Seoc MacInnes was getting a migraine. He could tell by the flickering, like lightning, in the corners of his vision and the creeping pain edging its way backwards from his eyes, and he resented it. What right had his body to make his miserable life even worse? But, he conceded with a sigh, it was no use to concern himself with that right now.
“Can you…take me outside? When you’re through?”
“What?” The warden laughed, tracing the top of Seoc’s pelvis with his fingers. “And let you run away?”
Seoc bent over the warden’s desk, laying his head and arms down upon it. “I won’t try to run. You have my word on that.”
“What use is a prostitute’s word?”
“You don’t trust me?”
“Why should I?” asked the warden, sliding his fingers under Seoc’s waistband to drop his trousers.
“I’d think you must trust me to some degree. After all, you let me alone with you when you’re at your most vulnerable.”
The warden paused. Seoc smiled privately into the tabletop.
“Anyway, I have reason to stay,” he said.
“And what’s that?”
“I’m in love,” Seoc replied. “With my cellmate. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I cannot bear to leave him on his own. As long as he is here, I intend to be, too.” He exhaled through his teeth. “At least, as long as I can survive. Please, I don’t think I have long left! Let me go outside. It doesn’t have to be far. It’s night, isn’t it? No one has to see.”
“Is it really too much to a—?”
The warden grabbed him by the hair, pulled his head back, and slammed his face back into the desk. Seoc screamed in pain.
“I told you to shut up, you worthless slut!”
He whimpered pitifully, blood bubbling from his mouth and nose to pool on the table. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”
“Do you think you mean anything to me? Do you?”
“That’s right. You’re nothing! You aren’t even good-looking. You’re just a whore. An ugly whore with an ugly name. That’s all you’ll ever be.”
“And I’m not going to give you any extra special privileges just because you let me fuck you. That’s your job. Understand?”
“Yes. I…I just thought I’d ask.”
The warden took him by the chin and turned his bloodied face toward him. “You like you’re cellmate, do you?”
“Is he pretty?”
Seoc bit his tongue. Why had he mentioned his feelings for Simon? How had that ever struck him as a good idea?
“I asked,” the warden growled, squeezing Seoc’s jaw, “if he was pretty.”
“H-he…is, I guess.”
“It would be a real shame if something were to happen to him, wouldn’t it?”
“Don’t you touch him. Don’t you even dare.”
The warden laughed. “Look at you, telling me what I can or can’t do. But I’ll cut you a deal, Jackie-boy. You’re gonna work Fridays again, you and your cute roomie. That’s what you get for talking back at me. But you’ll still visit me, right. Fridays, and let’s say Tuesdays too. It’s your job.”
“It’s hardly a job if I’m not being paid.”
“Consider Charles Edmund’s purity and wellbeing to be your payment.”
Seoc drew his lips back in a feral snarl. “That isn’t payment. That’s blackmail.”
“Take it or leave it, Jackie-boy.”
“Fine.” He spat out a mouthful of blood. “Dae vhate’er ye vant tae me. I’a been dead a lang tame aldready.”