Mean Woman Blues

Part Three

Copyright 2002 Marlene Taylor


Warning: This story contains rough m/m sex. If you are offended by this, or under 18, turn back now.

Disclaimer: This original work of amateur fiction is based on the TV series "The Monkees" which (as far as I know) is owned by Rhino. This not-for-profit piece of fan fiction is not intended to infringe on that ownership. The author's copyright extends only to the original material in this work.

Micky talked more than any human being Mike had ever met. Prison meant sitting still a lot: for Mike, being naturally lazy, it was easy to lean back and wait. But for Micky, who seemed to generate electricity, not moving his body meant he had to move his lips. He talked about anything that came into his mind, all the time, from morning till night. The only time he stopped was when Mike was fucking him, and when he was asleep, for which Mike was most grateful.

Davy and Peter were entertained, if not actually interested, by his nonstop chatter, and asked him questions to keep him going when they were in the yard or on work details together. Micky didn't seem to expect Mike to contribute to the conversation when they were alone, which was fine because Mike never listened to what he was saying, and after a while it was almost pleasant, like having the radio on to keep you company.

Except that you couldn't fuck your radio. It wasn't every day, despite what he'd said, because sometimes Mike was just too tired or too pissed off or too miserable to do it, and as much as he wanted in that ass he wanted to make it good. He was surprised at the kind of desires Micky inspired in his jaded soul. Thinking about Micky's smooth young body and what he could do to it - in great and vivid detail - took up most of his spare time, with the result that fucking him was much more than just coming hard like a rocket every time; and once Micky got used to having a big dick up his ass he stopped fighting, and even started to like it a little, maybe. It was hard to tell. Micky came when Mike blew him (only once - Mike just couldn't resist temptation any longer, even though he knew it was bad form, and at least managed to make it a reward for when Micky had been especially good), but never when Mike fucked him, though he stayed hard right through it. It was the one thing he never talked about.

Hard work keeping a bitch like this one. Hard to keep him safe; hard to keep him in line without spoiling his good looks or his tender nature. Too many bloody noses or black eyes and he'd start to look old, to get hard and bitter and mean. Which was not what Mike wanted. Sometimes, though, he thought it would be easier to go ahead and give Micky what for, mess up his face so that no one else would want him. Then he wouldn't have to watch him all the time, or have him watched, just so nobody else could get a little of that stuff. Too fucking hard to do that forever. But he reminded himself it was only for a year, and at the end of the day it was damn well worth it to have Micky's fresh tangy smell, his warm velvet taste: Mike sniffed and licked Micky's body greedily, under his arms, behind his knees, just below his navel where the dark curly hair began.

Mike wondered if the other bitches got treated so nice. He doubted it.

On bad days none of that mattered. Those days were when he woke up with a ball of barbed wire where his stomach should be, when his thoughts raced mechanically around and around Micky, like a cranked up rat on a wheel. He hadn't felt that way in years, since before he'd killed that miserable wife-stealing bastard in the kitchen and then everything inside him turned cold. He'd thought that part of him was dead and buried, paved over with concrete - until Micky showed up. And since it was Micky who made him feel that way, Micky would pay the price, and after Mike gave him a taste of the concrete wall, he got it through his pretty head to sit still, shut up, and stay where Mike could see him. In the yard he sat in the dirt at Mike's feet, where Mike could rest his hand on Micky's shoulder, or in his curly hair, and stare down anyone who dared come close.

Those were the bad days. On good days Mike tried to be nice to Micky, which mainly consisted of not hitting him when he was angry, and giving him things. Books. Mike never understood why people liked to read; it took too long, because he had to sound out words to make sense of anything, which made him feel like more of a hillbilly than he already did. He watched Micky reading book after book and couldn't decide whether to kiss him or slap him for being so smart.

And not just smart, but clever too. Micky could build things, and he could fix things that other people built. Soon the little desk was covered with junk, makeshift tools and useful bits and pieces that weren't banned: Mike did a nice side business in watches and radios and once even a little airplane that Micky made fly. In the long afternoons Micky would sit bent over some pile of junk, his baby face totally absorbed and serious as he coaxed life back into it, but still rattling on a mile a minute about cars or girls or some damn thing, and Mike would lie on his bed and watch. Without knowing it, he was almost happy.

Then there was the guitar. An old one that had belonged to a guy that died the year before, that had sat getting dusty in a storeroom till Mike remembered it and gave it to Micky, who was genuinely pleased. He even grinned, and that impish grin suited him so well it was heartbreaking. On the outside he probably smiled like that all the time. Seeing it made Mike feel a rush of warmth and rage at the same time.

It got cold, too cold to stay outside in the yard much anymore, so the four of them would retreat to the prison chapel and talk. That is, Micky would talk and the others would listen, except sometimes when Davy could be coaxed into telling a story about England, and then Micky was all ears, listening wide-eyed and asking a million questions when he was done. Sometimes they had visitors, and business was taken care of, and the time seemed to pass a little more quickly.

One day Micky brought his guitar with him to the chapel; he'd been practicing in their cell and Mike knew he wanted to show off. Micky flexed his fingers, grinning, and strummed a few chords, then launched into something with a driving beat that Mike instantly recognized even though he hadn't heard it in a lot of years.

"I know that song," Davy said, and started to sing: "If you knew / Peggy Sue / then you'd know why I feel blue" Mike was surprised that he could sing, and that he knew Buddy Holly. Micky joined him and they finished the song together, their voices blending in harmony on the last "Peggy Sue".

"Oh, man, I love that song! I can play a few more - can you sing 'em?" Micky asked Davy, his face glowing with excitement. They quickly made a list of all the songs they both knew; Peter, watching over Davy's shoulder, pointed to the paper.

"I can play those last four on the piano. The rest I can probably figure out, too," he said.

"You can play piano? Oh, wow! It's almost like we have a band!" Micky was way too amped to sit down any more and did a little Elvis dance with the guitar. "I haven't played these songs in a long time. Man, I love Buddy Holly - what a freaking genius. He wrote the best songs, the *best* songs, so simple, so groovy. I remember when that plane went down, it was like the end of the world. I wish he hadn't gotten killedI wish I could have seen him play" he trailed off sadly. Peter nodded his head in agreement.

"I seen him," Mike said. All three heads snapped around to face him.

"You did? When?"


"What was it like?"

"I was just a kid. Musta been about 1957. It was him and them Crickets."

"What was it like?" Micky asked again, eyes sparkling with curiosity.

What was it like? A hot day, hotter than hell, and when it was night it was only a little cooler; he was drinking beer with his buddies at the state fair and hoping they didn't get caught with the beer or the truck, which they'd borrowed (without permission) from somebody's uncle. All day messing around, looking for some action, and then into the big tent to hear some fine gospel music, which he loved, followed by Buddy Holly and the Crickets. His mama told him it was nigger music and he shouldn't listen to it, so of course he had to hear what all the fuss was about. At fifteen he was already six feet tall, so he could see everything real clear, even from the back. Three guys in string ties on that tiny stage, Buddy introducing them in his funny, twangy, nasal voice, but when they started to play, Lord, the place went up like a tinderbox and Mike stood there with his mouth open. They played ten songs, each more joyful than the last, till they finished up with "That'll Be the Day" and when they were done everyone screamed. Mike thought he'd seen the promised land. Something in that music told him that there was more than being poor and dumb and dirty, because Buddy Holly came from a town just like his and now he was up on a stage, thin like a scarecrow with those big dumb glasses and when he was done playing everyone screamed for more.

Mike had gotten the music teacher at his school to show him some chords on the beat-up guitar they used for church picnics and he practiced every chance he got till he could play "That'll Be the Day" straight through. He liked that more than anything he'd ever learned how to do. Then he'd had to quit school to go to work and he'd never stopped till he got thrown in this shithole, and that was that. He had forgotten that day, and that once he'd had something to look forward to. Until now. Until Micky.

What was it like? Like fireworks in your living room. Like the edge of the sun coming through after an eclipse. Like the meanest thunderstorm you could imagine.

"It was loud," he said, and turned away from them.


This was how the business worked: Once a month or so Peter and Mike took orders from the inmates. Peter's connection on the outside, Ashley (a prep school buddy, last in a long line of good old law-breaking Southern boys) was responsible for putting the goods together from the list that Peter gave him, in an elaborate code, by phone. On a certain Sunday he and Emil (Mike's uncle, last in a long line of moonshiners since Texas was part of Mexico) would collect the money from the visitors, make sure all the orders were paid for, and the next day send it in with the mess supplies. The guard who supervised the kitchen shipments was Mike's cousin's brother-in-law and was very comfortable with his extra income.

So the money stayed on the outside and the drugs stayed inside. The riskiest part of the whole business was retrieving the stash and then getting it safely to the hidey-hole in Peter's cell: everyone knew about the drugs, but a prisoner getting caught with that much would look bad. Davy was good for that run, since he was quick and reliable and no one wanted to mess with him - he liked fighting, and he was good at it, and he didn't care much about the consequences. Dangerous work, but the three of them had agreed it was worth it for the favors racked up, the special extras that Ashley would slip in just for them, and, most of all, the money that would be there when they got out. It was a system based on trust, and it worked because if they didn't trust each other, somebody would end up dead. And no one wanted that to happen.

Today Mike thought it was a big pain in the ass, because Davy had missed something when he'd gone to collect the stuff the day before and Peter had nearly had a heart attack over it, so now Mike had to go back personally and find it, whatever it was. Peter was minding the store and Davy and Micky were off on some goddamn work detail; what was the point of being the boss when you had to do everything yourself anyway? Goddamn the pusher man, Mike thought sourly as he headed down the stairs.

It was hot in the kitchens, even when nothing was cooking: the big refrigerators hummed and coughed stale air, and the pilot lights in the iron stoves burned all night, and anyway there was nowhere for the heat to go. Mike hated having to go down there, even when it was business. It always reminded him that he had wanted to shoot that lying motherfucker outside, where the blood would just soak into the dirt, but the timing was wrong and he'd had to do it in the kitchen and wasn't that the biggest goddamn mess he'd ever seen. Even the curtains were ruined.

So he moved fast, found the little packet of tinfoil right where Peter said it would be, stuffed it down his pants, and started to go - but a familiar sound stopped him. Back there, back, behind the sacks of flour that would be tomorrow's biscuits, in a corner: Mike walked as quietly as he could, and stood hidden in the shadows, but it wasn't too damn likely that the two figures lying head-to-toe on the floor were going to notice anything. Micky's eyes were closed and his mouth open wide as he sucked the small but perfectly shaped cock in front of him; Davy's head was buried between Micky's legs and moving busily back and forth.

Well, this was interesting. Mike had made it clear to his seconds that although Micky's ass was off-limits, they could use him for anything else, and they had continued the round-robin in the shower every week for their growing audience. To be fair, Mike had made arrangements for them to have their pick of the other bitches to fuck - and of course they had chosen the best, which ended up costing a lot, but he'd have paid twice that to keep Micky all to himself. He'd sensed something going on between Micky and Davy ever since those weeks out on the farm. They did look good together, he had to admit.

As he watched, Micky stopped what he was doing; Davy was pulling him deep into his mouth, till he'd swallowed all there was to take, and Mike could tell that Micky was close to coming. His eyes were squeezed shut and his mouth was open, and Mike knew that wherever he was, it sure as hell wasn't lying on the dirty floor of a kitchen prison. Micky moaned very softly, arching his back for a long moment and then settling back on the floor, panting. He had never looked quite sosatisfied, that was it, when he was with Mike. That could be changed.

"I can do you," Davy offered, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Micky's eyes flew open as he struggled to sit up.

"What? Are you crazy? Don't even think about it, man!" He yanked up his pants.

"All right, all right, mate, don't get excited. It was just a passing fancy. 'ere, you need to finish something," he said, playing with himself. Micky sighed and shrugged his shoulders and went to work, efficiently, professionally. He obviously knew his man.

Satisfied, Mike melted back into the main room and retraced his steps to the door. On the way out he boosted a bottle of oil that looked like it needed a new home.


He had to know. That night, as they lay together like spoons in Micky's bunk, Mike decided to try the direct approach, and put the fear of god into him. He let his right hand wander down the body in front of him to cup Micky's balls.

"I seen you today in the kitchen. You and Davy."

Micky instantly stiffened in his arms. Mike could feel the fear-sweat starting on him.

"You n-n-never said I shouldn't - that I c-c-c-couldn't - " Micky started, but Mike cut him off with a hard squeeze.

"You let him fuck you, boy?"

"No!" Micky yelped, as Mike increased the pressure. "God, no, no!"

"Good." That should do it, he thought. Too bad Micky wasn't into games; this was fun. He relaxed his grip but didn't let go of the prize. "But did you want him to?"

"Jesus Christ, Mike, do you think I have a death wish? I remember what you said," Micky snapped, as if Mike was questioning his intelligence, not his loyalty. He pouted when he was mad, Mike noticed, soft lips pressed together, chin thrust out, all of him just begging for attention. And what else did Mike have to give him? He wanted to see Micky's face lost in passion, like it had been that afternoon, wanted to send him to the moon and back just so he could watch it and know he'd made it happen.

Mike found the bottle he'd stolen earlier and oiled himself up and then, with no fussing or fooling around, eased himself into Micky's wonderfully tight asshole, one smooth, slow slide into heaven. The oil was a big improvement; he's have to arrange for a steady supply. They lay curled together, Mike pressed tight up against Micky' back, close enough to feel his racing heartbeat. What could be better?

"Time to give it up, boy," he growled. His hand, still slick with oil, found Micky's hard-on and began to work it, long purposeful strokes that ended with a delicate flick of the thumb.

Micky's eyes were shut tight, and his hands were locked together in front of him, as if he were praying violently. "No" he groaned. That made Mike smile. It was the phoniest "no" he'd ever heard, and he had heard plenty. He picked up the pace a little.

"Nobody is ever gonna fuck you but me. Nobody but me," he said into Micky's ear, threatening, promising. "Say it."

"Nobody but you," Micky gasped.

"You're mine, bitch, all mine." Mike loved the way the words sounded. Micky's only answer was a wordless moan. His cock swelled even more in Mike's strong hand; Mike knew he was close. "Only me. Say it. Only me."

Micky was thrusting into his hand now, back and forth, back and forth, and for every push forward he had to push back, driving Mike's shaft further into him, and giving Mike the best free ride he'd ever had. He wanted it to last forever. Micky was so warm, his slim young body pulsing with life and excitement, every part of him so perfect, so irresistible.

"Ohonlyonly youyou" Micky panted, and then his whole body shook and his hips jerked and he came all over Mike's hand and Mike felt his cock squeezed in a sharp rhythm that lasted many seconds until it slowed to a stop. It was strangely exhilarating, to make someone else come like that. Micky's face was relaxed now, sweat dotting his forehead, a few curls sticking to his cheeks. He smelled like sex.

It occurred to Mike that he'd just had the most perfect moment he would ever have with Micky; and even while he was glorying in its afterglow he thought: I should just kill him now, before anything ruins it. Then Micky, unpredictable boy, sighed and pressed himself back against Mike, whose cock was still buried deep inside him. "Thank you," he murmured, and Mike was glad he'd let him live. Maybe it wasn't so stupid after all.

He flipped Micky on his back and stared down into his amazing Chinese eyes, half-closed and looking dreamily up at him. "Do you understand why I did that?"

"No," Micky said. It was no lie: he could see plain and simple that Micky didn't understand, would never understand, could not ever know how much he meant to Mike. Without another word Mike slammed into him again and fucked him mercilessly, harder than he ever had before, and he wasn't satisfied till he saw the tears in Micky's eyes and heard him say "please" in a voice full of pain and sadness.

"Do you understand now?" Mike asked harshly.

"Because you hate me," Micky said. "Why do you hate me so much?"

Mike wanted to throttle him. For Christ's sake, could he be that stupid? Had he really gotten it so completely and totally wrong? With a huge effort Mike put a lid on his anger and uncurled his fists. He looked down at Micky's face, angry, hurt, beautiful: there was a fading bruise on his cheek, barely visible in the dim light. He'd have to draw a goddamn map.

"It ain't like that," Mike said, reaching out awkwardly to touch the bruise he'd put there. "It ain't like that at all."

"Then why are you so mean to me?" Micky cried. Mike said nothing, just ran his fingers around the edge of one delicate ear. A smile twitched his lips. Then he dipped his head down just enough to lay a kiss on Micky's surprised mouth, as nice a kiss as he'd ever given, all lip and no tongue, with a little extra press at the end to make the parting all that much harder.

When they broke apart Micky snapped his head up from the pillow, and Mike could see understanding wash over him. "Oh my god," Micky said. He didn't sound mad anymore, or afraid, just surprised. He fell back on the bed and pressed his hands to his eyes. "You should have told me before."

Mike began to wonder why he had said anything - after all, what did it matter what Micky thought? And yet it did matter, and it annoyed him that it mattered. Mike pushed it all out of his mind and enjoyed the feeling of Micky pulling him down into an embrace that ended with Micky resting his head on Mike's shoulder.

"Mike," he said sadly, "I'm sorry."

"Yeah," Mike replied, accepting the apology. It was good that Micky was sorry, even if Mike did not know exactly what for. Maybe he was sorry that they weren't spending their days fucking in a penthouse suite in Las Vegas, or that he wouldn't be Mike's bitch forever, or maybe he was just sorry that both or either of them had ever been born; whatever it was, Mike didn't really care. There wasn't much in his life that he wasn't already sorry for.


The prison was old. It had been built in the 1930s from inferior materials and always seemed to be crumbling around the edges. In the forties another building had been quickly raised, and the inmates put to work for the war effort, doing low-level mechanical production, putting D-rings on canteens, things like that. That building had since been unused, except for storage, and the government had now decided it was time to take it down, to make more room for guests of state. The current inmates were given the unpleasant job of cleaning it out, picking through decades worth of crap to find anything worth salvaging.

It was winter, and the building was unheated, and Mike thought they might get passed over for this particular hellish job; but they needed men to do it, and that was that. Word had begun to spread about the dangers: rotten flooring, rats, sharp metal all over, and evil stuff that floated down out of the ceiling when doors slammed. It wasn't like they had a choice.

At least he managed to keep the four of them together. The room they were assigned to was a machine shop on the sixth floor that was full of rusted junk and big tables bolted to the floor. The wind blew through the broken windows, swirling the scraps of yellowed paper on the floor and blowing some of them into the open elevator shaft at the end of the room. The service elevator, long broken, had been removed, and now there was a big dumpster on the ground floor to catch all the garbage they were supposed to throw down there. Well, going up and down the stairs would keep them warm.

They got to work, as per prison routine, as slowly as possible. Micky seemed more interested in examining the tools and telling them what each object was used for, so the sorting crept along through the long cold morning. Mike reserved for himself the pleasure of pitching the trash into the open shaft and hearing the satisfying crash when it hit bottom. They watched other stuff sail down, too, as their comrades in arms on the floors above them went through the same exercise.

After lunch they trudged up the stairs and started again. Some of the machines were still leaking oil, and the floor was slippery in places where it wasn't actually disintegrating; Mike made sure Micky was in the safer areas, where he wouldn't get hurt. As Peter was helping Mike shift some heavy rusted thing out of the way a voice greeted them from the doorway. Mike squinted at the figure and thought: Trouble, and that's no lie.

Rayboy walked the length of the room slowly, staring first at Davy, then Micky, and finally stopping in front of where Mike leaned casually against a workbench. He wasn't alone. Lurking by the door was Mitchell, a new recruit who Davy had mixed it up with just the other day. He was big, and strong, but not too bright; typical, Mike thought, Ray chooses a buddy who's just like him so they can be stupid together.

"Nice of you to drop by, asshole," Mike drawled. Ray just glared at him. This felt all wrong; the hairs on the back of Mike's neck started to rise. Ray was an independent now, since he was too dumb and unpredictable to be a good gang member, so nobody wanted him around for long. Maybe he was here to join Mike's team - or more likely, he and Mitchell were going to try to start their own gig and this was the opening shot. Well, he could take Ray, and Davy could handle Mitchell again, as long as Micky stayed the hell out of the way. Let's get this over with, he thought.

"Well?" Mike snapped.

"I don't forget what you did to me, you fucking white trash cocksucker," Ray snarled, holding up his left arm. "Now I want somethin' back." Mike could see Davy swaggering over to Mitchell, who stood his ground.

"We want in," Rayboy continued, when Mike didn't respond. "You been running your business alone for too long. We want part of it."

"So? I want a weekend in New Orleans, but it ain't gonna happen," Mike sneered.

"We get you new customers, and Mitchell will make a better delivery boy than your little limey pal."

Peter stepped forward, arms folded across his chest. "We have all the business we can handle, thanks. And we're quite happy with the current staff, so we're not accepting any applications for employment at the moment." Mike thought he heard Micky stifle a laugh, while Ray just looked even more angry.

"Listen," he said to Peter, "I know how this bastard treats you. You're supposed to be his partner and he don't even let you take a turn with his bitch. Tell you what, I take care of him and you get his bitch, plus we split the profits 60/40 your way."

Mike was impressed. Ray had obviously given this a lot of thought. Too bad it wasn't going to get him anywhere.

Peter smiled. "No."

Rayboy's face was going red. Now he turned to Mike. "You think you got it all nailed down, don't you? Maybe you see things different when you don't have your troops around to protect you." His hand slid down his side and, with a terrible sinking feeling, Mike knew what was coming next.

"Look, fuck you, Ray. We don't want no part of your little plan, so why don't you take your dog and git? I got work to do."

"You asked for it, Bones! Get him!" Ray yelled, and Mitchell and Davy started to beat the crap out of each other. That was when Ray pulled out the knife - a real one, god knows where he'd gotten it, with a three inch blade that looked freshly honed.

"Oh, Christ, not again," Mike said, hoping he sounded more confident than he felt. Manny had wanted to hurt him, but Ray wanted to kill him, and he'd probably kill anyone who got in his way. Peter didn't have much fighting experience, and Micky was useless. Damn, but it's lonely at the top, Mike thought.

He and Peter spread out so Ray couldn't cut them at the same time, but with all the junk in the room, there wasn't going to be much room to maneuver. Most of the stuff that was left was too big to use as weapons. A bad set-up, but they'd have to make the best of it and hope the Moron Brothers fucked up.

Ray looked at Peter for a long moment; Mike watched intently, coiled to spring, and at the same time felt around on the table behind him for something sharp. He got hold of something but when he looked down for a split second to see what he'd found all hell broke loose, and the next thing he knew Ray was on top of him and Peter was on top of Ray and the knife was nowhere to be seen.

Everything was a blur until Mike's head connected with the metal table, and then he saw stars as he fell to the ground; when he could look up again Peter was bleeding from his nose and Ray was coming at him again. All Mike could do was raise his right hand in a weak defense and right there in front of his eyes the knife went into his palm and back out the other side, like a needle through leather, and he hoped he wouldn't get sick from the pain just then; Peter pulled Ray off of him (and the blade came out just as easy as it went in) and managed to dump him over another table, buying them a few minutes of breathing space. Peter sat Mike up and shook his head.

"We can't do this alone," he said, glancing toward the door.

"Go," Mike hissed, and Peter was through the room and gone. Mike cradled his bloody hand in his lap and tried not to look at it.

Out of the corner of his eye Mike saw Mitchell slam Davy against the wall; he slid down and didn't get up. Then Mitchell grabbed Micky, who had been edging toward the door, and shoved him across the room into Ray's arms.

Mike pulled himself to his feet, head throbbing and ears ringing, and tried to focus. Ray had Micky in front of him, holding the point of the knife just under his left ear.

"What you gonna do now, boss man? You want to see him die?" He twisted Micky's arm up behind him, making him wince, but Micky's face was perfectly calm.

"Ain't no matter to me," Mike said. "Just another bitch, is all." It hurt to talk but that was nothing compared to the storm inside him as Micky's life hung in the balance, riding on the fine edge of Rayboy's knife. Part of him was wild with rage that Ray would dare touch his boy - but he knew he couldn't show it or everything would be over. Another piece of him said I Told You So: this is what always happened when he cared about something, anything: somebody took it away from him. But when he looked into Micky's eyes he thought that at least they would die together, and that was some small comfort to his battered soul.

Ray pressed the blade to Micky's throat, moving it just a little: a bloody line followed it. Micky didn't make a sound. His eyes were locked with Mike's. Suddenly there was a flurry of movement behind them - Davy had gotten up one more time and cold-cocked Mitchell, who had been enjoying Rayboy's show. Ray was alone now, and even with a knife he knew he was in deep shit. Mike could see the panic rise in his face. Davy started to make his way over, grinning evilly.

"You lose, Ray," Mike said.

"Fucking hell," Ray said angrily, and punched Micky hard in the gut, sending him to the ground doubled over and retching, then kicked him in the leg just to make sure he wasn't getting up. Davy rushed him, but Ray was too quick, and in one swift move he sidestepped the tackle and sank the knife deep in Davy's back as he went past. Davy crumpled to the dirty floor and lay unmoving except for his heaving chest. Blood started to puddle under him. Ray pulled out the knife and wiped it on his shirt.

Mike wondered if he could stall Ray until the guards got there, or at least keep him away from Micky, who was now crawling over to where Davy lay.

"Ray, man, you are dumber than a sack of hammers. You kill me, you still don't get in the business, and even if you kill me and Davy and Peter, you still don't get Micky. I promised him to Manny," he laughed. That did it: Ray faced him full on, rage coming off him in waves as he shook his fist at Mike and screamed in frustration.

Mike watched as Rayboy came at him, knife held high, and wondered if he'd be able to dodge this one and if would be better to take it in the arm or the leg, not that it really mattered since it looked as if he was going to get his throat slit this time for sure, but he readied himself anyway, ducking down into a crouch to make it harder for the knife to hit something vital - and then as he looked up to follow the trajectory of the blade he saw Rayboy's eyes snap wide open, and he sailed over Mike's head, landing on his chin in a pool of blood and oil and goddamn if he didn't keep right on going, right into that open shaft and then he was gone and it was real quiet.

Mike stared at the edge of the shaft, then turned his head slowly and painfully to see Micky limping over to him - Micky, who had done the one right thing in this whole fucking disaster by pushing Rayboy as he was about to jump on Mike.

"Oh, shit," Micky said, and his eyes were like saucers. Mike left him staring at the empty space and went to check on Davy, who was not only conscious but able to lift his head a little.

"I'm all right, man," he whispered. He'd stopped bleeding, at least, and his color looked good, but Mike didn't want to move him in case it made it worse.

Just then the cavalry arrived, too late to do anything but clean up the mess, which was all cops were ever good for, Mike thought. Sheridan, head of security, led the charge, stopping short when he saw all the blood.

"What the fuck is going on here? Jesus, was this a fight or a massacre?"

Peter was already cuffed and in the grip of a guard. He nodded at Mitchell, still unconscious on the floor. "That's one. Rayboy had the knife."

Sheridan's eyes swept the room and it was pretty damn obvious Ray wasn't there.

"Where is the other prisoner?" he asked, very formal. Mike and Micky looked to the shaft; Sheridan walked over and glanced down. His expression didn't change.

"Well, he didn't fucking jump down there, did he? One of you boys gave him a helping hand, I reckon." He came back to the middle of the room and stopped directly in front of Mike. "Care to fill me in, or do I have to start making it up now?"

Mike straightened up. Over Sheridan's shoulder he saw Micky turn very pale as he took a step forward, guilt written all over his face. Six months in this place and he still hadn't learned how to lie. Mike had a brief vision of a puppy prancing into the middle of rush hour traffic, oblivious to the danger and to the cars crashing into each other to avoid running it over. Oh, what the hell.

"That fucker - excuse me, inmate, tried to off me. He wanted my bitch. I said no. It was either him or me down that fucking hole and I didn't even have no knife like he did. Probably still in his goddamn hand." Mike stared hard at Peter, then at Davy; each nodded ever so slightly. Then he looked at Micky, whose mouth was hanging open. Mike winked at him.

"No! It wasn't Mike, it was me! I did it!" Micky cried. Roars of laughter echoed through the room. Sheridan shook his head and smiled good-naturedly at Mike, and his smile said, What your bitch wouldn't do for you, hey? Mike rolled his eyes: Ain't it the truth.

The medics came in and made sure Davy wasn't dead, then started to bundle him up for transport. Micky passed his cursory medical inspection and kept on protesting, until Sheridan told him to shut the hell up. The doc who looked at Mike's hand frowned as he packed wads of cotton on both sides. "Don't worry, you get to keep it," he said brusquely.

Now Micky and Peter stood silently, hands cuffed behind them, as Davy was carried out on a stretcher, giving them the thumbs-up sign as he disappeared through the door. Mike looked around: there was blood on the floor, blood on Micky's shirt, on Peter's face, blood on his own shoes. At least they weren't in the kitchens. All he felt was relief that they were all alive, and that Micky was still his very own. Ray was dead, and once that would have filled him with dark satisfaction, but now he was just tired of this, of fighting and waiting for the next fight. Maybe he was getting too old for this shit.

"Take care of him," Mike barked as the guards led him away.

Davy was all right and got to spend some time in the hospital where he fucked one of the nurses, Mike found out later. Micky and Peter both pulled the worst shit details for a while, when they weren't confined to their cells. As for Mike, they stitched up his hand (although the fingers never did work quite right afterwards) and he got a month in solitary and a year added on to his sentence. No relatives or wives or lawyers showed up to complain about what had happened. Rayboy had been nothing but trouble and everyone - the inmates, the guards, the judge - was relieved that he was dead, but they had to keep up appearances.

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