Chapter One.

At the very beginning, almost two years ago, it had been a thrill. He'd been in a tight spot, out of work and unable to find any, and the bills just kept coming.

Sex for money. Quick and easy, he'd thought, not to mention very temporary. He thought he'd do it a month, maybe two, just until he bounced back. Here he was fresh from his first stretch in the county jail, barreling toward 27, and still at it like a bad habit. It put money in his pocket though, and until he found a job with real pay it would have to do.

He dressed down, like always. Jeans worn soft, an old green t-shirt. Tennis shoes and a thin nylon jacket. He went for rough but approachable, which a certain kind of guy seemed to like. Made it easier for them, maybe, like in a way they were helping him. He guessed in a way they actually were.

The clear day had turned overcast at some point, and the evening sky hung low and dark. He went to a little place in the Mission where the majority of occupants appeared to be outside, smoking. Indoors, he saw that he was wrong. The place was packed. He pushed his way to the bar and ordered a drink, and took a look around.

The crowd was young, and most of them had angel wings clipped to their shirts or looped over shoulders. Pub crawl. The regulars seemed annoyed. Casey gave everyone a good look over and decided to try a guy sitting alone at the end of the bar. Skinny, glasses, with salt-and-pepper hair. He kept shooting the crawlers frequent, troubled looks. Quickly, Casey finished the rest of his drink and went over.

"Oops, sorry," he said, squeezing in a little too close. He gave the guy an embarrassed smile, and an obvious once-over. He pulled a few bills from his pocket, sad, crumpled little things, and began carefully unfolding them.

"Aw, shoot," he muttered, and glanced up. The guy was looking at him. Casey used that smile again. "Poorer than I thought," he confided. When the bartender came over he said, "Um, sorry, PBR, I guess." Thank god for two-dollar Tuesdays.

Waiting on his beer he looked out at the rowdy crowd, then glanced at his neighbor. He rolled his eyes at the guy, and jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "They been here all night?"

The guy's gaze roamed briefly down, elevator eyes. He seemed to brighten. "Yes. Are you…?"

Casey paid for his drink. "With them? No way. Just like the bar. Usually."

"Usually it's quiet." The guy's eyes roamed again.

He was easy, and eventually Casey got them back to his car, a hulking black Continental. He'd parked only a few blocks away, on a relatively quiet street. The guy said his name was Joseph and he seemed really taken with Casey's hair, running his fingers through the loose brown curls again and again. He was all right, and it was dark enough that Casey just blew him in the front seat.

After, he returned alone to the bar. He got another drink for himself and pretended to watch the pool game, but a sudden voice in his ear made him jump.

"Not a bad show out there."

Casey turned his head sharply and found himself staring into a pair of cool blue eyes he had not seen in months. Six months, if he were going to be exact about it. He turned away with a muttered curse. "Darren." He scowled.

The cop wasn't in uniform, but still he carried that authority. He leaned casually against the wall, close as if Casey had invited him there, big arms crossed over a barrel chest. "Wondered if I'd see you again. It's Brown, right?"

Casey shot him a dark look. "You know my name."

"How was jail?" Said with a smirk.

Casey pressed his mouth into a thin line. He told himself not to let the guy get to him, and stared hard at the game in progress. He clutched his pint glass tight. What if he just smashed it in the fucker's face, he wondered. What if he did that.

"Fair enough," Darren said after a moment. "I won't push." He leaned in and put his hand on Casey's arm, like they were friends, but Casey remembered how he was and tensed immediately. "Shh," the cop said, speaking low in his ear. Intimate. The hairs on the back of Casey's neck stood on end. "How much did you charge that sap? Kind of you to take pity on the geezer. How much? Answer, now, don't make things difficult." A thumb swiped in warning near his inner elbow. The guy knew pressure points. Casey remembered too well.

Nervous, and not wanting to attract attention, Casey just said, "Forty."

"Forty." Darren made a low humming sound. He cocked his head. "You worth it?"

Casey glanced quickly around, but no one paid attention. No one was listening, no one knew him, no one fucking cared. "I guess," he muttered. "I don't know." A tense knot formed low in his belly, and he didn't want anymore beer.

"You don't know." Darren regarded him for a long moment. "Do you charge that much for everyone? How much for, I don't know, an old buddy like me?" He smiled big and Casey wanted to hurt him. Hurt him with the same thoughtless kind of violence cops used on people like him.

"Well?" Darren prodded.

Sure, he could smash a pint glass in the cop's face. Might even hit his target. But then what? Right back to jail was what. Back where he'd started. Looking down, Casey said quietly, "I don't know."

Darren was amused. "You don't know." He stared at Casey for a long time, and finally his smile faded. "Well that's all right." He gave Casey's arm a squeeze, like they were friends, and said, "You think about it and have a good night. I'll see you soon," and left.

A couple nights later Casey sat alone in one of the bars he worked, casting nervous glances at the door. The encounter with Lee Darren of Narcotics and Vice stood fresh in his mind. Too fresh. If Casey were smart he'd stay away from places like this and stop doing what he did, but he needed the money. Six months in lockup had lost him his apartment and just about everything else, and he was still paying court fees as well as the crummy lawyer he'd hired. He'd gotten his car back, but only just, and it had seriously cost him.

Someone slid onto a stool beside him and said, "Evening."

Casey didn't look up.

An elbow bumped his own. "I said hello."

Casey gave the speaker the least friendly looking smile he could manage. He said, flatly, "Hi," and turned back to his drink. Guy was actually okay looking, but Casey couldn't find it in himself to care. He was tired, he was stressed, he didn't want to be touched or talked to. He'd already been with a few guys that night and his body cried for rest. A hole in the ground would have been good. Someplace quiet he could curl up.

The stranger, it seemed, didn't know how to take a hint. "Rough night?"

Casey swallowed a long draught of beer, and said nothing. There was that elbow bump again. Annoyed, he said, "Yeah. I'm not really in the mood to talk."

"Fair enough."

Silence then, between them. The rest of the bar was lively enough, the crowd a happy one. Casey scowled. Good for them. The stranger leaned close.

"That mood have anything to do with the guy you left with earlier?"

Casey put his elbows on the table, and covered his face with his hands. What the ever-loving fuck, he wondered. He sat that way unmoving for a long moment, and finally looked over. The guy had short dark hair and wry, teasing eyes. Thick whiskers covered cheek and jaw, and his mouth was turned up slightly at one end. His gaze moved appreciatively over Casey's face, and down, and up again, and the quirk of a grin widened.

Before Casey said anything, a dark lager appeared. He watched as several bills were put down in payment, and counted enough for a second drink plus a decent tip. The stranger jerked a thumb at him. "Another for him, all right?"

So it was going to be like that, Casey thought. He was surprised. The guy was good looking, on the brighter side of forty, appeared clean. He didn't need to pay for it. Could be, then, that he wanted something special. Casey's mind raced. He'd done semi-weird shit, but nothing outrageous. Got spanked, did the spanking, peed on a guy. Once he'd been asked to come in his underwear and hang around for a couple hours, just so the guy could watch him. He decided to be direct.

"What do you want?"

The stranger glanced away, and they both watched the bartender fill a fresh beer for Casey. When it was set down before him he drank but said nothing, and gave no sign of thanks.

"Just a drink with some company."

Casey laughed quietly into his beer. "And I just told you I'm in no mood to talk."

"Too bad for me," the stranger said, looking at him again. Casey stared forward, sipping his drink. The guy's eyes were heavy, he could almost feel the weight of their slow crawl. He was torn. He wanted to be left alone, sick of strangers touching him, but if the guy had money--

Maybe he could get a room somewhere. Stay a couple nights. Sleep in a real bed, watch television. Casey gave the guy a second once-over. Not bad looking at all, he thought. Fit under a snug brown jacket, supple leather hugging sturdy shoulders and a strong back. His face--he was handsome to look at. Casey jerked his gaze back into his beer, and shrugged.

"Maybe. What do you want? Really."

The guy's grin widened. "Company. I've seen you around a lot lately." He looked away again, gaze picking over the crowd in the bar. "Seems like you have a lot of friends. Always stepping out with different guys." His tone dripped with meaning.

Casey studied him with narrow eyes. "That's because they help me out," he said, slowly. "And I help them out. You get that, right?"

The guy laughed, short and sweet. He gave Casey an appreciative glance. "I get it," he said. "I know all about it. And I really, really could use your help tonight. What do you say?"

They finished their drinks, and Casey wondered what the guy had in mind. He knew he should give his spiel, what he'd do, what he would not, but something held him back. He just wanted to see. For the first time in a long time his body was interested in a customer. He spread his legs a little wider beneath the bar, the crotch of his jeans pulling tight over his cock., already beginning to swell. He bit his lip and finished the beer. They went outside.

The stranger picked a direction and Casey followed. They walked with a couple of feet of space between them, and Casey directed frequent looks at his new friend.

Yeah, he was going to enjoy this. Long legs, sure walk, a high, tight ass. Casey was in luck.

He said, "So look, if you want something quick we could go back to my car. The windows are tinted and it's dark out anyway. I left it in a quiet spot. Or we could get a room somewhere but you're paying. There's a place nearby, by the hour, usually clean. Hey. You listening?"

The guy glanced behind them, and said, "I'm listening. His voice was low, slightly rough, and a thin shiver wound up Casey's spine. "Hey," he went on. "It's Casey, right? Why don't we just get a room."

"Okay--wait." Casey looked at him, and he saw the light go on in the guy's eyes, saw that he'd caught his mistake. Casey turned instantly, but a hand closed tight around his upper arm and swung him back. The momentum carried him face first into the side of a building, and Casey grunted as cold brick met his cheek. One arm was twisted harshly behind his back and lightning pain shot through the shoulder. He bit off a cry, and finally, the guy spoke.

"Brown," he said, in that same rough low voice. "Casey T." A badge was pushed into Casey's line of vision, blurry but glinting bronze.

Another cop. Casey squeezed his eyes tightly shut. "Fuck," he groaned.

"Booked October oh-eight on charges of prostitution and resisting an officer."

So he was fucked. Again. Casey was not going to be nice about it. "Resisting a blow job," he retorted.

"Six months in the pen. Not so bad for your first time."

"Look," Casey said, "I won't do it again. Okay? I know, I fucked up, I know, I'm sorry--"

"Shut up." The cop eased off his arm, but did not let go. "You know a guy named Lee Darren? Sometimes goes by Darren Lee, or just Darren. Hey. You know who I'm talking about?"

Casey gritted his teeth together. Fucking cops, fucking libido. Fucking hypothetical motel room getting more hypothetical by the minute. "No," he spat.

Hot breath and a gruff laugh in one ear. "Bullshit."

The cop twisted his arm again, and Casey whined sharp through his teeth. He said, "All right, fuck! He arrested me before, okay? He's just some cop. What do you care?"

Again, the cop eased off, and Casey tried not to squirm. The urge to freak the fuck out was shockingly strong. He tried to just breathe. "You're hurting my arm," he said, voice shakier than he liked. "Please."

The hand clamped around his wrist let go. Casey quickly hugged both arms, squeezing them between his body and the brick wall and rubbing at the pain. The cop kept a light hand between his shoulder blades, and there was no question that Casey was to remain as he was.

"Has he come to you since you got out? Sent anyone?"

"Yes." Casey dug his fingers into his shoulder. It really did hurt. "I saw him at a bar the other night. He'd been watching me."

"Watching?"

"Yeah, you know. Work. Watching me--work." His face felt suddenly hot.

The hand at his back went away. After a cautious moment Casey peeked over his shoulder. The cop was still there, but standing now a few feet away and with his arms crossed. He gazed steadily at Casey, a tight frown on his face. "Go on."

Slowly, Casey turned around, leaning wearily against the wall at his back. "He just asked me how I was doing, how jail was. He--" Casey thought better of his next words. Like this asshole would give a shit about his complaints. They'd be tired business anyway if he'd read Casey's file. "He just said, you know, that he'd see me around."

"See you around," the cop echoed in a flat tone. He wasn't buying it.

Casey tried to guess what the cop already knew, and what he might be looking for. Darren was on some personal power trip, nothing new there, but Casey didn't expect this asshole to care. The police protected their own, didn't they?

The cop moved forward, furious again. He growled, "You're doing it again."

Casey shrank back against the wall. "What--?"

The cop put his face right into Casey's, mean-eyed and sneering. "Bullshitting me. You're working an angle right now. Well? What did he say to you?"

"Nothing," Casey said, quick and desperate. "All right? Nothing you'd give a shit about."

"Try me." The cop's dark eyes were searching. He stepped back, calm again, just like that.

Casey said nothing for a long minute, considering. What the hell. He said, "He wanted to know, you know, how much I charge."

"Charge?" The cop stared at him and Casey's cheeks grew hotter. Suddenly, the guy laughed. Casey looked away, embarrassed with himself. "So?" the cop said. "Kid, if that bugs you, you're in the wrong business."

Casey said nothing. Darren's a fucking cop, he wanted scream, a manipulative, sadistic son of a bitch, and a fucking cop at that. He could only imagine what good that would do him.

The cop's humor finally died and he said, "All right, look." He produced a business card, and held it out. "You see anything, hear anything--if you so much as catch a whiff of one of Darren's farts I want you to call me. Understand?"

Casey stared at the card. Roy Parker, detective with the city police. "Why should I?" he asked, derisively.

"I found you tonight, I'll find you again." There was promise there.

Casey gave a hollow laugh. "That a threat? I don't help you, I go back to jail? Figures. You think Darren's going to like it any better if I cross him like this?"

"Nope. But I'll bet my shield jail's not all he'll do to you."

The way he said it, wearing that little smile, it knocked the wind from Casey's sails. He felt sick inside. These freaks really were all the same. "So, what the fuck," he said after a moment. "You're my alternative? The lesser evil? Jesus. I thought cops were supposed to be the good guys. Shouldn't you be helping me?"

Roy had another good laugh at that, and Casey just watched. He felt that tense knot in his stomach again, like he were experiencing something that was both terrible and unavoidable.

"You're a repeat offender," Roy told him. "You don't have an address, you don't pay taxes, you hang around bars picking up strange men for sex. You're not exactly citizen of the year."

"Well fuck you anyway," Casey said. "I didn't realize that was a requirement, 'citizen of the year'. I never hurt anyone, which is more than you can say." To emphasize the point he rubbed his shoulder.

Roy just grinned. "Poor baby. I'll give you a few days to think it over. Check in with me by the end of the week. I'll find you if you don't." He turned away.

"I don't need to fucking think it over!"

But he was alone. The cop was already up the street and turning a corner.

Casey stood alone on the curb scowling at where the cop had been. Roy Parker. The fucking nerve.

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Also published at AFF under pen name "Scintilla". Comments and feedback are very much appreciated. Thank you for reading!