The alarm blared loudly and Jensen groaned as he rolled over, blindly slap, slap, slapping until he successfully found the off button. He cracked open his eyes and saw a blurry 8:55am showing on the clock. With a sigh, he rolled onto his back, navy blue sheets sliding over his lean-muscled body, and stared up at the ceiling. It was Monday after the incident down at the club. But he was good. It was just another day, he reminded himself.
Jared was good, too. He hadn’t said anything, hadn’t treated Jensen as if he were going to break… because he wasn’t—and Jared knew that.
Things were normal.
Because they were.
Jensen rubbed his hands over his stubbled face, waking himself up. He let out a wide yawn. It seemed like only minutes had passed since Jared had kissed him goodbye and left for the office, but in reality it had been a couple of hours. And now it was Jensen’s turn to shower, eat, and head off to work.
He rolled out of bed and let his day begin.
○ ● ○ ● ○
Jensen took his time getting to the club. It was nearly 10:00am by the time he pulled into the expansive lot. His jaw clenched ever so slightly when he saw Chris’ old Chevy pickup parked out back. Chris rarely came in to the club during the day, and Jensen was pretty damn sure he knew why his friend was here.
He didn’t need a damn babysitter—Jensen had been stripping since he was barely legal and had never needed one. He also didn’t want to talk about what happened, which he knew Chris would want to do. What happened Saturday was over. It was in the past as far as Jensen was concerned. It’s true, he might have been a little shaken up in the minutes immediately following the incident, but as those minutes ticked by and turned into hours, that feeling of being a helpless victim had slowly morphed into something else, something darker… angrier even… that had settled into his bones. That heaviness was pulling him down, a feeling he didn't like all that much—Jensen needed a release and the set he had planned for next weekend was going to be his outlet. So yeah, Chris being here to check up on him? Not something Jensen wanted to deal with.
He got out of his car, taking what was left of his large Americano with him. He took a second to grab his duffel from the backseat, then headed to the employee entrance on the side of the building. The door was locked as usual and Jensen found his key to let himself in.
The lights in the back hallway were on and he could see the door to the club proper was open. A curse from the other side of the door was heard and Jensen couldn’t help but be curious about what Chris was up to, what excuse he had for being here other than to hover over him.
“Chris?” Jensen called out, walking down the hallway toward the door.
Chris’ head popped out from around the corner. “Hey, man. Funny seein’ you here.”
Jensen grunted. Chris knew damn well he’d be here. “Should I bother to ask what you’re doing? You’re never here on a Monday morning. Hell, you’re hardly ever awake before noon.”
He saw Chris’ eyes flicker to his still-bruised wrists, then back up. The other man cleared his throat guiltily and turned back to a wheeled cart that had an assortment of tools piled up on it. “I, uh… Jeff asked me to install a new locking system for the employee door from the club. It’s gonna have a five-digit code for you to get through to the back, so you know… what happened the other night doesn’t happen again.”
“Uh-huh.” Jensen eyed the knob on the door—it was half taken apart already. He sipped his coffee and hitched his bag higher onto his shoulder. “I guess I’ll let you get back to it then.” As Jensen was turning to head off to the dressing room, he saw Chris look back at him. He could see the question in the other man’s blue eyes, but he ignored it because, nope, he wasn’t going there.
It was all of a few short minutes before Jensen returned to the club floor dressed in nothing but a pair of black compression shorts with two bottles of water in hand, a towel hanging around his neck, and his bag full of his gear. Chris was nowhere to be seen. Jensen figured he was out back having a smoke. Jensen sighed in relief at not having to go through another awkward discussion with his friend; all he wanted to do was get up on stage and get into his zone.
Once he set his things out onto a table at the foot of the stage, Jensen headed over to the panel of switches for the stage lights and selected a few to turn on. He dimmed some and turned a few up, adjusting them until they were where he wanted them to be for this practice session. When they were all set to his liking, he returned to the table and thumbed through the multitude of playlists on his phone until he found a decent one to do his stretches to, plugged it in to the sound system, then jumped up onto the stage to warm up—thirty-five was creeping up all too fast. He certainly didn’t want to throw out his back or something just as stupid just because he was too lazy.
Jensen spent roughly fifteen minutes with some static stretching; he did some hip and thigh stretches, some adductor stretches, and a few others. Then he settled into some dynamic stretching, loosening up his joints and getting his heart rate up. Every now and then, he glanced over and saw Chris across the room working on the door. The last time he looked in that direction, Chris was watching him. His friend nodded before focusing back on his work.
When Jensen deemed himself warmed up enough, he jumped down off the stage. He cracked open a water bottle and drank half of it before capping it and reaching over to stop the music. He thumbed through his music list once more to find the song he was going to work with this week. Jensen had already put most of the set together in his head yesterday. Over the next few days, he just needed to see what worked and what didn’t. He set the phone back down on the table, tugged on his fingerless gloves, then returned to the stage.
The sound system kicked to life, the first chords of Marilyn Manson’s This Is the New Shit permeated the air and drowned out the quiet. Jensen closed his eyes and let himself absorb the hard, industrial beats of the music—
Everything has been said before
There's nothing left to say anymore
When it's all the same
You can ask for it by name
He took several deep breaths—then opened his eyes and began to move when the next verse began.
Jensen concentrated on the harder hitting riffs as he moved with the surety of a professional across the stage, thrusting when the notes called for it, swiveling his hips when necessary, turning and shaking his ass when the rhythm told him to. He let himself get lost in the digital sound pumping through the air.
Babble babble bitch bitch
Rebel rebel party party
Sex sex sex and don't forget the "violence"
Blah blah blah got your lovey-dovey sad-and-lonely
Stick your stupid slogan in:
Everybody sing along,
Are you motherfuckers ready
For the new shit?
Stand up and admit,
tomorrow's never coming.
This is the new shit.
Stand up and admit
He dropped to the floor and did several rolling thrusts—the crowd always seemed to appreciate them—then popped back up to his feet. With every boom of the bass, Jensen stomped down, mirroring the hard beat of the song. He threw his arms out wide, bending them at the elbow and letting his hands fall to the back of his head, before giving a thrust, thrust, thrust.
Jensen crossed the stage and turned his back to the room. He bent at the waist, slowly sliding his hands down, down, down his legs until his fingers reached his toes. He gave another shake of his ass, then seductively trailed his fingers up his calves and thighs, teasing up, up, and up as he came back up to stand tall once more.
It was a relief to just let it all out, his anger, his frustration at being taken advantage of. He pushed the memories aside, clenched his jaw, and pushed harder in his movements. For Jensen, this set had to be perfect when he returned to the stage on Saturday night.
Do we get it? No.
Do we want it? Yeah.
This is the new shit,
Stand up and admit.
And now it's "you know who"
I got the "you know what"
I stick it "you know where"
You know why, you don't care.
And now it's "you know who"
I got the "you know what"
I stick it "you know where"
You know why, you don't care.
He stalked over to the pole from the front corner of the stage, his every movement oozing sensuality. He spun and grasped the pole over his head behind him and sank down into a deep, tantalizing squat, spreading his thighs wide until his muscles burned. He pushed back up, his back dragging against the cool metal of the pole and turned on his heel. His gloved hands gripped the pole tightly and he climbed, biceps flexing and pulling under the hot stage lights and supporting his body weight, and then wrapped a leg around the brass once he was high enough off the floor. Jensen let go of his grip above him, and bent backward, trusting his legs to keep him from falling and breaking his neck. He twisted and contorted his body into positions most people would kill to be able to do—only a handful of the dancers at the club could handle the pole with Jensen being the best of them—then he slowly pulled back up and dropped smoothly to the floor.
Jensen startled when he heard slow, steady clapping over the pounding music. He looked up and Chris was now sitting at the table in front of the stage, an audience of one. Jensen flashed him a partial but fleeting smile, still feeling like the other man was watching out for him, and picked up his towel. He dragged it over his face and down his sweaty torso, then tossed it aside and retrieved his water bottle from the edge of the stage. After a long pull from it, he hopped down to the floor and switched off the music.
“Hey,” he greeted, a little out of breath.
“Smooth moves there, Jen. Not your usual style—I’m catching a little bit of defiance, maybe some anger, there—but it’s good,” Chris appraised when the room went quiet. “I’d fuckin’ kill myself on that pole. I still can’t believe you got Jared on that thing, and actually got him to look like he knew what he was doing.” He chuckled at that.
The familiar laugh alleviated some of the tension Jensen was feeling at being looked after. “He’s a lot more flexible than you’d think,” he teased with an knowing smirk.
“No. Nuh-uh. Keep your sex life away from my sensitive ears, man. I don’t need to hear about that.” Chris shifted in the chair and threw his booted feet up onto the table, making himself comfortable. “So, Manson, huh?” he observed. “A bit rough around the edges, but okay.”
Jensen shrugged. “It works.”
The hard beats of the song perfectly reflected how he was feeling after the other night. Jensen wanted something he could kick some ass to, something he could let it all out with. It was his version of a punching bag. He could throw all his pent up frustration, doubts, hurt, and anger into his movements. And it was working, but he wasn’t quite there yet—maybe after another day or so.
“You finished?” he asked, nodding toward the door in an attempt to change the subject.
Chris raised an eyebrow, clearly noting that Jensen was side-stepping the conversation he was not-so-surreptitiously pursuing. But he let it slide by, at least for now. “Yep. Six-Two-Seven-Seven-Two,” he said cryptically.
“That’s the code. Six-Two-Seven-Seven-Two,” Chris repeated.
Jensen furrowed his brow. He pictured the number in his head and then, “Seriously? Your birthday?”
Chris smirked. “Hey, how else am I supposed to remember that?”
“You’re an idiot.”
Chris held his hands up over his heart. “Hey, you’re woundin’ me here.” But his smile let Jensen know he wasn’t the least bit offended.
Jensen ran his fingers through his sweat-damp hair and sat against the table, getting comfortable. He took another drink of water and looked around the room—the club was pretty much a ghost town during the day when compared to the nights when the crowd sizes were edging into code violation territory. He glanced down and flexed the knuckles of his right hand. They still ached some from slugging that asshole on Saturday night, but the pain was well worth it; thankfully, he hadn’t broken anything. His eyes flickered over the fading, finger-shaped bruises on his wrists, but then his attention was pulled away from them when he heard Chris speaking again.
Jensen looked up and saw Chris eyeing his marred skin as well. “I’m fine.” He pushed up from the table and started rummaging through his duffle which was on the table next to them, not looking for anything in particular, but just getting away from the watchful eyes of his friend.
“And I’m fuckin’ Obi-Wan Kenobi. I’ve known you for too long to fall for that shit, Jenny—even if I didn’t, this song is a dead giveaway. You’ve never done a set to Manson, not in the past sixteen years or however long it’s been.” Chris dropped his feet to the floor, a heavy thump on the polished wood, and sat up, leaning toward where Jensen had moved off to. “You seem to forget, I was there. I saw the look in your eyes; you were terrified. It’s damn lucky I went to check on you when I did. Scared the piss outta me when I got back there and heard you shoutin’. I should’ve known—that fucker was just sendin’ all the wrong vibes out that night.”
Jensen pressed his teeth into his lower lip, hands stilling. Chris was right—he had been terrified. The guy had been roughly Jared’s size and stature, which meant a whole hell of a lot bigger than Jensen. Jensen had managed to get a lucky hit in, but if Chris hadn’t shown up when he did… Jensen had been pinned to the wall in the dressing room, overpowered and alone, the fragile bones in his wrists grinding together in a tight hold as his attacker tore at his clothing with unforgiving fingers and a dark, lusting look in his eyes. The word no hadn’t done a single damn thing.
A cold chill swept through him at the memory; it shook him from head to toe. Jensen vaguely recalled yelling at the guy, telling him to get the fuck off. He’d struggled and fought—Jensen knew he wasn’t a weak person, not by any means—but he’d been helpless, his strength waning with every second that had passed, all thoughts turning to Jared and what would happen to their marriage if he couldn’t get away, if his attacker got what he wanted.
And then Chris had gotten there.
“You should’ve let me call the cops,” Chris added, bringing Jensen back to the present.
Jensen blinked the burn in his eyes away. He had been adamant on not getting the police involved that night, and he still felt the same way, even after things had settled down. “No. It was bad enough it happened. I didn’t need to live through it again in detail with the cops—and Jeff doesn’t need that kind of publicity.” He picked up his phone again. “You done? Because I got work to do.” Jensen didn’t really want to keep talking about it. He hoped his pissy attitude would wear Chris down, but the other man persisted as always.
“You sure you should be goin’ back on stage this soon?”
Jensen turned to Chris and glared at him. He wasn’t made of glass; he wasn’t going to break. As a matter of fact, he needed to be back on that stage again.
“Look,” Chris continued, not backing down, “all I’m sayin’ is, you don’t have anything to prove to anyone. Maybe a little break would do you some good. I’m sure Jared would agree.”
Chris bringing up Jared pissed him off... because Jared was nothing but supportive of Jensen’s decision to come back. “Fuck off, Chris. I told you, I’m fine. Go home. I don’t need a goddamn babysitter,” he growled. “And for your information, Jared is fine with it, too.”
That shut Chris up. He stared at Jensen, jaw set and his eyes holding steady, but then he relented with a nod. “Yeah, fine. You’ve always been a stubborn son of a bitch—I guess nothin’ changes.” Chris stood up and gave Jensen a friendly punch to the shoulder. “But that’s what I love about you. I’ll see you Friday night then. Don’t work too hard.”
“I’m not goin’ up till Saturday,” Jensen corrected him. It was the only concession he’d made. “I took Friday off.” That got a look from Chris, one that was somewhat relieved.
“Okay.” He smiled. “Saturday, it is then.”
Jensen watched as Chris turned to leave; he pursed his lips, feeling a little guilty for treating his best friend the way he was. Jensen knew he only meant well; he’d stood by him through thick and thin in the last twenty or so years, this past Saturday included. “Chris?” he called out. The other man stopped and turned. “Thank you,” Jensen said quietly, but loud enough for the other man to hear his words.
Chris grinned, said, “Any time, man,” and left Jensen to his practice session.
○ ● ○ ● ○
Jensen stood in front of the full length mirror on the wall in his and Jared’s bedroom. The edge of his black boxer briefs peeked out from the top of the waistline of his low-slung jeans; his old, but very comfortable, Converse were on his feet. All he needed to do was pull on a shirt before he left for Prime. He’d done everything he could to prep for tonight’s show and was as ready as he could be.
But he was nervous.
It even showed in his eyes when he looked up at himself.
What the hell?
Apparently, he’d managed to accomplish the task of blowing off his anger through his practice sessions this week—only he’d done so too well, to the point that his nerves were now bared for all to see, not just him. The unsettled feeling was foreign to him and he didn’t like it, not in the least.
He’d always so naively been in the mindset that something like what had happened last weekend could never happen to him, especially now that he was a grown man, and not exactly a small one considering he was over six feet tall—the skinny slip of a twink that he’d once been was long gone. All it had taken was five, maybe ten, minutes to learn how wrong he’d been. The incident wasn’t, however, enough to keep him from the stage—nothing could keep him from the stage. It was his place, his art, his being. It was part of him, right down to his core and always would be. But that bit of carefree innocence that he’d always had was now a thing of the past. He reluctantly admitted and accepted that things would be different from now on—he even felt different. There was no denying it.
Jared was sitting on the bed behind him, leafing through some business magazine or another, his socked feet crossed at the ankles. He must have sensed Jensen’s unease because he suddenly looked up and asked, “You okay?”
Jensen let out a low sigh. “Yeah, just...”
“What?” Jared prodded gently, setting his magazine aside on the nightstand and getting up from the bed. He padded across the room moving toward Jensen.
“It's like my first show all over again,” Jensen confessed. The words came out angrier than he intended them to, but it was stupid to be feeling like this after all this time. (Maybe he hadn’t burned all of the anger away like he’d thought.) “Hell,” he said, “I don't know if I was even this nervous back then.”
Jensen waited for Jared to offer him an out for tonight—everyone else, including Jeff, had tried to get him to take the entire weekend off, like he was going to shatter at the slightest touch—but Jared said nothing. Instead, he just stepped up behind Jensen and drew him back against his broad chest. Jensen went with the movement, feeling a hundred times better against the comforting heat of Jared’s body as his husband’s arms wrapped around him and held him close.
Jared caught Jensen’s eyes in their reflection in the mirror and he gave Jensen a soft smile over his shoulder, dimples peeking out at the corners. The image they made in the glass in front of them was enough to make Jensen catch his breath. He wouldn’t ever deny it—they were beautiful together.
“You are going to be amazing,” Jared said, like he didn’t have a single doubt in his mind that Jensen would be able to do this.
Jensen turned in Jared’s arms and reached up to pull him down into a much-needed kiss. He licked over Jared’s lips, tongue caressing warm, soft flesh before plunging in and taking. Jared let him, knowing it was exactly what Jensen needed: to be in control again. When they drew apart, Jared looked down at him, hazel eyes full of certainty.
“What happened last weekend? It’s only made you a stronger person.” Jared leaned down and pressed his lips to Jensen’s forehead.
Jensen closed his eyes at the intimate touch. He nodded, wrapping his arms tighter around his husband.
“You’ve got this, babe,” Jared said, hugging him back.
○ ● ○ ● ○
Jensen took the stage that night in a rush, dark, skin-tight tee topping long, black leather-clad legs. He knew Chris was watching. He knew Steve, Jeff, and Felicia were watching. They were all watching for cracks in his veneer. He also knew Jared was watching—but Jared wasn’t watching for the same. Jared had absolute faith in him.
He hit it hard. The audience went wild. They loved the show. Jensen hadn’t lost his touch. He was as solid as ever. He smiled brightly when the song came to an end and the lights went down, being sure to catch Jared’s eye in the crowd (he was at his usual table at stage right) before bowing, then turning and jogging off the stage, heart still pounding from all of the adrenaline rushing through his veins and sweat dripping down his heated skin.
Jensen shrugged into the soft, terrycloth robe Felicia offered him and walked slowly down the hallway he’d traversed hundreds of times in the last decade. His thoughts spun, going deep. The long and familiar road that he’d been traveling for so long was winding down to an end, not because of what had happened, but because he was ready—he’d been thinking about it for a while now.
He and Jared had plans. The next stage in his life wouldn’t have all the flashy lights, the adoring fans, the sex appeal, the glitz and the glamour. It would have its own glory, its own excitement. He almost couldn’t wait even though it meant leaving all of this behind... Well, kind of.
Jensen smiled to himself thinking of his future with all of the changes yet to come—and Jared would be his support, his rock; he’d be right there alongside him through all of it, be whatever he wanted him to be: a husband, a dance partner, a business partner... and eventually a father. Jared would always have his back.
Nothing could stand in Jensen’s way, not when he set his mind to it. Nothing would stop him from taking the road he chose, whichever one it might be, wherever it might lead him… and Jared.
He didn’t need what happened last weekend to make him strong.
Jared was all he would ever need.
Because Jared made him stronger... unbreakable, even.
~ The End ~