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Ve Cherinitat ral ve Mofellivun

by juou no zan (女王のザン)

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/306420.html)

Jaden was eight months into his imprisonment when he got a cellmate. His cell was miniscule, so he’d been under the impression he’d be alone for the duration of his sentence.

“Hey,” Jaden asked the guard who brought his new cellmate, “what gives? This is a single, you know.”

“Tough,” said the guard. “Overcrowding. Get used to it. Oh, and by the way, he doesn’t speak Bashad. Have fun.”

Jaden turned to face his new cellmate, who did in fact look extremely confused. Jaden groaned. As if his cell wasn’t cramped enough. There was barely enough room to lie on the floor to exercise. There was only a tiny shelf for eating at, a tiny commode that only allowed two flushes a day, and, most importantly, only the one narrow bed.

“Hi,” Jaden said to his new cellmate.

The man looked at him with wide eyes. “Ya,” he said in a deep voice. Then, he frowned and said, “Hi.”

Jaden sighed. He didn’t even know how long this man’s sentence was. He could be stuck with this foreigner in his tiny cell for the rest of his sentence. “I’m Jaden,” he said, pointing to himself.

The man frowned. He cocked his head a little to the side when he did so, like a housepet.

“Jaden,” he repeated, pointing to himself again. “Jaden.” He gestured at his cellmate.

“Eh!” the man exclaimed. “Jay-din.” He smiled and it was like the room lit up. “Chenillin. Jay-din, Chenillin.”

Jaden returned the smile. It was kind of impossible not to. “Jeniln,” he said. This was going to be rough.

Chenillin shook his head. “Va sini chali,” he muttered.

“Yeah,” Jaden said. “I know.”

Chenillin looked around the cell. He stretched out his arms, fingertips brushing the walls, and frowned. He looked around again, then back at Jaden.

Jaden shrugged.

Chenillin looked at the bed. He opened his mouth, then frowned. He gestured to Jaden and held up two fingers, then pointed at the bed with his other hand and folded one finger down.

Jaden shrugged again, and Chenillin sighed.

*

The first night was a little awkward. Jaden climbed into bed after the lights went out, and Chenillin started to lay down on the floor. “Hey, no,” Jaden said, to get his attention. Then he patted the bed next to him.

“Eh,” said Chenillin, and got up to lie in the bed. He elbowed Jaden in the ribs trying to get under the blanket. “Lichan! Eh, sorrow?”

Jaden smiled. “Sorry.”

Chenillin smiled back, ruefully. “Sorry,” he repeated.

“It’s okay,” Jaden said. He couldn’t even tell what language it was Chenillin was speaking, so he had no idea how to even tell him good night. So he said in Bashad, “Good night.”

“Feli nu,” Chenillin muttered, closing his eyes.

*

Chenillin was an early riser. That second day, he got up to take a piss and reached to flush the commode.

“Ah, no, no!” Jaden cried, jumping out of bed and crossing the few feet between it and the corner the commode was in.

“Ni?” Chenillin said, cocking his head to the side again.

“No,” Jaden agreed, pulling Chenillin’s hand back from the switch. “We only get two flushes a day. Uh, two–” He held up his hand with his thumb and forefinger up, then made a flushing noise and mimed hitting the switch. “Two a day.”

“Du,” Chenillin said, frowning. He held up two fingers. “Du?”

“Yes,” Jaden said, nodding and praying Chenillin wasn’t from one of those places where nodding meant no, “two.”

“Du,” Chenillin said, miming hitting the switch.

Jaden smiled. “Yeah,” he said. “So no flushing for this.” He gestured at the commode. “Wait for–” He waved a hand in front of his nose and made a face.

Chenillin laughed, and clearly eight months was too long in solitude, because it sounded beautiful. Chenillin nodded and said, “Sati. Ni–” and he made a much more convincing flushing noise than Jaden had.

“Yeah,” Jaden said. “Good.”

It would still be at least an hour before the guard brought breakfast, so Jaden went back to the bed and lay down. He couldn’t get back to sleep, though. It wasn’t that Chenillin was noisy or even doing anything. It was just knowing he was there, and there still wasn’t any way to pass the time. If Chenillin spoke Bashad–he seemed to be at least a little familiar with it, but he didn’t know it well at all–or Jaden spoke whatever language it was Chenillin knew, they could at least talk. They could swap stories of how they got here, or what their lives were like before, or, shit, make something up, but this? Miming and pointing and making faces? It had been less frustrating to be alone, interacting only briefly with the guards every day.

Eventually he sat up. Chenillin was sitting in the center of the floor with his eyes closed. He wasn’t making any noise, but his lips were moving. Praying, Jaden guessed. He heard a lot of prisoners spent their time praying.

Jaden usually just jerked off, but whatever, to each his own.

Of course, now that he had a cellmate, praying might be the more polite option.

Gods, this was going to be boring until they picked up some more of each other’s languages.

*

Some guard brought food an hour or so later, banging on the door, then shoving two bowls of slop into Jaden’s hands. Jaden tried to peer through the slot to ask how long Chenillin’s sentence was, but the guard slid it shut before he could.

“Oh well,” he muttered, handing one of the bowls to Chenillin and taking his own to the shallow shelf.

“Eh,” Chenillin said. Jaden turned and looked at him, standing in the center of the small cell. “Ni–” He mimed holding something and scooping into the bowl.

Jaden shook his head. “No, too dangerous. No, you don’t know that word, uh. No, you could–” He held up his hand and made slashing motions. “Like a weapon.”

“Weppen,” Chenillin said, cocking his head to the side. “Sord?”

Jaden smiled. “Yeah, a weapon like a sword. So, no.”

“Weppen,” Chenillin muttered, looking down at his bowl. “Fale chelat ni ‘weppen’.”

“Sorry,” Jaden said. “Uh, what’d you say, leejin?”

“Lichan,” Chenillin said. “Ni sinu dalitu.” He sighed and dipped a finger into the slop. Jaden was already picking through his for solids, hoping he might have some chunks of meat today. Surprisingly, when they got meat, it was pretty good. Probably leftovers from some nice meal for the guards or something.

“Still,” Jaden said. “Leejan.”

Chenillin smiled at him, then sniffed the brownish sauce that had come away with his finger. He licked it, and Jaden turned back to the shelf in order not to stare.

“Eugh!” Chenillin said behind him. “Sini tifalat?”

“Yeah,” Jaden said. He didn’t really need to know what Chenillin was saying to know he thought the food was crap. It was slop, after all. It kept him alive, though, and sometimes had chunks of surprisingly good meat in it. And it didn’t make him sick, unlike other prison food Jaden had. Of course, he’d had much more time to get used to this particular brand of slop.

“Ni chelat, ni tifalat, sati.” He sighed. “Sati.”

*

After they finished their breakfast slop, Jaden set the bowls next to the door and sat down on one end of the bed, back against the wall. Chenillin sat down next to him, and that was how they began their language lessons.

“Bed,” Jaden would say, pointing.

“Silifan,” Chenillin would respond.

“Sleefon?” Jaden would attempt.

Then Chenillin would slowly repeat, “Silifan.”

Frustratingly, Chenillin picked up Bashad much faster than Jaden picked up Chenillin’s language. He couldn’t hear all the sounds, or make some of them very well, but Chenillin seemed to have no trouble with most sounds of Bashad, and he remembered everything Jaden told him much better than Jaden remembered damn near anything.

It was only a few days before Jaden could ask, “What did you do? To get put in here?”

“Eh,” Chenillin said, smiling sheepishly. “No how to say. Eh.” He bit his lip, then made what was clearly a gesture of dick-sucking, unseen by Jaden since his days of adolescent street insults.

Jaden’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh,” he said. “And you got put in here with me for that?”

Chenillin shrugged. “Maybe no good person. Maybe bad, eh, licking?”

Jaden laughed. “You must have pissed someone off. No one enforces those laws.”

“Piss?” Chenillin frowned and said, “No piss. Eh, other thing from, no piss.”

Jaden laughed again. “No, uh, pissing someone off is making them mad. Angry. Uh, very not happy?” They hadn’t covered many emotion words. He made an angry face and shook a fist.

“Eh!” Chenillin said, face lighting up. He was much more expressive than Jaden, and so much nicer to look at than the walls of his cell or the armpits of the guards, which was all that was visible through the slot in the door when they brought the food. “Genola.” He frowned. “Piss not genola. Mat? Piss not mat. Piss happy, good.”

Jaden shrugged. “Ni sinu dalitu.”

Chenillin cocked his head to the side. “Ni sina dalita? Eh, ni sinu dalitu. Ni, no, say ‘ni sina dalita.'”

“Ni sina dalita,” Jaden repeated. “Yeah, satee, I only speak Bashad, I didn’t make it up.”

That was also the day Jaden got a good look at Chenillin’s dick. He’d been trying to at least let the man use the commode in privacy, because they didn’t exactly have a lot of that in their cell. The night before, Jaden had woken up with Chenillin’s dick poking into him. He’d elbowed Chenillin, gotten a sleepy, “Lichan,” and fallen back asleep as Chenillin rolled over. The second night of Chenillin’s sentence, he’d reached down to grab more of the blanket and gotten a handful of Chenillin’s ass instead. Privacy was in short supply.

He crossed from the shelf with their dinner bowls to the door, passing Chenillin as he took a piss, and did a double take. “Where were you hiding that?” he asked.

Chenillin looked down at his dick. “Pants,” he said to Jaden. “Gor?”

“It’s huge, man,” Jaden said. “What the hell?”

“Huge,” Chenillin said, tucking it into his pants. “Huge is big?”

“Big big,” Jaden said. “Very big.”

Chenillin laughed. “No, not huge. Maybe big.”

“Maybe big?” Jaden asked. “And you got thrown in here for sucking dick? Gods, what monstrous dicks did you suck?”

Chenillin laughed and shrugged, and Jaden figured he hadn’t gotten all that, but whatever. He was just giving him shit, another idiom that had initially horrified Chenillin.

*

“Why you here?” Chenillin asked later. “Not because, eh, suck dick.”

Jaden shrugged. “I’m a thief. Uh, I steal stuff. Take things that aren’t mine.” He smiled a little. “Guess I’m not that good.”

Chenillin shook his head. “Not good truth,” he said.

Jaden frowned. “Are you saying I’m a liar?”

“Bad one,” Chenillin said. “Be here long time, no? And more and more. More me, no? For take things? No. Sinu fellanilu.”

“Ni felnaloo!” Jaden said. “I am a thief. I do steal things.” He looked away. “Maybe, uh, not things. This time. Information. Ideas.”

“Eh!” Chenillin said. “Sinu ni fellanilu, sinu cherinitat!”

“Jerintat?” Jaden asked. “What’s that?”

“Eh,” Chenillin said. “No word to say. Cherinitat is, eh, steal ideas, give, sell others. For country? Or lord?”

“Oh,” Jaden said. “Like a spy? Yeah, I guess.” He rubbed the stubble on his face. The guards were late with their weekly tiny bucket of water, sliver of harsh soap, and bad shave. Probably the overcrowding again. “Sati, sina jerintat. A little. Once.”

“Bad one?” Chenillin said. Gods, he was prettier every fucking day, and that had to be his eight months alone talking, because Chenillin’s hair was a mess and his beard was growing in all patchy and his clothes were stained and grubby and smelled now. Though Jaden had to admit he didn’t find the smell unpleasant.

“Yeah, a bad one,” Jaden said. He got off the bed to stretch and do some exercising. Chenillin joined him for some of the stretches, but there wasn’t enough room for both of them to exercise at once, so Chenillin sat back down on the bed and closed his eyes to pray.

*

That night, Jaden waited until he thought Chenillin was asleep, then pulled out his cock. He could only go so long without, and it wasn’t like they hadn’t both seen each other piss and shit. Just another bodily function, after all.

He stroked up and down and swiped his thumb across the head and told himself it wasn’t like Chenillin would ever know he brought himself off thinking of those pink expressive lips on a dick that could very well have been Jaden’s own.

He glanced over to check that Chenillin was still asleep and he wasn’t. Chenillin was awake, watching his hand move up and down his dick, pink lips slightly parted, eyes wide and completely not noticing Jaden looking at him.

Jaden groaned and said, “Oh, shit,” and Chenillin’s eyes snapped up to his face.

“Sorrow!” Chenillin said. “Sorrow, lichan, lichan, sorrow.”

“Sorry,” Jaden automatically corrected.

“Sorry,” Chenillin said softly. They really weren’t very far apart at all. He could feel Chenillin sweating where they touched.

Jaden shrugged one shoulder, the one next to Chenillin. “You can watch.”

Chenillin’s eyes got even wider, then he nodded and turned his attention back to Jaden’s hands on his dick.

It did not take long for Jaden to come with Chenillin watching him, but that was okay; he was tired, after all. Chenillin didn’t seem at all disappointed. He sighed, contentedly, and rolled onto his other side. As Jaden fell asleep, he thought maybe Chenillin was jerking himself off now, but he couldn’t quite stay awake to find out.

*

The guard came to take them to the bathing room. It was the size of a single cell, like the one Jaden and Chenillin now shared, but empty of furniture and with a grate in the floor. Jaden took his clothes off and put them on the floor next to the door. Chenillin watched him and followed his lead.

“This the one that don’t speak Bashad?” the guard asked, handing a bucket of water to Jaden.

“Yeah. Don’t we get two buckets?” he asked.

The guard shook his head. “Only one for a single cell. You’re lucky they give you two bowls for meals. Hurry up or I won’t give you a shave.” He held out the sliver of soap to Jaden.

“Va sini jali,” Jaden muttered. Chenillin cocked his head to the side. “Later, “Jaden said. He handed the sliver of soap to Chenillin. “You first. Wash.”

Chenillin looked at the soap and pulled a face. “Bad smell.” Jaden shrugged and scooped some of the water onto his face. Chenillin sighed and dipped the soap into the water. He rubbed his hands together, but the soap didn’t lather well.

“Just wash him yourself,” the guard suggested from his post by the door.

“He’s not a child,” Jaden said.

“You’re telling me,” the guard said, raising an eyebrow and jerking his head at Chenillin, presumably in reference to his giant dick. Chenillin washed under his arms, his feet, and scrubbed the soap across his hair. He didn’t rinse his hair out, and instead held the diminished soap out to Jaden. “You, eh, waj? Then, eh, head? Air?”

“Hair,” Jaden agreed, and quickly passed the soap over as much of his body as he could reach. He took the time to peel back the skin at the head of his dick and clean that out, which earned him a snort from the guard. He scrubbed the remainder of the soap into his hair, which was much longer than Chenillin’s, then rinsed the rest of himself. The bucket was now more than half empty, most of that water wasted as it didn’t rinse away the soap or fell from their hands to the floor.

Jaden picked up the bucket, which was much easier now that it was half empty. “Cover your eyes,” he said, passing one of his hands in front of his own eyes. “I’ll rinse your hair.”

Chenillin frowned but did as Jaden had indicated. Jaden carefully tipped some of the water over Chenillin’s head. Chenillin sputtered and said, “Valesi! Eh, rens?”

“Rinse,” Jaden said. “Lijon.”

“Sati,” Chenillin said. He wiped his face and reached for the bucket. “Me rins you?”

Jaden shook his head. “Nah,” he said, and dunked his head in the bucket. He heard, distorted by water in his ears, Chenillin laugh at him. He withdrew his head and wiped his eyes, then shook his hair out, flinging water around.

Jaden carried the bucket to the guard at the door. “You still got time to shave us?”

The guard sighed. “Okay, a quick one.” He glanced at Chenillin. “You first, eh stickyfingers?”

Jaden nodded and lifted his head as the guard got out his belt knife. Jaden saw Chenillin shift out of the corner of his eye, and held up a hand. “Sati,” he said.

“Lean down or something,” the guard said. “You’re too tall.” Jaden did so, and braced himself for the touch of steel to his face.

“Eh!” he heard Chenillin exclaim as the guard scraped his blade along Jaden’s chin. “Lechen sii felliniti. Felliniti.”

“So what’s that mean?” the guard asked.

“Dunno,” Jaden said.

“Hold still,” the guard said, and it was pointless to argue or remind him that the was the one who asked Jaden a question. He held still, and was gratified not to end up cut. “Can’t believe how much better I’ve gotten at this,” the guard muttered. He patted Jaden’s face when he was done, just as Jaden’s legs began to ache from holding his bent-down position.

“All right,” the guard said, wiping his knife on his trousers, “you next, three legs.”

Chenillin looked at Jaden, head cocked to the side. “You,” Jaden said.

“Hree leks,” Chenillin muttered, taking Jaden’s place in front of the guard.

“You’re doing okay with him then,” the guard said, keeping hold of Chenillin’s face as he shaved him.

“I don’t know a damn thing about him, but we get along,” Jaden said. “He learns quick.”

“Well, you both got plenty of time to learn, I guess,” the guard said. “He barely needs a shave, this light hair.”

Jaden shrugged, and the guard finished shaving Chenillin in silence. It was probably lucky they’d gotten this guard for Chenillin’s first bathing day. Most of the other guards weren’t as nice, and hardly any of them gave a decent shave. Most times Jaden got at least one cut.

“All done,” the guard said. “Get dressed.”

“Eh!” Chenillin exclaimed while getting dressed. “Leks!” He pointed down at his legs. “Hree leks! Dick is lek. Eh, sitellin. Funny.”

Jaden chuckled. “Yeah, it’s supposed to be funny. A joke.”

“Joke,” Chenillin said. “Not funny joke. Not huge dick.”

The guard cracked up. “He doesn’t know ‘legs’ but you taught him ‘dick’.”

“Only the most important words for us,” Jaden said, and the guard rolled his eyes and shuffled them through the halls to their cell.

Back in their cell, washed and shaved and wearing dirty clothes that stuck to their still slightly damp skin, Chenillin asked, “Waj, rens, and? Weppen? Sord? Felliniti.”

“Shave,” Jaden said. “The guard shaved us. With his weapon, yeah. A knife, not a sword.”

“Jave? Naif-weppen?” Chenillin said. “Jave.” He mimed shaving, even flicking imaginary foam or hair off his imaginary razor.

Jaden nodded. “Yeah, shave. What’s your word for it? Fleniti?”

“Felliniti,” Chenillin agreed, nodding.

Jaden frowned. He could hear there was a difference, but he couldn’t figure out what it was. “Fliniti?” he asked.

Chenillin sat down on the bed the folded his legs beneath him. “Felliniti,” he said. “Fell. Initi.”

“Fuh-lenti,” Jaden repeated.

“Sati, felliniti,” Chenillin said. “Good.”

Jaden frowned again. “No sati! It’s not good! Say it again.”

Chenillin cocked his head to the side. “Aken?”

Jaden sighed. “Never mind,” he said. “Falenti?”

“Felliniti,” Chenillin said. “Fell.” Then he paused.

“Fell,” Jaden repeated, sitting down on the edge of the bed.

“Fell-in,” said Chenillin.

“Fell-in.”

“Fell-in-i.”

“Fell-in-i.”

“Felliniti.”

“Fellinti. No, felliniti. Felliniti?”

Chenillin grinned and nodded. “Felliniti! Good!” he said. “Felliniti is jave.”

This time it was Jaden’s turn to shake his head. “Shave,” he said.

“Jave,” Chenillin said confidently.

“No, shave.”

Chenillin frowned. “Chave?” he said.

“Shhh,” Jaden said, pulling his legs up onto the bed and leaning in. “Shave.”

“Jave,” Chenillin repeated, with a crease forming between his eyebrows and a pout on his pink lips.

Jaden shook his head. “Shhhhave. Shhh.”

“Chh,” Chenillin said, frowning more.

Jaden started to pull back his lips to show Chenillin what his mouth was doing, then realized it wouldn’t help, because the difference would be behind his teeth anyway. So he stuck his finger in his mouth. “Shh,” he said experimentally. “Jjj.” He moved his finger to just past his teeth and tried again. Chenillin watched him, looking puzzled.

Jaden grabbed Chenillin’s hand and put his finger in his mouth, taking it gently in his teeth. “Shhh,” he said, then, “Jjj.”

“Eh!” Chenillin said. “Is different in mouth. In. Kula.” He stuck his tongue out. “Kula?”

“Tongue,” Jaden said, pulling Chenillin’s finger away from his mouth. “Kla. Kala? Tongue.”

“Tunk is different in mouth,” Chenillin said. “Do…aken? Say.” He poked his finger at Jaden’s lips.

Jaden laughed and opened his mouth for Chenillin’s fingertip. “Shh. Not jjjj. Shh. Jjjj.”

“Chhh,” Chenillin said. He put a finger in his own mouth. “Chh. Chh? Jjjjj. Chhh.” He took his finger out of his mouth and grabbed for Jaden’s. “Say,” he said, then took Jaden’s finger into his mouth.

“You’re saying chhh,” Jaden said around Chenillin’s finger. “Chh. Should be shh. Shhhhhave. Shhhh.”

“Chh,” Chenillin said, clumsily. He tapped Jaden’s finger with his tongue. “Thh.”

Jaden laughed. “That’s too much up here,” he said, and used his free hand to tap his own teeth.

“Chh,” Chenillin said. He pressed his finger further into Jaden’s mouth. “Say.”

“Shhh,” Jaden said. He frowned and opened his mouth wide, so Chenillin could see. Chenillin took the hint and leaned in to look. Jaden tapped the ridge behind his teeth with his tongue. “Back here,” he said.

“Chh,” Chenillin said, and Jaden felt his tongue move against Jaden’s finger.

“Not–” Jaden made a face. He didn’t know how to explain to Chenillin that he was curling his tongue the wrong direction. He stuck his tongue out and flattened the tip. “Shh,” he said, again, then stuck his tongue out with the tip toward his nose.

Chenillin licked down Jaden’s finger from his teeth to the end of Jaden’s finger, and furrowed his brow as he poked around with his tongue. “Chhh,” he said. “Jjj. Chhh. Jjj. Chh. Shh.”

“That’s it!” Jaden said. “Yes, yes, shhh!”

“Shh,” Chenillin said. “Shh. Shh!” He took Jaden’s finger out of his mouth. “Chh.” He frowned. “Ni, schh. Shhh. Shh! Say felliniti.”

“Falliniti?” Jaden said. Then, “Oh! Shave.”

“Schave. Shave. Shave!” Chenillin grinned. “Shave, waj–ni, wash. Washhh, rens, ssshave.”

His delighted grin was infectious. “Yeah, good. Wash, rinse, shave.”

“Good, you good, eh, for me?” Chenillin said.

Jaden smiled. Damn his puzzled pout and his tongue on Jaden’s finger. “Good to you, maybe. You trying to say thank you?”

Chenillin cocked his head to the side. “Tank you?”

“What you say after someone does something good or nice for you. It’s polite. Uh,” Jaden said. “Like when you offered to rinse my hair for me, that was nice, polite, uh, a good thing? I should have said ‘thank you’.”

“Eh! Alanifa,” Chenillin said. “Yah, tank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Jaden said. “Thank you for teaching me your words.”

Chenillin shrugged. “Is thing to do. Good, need words. You, me, need words.”

“Still,” Jaden said. “Uh, alaneefa.”

Chenillin’s delighted smile was enough to keep Jaden warm for at least a couple of days.

*

“Eh, Jaden?” Chenillin said, while Jaden did push-ups on the floor. “Shave man say me hree leks, say you–what?”

“Sticky fingers,” Jaden said. “Because I’m a thief.”

“Finkers,” Chenillin said. “Eh, hands? Finkers on hands, ni?”

“Yeah.”

“Emm.” Jaden pushed up and let himself down three times while Chennillin was silent. “Because you take things. Sticky is–good?”

“Good for stealing,” Jaden said. “Bad for, I dunno, food? Dirt? Sticky is, uh, things stay on your hands, get on ’em. Hard to let go of sticky.”

“Sticky,” Chenillin said. “Sweat is sticky?”

“Sure,” Jaden said. “Yeah.”

“Sticky is mesellin,” Chenillin said. “Think. Maybe fenatachi? Words hard. Bachati hard.”

“Bashad,” Jaden said. “Shh.”

“Ni, Bachati in my words, Bashhhad in you,” Chenillin said. “Have own words, Jaden.”

“Your own words for my language,” Jaden said. His arms were starting to ache. He could do much more now than he could do eight months ago before he had to stop. “My words should count for more to talk about my own language.”

“Lankuage,” Chenillin said. “Lankuage is words? Bachati– Bashad is lankuage?”

“Yeah, Bashad is a language.”

“Emm. My words is lankuage?”

“Yeah,” Jaden said. “We both get a language.”

“My lankuage,” Chenillin said. “You lankuage.”

“Your language,” Jaden corrected. He’d have to switch soon, to another exercise, but then he would be able to see Chenillin’s face, and he was having trouble listening to him when he could see him.

“Your lankuage Bashadi. Is Bashadi. Your lankuage is Bashadi,” Chenillin said.

“Good,” Jaden said. “Very good.

“My lankuage is Malachita,” Chenillin said.

“Is it? Your language is Malajita,” Jaden said. He dropped to the floor and stayed there on his stomach.

“Malachita,” Chenillin said. “Ch. Use finkers aken.”

Jaden laughed. “Malaj–Malachita,” he corrected.

“Good.”

“And it’s ‘fingers’ and ‘again’ and ‘language.”

“Pekini!” Chenillin swore, or at least Jaden assumed it was a swear. “Say aken.”

“Again. Like the shh with your tongue,” Jaden said, rolling onto his back.

Chenillin shook his head. “Bashadi very hard. You say Malachita, me not say Bashadi.”

“No deal,” Jaden said. He propped himself up on his elbows. “The guards all speak Bashad. You should learn it, maybe then you won’t get put in prison for sucking the wrong dick.”

Chenillin cocked his head to the side. “You think bad lankuage, my Malachita, is why, eh, me here?”

“Oh yeah,” Jaden said. “The laws against homosexuality and sodomy and all that don’t get enforced unless someone don’t like you. You’re foreign, you don’t speak Bashad.” Jaden shrugged. “I never been in prison for sucking a dick, and it’s not like I haven’t.”

“Eh? You?” Chenillin asked.

“Yeah. What,” Jaden said, “you surprised?”

“Eh, yes,” he said. “You, eh, good man. Man man.”

Jaden burst into laughter. “Your country must be real different, Jenillin. I ain’t been called manly since… ever.”

“Eh?” Chenillin said. “No! You?”

Jaden shrugged. “Between the two of us, you’re the manly one.”

Chenillin giggled. “No, no. Me? Not manly. Eh, womanly?”

“With a monster like that between your legs?” Jaden asked, gesturing up at the bed. “How could you be womanly?”

“Is, eh. In my country, is, eh, funny? Joke? Bad for big dick. Not manly. Manly is, eh, little dick.”

“What the hell kinda sense does that make?” Jaden asked, sitting all the way up. “Your dick is one of the most obvious things to tell if you’re a man,” he said.

“Not matter,” Chenillin said, shaking his head. “Manly is, eh, do things for self. Not for man, woman, for self. Big dick is, eh, for not self.”

“Oh, like a big dick is going to please someone if you’re fucking them,” Jaden said. “So it’s sort of for their benefit, not your own.”

“Yes,” Chenillin said. “If, eh, ‘fucken’ is word I think.”

“Well, if it involves putting your dick in other people,” Jaden said, “then yeah, that’s fucking.”

“Eh, yes,” Chenillin said. “Big dick for others, for fucking, not for self. Is not manly. Manly is for self.”

“No wonder you think I’m manly, then,” Jaden laughed. “I’m selfish as hell.”

“No,” Chenillin said, shaking his head. “Not why. Eh, is manly, yes, but you not, eh, for self. Selfish?” Jaden nodded. “You not selfish,” he said. “But manly. Eh, strong? Big.” He put his hands up above his head. “Big this way.”

“Tall,” Jaden supplied.

“Tall, yah. Why not manly here, in Bachat?”

Jaden blew air out between his lips. “Uh,” he said. “Gods, ask the easy questions, don’t you?” Chenillin smiled and shook his head. “All right, first of all, I’m not strong. I don’t fight, I run away. You know, I’m a thief. Get in, get out, don’t stick around to get in a fight. And there’s the whole fucking men thing.” He laughed, flipping his long hair around. “And I’m a vain son of a bitch, even in prison.

Chenillin cocked his head. “Ven?”

“Uh, I care about how I look,” Jaden said, frowning. “It matters to me? A lot. Too much, is what vain means.”

Chenillin shook his head. “Ven is manly. Not manly is, eh, cherinitat, steal ideas. And steal things, thief not manly. Not womanly, not manly. Not.”

“Not anything,” Jaden said.

“Eh, yes. Is, is not.” Chenillin shrugged. “Not good.”

“You’re telling me,” Jaden muttered, looking around at the small cell.

“Eh!” Chenillin said. “You say you, eh, fuck men? How? Sati, you fuck men, men fuck you?”

Jaden shrugged. “Does it matter?”

“In my country,” Chenillin said. “You fuck men, you manly. Not, eh, different way. Men fuck you, you not manly. Very not manly.”

“Wait, so it matters who does what in bed? As long as you’re the one doing the fucking, you’re still a manly guy?” Chenillin nodded. “What about women, then?” Jaden asked. “Is it womanly for a woman to fuck another woman?”

Chenillin’s eyes got very wide. “No, not womanly! Bad! Manly and bad! And bad for woman to, eh, tell man things?”

“It’s bad for a woman to be in charge of a man?” Jaden asked.

Chenillin nodded. “Bad, very bad. And, eh, ugly? Man not want woman tell man things.”

Jaden snorted. “Like a Bashad woman ever cared,” he said. “Not a lot of marriages between our countries, I bet.”

“Very different,” Chenillin agreed. “Maybe, eh, too much?”

“We get along,” Jaden said.

Chenillin smiled. “Yes,” he said. He looked back at Jaden and they were smiling at each other, and it would be so easy to get up and kiss him right now. Jaden wanted to, but apart from initiating a conversation about cultural gender expectations, Chenillin hadn’t seemed to care about the revelation that Jaden was attracted to men too. It was hard enough reading this kind of situation right even when you weren’t from different cultures and speaking different languages, so he didn’t get up, and he didn’t kiss Chenillin.

“Eh,” Chenillin said, and looked away, down at the mattress. “You say, eh, not matter. Can ask, eh, terenal, not know Bashadi word…” He looked up at Jaden, but he had no idea what Chenillin was looking for, and shrugged. “Not matter, still ask?”

“Sure,” Jaden said. “Even if it doesn’t matter, you can ask.”

“Evennif!” Chenillin said. “You say not matter, can ask evennif not matter. Eh, how you fuck man? How way?”

“Which way,” Jaden corrected, even though he was having some sort of hope-related whiplash. “Uh, you know, either way. Both. Any way I can get it,” he said, laughing a little. “Not just men. Women. Anyone as wants a fuck.”

“Eh,” Chenillin said. “Not know.”

“How could you?” Jaden asked, looking up at him. “It hasn’t come up before.”

“Eh,” Chenillin said, eyes wide again. “Say suck dick, me, evennif you not, eh, senitu, eh.” He made a frustrated noise. “Bashadi hard, not know no words. Eh, say me suck dick, evennif you not, eh, want? Fuck me.”

Jaden blinked. “I think we’re having a real problem with the language barrier right now,” he said. “I got no idea what you’re trying to say.”

“Eugh!” Chenillin said, throwing his hands in the air. “Thing not true, say true. What word?”

“Uh, if a thing isn’t true, but you say it is true?” Jaden asked, trying to parse that.

Chenillin pointed. “One word! Ef!”

“If? Oh,” Jaden said. “Yeah, sati, you say ‘if’ for a thing that isn’t true but you want to say it was.”

“Yes, if,” Chenillin said, nodding. “If you fuck men–” He looked at Jaden for confirmation.

“And I do,” Jaden said.

“Yes, sati, you fuck men,” Chenillin said. “If you fuck men, why not want fuck me?”

Jaden blinked. He was still lost. “To be honest, I kinda do want to fuck you,” he said. “What–”

Chenillin turned pink. “Eugh!” he said, turning his face away. “If want, why not fuck?”

“You never, uh, said anything? I–uh, I didn’t think you wanted to fuck,” Jaden said.

Chenillin looked back at him, head cocked again, brow furrowed. “Why matter?”

“Wh–why does it matter?” Jaden asked, realizing whatever misunderstanding they were having was more serious than he thought. “I wouldn’t fuck someone who didn’t want to fuck me, no one would, that’s why it matters!”

Chenillin frowned. “Evennif me–eh, I–evennif I say suck dick, and you fuck men, why not you fuck me?”

“You can’t just go around fucking people just because you wanna fuck them,” Jaden said. He got to his knees and leaned against the mattress on his elbows. “They have to wanna fuck you, too. It takes two people. At least two people,” he amended. “Otherwise you’re just jerking off.”

Chenillin pouted. He looked as frustrated and confused as Jaden felt. “Sati,” he said. “Eh, evennif you fuck men, and me–I. Evennif you fuck men, and I eh, men fuck, suck dick.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Jaden asked. “I fuck men, you fuck men, so? That don’t mean we automatically wanna fuck each other.”

“Evennif–”

Jaden sighed. “I think maybe you mean ‘but’, not ‘even if’.”

“But,” Chenillin said. “Terenal, but. But you fuck men.”

“Yes,” Jaden said.

“I suck dick, fuck by men.”

“Sure,” Jaden said.

“But you not fuck me,” Chenillin said.

“No!” Jaden said. “You never said you wanted to!”

“But–” Chenillin stopped, and looked down at Jaden very seriously. “If. If say want to, you fuck me.”

“Gods of every plane above, below, and throughout,” Jaden muttered, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, if you say you want to, I could fuck you.”

“Eh,” Chenillin said. “But. If? But if? But if say not want to…”

“Then I wouldn’t,” Jaden said.

“Evennif? Evennif you want fuck me?” Chenillin asked.

“Sure,” Jaden said. “If you don’t want to, we don’t do it. If we don’t both want to, we don’t do it.”

Chenillin considered this. “Is different in my country,” he said at last.

“So I gather,” Jaden muttered. “Which is bad, by the way. Different and bad. Horrifying, to be honest.”

“Eh,” Chenillin said. “Is not too much late say want fuck?”

“Too late?” Jaden asked, confused again. “Why would it be too–”

Chenillin held his hand up in front of Jaden’s mouth. “Want fuck,” he said. “Want you fuck me.”

“Oh,” Jaden said. Then, “Oh. You’re saying–”

Chenillin nodded. “You fuck me. Want fuck.”

“Gods,” Jaden said, and lowered his head into his arms.

“Eh? Jaden? Sati?” He gently touched Jaden’s shoulder.

“Uh huh, yeah,” Jaden said. “I’m fine. Sati. Just, uh. Give me a minute.”

“Sati,” Chenillin said.

After a few minutes breathing into the warm darkness of his arms, Jaden looked back up at Chenillin. “Jenillin,” he said. “Do you like sucking dick?”

Chenillin shrugged. “Is not bad. Is not good. Is.”

“So why’d you do it?” Jade asked, kind of dreading the answer.

“Is easy way get man fuck me,” Chenillin said. He grinned. “Man want me suck dick, man want fuck me.”

“Gods, that is a much better answer than I was expecting,” Jaden muttered. “So you don’t really like sucking dick, but you do like men fucking you.”

“Yes,” Chenillin said, head tilting again. “Think say before.”

“I wanna make sure I got all this straight,” Jaden said. “In your country, it’s not manly to suck dick?”

Chenillin shook his head. “Very not.”

“But it is manly to fuck another man, provided you’re the one sticking your dick in him.”

“Eh, yes?”

“Jenillin, has anyone ever sucked your dick?” Jaden asked.

Chenillin turned pink. “No,” he said. “Is not…no.”

“Do you want me to?” he asked.

Chenillin grew much pinker, and his eyes got wide. “Is–is bad,” he said.

“But do you want me to?” Jaden pressed.

Chenillin said nothing, just stared at him, pink and wide-eyed, and grew tense. Then, he nodded, just a little.

“Good,” Jaden said, smiling. “Great.” He leaned in and reached for Chenillin’s pants. “Don’t think I’ll be able to get the whole thing in my mouth,” he said, “but I guess you won’t know the difference if no one else has even tried.”

Chenillin stared at him, pressing his lips together.

Jaden pulled Chenillin’s dick out of his pants. “This is ridiculous,” he said, rubbing his cheek on it. Chenillin made a high-pitched noise, comical from a man with such a low voice. Jaden took the head of it into his mouth, closing his eyes and breathing in deep. Somewhere above him, Chenillin made another high-pitched noise. Jaden barely noticed, absorbed as he was in the salty taste and heady smell of Chenillin’s dick in his mouth.

Chenillin’s dick grew harder in his mouth and the hand he wrapped around the base, but didn’t actually get much larger. So, a show-er, not a grower, which was probably good, considering how wide Jaden was already having to open his mouth just to get it around the head. Jaden’s own dick grew hard in his pants.

It had been significantly longer than eight months since Jaden had done this, and he was not surprised to be unable to get the entire thing into his mouth. He made up for it, he hoped, with enthusiasm and his hands on every part of Chenillin’s dick his mouth could not reach. He sucked hard on the tip and was rewarded with a moan. He lapped at the underside of the base to a soundtrack of heavy breathing. And just when his jaw ached too much for him to continue, Chenillin’s legs tensed, squeezing him in place.

“Come on,” he murmured, smiling. He jerked Chenillin fast and wet with spit, leaning in to lick and suck at the head often. “It’s okay, come on,” he said.

Chenillin had a fist pressed against his mouth, eyes clenched shut, still as red as if he was running a marathon or had fallen asleep in the sun.

Jaden ducked down to ignore the ache in his jaw that had grown to pain and take Chenillin’s dick in his mouth again. Which was, of course, when Chenillin came, spurting hot jizz into Jaden’s eye and all down his face.

“Shit,” he swore, rubbing at his eye.

“Eh, lichan, lichan, sorrow–sorry–” Chenillin said, pulling his legs up onto the bed and sliding away from him.

Jaden laughed. “It’s fine,” he said. “Sati. Uh, it’s just–you came in my eye, man, it surprised me.” He climbed up onto the bed, legs protesting this sudden shift after so long on the floor.

“Eh,” Chenillin said, not meeting Jaden’s eyes. “Sati. If you say.”

“Oh, I say,” Jaden said, settling in next to Chenillin, back against the wall. He undid his trousers and pulled out his own dick to take care of how sati he was.

“Eh,” Chenillin said, cocking his head to the side again. “You want me suck your dick?”

“If you don’t like doing it,” Jaden said, “I don’t want you to do it. I just, uh.” He laughed and gestured at it. “Gotta take care of his.”

“Emm,” Chenillin said, and watched Jaden touch himself. “You want my hands?” he asked, tentatively. “Not, eh, not touch? With hands before, but. Eh.” Jaden glanced up at him to find him blushing furiously again. “Want touch you.”

Jaden grinned. “Well then,” he said. “That’s sati.”

Chenillin leaned closer to him and reached for Jaden’s dick. He ended up resting his face on Jaden’s shoulder to reach comfortably. Jaden let his eyes close as Chenillin first added his hand to Jaden’s own, then swatted Jaden’s hand away.

He said he’d never done this before, but jerking your own dick and jerking someone else’s dick weren’t that different, even if Chenillin’s experience with his giant dick would be different from most other folks’.

“Emm,” Chenillin said, and he sounded like he was smiling. “Is more skin here,” he said, and rubbed at Jaden’s foreskin.

“Eh?” Jaden said, and looked over at Chenillin’s still huge but now mostly limp dick. “Oh,” he said, “yeah. Huh. Why don’t you have your foreskin?”

“Is, eh, cut?” Chenillin said absently, running his fingers up to the tip of Jaden’s dick. “Small person, eh, more time, is man. Dick skin cut for man.”

“That’s fucked up,” Jaden said. He was finding it hard to concentrate, small wonder. “Like a manhood thing? When a child grows up, becomes a man, you, uh, cut the extra skin?”

“Yes. More clean,” Chenillin said. “Say more clean. Not know if true. Is nice,” he said, running his thumb along the fold of skin there.

“Is it?” Jaden asked, letting his eyes drift closed. “Good. Gods, Jenillin, that feels so good.”

“Good,” Chenillin said, and Jaden could hear him smiling again. He moved in closer, pulled Jaden to an angle and pressing in against his back. “Is not how you say,” he said. “Me. I? You say Jenillin. Is Chenillin.”

“Sorry,” Jaden said. Then, “Really? I’ve been saying your name wrong this whole time?

“Sati. You not know.” He nuzzled his face into Jaden’s neck, and even though Jaden really didn’t want to move at the moment, he also really wanted to kiss him.

He compromised by not making a decision at all and moaning, squirming more into Chenillin’s arms. He was practically sitting in Chenillin’s lap though, and they probably looked ridiculous with their relative height difference, still clothed except for their dicks hanging out of their pants, but he had Chenillin’s arm around him, Chenillin’s hand on his dick, and Chenillin’s face against his neck, so he was happy, ridiculous looking or not.

Besides, who cared how ridiculous they did or didn’t look when their most interaction with anyone but each other was a guard taking bowls to or from them through a slot in the door?

Jaden let himself collapse completely onto the bed after he came. “Lichan,” he said, “I don’t think I’ll be able to fuck you just now.”

Chenillin grinned, and gods if he wasn’t even more beautiful now. “But you fuck me later, no?” he said.

“I will do anything you want later,” Jaden said. “But gods, yes, I still want to really fuck you.”

“Good,” Chenillin said.

Jaden groped for his hand and pulled it to his lips.

Chenillin blushed. “Eh,” he said, “is, is okay for me, eh…”

“Hmm?” Jaden asked.

Chenillin leaned down to meet their still-joined hands and kissed the tips of Jaden’s fingers. “What word this?” he asked.

“Oh.” Jaden laughed. “Uh, are you…Are you asking if you can kiss me?”

“Ask important to you, no? So I ask. Eh.” He looked down at their hands. “I can kiss you, no?”

Jaden smiled. “If you didn’t ask, I would’ve. Yeah, you can kiss me.”

“Sati,” Chenillin said, grinning wide. He laid down next to Jaden and kissed his cheek.

“Sati,” Jaden agreed, smiling to himself.

*

Probably neither of the magistrates who sentenced them intended for them to end up so comfortable in prison. It was still a tiny cell, and the food was mediocre, and they only had a chance to bathe and shave every couple of weeks, but honestly, any company at all made the time go faster than it had before Chenillin had joined Jaden in the cell. Company that was enthusiastic about fucking made it downright enjoyable.

Jaden had never enjoyed a prison stay much before. He’d also never lived with someone he was fucking before. It was, in pretty much every way, a surreal situation. Pleasant, but surreal.

A few days after the first time they had sex, Jaden finally asked Chenillin how long his sentence was.

Chenillin shook his head. “Not know,” he said. “Maybe now, I know words, know little Bashadi, but no… No Malachita, eh, talker?”

“Speaker,” Jaden supplied.

“Yes, no Malachita speaker, only me.” He shrugged. “Maybe ask, eh, guard? Maybe you ask,” he said, smiling. “Guard know you more.”

They spent more time lounging on the bed to talk now. Jaden wasn’t worried about avoiding contact, or resisting the urge to stare at Chenillin. If the cell were warmer, they probably wouldn’t have bothered much with clothes.

“Well, I don’t think the maximum sentence could be more than two years,” said Jaden. “So you should be out of here before me no matter what.”

“Eh. How long is your, eh, sentence?”

“Five years,” Jaden said. “I’ve been here nine months already, so that’s four more years. Or they might let me go at three, if there’s something they don’t want to risk someone else for, that they think I might do good at. That’s never happened to me before, though.”

“Other times were for stealing, no? Now you’re spy. Maybe different.” He frowned, head cocked. “Why look sad?”

“What?” Jaden asked, looking up at Chenillin’s face. “Sorry, just.” He laughed, and looked away, suspecting that it wasn’t enough to keep Chenillin from noticing his discomfort. “Probably the next guy they stick in here with me won’t be as nice as you.”

“But will speak Bashadi,” Chenillin said. “No–” He made a face, then mimed eating, then made another face. Jaden laughed. “Much more easy talking.”

“Yeah, I don’t know if you know this, Chen, but most guys in prison ain’t that much fun to talk to.”

Chenillin shook his head. “No,” he said, “all prison guys I know very fun talking.”

Jaden elbowed him. “You never been in prison before, I thought.”

“No,” Chenillin agreed, looking over at him. “But true.”

Jaden’s stomach flipped over in his gut, just from that fond twinkle in Chenillin’s eye. He leaned in and kissed him. Chenillin responded readily. He was very enthusiastic about kissing. Probably he hadn’t had much chance, if everything in Chenillin’s homeland was so weird and gendered when it came to sex stuff. Probably it wasn’t manly to kiss for very long, or make out like teenagers who weren’t sure they wanted to go all the way, or let someone nibble your lip, or moan every time your tongues met. Or maybe it was that, since all other men seemed to think he was good for was cocksucking, no one wanted to get dick all over their mouths. Jaden felt pretty sure that wasn’t manly over there.

Jaden pulled away, and Chenillin pouted and kissed his stubbly jaw instead. “You know what I wish?” he murmured

“Mm?” Chenillin made a vaguely questioning noise against Jaden’s jaw.

“I wish your dick weren’t so big,” Jaden said. Chenillin paused. “Shit, sorry, I didn’t mean–Uh, I just.” He grabbed Chenillin’s hips, and pulled him closer. “It’d be pretty hard for you to fuck me.”

“Eh!” Chenillin pulled back, face pink. “Terenal–”

“Yeah, I know, you never have.” Jaden squirmed against him and nuzzled his face. “And I know you like me fucking you. I like fucking you. But it’s been so long since I got fucked.”

“Eh,” Chenillin said. At least, Jaden was pretty sure that was his intention. It came out more like a squeak. For a guy with such a naturally deep voice, he sure did squeak a lot.

“And I sure would like it,” Jaden breathed, barely brushing Chenillin’s lips with his own as he did so.

“Eh,” Chenillin said again. It sounded a little more like a word this time. At least as much as his frequent exclamation would ever sound like a word to Jaden.

“I kinda think you would too,” Jaden said, shifting his leg against the rock-hard erection pressing into him.

“Eh,” Chenillin said.

Jaden laughed, and kissed him again. His incredible enthusiasm was not in the least abated by Jaden’s inability to think before he spoke, and he actually slid a hand down to Jaden’s hip and pulled him closer. He had been pretty hesitant at first to do basically anything without asking or being told, and Jaden didn’t know if that was because they’d had such a hard time with what Jaden considered basic consent and so Chenillin thought Jaden had some sort of hang-up about asking, or if it was just that Chenillin wasn’t used to being allowed to take the lead. Probably that would be too manly for his partners back home, and put them off fucking him entirely. But now Chenillin grabbed Jaden without pausing, kissed him without waiting for permission, without the halting assurance that he would be rebuffed or punished for doing so on his own. It made Jaden feel all warm, and proud of doing something good for once.

“You know,” Jaden said, pulled away just enough to speak, “you could still fuck me.”

“Eh, but you say–and I think so too–”

Jaden grabbed Chenillin’s hand and kissed his fingertips. “I’m sure you’ve done it for yourself before,” he said. “It’s not that different.” He grinned.

“Eh!” Chenillin said, and turned almost as red as when Jaden first suggested he might enjoy having his own dick sucked. “Is…yes, I can…” He wormed his hand out of Jaden’s and down the back of his pants. “Is still, eh, slow.”

Jaden tried to sigh, but it came out as more of a growl. “I know,” he said. “But it’s better than nothing.”

“Very better,” Chenillin said, and smiled when Jaden shivered. He pulled Jaden on top of him, and Jaden kissed him again.

He loved kissing Chenillin. He loved feeling instead of hearing the pleased noises Chenillin made. And he was pretty enthusiastic about this new thing with Chenillin’s finger pressing against his asshole while grinding against him.

He pulled away long enough to wriggle out of his pants, and Chenillin pulled him back for more kissing. Then Chenillin pulled away, leaving Jaden to be the one pouting and confused. He stuck his unoccupied fingers in his mouth and grinned when Jaden stopped pouting. Even though he got to see it multiple times a day now–multiple times an hour, sometimes–Chenillin’s smile still made Jaden feel like he’d won some sort of award or prize or something. Chenillin smiling at him felt the way getting away with a larger than expected haul felt, or escaping a capture by leaping from a rooftop.

Now slick with spit, Chenillin’s other hand joined the one already on Jaden’s ass and started the slow process of pressing in. “You say if hurts,” Chenillin said.

“Of course, Chen,” Jaden said, then returned to kissing him.

By the time Chenillin had managed to get a finger pretty solidly in Jaden’s ass, Jaden was too busy panting and rolling his hips against Chenillin’s thigh to do much kissing. Chenillin’s other hand was pressing down on his hips, holding him against Chenillin’s own impressive erection. When Jaden opened his eyes, he saw Chenillin holding his lower lip in his teeth.

“Knew you’d enjoy it too,” Jaden said into his ear.

“Is very different,” he said. He pushed in a bit and Jaden hissed. He grinned. “But is enjoying.”

“Gods,” Jaden groaned, pushing back and letting his head drop to Chenillin’s shoulder. “Good. Can you…do you think I can handle more yet?”

“Don’t know,” Chenillin said. “Maybe yes, maybe no. You want more, no?”

“Gods, yes,” Jaden said. He rocked back. “It’s been a while, but I always use more than one when I do it myself.”

“But,” Chenillin said, “you have, eh, what is word–”

Jaden sighed. “Lube,” he said. “I know, I just.” He rubbed against Chenillin’s leg.

“You want very much,” Chenillin said. He smiled, eyes practically shut, and Jaden had to close his eyes, because slow and uncomfortably dry sex or not, that smile made him worry he wouldn’t last. It went right to the pit of his stomach and made him feel like he’d swallowed lightning. “Is cute,” Chenillin said, and kissed Jaden on the only part of him he could reach to do so, which happened to be his shoulder. It was not at all a word Jaden would have used to describe being half-dressed with a beautiful man’s fingers in his asshole–in prison–but somehow, it did seem appropriate.

Chenillin waited until his finger was sliding in and out with no trouble before adding another. That was actually more uncomfortable than the first one had been, but that was maybe lucky, because by then Jaden was leaking precome all over Chenillin’s pants and swearing at him to hurry up.

“No,” Chenillin said. “When I do this to me, I want too much and do too much and hurt,” Chenillin said. “You too, I think.” And he was right, of course, damn him, but when he finally pushed Jaden back against the wall and thrust into him up to his knuckles, Jaden had to admit he really knew what he was doing.

“Much more easy from here,” he said, pressing his forehead into Jaden’s chest. “Less hurt hand and arm.”

“Gods, Chenillin,” Jaden said, arching back against the wall. They’d been at this so long now his shirt was cold with drying sweat, and colder still where he was pressed against the stone wall.

“You don’t listen,” Chenillin said. “Maybe I should know before.” He wriggled, until his dick was level with one of the hands Jaden had been clutching to his hip. “Help this, meneki. Please? Please.”

Blindly, Jaden undid the laces of Chenillin’s pants and tugged out his dick. Chenillin grunted and thrust against him, at the same time pushing his fingers into Jaden faster.

“Gods,” Jaden said. Having a dick in his hand made his own ache for contact more, and he had to twist his free hand into Chenillin’s tunic to keep himself from spoiling the whole point of this exercise with a few quick strokes.

“Feriva,” Chenillin moaned, and thrust into and against Jaden even faster. Then, in a cycle of moving faster and faster to match the other one’s speed, they both came, shuddering and, in Chenillin’s case, keening a little bit, in incredibly short order.

Jaden started laughing when he came around enough to take a look at them. They hadn’t even managed to get all the way out of their clothes this time, and now they were even more of a mess. There was come fucking everywhere, and he didn’t even want to know the state of Chenillin’s hand.

Chenillin bumped his head against Jaden’s chest and, after carefully pulling out his hand, wiped it on Jaden’s leg, which just made Jaden laugh harder.

“Suu,” Chenillin said. “Ni, wrong lankuage.” Jaden’s stomach started to hurt with his laughter. Chenillin headbutted his chest again. “You have good ideas.”

Jaden snorted. “No,” he said, “that’s as far as my good ideas go. Anything that’s not fucking is…” He made a wet noise against his teeth.

“Fellanu,” Chenillin muttered. He tilted his head up and kissed the base of Jaden’s neck, just above the neck of his shirt. “I enjoy very. But still want you to fuck me. Not now, I mean. In. Eh. You know.”

“There’s no reason we can’t take turns,” Jaden said. “Besides not having any lube or way to clean up.”

“Have never take turns before,” Chenillin said. “Is nice.”

“It is,” Jaden said. He bent down to kiss Chenillin, but could only reach his hair, and settled for that. “Alaneefa.”

“Ni alanifu, alanifa,” Chenillin said, and squirmed up the bed to kiss Jaden properly, without any prompting at all.

*

The next time a guard came to get them for what passed as a shower and a shave here, they were lying entangled on the bed. They weren’t doing anything more than cuddling and talking, as they often did now to pass the time, but Jaden still had to fight the urge to apologize to the guard.

The guard, for his part, just leaned on the doorjamb and smirked. “Guess they shoulda known better’n to put someone else in the same cell as a queer like you, stickyfingers.”

“Guess so,” Jaden said, helping Chenillin to his feet. Chenillin was flushed and his hand was trembling, but he hadn’t said or done anything else to indicate he was ashamed or scared or anything besides startled.

Jaden had actually known this guard before his sentence. He frequented a lot of the same taverns as Jaden and joked about scoping out his future charges, but, as far as Jaden knew, never actually reported anyone to the watch. He’d never been introduced as anything but “Shithead”, so Jaden just didn’t call him by name, since he got the feeling calling a guard Shithead was not a good move. Anyway Shithead was a pretty nice guard, and he gave shaving the prisoners a shot, even though he was, and as far as Jaden could tell had always been, terrible at it.

“Hey,” said Shithead as he escorted them down the hall to the shower, “isn’t he the foreigner who got busted for cocksucking?”

Jaden sighed, but before he could respond, Chenillin piped up, “Yes, that’s me.”

Shithead looked taken aback. “Thought you didn’t speak Bashad,” he said.

“Didn’t,” said Chenillin. “Jaden teaches me.”

Shithead pushed open the door to the shower room. It was chilly and slick with damp today, so someone else had bathed not long ago, and probably made a mess of it. “So you don’t just spend all day balls-deep in Stickyfingers here.”

Chenillin, predictably, cocked his head to the side and glanced at Jaden.

Jaden said, “Don’t you guards talk to each other?” He shrugged out of his clothes and looked around for a dry spot to set them in. Chenillin folded his pants over his arm and gently set them at Jaden’s feet. Jaden set his own clothes on top of Chenillin’s. “I’m not about to get that thing in my ass without some kind of lube.”

“My gods,” said Shithead, staring as Chenillin pulled his shirt over his head, affording them all a good look at the topic of conversation. “I can’t believe you’d be able to get that in anywhere even if you had lube.”

“Then you don’t want to know about fisting,” Jaden said, grabbing the bucket of water from its place next to the door.

Shithead pulled a face and Chenillin started laughing. He took the soap from Shithead’s outstretched hand and followed Jaden to the grate in the center of the floor.

“What is what–eh, what did you and him say?” Chenillin asked Jaden. He dipped the soap in the bucket of water and lathered it in his hands as well as he could. “Was about fucking, no?”

“Yeah,” Jaden said. “It was just, y’know.” He glanced at Shithead, who was picking at his nails, not paying much attention to them anymore. Jaden looked back at Chenillin and shrugged. “Whether or not you were fucking me.”

“Eh,” Chenillin said. He scrubbed the soap through his hair and passed it to Jaden. “Fucking is word means many things in Bashadi, no? Say ‘I fuck you’ is different from ‘you fuck me.'”

“Usually,” Jaden said, dipping the soap in the bucket again.

“Confusing,” Chenillin said. “Is true we fuck, but is not true I fuck you. Why is this?”

“I didn’t make it up,” Jaden said. Chenillin made a disgusted noise. “What?”

“Is confusing! Same word means same thing, but not same thing when you say–” He frowned. “I don’t know Bashadi words good.”

“You know Bashad a hell of a lot better’n I know Malachita,” Jaden said. “Here, I’ll rinse your hair.” Chenillin squeezed his eyes shut and Jaden tipped the bucket carefully over his head. “What was your word for that? Vlessy? No, wait, probably valessy.”

Chenillin shook his head, sending water droplets everywhere. Jaden laughed and lowered the bucket. “Yes, valesi. Alanifa. Ni, tank you. For rinsing?”

“You’re welcome.” Jaden rubbed the last sliver of soap into his hair. “So how would you say it in Malachita, then? If fucking is so confusing in Bashad.”

“Fucking is the same in all country,” Chenillin said. “Is different words, Jaden, not different fucking.”

“You’re a smart ass,” Jaden said, “and I never should have taught you Bashad.”

Chenillin grinned. “You make bad things,” he said. “Bad ideas. Sati, in Malachita, is different word for different person in fucking, different word for fucking. Is, eh.” He counted on his fingers, lips moving. “Six words for fucking.”

“Six words just for fucking?” Jaden exclaimed, scooping up the bucket. “I mean, you told me who did what was important over there, but six?” He dumped the rest of the water over his his head.

“Is for different fucking,” Chenillin said as Jaden squeezed the water out of his hair. “Hands, mouth, ass, eh, other? Women have, don’t know word.”

“Cunt,” Jaden supplied. “That’s only four,” he said.

Chenillin nodded. “Who does what more important. Same word if you fuck ass or if you fuck, eh, cunt? If you the one, eh, fucking.”

“So it’s really like three for whoever’s sort of putting their junk in stuff and three for the one getting stuff put in their junk,” Jaden said.

“Junk is all, eh, sex parts? Then yes,” Chenillin said. “Maybe. Is complicated.”

“Hey,” Shithead said, “d’you two want a shave or not?” They headed over to him. He took out his belt knife. “Anyway, we got more’n one word for fucking in Bashad.”

“I guess that’s true,” Jaden said. Shithead was taller than the good barber, so Jaden didn’t have to crouch down to let him reach.

“But is all fucking, no? Different fucking, but fucking,” Chenillin said. “My lank–language has no word for all fucking. Is all different.”

“So how do you talk about it if you don’t know who’s doing what?” Shithead asked. “How would I say it if I was pretty sure you were together but didn’t know enough to say how?”

“You don’t,” Chenillin said. “Or maybe say, eh, not a lie, but a thing you don’t know is true. Or say thing like ‘together’. Is polite way to talk about other people.”

“Huh,” Shithead said. Jaden tried not to wince as he nicked his cheek. “Sorry. I’m kinda amazed you figured out how to talk to each other.”

“Jaden is good teacher,” Chenillin said, and Shithead nicked Jaden again when he was unable to keep himself from smiling.

*

Jaden sat up from a nap, pulled on his discarded tunic, and looked over to find Chenillin sitting cross-legged on the floor, eyes closed, lips moving slightly. He’d always assumed Chenillin was praying, but the more he learned about Chenillin, the less he seemed like the praying type.

“Good morning,” Jaden said.

“Good morning,” Chenillin agreed, keeping his eyes closed. “Boniyu.”

“Right, boniyu,” Jaden said. “What are you doing?”

“Eh?” Chenillin opened one eye to peek at Jaden. “This sitting? I don’t know word. Pallechema.”

“So that’s, what? Praying?”

Chenillin shrugged. “Not know ‘praying’. What is ‘praying’?”

Jaden stretched until his back popped. “Uh, talking to your gods? Asking for help, or giving thanks. Whatever.”

Chenillin shook his head. “Ni, pallechemi is not praying. Is, eh, sitting. Thinking. Clean mind. Cleaning mind?”

“You have a word just for that?” Jaden asked.

“Is important,” Chenillin said. “Clean mind, strong mind, means, eh, strong body. Not strong,” he said. “Like strong, or clean. Good thing. Is word for idea, no?”

“Maybe healthy,” Jaden suggested. “Like the opposite of sick? Wait, do you even know ‘sick’?” Chenillin shook his head. Jaden mimed a sneeze and reached weakly, shakily, toward Chenillin.

“Eh, sick! Demeni, weak, not good. Yes, not sick, keeps away sick in mind, head. Pallechemi to keep…”

“Healthy.”

“Yes, healthy. Pallechemi to keep healthy.”

Jaden crossed his legs under himself. “How’s sitting help you stay healthy?”

Chenillin twisted his lips out in a pouty frown. “Not know Bashadi words. Is good for head and mind. Makes, eh, not sleepy, but like sleepy. Awake but, eh, clean.” He patted the floor in front of him. “Easier to show you.”

“Okay,” Jaden said. He slid down from the bed onto the floor and scooted over to be across from Chenillin. He looked at how Chenillin was sitting, legs crossed, back straight, and mimicked him. “What do I do?”

“Close your eyes,” Chenillin said. “Clean your mind. Eh, no thinking, no talking. Breathing only.”

“How am I supposed to not think?”

“Sati, ni, thinking, but have idea, let go. No thinking about idea. Have another idea, let go another idea. Head should be, eh, water. Eh, rinse ideas away, then no ideas, no thinking.”

“Sati,” Jaden said, but without much confidence. He understood what Chenillin was saying–or he thought he did, anyway–but he didn’t see how he could do that. He always thought he was okay at being alone with his thoughts, but trying to be alone without his thoughts made his head hurt. What was he, if not his thoughts? How could someone just not think?

“I don’t get it,” he said after a while. He opened his eyes to see Chenillin smiling gently, eyes still shut.

“Sati, think about breathing,” he said. “Only breathe. Number breaths.”

“Count, you mean. One, two, three.”

“Yes, count breaths. One,” he said, then inhaled deeply. “Six,” he blew out his breath. “One,” he said again. “Six.”

“Why six?”

“Any number, six, ten, any number not little number. Same number every breath. Same breathing.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, putting up a finger at each second. He paused when he got to six, then put a finger down as he began exhaling.

“And this is supposed to make me healthy?”

Chenillin twisted one side of his mouth into an amused sort of frown. “Is not magic or medicine, but yes. This helps.”

“Well,” Jaden said. “I trust you.” He closed his eyes again and took a deep breath. He finished breathing in well before he reached six, and sort of awkwardly held it until he reached it, and tried to exhale slowly enough to last. The next attempt went better. Six in, six out. Six in, six out. Six in…

“Good good,” Chenillin said, and Jaden jumped. Chenillin laughed. “Is easier to count and not think than only not think, no?”

“A little,” Jaden said.

Chenillin smiled. “A little? You don’t stop until after I stop, and you say ‘a little’?”

Jaden frowned and said, “What do you mean? How long was I doing that?”

Chenillin shrugged. “More long me.”

“Longer than you,” Jaden corrected. “Wait, really?”

“Yes really,” Chenillin said. “Maybe Jaden mind needs pallechemi, no? No thinking is good for you.”

Jaden laughed. “Not thinking is how I ended up in here, you know.”

“Like I say,” Chenillin said. “Good for you.” And he leaned in and kissed the tip of Jaden’s nose.

Jaden caught him before he could pull away, and pulled him closer. “Good for you, maybe,” he said.

Chenillin leaned into him and nuzzled him. “Very good for me,” he said, and then they were kissing again, which Jaden had to admit was indeed good.

*

The door swung open. Jaden rolled over and adjusted his legs. Chenillin sat bolt upright and scrambled for his shirt.

“Ya, Chenillin.”

Behind the guard standing in the door was a man with the same light skin and hair as Chenillin, but dressed very fancy, like a noble or a very, very rich merchant.

“Eh, ya,” Chenillin said, getting to his feet. He ran a hand through his mop of hair, trying to straighten it. “Beli sinun?”

“Pack your bags,” the guard said.

Chenillin looked back at Jaden. “A joke,” Jaden clarified, even as the rich man said, “Galliya Fanirut. Sina yemirani Malachita. Sina mach see tekifa vilimu.”

“What’s going on?” Jaden asked, sitting up in a way he hoped kept his legs solidly in front of his dick.

“You got your single back,” said the guard. Chenillin looked from the door to Jaden, and back again.

“Eh, saa wodekun mekal, meneki,” Chenillin said to the rich man and the guard. The rich man said something to the guard as Chenillin turned back to Jaden.

“I’m going,” Chenillin said. HIs eyes were wide. He looked as lost as the day this same guard had brought him in. “Eh, I’m free? Is word?”

“Oh,” Jaden said. He glanced at the door, where the rich man was studiously ignoring them and the guard looked bored. “I guess your man there heard you’d been tossed in jail over a law no one enforces.”

“I think yes,” Chenillin said. He reached out a little, and Jaden met his hand halfway with his own. “Sorry.”

Jaden squeezed his fingers. “Ni sinu dalitu, right? You don’t belong in here with us criminals.” He glanced at the door, where the guard still waited to escort Chenillin and his savior to freedom. “Well,” Jaden said, looking back to Chenilllin. “See you.”

Chenillin pulled Jaden’s arm, catching him off guard, until he was on his feet, then threw his arms around him. “No, ni erakanu. Ni zijeka vin porella. Sinu sorinifu zelle zelle wu saa,” he said into Jaden’s ear.

Jaden swallowed with some difficulty, even though he hadn’t caught most of that, and patted Chenillin’s back. “Hey, what happened to all that Bashad I taught you?”

Chenillin laughed. “Sorry,” he said. He pulled back to look Jaden in the eye. “Thank you,” he said. “What did you say? See you?”

Jaden smiled. “Yeah. See you.”

Chenillin turned and left. The guard locked the door behind them, leaving Jaden alone for the first time in weeks.

He never would have imagined his tiny single cell could feel so empty.

*

What did he do before Chenillin joined him? He spent eight months alone in here, just fine. He and his thoughts and his, what? Exercising? Jerking off? Whatever it was he used to do. He really couldn’t remember.

How did the lights in here work? He’d never really thought about it before, assumed they were magic. The ceiling glowed softly in the day, with no flickering, and was completely extinguished at lights out without a sound or smell. He hadn’t seen a torch in this whole building, now that he thought of it.

He rolled over onto his side, sick of staring at the mysteriously lit ceiling.

He hadn’t been exercising regularly. Not since before Chenillin left. He had, after all, been getting plenty of other exercise then. If he kept this up, he’d be horribly out of shape by the time he got out. It wasn’t like there was room in his cell to move any other way. He’d heard about people kept in prison who, when they got out, could barely walk, let alone work.

How had he gotten through eight months of this without that silly foreigner?

Jaden sighed. It was time to face the fact that he’d fallen for his unexpected cellmate, and now he was miserable without him.

Honestly, it was a very effective form of torture. For a guy like himself, who’d been in and out of various Bashad jails and prisons nearly his whole life, a regular prison sentence, even a long one, was hardly troublesome. But get him used to a companion, make him care about someone and then take him away, and bam! Misery. If the rich guy who picked Chenillin up hadn’t spoken Malachita, Jaden might have suspected it actually was a set-up. Chenillin was the kind of guy people could get attached to easily.

*

“Silifan,” he murmured to himself. He touched the bed as he did so. It could also mean mattress, maybe, since he’d never actually asked for clarification. He had a vague idea the endings of the words had some sort of significance, but he hadn’t ever learned them or asked about it. “Felliniti,” he said, rubbing his stubbly cheek. Shave. “Sina dalita.” My fault.

Without Chenillin there to teach him new words and correct his pronunciation, Jaden knew he’d forget most of the Malachita he’d learned, so he practiced. It gave him something to do, running through the things he knew, and it helped to say them, shape the words with his mouth. He knew so much less Malachita than Chenillin knew Bashad. He sort of wished he’d spent more time learning Chenillin’s language, if only because that would have lasted longer. At least he knew enough to recognize it if he ever ran into any other speakers, which he guessed might come in handy.

“Cherintat,” he said, and knew it wasn’t right. Spy. Him, he supposed, which also made him a felnaloo. No, that was before Chenillin started correcting his pronunciation too, it was probably more like felanaloo. A bad liar and a bad spy and now a bad jailbird, even after years of jail-time, his whole life spent in and out of various prisons. Now the loneliness and the boredom crept up on him in a way they never really had before, and all he had was a handful of words in a language no one else spoke.

It hadn’t even been enough for him to understand Chenillin’s final message more than a little. There’d been a lot of “no”s, and something Chenillin was very emphatic about, because he did that thing kids did to emphasize stuff where he just repeated it, and he’d said “zella zella”. And that was it. Chenillin had been having whole conversations in Bashad by, like, day three of being in the cell, and all Jaden knew about the last thing Chenillin said to him was that he really meant it.

He was starting, for the first time, to really regret being caught this time. Obviously it had been a stupid idea to take the job, going through paperwork and passing information to a noble. Everyone always said you couldn’t trust a job from someone who’s never had to put their own ass on the line to keep a roof over their head and food in their belly, because they couldn’t see the risks the way someone who had done it could and would sell you out as soon as it got convenient. But Jaden had ignored the advice he himself had given to rookies countless times and ended up in jail again, and now he was as miserable as he could remember ever being. If he hadn’t taken the stupid risks for the stupid job, he wouldn’t be sitting in a cell feeling sorry for himself.

Then again, he also wouldn’t have met Chenillin.

He sighed and closed his eyes, started to count his breaths. There really wasn’t a choice there. He’d learn to live with it, because the idea of never having known that ridiculous foreigner at all was unbearable.

*

The door clanked open, startling Jaden out of a nap. He had no idea what time it was, besides “not lights out,” and he didn’t initially recognize the guard in the doorway.

“What?” he said. “It can’t be bath time already.”

“It ain’t,” the guard said. “Let’s go.”

“Where?” Jaden asked, getting to his feet.

“I look like a tour guide?” the guard snapped.

“Sorry,” Jaden muttered, and followed him in silence the rest of the way. They went through the rows of cells, past the bath room, and on into the parts of the prison Jaden hadn’t seen since they’d brought him in, months and months ago. He started to get a sinking feeling in his stomach. It was too early for them to be offering him any kind of deal unless it was basically a death sentence.

But then instead of leading him into an office or interrogation room, the guard led him to the gates. A filthy sack sat on the floor next to them. The gate guards, sitting at a rickety table in the corner and playing cards, were Shithead and the good barber. Shithead gestured to the sack. “That should have all the stuff we took off you when you got here.”

“Wait, what?” He looked from the table to the guard who’d led him here. “Does this mean you’re letting me go?”

“I had no idea you actually had friends,” said the good barber. “But someone wanted you out of here, I guess.”

Jaden looked down at the sack. The guard who’d led him here–and he’d known the man’s name at some point, Shithead had called him by it once–walked over to the gates and opened them, then sat down at the table without saying a word to Jaden.

“That’s it?” Jaden asked.

“Hey, they don’t tell us much either,” said the good barber. “Take your stuff and get outta here. Maybe try not breaking the law anymore.”

“Or not getting caught,” Shithead said. He waved a hand vaguely over his shoulder and reached across the table for some cards.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Jaden said. He scooped up the sack and walked through the gates.

Once he got out on the street, it turned out to be midday, judging by the sun. There were people about, though not many, since it was a ways out of the city, and a few carriages and carts in the street, mostly being loaded or unloaded. He squinted toward the city and the mountains. He had no idea where he was going to go or what he was going to do, and he considered his options.

He didn’t get much chance for careful consideration, though, because a carriage door opened and a well-dressed man stepped out of it, asking, “Jaden?”

Jaden turned and blinked against the light. “Yeah?”

“Congratulations and you’re welcome for your freedom,” said the man. “If you’d come with me?”

Jaden hesitated, until he heard, “Eh, suun zellanavi, yifa saa,” and saw someone lean out of the carriage behind the well-dressed man, pushing him out of the way. He started grinning and walking to the carriage as Chenillin said, “Jaden! Come here!”

“I was getting to that,” muttered the well-dressed man, but Jaden hardly registered it. He reached the carriage and Chenillin threw his arms around his neck. He dragged Jaden into the carriage, and they overbalanced, landing in a pile of limbs and a filthy sack on the carriage floor.

“You asshole,” Jaden said, though probably any possible offense was dulled by the way he was burying his face in Chenillin’s neck. “What did you do?”

“Didn’t want to leave you,” Chenillin said, smiling that ridiculously uplifting smile.

“Gentlemen.”

Jaden sat up and looked back at the other man. Now that he got a closer look, it did look like the same man who’d come to get Chenillin. “Sorry,” Jaden said, and climbed up onto the actual seat, hindered by the fact that Chenillin wouldn’t let him out of bodily contact. He looked at Chenillin, who was still grinning wide enough to light a room. “What’s going on?”

“Dallemela will explain,” Chenillin said. “Still not enough Bashadi for me to say good.” He pulled a face. “You smell terrible.”

Outside the carriage, the well-dressed man–Dallemela, Jaden assumed–said something to the carriage driver, then climbed in and closed the door behind him. “As I was saying,” he said, glaring at Chenillin, who seemed unperturbed. The carriage started moving and Dallemela fell back into his seat across from them. “I am an ambassador up in the capital, for the Malachita people. After I came here to see to Chenillin’s release, he persuaded me to get you released as well.”

“Yeah, thanks for that,” Jaden said. “But, uh, he was only guilty of breaking a law no one cares about. I’m actually a criminal.”

Dallemela wrinkled his nose. Maybe expressiveness was a Malachita cultural thing. “Yes,” he said. “It did take considerably longer to arrange your release because of that.”

“Saa mochenikun bel gor,” Chenillin cut in.

Dallemela rolled his eyes. “I am,” he said. “Chenillin refused to leave without you,” he said. “Since I have orders to see him safely home, I negotiated with the authorities to get you turned over to the Malachita legal system, which is here, of course, me. Since spying on Bashad nobility for Bashad nobility is not a crime in our country, you are a free man.”

“But no more stealing,” Chenillin said.

“I shouldn’t think he’d need to,” Dallemela said. “You are more than capable of providing for any…friend you wish.”

“That’s nice,” Jaden said, “but I still don’t know what the hell is going on.”

“You’re coming with me,” Chenillin said, squeezing Jaden’s hand. “To my country. Eh, if you want.”

“Of course he wants,” Dallemecha snapped. “If he stays here, he’ll be put back in prison.” He looked back at Jaden. “It was a conditional release,” he said. “But Chenillin assured me you’d rather come with us than stay in prison for another four years.”

Jaden laughed. “Well, yeah,” he said.

Chenillin said quietly, “But if you don’t want to stay with me when we get to my country,” he said, “you don’t have to. Is different there, but you can do all right without me.”

Jaden stared at him a second, then looked down at their interlocked hands. “Maybe I could,” he said, “but I don’t think I want to.”

Chenillin grinned again, and it was a little like that first painful sight of sunlight after months of incarceration.

Jaden cleared his throat and looked away, because he knew for a fact he could spend enough time staring at Chenillin for it to be weird by another person’s standards. Or anyone who wasn’t in prison and had anything else to do’s standards. “Really though,” he said, sort of to Dallemecha and sort of to Chenillin, “you know I am an actual criminal. Why get me released?”

Chenillin giggled and said, “Saa mochenikun boni molivat rofelli.”

Dallemecha stiffened and turned pink. “I am not telling him that.”

Chenillin gave him a look, and it was one Jaden hadn’t seen him give anyone in all their weeks together in prison. It was a condescending sort of look, and Jaden wondered what kind of person Chenillin was in his country to not only get a personal escort from an ambassador, but be able to give him that sort of look. Chenillin gave him that look and said, “Sini galani. Sinun ni fellanat, ni?”

Dallemecha sighed and muttered, “This isn’t an exact translation, because idioms don’t–”

“Mochenikun,” Chenillin interrupted.

“Fine,” Dallemecha said to him. Then, to Jaden he said, “He says you give good head.” Jaden stifled a laugh with his free hand. “There,” Dallemecha said to Chenillin, “are you happy now?” He leaned back in his seat and muttered, “Va sini sitellin, sitenillin.”

“Alanifa alanifa, Dallemecha. Alanifa zelle,” Chenillin said, and he looked so sincere that Jaden could no longer hold in his laughter.

“Sati,” Jaden said. He squeezed Chenillin’s hand in his and looked over at him, matching, for once, Chenillin’s grin in intensity. “Smart ass,” he said. “I love you too.”


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