Suarez making lewd gestures with his tongue in Frank's direction was harmless. Wilson calling him faggot and considerably less flattering things was harmless. Even the Italians being crude about Mikey was harmless. Infuriating, but harmless. Except that Mikey seem to get more and more fidgety, more and more like the Mikey he'd arrived to rather than the Mikey who was being left mostly alone.
He tried to get Mikey to talk about it, left lots of silences open to Mikey's discretion, that sort of thing, but Mikey was as stubbornly silent about it as he was with everything else until the day Frank forced the issue, brought it up on his own. "They're only words, Mikey. Only-- Sticks and stones, you know?"
Mikey said, "And you're only a moron," and turned inward on his bunk to make it clear that he didn't want to talk anymore.
It was Bob who had to explain it to Frank, since Gerard just snorted when Frank told them what Mikey had said and refused to talk about the subject. Bob, though, Bob was willing to say, "Reputation is everything in here, haven't you figured that out?"
And sure, Frank had, but so long as he wasn't actually challenged, what was the harm? Bob must have intuited the question because he said, "Those words are your rep. And without a strong one, Mikey doesn't have anything. They'll take him from you the first chance they get."
Frank resisted the urge to rub his hand over his face, let on just how tired all these games made him. "So--"
"They're all convinced you're his bitch," Bob said, not entirely unkindly, but without adornment.
In the sense that they were thinking, it was sort of true. Frank was wise enough not to mention this aloud. "You think I need to convince them otherwise?"
Bob shrugged. "Only if you wanna keep him safe."
"Blow me," Frank muttered. Bob raised an eyebrow. Frank amended, "Not really." Then, "What the hell would you do?"
"Not get myself into the situation in the first place."
"Yeah, well, we can't all go around establishing a reputation for ourselves as impenetrable badasses, so barring that?"
Bob just shook his head. "If you can't have that, they at least need to know that you're the one in charge."
Yeah, that was what Frank had been afraid of. The problem was that Frank didn't really have a gang. He had an alliance with the Italians and that was one thing, but he didn't have people at his back. The usual ways of re-establishing a reputation--murder or severe bodily harm to a detractor--necessitated a gang to pull off with any sort of plausible deniability. And Frank needed some of that. Otherwise he'd end up on death row leaving Mikey to fend for himself and the whole point of this was to avoid landing Mikey in trouble again.
Frank tried simple, half-measures. He tried not speaking to Mikey when they were in common areas. He tried establishing a relationship more visibly with Bob than with Gerard. He tried smack-talking to the Italians.
It didn't take him long to realize that all of this was too little, too late. Mikey knew it, too, which was somehow worse because Mikey never said anything that would leave Frank to believe he blamed him, never suggested anything that might help, although Frank had a feeling he knew solutions. Mikey just accepted that Frank had somehow failed him and that the consequences would be what they were.
Frank wished he were so fucking zen.
None of Frank's tricks were working. He tried mimicking the trade-for-food scheme the Italians had been capitalizing on before Ricci's timely demise but nobody was all that impressed. He practiced small moments of abuse randomly, grabbing Mikey's hair or kneeing him in the halls, forcing the issue of lipstick and eyeliner--even if Frank preferred Mikey without adornment--yelling at him publicly over small things.
The measures of placation got the Homeboys off his back. Largely, Frank was pretty sure, because the Homeboys weren't all that interested in either him or Mikey, just in making sure they were part of the action, if there was going to be some. The Chinese weren't a problem, the Bikers and the Russians left Mikey well alone, the Italians were willing to respect Frank enough to stay off his turf. The Skinheads and the Latinos, though, were clearly not to be dissuaded. Mikey had been common property for a long time, and he was missed. Which was just too fucking bad.
Frank said to Bob, "I sort of-- I have this plan."
Bob didn't say anything, but Frank knew he was listening. Frank said, "If it works, I might need you to keep Gerard from killing me."
Bob asked, "What makes you think I won't kill you for Gerard?"
"Because you're like Mikey. You might not like it, you might fight it with everything you have, but you know how things have to be."
Frank chose one of the Skinheads. He didn't have any great fondness for the Latinos, but he really fucking hated the Skinheads and, what's more, they tended to be both cockier and stupider--easier to catch on their own. They were also more predictable. They had patterns for things and they didn't like to deviate. So, for instance, it was easy to know when one might be showering. Easy to know when the others might start to think about where their little pal had disappeared to.
The hacks were also easy enough to take care of, money and a little bit of whatever tickled their fancy just then easing the way. Prison was a place of rules, both official and unofficial. Frank hated both sets, but he could learn to work with--was learning to work with--either.
When he was ready he said to Mikey, "Why don't you go take a shower." It wasn't a suggestion, not in the negotiable sense. Mikey looked at him oddly, stilled for a moment, but then just grabbed his towel and his kit and went. Frank waited five minutes, working every single second not to puke. Then he followed, personal towel and kit in hand.
As he had expected, the Skinhead was taking advantage of having Mikey to himself. Mikey was putting up a pretty good fight, but the guy was just bigger than him, more street-trained. Frank came up from behind him and all but ripped the Skinhead's balls off with his hands. The guy went to his knees, howling. Frank stuffed his towel in his mouth. "Shut the fuck up."
Mikey was panting. There were scratches on his chest, bruises on his neck, at the corner of his face. Frank couldn't look, he couldn't. He said, "I think he wants some of your cock, Mikey."
Frank lashed out without looking--no looking, can't look--and slammed Mikey into the wall of the shower. "What did you call me?"
The Skinhead started to move. Frank kicked him into staying where he was. Mikey was shaking his head, Frank could feel it. "Nothing. Nothing. Sir."
"That's a good little bitch," Frank soothed, careful not to use the voice he actually used when trying to calm Mikey. "Now, as I was saying, I think he wants some of that pretty boy dick you've got on you." He made the command low, serious. Mikey was shaking under the grip of his fingers. If they tightened any, Frank was going to break something. Frank was careful to keep them where they were. He threw Mikey at the Skinhead. Mikey skittered across the tiles before coming to a stop, pulling himself up atop the other guy, who struggled again. Frank took care of the uprising. Mikey's attempts were fumbling and he just barely, barely managed to get it up, push himself in, but he did. Frank thanked whoever was looking out for them, swallowed back the bile that was nearly choking him and did something he had sworn, sworn he would never do.
Mikey made a sound when Frank shoved into him, hard and fast and without any thought to angle. It wasn't a whimper or a moan or even a squeak. It was a noise that only Mikey could make and one that Frank knew he was never, ever going to erase from his mind. He was harsh about it--there was no way to fake, not with every move of his reverberating into the Skinhead through Mikey. He purred, "Good bitch, yeah?" and then, at Mikey's lack of an answer, the broken panting emitting from Mikey, "Yes, yes, good little bitch."
Frank felt it when they were seen, felt the rush of air from the outside, the sense of eyes being on them. This was the other advantage to the Skinheads: the Latinos would help one of their own, turned or no. The Skinheads would consider Mikey's new friend dead to them. And they would tell tales, would whisper them far and wide. Frank pressed his hips all the way to Mikey's ass and forced himself to finish.
Mikey was already long done.