They were halfway down the corridor, chatting excitedly to the interested glances of the prisoners who could see them from their cells when Jamie suddenly realised what had been nagging at the back of his mind despite his excitement at seeing his best friend.
Rhys’ face when he saw Richard.
“We need to go back.” He muttered, scratching the back of his head a bit sheepishly.
“What? Why?” Richard queried, smile freezing for a minute.
“I need to introduce you to someone first.” It wasn’t a lie, he really wanted to make things clear to Rhys who Richard was just as much as he wanted to introduce them. He couldn’t have him thinking something untoward was going on.
He didn’t think about why he wanted to do this, he just knew he needed to. Now.
“Who is it that I need to meet so badly –?” Richie sighed as his friend simply grabbed him by the hand and pivoted in the direction they were coming from.
Rhys was lying flat on the cold floor and looking straight up at nothing. His eyes were a blank stare. Jamie didn’t like it.
“Rhys, are you okay?”
The big man still didn’t budge; all Jamie got was a blink. One frigging blink.
Well Richard had had enough. He straightened up and went into ‘prison officer’ mode. “Can you stand up plea – oomph! What?”
Richard glared at Jamie as he rubbed his side, which Jamie had just punched.
Jamie looked at Richard sternly, and then at the set of keys hanging on his waist belt. “You can open the door right?”
“Of course I can. Jamie, what’s this all about?” He stopped when Jamie made a fist to remind him. He shook his head in amusement. “Fine.”
“Open the door.”
“What do you want Jamie?” Rhys spoke at last, his deep voice rumbling over their argument.
Jamie turned to him in relief, small hands gripping the bars so tight his knuckles went white.
“Rhys.” He said again in a low, soft voice. He was asking the big man to look at him. Something.
Rhys took a deep breath and turned his head. His face remained blank, expressionless. But his eyes were filled with turmoil. Jamie’s heart wrenched painfully.
“I want you to meet someone.”
No movement from the big man.
Richard looked between his friend and the dangerous looking giant in the cell, wondering what the hell was going on. He looked again at the big man… “Why do you seem familiar? Do we know him from home?”
The two men ignored him, but Rhys now pulled himself upright, eyes glued on Jamie who was doing the same. He came to the cell door, fingers slowly circling and gripping the bars over Jamie’s fingers, enveloping them completely. It was like electricity was crackling in the air. Jamie gulped at this show of territory, loving but hating the wash of delight he felt at what Rhys was doing.
Blushing harshly, he finally found his voice, “Rhys, this is Richie – Richard, my best friend since childhood.”
Rhys’ eyes widened slightly then went back to blank. He was obviously fighting his reaction. “Best friend.”
“Yeah. He just transferred from Feather. I had no idea he was doing that… coming over here I mean. He’s been
in the prison service since we left uni.” He rambled on, trying to explain, to get some understanding from the big man.
“Oh.” Was all he got back.
Jamie sighed. “Richie, this is Rhys.”
Richie raised an eyebrow at the lack of qualification of the relationship. As far as he knew, his friend was straight but this all looked… somewhat intimate. Intense. The big man looked contained, like he was holding himself back. Jealousy. Definitely jealousy.
Suddenly it clicked.
“Rhys Foxton? Rhys Foxton!” Richie gasped in growing recognition of the fact that this was the famous actor as well as the person he had heard was involved in a great deal of drama with Jamie in here. “The actor?”
“Yeah, the actor.” Jamie moaned in mock exasperation. Rhys’ lips twitched. Just a little. Jamie saw it and beamed wide.
“What? Can’t I be surprised to see a famous actor? Just because he’s your friend doesn’t change the fact that he is famous.” Richard spouted indignantly. He turned to Rhys, hand held out for a handshake.
Rhys looked at him and then his hand, reluctant to let go of Jamie. He heard a long drawn out sigh from Jamie and shook his head in amusement, pulling his hand away to shake Richard’s.
“Any friend of Jamie’s is a friend of mine.” Richard continued agreeably.
“Same here,” Rhys rumbled. “Nice to meet you.”
“How polite,” Jamie added with a smirk. He stifled a giggle when Rhys’ hand squeezed his and he let go of Richie’s hand to grab Jamie’s other hand as well. He tugged at the hands until Jamie was facing him directly. Then he leaned in close, voice dropping. “You want me to be rude to your best friend?”
The small man swallowed visibly, very obviously hypnotised by Rhys’ stare. Goosebumps dominoed up his arms and down his back. “I didn’t say that.” Staring. Hard. “Rhy… stop. I’ve got to go.”
Rhys let go immediately and the swiftness of it made Jamie’s chest constrict. He had no idea why. He was beginning to regret asking to be taken back to his cell. He really did want to stay with Rhys. He wanted to curl up in those large arms and chat. And make out. And make love. But his courage was somewhat clogged in his throat. The appearance of his best friend, howbeit a good thing, didn’t help matters.
Rhys walked backward with his hands raised, his face blank again. Jamie made to speak but Rhys’ look stopped him.
“Go,” the big man said before turning away from them. “Nice to meet you Richard.”
Richie had to practically peel his friend off the bars and drag him away. He definitely had to have his questions answered, now more than ever.
* * * *
They spent hours in the interview room by the wing office catching up on things. Richard really wanted to know all about Rhys and Jamie kept trying to avoid the subject.
“Don’t you dare say what I think you’re going to say. I’m not whatever you think.”
Richie stared at him and he looked away in embarrassment. “So there’s nothing going on with you and that scary giant?”
Jamie couldn’t help himself. “He’s not scary!”
Richie laughed. His friend chose the wrong bit to defend. “Really? He’s akin to an extra terrestrial at least. He is built like one, I’ll tell you that. Even beside me, much less you. Jesus, the guy is like seven feet tall!”
“Yeah, rub it in will you?” Jamie muttered.
“Not like that stopped you-” Richie teased, getting a punch for his trouble. “What?”
He straightened up as a thought struck him. “Your vehement denial is… Are you sure – ” he frowned in contemplation, “should I be insulted by this?”
Jamie frowned, drawing invisible circles on the table. “No. Of course not. It’s nothing to do with you or the way you are. Honest. It’s me. I’m not gay. Simple as. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with gay people, it’s just not me.”
Richard’s eyes widened as a memory crawled back to him. He kept it to himself. “I don’t believe that for even a second. This sounds like some warped sense of ‘I’ve always been the one protecting the gay guy so I can’t possibly be gay myself’.”
Jamie buried his face in his hands with a weak, “No.”
“Or maybe it’s a ‘It’s my best friend that’s the gay one, not me. Never me’, huh?”
“No Richie. Stop okay?”
“Jamie. Remember your own words? “Being gay is not the end of the world. There’s nothing wrong with liking or loving a man.” Remember?” he got a hesitant nod. “Maybe you should think about taking your own advice sometime.”
“This is completely different, Richie.”
“What exactly does that mean?”
“I’m not gay.”
Luckily for Jamie, the call came for lights out lockdown and Richard had to leave so he escaped further interrogation from his friend. It was temporary relief though, he knew that but he was glad for it because he had no idea why his situation was any different.
He just couldn’t deal with this. He honestly didn’t know how, other than to run. And he had nowhere to run to, not with Richard one way and Rhys the other.
* * * *
Richard couldn’t get his mind off Jamie and his thing with the actor prisoner. His friend was obviously caught up in it but in denial at the same time. He thought about the words Jamie had used. “I’m not gay…” They had jarred him.
Jamie didn’t know this, but when he had been attacked that terrible day in the school garden, and Richard had found him and called an ambulance, all he had been saying as he flowed in and out of a consciousness, was, “I’m not gay, I’m not gay.”
They were about 16 at the time and Richard had just come out as gay in school against Jamie’s advice. He regretted it profusely now, for Jamie had begged him to keep quiet about it. They had had many arguments about it that their parents had begun to worry. At the time no one knew but Jamie and he had kept that secret for about 3 years. They were about to graduate and Jamie had hoped to do so in peace. He feared the repercussions of letting people know in their small conservative town, but Richard was not having it. Richard had known he was gay since before he even hit puberty and had just about waited long enough to let it out. He realised how selfish he had been about the situation now but it had been all he could think about.
Surprisingly, there hadn’t been such a bad reaction to Richard’s coming out. Things had happily gone back to normal until five months later when Jamie was cornered at the back of the school by their homophobic football team and mistaken for Richard.
It seems he kept trying to tell the guys they had the wrong person and he was not gay but the boys didn’t give a shit. They beat Jamie up within an inch of his life.
He suffered many injuries; a fractured right femur and right foot, four broken ribs, a dislocated jaw and significant internal bleeding from a ruptured spleen. Not to mention the massive bruises and wounds all across his back from the hard kicks and blows. All for something he was not.
Jamie had managed to crawl through the school door and if it was not for Richard, impatient about getting him so they could go see the latest slash movie, rushing from the home economics class and then to the art class and then to the garden to find his friend all but a bleeding pulp.
He had called an ambulance and tried to get Jamie to tell him who had attacked him. All the small broken boy could say was, on repeat, “I’m not gay.” On and on and on.
Jamie never remembered those words when he came to. Even though he had kept saying them through the months he was in and out of the coma.
But Richard could never forget.
It seemed this could be the root of Jamie’s denial of what was happening with Rhys. He was saying those words again. His terror was rearing its ugly head, subconsciously it seemed.
Richard could never forgive himself for what had happened to his friend because of his selfishness and stupidity. He had sworn to protect him from then on.
That was why he had been trying to transfer to HMP Markham since Jamie had been incarcerated. It had been very difficult and he had had to take a demotion in order to do so. His governor at HMP Feather had thought he was completely crazy. He hadn’t bothered to tell Jamie about his plans to transfer because he knew his friend would have tried to stop him.
He didn’t care. He was going to be there for Jamie for as long as he was able.
Now coming here and hearing all the crazy stories, about the warden, about the crazy Ace, he knew he had done the right thing.
Now Rhys on the other hand…
* * * *
2 weeks later
The library was another improvement to the prison. It was in the same building it had always been in but had now been vastly enlarged, with the activity rooms on either side of it moved and designated elsewhere to allow for expansion. It was pretty impressive.
All the makeshift shelves were gone, replaced with proper shelving and even the odd glass drawers. Very posh. More books had been provided and they filled the shelves nicely, giving more authenticity to the place.
It was also very quiet and tranquil, absolute heaven for Rhys.
This was why he joined Old Cole working there as soon as there was an opening. As soon as the old man had told him of the plans to expand, he had jumped at the chance to escape the world of the prison as often as he could.
Old Cole was grateful for the company. It had been just him in there for too damned long. Now he was sick of it. He was happy to just chat now… and watch Rhys stack the books onto the new stands. The big man loved the place, God knows he was tall enough to do the work without a ladder.
He had a couple of others helping as well though. He had made sure to choose quiet, well-behaved prisoners. The library was not a place for drama; for those who wanted to lay low and serve their time, yes, but never for drama.
He watched the new officer approach them, gave him a nod, and excused himself. Jamie’s officer friend would obviously have more to say to Rhys than to him. He liked to watch it all. It made good entertainment in his old age.
“So you and Jamie…” Richard leaned against the wall right by where Rhys was stacking books. All the other prisoners had inched away to give them space.
Rhys raised an eyebrow, slowing his pace but not stopping. “Me and Jamie…?”
Rhys turned to him, leaning over slightly against the bookshelf but still way too tall and imposing. Jesus, Richard thought.
“I don’t understand. Did you just ask a question?”
“Are you fucking my friend?” Richie asked bluntly.
The huge man’s nose flared. He had touched a nerve there. Good.
“That, sir, is none of your fucking business.” Rhys turned and continued to stack the books as if to tell Richard he was done talking. Well, Richard sure wasn’t done.
“He’s my best friend.”
“Then maybe you should direct that question to him and not me. Wouldn’t that be a lot more – what’s the word - appropriate?”
“I have. He says there’s nothing going on.”
“So you don’t trust your best friend then.” It was not a question.
“It’s not that,” Richard stated. “It’s the way you act around him. The way he acts around you.”
“You really need to speak to Jamie.” Rhys stopped stacking, looked down, and sighed. “I can’t help you. Sorry.”
“He’s never been gay. Are you sure this is not because of you?”
“Yeah. My colleagues - I heard you were forced to spend the night together in solitary - and you made it so good that the warden hates you for it.”
“Look, we got into this with the warden and it was either that or die. I did my best in the situation, considering that neither of us wanted to go through with it in the first place. Now you’re saying I should’ve made it bad? You’re seriously saying I should have hurt Jamie???” Rhys spat angrily.
Richard raised his hands. “Hold up a minute, I’m not saying that at all. It’s just… he’s had so many opportunities to come out as gay and he has never had or shown any such inclinations. I’m his best friend…” Rhys made a face at that. Richard ignored it. “I’ve been gay since we were teenagers and he’s been there all through! So being gay would not have been an issue for him!”
Even as Richard said this, he knew he should have been having this argument with Jamie. But for some reason the small man could not understand or explain… anything. He was at a loss, hence Rhys.
“Maybe he’s just met the right person…” this was more of a mutter but Richard caught it.
“You flatter yourself!”
“Do I?” the huge man growled. “I’ve fallen for him. Gay or not. It is not unthinkable that he should love me back!”
Rhys was fuming; this so-called best friend of Jamie’s really had some nerve. “Its not like I was gay before I met him either. I’m sure you read the tabloids. You know who I am. It goes without fucking saying.”
“No need to blow your own trumpet.” Richard stared at Rhys. Wow, Richard thought, the huge man did not even realise he had said ‘love’.
“I’m not. You asked for it.”
Richard watched him for a moment, deciding to let him know the reality of things.
“Something happened to Jamie when we were younger…” He caught the flash of reluctant interest in Rhys’ eyes, of an almost desperate nature. The giant had it bad. Good thing that, seeing as Jamie was more or less whipped, whether he admitted it or not.
Over an hour later, Rhys sat quietly for a good while after Richie had left him. He felt a lot lighter with the knowledge that Jamie’s denial was possibly more a mental issue caused by his bad experience rather than plain old rejection.
He had told Richard that Jamie needed to know about it. He needed to face what happened and maybe it would help him come to terms with his feelings for Rhys.
Thinking of what happened to the little man filled Rhys with rage. He wished he had been there to keep those bastards from touching him.
* * * *
Taking Rhys’ advice, Richard told Jamie everything.
After hearing what his friend had to say, Jamie was strangely elated. It kind of made sense now.
He had been right to think Richard had become overly protective, long after he had recovered from the attack. Now he understood why. There had been no lasting physical damage and he had made a full recovery. Richard must’ve felt he was traumatised mentally.
He now felt guilty for not agreeing to see the psychiatrist like his parents and Richard had been pushing for then. He recalled their fights and arguments about it, the frustration and anger Richard had expressed over him not wanting to get better with therapy. This must have been why Richie had been so upset at the time.
Through the times he had been having the nightmares and everyone had been told by his would be therapist to let him get over it with the passage of time and make no reference to it unless it came from him.
Apparently he needed to want the help to be able to benefit from it.
Jamie had felt there was nothing wrong with him so he had not bothered with any more doctors or therapists. Served him right for being so stubborn and proud he guessed.
Now he could see why he was constantly thinking ‘I’m not gay’ in his mind without any rationale behind it. It was his mind playing tricks on him after all.
If he hadn’t been so fucking stubborn, he would’ve been fine by now.
Oh well, it couldn’t be helped. He refused to worry about yet another thing. This was good news. He could sort himself out now. He had no interest in speaking to the prison-designated counsellor though, no one ever did. Who knew what was passed on to the warden? First thing when he got out of here, he would get a psychiatrist or a counsellor to help him deal with things.
He wondered what the big man would think about all this. For some reason, Jamie couldn’t wait to tell him. Maybe… maybe he would understand now.
* * * *
It was a Saturday. The gym was mostly empty except for Ace and his men. They were all there, using weights of different sizes. When they crowded like this, not a lot of people hung around. Which worked for Ace considering what he had in mind today.
“When does Rhys do the library?” he grunted thoughtfully.
The boys perked up, always happier when they smelt the promise of trouble. It was in their blood.
“Fridays, I think,” Major stated. He was the most outspoken of the group of guys.
“Perfect. With him and Old Cole at the library, we’ll have free reign,” Ace began. “I need you guys to start a little party to keep the guards occupied. Come Friday, I’ll need to be somewhere close enough to the laundry that a lockdown wouldn’t affect me.”
He looked around at the men. “Ideas men. What activity won’t draw too much attention from the guards?”
“I’d say the gym, the small one,” Jo murmured in his usual slurred voice. He was the procurer of the group, well the most resourceful anyway.
The small gym was hardly used now that there was a larger more equipped one available. It was used mainly by those focusing on weight loss rather than body-building. Save for the storage rooms in between, there was no security door that would shut automatically on a lockdown. There would be nothing to shield little Jamie from Ace when the time was right.
“They wouldn’t believe you actually want the kitchen. You can say you want to drop some pounds?”
“Mmmh, that doesn’t sound too bad. The small gym… I can get in the laundry easy.” Ace was lost in though for a while. The main thing was ensuring the warden remained unaware of the switch. The rest would be no big deal at all. There were loads of guards that would turn a blind eye. He could fid out the warden’s holiday schedule too...
It was as if Connor read his mind. “You sure about that though? Would anyone believe you want to actually lose weight?”
“So where then?” the huge man asked in exasperation.
“I say, cut yourself.”
Ace stared at Connor with a look that said ‘really???’
“Listen a minute. Once you do that, you get taken to the infirmary. That way it all happens on the one day before any of the men are the wiser.”
“Just a small cut. It just has to bleed enough to be noticeable…” Connor encouraged.
The infirmary was even better, located directly opposite the laundry. Ace wasn’t exactly convinced though.
“But if there’s a party, it wouldn’t do good to have a wound. That would be a weak spot.” Major said as if he had read Ace’s mind.
“Yeah, that’ll make me vulnerable,” Ace agreed.
“You, vulnerable?” Connor asked in disbelief. All the men laughed, beginning to talk all at once.
“And they would chain you to the bed too…”
“Yeah. Damn, that’s even worse.”
“Well what?” Ace cut in. He was getting impatient.
“You can pretend to have chest pains some days before. You know, act like you can’t breathe…”
“Get to the point man,” Ace growled.
“When you see the nurse, talk about your weight like maybe that’s the reason. You know weight loss and all… then start talking about using the small gym…”
“Ahhh… it would have to be a while before so it all looks legit,” Ace added.
“So you’re saying I’m fat?”
“Err… no. Come on Ace. Y-you’re a giant of a man, that’s all…”
“Don’t like it,” Ace decided. And that was the end of that. Major breathed a sigh of relief. Better that than to face his anger.
“Any other ideas that don’t focus on my size? Think, you bastards.”
“What about the warden?” Connor said quietly. It was what they were all thinking. The warden had specifically warned Ace off.
“Shut up Connor. That’s my fucking business.”
The question hung in the air though. The men all knew the deal with the warden. After all, Ace had nearly blown their ears off raving and ranting about the warden keeping Jamie out of his reach.
“I’ll be in and out of there in a blink. You guys have got to do your part good. I’ll need good time to get my shit done. Okay?” They all nodded. “So no little spats. I want a good party. Rile the turbans up or something. Rile everyone up.”
“But they’ll still know its you…”
“Your history with the little…”
“Don’t worry about that,” Ace cut him off. “There’s no way he’ll be able to say a thing. I’ll make him forget who the fuck he is, let alone who I am.”
“Maybe wear a mask?” Jo offered. “I could make you one?”
“Fuck. All right. Do that.” The huge man groaned impatiently. “Just make sure it’s done properly, don’t want no makeshift piece of crap. If I decide to wear it.”
He actually had no interest in wearing a mask at all. He had wet dreams imagining Jamie’s face when he took him. It would be momentous. Jamie would be his at last and there was no way he was denying himself the satisfaction of the little man knowing it was him without a doubt for anything in the world. He already had a long sentence, there was nothing else they could do to him that would make a difference.
Jo looked offended. “You know me better than that Ace,” he said. “I’ll do it right.”
“You do that.”
They were at it for days on end. Ace wore them out before finally deciding on a course of action.
Friday the 13th.
He thought it would be nicely symbolic.
* * * *
Movement was almost over. Rhys and Old Cole were making their way through the numerous paths and hallways to the Wings with two of the other guys. They usually waited for the loud and unruly crowd returning from the activity compounds to dissipate into their respective Wings. Rhys had taught Jamie to do the same. It limited any chances of getting caught in fights or waylaid by anyone.
There were three guards at every gate, to watch as they went through. Most of the time they simply stood to one side and chatted as the prisoners went past, only paying attention if there was an altercation after it had started. Typical.
As they were the last to walk through the main gate that led only to the Wings, the guards locked the gate when they had gone through and walked up behind them.
Rhys overheard Officer Morgan being offered sympathy by another officer. He seemed to be talking about his daughter. Her terrible accident. His partner had died too it appeared. Hit by a drunk driver.
That jarred Rhys.
“She’s struggling a lot still. Won’t let anyone but my Mom and me see her. Feels she looks horrendous. The NHS won’t do any more surgeries even though they know this is what would make the most difference. Costs too much they say and the margins are not enough for it to be worthwhile expense. Can you imagine that? So my baby has to go through life unable to hear, paralysed and on top of that, afraid to be seen and the bastard driver had to go and die on us. Thirty thousand pounds? Where am I supposed to get that from?” The officer sounded close to tears. “I really wish that fucker had lived you know, so I’d at least have someone to blame… other than myself.”
The other officers rallied round him as he rambled disjointedly, comforting him with reminders that it was not his fault that his daughter had snuck out so late at night to go drinking with her mates and his partner had had to go pick her up alone because he was busy here at work.
He had chatted with Officer Morgan quite a few times every now and then and had had no idea the trauma the officer had gone through. They had hit it off when someone said they looked alike, Rhys couldn’t remember who now, one of the officers maybe. He was just about an inch shorter than Rhys but a great deal slimmer, though with quite broad shoulders as well. Aside from their significant heights, Rhys didn’t think they looked anything alike.
“Drunk driver…” Rhys murmured quietly to himself, his mind working. Old Cole looked over at him.
“That was not you Rhys.”
“But it could’ve been. I came so close you know.”
The old man shrugged. Rhys was plagued by his offence constantly. He knew talking to him was not going to help, he had tried a lot in the past. It always came back to this. He guessed everyone had to deal with their demons.
“Then you should be thankful that it wasn’t. You can’t do any more than that, otherwise you’d go crazy.”
“Maybe I can help?”
“You mean Morgan?”
“Yeah. He said the NHS wouldn’t do any more surgeries for her. What do you think?”
“Good idea, especially if it’d make you feel better.”
Rhys just smiled. It definitely would, he thought.
He nodded to the old man and they split up, the big man slowing his stride considerably. He fell in step with the guards soon enough.
“Officer Morgan? Can I have a word please?”
The officer agreed as good naturedly as he could manage and they stepped away from the others. They kept walking to his Wing so he would not miss the roll call.
“Sorry about your daughter…” Rhys began. Officer Morgan raised his eyebrows tiredly but nodded his thanks.
“I can help?”
“I don’t need help.” The other man frowned. “And why would you want to help anyway. What’s it to you?”
“You do know what I’m in here for? Right?”
“Then you know why…”
“I don’t want your charity Foxton. I know you’re filthy rich or whatever, but that’s your concern. I-”
“But this is not about you, is it? It’s about a child who needs surgery to be able to function normally and lead a normal life. You said it would make a lot of difference to her life. Do you not want that for her?”
“Look, this is none of your business. I can deal with my own problems.”
“Really. How? Where are you going to get thirty thousand pounds?” Rhys queried. “I’ll still give the money away. I just have to find someone who needs it. Wouldn’t you rather that it was your daughter who benefited? This is not about your pride, man. Its about your daughter.”
The officer looked conflicted as he thought about it. It took a while. Roll call came over to them, ticked him off and Rhys resumed waiting for an answer.
“Really? Thirty thousand? You’d do that?”
“Yes, really.” Rhys laughed, relaxing as he watched the man give in.
“If you’re sure you’re happy to do this.”
“We will keep this confidential if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Oh God…” the guard fought back tears. The reality of his daughter being able to get the help needed suddenly overwhelming him. He was so elated. “Thank you so much.”
Rhys smiled, “I’ll ring my solicitor later today. He’ll need bank details and stuff. If you aren’t comfortable giving them to me, give them to him.”
There was shock written all over Officer Morgan’s face. He hadn’t thought the big guy would work that fast. He couldn’t believe it, he was going to have the money to help his daughter! At last!
He struggled visibly to keep calm. “No that’s no problem. There’s nothing in it anyway.” Officer Morgan pulled out a small notebook from pocket and scribbled onto it. His hands shook as he wrote. He tore it out and handed it to Rhys. They shook hands.
“I won’t forget this man.”
“That’s not what this is about. Just get your daughter well as best you can.”
“As best I can…” the guard agreed solemnly. “Thank you. Thank you so much for this.”
Rhys knew giving out money this way did not change what he had done. It felt good to do it and that was enough for him.
* * * *
When Jamie started to tell Rhys the news, the big man was unsure whether to act like he knew or not. He decided to keep mum and let Jamie speak.
Rhys still had a bit of a headache after staying out in the sun all day long so he had taken a table at the far end of the hall, away from the noisemakers. He was quite shocked when Jamie came over to join him of his own accord.
He refused to think there was anything to it.
There was some disturbance when Ace came in as usual, pushing around some new guys until the guards stepped in. Rhys knew he would be looking out for them next. They were his favourite past time.
He found himself shifting closer to the small man to reassure him. And surely enough Jamie was all tense.
“You okay?” he asked quietly.
“Yeah I guess.” Jamie murmured, trying not to jump at the sound of Ace’s barking laughter.
Obviously trying to get their attention, Rhys thought.
“Relax okay. Just ignore him.”
Jamie nodded, shifting closer as well so not just their thighs touched but their arms and shoulders too. “I-“ Rhys started to speak at the same time, “How ha-”
They chuckled. “You go.” Rhys suggested. He would be happy to watch those lips work.
“I need to tell you something.” The small man began nervously. He was blushing but determination was written all over his face. Rhys listened. Jamie lowered his voice further, “I was attacked by a group of homophobic guys when I was 16. I was in a coma for a while. Richie just told me there was more to it… I think I might have had some mental… I don’t know, psychological damage…?” Something caught in his throat and he suddenly couldn’t get more words out.
“I know, Tiny.” It was out before Rhys could stop himself. So much for not telling Jamie he knew.
Silver eyes stared up at him. Angelic. So fucking beautiful. “Richard?”
“Yeah.” He wanted to put an arm around Jamie’s shoulder, he wanted to kiss his worrying forehead. He wanted all of him so fucking bad. He wished…
Jamie looked away, blushing at the intensity he had seen. “Big mouth.”
“Don’t be mad at him. He’s trying to deal with this too.”
“So…” Rhys began, feeling his nerve wilt just a little and divert. “Are you going to get therapy then?” Jamie nodded. “That’s good. Dr Windrake?”
“No way.” That was the prison counsellor. “A proper counsellor. When I get out.”
“That’s really good.”
There was still something hanging in the air. They both knew it. Rhys felt himself press against Jamie’s warmth, almost gasping when the small man leaned right back. Oh God. Breathe. He kept his head down so no one could see his hope, his turmoil.
They ate quietly, very aware of each other. He couldn’t help himself. “So… what does that mean for us?”
Jamie gulped visibly, blinking at his plate. He tossed the remains of his food back and forth. They were both focused on the movement. “What do you mean?”
“Are you really asking me that?”
“I don’t understand what you mean?”
“What did you just tell me all this for? Surely you had a reason.”
“I wanted you to…” Jamie took a deep breath. “So… so you’d understand where I’m coming from…”
“That’s all?” the pain in Rhys voice was evident and it somehow radiated into Jamie’s chest.
“Rhys…” he began hesitantly.
“Let’s just eat okay. I don’t want to get worked up right now in front of all these bastards.” His eyes shut tightly as he fought to keep from doing just that.
“Just leave it okay!” Rhys hissed.
He had been so right to think there was nothing to it but all of a sudden it seemed to hurt so much more. Maybe it was the headache.
Fuck. Who was he fooling?
A small hand slunk underneath Rhys’ arm and wrapped over his trembling fist that was pressing into the table. This pressed them even closer together as the small man’s shoulder slipped snugly into Rhys’ underarm. Jamie’s face burrowed into his bicep and inhaled his scent breathlessly. Warmth filled Rhys. It annoyingly began to calm him down.
How could this small man have so much power over him?
Jamie had never seen the big man like this. Usually frustration and anger was foremost in their arguments, but now… it was different. The blatant emotions scared and elated him equally and his heart felt like it would overflow and combust. Knowing he was the one hurting Rhys like this was too much.
He still needed help, he knew that now even more than ever. Much as being so close to Rhys gave him some intrinsic unexplainable joy… he still needed time. And in that time, he was too afraid to get deeper than he could manage right now. It was too much already.
He squeezed tighter as the big man heaved a deep breath, bringing his other hand to wrap around Rhys’ arm as well. He didn’t even realise that he was doing. Soothing Rhys was like the most natural thing to do now that he wasn’t over thinking it.
There were quite a few eyes on them, not that they cared. Hostile and friendly alike. Roger looked ecstatic and Old Cole cautious. The old man wagged a finger at Roger in amusement.
Ace however looked murderous, spitting vilely into his plate with food still in it. His mates knew not to say a word and just acted like they had seen nothing at all.
Rhys kept his eyes shut, thoroughly ashamed as desperate hope enveloped him along with the tightness of Jamie’s arms.
He didn’t want to hope, really, but it hurt too much not to.
* * * *
One week later.
Jamie was in a good mood. He had received a call first thing that morning from his lawyer, telling him that there was a lead on a bank account that would possibly connect someone else in his firm to the missing money. It was just a matter of time.
In addition to the information from Richard, things were generally looking up.
He hummed to himself amidst the drone of the huge washing machines and tumble dryers as he did the last batch of laundry he was assigned to. Happy to have finished early so he could now relax the rest of the day, he loaded the large trolley with the laundry and pushed it to the laundry storage room. He needed a break badly after the long steamy day filled with the whiff of cleaning chemicals.
Thoughts of Rhys crept into his head as they did every hour of every day but he blinked them back.
He got into the large room, parked the trolley by the side of the door with other trolleys, and began stacking the sheets neatly so that they could be counted and itemised. The towels were last and were stored way down at the end of the room. He heaved the large pile up in one go because he didn’t want to have to go twice and struggled over.
He rounded the corner.
The sight before him stopped him in his tracks.
Rhys was standing against the shelves with another man in front of him. All over him. Practically on top of him. The man was small and somewhat stocky. Not as small as Jamie, but small enough though with a good amount of bulk and muscle. Certainly not like Jamie. He also had a scarf round his head so you could make no mistake as to what he was. A queen. And his hands were reaching up and touching Rhys’ head with a bit too much familiarity.
Jamie stood there in shock, conflicting emotions and questions tearing at him. Tears stung his eyes and he fought to push them back, willing his legs to move and get him out of there. He had pushed Rhys away since, only being civil. Now Rhys was finding happiness somewhere else. What business was it of his? The towels toppled from his shaking hands and the two men turned at the sound just as Jamie’s legs finally heeded him.
Rhys’ eyes pleaded with Jamie in that instant and he pushed the stocky man away from him.
“Jamie! Wait! Please!”
But Jamie turned and ran. Blindly, just wanting to get away and hide. He felt sick, like he was going to throw up. He kept running, ignoring Rhys’ voice calling his name as he thundered after him.
Rhys caught up with Jamie in no time and grabbed him, holding the small man’s back against his chest. He turned him around slowly and met the wild, confused, hurt and accusing silver eyes. “Jamie…” he began but Jamie stopped him with his hands in the air, shaking his head in some kind of denial.
“You don’t need to explain anything to me… there’s nothing between us. Is there? Nothing at all… I just overreacted… I am fine, really… let go…” He slapped Rhys’ hands away from his shoulders as the big man attempted to calm him. “I’m alright… go back to your business… argh.” He groaned suddenly, keeling over.
Before Rhys could bend over him he had stood upright again, gasping as he stepped backwards, his hand holding his belly in surprise “I feel sick… why do I feel sick… arghhh… why do I feel si…?” He slapped at Rhys’ hands again, his eyes dancing crazily in confusion, his face wincing and then struggling to smile widely in turn, tears brimming. ”Don’t you dare explain; I am fine… I am fine…” He began to hyperventilate, gasping for air in a state of shock. “It hurts… its not supposed to hurt… why does it hurt…?” He choked on his words as the tears poured out at last, all his strength lost.
Rhys lifted him into his arms, taking all the blows the small hands rained on him, dying inside at the thought that one stupid act of an idiot could have caused this pain. He was so totally overwhelmed by his feelings for the man in his arms and the pain he felt for hurting him. He stood that way till all the fight went out of Jamie and he crumpled into his shoulder crying. He saw Old Cole and Roger start to step forward but the hard look he gave them kept them away.
He ignored the inmates watching and headed back into the laundry storage room to where he had told the cause of his problems not to move an inch or else. He glared at the apologetic looking man who was waiting nervously. He came up close to him, still carrying a shaking Jamie.
“You explain what was going on when he came in. Right now!” he said grimly through clenched teeth.
“But he’s crying…”
“You better make sure he hears you then.”
The effeminate man, Lady as he called himself, began to explain himself as loudly as he could, stammering in growing fright as he realised he could be in big trouble. He said he had heard that Rhys and Jamie had been made to do it down in solitary and had seen them in the field that day and thought it had been so hot between them. He had wanted to try his luck and see if Rhys would give him a go. He had been teasing him and touching his hair in his bid to seduce him but that hadn’t worked. He said that Rhys had simply been amused and had been telling him he was not interested when Jamie had come in.
All the while Jamie’s head remained buried in Rhys’ shoulder. Rhys nodded to Lady that he could go because Jamie’s heaving was subsiding a little. The femme scrambled off in relief, apologising profusely and saying it would never happen again.
Rhys sat down nervously on one of the large chairs and lifted Jamie’s head up to his. As their eyes met, Jamie began to heave again as the tears started.
“I wasn’t cheating on you Jamie,” he whispered, feeling the small man stiffen at his words, his face wincing in denial of their escalating relationship. Well he was going to change that right now.
“I was not cheating on you,” he repeated clearly again and again, holding those beautiful crying eyes with his and following each statement with a soothing kiss. When Jamie tried to move the bigger man’s hands from his face, he deepened the kiss, till he had dissolved the last of the fight left in him.
Rhys held him like that for what seemed like hours, staring into his eyes and kissing him, not letting him look away.
“Look in my eyes,” he whispered. “See that you’re not alone in the way you’re feeling. I feel the same way, Tiny. I’m trying to deal with new feelings just like you are. The fact that we’re men doesn’t change that. You’re driving yourself crazy trying to fight it so hard.”
“I’m sc… scared…”
“I know, Tiny.”
“I don’t understand how I can feel like this…”
“There’s nothing wrong with how you feel. It’s there now and you can’t change that. You just need to relax and let it happen. Remember the last time I got you to relax? Didn’t that turn out to be better than you’d thought?”
Jamie blushed at his words and hid his face in the broad chest. ”I guess…”
“Look at me…” Jamie’s head tilted back up at Rhys’ coaxing. “It has never been that good for me before in my entire life. I would never have thought that was possible. And since then…” Tears stung Rhys’ eyes. “Give us a chance Tiny. Stop fighting it and give it a chance. Give me a chance to show you…”
Jamie’s fingers came over his lips to stop his words, but Rhys nipped at them till Jamie pulled them back. “To show you that we can be good together.”
Rhys nuzzled into him, into that soft long neck. “God I love the way you say my name. I could take you right this minute.”
He chuckled at Jamie’s shiver cupping the small face up for more slow kisses.
“I’ve never felt like this before… with… with women.” Jamie whispered in wonder.
“Neither have I. Don’t you see? That’s why it’s so special. That’s why we need to give it a chance.”
“I feel like I’m falling so hard and so fast. It’s like you’re all over me all the time. All over, inside me, inside my head, my body, under my skin… I can’t think straight anymore.”
To say Rhys was overwhelmed by this declaration would not be enough. It was like something possessed him in that minute and filled his every pore with a warm fire. This was exactly the same effect Jamie had on him; it was like he was listening to his own mind. It was unreal.
He crushed Jamie to him, wishing in his longing that they could melt into one being. Tears filled his eyes and he choked on them, overcome by this for he never cried. Ever.
Jamie’s eyes flew up as a tear hit his cheek and he stared, frowning intermittently in slow comprehension. “Rhy…?”
More tears trickled and hit the tilted face. “If you’re falling hard, Tiny, I think I hit the ground a long time ago. And I’m still waiting for you to meet me.”
Rhys tried to laugh but it ended up a groan as he was also internally fighting the urge to all out weep. He had never felt so bare, so open, so defenceless.
This time Jamie took charge. This time it was his small hands that cupped Rhys’ face. He tenderly kissed away the pouring tears even as his own were flowing. His breath came in short hitches as he soothed his love. “Oh Rhy… I thought it was just me, having these crazy feelings, afraid of so many things, at first that you thought it was just sex; that you’d think I was a sicko for screaming like a woman. So afraid of falling for you at all. Just so… too damned afraid.”
Rhys smiled through his tears at this, remembering that he had thought it was just sex initially too. But it was so not, not for him, not for his Jamie. Not by a million miles. His strength built back up and he calmed down, eyes on Jamie’s, blatant in his love and ravenous desire through the haze of tears.
Jamie gulped, entranced by this gaze. “I think I’ve hit the ground now Rhys. Will… will you still have me?”
Rhys pressed their foreheads together, his eyes mesmerising Jamie. He did not answer immediately.
Jamie knew why soon.
“Rhy... not here,” Jamie protested as Rhys slipped his hand into his track downs and pulled him out. Just the touch of his warm hand and Jamie was hard in seconds.
Rhys ignored Jamie’s weak protests. “Yes. My Jamie. Yes. Of course I’ll have you.” Slow knowing strokes. “Make no mistake, Tiny. You are mine now. Every. Inch of you.” Jamie was gasping and beginning to buck involuntarily. “Shhh,” Rhys coaxed, continuing to emphasise each word with a slow teasing stroke of Jamie’s cock. He was well aware that the workday was about to end and they had very little time to mess about.
He kissed away Jamie’s tears and then faced his mouth as he stroked him, his other arm keeping the smaller man hard against his chest and slanting down into Jamie’s tracks so he could lift his bum a bit to bring him higher up.
Jamie was holding on for dear life, his hands clenching and unclenching against Rhys’ neck and shoulders, drinking in Rhys’ soothing whispers, which promised to help him through any fears and insecurities. Promised that they were in this together. All the way.
Rhys increased the speed of his strokes and then just as the line up bell began to build up from a distance he slid a finger, just the tip mind, from behind into that tight pulsing rosebud, making his baby come violently in unison with the boom of the bell, the full force of Jamie’s orgasm matching the deafening screech of the bell and blocking out his throaty screams from all ears but Rhys’.
* * * *
They made their way towards the laundry door some minutes later with smiles on their faces. As they reached the door and Jamie started to open it, Rhys grabbed him unexpectedly and lifted him into his arms. Jamie giggled in delighted surprise and wrapped his legs round the firm waist, nuzzling contentedly in the crook of Rhys’ neck.
“I could get used to this you know,” he whispered, after a quiet minute, “You’re spoiling me, carrying me all the time…”
“I can carry you all day Tiny, so you better get used to it fast because that’s gonna be happening all the time. This is your new way of life. Right here in my arms. I’m thinking your legs are going to be made redundant pretty soon,” Rhys answered back softly, kissing Jamie’s nose as the smaller man looked up at him and giggled at his words. “You know I could prove that to you and take you right here without your feet touching the ground for even a second.”
Jamie went bright pink and his eyes widened before he hid shyly in Rhys’ neck again. Rhys chuckled at the little man’s actions but choked a bit as he felt the hardened heat begin to press into his belly.
“Don’t tease Rhy… you shouldn’t say things like that,” Jamie muttered, embarrassed for he knew the big man could feel his erection pressing between them. Heaven help him, the effect this big man had on him was frightening.
Rhys pressed his hand against the small of Jamie’s back and flattened him against his body, effectively squeezing Jamie’s already aching cock between them. He bent his head to better hear the shy gasps as he kept on with the pressure.
“Now that’s why I say things like that,” he whispered, sending a shudder down Jamie’s spine. “I love driving you… absolutely… crazy.” Another stronger shudder and a stifled gasp of his name in that small choked voice, so soft and delicious.
Hands grabbed at his underarms and dragged Jamie higher, closer until he was forced to lift his head, facing Rhys directly now with heavy lidded eyes full of overwhelming need. The veins in his slender neck bulged as his body tried to deal with the electricity coursing through it.
Rhys returned his gaze, the desire pouring out of him sending more shivers through his small frame and making him whimper.
Rhys suddenly bent over, crushing him down against his own throbbing erection making Jamie gasp, first at the shock of the movement and then more desperately at the contact with the heated flesh grinding between his cheeks.
The big man straightened back up, crushing Jamie flush against him with large hands almost covering the small torso completely as he enveloped his mouth in a hungry kiss. The small man practically melted in his arms, wondering what he had been thinking all the while to deprive himself of this glorious madness.
“Jesus.” Rhys gasped, pulling away with difficulty, “We need to get out of here or I’m not going to be able to control myself.”
* * * *
TO BE CONTINUED...