Since Aaron didn't say much outside the cells, Rick always paid attention to his friend's body language. That way, he discovered that the boy's shoulders always relaxed a little when Rick sat down at their table. He liked to make himself believe that Aaron counted down the hours until he could go to the dining hall, just so he would be near Rick again. Even though he couldn't say much; Rick convinced himself that Aaron drew strength from his presence.
Despite Aaron's verbal seclusion it was never quiet at their table. Rick was very talented in performing a monologue, Tommy loved to talk as well and Ace didn't mind to share his opinion either. There were always fierce discussions about the most trivial things, like the candy they missed the most or their favorite superheroes.
From the corner of his eye Rick looked aside. He still tried to look not too flashy at the boy; the last thing he wanted was to draw Moloch's attention to their friendship. It however was simply too hard not to look at Aaron, for it felt like he was becoming more handsome each day. Thanks to the many hours he had observed the boy, he knew what he liked to eat. The chocolate desert they got every Thursday was his favorite; his face always told Rick that it was a silver lining for him, something to look forward to.
Yeah — knowing that a dessert was someone's biggest light was sad. But it was at least something and in a place like this they had to find their happiness in the smallest of things.
Once Aaron had scraped the plastic cup and put it away, Rick shoved his own dessert towards him. Keeping one eye on Moloch to make sure the man didn't see it, he took Aaron's empty cup and placed it next to his plate.
For a moment Aaron stared at the new dessert as if he didn't understand how it had ended up there, then he looked up to Rick. His cheeks flushed and beneath the table, Aaron pressed his knee against Rick's by way of a thank you.
"You don't like it?" Aaron asked quietly.
"I do. But I like it more to give it to you."
"That is very kind of you." Aaron dropped his eyes, his cheeks reaching a darker shade of red. Rick felt his stomach flutter, it took a lot of willpower not to climb on his lap. Imagining how it would feel to be so close to him, made the wings of the butterflies flutter even faster.
In silence Aaron ate his dessert, there after it was time to leave. Briefly their eyes met. Rick couldn't help but smile, and Aaron's lips curled up too. Quickly, he turned around and walked away.
"You're on the roll boy!" Laughing, Tommy slapped his shoulder. "Hitting on Aaron like that!"
"I just wanted to be nice."
Ace chuckled. "Why ain't you a bit nicer to me? I'd liked to have some more desserts too."
Confused, Rick bit his lip. Was it more honest to give his next dessert to Tommy or Ace?
"Stop teasing that boy." Tommy wrapped an arm around his shoulders and leaned into him. One of his red dreadlocks tickled Rick's neck. "Rick is just a little in love, huh?" Tommy kissed his cheek. "And I think Aaron is a little in love with you too." He winked.
Suddenly his heart started to beat so fast it hurt. "Y-you really think so?"
"Hell yeah boy. A tomato would pale next to his face. He never dares to look you in the eye when we're at the table, but he can never take his eyes away from you when you're further away."
Rick squeezed his hands, a wonderful shiver rolled through his body.
The rest of the day he couldn't wipe the smile off his face.
. . .
"You gotta keep your plaything on a shorter leash, bro."
Mateo tore his glance away from the basketball field and looked at Emeril, raising an eyebrow.
With his eyes, the man hinted aside. Since Rick was on the field, the direction his friend pointed in was a little unexpected. It turned out to be Aaron he was referring to. Although he used to stare at the ground all day long, he was today watching the game he couldn't participate in.
"Fuck," he sighed as he caught the glances between his cellmate and Aaron. There were brief smiles, longing looks... Something was blossoming between those two and the whole prison was witnessing it. Including Moloch, most likely.
He whistled to attract Rick's attention, motioning the boy to come. The boy jogged towards him, his curls sticking to his brow. He was panting. As exhausted as he looked; the fanaticism hadn't left his eyes yet.
"Emeril will take your place."
His friend gave him a brief look before he got up and took Rick's place — for which the rest of his team was nothing but grateful. Rick drank from a bottle of water and wanted to sit down next to him, but Mateo pulled him on his lap. He had to make a point, he had to claim what others believed was his. Although the idea repulsed him, his hand glided to the boy's crotch and started to knead him.
He heard Rick gasp for breath, and he was unable to keep himself from smirking. Never before he had allowed someone on his lap in jail, and he had certainly not touched someone in public. It however had the expected impact, for he heard some of the guys whistle.
The fingers of his free hand intertwined with Rick's curls and he pulled his head aside, exposing the side of his neck. He kissed the clammy skin. He felt Rick's excitement rise underneath his fingers and to his surprise he noticed that he was responding to it as well.
He sucked the boy's flesh until he was sure he would leave a large, purple spot, reminding everyone that Rick was off limits. He moved his lips to Rick's ear and whispered: "Outside our cell you're mine, remember? It ruins my reputation if you flirt so obviously with someone else."
"I d—" His words turned into a moan as Mateo strengthened his grasp around the boy.
"Keep your mouth shut," he hissed. "I'm trying to save you, you idiot. Don't think I like to grab your balls."
Rick looked over his shoulder. "But wh—"
"Shut. Up." He gave him a penetrating look, long enough to make Rick flinch and turn around.
Mateo pulled his hand away. His eyes shot aside, to Aaron. The boy had bent his head again, looking more miserable than ever. He felt no satisfaction. He hadn't wanted to hurt him, but he neither wanted Moloch to think that he gave his toy permission to get too friendly with his property. If these two boys wanted each other he wouldn't stop them, but they should be much more careful.
. . .
When he returned to his cell later that evening, Rick was sitting at the desk, writing. Contrary to previous times he didn't greet him with a shiny smile, but he kept staring at his letter. For a while Mateo let him be, but it started to eat on him. Had he crossed a line this afternoon? Now he thought about it, he realized he had more or less groped the boy, even when Rick had once given him a blowjob voluntarily.
"Hey Rick..." he started after a while.
The boy turned around, giving him a questioning look.
"Can you see why I did what I did?"
"Because you want them to think that I'm yours," he muttered, his glance aimed at the floor. He sounded disappointed.
"You no longer want me to protect you?"
"I do." He pulled his feet on the chair and wrapped his arms around his knees. "But sometimes it's confusing. You are confusing. Sometimes you are nice like now, and sometimes you act like you don't like me at all and it messes with my head."
Mateo sighed. He understood. After all, he neither understood his own feelings that well. That urge to protect Rick wasn't something new; his whole life he had protected his little brother from their insane mother. But Rick wasn't his brother. His fate should leave him indifferent, and it didn't. Lately Rick himself was the reason he was so irritable — he was just too dumb to see what he was doing to himself and the danger he was putting himself in.
"You get on my nerves," he grunted. "You're the most annoying person I've ever met, but I don't want you to get hurt okay? And I don't want to get hurt either because of something stupid you do."
"But why do you find me annoying?" Rick asked quietly. "I — I always try to be nice. Should I — should I do more?" He started to blush. "You want me between your knees again? You — you never asked for it again. Didn't I do it well?"
Sighing, Mateo rubbed his face. No — he hadn't asked again. On purpose, for each time he thought back to that day he felt guilty. That boy needed self-respect and Mateo wasn't contributing to it by treating him like some toy.
"No. I don't want another blowjob." He nodded to the bed in front of him. "Sit."
Meekly, Rick got up and sat down at his bed. Nervously, his fingers fidgeted with a thread of his sleeve.
Mateo took a while to think, searching for the best way to have a conversation with him in which he gained some insight in Rick's thoughts and motivations. It was harder than he thought it would be.
"Who told you to cheer up others by satisfying them sexually?" he decided to ask right away. "Most of us don't particularly like to see the ones were care about sad, but apart from you I can't think of anyone who's willing to do something so intimate to make someone else feel better. Laying an arm around someone or giving him a hug should be enough. And if not, and if that someone does want another form of physical contact, you're not obliged to give it to him."
Rick bit his lip and stared at the floor. He didn't respond.
"Some people believe that sex is something special. Something between two people who love each other, who only give it to each other and to nobody else. Don't you like the sound of that?"
In all fairness Mateo had to admit he'd never had sex with someone he had feelings for. It had never bothered him, but something told him it was something Rick was craving for, and that all of this was just a desperate cry for love.
"I don't know," he muttered. "Usually — usually I'm the only one giving something. Also in a relationship."
"And you don't mind? You never wanna be the one being pleasured?" He hesitated. "Did you ever... fuck someone?"
Quietly he shook his head, still avoiding his glance.
"And you never told your partner you would like to try it?"
"It was never an issue," he muttered. "It... It was just clear who would fulfill what role."
"And you took the girl's role," Mateo concluded. "So you've never been in a relationship in which you and your boyfriend were equals?"
"No," he muttered. "My umm — my first relationship was with my chemistry teacher, and he was twenty years older."
Mateo felt sick. So he was the victim of a pedophile. He had sensed it well; there was indeed a underlying reason why his image of sex was so... distorted. "How old were you?"
"Fourteen," he whispered. "But — but I did love him. I wanted it."
Mateo doubted Rick would have dared to say no to his teacher, and he thought he would easily fool himself by telling himself he wanted it indeed. "Is he the one who framed you?"
Rick bent his head. "No. He's dead." He breathed in shakily. "One day, I told my friend. That Mr. Sanders and I were having some kind of... relationship. I thought I could trust him, but he told everyone." He bit his lip. "The boy who was fucked by his teacher... Everyone talked about it. Of course the news reached the school board, and they started an investigation. My parents forced me to press charges." He paused, his breathing sounded labored as if he could burst into tears any moment. "They fired him, he lost his teaching certificate. The whole world called him a pedophile and he... he just couldn't live with it. He jumped in front of a train."
"Holy fuck..." Mateo said in shock. In all honesty he couldn't care less about the man's fate, but he understood how hard it must have been for Rick.
A shaky sigh left Rick's lips. "If I... If never pressed charges... Then there would have been no evidence. Then — then he might have been still alive. It — it's my fault that..."
"Hey." Mateo leaned forward, grabbing Rick's chin to force the boy to look him in the eye. "It was his own fucking fault. Whether you liked what you did or not; you were a child. He never should have laid a finger on you."
Rick sighed and bent his head, and Mateo let go of him.
"Apparently that asshole taught you wrong things, and you still have this insane urge to please others. You don't have to, Rick. There are many other ways to cheer someone up without pulling down pants. Only get intimate when you're in love with someone and when that someone is in love with you too. When he gives you what you give to him."
Rick looked up. A blush spread across his cheeks. "Tommy said that Aaron is in love with me."
Fucking Tommy. Did that guy have a brain at all?
"You gotta be very careful with Aaron."
"I'm not only talking about Moloch." He hesitated. It was none of his damn business, but it felt like nobody had ever given the boy some decent advice. "He is abused. You can't offer him what you offered me, for it's something his torturer takes from him every fucking day. All his associations to sex are negative. There's a good chance that he doesn't want you to touch him, and that he doesn't want to touch you down there either — not even when he is indeed in love. If you two really like each other... Then leave every initiative to him and keep in mind that it can take months or even years before he's ready to be intimate with someone again."
He looked at Rick, who nodded severely. He thought the boys would be all right once they were out of prison; if someone cared about his lover's well-being it had to be Rick.
A silence fell. Suddenly Rick got up and wrapped his arms around him. Awkwardly, Mateo laid a hand on his back.
"Thank you," Rick whispered. "You're the best friend I've had in a long time."
Mateo didn't answer. It was a sad given.