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The notice of Mikey's parole board hearing came on a Thursday. He was called into the warden's office and told and the warden smiled at him. Mikey smiled back, because he knew he was supposed to. It was a chance at parole. Everyone wanted a chance at parole.

That night at dinner, he didn't mention anything about the meeting.


Mikey tried not to repeat other people's words, because it was a sure way to look like a moron and the last thing Mikey needed in here was people thinking he was stupid on top of everything else, but he really couldn't help it. "Gonorrhea? You're sure?"

The doctor, thankfully, didn't act like it was a stupid question. "The test has a pretty solid rate of being right."

"But I--" Mikey was roughly as sure as the doctor was of the test results that Frank wasn't sleeping around on him. Which left-- "Can you tell how long I may have had it?"

The doctor narrowed his eyes. "Hard to say. Gonorrhea's a silent STI. The fact that you started experiencing testicular pain at all is actually perversely lucky. It can cause sterility or long-term immunity suppression if untreated. You could have caught it last week, or you could have caught it months ago, maybe even longer. I can't really-- I'm sorry, there's just no way to tell."

"But it's, um--"

"It's bacterial. I'll get you the right prescription and you should be fine."

Sometimes, Mikey really fucking hated life's small favors.


"What'd the doctor say?" Frank asked softly, rubbing at Mikey's shoulders. Mikey really wished Frank hadn't been the one touching his balls when he'd mewled from the pain.

Mikey really wished he didn't have to tell Frank, "You've gotta go get tested for gonorrhea."

Frank's fingers faltered in their massaging motions. "Mikey--"

"I'm sorry," Mikey said, and left it at that.

"Did one of them touch you while I was gone?" Frank's tone sliced up and down Mikey's spine.

Mikey said, "Maybe I wanted it."

Frank stilled. Mikey said, "Don't, okay. Just. Don't. It's my secret to know."

"Fine," Frank said. "I'll just kill every last one of them until I get the right one." He swung up to his bunk after that. Mikey wasn't in the mood anyway.


"Maybe I want to do it," Mikey said, "maybe I want to fuck them up."

"Maybe you're the one of us who has a chance of paroling out pretty soon and you should shut the fuck up."

Mikey shut the fuck up. Frank opened his mouth and stood there for a few moments like that before closing it. Then he asked, "Mikey?"

Mikey laughed a little brokenly and rubbed his hands over his face. "At least you didn't laugh at the thought."

Frank shook his head, even though the idea was laughable. If it hadn't been, Mikey would never have spent so long as a prag in the first place, would never have been available for Frank to take. The thought didn't sting as much as Mikey wished it would.

"Mikey, what, um-- Not that you don't listen to me--"

"My parole hearing is in two weeks." There was panting, wet and harsh, in the dark of the cell, and it took Mikey a moment to realize that it was his.

"They just told you?" Possible parolees were warned, as a matter of course, a month before their hearing.

Mikey said, "I--" then shook his head.

Frank crawled over Mikey, pinned him so he was facing up at Frank, who was straddling him. "You could get out. You could get out, Mikey." Frank smiled. It was a lopsided smile, but Mikey could see where Frank meant it, at least for Mikey.

"Yeah," Mikey said, and tried to smile in return. He had a feeling his was just a failure.


Frank distracted Bob the next day for Mikey with a significant look in Mikey's direction. Gerard said, "Mikey?"

Mikey tried to say, "He's just pissy because I told him he couldn't go apeshit on the Homeboys," did in fact say it, but crumbled when Gerard settled his eyes on Mikey with a gentle look in them. It was the same look Gerard had given him when Mikey's first girlfriend had broken up with him and when their grandmother had died. Mikey looked down at his hands. "And, y'know, my parole hearing's coming up."

"He's pissy over that?"

Mikey snapped his head up at the anger in Gerard's voice. "No, no, he's-- Gee, no."

"Mikey." That grin, that fucking grin that Mikey really didn't know how to live without, hadn't managed to learn to even in all that time when Gerard wasn't smiling, spread over his face. "Mikey!"

And Mikey couldn't do anything other than smile for him, say, "Yeah, I know, I know, right?"

Frank was probably right in not letting him go after the Homeboys. Not that Mikey was going to admit it.


Mikey climbed onto Frank's bunk and pinned him there, a reversal of their roles a few nights earlier. He said, "You aren't going to touch the gonorrhea-infected populace of this prison."

Frank tilted his head. "Why is that?"

"Because you have a chance of parole, too."


"You do, Frank. You do. And what they did is done and the antibiotics took care of me and you managed to avoid contracting it, so all's well that fucking ends well. But if you want me to be a good boy, you want me not to fuck up any chance I have of getting out of this place, then you have to play nice, too."

Frank blinks up at him in the dark. "Mikey, even if nobody rats me out for some of the shit I've pulled off, even if my parole goes through, I have another four years in here."

"You'd better be on your best fucking behavior, then, hadn't you?"


"You're asking me to live out there without you or Gee for at least an entire fucking year. You know that, you know that. This is the least you can do in return, don't you think?"

"You'll be okay, Mikey. You were before."

"I had him." Mikey and Gerard had always had each other. Sometimes nothing else, but always that, always.

"We'll keep him safe. Bob and me, we will."

"I know," Mikey said. He did. Or at least, he knew that they would do their best. It was probably better than Mikey could have done. "I know."

"And when it's time, we'll send him to keep you safe, just until I can get to you."

Barely even able to get the words past his throat, Mikey asked, "Who's going to keep you safe?"

"Oh, that's pretty obvious, isn't it?"

Mikey blinked at him in the dark. Frank said, "Bob," and leaned down to kiss him. Despite himself, Mikey smiled into the kiss.

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