Rick was holding Aaron's hand while they were getting some air at the yard, together with Tommy and Ace. The weather was good, the sun warmed their skin. Mateo, Emeril and Tommy's older brother Zeke were standing a few metres away from them, shielding them off from the other prisoners. It felt good, having Aaron so close. Most of the time he was quiet, but now and then he was participating in the conversation. His eyes however were always restless; he was looking around skittishly the whole time. It had been two days since Moloch had been sent to solitary. Since that night Aaron was sitting at their table again, and at night Rick held him in his arms. He liked it a lot, he wished they could be together the whole time. Carefully, Rick had tried to figure out if there was a way in which Moloch would be assigned to another cell. Rick was prepared to renounce all his savings if it meant that his boyfriend was safe at night, and Tommy and Ace told him they didn't mind paying as well. There had to be others too.
Yet, Mateo had shaken his head, telling him to forget about the plan. It was one thing to bribe a guard for a few nights, but purposely messing with Moloch was a whole different story. The man was part of a dangerous organization and the guards would put their families in danger if they stood up against the inmate. According to Mateo, there wasn't a single guard who would take the risk for a boy who'd be free in a few weeks anyway.
It made Rick angry — because of their cowardliness, Aaron was suffering. Although the longing to hurt someone had never crossed Rick's mind, he was plagued by dark fantasies now and then, wishing that Moloch would die. A heart attack would be perfect, but if someone gave him a knife, would he dare to stab the man? His glance moved aside, to Aaron's sweet face. There was a hint of a smile around his lips and when the boy caught his glance, a pink tinge spread across Aaron's cheeks while he squeezed Rick's hand.
Rick wanted to protect him so desperately. With every hour passing by, he felt more nervous, afraid that Moloch would walk up to them, take Aaron away from him and drag him to a cell.
Aaron lifted his hand and pressed a kiss to the back of it. "We'll be all right," he said in a soft tone. Apparently, Rick had squeezed his hand. "I can deal with whatever is coming. I know I'm no longer alone." Another kiss followed, this time on his knuckle. Rick felt so many butterflies in his stomach that it was a miracle he was not lifted from the ground.
"When he comes back..." Rick said quietly, "does that mean that we can't... be together like this anymore?"
"It's better if we don't. We shouldn't provoke him. Six more weeks and I'm out. That's what we should focus on." He turned a little more towards Rick. "I'll let him believe that I'm his. But my heart, my heart's yours."
Rick nodded hesitantly. He understood, he didn't want Moloch to force himself on the boy in public again. There was nothing more humiliating he could think of.
Aaron leaned into him, whispering with flushing cheeks: "And we still have the Fridays, when we're changing the bedding."
Rick wanted to wrap his arms around his boyfriend, but he thought about what Mateo had said earlier today; that he needed to create space between them. He shouldn't fuck things up again when Moloch came back.
"You two are disgustingly clingy." Ace kicked his foot, although he gave them a quick wink. "Hey, why don't ya tell us why you're here, Rick?"
"Oh — umm. I was sent to prison because my ex... possessed illegal guns. A lot. And he blamed me for it."
Saying these words still ached his heart, but it wasn't as horrible as it had been in the beginning. If he hadn't been betrayed by his boyfriend, he never would have met Aaron. And he knew his new boyfriend would never betray him like that.
"What about you?" Rick asked curiously.
"You go first," Ace sent a smirk to his friend. "Your story is the dumbest I've ever heard."
Tommy chuckled and looked at Rick. "I wasn't completely sober—"
"Which is just a dumb excuse to look less stupid," Ace told him.
"Anyway, I broke into an apartment but I accidentally locked myself up. Don't ask me how. It was on the fourth floor, so I couldn't climb out of a window."
Rick stared at him with eyes. "Why would you break into a house?"
"It was just a stupid bet."
"He missed his brother," Ace told him in a whisper before turning back to Tommy, smirking. "Or were you trying to prove that you weren't as stupid as your brother? You failed, bro."
"Hmpff. You got no right to call me stupid. I'm not the one spitting a cop in the face."
Ace chuckled. "But I was drunk."
"You spit a cop in the face?"
The small boy leaned back and laughed. "Yeah. My homie and I were stealing a police car, we wanted to joy ride. I got the most severe penalty, for I was the one driving — drunk — and I fought with an officier when he called me a kid. I ended up in the back of the same police car we stole. Because of some vandalism charges I already had community service a couple of months ago, so this time I was sent straight to prison."
"Wow..." Rick stared at him, not knowing what to say. These were quite the stories. He turned towards Aaron, looking curiously at his friend. "What about you? Why are you here?"
The boy stared at his knees. Instead of answering, he shrugged.
"Are you innocent too?"
"No," Aaron muttered. "I'm anything but innocent."
Rick's worries increased when he saw the bitter expression on Aaron's face. He wanted to caress his face, but he was startled when Aaron pulled his hand away all of a sudden and looked over his shoulder.
It was dead silent around them.
Rick felt the panic rise when he saw who was standing in the doorway. Moloch. Before he could say or do something, Aaron got up and shuffled towards the man, his head hanging.
By reflex Rick wanted to jump up; he didn't want to leave his boyfriend alone, but Ace grabbed his wrist. "Don't," he said in a stern voice. "He has to bear this alone. If you interfere, things will only become worse for him."
Rick took a deep breath and bent his head. His heart broke into pieces. He didn't know how to do this. How to do nothing. How to pretend that the sweetest boy he'd ever met wasn't dragged into hell within a few minutes.
His bottom lip started to quiver.
Then, he started to cry.
Ace sighed, wrapped an arm around him. "He's stronger than you think, Rick."
Rick sobbed, his shoulders were shaking. "But I'm not."