It was only a subtle glance—yet it was enough to get Mateo's attention. Especially since Aaron usually avoided any eye contact, with Rick being the only exception.
The boy wanted to speak to him. He must have gone to Deryck, as he had suggested. That was the biggest chance to get Nightshade. He had never seen Aaron smile or see him radiate anything other than dejection or sadness, but he assumed he would look a little more hopeful than he did now if he had succeeded.
When the boy looked at him again, Mateo glanced towards the restrooms. Moloch might still be in the infirmary, but surely there were people who kept him informed of what was happening to his possession. Whoever spoke to him, whoever looked at him. Mateo knew he was taking a huge risk with this, but it was too late to back out. He wasn't a coward.
Aaron was a smart kid. Rick would probably have run straight to the toilets, but Aaron understood that this would have been too obvious and would put them in danger. It was only when the buzzer announced the end of breakfast that they both headed for the toilets. Aaron locked himself in one of the bathroom stalls and after two others had relieved themselves, Mateo knocked on the door to signal that it was safe to speak.
"I asked. But..." Aaron's voice died away and for a moment Mateo heard only heavy breathing. A little impatiently, Mateo leaned against the sink. They didn't have much time. Besides, he found it annoying that he couldn't look at the other, though this was indeed the safest way to communicate.
"But?" insisted Mateo.
"Four hundred dollars. And they want it now... Not when I'm free. That... I can't arrange that."
"I can," Mateo shrugged it off. "Is that all?"
"No." Another silence. "He — he wants Rick. To... well, you know."
Mateo's hands clamped around the edge of the sink. "Hell no," he growled.
"No," Aaron muttered. "I don't want it either. But me... they don't want me."
No. Moloch would castrate the guy if he found out.
Maybe I should do that too. To make a point.
After all, Rick was his. If anyone thought they could touch the boy without his permission, they'd regret it. That was how things worked around here. And Deryck was supposed to know that too. He'd probably just wanted to scare Aaron away, but if Rick had really belonged to him then he should have taken it as an insult.
And that was exactly what he did and what he would make clear to that piece of scum.
"Rick is mine," he said with a growl. Is ours was probably a better description given the relationship between the two boys but at the moment he didn't feel like nuancing it. The thought that someone wanted to help a boy like Aaron only after raping his friend made his blood boil. "And that clod-brain will know it, too."
He didn't have a knife, but he had been sleeping with a razor-sharp potsherd under his mattress for months. You never knew if you would need one here. At the moment, it was handy. Surrounded by a sock, he smuggled it into the dressing room in his hideous prison crocs. He hadn't told Rick anything, so he couldn't screw it up. Mateo assumed Aaron hadn't told him anything either.
Usually, Mateo made sure they were last, so he didn't have to lay his claim on Rick too thickly. Today he planned that he was there with Deryck. Of course, a couple of his mates were there too, so Mateo had asked Emeril and Ace to stick around as well. Still, he doubted he would be a lot of drama if he threatened to mutilate Deryck's dick.
Rick seemed somewhat surprised that they were on early today, yet the boy was too naive to suspect it was intentional. After undressing, Mateo pushed his cellmate to the shower next to the smuggler's and joined him. He put his hands possessively on Rick's hips and pulled him against his chest.
Over his shoulder, Rick looked up, a little panicked, it seemed. For a moment it stung—until Mateo realized this was a progression. Only a few months back, the boy had sucked him off because he thought it would make Mateo feel better, and now he seemed about to protest. It was also because of Aaron, of course, but at least he now had boundaries he wanted to guard.
And that was precisely why this needed to happen.
Mateo bowed his head and whispered: "Some men seem to need a reminder that you're already taken. That's for your own good as well as your lover's."
Briefly, Rick looked at him, then bowed his head in silent agreement.
Mateo didn't let it last long. After all, the shard was hidden between Rick's hip and his hands; the chances of anyone noticing were growing by the minute. From the corner of his eye, he looked at Deryck. As soon as the man smeared his hair full of shampoo and raised his head to rinse it out, Mateo stepped aside, moved to stand behind the jerk and grabbed his throat with one hand. With the shard, he pushed against his balls.
Mateo was not overly tall or muscular, but fortunately, neither was the man in front of him.
"I heard you're after my toy. You can have him; but only if you say goodbye to these little fellas." He poked into the soft flesh.
The man stiffened. From the swelling of his arm muscles, Mateo could see he was getting ready to attack him, but the shard so close to his noble parts kept him from doing so.
Mateo grinned contentedly.
"So tell me, hm? Do you want to start living as a eunuch or will keep your dirty hands off other people's toys? Because I don't share."
He lowered the arm around Deryck's throat, but did not remove his other hand. The man looked over his shoulder.
"What are you talking about, man?"
"My cellmate." He nodded sideways, to Rick, who was watching them with wide eyes. At lower volume, he continued, "Agree to the offer the kid made you earlier today and find yourself another ass to fuck, because that one is mine."
Deryck clamped his molars together. "I'll tell Moloch. That you want to poison him."
Mateo snorted, "You should definitely do that. If he knows you can bring that stuff in, you'll probably be the first to get killed."
Deryck's face grew gloomy. "Fine," he snapped. "I'll keep my mouth shut."
"And you'll take care of the delivery?"
The man cast him a dark look.
Mateo increased the pressure. "Well?"
"I'll see what I can do."
"Good boy." Mateo made a threatening wave with his hand. "If not, there will soon be other things you can't do no more."
Mateo stepped away from the man. As soon as he was back under the shower with Rick, he cast a brief glance to the side. Because Emeril and Ace had stood on the other side, the view there had been blocked, and Mateo had made sure there was no real drama. For a moment, his gaze shot to the guards, but one of them he often shoved a sum of money, and the other was distracted by Tommy, who was undoubtedly trying some bad pick-up lines.
Bad enough to hold the rookie's attention.
Mateo looked ahead again and saw that Rick had turned around.
"What was that about? I couldn't hear any of it."
"Good. I said I'd protect you, so that's what I'm doing." He pushed the boy away from the jets. "Go and dry off."
Rick threw him another defiant look, but then did as he was told.