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A little project’ was what Squip had called Jeremy in the beginning. Jeremy had potential (they'd checked one of their shows after the inital message, from their sockpuppet account), and training him would be something to break their routine, a certain boredom that had fought its way into their work focused mind. It should be entertaining. Squip would also be lying if they said they weren’t craving for something deeper, for some sort of human connection, different from sexually pleasing a virtual audience in a stream, from being polite at the grocery store.

And so lie they did, mostly to themself.

 

***

 

Through their time together, Squip discovered there was something delicious about having Jeremy do what they said, a good contrast to fulfilling others’ requests. Even if there were a few of Squip’s clients who sometimes asked to be ordered in their private sessions instead, it was still work. Coaching Jeremy, even though technically still connected to work, did not involve money, which opened the path for other things. Maybe this was the sort of joy people spoke of when they advocated for the importance of having a hobby.

The more time passed, the more the idea of collaborating with Jeremy seemed enticing. To see Jeremy take their advice, the cute pictures he sent in the flimsy outfits Squip recommended, so that they could chose which ones to upload on Jeremy’s page, the eager way he waited for Squip’s approval, all of it made their imagination run wild with ideas for future shows. They'd thrown them at Jeremy to see their reaction: Squip pretending to be a character who’d came out Jeremy’s video game; teasing Jeremy as he held the controller, seeing how long he could remain focused in the game as the stimulus increased; Squip as an android Jeremy had just acquired and proceeded to fuck. Jeremy's voice had trembled with excitement.

But Squip had standards, and he had to get better first.

 

***

 

“I’m not, ngh, not saying I’m quitting…” Jeremy said, over the phone one night, voice sad and frustrated. “It’s just… demotivating. A-and, you know, m-maybe you want to stop doing this. I’m sure you have better things to do…”

Squip did not have better things to do. But they were not very good at comforting either, not when they had to be real. They got to comfort their clients in private sometimes, but it was mostly listening to what they had to say, almost like a priest in confession. Except that instead of telling them to pray to atone for their sins, this priest would have some generic positive reply and ask what sexy thing they’d like them to do to get a smile out of them. It was usually good enough, but not appropriate for the current situation. Squip stayed silent for a moment, collecting their thoughts, before finally speaking.

“Do you think my coaching is bad, Jeremy?”

“W-what, no, you, you’re great…!”

“Then we’ll get there. I wasn’t expecting to get results overnight and I-”

“There’s been plenty of nights…”

“And I’m not giving up on you." Squip finishes, ignoring Jeremy's grumbling interruption. "Jeremy, you’re…”, they remember to make their voice softer there, kinder, “you’re good. You’re doing well. I like spending my time doing this with you. And I know you’ll get good results.”

“H-how do you know?”

“Because I’m always right.” Jeremy snorted a laughter from the other side. It was not the intended reaction and Squip did not enjoy being mocked, but still, it was better than his earlier resigned tone from earlier. They let it pass.

A few days later, Squip entered Jeremy’s stream with his second account, to which Jeremy remained unaware. Spent a good amount of money on him, wrote him some little requests that Jeremy satisfied, complete with little keywords and movements Squip had taught him. It might have been dishonest, from certain points of view, but sometimes a little lie was necessary to keep things moving. What Jeremy needed now was outside positive motivation, and Squip knew it had worked the moment he saw Jeremy’s caller ID five minutes after ending the stream.

 

***

 

Squip’s shows were planned to the detail, from wardrobe, lighting and scenery to the acts they would perform. The audience mattered of course, their tips paid for what they would do, but it was often from options Squip would give, and they were usually able to predict which one would win. They could adapt if needed, but the need was rare. They were experienced enough to make an accurate prediction of the lowest and highest they would earn. Everything was calculated.

They would be a robot, or an alien, or a scientist, or whatever was their fancy for that week. It was certainly a niche interest, more arthouse sci-fi erotica than what one would usually expect from a cam show, but Squip had never been interested in pleasing everyone. It was in pleasing a select few that the money was at, and where their work could shine. They had a very complete service, with shows and photos and private virtual sessions, and the amount of care they took with everything was, to say the least, uncommon, but they’d always been a workaholic, obsessed with perfection. It suited them just fine.

So when Jeremy had asked to be untied during their collaboration, live, without any previous discussion of the subject, it could have struck a nerve, and it most certainly would have, were this anyone else. But the truth was it had absolutely delighted them. It satisfied them as a mentor, that their student had grown so much since they first met, from his generic approach to camming and serious need for guidance, to this point where he had good ideas and the initiative to make them real. But it especially excited him because it was Jeremy, Jeremy wanting touch them, Jeremy wanting to get them off.

It had left them ecstatic and wanting for more, on and off screen.

 

***

 

Squip would not have described themselves as lonely. It was true they didn’t have any close relationships, but it was also true that they didn’t need them. They were dedicated to a job they excelled at, which gave them plenty of (virtual) human contact and sexual satisfaction, and the idea of meeting new people and having obligations towards them was simply exhausting. There were relationships from work too, close in a way, even if carefully constructed. Jeremy was one of those relationships too, although the manner in which Squip had invested themselves in it was different from all the others.

Which was why waking up wrapped around Jeremy had been so strange. Squip had been confused, then scared and finally embarrassed, but even so, they pretended to be asleep still, unwilling to let go so soon. The embarrassment was warm, and so was Jeremy’s body. Squip snuggled a little closer, breathing in the faint scent of their own shampoo in Jeremy’s hair, recalling the details of the previous night. What was the last time they’d had sex with someone without a camera pointing at them? The last time they’d had company until morning? 

After planting the lightest kiss against the back of Jeremy’s neck, Squip forced themselves to untangle from his warmth. He made a small noise (a cute noise, how was he so cute?), shifted a little, but remained sleeping, and Squip lingered for a moment, watching. Jeremy’s eyelashes were long and pretty on his freckled face, breathing slow and peaceful. Squip wanted to stay even longer, to give in to the odd craving of physical intimacy, but they finally stepped away, put on underwear and a shirt, and went down to the kitchen.

When Jeremy joined them, his eyes were wide as he took in the breakfast table. There was bread, croissants, butter, cheese, milk, yogurt, three different qualities of cereal, strawberries, bananas, and a plate of freshly cooked pancakes. Jeremy stared at the table, then at Squip, longer than he’d stared at the food, and then proceeded to blush and pull a chair when Squip told him he could eat whatever he liked. Squip, leaning against the counter, smiled knowingly as he watched Jeremy sit down.

“A-aren’t you going to eat?”

Squip raised their cup of coffee, but before Jeremy could protest, they added, “I had a smoothie before you got here.” 

“So you just.. m-made all of this for me?” Jeremy seemed even more amazed and embarrassed. It was cute. “You didn’t have to…”

“Of course I did. I told you I was a good host.” It wasn't even the kind of food they'd usually have at home, but there was no need to inform Jeremy of that. A good host would also sit instead of watching from above, so they did just that, on the chair across from Jeremy. Their feet touched under the table. “Now go ahead, Jeremy. All this food isn’t going to eat itself.”

“I, hm, I think it’s kind of impossible to eat it all…”

“Then you’ll just have to return another time.” Squip said, confident and flirty, mind already running through discarded and new collaboration ideas, events even more successful than the first, all the fun they could have during and after. But the smile Jeremy threw them was so sweet, so shy, so hopeful, that it got in the way of their line of thought. Back in the present, Squip blinked and took a sip of their black coffee.

 

***

 

“Aren’t you going to let me in?” Squip asked, raising their eyebrows, as Jeremy stared at him, still holding the door. This time Jeremy was wearing a black t-shirt featuring a rainbow astronaut cat. Squip had never seen it before, but it was oddly just as Jeremy as all the stripes. “You asked me to clean your house, I said I’d be here.”

“I, uh, I d-didn’t think you meant it.”

“I mean everything I say.” Well, not always. But from what Jeremy had described, he clearly needed order in his small flat (how could a place so small fit so much mess?) and Squip was happy to provide. After a moment, Jeremy finally had the good sense to move away and signal them to enter. Squip took off their shoes, and headed straight for the kitchen to pick up a broom.

“B-but you’re not actually going to clean, right?”

“I am. I'll be needing more than a broom, though, so if you could bring me your other cleaning supplies...”

“No! I mean, y-you don’t have to… Obviously. I’ll just, just d-do that later, it was joke…Let's um, let's do something else.” Jeremy said, growing more embarrassed the more he spoke. It seemed Squip would have to find the cleaning supplies themself. Jeremy didn’t stop them. “You think I’m an idiot, don’t you… or gross… or b-both…”

“Do not put words in my mouth, Jeremy Heere.” Jeremy looked up at his full name, and Squip finally smiled, kind but teasing. “In any case, I enjoy cleaning, you don’t have to feel bad for this. If you’d like me to wear a something more… specific, I might have to charge you a fee, though.”

They looked at each other in silence, as Jeremy's cheeks turned redder, and he finally seemed to remember how words worked. “I-it’s fine, you d-don’t have to change.” Squip's smile grew in amusement.

“A pity.”

 

***

 

“S-so, I was, um, looking at job listings the other day…” It seemed like the start of something, but Jeremy just left it like that, nervousling hanging in the air. They’d met to buy fabric for Jeremy’s crossdressing Link cosplay, but had ended up in a different kind of store, as Jeremy was discovering he might want to try wearing something other than jeans, t-shirts and cardigans. Squip was currently shuffling through a section of vintage button up shirts.

“Why?” 

“I was thinking, I don’t know, um, m-maybe start looking for a different job? I’m not sure yet…” Jeremy’s voice matched the uncertainty of his words, but there was also a hint of hope. Squip didn’t bother to look his way. 

“What if the interviewer knows you make porn? Or your colleagues find out later?” 

It was easy to see how just anxious the idea alone made Jeremy feel, emotions clearly displayed in his face. Enough to make Squip feel guilty, but not enough to make them take it back. After all, they knew about Jeremy’s natural lack of self-esteem and that he was the kind who’d self-sabotage (he’d said so himself), he probably just needed a little boost of confidence. Because he couldn’t possibly want to quit now that the shows were going so well, that the money was coming much more regularly. Now that they had more collaborations in mind, that would, for sure, end up with the two of them spending the night together, waking up in the same bed, just as the others had.

He couldn’t possibly want to quit now that he’d become such an important part of Squip’s life.

“Besides, you’ve been doing so well, Jeremy. Why stop now?”

“Y-yeah, maybe it’s n-not a good idea… You really think I’m good?”

“Of course. You know I don’t give compliments I don’t mean.”

“Yeah, t-that’s true…” Jeremy said, with a little smile that didn’t fully reach his eyes. Squip didn’t ask. They didn’t want to know, they wanted him to stay. Would Jeremy even talk to them if he started a different job somewhere else? What reasons would he have to do it? Camming was the only thing Squip had going on for themself.

“Here. Try these.” Squip said, effectively changing the subject as they pushed a couple of geometrical patterned shirts into Jeremy’s arms.

“T-they’re um, a bit seventies, no?”

“I think you’d look very handsome.” 

The dressing room was meant for one person only, but Squip entered it anyways. Jeremy was soft and sweet and so cute as they kissed, along with their reflections. This time his eyes smiled too.

 

***

 

“Stop doing that, Jeremy.” Squip said, lightly slapping Jeremy’s hands away from each other. He had a bad habit of pulling the skin around his fingernails when he was nervous, not noticing it was happening until there was blood on his hands.

“S-sorry…”

“What’s on your mind?”

Jeremy looked at Squip for a moment, pensive, and then back to his lap. “I was just thinking… That you, um, you c-could be a bit more supportive…”

“I’ve been coaching you since we’ve met. How is that not supportive?”

“I-it is, but, I mean, ab-bout o-other things… Like… me getting another job…” Jeremy said, making Squip sigh. ”You even seemed relieved that I didn’t get the last one.” He continued, in a lower and bitter mutter. Squip had decided the best course of action towards further mentions of ‘finding a new job’ was to ignore it so that they wouldn’t have to say anything unpleasant and soil their precious moments together. This time, however, they didn’t pretend not to listen.

“How am I supposed to be supportive about that? It’s the opposite of supporting your work.” The opposite of supporting the work they’d been doing. Together.

“I, I, d-don’t know, t-tell me g-good luck, or s-something…”

“Good luck.” They said in a dry, sarcastic tone. “Is this the adequate kind of support?” Jeremy didn’t reply, just sat restless for a few seconds, before suddenly getting up. Squip almost pulled him back, but controlled themself, the urgency slipping into their voice instead. “Where are you going?”

“Bathroom.” Jeremy had turned his face away too quick for Squip to see, but his voice was strained, making its best to sound casual but failing miserably. Squip bit their lip as they watched him go. They’d apologize when he returned. Was Jeremy so tired of this, of them? He didn’t stress about bills anymore. He wanted to be good at something, and he was. And he’d seemed happy enough last night, moaning Squip’s name as they wrapped their lips around him, away from prying eyes.

“Jeremy-“

“I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” Jeremy cut them off the moment he returned, sounding more certain than Squip had expected him to be. His eyes weren’t red, but his face was wet, from splashing cold water on it. He sat back on the couch, further away than he’d previously been, and picked at the bits of dead skin around his nails for a while before speaking again. “D-do you, um, want to watch a movie or something?”

Squip agreed. The movie Jeremy chose was loud, effectively filling the uncomfortable silence. Squip didn’t pay much attention to it though, focusing instead on Jeremy’s face, his breathing, looking for the moment when his body relaxed and they could move closer. Their fingers touched, then their arms, and then Squip’s head was leaning on his shoulder. Twenty minutes into the movie and they were tangled up in each other.

They kissed up Jeremy’s face, his lips, his cheeks, the corners of his eyes, kisses soft and delicate, unsure if they meant it as an apology or as a distraction from the absence of one. Squip moved their lips to Jeremy’s neck, hands slipping beneath his shirt, and later between his legs, as Jeremy hummed pleasantly. They were starting to kiss down his chest, when Jeremy suddenly hugged them, too tight to move.

“Jeremy?”

He did not reply, just held them closer. Confused, Squip made themself relax into the embrace, pressed against Jeremy’s heart. 

 

***

 

By the time Squip arrived, Jeremy had managed to calm down a great deal. His face was dry, his breathing even, his voice sounded almost normal. His eyes were slightly puffy, but nothing indicative of his earlier state on the phone, speech almost incomprehensible in the midst of sobs and loud breathing. Squip had understood enough to know that they needed to be there.

“I, uh, I overreacted. It p-probably wasn’t even him…” Jeremy said, not quite looking them in the eye. He was shorter than Squip, but in this moment he seemed so much smaller, digging his nails into his upper arm, hugging himself. “S-sorry for making you come, I didn’t… mean to b-bother you.” 

“You were having a panic attack.”

“Y-yeah, but. I’m b-better now.”

Squip came closer, cupped his face. Jeremy’s eyes were still distant, but they didn’t force him to look up as they usually would. Instead, they let Jeremy lean into the touch, as Squip’s hand moved slowly towards his hair, fingers softly grasping the brown curls, soothing. Squip kissed his forehead, and then made their voice as soft as they could. “Let’s sit down and talk about what happened. Is that okay, Jeremy?” Jeremy nodded and Squip kissed his hair. 

They didn’t let go of Jeremy as he told them about the man staring at him at the grocery store, eyes tearing up again. At first, he’d assumed he'd been on his way, but as the man stayed planted in the same spot, following Jeremy with his eyes as he continued his shopping, it became weirder and Jeremy finally glanced back. The man was seemed familiar, and as Jeremy was picking up a bag of chips, he suddenly realized it was one of his customers, who’d recently started insisting on taking him on a date. 

“S-so I just d-dropped everything and r-ran home. Which was f-fucking s-stupid, b-because what if he followed me, and n-now knows where I live…” 

“You would have noticed him following you. It might have not even been him, were you able to take a good look?”

“No…”  Jeremy said, curled up against Squip’s chest. 

Both remained in silence for a while, Squip petting his hair, rubbing his back, worried about Jeremy and disgusted with themself. They knew they’d been selfish, but hadn’t realized quite how much until then. There was a knot in their throat, of confessions and apologies, but this was not the moment.

“Squip…”

“Yes, Jeremy?”

“I… T-this is stupid, but… I d-don’t want to be alone…” Jeremy’s voice was so small. Squip held him tighter.

“I’m here with you, Jeremy, you’re safe.” After a pause, they added, “Why don’t you come spend a few days with me?”

“A-are you sure?”

“Of course. Pack your things, we can go whenever you’re ready.” 

Jeremy would come, stay as long as he needed. When he was ready, he would announce he wanted to quit and leave, and this time Squip would let him go.

 

***

 

As Squip stepped into the living room, on the third night of Jeremy’s stay, they found him laying down in the sofa, holding his phone to his chest.

“You’re still up?”

“I watched your show.”

“Oh, did you now?” Squip leaned into the couch, closer to Jeremy’s smile. It had been a non nude show that night, where Squip played a robot learning about sex, all talk and teasing. They hadn’t yet removed the make up, over their skin and arms. “Did you jerk off?”

“I was… Um, hoping you’d d-do that for me.”

Squip blinked, surprised, and then smiled, flirty, perfectly charmed by this cute boy who wanted to order them around. They lowered themself on top of Jeremy, slowly let their weight fall on him. Jeremy's smile had a perverted yet adorable quality to it. They were going to miss it. “Well, I wouldn’t want to ruin your expectations, would I?”

 

***

 

“Squip, I’m… I’m going to quit camming.” Jeremy said, on the morning of the fifth day, while they were still laying in bed. They’d slept together without having sex that night, and how could Squip want to let go when even just sleeping next to Jeremy felt good? 

“Because of what happened last week?” Squip asked in a sad voice, as if they hadn't been expecting Jeremy to say it for days.

“Yeah, but… I already wanted it b-before… You know, t-this was always just a job, and I needed m-money and it paid. I’m… um, not like you. I j-just wanna be like, a normal person…”

“Implying I’m abnormal...?” 

“N-no!” Jeremy sat up, run a hand through his hair. “S-sorry, that was not what I meant at all… But you, um, y-you actually like doing this and you’re really g-good…”

“You’ve gotten good too, Jeremy.”

Jeremy sighed sadly. It seemed it hadn't been the right thing to say. “D-do you think this is… the only thing I can be good at?”

Squip changed to a sitting position too, knees close to their chest. “No. I think you can be good at plenty of things, but this is the only one I can be of assistance with. And I… I owe you an apology, for not letting you step away sooner.”

“Well, it’s not like you, um, had a gun p-pointed at my head or something…”

Squip considered it. The escape he was offering was easy, tempting, and Jeremy would be able to leave with a better image of Squip. But they’d caused enough harm already. “It’s dangerous to let me off the hook so easily, Jeremy. That’s how people take advantage of you.”

“Y-you didn’t-”

“I was counting on your fears of what others think of you and on you not wanting to disappoint me. It worked. I'm sorry.” Jeremy remained silent. Squip sighed and looked ahead, away from Jeremy. They’d imagined apologizing would make the knot on their throat untangle, but somehow it didn’t, it just made it all more real. “I suppose I’m the true disappointment after all.”

“Why?” Jeremy asked, after a while. He was usually so easy to read but this time Squip couldn’t figure out the emotions behind that one short word. 

“I didn’t want you to leave.” Squip admitted, in a small voice, the weight of loneliness falling on them in a way it never had, for before they hadn’t known they were lonely. “I’m going to miss you.”

“Squip… I'm k-kind of upset, but I wasn’t, um, I’m not… We’re still going to be together, e-even if it’s less time…”

“Why? You won’t have reasons to spend time with me anymore.”

“What?” Confusion, followed by concern. Squip looked back in time to see the color draining off Jeremy’s face. “This is not… S-squip, I don’t want to b-break up… I, I want t-to still be your boyfriend…”

“Boyfriend?”

“W-why are you just repea-, w-wait, are y-you saying we’re… what’s, what’s our relationship for you? F-friends with benefits?”

The word ‘friend’ hadn’t actually occurred to Squip either. “It’s based on work. I was coaching you and there was sex and… we never discussed it.”

“So you don’t like me.”

“Of course I like you.”

“Then w-what are you saying? We’ve been on dates.” Jeremy said, sure of the facts but extremely confused about Squip’s reactions. Now that they thought of it, their work related shopping sessions always ended up with making out in dressing rooms, or talking in a café, flirty touches under the table. They could be considered dates. They... made more sense as dates. “Did you, um, did you bring me here for work?” 

"Of course not.”

“And you t-thought I was going to leave you because of this?”

“Well, I don’t know.” Squip could feel themself blush in frustration. They were starting to feel very stupid, and, as if reading their mind, Jeremy asked if they were. Stupid, that is. Squip glared at him, wordless, although it might have been more of a pout. In any case, Jeremy was not affected by it.

"I'm not leaving you." Jeremy said. And then he smiled, sweet and amused and wise all at once. “N-next time you should, uh, play a robot learning about love instead.”

“A sexual plot is more rewarding for…” Squip started, and then interrupted themself, frowning. “You’re mocking me.”

“Yeah. I am. You’re so…” Jeremy shook his head and moved closer, laced his fingers with Squip’s. “Squip, I want to be with you b-because of you, that’s why we kept spending time together. We... l-like each other.”

“Oh.” Maybe they truly were stupid. It was a novel consideration and it brought more relief than Squip could have ever imagined. Jeremy moved his hand to cup Squip’s face and closed the distance between them with his lips. Kisses soft and loving and needy, and Squip put their arms around him, pushed him to lie back in bed. “So we are… in a relationship and won’t work together anymore, is that it? I don’t want to assume incorrectly again.” (Technically, Jeremy had been the one to make an assumption, but the details didn’t matter anymore.)

Jeremy laughed and kissed them again. “Yes.”

“I’ve never done this before.”

“O-obviously.” They were being mocked yet could not stop smiling. Jeremy rolled them around so he stood on top this time, slipped his hand beneath Squip’s shirt, slowly lifted it until it was above their nipples. His fingers lingered, moving in small circles. “Seems I, hm, I’ve got more experience than you on something after all.” Squip sighed, pleased, and wrapped a leg around Jeremy’s body.

“Then teach me, Jeremy.”

“Fine," Jeremy said, smiling his sunshine smile, "I will.”