need to know you're on the level."

He pressed on the back of Jensen's lower teeth. "You gonna be a team player?"

Jensen kept his mouth open, not speaking.

"The correct answer isn't 'no' so don't bother trying to stall."

Jensen didn't break the stare. He could show submission but he couldn't show weakness.

"This is a one-time offer."

Morgan released Jensen's face and unfastened his belt buckle. Jensen buried his nails in his dress and tried to convince himself that a person could do anything for ten minutes if it meant securing a future for his family. He wasn't being unfaithful. He was just showing fealty. A leather baseball bat of a cock lay in Morgan's palm.

"Go on, give it a little kiss."

Jensen wanted to run. He heard himself say 'okay', maybe, he wasn't sure when he tried to remember everything the next day. Morgan grabbed the back of his head to an angle he liked, cock sliding in and out in slow, measured strokes that tickled the back of Jensen's throat, and continued to talk.

"Your friend's heat is running longer than usual. You know why?"

He watched Jensen through thick black eyelashes. He didn't expect an answer.

"He's a superovulator. When they release too many eggs at once. Rare, but not unheard of. When that happens they don't have control of their body, not until enough eggs are fertilized. I had a boy like him once, the second I put my dick in him he locked down so hard his muscles seized and he couldn't let me go. Nothing he could do about it. It's the nature of the Heat."

Jensen gave an involuntary shudder. He'd never had an omega. Daneel had been a virgin on their wedding night, which meant only putting it in half-way and going frustratingly slow the first few nights, and always, always, using condoms because birth control gave her the munchies.

"We fucked on this couch. I like this couch, with this mirror, I could pick him up from behind with my hands under his knees and watch my cock disappear inside him. I pumped so much jizz into that last boy I distended his egg sac. Even then, it took three of us plus the kid's fiance all weekend to get him pregnant enough."

The motion of Morgan's cock in his mouth was hypnotic. Jensen felt himself relax. He tried to remember the last time Danneel had made the first move in bed. They'd had sex last week, but she'd just gotten dudded up for the evening and insisted on doing it doggie-style and quickly so she wouldn't mess up her hair. Jensen's orgasm had become a chore to her, a box to check off somewhere between paying bills and picking up the dry cleaning.

"Your friend is sick. He needs help. I want to help him. And I want you to be there with me. Cuz if Jared is anything like the last boy, we're gonna have to take him in shifts."

Jensen tasted a pearl of pre-cum from the end of Morgan's cock. Jared had been so friendly to him downstairs. So inviting...

"He doesn't have to know I'm here. I made the last boy wear a blindfold so he thought his fiance was fucking him the entire time. Lasting relationships are important. Why take that away from him?"

Jensen imagined Jared spread out, blindfolded, whispering Jensen's name as Morgan fingered the tiny pink hole between his legs.

"Don't you want to sit on that couch with him, in front of that mirror? He'd say yes if you asked."

Suddenly a memory surfaced, of skinny little Jared alone on the loading dock with bitemarks on his neck.

Jensen suddenly wanted to fight. He wanted to break furniture on the old man's head. His eyes bored into Morgan like two murder holes.

Jensen pulled away with a noise like a cork popping. "You know what else would look good?"

It took Morgan a couple of seconds to register. Jensen was smaller but quicker, and coming from the floor meant a headbutt to the chin hurt like merry fuck. Morgan pinwheeled backwards onto the bed and Jensen chased after him on all fours in his wig and slutty gown and smeared lipstick like a rabid prom queen.

"Yeah you wanna see it?," Jensen snarled once he was on top, with the unholy urge every Alpha has to spitefuck another Alpha in the face, "Go on, look at it."

Jensen sat straddling Morgan's hips, who was barely semi-conscious, and gathered up the folds of his dress. Jensen levitated on pure apocalyptic rage.

"You want me to do it?" said Jensen, pulling out his cock, now leaking from all of Morgan's dirty talk, "You wanna watch me?"

Morgan smiled, his cock pressing hard against Jensen, running along the crack of his ass at the edge of orgasm.

"Say it," said Jensen, pumping his cock so it was inches from Morgan's face, "Say you want me to do it."

He tried to picture Danneel, her soft breasts and hair spilling across the pillow like red paint, but instead of her voice calling his name it became Jared's, Jared looking up through his bangs with Jensen's cock in his mouth, Jared biting his lower lip as he slowly impaled himself on Jensen's enormous cockhead...

A rope of hot jizz shot into Morgan's face, followed quickly by Morgan cursing through his teeth and a final bone-rattling hip thrust between Jensen's legs that left a warm strain on his dress.

Jensen's chest rose and fell. He was still running on adrenaline, like he'd stepped into the orgasm and was driving it ninety miles an hour on an open road. He waited a beat. "Well?"

Morgan smiled, licking his square white teeth. "My Little Red."


"And then what happened?"

Jensen covered his face, though he'd locked the bathroom and it wasn't like Rob could see him over the phone. "Then I broke his nose."

"Holy crapsticks!" exclaimed Rob, "Sorry, I mean, you think he's called the cops? He shouldn't though, you could totally get him for sexual harassment."

Jensen gave a short, sharp laugh. Jail. He could go to jail. He washed his hands and looked in the mirror. He'd cried his mascara to gray circles. The wig was missing half it's bobby pins. The drunk tank would love him.

"I'm going home," he said, fixing his hair as best he could, "I still have that audition with Morgan tomorrow, no one else knows I was at this party, if I just act like I was never here..."

A knock at the door. "Jenny?"

Jared, he thought. "Call you later." he whispered, hanging up, "I'll be out in a minute."

"Where did you go?" Jared asked when Jensen finally emerged, "I fell asleep waiting, I thought maybe something was wrong."

Jared pulled him to a gaggle of laughing music students with upstate accents, young and fresh and blasted on cheap wine. They eyed Jenny with approval. "Heeeeey, lookit you girl," said a drunk trumpet player, "You got some ass in that dress."

"Jared was just bragging about you."

Jared blushed, too drunk to come up with a quick answer. "I wasn't...I was just saying..."

"Hold onto to this one," said a flutist drinking out of a blender, "Too many crazy bitches in this city."

"I would totally play at your wedding." said another.

"Yeah man, anything you want! Just no Pachelbel, shit gives me hives." said a cellist.

"Me too, if you paid in alcohol, I won't be 21 til next year." said another.

"Yeah, of course," said Jared, turning to smile tipsily at Jensen, "What do you think?"

Jensen blinked. "What do I think of what?"

"Will you marry me?"

Jensen stopped liked he'd been slapped across the face. He'd mentioned Daneel in conversation, surely. Hadn't he? He couldn't remember.

Jared smiled, all of them smiled, waiting for Jensen to say something, while a violin string of panic trilled in his gut. Jensen looked down. Jared's hand was on his arm, gentle and respectful. His own nasty fantasy of Jared rose up and Jensen felt sick.

He snatched his arm away. "Don't touch me."

Jared held his hand out tentatively. "It was a joke."

Except it wasn't, not entirely, the way Jared couldn't quite force the smile to his eyes. The others laughed and tried to pave over this hiccup in the conversation, but all Jensen could think about was that no amount of chivalrous behavior on his part could save Jared from the other alphas. He had to be claimed eventually. Morgan's couch wasn't soft, but at least it was expensive.

"I have to go," said Jensen, standing up suddenly and walking away, "It's getting late and I have work tomorrow."

Jared stood out of his chair and followed. "Will I see you at the theater?"

That smell again. Footsteps clacked from upstairs. Was Morgan awake? Jensen felt the man's cock in his mouth and breathed dull, deep terror. "I'll call you," said Jensen, hurrying toward the front door, "Please, I need to get home."

A taxi pulled up to the curb. The noises of the party faded in the dark. The last thing Jensen remembered before the car door shut was Jared calling his name and the smell of leather armchairs.

The taxi pulled away. Jensen didn't look back.


The tenor audition had been cancelled. Jensen arrived at the hall not only to find Morgan missing, but his assistant conductor running around in circles and shouting into his phone while waiting auditionees cowered in his wake.

He had a shiny new contract with Jensen's name at the top. The assistant conductor handed him a pen without looking up from his phone, along with tax forms, the rehearsal schedule, and a copy of the monthly newsletter from Equity.

It wasn't the lead, but then "Marriage of Figaro" didn't have a lot of tenor parts, and it still paid ten times better than the student jobs he was used to. Jensen bent down to sign. In the margin of the contract, in pencil, someone had scrawled:

"Fair trade."


On the way back Jensen bought the fettuccine alfredo he'd promised himself when the diet began, but as soon as got through the door he shoved it in the fridge and beelined for the strip of light under the bedroom door. Danneel was home. He should have been angry but mostly he was happy not to be alone.

"I got the contract," he said, hanging his coat as she sat with her back to him at the vanity table, "They didn't say how long the conductor would be away, but the music should show up in the mail tomorrow so I can start memorizing."

The light by the bed tossed her face into shadow. She sat in her bathrobe, long red hair spilling over the chairback, inclining her head to let him know she was listening.

"I couldn't find you last night." he said. The events of that evening-Morgan's plans for Jared, the marriage proposal, Jensen's flight and abandonment- choked him and found it hard to breathe.

"I was at this party and I..."

He gripped the top of the chair. He couldn't get enough air in his lungs. Any dignity he'd retained evaporated as he knelt and sank his head into Daneel's lap and cried hard toddler tears. She was right about his real voice. He sounded wounded.

"I fucked up," he whispered, wrapping his arms around her waist, "I was supposed to watch out for him and I fucked it all up."

She stroked his head and said nothing, while he bunched up her robe in his fists.

"I was so happy. He was the best friend I ever had. But he doesn't know that, cuz I never told him."

She made shushing noises and took his chin in her hands, smearing a tear with her thumb.

"I'm sorry Dee, I should have told you I was going out-"

Their mouths sealed with a ferocity he hadn't expected, her fists gathering his shirt to pull him close. He hesitated a moment then kissed back. She must have been worried about him too. His fingers slid up the nape of neck to rake through her hair...

...and a red wig came free in his hand.

"Hello Jensen."

Jensen looked around, as if the bedroom walls might slide apart and hidden cameras would be revealed. "How did you get in here?"

"Danneel let me in," said Jared, holding up a thin envelope, "On her way out."

Thin envelopes were never good. It meant rejection from the top jobs, thank you for your application but no thank you, no more openings available, better luck next year, bye bye.

Danneel's wedding rings clinked inside, along with an apology and the polite request that he UPS her clothes to Morgan's home address. Rehearsals with Anatoly indeed. Jensen put them back on the table so he wouldn't have to look at them.

"I meant what I said," Jensen whispered, "I shouldn't have left you there. I guess...I don't know, I'm so scared of screwing up a good thing. If he hurt you-"

He never got to finish the sentence. Jared took Jensen's lower lip between his teeth and bit hard enough to draw blood, hard enough to bring Jensen's alpha instinct to the fore. Which is what Jared wanted.

"It's getting late," said Jared, letting the robe fall to the floor, "Time to go to bed."

Danneel had hated getting dirty. Handjobs were thru his boxers, her mouth never once touched his cock no matter how much he washed, and every love act had ended with him tying off a used condom and tossing it in the trash so she wouldn't have to sleep on a wet spot or go to work with jizz running down her leg.

But Jensen was a considerate husband, and any troubles they'd had at home were more than made up for by their professional relationship, her brilliance onstage, and the envious looks other men gave him whenever they walked arm-in-arm. She'd been so different at that freshman audition. College changes people.

The bathrobe fell and Jared walked across the room dripping warm slick plink plink plink and it was a few heartpounding seconds before Jensen splayed his hands and bent down like a thirsty bloodhound and licked it off the floorboards. He hadn't swept in days but he didn't care. He wanted to be dirty.

Jared lay on the bed, Jensen inhaling the lingering scent trail in the air and hungry for more, wrapping his fist around Jared's ankle and licking a line of sharp, salty wetness all the way up to Jared's inner thigh.

"Tell me what to do," Jensen whispered, drunk on pheramones, "Tell me what you want."

He kissed his way up, fastening his teeth around a tiny nipple and Jared's whole body tensed, eyes clenched and clawing the sheets.

Jared pressed his cock into Jensen's hip, dark and swollen as an eggplant as though he'd (rightly) been trying to get off for days and no amount of fingering himself had hit the sweet spot. It was less like an itch and more like a strained muscle deep inside him that had to be pounded loose.

"Oh don't stop." Jared moaned, panting with eye-rolling intensity as Jensen slid a finger into him for a second and then out again to trace slow circles around his wet pink hole, soft and ripe and hungry for more. He added a second finger, Jared working himself into a delirium trying to get Jensen's fingertips to hit the spot he needed, closer but still a few aching inches shy.

"Give me your mouth," Jared whispered, kissing him, sucking his own taste off Jensen's lips, "Thought about you every night this week" kiss "Wringing myself out with your tongue in my ass" suck "Did you think about me?"

Jensen's knot swelled against him. His fantasies had been much more vanilla, but now he couldn't get Jared's picture out of his head, all alone in his apartment, face down and ass up in the air.

"I thought about getting someone else," said Jared, "I even invited someone over, some guy at a club, but he couldn't get me hard. None of them do. Except for you."

Jensen was about to suggest taking it slow, but the thought of some stranger touching Jared... He flipped him over and dug his nails into Jared's ass and ran his tongue up his sopping wet crack, his own cock practically on fire with the noises Jared made as he pushed himself onto Jensen's tongue. When Jensen could wait no longer he ran his mouth up the curve of Jared's spine, lost in Jared's skin, his skin, the smell of sunburns and cane sugar and wild ponies at sundown, not very different from Jensen's own signature scent, and unbuckled his belt.

Jared watched him, arms wrapped around a pillow and peering over his left shoulder. A mix of fear and delight like an addict who fear's the needle's sting but know it will be worth it. He inhaled deeply as Jensen pulled out his cock and his eyelids fluttered closed in contentment. Of course other guys didn't do it for Jared. They didn't smell like home.

Jensen hadn't been sure he would be able to take it until Jared stretched around his enormous knot and, with a shaky breath and a shove, sealed around it, the plump pink rim of his ass sliding the entire length of his cock and clamping tightly around the base so hard that Jensen's knot swelled to the size of a softball and he howled loud enough to set off car alarms two streets over.

Morgan hadn't been lying. He was trapped. He was a raccoon with a shiny object in it's fist who couldn't pull it's arm out of the hatch. Jensen shuddered in cockbound agony, and in a blind fog of hormones he bent over and sank his teeth into Jared's shoulder.

"Knew you'd be good," Jared panted insensibly as Jensen slammed into him over and over again, "Wanted this for so long."

Jensen leaned back and angled into him deeper, deliciously tight around his naked cock and begging to be fucked open and all his. A feral possessiveness he hadn't known he was capable of had shot up in him after Jared's confession, that only Jensen could make him that crazy, that only Jensen could give him the really earthshattering orgasm he really needed.

Jared's cock slid across the sheets, screaming Jensen's name over and over until his voice was wrecked. Jensen must have been at it for forty-five minutes and still Jared clamped around him like a hot fist. Was that normal for omegas? Was Jared ever going to get loose? Would he be like this every time, tight and needy and desparate to have Jensen's cock scraping inside of him?

Finally Jared went for his own cock, which Jensen did not see but knew from Jared's suddenly fucking into him and pleading for Jensen to make him come, and Jensen's knot burned deep in Jared's body, hitting that spot over and over, until a howl ripped through Jensen that sent all the other alphas in the building running for cover and he pumped Jared's ripe teenage body full of hot jizz.

"My love my little boy my bride" Jensen babbled into Jared's ear as Jensen carried him over the edge of orgasm, biting his ear, his neck, marking his delicate young skin.

They carried on through the aftershocks for the next ten minutes. Jensen's brain was jellyo. But when he tried to pull out Jared smiled and gave him a tight wet squeeze, eyes flashing with a wicked glitter as he milked Jensen hard again. Jensen wasn't getting away that easily.

"I'm still not pregnant."


Jensen stretched a measuring tape. Boxes of women's clothes sat by the door. He stood on a chair to reach the ceiling. He'd lived in this apartment for four years and had long given up hope of moving up in the real estate market.

He peered back at the boy in his bed, naked beneath waves of bedsheets. Jensen used to dream of having his face plastered across a billboard. He still did. But now he also dreamed of little faces with his freckles and Jared's eyes playing tag backstage and scribbling crayons in the music and falling asleep in their laps on the train ride home.

Jared's eyes opened. He folded his arm behind his head and looked up. "What're you measuring the room for?"

"For a crib. To see if it will fit," said Jensen, resting his hands on either side of Jared's head to kiss him. He wouldn't be able to afford a crib a for while, but the bed was big, and he imagined all of them purring in a nest of pillows. "I'm starving, feel like barbecue?"

Jared laughed. "Where'd you find a barbecue joint, I thought this neighborhood was wall-to-wall Chinese restaurants."

"Au contraire, if you go down a ways there's little place run by a buddy of mine..." said Jensen, he said, the two of them arguing back and forth about dinner choices as they got dressed and descended the stairs and the skyline of their new home folded around them like the pages of a book.