He had a big, soft loveseat that Mikey and Frank could fit on more than comfortably. Frank liked to push Mikey between the arm and the back and then curl up into him. Mikey was getting better and better about letting Frank do as he would, even in front of others. Frank tried to start with small things, like doing it in front of Bob and Gerard, or, if he was really daring, some of the center guys. Their doctor was just one person, but at first he had been an unfamiliar person, so that had been a big step, even behind locked doors.
The therapist had watched them get settled that day, his eyes mild and curious and said, "I'm Dr. Chasez, but if it doesn't make you uncomfortable, I go by C. Some people really like the doctor thing, makes them feel like they're getting a professional. I promise you, though, whatever you call me by, I'll still have the same credentials."
Mikey had said, "I'm Mikey. Brian recommended you to me?"
Brian was Mikey's hospital-assigned mentor, and Mikey pretty much thought the sun shone out of his ass. It was annoyingly endearing. C's entire face crinkled when he smiled. "Cousin Brian."
"I'm partners with his cousin. Kevin Richardson? Down in oncology?"
Mikey said, "Sorry. It's kind of a big hospital."
"Definitely," C agreed. "Anyway, I thought we were pretty much done when he hit med school and I was doing my masters, which was how I ended up in this specialty."
Frank had a vague sense that therapists weren't supposed to talk about themselves, but he found it put him at ease, having some sense of who this man in front of him was. C settled into a chair opposite them. He was in scrubs with teddy bears on them, despite the fact that he didn't actually interact physically with patients in any way. He said, "Wanna tell me why you're here?"
Mikey looked at Frank, who necessarily chose that moment to cough up a lung. Mikey rubbed at his back, and didn't rush him. C asked, "You all right? You want some water?"
Mikey explained, "He's getting over TB," so that Frank wouldn't have to talk. He said, "You want the water?" hand still soothing up and down Frank's spine. Frank nodded. He heard C get up to go get him the water and then Mikey took his hands off Frank's back to open the bottle and hand it to him. He took a sip and then struggled not so simply lay down, curl up with his head in Mikey's lap. He had no idea how he was going to handle going back to work in a week, even if they were just half days. Everything took so much fucking energy at the moment.
Instead he said, "I can't get it up," all in one go, because he figured that while things could only get more difficult from here on out, once they'd started, momentum might take over.
"I take it this isn't TB related?" C asked.
"Unless I've had latent and bizarre TB for almost five years, no."
Frank would give it to him, C kept his face impressively free of any expression aside from compassion. "Five years? Have you seen doctors before now?"
"I was in prison for four of them."
C picked up a pad from the table at his side and said, "I'm sensing we should start from the beginning."
Between Frank and Mikey, the story took three sessions to talk out entirely. Frank would say, "He didn't like me at first," and Mikey would say, "I never liked anyone, then," and C would say, "Tell me about that, Mikey."
And the thing was, Frank had never asked for that, had never asked to be told, so he'd never had to hear Mikey say quietly, "We were, I mean, Gee and me, we just weren't-- We'd been raised by our grandmother not to hurt other people."
Softly, C asked, "Gee?"
"My brother. My big brother. He-- He's an artist. And he's really smart. But when our grandma died-- I was sixteen and he was nineteen. He was my legal guardian, so he dropped out of college, because we just couldn't afford the loans anymore, we didn't really even have the money for the taxes on the house, and they were gonna take it away from us, my grandma's house and so Gee, he started dealing. It was the only way. I mean, that's how it felt. He didn't want me involved. He didn't. But he got addicted and he needed my help and he was shit at arguing when he was high."
C nodded. "So you dealt with him?"
Mikey looked out the window. "We got caught. I mean, there was no way we weren't going to, neither of us was really meant for a life of crime. And we were in a school zone, so there was a mandatory minimum of three years. I got four, possibility of parole in three, Gee got five, possible parole in four, because he'd corrupted me, or something."
Frank took Mikey's hand. Mikey looked down at it like he'd forgotten Frank was there. Frank was a little worried he might have. Frank kissed at his temple. Mikey closed his eyes. "They beat him first. Gee, they-- He was trying to protect me. He forgets that, I think, that that's how it was in the beginning. He stood in front of me."
Mikey shook his head. "In prison you can't do that shit. You can't touch, not if it means something, you can't care, and we did and it allowed them-- They made us watch. Me first, I mean, they raped him and made me watch and then they threatened that if I didn't get it right, sucking them, that they'd hurt him more." Mikey swallowed hard.
Frank said, "Can we--"
C said, "Take all the time you want."
Frank made Mikey look at him, open his eyes and see. After a bit, Mikey nodded. He took a deep breath. "Gee, he just kept taking more shit. That was-- If you couldn't see straight, you didn't have to see, you know? Yeah. And it would have, I mean, I think we both would have just ODed, except I went crazy on some bad stuff, bad quality, I mean, and I ended up in the hole for a week, and by the time I was out, I was scared shitless to ever have to do that again. And more aware than I wanted to be that Gee was gonna die if something didn't happen.
"Gee was with Ray then, and Ray was a pretty good guy, didn't really like seeing things smaller than himself get picked on. He liked Gee, took care of him. I talked to Ray and he helped me keep Gerard decently clean for about a year, but then Ray paroled out and we were on our own again and they just fucking fell on him, 'cause I guess I hadn't been enough. Wolves. Worse, because wolves have some sense of what's right and wrong. They have reason for attacking outside their own clan."
Frank pressed his body into Mikey's. He knew he was supposed to be listening, but most of what he'd heard in that flurry of information had been, I guess I hadn't been enough. He wanted to kill every last one of them. Every single fucking person who had touched Mikey without permission.
"I was trying to get him to slow down a little, not even stop, just not take so much, when Bob came. Bob's Gee's partner. He took care of Gee. Bob knows how to fix things."
Frank did his best to keep himself from tensing. Mikey knew how to fix things, too. He just hadn't had any tools at his disposal.
"So Gee was safe once Bob came?" C asked.
Mikey nodded, and some of the strain left his body. Frank held back a growl. He did say, softly, and with as much control as he could, "You weren't."
Mikey looked at him. Except for the small scars that graced Mikey's lip and his jaw, there weren't any outward signs of what they'd done to him, not when he was wearing a shirt. The first time Frank had seen him, he'd been emaciated and limping, with an entire side of his face the deep yellow of a bruise struggling to heal. Frank didn't have to look very hard to see those things anyway. Mikey said, "Not for a while. No. Then Frank came."
Mikey would say, "Then Frank came," and Frank would say, "I killed a man. For beating his daughter. I have a protection thing," and Mikey would say, "He would get me food, from the kitchen and he wouldn't charge," and Frank would say, "They were raping him. If he wanted to eat, he had to let them. That was the deal. They would laugh about it, about the way he was stiff and quiet, or the way he really knew what he was doing with his mouth."
And those were the things he'd never told Mikey, never wanted to tell Mikey, but his dick was pretty certain they were an important part of the story, and C was definitely an important part of the process and if Mikey was going to say words like "rape" and talk about how they had held him down and forced objects larger than their fists in him, cut him up with self-made knives, the edge of aluminum cans, if Mikey was going to be brave, Frank could fucking be brave, too. So Frank said, "I'm small, but not when I fight. I learned that early on, that you can't be, not if you want to get by."
C said, "Okay."
"Mostly, it's when I fight for the things that matter," Frank clarified. Next to him, Mikey made a soft, happy noise. Frank said, "And then there was the candy."
"Candy?" C asked.
Frank smiled. "That's how I made him fall in love with me."
"They were going to hurt him," Mikey said, his voice low and fierce and still a little bit afraid, even after all this time. "They were going to hurt Frank."
"I didn't play right," Frank explained.
"Play," C said.
"Mikey-- When he said that thing about how you can't touch in prison? Not and have it matter? I wasn't the best at that. I-- Out here, if you love something, you want to show it off."
"Ah," C said. Frank nodded.
"So he took care of it," Mikey explained.
"How?" C was smart enough to ask. C caught on to things--what was and wasn't said--pretty quickly.
"He put on a show."
"What kind of show?"
Frank could barely breathe. Mikey said, "He took me out of the hands of a Skinhead, beat the Skinhead, had me fuck him while he fucked me."
C looked at Frank and Frank did his best to hold C's gaze. It was mild, considering. C asked, "Did you want that, Mikey?"
"I don't like fucking parasites," Mikey said. "But if you're asking him if I wanted him to take care of me, if I wanted him to protect us at any cost? Then yes. It wasn't-- I mean, it was rape in the sense that I didn't ask for it, that it hurt and I'm not into pain, that it was quick and dirty and public and about something other than us, all of those things, yes, rape. But it wasn't. It's not that easy. He thinks it is, but it isn't. Bob had to get Gee off the drugs to keep him okay, had to make him go through that, and it's awful, it's fucking awful, it hurts like nothing else ever and you swear you're going to fucking rip your skin right from your bones, but he had to get Gee to do that. But nobody would ever say Bob was hurting him, nobody would ever say that, so why is this different? Why?" Mikey was breathing hard, panting almost.
"Frank. Do you have an answer?"
"Bob never forced Gee to do anything. He made him see that it was best."
"I already knew, I told you--"
"But I didn't tell you. Anything."
Mikey looked at him like he was crazy. "You couldn't have. What would have happened if it looked like I knew? Like I was just going along? Then all of that would have been for nothing. That, that wouldn't have been so forgivable. Like what you did afterward, when you wouldn't touch me."
"You flinched, Mikey. You flinched like I'd seen you do with the others so, so many times before you were mine."
"Instincts are hard to kill, Frank," Mikey sounded more than a little bit frustrated, but that was okay, because Frank was too.
"But that's my point, it was instinctive."
"So was my fucking aversion to sex until we started having it! I needed you to be fucking patient with me. Jesus, sorry."
Frank was silent. "You didn't-- I didn't know. I thought you needed me not to touch you."
"I told you--"
"You lie. You lie about being hurt all the time. It was even worse, then. You're better since the pneumonia, but you-- I thought you were scared I wouldn't take care of you if I couldn't have you. I was trying to prove that it wasn't like that."
Mikey blinked. "You had done that to take care of me. You had hurt yourself to-- I wasn't doubting you. Not until you stopped wanting me."
"I never fucking stopped wanting you," Frank hissed.
"It felt-- Sometimes it feels like that."
Frank didn't even know how to respond to that. He wanted Mikey even without the ability to get off. He didn't know how much he could want someone before it was dead obvious. But he also, rationally, could see how if someone couldn't get it up while having sex with him, that might seem like a sign. C said, gently, "I take it that's not the problem, Frank?"
But this wasn't something he needed to tell C, even if C was the one who had asked the question. He looked at Mikey and said, "I will want you until I die and long, long fucking after, Mikeyway."
Mikey said, "I love you," and looked to the side, and Frank had the grace to pretend he didn't see him crying, but not the self-control not to go to him, hold on, whisper, "Jesus, Mikeyway, Jesus."