Andy lay still on his thin mattress, staring into the darkness. It was cold in the cell, and the worn old blanket he’d been given wasn’t helping much. But that wasn’t why he couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t believe his life had come to this. A stupid mistake, an out-of-control night of drinking, a monumentally bad decision to get behind the wheel. And then there were screeching brakes and breaking glass and a lot of other, much worse sounds. Sounds that hadn’t left his head in the ten months that had passed since, months of subpoenas and lawyers and hearings and judgment. And now here he was, a convict, lying in the tiny cell that would be his home for a very, very long time. He was an awfully long way from the luxurious home he’d grown up in back in Altoona, and not just in terms of miles.
He heard his cellmate shifting on his own mattress and closed his eyes, turning toward the wall. Cohen was tall, intimidating, downright terrifying. Black hair and strong features with eyes that weren’t just blue, but ice-blue, like glaciers. Nothing like Andy’s eyes, which were so dark they hardly seemed blue at all unless he was laughing. That’s what his mother used to say, anyway, that they got lighter when he laughed. But she wasn’t to be trusted—she also referred to Andy’s hair as “strawberry blond” when it had only ever been Howdy Doody red.
Anyway, Cohen wasn’t like that at all. Or maybe he was. Maybe his eyes changed color when he laughed, too, but Andy sure wouldn’t have any way of knowing it. Cohen’s face had shown no emotion when they’d been introduced early that morning, and he’d barely looked at Andy since. Andy had no idea what the guy was in for, but he thought maybe it was better he didn’t. He would just stay away from Cohen, and Cohen would stay away from him.
Andy had decided months ago that it was better to face things on his own. It was why he’d broken up with Dean, why he had stopped returning his friends’ calls, why he didn’t really talk to his parents anymore. Not really. Not like he used to. He had let everybody down, and he couldn’t bear to cause anyone any more pain. So he was alone. It was better that way. But now that he was really alone, sleeping in a tiny, dark cell for the first of many, many nights to come, he suddenly felt lonely. For the first time in a long time, he wanted someone to hold him, to touch him, to take care of him. He felt so small.
Suddenly, he heard a soft noise behind him and felt a body crawl onto his mattress. Eyes flying open, he tried to sit up, turn around, but a strong hand held him in place.
One hand was on Andy’s hip while another slid under his shirt, stroking the skin of his back, surprisingly gentle. Andy’s breath caught in his throat. Is this how it went in prison? Did you just get taken, grabbed? Smaller man belonging to bigger man? Only that’s not how this felt. This wasn’t the touch of someone preparing to take advantage of him, to rape him. This was the touch of a lover.
Cohen’s hand slid around to Andy’s stomach now, still touching so softly, caressing. He felt a mouth at the spot where his neck met his shoulder, kissing, biting. Andy’s breathing grew faster. His cock was beginning to respond. But he stayed frozen, body tense, hands in fists, eyes wide open. When Cohen’s hand sank a little lower, grazing his crotch over the pants of his prison uniform, he whimpered.
“Do you want this?” Cohen whispered, his mouth against Andy’s ear. And Andy closed his eyes again. The truth was, he did want this. His relationship with Dean had never been that great, but he did miss being touched this way, feeling this closeness, holding another body against his own. He’d been alone for too long. He needed someone with him tonight.
“Yes,” he whispered back, not turning his head. And Cohen’s hands were moving faster now, lifting Andy’s shirt off, throwing it on the floor with his own. Andy tried again to turn around, but Cohen held him in place, stroking his palm over Andy’s back, sliding it down to tug Andy’s pants and underwear down to his knees. The hand disappeared for a minute, and Andy heard a sucking sound and realized that Cohen was coating his fingers in saliva, getting ready. His cock grew harder. But when Cohen’s fingers grazed his hole, he reached back suddenly, grabbing Cohen’s wrist, looking over his shoulder. “Wait.”
“What?” Cohen was looking down, his muscles tense. He refused to meet Andy’s gaze.
“Cohen….” Andy’s voice trailed off. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to ask. He’d never done it like this, so impersonal, so meaningless. They hadn’t even kissed, and somehow Andy knew better than to try. As he gazed at Cohen’s gorgeous features in the dark room, he decided he was okay with that. But he still needed… something. “I don’t… I don’t even know your first name.”
“It’s Jesse.” Andy stared for another beat, trying to will Jesse’s eyes to meet his own, but it wasn’t happening. Gazing at him, he realized with a start that Jesse was just as young as he was: nineteen, maybe twenty. He looked just as scared as he was too. And God, he was gorgeous up close, and with his shirt off…. God. Maybe he was over-thinking this.
“Okay,” he said, and he turned back around.
When the first finger pushed inside him, Andy gasped, tucking his head into his chest, closing his eyes tight. This was all that mattered tonight, this feeling. Jesse’s finger pressed against his prostate, and Andy moaned low. “Jesse….”
“Shh.” Another finger joined the first, pushing, stretching. Andy moved his hips, searching for more, trying to be quiet. Suddenly, the fingers withdrew and he heard the rustle of Jesse’s clothing, then the tear of the condom wrapper. He heard Jesse slide it onto his dick, then spit into his palm, coating the latex with saliva. Andy clutched the mattress, preparing for what was to come.
And then there it was: Jesse’s cock, thick and hard and pressing inside, filling him up. Andy moaned low, white-knuckling the mattress now. He had missed this so much.
When he was all the way in, Jesse paused, breathing hard against Andy’s shoulder, his grip tight on Andy’s hip. Then slowly, gently, he began to move. Andy moved with him, pushing his ass back to meet each thrust, his mind clear of everything but this feeling, this fullness. There was no room for anything else.
Jesse grunted behind him with each thrust as he picked up his pace, his breath hot against Andy’s skin. There were no kisses, no words of tenderness, no words at all. Andy leaned his head back, his mouth open on a moan, and Jesse’s hand slid off his hip and grabbed his cock, beginning to stroke. He bit down on Andy’s neck again as Andy reached behind him, searching for Jesse’s back, pulling him in deeper. When his hand found Jesse’s ass, Jesse grunted in approval and pushed a little harder.
“Yes…,” Andy whispered. “Jesse….” Jesse’s breath was coming even faster now, and Andy knew he was close. “A little more… just a little more… don’t stop….” He felt the familiar tightening in his balls, and before he could get out a warning, it was over, he was coming, covering Jesse’s hand. With three more quick thrusts and a strangled groan, Jesse came too, burying himself deep in Andy’s ass, pressing him tight.
They lay that way for a few moments, breathing heavy, and then Jesse pulled out, pulled his pants back up, and quietly eased out of the bed. Andy stayed where he was, staring at the wall, not speaking. After a few minutes, he closed his eyes. And eventually, he fell asleep.
The next day, they didn’t talk about it, as Andy had pretty much figured they wouldn’t. Jesse went about his day in stoic silence, barely speaking to anyone. He didn’t sit with Andy at mealtimes. He hardly acknowledged Andy at all. Andy was okay with that. He had enough to deal with, learning the rules of his new environment and figuring out who he could trust and who he couldn’t. He was used to being alone by now. He wasn’t looking for a friend.
But that night, when the lights were out, Andy lay on his mattress listening to Jesse breathing and found himself hoping Jesse would join him again. The sex had been good, Jesse’s fingers expert, his touch exhilarating, his cock spectacular. But more than that, Andy wanted that closeness again, the intimacy of being with another person again. He rolled onto his side, facing the wall like he had the night before, and couldn’t stop himself from smiling when he felt Jesse climb onto the mattress behind him. They did it just the same way as before, not facing each other, no kisses, no words. And it was so good, so good. Their bodies moved together as if they were made for this, made for each other. And when Andy came, Jesse moaned, as if feeling Andy’s come shoot onto his hand was as erotic for him as any part of it. He came a few short thrusts later, and Andy clung to his ass, holding him inside, wanting to draw out this moment for as long as he possibly could.
As the weeks went by, Andy began to relax a little. He found a few guys he could talk to, and he and Jesse were even starting to become friends. The day he first got Jesse to smile, just a quick reaction to a stupid joke Andy made about mystery meat, Andy wanted to pump his fist in the air in victory. But he restrained himself. They still didn’t talk about what went on at night. Every night. Andy told himself he was fine with that. He could have a fuck buddy without falling in love. He was sure he could. And Jesse, God, gorgeous fucking Jesse—what fool would kick that man out of his bed, no matter what the circumstances? So he followed Jesse’s unstated rules, never touched him outside the cell, never let on that they were anything more than cellmates. Which maybe they weren’t. Maybe everybody did this at night. Andy didn’t really want to know.
It did bother Andy that Jesse wouldn’t kiss him, though. He had tried a few times, tried to turn around when Jesse got into his bed, tried to touch him, but Jesse would never allow it. With never anything more than a firm hand and a silent shake of his head, Jesse pushed him gently away. He never forced himself on Andy, and Andy knew that a single “no” from him would be enough to stop everything, but there were certain lines that would simply not be crossed. Andy wondered about that. But for now, he let it go.
The day the letter from Dean arrived, everything began to change. Andy knew Jesse saw his face when he was handed the envelope, and how he stuffed it into his pocket without opening it, but neither of them said anything. Only later, when they were standing side by side on KP duty, washing endless piles of dishes, did Jesse ask about it. “Are you going to read that letter?”
Andy bit his lip, not turning his head from his work. “No,” he said quietly. They washed in silence for several more minutes, and Andy knew he could let it go at that and Jesse wouldn’t press him on it. But Andy had always been a talker, and eventually the silence got to him. “It’s just… it’s from somebody I hurt. And I don’t really want to hear what he has to say.”
“Oh.” Jesse stared at the dishes in front of him, his hands going about their task mechanically. “So… who is it?”
“My ex-boyfriend. It didn’t end well, and I just—”
“Your ex-boyfriend?” Jesse turned to stare at him, clinging to an armful of plates, his mouth dropping open. “You—you’re gay?”
Andy stared back, puzzled. “Well, yeah. I mean, obviously. Didn’t you kind of figure that out from the—”
With a loud clatter, Jesse threw the entire pile of plates into the sink, his face filling with anger. “I’m not a fucking fag,” he said, and he stormed out. Andy stared after him. What the hell just happened?
Jesse avoided him for the rest of that day. Every time Andy approached him, Jesse turned away. When he tried to sit with him at dinner, Jesse picked up his tray and moved to a different table. Eventually, Andy stopped trying.
But at night, it was just the two of them in the cell. Andy lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling. I will not talk first. I will not talk first.
Unfortunately, staying quiet had never been Andy’s strong suit. “What the fuck happened today?” he said, his voice echoing in the dark room. Jesse didn’t respond. The silent treatment, Andy thought, chuckling inwardly. I don’t think so.
Sitting up in a rush, he climbed out of bed and went to Jesse, who was lying flat on his back, his arms crossed over his chest. Without hesitating, Andy climbed on top of him, straddling his hips. “Hey!” Jesse protested, trying to push Andy away. “What the fuck?”
But Andy seized both of Jesse’s hands and pinned them down to the mattress, fixing Jesse with an intense gaze. “You’re going to talk to me,” he said. Internally, he knew Jesse was stronger and could toss him off like a sack of potatoes if he wanted to. But he also knew enough about Jesse by now to know that the brooding, tough-guy exterior was nothing but an act, that Jesse wasn’t capable of actually hurting anyone. At least, he hoped he was right about that.
Jesse glared at him, but he didn’t pull his arms free. “Get off of me,” he muttered.
“What was that? Why did you get so mad?”
Jesse bit his lip, and Andy saw it again. That fear that he saw the first night. Suddenly, he wanted nothing more than to draw Jesse into his arms, comfort him, tell him everything would be all right. But he didn’t. “I just—I didn’t know you were gay,” Jesse said finally. “I mean, you know… outside of here.”
“And you’re not.”
“No!” The anger was back, and Jesse struggled with his wrists. But Andy pressed down a little harder, and the struggling stopped. “I—this is—I never did anything like this before I came here.”
Andy paused, wondering how to respond. He knew there were plenty of guys at the prison who fucked guys only because there were no women around. But he was sure, absolutely sure, that Jesse was not one of those guys. The way he touched Andy’s body, caressing it, worshipping it… the way he kissed his neck, so tenderly… the way Andy’s every moan seemed to turn him on even further…. No, Jesse was not one of those guys. But maybe that was a conversation for another time. There was something else going on here. “Okay,” he said slowly. “But that doesn’t really answer my question.”
Jesse stared up at him, silently, defiantly, waiting. Shit. He had a stubborn streak a mile wide. Almost as wide as Andy’s.
“Why did you get so mad when you found out I have an ex-boyfriend?” Jesse looked away, wincing almost imperceptibly at the word, and Andy suddenly got it. “Oh, my God,” he said softly. “You’re jealous.”
Jesse whipped his head back around, his brow furrowing in anger, and this time he did pull his hands away, pushing Andy off him, scooting back to the other side of the mattress. “What the hell are you talking about? I am not.”
“You are,” Andy said, marveling at it.
“Bingham, why would I give a fuck how many guys have fucked my faggot-ass cellmate up the ass? Why would I give a flying ass fuck?”
That hurt, and Andy failed to hide it. “Fuck you,” he said, his voice straining, and he stood up, climbing back into his own uncomfortable bed. But as the minutes passed and they lay listening to each other breathing, he found he couldn’t leave it at that. “Because maybe I’m not just your cellmate anymore,” he said.
There was no reply.
Hours later, Andy awoke to a familiar hand on his hip, a familiar weight on the mattress behind him. “You have got to be kidding me,” he said, pulling away. But the hand returned, gently rolling him onto his back, and Jesse’s face was hovering over his.
“I’m sorry,” Jesse said quietly. He was stretched on his side, propped on an elbow, and his eyes searched Andy’s face, hopeful, sad. Tentatively, he reached out and placed a hand on Andy’s cheek, stroking it gently. Just as Andy’s brain caught up to the fact that Jesse was touching him while looking at him for the first time in the month and a half since he’d come to this godforsaken place, he noticed that Jesse’s gaze was shifting to his mouth, then to his eyes again. Oh, my God, he thought. But before he could formulate much more, it was happening, Jesse’s lips were on his, pressing gently, then pulling back, a soft, perfect kiss.
“You’re an asshole,” Andy whispered, but his hand was moving of its own accord, sliding up Jesse’s strong arm, finding its way to the back of Jesse’s neck. Jesse nodded, opening his mouth to speak again, but Andy covered it with his own, pulling Jesse’s body down on top of him. And Jesse kissed him back, sliding his tongue into Andy’s mouth, moaning into the kiss, and Andy’s hands covered Jesse’s back, pulling him in close, feeling Jesse’s cock harden against him as the kiss deepened. Nope, definitely not one of those guys, he thought, and he smiled. Jesse broke the kiss, smiling back at him, and Andy’s breath caught in his throat. God, you’re beautiful. But he knew better than to say it out loud.
Jesse kissed him again. And that night, they made love for the very first time.