I seemed to establish a routine of spending the day asleep, the evening with Ryan or at work and then the early hours of the morning, I’d mope around in a corner of the local park. I’d sit there with a beer, wishing it was something else, and cigarettes, with my thoughts for company. It wasn’t so bad, I suppose. I nearly always slept through when I got back, and if I didn’t, Ryan was pretty good at making sure I at least calmed down. I missed Line and Fate; the pair of them were a yawning hole in my chest that constantly demanded filling. I took on extra shifts if I could get them, telling the boss I would fuck women if I had to, just to keep myself busy. Ryan complained that I was stealing his customers, but he didn’t seem to mind quite so much when I split the money with him. It wasn’t the money I cared about; I just wanted someone to love me for half an hour.
It’d been maybe a week, a week and a half since I sent Line that letter. I wasn’t expecting anything back – I’d given him no return address – and I certainly wasn’t expecting to be found. It was about three in the morning. I was sat in the park on my usual bench, minding my own business when some fucker leapt out of the dark at me. I freaked out, naturally, ready to tear a new one in whoever it was attacking me.
"Where was my goodbye hug?" a familiar voice demanded and I stopped. Fucking hell. Chase? I sniffed, and it was indeed Chase.
"You gave me a heart attack,” I yelped. He didn’t seem to care too much, demanding again to know where his goodbye hug was. I muttered an apology and he nuzzled me. "What're you doing here?"
"Came to find you."
"Because Line misses you and he wanted to make sure you were okay," he told me.
A weak laugh bubbled up and flopped out of my mouth. "Line doesn't miss me."
"I was barely a friend to him,” I said off-handedly like it didn’t bother me, lighting a cigarette. I didn’t want Chase to be here. I was getting settled down, and used to being here.
"That's not true and you're an idiot if you think that. But that's not why I'm here. I'm here to make sure you're okay"
"M'fine," I lied.
"Got somewhere to sleep?" I nodded. "Got a job?" I nodded again. "Doing what?"
"Odd jobs.” I know the lie was pointless, but I didn’t really want to admit to him that I was a whore.
"And do these, uh, odd jobs pay well?"
"Maybe I should stick around and help out, then."
"No, you belong with the pack."
"They can spare me for a few days."
"There's really no need. If you need money, I'll just give you some," I didn’t want him hanging around as it was, and I certainly didn’t want him hanging around while I was working. He’d end up in trouble and I would have to clean up the mess.
But, he was determined. "No, it's fine, I don't mind working."
"I'll get fired just for suggesting you join me."
"Then don't suggest,” he grinned widely. I scowled.
"I'll get put in prison.”
"You don't even have to act like you know me."
"Because I'm a whore! There, happy?" I tried not to snap. I really didn’t want to have to admit to anyone what I was doing. It was all well and good for people now if they wanted to get into it, they were all sexually liberated and free. I was still amazed they didn’t jail you for being gay, let alone being a gay prostitute.
"I knew that already,” he shrugged, and I slapped a hand over my face.
"You don't look old enough, and they'll think I'm trying to sell you to paedos, so I am not taking you with me."
"Then I'll find my way there on my own."
"Please don't," I begged.
"You'll end up attracting a paedo and get hurt"
He looked like he was resisting the urge to roll his eyes, "Lazarus, I might look fourteen, but I've been around a lot longer than you. Believe it or not, I'm not some little weakling, and I know how to use someone's weight and strength against them."
"That's not the point," I groaned.
"Then what is the point?"
I buried my head in my hands. "I dunno, I just don't want anyone to be dragged into it. It's this or playing the piano in bars for me, and this pays a lot better." I peeked out at Chase from between my fingers. He was tilting his head questioningly. "I'm no good at doing anything else."
"And neither am I, I've never finished school, so it's settled." I didn’t even want to think about him knowing what sex was, let alone having it. Rich, I know, coming from me, but now I’d grown up, it just seemed weird that people would have sex at that age. I whined, earning myself a prod on the nose. I was feeling defeated, and kind of annoyed with him now, but he just grinned. I tried for a while to at the very least keep him out of Ryan’s apartment. It wasn’t my place to say whether he could stay with me there or not. But Chase was insistent on not staying in a hotel.
Eventually I conceded and told him he’d have to sleep on the floor. We walked back to the apartment together in silence as I tried to think of a vague cover for Chase just randomly turning up. In the end I introduced him as my nephew, who had run away from home. Ryan took one look at Chase and turned to me.
"I won't be able to cover all your appointments tomorrow, sweetcheeks. You'll have to find someone else to look after him.”
"I can look after myself," Chase said and Ryan looked back at him again.
"You should be in school, honey, not looking after yourself," he said sympathetically. He was, after all, speaking from experience. Chase shrugged.
"He'll be fine. Where're the spare blankets?" I asked. Ryan got him a pillow and some blankets to put between him and the floor as well as one to cover him. Once he was comfortable, me and Ryan undressed and got into bed. We had had sex, but there was very little affection beyond friendship between us, so there was no snuggling, even though we had to share a bed.
By the time me and Ryan woke up, Chase was already up. We all had showers and shaved, getting ready for the evening. Ryan’s preening took forever, so he usually had the first shower. I, on the other hand, was ready in about five minutes. It would be less, but it was a battle to get into those fucking jeans he picked for me. I made myself some toast with a cigarette dangling from between my lips, filling the kitchen with smoke. Between the two of us, we kept setting the fire alarm off, so we’d taken the battery out. God forbid should we actually set fire to something.
"You're not coming with us, Chase," I reminded him.
"Because you're fourteen,” I said loudly, mostly for Ryan’s benefit. “I've only got three people to entertain tonight, I’m sure you'll cope on your own til I get back. You can eat as much junk food as you want. Just please, stay here." He pouted. "I'll pay for an endless supply of candy if you stay."
"I'm not that easily bought."
"What will persuade you to stay here?"
"Going back to see Line,” he grinned at me.
"I'll go when I've finished work,” I lied. I don’t think he bought it, but he agreed anyway. “I'll be back in a couple hours," I told him, giving him a quick hug goodbye. He gestured at my forgotten breakfast, but I was already halfway out of the door, and late.
I was home by about midnight, exhausted and utterly spent. I didn’t even stop by the park to mope for once, which I had done without fail since I got here. Chase was sat in his makeshift bed, eating something. I didn’t see what. I just flopped onto the bed, face down. Ryan wasn’t back yet, so I spread out, taking up most of the bed on my own.
"Do you have an alarm clock?" Chase asked, looking up at me.
"I wanna make sure I'm up on time tomorrow," he informed me. I prayed to God he didn’t mean what I thought he did.
"What work?" I glared a little.
"You know what work." I watched him, annoyed, as he finished his food.
"Are you doing this just to spite me?" I asked, wondering if he was doing this because he knew I didn’t like it and would eventually give in and go home just to make him stop.
"I could do with some extra cash,” he shrugged.
"Take some of mine, then."
"My own cash." I grinned, despite the fact I wasn’t happy. He laid down and got comfy where he was as I watched.
"Will you agree not to if I agree to actually go see Line?"
"On whether you're going to see him to stop me making some money, or if you're going to see him because you actually want to," he told me. I whined, cocooning myself in the duvet.
“I'll just make things worse if I go see him, you know that."
"Then I better get to sleep."
"The pack will kill me if I let you go out whoring."
"No they won't."
"How do you know?"
"It's not like this is anything new,” he shrugged. "Well, the getting paid part is." I shuddered a little at that. "What?"
"You're not allowed to even know what sex is," I muttered.
"Why not? I've been around long enough."
"Because it's weird thinking of you having sex when you look so young,” I replied.
"Does that mean I'm not allowed to have been a gangster, a spy and a smoker too?" he asked innocently.
"No. Though I s'pose using you as a spy isn't a bad move,” I laughed slightly, "you look too innocent." He grinned up at me and I returned it with a weak smile.
"Anyway, I really need to get to sleep,” he reminded me, snuggling his blanket.
"Does Line really miss me?" I asked quietly before he dozed off.
“Yeah.” I didn’t understand why. He’d said I was just a friend. That meant that he didn’t really care, right?